​The Love of God as a Paradox

​The Love of God as a Paradox

Over the coming weeks and months, we will be attempting to provide a series of summaries on various discussions from the thirty-sixth book of the Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn, titled,  ‘love, longing intimacy and contentment’ (kitāb al-maḥabba wa’l-ṣhawq wa’al-uns wa’l-riḍā). This book deals with a difficult and sometimes problematic subject: the love of God for man and of man for God. This is because one finds many early Sufis as well as dogmatic theologians who objected to the notion that there might be between God and man any sort of relation of love, as love is commonly understood.

In the early centuries of Islam, love was strictly defined as “obedience.” Any suggestion of a reciprocal relationship of love between God and man was seen to be unseemly – if not blasphemous – as well as illogical. Where God is described as “loving” (wadūd), it was generally presented as a form of compassion or mercy (raḥma). Al-wadūd was understood as the one who wishes all creatures well and accordingly favors and praises them. Mercy, however, when it comes to God’s love was sovereign and disinterested; it does not presuppose a recipient in need of mercy nor is it the result of any ‘empathy’ on God’s part. There was also a question of religious decorum where piety had its protocols; unseemly outpourings of affection were not merely examples of lèse-majestè on a cosmic scale but breaches of pious tact.

Still, the key question remains, how to reconcile a God who is transcendent with the human creature? Are there any grounds for claiming a relationship between God and humankind? Moreover, is it not true, as Ghazālī would agree, that divine existence is “real” (ḥaqīqī), while human existence is at best “figurative” (majāzī)? Nevertheless, the argument, as we shall see in a later discussion, was that human love of God cannot be relegated to being merely figurative.

Love was not the only concept that was problematic, in early Islam, “friendship” with God was unthinkable, and some, like Ja’d ibn Dirham (d. 25/743) paid the ultimate price for denying the Abraham could be “the friend of God” (khalīl Allāh).

Before Ghazālī, writings were scattered and pithy, he was, it is argued, the first to give it a compelling shape which culminated in this book, where he argues, confidently, that not only is the love of God conceivable, but there exists a reciprocal loving relationship between God and man. It was one aspect of Ghazālī’s achievement to have answered such objections; he was the first Muslim theologian and mystic to elaborate a doctrine of divine love rigorously and systematically, employing carefully structured arguments and proof based on both on tradition and reason.

Why do we need Prophets? And what can we learn from them?

Why do we need Prophets? And what can we learn from them?

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

الحاجة الى هُداة السُّبُل ومُقِيمِي المِلَل

The divine Manager does not leave the affairs of mankind to take their own course. On the contrary, He is full of eternal grace to men and wants to establish a good order. For that reason, He has sent prophets.

Humankind, the Qur’an teaches, was created as a homo religiosis. A dahrī, a materialist, so Ṣhāh Walī Allāh infers, is someone who rejects the knowledge of God granted him by birth. In other words, Islam has, in principle, no need of a founder of religion or of a religious guide. However, history shows that from time to time people deviate from their true humanity. Therefore, they are in need of guidance to bring them back. This can be rationalised if we accept that in many cases we cannot come to know what is truly in our benefit and what is harmful. Secondly, there are those who seek to sow corruption, are misled and misguide others. Finally, there are others who are simply suffering from ignorance. Hence, what is required is a person who is protected from all of these errors.

So what should their qualities be?

This person should publicly prove that he is: fully aware of the rightly-guided practice (al-sunna al-rāṣhida); completely preserved from error and misguidance; he has complete knowledge of how to undertake the rectification (iṣlāḥ) of society. Therefore, he must be infallible and one upon whom there is a consensus about him being a guide.

The guide realises the path to guidance via intuitive perception (wijdān)

This knowledge (of guidance) does not come through rational proofs, thinking or sense perception. They are disclosed by what is known as the intuitive perception (wijdān); via sound spiritual experience. Such people disclose matters according to the exigencies of the time while also expounding on new matters. The intuitive perception of a prophet cannot accept error while that of a religious scholar can. For the latter, it should be viewed in light of what other scholars have stated and must be viewed through the prism of the Qur’an and Sunnah.

How can we know that the intuitive perception is correct?

He is bestowed with intuitive or essential knowledge which originates without thought, reflection or proof; known as immediate knowledge (‘ilm ḍarūrī) such that it is ontologically correct i.e. what he comprehends and discerns is truly identical with reality. This knowledge is acquired via a natural disposition and is confirmed by the fact that they (the prophets) are continuously correct.

How is the society to be convinced of the one who possesses this knowledge?

This is confirmed in four ways:

  1. Rationally demonstrated and rhetorical proofs
  2. Their path is of righteousness
  3. It is observed in them the signs of proximity to God by way of miracles and their prayers being accepted
  4. People love them due to them observing their excellent qualities such mercy, generosity, gentleness, justice, chastity, honesty, integrity and so forth.

Though prophets are no longer to come, their exemplary conduct and teachings are the inheritance that can enable us to return back to our humanity; something we are in desperate need of once again.

And only God knows best.

The Inner Meanings of Encouragement (targhīb) and Deterrence (tarhīb)

The Inner Meanings of Encouragement (targhīb) and Deterrence (tarhīb)

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

أسرار الترغيب والترهيب

When encouraging people to good and deterring them from evil, five broad principles should be borne in mind. A summary is provided before looking at them in detail:

  1. Rectification: explain the effect of the action on the soul
  2. Protection and benefit: explain that it protects from the devil while one is blessed with sustenance
  3. Remind: relate the act to the life of the next world
  4. Recall: adopt a method where the act becomes inscribed on the mind
  5. Relate: explain how the act relates to the pleasure of Allah, the Exalted, and the angels.

Some additional reflections when encouraging and deterring:

  1. Always use nuance; avoid making blanket statements
  2. Read well and prepare in advance if delivering a speech etc.
  3. Use gentleness and softness
  4. Inspire people with hope, not fear. Fear is for Allāh, the Exalted. (fear here is not the type we are generally accustomed to. For an in depth discussion, see the chapter on fear and hope from Imām al-Ghazālī’s Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn)
  5. Humility when advising; we are infinitely in need than the audience
  6. Articulate a message of bringing the ummah together

The need for principles

Let us begin by explaining why principles are required for encouragement and deterrence. It has been narrated from Abu Dhar (may Allah be pleased with him) that:

أَنَّ نَاسًا، مِنْ أَصْحَابِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالُوا لِلنَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ذَهَبَ أَهْلُ الدُّثُورِ بِالأُجُورِ يُصَلُّونَ كَمَا نُصَلِّي وَيَصُومُونَ كَمَا نَصُومُ وَيَتَصَدَّقُونَ بِفُضُولِ أَمْوَالِهِمْ . قَالَ ” أَوَلَيْسَ قَدْ جَعَلَ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ مَا تَصَّدَّقُونَ إِنَّ بِكُلِّ تَسْبِيحَةٍ صَدَقَةً وَكُلِّ تَكْبِيرَةٍ صَدَقَةٌ وَكُلِّ تَحْمِيدَةٍ صَدَقَةٌ وَكُلِّ تَهْلِيلَةٍ صَدَقَةٌ وَأَمْرٌ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ صَدَقَةٌ وَنَهْىٌ عَنْ مُنْكَرٍ صَدَقَةٌ وَفِي بُضْعِ أَحَدِكُمْ صَدَقَةٌ ” . قَالُوا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَيَأْتِي أَحَدُنَا شَهْوَتَهُ وَيَكُونُ لَهُ فِيهَا أَجْرٌ قَالَ ” أَرَأَيْتُمْ لَوْ وَضَعَهَا فِي حَرَامٍ أَكَانَ عَلَيْهِ فِيهَا وِزْرٌ فَكَذَلِكَ إِذَا وَضَعَهَا فِي الْحَلاَلِ كَانَ لَهُ أَجْرٌ

Some of the people from among the Companions of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said to him: Messenger of Allah, the rich have taken away (all the) reward. They observe prayer as we do; they keep the fasts as we keep, and they give ṣadaqa out of their surplus riches. Upon this he (the Messenger of Allah) said: Has Allah not prescribed for you (a course) by following which you can (also) do ṣadaqa? In every declaration of the glorification of Allah (i. e. saying Ṣubḥan Allāh) there is a ṣadaqa, and every takbīr (i. e. saying Allah-O-Akbar) is a sadaqa, and every praise of His (saying al-Ḥamdu Lillah) is a ṣadaqa and every declaration that He is One (La illāha ill-Allāh) is a sadaqa, and enjoining of good is a ṣadaqa, and forbidding of that which is evil is a ṣadaqa, and in man’s sexual Intercourse [with his wife] there is a ṣadaqa. They (the Companions) said: Messenger of Allah, is there reward for him who satisfies his sexual passion among us? He said: Tell me, if he were to devote it to something forbidden, would it not be a sin on his part? Similarly, if he were to devote it to something lawful, he should have a reward. (Muslim)

From this ḥadīth we learn two important principles regarding encouragement and deterrence. Firstly, the questioning by the companions of receiving reward for sexual intercourse with one’s wife shows that to them, there existed a relationship between an action and its reward; that it can be arrived at by reason. They understood that good deeds assist in refining the soul and is in the best of interests of society; bad deeds result in the opposite. Yet the nature of their question reveals something more: where is the good deed  to be found in satisfying one’s needs (via sexual intercourse)? Is this not following the animalistic impulse (i.e. one’s desires)? where is the benefit in this act? How is this benefiting the individual? How is society benefitting?

Therefore, in this particular case, the rationale was somewhat ambiguous: while it is clear that it is a major sin to fornicate, how is one to understand being rewarded for having sexual relation with one’s wife? The answer lies in the fact that there is a (second type of) deeper relationship, which the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) set as a principle: there is also a reward for not committing a sin (though this reward is dependent on one striving against ones desires). In this case, there is a relationship  of sorts between the sin of fornication and having sexual relations with one’s wife, with the latter being rewarded; it keeps ones sexual organs pure whiles one’s desires are fulfilled in the right way. The individual and society benefit.

و للترغيب والترهيب طرق، ولكل طريقة سرٌّ

There are various methods to encourage good and to deter from sin, and there is an inner dimension to each method

Principle one: to explain the effect of an action which refines the soul

The benefit (or harm) of an action should explained by its effect on the soul: it will either result in the animalistic impulse being drive down or the angelic force being made stronger. This is understood from the idea of ‘recording of good deeds and the erasing of the evil ones.’ In other words, when one intends to encourage, explain that this will refine their soul by reigning in their animalistic impulse or, that their angelic trait will be made manifest; good deeds places light in ones heart while evil deeds blacken it. For example, the Messenger of Allah(ﷺ) said:

مَنْ قَالَ فِي دُبُرِ صَلاَةِ الْفَجْرِ وَهُوَ ثَانِي رِجْلَيْهِ قَبْلَ أَنْ يَتَكَلَّمَ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ وَحْدَهُ لاَ شَرِيكَ لَهُ لَهُ الْمُلْكُ وَلَهُ الْحَمْدُ يُحْيِي وَيُمِيتُ وَهُوَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ عَشْرَ مَرَّاتٍ كُتِبَ لَهُ عَشْرُ حَسَنَاتٍ وَمُحِيَ عَنْهُ عَشْرُ سَيِّئَاتٍ وَرُفِعَ لَهُ عَشْرُ دَرَجَاتٍ وَكَانَ يَوْمَهُ ذَلِكَ فِي حِرْزٍ مِنْ كُلِّ مَكْرُوهٍ وَحَرْسٍ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ وَلَمْ يَنْبَغِ لِذَنْبٍ أَنْ يُدْرِكَهُ فِي ذَلِكَ الْيَوْمِ إِلاَّ الشِّرْكَ بِاللَّهِ

“Whoever says at the end of every Fajr prayer, while his feet are still folded, before speaking: ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allah, Alone without partner, to Him belongs all that exists, and to Him is the praise, He gives life and causes death, and He is powerful over all things, (Lā ilāha illallāh, waḥdahu lā ṣharīka lah, lahul-mulku wa lahul-ḥamdu, yuḥyī wa yumītu, wa huwa ‘alā kulli ṣhay’in qadīr)’ ten times, then ten good deeds shall be written for him, ten evil deeds shall be wiped away from him, ten degrees shall be raised up for him, and he shall be in security all that day from every disliked thing, and he shall be in protection from ṣhaitān, and no sin will meet him or destroy him that day, except for associating partners with Allah.” (At-Tirmidhī, Ibn Mājah, Abū Dāwūd)

Principle two: to explain the effect of an action by stating that one is protected from devil and that there will be blessings in one’s sustenance

As for the protection from the devil, the ḥadīth mentioned above provides an example. As for increase and blessings in one’s sustenance, the Messenger of Allah(ﷺ) said:

اقْرَءُوا سُورَةَ الْبَقَرَةِ فَإِنَّ أَخْذَهَا بَرَكَةٌ وَتَرْكَهَا حَسْرَةٌ وَلاَ تَسْتَطِيعُهَا الْبَطَلَةُ 

“Recite Ṣūrah al-Baqarah, for to take recourse to it is a blessing and to give it up is a cause of grief, and the magicians cannot confront it.” (Muslim)

This (protection from the devil and increase in one’s sustenance) is achieved due to three things:

  1. By supplicating to Allah, the Exalted, in seeking well-being, and it being accepted from Him.
  2. Being immersed in the remembrance of Allah, the Exalted. Such that the devil and those share in his evil attributes find no way to influence them.
  3. The angels pray for that person so that sometimes something of benefit transpires or some harm is warded away.

Principle three: to explain the effect of an action in terms of the life to come

To explain the consequences of an action in terms of the grave and resurrection. How was it possible for the  Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) to know of the consequences of actions in the next world? This is because there is a relationship (munāsabah) between an act and its consequence. This relationship is either through acquiring (or lack of) four virtues: purity, humility, magnanimity and justice, or, to giving strength to the divine law. Every action will be related to these relationships. For example, to perform the units of prayer with devotion relates to humility, being in awe of Allah, the Exalted, and to suppress the animalistic traits. To perform ablution leads to purity, which affects the soul. To spend wealth, especially when one is miserly, or forgiving a debt shows signs of magnanimity in ones soul. To feed the poor or to resolve disputes shows that one is interested in spreading justice in the world, something which the divine law seeks to achieve. It may be that the act is either difficult, obscure or disagreeable by nature. Hence, the act becomes a proof of one’s sincerity. For example, striving against one’s desires so that the act testifies to the truth of one’s commitment to Allah, the Exalted.

Secondly, to explain that one’s treatment in the life to come will be based on their actions in this world, and that there is a subtle relationship between them. For example, the one who conceals knowledge when asked will be punished with a bridle of fire since the questioner was pained by not being provided with a response; the bridle is an embodiment and image of restraint (i.e. the punishment for not furnishing a response is restraint). The one who loves and hoards wealth will have their neck encircled by a bald snake since their sole concern was with the acquisition of wealth. On the other hand, the one who clothed the poor will be dressed in a silk brocade of Paradise.  The one who frees a slave or someone under hardship will be given salvation for every limb in exchange for every limb that they freed in this world.

Principle four: to adopt a method by which the good or the bad of the act becomes inscribed on the mind

There are three ways:

  1. Using symbolism where there is a shared element between the two. For example, the one who remains seated and engaged in devotion until the sun rises received the reward of the Ḥajj and ‘Umrah. The one who takes back a gift was compared to the dog that returns to their vomit.
  2. Ascribing that act to someone good evil or evil. For example, to perform the ‘asr prayer at the makrūh time is like the prayer of a hypocrite or that a certain act is  that of the devil or the angels.
  3. Using invocation by saying for example, “may Allah, the Exalted, have mercy on the man who does such and such an act.”

Principle five: Show people how the act is connected to the pleasure (or anger) of Allah, The exalted and prayer of the angels.

When explaining an act, always relate it to Allah’s pleasure or anger, and the prayers of the angels. For example, by saying, “Allah loves so and so and hates so and so.”

And only Allah, the Exalted, knows best.

Ḥāroon Ebrāhīm Sīdāt.

For further reading see Ḥujjat Allāh al-Bāligha (The conclusive argument from God) by Ṣhāh Walī Allāh and Imām al-Ghazālī’s Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn

Facilitating of Ease in Religious Duties

Facilitating of Ease in Religious Duties

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

بابُ التَيسير

Given the array of commitments people have, one of the key roles of religion is to make life easy for them. Allah, the exalted, is most merciful and gentle towards His creation. Hence, His religion does not place undue burden on anyone. Allah, the exalted, says:

Allah desires for you ease; He desires not hardship for you.

This follows that the Prophet upon whom the revelation was revealed would follow this way. Allah, the exalted, says:

It was by the mercy of Allah that you were lenient with them (O Muḥammad), for if you had been stern and fierce of heart they would have dispersed from around you.”

And the Messenger of Allah  ﷺ said to Abū Mūsa al-Aṣh’arī and Mu’ādh bin Jabal (May Allah be pleased with both of them), when he sent them to Yemen:

يَسِّرَا وَلاَ تُعَسِّرَا، وَبَشِّرَا وَلاَ تُنَفِّرَا، وَتَطَاوَعَا لاَ تَخْتَلِفَا

Be easy (with the people) and don’t make things difficult, bring good news and don’t estrange (them), accede and don’t oppose.”

And the Messenger of Allah  ﷺ also said:

فَإِنَّمَا بُعِثْتُمْ مُيَسِّرِينَ، وَلَمْ تُبْعَثُوا مُعَسِّرِينَ

you have been sent to make things easy (for the people) and not to make things difficult.

It is clear that great emphasis is placed in Islam on facilitating ease. Something that is all the more pertinent given our demanding lifestyles. The facilitation of ease in religion can achieved in a number of ways:

1. One ought not to make something which is difficult for people a pillar (rukn) or condition (ṣharṭ). For example, the reverence for prayer requires that one should purify their mouth before coming to the mosque, therefore making it compulsory to use the miswāk before the prayer. However, the Messenger of Allah  ﷺ said:

لَوْلاَ أَنْ أَشُقَّ عَلَى أُمَّتِي لأَمَرْتُهُمْ بِالسِّوَاكِ عِنْدَ كُلِّ صَلاَةٍ

Were it not that I would have been hard on my community, I would have ordered them to clean their teeth with a siwāk before every prayer.”

2. One should make those things which are a part of worship into such conventions which people can take pride in. For example, when the Messenger of Allah ﷺ came to Medina and was informed that playing games in those two days was a pre-Islamic practice, he said:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ قَدْ أَبْدَلَكُمْ بِهِمَا خَيْرًا مِنْهُمَا يَوْمَ الأَضْحَى وَيَوْمَ الْفِطْرِ

Allah has substituted for them something better than them, the day of sacrifice and the day of the breaking of the fast.”

In a similar way, a smaller Eid was made once a week that took into consideration human needs. We all need to take rest and take refresh.  Islam recognised this desire and set the Friday congregational prayer. Hence, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:

لِيَعْلَمَ الْيَهُودُ وَالنَّصَارَى أَنْ فِي دِينِنَا فُسْحَةً

So the Jews will know that in our religion there is room for pleasure

3. To make those acts of worship into customary practices which people desire due to their physical nature. So that both nature and reason will combine to motivate them. That is why keeping the mosque clean and fragrant and washing and scenting oneself on Friday was made a customary practice.  In a similar way, to recite the Qur’ān in a melodious way was recommended, as the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:

مَنْ لَمْ يَتَغَنَّ بِالْقُرْآنِ فلَيْسَ مِنَّا

Whoever does not recite the Qur’ān in a melodious voice is not from us.”

The same applies for having a beautiful voice for the call to prayer. Humans love beauty, Islam continued with this tradition of maintaining beauty in our actions and the environment.

4. What people find burdensome should be relieved as well as that which is detested by their nature. That is why the leading of prayers by a slave, bedouin, or someone with an unknown lineage was detested because this would be found to be repugnant to people. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ forbade it and said:

ثَلاَثَةٌ لاَ تُجَاوِزُ صَلاَتُهُمْ آذَانَهُمُ الْعَبْدُ الآبِقُ حَتَّى يَرْجِعَ وَامْرَأَةٌ بَاتَتْ وَزَوْجُهَا عَلَيْهَا سَاخِطٌ وَإِمَامُ قَوْمٍ وَهُمْ لَهُ كَارِهُونَ

There are three whose ṣalāh would not rise up beyond their ears: The runaway slave until he returns, a woman who spends a night while her husband is angry with her, and a people’s Imām whom they dislike.”

5. Things should be retained which suit the nature of people and the removal of it would cause them discomfort. For example, the Sultan is most deserving to be the imām, or the owner of the house. And in the case of the one who marries a new wife he should spend seven nights with her, or three if she was previously married and then he should divide time equally among them.

6. A practice should be made of imparting knowledge among people, giving sermons, and ordering good and forbidding evil so that their hearts become filled with it and are willing to follow the divine law without any discomfort. That is why we find Ibn Mas’ūd (may Allah be pleased with him) saying that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ would:

كَانَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَتَخَوَّلُنَا بِالْمَوْعِظَةِ فِي الأَيَّامِ، كَرَاهَةَ السَّآمَةِ عَلَيْنَا

take care of us in preaching by selecting a suitable time, so that we might not get bored” (He abstained from pestering us with sermons and knowledge all the time).

Wisdom dictates that an appropriate time and place should be chosen for imparting knowledge and furnishing good counsel.

7. Though he did not need to, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ would act upon religious dispensations (ruḳhsa) so that people could follow his way; piety and leadership does not always require one to follow the heights of servitude. Show people ease. For example, when the Messenger of Allah ﷺ went out to Mecca in Ramadhān in the year of Victory, he and the people fasted till they came to a place called Kura’ al-Ghamīm and the people also fasted. He then called for a cup of water which he raised till the people saw it, and then he drank from it.

8. The fountain of blessings lies with Allah, the exalted. It was for this reason that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ would pray for his Ummah to become refined and perfected. Those in position of leadership and authority should constantly prayer for their flock.

9. Through the blessings of pious people, spiritual tranquility descends (sakīnah) by which people accept and act upon the divine laws. This is why the companions (may Allah be pleased with all of them) would become absolutely motionless in the presence of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. Sitting with the true friends of Allah, the exalted, creates a desire to serve Him.

10. Ease in religion is facilitated by deterring the one who seeks to acquire something unjustly by being deprived of it. This is done to protect civil society from trials and tribulations. As in the case of a murderer who does not in inherit or the one who forces a divorce will find it not legally valid.

11. Something that is difficult should be legislated gradually so that it becomes easier for it to be accepted. It is for this reason, ‘Ā’iṣha (may Allah be pleased with her) said:

إِنَّمَا نَزَلَ أَوَّلَ مَا نَزَلَ مِنْهُ سُورَةٌ مِنَ الْمُفَصَّلِ فِيهَا ذِكْرُ الْجَنَّةِ وَالنَّارِ حَتَّى إِذَا ثَابَ النَّاسُ إِلَى الإِسْلاَمِ نَزَلَ الْحَلاَلُ وَالْحَرَامُ، وَلَوْ نَزَلَ أَوَّلَ شَىْءٍ لاَ تَشْرَبُوا الْخَمْرَ. لَقَالُوا لاَ نَدَعُ الْخَمْرَ أَبَدًا

The first thing that was revealed thereof was a chapter from al-Mufaṣṣal in which Paradise and Hell were mentioned. Once the people had rallied to Islam the permitted and forbidden were revealed. If the first thing to be revealed had been, ‘Do not drink wine,’ and if ‘Do not fornicate,’ has been revealed, they would have said, ‘We will never give up fornication.’

When advising and assisting people, consideration should be taken of their personal circumstances. Wisdom dictates that compassion and empathy be applied at all times.

12. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ did not perform any action that may cause peoples hearts to become disunited or entertain doubts such that he even left out some recommended (mustaḥab) things. We have his saying to ‘Ā’iṣha (may Allah be pleased with her):

لَوْلاَ حِدْثَانُ قَوْمِكِ بِالْكُفْرِ لَنَقَضْتُ الْبَيْتَ حَتَّى أَزِيدَ فِيهِ مِنَ الْحِجْرِ فَإِنَّ قَوْمَكِ قَصَّرُوا فِي الْبِنَاءِ

If your people had not been new converts to Islam, I would have demolished the House and would have added (in it area) from the ḥijr for your people have reduced the area from its foundations.”

 One should avoid anything that may lead to doubts entering peoples hearts or leading to disunity. Unity is of paramount importance.

13. To facilitate ease the Messenger of Allah ﷺ did not describe the finer details of acts of worship precisely. He informed us of pious actions such as the ablution, bath, prayer, alms-giving, fasting and so forth along with their pillars (arkān), conditions (ṣhurūṭ) and proper behaviours (ādāb) but did not go into the finer details. He allowed them to reason and to understand from these words (regarding worship) and what they were accustomed to. For example, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ stated that prayer is not valid without reciting the fātiḥah but he did not go into the pronunciation of its letters. He explained that facing the Qibla is a condition of prayer but did not delve into how we can work out the direction of prayer. He explained the minimum amount for the alms-giving (zakāh) it to be two hundred dirhams but did not explain its weight. He continued explaining things to them in ways that can be comprehended and they were familiar with. Thus, he replied when he was asked about the first crescent moon of Ramaḍhạn, he said:

فَإِنْ غُمَّ عَلَيْكُمْ فَاقْدِرُوا ثَلاَثِينَ

Then if it is obscured from you, completed the number (of days) of thirty (of Sha’bān)

The reason for not describing the finer details of acts of worship can be understood by the following:

  • Explaining would require another explanation and this would continue ad infinitum.
  • It would become the source of undue difficulty.
  • The divine law was imposed so as to apply to everyone; too much detail would become difficult on everyone.
  • Giving too much detail comes at the cost of losing the spiritual aspects of these acts.

14. To speak to people according to the measure of their intelligence which was placed at the basis of their nature so that understanding the religion is easy. This was before people became interested in theosophy (ḥikma) theology and foundations of jurisprudence. This explains that when Allah, the exalted, said, ‘the Merciful sits upon the throne’ the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said to the black woman, ‘Where is Allah?’ and she pointed to the sky; then he said, ‘she is a believer.’ This is because this is how they understood things. Similar to this is the case of facing the Qibla, prayer times and so forth. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ did not require people to memorise formulae of astronomy or geometry and he indicated by saying, ‘that the Qibla is everywhere between the East and West.’ And only Allah knows best.

For a PDF copy with references see below:


Qaradawi and speaking the language of the age

Qaradawi and speaking the language of the age

Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi has long argued for the ‘ulama and religious leaders to combine Islamic and modern forms of knowledge, in order to ‘speak the language of the age.’ In 1963, he put to Muhammad ibn Ibrahim Al al-Shaykh, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia that:

لا يعيش الطالب معزولاً عن عصره، وحتـى إذا قدر له أن يشتغل بالدعوة أو بالفتوى كان عالماً بوقاع من يدعوهم ويخاطبهم بلسانهم، لبين لهم، وعالماً بوقاع من يفتيهم، وتعلم سماحتكم أن المحقق ابن القيم قال: الفقيه الحق هو من يزاوج بين الواجب والواقع… ولا يسعنا إلا أن نعيش عصرنا

“the student should not live disassociated from his age. If he is destined to preach or issues fatwas, he should be knowledgable about the world of those whom he preaches and he should be able to speak to them in their language… As Ibn al-Qayyim [1350] has said, ‘a true jurist is one who joins the “obligatory” to the “actual”… we cannot but live in our own age…”

(For the full text in Arabic see Qaradawi, Ibn al-Qarya, 2:503 and see also Muhammad Qasim Zaman, Modern Islamic thought in a Radical age: Religious Authority and Internal criticism, pg. 150-151)

Ḥadīth Criticism from the Time of the Companions

Ḥadīth Criticism from the Time of the Companions

To which era did Ibn Ḥajar belong?

One of the challenges any student of knowledge faces is trying to remember when scholars were around. So when it comes to somone like Ibn Ḥajar Al-Asqalāni, one can, by recalling his work, Al-Durar Al-Kāmina Fī A’yāni Al-Miati Al-Thāmina, (the hidden gem of notables in to 8th century) quickly come to know when he was around. The same can apply to his student, Ṣhamṣ al-Dīn Muḥammad ibn ‘Abd al-Raḥmān al-Sakhāwī, from his text, Al-Ḍaw’ al-lāmi’ li ahli al-Qarni al-Tāsi (the splendid light of notables in the 9th century). Finally, one can for example, by recalling An-nūr Al-Sāfir an Akhbār Al-Qurn Al-Āa’shir (the manifest light regarding reports of the 10th century) know when its author, Abdul Qādir bin Abdullāh al-Aydarūs was around. This was just a handy tip. Anyway, lets move on to what we really want to discuss.

When did ḥadīth criticism begin?

Before attempting to provide an answer to this question, one ought to ask more generally: does the law come first or society? Or do they both come together? In other words, does society come into operation followed by the law which them aims to regulate behaviour, or, are laws expounded with society then expected to conform to it? There are three theories propounded in response to this question.

The first states that the law or regulation of society comes later; much in the same way it is argued that the corpus of Ḥanafi law emerged out of society; or the way rules for Arabic grammar emerged after the spread of Islam to non-Muslim lands. The second theory states opposite; that the law comes first. For example, the scholars of ḥadīth cite the verse of the Qur’ān: “O you who believe! If an iniquitous person comes to you with tidings, then be discerning…”[1] The argument goes that the only way to know if someone is iniquitous or honest is to verify their character. Furthermore, the entire Qur’ān is actively engaged in grounding its readers in observing the character of people. Therefore, the character of a person is paramount. Here we see the law providing guidance as to how society should behave; law structures society.

The final theory is that they [both law and society] emerged together. This can be gleaned from the wife of the Prophet, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, Ḳhadijāh, may God be pleased with her, who, when informed of the first revelation, sent for her cousin Waraqāh bin Nawfal. This incident shows that she had already made a ‘judgement’ based on a number of considerations (e.g. believing in his integrity and honesty). The same can be understood from Abu Bakr, may God be pleased with, and his belief in the night journey of the Prophet, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him.[2] For them, the truth of the Prophets message was a foregone conclusion. In both of these examples, we can see that society and law emerged together.

If we develop the third theory, we see that the companions were actively engaged in ḥadīth criticism. For example, Ibn Mas’ūd, may God be pleased with him, was known to be stringent in narrating ḥadīth. This theory, then, helps to explain why despite that fact that there were so many companions, the collection of actual ḥadīth is much smaller; there was a ‘filter’ in process. More accurately, they were engaging in the science of verification (tathabut). It was Umar, may God be pleased with him, who institutionalised this process in order to gain certainty over ḥadīth.[3] The narration of Umar verifying the ḥadīth of knocking on a door three times is a well-known example of this.[4] To summarise, transmission and criticism went hand in hand right from the early days of Islam. This, however, was counterbalanced by ‘incentives’ to narrate ḥadīth. So for example, we find the Prophet, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, reported as saying, ‘Convey from me, even if it is one verse.’[5]

Moving on, when we look at narrator (rāwī) we look for two things: uprightness or integrity (adālah); and, memory (ḍhabt). As for the former, it is the belief of the Sunnīs that none of the Companions deliberately lied about the Prophet, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him. However, this does not discount that they may have been wanting when it comes to memory. Some examples will serve to illustrate this point.

As for the night journey (al-Mi’rāj) of the Prophet, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, Ibn Abbās was of the opinion that the Prophet, saw God. Ā’iṣhah, may God be pleased with her, however, for example, was of a different opinion.[6] Ibn Umar from his father, may God be pleased with them both, mentions that the Prophet may the peace and blessings of God be upon him said, ‘The deceased is tormented in his grave because of the lamentations (wailing) over him.’[7] However, again we find, Ā’iṣhah, may God be pleased with her, performed ijtihād on her part, because she thought that they contradicted the words of God, ‘and no bearer of burdens shall bear the burden of another.’[8] For our purposes, she says, ‘…by God you are not narrating this ḥadīth from two liars [Ibn Umar and Umar] who have disbelieved, but sometimes you mishear.’[9]

Abū Hūrairah, may God be pleased with him, was of the opinion that one needed to perform ablution (wuḍhū) from that which has been touched by the fire. Ibn Abbās, may God be pleased with him, used analogical reasoning (qiyās) and asked him what would one do with water that had been heated since this would lead to an absurdity.[10] The point is, despite there being any number of explanations for the the statements made by the Companions, they were always actively engaged in critiquing one another, though their integrity was never in question.

And only God knows best.

[1] Qur’ān 49:7

[2] They said to Abū Bakr, ‘Look at what your companion is saying. He says he went to Jerusalem and came back in one night.’ Abū Bakr, told them, ‘If he said that, then he is truthful. I believe him concerning the news of the heavens–that an angel descends to him from the heavens. How could I not believe he went to Jerusalem and came back in a short period of time–when these are on earth?’ At that, the Companion, Abū Bakr, was called “al-Ṣiddīq”—because of how strongly he believed all what the Prophet, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, said.

[3] In fact, Umar was doing this during the Prophet, Prophet, may the Peace and Blessings of God be Upon Him, time when for example, he went to him to verify if he had indeed divorced his wives (See Bukhārī). A second example is that of Ḍhimām bin Ṭha’labah: It was narrated from ṢharĪk bin Abdullāh bin Abū Namir that he heard Anas bin Mālik say: ‘While we were sitting in the mosque, a man entered riding a camel; he made it kneel in the mosque, then he hobbled it and said to them: ‘Which of you is Muḥammad?’ The Prophet, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, was reclining among them, so they said: ‘This fair- skinned man who is reclining.’ The man said to him: ‘O son of Abdul Muṭalib!’ The Prophet, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, said: ‘I am listening to you.’ The man said: O Muḥammad! I am asking you and will be stern in asking, so do not bear any ill-feelings towards me.’ He said: ‘Ask whatever you think.’ The man said: ‘I adjure you by your Lord and the Lord of those who came before you, has God sent you to all of mankind?’ The Prophet, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, said: ‘By God, yes.; He said: ‘I adjure you by God, has God commanded you to pray the five prayers each day and night?’ The Prophet, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, said: ‘By God, yes.’ He said: ‘I adjure you by God, has God commanded you to fast this month of each year?’ The Prophet, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, said : ‘By God, yes.’ He said: ‘I adjure you by God, has God commanded you to take this charity from our rich and distribute it among our poor?’ The M Prophet, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, said: ‘By God, yes.’ The man said: ‘I believe in what you have brought, and I am the envoy of my people who are behind me. I am Ḍhimām bin Ṭha’labah, the brother of Banū Sā’d bin Bakr (see Muslim).

Imām Al-Ḍhahabi mentions in Tazkiratul Hufāz, ‘he [Umar] was the first one to establish [a precedent of] verification in narration.’ Elsewhere, it was said by Muāwiyah, may God be pleased with him, on the pulpit, ‘O people, be careful over the narrations of the Prophet, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, except for the narrations mentioned during the time of Umar, may God be pleased with him, for he used to interrogate people with the fear of God…’ (See Tārīkh Madīnah Dimiṣhq)

[4] Once Abū Mūsā went to Umar’s house and knocked three times. When he did not reply, Abū Mūsā turned to leave. Umar came out and asked, ‘Where are you going?’ Abū Mūsā replied that the Prophet, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, had told him to leave after three knocks. Umar told him to find another companion to witness what he was saying or Umar would beat him. Abū Mūsā went to the masjid and found a group of Ṣaḥābāh. He told them what happened, and they said, SubḥānAllāh, Umar doesn’t know this ḥadīth! They sent the youngest amongst them – Abū Sa’īd al-Khūdrī – to tell Umar. (see Bukhāri)

[5] Bukhārī.

[6] It was narrated that Ā’iṣhah, may God be pleased with her said, ‘Whoever told you that Muḥammad, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, saw his Lord was lying. He said that no vision can grasp him’ (Bukhāri). However, It was narrated that Ibn Abbās said, the ‘(Prophet’s) heart belied not what he saw, and indeed he saw Him at a second descent.’ [Qur’ān 53:11-12] (This means that) he saw Him twice with his heart’ (Muslim).  See Ibn Kathīr for all the different opinions on this.

[7] Bukhāri and Muslim.

[8] Qur’ān 6:164

[9] al-Nasa’i.

[10] It was narrated from Abū Hūrairah that the Prophet, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, said, ‘perform ablution after (eating) that which has been changed by fire.’ Ibn Abbās said: ‘should I do ablution after (touching) hot water?” Abū Hūrairah said: ‘O son of my brother, when I narrate a ḥadīth of the Messenger of God, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, to you, then do not try to make examples for it.’ (Ibn Mājah)