Review: Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World, 1500-1800

Review: Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World, 1500-1800

In religion, the issue of sexuality becomes very sensitive when we focus on sexual relationships between people from the same sex. Europeans scholars and travellers were shocked at what they perceived to be the tolerant attitudes in Muslim societies towards homosexuality, which they interpreted to be the norm of such societies. This book addresses the prejudices and paucity of research in this area by focusing on how homosexual behaviour was perceived and presented in the Arab part of the Ottoman Empire between 1500 and 1800 – just before modernisation took hold in the nineteenth century.

Modern historians glossing over the distinction between committing sodomy and expressing love for youth to describe them as “homosexuality” is unhelpful. Using an interdisciplinary approach, the author shows how Islamic scholars condemned “liwat” (anal intercourse between men) but not “homosexuality” (e.g. writing a love poem of a male youth would simply not fall under liwat). Three rich chapters provide cultural strands that highlight perceptions of same sex love among the urban elite of the time. Chapter one provides that the “active” or “insertive” role in sexual intercourse was appropriated to a man and a “passive” or “receptive” role was appropriated to women. A man who took on the latter role was stereotyped into being an effeminate and having some sort of abnormal or pathological condition. However, a man who sought to have intercourse with a beardless male youth was not violating the ideal of masculinity as long as he stuck to the “active” or “insertive” role.

Chapter 2 explores the general aesthetic sensibility towards human beauty, be it in the form of women or beardless youths. The chapter contains an illuminating discussion on whether Arabic love poetry dedicated to boys was just fiction and asks “to what extent is it legitimate to regard love poetry and belletristic disputations as historical sources that reveal certain values and tastes within the real-life milieu of belletrists and their audience?” (p. 75). The author argues that the frequency of expressions of pederastic love in that genre certainly must have corresponded to a prevalent cultural notion among the poets and their audience, who considered the refined and chaste love for boys with sympathy and in an idealistic manner. In the world of Islamic mysticism, an aesthetic view of handsome youths or beautiful women was imbued with a metaphysical sense where it was understood to be a means of experiencing the beauty of God.

The final chapter evaluates forms of sexual relations between men in Islamic legal literature, and the related discipline of commentaries in the Qur’an and traditions (hadith) of the Prophet Muhammad. This includes detailed discussions of the various legal opinions regarding issues such as gazing at beardless boys, sexual intercourse between men, the question of whether liwat could exist in paradise, and of what falls within the boundaries of liwat and what does not. This final strand views sexual relations between men as a transgression against the sacred law, though most schools of law only viewed anal intercourse as a cardinal sin. Generally, the jurists who were committed to the principle of not prohibiting what God made licit, or to think well of fellow Muslims, did not deem anything that might lead to such transgression as a sin itself, though they found it be problematic and allowed the composition of pederastic poetry.

The author concludes by charting the cultural change that has taken place where European Victorian attitudes intervened, and the various strands of same-sex love came under a new term shudhudh jinsi, corresponding to the European pathological understanding of homosexuality as ‘sexual perversion’, and its far-reaching consequences

Haroon Sidat

El-Rouayheb, K. (2009). Before homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic world, 1500-1800: University of Chicago Press.

 

‘Tariqat, Shariat aur Siyasat’ -Maulana Muhammed Ilyas Khandhlawi and Maulana Qari Muhammad Tayyib Qasimi

‘Tariqat, Shariat aur Siyasat’ -Maulana Muhammed Ilyas Khandhlawi and Maulana Qari Muhammad Tayyib Qasimi

In The Name of Allah, The Most Merciful, The Especially Merciful

 Given much confusion and compartmentalisation when it comes to the religious outlook and engagement of Muslims today, this text is essential reading from an influential, highly regarded and deeply learned scholar of South Indian Islam. The text provides a detailed yet concise explanation as to why the three strands of Islam: the spiritual way, the religious code and politics (tariqat, shariat and siyasat) must be interwoven to create a balanced, holistic, yet deeply reflective community — one that genuinely treads the path of the Prophet (peace be upon him). It is precisely the absence of all three in concert that the Muslim Ummah finds itself in the situation it is in today.

Following the tradition of seeking consultation (mashwera) from religious leaders, we find the founder of the Tablighi Jama’at movement, Maulana Muhammed Ilyas Khandhlawi seeking guidance from Maulana Qari Muhammad Tayyib Qasim (Principal of Darul uloom Deoband for over fifty years and the grandson of the founder of the Darul uloom, Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanotwi) as to how the movement should continue with its success whilst ensuring that it does not lose sight of what religious calling (dawat) should entail.

The original document, which is well worth reading, is attached. A summary of some of the key points are below. [1]

The Qur’an presents the following verse:

 “He it is Who hath sent among the unlettered ones a messenger of their own, to recite unto them His revelations and to make them grow, and to teach them the Scripture and wisdom, though heretofore they were indeed in error manifest” (Surah Jumuah, verse two).

The verse presents three ‘programs’ that ought to be combined in order for the Muslim Ummah to set itself on the course to reformation and revival:

  1. Ta’lim – Teaching of the religion
  2. Tazkiyah/Tahzeeb i Akhlaq – Purification of the heart or self rectification
  3. Hikmah – imparting of wisdom, which according to one exegetical understanding is to follow the Prophetic path i.e. the practical application of the Sunnah both individually and at a collective level (broadly considered here to mean politics).

In customary language the three programs are termed shariat, tariqah and siyasat respectively. They can be analogous to setting out on a journey. The shariat being its path, the tariqah being the provision, and siyasat being that which removes any dangers or obstruction. What is clear is that all three are required if one is to reach their destination safely.

Furthermore, the tariqah on its owns leads to a contemplative outlook and preference for seclusion. Siyasat however, is outward facing: one of engagement with wider society and being this-wordly. The juxtaposition of these apparently contradictory outlooks are reconciled by the shariat, which acts as a bridge. Again, the point is that all three are required. Following only the tariqah leads to weakness and cowardice. Being purely shariah oriented leads to constriction and a lack of pragmatism in religion. Finally, being solely immersed in siyasat leads to deception and pride. From this, one can diagnose a number of problems in our Ummah.

It is an affliction of our times that all of these three efforts have become compartmentalised and isolated from one another. In fact, the effect of this separation is that each group(s) actively seeks to compete and outwit one another. As a consequence, Islam is ultimately at loss.

For Maulana Qari Muhammad Tayyib Qasmi, this is precisely the cause of the decline of the Muslims. For him, the current predicament of Muslims is very much their own doing.

And only Allah knows best.

Haroon Ebrahim Sidat

—-

[1] Maulana Qari Muhammad Tayyib Qasim is not responding directly here but the response he has provided seems to fit in with the question posed by Maulana Muhammed Ilyas Khandlawi. See page 6 of the document.

I also want to thank Sheikh Saleem Seedat and Sheikh Uwais Namazi for bringing this enlightening document to my attention.

The original urdu document can be found here: Tariqat, shariat aur siyasat

Four Point Post Ramadhān Plan

Four Point Post Ramadhān Plan

In The Name of Allāh, The Most Merciful, The Especially Merciful

  1. Start small 

Before you try to sprint, learn to crawl first. So for example, if you can just about perform the five daily obligatory prayers, work on that aspect of your worship. Once you feel that it’s ‘part of your system’ then move on to making sure you perform all the sunnah prayers. Next, the optional prayers, and so on. The key is consistency. Don’t build until you are consistent. Praying the night prayer (tahajjud) is wonderful but if you miss fajr, then you’ve got your priorities wrong. In Islām, there is a hierarchy when it comes to worship.

سَدِّدُوا وَقَارِبُوا، وَاعْلَمُوا أَنْ لَنْ يُدْخِلَ أَحَدَكُمْ عَمَلُهُ الْجَنَّةَ، وَأَنَّ أَحَبَّ الأَعْمَالِ أَدْوَمُهَا إِلَى اللَّهِ، وَإِنْ قَلَّ

“Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately and know that your deeds will not make you enter Paradise, and that the most beloved deed to God is the most regular and constant even if it were little (Bukhāri).

2. If you make a mistake, move on

Muslims don’t dwell on the past. We repent and we move on. In fact, Allāh loves it when we turn to Him when we err. We have been ordered to never lose hope in the mercy of Allāh:

39-53

“O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allāh: for Allāh forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Qur’ān 39:53)

3. Support one another

As humans we are prone to making mistakes. But that’s not the point. It’s our reaction to the action that matters. Inspire, support and motivate one another.

عَنِ ابْنِ مَسْعُودٍ، أَنَّ رَجُلاً، أَصَابَ مِنَ امْرَأَةٍ قُبْلَةَ حَرَامٍ فَأَتَى النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَسَأَلَهُ عَنْ كَفَّارَتِهَا فَنَزَلَتْ : ( أَقِمِ الصَّلاَةَ طَرَفَيِ النَّهَارِ وَزُلَفًا مِنَ اللَّيْلِ إِنَّ الْحَسَنَاتِ يُذْهِبْنَ السَّيِّئَاتِ ) فَقَالَ الرَّجُلُ

أَلِيَ هَذِهِ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ فَقَالَ ” لَكَ وَلِمَنْ عَمِلَ بِهَا مِنْ أُمَّتِي

Ibn Masūd narrates that a man unlawfully kissed a woman. So he came to the Messenger (ﷺ) to ask him about its atonement. So (the following) verse was revealed: “And perform the prayer, at the two ends of the day and in some hours of the night’”(Qur’an, 11:114). The man said: “Is this for me O Messenger of God?” He said: “For you and for whoever does that among my Ummah.” (Tirmidhi)

This man made a mistake and was regretful (and what a mistake it was!). When he came to the Messenger (ﷺ) to report his crime, the Messenger (ﷺ) didn’t dwell on the crime (something we all too often do!) but told him, in effect, to move on and improve his game. In fact, a verse was revealed which gave hope to all of us – good deeds do away with misdeeds. As Muslims, we support and reinforce one another. If someone stumbles, we pick them up and move on. Of course, for major sins we need to seek forgiveness first.

4. Find the right companion

Its not about how many friends you have on Facebook, or followers on twitter. It’s all about finding the right friends. Find friends who will help you improve day by day, motivate and inspire you, and ultimately, help make you a perfect role model. Islam is all about continuous improvement. Sit with Scholars and people of learning. You will learn so much just by observing them. Much more than you can ever learn from just reading books (though reading is very important too!)

مَثَلُ الْجَلِيسِ الصَّالِحِ وَالْجَلِيسِ السَّوْءِ كَمَثَلِ صَاحِبِ الْمِسْكِ، وَكِيرِ الْحَدَّادِ، لاَ يَعْدَمُكَ مِنْ صَاحِبِ الْمِسْكِ

إِمَّا تَشْتَرِيهِ، أَوْ تَجِدُ رِيحَهُ، وَكِيرُ الْحَدَّادِ يُحْرِقُ بَدَنَكَ أَوْ ثَوْبَكَ أَوْ تَجِدُ مِنْهُ رِيحًا خَبِيثَةً.

“”The example of a good companion (who sits with you) in comparison with a bad one, is like that of the musk seller and the blacksmith’s bellows (or furnace); from the first you would either buy musk or enjoy its good smell while the bellows would either burn your clothes or your house, or you get a bad nasty smell thereof.” (Bukhāri)

So make friends from the pious servants of Allāh, The Scholars, and those who care not for the pleasures of this world, but seek the pleasure of Allāh.

And only Allāh knows best.

Hāroon Ibn Ebrāhīm Sīdāt

 

PostRamadhanHSi

 

 

Four Virtues Leading to Success from God by al-Ghazālī

Four Virtues Leading to Success from God by al-Ghazālī

In the tradition of Muslim philosophical ethics, one discerns a focus on the attainment of happiness through cultivating virtue and maintaining moderation and balance. Like Aristotle, the great Muslim theologian al-Ghazālī identifies happiness with the attainment of the chief felicity or good for humans. Both worldly and otherworldly happiness are taken into consideration in his discussion, although it is the latter which is ultimate and real. According to al-Ghazālī, in order to achieve otherworldly happiness, various levels of virtue must be cultivated – including the external virtues of wealth, kin and social position. There are four further “virtues leading to success from God”: [1] guidance (hidāya), good counsel (rushd), direction (tasdīd), and support (ta’yīd). [2]

He further declares, “Divine guidance is the foundation of all good. Qur’ān 20:50 states that God gave to everything it’s created nature and then guided it.” By good counsel, says al-Ghazālī, we mean “that Divine providence which assists man in turning toward his chosen goals, by strengthening his resolve to do what conduces to his righteousness and deters him from what conduces to his destruction.” This counsel is inward, as the Qur’ān asserts in 21:51: “We have indeed imparted to Ibrāhīm his good counsel (rushd) previously and were fully conversant therewith.”

Right direction (tasdīd), by contrast, consists in man’s directing his will and movements toward the desired goal, so as to attain it in the shortest time possible. It differs from good counsel in that the latter is limited to exhortation and advice, whereas right direction involves active assistance and reinforcement.

As for divine support (ta’yīd), described in the Qur’ān as the “assistance of the Holy Spirit,” it is an act of empowering man through granting him insight and the physical capacity to carry out the designs of God’s will” (Mizān al-amal).

Each of these ideas – guidance, good counsel, and spiritual aid or support – has a Qur’ānic basis and informs Muslim understandings of discerning and living one’s life. We ask God to bless us with happiness by endowing us with noble virtues.

And only God knows best.

[1] (Fadāil tawqifiyyā):

[2] See Mizān al-amal by al-Ghazāli (Majid, 1991)

The Secrets of the Ruling (Hukm) and the Reason for Legislation (illa) – by Shāh Walī Allāh of Delhi

The Secrets of the Ruling (Hukm) and the Reason for Legislation (illa) – by Shāh Walī Allāh of Delhi

The Secrets of the Ruling (Hukm) and the Reason for Legislation (illa) [1]

Adapted and abridged chapter from the Hujjat Allāh al-Bālighah (The Conclusive Proof of God) by Shāh Walī Allāh of Delhi.

Qiyās (analogical deduction) literally means measuring or attempting to calculate the length, weight or quality of something. It can also mean to compare something in order to deduce a similarity or equality. Thus, qiyās is used as a criterion upon which to evaluate one thing with another. Technically, it is used as an extension of the Sharīah to value an original case, or an asl, to a new case, a far, because the latter is deemed to share the same effective cause, or illah, as the former. The justification of the application of qiyās is based on the fact that both cases share the same effective cause. Of course, recourse to this method is only allowed after having interrogated the Qur’ān, Sunnah or a definite ijmā (consensus of scholarly opinion).

Given that identifying the effective cause can often involve intellectual effort and interpretation on the part of the jurist, not to mention possessing an understanding of the general objectives of the law, what follows below is an adapted and abridged chapter on this topic taken from the Hujjat Allāh al-Bālighah (The Conclusive Proof of God) written by Shāh Walī Allāh of Delhi which will hopefully shed light on an alternative and creative way of viewing the illah. [2]

Human beings perform actions by which their Lord is pleased, [3] actions that incur His anger [4] or actions with which He is neither pleased nor angered. [5] In order to uncover for humankind the true nature of actions, the divine wisdom required the sending of Prophets. As God states in the Qur’ān, “that he who perished (on that day) might perish by a clear proof (of His Sovereignty) and he who survived might survive by a clear proof (of His Sovereignty).” [6]

This connection of the action to the pleasure or anger, or otherwise of God, is called a ruling (hukm): the performance of prayer leads to the pleasure of God and so the ruling demands that we must pray. The act of fornication leads to the displeasure of God so the ruling forbids this action. There are other actions, which do not require a ruling since it neither leads to the pleasure or anger of God.

When an action is desired

Thereafter, what is desired from us can be definite (mu’akkad), [7] the performance of which will lead to the pleasure of God and reward, and omission whose will lead to His displeasure and punishment; or it may be indefinite (ghair mu’akkad) [8] for which there is pleasure and reward but no anger or punishment for its omission.

When an action is prohibited

Similarly, the prohibition may be definite (mu’akkad), [9] the refraining of which will lead to the pleasure of God and reward, and performance of it will lead to His displeasure and punishment; or it may be indefinite (ghair mu’akkad) [10] for which there is pleasure and reward in avoiding the action but no anger or punishment for carrying it out.

The way to clarify an action and it’s ruling

The way to clarify a ruling is to consider its opposite action: does the opposing action lead to the pleasure or anger of God? For example, in the Qur’ān we are told, “Perform the prayer.” [11] Since omitting the prayer leads to God’s anger, this order is definite (mu’akkad). And the verse of the Qur’ān, “But when you come out of ihrām, then [you may] hunt” [12] is indefinite (ghair mu’akkad) since the opposite of this action is not to hunt (after removing the ihrām) and the omission of hunting does not lead to the anger of God. As for the Qur’ān stating, “And do not approach unlawful sexual intercourse,” [13] the prohibition is definite (mu’akkad), since the committing of unlawful sexual intercourse would lead to the anger of God. Finally, we find in the tradition, that the Messenger of God (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him) said, “Beware of the green manure.” The Companions asked: “What is the green manure?” He said: “A beautiful woman of bad origin (i.e. upbringing).” [14] This is indefinite (ghair mu’akkad), since marrying such a woman does not lead to the anger of God; thus, it is permissible to marry such a woman.

Degrees of ruling

There are five degrees of rulings:

  1. Compulsory (ījāb) [15]
  2. Recommended (nudub)
  3. Permitted (ibāhah)
  4. Reprehensible (karāhiyyah)
  5. Forbidden (tahrīm)

 The Reason for Legislation (illa)

Since human situations are infinite it is impractical for the religious law to provide rulings on every conceivable matter. Moreover, given the intellectual endeavor required, not everyone is able to entirely comprehend such knowledge. Therefore, it became necessary that a universal ruling be established which acts as a unity to shed light on the multiplicity of rulings. This unity is what is called the effective cause or the reason for legislation (illa).

As an example, one finds in the Qur’ān: “O you who have believed, do not approach prayer while you are intoxicated.” [16] This verse provides a clear reference to intoxication, which is also confirmed by the Hadīth “every intoxicant is khamr (wine) and every khamr is forbidden.” [17]

In another example, we find in the Hadīth regarding usury (ribā), the illah of its ruling which prohibits quantitative excess in the sale of six specified items is the quality of such items being saleable by the measurement of weight or volume. [18] Hence, any other item sold by weight or volume should be subject to the ribā prohibition.

Two categories of illah

First category: the state of the person

The illah takes into consideration the state of the person in imposing the religious obligation. There two states: a) sane of mind, and, b) maturity. Now, it is impossible that these two on their own would stand as an inherent illah since it would mean that we are obliged to engage in worship permanently once they are both acquired, which is impossible. Such an obligation [to worship permanently] is only required for faith (īmān). [19]

Therefore, there must be a composition of these two inherent types with another type of illah that are accidental in that it is not permanent, which then justifies the proper imposition of religious obligation. This category applies in most cases to acts of worship (ibādāt) and is found in four instances:

  1. Time: for example, the one who is sane and mature and it is time for prayer, then they must pray, or if it is the month of ramadhān, then they must fast.
  2. Capacity to facilitate ease: for example, the one who is sane and mature and owns the minimum amount of wealth when one lunar year has lapsed is obligated to pay zakāt. [20]
  3. Anticipated source of difficulty: for example, the one who is sane and mature and is a traveller then they are granted a concession to reduce the prayer and not to fast.
  4. To make an intention for an action: for example, the one who is sane and mature and intends to pray is required to perform ablution.

Benefit

  • In most cases, when discussing the illah, we do not make mention of the inherent illah [21] but suffice with the accidental illah as this is the distinguishing factor.
  • It sometimes happens that the Messenger of God (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him) bestows a preference over the accidental illah and not at other times. For example, it is permissible to pay zakāh one or two years in advance so long as one holds the minimum amount of wealth but not for the one who does not fulfil this criteria. [22]

Second category: the condition in which the action occurs or what accompanies.

The illah takes into consideration the condition in which the action occurs or what accompanies it. This will either be an inherent characteristic such as the prohibition of drinking wine, eating pork, eating wild beasts that have tusks and birds that have claws, and marrying one’s mother. [23] Or, it will be a characteristic that arises from time to time under certain circumstances such as theft [24] and adultery. [25]

Benefit

  • Sometimes two categories or more are considered in the condition of which an action occurs such as the case of the adulterer who is married and the case of the fornicator. [26]
  • Sometimes a combination of the one who is obligated and the condition in which the action occurs is considered such as gold and silk being made forbidden for men but not women. [27]

The incidental cause can take the place of an illah

There is no arbitrariness in the religion of God. The pleasure and anger of God is connected to two specific things in reality:

  1. Piety and sin, supporting the betterment of civilization and its neglect and the like.
  2. That which bears a relation with the divine laws, preventing distortion and being watchful over neglect and the like.

A question may be raised as to why the hukm is sometimes incidentally related to the illah, to which the pleasure or anger of God is related. The reason for this is that most people are unable to uncover the principles, so the divine law is revealed in the language of the masses to facilitate ease.

 For example, why is sleeping the cause of ones ablution being nullified or why is sexual relation the cause of the need for a ritual bath (janābah)? The answer to this is that sleep and sexual relations are indirect causes, and the illah is linked to them incidentally. In the case of sleeping, the real cause is the person lying down whilst resting on something and in the case of sexual relations; the real cause is the possibility of the touching of the sexual organs. [28]

As an example, we say that the medicine is the cure. When in reality the illah is not the medicine but the elimination of the illness, which follows the medication, but we attribute the cure incidentally to the medicine.

Therefore, there are two requirements for the illah of a hukm:

  1. The illah should be an attribute that is recognisable by common people
  2. And the illah should be such that there is expectation of an event(s) to occur which will lead to the pleasure or anger of God.

For example, the drinking of wine is an expected locale for evil acts to occur which will lead to the displeasure of God because of being diverted from righteousness, turning to the world and corruption of the society and home. Since this is generally expected to lead to the displeasure of God, the prohibition was applied to all types of alcohol.

If there are a number of attendant factors and means, the illah will be the one that is most distinguished from the others because it is more apparent or determined. For example, the concession to shorten the prayers or not to fast is based on hardship, and there are many factors and means that lead to it. This is the hikmah of the ruling. Yet hardship is a hidden phenomenon and varies according to circumstances so cannot be an illah. Therefore, the concession only applies to those travelling or being sick irrespective of its degree.[29]

And only God knows best.

Haroon Ibn Ebrāhīm Sīdāt.

TheSecretsoftheRulingPDF

[1] It is also referred to as manāt al-hukm (the cause of the hukm), the sign of the hukm (amārah al-hukm), effective cause and sabab. As will become clear in the paper, the translation, ‘reason for legislation’ seems more apt for the current discussion.

[2] See chapter fifty nine of the book

[3] For example, performing the obligatory prayers and giving alms.

[4] For example, theft, murder and fornication.

[5] For example, eating and drinking.

[6] Qur’ān, 8:42

[7] This is the case for compulsory actions (fardh and wājib).

[8] This is the case for optional actions (nawāfil).

[9] This is the case for reprehensible (makrūh) and forbidden (harām) actions.

[10] This is the case for disliked actions (makrūh tanzīhi).

[11] Qur’ān, 2:43

[12]Qur’ān, 5:2

[13] Qur’ān, 17:32

[14] Kanz al-‘Ummāl. What it means is that it is disliked to marry a corrupt woman since a woman with bad roots will affect her child negatively. The basis (for the similitude) is that crops grow upon manure that is placed in a dirty area. So the outward appearance of the crops are appealing but the inner appearance of the manure is vile and rotten. The word diman is the plural of the word dimnah, and that refers to manure (i.e. fertilizer).

[15] While for the majority, wājib and fardh are synonymous; the Hanafīs have drawn a distinction. An act is fardh, to the first degree when the command is conveyed in a clear and definitive text of the Qur’ān or Sunnah. If, however, the command were established via a speculative (zannī) authority, such as an Ahād hadith, the act would be obligatory in the second degree (wājib). A Muslim is required to perform both acts since there is reward for completing it and punishment for neglecting it. The difference essentially is that to refuse to believe in the binding nature of a command which is established by definitive proof makes one an unbeliever, but not if he disputes the authority of an obligatory command of the second degree, although he becomes a transgressor.

[16] Qur’ān. 4:43

[17] Abū Dawūd

[18]Gold is to be paid for by gold, silver by silver, wheat by wheat, barley by barley, dates by dates, salt by salt, like by like, payment being made hand to hand. He who made an addition to it, or asked for an addition, in fact dealt in usury. The receiver and the giver are equally guilty.” (Muslim)

[19] In other words, it is required of every sane and mature person to have faith all the time.

[20] Since it is easy to give a portion of your wealth that has the capacity to increase in value, when kept for one lunar year.

[21] I.e. it makes little sense mentioning that one must be sane and mature every time.

[22] When we looked at the Capacity to facilitate ease, we found the illah to be the ownership of the minimum amount of wealth and the passing of one lunar year. But the Messenger of God (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him) allowed his uncle, Ibn Abbās to give zakāh early for the one who holds the minimum amount of wealth.

[23] The inherent characteristic in these examples is as follows: intoxication, filth, predatory instincts and being close kin.

[24] Qur’ān, 5:38.

[25] The illah will only be considered when a particular type of action takes place. For example, having sexual relation with one’s spouse does not trigger the illah. It is the particular context in which the action takes place that is taken into consideration. See Qur’ān, 24:2.

[26] This refers to the stoning of the adulterer who is married and the whipping of the fornicator who is unmarried. Sexual intercourse with a married person is the illah of stoning and sexual intercourse with an unmarried person is the illah of whipping.

[27] In this case we find the two combinations at play. Firstly, the state of the person is considered, in this case being a male and, secondly, the condition of which an action occurs, in this case, gold and silver are for adornment, which is their inherent characteristic. Since in this case, both combinations need to be found, wearing gold and silver are not forbidden for women.

[28] The aim is to facilitate ease. One can imagine the confusion that would emerge if they were asked to determine if they did actually fall asleep or not.

[29] The hikmah of the law is not always easy to find and becomes problematic as a basis for analogy. Moreover, the hikmah varies according to circumstances, which makes it more difficult to ascertain. The majority view is that the hukm is found in the ilal, not in their objectives (hikam). This means that whenever an illah is present, the hukm is present even if the hikmah is absent. The absence of an illah means the absence of hukm even if the hikmah is present.

Stepping into the world of a Christian theological college

Stepping into the world of a Christian theological college

In The Name of God, The Most Merciful, The Especially Merciful

A renowned Sufi sage of twentieth century India once distinguished between two types of believer. One is happy to do just about enough to fulfil the rights of God while the other derives pleasure and profound joy in serving his Creator. In serving God’s creation, we aim to serve God. It was this desire that melted away any anxiety I may have had in a sea of overwhelming warmth and hospitality when I spent time at Cuddesdon. This visit was intended to be an opportunity for me to experience and observe Christian theological training in action as part of my broader research into the training of Muslim scholars in Britain. It turned out to be much more than that.

Aside from our philosophical and theological discussions, we all shared a bruised concern for what is happening to the world around us and how, as people of faith, we have a vital role to play in modern Britain. Muslims and Christians may have differences but this should not blind us from the far greater common ground we share. The proof of this, if any were needed, was that we were able to forge deep and meaningful friendships in such a short period of time, which no doubt will last a lifetime. Every one I met left me convinced and inspired as to the need to work tirelessly to impart what Islam is about. Islam, I believe has much to offer and our task is to continue contributing and engaging with wider society. As the late Stephen Covey wrote, “what we are communicates far more eloquently than anything we say or do.”

The training at the college and the lectures, though wonderfully enlightening, exposed to me my lack of knowledge of Christianity. I am sure I am not alone in this, and I am equally sure that there are as many people who know very little about my faith. Therefore, it is only with the coming together of Christian colleges and British darul ulooms (Muslim institutes of higher learning) that compassion and understanding can find root. Of course, this requires a certain degree of boldness – the need to leave the safety of the shore. I am reminded of the Persian poet and spiritual thinker, Rumi, who in his own words says, “Do not be satisfied with the stories that come before you. Unfold your own myth.” After my time at Cuddesdon, I can only hope that this will be the beginning of another chapter between our faiths.

Haroon Ebrahim Sidat

Oman and Ibādī Islām

Oman and Ibādī Islām

Recently, I had been blessed with the opportunity of visiting the Sultanate of Oman. The dominant branch of Islam practiced in this state is known as Ibādism, which, owing to its size of being less than one per cent of the global Muslim population, is often misunderstood. There are other smaller communities of Ibādīs living in Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Zanzibar and elsewhere along the East African coast. During my stay in Oman, I was immediately impressed with the way Sunnis, Shias and Ibādīs peacefully coexist and pray together in the same place. In fact, at no point during my time in Oman did anyone inquire as to what ‘sect’ or ‘group’ was I affiliated with – something Muslims in the UK could do well to learn from.

Perhaps the greatest misunderstanding of Ibādīs stems from them being simplistically labelled as the Muhakkima, or what later became known as the Khawārij, which was a group that emerged during the Battle of Siffin (36/656). Whilst the roots of Ibādīsm can be traced back to this early movement and consequently, they have been associated with some of the extremism of the Khawārij, the Ibādīs, however, did not inherit any of their ideological features such as defining corrupt Muslims as unbelievers. Abu Bilal Mirdas ibn Udayyah (d.681), the founder of this group and one of the leaders of a Khawārij sub group, opposed this extremist approach. [1] The Ibādīs refer to themselves as the ahl al istiqama, ‘the people of straightness’ but were soon named after an early scholar of the school in Basra, Abdullah ibn Ibād. First hand experience of being with the Ibādīs confirm that they are people who seek actively to live peacefully even with those with whom they disagree. The association of the Ibādīs with the Khawārij must be seen as historical and incidental, the exclusionary principles adopted by the Khawārij are not adopted by the Ibādīs.

There are other theological differences, which I was able to discuss with the son of the grand Mufti of Oman, Shaykh Aflah bin Ahmad bin Hamad al-Khalili. Three issues in particular are of significance: their denial of seeing God in the hereafter; their opinion of the creation of the Qur’ān; their belief in the permanent staying in the fire of those who have committed major sins (i.e. without repentance). [2]

Notwithstanding the differences mentioned above, I was personally inspired by this visit. I attended Mass at one of the many state funded churches in Oman and met with people of other faiths, who were all positive about the level of religious tolerance and inclusionary approach that is practiced in Oman. As for the Muslims of Oman, I found their hospitality and humility second to none. In an age where our own insecurities configure us to expose faults in others, perhaps we could do well by appreciating the rich tapestry our faith offers and extracting what we find good in others for our own benefit.

And only God knows best.

[1] For more, one may want to read ‘The differences between Ibādīs and Khawarij’ by Shaykh Ibrahim Attfayish.

[2] It is not the purpose of this article to engage in any theological discussion. One can read ‘The overwhelming truth – A discussion of some key concepts in Islamic theology’ by the Grand Mufti of Oman, Shaykh Ahmad bin Hamad al-Khalili. I am grateful to my friend and host, Mahmood al Qarni for providing books on this topic and for arranging this meeting.