Aqidah

Abu Hanifa, Salafis, al-Fiqh al-Akbar and The Truth

Abu Hanifa, Salafis, al-Fiqh al-Akbar and The Truth By Abdullah bin Hamid Ali


Abu Hanifa says in Al-Fiqh Al-Akbar about the qualities of God:

“He has a hand, a face, and a self. So what He, High is He, mentions in the Qur’an of the mention of the face, hand, and self, they are all attributes of His with no modality (or description).

It is not said that His hand is His power or His blessing, since such would be a nullification of the attribute. And such is the statement of the People of Qadar and ‘Itizaal.[8]

Rather, His hand is His attribute with no modality (or description). And His anger and His satisfaction are two of His attributes with no modality (or description)…”

One must first understand that by virtue of the fact that the book – Al-Fiqh Al-Akbar - is considered to be the first book written in the time of the Taabi’een on the topic of Tawheed in an organized and methodical fashion during an age of great controversy when Sunnis were attempting to codify the orthodox creed of Muslims that there will be statements found in it that may be problematic.

Of course Salafis would find great joy in seeing such statements like the one above, since it apparently gives credence to their arguments about what they refer to as ‘The Attributes of Allah,’ like the hand, face, eyes, foot, side, shin, self, etc.

They could easily make the claim that their ‘aqeedah is correct and in agreement with the creed of the Salaf, since Imam Abu Hanifa who is one of the Salaf says in Al-Fiqh Al-Akbar that Allah has a hand. And His hand is an attribute, similar to what they say.

So on the surface it would seem that the argument is over, and that Salafis have proven themselves to be victorious in their claims.

However, a number of other things have to be considered before accepting their arguments.

Firstly, if we are to accept that Al-Fiqh Al-Akbar is an authentic work legitimately ascribable to Abu Hanifa and that it represents the ‘aqeedah of the Salaf, Salafis have to accept all that it contains. So they’d have to also accept the following statement made by Abu Hanifa about Allah’s speech:

“And He speaks, not as our speech. We speak with tools and letters while Allah, High is He, speaks without a tool and without letters. The letters are created. And the speech of Allah, High is He, is uncreated.”`

In this passage, Abu Hanifa states that when Allah, High is He, speaks, He speaks without letters. But Salafis believe that when Allah speaks, He speaks with letters and sounds.

So, really this is another case of Salafis selectively abusing and misusing the words of the Salaf and those attributed to the Salaf in an attempt to make it seem that their creed agrees with that of the Salaf, when in fact it doesn’t.

Add to that, Salafis are those who argue that the current version of Kitab al-Ibaanah ‘an Usool ad-Diyaanah, attributed to Imam Abu al-Hasan Al-Ash’ari, is a proper ascription to him.

And in that book, it states that Imam Abu Hanifa believed that the Qur’an was created1,. But if Salafis accept that Al-Fiqh Al-Akbar is appropriately ascribed to Abu Hanifa, they have to also accept his words that contradict this claim when he says:

“The Qur’an is Allah’s word, High is He, in pages transcribed, in hearts protected, on tongues recited, and on the Prophet (PBUH) and His family revealed. Our utterance of the Qur’an is created. Our writing of it is created. Our recitation of it is created. And the Qur’an is uncreated.”

How more explicit can the Imam be? He expressly states in Al-Fiqh al-Akbar that the “Qur’an is uncreated.” But the Salafis claim that the narrations in Al-Ibaanah that claim that Abu Hanifa believed that it was created is a proper ascription to Abu al-Hasan. And at the same time they consider Al-Fiqh al-Akbar to be properly ascribed to Abu Hanifa.

In addition to that, Imam Abu al-Hasan doesn’t make any mention of Abu Hanifa as being one of those who believed that the Qur’an was created in his more prominent and well-established work entitled ‘Maqaalaat al-Islaamiyyeen.’ And according to Salafis, Kitaab al-Ibaanah was his last work.

So how do they explain the fact that Imam Al-Ash’ari waited until his final work to mention Abu Hanifa, who died more than a century prior to him, as one of those who believed that the Qur’an was created in his supposed last work, when he didn’t mention him in what they believe to be one of his earlier works?

Did not Al-Ash’ari know that Imam Abu Hanifa was the author of Al-Fiqh Al-Akbar?

They just can’t have it both ways.

Either Al-Fiqh Al-Akbar is Abu Hanifa’s work, which would make Kitaab al-Ibaanah – in its present form - not Abu al-Hasan’s work. Or the current Kitaab al-Ibaanah is Abu al-Hasan’s work, which would mean that Al-Fiqh al-Akbar is not Abu Hanifa’s work.

And if Al-Fiqh al-Akbar is Abu Hanifa’s work and Salafis want to use it as proof that their ‘aqeedah is no different than his, they have to accept everything in it without exception.

Now as for the issue of the statement in Al-Fiqh Al-Akbar about the hand, face, and self and them being attributes, we must consider two things in particular:

1 – Imam At-Tahaawi makes no mention of hands, a face, or a self in his ‘aqeedah. And his book has been accepted as the one that represents the ‘aqeedah of Imam Abu Hanifa and his two companions, Abu Yusuf and Muhammad Ash-Shaibaani.

2 – Secondly, we must understand any comment made in Al-Fiqh al-Akbar – as in other works - according to context.

According to Al-Fiqh al-Akbar, Allah has two general classifications of attributes known as ‘Attributes of the Essence’ and ‘Attributes of Action.’

Attributes of the Essence are the essential qualities of His being.

As for attributes of action, they are things that happen outside of His being. And since He is the one responsible for those occurrences, they are attributed to Him and called ‘Attributes of Action.’

Imam Abu Hanifa explains this in his book when he says:

“He doesn’t resemble anything of His creation, and nothing of His creation resembles Him. He has always and will always exist with His names and His attributes of the (divine) essence and those (attributes) of action.

As for those of the essence, they are: life, power, knowledge, speech, hearing, seeing, and will.

And as for those of action, they are: creating, providing, producing, originating, manufacturing, and other attributes of action.”

So the attributes of Allah’s divine essence are seven:

  1. 1.      Life
  2. 2.      Power
  3. 3.      Knowledge
  4. 4.      Speech
  5. 5.      Hearing
  6. 6.      Seeing
  7. 7.      Will

As for the attributes of action, he states things like

  • Creating,
  • Providing,
  • Producing,
  • Originating,
  • Manufacturing,
  • And other attributes of action

Then, Abu Hanifa says,

“He has always and will always exist with His names and attributes. He has not acquired any new name or attribute.”

So according to Abu Hanifa, Allah has 7 confirmed attributes of the essence [2.], while he places no limit to His attributes of action, since the possibilities of what can exist are limitless.

As for restricting the attributes of the essence to merely seven, this is not to say that these are the only attributes that Allah has. It is merely to say that this is the number that both revelation and reason have been able to conclude. As for the standard view of Maaturidis, the attributes of the essence are 8.

As for Ash’aris, they divide attributes a bit further to the point that some of them have stated 13 [3.] and some have stated 20 [4.].

In the end, most of that is just a difference in semantics. And the true difference is with relationship to what Ash’aris call ‘Abstract Attributes’, which are the 7 that Abu Hanifa mentions in Al-Fiqh Al-Akbar, while Maaturidis add an eighth called ‘Takween.’ 

At any rate, notice how Abu Hanifa doesn’t make mention of the hand, face, and self until he enumerates the attributes of the essence. And, so that the readers can see, here is the complete text prior to the mention of the hand, face, and self:

“He doesn’t resemble anything of His creation, and nothing of His creation resembles Him. He has always and will always exist with His names and His attributes of the (divine) essence and those (attributes) of action.

As for those of the essence, they are: life, power, knowledge, speech, hearing, seeing, and will.

And as for those of action, they are: creating, providing, producing, originating, manufacturing, and other attributes of action.

He has always and will always exist with His names and attributes. He has not acquired any new name or attribute.”

So if He hasn’t acquired any new name or attribute, there are truly no other definitive attributes of essence other than those mentioned above[5], and the hand, face, and self aren’t included among them.

Then he continues:

“He has always been Knowing by His knowledge. And knowledge has been an attribute since pre-eternity.

(He has always been) Powerful by His power. And power has been an attribute since pre-eternity.

(He has always been) A Speaker by His speech. And speech has been an attribute since pre-eternity.

(He has always been) Creator by His creative-will[6]. And the creative-will has been an attribute since pre-eternity.

(He has always been) A Doer by His will to act[7]. And the will to act has been an attribute since pre-eternity. The Doer is Allah, High is He. The will to act has been an attribute since pre-eternity. And the resulting entity of His will to act is created, while Allah’s will to act, High is He, is uncreated. And His attributes have been since pre-eternity un-invented and uncreated. So whoever says that they are created or invented, remains silent about them, or entertains doubts about them is one who rejects faith in Allah, High is He.”

He also says,

“And Allah, High is He, was indeed a Speaker at a time when He had not yet spoken to Musa, upon him be peace. And Allah was indeed a Creator in pre-eternity even though He had not yet created. ((There is nothing like unto Him. And He is the All-Hearing All-Seeing)). So when He spoke to Musa, He spoke to him with His speech, which has been an attribute of His since pre-eternity. And All of His attributes are without beginning from pre-eternity; contrary to the state of the attributes of created beings.

He has knowledge, not as our knowledge. He has power, not as our power. He sees, not as our seeing. He hears, not as our hearing. And He speaks, not as our speech.

We speak with tools and letters while Allah, High is He, speaks without a tool and without letters. The letters are created. And the speech of Allah, High is He, is uncreated.

He is a thing, not like other things. And the point of saying ‘thing’ is to confirm His existence while not being a divisible body, an indivisible body, and not an accident of a body.

He has no boundary. He has no opposite. He has no rival. And He has no equal.

Then finally he says,

He has a hand, a face, and a self. So what He, High is He, mentions in the Qur’an of the mention of the face, hand, and self, are all attributes of His with no modality (or description).

It is not said that His hand is His power or His blessing, since such would be a nullification of the attribute. And such is the statement of the People of Qadar and ‘Itizaal.[8]

Rather, His hand is His attribute with no modality (or description). And His anger and His satisfaction are two of His attributes with no modality (or description)…”

So what are we to understand from all of this? How do we reconcile between Abu Hanifa’s saying after mentioning the seven attributes of the essence:

“He has always and will always exist with His names and attributes. He has not acquired any new name or attribute.”

And between his saying,

“He has a hand, a face, and a self. So what He, High is He, mentions in the Qur’an of the mention of the face, hand, and self, are all attributes of His with no modality (or description).”?

I believe that the best way to reconcile between the two is to say that ‘hand, face, and self’ are references to either one of Allah’s true attributes of the essence as stated in the first clause by Abu Hanifa. Or they are references to one of His attributes of action.[9]   

One cannot deny that by such words being annexed to Allah’s name or pronoun in the Qur’an, they are being ‘attributed’ to Him directly even if calling them ‘attributes’ doesn’t coincide with the original linguistic definition of what an attribute is.

So calling them attributes would be a metaphorical application as opposed to a literal application. And if it is a metaphorical application, it would have to be accepted that such named ‘attributes’ are metaphorical ‘attributes.’ So the hand, face, and self would have to be a metaphorical ‘hand, face, and self,’ which are references to one of Allah’s true attributes, since there is nothing like unto Him. And ‘hand’ in its original linguistic understanding applies only to created beings.

Abdur-Rahman ibn Al-Jawzi says while mentioning the mistakes of some Hanbali scholars in the area of scriptural interpretation of the problematic verses of the Qur’an,

“And those writers who I have mentioned have erred in seven areas. The first of them is that they called the ‘reports’ ‘attributes.’ When they are merely annexations/possessive forms.  And not every possessive form is an attribute. For Allah, High is He, has said: ((And I have blown into him from My spirit)) [Al-Hijr: 29]. And Allah doesn’t have an attribute known as a ‘spirit.’ So those who have called ‘the possessive form’ (idaafa) ‘an attribute’ are guilty of innovation.”

The linguist, Tha’lab says in Taaj al-‘Aroos,

“A ‘na’t’ is a description given to a specific part of the body like the word ‘lame’ (‘araj). A ‘sifa’ (attribute) is for non-specificity (‘umoom), like the word ‘magnificent’ (‘azeem) and ‘generous’ (kareem). So Allah is described with a ‘sifa’. But He is not described with a ‘na’t.’”

What this would mean is that the word ‘sifa’ (attribute) is being used metaphorically to mean ‘na’t’, which is another word for ‘attribute’ or ‘trait.’ The difference is that a ‘na’t’ describes a specific part of a body, like ‘lame’ or ‘blind’.

For this reason, Imam Bukhaari uses the word ‘nu’oot’ (plural of na’t), instead of ‘sifaat’ (plural of sifa) to refer to those reports that make mention of Allah’s anger, laughter, foot, hand, and face even though He isn’t a body and doesn’t have a body.

This would have to be the accepted interpretation. Otherwise, we must accept that Abu Hanifa contradicts his self by first limiting the attributes of the essence to the 7 mentioned above, and then later adding Allah’s face, hand, and self.

Another important question is ‘Why doesn’t Abu Hanifa add to what he considered attributes ‘the shin, the side, the eyes, the foot, and the spirit?’

This is important because Allah annexes His name or personal pronoun to each of these things in the Qur’an or the Messenger does so in the hadith. So if I am to accept that Allah has a face, self, and hand, simply because He annexes such things to His name or pronoun, I should also accept that He has eyes, a spirit, a foot, a side, a shin, a she-camel, a house, and any other thing that He has attached His name or pronoun to.

And if the Salafis agree with Abu Hanifa’s creed, they should only accept as attributes those things that Abu Hanifa declared to be attributes. This would mean that Salafis have to stop saying that Allah has a foot, a shin, a side, and eyes.

But we know that they won’t do that, because Salafis are very selective about what they want to accept from the Salaf and what they don’t want to accept, all the while claiming that their ‘aqeeda is the ‘aqeeda of the Salaf.

If they use Abu Hanifa’s words about the face, hand, and self as being proof that they follow the minhaaj and understanding of the Salaf, they should only say what the Salaf said and stop adding to their words.

So to accept that these are the words of Abu Hanifa, we’d either have to accept the first interpretation or we’d have to accept the second, which would mean that he is in contradiction with his self.

And if that is so, we’d have to accept that Abu Hanifa may not have been an authority on this subject.

As for referring to these problematic verses and hadiths as ‘Attribute Verses’ (Aayaat as-Sifaat) or ‘Reports of Attributes’ (Akhbaar as-Sifaat), this was the specific terminology that scholars used to refer to them even though they didn’t actually mean that such ascriptions mentioned in scripture were attributes of Allah. Imam Ibn Al-Jawzi’s words above clarify the error of this sort of designation. So hopefully that should resolve any confusion about the issue.


FOOTNOTES [8] In other words, to say such a thing would be equal to saying what the people who deny the divine decree (qadar) say and like the Mu’tazilites who say that every time Allah ascribes a hand to His self, it means ‘power.’

[1] In Daar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah’s 1998/1418 publication of Kitaab al-Ibaanah, it reads on page 40:

“Haarun ibn Ishaaq al-Hamdaani mentioned about Abu Na’eem from Sulaimaan ibn ‘Eesaa Al-Qaari that Sufyaan Ath-Thauri said: “I said to Hammaad ibn Abi Sulaimaan: “Proclaim to Abu Hanifa, The Idolater, that I am innocent of him.”” Sulaimaan said: “Then Sufyaan said: “That’s because he used to say, ‘The Qur’an is created.’”

Sufyaan ibn Wakee’ said: “I heard ‘Umar ibn Hammaad, the grandson of Abu Hanifa, say: “My father said to me: “The comment that Ibn Abi Lailaa demanded that Abu Hanifa repent from was his statement: ‘The Qur’an is created.’” He (Hammaad) said: “So he repented from it and announced his repentance publicly. My (Hammaad) father said: “How did you turn to this?” He (Abu Hanifa) said: “I feared – By Allah – that I would be disciplined. So I used a misleading expression to trick him (heela).”

Haarun ibn Ishaaq said, “I heard Ismaa’eel ibn Abi Al-Hakam mention about ‘Umar ibn ‘Ubaid At-Tanaafusi that Hammaad – i.e. Ibn Abi Sulaimaan – sent someone to Abu Hanifa to say: “Verily I am innocent of what you say until you repent.”

Ibn Abi ‘Inabah was with him (i.e. Hammaad) and said: “Your neighbor told me that Abu Hanifa invited him to what he was asked to repent from after he had already been asked to repent from it.”

And it was mentioned that Abu Yusuf said, “I debated with Abu Hanifa for two months until he retracted his statement about the createdness of the Qur’an.”

[Al-Ash’ari, Abu al-Hasan (ascribed to him), Kitaab al-Ibaanah ‘an Usool ad-Diyaanah: 1998/1418 Daar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, Marginal Notes by ‘Abdullah Mahmood Muhammad ‘Umar.]

On the same page, the commentator, Abdullah Mahmood Muhammad ‘Umar, makes the following comments:

“Tahaawi states in his book, Al-‘Aqeedah At-Tahaawiyyah, what contradicts these narrations that claim that Abu Hanifa used to state that the Qur’an is created. And Tahaawi is more reliable in transmission and more knowing of the creed of his comrades (Abu Hanifa and his two companions) than Al-Ash’ari is. Imam Tahaawi, the Hanafi, says: “The Qu’ran is the word of Allah. It came from Him as speech without it being possible to say how. He sent it down upon His messenger as revelation. The believers accept it as absolute truth. They are certain that it is, in truth, the word of Allah. It was not created like the speech of human beings…”

So the commentator, in spite of the fact that he seems to accept that the book is properly ascribed to Imam Al-Ash’ari, he establishes that such a claim made by him cannot be substantiated, since it conflicts with the reports given by those who have better knowledge of the creed of Abu Hanifa who conveyed it to the Ummah.

Add to this, Al-Ash’ari doesn’t list Imam Abu Hanifa among those who believed the Qur’an to be created in his book, Maqaalaat al-Islaamiyyeen, even though the narrations above from Al-Ibaanah give the impression that Abu Hanifa never actually relinquished the presumed belief that the Qur’an is created.

[2].These seven attributes are referred to by Ash’aris as ‘The Abstract Attributes’ (Sifaat al-Ma’aani).

[3]. In addition to the seven aforementioned attributes, Ash’aris include the following six:

  1. 1.      Existence
  2. 2.      Permanence without beginning
  3. 3.      Endurance without end
  4. 4.      Absoluteness independence
  5. 5.      Dissimilarity to Created Things
  6. 6.      Oneness

Existence is known as the ‘Essential Attribute’ (As-sifah An-nafsiyyah), since without it Allah would not be able of being described by any of the others.

The other 5 are known as the ‘Negating Attributes’ (As-Sifaat As-Salbiyyah). This is because by establishing them, one negates their opposites from Allah’s being.

[4]. Ash’aris also include seven other attributes called ‘Signifying Attributes’ (As-Sifaat al-Ma’nawiyyah). They are:

  1. 1.      That Allah be Powerful
  2. 2.      That Allah be Willful
  3. 3.      That Allah be Knowing
  4. 4.      That Allah be Living
  5. 5.      That Allah be Seeing
  6. 6.      That Allah be Hearing
  7. 7.      That Allah be Speaking

They are called the ‘Signifying Attributes’ (As-Sifaat al-Ma’nawiyya), because they signify that Allah has the attribute that each adjective implies, i.e. power, will, knowledge, life, sight, hearing, and speech.

Abu Hanifa mentions only the 7 abstract attributes. But this doesn’t mean that he denies the existence of the other 13 mentioned by Ash’aris. This is because the ‘essential attribute’ of ‘existence’ and the other five negating attributes are characteristics of the 7 essential qualities. So they go without saying.

[5] The reason that Abu Hanifa doesn’t mention the 5 ‘Negating Attributes’ (i.e. permanence without beginning, endurance without end, absolute independence, dissimilarity to creation, and oneness), the ‘Essential Attribute’ (Existence), and the 7 signifying attributes stated above, is that these attributes are actually qualities of Allah’s main qualities, which are the 7 Attributes of the Essence or as Ash’aris call them, ‘Abstract Attributes.’

[6] The ‘creative-will’ is a translation of what Maaturidis refer to as ‘takhleeq.’

[7] The ‘will to act’ is a translation for the word, ‘fi’l,’ usually translated as ‘action.’ I translated as ‘will to act’ since it is more in line with the actually creed of Maaturidis who based much of their creed off of the doctrine of Imam Abu Hanifa. To translate ‘fi’l’ as ‘action’ or ‘act’ would imply that the creation – one of Allah’s actions - is eternal without a beginning, since the author states that the ‘fi’l’ is uncreated.  

[8] In other words, to say such a thing would be equal to saying what the people who deny the divine decree (qadar) say and like the Mu’tazilites who say that every time Allah ascribes a hand to His self, it means ‘power.’

[9] Imam Shaukaani states in his Irshaad al-Fuhool while discussing the different relationships that tie between literal and figurative language that one of them is, “Assigning a thing the name of one of its forms and manifestations, like using the word ‘hand’ to refer to ‘power…” [Irshaad al-Fuhool: 1/119] In other words, the hand is a form or manifestation of power. This would mean that when one says that the ‘hand’ is one of Allah’s attributes, he really means that it is His power even though a different word is used to apply to it. And Allah knows best.

 

The Concept of Bid'a in the Islamic Shari'a

Nuh Ha Mim Keller 1995

 

There are few topics that generate as much controversy today in Islam as what is sunna and what is bida or reprehensible innovation, perhaps because of the times Muslims live in today and the challenges they face. Without a doubt, one of the greatest events in impact upon Muslims in the last thousand years is the end of the Islamic caliphate at the first of this century, an event that marked not only the passing of temporal, political authority, but in many respects the passing of the consensus of orthodox Sunni Islam as well. No one familiar with the classical literature in any of the Islamic legal sciences, whether Qur'anic exegesis (tafsir), hadith, or jurisprudence (fiqh), can fail to be struck by the fact that questions are asked today about basic fundamentals of Islamic Sacred Law (Sharia) and its ancillary disciplines that would not have been asked in the Islamic period not because Islamic scholars were not brilliant enough to produce the questions, but because they already knew the answers.

My talk tonight will aim to clarify some possible misunderstandings of the concept of innovation (bida) in Islam, in light of the prophetic hadith, 

"Beware of matters newly begun, for every matter newly begun is innovation, every innovation is misguidance, and every misguidance is in hell." 

The sources I use are traditional Islamic sources, and my discussion will centre on three points: 

The first point is that scholars say that the above hadith does not refer to all new things without restriction, but only to those which nothing in Sacred Law attests to the validity of. The use of the word "every" in the hadith does not indicate an absolute generalization, for there are many examples of similar generalizations in the Qur'an and sunna that are not applicable without restriction, but rather are qualified by restrictions found in other primary textual evidence. 

The second point is that the sunna and way of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was to accept new acts initiated in Islam that were of the good and did not conflict with established principles of Sacred Law, and to reject things that were otherwise. 

And our third and last point is that new matters in Islam may not be rejected merely because they did not exist in the first century, but must be evaluated and judged according to the comprehensive methodology of Sacred Law, by virtue of which it is and remains the final and universal moral code for all peoples until the end of time. 

Our first point, that the hadith does not refer to all new things without restriction, but only to those which nothing in Sacred Law attests to the validity of, may at first seem strange, in view of the wording of the hadith, which says, "every matter newly begun is innovation, every innovation is misguidance, and every misguidance is in hell." Now the word "bida" or "innovation" linguistically means anything new, So our first question must be about the generalizability of the word every in the hadith: does it literally mean that everything new in the world is haram or unlawful? The answer is no. Why? 

In answer to this question, we may note that there are many similar generalities in the Qur'an and sunna, all of them admitting of some qualification, such as the word of Allah Most High in Surat al-Najm, 

". . . A man can have nothing, except what he strives for" (Qur'an 53:39), 

despite there being an overwhelming amount of evidence that a Muslim benefits from the spiritual works of others, for example, from his fellow Muslims, the prayers of angels for him, the funeral prayer over him, charity given by others in his name, and the supplications of believers for him; 

Or consider the words of Allah to unbelievers in Surat al-Anbiya, 

"Verily you and what you worship apart from Allah are the fuel of hell" (Qur'an 21:98), 

"what you worship" being a general expression, while there is no doubt that Jesus, his mother, and the angels were all worshipped apart from Allah, but are not "the fuel of hell", so are not what is meant by the verse; Or the word of Allah Most High in Surat al-Anam about past nations who paid no heed to the warners who were sent to them, 

"But when they forgot what they had been reminded of, We opened unto them the doors of everything" (Qur'an6:44), 

though the doors of mercy were not opened unto them; And the hadith related by Muslim that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, 

"No one who prays before sunrise and before sunset will enter hell", 

which is a generalised expression that definitely does not mean what its outward generality implies, for someone who prays the dawn and midafternoon prayers and neglects all other prayers and obligatory works is certainly not meant. It is rather a generalization whose intended referent is particular, or a generalization that is qualified by other texts, for when there are fully authenticated hadiths, it is obligatory to reach an accord between them, because they are in reality as a single hadith, the statements that appear without further qualification being qualified by those that furnish the qualification, that the combined implications of all of them may be utilized. 

Let us look for a moment at bida or innovation in the light of the sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) concerning new matters. Sunna and innovation (bida) are two opposed terms in the language of the Lawgiver (Allah bless him and give him peace), such that neither can be defined without reference to the other, meaning that they are opposites, and things are made clear by their opposites. Many writers have sought to define innovation (bida) without defining the sunna, while it is primary, and have thus fallen into inextricable difficulties and conflicts with the primary textual evidence that contradicts their definition of innovation, whereas if they had first defined the sunna, they would have produced a criterion free of shortcomings. 

Sunna, in both the language of the Arabs and the Sacred Law, means way, as is illustrated by the words of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), 

"He who inaugurates a good sunna in Islam [dis: Reliance of the Traveller p58.1(2)] ...And he who introduces a bad sunna in Islam...", sunna meaning way or custom. The way of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) in giving guidance, accepting, and rejecting: this is the sunna. For "good sunna" and "bad sunna" mean a "good way" or "bad way", and cannot possibly mean anything else. Thus, the meaning of "sunna" is not what most students, let alone ordinary people, understand; namely, that it is the prophetic hadith (as when sunna is contrasted with "Kitab", i.e. Qur'an, in distinguishing textual sources), or the opposite of the obligatory (as when sunna, i.e. recommended, is contrasted with obligatory in legal contexts), since the former is a technical usage coined by hadith scholars, while the latter is a technical usage coined by legal scholars and specialists in fundamentals of jurisprudence. Both of these are usages of later origin that are not what is meant by sunna here. Rather, the sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is his way of acting, ordering, accepting, and rejecting, and the way of his Rightly Guided Caliphs who followed his way acting, ordering, accepting, and rejecting. So practices that are newly begun must be examined in light of the sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and his way and path in acceptance or rejection. 

Now, there are a great number of hadiths, most of them in the rigorously authenticated (sahih) collections, showing that many of the prophetic Companions initiated new acts, forms of invocation (dhikr), supplications (dua), and so on, that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) had never previously done or ordered to be done. Rather, the Companions did them because of their inference and conviction that such acts were of the good that Islam and the Prophet of Islam came with and in general terms urged the like of to be done, in accordance with the word of Allah Most High in Surat al-Hajj, 

"And do the good, that haply you may succeed" (Qur'an 22:77), 

and the hadith of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), 

"He who inaugurates a good sunna in Islam earns the reward of it and all who perform it after him without diminishing their own rewards in the slightest." 

Though the original context of the hadith was giving charity, the interpretative principle established by the scholarly consensus (def: Reliance of the Traveller b7) of specialists in fundamentals of Sacred Law is that the point of primary texts lies in the generality of their lexical significance, not the specificity of their historical context, without this implying that just anyone may make provisions in the Sacred Law, for Islam is defined by principles and criteria, such that whatever one initiates as a sunna must be subject to its rules, strictures, and primary textual evidence. 

From this investigative point of departure, one may observe that many of the prophetic Companions performed various acts through their own personal reasoning, (ijtihad), and that the sunna and way of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was both to accept those that were acts of worship and good deeds conformable with what the Sacred Law had established and not in conflict with it; and to reject those which were otherwise. This was his sunna and way, upon which his caliphal successors and Companions proceeded, and from which Islamic scholars (Allah be well pleased with them) have established the rule that any new matter must be judged according to the principles and primary texts of Sacred Law: whatever is attested to by the law as being good is acknowledged as good, and whatever is attested to by the law as being a contravention and bad is rejected as a blameworthy innovation (bida). They sometimes term the former a good innovation (bida hasana) in view of it lexically being termed an innovation , but legally speaking it is not really an innovation but rather an inferable sunna as long as the primary texts of the Sacred Law attest to its being acceptable. 

We now turn to the primary textual evidence previously alluded to concerning the acts of the Companions and how the Prophet, (Allah bless him and give him peace) responded to them: 

(1) Bukhari and Muslim relate from Abu Hurayra (Allah be well pleased with him) that at the dawn prayer the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to Bilal, "Bilal, tell me which of your acts in Islam you are most hopeful about, for I have heard the footfall of your sandals in paradise", and he replied, "I have done nothing I am more hopeful about than the fact that I do not perform ablution at any time of the night or day without praying with that ablution whatever has been destined for me to pray." 

Ibn Hajar Asqalani says in Fath al-Bari that the hadith shows it is permissible to use personal reasoning (ijtihad) in choosing times for acts of worship, for Bilal reached the conclusions he mentioned by his own inference, and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) confirmed him therein. 

Similar to this is the hadith in Bukhari about Khubayb (who asked to pray two rakas before being executed by idolaters in Mecca) who was the first to establish the sunna of two rak'as for those who are steadfast in going to their death. These hadiths are explicit evidence that Bilal and Khubayb used their own personal reasoning (ijtihad) in choosing the times of acts of worship, without any previous command or precedent from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) other than the general demand to perform the prayer. 

(2) Bukhari and Muslim relate that Rifa'a ibn Rafi said, "When we were praying behind the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and he raised his head from bowing and said , "Allah hears whoever praises Him", a man behind him said, "Our Lord, Yours is the praise, abundantly, wholesomely, and blessedly therein." When he rose to leave, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) asked "who said it", and when the man replied that it was he, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "I saw thirty-odd angels each striving to be the one to write it." Ibn Hajar says in Fath al-Bari that the hadith indicates the permissibility of initiating new expressions of dhikr in the prayer other than the ones related through hadith texts, as long as they do not contradict those conveyed by the hadith [since the above words were a mere enhancement and addendum to the known, sunna dhikr]. 

(3) Bukhari relates from Aisha (Allah be well pleased with her) that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) dispatched a man at the head of a military expedition who recited the Qur'an for his companions at prayer, finishing each recital with al-Ikhlas (Qur'an 112). When they returned, they mentioned this to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), who told them, "Ask him why he does this", and when they asked him, the man replied, "because it describes the All-merciful, and I love to recite it." The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to them, "Tell him Allah loves him." In spite of this, we do not know of any scholar who holds that doing the above is recommended, for the acts the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to do regularly are superior, though his confirming the like of this illustrates his sunna regarding his acceptance of various forms of obedience and acts of worship, and shows he did not consider the like of this to be a reprehensible innovation (bida), as do the bigots who vie with each other to be the first to brand acts as innovation and misguidance. Further, it will be noticed that all the preceding hadiths are about the prayer, which is the most important of bodily acts of worship, and of which the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "Pray as you have seen me pray", despite which he accepted the above examples of personal reasoning because they did not depart from the form defined by the Lawgiver, for every limit must be observed, while there is latitude in everything besides, as long as it is within the general category of being called for by Sacred Law. This is the sunna of the Prophet and his way (Allah bless him and give him peace) and is as clear as can be. Islamic scholars infer from it that every act for which there is evidence in Sacred Law that it is called for and which does not oppose an unequivocal primary text or entail harmful consequences is not included in the category of reprehensible innovation (bida), but rather is of the sunna, even if there should exist something whose performance is superior to it. 

(4) Bukhari relates from Abu Said al-Khudri that a band of the Companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) departed on one of their journeys, alighting at the encampment of some desert Arabs whom they asked to be their hosts, but who refused to have them as guests. The leader of the encampment was stung by a scorpion, and his followers tried everything to cure him, and when all had failed, one said, "If you would approach the group camped near you, one of them might have something". So they came to them and said, "O band of men, our leader has been stung and weve tried everything. Do any of you have something for it?" and one of them replied, "Yes, by Allah, I recite healing words [ruqya, def: Reliance of the Traveller w17] over people, but by Allah, we asked you to be our hosts and you refused, so I will not recite anything unless you give us a fee". They then agreed upon a herd of sheep, so the man went and began spitting and reciting the Fatiha over the victim until he got up and walked as if he were a camel released from its hobble, nothing the matter with him. They paid the agreed upon fee, which some of the Companions wanted to divide up, but the man who had done the reciting told them, "Do not do so until we reach the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and tell him what has happened, to see what he may order us to do". They came to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and told him what had occurred, and he said, "How did you know it was of the words which heal? You were right. Divide up the herd and give me a share." 

The hadith is explicit that the Companion had no previous knowledge that reciting the Fatiha to heal (ruqya) was countenanced by Sacred Law, but rather did so because of his own personal reasoning (ijtihad), and since it did not contravene anything that had been legislated, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) confirmed him therein because it was of his sunna and way to accept and confirm what contained good and did not entail harm, even if it did not proceed from the acts of the Prophet himself (Allah bless him and give him peace) as a definitive precedent. 

(5) Bukhari relates from Abu Said al-Khudri that one man heard another reciting al-Ikhlas (Qur'an 112) over and over again, so when morning came he went to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and sarcastically mentioned it to him. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "By Him in whose hand is my soul, it equals one-third of the Qur'an." Daraqutni recorded another version of this hadith in which the man said, "I have a neighbor who prays at night and does not recite anything but al-Ikhlas." The hadith shows that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) confirmed the persons restricting himself to this sura while praying at night, despite its not being what the Prophet himself did (Allah bless him and give him peace), for though the Prophets practice of reciting from the whole Qur'an was superior, the mans act was within the general parameters of the sunna and there was nothing blameworthy about it in any case. 

(6) Ahmad and Ibn Hibban relates from Abdullah ibn Burayda that his father said, I entered the mosque with the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), where a man was at prayer, supplicating: "O Allah, I ask You by the fact that I testify You are Allah, there is no god but You, the One, the Ultimate, who did not beget and was not begotten, and to whom none is equal", and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "By Him in whose hand is my soul, he has asked Allah by His greatest name, which if He is asked by it He gives, and if supplicated He answers". It is plain that this supplication came spontaneously from the Companion, and since it conformed to what the Sacred Law calls for, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) confirmed it with the highest degree of approbation and acceptance, while it is not known that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) had ever taught it to him (Adilla Ahl al-Sunna wa'al-Jamaa, 119-33).

We are now able to return to the hadith with which I began my talk tonight, in which the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, ". . . Beware of matters newly begun, for every innovation is misguidance". And understand it as expounded by a classic scholar of Islam, Sheikh Muhammad Jurdani, who said: 

"Beware of matters newly begun", distance yourselves and be wary of matters newly innovated that did not previously exist", i.e. things invented in Islam that contravene the Sacred Law, "for every innovation is misguidance" meaning that every innovation is the opposite of the truth, i.e. falsehood, a hadith that has been related elsewhere as: "for every newly begun matter is innovation, every innovation is misguidance, and every misguidance is in hell" meaning that everyone who is misguided, whether through himself or by following another, is in hell, the hadith referring to matters that are not good innovations with a basis in Sacred Law. It has been stated (by Izz ibn Abd al-Salam) that innovations (bida) fall under the five headings of the Sacred Law (n: i.e. the obligatory, unlawful, recommended, offensive, and permissible): 

(1) The first category comprises innovations that are obligatory , such as recording the Qur'an and the laws of Islam in writing when it was feared that something might be lost from them; the study of the disciplines of Arabic that are necessary to understand the Qur'an and sunna such as grammar, word declension, and lexicography; hadith classification to distinguish between genuine and spurious prophetic traditions; and the philosophical refutations of arguments advanced by the Mu'tazilites and the like. 

(2) The second category is that of unlawful innovations such as non- Islamic taxes and levies, giving positions of authority in Sacred Law to those unfit for them, and devoting ones time to learning the beliefs of heretical sects that contravene the tenets of faith of Ahl al-Sunna. 

(3) The third category consists of recommended innovations such as building hostels and schools of Sacred Law, recording the research of Islamic schools of legal thought, writing books on beneficial subjects, extensive research into fundamentals and particular applications of Sacred Law, in-depth studies of Arabic linguistics, the reciting of wirds (def: Reliance of the Traveller w20) by those with a Sufi path, and commemorating the birth (mawlid), of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) and wearing ones best and rejoicing at it. 

(4) The fourth category includes innovations that are offensive, such as embellishing mosques, decorating the Qur'an and having a backup man (muballigh) loudly repeat the spoken Allahu Akbar of the imam when the latter's voice is already clearly audible to those who are praying behind him. 

(5) the fifth category is that of innovations that are permissible, such as sifting flour, using spoons and having more enjoyable food, drink and housing. (al Jawahir al-luluiyya fi sharh al-Arbain al-nawawiyya, 220-21). 

I will conclude my remarks tonight with a translation of Sheikh Abdullah al-Ghimari, who said: In his al-Qawaid al-kubra, "Izz ibn Abd al-Salam classifies innovations (bida), according to their benefit, harm, or indifference, into the five categories of rulings: the obligatory, recommended, unlawful, offensive, and permissible; giving examples of each and mentioning the principles of Sacred Law that verify his classification. His words on the subject display his keen insight and comprehensive knowledge of both the principles of jurisprudence and the human advantages and disadvantages in view of which the Lawgiver has established the rulings of Sacred Law. 

Because his classification of innovation (bida) was established on a firm basis in Islamic jurisprudence and legal principles, it was confirmed by Imam Nawawi, Ibn Hajar Asqalani, and the vast majority of Islamic scholars, who received his words with acceptance and viewed it obligatory to apply them to the new events and contingencies that occur with the changing times and the peoples who live in them. One may not support the denial of his classification by clinging to the hadith "Every innovation is misguidance", because the only form of innovation that is without exception misguidance is that concerning tenets of faith, like the innovations of the Mutazilites, Qadarites, Murjiites, and so on, that contradicted the beliefs of the early Muslims. This is the innovation of misguidance because it is harmful and devoid of benefit. As for innovation in works, meaning the occurrence of an act connected with worship or something else that did not exist in the first century of Islam, it must necessarily be judged according to the five categories mentioned by Izz ibn Abd al-Salam. To claim that such innovation is misguidance without further qualification is simply not applicable to it, for new things are among the exigencies brought into being by the passage of time and generations, and nothing that is new lacks a ruling of Allah Most High that is applicable to it, whether explicitly mentioned in primary texts, or inferable from them in some way. The only reason that Islamic law can be valid for every time and place and be the consummate and most perfect of all divine laws is because it comprises general methodological principles and universal criteria, together with the ability its scholars have been endowed with to understand its primary texts, the knowledge of types of analogy and parallelism, and the other excellences that characterize it. Were we to rule that every new act that has come into being after the first century of Islam is an innovation of misguidance without considering whether it entails benefit or harm, it would invalidate a large share of the fundamental bases of Sacred Law as well as those rulings established by analogical reasoning, and would narrow and limit the Sacred Laws vast and comprehensive scope. (Adilla Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jamma)

 

 

The Place of Tasawwuf in Traditional Islamic Sciences

Nuh Ha Mim Keller 1995

 

 

Perhaps the biggest challenge in learning Islam correctly today is the scarcity of traditional ‘ulama. In this meaning, Bukhari relates the sahih, rigorously authenticated hadith that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, 

"Truly, Allah does not remove Sacred Knowedge by taking it out of servants, but rather by taking back the souls of Islamic scholars [in death], until, when He has not left a single scholar, the people take the ignorant as leaders, who are asked for and who give Islamic legal opinion without knowledge, misguided and misguiding" (Fath al-Bari, 1.194, hadith 100).

The process described by the hadith is not yet completed, but has certainly begun, and in our times, the lack of traditional scholars—whether in Islamic law, in hadith, in tafsir ‘Qur'anic exegesis’—has given rise to an understanding of the religion that is far from scholarly, and sometimes far from the truth. For example, in the course of my own studies in Islamic law, my first impression from orientalist and Muslim-reformer literature, was that the Imams of the madhhabs or ‘schools of jurisprudence’ had brought a set of rules from completely outside the Islamic tradition and somehow imposed them upon the Muslims. But when I sat with traditional scholars in the Middle East and asked them about the details, I came away with a different point of view, having learned the bases for deriving the law from the Qur'an and sunna. 

And similarly with Tasawwuf—which is the word I will use tonight for the English Sufism, since our context is traditional Islam—quite a different picture emerged from talking with scholars of Tasawwuf than what I had been exposed to in the West. My talk tonight, In Sha’ Allah, will present knowledge taken from the Qur'an and sahih hadith, and from actual teachers of Tasawwuf in Syria and Jordan, in view of the need for all of us to get beyond clichés, the need for factual information from Islamic sources, the need to answer such questions as: Where did Tasawwuf come from? What role does it play in the din or religion of Islam? and most importantly, What is the command of Allah about it? 

As for the origin of the term Tasawwuf, like many other Islamic discliplines, its name was not known to the first generation of Muslims. The historian Ibn Khaldun notes in his Muqaddima

This knowledge is a branch of the sciences of Sacred Law that originated within the Umma. From the first, the way of such people had also been considered the path of truth and guidance by the early Muslim community and its notables, of the Companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), those who were taught by them, and those who came after them. 

It basically consists of dedication to worship, total dedication to Allah Most High, disregard for the finery and ornament of the world, abstinence from the pleasure, wealth, and prestige sought by most men, and retiring from others to worship alone. This was the general rule among the Companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and the early Muslims, but when involvement in this-worldly things became widespread from the second Islamic century onwards and people became absorbed in worldliness, those devoted to worship came to be called Sufiyya or People of Tasawwuf (Ibn Khaldun, al-Muqaddima [N.d. Reprint. Mecca: Dar al-Baz, 1397/1978], 467).

In Ibn Khaldun’s words, the content of Tasawwuf, "total dedication to Allah Most High," was, "the general rule among the Companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and the early Muslims." So if the word did not exist in earliest times, we should not forget that this is also the case with many other Islamic disciplines, such as tafsir, ‘Qur'anic exegesis,’ or ‘ilm al-jarh wa ta‘dil, ‘the science of the positive and negative factors that affect hadith narrators acceptability,’ or ‘ilm al-tawhid, the science of belief in Islamic tenets of faith,’ all of which proved to be of the utmost importance to the correct preservation and transmission of the religion.

As for the origin of the word Tasawwuf, it may well be from Sufi, the person who does Tasawwuf, which seems to be etymologically prior to it, for the earliest mention of either term was by Hasan al-Basri who died 110 years after the Hijra, and is reported to have said, "I saw a Sufi circumambulating the Kaaba, and offered him a dirham, but he would not accept it." It therefore seems better to understand Tasawwuf by first asking what a Sufi is; and perhaps the best definition of both the Sufi and his way, certainly one of the most frequently quoted by masters of the discipline, is from the sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) who said:

Allah Most High says: "He who is hostile to a friend of Mine I declare war against. My slave approaches Me with nothing more beloved to Me than what I have made obligatory upon him, and My slave keeps drawing nearer to Me with voluntary works until I love him. And when I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his sight with which he sees, his hand with which he seizes, and his foot with which he walks. If he asks me, I will surely give to him, and if he seeks refuge in Me, I will surely protect him" (Fath al-Bari, 11.340–41, hadith 6502);

This hadith was related by Imam Bukhari, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al-Bayhaqi, and others with multiple contiguous chains of transmission, and is sahih. It discloses the central reality of Tasawwuf, which is precisely change, while describing the path to this change, in conformity with a traditional definition used by masters in the Middle East, who define a Sufi as Faqihun ‘amila bi ‘ilmihi fa awrathahu Llahu ‘ilma ma lam ya‘lam,‘A man of religious learning who applied what he knew, so Allah bequeathed him knowledge of what he did not know.’

To clarify, a Sufi is a man of religious learning,because the hadith says, "My slave approaches Me with nothing more beloved to Me than what I have made obligatory upon him," and only through learning can the Sufi know the command of Allah, or what has been made obligatory for him. He has applied what he knew, because the hadith says he not only approaches Allah with the obligatory, but "keeps drawing nearer to Me with voluntary works until I love him." And in turn, Allah bequeathed him knowledge of what he did not know, because the hadith says, "And when I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his sight with which he sees, his hand with which he seizes, and his foot with which he walks," which is a metaphor for the consummate awareness of tawhid, or the ‘unity of Allah,’ which in the context of human actions such as hearing, sight, seizing, and walking, consists of realizing the words of the Qur'an about Allah that, 

"It is He who created you and what you do" (Qur'an 37:96).

The origin of the way of the Sufi thus lies in the prophetic sunna. The sincerity to Allah that it entails was the rule among the earliest Muslims, to whom this was simply a state of being without a name, while it only became a distinct discipline when the majority of the Community had drifted away and changed from this state. Muslims of subsequent generations required systematic effort to attain it, and it was because of the change in the Islamic environment after the earliest generations, that a discipline by the name of Tasawwuf came to exist. 

But if this is true of origins, the more significant question is: How central is Tasawwuf to the religion, and: Where does it fit into Islam as a whole? Perhaps the best answer is the hadith of Muslim, that ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab said: 

As we sat one day with the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), a man in pure white clothing and jet black hair came to us, without a trace of travelling upon him, though none of us knew him.

He sat down before the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) bracing his knees against his, resting his hands on his legs, and said: "Muhammad, tell me about Islam." The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: "Islam is to testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and to perform the prayer, give zakat, fast in Ramadan, and perform the pilgrimage to the House if you can find a way."

He said: "You have spoken the truth," and we were surprised that he should ask and then confirm the answer. Then he said:

"Tell me about true faith (iman)," and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) answered: "It is to believe in Allah, His angels, His inspired Books, His messengers, the Last Day, and in destiny, its good and evil."

"You have spoken the truth," he said, "Now tell me about the perfection of faith (ihsan)," and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) answered: "It is to worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you see Him not, He nevertheless sees you."

The hadith continues to where ‘Umar said:

Then the visitor left. I waited a long while, and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to me, "Do you know, ‘Umar, who was the questioner?" and I replied, "Allah and His messenger know best." He said, 

"It was Gabriel, who came to you to teach you your religion" (Sahih Muslim, 1.37: hadith 8). 

This is a sahih hadith, described by Imam Nawawi as one of the hadiths upon which the Islamic religion turns. The use of din in the last words of it, Atakum yu‘allimukum dinakum, "came to you to teach you your religion" entails that the religion of Islam is composed of the three fundamentals mentioned in the hadith: Islam, or external compliance with what Allah asks of us; Iman, or the belief in the unseen that the prophets have informed us of; and Ihsan, or to worship Allah as though one sees Him. The Qur'an says, in Surat Maryam, 

"Surely We have revealed the Remembrance, and surely We shall preserve it" (Qur'an 15:9), 

and if we reflect how Allah, in His wisdom, has accomplished this, we see that it is by human beings, the traditional scholars He has sent at each level of the religion. The level of Islam has been preserved and conveyed to us by the Imams of Shari‘a or ‘Sacred Law’ and its ancillary disciplines; the level of Iman, by the Imams of ‘Aqida or ‘tenets of faith’; and the level of Ihsan, "to worship Allah as though you see Him," by the Imams of Tasawwuf. 

The hadith’s very words "to worship Allah" show us the interrelation of these three fundamentals, for the how of "worship" is only known through the external prescriptions of Islam, while the validity of this worship in turn presupposes Iman or faith in Allah and the Islamic revelation, without which worship would be but empty motions; while the words, "as if you see Him," show that Ihsan implies a human change, for it entails the experience of what, for most of us, is not experienced. So to understand Tasawwuf, we must look at the nature of this change in relation to both Islam and Iman, and this is the main focus of my talk tonight. 

At the level of Islam, we said that Tasawwuf requires Islam,through ‘submission to the rules of Sacred Law.’ But Islam, for its part, equally requires Tasawwuf. Why? For the very good reason that the sunna which Muslims have been commanded to follow is not just the words and actions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), but also his states, states of the heart such as taqwa ‘godfearingness,’ ikhlas ‘sincerity,’ tawakkul ‘reliance on Allah,’ rahma ‘mercy,’ tawadu‘ ‘humility,’ and so on. 

Now, it is characteristic of the Islamic ethic that human actions are not simply divided into two shades of morality, right or wrong; but rather five, arranged in order of their consequences in the next world. The obligatory (wajib) is that whose performance is rewarded by Allah in the next life and whose nonperformance is punished. The recommended (mandub) is that whose performance is rewarded, but whose nonperformance is not punished. The permissible (mubah) is indifferent, unconnected with either reward or punishment. The offensive (makruh) is that whose nonperformance is rewarded but whose performance is not punished. The unlawful (haram) is that whose nonperformance is rewarded and whose performance is punished, if one dies unrepentant. 

Human states of the heart, the Qur'an and sunna make plain to us, come under each of these headings. Yet they are not dealt with in books of fiqh or ‘Islamic jurisprudence,’ because unlike the prayer, zakat, or fasting, they are not quantifiable in terms of the specific amount of them that must be done. But though they are not countable, they are of the utmost importance to every Muslim. Let’s look at a few examples.

(1) Love of Allah. In Surat al-Baqara of the Qur'an, Allah blames those who ascribe associates to Allah whom they love as much as they love Allah. Then He says, 

"And those who believe are greater in love for Allah" (Qur'an 2:165), making being a believer conditional upon having greater love for Allah than any other.

(2) Mercy. Bukhari and Muslim relate that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "Whomever is not merciful to people, Allah will show no mercy" (Sahih Muslim, 4.1809: hadith 2319), and Tirmidhi relates the well authenticated (hasan) hadith "Mercy is not taken out of anyone except the damned" (al-Jami‘ al-sahih, 4.323: hadith 1923).

(3) Love of each other. Muslim relates in his Sahih that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "By Him in whose hand is my soul, none of you shall enter paradise until you believe, and none of you shall believe until you love one another . . . ." (Sahih Muslim, 1.74: hadith 54).

(4) Presence of mind in the prayer (salat). Abu Dawud relates in his Sunan that ‘Ammar ibn Yasir heard the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) say, "Truly, a man leaves, and none of his prayer has been recorded for him except a tenth of it, a ninth of it, eighth of it, seventh of it, sixth of it, fifth of it, fourth of it, third of it, a half of it" (Sunan Abi Dawud, 1.211: hadith 796)—meaning that none of a person’s prayer counts for him except that in which he is present in his heart with Allah.

(5) Love of the Prophet. Bukhari relates in his Sahih that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "None of you believes until I am more beloved to him than his father, his son, and all people" (Fath al-Bari, 1.58, hadith 15).

It is plain from these texts that none of the states mentioned—whether mercy, love, or presence of heart—are quantifiable, for the Shari‘a cannot specify that one must "do two units of mercy" or "have three units of presence of mind" in the way that the number of rak‘as of prayer can be specified, yet each of them is personally obligatory for the Muslim. Let us complete the picture by looking at a few examples of states that are haram or ‘strictly unlawful’: 

(1) Fear of anyone besides Allah. Allah Most High says in Surat al-Baqara of the Qur'an, 

"And fulfill My covenant: I will fulfill your covenant—And fear Me alone" (Qur'an 2:40), the last phrase of which, according to Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, "establishes that a human being is obliged to fear no one besides Allah Most High" (Tafsir al-Fakhr al-Razi, 3.42).

(2) Despair. Allah Most High says, 

"None despairs of Allah’s mercy except the people who disbelieve" (Qur'an 12:87), indicating the unlawfulness of this inward state by coupling it with the worst human condition possible, that of unbelief.

(3) Arrogance. Muslim relates in his Sahih that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said,

"No one shall enter paradise who has a particle of arrogance in his heart" (Sahih Muslim, 1.93: hadith 91).

(4) Envy,meaning to wish for another to lose the blessings he enjoys. Abu Dawud relates that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said,

"Beware of envy, for envy consumes good works as flames consume firewood" (Sunan Abi Dawud, 4.276: hadith 4903).

(5) Showing off in acts of worship. Al-Hakim relates with a sahih chain of transmission that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said,

"The slightest bit of showing off in good works is as if worshipping others with Allah . . . ." (al-Mustadrak ‘ala al-Sahihayn, 1.4). 

These and similar haram inward states are not found in books of fiqh or ‘jurisprudence,’ because fiqh can only deal with quantifiable descriptions of rulings. Rather, they are examined in their causes and remedies by the scholars of the ‘inner fiqh’ of Tasawwuf, men such as Imam al-Ghazali in his Ihya’ ‘ulum al-din [The reviving of the religious sciences], Imam al-Rabbani in his Maktubat [Letters], al-Suhrawardi in his ‘Awarif al-Ma‘arif [The knowledges of the illuminates], Abu Talib al-Makki in Qut al-qulub [The sustenance of hearts], and similar classic works, which discuss and solve hundreds of ethical questions about the inner life. These are books of Shari‘a and their questions are questions of Sacred Law, of how it is lawful or unlawful for a Muslim to be; and they preserve the part of the prophetic sunna dealing with states.

Who needs such information? All Muslims, for the Qur'anic verses and authenticated hadiths all point to the fact that a Muslim must not only do certain things and say certain things, but also must be something, must attain certain states of the heart and eliminate others. Do we ever fear someone besides Allah? Do we have a particle of arrogance in our hearts? Is our love for the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) greater than our love for any other human being? Is there the slightest bit of showing off in our good works?

Half a minute’s reflection will show the Muslim where he stands on these aspects of his din, and why in classical times, helping Muslims to attain these states was not left to amateurs, but rather delegated to ‘ulama of the heart, the scholars of Islamic Tasawwuf. For most people, these are not easy transformations to make, because of the force of habit, because of the subtlety with which we can deceive ourselves, but most of all because each of us has an ego, the self, the Me, which is called in Arabic al-nafs, about which Allah testifies in Surat Yusuf:

"Verily the self ever commands to do evil" (Qur'an12:53). 

If you do not believe it, consider the hadith related by Muslim in his Sahih, that:

The first person judged on Resurrection Day will be a man martyred in battle.

He will be brought forth, Allah will reacquaint him with His blessings upon him and the man will acknowledge them, whereupon Allah will say, "What have you done with them?" to which the man will respond, "I fought to the death for You."

Allah will reply, "You lie. You fought in order to be called a hero, and it has already been said." Then he will be sentenced and dragged away on his face and flung into the fire.

Then a man will be brought forward who learned Sacred Knowledge, taught it to others, and who recited the Qur'an. Allah will remind him of His gifts to him and the man will acknowledge them, and then Allah will say, "What have you done with them?" The man will answer, "I acquired Sacred Knowledge, taught it, and recited the Qur'an, for Your sake."

Allah will say, "You lie. You learned so as to be called a scholar, and read the Qur'an so as to be called a reciter, and it has already been said." Then the man will be sentenced and dragged away on his face to be flung into the fire.

Then a man will be brought forward whom Allah generously provided for, giving him various kinds of wealth, and Allah will recall to him the benefits given, and the man will acknowledge them, to which Allah will say, "And what have you done with them?" The man will answer, "I have not left a single kind of expenditure You love to see made, except that I have spent on it for Your sake."

Allah will say, "You lie. You did it so as to be called generous, and it has already been said." Then he will be sentenced and dragged away on his face to be flung into the fire (Sahih Muslim, 3.1514: hadith 1905).

We should not fool ourselves about this, because our fate depends on it: in our childhood, our parents taught us how to behave through praise or blame, and for most of us, this permeated and colored our whole motivation for doing things. But when childhood ends, and we come of age in Islam, the religion makes it clear to us, both by the above hadith and by the words of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) "The slightest bit of showing off in good works is as if worshipping others with Allah" that being motivated by what others think is no longer good enough, and that we must change our motives entirely, and henceforth be motivated by nothing but desire for Allah Himself. The Islamic revelation thus tells the Muslim that it is obligatory to break his habits of thinking and motivation, but it does not tell him how. For that, he must go to the scholars of these states, in accordance with the Qur'anic imperative,

"Ask those who know if you know not" (Qur'an16:43),

There is no doubt that bringing about this change, purifying the Muslims by bringing them to spiritual sincerity, was one of the central duties of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), for Allah says in the Surat Al ‘Imran of the Qur'an,

"Allah has truly blessed the believers, for He has sent them a messenger of themselves, who recites His signs to them and purifies them, and teaches them the Book and the Wisdom" (Qur'an 3:164),

which explicitly lists four tasks of the prophetic mission, the second of which, yuzakkihim means precisely to ‘purify them’ and has no other lexical sense. Now, it is plain that this teaching function cannot, as part of an eternal revelation, have ended with the passing of the first generation, a fact that Allah explictly confirms in His injunction in Surat Luqman,

"And follow the path of him who turns unto Me" (Qur'an 31:15).

These verses indicate the teaching and transformative role of those who convey the Islamic revelation to Muslims, and the choice of the word ittiba‘ in the second verse, which is more general, implies both keeping the company of and following the example of a teacher. This is why in the history of Tasawwuf, we find that though there were many methods and schools of thought, these two things never changed: keeping the company of a teacher, and following his example—in exactly the same way that the Sahaba were uplifted and purified by keeping the company of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and following his example. 

And this is why the discipline of Tasawwuf has been preserved and transmitted by Tariqas or groups of students under a particular master. First, because this was the sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) in his purifying function described by the Qur'an. Secondly, Islamic knowledge has never been transmitted by writings alone, but rather from ‘ulama to students. Thirdly, the nature of the knowledge in question is of hal or ‘state of being,’ not just knowing, and hence requires it be taken from a succession of living masters back to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), for the sheer range and number of the states of heart required by the revelation effectively make imitation of the personal example of a teacher the only effective means of transmission. 

So far we have spoken about Tasawwuf in respect to Islam, as a Shari‘a science necessary to fully realize the Sacred Law in one’s life, to attain the states of the heart demanded by the Qur'an and hadith. This close connection between Shari‘a and Tasawwuf is expressed by the statement of Imam Malik, founder of the Maliki school, that "he who practices Tasawwuf without learning Sacred Law corrupts his faith, while he who learns Sacred Law without practicing Tasawwuf corrupts himself. Only he who combines the two proves true." This is why Tasawwuf was taught as part of the traditional curriculum in madrasas across the Muslim world from Malaysia to Morocco, why many of the greatest Shari‘a scholars of this Umma have been Sufis, and why until the end of the Islamic caliphate at the beginning of this century and the subsequent Western control and cultural dominance of Muslim lands, there were teachers of Tasawwuf in Islamic institutions of higher learning from Lucknow to Istanbul to Cairo. 

But there is a second aspect of Tasawwuf that we have not yet talked about; namely, its relation to Iman or ‘True Faith,’ the second pillar of the Islamic religion, which in the context of the Islamic sciences consists of ‘Aqida or ‘orthodox belief.’

All Muslims believe in Allah, and that He is transcendently beyond anything conceivable to the minds of men, for the human intellect is imprisoned within its own sense impressions and the categories of thought derived from them, such as number, directionality, spatial extention, place, time, and so forth. Allah is beyond all of that; in His own words, 

"There is nothing whatesover like unto Him" (Qur'an 42:11)

If we reflect for a moment on this verse, in the light of the hadith of Muslim about Ihsan that "it is to worship Allah as though you see Him," we realize that the means of seeing here is not the eye, which can only behold physical things like itself; nor yet the mind, which cannot transcend its own impressions to reach the Divine, but rather certitude, the light of Iman, whose locus is not the eye or the brain, but rather the ruh, a subtle faculty Allah has created within each of us called the soul, whose knowledge is unobstructed by the bounds of the created universe. Allah Most High says, by way of exalting the nature of this faculty by leaving it a mystery,

"Say: ‘The soul is of the affair of my Lord’" (Qur'an 17:85).

The food of this ruh is dhikr or the ‘remembrance of Allah.’ Why? Because acts of obedience increase the light of certainty and Iman in the soul, and dhikr is among the greatest of them, as is attested to by the sahih hadith related by al-Hakim that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said,

"Shall I not tell you of the best of your works, the purest of them in the eyes of your Master, the highest in raising your rank, better than giving gold and silver, and better for you than to meet your enemy and smite their necks, and they smite yours?" They said, "This—what is it, O Messenger of Allah?" and he said: Dhikru Llahi ‘azza wa jall, "The remembrance of Allah Mighty and Majestic." (al-Mustadrak ‘ala al-Sahihayn, 1.496).

Increasing the strength of Iman through good actions, and particularly through the medium of dhikr has tremendous implications for the Islamic religion and traditional spirituality. A non-Muslim once asked me, "If God exists, then why all this beating around the bush? Why doesn’t He just come out and say so?" 

The answer is that taklif or ‘moral responsibility’ in this life is not only concerned with outward actions, but with what we believe, our ‘Aqida—and the strength with which we believe it. If belief in God and other eternal truths were effortless in this world, there would be no point in Allah making us responsible for it, it would be automatic, involuntary, like our belief, say, that London is in England. There would no point in making someone responsible for something impossible not to believe. 

But the responsibility Allah has place upon us is belief in the Unseen, as a test for us in this world to choose between kufr and Iman, to distinguish believer from unbeliever, and some believers above others.

This why strengthening Iman through dhikr is of such methodological importance for Tasawwuf: we have not only been commanded as Muslims to believe in certain things, but have been commanded to have absolute certainty in them. The world we see around us is composed of veils of light and darkness: events come that knock the Iman out of some of us, and Allah tests each of us as to the degree of certainty with which we believe the eternal truths of the religion. It was in this sense that ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab said, "If the Iman of Abu Bakr were weighed against the Iman of the entire Umma, it would outweigh it."

Now, in traditional ‘Aqida one of the most important tenets is the wahdaniyya or ‘oneness and uniqueness’ of Allah Most High. This means He is without any sharik or associate in His being, in His attributes, or in His acts. But the ability to hold this insight in mind in the rough and tumble of daily life is a function of the strength of certainty (yaqin) in one’s heart. Allah tells the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) in Surat al-A‘raf of the Qur'an, 

"Say: ‘I do not possess benefit for myself or harm, except as Allah wills’" (Qur'an 7:188),

yet we tend to rely on ourselves and our plans, in obliviousness to the facts of ‘Aqida that ourselves and our plans have no effect, that Allah alone brings about effects.

If you want to test yourself on this, the next time you contact someone with good connections whose help is critical to you, take a look at your heart at the moment you ask him to put in a good word for you with someone, and see whom you are relying upon. If you are like most of us, Allah is not at the forefront of your thoughts, despite the fact that He alone is controlling the outcome. Isn’t this a lapse in your ‘Aqida, or, at the very least, in your certainty? 

Tasawwuf corrects such shortcomings by step-by-step increasing the Muslim’s certainty in Allah. The two central means of Tasawwuf in attaining the conviction demanded by ‘Aqida are mudhakara, or learning the traditional tenets of Islamic faith, and dhikr, deepening one’s certainty in them by remembrance of Allah. It is part of our faith that, in the words of the Qur'an in Surat al-Saffat, 

"Allah has created you and what you do" (Qur'an 37:96); 

yet for how many of us is this day to day experience? Because Tasawwuf remedies this and other shortcomings of Iman, by increasing the Muslim’s certainty through a systematic way of teaching and dhikr, it has traditionally been regarded as personally obligatory to this pillar of the religion also, and from the earliest centuries of Islam, has proved its worth. 

The last question we will deal with tonight is: What about the bad Sufis we read about, who contravene the teachings of Islam? 

The answer is that there are two meanings of Sufi: the first is "Anyone who considers himself a Sufi," which is the rule of thumb of orientalist historians of Sufism and popular writers, who would oppose the "Sufis" to the "Ulama." I think the Qur'anic verses and hadiths we have mentioned tonight about the scope and method of true Tasawwuf show why we must insist on the primacy of the definition of a Sufi as "a man of religious learning who applied what he knew, so Allah bequeathed him knowledge of what he did not know." 

The very first thing a Sufi, as a man of religious learning knows is that the Shari‘a and ‘Aqida of Islam are above every human being. Whoever does not know this will never be a Sufi, except in the orientalist sense of the word—like someone standing in front of the stock exchange in an expensive suit with a briefcase to convince people he is a stockbroker. A real stockbroker is something else.

Because this distinction is ignored today by otherwise well-meaning Muslims, it is often forgotten that the ‘ulama who have criticized Sufis, such as Ibn al-Jawzi in his Talbis Iblis [The Devil’s deception], or Ibn Taymiya in places in his Fatawa, or Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya, were not criticizing Tasawwuf as an ancillary discipline to the Shari‘a. The proof of this is Ibn al-Jawzi’s five-volume Sifat al-safwa, which contains the biographies of the very same Sufis mentioned in al-Qushayri’s famous Tasawwuf manual al-Risala al-Qushayriyya. Ibn Taymiya considered himself a Sufi of the Qadiri order, and volumes ten and eleven of his thirty-seven-volume Majmu‘ al-fatawa are devoted to Tasawwuf. And Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya wrote his three-volume Madarij al-salikin, a detailed commentary on ‘Abdullah al-Ansari al-Harawi’s tract on the spiritual stations of the Sufi path, Manazil al-sa’irin. These works show that their authors’ criticisms were not directed at Tasawwuf as such, but rather at specific groups of their times, and they should be understood for what they are. 

As in other Islamic sciences, mistakes historically did occur in Tasawwuf, most of them stemming from not recognizing the primacy of Shari‘a and ‘Aqida above all else. But these mistakes were not different in principle from, for example, the Isra’iliyyat (baseless tales of Bani Isra’il) that crept into tafsir literature, or the mawdu‘at (hadith forgeries) that crept into the hadith. These were not taken as proof that tafsir was bad, or hadith was deviance, but rather, in each discipline, the errors were identified and warned against by Imams of the field, because the Umma needed the rest. And such corrections are precisely what we find in books like Qushayri’s Risala,Ghazali’s Ihya’ and other works of Sufism.

For all of the reasons we have mentioned, Tasawwuf was accepted as an essential part of the Islamic religion by the ‘ulama of this Umma. The proof of this is all the famous scholars of Shari‘a sciences who had the higher education of Tasawwuf, among them Ibn ‘Abidin, al-Razi, Ahmad Sirhindi, Zakariyya al-Ansari, al-‘Izz ibn ‘Abd al-Salam, Ibn Daqiq al-‘Eid, Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, Shah Wali Allah, Ahmad Dardir, Ibrahim al-Bajuri, ‘Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulsi, Imam al-Nawawi, Taqi al-Din al-Subki, and al-Suyuti. 

Among the Sufis who aided Islam with the sword as well as the pen, to quote Reliance of the Traveller, were:

such men as the Naqshbandi sheikh Shamil al-Daghestani, who fought a prolonged war against the Russians in the Caucasus in the nineteenth century; Sayyid Muhammad ‘Abdullah al-Somali, a sheikh of the Salihiyya order who led Muslims against the British and Italians in Somalia from 1899 to 1920; the Qadiri sheikh ‘Uthman ibn Fodi, who led jihad in Northern Nigeria from 1804 to 1808 to establish Islamic rule; the Qadiri sheikh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaza’iri, who led the Algerians against the French from 1832 to 1847; the Darqawi faqir al-Hajj Muhammad al-Ahrash, who fought the French in Egypt in 1799; the Tijani sheikh al-Hajj ‘Umar Tal, who led Islamic Jihad in Guinea, Senegal, and Mali from 1852 to 1864; and the Qadiri sheikh Ma’ al-‘Aynayn al-Qalqami, who helped marshal Muslim resistance to the French in northern Mauritania and southern Morocco from 1905 to 1909. 

Among the Sufis whose missionary work Islamized entire regions are such men as the founder of the Sanusiyya order, Muhammad ‘Ali Sanusi, whose efforts and jihad from 1807 to 1859 consolidated Islam as the religion of peoples from the Libyan Desert to sub-Saharan Africa; [and] the Shadhili sheikh Muhammad Ma‘ruf and Qadiri sheikh Uways al-Barawi, whose efforts spread Islam westward and inland from the East African Coast . . . . (Reliance of the Traveller,863).

It is plain from the examples of such men what kind of Muslims have been Sufis; namely, all kinds, right across the board—and that Tasawwuf did not prevent them from serving Islam in any way they could.

To summarize everything I have said tonight: In looking first at Tasawwuf and Shari‘a, we found that many Qur'anic verses and sahih hadiths oblige the Muslim to eliminate haram inner states as arrogance, envy, and fear of anyone besides Allah; and on the other hand, to acquire such obligatory inner states as mercy, love of one’s fellow Muslims, presence of mind in prayer, and love of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). We found that these inward states could not be dealt with in books of fiqh, whose purpose is to specify the outward, quantifiable aspects of the Shari‘a. The knowledge of these states is nevertheless of the utmost importance to every Muslim, and this is why it was studied under the ‘ulama of Ihsan, the teachers of Tasawwuf, in all periods of Islamic history until the beginning of the present century.

We then turned to the level of Iman, and found that though the ‘Aqida of Muslims is that Allah alone has any effect in this world, keeping this in mind in everhday life is not a given of human consciousness, but rather a function of a Muslim’s yaqin, his certainty. And we found that Tasawwuf, as an ancillary discipline to ‘Aqida, emphasizes the systematic increase of this certainty through both mudhakara, ‘teaching tenets of faith’ and dhikr, ‘the remembrance of Allah,’ in accordance with the words of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) about Ihsan that "it is worship Allah as though you see Him."

Lastly, we found that accusations against Tasawwuf made by scholars such as Ibn al-Jawzi, and Ibn Taymiya were not directed against Tasawwuf in principle, but to specific groups and individuals in the times of these authors, the proof for which is the other books by the same authors that showed their understanding of Tasawwuf as a Shari‘a science. 

To return to the starting point of my talk this evening, with the disappearance of traditional Islamic scholars from the Umma, two very different pictures of Tasawwuf emerge today. If we read books written after the dismantling of the traditional fabric of Islam by colonial powers in the last century, we find the big hoax: Islam without spirituality and Shari‘a without Tasawwuf. But if we read the classical works of Islamic scholarship, we learn that Tasawwuf has been a Shari‘a science like tafsir, hadith, or any other, throughout the history of Islam. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said,

"Truly, Allah does not look at your outward forms and wealth, but rather at your hearts and your works" (Sahih Muslim, 4.1389: hadith 2564).

And this is the brightest hope that Islam can offer a modern world darkened by materialism and nihilism: Islam as it truly is; the hope of eternal salvation through a religion of brotherhood and social and economic justice outwardly, and the direct experience of divine love and illumination inwardly. 

 

The Intermediary of Shirk.From the Mafaheem of Sayyid ibn Alawi Translated by Khalid Williams

 

Many people falter in their understanding of the reality of intermediaries, and haphazardly rush to the judgement that any intermediary is Shirk, and that he who takes an intermediary, whatever the fashion, has associated partners with Allah, and that his state in this affair is that of the polytheists, who said ‘we do not worship them except that they might bring us near to Allah’ (Surat al-Zumar, 3). This statement is incorrect, and the attempt to use this Ayah as an evidence is here misplaced. This is because this noble verse is clear in its severe condemnation of the polytheists for their worship of idols as gods besides Allah, the Exalted, and their association of them with Him, claiming that their worship of these idols is nothing more than a means of drawing closer to Allah. The kufr and shirk of their action stems from their worship of these idols, and their belief that they are lords besides Allah.

Something of great importance which must be stressed here is that this Ayah confirms that the polytheists were not sincere in their attempt to justify their worship of idols by claiming that they used them to draw near to Allah. For had they been truthful in this assertion, Allah would have been greater to them than their idols, and they would not have worshipped other than Him. However, Allah forbade the Muslims from insulting the idols of the polytheists with His words: ‘Do not curse those upon whom they call beside Allah, lest they wrongfully curse and revile Allah through ignorance. Thus to every nation have we made their deeds seem fair. Then to their Lord is their return, when He will inform them of that which they used to do’ (Surat al-An’am, 108).

It is narrated from ‘Abd al-Razzaq, and ‘Abd ibn Hamid, and ibn Jarir, and ibn al-Mundhir, and ibn Abi Hatim, and Abu al-Sheikh, from Qutada (may Allah be pleased with him), who said: “The Muslims used to curse and revile the idols of the disbelievers, and so the disbelievers reviled and cursed Allah, the Mighty, the Magnificent. So Allah revealed ‘Do not curse those upon whom they call beside Allah, lest they wrongfully curse and revile Allah through ignorance’.” This is the reason for the revelation (sabab nuzul) of the Ayah, which strongly forbids the believers from uttering insults against the idols that the polytheists used to worship in Makkah, because such insults would inevitably enrage those who believed in their hearts that those statues and idols were gods, with the ability to benefit and harm. This rage would drive them to meet the Believers with similar insults against the One whom they worshipped, the Lord of the Worlds, and so they would ascribe to Him defects, though He is utterly free of all defects. Again, if they were truly sincere in their claim that their idol-worship was only a means of drawing closer to Allah, they would not have dared insult Him to avenge their idols when they were insulted. It is entirely clear from this that the polytheists held Allah in far less esteem than they held their own idols.

This is also apparent from Allah’s words ‘And if you were to ask them who created the heavens and the earth, they would surely say “Allah!”’ (Surat al-‘Ankabut, 61). If the polytheists had truly believed that Allah the Exalted is the only Creator, and that their idols had not created anything, they would have worshipped Allah instead of their idols, or at the very least their r reverence towards Allah would have been greater than their reverence towards their stones and statues. Is this consistent with their utter vilification of Allah, the Mighty, the Magnificent, out of vigilance for their own idols against Him? It is abundantly clear that it is not consistent in the slightest. Furthermore, the Ayah that we are considering is not the only evidence that Allah was lower in the esteem of the polytheists; rather it has many counterparts. Of them is the statement of Allah the Exalted: ‘They assign to Allah a portion of the crops and cattle which He created, and they say “this is for Allah”, in their imagination, “and this for (His) partners in regards to us.” Thus, that which they apportion for His partners in them does not reach Allah, and that which they apportion to Allah goes to their partners. Evil is their ordinance’ (Surat al-An’am, 137.) If they did not hold Allah in lesser esteem than their idols, they would not have weighed against Him this bias, which as related in the Ayah merited the judgment of Allah upon them: ‘Evil is their ordinance.’

Further evidence is the call of Abu Sufyan (may Allah be pleased with him), before he entered Islam, ‘Hubal, be though exalted!’ as was related by Bukhari, calling upon the idol named ‘Hubal’, in order that he might, in that moment of conflict[1], overwhelm the Lord of the Heavens and the Earth and His army of Believers, who desired to overwhelm their idols. This is a clear measure of the state of the polytheists, and how they viewed their idols in relation to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.

It is essential that this be understood with true comprehension, for too many people build their arguments upon it without any understanding.

Do you not see that when Allah ordered the Muslims to face the Ka’aba in their prayers, they turned towards it when they worshipped, and took it as a direction of prayer (Qiblah)? The worship was not directed to the Ka’aba, and nor is the kissing of the Black Stone anything other than the worship of Allah the Exalted, and the imitation of the Prophet (may the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him and his family and companions). Were any of the Muslims to intend to worship to either of them, he would be a polytheist, like those who worship idols.

To worship Allah by means of intermediaries is essential, and cannot be termed shirk, and it cannot be said that everyone who takes an intermediary between him and his Lord is a mushrik; if it were otherwise, then every single human being would be a polytheist, for all of our affairs require intermediaries. The Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) received the Qur’an through the intermediation of Jibril, and so Jibril is the intermediary of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace), and he was the greatest intermediary to the Sahaba (may Allah be pleased with them), for they would rush to him in times of crisis, and complain of their needs to him, and seek his intercession and Du’a. In these times, the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace), never said to them ‘you have committed shirk and kufr! It is not permissible to complain to me, nor to seek anything from me; rather you must go and supplicate and ask Allah yourselves, for verily Allah is closer to you than I am!’ Rather he would stand and supplicate for them, although they knew full well that the Bestower in reality is Allah, and that the Preventer, and the Expender, and the Provider is Allah alone, and they knew also that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) would not avail them anything save with the permission of Allah, and through His Bounty. The Prophet himself (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said I am nothing but an apportioner; Allah is the one who bestows.’[2]

Therefore, it becomes evident that it is permissible and correct to describe any ordinary person as one who delivers from distress, and satisfies needs; that is, that he is an intermediary for them, so what of the Noble Master and Eminent Prophet, the Most Illustrious of Mankind and Jinn, the Undisputed Best of Creation? Did the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) not say ‘he who delivers a Muslim from distress, Allah delivers him from the distress of the Day of Resurrection[3]’? So the Believer is a deliverer from distress and crisis.

Did he not say (may Allah bless him and give him peace) ‘he who fulfils the need of his brother, I will stand at his balance (on the Day of Judgement), and if (his good deeds) do not outweigh (his bad), I will intercede for him.[4]’? So the Believer is a fulfiller of needs.

Did he (may Allah bless him and give him peace) not say ‘he who shelters a Muslim, Allah will shelter him on the Day of Resurrection[5]’?

Did he (may Allah bless him and give him peace) not say ‘verily, Allah has among His creation those who are sought for in times of need[6]’?

Did he (may Allah bless him and give him peace) not say ‘Allah is engaged in the aid of his servant as long as the servant is engaged in the aid of his brother[7]’?

Did he (may Allah bless him and give him peace) not say ‘he who comes to the aid of someone in need, Allah writes for him ninety-three good deeds[8]’?

So the Believer relieves hardships, aids, protects, fulfils needs, and is sought out in times of trial, although in reality it is Allah, Exalted and Magnificent, who aids, fulfils, and protects. However, as the Believer is the intermediary in all of this, attributing the actions to him is entirely appropriate.

Many Hadiths have been related from the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) which illustrate that Allah, Sublime and Exalted, alleviates punishment from all who dwell on the earth by means of those who seek His forgiveness, and those who maintain His mosques, and that by their means He provides the masses with sustenance and support, and protects them from trials and perils.

Tabrani related in ‘al-Mu’jam al-Kabeer,’ and Bayhaqi in ‘al-Sunan’ from Mani’ al-Daylmi  (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said ‘Were it not for the sake of certain servants of Allah whom He makes bow to Him, and certain infants whom He makes suckle, and certain cattle whom He makes graze, He would unleash His punishment upon you all, and would destroy you utterly.’

Bukhari related from Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said ‘are you given victory and sustenance except by means of those of you who are weak?

Tirmidhi related from Anas (may Allah be pleased with him), that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said ‘it may be that you are provided with sustenance by means of him.[9]’ Al-Hakim declared this Hadith to be Sahih.

Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both) narrated that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said: ‘Verily, Allah has men whom he created for the needs of the people, who rush to them in times of crisis. They are those who are safe from the punishment of Allah the Exalted[10].’

Jabir ibn Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said: ‘Truly, Allah confers righteousness upon a Muslim’s child, and his grandchild, and his family, and the families of his neighbours, by means of that Muslim’s piety and righteousness, and they are in the protection of Allah as long as he is amongst them.[11]

Ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both) narrated that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said: ‘Verily Allah, by the means of a pious Muslim, protects one hundred of his neighbours from hardship and strife.’

Ibn Umar then recited the Ayah ‘And had Allah not repelled some people by means of others, the earth would have been corrupted’ (Surat al-Baqarah, 251).[12] A Hadith is related from Thawban[13] which states ‘There will remain among you seven men by whom you will be given victory, rain and sustenance until the Affair of Allah arrives (the Day of Judgement).

‘Ubada ibn al-Samit narrated that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said ‘The Adbal[14] of my community are thirty, by means of them you are all provided with sustenance, rain and victory.’ Ubada said ‘I hope al-Hasan[15] to be one of them [16].’

 

Tabrani related in ‘al-Mu’jam al-Kabeer,’ and Bayhaqi in ‘al-Sunan’ from Mani’ al-Daylmi  (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said ‘Were it not for the sake of certain servants of Allah whom He makes bow to Him, and certain infants whom He makes suckle, and certain cattle whom He makes graze, He would unleash His punishment upon you all, and would destroy you utterly.’

Bukhari related from Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said ‘are you given victory and sustenance except by means of those of you who are weak?

Tirmidhi related from Anas (may Allah be pleased with him), that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said ‘it may be that you are provided with sustenance by means of him.[9]’ Al-Hakim declared this Hadith to be Sahih.

Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both) narrated that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said: ‘Verily, Allah has men whom he created for the needs of the people, who rush to them in times of crisis. They are those who are safe from the punishment of Allah the Exalted[10].’

Jabir ibn Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said: ‘Truly, Allah confers righteousness upon a Muslim’s child, and his grandchild, and his family, and the families of his neighbours, by means of that Muslim’s piety and righteousness, and they are in the protection of Allah as long as he is amongst them.[11]

Ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both) narrated that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said: ‘Verily Allah, by the means of a pious Muslim, protects one hundred of his neighbours from hardship and strife.’

Ibn Umar then recited the Ayah ‘And had Allah not repelled some people by means of others, the earth would have been corrupted’ (Surat al-Baqarah, 251).[12] A Hadith is related from Thawban[13] which states ‘There will remain among you seven men by whom you will be given victory, rain and sustenance until the Affair of Allah arrives (the Day of Judgement).

‘Ubada ibn al-Samit narrated that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said ‘The Adbal[14] of my community are thirty, by means of them you are all provided with sustenance, rain and victory.’ Ubada said ‘I hope al-Hasan[15] to be one of them [16].’

The four preceding Hadiths were mentioned by al-Hafidh ibn Katheer in his Tafseer of the above Qur’anic Ayah ‘And had Allah not repelled some people…’ and they are appropriate to be used as proofs, indeed by their body the content becomes Sahih (rigorously authenticated).

Anas bin Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said: ‘The earth will never be deprived of forty men of the like of the Intimate friend (khalil) of Allah,[17] by means of them you are given water and succour. Each time one of them dies, Allah substitutes another in their stead[18].’

The Greatest Intermediary

On the Day of Resurrection, the Day of Tawheed, the Day of Iman, the Day in which the Throne will appear, the benefit of the greatest intermediary will come to light: that of the possessor of the Praiseworthy Station (al-Maqam al-Mahmoud), he whose intercession is never rejected, and whose surety is never dispelled by He who promised never to disappoint him, or debase him, or dismay him, or grieve him on account of his community, when all of creation seek him out and plead for his intercession, and he stands before his Lord and does not return except with the height of nobility and honour revealed to us by the words of Allah to him: ‘O Muhammad! Raise your head, and intercede, your intercession will be met; and ask, you shall be given!’

May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and upon his family, companions, and all those who follow them until the Day of Judgement.

Translated from the book ‘Notions which must be Corrected[19]’, by the Eminent and Noble Prophetic Scion and Imam of the People of Hijaz, the Late Sheikh Sayyid Muhammad ibn al-Alawi al-Maliki al-Hassani. May Allah forgive him and be pleased with him, and reward him from His infinite bounty; and may He benefit us with his works that we might better serve His Deen and the community of His Noble Prophet, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. Amin.

 


NOTES

[1]     At the Battle of Uhud.

[2]     Related by Bukhari from Mu’awiyah (may Allah be pleased with him)

[3]     Related by Bukhari and Muslim from ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both)

[4]     Related by Abu Na’eem from ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both)

[5]     Related by Bukhari and Muslim from ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both)

[6]     See below for the reference for this Hadith

[7]     Related by Muslim and Abu Dawud and others from Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him)

[8]     Related by Abu Ya’la and al-Bazar and Bayhaqi

[9]     Full text of the Hadith : ‘There were two brothers at the time of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace), of whom one would come to the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) to seek knowledge, and the other would work to provide for them both. The worker felt that the situation to be unfair and complained about his brother to the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace), who replied: ‘it may be that you are provided with sustenance by means of him.’

[10]  Related by Tabrani and Abu Na’eem and al’Qada’i with a good (hasan) chain

[11]  Related by ibn Jareer, and by Tabari in his Tafseer

[12]  Related by Tabrani

[13]  A servant of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace)

[14]  The Substitutes. Explanation of their status is to be found in the Hadith below related by Anas ibn Malik, Insha Allah.

[15]  Al-Hasan al-Basri, one of the Tabi’een.

[16]  Related by Tabrani

[17]  The Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him)

[18]  Related by Tabrani. These are the Abdal (Substitutes).

[19]    Mafaheem Yajib an Tusahhah

Mufti Taqi Usmani's Fatwa on Mawlid

Mufti Taqi Usmani's Fatwa on Mawlid Comments on His Fatwa by Sh. G. F. Haddad Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim

{ Obey Allah, and Obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. }

"None of you is a believer until he loves me more than his own soul." (Sahih al-Bukhari)

On http://www.albalagh.net/taqi.shtml, a page in English devoted to Mufti Taqi Usmani says verbatim that "[He] is one of the leading Islamic scholars living today. Author of more than 40 books, he is an expert in the fields of Islamic law, Economics and Hadith. For the past 35 years, he has been teaching at the Darul-Uloom in Karachi that was established by his father Mufti Muhammad Shafi, the late Grand Mufti of Pakistan. He also holds a degree in law and is a Judge at the Sharia Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. He is a consultant to several international Islamic financial institutions and has played a key part in the move toward interest free banking and the establishment of Islamic financial institutions. He is the deputy chairman of the Jeddah based Islamic Fiqh Council of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC)."

On http://www.albalagh.net/general/rabi-ul-awwal.shtml another page in English features Mufti Taqi Usmani's fatwa on Mawlid.

From the latter page I've excerpted the following statements as they were posted verbatim as of 11 July, 2000, in their order of appearance in the text. I've numbered them for easier perusal and reference. After each excerpt, I've added a few comments according to need, in conformity with the duty enjoined on us by the Prophet of Nasiha - sincere faithfulness to Allah and sincere, faithful advice to the Muslims.

These comments were written in the light of what I have learnt through the immense mercy of Allah Most High at the hands of our Sunni Naqshbandi Shuyukh - may Allah grant them long life and health - at their forefront Mawlana al-Shaykh Nazim al-Haqqani, shedding much-needed light on the numerous misconceptions and misrepresentations of this fatwa.

It is left to the Muslim reader to verify firsthand to what extent such a fatwa by Mufti Taqi Usmani is based on fact and on the sources of Islam which are Qur'an, Sunna, Ijma` and Qiyas. And may Allah send uninterrupted blessings and peace on the first and foremost subject of these lines, Sayyidina Muhammad, and grant him the Wasila and Highmost Station of Intercession for Mankind, and upon his Family and all his Companions. Amin.

Mufti Taqi Usmani said:

1. "Rabi'ul-Awwal is the most significant month in the Islamic history, because humanity has been blessed in this month by the birth of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam."

Comment: This is true, yet the author further down (item #17) annuls the benefit of his own statement by denying the validity of any specific day of that month as an appropriate or preferable date for celebrating Mawlid and goes so far as to condemn the choice of that date as a reprehensible innovation. Then he castigates the highlighting of that month to celebrate Mawlid as well!

2. "Thus the birth of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, was the most significant and the most remarkable event in human history."

Comment: This is a confession by Mufti Taqi `Usmani that the night of the Mawlid Sharif is of greater significance and merit than Laylat al-Qadr which is the position of some of the Maliki Imams as cited by Abu al-`Abbas al-Wansharisi (d. 914) in his encyclopdia of Maliki fatwas titled _al-Mi`yar al-Mu`rab wa al-Jami` al-Mughrib fi Fatawa Ahl Ifriqya wa al-Andalus wa al-Maghrib (11:280-285).

Similarly, the Maliki Hadith Master and Imam, al-Sayyid al-Sharif Muhammad ibn Ja`far al-Kattani stated in his book _al-Yumn wa al-Is`ad bi Mawlid Khayr al-`Ibad_ (p. 21): "The two nights of the distinguished noble birth and the magnificent Prophetic Ascension appear to be the very best of the nights of the world without hesitation nor doubt... and if this is the case then such as these two nights [ MAWLID and MI`RAJ] deserve to be taken henceforth each as a recurring festival among other recurring festivals (`Eid min al-A`yad) and as a seasonal celebration (mawsim) among other seasonal celebrations devoted to good deeds and striving. Therefore those dates should be respected and venerated, the Book of Allah should be recited in them, and in their honor deeds should be performed that indicate joy and happiness at their immense merit as well as thankfulness to Allah Most High for His blessings and favors in them. This the Law in no way denies nor condemns, and no reprimand nor prohibition can be directed at those who perform this whatsoever."

3. "Had there been room in Islamic teachings for the celebration of birthdays or anniversaries, the birthday of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, would have undoubtedly deserved it more than the birthday of any other person. But that is against the nature of Islamic teachings."

Comment: This is a Wahhabi misconception of Usul which was refuted notably by the Ghumari Shuyukh (see item #23), namely, that Tark (not doing something) is NOT a proof that something is condemned or that it is not praiseworthy, as the Prophet did not, in his lifetime, do absolutely everything that was praiseworthy or permissible. The same goes for the early generations. Rather, the criteria for judging if something belongs on the accepted side of Shari`a and is endorsable by the Sunna or not, is to evaluate it in the balance of the Qur'an and Sunna: whatever is confirmed by them is part of them and whatever violates them is rejected.

4. "That is why, unlike Judaism, Christianity, and Hinduism, there are very few festivals in Islam, which provides for only two Eids (Eidul-fitr and Eidul-Adha) during the whole year."

Comment: There are only two `Eids that are sanctioned by the Law as of a required character, but this is not to mean that it is not allowed to have other `Eids metaphorically speaking. For one, the Prophet himself named Jumu`a a `Eid.

Among educated Muslims there is a verse of poetry that goes,

"The day of Jumu`a, the day of `Eid, and the visit of a beloved friend: These are three `Eids for which I thank our Most High Lord."

In fact, every highlighted date in the Islamic calendar is a `Eid, for example the first ten days of Dhu al-Hijja, the Day of `Arafa, the Day of `Ashura, Laylat al-Qadr, and the night of Mi`raj which is the greatest mu`jiza of the Prophet after the Glorious Qur'an. But the Mawlid of the Prophet looms larger and more important than all of the above including the two prescribed `Eids in Islam. Sayyid Muhammad al-Maliki said in his fatwa _Hawl al-Ihtifal bi Dhikra al-Mawlid al-Nabawi al-Sharif_ (p. 8-9): "How many times did we say that the day of the Mawlid of our Master Muhammad is not a `Eid, nor do we consider it a `Eid, because it is BIGGER THAN THE `EID AND GREATER AND NOBLER. A `Eid only comes once a year, as for the celebration of his Mawlid and the consideration of his remembrance and Sira, they must be permanent and not restricted to a particular time nor place!"

5. "The dates of these two Eids do not correspond to the birthday of any of the outstanding persons of Islamic history, nor can their origin be attributed to any particular event of history that had happened in these dates."

Comment: As shown above, it has never been a condition for `Eid that it correspond to a birthday, nor, inversely, does the nature of birthday preclude a day from being considered a `Eid. Secondly, it is patently false that the origin of the two `Eids cannot be attributed to any particular event of history that had happened on these dates as the books of Tafsir are replete with the story of the sacrifice of Ibrahim (as) with his son Isma`il (as) on the occasion of which was offered a huge ram as stated in the Holy Qur'an.

6. "The first event is the completion of the fasts of Ramadan and the second event is the completion of Hajj, another form of worship regarded as one of the four pillars of Islam."

Comment: We already said that the `Eid that takes place at the completion of Hajj has historical connections according to the authorities of Tafsir. We might say also that the `Eid that takes place at the completion of the month of Ramadan, was also given an historical dimension by Allah Most High when He said that fasting is prescribed for us { just as it was prescribed for those before you} . All this shows that Allah Most High did not place these two Pillars in a vacuum but in a historical whole of which Muslims are eminently supposed to be aware and observant, just as the Prophet said in reaction to the Jewish celebration of `Ashura': "We have more right of remembering Musa" i.e. of commemorating the historical circumstance of his deliverance. Most of the Ulema who wrote fatwas on Mawlid adduce this report as a proof of the desirability of the celebration of Mawlid and its licit character in the Law.

7. "The manner prescribed for the celebration of these two Eids (festivals) is also different from non-Islamic festivals. There are no formal processions, illumination or other activities showing formal happiness."

Comment: The manner prescribed for the celebration of these two `Eids falls into two categories: the requirements prescribed in the Law and the customs followed by the people. The latter do *not* have a fixed form and *may* include everything that does not violate the guidelines of the Law. Processions, illumination or other activities showing formal happiness do *not* in themselves violate the guidelines of the Law.

8. "Islam has not prescribed any festival for the birthday of any person, however great or significant he may be. The prophets of Allah are the persons of the highest status amongst all human beings. But the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, or his noble companions never observed the birthday or anniversary of any of them. Even the birthday of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, which was the most happy day for the whole mankind was never celebrated by the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, himself, nor by his blessed Companions."

Comment: Regarding the first phrase: It is true that "Islam has not prescribed any festival for the birthday of any person" but nobody claimed it did. On the other hand, it is untrue that Islam has prescribed NOT to commemorate the birthday of any person, yet this is being claimed by the opponents of Mawlid. As for the rest of the paragraph I am sorry to say it is a blatant lie, the Prophet expressly commemorated his own birthday - as did the early Umma in his wake - by fasting every Monday. He and they treated his birthday as the cause and driving factor (`illa) for this act of devotion as shown in the Sahih and as illustrated by the commentators of those narrations, among them Ibn Khuzayma and his student Ibn Hibban, each one of them in his Sahih. And this suffices as evidence for those endowed with sight.

"[Subheading:] Mention of the Desirability of the Fast of Yawm al-Ithnayn BECAUSE (li'anna) on that Day was Born Rasulullah and on that Day Descended upon Him the Beginning of Revelation." Sahih Ibn Hibban (Arna'ut ed. 8:403).

"Chapter of the Desirability of the Fast of Yawm al-Ithnayn SINCE (idh) the Prophet was Born on Yawm al-Ithnayn and on that Day Revelation Came to Him and on that Day He Died." Sahih Ibn Khuzayma (A`zami ed. 3:298).

9. "In fact, commemorating the birth of a distinguished person has never been prescribed by any religion attributing itself to divine revelation. It was originally a custom prevalent in pagan communities only. Even Christmas, the famous Christian feast commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ finds no mention in the Bible or in the early Christian writings."

Comment: Here we find three errors. First, and this is the gravest error, the author denies that the commemoration of the birth of a distinguished person was ever prescribed by any heavenly religion as if he never heard that the Prophet was ordered to dismount from the Buraq during Isra' and pray at the spot where `Isa (as) was born precisely for that reason and no other. The narration goes, "Then he reached a land where the palaces of al-Shaam became visible to him. Gibril said to him: 'Alight and pray.' He did so and remounted, then the Buraq continued his lightning flight and Gibril said: 'Do you know where you prayed?' He said no. Gibril said: 'You prayed in Bayt Lahm, where `Isa ibn Maryam was born.'" Narrated as part of a longer hadith from Anas by al-Nasa'i with a sound chain and from Shaddad ibn Aws by al-Bayhaqi who declared it sound in Dala'il al-Nubuwwa (2:355-357), and by al-Tabarani in al-Kabir and al-Bazzar with a sound chain as indicated by al-Haythami in Majma` al-Zawa'id and Ibn Hajar in Mukhtasar Zawa'id Musnad al-Bazzar (1:90-91 #32). Secondly, the prescription of the commemoration of the birth of Christ *was* prescribed in the early Christian Church, even if its chronological proximity to the pagan commemoration of the winter solstice was co-opted by the political authorities as a means to recycle prevalent social customs in certain regions including those of pagan origins. Thirdly, what flimsier way to adduce evidence is there than to cite tampered Scriptural texts in order to infer or disinfer a Shari`a ruling? Is Mufti Taqi `Usmani a Christian or Jew addressing Christians or Jews??

10. "In original Islamic resources, also we cannot find any instruction about the celebration of birthdays or death anniversaries. Many Companions of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, passed away during his life-time. His beloved wife Sayyidah Khadijah, Radi-Allahu anha, passed away in Makkah. His beloved uncle Sayyidna Hamzah, Radi-Allahu anhu was brutally slaughtered during the battle of Uhud. But the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, never observed their birthday or their death anniversaries, nor did he ever advise his followers to celebrate his own birthday in Rabi'ul-Awwal."

Comment: The above again shows strange or rather tragic (for such a celebrated author) ignorance of the Sunna. We already established beyond doubt that the Prophet celebrated his birthday by fasting. As for death anniversaries, the Prophet definitely visited his wife and uncle's graves on a regular basis as well as his mother's. Al-Bayhaqi narrates that the Prophet used to visit the graveyard of the martyrs of Uhud annually and punctually - "`ala ra'si kulli hawl". Al-Bayhaqi also narrated in Shu`ab al-Imaan (6:201 #7901) that the Prophet said: "Whoever visits the grave of his parents or the grave of one of them every Friday, he will be forgiven and [his name will] be written among the pious sons." (Man zaara qabra abawayhi aw ahadihima fi kulli Jumu`ah, ghufira lahu wa kutiba barran). And he is without the shadow of a doubt the most pious of all pious sons. Also, al-Bazzar narrates that the Prophet visited the Jannat al-Ma`la graveyard in Makkah, where his dear wife Sayyidah Khadijah was buried and called the whole place a blessed graveyard: "Ni`ma al-Maqbarah Hadhihi." Imam Ja`far al-Sadiq narrated with his chain from al-Hasan ibn `Ali that Fatima the daughter of the Prophet used to visit every Jumu`a the grave of her uncle Hamza ibn `Abd al-Muttalib - may Allah be well-pleased with all of them! - which she had marked with a rock in order to recognize it, and she used to pray and weep there as narrated by `Abd al-Razzaq in his Musannaf, al-Bayhaqi in al-Sunan, al-Hakim in his Mustadrak and he declared its chain sahih, and Ibn `Abd al-Barr in al-Tamhid.

11. "The reason for abstinence from such celebrations is that they divert the attention of people from the real teachings of Islam towards the observance of some formal activities only. Initially, these celebrations may begin with utmost piety and with a bona fide intention to pay homage to a pious person."

Comment: The above is speculation and has no place here. As for the latter sentence, it seems to come verbatim from the deviant book of Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Wahhab titled al-Tawhid.

Comment [from Brother Ahmad I on msa-ec mail list, 11 July 2000]: The Ulama of Deoband celebrated their hundred years anniversary of Darul Uloom Deoband in which they called Indhira Ghandi who was dressed in a Sarrie. She was seated on the stage while hundreds of Ulama were seated on the ground. Was this Islamic? Early Muslims did not celebrate hundred years establishment of Islam which was far more important that the establishment of Darul Uloom Deoband. According to you, our Nabi (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) did not celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. If the Ulama-e-Deoband claim to be true followers of the Sunnah, why then did they celebrate the hundred year anniversary of Darul Uloom Deoband? Was this not a Bid`at?

12. "Yet, the experience shows that the celebration is ultimately mixed up with an element of merrymaking and rejoicing and is generally confused with secular festivals and the secular, and often sinful, activities creep into it gradually. [Next paragraph:] The example of Christmas will again be relevant."

Comment: All this shows how far from the principles of the Shari`a one ends up when free rein is given to speculation and personal or regional pretexts such as the bad things one has experienced or seen in one's province. Has Mufti Taqi Usmani never heard of "merrymaking and rejoicing" in the authentic Sunna? The Sahaba and the Prophet definitely were not, as he seems to imagine, staid officials of rigid and censorious manners although they were the most dignified generation of human beings ever to walk the earth. They knew laughter, merriment, and good humor.

Nor is his harping on "the example of Christmas" when referring to Muslims acceptable. One well-known contributor on the newsgroup soc.religion.islam, `Abd al-Rahman Lomax, said in a thread titled "Re: Al-Mawled ( 6/7 ) : Even

worse!" Date: 22 Sep 1996: "I remember my first 'Eid al-Fitr, in Tucson. This was a largely student community, with a few older Muslims including professors at the University of Arizona at Tucson. My clearest memory is of the sub-teen daughters of some of these families getting up on the tables and dancing to the encouragement of nearly everyone, with drum music coming over the P.A. system. This was not mawlid, this was 'Eid ul-Fitr! Times have changed. But it is not clear to me that the more sober 'Eids I have seen in recent years are closer to the actual sunna than that first 'Eid. I'll leave it to someone else to cite the relevant hadith; suffice it to say that the Prophet did, it appears, encourage having *fun* on 'Eid, and that dancing and at least some form of music were actually encouraged." Following Mufti Taqi Usmani's reasoning in the above paragraph, if enough "bad" displays such as the above had been witnessed on `Eid, then `Eid celebrations should have been banned, either in absolute terms or in temporary and local terms. But isolated incidents are never a proof in ruling for or against something.

13. "The Holy Qur'an has clearly pronounced on the occasion of the last Hajj of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam: "Today, I have completed the teachings of your religion." [Al-Maida 5:3] [Next paragraph:] It means that all the teachings of Islam were communicated to the Muslims through the Holy Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. No one is allowed after it to add any thing to them as a part of religion. What was not a part of religion during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, can never become part of it. Such additions are termed by the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, as Bid'ah or innovation."

Comment: This is the weakest paragraph in the entire fatwa as it is entirely borrowed from the Wahhabi conception of bid`a, which violates the principles and methods of the Jumhur of Sunni `Ulema as to what constitutes bid`a and what does not. The Ulema have clarified this major methodological innovation in many useful publications which we have summarized elsewhere and there is no space nor need to reproduce this material here. Suffice it here to quote the words of Sayyid Muhammad al-Maliki - Allah keep him and all our impeccable Ulema and true Teachers - in one of his fatwas on Mawlid: "There is no doubt that such singing, dancing, reciting of poetry, and banging the drum [as narrated in the authentic Sunna] was for joy at being with the Prophet , nor did he condemn nor frown upon such displays in any way whatsoever. These are common displays of happiness and lawful merriment, and similarly to stand up at the mention of the birth of the Prophet is an ordinary act that shows love and gladness symbolizing the joy of creation: it does not constitute worship, nor law, nor Sunna!"

It is also ironic that the verse they quote: { This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favor unto you} (5:3) was revealed on a Monday, the day of his Mawlid - Allah bless and greet him and his Family - according to some reports narrated by Ibn `Asakir as mentioned by al-Salihi in _Subul al-Huda_ (1:401).

14. "Thus, the observance of the 12th of Rabi'ul-Awwal as a religious feast is not warranted by any verse of the Holy Qur'an or by any teaching of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam."

Comment: Al-Hamdu lillah, the falsehood of the above statement is by now evident on the basis of what was already replied.

15. "Had it been a part of the religion it would have been clearly ordered or practiced by the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, and his blessed companions or, at least, by their immediate pupils. But no example of the celebration of the occasion can be traced out in the early centuries of the Islamic history."

Comment: This is a needless repetition and stands refuted (see paragraphs #3 and again #23).

16. "It was after many centuries [Albalagh Note: According to Maulana Yusuf Ludhinavi it was in the year 604 A.H.] that some monarchs started observing the 12th of Rabi'ul-Awwal as the birthday of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, without a sound religious basis, and the congregations in the name of Maulood or Milad were held where the history of the birth of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, used to be narrated."

Comment: As stated by al-Sayyid Muhammad al-Maliki in his Fatwa _Hawl al-Ihtifal bi Dhikra al-Mawlid al-Nabawi al-Sharif_ (10th ed. p. 15): "The first to observe the celebration of the Mawlid was the Prophet himself by fasting on Mondays because it was the day of his birth as narrated in Sahih Muslim. This is the soundest and most explicit textual proof for the licitness of commemorating the Noble Prophetic Mawlid."

In the light of such a proof what does it matter that "after many centuries some monarchs started observing the 12th of Rabi'ul-Awwal" as the Mawlid date, and who can believe such a lie as to claim that such observance was "without a sound religious basis"? Is this what the reliable authorities say, or is it just the opinion of some latecomers unfamiliar with the differences of the Ulema and the principles of the Shari`a?

When the critics are unable to disprove the lawful on the basis of the foundations of the Religion, they turn to vacuous opinion unaware that in the field of opinion there are plenty of more trusted sources than themselves. Imam al-Dhahabi wrote in his Siyar A`lam al-Nubala' (Arna'ut ed. 22:335-336): He [Muzaffar the King of Irbil] loved charity (sadaqa)... and built four hospices for the poor and sick... and one house for women, one for orphans, one for the homeless, and he himself used to visit the sick... He built a madrasa for the Shafi`is and the Hanafis... HE WOULD FORBID ANY REPREHENSIBLE MATTER TO ENTER INTO HIS COUNTRY... As for his celebration of the Noble Mawlid al-Nabawi, words are too poor to describe it. The people used to come all the way from Iraq and Algeria to attend it. Two wooden dais would be erected and decorated for him and his wife... the celebration would last several days, and a huge quantity of cows and camels would be brought out to be sacrificed and cooked in different ways... Preachers would roam the field exhorting the people. Great sums were spent (as charity). Ibn Dihya compiled a 'Book of Mawlid' for him for which he received 1,000 dinars. He [Muzaffar] was modest, a LOVER OF GOOD, AND A TRUE SUNNI who loved scholars of jurisprudence and scholars of hadith, and was generous even to poets. He was killed in battle according to what is reported."

Similarly, Ibn Kathir said in al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya (Beirut and Riyadh: Maktabat al-Ma`arif & Maktabat al-Nasr, 1966 ed. 13:136-137): "He [Muzaffar] used to celebrate the noble Mawlid in Rabi` al-Awwal and organize huge festivities for it. He was a wise king, brave, a fierce fighter, intelligent, learned, and just. May Allah have mercy on him and ennoble his grave. Shaykh Abu al-Khattab ibn Dihya compiled for him a book on the Mawlid of the Prophet and named it al-Tanwir fi Mawlid al-Bashir al-Nadhir ("The illumination concerning the birthday of the Bringer of glad tidings and Warner") and the king rewarded him with 1,000 dinars for it. His rule lasted until he died in the year 630 [Hijri] as he was besieging the French in the city of Acca [Acre, Palestine] after a GLORIOUS AND BLAMELESS LIFE."

From the above excerpts one can judge the shameless audacity of the statement of Majlis al-`Ulama or rather al-Juhala' which said:

"MAINTAINING A CUSTOM WHICH WAS ORIGINATED BY IRRELIGIOUS PERSONS. It has already been explained elsewhere in this article that the originators of Meelad custom were irreligious persons. Six hundred years after our Nabi (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam), the irreligious ruler of Irbal, assisted by irreligious learned men, invented and established this custom. Thus, those who organize Meelad functions and those who participate in them are in reality assisting to establish a practise introduced by evil men. They are aiding and abetting in the fostering of a custom which is in total conflict with the Shari'ah of Islam. It is a great crime to maintain and encourage customs and practices which were brought into being by those who had no connection with the Deen, more so, when these customs and practices are a conglomeration of un-Islamic elements".

Observe how they begin with a lie and end with a greater lie, progressing from calling King Muzaffar and the Ulema of the Umma as "irreligious" until they end up saying they "had no connection with the Deen"! Is not the curse of Allah on the heads of the liars?

More importantly, Ibn Kathir himself composed a text on Mawlid, made of hadiths, invocations of blessings on the Prophet , and poetry in praise of him. It is entitled Mawlid Rasulillah sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam, and was edited and published by Salah al-Din al-Munajjid (Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al-Jadid, 1961).

17. "The observance of the 12th of this month as the birthday of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, is not only an innovation having no basis in the Islamic teachings, but the accuracy of this date as the real birthday of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, is also very much doubted."

Comment: Here the author contradicts what he had said in the first paragraph: "Rabi'ul-Awwal is the most significant month in the Islamic history, because humanity has been blessed in this month by the birth of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam." Does this not constitute "a basis in the Islamic teachings" since this Mufti deems himself one such basis and these are his words? As for the specific date of the 12th, it is enough to quote Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali on the matter in his book Lata'if al-Ma`arif (p. 185): "The VAST MAJORITY hold that he [the Prophet, Allah bless and greet him] was born on the Second Day of the Week (al-Ithnayn = "Monday") 12 Rabi` al-Awwal... in the Year of the Elephant."

So it is a good date for such a celebration because there is greater readiness for it in the hearts and minds of the people at that time; and, at

the same time "we do NOT claim that it is Sunna to do celebrate the Mawlid on a specific night and whoever claims this has committed innovation in the Religion, because we should remember him at all times... although the reason to do so becomes stronger in the month of his birth due to the turning of people to that event and their gatherings and their feelings [at that time]." Al-Sayyid Muhammad al-Maliki, Mafahim (10th ed. p. 317).

18. "There are different dates suggested in different traditions, and the majority of the authentic scholars is inclined to hold that the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, was born on the 9th of Rabi'ul-Awwal."

Comment: This is another half-truth in the light of Ibn Rajab's report that the vast majority of the authorities settled on the twelfth. This is also stated in al-Salihi's Subul al-Huda (1:403). Furthermore, by his words "the majority of the authentic scholars" the author apparently only means three contemporaries: Dr. Abu al-Hasan `Ali al-Nadwi, the Egyptian astronomer Mahmud Basha, and Muhammad Sulayman al-Mansur Furi, the latter two footnoted in al-Nadwi's _al-Sira al-Nabawiyya_ (p. 99).

Nor has it been the adab of the true Ulema to scorn what the majority of the Ulema concur on as true and correct, as illustrated by the refined, scholarly style of our teacher Dr. Nur al-Din `Itr in mentioning both dates in his Mawlid book, al-Nafahat al-`Itriyya fi Sirat Khayr al-Bariyya (p. 5-6): "He was born on the ninth of Rabi` al-Awwal according to the verification of some of the Imams or on the 12th according to the most famous position (al-mashhur) in the Umma." The Moroccan Shaykh of Tanalt (Great Atlas chain in South Morocco) al-Dadisi Muhammad al-Ghali did not even mention the 9th in his Sira compendium _Laft al-Anzar ila Qurrat al-Absar fi Sirat al-Mushaffa` al-Mukhtar_ (p. 38-39): "On the day of al-Ithnayn in the most radiant month, on the 3rd or the 12th or the 8th of Rabi` al-Awwal." Nor does the hadith master al-Salihi mention the 9th at all in his encyclopedia of all Siras, Subul al-Huda wa al-Rashad fi Sirat Khayr al-`Ibad (1:403) but only, in order of strength among the Ulema: the 12th, 8th, 10th [preferred by al-Dhahabi in the Siyar (1:21) after his teacher Abu Muhammad al-Dimyati], 2nd, 17th, 18th, or 1st of Rabi` al-Awwal.

The date of the 12th was also given precedence over all other dates by Dr. Muhammad Abu Shuhba in his 1,400-page _al-Sira al-Nabawiyya_ (1:173), while Dr. Sa`id Ramadan al-Buti mentions the 12th exclusively of any other date in his _Fiqh al-Sira al-Nabawiyya_ (10th ed.). Where, then, are the irresponsibly-claimed "majority of the authentic scholars" or are all the above scholars frauds?

Furthermore, the author himself categorically stated at the beginning of his fatwa (item #1) that "Rabi'ul-Awwal is the most significant month in Islamic history because humanity was blessed in this month by the birth of the Holy Prophet " although there are also other months reported in the Sunna for the event of his noble birth, such as Safar, Rajab, Ramadan, and Rabi` al-Thani, cf. Ibn Rajab, Lata'if (p. 184) and al-Haytami, al-Minah al-Makkiyya (1:181). If the author does not know this discrepancy in relation to the month then perhaps there are gaps in his knowledge of the facts in relation to the day and other aspects as well. And if the author does know this discrepancy in relation to the months then why does he speak in categorical terms to affirm the month of Rabi` al-Awwal then turns dubious when it comes to the day of the 12th?

19. "This difference of opinion is another evidence to prove that the observance of the birthday is not a part of the religion, otherwise its exact date would have been preserved with accuracy."

Comment: Another wholly original and innovative speculative analogy leading to a false proof without firm basis in the Religion, what is more, couched in unscholarly terminology - "not part of the Religion" - to avoid stating clearly once and for all if such an observance is permitted or not. There has been, many times, a difference of opinion in our times on the exact date of the beginning of the months of Ramadan and Dhu al-Hijja, but does this have any bearing whatsoever on the fact that fasting and pilgrimage are part of the Religion?!

In fact, not only the day, month, and (most emphatically) year of the Mawlid are generally agreed upon but the specific time of day when he was born can also be known: according to the Ghawth Sidi `Abd al-`Aziz al-Dabbagh in al-Ibriz, the Prophet was born in the last third of the night, and this is supported by al-Hakim's narration from `A'isha and al-Tabarani, al-Bayhaqi, and Ibn al-Sakan's from Fatima bint `Abd Allah al-Thaqafiyya; although the Hadith Master Zayn al-Din al-`Iraqi in his _al-Mawrid al-Hani fi al-Mawlid al-Sani_ adduces from the Siyar evidence that it took place in the daytime; and the Sunan state at noon - mursal from Sa`id ibn al-Musayyib - as well as Ibn Dihya and al-Zarkashi in his _Sharh al-Burda_, but Allah Almighty knows best and the Prophet knows best.

20. "The narration of his pious biography (the Seerah) in itself is a pious act, which invites the divine blessings, but the Holy Qur'an and the Sunnah have not prescribed a particular time or method for it. This pious act should be performed in all the months and at all the times."

Comment: According to Usmani's own criterion, the above advice is an invitation to bid`a because conferences and talks about the Sira have no precedent in the Sunna nor in the practice of the pious early centuries! Rather, the Sunna shows that the Sahaba would stand and declaim/sing poetry in praise of the Prophet and that he would reward them lavishly as he did with Ka`b, `Abd Allah ibn Rawaha, Hassan ibn Thabit, Qurra ibn Hubayr and many others.

As for the assertion that "this pious act should be performed in all the months and at all the times" its absurdity is evident for all to see in light of the prohibition of the same act in the month of Rabi` al-Awwal and specifically the 12th of that month, although these two times fall within the time frame of "all the months and at all the times"!

21. "The month of Rabi'ul-Awwal has not been designated by the Shariah as a special season for holding such congregations to commemorate the birth or life of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam."

Comment: If someone repeats a false statement enough times, it might in the end pass for true among those whom Allah wishes to mislead, but not among those to whom He grants discernment.

22. "It is thus an innovation (Bid'ah) to restrict the Seerah meetings to the month of Rabi'ul Awwal only, or to believe that the meetings held in this month are worthy of more reward than the meetings held on any other date during the year."

Comment: As was just replied, the Seerah meetings themselves are a bid`a according to this man's own criterion. This new, imposed condition that such meetings must not be restricted to a particular month, shows that he readily considers those meetings a part of the Shari`a when he himself said that Allah has completed the Religion, and such meetings were neither revealed to the Prophet as part of it nor practiced by the early generations! And what is the status of someone who declares the belief of the vast majority of the Muslims a bid`a? Allah is our recourse and help against the entanglements of would-be legislators who break the ranks of Sunni unity and ask the people to follow them in their errings.

23. "In fact, the Companions of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, used to commemorate the life of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, throughout the year, not only by studying and conveying his message to others, but also by following his way of life and acting upon his teachings in each and every branch of their activities, and this is exactly what a Muslim is required and supposed to do."

Comment: The above shows that Mufti Taqi Usmani admits that the principle of commemorating the life of the Holy Prophet was alive and well among the Companions and therefore not an innovation. However, he neglects to mention - or does not seem to know - that the Companions not only "studied" and "conveyed his message to others," but also *recited and sang poetry* in his honor both in his lifetime and after!

As for the often-heard claim of would-be censors that "the Prophet and the Companions never celebrated the Mawlid as it is celebrated today", this never formed proof for the undesirability or prohibitiveness of anything in the Law, Mawlid or otherwise. This was demonstrated at length by al-Sayyid `Abd Allah al-Ghumari in his epistle _Husn al-Tafahhum wa al-Dark li Mas'alat al-Tark_ ("Right Comprehension and Understanding the Issue of 'Not Doing Something'") reprinted by Dar al-Awqaf in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

24. "By this we do not mean that the Seerah meetings should not be held in the month of Rabi'ul-Awwal. The point is only that they should not be restricted to it, nor should it be believed that the Shariah has laid any kind of emphasis on holding such meetings in this particular month."

Comment: Let those who wish hold them in Rabi` al-Awwal and let those who wish hold them in any other month. { And for this let all those strive who strive for bliss} (Q 83:26).

25. "It is often observed, especially in the Western countries, that the people hold the Seerah meetings where men and women sit together without observing the rules of hijab prescribed by the Shariah. The teachings of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, are obviously against such mixed gatherings. How can a Seerah meeting bring fruits where such fundamental teachings of the Shariah are openly violated?"

This never invalidates the ruling of desirability that applies to the principle.

Comment [from Brother Ahmad I on msa-ec mail list, 11 July 2000]:

Allama Shaami (radi Allahu anhu) states: "One must not leave visiting the graves just because some illegal activities are taking place, for example, inter-mingling of sexes. Mustahabbaat (recommended acts) should not be left out because of this type of illegal activities. It is necessary for the people to visit the graves *and* stop the Bid`a". (Fatawa Shaami: Kitabul Jana'iz - Discussion on visiting the graves)

Allama Shaami (radi Allahu anhu) has stated categorically that inter-mingling of sexes will not make any Mustahab act Haraam or avoided. There were idols in the Kaaba before Makkah was conquered, but Muslims did not leave out performing the Tawaaf (circumbulation) or Umrah because of the idols. Yes,when Almighty Allah gave them the power, they eventually destroyed the idols.

When people go for Haj, there is inter-mingling of sexes at the airport, in the plane, during Tawaaf,at Mina and at Muzdalifah, yet no one puts a stop to Hajj. In Meelad gatherings, at least men and women sit separately and women are with Hijab. In the Nikah assembly, inter-mingling of sexes occurs and most of the women do not come with Shar`i Hijab. Will the Majlisul Ulama issue Fatwas condemning Nikah gathering to be Haraam? If not, why then is your entire effort spent to make Meelaad functions Haraam?

26. "In some meetings the Na'ts (poems) in the memory of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, are recited by the women before the male audience, sometimes with music, which is totally against the instructions of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. It is clearly prohibited by the Shariah to hold such meetings or to participate in them, because it is not only a violation of the Shariah rules, but it is an affront to the sanctity of the Seerah of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam."

Comment: This has already been answered in the previous paragraph but we might add that the Prophet on so many public and private occasions heard female singers and did not stop them from their activity as long as what they were reciting was approved by the law, namely Na`at! { Truly it is not their eyes that are blind, but their hearts which are in their breasts} (22:46).

27. "All other activities, often practiced on the twelfth of Rabi'ul-Awwal, like holding processions, constructing the mock tombs of the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, and illumination of the buildings and the roads are not warranted by any rule of the Shariah. Rather they are based on conscious or unconscious imitation of certain other religions. No example of such activities can be traced out from the earlier Islamic history."

Comment: It seems that in this single fatwa the author multiplies the indications that his knowledge of Islamic history, the Sunna, the Sira, and the principle of the Shari`a is full of gaps. Following are examples of the public celebration of the Mawlid from the sixth to the tenth centuries, some of them comprising most of the elements that Usmani claims were never present in earlier Islamic history:

- Ibn Jubayr (540-614) wrote in his Rihal ("Travels"), p. 114-115: "This blessed place [the house of the Prophet] is opened, and all men enter it to derive blessing from it (mutabarrikin bihi), on every Monday of the month of Rabi` al-Awwal; for on that day and in that month was born the Prophet."

- The 7th-century historians Abul `Abbas al-`Azafi and his son Abul Qasim al-`Azafi wrote in their unpublished Kitab ad-Durr al-Munazzam: "Pious pilgrims and prominent travellers testified that, on the day of the mawlid in Mecca, no activities are undertaken, and nothing is sold or bought, except by the people who are busy visiting his noble birthplace, and rush to it. On this day the Ka`ba is opened and visited."

- The famous eighth-century historian Ibn Battuta relates in his Rihla (1:309 and 1:347), that on every Friday, after the salat, and on the birthday of the Prophet, the door of Ka`ba is opened by the head of the Banu Shayba, the doorkeepers of the Ka`ba, and that on the Mawlid, the Shafi`i qadi (head judge) of Mecca, Najmuddin Muhammad Ibn al-Imam Muhyiddin al-Tabari, distributes food to the shurafa' (descendants of the Prophet) and to all the other people of Mecca.

- The historian Ibn Zahira al-Hanafi in his al-Jami` al-Latif fi Fadl Makka wa Ahliha, p. 326; Imam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami in his Kitab al-Mawlid al-Sharif al-Mu`azzam; and the historian al-Nahrawali in al-I`lam bi-A`lam Bayt Allah al-Haram, p. 205 said that each year on the 12th of Rabi` al-Awwal, after the salat al-Maghrib, the four qadis of Mecca (representing the Four Schools) and large groups of people including the fuqaha' (scholars) and fudala' (notables) of Mecca, shaykhs, zawiya teachers and their students, ru'asa' (magistrates), and muta`ammamin (scholars) leave the mosque and set out collectively for a visit to the birthplace of the Prophet, shouting out dhikr and tahlil (LA ILAHA ILLALLAH). The houses on the route are illuminated with numerous lanterns and large candles, and a great many people are out and about. They all wear their best attire and take their children with them. Having reached the birthplace, inside a special sermon for the occasion of the birthday of the Prophet e is delivered, mentioning the miracles (karamat) that took place on that occasion. Hereafter the du`a' for the Sultan (i.e. the Caliph), the Emir of Mecca, and the Shafi`i qadi is performed and all pray humbly. Shortly before the salat al-`Isha', the whole party returns from the birthplace of the Prophet e to the Great Mosque, which is almost overcrowded, and all sit down in rows at the foot of the Maqam Ibrahim. In the mosque, a preacher first mentions the tahmid (AL HAMDULILLAH) and the tahlil, and once again the du`a' for the Sultan, the Emir, and the Shafi`i qadi is performed. After this the call for the Salat al-`Isha' is made. After the salat, the crowd breaks up.

- A similar description is given by al-Diyarbakri (d. 960) in his massive Sira titled Ta'rikh al-Khamis fi Khabar Anfasi Nafis.

28. "What is really important with regard to the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, is, first, to follow his teachings, and second to make his pious Seerah available to every Muslim, to preserve it in the hearts of the Muslims from the very childhood, to educate the family members to run their lives according to it and to hold it as the most glorious example of the human conduct the universe has ever witnessed -- and all this with utmost love and reverence, not manifested by some formal activities only, but also through actual behavior of following the Sunnah."

Comment: There is nothing in the principle of Mawlid gatherings, Qur'an and Na`at recitation, and distribution of food and sweets except what follows the Prophetic teachings, increases knowledge of his Sira among the Muslims, stimulates love for him in their hearts, and encourages them to educate their families according to Islamic principles from the cradle to the grave, "with utmost love and reverence, not manifested by some formal activities only, but also through actual behavior of following the Sunnah"!

29. "This cannot be done by merely holding processions and illuminating the walls. This requires constant and consistent efforts and a meaningful program of education and training."

Comment: No-one disagrees with the above while the rest of the fatwa is mostly wrong and should be ignored.

Blessings and peace on our Master the Messenger of Allah, his Family, and all his Companions, and praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.

Reviving the Love for Allah and His Messenger

Habib Umar: Reviving the Love for Allah and His Messenger

On the last Monday in Rabi Al-Awwal, a special mawlid was held in Dar Al-Mustafa in Tarim, Yemen. We were blessed to have Sidi Amjad Tarsin share with us the link to the live broadcast as well as his live translation of Habib Umar’s speech. All praises to Allah for allowing us to gather the pearls of wisdom, advice and knowledge from Habib Umar. We would like to share with you the notes we took. All mistakes are entirely from us, we are incapable of fully translating the tremendous wisdom of Habib Umar. Please be aware that these notes are for reference only. If you are plan on posting this elsewhere, kindly include the link to this post.

The first noble scholar to speak was Habib Mashhur, Habib Umar bin Hafidh’s oldest brother. Habib Mashhur is also the mufti of Tarim. The next to speak was Habib Abdullah bin Shihab. Soon after, Habib Salim Al-Shatiry, the Sultan of Scholars, began his speech. Habib Salim said that all these majalis (gatherings) were from the barakah of the martyrdom of Habib Umar’s beloved father.

After this, Habib Umar began by speaking about the blessings of these gatherings.

Praise is due to Allah with thanks, for the blessings that come down in succession. We praise Him in secret and openly, and in the mornings and evenings (part of an Imam Al-Haddad poem).

He sent upon the clouds of His mercy and made us of the Community of the best of His creation. And He allowed us to enjoy life - those who remember, remember and they turn to the Most Merciful, Mighty and Majestic is He. And He prepared for us those who remind us, and those who make us pay attention, and those who warns us, and those who guide us.

In this month of Rabi Al-Awwal, Prophet Muhammad sal Allahu alayhi wasalam was born, and he came into existence. Alhamdulilah for this blessing.

And how many people have attended this gathering? From all over the world, from within Hadramawt and from outside Hadramawt. All trying to implement the methodology our Prophet taught us, peace be upon him.

We came from different tribes, different places. Coming together to remember Allah. [On the day of judgment) there will be people on pedestals of light. The prophets and martyrs will have ghibt (halal jealousy) for these people on the pedestals of light. And the prophets and martyrs will ask: Who are these people? [They will be told:] they are the ones who love one another for the sake of Allah. May Allah make us from them!

We have heard the description of the Prophet peace and mercy be upon him. And remember the responsibilities upon us, [knowing and working for]:

  • the realities of islam
  • the realities of iman
  • the realities of ihsan

And these realities will not manifest within someone except that they are connected to this Prophet, peace and mercy be upon him. [Therefore,] follow this Prophet!

You have heard about the martyrdom of our father, Habib Muhammad Bin Salim Bin Hafidh Bin Shaykh Abu Bakr Bin Salim. And all the good that came from him [and his sacrifice]. His [courage and selflessness] could not have come except through the connection to the Prophet and [through] the Prophet’s teachings, peace and mercy be upon him.

We saw how the pious predecessors were concerned with Da’awah and their extreme level of mercy towards creation. As we just heard about the life of Habib Umar bin Abdullah Al Shatiry and how he was merciful to the young and old. Likewise with Habib Muhammad bin Shihab; how people used to weep in his gatherings.

All of these blessed occurrences was due to their connection to the Prophet and the mercy of the Prophet; [for he is] the door to God’s mercy. Our righteous predecessors saw before them the faces of those who manifested these realities, those who had the secrets of this message. Such as Habib Ali Al-Habshi and many others. These are the realities of the jewels of this valley (Hadramawt). The jewels of the Muslims in the East and West.

All of this was attainable through the connection to Al-Amin, peace be upon him. How many blessings have occurred through these moments of purity [with Allah]? In which the pious predecessors turned to their Lord and the light [He gave them] was spread to others through their sincerity.

And how many groups of people became Muslim, without a sword, without wars, but through the sincerity of these men. The people of Allah worship Allah through dhikr (remembrance), through ritual prayer, and through salawat upon the Prophet. And there is no way to draw closer to Allah through one of his creation than through remembering the Prophet Muhammad, sala Allahu alayhi wasalam. There is no invoking blessings upon anyone like invoking blessings upon the Prophet Muhammad, sal Allahu alayhi wasalam! May Allah build up our hearts through remembering this Prophet. As our beloved Prophet told us: “None of you truly believes until I become more beloved than his parents and his children and all people.”

If we remember his birth, his migration, the wars he fought in, and the tears he wept… O you whose eyes rarely weep out of love and out of fear of Allah! How many a tear did your Prophet shed? We ask Allah that He shows mercy to us.

Whose Ummah is this? He is this Ummah’s example, he is this Ummah’s light. He is the one who will show them mercy [when interceding for them before Allah] and he is the one who has the most right to their love. Before anyone [in rank], before any human or jinn, there is Muhammad, sal Allahu alayhi wasalam. The Sahaba always used to think of him in their seclusion and they used to cry remembering him.

Habib Jafar bin Muhammad Al-Aydarus wrote: “My young heart has become torn asunder out of love for the best of creation.”

We have to revive these meanings [and realities]! We have to have Allah and His Messenger be more beloved to us than anything. May Allah revive all the good qualities that were in the gatherings of the pious predecessors. You would see their gatherings full of tranquility. And of fear of Allah. If anyone came in [to their gatherings] with a heart full of worldly worries, they would leave them with their heart freed of those worries. If they came in in darkness, they would leave illuminated. He is the One who your heart is in His hands. He is the One whose hand lies your husn al khatima (a good ending). He is the Hayy Al-Qayyum (the Living, the Self-Sustaining)! May Allah bring back upon us what our righteous predecessors had of His grace. And may Allah increase us from His grace, rectify this valley, rectify all the Muslims, rectify them from the barriers that veil them from Your Greatness. And allow us to taste the sweetness of faith. wa Alhamdulilah rabb al alameen.

The Place of Tasawwuf in Traditional Islamic Sciences

The Place of Tasawwuf in Traditional Islamic Sciences
Nuh Ha Mim Keller 1995

Perhaps the biggest challenge in learning Islam correctly today is the scarcity of traditional ‘ulama. In this meaning, Bukhari relates the sahih, rigorously authenticated hadith that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said,
"Truly, Allah does not remove Sacred Knowedge by taking it out of servants, but rather by taking back the souls of Islamic scholars [in death], until, when He has not left a single scholar, the people take the ignorant as leaders, who are asked for and who give Islamic legal opinion without knowledge, misguided and misguiding" (Fath al-Bari, 1.194, hadith 100).
The process described by the hadith is not yet completed, but has certainly begun, and in our times, the lack of traditional scholars—whether in Islamic law, in hadith, in tafsir ‘Qur'anic exegesis’—has given rise to an understanding of the religion that is far from scholarly, and sometimes far from the truth. For example, in the course of my own studies in Islamic law, my first impression from orientalist and Muslim-reformer literature, was that the Imams of the madhhabs or ‘schools of jurisprudence’ had brought a set of rules from completely outside the Islamic tradition and somehow imposed them upon the Muslims. But when I sat with traditional scholars in the Middle East and asked them about the details, I came away with a different point of view, having learned the bases for deriving the law from the Qur'an and sunna.
And similarly with Tasawwuf—which is the word I will use tonight for the English Sufism, since our context is traditional Islam—quite a different picture emerged from talking with scholars of Tasawwuf than what I had been exposed to in the West. My talk tonight, In Sha’ Allah, will present knowledge taken from the Qur'an and sahih hadith, and from actual teachers of Tasawwuf in Syria and Jordan, in view of the need for all of us to get beyond clichés, the need for factual information from Islamic sources, the need to answer such questions as: Where did Tasawwuf come from? What role does it play in the din or religion of Islam? and most importantly, What is the command of Allah about it?
As for the origin of the term Tasawwuf, like many other Islamic discliplines, its name was not known to the first generation of Muslims. The historian Ibn Khaldun notes in his Muqaddima:
This knowledge is a branch of the sciences of Sacred Law that originated within the Umma. From the first, the way of such people had also been considered the path of truth and guidance by the early Muslim community and its notables, of the Companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), those who were taught by them, and those who came after them.
It basically consists of dedication to worship, total dedication to Allah Most High, disregard for the finery and ornament of the world, abstinence from the pleasure, wealth, and prestige sought by most men, and retiring from others to worship alone. This was the general rule among the Companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and the early Muslims, but when involvement in this-worldly things became widespread from the second Islamic century onwards and people became absorbed in worldliness, those devoted to worship came to be called Sufiyya or People of Tasawwuf (Ibn Khaldun, al-Muqaddima [N.d. Reprint. Mecca: Dar al-Baz, 1397/1978], 467).
In Ibn Khaldun’s words, the content of Tasawwuf, "total dedication to Allah Most High," was, "the general rule among the Companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and the early Muslims." So if the word did not exist in earliest times, we should not forget that this is also the case with many other Islamic disciplines, such as tafsir, ‘Qur'anic exegesis,’ or ‘ilm al-jarh wa ta‘dil, ‘the science of the positive and negative factors that affect hadith narrators acceptability,’ or ‘ilm al-tawhid, the science of belief in Islamic tenets of faith,’ all of which proved to be of the utmost importance to the correct preservation and transmission of the religion.
As for the origin of the word Tasawwuf, it may well be from Sufi, the person who does Tasawwuf, which seems to be etymologically prior to it, for the earliest mention of either term was by Hasan al-Basri who died 110 years after the Hijra, and is reported to have said, "I saw a Sufi circumambulating the Kaaba, and offered him a dirham, but he would not accept it." It therefore seems better to understand Tasawwuf by first asking what a Sufi is; and perhaps the best definition of both the Sufi and his way, certainly one of the most frequently quoted by masters of the discipline, is from the sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) who said:
Allah Most High says: "He who is hostile to a friend of Mine I declare war against. My slave approaches Me with nothing more beloved to Me than what I have made obligatory upon him, and My slave keeps drawing nearer to Me with voluntary works until I love him. And when I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his sight with which he sees, his hand with which he seizes, and his foot with which he walks. If he asks me, I will surely give to him, and if he seeks refuge in Me, I will surely protect him" (Fath al-Bari, 11.340–41, hadith 6502);
This hadith was related by Imam Bukhari, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al-Bayhaqi, and others with multiple contiguous chains of transmission, and is sahih. It discloses the central reality of Tasawwuf, which is precisely change, while describing the path to this change, in conformity with a traditional definition used by masters in the Middle East, who define a Sufi as Faqihun ‘amila bi ‘ilmihi fa awrathahu Llahu ‘ilma ma lam ya‘lam,‘A man of religious learning who applied what he knew, so Allah bequeathed him knowledge of what he did not know.’
To clarify, a Sufi is a man of religious learning,because the hadith says, "My slave approaches Me with nothing more beloved to Me than what I have made obligatory upon him," and only through learning can the Sufi know the command of Allah, or what has been made obligatory for him. He has applied what he knew, because the hadith says he not only approaches Allah with the obligatory, but "keeps drawing nearer to Me with voluntary works until I love him." And in turn, Allah bequeathed him knowledge of what he did not know, because the hadith says, "And when I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his sight with which he sees, his hand with which he seizes, and his foot with which he walks," which is a metaphor for the consummate awareness of tawhid, or the ‘unity of Allah,’ which in the context of human actions such as hearing, sight, seizing, and walking, consists of realizing the words of the Qur'an about Allah that,
"It is He who created you and what you do" (Qur'an 37:96).
The origin of the way of the Sufi thus lies in the prophetic sunna. The sincerity to Allah that it entails was the rule among the earliest Muslims, to whom this was simply a state of being without a name, while it only became a distinct discipline when the majority of the Community had drifted away and changed from this state. Muslims of subsequent generations required systematic effort to attain it, and it was because of the change in the Islamic environment after the earliest generations, that a discipline by the name of Tasawwuf came to exist.
But if this is true of origins, the more significant question is: How central is Tasawwuf to the religion, and: Where does it fit into Islam as a whole? Perhaps the best answer is the hadith of Muslim, that ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab said:
As we sat one day with the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), a man in pure white clothing and jet black hair came to us, without a trace of travelling upon him, though none of us knew him.
He sat down before the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) bracing his knees against his, resting his hands on his legs, and said: "Muhammad, tell me about Islam." The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: "Islam is to testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and to perform the prayer, give zakat, fast in Ramadan, and perform the pilgrimage to the House if you can find a way."
He said: "You have spoken the truth," and we were surprised that he should ask and then confirm the answer. Then he said:
"Tell me about true faith (iman)," and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) answered: "It is to believe in Allah, His angels, His inspired Books, His messengers, the Last Day, and in destiny, its good and evil."
"You have spoken the truth," he said, "Now tell me about the perfection of faith (ihsan)," and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) answered: "It is to worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you see Him not, He nevertheless sees you."
The hadith continues to where ‘Umar said:
Then the visitor left. I waited a long while, and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to me, "Do you know, ‘Umar, who was the questioner?" and I replied, "Allah and His messenger know best." He said,
"It was Gabriel, who came to you to teach you your religion" (Sahih Muslim, 1.37: hadith 8).
This is a sahih hadith, described by Imam Nawawi as one of the hadiths upon which the Islamic religion turns. The use of din in the last words of it, Atakum yu‘allimukum dinakum, "came to you to teach you your religion" entails that the religion of Islam is composed of the three fundamentals mentioned in the hadith: Islam, or external compliance with what Allah asks of us; Iman, or the belief in the unseen that the prophets have informed us of; and Ihsan, or to worship Allah as though one sees Him. The Qur'an says, in Surat Maryam,
"Surely We have revealed the Remembrance, and surely We shall preserve it" (Qur'an 15:9),
and if we reflect how Allah, in His wisdom, has accomplished this, we see that it is by human beings, the traditional scholars He has sent at each level of the religion. The level of Islam has been preserved and conveyed to us by the Imams of Shari‘a or ‘Sacred Law’ and its ancillary disciplines; the level of Iman, by the Imams of ‘Aqida or ‘tenets of faith’; and the level of Ihsan, "to worship Allah as though you see Him," by the Imams of Tasawwuf.
The hadith’s very words "to worship Allah" show us the interrelation of these three fundamentals, for the how of "worship" is only known through the external prescriptions of Islam, while the validity of this worship in turn presupposes Iman or faith in Allah and the Islamic revelation, without which worship would be but empty motions; while the words, "as if you see Him," show that Ihsan implies a human change, for it entails the experience of what, for most of us, is not experienced. So to understand Tasawwuf, we must look at the nature of this change in relation to both Islam and Iman, and this is the main focus of my talk tonight.
At the level of Islam, we said that Tasawwuf requires Islam,through ‘submission to the rules of Sacred Law.’ But Islam, for its part, equally requires Tasawwuf. Why? For the very good reason that the sunna which Muslims have been commanded to follow is not just the words and actions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), but also his states, states of the heart such as taqwa ‘godfearingness,’ ikhlas ‘sincerity,’ tawakkul ‘reliance on Allah,’ rahma ‘mercy,’ tawadu‘ ‘humility,’ and so on.
Now, it is characteristic of the Islamic ethic that human actions are not simply divided into two shades of morality, right or wrong; but rather five, arranged in order of their consequences in the next world. The obligatory (wajib) is that whose performance is rewarded by Allah in the next life and whose nonperformance is punished. The recommended (mandub) is that whose performance is rewarded, but whose nonperformance is not punished. The permissible (mubah) is indifferent, unconnected with either reward or punishment. The offensive (makruh) is that whose nonperformance is rewarded but whose performance is not punished. The unlawful (haram) is that whose nonperformance is rewarded and whose performance is punished, if one dies unrepentant.
Human states of the heart, the Qur'an and sunna make plain to us, come under each of these headings. Yet they are not dealt with in books of fiqh or ‘Islamic jurisprudence,’ because unlike the prayer, zakat, or fasting, they are not quantifiable in terms of the specific amount of them that must be done. But though they are not countable, they are of the utmost importance to every Muslim. Let’s look at a few examples.
(1) Love of Allah. In Surat al-Baqara of the Qur'an, Allah blames those who ascribe associates to Allah whom they love as much as they love Allah. Then He says,
"And those who believe are greater in love for Allah" (Qur'an 2:165), making being a believer conditional upon having greater love for Allah than any other.
(2) Mercy. Bukhari and Muslim relate that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "Whomever is not merciful to people, Allah will show no mercy" (Sahih Muslim, 4.1809: hadith 2319), and Tirmidhi relates the well authenticated (hasan) hadith "Mercy is not taken out of anyone except the damned" (al-Jami‘ al-sahih, 4.323: hadith 1923).
(3) Love of each other. Muslim relates in his Sahih that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "By Him in whose hand is my soul, none of you shall enter paradise until you believe, and none of you shall believe until you love one another . . . ." (Sahih Muslim, 1.74: hadith 54).
(4) Presence of mind in the prayer (salat). Abu Dawud relates in his Sunan that ‘Ammar ibn Yasir heard the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) say, "Truly, a man leaves, and none of his prayer has been recorded for him except a tenth of it, a ninth of it, eighth of it, seventh of it, sixth of it, fifth of it, fourth of it, third of it, a half of it" (Sunan Abi Dawud, 1.211: hadith 796)—meaning that none of a person’s prayer counts for him except that in which he is present in his heart with Allah.
(5) Love of the Prophet. Bukhari relates in his Sahih that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "None of you believes until I am more beloved to him than his father, his son, and all people" (Fath al-Bari, 1.58, hadith 15).
It is plain from these texts that none of the states mentioned—whether mercy, love, or presence of heart—are quantifiable, for the Shari‘a cannot specify that one must "do two units of mercy" or "have three units of presence of mind" in the way that the number of rak‘as of prayer can be specified, yet each of them is personally obligatory for the Muslim. Let us complete the picture by looking at a few examples of states that are haram or ‘strictly unlawful’:
(1) Fear of anyone besides Allah. Allah Most High says in Surat al-Baqara of the Qur'an,
"And fulfill My covenant: I will fulfill your covenant—And fear Me alone" (Qur'an 2:40), the last phrase of which, according to Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, "establishes that a human being is obliged to fear no one besides Allah Most High" (Tafsir al-Fakhr al-Razi, 3.42).
(2) Despair. Allah Most High says,
"None despairs of Allah’s mercy except the people who disbelieve" (Qur'an 12:87), indicating the unlawfulness of this inward state by coupling it with the worst human condition possible, that of unbelief.
(3) Arrogance. Muslim relates in his Sahih that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said,
"No one shall enter paradise who has a particle of arrogance in his heart" (Sahih Muslim, 1.93: hadith 91).
(4) Envy,meaning to wish for another to lose the blessings he enjoys. Abu Dawud relates that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said,
"Beware of envy, for envy consumes good works as flames consume firewood" (Sunan Abi Dawud, 4.276: hadith 4903).
(5) Showing off in acts of worship. Al-Hakim relates with a sahih chain of transmission that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said,
"The slightest bit of showing off in good works is as if worshipping others with Allah . . . ." (al-Mustadrak ‘ala al-Sahihayn, 1.4).
These and similar haram inward states are not found in books of fiqh or ‘jurisprudence,’ because fiqh can only deal with quantifiable descriptions of rulings. Rather, they are examined in their causes and remedies by the scholars of the ‘inner fiqh’ of Tasawwuf, men such as Imam al-Ghazali in his Ihya’ ‘ulum al-din [The reviving of the religious sciences], Imam al-Rabbani in his Maktubat [Letters], al-Suhrawardi in his ‘Awarif al-Ma‘arif [The knowledges of the illuminates], Abu Talib al-Makki in Qut al-qulub [The sustenance of hearts], and similar classic works, which discuss and solve hundreds of ethical questions about the inner life. These are books of Shari‘a and their questions are questions of Sacred Law, of how it is lawful or unlawful for a Muslim to be; and they preserve the part of the prophetic sunna dealing with states.
Who needs such information? All Muslims, for the Qur'anic verses and authenticated hadiths all point to the fact that a Muslim must not only do certain things and say certain things, but also must be something, must attain certain states of the heart and eliminate others. Do we ever fear someone besides Allah? Do we have a particle of arrogance in our hearts? Is our love for the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) greater than our love for any other human being? Is there the slightest bit of showing off in our good works?
Half a minute’s reflection will show the Muslim where he stands on these aspects of his din, and why in classical times, helping Muslims to attain these states was not left to amateurs, but rather delegated to ‘ulama of the heart, the scholars of Islamic Tasawwuf. For most people, these are not easy transformations to make, because of the force of habit, because of the subtlety with which we can deceive ourselves, but most of all because each of us has an ego, the self, the Me, which is called in Arabic al-nafs, about which Allah testifies in Surat Yusuf:
"Verily the self ever commands to do evil" (Qur'an 12:53).
If you do not believe it, consider the hadith related by Muslim in his Sahih, that:
The first person judged on Resurrection Day will be a man martyred in battle.
He will be brought forth, Allah will reacquaint him with His blessings upon him and the man will acknowledge them, whereupon Allah will say, "What have you done with them?" to which the man will respond, "I fought to the death for You."
Allah will reply, "You lie. You fought in order to be called a hero, and it has already been said." Then he will be sentenced and dragged away on his face and flung into the fire.
Then a man will be brought forward who learned Sacred Knowledge, taught it to others, and who recited the Qur'an. Allah will remind him of His gifts to him and the man will acknowledge them, and then Allah will say, "What have you done with them?" The man will answer, "I acquired Sacred Knowledge, taught it, and recited the Qur'an, for Your sake."
Allah will say, "You lie. You learned so as to be called a scholar, and read the Qur'an so as to be called a reciter, and it has already been said." Then the man will be sentenced and dragged away on his face to be flung into the fire.
Then a man will be brought forward whom Allah generously provided for, giving him various kinds of wealth, and Allah will recall to him the benefits given, and the man will acknowledge them, to which Allah will say, "And what have you done with them?" The man will answer, "I have not left a single kind of expenditure You love to see made, except that I have spent on it for Your sake."
Allah will say, "You lie. You did it so as to be called generous, and it has already been said." Then he will be sentenced and dragged away on his face to be flung into the fire (Sahih Muslim, 3.1514: hadith 1905).
We should not fool ourselves about this, because our fate depends on it: in our childhood, our parents taught us how to behave through praise or blame, and for most of us, this permeated and colored our whole motivation for doing things. But when childhood ends, and we come of age in Islam, the religion makes it clear to us, both by the above hadith and by the words of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) "The slightest bit of showing off in good works is as if worshipping others with Allah" that being motivated by what others think is no longer good enough, and that we must change our motives entirely, and henceforth be motivated by nothing but desire for Allah Himself. The Islamic revelation thus tells the Muslim that it is obligatory to break his habits of thinking and motivation, but it does not tell him how. For that, he must go to the scholars of these states, in accordance with the Qur'anic imperative,
"Ask those who know if you know not" (Qur'an 16:43),
There is no doubt that bringing about this change, purifying the Muslims by bringing them to spiritual sincerity, was one of the central duties of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), for Allah says in the Surat Al ‘Imran of the Qur'an,
"Allah has truly blessed the believers, for He has sent them a messenger of themselves, who recites His signs to them and purifies them, and teaches them the Book and the Wisdom" (Qur'an 3:164),
which explicitly lists four tasks of the prophetic mission, the second of which, yuzakkihim means precisely to ‘purify them’ and has no other lexical sense. Now, it is plain that this teaching function cannot, as part of an eternal revelation, have ended with the passing of the first generation, a fact that Allah explictly confirms in His injunction in Surat Luqman,
"And follow the path of him who turns unto Me" (Qur'an 31:15).
These verses indicate the teaching and transformative role of those who convey the Islamic revelation to Muslims, and the choice of the word ittiba‘ in the second verse, which is more general, implies both keeping the company of and following the example of a teacher. This is why in the history of Tasawwuf, we find that though there were many methods and schools of thought, these two things never changed: keeping the company of a teacher, and following his example—in exactly the same way that the Sahaba were uplifted and purified by keeping the company of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and following his example.
And this is why the discipline of Tasawwuf has been preserved and transmitted by Tariqas or groups of students under a particular master. First, because this was the sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) in his purifying function described by the Qur'an. Secondly, Islamic knowledge has never been transmitted by writings alone, but rather from ‘ulama to students. Thirdly, the nature of the knowledge in question is of hal or ‘state of being,’ not just knowing, and hence requires it be taken from a succession of living masters back to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), for the sheer range and number of the states of heart required by the revelation effectively make imitation of the personal example of a teacher the only effective means of transmission.
So far we have spoken about Tasawwuf in respect to Islam, as a Shari‘a science necessary to fully realize the Sacred Law in one’s life, to attain the states of the heart demanded by the Qur'an and hadith. This close connection between Shari‘a and Tasawwuf is expressed by the statement of Imam Malik, founder of the Maliki school, that "he who practices Tasawwuf without learning Sacred Law corrupts his faith, while he who learns Sacred Law without practicing Tasawwuf corrupts himself. Only he who combines the two proves true." This is why Tasawwuf was taught as part of the traditional curriculum in madrasas across the Muslim world from Malaysia to Morocco, why many of the greatest Shari‘a scholars of this Umma have been Sufis, and why until the end of the Islamic caliphate at the beginning of this century and the subsequent Western control and cultural dominance of Muslim lands, there were teachers of Tasawwuf in Islamic institutions of higher learning from Lucknow to Istanbul to Cairo.
But there is a second aspect of Tasawwuf that we have not yet talked about; namely, its relation to Iman or ‘True Faith,’ the second pillar of the Islamic religion, which in the context of the Islamic sciences consists of ‘Aqida or ‘orthodox belief.’
All Muslims believe in Allah, and that He is transcendently beyond anything conceivable to the minds of men, for the human intellect is imprisoned within its own sense impressions and the categories of thought derived from them, such as number, directionality, spatial extention, place, time, and so forth. Allah is beyond all of that; in His own words,
"There is nothing whatesover like unto Him" (Qur'an 42:11)
If we reflect for a moment on this verse, in the light of the hadith of Muslim about Ihsan that "it is to worship Allah as though you see Him," we realize that the means of seeing here is not the eye, which can only behold physical things like itself; nor yet the mind, which cannot transcend its own impressions to reach the Divine, but rather certitude, the light of Iman, whose locus is not the eye or the brain, but rather the ruh, a subtle faculty Allah has created within each of us called the soul, whose knowledge is unobstructed by the bounds of the created universe. Allah Most High says, by way of exalting the nature of this faculty by leaving it a mystery,
"Say: ‘The soul is of the affair of my Lord’" (Qur'an 17:85).
The food of this ruh is dhikr or the ‘remembrance of Allah.’ Why? Because acts of obedience increase the light of certainty and Iman in the soul, and dhikr is among the greatest of them, as is attested to by the sahih hadith related by al-Hakim that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said,
"Shall I not tell you of the best of your works, the purest of them in the eyes of your Master, the highest in raising your rank, better than giving gold and silver, and better for you than to meet your enemy and smite their necks, and they smite yours?" They said, "This—what is it, O Messenger of Allah?" and he said: Dhikru Llahi ‘azza wa jall, "The remembrance of Allah Mighty and Majestic." (al-Mustadrak ‘ala al-Sahihayn, 1.496).
Increasing the strength of Iman through good actions, and particularly through the medium of dhikr has tremendous implications for the Islamic religion and traditional spirituality. A non-Muslim once asked me, "If God exists, then why all this beating around the bush? Why doesn’t He just come out and say so?"
The answer is that taklif or ‘moral responsibility’ in this life is not only concerned with outward actions, but with what we believe, our ‘Aqida—and the strength with which we believe it. If belief in God and other eternal truths were effortless in this world, there would be no point in Allah making us responsible for it, it would be automatic, involuntary, like our belief, say, that London is in England. There would no point in making someone responsible for something impossible not to believe.
But the responsibility Allah has place upon us is belief in the Unseen, as a test for us in this world to choose between kufr and Iman, to distinguish believer from unbeliever, and some believers above others.
This why strengthening Iman through dhikr is of such methodological importance for Tasawwuf: we have not only been commanded as Muslims to believe in certain things, but have been commanded to have absolute certainty in them. The world we see around us is composed of veils of light and darkness: events come that knock the Iman out of some of us, and Allah tests each of us as to the degree of certainty with which we believe the eternal truths of the religion. It was in this sense that ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab said, "If the Iman of Abu Bakr were weighed against the Iman of the entire Umma, it would outweigh it."
Now, in traditional ‘Aqida one of the most important tenets is the wahdaniyya or ‘oneness and uniqueness’ of Allah Most High. This means He is without any sharik or associate in His being, in His attributes, or in His acts. But the ability to hold this insight in mind in the rough and tumble of daily life is a function of the strength of certainty (yaqin) in one’s heart. Allah tells the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) in Surat al-A‘raf of the Qur'an,
"Say: ‘I do not possess benefit for myself or harm, except as Allah wills’" (Qur'an 7:188),
yet we tend to rely on ourselves and our plans, in obliviousness to the facts of ‘Aqida that ourselves and our plans have no effect, that Allah alone brings about effects.
If you want to test yourself on this, the next time you contact someone with good connections whose help is critical to you, take a look at your heart at the moment you ask him to put in a good word for you with someone, and see whom you are relying upon. If you are like most of us, Allah is not at the forefront of your thoughts, despite the fact that He alone is controlling the outcome. Isn’t this a lapse in your ‘Aqida, or, at the very least, in your certainty?
Tasawwuf corrects such shortcomings by step-by-step increasing the Muslim’s certainty in Allah. The two central means of Tasawwuf in attaining the conviction demanded by ‘Aqida are mudhakara, or learning the traditional tenets of Islamic faith, and dhikr, deepening one’s certainty in them by remembrance of Allah. It is part of our faith that, in the words of the Qur'an in Surat al-Saffat,
"Allah has created you and what you do" (Qur'an 37:96);
yet for how many of us is this day to day experience? Because Tasawwuf remedies this and other shortcomings of Iman, by increasing the Muslim’s certainty through a systematic way of teaching and dhikr, it has traditionally been regarded as personally obligatory to this pillar of the religion also, and from the earliest centuries of Islam, has proved its worth.
The last question we will deal with tonight is: What about the bad Sufis we read about, who contravene the teachings of Islam?
The answer is that there are two meanings of Sufi: the first is "Anyone who considers himself a Sufi," which is the rule of thumb of orientalist historians of Sufism and popular writers, who would oppose the "Sufis" to the "Ulama." I think the Qur'anic verses and hadiths we have mentioned tonight about the scope and method of true Tasawwuf show why we must insist on the primacy of the definition of a Sufi as "a man of religious learning who applied what he knew, so Allah bequeathed him knowledge of what he did not know."
The very first thing a Sufi, as a man of religious learning knows is that the Shari‘a and ‘Aqida of Islam are above every human being. Whoever does not know this will never be a Sufi, except in the orientalist sense of the word—like someone standing in front of the stock exchange in an expensive suit with a briefcase to convince people he is a stockbroker. A real stockbroker is something else.
Because this distinction is ignored today by otherwise well-meaning Muslims, it is often forgotten that the ‘ulama who have criticized Sufis, such as Ibn al-Jawzi in his Talbis Iblis [The Devil’s deception], or Ibn Taymiya in places in his Fatawa, or Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya, were not criticizing Tasawwuf as an ancillary discipline to the Shari‘a. The proof of this is Ibn al-Jawzi’s five-volume Sifat al-safwa, which contains the biographies of the very same Sufis mentioned in al-Qushayri’s famous Tasawwuf manual al-Risala al-Qushayriyya. Ibn Taymiya considered himself a Sufi of the Qadiri order, and volumes ten and eleven of his thirty-seven-volume Majmu‘ al-fatawa are devoted to Tasawwuf. And Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya wrote his three-volume Madarij al-salikin, a detailed commentary on ‘Abdullah al-Ansari al-Harawi’s tract on the spiritual stations of the Sufi path, Manazil al-sa’irin. These works show that their authors’ criticisms were not directed at Tasawwuf as such, but rather at specific groups of their times, and they should be understood for what they are.
As in other Islamic sciences, mistakes historically did occur in Tasawwuf, most of them stemming from not recognizing the primacy of Shari‘a and ‘Aqida above all else. But these mistakes were not different in principle from, for example, the Isra’iliyyat (baseless tales of Bani Isra’il) that crept into tafsir literature, or the mawdu‘at (hadith forgeries) that crept into the hadith. These were not taken as proof that tafsir was bad, or hadith was deviance, but rather, in each discipline, the errors were identified and warned against by Imams of the field, because the Umma needed the rest. And such corrections are precisely what we find in books like Qushayri’s Risala,Ghazali’s Ihya’ and other works of Sufism.
For all of the reasons we have mentioned, Tasawwuf was accepted as an essential part of the Islamic religion by the ‘ulama of this Umma. The proof of this is all the famous scholars of Shari‘a sciences who had the higher education of Tasawwuf, among them Ibn ‘Abidin, al-Razi, Ahmad Sirhindi, Zakariyya al-Ansari, al-‘Izz ibn ‘Abd al-Salam, Ibn Daqiq al-‘Eid, Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, Shah Wali Allah, Ahmad Dardir, Ibrahim al-Bajuri, ‘Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulsi, Imam al-Nawawi, Taqi al-Din al-Subki, and al-Suyuti.
Among the Sufis who aided Islam with the sword as well as the pen, to quote Reliance of the Traveller, were:
such men as the Naqshbandi sheikh Shamil al-Daghestani, who fought a prolonged war against the Russians in the Caucasus in the nineteenth century; Sayyid Muhammad ‘Abdullah al-Somali, a sheikh of the Salihiyya order who led Muslims against the British and Italians in Somalia from 1899 to 1920; the Qadiri sheikh ‘Uthman ibn Fodi, who led jihad in Northern Nigeria from 1804 to 1808 to establish Islamic rule; the Qadiri sheikh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaza’iri, who led the Algerians against the French from 1832 to 1847; the Darqawi faqir al-Hajj Muhammad al-Ahrash, who fought the French in Egypt in 1799; the Tijani sheikh al-Hajj ‘Umar Tal, who led Islamic Jihad in Guinea, Senegal, and Mali from 1852 to 1864; and the Qadiri sheikh Ma’ al-‘Aynayn al-Qalqami, who helped marshal Muslim resistance to the French in northern Mauritania and southern Morocco from 1905 to 1909.
Among the Sufis whose missionary work Islamized entire regions are such men as the founder of the Sanusiyya order, Muhammad ‘Ali Sanusi, whose efforts and jihad from 1807 to 1859 consolidated Islam as the religion of peoples from the Libyan Desert to sub-Saharan Africa; [and] the Shadhili sheikh Muhammad Ma‘ruf and Qadiri sheikh Uways al-Barawi, whose efforts spread Islam westward and inland from the East African Coast . . . . (Reliance of the Traveller,863).
It is plain from the examples of such men what kind of Muslims have been Sufis; namely, all kinds, right across the board—and that Tasawwuf did not prevent them from serving Islam in any way they could.
To summarize everything I have said tonight: In looking first at Tasawwuf and Shari‘a, we found that many Qur'anic verses and sahih hadiths oblige the Muslim to eliminate haram inner states as arrogance, envy, and fear of anyone besides Allah; and on the other hand, to acquire such obligatory inner states as mercy, love of one’s fellow Muslims, presence of mind in prayer, and love of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). We found that these inward states could not be dealt with in books of fiqh, whose purpose is to specify the outward, quantifiable aspects of the Shari‘a. The knowledge of these states is nevertheless of the utmost importance to every Muslim, and this is why it was studied under the ‘ulama of Ihsan, the teachers of Tasawwuf, in all periods of Islamic history until the beginning of the present century.
We then turned to the level of Iman, and found that though the ‘Aqida of Muslims is that Allah alone has any effect in this world, keeping this in mind in everhday life is not a given of human consciousness, but rather a function of a Muslim’s yaqin, his certainty. And we found that Tasawwuf, as an ancillary discipline to ‘Aqida, emphasizes the systematic increase of this certainty through both mudhakara, ‘teaching tenets of faith’ and dhikr, ‘the remembrance of Allah,’ in accordance with the words of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) about Ihsan that "it is worship Allah as though you see Him."
Lastly, we found that accusations against Tasawwuf made by scholars such as Ibn al-Jawzi, and Ibn Taymiya were not directed against Tasawwuf in principle, but to specific groups and individuals in the times of these authors, the proof for which is the other books by the same authors that showed their understanding of Tasawwuf as a Shari‘a science.
To return to the starting point of my talk this evening, with the disappearance of traditional Islamic scholars from the Umma, two very different pictures of Tasawwuf emerge today. If we read books written after the dismantling of the traditional fabric of Islam by colonial powers in the last century, we find the big hoax: Islam without spirituality and Shari‘a without Tasawwuf. But if we read the classical works of Islamic scholarship, we learn that Tasawwuf has been a Shari‘a science like tafsir, hadith, or any other, throughout the history of Islam. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said,
"Truly, Allah does not look at your outward forms and wealth, but rather at your hearts and your works" (Sahih Muslim, 4.1389: hadith 2564).
And this is the brightest hope that Islam can offer a modern world darkened by materialism and nihilism: Islam as it truly is; the hope of eternal salvation through a religion of brotherhood and social and economic justice outwardly, and the direct experience of divine love and illumination inwardly.

The Intermediary of Shirk

From the Mafaheem of Sayyid ibn Alawi

Translated by Khalid Williams

Many people falter in their understanding of the reality of intermediaries, and haphazardly rush to the judgement that any intermediary is Shirk, and that he who takes an intermediary, whatever the fashion, has associated partners with Allah, and that his state in this affair is that of the polytheists, who said ‘we do not worship them except that they might bring us near to Allah’ (Surat al-Zumar, 3). This statement is incorrect, and the attempt to use this Ayah as an evidence is here misplaced. This is because this noble verse is clear in its severe condemnation of the polytheists for their worship of idols as gods besides Allah, the Exalted, and their association of them with Him, claiming that their worship of these idols is nothing more than a means of drawing closer to Allah. The kufr and shirk of their action stems from their worship of these idols, and their belief that they are lords besides Allah.
Something of great importance which must be stressed here is that this Ayah confirms that the polytheists were not sincere in their attempt to justify their worship of idols by claiming that they used them to draw near to Allah. For had they been truthful in this assertion, Allah would have been greater to them than their idols, and they would not have worshipped other than Him. However, Allah forbade the Muslims from insulting the idols of the polytheists with His words: ‘Do not curse those upon whom they call beside Allah, lest they wrongfully curse and revile Allah through ignorance. Thus to every nation have we made their deeds seem fair. Then to their Lord is their return, when He will inform them of that which they used to do’ (Surat al-An’am, 108).
It is narrated from ‘Abd al-Razzaq, and ‘Abd ibn Hamid, and ibn Jarir, and ibn al-Mundhir, and ibn Abi Hatim, and Abu al-Sheikh, from Qutada (may Allah be pleased with him), who said: “The Muslims used to curse and revile the idols of the disbelievers, and so the disbelievers reviled and cursed Allah, the Mighty, the Magnificent. So Allah revealed ‘Do not curse those upon whom they call beside Allah, lest they wrongfully curse and revile Allah through ignorance’.” This is the reason for the revelation (sabab nuzul) of the Ayah, which strongly forbids the believers from uttering insults against the idols that the polytheists used to worship in Makkah, because such insults would inevitably enrage those who believed in their hearts that those statues and idols were gods, with the ability to benefit and harm. This rage would drive them to meet the Believers with similar insults against the One whom they worshipped, the Lord of the Worlds, and so they would ascribe to Him defects, though He is utterly free of all defects. Again, if they were truly sincere in their claim that their idol-worship was only a means of drawing closer to Allah, they would not have dared insult Him to avenge their idols when they were insulted. It is entirely clear from this that the polytheists held Allah in far less esteem than they held their own idols.
This is also apparent from Allah’s words ‘And if you were to ask them who created the heavens and the earth, they would surely say “Allah!”’ (Surat al-‘Ankabut, 61). If the polytheists had truly believed that Allah the Exalted is the only Creator, and that their idols had not created anything, they would have worshipped Allah instead of their idols, or at the very least their r reverence towards Allah would have been greater than their reverence towards their stones and statues. Is this consistent with their utter vilification of Allah, the Mighty, the Magnificent, out of vigilance for their own idols against Him? It is abundantly clear that it is not consistent in the slightest. Furthermore, the Ayah that we are considering is not the only evidence that Allah was lower in the esteem of the polytheists; rather it has many counterparts. Of them is the statement of Allah the Exalted: ‘They assign to Allah a portion of the crops and cattle which He created, and they say “this is for Allah”, in their imagination, “and this for (His) partners in regards to us.” Thus, that which they apportion for His partners in them does not reach Allah, and that which they apportion to Allah goes to their partners. Evil is their ordinance’ (Surat al-An’am, 137.) If they did not hold Allah in lesser esteem than their idols, they would not have weighed against Him this bias, which as related in the Ayah merited the judgment of Allah upon them: ‘Evil is their ordinance.’
Further evidence is the call of Abu Sufyan (may Allah be pleased with him), before he entered Islam, ‘Hubal, be though exalted!’ as was related by Bukhari, calling upon the idol named ‘Hubal’, in order that he might, in that moment of conflict[1], overwhelm the Lord of the Heavens and the Earth and His army of Believers, who desired to overwhelm their idols. This is a clear measure of the state of the polytheists, and how they viewed their idols in relation to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.
It is essential that this be understood with true comprehension, for too many people build their arguments upon it without any understanding.
Do you not see that when Allah ordered the Muslims to face the Ka’aba in their prayers, they turned towards it when they worshipped, and took it as a direction of prayer (Qiblah)? The worship was not directed to the Ka’aba, and nor is the kissing of the Black Stone anything other than the worship of Allah the Exalted, and the imitation of the Prophet (may the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him and his family and companions). Were any of the Muslims to intend to worship to either of them, he would be a polytheist, like those who worship idols.
To worship Allah by means of intermediaries is essential, and cannot be termed shirk, and it cannot be said that everyone who takes an intermediary between him and his Lord is a mushrik; if it were otherwise, then every single human being would be a polytheist, for all of our affairs require intermediaries. The Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) received the Qur’an through the intermediation of Jibril, and so Jibril is the intermediary of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace), and he was the greatest intermediary to the Sahaba (may Allah be pleased with them), for they would rush to him in times of crisis, and complain of their needs to him, and seek his intercession and Du’a. In these times, the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace), never said to them ‘you have committed shirk and kufr! It is not permissible to complain to me, nor to seek anything from me; rather you must go and supplicate and ask Allah yourselves, for verily Allah is closer to you than I am!’ Rather he would stand and supplicate for them, although they knew full well that the Bestower in reality is Allah, and that the Preventer, and the Expender, and the Provider is Allah alone, and they knew also that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) would not avail them anything save with the permission of Allah, and through His Bounty. The Prophet himself (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said ‘I am nothing but an apportioner; Allah is the one who bestows.’[2]
Therefore, it becomes evident that it is permissible and correct to describe any ordinary person as one who delivers from distress, and satisfies needs; that is, that he is an intermediary for them, so what of the Noble Master and Eminent Prophet, the Most Illustrious of Mankind and Jinn, the Undisputed Best of Creation? Did the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) not say ‘he who delivers a Muslim from distress, Allah delivers him from the distress of the Day of Resurrection[3]’? So the Believer is a deliverer from distress and crisis.
Did he not say (may Allah bless him and give him peace) ‘he who fulfils the need of his brother, I will stand at his balance (on the Day of Judgement), and if (his good deeds) do not outweigh (his bad), I will intercede for him.[4]’? So the Believer is a fulfiller of needs.
Did he (may Allah bless him and give him peace) not say ‘he who shelters a Muslim, Allah will shelter him on the Day of Resurrection[5]’?
Did he (may Allah bless him and give him peace) not say ‘verily, Allah has among His creation those who are sought for in times of need[6]’?
Did he (may Allah bless him and give him peace) not say ‘Allah is engaged in the aid of his servant as long as the servant is engaged in the aid of his brother[7]’?
Did he (may Allah bless him and give him peace) not say ‘he who comes to the aid of someone in need, Allah writes for him ninety-three good deeds[8]’?
So the Believer relieves hardships, aids, protects, fulfils needs, and is sought out in times of trial, although in reality it is Allah, Exalted and Magnificent, who aids, fulfils, and protects. However, as the Believer is the intermediary in all of this, attributing the actions to him is entirely appropriate.
Many Hadiths have been related from the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) which illustrate that Allah, Sublime and Exalted, alleviates punishment from all who dwell on the earth by means of those who seek His forgiveness, and those who maintain His mosques, and that by their means He provides the masses with sustenance and support, and protects them from trials and perils.
Tabrani related in ‘al-Mu’jam al-Kabeer,’ and Bayhaqi in ‘al-Sunan’ from Mani’ al-Daylmi (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said ‘Were it not for the sake of certain servants of Allah whom He makes bow to Him, and certain infants whom He makes suckle, and certain cattle whom He makes graze, He would unleash His punishment upon you all, and would destroy you utterly.’
Bukhari related from Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said ‘are you given victory and sustenance except by means of those of you who are weak?’
Tirmidhi related from Anas (may Allah be pleased with him), that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said ‘it may be that you are provided with sustenance by means of him.[9]’ Al-Hakim declared this Hadith to be Sahih.
Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both) narrated that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said: ‘Verily, Allah has men whom he created for the needs of the people, who rush to them in times of crisis. They are those who are safe from the punishment of Allah the Exalted[10].’
Jabir ibn Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said: ‘Truly, Allah confers righteousness upon a Muslim’s child, and his grandchild, and his family, and the families of his neighbours, by means of that Muslim’s piety and righteousness, and they are in the protection of Allah as long as he is amongst them.[11]’
Ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both) narrated that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said: ‘Verily Allah, by the means of a pious Muslim, protects one hundred of his neighbours from hardship and strife.’
Ibn Umar then recited the Ayah ‘And had Allah not repelled some people by means of others, the earth would have been corrupted’ (Surat al-Baqarah, 251).[12] A Hadith is related from Thawban[13] which states ‘There will remain among you seven men by whom you will be given victory, rain and sustenance until the Affair of Allah arrives (the Day of Judgement).’
‘Ubada ibn al-Samit narrated that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said ‘The Adbal[14] of my community are thirty, by means of them you are all provided with sustenance, rain and victory.’ Ubada said ‘I hope al-Hasan[15] to be one of them [16].’

Tabrani related in ‘al-Mu’jam al-Kabeer,’ and Bayhaqi in ‘al-Sunan’ from Mani’ al-Daylmi (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said ‘Were it not for the sake of certain servants of Allah whom He makes bow to Him, and certain infants whom He makes suckle, and certain cattle whom He makes graze, He would unleash His punishment upon you all, and would destroy you utterly.’
Bukhari related from Sa’ad ibn Abi Waqqas (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said ‘are you given victory and sustenance except by means of those of you who are weak?’
Tirmidhi related from Anas (may Allah be pleased with him), that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said ‘it may be that you are provided with sustenance by means of him.[9]’ Al-Hakim declared this Hadith to be Sahih.
Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both) narrated that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said: ‘Verily, Allah has men whom he created for the needs of the people, who rush to them in times of crisis. They are those who are safe from the punishment of Allah the Exalted[10].’
Jabir ibn Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said: ‘Truly, Allah confers righteousness upon a Muslim’s child, and his grandchild, and his family, and the families of his neighbours, by means of that Muslim’s piety and righteousness, and they are in the protection of Allah as long as he is amongst them.[11]’
Ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both) narrated that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said: ‘Verily Allah, by the means of a pious Muslim, protects one hundred of his neighbours from hardship and strife.’
Ibn Umar then recited the Ayah ‘And had Allah not repelled some people by means of others, the earth would have been corrupted’ (Surat al-Baqarah, 251).[12] A Hadith is related from Thawban[13] which states ‘There will remain among you seven men by whom you will be given victory, rain and sustenance until the Affair of Allah arrives (the Day of Judgement).’
‘Ubada ibn al-Samit narrated that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said ‘The Adbal[14] of my community are thirty, by means of them you are all provided with sustenance, rain and victory.’ Ubada said ‘I hope al-Hasan[15] to be one of them [16].’
The four preceding Hadiths were mentioned by al-Hafidh ibn Katheer in his Tafseer of the above Qur’anic Ayah ‘And had Allah not repelled some people…’ and they are appropriate to be used as proofs, indeed by their body the content becomes Sahih (rigorously authenticated).
Anas bin Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said: ‘The earth will never be deprived of forty men of the like of the Intimate friend (khalil) of Allah,[17] by means of them you are given water and succour. Each time one of them dies, Allah substitutes another in their stead[18].’
The Greatest Intermediary
On the Day of Resurrection, the Day of Tawheed, the Day of Iman, the Day in which the Throne will appear, the benefit of the greatest intermediary will come to light: that of the possessor of the Praiseworthy Station (al-Maqam al-Mahmoud), he whose intercession is never rejected, and whose surety is never dispelled by He who promised never to disappoint him, or debase him, or dismay him, or grieve him on account of his community, when all of creation seek him out and plead for his intercession, and he stands before his Lord and does not return except with the height of nobility and honour revealed to us by the words of Allah to him: ‘O Muhammad! Raise your head, and intercede, your intercession will be met; and ask, you shall be given!’
May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and upon his family, companions, and all those who follow them until the Day of Judgement.
Translated from the book ‘Notions which must be Corrected[19]’, by the Eminent and Noble Prophetic Scion and Imam of the People of Hijaz, the Late Sheikh Sayyid Muhammad ibn al-Alawi al-Maliki al-Hassani. May Allah forgive him and be pleased with him, and reward him from His infinite bounty; and may He benefit us with his works that we might better serve His Deen and the community of His Noble Prophet, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. Amin.

________________________________________
NOTES
[1] At the Battle of Uhud.
[2] Related by Bukhari from Mu’awiyah (may Allah be pleased with him)
[3] Related by Bukhari and Muslim from ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both)
[4] Related by Abu Na’eem from ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both)
[5] Related by Bukhari and Muslim from ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both)
[6] See below for the reference for this Hadith
[7] Related by Muslim and Abu Dawud and others from Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him)
[8] Related by Abu Ya’la and al-Bazar and Bayhaqi
[9] Full text of the Hadith : ‘There were two brothers at the time of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace), of whom one would come to the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) to seek knowledge, and the other would work to provide for them both. The worker felt that the situation to be unfair and complained about his brother to the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace), who replied: ‘it may be that you are provided with sustenance by means of him.’
[10] Related by Tabrani and Abu Na’eem and al’Qada’i with a good (hasan) chain
[11] Related by ibn Jareer, and by Tabari in his Tafseer
[12] Related by Tabrani
[13] A servant of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace)
[14] The Substitutes. Explanation of their status is to be found in the Hadith below related by Anas ibn Malik, Insha Allah.
[15] Al-Hasan al-Basri, one of the Tabi’een.
[16] Related by Tabrani
[17] The Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him)
[18] Related by Tabrani. These are the Abdal (Substitutes).
[19] Mafaheem Yajib an Tusahhah

Aqidah al-Tahawiyya

By Imam Abu Ja'far al-Tahawi al-Hanafi (239-321 AH)
translated by Iqbal Ahmad Azami

Imam Tahawi's al-'Aqidah, representative of the viewpoint of ahl al-Sunnah wa-al-Jama'a, has long been the most widely acclaimed, and indeed indispensable, reference work on Muslim beliefs, of which this is an edited English translation.

Preface
In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate
Imam Abu Ja'far Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Salamah bin Salmah bin `Abd al Malik bin Salmah bin Sulaim bin Sulaiman bin Jawab Azdi, popularly known as Imam Tahawi, after his birth-place in Egypt, is among the most outstanding authorities of the Islamic world on Hadith and fiqh (jurisprudence). He lived 239-321 A.H., an epoch when both the direct and indirect disciples of the four Imams: Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Malik, Imam Shafi'i and Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal - were teaching and practicing. This period was the zenith of Hadith and fiqh studies, and Imam Tahawi studied with all the living authorities of the day. He began as a student of his maternal uncle, Isma'il bin Yahya Muzni. a leading disciple of Imam Shafi'i. Instinctively, however, Imam Tahawi felt drawn to the corpus of Imam Abu Hanifah's works. Indeed, he had seen his uncle and teacher turning to the works of Hanafi scholars to resolve thorny issues of Fiqh, drawing heavily on the writings of Imam Muhammad Ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani and Imam Abu Yusuf, who had codified Hanafi fiqh. This led Imam Tahawi to devote his whole attention to studying the Hanafi works and he eventually joined the Hanafi school.
Imam Tahawi stands out not only as a prominent follower of the Hanafi school but, in view or his vast erudition and remarkable powers of assimilation, as one of its leading scholars. His monumental scholarly works, such as Sharh Ma'ani al-Athar and Mushkil al-Athar, are encyclopaedic in scope and have long been regarded as indispensable for training students of fiqh.
Al-'Aqidah though small in size, is a basic text for all times, listing what a Muslim must know and believe and inwardly comprehend.
There is consensus among the Companions, Successors and all the leading Islamic authorities such as Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Abu Yusuf, Imam Muhammad, Imam Malik, Imam Shafi'i and Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal on the doctrines enumerated in this work. For these doctrines shared by ahl al-sunnah wa-al-Jama'ah owe their origin to the Holy Quran and consistent and confirmed Ahadith - the undisputed primary sources of Islam.
Being a text on the Islamic doctrines, this work draws heavily on the arguments set forth in the Holy Qur'an and Sunnah. Likewise, the arguments advanced in refuting the views of sects that have deviated from the Sunnah, are also taken from the Holy Qur'an and Sunnah.
As regards the sects mentioned in this work, a study of Islamic history up to the time of Imam Tahawi would be quite helpful. References to sects such as Mu'tazilah, Jahmiyyah, Qadriyah, and Jabriyah are found in the work. Moreover, it contains allusions to the unorthodox and deviant views of the Shi'ah, Khawarij and such mystics as had departed from the right path. There is an explicit reference in the work to the nonsensical controversy on khalq-al -Qu'ran in the times of Ma'mun and some other `Abbasid Caliphs.
While the permanent relevance of the statements of belief in al-'Aqidah is obvious, the historical weight and point of certain of these statements can be properly appreciated only if the work is used as a text for study under the guidance of some learned person able to elucidate its arguments fully, with reference to the intellectual and historical background of the sects refuted in the work. Such study helps one to better understand the Islamic doctrines and avoid the deviations of the past or the present.
May Allah grant us a true undersanding of faith and include us with those to whom Allah refers as `those who believe, fear Allah and do good deeds'; and `he who fears Allah, endures affliction, then Allah will not waste the reward of well-doers.'
Iqbal Ahmad A'zami

In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate
Praise be to Allah, Lord of all the Worlds.
The great scholar Hujjat al-lslam Abu Ja'far al-Warraq al-Tahawi al-Misri, may Allah have mercy on him, said:
This is a presentation of the beliefs of ahl-al-Sunnah wa al-Jama'ah, according to the school of the jurists of this religion, Abu Hanifah an-Nu'man ibn Thabit al-Kufi, Abu Yusuf Ya'qub ibn Ibrahim al-Ansari and Abu `Abdullah Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani, may Allah be pleased with them all, and what they believe regarding the fundamentals of the religion and their faith in the Lord of all the Worlds.
1. We say about Allah's unity believing by Allah's help - that Allah is One, without any partners.
2. There is nothing like Him.
3. There is nothing that can overwhelm Him.
4. There is no god other than Him.
5. He is the Eternal without a beginning and enduring without end.
6. He will never perish or come to an end.
7. Nothing happens except what He wills.
8. No imagination can conceive of Him and no understanding can comprehend Him.
9. He is different from any created being.
10. He is living and never dies and is eternally active and never sleeps.
11. He creates without His being in need to do so and provides for His creation without any effort.
12. He causes death with no fear and restores to life without difficulty.
13. He has always existed together with His attributes since before creation. Bringing creation into existence did not add anything to His attributes that was not already there. As He was, together with His attributes, in pre-eternity, so He will remain throughout endless time.
14. It was not only after the act of creation that He could be described as `the Creator' nor was it only by the act of origination that He could he described as `the Originator'.
15. He was always the Lord even when there was nothing to be Lord of, and always the Creator even when there was no creation.
16. In the same way that He is the `Bringer to life of the dead', after He has brought them to life a first time, and deserves this name before bringing them to life, so too He deserves the name of `Creator' before He has created them.
17. This is because He has the power to do everything, everything is dependent on Him, everything is easy for Him, and He does not need anything. `There is nothing like Him and He is the Hearer, the Seer'. (al-Shura 42:11)
18. He created creation with His knowledge.
19. He appointed destinies for those He created.
20. He allotted to them fixed life spans.
21. Nothing about them was hidden from Him before He created them, and He knew everything that they would do before He created them.
22. He ordered them to obey Him and forbade them to disobey Him.
23. Everything happens according to His decree and will, and His will is accomplished. The only will that people have is what He wills for them. What He wills for them occurs and what He does not will, does not occur.
24. He gives guidance to whoever He wills, and protects them, and keeps them safe from harm, out of His generosity; and He leads astray whoever He wills, and abases them, and afflicts them, out of His justice.
25. All of them are subject to His will between either His generosity or His justice.
26. He is exalted beyond having opposites or equals.
27. No one can ward off His decree or put back His command or overpower His affairs.
28. We believe in all of this and are certain that everything comes from Him.
29. And we are certain that Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) is His chosen servant and selected Prophet and His Messenger with whom He is well pleased.
30. And that he is the seal of the prophets and the Imam of the godfearing and the most honoured of all the messengers and the beloved of the Lord of all the Worlds.
31. Every claim to prophethood after Him is falsehood and deceit.
32. He is the one who has been sent to all the jinn and all mankind with truth and guidance and with light and illumination.
33. The Qur'an is the word of Allah. It came from Him as speech without it being possible to say how. He sent it down on His Messenger as revelation. The believers accept it, as absolute truth. They are certain that it is, in truth, the word of Allah. It is not created, as is the speech of human beings, and anyone who hears it and claims that it is human speech has become an unbeliever. Allah warns him and censures him and threatens him with Fire when He says, Exalted is He:
`I will burn him in the Fire.' (al-Muddaththir 74:26)
When Allah threatens with the Fire those who say
`This is just human speech' (al-Muddaththir 74:25)
we know for certain that it is the speech of the Creator of mankind and that it is totally unlike the speech of mankind.
34. Anyone who describes Allah as being in any way the same as a human being has become an unbeliever. All those who grasp this will take heed and refrain from saying things such as the unbelievers say, and they will know that He, in His attributes, is not like human beings.
35. `The Seeing of Allah by the People of the Garden' is true, without their vision being all-encompassing and without the manner of their vision being known. As the Book of our Lord has expressed it:
`Faces on that Day radiant, looking at their Lord'. (al-Qiyamah 75:22-3)
The explanation of this is as Allah knows and wills. Everything that has come down to us about this from the Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, in authentic traditions, is as he said and means what he intended. We do not delve into that, trying to interpret it according to our own opinions or letting our imaginations have free rein. No one is safe in his religion unless he surrenders himself completely to Allah, the Exalted and Glorified and to His Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and leaves the knowledge of things that are ambiguous to the one who knows them.
36. A man's Islam is not secure unless it is based on submission and surrender. Anyone who desires to know things which it is beyond his capacity to know, and whose intellect is not content with surrender, will find that his desire veils him from a pure understanding of Allah's true Unity, clear knowledge and correct belief, and that he veers between disbelief and belief, confirmation and denial and acceptance and rejection. He will be subject to whisperings and find himself confused and full of doubt, being neither an accepting believer nor a denying rejector.
37. Belief of a man in the `seeing of Allah by the people of the Garden is not correct if he imagines what it is like, or interprets it according to his own understanding since the interpretation of this seeing' or indeed, the meaning of any of the subtle phenomena which are in the realm of Lordship, is by avoiding its interpretation and strictly adhering to the submission. `This is the din of Muslims. Anyone who does not guard himself against negating the attributes of Allah, or likening Allah to something else, has gone astray and has failed to understand Allah's Glory, because our Lord, the Glorified and the Exalted, can only possibly be described in terms of Oneness and Absolute Singularity and no creation is in any way like Him.
38. He is beyond having limits placed on Him, or being restricted, or having parts or limbs. Nor is He contained by the six directions as all created things are.
39. Al-Mi'raj (the Ascent through the heavens) is true. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was taken by night and ascended in his bodily form, while awake, through the heavens, to whatever heights Allah willed for him. Allah ennobled him in the way that He ennobled him and revealed to him what He revealed to him,
`and his heart was not mistaken about what it saw' (al-Najm 53:11).
Allah blessed him and granted him peace in this world and the next.
40. Al-Hawd, (the Pool which Allah will grant the Prophet as an honour to quench the thirst of His Ummah on the Day Of Judgement), is true.
41. Al-Shifa'ah, (the intercession, which is stored up for Muslims), is true, as related in the (consistent and confirmed) Ahadith.
42. The covenant `which Allah made with Adam and his offspring' is true.
43. Allah knew, before the existence of time, the exact number of those who would enter the Garden and the exact number of those who would enter the Fire. This number will neither be increaser nor decreased.
44. The same applies to all actions done by people, which are done exactly as Allah knew they would be done. Everyone is cased to what he was created for and it is the action with which a man's life is sealed which dictates his fate. Those who are fortunate are fortunate by the decree of Allah, and those who are wretched are wretched by the decree of Allah.
45. The exact nature of the decree is Allah's secret in His creation, and no angel near the Throne, nor Prophet sent with a message, has been given knowledge of it. Delving into it and reflecting too much about it only leads to destruction and loss, and results in rebelliousness. So be extremely careful about thinking and reflecting on this matter or letting doubts about it assail you, because Allah has kept knowledge of the decree away from human beings, and forbidden them to enquire about it, saying in His Book,
`He is not asked about what He does but they are asked'. (al-Anbiya' 21:23)
So anyone who asks: `Why did Allah do that?' has gone against a judgement of the Book, and anyone who goes against a judgement of the Book is an unbeliever.
46. This in sum is what those of Allah's friends with enlightened hearts need to know and constitutes the degree of those firmly endowed with knowledge. For there are two kinds of knowledge: knowledge which is accessible to created beings, and knowledge which is not accessible to created beings. Denying the knowledge which is accessible is disbelief, and claiming the knowledge which is inaccessible is disbelief. Belief can only be firm when accessible knowledge is accepted and inaccessible knowledge is not sought after.
47. We believe in al-Lawh (the Tablet) and al-Qalam (the Pen) and in everything written on it. Even if all created beings were to gather together to make something fail to exist, whose existence Allah had written on the Tablet, they would not be able to do so. And if all created beings were to gather together to make something exist which Allah had not written on it, they would not be able to do so. The Pen has dried having written down all that will be in existence until the Day of Judgement. Whatever a person has missed he would have never got it, and whatever one gets, he would have never missed it.
48. It is necessary for the servant to know that Allah already knows everything that is going to happen in His creation and decreed it in a detailed and decisive way. There is nothing that He has created in either the heavens or the earth that can contradict it, or add to it, or erase it, or change it, or decrease it, or increase it in any way. This is a fundamental aspect of belief and a necessary element of all knowledge and recognition of Allah's Oneness and Lordship. As Allah says in His Book:
`He created everything and decreed it in a detailed way'. (al-Furqan 25:2)
And He also says:
`Allah's command is always a decided decree'. (al-Ahzab 33:38)
So woe to anyone who argues with Allah concerning the decree and who, with a sick heart, starts delving into this matter. In his delusory attempt to investigate the Unseen, he is seeking a secret that can never be uncovered, and he ends up an evil-doer, telling nothing but lies.
49. Al-'Arsh (the Throne) and al-Kursi (the Chair) are true.
50. He is independent of the Throne and what is beneath it.
51. He encompasses everything and is above it, and what He has created is incapable of encompassing Him.
52. We say with belief, acceptance and submission that Allah took Ibrahim as an intimate friend and that He spoke directly to Musa.
53. We believe in the angels, and the Prophets, and the books which were revealed to the messengers, and we bear witness that they were all following the manifest Truth.
54. We call the people of our qiblah Muslims and believers as long as they acknowledge what the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, brought, and accept as true everything that he said and told us about.
55. We do not enter into vain talk about Allah nor do we allow any dispute about the religion Of Allah.
56. We do not argue about the Qur'an and we bear witness that it is the speech of the Lord of all the Worlds which the Trustworthy Spirit came down with and taught the most honoured Of all the Messengers, Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. It is the speech of Allah and no speech of any created being is comparable to it. We do not say that it was created and we do not go against the Jama'ah of the Muslims regarding it.
57. We do not consider any of the people of our qiblah to he unbelievers because of any wrong action they have done, as long as they do not consider that action to have been lawful.
58. Nor do we say that the wrong action of a man who has belief does not have a harmful effect on him.
59. We hope that Allah will pardon the people of right action among the believers and grant them entrance into the Garden through His mercy, but we cannot be certain of this, and we cannot bear witness that it will definitely happen and that they will be in the Garden. We ask forgiveness for the people of wrong action among the believers and, although we are afraid for them, we are not in despair about them.
60. Certainty and despair both remove one from the religion, but the path of truth for the people of the qiblah lies between the two (e.g. a person must fear and be conscious of Allah's reckoning as well as be hopeful of Allah's mercy).
61. A person does not step out or belief except by disavowing what brought him into it.
62. Belief consists of affirmation by the tongue and acceptance by the heart.
63. And the whole of what is proven from the Prophet, upon him be peace, regarding the Shari'ah and the explanation (of the Qur'an and of Islam) is true.
64. Belief is, at base, the same for everyone, but the superiority of some over others in it is due to their fear and awareness of Allah, their opposition to their desires, and their choosing what is more pleasing to Allah.
65. All the believers are `friends' of Allah and the noblest of them in the sight of Allah are those who are the most obedient and who most closely follow the Qur'an.
66. Belief consists of belief in Allah. His angels, His books, His messengers, the Last Day, and belief that the Decree - both the good of it and the evil of it, the sweet of it and the bitter or it - is all from Allah.
67. We believe in all these things. We do not make any distinction between any of the messengers, we accept as true what all of them brought.
68. Those of the Ummah of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, who have committed grave sins will be in the Fire, but not forever, provided they die and meet Allah as believers affirming His unity even if they have not repented. They are subject to His will and judgement. If He wants, He will forgive them and pardon them out of His generosity, as is mentionied in the Qur'an when He says:
`And He forgives anything less than that (shirk) to whoever He wills' (al-Nisa' 4: 116);
and if He wants, He will punish them in the Fire out of His justice and then bring them out of the Fire through His mercy, and for the intercession of those who were obedient to Him, and send them to the Garden. This is because Allah is the Protector of those who recognize Him and will not treat them in the Next World in the same way as He treats those who deny Him and who are bereft of His guidance and have failed to obtain His protection. O Allah, You are the Protector of Islam and its people; make us firm in Islam until the day we meet You.
69. We agree with doing the prayer behind any of the people of the qiblah whether right-acting or wrong-acting, and doing the funeral prayer over any of them when they die.
70. We do not say that any of them will categorically go to either the Garden or the Fire, and we do not accuse any of them of kufr (disbelief), shirk (associating partners with Allah), or nifaq (hypocrisy), as long as they have not openly demonstrated any of those things. We leave their secrets to Allah.
71. We do not agree with killing any of the Ummah of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, unless it is obligatory by Shari'ah to do so.
72. We do not recognize rebellion against our Imam or those in charge of our affairs even if they are unjust, nor do we wish evil on them, nor do we withdraw from following them. We hold that obedience to them is part of obedience to Allah, The Glorified, and therefore obligatory as long as they do not order to commit sins. We pray for their right guidance and pardon from their wrongs.
73. We follow the Sunnah of the Prophet and the Jama'ah of the Muslims, and avoid deviation, differences and divisions.
74. We love the people of justice and trustworthiness, and hate the people of injustice and treachery.
75. When our knowledge about something is unclear, we say: `Allah knows best'.
76. We agree with wiping over leather socks (in Wudu) whether on a journey or otherwise, just as has come in the (consistent and confirmed) ahadith.
77. Hajj and jihad under the leadership of those in charge of the Muslims, whether they are right or wrong-acting, are continuing obligations until the Last Hour comes. Nothing can annul or controvert them.
78. We believe in Kiraman Katibin (the noble angels) who write down our actions for Allah has appointed them over us as two guardians.
79. We believe in the Angel of Death who is charged with taking the spirits of all the worlds.
80. We believe in the punishment in the grave for those who deserve it, and in the questioning in the grave by Munkar and Nakir about one's Lord, one's religion and one's prophet, as has come down in ahadith from the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and in reports from the Companions, may Allah be pleased with them all.
81. The grave is either one of the meadows of the Garden or one of the pits of the Fire.
82. We believe in being brought back to life after death and in being recompensed for our actions on the Day of Judgement, and al-'Ard, having been shown them and al-Hisab, brought to account for them. And Qira'at al-Kitab, reading the book, and the reward or punishments and in al-Sirat (the Bridge) and al-Mizan (the Balance).
83. The Garden and the Fire are created things that never come to an end and we believe that Allah created them before the rest of creation and then created people to inhabit each of them. Whoever He wills goes to the Garden out of His Bounty and whoever He wills goes to the Fire through His justice. Everybody acts in accordance with what is destined for him and goes towards what he has been created for.
84. Good and evil have both been decreed for people.
85. The capability in terms of Tawfiq (Divine Grace and Favour) which makes an action certain to occur cannot be ascribed to a created being. This capability is integral with action, whereas the capability of an action in terms of having the necessary health, and ability, being in a position to act and having the necessary means, exists in a person before the action. It is this type of capability which is the object of the dictates of Shariah. Allah the Exalted says:
`Allah does not charge a person except according to his ability'. (al-Baqarah 2: 286)
86. People's actions are created by Allah but earned by people.
87. Allah, the Exalted, has only charged people with what they are able to do and people are only capable to do what Allah has favoured them. This is the explanation of the phrase: `There is no power and no strength except by Allah.' We add to this that there is no stratagem or way by which anyone can avoid or escape disobedience to Allah except with Allah's help; nor does anyone have the strength to put obedience to Allah into practice and remain firm in it, except if Allah makes it possible for them to do so.
88. Everything happens according to Allah's will, knowledge, predestination and decree. His will overpowers all other wills and His decree overpowers all stratagems. He does whatever He wills and He is never unjust. He is exalted in His purity above any evil or perdition and He is perfect far beyond any fault or flaw. `He will not be asked about what He does but they will he asked.' (al-Anbiya' 21: 23)
89. There is benefit for dead people in the supplication and alms-giving of the living.
90. Allah responds to people's supplications and gives them what they ask for.
91. Allah has absolute control over everything and nothing has any control over Him. Nothing can be independent of Allah even for the blinking of an eye, and whoever considers himself independent of Allah for the blinking of an eye is guilty of unbelief and becomes one of the people of perdition.
92. Allah is angered and can be pleased but not in the same way as any creature.
93. We love the Companions of the Messenger of Allah but we do not go to excess in our love for any one individual among them nor do we disown any one of them. We hate anyone who hates them or does not speak well of them and we only speak well of them. Love of them is a part of Islam, part of belief and part of excellent behaviour, while hatred of them is unbelief, hypocrisy and rebelliousness.
94. We confirm that, after the death of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, the caliphate went first to Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, may Allah be pleased with him, thus proving his excellence and superiority over the rest of the Muslims; then to `Umar ibn alKhattab, may Allah be pleased with him; then to `Uthman, may Allah be pleased with him; and then to `Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him. These are the Rightly-Guided Caliphs and upright leaders.
95. We bear witness that the ten who were named by the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and who were promised the Garden by him, will be in the Garden, as the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, whose word is truth, bore witness that they would he. The ten are: Abu Bakr, `Umar, `Uthman, `Ali, Talhah, Zubayr, Sa'd, Sa'id, `Abdur-Rahman ibn `Awf and Abu `Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrah whose title was the trustee of this Ummah, may Allah be pleased with all of them.
96. Anyone who speaks well of the Companions of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and his wives and offspring, who are all pure and untainted by any impurity, is free from the accusation of hypocrisy.
97. The learned men of the first community and those who followed in their footsteps - the people of virtue, the narrators of the Ahadith, the jurists and analysts- they must only be spoken about in the best way and anyone who says anything bad about them is not on the right path.
98. We do not prefer any of the saintly men among the Ummah over any of the Prophets but rather we say that any one of the Prophets is better than all the awliya' put together.
99. We believe in what we know of Karamat, the marvels of the awliya' and in authentic stories about them from trustworthy sources.
100. We believe in the signs of the Hour such as the appearance of the Dajjal and the descent of `Isa ibn Maryam, peace be upon him, from heaven and we believe in the rising of the sun from where it sets and in the emergence of the Beast from the earth.
101. We do not accept as true what soothsayers and fortune-tellers say, nor do we accept the claims of those who affirm anything which goes against the Book, the Sunnah and the consensus of the Muslim Ummah.
102. We agree that holding together is the true and right path and that separation is deviation and torment.
103. There is only one religion of Allah in the heavens and the earth and that is the religion of Islam. Allah says:
`Surely religion in the sight of Allah is Islam'. (Al `Imran 3:19)
And He also says:
`I am pleased with Islam as a religion for you'. (al-Matidah 5:3)
104. Islam lies between going to excess and falling short, between Tashbih (likening of Allah's attributes to anything else), and Tatil (denying Allah's attributes), between fatalism and refusing decree as proceeding from Allah and between certainty (without being conscious of Allah's reckoning) and despair (of Allah's mercy).
105. This is our religion and it is what we believe in, both inwardly and outwardly, and we renounce any connection, before Allah, with anyone who goes against what we have said and made clear.
We ask Allah to make us firm in our belief and seal our lives with it and to protect us from variant ideas, scattering opinions and evil schools of view such as those of the Mushabbihah, the Mu'tazilah, the Jahmiyyah the Jabriyah, the Qadriyah and others like them who go against the Sunnah and Jama'ah and have allied themselves with error. We renounce any connection with them and in our opinion they are in error and on the path of destruction.
We ask Allah to protect us from all falsehood and we ask His Grace and Favour to do all good.

The Concept of Bid'a in the Islamic Shari'a

There are few topics that generate as much controversy today in Islam as what is sunna and what is bida or reprehensible innovation, perhaps because of the times Muslims live in today and the challenges they face. Without a doubt, one of the greatest events in impact upon Muslims in the last thousand years is the end of the Islamic caliphate at the first of this century, an event that marked not only the passing of temporal, political authority, but in many respects the passing of the consensus of orthodox Sunni Islam as well. No one familiar with the classical literature in any of the Islamic legal sciences, whether Qur'anic exegesis (tafsir), hadith, or jurisprudence (fiqh), can fail to be struck by the fact that questions are asked today about basic fundamentals of Islamic Sacred Law (Sharia) and its ancillary disciplines that would not have been asked in the Islamic period not because Islamic scholars were not brilliant enough to produce the questions, but because they already knew the answers. My talk tonight will aim to clarify some possible misunderstandings of the concept of innovation (bida) in Islam, in light of the prophetic hadith, "Beware of matters newly begun, for every matter newly begun is innovation, every innovation is misguidance, and every misguidance is in hell."

The sources I use are traditional Islamic sources, and my discussion will centre on three points: The first point is that scholars say that the above hadith does not refer to all new things without restriction, but only to those which nothing in Sacred Law attests to the validity of. The use of the word "every" in the hadith does not indicate an absolute generalization, for there are many examples of similar generalizations in the Qur'an and sunna that are not applicable without restriction, but rather are qualified by restrictions found in other primary textual evidence. The second point is that the sunna and way of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was to accept new acts initiated in Islam that were of the good and did not conflict with established principles of Sacred Law, and to reject things that were otherwise. And our third and last point is that new matters in Islam may not be rejected merely because they did not exist in the first century, but must be evaluated and judged according to the comprehensive methodology of Sacred Law, by virtue of which it is and remains the final and universal moral code for all peoples until the end of time. Our first point, that the hadith does not refer to all new things without restriction, but only to those which nothing in Sacred Law attests to the validity of, may at first seem strange, in view of the wording of the hadith, which says, "every matter newly begun is innovation, every innovation is misguidance, and every misguidance is in hell." Now the word "bida" or "innovation" linguistically means anything new, So our first question must be about the generalizability of the word every in the hadith: does it literally mean that everything new in the world is haram or unlawful?

The answer is no. Why? In answer to this question, we may note that there are many similar generalities in the Qur'an and sunna, all of them admitting of some qualification, such as the word of Allah Most High in Surat al-Najm, ". . . A man can have nothing, except what he strives for" (Qur'an 53:39), despite there being an overwhelming amount of evidence that a Muslim benefits from the spiritual works of others, for example, from his fellow Muslims, the prayers of angels for him, the funeral prayer over him, charity given by others in his name, and the supplications of believers for him; Or consider the words of Allah to unbelievers in Surat al-Anbiya, "Verily you and what you worship apart from Allah are the fuel of hell" (Qur'an 21:98), "what you worship" being a general expression, while there is no doubt that Jesus, his mother, and the angels were all worshipped apart from Allah, but are not "the fuel of hell", so are not what is meant by the verse; Or the word of Allah Most High in Surat al-Anam about past nations who paid no heed to the warners who were sent to them, "But when they forgot what they had been reminded of, We opened unto them the doors of everything" (Qur'an 6:44), though the doors of mercy were not opened unto them; And the hadith related by Muslim that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "No one who prays before sunrise and before sunset will enter hell", which is a generalised expression that definitely does not mean what its outward generality implies, for someone who prays the dawn and midafternoon prayers and neglects all other prayers and obligatory works is certainly not meant. It is rather a generalization whose intended referent is particular, or a generalization that is qualified by other texts, for when there are fully authenticated hadiths, it is obligatory to reach an accord between them, because they are in reality as a single hadith, the statements that appear without further qualification being qualified by those that furnish the qualification, that the combined implications of all of them may be utilized.

Let us look for a moment at bida or innovation in the light of the sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) concerning new matters. Sunna and innovation (bida) are two opposed terms in the language of the Lawgiver (Allah bless him and give him peace), such that neither can be defined without reference to the other, meaning that they are opposites, and things are made clear by their opposites. Many writers have sought to define innovation (bida) without defining the sunna, while it is primary, and have thus fallen into inextricable difficulties and conflicts with the primary textual evidence that contradicts their definition of innovation, whereas if they had first defined the sunna, they would have produced a criterion free of shortcomings. Sunna, in both the language of the Arabs and the Sacred Law, means way, as is illustrated by the words of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), "He who inaugurates a good sunna in Islam [dis: Reliance of the Traveller p58.1(2)] ...And he who introduces a bad sunna in Islam...", sunna meaning way or custom. The way of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) in giving guidance, accepting, and rejecting: this is the sunna. For "good sunna" and "bad sunna" mean a "good way" or "bad way", and cannot possibly mean anything else. Thus, the meaning of "sunna" is not what most students, let alone ordinary people, understand; namely, that it is the prophetic hadith (as when sunna is contrasted with "Kitab", i.e. Qur'an, in distinguishing textual sources), or the opposite of the obligatory (as when sunna, i.e. recommended, is contrasted with obligatory in legal contexts), since the former is a technical usage coined by hadith scholars, while the latter is a technical usage coined by legal scholars and specialists in fundamentals of jurisprudence. Both of these are usages of later origin that are not what is meant by sunna here. Rather, the sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is his way of acting, ordering, accepting, and rejecting, and the way of his Rightly Guided Caliphs who followed his way acting, ordering, accepting, and rejecting. So practices that are newly begun must be examined in light of the sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and his way and path in acceptance or rejection. Now, there are a great number of hadiths, most of them in the rigorously authenticated (sahih) collections, showing that many of the prophetic Companions initiated new acts, forms of invocation (dhikr), supplications (dua), and so on, that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) had never previously done or ordered to be done. Rather, the Companions did them because of their inference and conviction that such acts were of the good that Islam and the Prophet of Islam came with and in general terms urged the like of to be done, in accordance with the word of Allah Most High in Surat al-Hajj, "And do the good, that haply you may succeed" (Qur'an 22:77), and the hadith of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), "He who inaugurates a good sunna in Islam earns the reward of it and all who perform it after him without diminishing their own rewards in the slightest." Though the original context of the hadith was giving charity, the interpretative principle established by the scholarly consensus (def: Reliance of the Traveller b7) of specialists in fundamentals of Sacred Law is that the point of primary texts lies in the generality of their lexical significance, not the specificity of their historical context, without this implying that just anyone may make provisions in the Sacred Law, for Islam is defined by principles and criteria, such that whatever one initiates as a sunna must be subject to its rules, strictures, and primary textual evidence. From this investigative point of departure, one may observe that many of the prophetic Companions performed various acts through their own personal reasoning, (ijtihad), and that the sunna and way of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was both to accept those that were acts of worship and good deeds conformable with what the Sacred Law had established and not in conflict with it; and to reject those which were otherwise. This was his sunna and way, upon which his caliphal successors and Companions proceeded, and from which Islamic scholars (Allah be well pleased with them) have established the rule that any new matter must be judged according to the principles and primary texts of Sacred Law: whatever is attested to by the law as being good is acknowledged as good, and whatever is attested to by the law as being a contravention and bad is rejected as a blameworthy innovation (bida). They sometimes term the former a good innovation (bida hasana) in view of it lexically being termed an innovation , but legally speaking it is not really an innovation but rather an inferable sunna as long as the primary texts of the Sacred Law attest to its being acceptable. We now turn to the primary textual evidence previously alluded to concerning the acts of the Companions and how the Prophet, (Allah bless him and give him peace) responded to them: (1) Bukhari and Muslim relate from Abu Hurayra (Allah be well pleased with him) that at the dawn prayer the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to Bilal, "Bilal, tell me which of your acts in Islam you are most hopeful about, for I have heard the footfall of your sandals in paradise", and he replied, "I have done nothing I am more hopeful about than the fact that I do not perform ablution at any time of the night or day without praying with that ablution whatever has been destined for me to pray." Ibn Hajar Asqalani says in Fath al-Bari that the hadith shows it is permissible to use personal reasoning (ijtihad) in choosing times for acts of worship, for Bilal reached the conclusions he mentioned by his own inference, and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) confirmed him therein. Similar to this is the hadith in Bukhari about Khubayb (who asked to pray two rakas before being executed by idolaters in Mecca) who was the first to establish the sunna of two rak'as for those who are steadfast in going to their death. These hadiths are explicit evidence that Bilal and Khubayb used their own personal reasoning (ijtihad) in choosing the times of acts of worship, without any previous command or precedent from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) other than the general demand to perform the prayer. (2) Bukhari and Muslim relate that Rifa'a ibn Rafi said, "When we were praying behind the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and he raised his head from bowing and said , "Allah hears whoever praises Him", a man behind him said, "Our Lord, Yours is the praise, abundantly, wholesomely, and blessedly therein." When he rose to leave, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) asked "who said it", and when the man replied that it was he, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "I saw thirty-odd angels each striving to be the one to write it." Ibn Hajar says in Fath al-Bari that the hadith indicates the permissibility of initiating new expressions of dhikr in the prayer other than the ones related through hadith texts, as long as they do not contradict those conveyed by the hadith [since the above words were a mere enhancement and addendum to the known, sunna dhikr]. (3) Bukhari relates from Aisha (Allah be well pleased with her) that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) dispatched a man at the head of a military expedition who recited the Qur'an for his companions at prayer, finishing each recital with al-Ikhlas (Qur'an 112). When they returned, they mentioned this to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), who told them, "Ask him why he does this", and when they asked him, the man replied, "because it describes the All-merciful, and I love to recite it." The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to them, "Tell him Allah loves him." In spite of this, we do not know of any scholar who holds that doing the above is recommended, for the acts the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to do regularly are superior, though his confirming the like of this illustrates his sunna regarding his acceptance of various forms of obedience and acts of worship, and shows he did not consider the like of this to be a reprehensible innovation (bida), as do the bigots who vie with each other to be the first to brand acts as innovation and misguidance. Further, it will be noticed that all the preceding hadiths are about the prayer, which is the most important of bodily acts of worship, and of which the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "Pray as you have seen me pray", despite which he accepted the above examples of personal reasoning because they did not depart from the form defined by the Lawgiver, for every limit must be observed, while there is latitude in everything besides, as long as it is within the general category of being called for by Sacred Law. This is the sunna of the Prophet and his way (Allah bless him and give him peace) and is as clear as can be. Islamic scholars infer from it that every act for which there is evidence in Sacred Law that it is called for and which does not oppose an unequivocal primary text or entail harmful consequences is not included in the category of reprehensible innovation (bida), but rather is of the sunna, even if there should exist something whose performance is superior to it. (4) Bukhari relates from Abu Said al-Khudri that a band of the Companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) departed on one of their journeys, alighting at the encampment of some desert Arabs whom they asked to be their hosts, but who refused to have them as guests. The leader of the encampment was stung by a scorpion, and his followers tried everything to cure him, and when all had failed, one said, "If you would approach the group camped near you, one of them might have something". So they came to them and said, "O band of men, our leader has been stung and weve tried everything. Do any of you have something for it?" and one of them replied, "Yes, by Allah, I recite healing words [ruqya, def: Reliance of the Traveller w17] over people, but by Allah, we asked you to be our hosts and you refused, so I will not recite anything unless you give us a fee". They then agreed upon a herd of sheep, so the man went and began spitting and reciting the Fatiha over the victim until he got up and walked as if he were a camel released from its hobble, nothing the matter with him. They paid the agreed upon fee, which some of the Companions wanted to divide up, but the man who had done the reciting told them, "Do not do so until we reach the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and tell him what has happened, to see what he may order us to do". They came to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and told him what had occurred, and he said, "How did you know it was of the words which heal? You were right. Divide up the herd and give me a share." The hadith is explicit that the Companion had no previous knowledge that reciting the Fatiha to heal (ruqya) was countenanced by Sacred Law, but rather did so because of his own personal reasoning (ijtihad), and since it did not contravene anything that had been legislated, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) confirmed him therein because it was of his sunna and way to accept and confirm what contained good and did not entail harm, even if it did not proceed from the acts of the Prophet himself (Allah bless him and give him peace) as a definitive precedent. (5) Bukhari relates from Abu Said al-Khudri that one man heard another reciting al-Ikhlas (Qur'an 112) over and over again, so when morning came he went to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and sarcastically mentioned it to him. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "By Him in whose hand is my soul, it equals one-third of the Qur'an." Daraqutni recorded another version of this hadith in which the man said, "I have a neighbor who prays at night and does not recite anything but al-Ikhlas." The hadith shows that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) confirmed the persons restricting himself to this sura while praying at night, despite its not being what the Prophet himself did (Allah bless him and give him peace), for though the Prophets practice of reciting from the whole Qur'an was superior, the mans act was within the general parameters of the sunna and there was nothing blameworthy about it in any case. (6) Ahmad and Ibn Hibban relates from Abdullah ibn Burayda that his father said, I entered the mosque with the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), where a man was at prayer, supplicating: "O Allah, I ask You by the fact that I testify You are Allah, there is no god but You, the One, the Ultimate, who did not beget and was not begotten, and to whom none is equal", and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "By Him in whose hand is my soul, he has asked Allah by His greatest name, which if He is asked by it He gives, and if supplicated He answers". It is plain that this supplication came spontaneously from the Companion, and since it conformed to what the Sacred Law calls for, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) confirmed it with the highest degree of approbation and acceptance, while it is not known that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) had ever taught it to him (Adilla Ahl al-Sunna wa'al-Jamaa, 119-33). We are now able to return to the hadith with which I began my talk tonight, in which the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, ". . . Beware of matters newly begun, for every innovation is misguidance". And understand it as expounded by a classic scholar of Islam, Sheikh Muhammad Jurdani, who said: "Beware of matters newly begun", distance yourselves and be wary of matters newly innovated that did not previously exist", i.e. things invented in Islam that contravene the Sacred Law, "for every innovation is misguidance" meaning that every innovation is the opposite of the truth, i.e. falsehood, a hadith that has been related elsewhere as: "for every newly begun matter is innovation, every innovation is misguidance, and every misguidance is in hell" meaning that everyone who is misguided, whether through himself or by following another, is in hell, the hadith referring to matters that are not good innovations with a basis in Sacred Law. It has been stated (by Izz ibn Abd al-Salam) that innovations (bida) fall under the five headings of the Sacred Law (n: i.e. the obligatory, unlawful, recommended, offensive, and permissible): (1) The first category comprises innovations that are obligatory , such as recording the Qur'an and the laws of Islam in writing when it was feared that something might be lost from them; the study of the disciplines of Arabic that are necessary to understand the Qur'an and sunna such as grammar, word declension, and lexicography; hadith classification to distinguish between genuine and spurious prophetic traditions; and the philosophical refutations of arguments advanced by the Mu'tazilites and the like. (2) The second category is that of unlawful innovations such as non- Islamic taxes and levies, giving positions of authority in Sacred Law to those unfit for them, and devoting ones time to learning the beliefs of heretical sects that contravene the tenets of faith of Ahl al-Sunna. (3) The third category consists of recommended innovations such as building hostels and schools of Sacred Law, recording the research of Islamic schools of legal thought, writing books on beneficial subjects, extensive research into fundamentals and particular applications of Sacred Law, in-depth studies of Arabic linguistics, the reciting of wirds (def: Reliance of the Traveller w20) by those with a Sufi path, and commemorating the birth (mawlid), of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) and wearing ones best and rejoicing at it. (4) The fourth category includes innovations that are offensive, such as embellishing mosques, decorating the Qur'an and having a backup man (muballigh) loudly repeat the spoken Allahu Akbar of the imam when the latter's voice is already clearly audible to those who are praying behind him. (5) the fifth category is that of innovations that are permissible, such as sifting flour, using spoons and having more enjoyable food, drink and housing. (al Jawahir al-luluiyya fi sharh al-Arbain al-nawawiyya, 220-21). I will conclude my remarks tonight with a translation of Sheikh Abdullah al-Ghimari, who said: In his al-Qawaid al-kubra, "Izz ibn Abd al-Salam classifies innovations (bida), according to their benefit, harm, or indifference, into the five categories of rulings: the obligatory, recommended, unlawful, offensive, and permissible; giving examples of each and mentioning the principles of Sacred Law that verify his classification. His words on the subject display his keen insight and comprehensive knowledge of both the principles of jurisprudence and the human advantages and disadvantages in view of which the Lawgiver has established the rulings of Sacred Law. Because his classification of innovation (bida) was established on a firm basis in Islamic jurisprudence and legal principles, it was confirmed by Imam Nawawi, Ibn Hajar Asqalani, and the vast majority of Islamic scholars, who received his words with acceptance and viewed it obligatory to apply them to the new events and contingencies that occur with the changing times and the peoples who live in them. One may not support the denial of his classification by clinging to the hadith "Every innovation is misguidance", because the only form of innovation that is without exception misguidance is that concerning tenets of faith, like the innovations of the Mutazilites, Qadarites, Murjiites, and so on, that contradicted the beliefs of the early Muslims. This is the innovation of misguidance because it is harmful and devoid of benefit. As for innovation in works, meaning the occurrence of an act connected with worship or something else that did not exist in the first century of Islam, it must necessarily be judged according to the five categories mentioned by Izz ibn Abd al-Salam. To claim that such innovation is misguidance without further qualification is simply not applicable to it, for new things are among the exigencies brought into being by the passage of time and generations, and nothing that is new lacks a ruling of Allah Most High that is applicable to it, whether explicitly mentioned in primary texts, or inferable from them in some way. The only reason that Islamic law can be valid for every time and place and be the consummate and most perfect of all divine laws is because it comprises general methodological principles and universal criteria, together with the ability its scholars have been endowed with to understand its primary texts, the knowledge of types of analogy and parallelism, and the other excellences that characterize it. Were we to rule that every new act that has come into being after the first century of Islam is an innovation of misguidance without considering whether it entails benefit or harm, it would invalidate a large share of the fundamental bases of Sacred Law as well as those rulings established by analogical reasoning, and would narrow and limit the Sacred Laws vast and comprehensive scope. (Adilla Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jamma)

Nasir al-Albani's slanderous declaration that

Nasir al-Albani's slanderous declaration that
the companions' unanimous practice of
20 rak'ahs of Taraweeh is a reprehensible
innovation (bid'ah)!

It has been discussed previously in Al-Albani Unveiled, and by the admission of his own followers, that al-Albani has declared the practice of 20 rak'ahs of taraweeh prayer in the holy month of Ramadan to be a reprehensible innovation (bid'ah)! What concerns us here is not the actual number of rak'ahs, but the consideration that he has over reached himself by declaring a known practice of the Sahaba (may Allah be pleased with them) to be a bid'ah! To any sane, sincere and objective minded reader the implication of his claim is clear, namely, he has declared the unanimous practise of the Companions to be a bid'ah! Allah forbid.
We will discuss, insha'Allah, what he actually said and prove to him and his blind followers that they are the ones who deliberately overlook Sahih Hadiths on this issue, as well as avoiding the practice and Consensus of the venerable Companions, and our beloved Messenger, Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) who initiated this practice and number. This issue is no doubt a critical test for those who claim to be on the path of the venerable Companions and their Succesors. May Allah be pleased with them all.

Evidence for 20 rak'ahs of Taraweeh from authentic ahadith
In the following synopsis we will provide the most authentic evidence to support the claims of the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i, Hanbali and Zahiri[1] schools of Islamic jurisprudence, and most importantly that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and in the unanimous view and practice of the Sahaba (may Allah be pleased with them all) the rak'ahs of taraweeh are twenty.
The narration's that will be presented have the stamp of authentication by at least ten distinguished scholars. Al-Imam al-Hafiz Jamaluddin al-Zayla'i[2] has recorded in his book Nasb ur-Rayah[3] that:
"Al-Bayhaqi has related in al-Marifa [4]
(via the following chain of transmission):
Abu Tahir al-Faqih -> Abu Uthman al-Basri -> Abu Ahmad Muhammad ibn Abdal Wahhab -> Khalid ibn Mukhallad -> Muhammad ibn Ja'far -> Yazid ibn Khaseefah -> Sa'eeb ibn Yazid,
who said:
'In the time of Umar ibn al-Khattab (radiallahu anhu) the people used to observe 20 rak'ahs and the witr.'
Al-Nawawi said in al-Khulasa:
'Its Isnad is Sahih.'"
Hafiz al-Zayla'i has also mentioned after reporting the authenticity of this Hadith, that Imam al-Bayhaqi has also reported another version of the above narration through a different channel of transmission, in his Sunan al-Kubra. The narration referred to has been mentioned in the footnotes by the council of Islamic scholars (Majlis al-Ulama) who edited Nasb ur-Rayah[5], in the following words:
"(Bayhaqi) has related in al-Sunan [6] (via the following isnad):
Abu Abdullah al-Hussain ibn Muhammad ibn al-Hussain finjuwayh al-Dinawari - Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Ishaq al-Sunni - Abdullah ibn Muhammad ibn Abdul Aziz al-Baghawi - Ali ibn al-J'ad - Ibn Abi Dhib - Yazid ibn Khaseefah - Sa'eeb ibn Yazid,
who said:
"In the time of Umar ibn al-Khattab, radiallahu anhu, they would perform 20 rak'ats in the month of Ramadan. He said (also): And they would recite the Mi'in [7] , and they would lean on their sticks in the time of Uthman ibn Affan, radiallahu anhu, from the discomfort of standing."
All the men in the (above) isnad are trustworthy, as mentioned by the Indian research scholar, Shaykh al-Nimawi[8], in Athar al-Sunan[9]."
The evidence which proves that Umar (radiallahu anhu) ordered the practise of 20 rak'ahs has been recorded by Shaykh Ali al-Muttaqi al-Hindi[10] in the largest collection of Hadith available today: Kanz al-Ummal fi Sunan al-aqwal wal Af'al[11], as follows from Ubayy ibn Ka'b (radiallahu anhu):
"Umar (radiallahu anhu) ordered him (Ubayy) to lead the people in prayer at night in Ramadan, because the people fast during the day and can not recite (the Qur'an) well, therefore it is better that you should recite (the Qur'an) during the night. I (Ubayy) asked: "O commander of the believers, this thing was not done before." He said: "I know, but it is a good practise", and so (Ubayy) led (the Companion's) for 20 rak'ahs."
There are many other narration's which prove the case for twenty rak'ahs, but some of these narrations are less authentic than others, nevertheless they are weighty enough to back each other up and raise the level of authentication to at least Hasan (good); as Shaykh Nimawi and others have verified.
For the readers benefit one may refer to the following books of Hadith for at least 25 further proofs:
1. Muwatta Imam Malik from Yazid ibn Ruman [12]
2. Sunan al-Kubra of Imam al-Bayhaqi [13] from: Ibn Abbas, Yazid ibn Ruman (same as Imam Malik's narration), Suwayd ibn Ghaflah, Ali ibn Abi Talib etc. Also refer to Marifatus Sunan of al-Bayhaqi.
3. Musannaf of Imam Abdur Razzaq [14] from: Sa'eeb ibn Yazid and al-Hasan.
4. Musannaf of Imam Ibn Abi Shaibah [15] from some 13 different isnads.
5. Qiyam ul-lail[16] of Imam Muhammad ibn Nasr al-Marwazi from: Sa'eeb ibn Yazid, Yazid ibn Ruman, Ibn Mas'ud, A'mash al-Kufi, Ibn Sirin, Malik, al-Shafi'i and others.

A selection of the scholars of Hadith who authenticated and used al-Bayhaqi's narrations as a proof for 20 rak'ahs of Taraweeh
i. Imam Yahya al-Nawawi (d. 676 AH)
He has authenticated the narration recorded and mentioned above from al-Bayhaqi's Marifatus-Sunan, in his book al-Khulasa - this was mentioned by Hafiz al-Zayla'i in Nasb ur-Rayah (see above). Besides this narration, he has also recorded the alternative narration recorded by Imam al-Bayhaqi in his Sunan al-Kubra.
He has declared this variant narration to be a decisive argument and proof for the Shafi'i Madhhab, as well as saying: "Its Isnad is Sahih", in his voluminous work: al-Majmu' Sharh al-Muhadhhab [17].
ii. Imam Jamaluddin Yusuf al-Zayla'i (d. 762 AH)
We have mentioned above that Hafiz al-Zayla'i in his analysis of the narration's found in the Hanafi fiqh book: al-Hidaya, has recalled the narration from al-Bayhaqi's Marifatus-Sunan, and quoted Imam al-Nawawi as his authority to declare this narration to be Sahih.
iii. Imam Badruddin al-Ayni (d. 855 AH)
He said in his famous commentary to Sahih al-Bukhari: Umdat ul-Qari[18] :
"The argument of our companions (the Hanafi scholars) as well as the Shafi'is and Hanbalis is what al-Bayhaqi has related with an authentic chain of transmission (Sahih Isnad)..."
iv. Imam Ali al-Qari (d. 1014 AH)
He has noted in Sharhul-Nuqayah[19] :
"Imam al-Bayhaqi has reported on genuine authority (Sahih) the performing of 20 rak'ahs of Taraweeh during the periods of Umar, Uthman and Ali (may Allah be pleased with them), and hence there has been consensus on it."
v. Imam Kamaluddin ibn al-Humam (d. 861 AH)
Imam Ibn al-Humam asserts that it has been established from genuine authority (sahih) that the Companions and their Successors used to say 20 rak'ahs of Taraweeh during the auspicious time of Umar (radiallahu anhu); this authority of Yazid ibn Ruman (as in Imam Malik's narration) has been reported from Sa'eeb ibn Yazid that, "During Umar's auspicious time we used to say 20 rak'ahs." The genuineness of this authority has been verified by Imam Nawawi in the synopsis [20].
vi. Imam Taqi al-Din as-Subki (d. 756 AH)
vii. Zayn al-Din al-Iraqi (d. 806 AH) and
viii. Jalaluddin as-Suyuti (d. 911 AH)
According to Imam Abdal Hayy Lucknawi[21] in his work Tuhfatul Akhyar[22], Imam Nawawi, Iraqi and Suyuti[23] have all considered Bayhaqi's narration as reported in his Sunan al-Kubra to be Sahih.
Shaykh Habibur Rahman al-A'zami has also affirmed that Nawawi, Iraqi and Suyuti have declared Imam al-Bayhaqi's narration to be Sahih. He has also reported that Imam al-Subki [24] and Mullah Ali al-Qari have both declared the alternative narration recorded by Bayhaqi in his Marifatus Sunan to be Sahih[25].
ix. Imam Muhammad Shauq Nimawi (d. 1322 AH)
We have mentioned previously that Shaykh Nimawi has declared Imam al-Bayhaqi's narration to be Sahih in Athar al-Sunan [26].
x. Imam Ibrahim al-Halabi (d. 956 AH)
He has noted in al-Kabiri[27] :
"The argument of the majority of people is the report which Imam al-Bayhaqi has reported with sound authority (Sahih), that during Umar as well as Uthman and Ali's (may Allah be pleased with them), 20 rak'ahs was performed."

Other contemporary scholars
Other prominent scholars who have used Imam al-Bayhaqi's narrations, besides other proofs include: Shaykh Habibur Rahman al-A'zami (see above), Shaykh Isma'il Ansari (see later), Shaykh al-Muqri in Tahqeeq al-Taraweeh, Shaykh Zafar Ahmad Uthmani in his monumental I'la as-Sunan[28], Shaykh Abdur Rahim Lajpuri in Fatawa al-Rahimiyya[29], Shaykh Ahmad Khan in Ja'al Haqq[30], Shaykh Taqi al-Uthmani in Dars-e-Tirmidhi[31] and many others.
A writer once claimed that Imam al-Bukhari held the view that the rak'ahs of Taraweeh were eight, excluding the witr. What is surprising to note is that despite his bold ascription of this view to Imam al-Bukhari, he did not furnish one shed of proof or reference to the works of Imam al-Bukhari to verify his claim.
On the contrary, the commentators of Sahih al-Bukhari, like Hafiz Ibn Hajar and Hafiz al-Ayni have not ascribed any view for 8 rak'ahs to Imam al-Bukhari to our knowledge. What is unsurprising to note is that the two aforementioned scholars of Hadith have mentioned the proofs in favour of 20 rak'ahs. One may raise the catechism - if Imam al-Bukhari had held the view ascribed to him, would there be no doubt that his great student, Imam Abu Isa al-Tirmidhi[32], would not have failed to mention this?
For we know that Imam al-Tirmidhi only knew of either 20 or 41 rak'ahs [33] in his time.
He has recorded in al-Jami us-Sahih, that Umar[34], Ali (may Allah be pleased with them) and other Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to perform 20 rak'ahs of Taraweeh, as well as saying that Sufyan al-Thauri (d. 161 AH), Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak (d. 181 AH) and al-Shafi'i (d. 204 AH) held the same view. He has also quoted Imam al-Shafi'i as saying that he saw the people of Makkah performing 20 rak'ahs of Taraweeh.
The only proof to suggest that the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) performed 20 rak'ahs has been reported on the authority of Abdullah ibn Abbas (radiallahu anhu):
"Verily, the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) in the month of Ramadan, used to perform 20 rak'ahs and the witr (afterwards) without congregation."[35]
This narration has been shown to have a weak (da'eef) isnad by the verifying scholars like al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani [36], Hafiz al-Zayla'i and others, due to the presence of the narrator: Abu Shaiba[37] Ibrahim ibn Uthman. He was the grandfather of the Imam of Hadith: Abu Bakr ibn Abi Shaiba, as well as being a Qadi; but as for his status as a reporter of Hadith, he has been declared to be discarded (matrook) by Hafiz Ibn Hajar in Taqreeb ul-Tahdhhib[38] and al-Bayhaqi has declared him to be weak in al-Sunan al-Kubra[39].
One may wish to note that al-Albani has gone to the added length of declaring Ibn Abbas' narration to be Maudu (fabricated) [40], whereas no previous scholars of Hadith have gone beyond declaring its isnad to be da'eef (weak). This is nothing strange, for al-Albani usually goes to the added lengths and extremities of declaring narrations which do not suit his whims and desires to be either da'eef or maudu.
An interesting study prepared and published on this issue by a Shaykh who is said to have memorized the six most authentic collections of Hadith, is available to verify this assertion.
Let us now see what a number of Imams of sacred law have said about the aforementioned narration from Ibn Abbas (radiallahu anhu).
a. Imam Ahmad al-Tahtawi[41] has said in Sharh Durr al-Mukhtar[42] :
"On the authority of Ibn Abbas' statement, 20 rak'ahs of Taraweeh has been estblished from the Holy Prophet's (peace be upon him) practice."
b. Shaykh Abdal Haqq al-Dehlawi[43] has been quoted by the author of Fatawa Rahimiyya [44] as follows: "Shaykh Abdul Haqq Muhaddith of Delhi writes in his book, Fath-e-Sirr-ul-Mannan:
'The obvious thing is that, according to the holy Companions, the Holy Prophet's (peace be upon him) saying 20 rak'ahs had been established, as is mentioned in Ibn Abbas' tradition, and for this reason Umar (radiallahu anhu) adopted 20 rak'ahs . . .'
He also quoted Shaykh Abdal Haqq as saying from his book: Ma sabata minas Sunnah[45],
'According to our belief, the taraweeh consists of 20 rak'ahs, for Bayhaqi has reported with sound authority that the holy Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) used to perform 20 rak'ahs during Umar's time; moreover, this practice continued during Uthman and Ali's (may Allah be pleased with them) periods also.'"
c. Shaykh Abdur Rahim continued to say in his Fatawa:
"The fact is that Hadrat Ibn Abbas and Hadrat Umar are both Companions; there is no 'weak' narrator between them, wherefore Ibn Abbas' tradition may be called weak and the Companion's action may be considered to be based on a weak tradition. Their action was based on a sound basis; how can those who follow them be called 'the deluded'? In short, according to the Companion's reckoning, the afore said hadith is not at all weak, though, due to the inclusion later of a weak narrator. Ibrahim ibn Uthman may be according to the latter-day authorities called weak 'by way of narration', but 'intelligibly' it must be authentic because the well-guided Caliphs and other Companion's conformity to and continuance of 20 rak'ahs is the proof of its being reliable.
Allamah Bahrul-Ulum[46] says:
'The Companions continued conformity to 20 rak'ahs is the context and sign of the soundness of this tradition.'"
In support of what we have mentioned, let us quote to you what a leader of Salafiyyism has mentioned in his book: Criticism of Hadith among Muslims with reference to Sunan Ibn Maja[47] :
"Shafi'i also recognizes a weak Hadith as authentic (sahih) if it is found to be accepted by the whole ummah (see al-Sakhawi: Fath al-Mugith). But he does not accept Malik's view of restricting the practise to the people of Madinah. According to the later scholars of the Hanafi school like Ibn al-Humam, a Hadith will be declared Sahih, if it is supported by the practise of the Ummah (see Abdal Rashid Nu'mani: Ma tamusu ilaihe al-Haja, p. 18). Among traditionalists, Tirmidhi often remarks, after quoting a less authentic Hadith:
'It is being practised by the people of learning (Ahl-ul-Ilm).' Suyuti deduces: 'It indicates that the Hadith is supported by the sayings of the people of learning. More than one scholar has said that a Hadith is declared Sahih if supported by the sayings of the people of learning, even if it lacks a proper Isnad (see Suyuti: al-Ta'aqubat, folio 20).'"
In closing this section, consider what Imam Abu Hanifah (rahimahullah) said to his student Imam Abu Yusuf (rahiamhullah). Shaykh Anwar Shah Kashmiri stated in Fayd ul-Bari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari:
"Imam Abu Yusuf (rahimahullah) asked Imam Abu Hanifah (rahimahullah), 'Did Hadrat Umar (radiallahu anhu) have any compact from the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) for 20 rak'ahs of Taraweeh?' The Imam replied, 'Hadrat Umar (radiallahu anhu) was not one to invent on his own; certainly he had some proof for this!'" [48]

Ijma us-Sahabah on the rak'ahs of Taraweeh being Twenty
A number of Imams of sacred law have inferred from the evidences available, that there is a definite consensus of the Companions (Ijma us-Sahabah)[49] on this issue. For the readers benefit we will provide some quotes below (including one from a "Salafi" writer).
i. Imam Ali ul-Qari al-Hanafi (d. 1014 AH)
He said in Sharh ul-Nuqayah[50]:
"Imam Bayhaqi has reported on genuine authority (sahih) about the performance of 20 rak'ahs of Taraweeh during the periods of Umar, Uthman and Ali (may Allah be pleased with them), and hence there has been consensus (Ijma) on it."
ii. Shaykh ul-Islam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami (d. 974 AH)
Allamah Abdal Hayy Lucknawi has reported in Tuhfat ul-Akhyar[51] and in his Majmu' Fatawa[52], the fact that Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-Haytami has declared Ijma us-Sahabah on the rak'ahs of Taraweeh being twenty.
iii. Imam Muwaffaq al-Din Ibn Qudama al-Maqdisi (d. 620)
The leading Imam of the Hanbalis in his time has declared in his famous book of fiqh: al-Mughni[53] :
"There has been the Companion's consensus (Ijma us-Sahabah) on 20 rak'ahs of Taraweeh."
iv. Shaykh Bahrul-Ulum Abdul Ali ibn Nizamuddin (d. 1235)
He said in Rasa'il ul-Arkan[54]:
"Then there was unanimity regarding the 20 rak'ahs."
v. Shah Abdul Aziz Dehlawi[55] (d. 1824 CE)
He has declared in his Majmu' Fatawa Azizi [56] :
"Thereafter, they (the Companions) adopted twenty (rak'ahs of Taraweeh) and three rak'ahs (of witr), on which number consensus had been formed."
vi. Shaykh Qutubuddin Khan (d. 1289 AH)
vii. He has stated in his commentary to the Hadith collection known as Mishkat ul-Masabih: Madhahir ul-Haqq [57] :
"But the Companions consensus was formed on this that the Taraweeh consists of 20 Rak'ahs."
viii. Imam Kamaluddin ibn al-Humam (d. 861 AH)
He has said in Fathul-Qadir[58] :
"At last unanimity was formed on 20 rak'ahs of prayer and this alone is in succession."
ix. Imam Malik ibn Anas (d. 179 AH)
It was written in the most authentic record of Imam Malik's most accurate sayings[59], known as al-Mudawwanah al-Kubrah:
"Ibn al-Qasim said, 'The rak'ahs (of taraweeh) with witr are thirty nine.' Imam Malik said, 'This is what the people have agreed upon from amongst the predecessors, and the people have not stopped doing it.'" [60]
x. Shaykh Shabir Ahmad al-Uthmani (d. 1369 AH)
Shaykh Abdur Rahim said in his Fatawa[61] :
"Allamah Shabir Ahmad Uthmani says that none of the Companions ever took exception to 20 rak'ahs, and hence all of them were unanimous on twenty rak'ahs."[62]
xi. Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan Bhopali (d. 1307 AH)
He was one of the leading personalities of the "Salafi" movement in India. It has been recorded by him in his Awnu'l Bari[63] :
"The practice of 20 rak'ahs established during Hadrat Umar's time has been considered by the Ulama as consensus."
All praise be to Allah, the synopsis of the proofs, their authenticity and the resulting of Ijma us-Sahabah, has been demonstrated by way of recoursing to some of the most reputable scholars of the various Madhhabs of this blessed Ummah.
I (Ahmed ibn Muhammad) asked my teacher, the faqih, Shaykh Muhammad Asaddar Ali (b. 1911), may Allah preserve him: "What do you say about those people who claim to be the followers of the pious predecessors (Salaf us-Salihin), but insist on praying 8 rak'ahs of Taraweeh year in year out?" He replied:
"I take it you are referring to those people who go around with the title 'Salafi' over their heads. I will say a few things about these pseudo-Salafites. They are violators of the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) consensus on this and other issues - just as their master Ibn Taymiyya was; and the scholars of the past have declared the violators of the Ijma us-Sahabah to be either corrupt innovators or even unbelievers - depending on the nature of the question. The Muhaddith, Shaykh Abdal Hayy Lucknawi (rahimahullah) has declared in his Taliqatul-Hidaya[64] : 'One who performs 8 rak'ahs of Taraweeh will be an abandoner of the insisted sunnah.' So, if you come across a man who has been shown the proofs and what the vast majority of scholars, including the Imams like Abu Hanifah, Malik, Shafi'i and Ahmad ibn Hanbal have said; but still persists on avoiding the Companions unanimity on 20 rak'ahs of Taraweeh, and prefers 8 rak'ahs - then know that he is not a Salafi, rather a follower of his desires and avoider of the Companion's (may Allah be pleased with them) unanimous practice. And Allah knows best."
O believers, have we not heard that Allah has said:
"O you who believe, Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, And those charged with authority among you. If you differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if ye do believe in Allah and the Last Day: That is best, and most suitable for final determination" [65]
O believers, have we not heard that Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has said on two occasions:
"Hold fast to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the Rightly Guided Caliphs[66], clamp your molars upon it, avoid new novelties, for every novelty is an innovation, and every innovation is misguidance." [67]
"Allah will never let my Ummah agree upon misguidance, and the hand of Allah is over the group (Jama'ah), so follow the great mass of believers (Sawad ul-'Azam), and whoever dissents from them departs to hell." [68]
We will finish this section by mentioning the titles of two books written on this issue. The first is a book written by a Qadi at the Shariah court in Medinah al-Munawwara, as well as being a lecturer in the Holy Prophet's (peace and blessings be upon him) mosque - Shaykh Atiyya Muhammad Salim, and the second is by - Shaykh Isma'il ibn Muhammad al-Ansari. As the title below suggests, al-Ansari's book is a refutation of al-Albani's research and views on this issue.
1. Al-Taraweeh - Akthar min alf Aam fi Masjid al-Nabi alaihis-salatu wa sallam[69].
2. Tashih Hadith Salatul- Taraweeh Ishrin Rak'ah wa'l Radd ala al-Albani fi Tadaeefah[70].

Finally, the reader may be interested to know that even today, just as in the time of the Salaf us-Salihin (may Allah be well pleased with them), 20 rak'ahs of taraweeh is still being adhered to in Makkah and Madinah.
May Allah keep us on the practice of the Companions and guide those who deliberately avoid so and claim to be on the path of the righteous Salaf. Amin.
Notes
1. The view that Imam's Abu Hanifah, Malik, Shafi'i, Ibn Hanbal and Dawud al-Zahiri all preferred 20 rak'ahs of taraweeh excluding the witr has been mentioned by Qadi Ibn Rushd in Bidayat al-Mujtahid (1/239).
2. He was a famous Hanafi Hafiz of Hadith, as well as being one of the teachers of Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani. He died in the year 762 AH, rahimahullah.
3. 2/154, Majlis al-Ulama, India, 4 vols. 1357 AH.
4. The full title is al-Marifatus-Sunan wa'l athar.
5. 2/154, footnote 2.
6. 2/496.
7. A group of medium sized chapters from the Qur'an.
8. His full name was Muhammad Shauq al-Nimawi; (d. 1322 AH - rahimahullah).
9. 2/54.
10. He died in the year 975 AH, rahimahullah.
11. 4/284, no. 5787 (8 vols. 1st edn; Hyderabad, India, 1312-14 AH), reported by him on the authority of the Muhaddith, Ibn Man'i.
12. This report is very similar to Bayhaqi's narration (see Muwatta, 6.2, no. 5, p. 48, English edn.).
13. 2/496-7.
14. 4/260-3, no's. 7730-1 & 7733.
15. 2/392-4. Printed in Hyderabad, India, 1387/1967.
16. PP. 91-2, India, 1320 AH.
17. 4/32-3, printed with Imam al-Rafi'i's (d. 623 AH) Fath al-Aziz and Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani's Talkhis ul-habir in the footnotes; Idara al-Tibat al-Muniriyyah, Egypt.
18. 7/178, Idara al-Tibat al-Muniriyyah, Egypt.
19. 1/104.
20. Quoted in Fatawa Rahimiyya (1/241) of Mufti Abdur Rahim; on the authority of Ibn al-Humam's Fath al-Qadir (1/407).
21. He was a celebrated Indian Muhaddith who has also been recognised by the "Salafiyya" for his services to Islam. He passed away in 1304 AH. Rahimahullah.
22. P. 192, quoted in Is Taraweeh 20 raka'ats? p. 22, Madrasah Arabia Islamia, Azadville, South Africa.
23. According to the aforementioned booklet (Is Taraweeh 20 raka'ats?), p. 5; Imam Nawawi has authenticated Bayhaqi's narration (from his Sunan) in al-Khulasah, al-Iraqi has authenticated it in Sharh Taqreeb, and Suyuti has authenticated it in his book on Taraweeh: Masabeeh.
24. See his Sharh Minhaj.
25. See Shaykh al-A'zami's Raka'at Taraweeh, p. 63, Ma'arif press, Azamgarh, India.
26. 2/54.
27. P. 388.
28. 7/47, chapter on Taraweeh.
29. 1/235-300.
30. PP. 105-114 .
31. 1/651-664.
32. He passed away in the year 279 AH. Rahimahullah.
33. The practice of 41 rak'ahs was that of the people of Madinah in the time of the Caliph Umar ibn Abdul Aziz and Imam Malik ibn Anas (may Allah be pleased with them). It is in reality 20 rak'ahs, for the people of Madinah used to perform an extra 4 rak'ahs without congregation,(after the performance of the standard 4 rak'ahs); hence this amounts to an extra 16 rak'ahs on top of the standard 20 rak'ahs. After this they would perform 3 rak'ahs of witr, and sometimes another 2 rak'ahs of nafl on top, making a total of 41 rak'ahs (20 rak'ahs taraweeh + 16 nafl + 3 witr + 2 nafl = 41). The reason why the people of Medinah introduced an additional 16 rak'ahs was due to the fact that the people of Makkah would make tawaf around the Ka'bah after every 4 rak'ahs of taraweeh, hence the Madinans wanted to compensate for this. Allah knows best. See Shaykh Anwar Shah Kashmiri's: Tirmidhi al-ma'ruf ba arfash shazzi (1/329) for details.
34. 3/170, Ahmad Shakir edition, edited by Fu'ad Abdal Baqi, Maktaba Faisalia, Makkah.
35. This narration has been collected by Bayhaqi in al-Sunan al-Kubra (2/496), Ibn Abi Shaiba in al-Musannaf (2/394), Ibn Adi in al-Kamil (1/2), Tabarani in al-Kabeer (3/148), Ibn Manda in al-Muntakhab min al-fawaid (2/268), Baghawi in Majmu as-Sahaba, Musnad Abd ibn Humaid and others.
36. See Ibn Hajar's Talkhis ul-habir fi takhreej ahadith al-Rafi'i al-kabir (1/119) and Al-Matalib al-'Aliyya (1/146, no. 534) or Zaylai's Nasb ur-Rayah (2/153).
37. He passed away in the year 235 AH. His Musannaf has been printed in some 15 volumes.
38. 1/39, no. 241.
39. 2/496.
40. See his "al-Da'eefah", (2/35, no. 560), 3rd edn; Maktaba al-Islamia, Amman, 1406 AH.
41. He was a leading Egyptian Hanafi scholar who has written a number of well known and regularly used commentaries to classical Hanafi fiqh texts. He passed away in the year 1231/1816 CE. Rahimahullah.
42. 1/466.
43. d. 1052 AH in India.
44. Mufti Abdur Rahim Lajpuri, 1/280, Maktaba Rahimiyyah, Rander, India.
45. P. 223.
46. He died in 1235/1820 CE, rahimahullah. Shaykh Abdur Rahim has quoted this statement from his book Rasa'il ul-Arkan, p. 138.
47. P. 131, Hasan, Suhaib, Al-Qur'an society, 2nd edn; 1407/1986.
48. This report is also found in Imam al-Shurunbulali's Maraqi ul-Falah, p. 81, and Imam Ibn Nujaim al-Misri's Bahr ur-Ra'iq, 2/66.
49. Ijma us-Sahabah is the third A NAME="49">Ijma us-Sahabah is the third source of Islamic law after the Qur'an and Sunnah.
50. 1/104.
51. P. 197.
52. 1/182.
53. 1/803.
54. P. 138.
55. He was the son of the famous Indian scholar: Shah Waliullah.
56. 1/126.
57. 1/433.
58. 1/470; quoted in Fatawa Rahimiyya (1/245).
59. This book contains the direct questions asked by Imam Malik's two famous disciples: Ibn al-Qasim and Ibn Wahb to their teacher. It was compiled by Ibn al-Qasim's student: Qadi Sahnoon (see 1/193-4).
60. The reason for praying 39 rak'ahs has been explained previously. The fact that Imam Malik preferred this number has been verified by the Maliki Qadi: Ibn Rushd (d. 595 AH) in Bidayat al-Mujtahid (1/239). He has also quoted a narration from Ibn Abi Shaibah proving 39 rak'ahs was in vogue during the caliphate of Umar ibn Abdul Aziz.
61. 1/249.
62. Quoted from his Fathul-Mulhim Sharh Sahih al-Muslim, (2/320).
63. 4/307, quoted in Fatawa Rahimiyya, (1/245).
64. 1/131.
65. Qur'an 4:59.
66. Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali (may Allah be pleased with them).
67. A Sahih Hadith recorded in (no. 4590), Sunan al-Tirmidhi (5/43, no. 2676), Sunan Ibn Majah (1/15-6, no. 42), Sunan al-Darimi (no. 96), Ibn Abi Aasim in al-Sunnah (no. 54), Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal in his Musnad (4/126), al-Hakim in al-Mustadrak (1/95-6) and Ibn Hibban in his Sahih (1/166, no. 5).
68. A narration authenticated and reported by al-Hakim (1/116), and al-Dhahabi agreed with him. A very similar report has been recorded by al-Tirmidhi (4/2167). Imam al-Munawi said in commentary to Tirmidhi's Hadith: (Allah's hand is over the Jama'ah) meaning his protection and preservation of them, signifying that the collectivity of the people of Islam are in Allah's fold, so be also in Allah's shelter, in the midst of them, and do not separate yourselves from them. (And whoever descents from them departs to hell) meaning that whoever diverges from the overwhelming majority concerning what is lawful or unlawful and on which the Community does not differ has slipped off the path of guidance and this will lead him to hell. (see Imam al-Azizi's: al-Siraj al-Munir Sharh al-Jami us-Saghir, 3/449, cf. Reliance of the Traveller, p. 25).
69. Printed by Maktaba Dar al-Turath, Madinah al-Munawwarah, 1st edn. 1407/1987.
70. Printed by Maktaba Rashidia, Pakistan
Al-Albani Unveiled
TARAWEEH PRAYER
8 OR 20 RAK'AHS?
by Ahmed ibn Muhammad
In a handout by al-Albani's followers in England, by the title "Some common questions answered" (dated October 1990), there appeared the following question and answer (No. 22):
(a) Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) reports that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) never prayed more than 8 rak'aats in taraweeh, so how come nobody disapproves of 20?(b) Is it true that Umar (Allah be pleased with him) introduced it?
Ans. 22
(a) As regards the taraweeh prayer - people agree that the Sunnah of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and the best way is 11 rak'aats. As regards any addition - then this is DISAPPROVED of and DECLARED AS A BID'AH (A bad innovation) by Shaykh al-Albani and by a few earlier scholars - that being reported from Imam Malik, Ibn ul-Arabee and as-San'aanee (see Salat-ut-taraweeh of Shaykh al-Albani).
(b) It is not true that Umar (Allah be pleased with him) either prayed or ordered 20 rak'aats. Rather he ordered Ubayy ibn Ka'b to lead the people with 11 rak'aats (al-Muwatta 1/137, with a Sahih Isnad).
I do not wish to go into much detail on this issue, but Insha'Allah a separate publication is what is really required, to show which opinion is the most correct. But any way it should be said that the vast MAJORITY of the scholars of hadith, Fiqh, and even the four Mujtahid Imams are in agreement that 20 rak'ahs are the most appropriate, followed by 3 rak'ahs of witr, and this is also the opinion of the Imam of the "Salafiyya", Ahmad ibn Taymiyya!
First, it should be said that the hadith reported from Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) about 11 rak'ahs is not at all to do with tarawee, according to the majority of scholars, but in fact concerns the number of rak'ahs of TAHAJJUD prayer! The hadith in question is as follows:-
Narrated Abu Salama ibn Abdur Rahman that he asked Aisha (Allah be pleased with her), "How was the prayer of Allah's Apostle (Peace be upon him) in Ramadan?" She replied, "He did not pray more than eleven raka'at in Ramadan or in any other month. He used to pray four raka'at - let alone their beauty and length - and then he would pray four - let alone their beauty and length - and then he would pray three rak'aat (witr)." She added, "I asked, 'O Allah's Apostle! Do you sleep before praying the witr?' He replied, 'O Aisha, My eyes sleep but my heart does not sleep.'" (Bukhari, 3/230, English edn)
According to the author of "Fatawa Rahimiyyah", Mufti Abdur Rahim Lajpuri (vol. 1, pg. 275); in his defence of 20 rak'ahs of taraweeh:
"The commentator of al-Sahih al-Bukhari and the erudite traditionist, Shaykh Shamsud-Din al-Kermani (d. 786 AH; Rahimahullah) said: 'In the hadith (above), the tahajjud prayer is meant. Abu Salama's question and Hadrat Aisha's answer concerned the tahajjud.' He adds further: 'If the tahajjud prayer is not meant, then this tradition will be at variance with the tradition that states that the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) led twenty rak'ahs each for two nights, and in the case of such clash the tradition of twenty rak'ahs which is affirmative (muthbit) shall have precedence because according to the principles of hadith, the affirmative takes precedence over the negative (naaf)" (vide: Al-Kawakib ud-Durari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 9, pg 155-156). I say, does this not mean that people who perform 8 rak'ahs of taraweeh, should pray 20 rak'ahs instead? Since according to the principles of hhadith (as affirmed by al-Albani), "The affirmative takes precedence over the negative in certain cases."
A great fact that should also be noted by the reader is that the Imam's of hadith have placed the hadith from Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) under the section of tahajjud prayers, which indicates their belief that the hadith applies to tahajjud only. The Imam al-Muhaddithin al-Bukhari (Rahimahullah) has placed the hadith from Aisha under at least two sections of his Sahih, first under the section of '21: The tahajjud Prayer at Night' (see Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 2, chapter 15, no. 248, English ed'n) and then under the section of '32: The Book of taraweeh Prayers' (see Sahih al-Bukhari, 3/230, pg. 128 English ed'n). This means that Imam Bukhari believed that the prayer mentioned by Aisha was that of tahajjud only, and since the tahajjud prayer is performed also in Ramadan, then Imam Bukhari also quoted the same hadith under 'The book of taraweeh prayers', but Allah knows best. Imam Muslim (Rahimahullah) has also placed the hadith from Aisha under the tahajjud prayer section (see Sahih Muslim 1/1607, pg. 356, English ed'n). Also Imam Malik (Rahimahullah) has placed Aisha's hadith under the Book of tahajjud (see Al-Muwatta, Book 7, section 7.2, no. 9, pg. 5, English ed'n). The Imam Abu Dawood (Rahimahullah) has also placed the same hadith under the chapter 'On the number of rak'ahs of the prayer at night (tahajjud)' (see Abu Dawood 1/1336, pg. 351, English version). Even Imam's Tirmidhi and Nisai (Allah's mercy be upon them) placed Aisha's hadith under the tahajjud section (see Tirmidhi, vol. 1, pg. 58 and Nisai, vol. 1, pg. 154). Even one of the most prominent Imams of the 'Salafiyya', Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya placed the aforementioned hadith in the section of tahajjud prayers in his book Zaad al Ma'ad (vol. 1, pg. 86)!
Mufti Abdur Rahim said about Aisha's hadith: "And if this tradition may have been quoted in some book under the devotions of Ramadan along with the taraweeh. Like the taraweeh, the tahajjud, too, is a prayer of Ramadan, and because of this affinity, it can be mentioned along with the taraweeh (as Imam Bukhari did). Hence, supposing it may have been mentioned in some book, it cannot be made thereby a categorical argument. 'When uncertainty creeps in, the argument is falsified.' Moreover, Hafiz al-hadith Imam Qurtubi's (d. 671/1273; Rahimahullah) statement regarding this hadith (of Aisha) should not be overlooked that, 'many a man of knowledge considers the aforesaid hadith mudtarib (i.e. confounded).'" (vide: Imam Ayni in his Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, vol. 2, pg. 187).
In short, the aforesaid report is in no way a proof for eight rak'ahs of taraweeh. In contradistinction to this, as regards the twenty rak'ahs the Companions Consensus (Ijma-as-Sahaba) has taken place over the approval of Ibn Abbas' hadith (about 20 rak'ahs being performed by the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him) and practically the majority of Ulama have accepted it." (Fatawa Rahimmiyah, vol. 1, pg 276-277).
Although Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) had said: "He did not pray more than 11 Raka'at," we also have reports from her that the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) also prayed more than 11 Raka'ats! The proof for this was given by her in another narration involving Abu Salama ibn Abdal Rahman (Rahimahullah). Abu Salama asked Aisha about the prayer of the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him), she said, "He observed 13 Raka'ahs (in the night prayer). He observed 8 raka'ahs and would then observe (three rak'ahs of) witr and then observe two raka'ahs sitting (nafl prayer), and when he wanted to bow he stood up and then bowed down, and then he observed two raka'ahs in between the Azan and Iqama of the dawn prayer (i.e. fajr)." (See Sahih Muslim 1/1603, pg. 357 and also al-Albani's Sifah Salah an-Nabee, appendix 7, pg. 110). So does this not mean that the 'Salafiyya' should perform 13 Raka'ats of taraweeh in Ramadan?
Now, the statement 'the best way is 11 rak'aats' is only the opinion of a small group of the ulama, in fact there are more than 50 opinions to say that the best way is 20 rak'ahs according to the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and his Companions (Allah be pleased with them all) practise! What is more interesting to note is that the four great Mujtahids, Abu Hanifah, Malik, Shafi'i and Ahmad ibn Hanbal (Allah's mercy be upon them) are in agreement that the taraweeh consists of twenty rak'ahs. The statement that Imam Malik approved of eight rak'ahs needs to be proved, most likely this ascription was made to him because he quoted the hadith which is used to prove eight rak'ahs of taraweeh in his al-Muwatta (see Muwatta, 6.2, no. 4, pg. 48) by a small group of scholars. Although Imam Malik (Rahimahullah) quoted this hadith in his book, it has no bearing on what his actual opinion and practise was, on the contrary Imam Malik believes in thirty-six rak'ahs of taraweeh (i.e. 20 rak'ahs and 16 rak'ahs of extra nafl prayers, see later for the official verdict of the Maliki Madhhab)! Also the hadith which seems to prove 11 rak'ahs of taraweeh (including three rak'ahs of witr) in Imam Malik's Muwatta has been explained away by many other convincing arguments.
Recently I came across a booklet by the title, "Is taraweeh 20 Rakaats?" (Published by Madrasah Arabia Islamia, Azaadville, South Africa, author unknown). In this booklet the hadith quoted from the Muwatta of Imam Malik (Rahimahullah), about 11 rak'ahs of taraweeh (including three witr) was quite eloquently analysed.
The actual hadith in question was related by Yahya ibn Yahya al-Laythi, who related from his teacher Imam Malik, who related from Muhammad ibn Yusuf, who said that as-Saaib ibn Yazid said, "Umar ibn Khattab (Allah be pleased with him) ordered Ubayy ibn Ka'b and Tamim ad-Dari (Allah be pleased with them) to watch the night in prayer with the people for eleven rak'ahs. The reciter of the Qur'an would recite the Mi'in (a group of medium sized surah's) until we would be leaning on our staffs from having stood so long in prayer. And we would not leave until the approach of dawn." (see above reference in al-Muwatta).
It was stated in the aforementioned booklet (chapter 7, pg. 20), after quoting the above narration, "If we analyse the chain (Isnad) of this hadith, we notice that Muhammad ibn Yusuf narrates from Saaib ibn Yazid. Muhammad (ibn Yusuf) has 5 students and the narration of each student differs from the next (i.e. the text of the hadith is different from each student). The five students are:
(1) Imam Malik
(2) Yahya ibn Qattan
(3) Abdul Aziz ibn Muhammad
(4) Ibn Ishaq and
(5) Abdur Razzaq
Their narrations are as follows :
(1) Imam Malik says that Umar ordered Ubayy ibn Ka'b and Tamim Dari to perform 11 rakaats. (What practise occurred thereafter is not mentioned, nor is Ramadaan mentioned).
(2) Yahya ibn Qattan says that Umar made the people gather with Ubayy ibn Ka'b and Tamim Dari and both of them began performing 11 rakaats. (Hadrat Umar's command is not mentioned, nor is any mention of Ramadaan made).
(3) Abdul Aziz (ibn Muhammad) says that we used to perform 11 rakaats in the era of Umar. (Neither is the command mentioned, nor is Ubayy ibn Ka'b or Ramadaan mentioned).
(4) Ibn Ishaq says that we used to perform 13 rakaats in Ramadaan during the era of Umar. (Neither is the command of Umar mentioned. Instead of 11 rakaats, 13 are mentioned).
(5) Abdur Razzaq says that Umar gave the command of 21 rakaats. (In this narration 21 rakaats are mentioned instead of 11).
Besides the narration of Imam Malik (Rahimahullah), 11 rakaats can not be established from the other narrations. Due to this difference, the narrator Ibn Ishaq gave preference to 13 while Ibn Abdal Barr al-Maliki preferred 21 (from the narration of Abdur Razzaq). Therefore this narration is Mudtarib (A hadith that is transmitted in different manners, so that the contents of each transmission differ, and it is not possible to give preference to any particular transmission) with regards to the number (of rak'ahs) and hence unacceptable.
The above was an analysis of Muhammad ibn Yusuf's narration via Saaib ibn Yazid. Now let us examine the narration of Yazid ibn Khaseefah via Saaib (ibn Yazid), which is mentioned in the Sunan al- Kubra of al-Bayhaqi (vol. 2, pg. 496): Abu Zi'b narrates from Yazid ibn Khaseefah, who reports from Saaib ibn Yazid that the people used to perform 20 rakaats in the month of Ramadaan during the era of Umar.
Imam Nawawi, Iraqi and Suyuti (all three were great scholars of hadith) amongst others have accepted the authenticity of this hadith (see Tuhfatul Akhyaar, pg. 192 and Irshaadus Saari, pg. 74, (by Imam al-Qastallani]).
Muhammad ibn Jafar (another narrator in the chain) has quoted the statement from Yazid (ibn Khaseefah) as Abu Zi'b (had). This narration is mentioned in Marifatus Sunan of al-Bayhaqi. Allamah Subki and Mullah Ali al-Qari have stated in Sharh Minhaaj and Sharh Muwatta respectively that the chain of narrators of this hadith are correct. (Tuhfatul Ahwazee, vol.2, pg 75).
From the above narration we can clearly see that both the students of Yazid (ibn Khaseefah), unanimously narrate the fact that during Umar's (Allah be pleased with him) era 20 rakaats was the standard practise. On the contrary, the 5 students of Muhammad ibn Yusuf quote Saaib (ibn Yazid) differently.
In such a situation the correct approach would be to rely on the narration of Yazid ibn Khaseefah. However the Ahl al-hadith (another name for the "Salafiyya") have unjustly discarded this narration and adopted the doubtful one of Muhammad ibn Yusuf, which has differing versions. This goes against the principles of hadith." Here ends the quote .
Another hadith that is used by the protagonists of eight rak'ahs of taraweeh has been related by Jabir ibn Abdullah (Allah be pleased with him): "The Prophet (Peace be upon him) led the people in prayer during Ramadan with 8 rak'ahs and the witr. We gathered in the Mosque the following night hoping that he would come again. We remained waiting till the next morning (until he came out). The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said, 'I feared that the witr may become incumbent on you.'" (related by Ibn Nasr al-Marwazi in Qiyamul-Layl, pg. 90, al-Tabarani and Ibn Hibban - see below for the actual hadith)
The above hadith has been analysed by Shaykh Abdur Rahim in his "Fatawa" (vol. 1, pg. 278-9) with the conclusion that the hadith is Daeef. The Shaykh said: "The strange thing about this hadith is that its chain of authorities (Isnad) is not trustworthy. Please examine the statements of the Imams of this science concerning the narrators of this chain. In this chain one narrator is Ibn Hameed Razi, about whom the opinions of the great and august critics of hadith are as under:
(1) 'He is weak.' - Hafiz al-Dhahabi (see his Mizanul I'tidal, vol.3, pp. 49-50)
(2) 'He narrates many disowned (munkar ) hadiths.' - Ya'qub ibn Shaybah
(3) 'He is objectionable.' - Imam Bukhari
(4) 'He is a liar.' - Abu Zur'ah
(5) 'I testify that he is a liar.' - Ishaq Kausaj
(6) 'He narrates hadiths about everything; I have not seen a man bolder than him vis-a-vis God.' - Sauleh Jazrah
(7) 'By God! He is a liar.' - Ibn Kharash
(8) 'He is not reliable.' - Imam Nisai
Now, about the second narrator, Ya'qub ibn Abdullah Ash'ari al-Qummi:-
(1) 'He is not strong.' - Daraqutni (see Mizanul I'tidal, vol. 3, pg. 324).
About the third narrator, Isa ibn Jariyah:-
(1) 'He has had disowned (munkar) hadiths.' - Ibn Ma'een
(2) 'His hadiths are disavowed.' - Nisai
(3) 'His hadiths are rejected (matruk ).' - Nisai
(4) 'His hadiths are disavowed.' - Abu Dawood - synopsis
(5) 'He is counted among the weak.' - (see Mizanul-I'tidal, vol. 2, pg. 311, by Hafiz al-Dhahabi)." Here ends the quote.
Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (Rahimahullah) has reported a similar narration to the above hadith in his Bulugh al-Maram min Adillat al-Ahkam (no. 396, pg. 159), on the authority of Hafiz Ibn Hibban (Rahimahullah): "Narrated Jabir ibn Abdullah (Allah be pleaed with him): Allah's Apostle (Peace be upon him) prayed during the night in Ramadan; the people waited for him on the next day, but he did not come out; and he said, 'I feared that the witr might be enjoined on you.'" Note the above narration does not even state how many rak'ahs were performed by the Prophet (Peace be upon him)!! The above two hadiths can not be used as justifiable proof in favour of 8 rak'ahs of taraweeh on their own.
Al-Imam Malik (Rahimahullah) has in fact quoted a hadith which proves the performance of 20 rak'ahs of taraweeh in Ramadan; and that is as follows:-
Yahya related to me from Malik that Yazid ibn Ruman said,"The people used to watch the night in prayer during Ramadaan for 23 rak'ahs (i.e 20 rak'ahs of taraweeh, followed by 3 rak'ahs of witr) in the time of Umar ibn al-Khattab." (vide: al-Muwatta, 6.2, No. 5, pg. 48, English ed'n)
Although the above hadith is Munqati (a link is missing in the chain) and has thus been declared to be Daeef by some scholars (including al-Albani), it never the less has been used as proof. Besides, the hadith has been given a full Isnad (chain) by either Imam Ibn Abdal Barr al-Maliki (d. 463/1071; Rahimahullah) or Shaykh Muhammad Habibullah ibn Mayabi ash-Shanqiti (Rahimahullah), in their thorough research to complete all the chains of transmission (Isnad) which have an incomplete chain; as found in the Muwatta of Imam Malik!
In fact the latest edition of the English version of al-Muwatta (translated by A. A. at-Tarjumana and Yaqub Johnson) says (pg. xxxiv): "Ibn Hajar (al-Asqalani) said, 'The book of Malik is sound by all the criteria that are demanded as proofs in the mursal, munqati (two types of hadith which have a missing link) and other types of transmission.' Then as-Suyuti followed what Ibn Hajar said here; and said, 'The mursal hadith in it are a proof with him (i.e. ash-Shafi'i) as well because the mursal is a proof with us when it is properly supported. Every mursal in the Muwatta has one or more supports as will be made clear in this commentary (i.e. Suyuti's commentary on al-Muwatta called Tanwir al-Hawalik). It is absolutely correct to say that the Muwatta is sound without exception.'
Ibn Abdal-Barr collected together all the mursal, munqati and mu'addil hadiths in the Muwatta and said that the total number of hadiths in the Muwatta which do not have an Isnad are sixty one. He stated that he found the isnads of all of them in other sources with the exception of four hadiths. The erudite scholar of hadith, Shaykh Muhammad Habibullah ibn Mayabi ash-Shanqiti says in Ida'a al-Halik that he had found witnesses for these four hadith and he then mentioned these witnesses. He said, 'Some of the people of knowledge made these Isnads complete.' He mentioned from Ibn Abdal-Barr that there was no munkar(rejected) hadith in the Muwatta, nor anything fundamentally refuted."
In the light of what the erudite scholars of hadith have said above, we may emphatically state that the apparently 'munqati' hadith from Yazid ibn Ruman has a complete Isnad; hence it may be used as a proof, since Imam Ibn Abdal-Barr has said that there is, "No munkar hadith in the Muwatta nor anything fundamentally rejected." Hence, many scholars of hadith and Fiqh have used the above hadith as a proof in favour of 20 rak'ahs of taraweeh.
The quote from "Some common questions answered," also claimed that, "Rather he (Umar) ordered Ubayy ibn Ka'b to lead the people with 11 rakaats." I say, this is half of the truth, since it is clearly stated in al-Muwatta :"Umar ibn Khattab ordered Ubayy ibn Ka'b AND Tamim ad-Dari ....(see Muwatta, 6.2, no. 4, pg. 48)!!
Al-Albani has said that if anyone performs more than 11 rak'ahs of taraweeh, then he or she is basically committing a Bid'ah (a very bad innovation)! We seek refuge in Allah from such a disgusting statement! Since this tantamountally means that the foremost Imams of the saved sect (al-Firqat an-Najiyyah) of Ahl-al-Sunnah wa'l Jama'ah have been committing a gross innovation (Allah forbid). Al-Albani seems to be implying that the venerable Companions (may Allah be pleased with them and increase their rank), the four great Mujtahid Imams (Allah's mercy be upon them), as well as the foremost scholars of hadith and Fiqh of the last 1400 years have 'innovated' the practise of 20 rak'ahs of taraweeh, if considered in the light of penetrative elaboration, implicitly and covertly! What alternative conclusion can one derive, if the "Albani Madhhab" says, "As regards any addition (to 11 rak'ahs) - then this is disapproved of and declared as a bid'ah by 'Shaykh' al-Albani?"
I ask you, are the so called "Salafiyya" in the true path of the original and true Salaf-as-Salihin (the pious predecessors of the first three generations of Islam), when they have declared the practise of 20 rak'ahs to be a bid'ah, even though the Salaf have been reported to have practised 20 rak'ahs?
The actual hadith which states that the Holy Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) performed 20 rak'ahs of taraweeh has been reported by Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him). He said, "Verily, the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) in the month of Ramadaan, used to perform 20 rak'ahs and the witr prayer (afterwards) without congregation." (Reported in al-Sunan al-Bayhaqi, vol.2, pg. 496, Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, Kabiri of Imam al-Tabarani, Ibn Aadi in his Musnad, and by Imam Baghawi in his Majmua-as-Sahabah )
Although some scholars have declared this hadith to be Daeef on its own, it does not mean that it should be whole heartedly rejected; since Daeef does not mean Maudu (fabricated). Please refer to the next section on Daeef hadiths, and when they are acceptable to scholars for further elaboration. The hadith related from Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) is supported by many other narrations coming from great Companions like Uthman, Ali, Ibn Masood...(Allah be pleased with them all), as well as their successors (Tabi'in). Besides, some of the scholars of hadith have even declared some weak Ahadith to be Sahih, if it has a firm basis. It was stated in the book "Criticism of hadith among Muslims with reference to Sunan Ibn Maja," (pg. 131, by one of the leading "Salafi" Shaykhs in Britain, Suhaib Hasan): "Shafi'i also recognises a weak hadith as authentic (sahih) if it is found to be accepted by the whole Ummah (see al-Sakhawi: Fath al-Mugith). But he does not accept Malik's view of restricting the practise to the people of Madinah. According to the later scholars of the Hanafi school like Ibn al-Humam, a hadith will be declared Sahih, if it is supported by the practise of the Ummah (see Abdal Rashid Nu'mani: Ma tamusu ilaihe al-Haja, pg. 18). Among traditionalists, Tirmidhi often remarks, after quoting a less authentic hadith: 'It is being practised by the people of learning (Ahl al-Ilm).' Suyuti deduces: 'It indicates that the hadith is supported by the sayings of the people of learning. More than one scholar has said that a hadith is declared Sahih if supported by the sayings of the people of learning, even if it lacks a proper Isnad (see Suyuti: al-Ta'aqubat, folio 20)."
As stated above, the great research scholar (Muhaqqiq) Hafiz Kamal ibn al-Humam (d. 861/1457; Rahimahullah) had actually said: "One of the factors from which the authenticity of a hadith is known is that the learned (Ulama) may conform to it, which is a proof of its being sound (vide: Fath al-Qadir, vol. 3, pg. 349).
There are many quotes from scholars which prove a near universal juridical acceptance of 20 rak'ahs of taraweeh, but I content myself by quoting a select few from some of the foremost scholars of the Ahl-as-Sunnah, as well as the Imam of the "Salafiyya" (when it suits their whims and desires), Ahmad ibn Taymiyya.
(1) Shaykh al-Islam Ahmad ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (d. 852/1449; R.A.)
The Hafiz of hadith, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani has reproduced from Imam Rafi'i (Allah's mercy be on him):
"For two nights the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) led twenty rak'ahs of prayer each night; on the third night the people gathered but the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) did not come out. Then the next morning, he told the people, 'It so occurred to me that it would be made obligatory for you, and you would not be able to discharge this obligation.'"
After reproducing this tradition, Hafiz Ibn Hajar said:
"All the traditionalists (Muhaddithin) are unanimous about the soundness of this report." (see Talkhis al-habir fi takhrij ahadith al-Rafi'i al-Kabir, vol. 1, pg. 119, by Hafiz ibn Hajar).
(2) Imam al-Azam Abu Hanifah (d. 150 AH; Rahimahullah)
It was stated in Fayd ul-Bari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari (by Shaykh Anwar Shah Kashmiri):
"Imam Abu Yusuf (Rahimahullah) asked Imam Abu Hanifah (Rahimahullah), 'Did Hadrat Umar (Allah be pleased with him) have any compact from the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) for 20 rak'ahs of taraweeh?' The Imam replied, 'Hadrat Umar was not one to invent on his own; certainly he had some proof with him for this!'" (also found in Maraqi ul-Falah, pg. 81, by Imam al-Shurunbulali and Bahr ur Ra'iq, vol.2, pg. 66, by Imam ibn Nujaim al-Misri).
(3) Imam al-Tirmidhi (d. 279/892; Rahimahullah)
Imam Tirmidhi said:
"Umar, Ali as well as other Companions (Allah be pleased with them all) and Sufyan al-Thauri, Ibn al-Mubarak and Imam al-Shafi'i (Allah's mercy be upon them), all believed in 20 rak'ahs of taraweeh, and Imam Shafi'i has stated that he had seen the people of Makkah saying 20 rak'ahs (see Sunan al-Tirmidhi, vol.1, pg. 99).
(4) Imam Malik ibn Anas (d. 179 AH; Rahimahullah)
It was written in the most authentic book on Maliki Fiqh, al-Mudawwanah (vol.1, pg. 193-94), by Qadi Sahnoon (Rahimahullah):
"Ibn al-Qasim said, 'The rak'ahs (of taraweeh) with witr are 39.' Imam Malik said, 'This is what the people have agreed upon from amongst the predecessors, and the people have not stopped doing it.'" (For an explanation of why it was 36 rak'ahs see the quote below from Allamah Anwar Shah Kashmiri).
(5) Hafiz Ibn Humam (d. 861/1457; Rahimahullah)
Allamah Ibn Humam asserts that it has been established from genuine authority that the Companions and their Successors (tabi'in) used to say twenty rak'ahs of taraweeh during the auspicious time of Umar (Allah be pleased with him); this authority of Yazid ibn Ruman has been reported from Sa'ib ibn Yazid that, 'during Umar's auspicious time we used to say twenty rak'ahs.' The genuineness of this authority has been verified by Imam Nawawi in the synopsis (see Fath al-Qadir, vol.1, pg. 407 and Nasb-ur-Rayah, vol.1, pg. 294, by Hafiz al-Zaylai). Hafiz Ibn Humam also said in Fath al-Qadir (vol.1, pg. 470):
"At last unanimity was formed on 20 rak'ahs of prayer and this alone is in succession." This last statement has also been said in similar words by Ibn Taymiyya in his Minhaj us-Sunnah (vol.2, pg. 224).
(6) Imam Ata ibn Abi Rabah (Rahimahullah)
The august successor (Tabi'in) and Mufti of Makkah in his time said:
"I have seen the Companions, and other people in Makkah saying 23 rak'ahs, including the witr."
This report is Hasan (good). (see Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, pg. 406, Fath al-Bari, vol.4, pg. 219, of Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Qiyam ul-Layl, pg. 91, by Imam Ibn Nasr al-Marwazi).
(7) Imam Muwaffaq al-Din Ibn Qudama al-Maqdisi (d. 620/1223; R.A)
The Imam of the Hanbali's in his time, Ibn Qudama al-Maqdisi, said in his book al-Mughni (vol.1, pg 803):
"There has been the Companion's consensus (Ijma-as-Sahaba) on 20 rak'ahs of taraweeh."
(8) Allamah Anwar Shah Kashmiri (d. 1352 AH; Rahimahullah)
It was stated in his published lecture, Tirmidhi al-ma'ruf ba-Arfa'sh-Shazzi (vol.1 pg. 329) :
"Not even one of the the four Imams believes in less than 20 rak'ahs of taraweeh; the practise and belief of the majority of the Companions was also this. Imam Malik (Allah's mercy be upon him) believes in more than 20 rak'ahs; he is positive that they are 36. According to Imam Malik's practise only 20 rak'ahs of taraweeh will be said in congregation, but the general practise and method of the citizens of Madinah was that during the brief rest interval (after every 4 rak'ahs), when the Imam sat down after 4 rak'ahs, they used to perform 4 more rak'ahs. The men who said the taraweeh in the sacred mosque at Makkah, used to circumambulate (Tawaf) the Ka'ba during this brief recess. The people of Madinah, naturally, could not circumambulate the Ka'ba and hence, instead, they used to perform 16 rak'ahs more (in total) during these brief recesses."
(9) Imam al-Ayni (d. 855/1451; Rahimahullah)
Allamah Ayni wrote in his Sharh al-Bukhari:
"The number of rak'ahs in the taraweeh is twenty. Imam Shafi'i and Imam Ahmed (Allah's mercy be upon them) assert the same thing. Their proof is the report which Bayhaqi has, with genuine authority, narrated from Sa'ib ibn Yazid. The great Companions, including Umar, Uthman and Ali (may Allah be pleased with them), as also the revered Successors (Tabi'in), used to perform twenty rak'ahs."
Then he said:
"The most excellent and the most advisable course to conform to is that of the Holy Prophet's and his (Peace and blessings be upon him) Companions (practise)." (Umdat ul-Qari Sharh-al-Bukhari, vol. 7, pg. 178).
(10) Hafiz Taqi-ad-Din Ahmad Ibn Taymiyya al-Hanbali (d. 728/1328)
He has said in his Fatawa Ibn Taymiyya (vol.1, pg. 191):
"It has been proven without doubt that Ubayy ibn Ka'b (Allah be pleased with him) used to lead the Companions, during Ramadan, for 20 rak'ahs and 3 rak'ahs of witr. Hence it is the principle (maslak) of most of the Ulama that this is the Sunnah, because Ubayy ibn Ka'b led 20 rak'ahs of prayer in the presence of the Muhajirin (the emigrants) and the Ansars (the helpers) and not a single Companion repudiated it!"
So please ask yourselves: "Who are the 'Salafiyya'; are they the people who conform to the way of the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him), his Companions (may Allah be pleased with them all), and their successors (this includes the four Mujtahid Imams, Allah's mercy be upon them) consensus on 20 rak'ahs, or is it the likes of al-Albani and his followers?"
May Allah guide them.
Many of us who are practising Muslims or otherwise, are familiar with the epithet 'Wahhabi'. The founder of this sect was Muhammad ibn Abdal Wahhab (d. 1206 AH), from the Najd area of 'Saudi' Arabia. He is also known as Shaykh an-Najdi by his opponents and his followers have been labelled as either 'Najdi's' or 'Wahhabi's' by the Ahl al-Sunnah. He claimed to be a Hanbali in Fiqh. It is well known that he fully digested the aqeedah and ideas of Ibn Taymiyya. The scholars of his time warned the Muslims to be on their guard from accepting his 'reformatory' ideas; and this work is still existent among the scholars of the Ahl al-Sunnah even today. The neo- 'Salafi's' of today respect Ibn Abdal Wahhab quite highly by bestowing upon him such great titles like 'Shaykh al-Islam'. I do not want to say much about his movement and activities, but a few quotes from three well known scholars should suffice for now.
(1) The foremost Hanafi scholar of his time, Imam Muhammad Amin ibn Abidin (d. 1252/1836 Rahimahullah) said in his celebrated work Hashiyya radd al-Mukhtar (vol. 3, pg. 309): "In our time Ibn Abdal Wahhab (Najdi) appeared, and attacked the two noble sanctuaries (Makkah and Madinah). He claimed to be a Hanbali, but his thinking was such that only he alone was a Muslim, and everyone else was a polytheist! Under this guise, he said that killing the Ahl as-Sunnah was permissible, until Allah destroyed them (Wahhabi's) in the year 1233 AH by way of the Muslim army."
(2) Shaykh Zayni Dahlan (Rahimahullah) said in his book Futuhat al-Islamiyya (vol. 2, pg. 268): "The sign of the Khawarij (the first deviant sect that appeared in the time of the Companions) concerning the shaving of the head, was not found in the Khawarij of the past, but only in the Najdi's of our time!"
(3) Shaykh al-Islam Hussain Ahmad al-Madani (Rahimahullah) said in his book ash-Shihab as-saqib (pg. 42): "Ibn Abdal Wahhab arose in the beginning of the thirteenth Islamic century in the Najd. His thinking was false, and his beliefs were corruptional; on these grounds he opened the way for killing the Ahl as-Sunnah."
(4) A more contemporary view on the Wahhabite sect has been expressed by Abdal-Hakim Murad in the journal Islamica (pg. 9): "Ibn Abdal Wahhab, however, went far beyond this (i.e; of Ibn Taymiyya). Raised in the wastelands of Najd in Central Arabia, he had little access to mainstream Muslim scholarship (I say: This may be disputed by his supporters). In fact, when his da'wah appeared and became notorious, the scholars and muftis of the day applied to it the famous hadith of Najd: Ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) reported the Prophet (Peace be upon him) as saying: "Oh God, bless us in our Syria; O God, bless us in our Yemen." Those present said: "And in our Najd, O Messenger of God!" But he said, "O God, bless us in our Syria; O God, bless us in our Yemen." Those present said, "And in our Najd, O Messenger of God!" Ibn Umar said that he thought that he said on the third occasion: "Earthquakes and dissensions (fitnah) are there, and there shall arise the horn of the devil." (Sahih al-Bukhari). And it is significant that almost uniquely among the lands of Islam, Najd has never produced scholars of any repute.
The Najd-based da'wah of the Wahhabi's, however, began to be heard more loudly following the explosion of Saudi oil wealth. Many, even most, Islamic publishing houses in Cairo and Beirut are now subsidised by Wahhabi organisations, which prevent them from publishing traditional works on Sufism, and remove passages in other works considered unnacceptable to Wahhabist doctrine.
The neo-Kharijite nature of Wahhabism makes it intolerant of all other forms of Islamic expression. However, because it has no coherent fiqh of its own - it rejects the orthodox madhhabs - and has only the most basic and primitively anthropomorphic 'aqidah, it has a fluid, amoebalike tendency to produce divisions and subdivisions among those who profess it. No longer are the Islamic groups essentially united by a consistent madhhab and the Ash'ari 'aqidah (see later). Instead, they are all trying to derive the Shari'ah and the 'aqidah from the Qur'an and the Sunnah by themselves. The result is the appaling state of division and conflict which disfigures the modern salafi condition."
Another person who is a reference for today's neo-"Salafi's", is Muhammad ibn Ali al-Shawkani (d. 1250/1834). He was a leading scholar of the Zaydi (Shi'ah) sect found mainly in the Yemen. He claimed to have departed from his old Shi'ite ways and joined the Ahl al-Sunnah. He was attacked by the scholars of his day for saying Taqleed was completely haram, as well as other important issues. Some scholars had accused him of still holding on to his deviant Zaydiyyah-Mu'tazilite (rationalistic thinking that was propounded by one of the first deviant sects of Islam) thinking, while pretending to be within the fold of orthodox Sunni Islam; but Allah knows best! It is a well known fact that he denied the consensus of the Companions (Ijma as-Sahaba), as well as rejecting the validity of the Fatwa of a Companion! One may refer to Anwar Ahmad Qadri's book Islamic Jurisprudence in the Modern World (pg. 142) for a lenghthier discussion.
Many scholars have noticed the extreme tendencies within the "Salafiyya" sect around the world, for its lack of respect for the scholars of the four Madhhabs, its Aqeedah and some untenable juristic positions it has produced over a short period of Islam's history. The scholars have not been afraid of declaring the neo- "Salafi's" to be neo-Kharijites in their behaviour and attitude to other Muslims. Note, the scholars are not saying that the neo-"Salafi's" are Kharijites, but rather they seem to have certain traits which were only found amongst the Kharijites of the past. One of the most striking things I have noticed amongst these 'neo-Kharijites', is their direction of Qur'anic verses that were revealed specifically for the unbelievers, as referring to the believers who do not seem to have their way of thinking! This was a well known practise of the Kharijites of old; as we shall see below.
A well known scholar of the "Salafiyya", Dr. Yusuf al-Qardawi (who has himself been attacked by other members of the "Salafiyya", especially for holding some untenable positions in his book al-Halal wal Haram fil Islam) said in his book Islamic awakening between Rejection and Extremism (pg. 41-3): "Imam al-Shatibi (Rahimahullah) wrote (in his book al-I'tisam, 2. 182-4): 'Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) was right. When a person knows the reason behind a certain verse or surah, he knows how to interpret it and what its objectives are. However, ignorance of that leads people to misinterpret it and to have different opinions, without an insight and knowledge which could lead them to the truth, and prevent them from indulging ignorantly in such matters with no support or evidence from al Shari'ah, and therefore go astray and lead people astray. This can be demonstrated by what is reported by Ibn Wahab from Bakir who asked Nafi': What does Ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) think of al-Haruriyyah (i.e; al-Khawarij who were also called al-Haruriyyah after the place -Harawra- where they gathered and were found by Ali ibn Abu Talib and the Companions of the Prophet [may Allah be pleased with them all] who supported him)? Nafi' answered: He thinks they are the most evil of people. They applied the verses which pertain to the kuffar on the believers.' (NB- Imam al-Bukhari has recorded Ibn Umar as saying in his Sahih [vol.9, pg.50; English edn]: These people (the Khawarij and heretics ) took some verses that had been revealed concerning the disbelievers and interpreted them as describing the believers ).
Al-Qardawi also said (pg. 42): One of the causes of such shallowness is that extremists never listen to people who hold different views (and I can personally testify to that), never accept any dialogue with them or imagine that their own views could be tested in the light of others, and may thereby be either accepted or rejected. Most of them have not been taught by reliable Muslim ulama who are specialised in the field. Rather, they have received semi-knowledge directly from books and newspapers without any opportunity for revision or discussion which could test the learner's understanding and analyze the depth of his knowledge. They simply read, 'understand', then deduce what they wish. However, their reading, understanding, and deduction may well be wrong or deficient. There might be someone somewhere who opposes their opinions on stronger and more valid bases, but they are not aware of that because nobody has drawn their attention to such a possibility. These devout young people have ignored the facts that if they want to study al Shari'ah, they must seek the help of reliable Muslim scholars. They cannot venture into this extensive and entangled discipline without the guidance of reliable Muslim scholars who can interpret and explain obscurities, define terms, and point out the relationships between the parts and the whole and also equate similarities. Those who venture into it alone will meet with the same catastrophic results which could certainly befall the unskilled swimmer who ventures into dangerous waters. Proper knowledge of al Shari'ah cannot be perfected without practice and close contact with the experts, especially in those areas where opinions diverge, evidences seem to contradict each other, and certain matters seem to be under suspicion. This is why our venerable 'ulama' have warned us not to seek to study and understand al Qur'an al Karim through a person who has only memorized it without any knowledge of its contents, nor to seek knowledge through a person who has acquired his own "knowledge" from reading newspapers and journals only, without being properly instructed by reputable and qualified scholars."
This topic began with a brief discussion on Taqleed and I would like to finish with the following two questions for you to ponder over. (A) Would it not be classified as being Taqleed if one were to accept the classifications of Hadiths, exegesis of the Qur'an etc; by a renowned Islamic scholar, if one was not to go back to the original sources which are used to authenticate the Hadith and so on? (For example, if a scholar claimed that a Hadith found in the Sunan of Imam Abu Dawood was Sahih and you accepted it as being Sahih - since you trust him, then are you not practising Taqleed; if you, yourself do not go back to the original sources used to classify the Hadith in question, since sometimes a Hadith classified to be Sahih by one scholar can be classified as being Da'eef by another!). (B) Is it not true that those who are calling for the abandonment of Taqleed, are calling for the Taqleed of their own books and speeches; hence creating their own little 'Madhhabs'?Many of us who are practising Muslims or otherwise, are familiar with the epithet 'Wahhabi'. The founder of this sect was Muhammad ibn Abdal Wahhab (d. 1206 AH), from the Najd area of 'Saudi' Arabia. He is also known as Shaykh an-Najdi by his opponents and his followers have been labelled as either 'Najdi's' or 'Wahhabi's' by the Ahl al-Sunnah. He claimed to be a Hanbali in Fiqh. It is well known that he fully digested the aqeedah and ideas of Ibn Taymiyya. The scholars of his time warned the Muslims to be on their guard from accepting his 'reformatory' ideas; and this work is still existent among the scholars of the Ahl al-Sunnah even today. The neo- 'Salafi's' of today respect Ibn Abdal Wahhab quite highly by bestowing upon him such great titles like 'Shaykh al-Islam'. I do not want to say much about his movement and activities, but a few quotes from three well known scholars should suffice for now.
(1) The foremost Hanafi scholar of his time, Imam Muhammad Amin ibn Abidin (d. 1252/1836 Rahimahullah) said in his celebrated work Hashiyya radd al-Mukhtar (vol. 3, pg. 309): "In our time Ibn Abdal Wahhab (Najdi) appeared, and attacked the two noble sanctuaries (Makkah and Madinah). He claimed to be a Hanbali, but his thinking was such that only he alone was a Muslim, and everyone else was a polytheist! Under this guise, he said that killing the Ahl as-Sunnah was permissible, until Allah destroyed them (Wahhabi's) in the year 1233 AH by way of the Muslim army."
(2) Shaykh Zayni Dahlan (Rahimahullah) said in his book Futuhat al-Islamiyya (vol. 2, pg. 268): "The sign of the Khawarij (the first deviant sect that appeared in the time of the Companions) concerning the shaving of the head, was not found in the Khawarij of the past, but only in the Najdi's of our time!"
(3) Shaykh al-Islam Hussain Ahmad al-Madani (Rahimahullah) said in his book ash-Shihab as-saqib (pg. 42): "Ibn Abdal Wahhab arose in the beginning of the thirteenth Islamic century in the Najd. His thinking was false, and his beliefs were corruptional; on these grounds he opened the way for killing the Ahl as-Sunnah."
(4) A more contemporary view on the Wahhabite sect has been expressed by Abdal-Hakim Murad in the journal Islamica (pg. 9): "Ibn Abdal Wahhab, however, went far beyond this (i.e; of Ibn Taymiyya). Raised in the wastelands of Najd in Central Arabia, he had little access to mainstream Muslim scholarship (I say: This may be disputed by his supporters). In fact, when his da'wah appeared and became notorious, the scholars and muftis of the day applied to it the famous hadith of Najd: Ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) reported the Prophet (Peace be upon him) as saying: "Oh God, bless us in our Syria; O God, bless us in our Yemen." Those present said: "And in our Najd, O Messenger of God!" But he said, "O God, bless us in our Syria; O God, bless us in our Yemen." Those present said, "And in our Najd, O Messenger of God!" Ibn Umar said that he thought that he said on the third occasion: "Earthquakes and dissensions (fitnah) are there, and there shall arise the horn of the devil." (Sahih al-Bukhari). And it is significant that almost uniquely among the lands of Islam, Najd has never produced scholars of any repute.
The Najd-based da'wah of the Wahhabi's, however, began to be heard more loudly following the explosion of Saudi oil wealth. Many, even most, Islamic publishing houses in Cairo and Beirut are now subsidised by Wahhabi organisations, which prevent them from publishing traditional works on Sufism, and remove passages in other works considered unnacceptable to Wahhabist doctrine.
The neo-Kharijite nature of Wahhabism makes it intolerant of all other forms of Islamic expression. However, because it has no coherent fiqh of its own - it rejects the orthodox madhhabs - and has only the most basic and primitively anthropomorphic 'aqidah, it has a fluid, amoebalike tendency to produce divisions and subdivisions among those who profess it. No longer are the Islamic groups essentially united by a consistent madhhab and the Ash'ari 'aqidah (see later). Instead, they are all trying to derive the Shari'ah and the 'aqidah from the Qur'an and the Sunnah by themselves. The result is the appaling state of division and conflict which disfigures the modern salafi condition."
Another person who is a reference for today's neo-"Salafi's", is Muhammad ibn Ali al-Shawkani (d. 1250/1834). He was a leading scholar of the Zaydi (Shi'ah) sect found mainly in the Yemen. He claimed to have departed from his old Shi'ite ways and joined the Ahl al-Sunnah. He was attacked by the scholars of his day for saying Taqleed was completely haram, as well as other important issues. Some scholars had accused him of still holding on to his deviant Zaydiyyah-Mu'tazilite (rationalistic thinking that was propounded by one of the first deviant sects of Islam) thinking, while pretending to be within the fold of orthodox Sunni Islam; but Allah knows best! It is a well known fact that he denied the consensus of the Companions (Ijma as-Sahaba), as well as rejecting the validity of the Fatwa of a Companion! One may refer to Anwar Ahmad Qadri's book Islamic Jurisprudence in the Modern World (pg. 142) for a lenghthier discussion.
Many scholars have noticed the extreme tendencies within the "Salafiyya" sect around the world, for its lack of respect for the scholars of the four Madhhabs, its Aqeedah and some untenable juristic positions it has produced over a short period of Islam's history. The scholars have not been afraid of declaring the neo- "Salafi's" to be neo-Kharijites in their behaviour and attitude to other Muslims. Note, the scholars are not saying that the neo-"Salafi's" are Kharijites, but rather they seem to have certain traits which were only found amongst the Kharijites of the past. One of the most striking things I have noticed amongst these 'neo-Kharijites', is their direction of Qur'anic verses that were revealed specifically for the unbelievers, as referring to the believers who do not seem to have their way of thinking! This was a well known practise of the Kharijites of old; as we shall see below.

Some Observations about the Salafi/Wahhabi sect
Many of us who are practising Muslims or otherwise, are familiar with the epithet 'Wahhabi'. The founder of this sect was Muhammad ibn Abdal Wahhab (d. 1206 AH), from the Najd area of 'Saudi' Arabia. He is also known as Shaykh an-Najdi by his opponents and his followers have been labelled as either 'Najdi's' or 'Wahhabi's' by the Ahl al-Sunnah. He claimed to be a Hanbali in Fiqh. It is well known that he fully digested the aqeedah and ideas of Ibn Taymiyya. The scholars of his time warned the Muslims to be on their guard from accepting his 'reformatory' ideas; and this work is still existent among the scholars of the Ahl al-Sunnah even today. The neo- 'Salafi's' of today respect Ibn Abdal Wahhab quite highly by bestowing upon him such great titles like 'Shaykh al-Islam'. I do not want to say much about his movement and activities, but a few quotes from three well known scholars should suffice for now.
(1) The foremost Hanafi scholar of his time, Imam Muhammad Amin ibn Abidin (d. 1252/1836 Rahimahullah) said in his celebrated work Hashiyya radd al-Mukhtar (vol. 3, pg. 309): "In our time Ibn Abdal Wahhab (Najdi) appeared, and attacked the two noble sanctuaries (Makkah and Madinah). He claimed to be a Hanbali, but his thinking was such that only he alone was a Muslim, and everyone else was a polytheist! Under this guise, he said that killing the Ahl as-Sunnah was permissible, until Allah destroyed them (Wahhabi's) in the year 1233 AH by way of the Muslim army."
(2) Shaykh Zayni Dahlan (Rahimahullah) said in his book Futuhat al-Islamiyya (vol. 2, pg. 268): "The sign of the Khawarij (the first deviant sect that appeared in the time of the Companions) concerning the shaving of the head, was not found in the Khawarij of the past, but only in the Najdi's of our time!"
(3) Shaykh al-Islam Hussain Ahmad al-Madani (Rahimahullah) said in his book ash-Shihab as-saqib (pg. 42): "Ibn Abdal Wahhab arose in the beginning of the thirteenth Islamic century in the Najd. His thinking was false, and his beliefs were corruptional; on these grounds he opened the way for killing the Ahl as-Sunnah."
(4) A more contemporary view on the Wahhabite sect has been expressed by Abdal-Hakim Murad in the journal Islamica (pg. 9): "Ibn Abdal Wahhab, however, went far beyond this (i.e; of Ibn Taymiyya). Raised in the wastelands of Najd in Central Arabia, he had little access to mainstream Muslim scholarship (I say: This may be disputed by his supporters). In fact, when his da'wah appeared and became notorious, the scholars and muftis of the day applied to it the famous hadith of Najd: Ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) reported the Prophet (Peace be upon him) as saying: "Oh God, bless us in our Syria; O God, bless us in our Yemen." Those present said: "And in our Najd, O Messenger of God!" But he said, "O God, bless us in our Syria; O God, bless us in our Yemen." Those present said, "And in our Najd, O Messenger of God!" Ibn Umar said that he thought that he said on the third occasion: "Earthquakes and dissensions (fitnah) are there, and there shall arise the horn of the devil." (Sahih al-Bukhari). And it is significant that almost uniquely among the lands of Islam, Najd has never produced scholars of any repute.
The Najd-based da'wah of the Wahhabi's, however, began to be heard more loudly following the explosion of Saudi oil wealth. Many, even most, Islamic publishing houses in Cairo and Beirut are now subsidised by Wahhabi organisations, which prevent them from publishing traditional works on Sufism, and remove passages in other works considered unnacceptable to Wahhabist doctrine.
The neo-Kharijite nature of Wahhabism makes it intolerant of all other forms of Islamic expression. However, because it has no coherent fiqh of its own - it rejects the orthodox madhhabs - and has only the most basic and primitively anthropomorphic 'aqidah, it has a fluid, amoebalike tendency to produce divisions and subdivisions among those who profess it. No longer are the Islamic groups essentially united by a consistent madhhab and the Ash'ari 'aqidah (see later). Instead, they are all trying to derive the Shari'ah and the 'aqidah from the Qur'an and the Sunnah by themselves. The result is the appaling state of division and conflict which disfigures the modern salafi condition."
Another person who is a reference for today's neo-"Salafi's", is Muhammad ibn Ali al-Shawkani (d. 1250/1834). He was a leading scholar of the Zaydi (Shi'ah) sect found mainly in the Yemen. He claimed to have departed from his old Shi'ite ways and joined the Ahl al-Sunnah. He was attacked by the scholars of his day for saying Taqleed was completely haram, as well as other important issues. Some scholars had accused him of still holding on to his deviant Zaydiyyah-Mu'tazilite (rationalistic thinking that was propounded by one of the first deviant sects of Islam) thinking, while pretending to be within the fold of orthodox Sunni Islam; but Allah knows best! It is a well known fact that he denied the consensus of the Companions (Ijma as-Sahaba), as well as rejecting the validity of the Fatwa of a Companion! One may refer to Anwar Ahmad Qadri's book Islamic Jurisprudence in the Modern World (pg. 142) for a lenghthier discussion.
Many scholars have noticed the extreme tendencies within the "Salafiyya" sect around the world, for its lack of respect for the scholars of the four Madhhabs, its Aqeedah and some untenable juristic positions it has produced over a short period of Islam's history. The scholars have not been afraid of declaring the neo- "Salafi's" to be neo-Kharijites in their behaviour and attitude to other Muslims. Note, the scholars are not saying that the neo-"Salafi's" are Kharijites, but rather they seem to have certain traits which were only found amongst the Kharijites of the past. One of the most striking things I have noticed amongst these 'neo-Kharijites', is their direction of Qur'anic verses that were revealed specifically for the unbelievers, as referring to the believers who do not seem to have their way of thinking! This was a well known practise of the Kharijites of old; as we shall see below.
A well known scholar of the "Salafiyya", Dr. Yusuf al-Qardawi (who has himself been attacked by other members of the "Salafiyya", especially for holding some untenable positions in his book al-Halal wal Haram fil Islam) said in his book Islamic awakening between Rejection and Extremism (pg. 41-3): "Imam al-Shatibi (Rahimahullah) wrote (in his book al-I'tisam, 2. 182-4): 'Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) was right. When a person knows the reason behind a certain verse or surah, he knows how to interpret it and what its objectives are. However, ignorance of that leads people to misinterpret it and to have different opinions, without an insight and knowledge which could lead them to the truth, and prevent them from indulging ignorantly in such matters with no support or evidence from al Shari'ah, and therefore go astray and lead people astray. This can be demonstrated by what is reported by Ibn Wahab from Bakir who asked Nafi': What does Ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) think of al-Haruriyyah (i.e; al-Khawarij who were also called al-Haruriyyah after the place -Harawra- where they gathered and were found by Ali ibn Abu Talib and the Companions of the Prophet [may Allah be pleased with them all] who supported him)? Nafi' answered: He thinks they are the most evil of people. They applied the verses which pertain to the kuffar on the believers.' (NB- Imam al-Bukhari has recorded Ibn Umar as saying in his Sahih [vol.9, pg.50; English edn]: These people (the Khawarij and heretics ) took some verses that had been revealed concerning the disbelievers and interpreted them as describing the believers ).
Al-Qardawi also said (pg. 42): One of the causes of such shallowness is that extremists never listen to people who hold different views (and I can personally testify to that), never accept any dialogue with them or imagine that their own views could be tested in the light of others, and may thereby be either accepted or rejected. Most of them have not been taught by reliable Muslim ulama who are specialised in the field. Rather, they have received semi-knowledge directly from books and newspapers without any opportunity for revision or discussion which could test the learner's understanding and analyze the depth of his knowledge. They simply read, 'understand', then deduce what they wish. However, their reading, understanding, and deduction may well be wrong or deficient. There might be someone somewhere who opposes their opinions on stronger and more valid bases, but they are not aware of that because nobody has drawn their attention to such a possibility. These devout young people have ignored the facts that if they want to study al Shari'ah, they must seek the help of reliable Muslim scholars. They cannot venture into this extensive and entangled discipline without the guidance of reliable Muslim scholars who can interpret and explain obscurities, define terms, and point out the relationships between the parts and the whole and also equate similarities. Those who venture into it alone will meet with the same catastrophic results which could certainly befall the unskilled swimmer who ventures into dangerous waters. Proper knowledge of al Shari'ah cannot be perfected without practice and close contact with the experts, especially in those areas where opinions diverge, evidences seem to contradict each other, and certain matters seem to be under suspicion. This is why our venerable 'ulama' have warned us not to seek to study and understand al Qur'an al Karim through a person who has only memorized it without any knowledge of its contents, nor to seek knowledge through a person who has acquired his own "knowledge" from reading newspapers and journals only, without being properly instructed by reputable and qualified scholars."
This topic began with a brief discussion on Taqleed and I would like to finish with the following two questions for you to ponder over. (A) Would it not be classified as being Taqleed if one were to accept the classifications of Hadiths, exegesis of the Qur'an etc; by a renowned Islamic scholar, if one was not to go back to the original sources which are used to authenticate the Hadith and so on? (For example, if a scholar claimed that a Hadith found in the Sunan of Imam Abu Dawood was Sahih and you accepted it as being Sahih - since you trust him, then are you not practising Taqleed; if you, yourself do not go back to the original sources used to classify the Hadith in question, since sometimes a Hadith classified to be Sahih by one scholar can be classified as being Da'eef by another!). (B) Is it not true that those who are calling for the abandonment of Taqleed, are calling for the Taqleed of their own books and speeches; hence creating their own little 'Madhhabs'?

Who are the Ahl as-Sunnah wa'l Jama'ah?
Many people today like to classify themselves as belonging to the Saved Sect (Firqatun-Najiyyah) - Ahl as-Sunnah Wa'l Jama'ah; but do these people really know which is the Saved Sect, from the many sects we have today? The following is an attempt to clarify some misconceptions by way of definitive proofs from the Qur'an and Sunnah, as well as quotes from the profoundly learned Classical Scholars of Islam. Know that there is only one Saved Sect in Islam, and this is the original pristine form of Islam that has been transmitted to us by Allah Subhana Wa Ta'ala in his Qur'an, his Rasul (Peace and blessings be upon him), the blessed Companions (may Allah be pleased with them all) and the great scholars of Islam (Allah's mercy be upon them all) who have been following their Straight Path for more than one thousand years of Islam's history. The first question that should be raised is: "What differentiates one sect from another sect?" The answer to this is simple and definitive! Know that the chief characteristic that distinguishes one sect from another, lies not in the differences of opinion that its scholars have attained by making ijtihad from the sources of the Shari'ah (this leads to the formation of the Madhhabs), but rather the actual belief (aqid'ah or i'tiqad in Arabic) that the scholars and laity of the sect in question are clinging onto - since the founding of their respective sect.
According to the unknown author of the book Belief and Islam (pp. 78-9), the faith of the People of the Sunnah and Jama'ah was spread as follows:
"Nowadays, some mouths frequently use the name of 'Salafiyya'. Every Muslim should know very well that in Islam there is nothing in the name of the Madhhab of Salafiyya but there is the Madhhab of the Salaf as-salihin who were the Muslims of the first two Islamic centuries (i.e; the Companions, their successors and the followers of the successors) which were lauded in a Hadith sharif. The ulama of Islam who came in the third and fourth centuries are called Khalaf as-sadiqin. The i'tiqad (belief) of these honourable people is called the Madhhab of Ahl as-Sunnah wa'l Jama'ah. This is the Madhhab of Iman, tenets of faith. The Iman held by the Sahaba al-Kiram (may Allah be pleased with them all) and by the Tabi'un (Allah's mercy be upon them all) was the same. There was no difference between their beliefs. Today most Muslims in the world are in the Madhhab of Ahl as-Sunnah (i.e; most Muslim's claim to be Sunni's). All the seventy-two heretical groups (see later for the actual Hadith and its commentary) of bid'ah appeared (mainly) after the second century of Islam. Founders of some of them lived earlier, but it was after the Tabi'un that their books were written, and that they appeared in groups and defied the Ahl as-Sunnah.
Rasulullah (Peace and blessings be upon him) brought the beliefs of Ahl as-Sunnah. The Sahaba al-kiram (may Allah be pleased with them all) derived these teachings of Iman from the source (the Qur'an and Sunnah). And the Tabi'un (successors), in their turn, learned these teachings from the Sahaba al-kiram. And from them their successors learned, thus the teachings of Ahl as-Sunnah reached us by way of transmission and tawatur (through many undeniable chains of transmission). These teachings cannot be explored by way of reasoning. Intellect cannot change them and will only help understand them. That is, intellect is necessary for understanding them, for realizing that they are right and for knowing their value. All the scholars of Hadith held the beliefs of the Ahl as-Sunnah. The Imams of the four Madhhabs in deeds, too, were in this Madhhab. Also, al-Maturidi and al-Ashari (Allah's mercy be upon them), the two Imam's of our Madhhab in beliefs, were in the Madhhab of the Ahl as-Sunnah. Both of these Imams promulgated this Madhhab. They always defended this Madhhab against heretics and materialists, who had been stuck in the bogs of ancient Greek philosophy. Though they were contemporaries, they lived in different places and the ways of thinking and behaving of the offenders they had met were different, so the methods of defence used and the answers given by these two great scholars of Ahl as-Sunnah were different. But this does not mean that they belonged to different Madhhabs (rather they were both from the Ahl as-Sunnah). Hundreds of thousands of profoundly learned ulama and awliya (friends of Allah) coming after these two exalted Imams studied their books and stated in consensus that they both belonged to the Madhhab of the Ahl as-Sunnah. The scholars of the Ahl as-Sunnah took the nass (Qur'an and Sunnah) with their outward meanings. That is, they gave the ayats and Hadiths their outward meanings, and did not explain away (ta'wil) the nass or change these meanings unless there was a darura (necessity) to do so. And they never made any changes with their personal knowledge or opinions. But those who belonged to heretical groups and the la-Madhhabi (those who do not belong to one of the four Madhhabs) did not hesitate to change the teachings of Iman and Ibadat (worship) as they had learned from (the books of) Greek philosophers and from sham scientists, who were Islam's adversaries."
Let us now see what the definition of Ahl as-Sunnah wa'l Jama'ah was according to the classical scholars of this aided, Victorious sect (Tai'fatul-Mansoorah) of Islam.
(1) Shaykh al-Islam Ahmad ibn Hajar al-Haytami (d. 974/1567; R.A.)
Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-Haytami defined the Sunni Muslims as follows in his book Fath al-jawad:
"A mubtadi (innovator) is the person who does not have the faith (aqid'ah) conveyed unanimously by the Ahl as-Sunnah. This unanimity was transmitted by the two great Imam's Abu'l Hasan al-Ashari (d.324/936; Rahimahullah) and Abu Mansur al-Maturidi (d.333/944; Rahimahullah) and the scholars who followed their path." Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-Haytami also said in his book al-Fatawa al-Hadithiyya (pg. 205): "Man of bid'ah means one whose beliefs are different from the Ahl as-Sunnah faith. The Ahl as-Sunnah faith, is the faith of Abu'l Hasan al-Ashari, Abu Mansur al-Maturidi and those who followed them. One who brings forth something which is not approved by Islam becomes a man of bid'ah."
(2) Imam Ahmad Shihab ad-Din al Qalyubi (d.1069/1659; R.A.)
Imam al-Qalyubi wrote on the fourth volume of his marginalia to the book Kanz ar-raghibin:
"One who departs from what Abu'l Hasan al-Ashari and Abu Mansur al-Maturidi (Allah's mercy be upon them) reported is not a Sunni. These two Imam's followed the footprints of Rasulullah (Peace be upon him) and his Sahaba (may Allah be pleased with them all)."
(3) Imam Abdullah ibn Alawi al-Haddad (d. 1132 AH; Rahimahullah)
Imam al-Haddad stated in The Book of Assistance (pg. 40):
"You must correct and protect your beliefs and conform to the pattern of the party of salvation, who are those known from among the other Islamic factions as the "People of the Sunnah and Jama'ah" (Ahl as-Sunnah wa'l Jama'ah). They are those who firmly adhere to the way of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him), and of his Companions (may Allah be pleased with them all).
If you look with a sound understanding into those passages relating to the sciences of faith in the Book (Qur'an), the Sunnah, and the saying of the virtuous predecessors, whether they be Companions or followers, you will know for certain that the truth is with the party called the Ashari (NB-the Maturidi's are also upon the truth), named after the Shaykh Abu'l Hasan al-Ashari, may Allah have mercy on him, who systematized the foundations of the creed of the people of the truth, and recorded its earliest versions, these being the beliefs with the Companions and the best among the followers agreed upon."
(4) Imam Abdal Ghani an-Nablusi (d. 1143/1733; Rahimahullah)
Imam an-Nablusi stated in his book al-Hadiqat an-Nadiyya (vol. 2, pg. 103):
"Jama'ah is rahma, that is, the union of Muslims on truth brings Allahu ta'ala's Compassion. Tafriqa is adhab, that is, separation from the Community of Muslims brings about punishment from Allahu ta'ala. Hence, it is necessary for every Muslim to unite with those who are on the right path. He must join and believe like them even if they are only a small group. The right path is the path of as-Sahaba al-Kiram. Those who follow this path are called Ahl as-Sunnah Wa'l Jama'ah. It should not confuse us that many heretical groups appeared after the time of as-Sahaba al-Kiram. Al-Imam al-Bayhaqi (d. 458/1066; Rahimahullah) said, 'When Muslims go astray, you should follow the right path of those who came before them! You should not give up that path even if you are left alone on the path!' Najm ad-Din al-Ghazzi (d. 1061/1651; Rahimahullah) wrote: 'Ahl as-Sunnah Wa'l Jama'ah are those ulama who keep on the right path of Rasullullah (Peace and blessings be upon him) and as-Sahaba al-Kiram. As-Sawad al-Azam, that is, the majority of Islamic scholars, have followed this right path. The Firqatun-Naajiyyah which was defined to be the group of salvation among the seventy three groups is this true Jama'ah.' The Qur'an al-Karim declares, 'Do not disunite!' This ayat means 'Do not disunite in i'tiqad, in the teachings of beliefs!' Most ulama, for example, Abdullah ibn Masood (may Allah be pleased with him), interpreted this ayat as above and said that it meant, 'Do not deviate from the right path by following your desires and corrupt ideas.' This ayat does not mean that there should be no disagreement in the knowledge of fiqh. It forbids separation which causes discord and dissension in the knowledge of i'tiqad (see Imam al-Qurtubi's opinion later). The disagreement in the knowledge (of fiqh) derived through ijtihad in the field of practices (amal) is not a discord, because such disagreement has brought to sight the rights, the fards and the subtle teachings in amal and Ibadah (worship). As-Sahaba al-kiram (Allah be pleased with them all), too, differed from one another in those teachings that explained the daily life, but there was no disagreement among them in the knowledge of i'tiqad."
(5) Allamah Sayyid Ahmad at-Tahtawi (d. 1231/1816; Rahimahullah)
Allamah Sayyid Ahmad at-Tahtawi, a great Hanafi fiqh scholar of Egypt, wrote on the subject of 'Zabayih' in his Hashiya al-Durr al-Mukhtar:
"According to the majority of scholars of tafsir, the ayat, 'They parted into groups in the religion,' referred to the people of bid'ah who would arise in this Ummah. In a Hadith reported by Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), Rasulullah (Peace and blessings be upon him) said to Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her), 'The ayat about the partitions into groups in the religion refers to the people of bid'ah and to the followers of their nafs who would arise in this Ummah.' Allah declared in the 153rd ayat of Surah Al-An'am, 'This is My Straight path, so follow it! Follow not other ways, lest you be parted from His way!' (that is, Jews, Christians, and other heretics departed from the right path; you should not part like them!). In the 103rd ayat of Surah Al-Imran, Allah declares, 'And hold fast, all of you together, to the rope of Allah, and do not separate!' (see later for a brief commentary). Some scholars of tafsir said that Allah's rope meant Jama'ah, unity. The command, 'Do not separate', shows that it is so and the Jama'ah are the possessors of fiqh and ilm (knowledge). One who descents from fuqaha (scholars of fiqh) as much as a span falls into heresy, becomes deprived of Allah's help and deserves Hell, because the fuqaha have been on the right path and have held on to the Sunnah of Rasulullah (Peace and blessings be upon him) and on to the path of al-Khulafa ar-Rashideen, the Four Khaliphs (may Allah be pleased with them). As-Sawad al-Azam, that is, the majority of the Muslims, are on the path of fuqaha. Those who depart from their path will burn in the fire of Hell. O believers! Follow the unique group which is protected against Hell! And this group is the one that is called Ahl as-Sunnah Wa'l Jama'ah. For, Allah's help, protection and guidance are for the followers of this group, and His wrath and punishment are for those who dissent from this group. Today, this group of salvation comes together in the Four Madhhabs, namely the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i, and Hanbali."
It is very important to have unity in the Ummah, and to achieve this goal of unity it is incumbent that the whole Ummah has the correct and preserved aqidah of the Salaf as-salihin (may Allah be pleased with them all); since Allah will no doubt ask us about our aqidah if it is not in conformity with the divine revelation and what his Messenger (Peace and blessings be upon him) transmitted to us. The way of the Salaf as-salihin is the way of the saved sect of the Ahl as-Sunnah wa'l Jama'ah. And we should all know that the Jama'ah is the sect which has the most correct and united aqid'ah out of all other Jama'ahs. To know what is the real Jama'ah, one must look into the Qur'an and Hadith for evidence. If one was to look deeply in to this matter with an open and scholarly mind, one will come to the conclusion that this great Jama'ah is the one which is composed of the foremost scholars of Qur'anic commentary, Hadith, fiqh and other Islamic sciences; it is no doubt the Jama'ah which has had the greatest following throughout Islamic history in terms of scholars and laity, and this alone is the main body of Islam which represents the views of the great mass of believers (as-Sawad al-Azam) as we shall see from the Hadith evidence below. Let us now see what Allah ta'ala has said about unity and schism in the Holy Qur'an.

Qur'anic Evidence
(1) Surah al-Imran (3:103):
"And hold fast, all of you together, to the rope of Allah and be not divided."
Imam Sayf ad-Din al-Amidi (d. 631/1233; Rahimahullah) said in his al-Ihkam fi usul al-ahkam (The proficiency: on the fundamentals of legal rulings, pg. 295) with regard to the above Qur'anic verse:
"Allah has forbidden separation, and disagreement with consensus (ijma) is separation."
Hence, if Allah has forbidden separation then surely we must all unite on the unanimously accepted aqid'ah of our pious predecessors. And I have already quoted Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-Haytami (Rahimahullah) as saying: "This unanimity (in aqidah) was transmitted by the two great Imam's Abu'l Hasan al-Ashari and Abu Mansur al-Maturidi (Allah's mercy be upon them) and the scholars who followed their path."
Mahmoud Ayoub wrote in The Qur'an and Its Interpreters (vol. II, 275-6):
"Ibn Kathir (d. 774/1373; Rahimahullah) interprets the 'rope of God' in verse 103 as 'The covenant of God,' citing in support of this interpretation verse 112 below (in Surah al-Imran). Another view, he adds, is that 'The rope of God' here refers to the Qur'an, as reported on the authority of Ali (Allah be pleased with him) who said that 'The Qur'an is God's strong rope and the straight way.' He cites another Hadith, on the authority of Abu Sa'id al-Khudri (Allah be pleased with him), where the Prophet (Peace be upon him) declared, 'The book of God is God's rope stretched from heaven to earth.' Abd Allah ibn Mas'ud (Allah be pleased with him) reported -that the Messenger of God (Peace be upon him) said, 'Surely this Qur'an is God's strong rope, manifest light, and beneficial source of healing. It is protection for those who hold fast to it, and a means of salvation for those who abide by it.'
Ibn Kathir interprets the injunction, 'and do not be divided' to mean strict adherence to unity among Muslims. He reports on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said, 'God will be pleased with three acts from you, and wrathful with three others. He wishes that you worship Him alone without associating any thing with Him; that you hold fast all together to the rope of God and be not divided; and that you show loyalty to those whom God has set in authority.' (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, II, pp. 83-4)
Qurtubi (d. 671/1273; Rahimahullah) agrees with Tabari (d. 923 CE; Rahimahullah) and Ibn Kathir regarding the meaning of 'the rope of God' in verse 103. He cites with approval the famous traditionist Ibn al-Mubarak (d. 181/797; Rahimahullah) who said, 'Surely unity is God's rope; therefore hold fast all together to 'its firm handle' (see Qur'an 2:256).' Qurtubi adds that 'God enjoins concord and forbids dissension, for in disunity is perdition, and in unity salvation.'
Qurtubi offers two possible interpretations of the phrase 'And be not divided':
'Be not divided in your religion as were the Jews and Christians divided in their religions' and 'Be not divided in following different false opinions and purposes. Rather, be brothers in God's religion.'
As a jurist, Qurtubi observes that, 'There is no indication in this verse of the prohibition of disagreement in the branches (furu') [of fiqh] as this in reality is not dissension. This is because true dissention is one wherein concord and unity become virtually impossible. As for disagreement in judgements based on personal effort (ijtihad), it is due to differences in deducing obligations (fara'id) and the minutiae of law.' On page 279, Imam al-Razi (d. 606/1210; Rahimahullah) was quoted as saying in conclusion to his commentary on the above ayat:
'If a person going down into a well must hold fast to a rope in order that he may not fall in, so also the Book of God, His covenant, religion and obedience to Him, as well as unity and harmony among the people of faith are means of security for anyone who holds fast to them from falling into the bottom of Hell.'"
(2) Surah al-Imran (3:105):
"And be not like those who separated and disputed after the clear proofs had come unto them: For such there is an awful doom."
(3) Surah al-Imran (3:110):
"Ye are the best community that has been raised up for mankind. Ye enjoin the good and forbid the evil; and ye believe in Allah"
(4) Surah Al-An'am (6:159):
"As for those who divide their religion and break up into sects, thou has no part in them in the least: Their affair is with Allah: He will in the end tell them the truth of all that they did."
(5) Surah Al-Mu'minun (23:52-53):
"And verily this Ummah of yours is a single Ummah and I am your Lord, so keep your duty unto Me. But they have broken their religion among them into sects, each sect rejoicing in its tenets."
(6) Surah Al-Rum (30:32):
"Those who split up their Religion, and become Sects, each sect exulting in its tenets."
(7) Surah Al-Nisa (4:115):
"He that disobeys the Apostle (Muhammad) after guidance has been made clear to him and follows a way other than that of the believers, We appoint for him that unto which he himself hath turned, and expose him unto Hell - a hapless journey's end!"
(8) Surah Al-An'am (6:153):
"This is My Straight path, so follow it. Follow not other ways, lest ye be parted from His way. This has he ordained for you, that ye may ward off (evil)."

Hadith Evidence
(1) Imam Abu Dawood (Rahimahullah) has quoted the well known Hadith concerning the division of the Muslim Ummah into seventy-three sects in his Sunan (3/4580, English edn):
Abu Amir al-Hawdhani said, "Mu'awiyah ibn Abi Sufyan (may Allah be pleased with him) stood among us and said, 'Beware! The Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) stood among us and said': 'Beware! The People of the Book before (you) were split up into 72 sects, and this community will be split up into 73, seventy-two of them will go to Hell and one of them will go to Paradise, and it is the majority group (Jama'ah).'
Another version of the above Hadith has been reported by Hafiz Ibn Kathir (Rahimahullah) in The signs before the day of Judgement (pg. 14):
"Awf ibn Malik reported that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said, 'The Jews split into 71 sects: one will enter Paradise and 70 will enter Hell. The Christians split into 72 sects: 71 will enter Hell and one will enter Paradise. By Him in Whose hand is my soul, my Ummah will split into 73 sects: one will enter Paradise and 72 will enter Hell.' Someone asked, 'O Messenger ofAllah (Peace be upon him), who will they be?' He replied, 'The main body of the Muslims (al-Jama'ah).' Awf ibn Malik is the only one who reported this Hadith, and its isnad is acceptable." And in another version of this Hadith the Prophet (Peace be upon him) goes onto say that the saved sect, "...Are those who follow my and my Sahaba's path" (Tirmidhi, vol. 2, pg. 89)
Shaykh al-Islam Ahmad al-Sirhindi (d. 1034/1624; Rahimahullah) who is regarded by many people in the Indian sub-continent as a great renovator of the Tenth Islamic Century (Mujaddid alf Thani) wrote in his Maktubat (Vol. 3, Letter 38):

"It was declared in a Hadith that this Ummah would part into 73 groups, 72 of which would go to Hell. This Hadith informs us that the 72 groups will be tormented in the Fire of Hell. It does not inform us that they will remain in torment eternally. Remaining in the torment of Hell Fire eternally is for those who do not have Iman. That is, it is for disbelievers. The 72 groups, on account of their corrupt beliefs, will go to Hell and will burn as much as the corruptness of their beliefs. One group, the 73rd, will be saved from Hell Fire because their belief is not corrupt. If among the members of this one group there are those who committed evil deeds and if these evil deeds of theirs have not been forgiven through repentance or intercession, it is possible that these, too, will burn in Hell as much as their sins. All of those who are in the 72 groups will go to Hell. But none of them will remain in Hell eternally. Not all of those who are in this one group will go to Hell. Of these only those who have committed evil deeds will go to Hell. The 72 reported groups of bid'ah, which will go to Hell, should not be called disbelievers, because they are Ahl al-Qibla (people of the Qibla in prayer). But, of these, the ones who disbelieve those facts in the Deen that are indispensably required to be believed, as well as those who deny the rules of the Shari'ah which every Muslim has heard and knows, become disbelievers."
In another letter (vol. 1, letter 80) he said:
"There is no doubt whatsoever that the sect that made conforming to the conduct of the Prophet's Companions (may Allah be pleased with them all) necessary, that alone is the Ahl as Sunnah wa'l Jama'ah."
Shaykh Abdal Qadir al-Jilani (d. 561/1166; Rahimahullah) stated in his commentary to the above Hadith in Ghunyat at-Talibin (pg. 90),
"The Believer should adapt himself to the Sunnah and to the Jama'ah. The Sunnah is the way shown by Rasulullah (Peace be upon him). The Jama'ah is composed of the things done unanimously by the Sahaba al-Kiram who lived in the time of the four caliphs called Khulafa' ar-Rashidin (and others in their path). A Muslim must prevent the multiplication of the men of bid'ah and keep away from them, and should not greet them (as given in many Hadith on this issue). Ahmad ibn Hanbal (rahimahullah), the Imam of our Madhhab, said that greeting a man of bid'ah meant loving him since it had been declared in a Hadith, 'Disseminate (your) greeting (salaam)! Love one another in this way!" He also said (pg. 143): "The title, Ahl as-Sunnah, which the innovators have expressed for themselves is not appropriate for them."

Although Ibn Taymiyya was accused of holding certain corrupt points in his aqid'ah, which led so many scholars to denounce him for his heresy, he never the less hit the right point when he described those who are the real Sunni's in his Aqeedat-il-Wasitiyyah (pg. 154):
" Their creed is the religion of Islam which was sent to the world by Allah through the Prophet (Peace be upon him). But the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said, 'My Ummah will get divided into 73 sects and each one will go to Hell save one and that one is the Jama'at.' Also in one Hadith he said, 'They are those people who will follow this path which I and my Sahaba follow today.' Therefore they have caught hold of Islam unalloyed from every adulteration and these are the people of Ahl as-Sunnah Wa'l Jama'ah. This group includes the truthful, the martyrs and the virtuous; it includes the minarets of guidance, lamps in the darkness and owners of such superiorities and virtues who have been already mentioned. It includes the saints and also those Imams on whose guidance Muslims are unanimous. It is this successful group about which the Prophet (Peace be upon him) has said: 'One group from my Ummah will always remain dominant with truth; the opponents will never be able to harm its members or afflict them upto the Doomsday.'"

(2) Imam Muslim (Rahimahullah) has collected a number of variant Hadith on the saved sect. He has related a longer version of the last Hadith quoted above:
"Abdal Rahman ibn Shamasa al-Mahri said: 'I was in the company of Maslama bin Mukhallad and Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-Aas (may Allah be pleased with them).' Abdullah said, 'The Hour shall come only when the worst type of people are left on the earth. They will be worse than the people of pre-Islamic days. They will get what ever they ask of Allah.' While we were sitting Uqba ibn Amir came, and Maslama said to him, 'Uqba, listen to what Abdullah says.' Uqba said, 'He knows, so far as I am concerned, I heard the Prophet (Peace be upon him) say: A group of people from my Ummah will continue to fight in obedience to the Command of Allah, remaining dominant over their enemies. Those who will opose them shall not do them any harm. They will remain in this condition until the Hour over takes them.' (At this) Abdullah said, 'Yes. Then Allah will raise a wind which will be fragrant like musk and whose touch will be like the touch of silk; (but) it will cause the death of all (faithful) persons, not leaving behind a single person with an iota of faith in his heart. Then only the worst of men will remain to be overwhelmed by the Hour.'" (Sahih Muslim, 3/4721, English ed'n, see also Sahih al-Bukhari, 9/414, English ed'n)
Imam Nawawi (d. 676/1277, Rahimahullah) said in his Sharh Muslim (vol. 2, pg. 143):
"The group of people (mentioned in the above Hadith) consists of scholars, jurisprudents, authorities on Hadith, those who enjoin Good (Maroof) and forbid Evil (Munkar) and all such persons who do good deeds. Such righteous persons may be found spread all over the world."
Imam al-Tirmidhi (Rahimahullah) said:
"The explanation of al-Jama'ah according to the people of knowledge: They are the people of fiqh, knowledge and Hadith." (Sunan al-Tirmidhi, 4/2167; Ahmad Shakir ed'n)
Imam Bukhari (Rahimahullah) stated in his Sahih (vol. 9, chapter. 10, English ed'n),
"The statement of the Prophet (Peace be upon him): 'A group of my followers will remain victorious in their struggle in the cause of the Truth.' Those are the religious(ly) learned men (Ahl ul-Ilm)."
Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (Rahimahullah) said about this group:
"If it is not the people of Hadith, then I do not know who they may be." (Sahih Muslim Sharif-Mukhtasar Sharh Nawawi, vol. 5, pg. 183, W. Zaman)
Qadi Iyad (Rahimahullah) said in ash-Shifa (pg. 188):
"In a Hadith from Abu Umama (Allah be pleased with him), the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said, `A group of my community will remain constant to the truth, conquering their enemy until the command of Allah comes to them while they are still in that condition.' He was asked, 'Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him), where are they?' He replied, `In Jerusalem.'"
(3) Imam Muslim (Rahimahullah) has related in his Sahih (3/4553) under the chapter heading 'Instruction to stick to the main body of the Muslims in the time of the trials and warning against those inviting people to disbelief', a Hadith on the authority of Hudhaifa ibn al-Yaman (Allah be pleased with him), who said:
"People used to ask the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) about the good times, but I used to ask him about (the) bad times fearing lest they overtake me. I said, 'Messenger of Allah, we were in the midst of ignorance and evil, and then God brought us this good (time through Islam). Is there any bad time after this good one?' He said, 'Yes'. I asked, 'Will there be a good time again after that bad time?' He said, 'Yes, but therein will be a hidden evil.' I asked, 'What will be the evil hidden therein?' He said, '(That time will witness the rise of) the people who will adopt ways other than mine and seek guidance other than mine. You will know good points as well as bad points.' I asked, 'Will there be a bad time after this good one?' He said, 'Yes. (A time will come) when there will be people standing and inviting at the gates of Hell. Whoso responds to their call, they will throw them into the fire.' I said, 'Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him), describe them for us.' He said, 'All right. They will be a people having the same complexion as ours and speaking our language.' I said, `Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him), what do you suggest if I happen to live in their time?' He said, 'You should stick to the main body of the Muslims and their leader' I said, 'If they have no (such thing as the) main body of the Muslims and have no leader?' He said, 'Separate yourself from all these factions, though you may have to eat the roots of trees until death comes to you and you are in this state.'"
(NB-It is not likely that there will be an absence of a Jama'ah, since I have already quoted the Prophet, peace be upon him, as saying: 'A group of people from my Ummah will continue to fight in obedience to the command of Allah, remaining dominant over their enemies. Those who will oppose them shall not do them any harm. They will remain in this condition until the Hour overtakes them.')
(4) Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) reported the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) as saying:
"Who (ever) defected from the obedience (to the Amir) and separated from the main body of the Muslims - then he died in that state - would die the death of one belonging to the days of Jahiliyya (pre-Islamic ignorance). And he who is killed under the banner of a man who is blind (to the cause for which he is fighting), who gets flared up with family pride and fights for his tribe - is not from my Ummah, and whoso from my followers attacks my followers (indiscriminately) killing the righteous and the wicked of them, sparing not (even) those staunch in faith and fulfilling not his obligation towards them who have been given a pledge (of security), is not from me." (Sahih Muslim, 3/4557 & 4555; English ed'n)
Imam al-Bayhaqi (d. 458/1066; Rahimahullah) stated in his: The Seventy-Seven Branches of Faith (pg. 42-3), under the fiftieth branch of faith (50 - Holding firmly to the position of the majority): "God Most High has said: Hold fast, all together, to the rope of God, and do not be disunited. [3:103]. Muslim (Rahimahullah) relates on the authority of Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said, 'Whoever is disobedient, and departs from the majority, and then dies, has died in a state of Jahiliyya.' He also relates the following Hadith on the authority of Ibn Shurayh (Allah be pleased with him): 'After I am gone, there will come days of corruption and turmoil. When you see people damaging the unity of the Community of Muhammad (Peace be upon him), you must fight them, whoever they may happen to be.'
Abdal Hakim Murad (the translator of the above book) said in the footnote to the fiftieth branch of faith: 'Orthodoxy in Islam is defined as the doctrine of ahl al-sunna wa'l jama'a, the People of the Sunna and the Community. To know whether a doctrine or practise is orthodox or heretical, the Muslim is required to find out whether it is recognised by the majority of Muslim scholars (see later for Imam al-Munawi's commentary). Thus even without looking into their theology, he will know that sects such as the Isma'ilis, the Khariji's, the Wahhabi's, the Twelver Shi'a and others (not to mention anti-Islamic groupings such as the Ahmadiya and the Bahais) are to be repudiated.'"
(5) Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) reported the Prophet (Peace be upon him) as saying:
"One who found in his Amir (the ruler of the true Islamic state; which is absent today) something which he disliked should hold his patience, for one who separated from the main body of the Muslims even to the extent of a handspan and then he died, would die the death of one belonging to the days of Jahiliyya." (Sahih Muslim, 3/4559; English ed'n & Sahih al-Bukhari, 9/257; English ed'n)
(6) Imam's Ahmad and Abu Dawood (Allah's mercy be upon them) said that Abu Dharr (Allah be pleased with him) reported the Prophet (Peace be upon him) as saying:
"He who separates from the main body (of the Ummah) by even a hand's breadth from the Community he throws off Islam from his neck." (Mishkat-ul-Masabih, 1/185 & Sunan Abu Dawood, 3/4740)
NB-The following five Hadith have been mentioned by the great scholar of Hadith, Hafiz Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Jawzi (d. 597/1201; Rahimahullah) in his Talbis Iblis (section entitled: Adherence to the Sunnah and Jama'ah). A section of the above work has been translated by Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips in to English, under the title: The Devil's Deception of the Shee'ah (pp. 4-5). Bilal Philips has put footnotes to the five Hadith that I will be quoting below (to declare some of the Hadith to be Da'eef), but one thing that should be mentioned is that he has mainly relied upon al-Albani's classification of the Hadiths in question; hence these 'classifications' of al-Albani need re-verifying! I say this because it is a well known fact that Hafiz Ibn al-Jawzi was noted for his exceptional stringency in accepting Hadith, and he has been known to have declared some of the Hadith in Bukhari/Muslim to be Da'eef, as well as declaring some sound Hadith to be fabricated! Nevertheless, I would like to make it clear to those readers who are unaware of the status of Bilal Philips, that he has heavily depended on the classifications of al-Albani in most of his books! If the esteemed reader is convinced that the errors of al-Albani are most apparent, then one should beware of the status of those Hadiths that have been used by Bilal Philips (on account of his accepting al-Albani's classifications). Bilal Philips seems to be a leading critic of Taqleed who has been swept away by the tide of modern day "Salafiyyism"; and it seems that he has 'blindly' accepted the classifications of al-Albani without himself reverifying al-Albani's classifications! I ask you, is this not a clear cut example of Taqleed? If it has been proven that al-Albani's classifications are unreliable, would it not be just for Bilal Philips to re-verify all the Hadiths that have been authenticated by al-Albani and correct any misclassifications in his books? Allah know's best.
(7) 'Umar (Allah be pleased with him) reported that on one occasion Allah's Messenger (Peace and blessings be upon him) stood up among them and said, "Whoever among you desires the centre of paradise should keep close to the Jama'ah for the Devil closely accompanies the solitary individual and is more distant from two." (Collected by Imam Tirmidhi)
(8) And 'Arfajah (Allah be pleased with him) reported (Allah's Messenger, peace be upon him, as saying): "that Allah's hand is over the Jama'ah and the Devil is with whoever deviates from the Jama'ah." (Collected by Imam al-Tabarani)
(9) 'Abdullah ibn Masood (Allah be pleased with him) reported that once Allah's Messenger (Peace be upon him) drew a line in the dust with his hand and said, "This is the straight path of Allah." Then he drew a series of lines to the right of it and to the left and said, "Each of these paths has a devil at its head inviting people to it." He then recited (Qur'an 6:153), "Verily this is my straight path so follow it and do not follow the (twisted) paths." (Collected by Ahmad, Nisai and Darimi; see Mishkat ul-Masabih, 1/166)
(10) Mu'adh ibn Jabal (Allah be pleased with him) reported that Allah's Messenger (Peace be upon him) said, "The Devil is like a wolf among humans as a wolf is among sheep; it snatches the stray sheep. So beware of the paths which branch off and adhere to the Jama'ah, the masses and the masjid." (Collected by Imam Ahmad; NB- The version given in Mishkat, 1/184, also on the authority of Imam Ahmad does not have the addition 'the masses and the masjid.')
(11) And Abu Dharr (Allah be pleased with him) reported from the Prophet (Peace be upon him) that, "Two are better than one, and three better than two; so stick to the Jama'ah for verily Allah, Most Great and Glorious, will only unite my nation on guidance." (Collected by Ahmad)
(12) Al-Harith al-Ashari (Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) said:
"I bid you to do five things: to remain attached to the main body (Jama'ah of Muslims), listen to your ruler (the Khalif of the Islamic state) and obey him, and migrate, and fight in the way of Allah. And he who detaches himself from the main body of the Muslims (Jama'ah) to the extent of one span of hand, he in fact, throws off the yoke of Islam from his neck, and he who calls with the call of ignorance, he is one from the denizens of Hell beyond doubt, even if he observes fast and says prayers and considers himself as a Muslim." (Musnad Ahmad, vide: Selection from Hadith, no. 288; by A.H. Siddique)
(13) Ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah's Messenger (Peace be upon him) as saying:
"Follow the great mass (as-Sawad al-Azam) for he who kept himself away from it, in fact would be thrown in Hell Fire." (Ibn Majah; vide: Mishkat, 1/174, by A.H. Siddiqui).
The translator of Mishkat-ul-Masabih (A.H. Siddiqui, pg. 113) said in the footnote to the last Hadith:
"There is a good deal of difference of opinion as to what the term Sawad al-Azam implies. The overwhelming majority of the scholars are of the view that As-Sawad al-Azam means the largest group of the learned scholars and pious persons whose opinions are held in high esteem in Islam."
(14) Imam al-Shafi'i (Rahimahullah) said in his Risala (pg. 252-3):
"Sufyan (ibn Uyayna) told us from Abd al-Malik ibn Umayr from Abd al-Rahman ibn Abd Allah ibn Masood from his father, that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said, `God will grant prosperity to His servant who hears my words, remembers them, guards them, and hands them on. Many a transmitter of law is no lawyer (faqih) himself, and many may transmit law to others who are more versed in the law than they. The heart of a Muslim shall never harbour vindictive feelings against three: sincerity in working for God; faithfulness to Muslims; and conformity to the community of believers (Jama'ah) - their call shall protect (the believers) and guard them from (the Devil's) delusion.'" (vide: Sunan al-Darimi, vol. 1, pp. 74-6; Ibn Hanbal, vol. 6, pg. 96; Musnad al-Shafi'i, vol. 1, pg. 16; Mishkat-ul-Masabih, 1/228; and al-Bayhaqi in his al-Madkhal). Imam al-Shafi'i said (pg. 253): "The Apostle's (Peace be upon him) order that men should follow the Muslim community is a proof that the ijma (consensus) of the Muslims is binding."
(15) Imam al-Shafi'i (Rahimahullah) stated in al-Risala (pg. 286-7):
"And Sufyan (also) told us from `Abd Allah ibn Abi Labid from `Abd Allah ibn Sulayman ibn Yasar from his father, who said: `Umar ibn al-Khattab (Allah be pleased with him) made a speech at al-Jabiya in which he said: The Apostle of God (Peace be upon him) stood among us by an order from God, as I am now standing among you, and said: Believe my Companions, then those who succeed them (the Successors), and after that those who succeed the Successors; but after them untruthfulness will prevail when people will swear (in support of their saying) without having been asked to swear, and will testify without having been asked to testify. Only those who seek the pleasure of Paradise will follow the community, for the devil can pursue one person, but stands far away from two. Let no man be alone with a woman, for the devil will be third among them. He who is happy with his right (behaviour), or unhappy with his wrong behaviour, is a (true) believer.'" (see also Musnad al-Shafi'i, vol. 2, pg. 187; and Ibn Hanbal, vol. 1, pg. 112-13, 176-81).
Imam al-Shafi'i said in conclusion to this Hadith:
"He who holds what the Muslim community (Jama'ah) holds shall be regarded as following the community, and he who holds differently shall be regarded as opposing the community he was ordered to follow. So the error comes from separation; but in the community as a whole there is no error concerning the meaning of the Qur'an, the Sunnah, and analogy (qiyas)."
(16) Imam Hakim (1/116) has related a Sahih Hadith from the Prophet (Peace be upon him) in the following words: "My Ummah shall not agree upon error."
(17) Imam al-Tirmidhi (4/2167) reported on the authority of Ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), who said: "Verily my Ummah would not agree (or he said the Ummah of Muhammad) would not agree upon error and Allah's hand is over the group and whoever dissents from them departs to Hell." (see also Mishkat, 1/173)
Imam al-Azizi (d. 1070/1660; Rahimahullah) quoted Imam al-Munawi's (d. 1031/1622; Rahimahullah) commentary to the last Hadith in his al-Siraj al-munir sharh al-Jami al-saghir (3.449), as follows:- Allah's hand is over the group
(al-Azizi): Munawi says, "Meaning his protection and preservation of them, signifying that the collectivity of the people of Islam are in Allah's fold, so be also in Allah's shelter, in the midst of them, and do not separate yourselves from them." The rest of the Hadith, according to the one who first recorded it (Tirmidhi), is:-
and whoever descents from them departs to hell.
Meaning that whoever diverges from the overwhelming majority concerning what is lawful or unlawful and on which the Community does not differ has slipped off the path of guidance and this will lead him to hell." (vide: The Reliance of the Traveller, pg. 25)

The Ash'ari School
________________________________________
The following is a defence of the Ash'ari school by one of the foremost scholars of Hadith and Fiqh in Makkah at the moment - Shaikh Sayyid Muhammad Alawi al-Maliki al-Makki.

Shaykh Muhammad 'Alawi Maliki: "Many sons/daughters of Muslims are ignorant of the Ash'ari School, whom it represents, and its positions on the tenets of the Islamic faith (aqidah), and yet some of them are not God-fearing enough to refrain from accusing it of deviance, departure from the religion of Islam, and heresy about the attributes of Allah. The ignorance of the Ash'ari school is a cause of rendering the unity of the Ahl al-Sunnah dispersing its ranks. Some have gone as far as to consider the Ash'aris among the categories of heretical sects, though it is beyond me how believers can be linked with misbelievers, or how Sunni Muslims can be considered equal with the most extreme faction of the Mu'tazilites, the Jahmites.
"Shall We deal with Muslims as We do criminals? How is it that you judge?" [Qur'an 68:35-36]
The Ash'aris are the Imams of the distinguished figures of guidance among the scholars of the Muslims, whose knowledge has filled the world from east to west, and whom people have unanimously concurred upon their excellence, scholarship, and religiousness. They include the first rank of Sunni scholars and the most brilliant of their luminaries, who stood in the face of the excesses commited by the Mu'tazilites, and who constitute whole sections of the foremost Imams of Hadith, Sacred Law, Quranic exegesis. Shaykh al-Islam Ahmad ibn Hajar 'Asqalani (d. 852/1449; Rahimullah), the mentor of Hadith scholars and author of the book "Fath al-Bari bi sharh Sahih al-Bukhari", which not a single Islamic scholar can dispense with, was Ash'ari. The shaykh of the scholars of Sunni Islam, Imam Nawawi (d. 676/1277; Rahimullah), author of "Sharh Sahih Muslim" and many other famous works, was Ash'ari. The master of Qur'anic exegetes, Imam Qurtubi (d. 671/1273; Rahimullah), author of "al-Jami' li ahkan al-Qur'an", was Ash'ari. Shaykh al-Islam ibn Hajar Haytami (d. 974/1567; Rahimullah), who wrote "al-Zawajir 'an iqtiraf al-kaba'ir", was Ash'ari. The Shaykh of Sacred Law and Hadith, the conclusive definitive Zakariyya Ansari (d. 926/1520; Rahimullah), was Ash'ari. Imam Abu Bakr Baqillani (d. 403/1013; Rahimullah), Imam 'Asqalani; Imam Nasafi (d. 710/1310; Rahimullah); Imam Shirbini (d. 977/1570; Rahimullah); Abu Hayyan Tawhidi, author of the Qur'anic commentary "al-Bahr al-muhit"; Imam ibn Juzayy (d. 741/1340; Rahimullah); author of "al-Tashil fi 'ulum al-Tanzil"; and others - all of these were Imams of the Ash'aris. If we wanted to name all of the top scholars of Hadith, Qur'anic exegesis, and Sacred Law who were Imams of the Ash'aris, we would be hard put to do so and would require volumes merely to list these illustrious figures whose wisdom has filled the earth from east to west. And it is incumbent upon us to give credit where credit is due, recognising the merit of those of knowledge and virtue who have served the Sacred Law of the Greatest Messengers (Allah bless him and grant him peace). What good is to be hoped for us if we impugn our foremost scholars and righteous forbearers with charges of aberrancy and misguidance? Or how should Allah give us the benefit of their scholarship if we believe it is deviance and departure from the way of Islam? I ask you, is there a single Islamic scholar of the present day, among all the PhD.'s and geniuses, who has done what Ibn Hajar 'Asqalani or Imam Nawawi have, of the service rendered by these two noble Imams (May Allah enfold them in His mercy and bliss) to the pure Prophetic Sunnah? How should we charge them and all Ash'aris with abberancy when it is we who are in need of their scholarship? Or how can we take knowledge from them if they were in error? For as Imam Zuhri (d. 124/742; rahimullah) says, "This knowledge is religion, so look well to whom you are taking your religion from."
Is it not sufficient for someone opposed to the Ash'aris to say, "Allah have mercy on them, they used reasoning (ijtihad) in figuratively interpreting the divine attributes, which it would have been fitter for them not to do"; instead of accusing them of deviance and misguidance, or displaying anger towards whoever considers them to be of the Sunni Community? If Imams Nawawi, 'Asqalani, Qurtubi, Baqillani, al-Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, Haytami, Zakariyyah Ansari, and many others were not among the most brilliant scholars and illustrious geniuses, or of the Sunni Community, then who are the Sunnis?
I sincerely entreat all who call others to this religion or who work in the field of propagating Islam to fear Allah respecting the honour of the Community of Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace) is possessed of goodness until the Final Hour, we are bereft of any if we fail to acknowledge the worth and excellence of our learned."
In conclusion, the Ahl al-Sunnah wa'l Jama'ah are the true followers of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and his Companions (Allah be pleased with them all), followed by by those who trod their path for the last 1400 years. It is in summary the followers of Imam Abu'l Hasan al-Ash'ari (Rahimullah) and Imam Abu Mansur al-Maturidi (Rahimullah) in Aqeedah, and this saved sect is represented by the adherents of one of the four schools - Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i and Hanbali today. This is the sect which has had the largest following throughout Islamic history (as-Sawad al-Az'am) as confirmed by the Qur'anic and Ahadith based evidence and it will remain dominant until the Hour is established, inshaAllah.
Al-Albani Unveiled
Conclusion and Bibliography
________________________________________
By the will of Allah, it has been proven without a shadow of doubt that al-Albani has fallen into the abyss of contradictions, errors, misquotes and so on. Whether these blunders of his are due to a weak memory gained through old age, or otherwise, Allah alone knows best! We know that al-Albani sincerely admits on some occasions his errors in the classification of Hadith; and this is praiseworthy. For example, he admitted in Sifah salah an-Nabee (pg. 28, footnote 1) about the classification of a particular Hadith: "I used to declare this hadeeth hasan (good) in previous works, until I realised that I had been mistaken, because this hadeeth depends on Hanzalah al-Dawsi, who is da'eef, and I do not know how this was unknown to me; maybe I thought he was someone else. Anyway, praise is due to Allah who guided me to recognise my mistake, and that is why I hurried to correct it in print..."
As far as I know at the time of writing this short exposition, al-Albani has not taken much heed to correct his errors let alone make aware to his readership his mistakes - as well as their necessary rectifications. I say this because even at the time of writing, his supporters in England are still quoting his "authentications" of Hadith in various books that have been translated into English. I have noticed quite surprisingly that most of his followers are still oblivious of the fact that Shaykh Saqqaf has publicised al-Albani's errors; even though Shaykh Saqqaf's books have been available in Jordan (and other countries) for more than two years!
I sincerely entreat all serious seekers of the truth to beware of al-Albani's "classifications", "fatwa's" and his extreme revilement towards the scholars and laity within the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence. This no doubt applies most strongly to those brothers and sisters who may have wholeheartedly relied on al-Albani's classifications of Hadith by way of Taqleed; in their quest to adhere to the authentic Sunnah. It is always possible for criticism to be made by a group of people whose understanding is inadequate and who lack sufficient knowledge. But: "How many there are who find fault with a sound statement, while their trouble is due to faulty understanding!" We should all take heed of the Ayat: "Nay, but those who do wrong follow their own lusts without knowledge. Who is able to guide him whom Allah has sent astray? For such there are no helpers. (Qur'an 30: 29)
And my last word on this subject are in the words of Imam Muhammad ibn Sirin (d. 110 AH; Rahimahullah, vide: Mishkatul-Masabih, 1/273, on the authority of Imam Muslim):
"Verily this knowledge is the knowledge of religion. You must carefully see from whom you are receiving the knowledge of your religion."
The weak, meek, slave in need of Allah -
Ahmed ibn Muhammad BSc (Hons), GRSC
Shawwal/March 1414/1994
England
________________________________________
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Yearning for the Beloved صلى الله عليه وسلم

Yearning for the Beloved صلى الله عليه وسلم

What follows is an extract from a talk given by Sayyidi al-Habib `Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah
preserve him and benefit us by him) in the mawlid in Dar al-Mustafa 13th Rabi` al-Awwal 1434 /
24th January 2013.

Our Lord has not permitted us to love anyone in creation as much as Muhammad,
because He Himself does not love anyone in creation as much as He loves Muhammad
صلى الله عليه وسلم. If the King of Kings, the One True God, does not love anyone as much as He loves
him, how can I; as a slave, love anyone as much as I love the Chosen One or prefer
anyone over him (may Allah bless him and grant him peace)?

Where are the ones who know these truths and give them their due? The Noble
Companions drank from these cups. Look at their words and actions, and look at how
they spent their days and nights. Look at how the light of Allah spread through mankind
at their hands. They loved him, were attached to him and their hearts were filled with his
love. Had a single hair from the head of Abu Bakr al-Siddiq or any one of the Foremost,
the first of the Emigrants and the Helpers been divided up among those in this gathering
none of us would be able to sleep for a month. This is because every single hair on their
heads contained such true, complete, perfect, sincere, deep love. For this reason they
could not sleep. They would leave their beds, their families, their food and drink in order
to see his face. They could not contain themselves until they had seen his face, even
though they had seen it a few hours earlier. One of them said: “O Messenger of Allah,
when I remember you at home when I am with my wife and children I become like
someone insane.”

Do you see how they loved him? How they were attached to him? What they
experienced? They loved the earth upon which he walked. No eye has seen anyone who
venerates anyone as much as the Companions venerated Muhammad. No heart has
known anyone who loves anyone as much as the Companions loved Muhammad.
O Allah, bestow prayers upon him and give us a portion of this love and this veneration.
So much time has elapsed between us and them, and so many tribulations have befallen
the Ummah and so many voices call us to attach our hearts to people other than the
Beloved صلى الله عليه وسلم, but in spite of all this, Allah continues to allow people to drink from these
cups.

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