Whoever Loves To Meet Allah, Allah Also Loves To Meet Him

Jamadi-Us-Sani 26, 1433 A.H, Friday, May 18, 2012

Al-Hamdulillah, all praises be to Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala, The Lord of all the worlds. Salawat and salam be to His servant and messenger, Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam, his family and companions.

It is wajib (compulsory) for every Mu’min (believer) to love his God, Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala. It is also wajib to hope for love from Him.

It is also wajib for him to believe that the day of the meeting with Him will surely happen. Namely when Allah repays the deeds of His slaves after they have been resurrected from their graves. Due to that, he always prepares everything for that meeting.

 ِةَدﺎَﺒِﻌِﺑ 

كِﺮْﺸُﻳ 

َﻻَو 

ﺎًﺤِﻟﺎَﺻ ْ

"So whoever would hope for the meeting with his Lord - let him do righteous work and not associate in the worship of his Lord anyone." (QS. Al-Kahfi: 110)

Meaning: Whoever hopes for the rewards from Allah and good returns when meeting with Allah Ta’ala in the hereafter, then he should be doing righteous deeds, namely: deeds that are compatible with the Shari’ah of

The further condition is, in doing the righteous deeds, he only hopes for the wajh (face) of Allah Ta’ala, where there is no associate for Him. Both of these, according to Ibnu Katsir, are the prerequisites for the deeds to be

The deeds must be sincerely done for Allah and right in accordance with the shari’ah of Rasulullah Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam. (see Tafsir Ibnu Katsir in interpreting the above verse).

Rasulullah Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam said:

 ُهَءﺎَﻘِﻟ 

ِ هِﺮَﻛ َ ﻪﱠﻠﻟا 

َ ﻪﱠﻠﻟا 

ْ هِﺮَﻛ َ ءﺎَﻘِﻟ 

ُ ﻦَﻣَو 

ُ هَءﺎَﻘِﻟ 

َّ ﻪﱠﻠﻟا 

ِ ﺐَﺣَأ 

َ ﻪﱠﻠﻟا 

َّ ءﺎَﻘِﻟ 

ﻦَﻣ ْ ﺐَﺣَأ ُ



"Whoever loves to meet Allah, Allah loves to meet him. And whoever hates to meet Allah, Allah hates to meet him." (HR. Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Sheikh Ibnu Al-‘Utsaimin rahimahullah said, “A Mu’min who believes in what Allah promises in paradise for His believing slaves, in the form of great rewards, as well as vast gifts, then he would love it, and the dunya (world) feels light to him and the dunya does not matter to him because he will migrate to paradise which is better than the dunya.

At that moment, he also longs to meet Allah, especially when death approaches, he is then given the good news of Allah’s pleasure and mercy, he thus longs to meet Allah.” (Sharah Riyaad Al-Salihin)

So one of the do’as of the Prophet Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam was:

 َﻚِﺋﺎَﻘِﻟ 

َ ﻰَﻟِإ 

َ قْﻮﱠﺸﻟاَو 

ﻚِﻬْﺟَو 

ِ ﻰَﻟِإ 

َ ةﱠﺬَﻟ َ ﺮَﻈﱠﻨﻟا 

ﻚُﻟَﺄْﺳَأَو



"And I beg Thee the pleasure of seeing Your Face, and the longing for a meeting with You." (HR An-Nasaai, and made saheeh by Sheikh Al-Albani)

But otherwise, the people who are negligent of the hereafter and not hoping for Allah’s rewards on the day of the meeting with Him, he is made busy by the dunya and is content with it, so Allah also does not like to meet him, He is not willing to give forgiveness and mercy to him. Allah Ta’ala describes the people of this kind in His

 َنﻮُﺒِﺴْﻜَﻳ

اﻮُﻧﺎَﻛ 

ُ ﺎَﻤِﺑ 

ُ رﺎﱠﻨﻟا 

َ ﻢُﻫاَوْﺄَﻣ 

َ ﻚِﺌَﻟوُأ 

نﻮُﻠِﻓﺎَﻏ 

َ ﻢُﻫ ْ ﻦَﻋ ْ ﺎَﻨِﺗﺎَﻳآ 

ﻦﻳِﺬﱠﻟاَو 

ﺎَﻬِﺑ 

اﻮﱡﻧَﺄَﻤْﻃاَو 

ِ ﺎَﻴْﻧﱡﺪﻟا 

ةﺎَﻴَﺤْﻟﺎِﺑ

"Indeed, those who do not expect the meeting with Us and are satisfied with the life of this world and feel secure therein and those who are heedless of Our signs. For those their refuge will be the Fire because of what they used to earn." (QS. Yunus: 7-8)

Al-Imam Ibnu Katsir rahimahullah said: “This verse of Allah Ta’ala tells about the state of the damned people, namely those who are kufr (denial) of the meeting with Allah on Judgment day. Not hoping for anything in the meeting. They are content with the life of this world and their souls feel peace with it.”

They are the people who do not hope for the meeting with Allah, they even turn away from it and they may even go as far as denying it.

They are content with the world in lieu of the hereafter. Inclined towards the dunya and make it as the purpose of life and the culmination of their ideals. They are doing anything to acquire it and they are tooth and nail in gaining its pleasure and joy by any means.

They pour out all the obsessions, intentions, thoughts and energies for it. As if they were created to be eternal in it. As if the world is not a place of transit made as a place for preparing provisions by the travellers to the land of eternity. (summarized from Tafsir Taisir al-Karim al-Rahman, Sheikh Abdurrahman bin Nasir al-Sa’diy)

The fate of each of these groups can already be felt when they are facing death. The people of faith who believe and hope for the meeting with Allah will face death with happiness because they receive the good news of Allah’s grace, mercy, pleasure, glory and paradise after death.

On the other hand, the kuffar, with regards to the day of the meeting, will receive the bad news of Allah’s wrath and punishment that are so terrible, so much so that they hate death very much since they know what they would procure after death.

Narrated by Aishah Radhiyallahu ‘Anha, Rasulullah Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam said: ﻦَﻣ ْ ﺐَﺣَأ َّ ءﺎَﻘِﻟ َ ﻪﱠﻠﻟا ِ ﺐَﺣَأ َّ ﻪﱠﻠﻟا ُ هَءﺎَﻘِﻟ ُ ﻦَﻣَو ْ هِﺮَﻛ َ ءﺎَﻘِﻟ َ ﻪﱠﻠﻟا ِ هِﺮَﻛ َ ﻪﱠﻠﻟا ُ ُهَءﺎَﻘِﻟ

"Whoever loves to meet Allah, Allah loves to meet him. And whoever hates to meet Allah, Allah hates to meet

And then Aishah explained: “I asked: O Prophet of Allah, does that also mean hating death, whereas everyone of us hates death? Then he answered, “It does not mean like that. But a Mu’min when (facing death) he is given the good news of Allah’s mercy, pleasure and His paradise so that he loves meeting with Allah and thus Allah loves to meet him. And indeed a kuffar, when (facing death) he is given the bad news of Allah’s punishment and His wrath, so that he hates meeting with Allah and thus Allah also hates to meet him.” (HR. Al-Bukhari dan

The Prophet Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam, when facing death said: “Ya Allah I choose the highest companions.”

According to the utterance of Aishah, at that time the Prophet Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam was being given the choice of between staying alive in the world or die and meet Allah. Then he chose death as he prioritized the afterlife over the world.

Thus Al-Hafid Ibnul Hajar commented on this: “Therefore we must emulate him in this matter.” Namely making the hereafter as the purpose of life and prioritized the afterlife over the dunya.

Wallahu Ta’ala A’lam.

[Badrul Tamam/voa-islam.com]

Translated and Submitted by a Mujahid Theunjustmedia.com

Whoever Loves To Meet Allah, Allah Also Loves To Meet Him

Jamadi-Us-Sani 26, 1433 A.H, Friday, May 18, 2012

Al-Hamdulillah, all praises be to Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala, The Lord of all the worlds. Salawat and salam be to His servant and messenger, Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam, his family and companions.

It is wajib (compulsory) for every Mu’min (believer) to love his God, Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala. It is also wajib to hope for love from Him.

It is also wajib for him to believe that the day of the meeting with Him will surely happen. Namely when Allah repays the deeds of His slaves after they have been resurrected from their graves. Due to that, he always prepares everything for that meeting.

ِةَدﺎَﺒِﻌِﺑ

كِﺮْﺸُﻳ

َﻻَو

ﺎًﺤِﻟﺎَﺻ ْ

"So whoever would hope for the meeting with his Lord - let him do righteous work and not associate in the worship of his Lord anyone." (QS. Al-Kahfi: 110)

Meaning: Whoever hopes for the rewards from Allah and good returns when meeting with Allah Ta’ala in the hereafter, then he should be doing righteous deeds, namely: deeds that are compatible with the Shari’ah of

The further condition is, in doing the righteous deeds, he only hopes for the wajh (face) of Allah Ta’ala, where there is no associate for Him. Both of these, according to Ibnu Katsir, are the prerequisites for the deeds to be

The deeds must be sincerely done for Allah and right in accordance with the shari’ah of Rasulullah Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam. (see Tafsir Ibnu Katsir in interpreting the above verse).

Rasulullah Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam said:

ُهَءﺎَﻘِﻟ

ِ هِﺮَﻛ َ ﻪﱠﻠﻟا

َ ﻪﱠﻠﻟا

ْ هِﺮَﻛ َ ءﺎَﻘِﻟ

ُ ﻦَﻣَو

ُ هَءﺎَﻘِﻟ

َّ ﻪﱠﻠﻟا

ِ ﺐَﺣَأ

َ ﻪﱠﻠﻟا

َّ ءﺎَﻘِﻟ

ﻦَﻣ ْ ﺐَﺣَأ ُ

"Whoever loves to meet Allah, Allah loves to meet him. And whoever hates to meet Allah, Allah hates to meet him." (HR. Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Sheikh Ibnu Al-‘Utsaimin rahimahullah said, “A Mu’min who believes in what Allah promises in paradise for His believing slaves, in the form of great rewards, as well as vast gifts, then he would love it, and the dunya (world) feels light to him and the dunya does not matter to him because he will migrate to paradise which is better than the dunya.

At that moment, he also longs to meet Allah, especially when death approaches, he is then given the good news of Allah’s pleasure and mercy, he thus longs to meet Allah.” (Sharah Riyaad Al-Salihin)

So one of the do’as of the Prophet Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam was:

َﻚِﺋﺎَﻘِﻟ

َ ﻰَﻟِإ

َ قْﻮﱠﺸﻟاَو

ﻚِﻬْﺟَو

ِ ﻰَﻟِإ

َ ةﱠﺬَﻟ َ ﺮَﻈﱠﻨﻟا

ﻚُﻟَﺄْﺳَأَو

"And I beg Thee the pleasure of seeing Your Face, and the longing for a meeting with You." (HR An-Nasaai, and made saheeh by Sheikh Al-Albani)

But otherwise, the people who are negligent of the hereafter and not hoping for Allah’s rewards on the day of the meeting with Him, he is made busy by the dunya and is content with it, so Allah also does not like to meet him, He is not willing to give forgiveness and mercy to him. Allah Ta’ala describes the people of this kind in His

َنﻮُﺒِﺴْﻜَﻳ

اﻮُﻧﺎَﻛ

ُ ﺎَﻤِﺑ

ُ رﺎﱠﻨﻟا

َ ﻢُﻫاَوْﺄَﻣ

َ ﻚِﺌَﻟوُأ

نﻮُﻠِﻓﺎَﻏ

َ ﻢُﻫ ْ ﻦَﻋ ْ ﺎَﻨِﺗﺎَﻳآ

ﻦﻳِﺬﱠﻟاَو

ﺎَﻬِﺑ

اﻮﱡﻧَﺄَﻤْﻃاَو

ِ ﺎَﻴْﻧﱡﺪﻟا

ةﺎَﻴَﺤْﻟﺎِﺑ

"Indeed, those who do not expect the meeting with Us and are satisfied with the life of this world and feel secure therein and those who are heedless of Our signs. For those their refuge will be the Fire because of what they used to earn." (QS. Yunus: 7-8)

Al-Imam Ibnu Katsir rahimahullah said: “This verse of Allah Ta’ala tells about the state of the damned people, namely those who are kufr (denial) of the meeting with Allah on Judgment day. Not hoping for anything in the meeting. They are content with the life of this world and their souls feel peace with it.”

They are the people who do not hope for the meeting with Allah, they even turn away from it and they may even go as far as denying it.

They are content with the world in lieu of the hereafter. Inclined towards the dunya and make it as the purpose of life and the culmination of their ideals. They are doing anything to acquire it and they are tooth and nail in gaining its pleasure and joy by any means.

They pour out all the obsessions, intentions, thoughts and energies for it. As if they were created to be eternal in it. As if the world is not a place of transit made as a place for preparing provisions by the travellers to the land of eternity. (summarized from Tafsir Taisir al-Karim al-Rahman, Sheikh Abdurrahman bin Nasir al-Sa’diy)

The fate of each of these groups can already be felt when they are facing death. The people of faith who believe and hope for the meeting with Allah will face death with happiness because they receive the good news of Allah’s grace, mercy, pleasure, glory and paradise after death.

On the other hand, the kuffar, with regards to the day of the meeting, will receive the bad news of Allah’s wrath and punishment that are so terrible, so much so that they hate death very much since they know what they would procure after death.

Narrated by Aishah Radhiyallahu ‘Anha, Rasulullah Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam said: ﻦَﻣ ْ ﺐَﺣَأ َّ ءﺎَﻘِﻟ َ ﻪﱠﻠﻟا ِ ﺐَﺣَأ َّ ﻪﱠﻠﻟا ُ هَءﺎَﻘِﻟ ُ ﻦَﻣَو ْ هِﺮَﻛ َ ءﺎَﻘِﻟ َ ﻪﱠﻠﻟا ِ هِﺮَﻛ َ ﻪﱠﻠﻟا ُ ُهَءﺎَﻘِﻟ

"Whoever loves to meet Allah, Allah loves to meet him. And whoever hates to meet Allah, Allah hates to meet

And then Aishah explained: “I asked: O Prophet of Allah, does that also mean hating death, whereas everyone of us hates death? Then he answered, “It does not mean like that. But a Mu’min when (facing death) he is given the good news of Allah’s mercy, pleasure and His paradise so that he loves meeting with Allah and thus Allah loves to meet him. And indeed a kuffar, when (facing death) he is given the bad news of Allah’s punishment and His wrath, so that he hates meeting with Allah and thus Allah also hates to meet him.” (HR. Al-Bukhari dan

The Prophet Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam, when facing death said: “Ya Allah I choose the highest companions.”

According to the utterance of Aishah, at that time the Prophet Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam was being given the choice of between staying alive in the world or die and meet Allah. Then he chose death as he prioritized the afterlife over the world.

Thus Al-Hafid Ibnul Hajar commented on this: “Therefore we must emulate him in this matter.” Namely making the hereafter as the purpose of life and prioritized the afterlife over the dunya.

Wallahu Ta’ala A’lam.

[Badrul Tamam/voa-islam.com]

Translated and Submitted by a Mujahid Theunjustmedia.com

Analogy of alcohol in Islam

‎”Allah’s curse falls on ten groups of people who deal with alcohol. The one who distills it, the one for whom it has been distilled, the one who drinks it, the one who transports it, the one to who it has been brought, the one whom serves it, the one who utilizes money from it, the one who buys it and the one who buys it for someone else.”

[Sunan Ibn-I-Majah Volume 3, Book of Intoxicants, Chapter 30 Hadith No. 3380]

What is a Madhab? Why is it necessary to follow one?

© Nuh Ha Mim Keller, 1995

"The slogans we hear today about ‘following the Qur’an and sunna instead of following the madhhabs’ are wide of the mark…In reality it is a great leap backward, a call to abandon centuries of detailed, case-by-case Islamic scholarship in finding and spelling out the commands of the Qur’an and sunna,” argues Nuh Ha Mim Keller.

The word madhhab is derived from an Arabic word meaning “to go” or “to take as a way”, and refers to a mujtahid’s choice in regard to a number of interpretive possibilities in deriving the rule of Allah from the primary texts of the Qur’an and hadith on a particular question. In a larger sense, a madhhab represents the entire school of thought of a particular mujtahid Imam, such as Abu Hanifa, Malik, Shafi’i, or Ahmad—together with many first-rank scholars that came after each of these in their respective schools, who checked their evidences and refined and upgraded their work. The mujtahid Imams were thus explainers, who operationalized the Qur’an and sunna in the specific shari’a rulings in our lives that are collectively known as fiqh or “jurisprudence”. In relation to our din or “religion”, this fiqh is only part of it, for the religious knowledge each of us possesses is of three types. The first type is the general knowledge of tenets of Islamic belief in the oneness of Allah, in His angels, Books, messengers, the prophethood of Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), and so on. All of us may derive this knowledge directly from the Qur’an and hadith, as is also the case with a second type of knowledge, that of general Islamic ethical principles to do good, avoid evil, cooperate with others in good works, and so forth. Every Muslim can take these general principles, which form the largest and most important part of his religion, from the Qur’an and hadith. The third type of knowledge is that of the specific understanding of particular divine commands and prohibitions that make up the shari’a. Here, because of both the nature and the sheer number of the Qur’an and hadith texts involved, people differ in the scholarly capacity to understand and deduce rulings from them. But all of us have been commanded to live them in our lives, in obedience to Allah, and so Muslims are of two types, those who can do this by themselves, and they are the mujtahid Imams; and those who must do so by means of another, that is, by following a mujtahid Imam, in accordance with Allah’s word in Surat al-Nahl,

" Ask those who recall, if you know not " (Qur’an 16:43), and in Surat al-Nisa, " If they had referred it to the Messenger and to those of authority among them, then those of them whose task it is to find it out would have known the matter " (Qur’an 4:83), in which the phrase those of them whose task it is to find it out, expresses the words "alladhina yastanbitunahu minhum", referring to those possessing the capacity to draw inferences directly from the evidence, which is called in Arabic istinbat. These and other verses and hadiths oblige the believer who is not at the level of istinbat or directly deriving rulings from the Qur’an and hadith to ask and follow someone in such rulings who is at this level. It is not difficult to see why Allah has obliged us to ask experts, for if each of us were personally responsible for evaluating all the primary texts relating to each question, a lifetime of study would hardly be enough for it, and one would either have to give up earning a living or give up ones din, which is why Allah says in surat al-Tawba, in the context of jihad:

" Not all of the believers should go to fight. Of every section of them, why does not one part alone go forth, that the rest may gain knowledge of the religion and admonish their people when they return, that perhaps they may take warning " (Qur’an 9:122).

The slogans we hear today about “following the Qur’an and sunna instead of following the madhhabs” are wide of the mark, for everyone agrees that we must follow the Qur’an and the sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). The point is that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is no longer alive to personally teach us, and everything we have from him, whether the hadith or the Qur’an, has been conveyed to us through Islamic scholars. So it is not a question of whether or not to take our din from scholars, but rather, from which scholars. And this is the reason we have madhhabs in Islam: because the excellence and superiority of the scholarship of the mujtahid Imams—together with the traditional scholars who followed in each of their schools and evaluated and upgraded their work after them—have met the test of scholarly investigation and won the confidence of thinking and practicing Muslims for all the centuries of Islamic greatness. The reason why madhhabs exist, the benefit of them, past, present, and future, is that they furnish thousands of sound, knowledge-based answers to Muslims questions on how to obey Allah. Muslims have realized that to follow a madhhab means to follow a super scholar who not only had a comprehensive knowledge of the Qur’an and hadith texts relating to each issue he gave judgements on, but also lived in an age a millennium closer to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and his Companions, when taqwa or “godfearingness” was the norm—both of which conditions are in striking contrast to the scholarship available today. While the call for a return to the Qur’an and sunna is an attractive slogan, in reality it is a great leap backward, a call to abandon centuries of detailed, case-by-case Islamic scholarship in finding and spelling out the commands of the Qur’an and sunna, a highly sophisticated, interdisciplinary effort by mujtahids, hadith specialists, Qur’anic exegetes, lexicographers, and other masters of the Islamic legal sciences. To abandon the fruits of this research, the Islamic shari’a, for the following of contemporary sheikhs who, despite the claims, are not at the level of their predecessors, is a replacement of something tried and proven for something at best tentative.

The rhetoric of following the shari’a without following a particular madhhab is like a person going down to a car dealer to buy a car, but insisting it not be any known make—neither a Volkswagen nor Rolls-Royce nor Chevrolet—but rather “a car, pure and simple”. Such a person does not really know what he wants; the cars on the lot do not come like that, but only in kinds. The salesman may be forgiven a slight smile, and can only point out that sophisticated products come from sophisticated means of production, from factories with a division of labor among those who test, produce, and assemble the many parts of the finished product. It is the nature of such collective human efforts to produce something far better than any of us alone could produce from scratch, even if given a forge and tools, and fifty years, or even a thousand. And so it is with the shari’a, which is more complex than any car because it deals with the universe of human actions and a wide interpretative range of sacred texts. This is why discarding the monumental scholarship of the madhhabs in operationalizing the Qur’an and sunna in order to adopt the understanding of a contemporary sheikh is not just a mistaken opinion. It is scrapping a Mercedes for a go-cart.

Why Muslims Follow Madhabs

© Nuh Ha Mim Keller

"Who needs the Imams of Sacred Law when we have the Qur’an and hadith? Why can’t we take our Islam from the word of Allah and His Messenger?"  Nuh Ha Mim Keller explains the necessity to respect and value scholars and the schools of Islamic law.

The work of the mujtahid Imams of Sacred Law, those who deduce shari’a rulings from Qur’an and hadith, has been the object of my research for some years now, during which I have sometimes heard the question: “Who needs the Imams of Sacred Law when we have the Qur’an and hadith? Why can’t we take our Islam from the word of Allah and His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace), which are divinely protected from error, instead of taking it from the madhhabs or “schools of jurisprudence” of the mujtahid Imams such as Abu Hanifa, Malik, Shafi’i, and Ahmad, which are not?”

It cannot be hidden from any of you how urgent this issue is, or that many of the disagreements we see and hear in our mosques these days are due to lack of knowledge of fiqh or “Islamic jurisprudence” and its relation to Islam as a whole. Now, perhaps more than ever before, it is time for us to get back to basics and ask ourselves how we understand and carry out the commands of Allah.

We will first discuss the knowledge of Islam that all of us possess, and then show where fiqh enters into it. We will look at the qualifications mentioned in the Qur’an and sunna for those who do fiqh, the mujtahid scholars. We will focus first on the extent of the mujtahid scholar's knowledge-how many hadiths he has to know, and so on-and then we will look at the depth of his knowledge, through actual examples of dalils or “legal proofs” that demonstrate how scholars join between different and even contradictory hadiths to produce a unified and consistent legal ruling.

We will close by discussing the mujtahid’s relation to the science of hadith authentication, and the conditions by which a scholar knows that a given hadith is sahih or “rigorously authenticated,” so that he can accept and follow it.

Qur’an and Hadith. The knowledge that you and I take from the Qur’an and the hadith is of several types: the first and most important concerns our faith, and is the knowledge of Allah and His attributes, and the other basic tenets of Islamic belief such as the messengerhood of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), the Last Day, and so on. Every Muslim can and must acquire this knowledge from the Book of Allah and the sunna.

This is also the case with a second type of general knowledge, which does not concern faith, however, but rather works: the general laws of Islam to do good, to avoid evil, to perform the prayer, pay zakat, fast Ramadan, to cooperate with others in good works, and so forth. Anyone can learn and understand these general rules, which summarize the sirat al-mustaqim or “straight path” of our religion.

Fiqh. A third type of knowledge is of the specific details of Islamic practice. Whereas anyone can understand the first two types of knowledge from the Qur’an and hadith, the understanding of this third type has a special name, fiqh, meaning literally “understanding.” And people differ in their capacity to do it.

I had a visitor one day in Jordan, for example, who, when we talked about why he hadn’t yet gone on hajj, mentioned the hadith of Anas ibn Malik that

the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whoever prays the dawn prayer (fajr) in a group and then sits and does dhikr until the sun rises, then prays two rak’as, shall have the like of the reward of a hajj and an ‘umra.” Anas said, “The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: ‘Completely, completely, completely’” (Tirmidhi, 2.481).

My visitor had done just that this very morning, and he now believed that he had fulfilled his obligation to perform the hajj, and had no need to go to Mecca. The hadith was well authenticated (hasan). I distinguished for my visitor between having the reward of something, and lifting the obligation of Islam by actually doing it, and he saw my point.

But there is a larger lesson here, that while the Qur’an and the sunna are ma’sum or “divinely protected from error,” the understanding of them is not. And someone who derives rulings from the Qur’an and hadith without training in ijtihad or “deduction from primary texts” as my visitor did, will be responsible for it on the Day of Judgment, just as an amateur doctor who had never been to medical school would be responsible if he performed an operation and somebody died under his knife.

Why? Because Allah has explained in the Qur’an that fiqh, the detailed understanding of the divine command, requires specially trained members of the Muslim community to learn and teach it. Allah says in surat al-Tawba:

"Not all of the believers should go to fight. Of every section of them, why does not one part alone go forth, that the rest may gain understanding of the religion, and to admonish their people when they return, that perhaps they may take warning" (Qur’an 9:122)

-where the expression li yatafaqqahu fi al-din, “to gain understanding of the religion,” is derived from precisely the same root (f-q-h) as the word fiqh or “jurisprudence,” and is what Western students of Arabic would call a “fifth-form verb” (tafa”ala), which indicates that the meaning contained in the root, understanding, is accomplished through careful, sustained effort.

This Qur’anic verse establishes that there should be a category of people who have learned the religion so as to be qualified in turn to teach it. And Allah has commanded those who do not know a ruling in Sacred Law to ask those who do, by saying in surat al-Nahl,

"Ask those who recall if you know not" (Qur’an 16:43),

in which the words “those who recall,” ahl al-dhikri, indicate those with knowledge of the Qur’an and sunna, at their forefront the mujtahid Imams of this Umma. Why? Because, first of all, the Qur’an and hadith are in Arabic, and as a translator, I can assure you that it is not just any Arabic.

To understand the Qur’an and sunna, the mujtahid must have complete knowledge of the Arabic language in the same capacity as the early Arabs themselves had before the language came to be used by non-native speakers. This qualification, which almost no one in our time has, is not the main subject of my essay, but even if we did have it, what if you or I, though not trained specialists, wanted to deduce details of Islamic practice directly from the sources? After all, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) has said, in the hadith of Bukhari and Muslim: “When a judge gives judgement and strives to know a ruling (ijtahada) and is correct, he has two rewards. If he gives judgement and strives to know a ruling, but is wrong, he has one reward” (Bukhari, 9.133).

The answer is that the term ijtihad or “striving to know a ruling” in this hadith does not mean just any person’s efforts to understand and operationalize an Islamic ruling, but rather the person with sound knowledge of everything the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) taught that relates to the question. Whoever makes ijtihad without this qualification is a criminal. The proof of this is the hadith that the Companion Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah said:

We went on a journey, and a stone struck one of us and opened a gash in his head. When he later had a wet-dream in his sleep, he then asked his companions, “Do you find any dispensation for me to perform dry ablution (tayammum)?” [Meaning instead of a full purificatory bath (ghusl).] They told him, “We don’t find any dispensation for you if you can use water.”

So he performed the purificatory bath and his wound opened and he died. When we came to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), he was told of this and he said: “They have killed him, may Allah kill them. Why did they not ask?-for they didn’t know. The only cure for someone who does not know what to say is to ask” (Abu Dawud, 1.93).

This hadith, which was related by Abu Dawud, is well authenticated (hasan), and every Muslim who has any taqwa should reflect on it carefully, for the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) indicated in it-in the strongest language possible-that to judge on a rule of Islam on the basis of insufficient knowledge is a crime. And like it is the well authenticated hadith “Whoever is given a legal opinion (fatwa) without knowledge, his sin is but upon the person who gave him the opinion” (Abu Dawud, 3.321).

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) also said:

Judges are three: two of them in hell, and one in paradise. A man who knows the truth and judges accordingly, he shall go to paradise. A man who judges for people while ignorant, he shall go to hell. And a man who knows the truth but rules unjustly, he shall go to hell (Sharh al-sunna, 10.94).

This hadith, which was related by Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, and others, is rigorously authenticated (sahih), and any Muslim who would like to avoid the hellfire should soberly consider the fate of whoever, in the words of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), “judges for people while ignorant.”

Yet we all have our Yusuf ‘Ali Qur’ans, and our Sahih al-Bukhari translations. Aren’t these adequate scholarly resources?

These are valuable books, and do convey perhaps the largest and most important part of our din: the basic Islamic beliefs, and general laws of the religion. Our discussion here is not about these broad principles, but rather about understanding specific details of Islamic practice, which is called precisely fiqh. For this, I think any honest investigator who studies the issues will agree that the English translations are not enough. They are not enough because understanding the total Qur’an and hadith textual corpus, which comprises what we call the din, requires two dimensions in a scholar: a dimension of breadth, the substantive knowledge of all the texts; and a dimension of depth, the methodological tools needed to join between all the Qur’anic verses and hadiths, even those that ostensibly contradict one another.

Knowledge of Primary Texts. As for the breadth of a mujtahid’s knowledge, it is recorded that Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal’s student Muhammad ibn ‘Ubaydullah ibn al-Munadi heard a man ask him [Imam Ahmad]: “When a man has memorized 100,000 hadiths, is he a scholar of Sacred Law, a faqih?” And he said, “No.” The man asked, “200,000 then?” And he said, “No.” The man asked, “Then 300,000?” And he said, “No.” The man asked, “400,000?” And Ahmad gestured with his hand to signify “about that many” (Ibn al-Qayyim: I’lam al-muwaqqi’in, 4.205).

In truth, by the term “hadith” here Imam Ahmad meant the hadiths of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) in all their various chains of transmission, counting each chain of transmission as a separate hadith, and perhaps also counting the statements of the Sahaba. But the larger point here is that even if we eliminate the different chains, and speak only about the hadiths from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) that are plainly acceptable as evidence, whether sahih, “rigorously authenticated” or hasan “well authenticated” (which for purposes of ijtihad, may be assimilated to the sahih), we are still speaking of well over 10,000 hadiths, and they are not contained in Bukhari alone, or in Bukhari and Muslim alone, nor yet in any six books, or even in any nine. Yet whoever wants to give a fatwa or “formal legal opinion” and judge for people that something is lawful or unlawful, obligatory or sunna, must know all the primary texts that relate to it. For the perhaps 10,000 hadiths that are sahih are, for the mujtahid, as one single hadith, and he must first know them in order to join between them to explain the unified command of Allah.

I say “join between” because most of you must be aware that some sahih hadiths seem to controvert other equally sahih hadiths. What does a mujtahid do in such an instance?

Ijtihad. Let’s look at some examples. Most of us know the hadiths about fasting on the Day of ‘Arafa for the non-pilgrim, that “it expiates [the sins of] the year before and the year after” (Muslim, 2.819). But another rigorously authenticated hadith prohibits fasting on Friday alone (Bukhari, 3.54), and a well authenticated hadith prohibits fasting on Saturday alone (Tirmidhi, 3.120), of which Tirmidhi explains, “The meaning of the ‘offensiveness’ in this is when a man singles out Saturday to fast on, since the Jews venerate Saturdays” (ibid.). Some scholars hold Sundays offensive to fast on for the same reason, that they are venerated by non-Muslims. (Other hadiths permit fasting one of these days together with the day before or the day after it, perhaps because no religion venerates two of the days in a row.) The question arises: What does one do when ‘Arafa falls on a Friday, a Saturday, or a Sunday? The general demand for fasting on the Day of ‘Arafa might well be qualified by the specific prohibition of fasting on just one of these days. But a mujtahid aware of the whole hadith corpus would certainly know a third hadith related by Muslim that is even more specific, and says: “Do not single out Friday from among other days to fast on, unless it coincides with a fast one of you performs” (Muslim, 2.801).

The latter hadith establishes for the mujtahid the general principle that the ruling for fasting on a day normally prohibited to fast on changes when it “coincides with a fast one of you performs”-and so there is no problem with fasting whether the Day of Arafa falls on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.

Here as elsewhere, whoever wants to understand the ruling of doing something in Islam must know all the texts connected with it. Because as ordinary Muslims, you and I are not only responsible for obeying the Qur’anic verses and hadiths we are familiar with. We are responsible for obeying all of them, the whole shari’a. And if we are not personally qualified to join between all of its texts-and we have heard Ahmad ibn Hanbal discuss how much knowledge this takes-we must follow someone who can, which is why Allah tells us, “Ask those who recall if you know not.”

The size and nature of this knowledge necessitate that the non-specialist use adab or “proper respect” towards the scholars of fiqh when he finds a hadith, whether in Bukhari or elsewhere, that ostensibly contradicts the schools of fiqh. A non-scholar, for example, reading through Sahih al-Bukhari will find the hadith that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) bared a thigh on the ride back from Khaybar (Bukhari, 1.103-4). And he might imagine that the four madhhabs or “legal schools”-Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, and Hanbali-were mistaken in their judgment that the thigh is ‘awra or “nakedness that must be covered.”

But in fact there are a number of other hadiths, all of them well authenticated (hasan) or rigorously authenticated (sahih) that prove that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) explicitly commanded various Sahaba to cover the thigh because it was nakedness. Hakim reports that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) saw Jarhad in the mosque wearing a mantle, and his thigh became uncovered, so the Prophet told him, “The thigh is part of one’s nakedness” (al-Mustadrak), of which Hakim said, “This is a hadith whose chain of transmission is rigorously authenticated (sahih),” which Imam Dhahabi confirmed (ibid.). Imam al-Baghawi records the sahih hadith that “the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) passed by Ma’mar, whose two thighs were exposed, and told him, ‘O Ma’mar, cover your two thighs, for the two thighs are nakedness’” (Sharh al-sunna 9.21). And Ahmad ibn Hanbal records that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “When one of you marries [someone to] his servant or hired man, let him not look at his nakedness, for what is below his navel to his two knees is nakedness” (Ahmad, 2.187), a hadith with a well authenticated (hasan) chain of transmission. The mujtahid Imams of the four schools knew these hadiths, and joined between them and the Khaybar hadith in Bukhari by the methodological principle that: “An explicit command in words from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is given precedence over an action of his.” Why?

Among other reasons, because certain laws of the shari’a applied to the Prophet alone (Allah bless him and give him peace). Such as the fact that when he went into battle, he was not permitted to retreat, no matter how outnumbered. Or such as the obligatoriness for him alone of praying tahajjud or “night vigil prayer” after rising from sleep before dawn, which is merely sunna for the rest of us. Or such as the permissibility for him alone of not breaking his fast at night between fast-days. Or such as the permissibility for him alone of having more than four wives-the means through which Allah, in His wisdom, preserved for us the minutest details of the Prophet’s day-to-day sunna (Allah bless him and give him peace), which a larger number of wives would be far abler to observe and remember.

Because certain laws of the shari’a applied to him alone, the scholars of ijtihad have established the principle that in many cases, when an act was done by the Prophet personally (Allah bless him and give him peace), such as bearing the thigh after Khaybar, and when he gave an explicit command to us to do something else, in this case, to cover the thigh because it is nakedness, then the command is adopted for us, and the act is considered to pertain to him alone (Allah bless him and give him peace).

We can see from this example the kind of scholarship it takes to seriously comprehend the whole body of hadith, both in breadth of knowledge, and depth of interpretive understanding or fiqh, and that anyone who would give a fatwa, on the basis of the Khaybar hadith in Sahih al-Bukhari, that “the scholars are wrong and the hadith is right” would be guilty of criminal negligence for his ignorance.

When one does not have substantive knowledge of the Qur’an and hadith corpus, and lacks the fiqh methodology to comprehensively join between it, the hadiths one has read are not enough. To take another example, there is a well authenticated (hasan) hadith that “the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) cursed women who visit graves” (Tirmidhi, 3.371). But scholars say that the prohibition of women visiting graves was abrogated (mansukh) by the rigorously authenticated (sahih) hadith “I had forbidden you to visit graves, but now visit them” (Muslim, 2.672).

Here, although the expression “now visit them” (fa zuruha) is an imperative to men (or to a group of whom at least some are men), the fact that the hadith permits women as well as men to now visit graves is shown by another hadith related by Muslim in his Sahih that when ‘A’isha asked the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) what she should say if she visited graves, he told her, “Say: ‘Peace be upon the believers and Muslims of the folk of these abodes: May Allah have mercy on those of us who have gone ahead and those who have stayed behind: Allah willing, we shall certainly be joining you’” (Muslim, 2.671), which plainly entails the permissibility of her visiting graves in order to say this, for the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) would never have taught her these words if visiting the graves to say them had been disobedience. In other words, knowing all these hadiths, together with the methodological principle of naskh or “abrogation,” is essential to drawing the valid fiqh conclusion that the first hadith in which “the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) cursed women who visit graves”-was abrogated by the second hadith, as is attested to by the third.

Or consider the Qur’anic text in surat al-Ma’ida:

"The food of those who have been given the Book is lawful for you, and your food is lawful for them" (Qur’an 5:5).

This is a general ruling ostensibly pertaining to all their food. Yet this ruling is subject to takhsis, or “restriction” by more specific rulings that prove that certain foods of Ahl al-Kitab, “those who have been given the Book,” such as pork, or animals not properly slaughtered, are not lawful for us.

Ignorance of this principle of takhsis or restriction seems to be especially common among would-be mujtahids of our times, from whom we often hear the more general ruling in the words “But the Qur’an says,” or “But the hadith says,” without any mention of the more particular ruling from a different hadith or Qur’anic versethat restricts it. The reply can only be “Yes, brother, the Qur’an does say, ‘The food of those who have been given the Book is lawful for you,’ But what else does it say?” or “Yes, the hadith in Sahih al-Bukhari says the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) bared his thigh on the return from Khaybar. But what else do the hadiths say, and more importantly, are you sure you know it?”

The above examples illustrate only a few of the methodological rules needed by the mujtahid to understand and operationalize Islam by joining between all the evidence. Firstly, we saw the principle of takhsis or “restriction” of general rules by more specific ones, both in the example of fasting on the Day of ‘Arafa when it falls on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, and the example of the food of Ahl al-Kitab. Secondly, in the Khaybar hadith in Sahih al-Bukhari about baring the thigh and the hadiths commanding that the thigh be covered, we saw the principle of how an explicit prophetic command in words is given precedence over a mere action when there is a contradiction. Thirdly, we saw the principle of nasikh wa mansukh, of “an earlier ruling being abrogated by a later one,” in the example of the initial prohibition of women visiting graves, and their subsequently being permitted to.

These are only three of the ways that two or more texts of the Qur’an and hadith may enter into and qualify one another, rules that someone who derives the shari’a from them must know. In other words, they are but three tools of a whole methodological toolbox. We do not have the time tonight to go through all these tools in detail, although we can mention some in passing, giving first their Arabic names, such as:

  • The ‘amm, a text of general applicability to many legal rulings, and its opposite:
  • The khass, that which is applicable to only one ruling or type of ruling.
  • The mujmal, that which requires other texts to be fully understood, and its opposite:
  • The mubayyan, that which is plain without other texts.
  • The mutlaq, that which is applicable without restriction, and its opposite:
  • The muqayyad, that which has restrictions given in other texts.
  • The nasikh, that which supersedes previous revealed rulings, and its opposite:
  • The mansukh: that which is superseded.
  • The nass: that which unequivocally decides a particular legal question, and its opposite:
  • The dhahir: that which can bear more than one interpretation.

My point in mentioning what a mujtahid is, what fiqh is, and the types of texts that embody Allah’s commands, with the examples that illustrate them, is to answer our original question: “Why can’t we take our Islamic practice from the word of Allah and His messenger, which are divinely protected, instead of taking it from mujtahid Imams, who are not?” The answer, we have seen, is that revelation cannot be acted upon without understanding, and understanding requires firstly that one have the breadth of mastery of the whole, and secondly, the knowledge of how the parts relate to each other. Whoever joins between these two dimensions of the revelation is taking his Islamic practice from the word of Allah and His messenger, whether he does so personally, by being a mujtahid Imam, or whether by a means of another, by following one.

Following Scholars (Taqlid). The Qur’an clearly distinguishes between these two levels-the nonspecialists whose way is taqlid or “following the results of scholar without knowing the detailed evidence”; and those whose task is to know and evaluate the evidence-by Allah Most High saying in surat al-Nisa’:

"If they had referred it to the Messenger and to those of authority among them, then those of them whose task it is to find it out would have known the matter" (Qur’an 4:83)

-where alladhina yastanbitunahu minhum, “those of them whose task it is to find it out,” refers to those possessing the capacity to infer legal rulings directly from evidence, which is called in Arabic precisely istinbat, showing, as Qur’anic exegete al-Razi says, that “Allah has commanded those morally responsible to refer actual facts to someone who can infer (yastanbitu) the legal ruling concerning them” (Tafsir al-Fakhr al-Razi, 10.205).

A person who has reached this level can and indeed must draw his inferences directly from evidence, and may not merely follow another scholar’s conclusions without examining the evidence (taqlid), a rule expressed in books of methodological principles of fiqh as: Laysa li al-‘alim an yuqallida, “The alim [i.e. the mujtahid at the level of instinbat referred to by the above Qur’anic verse] may not merely follow another scholar” (al-Juwayni: Sharh al-Waraqat, 75), meaning it is not legally permissible for one mujtahid to follow another mujtahid unless he knows and agrees with his evidences.

The mujtahid Imams trained a number of scholars who were at this level. Imam Shafi’i had al-Muzani, and Imam Abu Hanifa had Abu Yusuf and Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani. It was to such students that Abu Hanifa addressed his words: “It is unlawful for whoever does not know my evidence to give my position as a fatwa” (al-Hamid: Luzum ittiba’ madhahib al-a’imma, 6), and, “It is not lawful for anyone to give our position as a fatwa until he knows where we have taken it from” (ibid.).

It is one of the howlers of our times that these words are sometimes quoted as though they were addressed to ordinary Muslims. If it were unlawful for the carpenter, the sailor, the computer programmer, the doctor, to do any act of worship before he had mastered the entire textual corpus of the Qur’an and thousands of hadiths, together with all the methodological principles needed to weigh the evidence and comprehensively join between it, he would either have to give up his profession or give up his religion. A lifetime of study would hardly be enough for this, a fact that Abu Hanifa knew better than anyone else, and it was to scholars of istinbat, the mujtahids, that he addressed his remarks. Whoever quotes these words to non-scholars to try to suggest that Abu Hanifa meant that it is wrong for ordinary Muslims to accept the work of scholars, should stop for a moment to reflect how insane this is, particularly in view of the life work of Abu Hanifa from beginning to end, which consisted precisely in summarizing the fiqh rulings of the religion for ordinary people to follow and benefit from.

Imam Shafi’i was also addressing this top level of scholars when he said: “When a hadith is sahih, it is my school (madhhab)”-which has been misunderstood by some to mean that if one finds a hadith, for example, in Sahih al-Bukhari that is inconsistent with a position of Shafi’i’s, one should presume that he was ignorant of it, drop the fiqh, and accept the hadith.

I think the examples we have heard tonight of joining between several hadiths for a single ruling are too clear to misunderstand Shafi’i in this way. Shafi’i is referring to hadiths that he was previously unaware of and that mujtahid scholars know him to have been unaware of when he gave a particular ruling. And this, as Imam Nawawi has said, “is very difficult,” for Shafi’i was aware of a great deal. We have heard the opinion of Shafi’i’s student Ahmad ibn Hanbal about how many hadiths a faqih must know, and he unquestionably considered Shafi’i to be such a scholar, for Shafi’i was his sheikh in fiqh. Ibn Khuzayma, known as “the Imam of Imams” in hadith memorization, was once asked, “Do you know of any rigorously authenticated (sahih) hadith that Shafi’i did not place in his books?” And he said “No” (Nawawi: al-Majmu’, 1.10). And Imam Dhahabi has said, “Shafi’i did not make a single mistake about a hadith” (Ibn Subki: Tabaqat al-Shafi’iyya, 9.114). It is clear from all of this that Imam Shafi’i’s statement “When a hadith is sahih, it is my position” only makes sense-and could result in meaningful corrections-if addressed to scholars at a level of hadith mastery comparable to his own.

Hadith Authentication. The last point raises another issue that few people are aware of today, and I shall devote the final part of my speech to it. Just as the mujtahid Imam is not like us in his command of the Qur’an and hadith evidence and the principles needed to join between it and infer rulings from it, so too he is not like us in the way he judges the authenticity of hadiths. If a person who is not a hadith specialist needs to rate a hadith, he will usually want to know if it appears, for example, in Sahih al-Bukhari, or Sahih Muslim, or if some hadith scholar has declared it to be sahih or hasan. A mujtahid does not do this.

Rather, he reaches an independent judgment as to whether a particular hadith is truly from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) through his own knowledge of hadith narrators and the sciences of hadith, and not from taqlid or “following the opinion of another hadith scholar.”

It is thus not necessarily an evidence against the positions of a mujtahid that Bukhari, or Muslim, or whoever, has accepted a hadith that contradicts the mujtahid’s evidence. Why? Because among hadith scholars, the reliability rating of individual narrators in hadith chains of transmission are disagreed about and therefore hadiths are disagreed about in the same manner that particular questions of fiqh are disagreed about among the scholars of fiqh. Like the schools of fiqh, the extent of this disagreement is relatively small in relation to the whole, but one should remember that it does exist.

Because a mujtahid scholar is not bound to accept another scholar’s ijtihad regarding a particular hadith, the ijtihad of a hadith specialist of our own time that, for example, a hadith is weak (da’if), is not necessarily an evidence against the ijtihad of a previous mujtahid that the hadith is acceptable. This is particularly true in the present day, when specialists in hadith are not at the level of their predecessors in either knowledge of hadith sciences, or memorization of hadiths.

We should also remember what sahih means. I shall conclude my essay with the five conditions that have to be met for a hadith to be considered sahih, and we shall see, in sha’ Allah, how the scholars of hadith have differed about them, a discussion drawn in its outlines from contemporary Syrian hadith scholar Muhammad ‘Awwama’s Athar al-hadith al-sharif fi ikhtilaf al-A’imma al-fuqaha [The effect of hadith on the differences of the Imams of fiqh] (21-23):

(a) The first condition is that a hadith must go back to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) by a continuous chain of narrators. There is a difference of opinion here between Bukhari and Muslim, in that Bukhari held that for any two adjacent narrators in a chain of transmission, it must be historically established that the two actually met, whereas Muslim and others stipulated only that their meeting have been possible, such as by one having lived in a particular city that the other is known to have visited at least once in his life. So some hadiths will be acceptable to Muslim that will not be acceptable to Bukhari and those of the mujtahid imams who adopt his criterion.

(b) The second condition for a sahih hadith is that the narrators be morally upright. The scholars have disagreed about the definition of this, some accepting that it is enough that a narrator be a Muslim who is not proven to have been unacceptable. Others stipulate that he be outwardly established as having been morally upright, while other scholars stipulate that this be established inwardly as well. These different criteria are naturally reasons why two mujtahids may differ about the authenticity of a single hadith.

(c) The third condition is that the narrators must be known to have had accurate memories. The verification of this is similarly subject to some disagreement between the Imams of hadith, resulting in differences about reliability ratings of particular narrators, and therefore of particular hadiths.

(d) The fourth condition for a sahih hadith is that the text and transmission of the hadith must be free of shudhudh, or “variance from established standard narrations of it.” An example is when a hadith is related by five different narrators who are contemporaries of one another, all of whom relate the same hadith from the same sheikh through his chain of transmission back to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). Here, if we find that four of the hadiths have the same wording but one of them has a variant wording, the hadith with the variant wording is called shadhdh or “deviant,” and it is not accepted, because the difference is naturally assumed to be the mistake of the one narrator, since all of the narrators heard the hadith from the same sheikh.

There is a hadith (to take an example researched by our hadith teacher, sheikh Shu’ayb al-Arna’ut) related by Ahmad (4.318), Bayhaqi (2.132), Ibn Khuzayma (1.354), and Ibn Hibban, with a reliable chain of narrators (thiqat)-except for Kulayb ibn Hisham, who is a merely “acceptable” (saduq), not “reliable” (thiqa)-that the Companion Wa’il ibn Hujr al-Hadrami said that when he watched the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) kneeling in the Tashahhud or “Testification of Faith” of his prayer, the Prophet lifted his [index] finger, and I saw him move it, supplicating with it. I came [some time] after that and saw people in [winter] over-cloaks, their hands moving under the cloaks (Ibn Hibban, 5.170-71).

Now, all of the versions of the hadith mentioning that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) moved his finger have been related to us by way of Za’ida ibn Qudama al-Thaqafi, a narrator who is considered reliable, and who transmitted it from the hadith sheikh ‘Asim ibn Kulayb, who related it from his father Kulayb ibn Shihab, from Wa’il ibn Hujr al-Hadrami. But we find that this version of “moving the finger” contradicts versions of the hadith transmitted from the same sheikh, ‘Asim ibn Kulayb, by no less than ten of ‘Asim’s other students, all of them reliable, who heard ‘Asim report that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) did not move but rather pointed (ashara) with his index finger (towards the qibla or “direction of prayer”).

These companions of ‘Asim (with their hadiths, which are well authenticated (hasan)) are: Sufyan al-Thawri: “then he pointed with his index finger, putting the thumb to the middle finger to make a ring with them” (al-Musannaf 2.68-69); Sufyan ibn ‘Uyayna: “he joined his thumb and middle finger to make a ring, and pointed with his index finger” (Ahmad, 4.318); Shu’ba ibn al-Hajjaj: “he pointed with his index finger, and formed a ring with the middle one” (Ahmad, 4.319); Qays ibn al-Rabi’: “then he joined his thumb and middle finger to make a ring, and pointed with his index finger” (Tabarani, 22.33-34); ‘Abd al-Wahid ibn Ziyad al-‘Abdi: “he made a ring with a finger, and pointed with his index finger” (Ahmad, 4.316); ‘Abdullah ibn Idris al-Awdi: “he had joined his thumb and middle finger to make a ring, and raised the finger between them to make du’a (supplication) in the Testification of Faith” (Ibn Majah, 1.295); Zuhayr ibn Mu’awiya: “and I saw him [‘Asim] say, ‘Like this,’-and Zuhayr pointed with his first index finger, holding two fingers in, and made a ring with his thumb and second index [middle] finger” (Ahmad, 4.318-19); Abu al-Ahwas Sallam ibn Sulaym: “he began making du’a like this-meaning with his index finger, pointing with it-” (Musnad al-Tayalisi, 137); Bishr ibn al-Mufaddal: “and I saw him [‘Asim] say, ‘Like this,’-and Bishr joined his thumb and middle finger to make a ring, and pointed with his index finger” (Abi Dawud, 1.251); and Khalid ibn Abdullah al-Wasiti: “then he joined his thumb and middle finger to make a ring, and pointed with his index finger” (Bayhaqi, 2.131).

All of these narrators are reliable (thiqat), and all heard ‘Asim ibn Kulayb relate that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) “pointed with (ashara bi) his index finger” during the Testimony of Faith in his prayer. There are many other narrations of “pointing with the index finger” transmitted through sheikhs other than ‘Asim, omitted here for brevity-four of them, for example, in Sahih Muslim, 1.408-9). The point is, for illustrating the meaning of a shadhdh or “deviant hadith,” that the version of moving the finger was conveyed only by Za’ida ibn Qudama from ‘Asim. Ibn Khuzayma says: “There is not a single hadith containing yuharrikuha (‘he moved it’) except this hadith mentioned by Za’ida” (Ibn Khuzayma, 1.354).

So we know that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to point with his index finger, and that the version of “moving his finger” is shadhdh or “deviant,” and represents a slip of the narrator, for the word ishara in the majority’s version means only “to point or gesture at,” or “to indicate with the hand,” and has no recorded lexical sense of wiggling or shaking the finger (Lisan al-‘Arab, 4.437 and al-Qamus al-muhit (540). This interpretation is explicitly borne out by well authenticated hadiths related from the Companion Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr that “the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to point with his index finger when making supplication [in the Testification of Faith], and did not move it” (Abi Dawud, 1.260) and that he “used to point with his index finger when making supplication, without moving it” (Bayhaqi, 2.131-32).

Finally, we may note that Imam Bayhaqi has joined between the Za’ida ibn Qudama hadith and the many hadiths that apparently contradict it by suggesting that moving the finger in the Za’ida hadith may mean simply lifting it (rafa’a), a wording explicitly mentioned in one version recorded by Muslim that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) “raised the right finger that is next to the thumb, and supplicated with it” (Muslim, 1.408). So according to Bayhaqi, the contradiction is only apparent, and raising the finger is the “movement” that Wa’il saw from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and the people’s hands under their cloaks, according to Za’ida’s version, which remains, however, shadhdh or “deviant” from a hadith point of view, unless understood in this limitary sense.

(e) The fifth and final condition for a sahih hadith is that both the text and chain of transmission must be without ‘illa or “hidden flaw” that alerts experts to expect inauthenticity in it. We will dwell for a moment on this point not only because it helps illustrate the processes of ijtihad, but because in-depth expertise in this condition was not common even among top hadith Imams. The greatest name in the field was ‘Ali al-Madini, one of the sheikhs of Bukhari, though his major work about it is now unfortunately lost. Daraqutni is perhaps the most famous specialist in the field whose works exist. In the words of Ibn al-Salah, a hafiz or “hadith master” (someone with at least 100,000 hadiths by memory), the knowledge of the ‘illa or “hidden flaw” is:

among the greatest of the sciences of hadith, the most exacting, and highest: only scholars of great memorization, hadith expertise, and penetrating understanding have a thorough knowledge of it. It refers to obscure, hidden flaws that vitiate hadiths, “flawed” meaning that a defect is discovered that negates the authenticity of a hadith that is outwardly “rigorously authenticated” (sahih). It affects hadiths with reliable chains of narrators that outwardly appear to fulfill all the conditions of a sahih hadith (‘Ulum al-hadith).

It may surprise some people to learn that one example often cited in hadith textbooks of such a hidden flaw (‘illa) is from Sahih Muslim, all of whose hadiths are rigorously authenticated (sahih), as Ibn al-Salah has said, “except for a very small number of words, which hadith masters of textual evaluation (naqd) such as Daraqutni and others have critiqued, and which are known to scholars of this level” (‘Ulum al-hadith). The hadith of the present example was related by Muslim from the Companion Anas ibn Malik in several versions, which might convince those unaware of its flaw to believe that someone at prayer should omit the Basmala or “Bismi Llahi r-Rahmani r-Rahim” at the beginning of the Fatiha. According to the hadith, Anas ibn Malik (Allah be well pleased with him) said,

I prayed with the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, and ‘Uthman, and they opened with “al-Hamdu li Llahi Rabbi l-‘Alamin,”not mentioning “Bismi Llahi r-Rahmani r-Rahim” at the first of the recital or the last of it [and in another version, “I didn’t hear any of them recite ‘Bismi Llahi r-Rahmani r-Rahim’”] (Muslim, 1.299).

Scholars say the hadith’s flaw lies in the negation of the Basmala at the end, which is not the words of Anas, but rather one of the subnarrators explaining what he thought Anas meant. Ibn al-Salah says: “Its subnarrator related it with the above-mentioned wording in accordance with his own understanding of it” (Muqaddima Ibn al-Salah (b01), 99). This hadith is given as an example of a “hidden flaw” in a number of manuals of hadith terminology such as hadith master (hafiz) Suyuti’s Tadrib al-rawi (1.254-57); hadith master Ibn al-Salah’s Ulum al-hadith; hadith master Zayn al-Din al-‘Iraqi’s al-Taqyid wa al-idah (98-103); and others. Al-‘Iraqi says, “A number of hadith masters (huffaz) have judged it to be flawed, including Shafi’i, Daraqutni, Bayhaqi, and Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr” (ibid., 98).

Now, Bukhari has related the hadith up to the words “and they opened with ‘al-Hamdu li Llahi Rabbi l-‘Alamin’”; without mentioning omitting the Basmala (Bukhari, 1.189), and Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud relate no other version. Scholars point out, in this connection, that the words “al-Hamdu li Llahi Rabbi l-‘Alamin” were in fact the name of the Fatiha, for the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and his Companions often used the opening words of suras as names for them; for example, in the hadith in Sahih al-Bukhari of Abu Sa’id ibn al-Mu’alla, who relates that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:

"I will teach you a sura that is the greatest sura of the Qur’an before you leave the mosque." Then he took my hand, and when he was going out, I said to him, "Didn’t you say, ‘I will teach you a sura that is the greatest sura of the Qur’an before you leave the mosque’?" And he said: “‘Al-Hamdu li Llahi Rabbi l-‘Alamin’: it is the Seven Oft-Recited [Verses] (al-Sab’ al-Mathani) and the Tremendous Recital (al-Qur’an al-‘Adhim) that I have been given" (ibid., 6.20-21).

In this hadith, “Al-Hamdu li Llahi Rabbi l-‘Alamin” is plainly the name of the Fatiha, and means nothing besides, for otherwise, it is one verse, not seven. ‘A’isha, who was one of the ulama of the Sahaba, also referred to names of suras in this way, as in the hadith of Bukhari that

the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), when he went to bed each night, joined his hands together, blew a light spray of saliva upon them, and read over them “Qul huwa Llahu Ahad,” “Qul a’udhu bi Rabbi l-Falaq,” and “Qul a’udhu bi Rabbi n-Nas”; then wiped every part of his body he could with them (ibid., 233-34),

which clearly shows that she named the suras by their opening words (after the Basmala), as did other early Muslims (such as Bukhari in his chapter headings in the section of his Sahih on the Virtues of the Qur’an, for example). So there is no indication, in the portion of the Anas hadith’s wording that is agreed upon by both Bukhari and Muslim; namely, “I prayed with the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, and ‘Uthman, and they opened with ‘al-Hamdu li Llahi Rabbi l-‘Alamin,’” that the Basmala was not recited aloud. Says Tirmidhi: “Imam Shafi’i has said, ‘Its meaning is that they used to begin with the Fatiha before the sura, not that they did not recite “Bismi Llahi r-Rahmani r-Rahim.”’ And Shafi’i held that the prayer was begun with ‘Bismi Llahi r-Rahmani r-Rahim,’ and that it was recited aloud in prayers recited aloud” (Tirmidhi, 2.16).

Hadith scholars who are masters of textual critique, like Daraqutni and others, consider the words of the Anas hadith”not mentioning ‘Bismi Llahi r-Rahmani r-Rahim,’” which outwardly seem to suggest omitting the Basmala, to be vitiated by an ‘illa or “hidden flaw” for many reasons, a few of which are:

-It is established by numerous intersubstantiative channels of transmission (tawatur), that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “There is no prayer for whoever does not recite the Fatiha” (Bukhari, 1.192). That the Basmala is the Fatiha’s first verse is shown by several facts:

First, the Sahaba affirmed nothing in the collation of the Qur’an (mushaf) of ‘Uthman’s time except what was Qur’an, and they unanimously placed the Basmala at the beginning of every sura except surat al-Tawba.

Second, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “When you recite ‘al-Hamdu li Llah,’ recite ‘Bismi Llahi r-Rahmani r-Rahim,’ for it is the Sum of the Qur’an (Umm al-Qur’an), and the Compriser of the Scripture (Umm al-Kitab), and the Seven Oft-Repeated [Verses] (al-Sab’ al-Mathani)-and ‘Bismi Llahi r-Rahmani r-Rahim’ is one of its verses” (Bayhaqi, 2.45; and Daraqutni, 1.312), a hadith related with a rigorously authenticated (sahih) channel of transmission to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), and through another chain to Abu Hurayra alone (Allah be well pleased with him).

Third, Umm Salama relates: “The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to recite: ‘Bismi Llahi r-Rahmani r-Rahim. al-Hamdu li Llahi Rabbi l-‘Alamin,’ separating each phrase”; a hadith which Hakim said was rigorously authenticated (sahih) according to the conditions of Bukhari and Muslim, which Imam Dhahabi corroborated (al-Mustadrak, 1.232). Daraqutni also relates from Umm Salama that “the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) when he used to recite the Qur’an would pause in his recital verse by verse: ‘Bismi Llahi r-Rahmani r-Rahim: al-Hamdu li Llahi Rabbi l-‘Alamin: ar-Rahmani r-Rahim: Maliki yawmi d-din.’” Daraqutni said, “Its ascription is rigorously authenticated (sahih); all of its narrators are reliable” (Daraqutni, 1.312-13). These hadiths show that the Basmala was recited aloud by the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) as part of the Fatiha.

Fourth, Bukhari relates in his Sahih that when Anas was asked how the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to recite, “he answered: ‘By prolonging [the vowels]’-and then he [Anas] recited ‘Bismi Llahi r-Rahmani r-Rahim,’ prolonging the Bismi Llah, prolonging the r-Rahman, and prolonging the r-Rahim” (Bukhari, 6.241), indicating that Anas regarded this as part of the Prophet’s Qur’an recital and that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) recited it aloud.

Fifth, Daraqutni has recorded two hadiths, both from Ibn ‘Abbas, and has said about each of them, “This is a rigorously authenticated (sahih) chain of transmission, there is not a weak narrator in it,” of which the first is: “The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to recite ‘Bismi Llahi r-Rahmani r-Rahim,’ aloud”; and the second is: “The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to begin the prayer with ‘Bismi Llahi r-Rahmani r-Rahim’” (al-Nawawi: al-Majmu’, 3.347).

-Imam al-Mawardi summarizes: “Because it is established that it is obligatory to recite the Fatiha in the prayer, and that the Basmala is part of it, the ruling for reciting the Basmala aloud or to oneself must be the same as that of reciting the Fatiha aloud or to oneself” (al-Hawi al-kabir, 2.139).

-Imam Nawawi says: “Concerning reciting ‘Bismi Llahi r-Rahmani r-Rahim’ aloud, we have mentioned that our position is that it is praiseworthy to do so. Wherever one recites the Fatiha and sura aloud, the ruling for reciting the Basmala aloud is the same as reciting the rest of the Fatiha and sura aloud. This is the position of the majority of the ulama of the Sahaba and those who were taught by them (Tabi’in) and those after them. As for the Sahaba who held the Basmala is recited aloud at prayer, the hadith master (hafiz) Abu Bakr al-Khatib reports that they included Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, ‘Ali, ‘Ammar ibn Yasir, Ubayy ibn Ka’b, Ibn ‘Umar, Ibn ‘Abbas, Abu Qatada, Abu Sa’id, Qays ibn Malik, Abu Hurayra, ‘Abdullah ibn Abi Awfa, Shaddad ibn Aws, ‘Abdullah ibn Ja’far, Husayn ibn ‘Ali, Mu’awiya, and the congregation of Emigrants (Muhajirin) and Helpers (Ansar) who were present with Mu’awiya when he prayed in Medina but did not say the Basmala aloud, and they censured him, so he returned to saying it aloud” (al-Majmu’, 3.341).

These are some reasons why scholars regard the Anas hadith in Sahih Muslim to be mu’all or “flawed.” We cannot here discuss other aspects of the hadith such as the flaws in its chain of narrators, which are explained in detail in Zayn al-Din ‘Iraqi’s al-Taqyid wa al-idah (100-101), though the foregoing may give a general idea why it has been considered flawed by hadith masters (huffaz) such as Suyuti, ‘Iraqi, Ibn Salah, Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, Daraqutni, and Bayhaqi-and why the shari’a ruling apparently deducible from the end of the hadith; namely, omitting the Basmala when reciting the Fatiha at prayer, has been rejected by al-Shafi’i, Nawawi, and others, who hold that the Basmala is recited aloud whenever the Fatiha is. (The position of Abu Hanifa and Ahmad ibn Hanbal, it may be noted, is that one recites the Basmala to oneself before the Fatiha, thus joining between hadiths on both sides by interpreting the “omitting” in the Anas hadith in other than its apparent sense, to mean merely “reciting to oneself.”) In any case, it is clearly not a story of “the hadith in Sahih Muslim that the Imams didn’t know about,” as some of the unlearned seriously suggest today, but rather a difference of opinion in hadith authentication involving the highest levels of shari’a scholarship.

Studying the five conditions above for a sahih hadith and the differences about them among specialists shows us why the mujtahid Imams of the schools sometimes differ with one another about whether a particular hadith is really from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). Whoever believes that a single scholar, whether Bukhari, Muslim, or a contemporary sheikh, can finish off all differences of opinion about the acceptability of particular hadiths, should correct his impressions by going and studying the sciences of hadith. What we can realize from this is that when we find a hadith in Sahih Bukhari that one school of fiqh seems to follow and another does not, it may well be that differences in fiqh methodology, hadith methodology, or both, play a role.

Conclusions. Let me summarize everything I have said tonight. I first pointed out that the knowledge you and I learn from the Qur’an and hadith may be divided into three categories. The first is the knowledge of Allah and His attributes, and the basic truths of Islamic belief such as the messengerhood of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), the belief in the Last Day, and so on. Every Muslim can and must learn this knowledge from the Book of Allah and the sunna, which is also the case for the second kind of knowledge: that of general Islamic laws to do good, to avoid evil, to perform the prayer, pay zakat, fast Ramadan, to cooperate with others in good works, and so on. Anyone can and must learn these general prescriptions for him or herself.

Then we discussed a third category of knowledge, which consists of fiqh or “understanding” of specific details of Islamic practice. We found in the Qur’an and sahih hadiths that people are of two types respecting this knowledge, those qualified to do ijtihad and those who are not. We mentioned the sahih hadith about “a man who judges for people while ignorant: he shall go to hell,” showing that would-be mujtahids are criminals when they operate without training.

We heard the Qur’anic verse that established that a certain group of the Muslim community must learn and be able to teach others the specific details of their religion. We heard the Qur’anic verse that those who do not know must ask those who do, as well as the verse about referring matters to “those whose task it is to find it out.”

We talked about these scholars, the mujtahid Imams, firstly, in terms of their comprehensive knowledge of the whole Qur’an and hadith textual corpus, and secondly, in terms of their depth of interpretation, and here we mentioned Qur’an and hadith examples that illustrate the processes by which mujtahid Imams join between multiple texts, and give precedence when there is ostensive conflict. Our concrete examples of ijtihad enabled us in turn to understand to whom the Imams addressed their famous remarks not to follow their positions without knowing the proofs. They addressed them to the first rank scholars they had trained and who were capable of grasping and evaluating the issues involved in these particular proofs.

We then saw that the Imams were also mujtahids in the matter of judging hadiths to be sahih or otherwise, and noted that, just as it is unlawful for a mujtahid Imam to do taqlid or “follow another mujtahid without knowing his evidence” in a question of fiqh, neither does he do so in the question of accepting particular hadiths. Finally, we noted that the differences in reliability ratings of hadiths among qualified scholars were parallel to the differences among scholars about the details of Islamic practice: a relatively small amount of difference in relation to the whole.

The main point of all of this is that while every Muslim can take the foundation of his Islam directly from the Qur’an and hadith; namely, the main beliefs and general ethical principles he has to follow-for the specific details of fiqh of Islamic practice, knowing a Qur’anic verse or hadith may be worlds apart from knowing the shari’a ruling, unless one is a qualified mujtahid or is citing one.

As for would-be mujtahids who know some Arabic and are armed with books of hadith, they are like the would-be doctor we mentioned earlier: if his only qualification were that he could read English and owned some medical books, we would certainly object to his practicing medicine, even if it were no more than operating on someone’s little finger. So what should be said of someone who knows only Arabic and has some books of hadith, and wants to operate on your akhira?

To understand why Muslims follow madhhabs, we have to go beyond simplistic slogans about “the divinely-protected versus the non-divinely-protected,” and appreciate the Imams of fiqh who have operationalized the Qur’an and sunna to apply in our lives as shari’a, and we must ask ourselves if we really “hear and obey” when Allah tells us

"Ask those who know if you know not" (Qur’an 16:43).

Understanding the Four Madhhabs: The problem with anti-madhhabism

 © Abdal-Hakim Murad

The ummah’s greatest achievement over the past millennium has undoubtedly been its internal intellectual cohesion. From the fifth century of the Hijra almost to the present day, and despite the outward drama of the clash of dynasties, the Sunni Muslims have maintained an almost unfailing attitude of religious respect and brotherhood among themselves. It is a striking fact that virtually no religious wars, riots or persecutions divided them during this extended period, so difficult in other ways.   

The history of religious movements suggests that this is an unusual outcome. The normal sociological view, as expounded by Max Weber and his disciples, is that religions enjoy an initial period of unity, and then descend into an increasingly bitter factionalism led by rival hierarchies. Christianity has furnished the most obvious example of this; but one could add many others, including secular faiths such as Marxism. On the face of it, Islam’s ability to avoid this fate is astonishing, and demands careful analysis.  

There is, of course, a straightforwardly religious explanation. Islam is the final religion, the last bus home, and as such has been divinely secured from the more terminal forms of decay. It is true that what Abdul Wadod Shalabi has termed spiritual entropy has been at work ever since Islam’s inauguration, a fact which is well-supported by a number of hadiths. Nonetheless, Providence has not neglected the ummah. Earlier religions slide gently or painfully into schism and irrelevance; but Islamic piety, while fading in quality, has been given mechanisms which allow it to retain much of the sense of unity emphasised in its glory days. Wherever the antics of the emirs and politicians might lead, the brotherhood of believers, a reality in the initial career of Christianity and some other faiths, continues, fourteen hundred years on, to be a compelling principle for most members of the final and definitive community of revelation in Islam. The reason is simple and unarguable: God has given us this religion as His last word, and it must therefore endure, with its essentials of tawhid, worship and ethics intact, until the Last Days.  

Such an explanation has obvious merit. But we will still need to explain some painful exceptions to the rule in the earliest phase of our history. The Prophet himself (pbuh) had told his Companions, in a hadith narrated by Imam Tirmidhi, that “Whoever among you outlives me shall see a vast dispute”. The initial schisms: the disastrous revolt against Uthman (r.a.), the clash between Ali (r.a.) and Muawiyah, the bloody scissions of the Kharijites - all these drove knives of discord into the Muslim body politic almost from the outset. Only the inherent sanity and love of unity among scholars of the ummah assisted, no doubt, by Providence overcame the early spasms of factionalism, and created a strong and harmonious Sunnism which has, at least on the purely religious plane, united ninety percent of the ummah for ninety percent of its history.  

It will help us greatly to understand our modern, increasingly divided situation if we look closely at those forces which divided us in the distant past. There were many of these, some of them very eccentric; but only two took the form of mass popular movements, driven by religious ideology, and in active rebellion against majoritarian faith andscholarship. For good reasons, these two acquired the names of Kharijism and Shi’ism. Unlike Sunnism, both were highly productive of splinter groups and sub-movements; but they nonetheless remained as recognisable traditions of dissidence because of their ability to express the two great divergences from mainstream opinion on the key question of the source of religious authority in Islam.  

Confronted with what they saw as moral slippage among early caliphs, posthumous partisans of Ali (r.a.) developed a theory of religious authority which departed from the older egalitarian assumptions by vesting it in a charismatic succession of Imams. We need not stop here to investigate the question of whether this idea was influenced by the Eastern Christian background of some early converts, who had been nourished on the idea of the mystical apostolic succession to Christ, a gift which supposedly gave the Church the unique ability to read his mind for later generations. What needs to be appreciated is that Shi’ism, in its myriad forms, developed as a response to a widely-sensed lack of definitive religious authority in early Islamic society. As the age of the Righteous Caliphs came to a close, and the Umayyad rulers departed ever more conspicuously from the lifestyle expected of them as Commanders of the Faithful, the sharply-divergent and still nascent schools of fiqh seemed inadequate as sources of strong and unambiguous authority in religious matters. Hence the often irresistible seductiveness of the idea of an infallible Imam.  

This interpretation of the rise of Imamism also helps to explain the second great phase in Shi’i expansion. After the success of the fifth-century Sunni revival, when Sunnism seemed at last to have become a fully coherent system, Shi’ism went into a slow eclipse. Its extreme wing, as manifested in Ismailism, received a heavy blow at the hands of Imam al-Ghazali, whose book “Scandals of the Batinites" exposed and refuted their secret doctrines with devastating force. This decline in Shi’i fortunes was only arrested after the mid-seventh century, once the Mongol hordes under Genghis Khan had invaded and obliterated the central lands of Islam. The onslaught was unimaginably harsh: we are told, for instance, that out of a hundred thousand former inhabitants of the city of Herat, only forty survivors crept out of the smoking ruins to survey the devastation. In the wake of this tidal wave of mayhem, newly-converted Turcoman nomads moved in, who, with the Sunni ulama of the cities dead, and a general atmosphere of fear, turbulence, and Messianic expectation in the air, turned readily to extremist forms of Shi’i belief. The triumph of Shi’ism in Iran, a country once loyal to Sunnism, dates back to that painful period.  

The other great dissident movement in early Islam was that of the Kharijites, literally, the seceders, so-called because they seceded from the army of the Caliph Ali when he agreed to settle his dispute with Muawiyah through arbitration. Calling out the Quranic slogan, “Judgement is only Gods”, they fought bitterly against Ali and his army which included many of the leading Companions, until Ali defeated them at the Battle of Nahrawan, where some ten thousand of them perished.  

Although the first Kharijites were destroyed, Kharijism itself lived on. As it formulated itself, it turned into the precise opposite of Shi’ism, rejecting any notion of inherited or charismatic leadership, and stressing that leadership of the community of believers should be decided by piety alone. This was assessed by very rudimentary criteria: the early Kharijites were known for extreme toughness in their devotions, and for the harsh doctrine that any Muslim who commits a major sin is an unbeliever. This notion of takfir(declaring Muslims to be outside Islam), permitted the Kharijite groups, camping out in remote mountain districts of Khuzestan, to raid Muslim settlements which had accepted Umayyad authority. Non-Kharijis were routinely slaughtered in these operations, which brought merciless reprisals from tough Umayyad generals such as al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf. But despite the apparent hopelessness of their cause, the Kharijite attacks continued. The Caliph Ali (r.a.) was assassinated by Ibn Muljam, a survivor of Nahrawan, while the hadith scholar Imam al-Nasai, author of one of the most respected collections of sunan, was likewise murdered by Kharijite fanatics in Damascus in 303/915.  

Like Shi’ism, Kharijism caused much instability in Iraq and Central Asia, and on occasion elsewhere, until the fourth and fifth centuries of Islam. At that point, something of historic moment occurred. Sunnism managed to unite itself into a detailed system that was now so well worked-out, and so obviously the way of the great majority of ulama, that the attraction of the rival movements diminished sharply.  

What happened was this. Sunni Islam, occupying the middle ground between the two extremes of egalitarian Kharijism and hierarchical Shi’ism, had long been preoccupied with disputes over its own concept of authority. For the Sunnis, authority was, by definition, vested in the Quran and Sunnah. But confronted with the enormous body of hadiths, which had been scattered in various forms and narrations throughout the length and breadth of the Islamic world following the migrations of the Companions and Followers, the Sunnah sometimes proved difficult to interpret. Even when the sound hadiths had been sifted out from this great body of material, which totalled several hundred thousand hadith reports, there were some hadiths which appeared to conflict with each other, or even with verses of the Quran. It was obvious that simplistic approaches such as that of the Kharijites, namely, establishing a small corpus of hadiths and deriving doctrines and law from them directly, was not going to work. The internal contradictions were too numerous, and the interpretations placed on them too complex, for the qadis (judges) to be able to dish out judgements simply by opening the Quran and hadith collections to an appropriate page.  

The reasons underlying cases of apparent conflict between various revealed texts were scrutinised closely by the early ulama, often amid sustained debate between brilliant minds backed up with the most perfect photographic memories. Much of the science of Islamic jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh) was developed in order to provide consistent mechanisms for resolving such conflicts in a way which ensured fidelity to the basic ethos of Islam. The term taarud al-adilla (mutual contradiction of proof-texts) is familiar to all students of Islamic jurisprudence as one of the most sensitive and complex of all Muslim legal concepts. Early scholars such as Ibn Qutayba felt obliged to devote whole books to the subject.  

The ulama of usul recognised as their starting assumption that conflicts between the revealed texts were no more than conflicts of interpretation, and could not reflect inconsistencies in the Lawgiver’s message as conveyed by the Prophet (pbuh). The message of Islam had been perfectly conveyed before his demise; and the function of subsequent scholars was exclusively one of interpretation, not of amendment.  

Armed with this awareness, the Islamic scholar, when examining problematic texts, begins by attempting a series of preliminary academic tests and methods of resolution. The system developed by the early ulama was that if two Quranic or hadith texts appeared to contradict each other, then the scholar must first analyse the texts linguistically, to see if the contradiction arises from an error in interpreting the Arabic. If the contradiction cannot be resolved by this method, then he must attempt to determine, on the basis of a range of textual, legal and historiographic techniques, whether one of them is subject to takhsis, that is, concerns special circumstances only, and hence forms a specific exception to the more general principle enunciated in the other text. The jurist must also assess the textual status of the reports, recalling the principle that a Quranic verse will overrule a hadith related by only one isnad (the type of hadith known asahad), as will a hadith supplied by many isnads (mutawatir or mashhur). If, after applying all these mechanisms, the jurist finds that the conflict remains, he must then investigate the possibility that one of the texts was subject to formal abrogation (naskh) by the other.  

This principle of naskh is an example of how, when dealing with the delicate matter oftaarud al-adilla, the Sunni ulama founded their approach on textual policies which had already been recognised many times during the lifetime of the Prophet (pbuh). The Companions knew by ijma that over the years of the Prophets ministry, as he taught and nurtured them, and brought them from the wildness of paganism to the sober and compassionate path of monotheism, his teaching had been divinely shaped to keep pace with their development. The best-known instance of this was the progressive prohibition of wine, which had been discouraged by an early Quranic verse, then condemned, and finally prohibited. Another example, touching an even more basic principle, was the canonical prayer, which the early ummah had been obliged to say only twice daily, but which, following the Miraj, was increased to five times a day. Mutah (temporary marriage) had been permitted in the early days of Islam, but was subsequently prohibited as social conditions developed, respect for women grew, and morals became firmer. There are several other instances of this, most being datable to the years immediately following the Hijra, when the circumstances of the young ummah changed in radical ways.  

There are two types of naskh: explicit (sarih) or implicit (dimni). The former is easily identified, for it involves texts which themselves specify that an earlier ruling is being changed. For instance, there is the verse in the Quran (2:142) which commands the Muslims to turn in prayer to the Kaba rather than to Jerusalem. In the hadith literature this is even more frequently encountered; for example, in a hadith narrated by Imam Muslim we read: “I used to forbid you to visit graves; but you should now visit them.” Commenting on this, the ulama of hadith explain that in early Islam, when idolatrous practices were still fresh in peoples memories, visiting graves had been forbidden because of the fear that some new Muslims might commit shirk. As the Muslims grew stronger in their monotheism, however, this prohibition was discarded as no longer necessary, so that today it is a recommended practice for Muslims to go out to visit graves in order to pray for the dead and to be reminded of the akhira.  

The other type of naskh is more subtle, and often taxed the brilliance of the early ulama to the limit. It involves texts which cancel earlier ones, or modify them substantially, but without actually stating that this has taken place. The ulama have given many examples of this, including the two verses in Surat al-Baqarah which give differing instructions as to the period for which widows should be maintained out of an estate (2:240 and 234). And in the hadith literature, there is the example of the incident in which the Prophet (pbuh) once told the Companions that when he prayed sitting because he was burdened by some illness, they should sit behind him. This hadith is given by Imam Muslim. And yet we find another hadith, also narrated by Muslim, which records an incident in which the Companions prayed standing while the Prophet (pbuh) was sitting. The apparent contradiction has been resolved by careful chronological analysis, which shows that the latter incident took place after the former, and therefore takes precedence over it. This has duly been recorded in the fiqh of the great scholars.  

The techniques of naskh identification have enabled the ulama to resolve most of the recognised cases of taarud al-adilla. They demand a rigorous and detailed knowledge not just of the hadith disciplines, but of history, sirah, and of the views held by the Companions and other scholars on the circumstances surrounding the genesis and exegesis of the hadith in question. In some cases, hadith scholars would travel throughout the Islamic world to locate the required information pertinent to a single hadith.  

In cases where in spite of all efforts, abrogation cannot be proven, then the ulama of the salaf recognised the need to apply further tests. Important among these is the analysis of the matn (the transmitted text rather than the isnad of the hadith). Clear (sarih) statements are deemed to take precedence over allusive ones (kinayah), and definite (muhkam) words take precedence over words falling into more ambiguous categories, such as the interpreted (mufassar), the obscure (khafi) and the problematic (mushkil). It may also be necessary to look at the position of the narrators of the conflicting hadiths, giving precedence to the report issuing from the individual who was more directly involved. A famous example of this is the hadith narrated by Maymunah which states that the Prophet (pbuh) married her when not in a state of consecration (ihram) for the pilgrimage. Because her report was that of an eyewitness, her hadith is given precedence over the conflicting report from Ibn Abbas, related by a similarly sound isnad, which states that the Prophet was in fact in a state of ihram at the time.  

There are many other rules, such as that which states that prohibition takes precedence over permissibility. Similarly, conflicting hadiths may be resolved by utilising the fatwaof a Companion, after taking care that all the relevant fatwa are compared and assessed. Finally, recourse may be had to qiyas (analogy). An example of this is the various reports about the solar eclipse prayer (salat al-kusuf), which specify different numbers of bowings and prostrations. The ulama, having investigated the reports meticulously, and having been unable to resolve the contradiction by any of the mechanisms outlined above, have applied analogical reasoning by concluding that since the prayer in question is still called salaat, then the usual form of salaat should be followed, namely, one bowing and two prostrations. The other hadiths are to be abandoned.  

This careful articulation of the methods of resolving conflicting source-texts, so vital to the accurate derivation of the Shariah from the revealed sources, was primarily the work of Imam al-Shafi’i. Confronted by the confusion and disagreement among the jurists of his day, and determined to lay down a consistent methodology which would enable a fiqhto be established in which the possibility of error was excluded as far as was humanly possible, Shafi’i wrote his brilliant Risala (Treatise on Islamic jurisprudence). His ideas were soon taken up, in varying ways, by jurists of the other major traditions of law; and today they are fundamental to the formal application of the Shariah.  

Shafi’i’s system of minimising mistakes in the derivation of Islamic rulings from the mass of evidence came to be known as usul al-fiqh (the roots of fiqh). Like most of the other formal academic disciplines of Islam, this was not an innovation in the negative sense, but a working-out of principles already discernible in the time of the earliest Muslims. In time, each of the great interpretative traditions of Sunni Islam codified its own variation on these roots, thereby yielding in some cases divergent branches (i.e. specific rulings on practice). Although the debates generated by these divergences could sometimes be energetic, nonetheless, they were insignificant when compared to the great sectarian and legal disagreements which had arisen during the first two centuries of Islam before the science of usul al-fiqh had put a stop to such chaotic discord.  

It hardly needs remarking that although the Four Imams, Abu Hanifa, Malik ibn Anas, al-Shafi’i and Ibn Hanbal, are regarded as the founders of these four great traditions, which, if we were asked to define them, we might sum up as sophisticated techniques for avoiding innovation, their traditions were fully systematised only by later generations of scholars. The Sunni ulama rapidly recognised the brilliance of the Four Imams, and after the late third century of Islam we find that hardly any scholars adhered to any other approach. The great hadith specialists, including al-Bukhari and Muslim, were all loyal adherents of one or another of the madhhabs, particularly that of Imam al-Shafi’i. But within each madhhab, leading scholars continued to improve and refine the roots and branches of their school. In some cases, historical conditions made this not only possible, but necessary. For instance, scholars of the school of Imam Abu Hanifah, which was built on the foundations of the early legal schools of Kufa and Basra, were wary of some hadiths in circulation in Iraq because of the prevalence of forgery engendered by the strong sectarian influences there. Later, however, once the canonical collections of Bukhari, Muslim and others became available, subsequent generations of Hanafi scholars took the entire corpus of hadiths into account in formulating and revising their madhhab. This type of process continued for two centuries, until the Schools reached a condition of maturity in the fourth and fifth centuries of the Hijra.  

It was at that time, too, that the attitude of toleration and good opinion between the Schools became universally accepted. This was formulated by Imam al-Ghazali, himself the author of four textbooks of Shafi’i fiqh, and also of Al-Mustasfa, widely acclaimed as the most advanced and careful of all works on usul usul al-fiqh fil madhhab (Ihya Ulum al-Din, III, 65) While it was necessary for the Muslim to follow a recognised madhhab in order to avert the lethal danger of misinterpreting the sources, he must never fall into the trap of considering his own school categorically superior to the others. With a few insignificant exceptions, the great scholars of Sunni Islam have followed the ethos outlined by Imam al-Ghazali, and have been conspicuously respectful of each others madhhab. Anyone who has studied under traditional ulama will be well-aware of this fact.  

The evolution of the Four Schools did not stifle, as some Orientalists have suggested, the capacity for the refinement or extension of positive law. On the contrary, sophisticated mechanisms were available which not only permitted qualified individuals to derive the Shariah from the Quran and Sunnah on their own authority, but actually obliged them to do this. According to most scholars, an expert who has fully mastered the sources and fulfilled a variety of necessary scholarly conditions is not permitted to follow the prevalent rulings of his School, but must derive the rulings himself from the revealed sources. Such an individual is known as a mujtahid, a term derived from the famous hadith of Muadh ibn Jabal.  

Few would seriously deny that for a Muslim to venture beyond established expert opinion and have recourse directly to the Quran and Sunnah, he must be a scholar of great eminence. The danger of less-qualified individuals misunderstanding the sources and hence damaging the Shariah is a very real one, as was shown by the discord and strife which afflicted some early Muslims, and even some of the Companions themselves, in the period which preceded the establishment of the Orthodox Schools. Prior to Islam, entire religions had been subverted by inadequate scriptural scholarship, and it was vital that Islam should be secured from a comparable fate.  

In order to protect the Shariah from the danger of innovation and distortion, the great scholars of usul laid down rigorous conditions which must be fulfilled by anyone wishing to claim the right of ijtihad for himself. These conditions include:  

(a) mastery of the Arabic language, to minimise the possibility of misinterpreting Revelation on purely linguistic grounds;  

(b) a profound knowledge of the Quran and Sunnah and the circumstances surrounding the revelation of each verse and hadith, together with a full knowledge of the Quranic and hadith commentaries, and a control of all the interpretative techniques discussed above;  

(c) knowledge of the specialised disciplines of hadith, such as the assessment of narrators and of the matn [text];  

(d) knowledge of the views of the Companions, Followers and the great imams, and of the positions and reasoning expounded in the textbooks of fiqh, combined with the knowledge of cases where a consensus (ijma) has been reached;  

(e) knowledge of the science of juridical analogy (qiyas), its types and conditions;  

(f) knowledge of ones own society and of public interest (maslahah);  

(g) knowing the general objectives (maqasid) of the Shariah;  

(h) a high degree of intelligence and personal piety, combined with the Islamic virtues of compassion, courtesy, and modesty. 

A scholar who has fulfilled these conditions can be considered a mujtahid fil-shar, and is not obliged, or even permitted, to follow an existing authoritative madhhab. This is what some of the Imams were saying when they forbade their great disciples from imitating them uncritically. But for the much greater number of scholars whose expertise has not reached such dizzying heights, it may be possible to become a mujtahid fil-madhhab, that is, a scholar who remains broadly convinced of the doctrines of his school, but is qualified to differ from received opinion within it. There have been a number of examples of such men, for instance Imam al-Nawawi among the Shafi’is, Qadi Ibn Abd al-Barr among the Malikis, Ibn Abidin among the Hanafis, and Ibn Qudama among the Hanbalis. All of these scholars considered themselves followers of the fundamental interpretative principles of their own madhhabs, but are on record as having exercised their own gifts of scholarship and judgement in reaching many new verdicts within them. It is to these experts that the Mujtahid Imams directed their advice concerning ijtihad, such as Imam al-Shafi’i’s instruction that if you find a hadith that contradicts my verdict, then follow the hadith. It is obvious that whatever some writers nowadays like to believe, such counsels were never intended for use by the Islamically-uneducated masses.  

Other categories of mujtahids are listed by the usul scholars; but the distinctions between them are subtle and not relevant to our theme. The remaining categories can in practice be reduced to two: the muttabi (follower), who follows his madhhab while being aware of the Quranic and hadith texts and the reasoning, underlying its positions, and secondly the muqallid (emulator), who simply conforms to the madhhab because of his confidence in its scholars, and without necessarily knowing the detailed reasoning behind all its thousands of rulings.  

Clearly it is recommended for the muqallid to learn as much as he or she is able of the formal proofs of the madhhab. But it is equally clear that not every Muslim can be a scholar. Scholarship takes a lot of time, and for the ummah to function properly most people must have other employment: as accountants, soldiers, butchers, and so forth. As such, they cannot reasonably be expected to become great ulama as well, even if we suppose that all of them have the requisite intelligence. The Holy Quran itself states that less well-informed believers should have recourse to qualified experts: So ask the people of remembrance, if you do not know (16:43). (According to the tafsir experts, the people of remembrance are the ulama.) And in another verse, the Muslims are enjoined to create and maintain a group of specialists who provide authoritative guidance for non-specialists: A band from each community should stay behind to gain instruction in religion and to warn the people when they return to them, so that they may take heed (9:122). Given the depth of scholarship needed to understand the revealed texts accurately, and the extreme warnings we have been given against distorting the Revelation, it is obvious that ordinary Muslims are duty bound to follow expert opinion, rather than rely on their own reasoning and limited knowledge. This obvious duty was well-known to the early Muslims: the Caliph Umar (r.a.) followed certain rulings of Abu Bakr (r.a.), saying I would be ashamed before God to differ from the view of Abu Bakr. And Ibn Masud (r.a.), in turn, despite being a mujtahid in the fullest sense, used in certain issues to follow Umar (r.a.). According to al-Shabi: Six of the Companions of the Prophet (pbuh) used to give fatwas to the people: Ibn Masud, Umar ibn al-Khattab, Ali, Zayd ibn Thabit, Ubayy ibn Kab, and Abu Musa (al-Ashari). And out of these, three would abandon their own judgements in favour of the judgements of three others: Abdallah (ibn Masud) would abandon his own judgement for the judgement of Umar, Abu Musa would abandon his own judgement for the judgement of Ali, and Zayd would abandon his own judgement for the judgement of Ubayy ibn Kab.  

This verdict, namely that one is well-advised to follow a great Imam as ones guide to the Sunnah, rather than relying on oneself, is particularly binding upon Muslims in countries such as Britain, among whom only a small percentage is even entitled to have a choice in this matter. This is for the simple reason that unless one knows Arabic, then even if one wishes to read all the hadith determining a particular issue, one cannot. For various reasons, including their great length, no more than ten of the basic hadith collections have been translated into English. There remain well over three hundred others, including such seminal works as the Musnad of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, the Musannaf of Ibn Abi Shayba, the Sahih of Ibn Khuzayma, the Mustadrak of al-Hakim, and many other multi-volume collections, which contain large numbers of sound hadiths which cannot be found in Bukhari, Muslim, and the other works that have so far been translated. Even if we assume that the existing translations are entirely accurate, it is obvious that a policy of trying to derive the Shariah directly from the Book and the Sunnah cannot be attempted by those who have no access to the Arabic. To attempt to discern the Shariah merely on the basis of the hadiths which have been translated will be to ignore and amputate much of the Sunnah, hence leading to serious distortions.  

Let me give just two examples of this. The Sunni Madhhabs, in their rules for the conduct of legal cases, lay down the principle that the canonical punishments (hudud) should not be applied in cases where there is the least ambiguity, and that the qadi should actively strive to prove that such ambiguities exist. An amateur reading in the Sound Six collections will find no confirmation of this. But the madhhab ruling is based on a hadith narrated by a sound chain, and recorded in theMusannaf of Ibn Abi Shayba, the Musnadof al-Harithi, and the Musnad of Musaddad ibn Musarhad. The text is: “Ward off thehudud by means of ambiguities." Imam al-Sanani, in his book Al-Ansab, narrates the circumstances of this hadith: “A man was found drunk, and was brought to Umar, who ordered the hadd of eighty lashes to be applied. When this had been done, the man said: Umar, you have wronged me! I am a slave! (Slaves receive only half the punishment.) Umar was grief-stricken at this, and recited the Prophetic hadith, Ward off the hudud by means of ambiguities.”  

Another example pertains to the important practice, recognised by the madhhabs, of performing sunnah prayers as soon as possible after the end of the Maghrib obligatory prayer. The hadith runs: Make haste to perform the two rakas after the Maghrib, for they are raised up (to Heaven) alongside the obligatory prayer. The hadith is narrated by Imam Razin in his Jami.  

Because of the traditional pious fear of distorting the Law of Islam, the overwhelming majority of the great scholars of the past - certainly well over ninety-nine percent of them - have adhered loyally to a madhhab. It is true that in the troubled fourteenth century a handful of dissenters appeared, such as Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn al-Qayyim; but even these individuals never recommended that semi-educated Muslims should attempt ijtihad without expert help. And in any case, although these authors have recently been resurrected and made prominent, their influence on the orthodox scholarship of classical Islam was negligible, as is suggested by the small number of manuscripts of their works preserved in the great libraries of the Islamic world.  

Nonetheless, social turbulences have in the past century thrown up a number of writers who have advocated the abandonment of authoritative scholarship. The most prominent figures in this campaign were Muhammad Abduh and his pupil Muhammad Rashid Rida. Dazzled by the triumph of the West, and informed in subtle ways by their own well-documented commitment to Freemasonry, these men urged Muslims to throw off the shackles of taqlid, and to reject the authority of the Four Schools. Today in some Arab capitals, especially where the indigenous tradition of orthodox scholarship has been weakened, it is common to see young Arabs filling their homes with every hadith collection they can lay their hands upon, and poring over them in the apparent belief that they are less likely to misinterpret this vast and complex literature than Imam al-Shafi’i, Imam Ahmad, and the other great Imams. This irresponsible approach, although still not widespread, is predictably opening the door to sharply divergent opinions, which have seriously damaged the unity, credibility and effectiveness of the Islamic movement, and provoked sharp arguments over issues settled by the great Imams over a thousand years ago. It is common now to see young activists prowling the mosques, criticising other worshippers for what they believe to be defects in their worship, even when their victims are following the verdicts of some of the great Imams of Islam. The unpleasant, Pharisaic atmosphere generated by this activity has the effect of discouraging many less committed Muslims from attending the mosque at all. No-one now recalls the view of the early ulama, which was that Muslims should tolerate divergent interpretations of the Sunnah as long as these interpretations have been held by reputable scholars. As Sufyan al-Thawri said: If you see a man doing something over which there is a debate among the scholars, and which you yourself believe to be forbidden, you should not forbid him from doing it. The alternative to this policy is, of course, a disunity and rancour which will poison and cripple the Muslim community from within.  

In a Western-influenced global culture in which people are urged from early childhood to think for themselves and to challenge established authority, it can sometimes be difficult to muster enough humility to recognise ones own limitations. We are all a little like Pharaoh: our egos are by nature resistant to the idea that anyone else might be much more intelligent or learned than ourselves. The belief that ordinary Muslims, even if they know Arabic, are qualified to derive rulings of the Shariah for themselves, is an example of this egotism running wild. To young people proud of their own judgement, and unfamiliar with the complexity of the sources and the brilliance of authentic scholarship, this can be an effective trap, which ends by luring them away from the orthodox path of Islam and into an unintentional agenda of provoking deep divisions among the Muslims. The fact that all the great scholars of the religion, including the hadith experts, themselves belonged to madhhabs, and required their students to belong to madhhabs, seems to have been forgotten. Self-esteem has won a major victory here over common sense and Islamic responsibility.  

The Holy Quran commands Muslims to use their minds and reflective capacities; and the issue of following qualified scholarship is an area in which this faculty must be very carefully deployed. The basic point should be appreciated that no categoric difference exists between usul al-fiqh and any other specialised science requiring lengthy training. Shaykh Said Ramadan al-Buti, who has articulated the orthodox response to the anti-Madhhab trend in his book: Non-Madhhabism: The Greatest Bida Threatening the Islamic Sharia, likes to compare the science of deriving rulings to that of medicine. “If ones child is seriously ill”, he asks, “does one look for oneself in the medical textbooks for the proper diagnosis and cure, or should one go to a trained medical practitioner?” Clearly, sanity dictates the latter option. And so it is in matters of religion, which are in reality even more important and potentially hazardous: we would be both foolish and irresponsible to try to look through the sources ourselves, and become our own muftis. Instead, we should recognise that those who have spent their entire lives studying the Sunnah and the principles of law are far less likely to be mistaken than we are.  

Another metaphor might be added to this, this time borrowed from astronomy. We might compare the Quranic verses and the hadiths to the stars. With the naked eye, we are unable to see many of them clearly; so we need a telescope. If we are foolish, or proud, we may try to build one ourselves. If we are sensible and modest, however, we will be happy to use one built for us by Imam al-Shafi’i or Ibn Hanbal, and refined, polished and improved by generations of great astronomers. A madhhab is, after all, nothing more than a piece of precision equipment enabling us to see Islam with the maximum clarity possible. If we use our own devices, our amateurish attempts will inevitably distort our vision.  

A third image might also be deployed. An ancient building, for instance the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, might seem imperfect to some who worship in it. Young enthusiasts, burning with a desire to make the building still more exquisite and well-made (and no doubt more in conformity with their own time-bound preferences), might gain access to the crypts and basements which lie under the structure, and, on the basis of their own understanding of the principles of architecture, try to adjust the foundations and pillars which support the great edifice above them. They will not, of course, bother to consult professional architects, except perhaps one or two whose rhetoric pleases them nor will they be guided by the books and memoirs of those who have maintained the structure over the centuries. Their zeal and pride leaves them with no time for that. Groping through the basements, they bring out their picks and drills, and set to work with their usual enthusiasm.  

There is a real danger that Sunni Islam is being treated in a similar fashion. The edifice has stood for centuries, withstanding the most bitter blows of its enemies. Only from within can it be weakened. No doubt, Islam has its intelligent foes among whom this fact is well-known. The spectacle of the disunity and fitnas which divided the early Muslims despite their superior piety, and the solidity and cohesiveness of Sunnism after the final codification of the Shariah in the four Schools of the great Imams, must have put ideas into many a malevolent head. This is not to suggest in any way that those who attack the great madhhabs are the conscious tools of Islams enemies. But it may go some way to explaining why they will continue to be well-publicised and well-funded, while the orthodox alternative is starved of resources. With every Muslim now a proud mujtahid, and with taqlid dismissed as a sin rather than a humble and necessary virtue, the divergent views which caused such pain in our early history will surely break surface again. Instead of four madhhabs in harmony, we will have a billion madhhabs in bitter and self-righteous conflict. No more brilliant scheme for the destruction of Islam could ever have been devised.

 

This lecture was delivered in Aylesbury Mosque in August 1995. and is reproduced courtesy of ISLAMICA Magazine (1995).

Shaykh Murabtal Haaj’s Fatwa on Following One of the Four Accepted Madhhabs [French version]

Murabtal Haaj, Mauritania
Translated by Hamza Yusuf Hanson

[Note: Hyperlinks within this document are links to footnotes at the bottom of the page]

In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate

Amongst the most important replies that I have given, is my reply concerning the one who has deviated to the point where he censures the importance of studying the branches [furu’] of jurisprudence, and we seek refuge in Allah from the deviation of such a wandering deviant. Would that he simply had claimed independent reasoning (ijtihad) for himself only, and Allah is his reckoner, but abandoned the call of Muslims to leave that which is incumbent upon them. In our reply to such a one, we make mention what the scholars of the methodological bases of Islamic jurisprudence (usuli’un) and the Imams of jurisprudence themselves have said about such a matter. As for my labelling him a deviant, it is only because he has desired to impose upon common people the precious rank of absolute independent reasoning [ijtihad], about which Muhammad an-Nabigha  said,

And ijtihad in the land of the Moroccans,   
The western phoenix has taken to flight with it. 

I say in reply, that the following of qualified scholarship (taqlid) is an obligation on anyone other than an absolute mujtahid. I shall make mention of all his prerequisites if Allah wills. [Sidi Abdullah Ould Hajj Ibrahim] has said in his Maraqi as-Sa’ud:  

”[taqlid] is necessary for other than the one who has achieved the rank of absolute ijtihad. Even if he is a limited [mujtahid] who is unable [to perform absolute ijtihad].”  

Commenting on this line, [Sidi Abdullah] said in Nashru al-bunud

"It means that taqlid is an obligation on anyone who is not an absolutemujtahid, even if he has achieved the limited rank of ijtihad muqayyad … [until he says], ‘And ask the people of the reminder, if you yourselves do not know.’”  

By using the line of Muhammad an-Nabigha above, I am in no way claiming that allijtihad has been severed in every land; how [could I say such a thing] when [Sidi Abdullah] says in Maraqi as-sa’ud:  

"The earth will never be void of a mujtahid scholar until its very foundations shake.”  

He also said,  

"[Regarding] the necessity of binding to a specific madhhab, the [scholars] have mentioned its obligation upon anyone falling short [of the conditions ofijtihad].”  

He says in Nashru al-bunud,  

"It means that it is incumbent for whoever falls short of achieving the rank of absolute ijtihad to follow a particular madhhab.”  

Again, in Maraqi as-Sa’ud, Sidi Abdullah says,  

"The consensus today is on the four, and all have prohibited following [any] others."  

He says in Nashru al-bunud,  

"This means that the consensus of the scholars today is on the four schools of thought, and I mean by the schools of Malik, Abu Hanifa, Shafi’i and Ahmad. Indeed, all of the scholars have prohibited following any other school of an independent and absolute mujtahid since the eighth century when the school of Dawud adh-Dhahiri died out and until the 12th Century and all subsequent ones.”  

In the chapter concerning inferential reasoning, from Maraqi as-sa’ud, [Sidi Abdullah] says,  

"As for the one who is not a mujtahid, then basing his actions on primary textual evidence [Qur’an and hadith] is not permissible.”  

He says in Nashru al-bunud,  

"It means that it is prohibited for other than a mujtahid to base his actions upon a direct text from either the Book or the Sunna even if its transmission was sound because of the sheer likelihood of there being other considerations such as abrogation, limitations, specificity to certain situations, and other such matters that none but the mujtahid fully comprehends with precision. Thus, nothing can save him from Allah the Exalted excepted following a mujtahid. Imam al-Qarafi [Ahmad ibn Idris Shihabudin as-Sanhaji al-Qarafi al-Maliki was born in Egypt in the seventh Century, and died there in the year 684. He was one of the greatest Maliki scholars who ever lived and is especially known for his work in methodology and law (usul al-fiqh). He was a master of the Arabic language and has remarkable works in grammar. His book adh-Dhakhira is a magisterial 14 volume work recently published in the Emirates, that looks at Maliki fiqh with proofs from usuli sources. He is buried in Qarafi in Egypt near Imam as-Shafi’i. May Allah have mercy on them both.] says,  

'And beware of doing what some students do when they reason directly from the hadith, and yet they don't know their soundness, let alone what has been mentioned [by the Imams] concerning the subtleties involved in them; by doing this, they went astray and led others astray. And whoever interprets a verse or hadith in a manner that deviates from its intended meaning without proof [dalil] is a kafir.’”  

As for the conditions of the absolute and independent ijtihad, they are mentioned in theMaraqi as-sa’ud in the following line and what follows:  

"And that [word ‘faqih[Sidi Abdullah says in his commentary on this line that the faqih is synonymous with mujtahid in the science of usul. There are different types of faqih. A faqih according to the scholars of usul is anyone who has achieved the rank of ijtihad. According to the scholars of furu’u, afaqih is anyone who has reached the level of knowledge in which he can give valid juristic opinion. This latter definition is important considering endowments that are given to fuqaha. See Nashur al-bunud `ala maraqi as-sa’udkitab al-ijtihad fi al-furu’u (1409 Hijrah. Beirut: Maktabat al-Kutub. p.309)]]  is synonymous with the [word] ‘mujtahid' coupled with those things which bear upon [him] the burden of responsibility,  

Such as his being of extreme intelligence by nature, and there is some debate about one who is known to reject juristic analogy [qiyas]  

He knows the [juristic] responsibilities through intellectual proofs unless a clear transmitted proof indicates otherwise.  

[Sidi Abdullah] says [in his commentary] Nashru al-bunud,  

"This means that among the conditions of ijtihad is that [the mujtahid] knows that he must adhere to the intellectual proof which is the foundational condition [al-bara’atu al-asliyya [The foundational condition is that a human being is not asked by Allah to do anything other than those things which have a firm proof through the transmission of the prophets, peace be upon them, and that the human being is only accountable for those things in which there is clear responsibility. All other matters are considered permissible because of the lack of a proof indicating their impermissibility.] ]  until a transmitted proof from a sacred law indicates otherwise.”  

He then goes on to mention the other conditions of a mujtahid:  

[The sciences of] grammar, prosody, philology, combined with those of usul and rhetoric he must master.  

According to the people of precision, [he must know] where the judgements can be found without the condition of having memorized the actual texts.  

[All of the above must be known] according to a middle ranked mastery at least. He must also know those matters upon which there is consensus.  

[Moreover, he must know] things such as the condition of single hadiths and what carries the authority of great numbers of transmissions; also [knowledge of] what is sound and what is weak is necessary.  

Furthermore, what has been abrogated and what abrogates, as well as the conditions under which a verse was revealed or a hadith was transmitted is a condition that must be met.  

The states of the narrators and the companions [must also be known]. Therefore, you may follow anyone who fulfils these conditions mentioned above according to the soundest opinion.  

So, consider all of the above-mentioned, and may Allah have mercy upon you, and [may you] see for yourself whether your companion is characterized by such qualities and fulfils these conditions-and I highly doubt it. More likely, he is just pointing people to himself in his demands that the people of this age take their judgements directly from the Book and Sunna. If, on the other hand, he does not possess the necessary conditions, then further discussion is useless.  

In Muhammad ‘Illish’s, Fath al-‘Ali al-Malik, there are many strong rebukes for those who wish to force people to abandon the study of the judicial branches and take directly from the Book and the Sunna. The actual text of the question put to him is as follows:  

"What do you say about someone who was following one of the four Imams, may Allah the Exalted be pleased with them, and then left claiming that he could derive his judgements directly form the Qur’an and the soundly transmitted hadiths, thus leaving the books of jurisprudence and inclining towards the view of Ahmad bin Idris? Moreover, he says to the one who clings to the speech of the Imams and their followers, "I say to you ‘Allah and His Messenger say’, and you reply ‘Malik said’ and ‘Ibn al-Qasim said’ or ‘Khalil said.’"  

To this, Imam ‘Illish replies:  

"My answer to this all this is as follows: Praise be to Allah, and Prayer and Safety be upon our Master Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah. It is not permissible for a common person to abandon following the four Imams and take directly from the textual sources of the Qur’an and the hadiths for the simple reason that this entails a great many conditions that have been clarified in the books of usul. Moreover, these conditions are rarely met by the great scholars, especially in these last days in which Islam has become a stranger just as it began a stranger.”  

Ibn ‘Uyyana, may Allah be pleased with him, has said,  

"The hadiths are a source of error except for the jurists."  

What he means is that people, other than the scholars, might interpret a tradition based on an apparent meaning, and yet [the hadith may] have another interpretation based on some other hadith that clarifies the meaning or some proof that remains hidden [to the common people]. After a long discussion, he remarks,  

"That as for their saying, ‘How can you leave clear Qur’anic verses and sound hadiths and follow the Imams in their ijtihads, which have a clear probability of error,’"  

His answer to them is as follows:  

"Surely the following of our [rightly guided] Imams is not abandoning the Qur’anic verses or the sound hadiths; it is the very essence of adhering to them and taking our judgements from them. This is because the Qur’an has not come down to us except by means of these very Imams [who are more worthy of following] by virtue of being more knowledgeable than us in [the sciences of] the abrogating and abrogated, the absolute and the conditional, the equivocal and the clarifying, the probabilistic and the plain, the circumstances surrounding revelation and their various meanings, as well as their possible interpretations and various linguistic and philological considerations, [not to mention] the various other ancillary sciences [involved in understanding the Qur’an] needed.  

"Also, they took all of that from the students of the companions (tabi’in) who received their instruction from the companions themselves, who received their instructions from the Lawgiver himself, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, divinely protected from every mistake, who bore witness that the first three generations of Muslims would be ones of virtue and righteousness. Furthermore, the prophetic traditions have also reached us through their means given that they were also more knowledgeable than us through their means given that they were also more knowledgeable than those who came after them concerning the rigorously authenticated (sahih), the well authenticated (hasan), and the weak (da’if) channels of transmission, as well as the  marfu’u [The transmission (sanad) goes to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) the hadith came from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).]mursal [A tabi’i related it from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace); a companion (sahabah) is missing from the line of the transmission.] , mutawatir [The hadith comes from so many sources that it is an absolute proof.] , ahad [A hadiththat at some point in the line of transmission, has only one narrator.] , mu’dal [Two people in a row are missing in the chain of narrators.] and gharib [The narrator of the hadith is trustworthy, but no one else related the hadith.] transmissions.  

"Thus, as far as this little band of men is concerned, there is only one of two possibilities: either they are attributing ignorance to Imams whose knowledge is considered by consensus to have reached human perfection as witnessed in several traditions of the truthful Lawgiver, upon him be prayers and peace, or they are actually attributing misguidance and lack of din to Imams who are all from the best of generations by the testimony of the magnificent Messenger himself, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. Surely, it is not the eyes that are blind, but blind are the hearts in our breasts.  

As for their saying to the one who imitates Malik, for example, “We say to you ‘Allah says’ or ‘the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, says’ and you reply, ‘Malik says’, or ‘Ibn al-Qasim says’, or ‘Khalil says’, for example,” our response is that the follower who says, “Malik says … etc.,” means that, “Malik says based on his deep understanding of the Word of Allah, or of the words of the Messenger, or of those firmly adhering to the actions of the companions, or of the tabi’in who understood clearly the Word of Allah and the word of the Messenger of Allah or took their example from the actions of His Messenger.” And the meaning of [a follower] saying “Ibn al-Qasim said …” is that he has [faithfully] transmitted what Malik said based on his understanding of the Word of Allah or of what Ibn al-Qasim himself understood from the word of Allah the Most Exalted. And the meaning of him saying, “Khalil said … .”, for example, is that he is transmitting only from those [Imams] aforementioned. As for Malik and Ibn al-Qasim, they are both Imams whose spiritual and judicial authority is agreed upon by unanimous consensus of this Umma; and they are both from the best of generations.  

As for the one who leaves their leadership and says, “Allah said and His Messenger said … ,” he has relied solely on his own understanding despite the fact that he is incapable of having any precision in the verses and hadiths that he quotes since he is unable even to provide chains of transmission [with any authority], let alone that he lacks knowledge concerning the abrogated, the absolute and the conditional, the ambiguous and the clarifying, the apparent and the textual, the general and the specific, the dimensions of the Arabic and the cause for revelation, the various linguistic considerations, and other various ancillary sciences needed. So, consider for yourself which is preferable: the word of a follower who simply quotes the understanding of Malik, an Imam by consensus-or the word of this ignoramus who said “Allah said and His Messenger said … .” But it is not the sight that goes blind, but rather the hearts in our breasts.  

Furthermore, know that the origin of this deviation is from the Dhahiriyya [TheDhahiriyya followed Daw’ud ad-Dhahiri’s madhhab.] who appeared in Andalucia [Muslim Spain] and whose power waxed from a period until Allah obliterated all traces of them until this little band of men set about to revive their beliefs. Imam al-Barzuli said, “The first one ever to attack the Mudawwana [Mudawwana: Imam Malik’s work of fiqh.]was Sa’id bin al-Haddad .”  

If you consider carefully the above-mentioned texts, you will realize that the one who censures you from following [the Imams] is truly a deviant. And I am using the word “deviant” to describe them only because the scholars [before me] have labelled this little band and their view (madhhab) as deviant. Moreover, you should know that those who condemn your adherence to the Imams have been fully refuted by Muhammad al-Khadir bin Mayyaba  with the most piercing of refutations, and he himself called them, in his book, “the people of deviation and heterodoxy.” He called his book, Refuting the people of deviation of heterodoxy who attack the following [taqlid] of the Imams of independent reasoning, and I used to have a copy but no longer do. So, my brother, I seriously warn you from following the madhhab of these people and even from sitting in their company, unless there is an absolute necessity, and certainly from listening to anything they have to say, because the scholars have declared their ideas deviant. Ibn al-Hajj  says in his book, al-Madkhal,  

"Umar ibn al-‘Aziz said, ‘Never give one whose heart is deviant access to your two ears, for surely you never know what may find fixity in you.’"  

I ask Allah to make you and me from those who listen to matters and follow the best of them. 

The Superiority of Fiqh Over Hadith

by Shaykh Gibril F. Haddad

{He gives wisdom to whomever He will, and whoever receives wisdom receives immense good} (2:269). “He for whom Allâh desires great good, He grants him (superlative) understanding in the Religion (yufaqqihhu/yufqihhu fî al-dîn). I only distribute and it is Allâh Who gives. That group shall remain in charge of the Order of Allâh, unharmed by those who oppose them, until the coming of the Order of Allâh.”1

Imâm al-Shâfi`î said: “You [the scholars of hadîth] are the pharmacists but we [the jurists] are the physicians.” Mullâ `Alî al-Qârî commented: “The early scholars said: The hadîth scholar without knowledge of fiqh is like a seller of drugs who is no physician: he has them but he does not know what to do with them; and the fiqh scholar without knowledge of hadîth is like a physician without drugs: he knows what constitutes a remedy, but does not have it available.”2

Imâm Ahmad is related by his students Abû Tâlib and Humayd ibn Zanjûyah to say: “I never saw anyone adhere more to hadîth than al-Shâfi`î. No one preceded him in writing down hadîth in a book.” The meaning of this is that al-Shâfi`î possessed the intelligence of hadîth after which Ahmad sought, as evidenced by the latter’s statement: “How rare is fiqh among those who know hadîth!” This is a reference to the hadîth: “It may be one carries understanding (fiqh) - meaning: memorizes the proof-texts of fiqh - without being a person of understanding (faqîh).”3 The Salaf and Khalaf elucidated this rule in many famous statements showing that, for all the exalted status of the Muhaddith, yet the Faqîh excels him:


======================================
Hadîth Misguides Those Devoid of Fiqh
======================================

* Ibn Abî Zayd al-Mâlikî reports Sufyân ibn `Uyayna as saying: “Hadîth is a pitfall (madilla) except for the fuqahâ’,” and Mâlik’s companion `Abd Allâh ibn Wahb said: “Hadîth is a pitfall except for the Ulema. Every memorizer of hadîth that does not have an Imâm in fiqh is misguided (dâll), and if Allâh had not rescued us with Mâlik and al-Layth [ibn Sa`d], we would have been misguided.”4 Ibn Abî Zayd comments: “He [Sufyân] means that other than the jurists might take something in its external meaning when, in fact, it is interpreted in the light of another hadîth or some evidence which remains hidden to him; or it may in fact consist in discarded evidence due to some other [abrogating] evidence. None can meet the responsibility of knowing this except those who deepened their learning and obtained fiqh.”
Imâm al-Haytamî said something similar.5 Ibn Wahb is also reported to say: “I met three hundred and sixty learned people of knowledge but, without Mâlik and al-Layth, I would have strayed.”6 Another versions states: “Were it not for Mâlik ibn Anas and al-Layth ibn Sa`d I would have perished; I used to think everything that is [authentically] related from the Prophet - Allâh bless and greet him - must be put into practice.”7Another version has: “I gathered a lot of hadîths and they drove me to confusion. I would consult Mâlik and al-Layth and they would say to me, ‘take this and leave this.’”8 Ibn Wahb had compiled 120,000 narrations according to Ahmad ibn Sâlih..9 Hence, Ibn `Uqda replied to a man who had asked him about a certain narration: “Keep such hadîths to a minimum for, truly, they are unsuitable except for those who know their interpretation. Yahyâ ibn Sulayman narrated from Ibn Wahb that he heard Mâlik say: ‘Many of these hadîths are [a cause for] misguidance; some hadîths were narrated by me and I wish that for each of them I had been flogged with a stick twice. I certainly no longer narrate them!’”10 By his phrase, “Many of these hadîths are misguidance,” Mâlik means their adducing them in the wrong place and meaning, because the Sunna is wisdom and wisdom is to place each thing in its right context.11

* Ibn al-Mubârak said: “If Allâh had not rescued me with Abû Hanîfa and Sufyân [al-Thawrî] I would have been like the rest of the common people.” Al-Dhahabî relates it as: “I would have been an innovator.”12


===============================================
The Imâms of Hadîth Defer to the Imâms of Fiqh
===============================================

* Imâm Ahmad’s teacher, Yahyâ ibn Sa`îd al-Qattân, despite his foremost status as the Master of hadîth Masters and expert in narrator - recommendation and discreditation, would not venture to extract legal rulings from the evidence but followed in this the fiqh of Abû Hanîfa as he explicitly declared: “We do not belie Allâh. We never heard better than the juridical opinion (ra’î) of Abû Hanîfa, and we followed most of his positions.”13Similarly, Muhammad ibn `Abd Allâh ibn `Abd al-Hakam said: “If it were not for al-Shâfi`î I would not have known how to reply to anyone. Because of him I know what I know.”14 As for Muhammad ibn Yahyâ al-Dhuhlî (d. 258) of Khurâsân, whom Abû Zur`a ranked above Imâm Muslim and who is considered an Amîr al-Mu’minîn fî al-Hadîth (“Commander of the Faithful in the Science of Hadîth”), he never considered himself a non-muqallid but said: “I have made Ahmad ibn Hanbal an Imâm in all that stands between me and my Lord.”15 Mis`ar ibn Kidâm said the same with regard to Imâm Abû Hanîfa.16


=========================================
Knowledge Is Not Memorization but a Light
=========================================

* Fiqh is the context of Mâlik’s statement: “Wisdom and knowledge are a light by which Allâh guides whomever He pleases; it does not consist in knowing many things”17 and al-Shâfi`î’s: “Knowledge is what benefits. Knowledge is not what one has memorized.”18Similarly, al-Dhahabî defined knowledge in Islâm (al-`ilm) as “Not the profusion of narration, but a light which Allâh casts into the heart. Its condition is followership (ittibâ`) and the flight away from egotism (hawâ) and innovation.”19 All this elucidates al-Hasan al-Basrî report that the Prophet - Allâh bless and greet him - said: “The purpose and energy of the Ulema is towards addressing needs while the purpose and energy of fools is to narrate” (himmat al-`ulamâ’ al-ri`âya wa himmat al-sufahâ’ al-riwâya).20


================================================================
The Hadîth of the Jurists is Preferable to That of the Non-Jurists
================================================================

* Wakî` preferred long-chained narrations through the fuqahâ’ to short-chained ones through non-fuqahâ’ and said: “The hadîth current among the jurists is better than the hadîth that is current among the hadîth scholars.”21 This is a foundational rule in the School of Imâm Abû Hanîfa. Like Yahyâ al-Qattân, Wakî` did not make ijtihâd but followed the positions of Abû Hanîfa.22

* Al-A`mash (Abû Muhammad Sulaymân ibn Mahrân al-Asadî the Tâbi`î 61/-148) also said: “The hadîth that jurists circulate among themselves is better than that which hadîth narrators circulate among themselves.”23

* Ibn Rajab said that Abû Dâwûd in his Sunan was more concerned with the
jurisprudence of the hadîth than with its chains of transmission.24


===================================================
Knowing the Hadîth is Different From Practicing It
===================================================

* Sufyân al-Thawrî used to say to the hadîth scholars: “Come forward, O weak ones!”25He also said: “If hadîth were a good thing it would have vanished just as all goodness has vanished,” and “Pursuing the study of hadîth is not part of the preparation for death, but a disease that preoccupies people.” Al-Dhahabî commented: “He said this verbatim. He is right in what he said because pursuing the study of hadîth is other than the hadîth itself.”26


===================================================
Understanding the Hadîth is Superior to Knowing It
===================================================

* Sufyân also said: “The explanation (tafsîr) of the hadîth is better than the hadîth.”27Another wording has: “The explanation of the hadîth is better than its audition.”28 Abû `Alî al-Naysabûrî said: “We consider understanding superior to memorization.”29

* Ishâq ibn Râhûyah said: “I would sit in Iraq with Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Yahyâ ibn Ma`în, and our companions, rehearsing the narrations from one, two, three routes of transmission … But when I said: What is its intent? What is its explanation? What is its fiqh? They would all remain mute except Ahmad ibn Hanbal.”30

* The perspicuity and fiqh of Abû Thawr among the hadîth Masters is famous. A woman stood by a gathering of scholars of hadîth comprising Yahyâ ibn Ma`în, Abû Khaythama, Khalaf ibn Salim, and others. She heard them saying: “The Prophet - Allâh bless and greet him - said,” and “So-and-so narrated,” and “No one other than So-and-so narrated,” etc. Whereupon she asked them: “Can a woman in her menses wash the dead?” for that was her occupation. No one in the entire gathering could answer her, and they began to look at one another. Abû Thawr arrived, and they referred her to him. She asked him the same question and he said: “Yes, she can wash the dead, as per the hadîth of al-Qâsim from `A’isha: ‘Your menses are not in your hand,’31 and her narration whereby she would scrub the Prophet’s - Allâh bless and greet him - hair at a time she was menstruating.32 If the head of the living can be washed [by a woman in her menses], then a fortiori the dead!” Hearing this, the hadîth scholars said: “Right! So-and-so narrated it, and So-and-so told us, and we know it from such - and - such a chain,” and they plunged back into the narrations and chains of transmission. The woman said: “Where were you all until now?”33

* Ibn `Abd al-Barr cites Imâm Ahmad as saying: “From where does Yahyâ ibn Ma`în know al-Shâfi`î? He does not know al-Shâfi`î nor has any idea what al-Shâfi`î says!”34Ibn Râhûyah similarly conceded defeat before al-Shâfi`î’s jurisprudence although himself reputed for fiqh.35


================================================================
Most Hadîth Scholars Do Not Possess Intelligence of the Hadîth
================================================================

* `Abd al-Razzâq al-San`ânî, Sufyân’s contemporary, was the teacher of the pillars of hadîth memorization in their time - Ahmad, Ibn Râhûyah, Ibn Ma`în, and Muhammad ibn Yahyâ al-Dhuhlî. Yet when Muhammad ibn Yazîd al-Mustamlî asked Ahmad: “Did he [`Abd al-Razzâq] possess fiqh?” Ahmad replied: “How rare is fiqh among those who know hadîth!”36

* Anas ibn Sîrîn said: “I came to Kûfa and found in it 4,000 persons pursuing hadîth and 400 persons who had obtained fiqh.”37

* Ibn `Abd al-Salâm said: “The majority of hadîth scholars are ignorant in fiqh.”38 A majority of 90% according to Anas ibn Sîrîn - among the Salaf!

* Al-Dhahabî said: “The majority of the hadîth scholars have no understanding, no diligence in the actual knowledge of hadîth, and no fear of Allâh regarding it.”39 All of the authorities al-Dhahabî listed as “those who are imitated in Islâm” are Jurisprudents and not merely hadîth masters.

* Al-Sakhâwî in his biography of Ibn H.ajar entitled al-Jawâhir wa al-Durar relates similar views:

Al-Fâriqî said: “One who knows chains of hadîth but not the legal rulings derived from them cannot be counted among the Scholars of the Law.” His student Ibn Abî `Asrûn (d. 585) also followed this view in his book al-Intisâr.40


=====================================
Not Every Sound Hadîth Forms Evidence
=====================================

* Ibrâhîm al-Nakha`î said: “Truly, I hear a hadîth, then I see what part of it applies. I apply it and leave the rest.”41 Shaykh Muhammad `Awwâma said: “Meaning, what is recognized by the authorities is retained while anything odd (gharîb), anomalous (shâdhdh), or condemned (munkar) is put aside.” Yazîd ibn Abî Habîb said: “When you hear a hadîth, proclaim it; if it is recognized, [keep it,] otherwise, leave it.”42

* Ibn Abî Laylâ said: “A man does not understand hadîth until he knows what to take from it and what to leave.”43

* `Abd al-Rahmân ibn Mahdî, the Commander of the believers in Hadîth, said: “It is impermissible for someone to be an Imâm [i.e. to be imitated] until he knows what is sound and what is unsound and until he does not take everything [sound] as evidence, and until he knows the correct way to infer knowledge [in the Religion].”44

* Al-Shâfi`î narrated that Mâlik ibn Anas was told: “Ibn `Uyayna narrates
>from al-Zuhrî things you do not have!” He replied: “Why, should I narrate every single hadîth I heard? Only if I wanted to misguide people!”45

Shaykh `Abd al-Fattâh. Abû Ghudda mentioned some of the above examples and commented: “If the likes of Yahyâ al-Qat.t.ân, Wakî` ibn al-Jarrâh., `Abd al-Razzâq, Yahyâ ibn Ma`în, and those who compare with them, did not dare enter into ijtihâd and fiqh, then how rash are the claimants to ijtihâd in our time! On top of it, they call the Salaf ignorant without the least shame nor modesty! Allâh is our refuge from failure.”46

BLESSINGS AND PEACE ON THE PROPHET, his Family, his Companions, the Four Imâms, and those who imitate them until the Day of Judgment.

======
NOTES
======
 

  1. Hadîth of the Prophet - Allâh bless and greet him - narrated from Mu`âwiya by al-Bukhârî and Muslim.
     
  2. Al-Qârî, Mu`taqad Abî Hanîfata al-Imâm fî Abaway al-Rasûl `Alayhi al-Salât wa al-Salâm (p. 42).
     
  3. A nearly-mass-narrated (mashhûr) sound hadîth of the Prophet - Allâh bless and greet him - reported from several Companions by al-Tirmidhî, Abû Dâwûd, Ibn Mâjah, and Ahmad.
     
  4. Ibn Abî Hâtim in the introduction of al-Jarh. wa al-Ta`dîl (p. 22-23); Ibn Abî Zayd, al-Jâmi` fî al-Sunan (p. 118-119); Ibn `Abd al-Barr, al-Intiqâ’ (p. 61); al-Dhahabî. See Shaykh `Abd al-Fattah Abû Ghudda’s comments on this statement in his notes on al-Lacknawî’s al-Raf` wa al-Takmil (2nd ed. p. 368 - 369, 3rd ed. p. 90-91).
     
  5. In al-Fatâwâ al-Hadîthiyya (p. 283).
     
  6. Narrated by Ibn Hibbân in the introduction to al-Majrûhîn (1:42). He then narrates from Ibn Wahb a similar statement where he adds the names of `Amr ibn al-Hârith and Ibn Mâjishûn.
     
  7. Narrated by Ibn `Asâkir and al-Bayhaqî cf. Ibn Rajab, Sharh. al-`Ilal (1:413) and `Awwâma (p. 76).
     
  8. Narrated by Qâdî `Iyâd.. in Tartîb al-Madârik (2:427).
     
  9. In Ibn al-Subkî, Tabaqât al-Shâfi`iyya al-Kubrâ (2:128).
     
  10. Narrated by al-Khatîb, al-Faqîh wal-Mutafaqqih (2:80).
     
  11. Shaykh Ismâ`îl al-Ans.ârî as quoted by `Awwâma, Athar (p. 77).
     
  12. Ibn Hajar, Tahdhîb al-Tahdhîb (10:449-452 #817) and al-Dhahabî’s Manâqib Abî Hanîfa.
     
  13. Narrated by al-Dhahabî in Tadhkirat al-Huffâz. (1:307) and Ibn Hajar in Tahdhîb al-Tahdhîb (10:450).
     
  14. Narrated by Ibn `Abd al-Barr in al-Intiqâ’ (p. 124).
     
  15. Narrated by al-Dhahabî in the Siyar (10:205).
     
  16. Cf. Ibn Abî al-Wafâ, last page of the Karachi edition of al-Jawâhir al-Mudiyya.
     
  17. In Ibn `Abd al-Barr, Jâmi` Bayân al-`Ilm (1:83-84), al-Qâdî `Iyâd.., Tartîb al-Madârik (2:62), al-Shâtibî, al-Muwâfaqât (4:97-98).
     
  18. "The Knowledge That Benefits is That Whose Rays Expand in the Breast and Whose Veil is Lifted in the Heart." Ibn `Atâ’ Allâh, Hikam (#213).
     
  19. Siyar (10:642).
     
  20. Narrated mursal from al-H.asan by Ibn `Asâkir in his Târîkh and al-Khatîb in al-Jâmi` li Akhlâq al-Râwî (1983 ed. 1:88 #27) cf. al-Jâmi` al-Saghîr (#9598) and Kanz (#29337).
     
  21. Cited by al-Dhahabî in the Siyar (al-Arna’ût. ed. 9:158, 12:328-329).
     
  22. Cf. al-Dhahabî, Tadhkirat al-H.uffâz. (1:307) and Ibn H.ajar in Tahdhîb al-Tahdhîb (11:126-127).
     
  23. In al-Sakhâwî, al-Jawâhir wa al-Durar (p. 21).
     
  24. Ibn Rajab, Sharh. `Ilal al-Tirmidhî (1:411).
     
  25. Cited from Zayd ibn Abî al-Zarqa’ by al-Dhahabî, Siyar (al-Arna’ût. ed. 7:275).
     
  26. Al-Sakhâwî, al-Jawâhir wa al-Durar (p. 20-23).
     
  27. Narrated by al-Harawî al-Ans.ârî in Dhamm al-Kalâm (4:139 #907).
     
  28. In Ibn `Abd al-Barr, Jâmi` Bayân al-`Ilm (2:175).
     
  29. In al-Dhahabî, Tadhkirat al-Huffâz. (2:776).
     
  30. Narrated by Ibn Abî H.âtim in the introduction to his al-Jarh wa al-Ta`dîl (p. 293), Ibn al-Jawzî in Manâqib al-Imâm Ahmad (p. 63), and al-Dhahabî in Târîkh al-Islâm (chapter on Ahmad).
     
  31. In Muslim and the Four Sunan.
     
  32. In al-Bukhârî and Muslim.
     
  33. Ibn al-Subkî in Tabaqât al-Shâfi`iyya, al-Sakhâwî in his introduction to al - Jawâhir wa al-Durar, and al-Haytamî in his Fatâwâ Hadîthiyya (p. 283). Something similar is narrated of Ahmad by Ibn Rajab in his Dhayl Tabaqât al-Hanâbila (1:131) and al-`Ulaymî in al-Manhaj al-Ahmad (2:208).
     
  34. Ibn `Abd al-Barr, Jâmi` Bayân al-`Ilm (2:160).
     
  35. Ishâq ibn Ibrâhîm ibn Makhlad, known as Ishâq ibn Râhûyah or Râhawayh, Abû Ya`qûb al-Tamîmî al-Marwazî al-Hanzali (d. 238), one of the major hadîth Masters. Abû Qudâma considered him greater than Imâm Ahmad in memorization of hadîth, a remarkable assessment considering Ahmad’s knowledge of 700,000 to a million narrations according to his son `Abd Allâh’s and Abû Zur`a al-Râzî’s estimations. He once said of himself: “I never wrote anything except I memorized it, and I can now see before me more than 70,000 hadîths in my book”; “I know the place of 100,000 hadîths as if I were looking at them, and I memorize 70,000 of them by heart - all sound (sahîha) - and 4,000 falsified ones.” [Narrated by al-Khatîb in al-Jâmi` li Akhlâq al-Râwî (2:380-381 #1832-1833).] He did not reach the same stature in fiqh. Al-Bayhaqî and others narrate that he unsuccessfully debated al-Shâfi`î on a legal question, as a result of which the latter disapproved of his title as the “jurisprudent of Khurâsân.” To a Jahmî scholar who said: “I disbelieve in a Lord that descends from one heaven to another heaven,” Ibn Râhûyah replied: “I believe in a Lord that does what He wishes.” [Narrated by al-Dhahabî who identifies the scholar as Ibrâhîm ibn (Hishâm) Abî Sâlih. in Mukhta.ar al-`Uluw (p. 191 #234).] Al-Bayhaqî comments: “Ishâq ibn Ibrâhîm al-Hanzali made it clear, in this report, that he considers the Descent (al-nuzûl) one of the Attributes of Action (min sifât al-fî`l). Secondly, he spoke of a descent without `how’. This proves he did not hold displacement (al-intiqâl) and movement from one place to another (al-zawâl) concerning it.” [See post titled, “The `Descent’ of Allâh Most High”.] Sources: Ibn Abî Ya`lâ, Tabaqât al-Hanâbila (1:6, 1:184); al-Bayhaqî, Manâqib al-Shâfi`î (1:213) and al-Asmâ’ wa al-Sifât (2:375-376 #951); al-Dhahabî, Siyar (9:558 #1877); Ibn al-Subkî, Tabaqât al-Shâfi`iyya al-Kubrâ (2:89-90, 9:81).
     
  36. Narrated by Abû Ya`lâ in Tabaqât al-Hanâbila (1:329) and cited by Shaykh Abû Ghudda in his introduction to Muhammad al-Shaybânî’s Muwatta’ and his short masterpiece al-Isnâd min al-Dîn (p. 68).
     
  37. Narrated by al-Râmahurmuzî in al-Muh.addith al-Fâsil (p. 560).
     
  38. Ibn `Abd al-Salâm, al-Fatâwâ al-Mawsiliyya (p. 132-134).
     
  39. In al-Sakhâwî, al-Jawâhir wa al-Durar (p. 18).
     
  40. Al-Sakhâwî, al-Jawâhir wa al-Durar (p. 20-23).
     
  41. Narrated from Ibn Abî Khaythama by Abû Nu`aym in the Hilya (4:225) and Ibn Rajab in Sharh. `Ilal al-Tirmidhî (1:413).
     
  42. In Ibn Rajab, Sharh. `Ilal al-Tirmidhî (1:413).
     
  43. In Ibn `Abd al-Barr, Jâmi` Bayân al-`Ilm (2:130).
     
  44. Narrated by Abû Nu`aym in the Hilya (9:3).
     
  45. Narrated by al-Khatîb in al-Jâmi` li Akhlâq al-Râwî (2:109).
     
  46. Abû Ghudda, al-Isnâd min al-Dîn (p. 68). He means by his remarks al-Albânî and others of his ilk. Abû Ghudda’s student, Shaykh Muhammad `Awwâma, listed several examples of this rule of the Salaf in his Athar al-Hadîth al-Sharîf fî Ikhtilâf al-A’immat al-Fuqahâ’ (“The Mark of the Noble Hadîth in the Differences of the Imâms of Jurisprudence”).

Shariah: The Clear Path

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

“For each We have appointed a divine law and a traced-out way. Had God willed, He could have made you one community. But that He may try you by that which He has given you. So vie one with another in good works. Unto God you will all return, and He will then inform you of that wherein you differ.” (Qur’an, 5: 48)

For Muslims, life did not begin at birth, but a long time before that. Before even the creation of the first man. It began when God created the souls of everyone who would ever exist and asked them, “Am I not your Lord?” They all replied, “Yea.”

God decreed for each soul a time on earth so that He might try them. Then, after the completion of their appointed terms, He would judge them and send them to their eternal destinations: either one of endless bliss, or one of everlasting grief.

This life, then, is a journey that presents to its wayfarers many paths. Only one of these paths is clear and straight. This path is the Shariah.

Divine Guidance

In Arabic, Shariah means the clear, well-trodden path to water. Islamically, it is used to refer to the matters of religion that God has legislated for His servants. The linguistic meaning of Shariah reverberates in its technical usage: just as water is vital to human life so the clarity and uprightness of Shariah is the means of life for souls and minds.

Throughout history, God has sent messengers to people all over the world, to guide them to the straight path that would lead them to happiness in this world and the one to follow. All messengers taught the same message about belief (the Qur’an teaches that all messengers called people to the worship of the One God), but the specific prescriptions of the divine laws regulating people’s lives varied according to the needs of his people and time.

The Prophet Muhammad (God bless him and give him peace) was the final messenger and his Shariah represents the ultimate manifestation of the divine mercy. “Today I have perfected your way of life (din) for you, and completed My favour upon you, and have chosen Islam as your way of life.” (Qur’an, 5: 3) The Prophet (pbuh) himself was told that, “We have only sent you are a mercy for all creation.” (Qur’an, 21: 179)

Legal Rulings

The Shariah regulates all human actions and puts them into five categories: obligatory, recommended, permitted, disliked or forbidden.

Obligatory actions must be performed and when performed with good intentions are rewarded. Its opposite is the forbidden. Recommended action is that which should be done. Its opposite is the disliked. Permitted action is that which is neither encouraged nor discouraged. Most human actions fall in this last category.

The ultimate worth of actions is based on intention and sincerity, as mentioned by the Prophet (pbuh), who said, “Actions are by intentions, and one shall only get that which one intended.”

Life under the Shariah

The Shariah covers all aspects of human life. Classical Shariah manuals are often divided into four parts: laws relating to personal acts of worship, laws relating to commercial dealings, laws relating to marriage and divorce, and penal laws.

Legal Philosophy

God sent prophets and books to humanity to show them the way to happiness in this life, and success in the hereafter. This is encapsulated in the believer’s prayer, stated in the Qur’an, “Our Lord, give us good in this life and good in the next, and save us from the punishment of the Fire.”(2: 201)

The legal philosophers of Islam, such as Ghazali, Shatibi, and Shah Wali Allah explain that the aim of Shariah is to promote human welfare. This is evident in the Qur’an, and teachings of the Prophet (pbuh).

The scholars explain that the welfare of humans is based on the fulfillment of necessities, needs, and comforts.

Necessities

Necessities are matters that worldly and religious life depend upon. Their omission leads to unbearable hardship in this life, or punishment in the next. There are five necessities: preservation of religion, life, intellect, lineage, and wealth. These ensure individual and social welfare in this life and the hereafter.

The Shariah protects these necessities in two ways: firstly by ensuring their establishment and then by preserving them.

  1. Religion: To ensure the establishment of religion, God Most High has made belief and worship obligatory. To ensure its preservation, the rulings relating to the obligation of learning and conveying the religion were legislated.
     
  2. Life: To ensure the preservation of human life, God Most high legislated for marriage, healthy eating and living, and forbid the taking of life and laid down punishments for doing so.
     
  3. Intellect: God has permitted that sound intellect and knowledge be promoted, and forbidden that which corrupts or weakens it, such as alcohol and drugs. He has also imposed preventative punishments in order that people stay away from them, because a sound intellect is the basis of the moral responsibility that humans were given.
     
  4. Lineage: marriage was legislated for the preservation of lineage, and sex outside marriage was forbidden. Punitive laws were put in placed in order to ensure the preservation of lineage and the continuation of human life.
     
  5. Wealth: God has made it obligatory to support oneself and those one is responsible for, and placed laws to regulate the commerce and transactions between people, in order to ensure fair dealing, economic justice, and to prevent oppression and dispute.

Needs and Comforts

Needs and comforts are things people seek in order to ensure a good life, and avoid hardship, even though they are not essential. The spirit of the Shariah with regards to needs and comforts is summed up in the Qur’an, “He has not placed any hardship for you in religion,”(22: 87) And, “God does not seek to place a burden on you, but that He purify you and perfect His grace upon you, that you may give thanks.”(5: 6)

Therefore, everything that ensures the human happiness, within the spirit of Divine Guidance, is permitted in the Shariah.

The Sources of the Shariah

The primary sources of the Shariah are the Qur’an and example of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

The Qur’an

The Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet (pbuh) gradually, over 23 years. The essence of its message is to establish the oneness of God and the spiritual and moral need of man for God. This need is fulfilled through worship and submission, and has ultimate consequences in the Hereafter.

The Qur’an is the word of God. Because of its inimitable style and eloquence, and, above all, the guidance and legal provisions it came with, it ensures the worldly and next-worldly welfare of humanity.

God Most High said, “Verily, this Qur’an guides to that which is best, and gives glad tidings to the believers who do good that theirs will be a great reward.” (Qur’an, 17: 9) And, “There has come unto you light from God and a clear Book, whereby God guides those who seek His good pleasure unto paths of peace. He brings them out of darkness unto light by His decree, and guides them unto a straight path.” (Qur’an, 5: 15)

The Prophetic Example (Sunna)

The Prophet’s role was expounded in the Qur’an, “We have revealed the Remembrance [Qur’an] to you that you may explain to people that which was revealed for them.” (16: 44)

This explanation was through the Prophet’s words, actions, and example. Following the guidance and the example of the Prophet was made obligatory, “O you who believe, obey God and obey the Messenger,” (4: 59) and, “Verily, in the Messenger of God you have a beautiful example for those who seek God and the Last Day, and remember God much.” The Prophet (pbuh) himself instructed, “I have left two things with you which if you hold on to, you shall not be misguided: the Book of God and my example.” [Reported by Hakim and Malik]

Derived Sources

There are two agreed upon derived sources of Shariah: scholarly consensus (ijma`) and legal analogy (qiyas)

Scholarly consensus

The basis for scholarly consensus being a source of law is the Qur’anic command to resolve matters by consultation, as God stated, “Those who answer the call of their Lord, established prayer, and whose affairs are by consultation.” (42: 38) Scholarly consensus is defined as being the agreement of all Muslim scholars at the level of juristic reasoning (ijtihad) in one age on a given legal ruling. Given the condition that all such scholars have to agree to the ruling, its scope is limited to matters that are clear according to the Qur’an and Prophetic example, upon which such consensus must necessarily be based. When established, though, scholarly consensus is decisive proof.

Legal Analogy (Qiyas)

Legal analogy is a powerful tool to derive rulings for new matters. For example, drugs have been deemed impermissible, through legal analogy from the prohibition of alcohol that is established in the Qur’an. Such a ruling is based on the common underlying effective cause of intoxication.

Legal analogy and its various tools enables the jurists to understand the underlying reasons and causes for the rulings of the Qur’an and Prophetic example (sunna). This helps in dealing with the ever-changing human situations and allows for new rulings to be applied most suitably and consistently.

Beyond Ritualism

Although the Shariah brings benefit in this world, the ultimate aim of those who submit to it is to express their slavehood to their Creator.

This way has been indicated in a Divine statement conveyed by the Prophet (pbuh), “My servant approaches Me with nothing more beloved to Me than what I have made obligatory upon him, and My servant 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.” [Reported by Bukhari]

If the legal dimension of the Shariah gives Islam its form, the spiritual dimension is its substance. The spiritual life of Islam, and its goal, was outlined in the Divine statement (mentioned above). The Prophet (pbuh) explained spiritual excellence as being, “To worship God as though you see Him, and if you see Him not, [know that] He nevertheless sees you.”

The spiritual life of Islam is a means to a realization of faith and a perfection of practice. It is to seek the water that the Shariah is the clear path to, water that gives life to minds and souls longing for meaning.

It is this spiritual life, at its various levels, that attracts Muslims to their religion, its way of life, and to the rulings of the Shariah.

“And those who believe are overflowing in their love of God.” (Qur’an, 2: 165)

Faraz Rabbani,
Amman, Jordan.

Sources:

  • Al-Madkhal li Dirasat al-Shariah al-Islamiyya (Abd al-Karim Zaydan)
  • Usul al-Fiqh al-Islami (Wahba Zuhayli)
  • Al-Muwafaqat (Shatibi)
  • Al-Mustasfa (Ghazali)
  • Hujjat Allah al-Baligha (Wali Allah al-Dahlawi)
  • Reliance of the Traveller (tr. Nuh Keller)
  • Al-Tahrir (Ibn al-Humam)

Source: BBC Corp.

Beware those who neglect and abandon the Sunnah and say, “It is only a Sunnah”: The Quran says, “….So, those who violate his (messenger’s) order must beware, lest they are visited by a trial or they are visited by a painful punishment” (24:63).

The Prophet (saw) said:“One who walks with a tyrant, knowing full well that he is a tyrant, in order to strengthen him is such as has already left the fold of Islam.”
(Hadith of al-Bayhaqi, on the authority of Aws ibn Shurahbil)

THE WISDOM IN ISLAM

“Wisdom In Islam” encompasses in its radiant words the true goals that all of us must strive for. Its bounty of mercy, forgiveness and guidance is stunning in its clarity. Imagine using this wonderful guidance on a regular basis? It is important to endeavor to practice and then to invite others to practice these beautiful words of wisdom.

A Bedouin came one day to the Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) and said to him,”O, Messenger of Allah! I’ve come to ask you a few questions about the affairs of this life and the Hereafter.”

Ask what you wish.

-I’d like to be the most learned of men.

Fear Allah, and you will be the most learned of men.

-I wish to be the richest man in the world.

Be contented, and you will be the richest man in the world.

-I’d like to be the most just of men.

Desire for others what you desire for yourself, and you will be the most just of men.

-I want to be the best of men.

Do good to others and you will be the best of men.

- I wish to be the most favored by Allah.

Engage much in Allah’s praise, and you will be most favored by Him.

-I’d like to complete my faith.

If you have good manners you will complete your faith.

-I wish to be among those who do good.

Adore Allah as if you see Him. If you don’t see Him, He sees you. In this way you will be among those who do good.

-I wish to be obedient to Allah.

If you observe Allah’s commands you will be obedient.

-I’d like to be free from all sins.

Bathe yourself from impurities and you will be free from all sins.

-I’d like to be raised on the Day of

Judgment in the light. Don’t wrong yourself or any other creature, and you will be raised on the Day of Judgment in the light.

-I’d like Allah to bestow His mercy on me.

If you have mercy on yourself and on others, Allah will grant you mercy on the Day of Judgment.

-I’d like my sins to be very few.

If you seek the forgiveness of Allah as much as you can; your sins will be very few.

-I’d like to be the most honorable man.

If you do not complain to any fellow creature, you will be the most honorable of men.

-I’d like to be the strongest of men.

If you put your trust in Allah, you be the strongest of men.

-I’d like to enlarge my provision.

If you keep yourself pure, Allah will enlarge your provision.

-I’d like to be loved by Allah and His messenger.

If you love what Allah and His messenger love you will be among their beloved ones.

-I wish to be safe from Allah’s wrath on the Day of Judgment.

If you do not lose your temper with any of your fellow creatures, you will be safe from the wrath of Allah on the Day of Judgment.

-What will save me from sins?

Tears, humility and illness.

-What are the best deeds in the eyes of Allah?

Gentle manners, modesty and patience.

-What are the worst evils in the eyes of Allah?

Hot temper and miserliness.

-What assuages the wrath of Allah in this life and in the Hereafter?

Concealed charity and kindness to relatives.

-What extinguishes hell’s fires on the Day of Judgment?

Patience in adversity and misfortunes.

“I have never heard a tradition more comprehensive of the beauties of religion, and more beneficial than this hadith. It collects all the good things of Islam.” (Related by Imam Ibn Hambal).

Some Evidence For The Truth Of Islam


God supported His last Prophet Muhammad (SAW) with many miracles and much evidence which proved that he is a true Prophet sent by God.  Also, God supported His last revealed book, the Holy Quran, with many miracles that prove that this Quran is the literal word of God, revealed by Him, and that it was not authored by any human being. This chapter discusses some of this evidence.

The Scientific Miracles in the Holy Quran

The Quran is the literal word of God, which He revealed to His Prophet Muhammad (SAW) through the Angel Gabriel.  It was memorized by Muhammad (SAW), who then dictated it to his Companions.  They, in turn, memorized it, wrote it down, and reviewed it with the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) .  Moreover, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW)  reviewed the Quran with the Angel Gabriel once each year and twice in the last year of his life.  From the time the Quran was revealed, until this day, there has always been a huge number of Muslims who have memorized all of the Quran, letter by letter.  Some of them have even been able to memorize all of the Quran by the age of ten.  Not one letter of the Quran has been changed over the centuries.

The Quran, which was revealed fourteen centuries ago, mentioned facts only recently discovered or proven by scientists.  This proves without doubt that the Quran must be the literal word of God, revealed by Him to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), and that the Quran was not authored by Muhammad (SAW) or by any other human being.  This also proves that Muhammad (SAW) is truly a prophet sent by God.  It is beyond reason that anyone fourteen hundred years ago would have known these facts discovered or proven only recently with advanced equipment and sophisticated scientific methods.  Some examples follow. 

The Quran On Human Embryonic Development

In the Holy Quran, God speaks about the stages of man’s embryonic development

 We created man from an extract of clay.  Then We made him as a drop in a place of settlement, firmly fixed.  Then We made the drop into an alaqah (leech, suspended thing, and blood clot), then We made thealaqah into a mudghah (chewed substance)… 1 (Quran, 23:12-14)

Literally, the Arabic word alaqah has three meanings: (1) leech, (2) suspended thing, and (3) blood clot.

In comparing a leech to an embryo in the alaqah stage, we find similarity between the two2 as we can see in figure 1.  Also, the embryo at this stage obtains nourishment from the blood of the mother, similar to the leech, which feeds on the blood of others.3

Figure 1: Drawings illustrating the similarities in appearance between a leech and a human embryo at the alaqah stage. (Leech drawing from Human Development as Described in the Quran and Sunnah, Moore and others, p. 37, modified from Integrated Principles of Zoology, Hickman and others.  Embryo drawing from The Developing Human, Moore and Persaud, 5th ed., p. 73.)

The second meaning of the word alaqah is “suspended thing.”  This is what we can see in figures 2 and 3, the suspension of the embryo, during the alaqah stage, in the womb of the mother.

Figure 2: We can see in this diagram the suspension of an embryo during thealaqah stage in the womb (uterus) of the mother. (The Developing Human, Moore and Persaud, 5th ed., p. 66.)  (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

  

Figure 3: In this photomicrograph, we can see the suspension of an embryo (marked B) during the alaqahstage (about 15 days old) in the womb of the mother.  The actual size of the embryo is about 0.6 mm. (The Developing Human, Moore, 3rd ed., p. 66, from Histology, Leeson and Leeson.)

The third meaning of the word alaqah is “blood clot.”  We find that the external appearance of the embryo and its sacs during the alaqah stage is similar to that of a blood clot.  This is due to the presence of relatively large amounts of blood present in the embryo during this stage4 (see figure 4).  Also during this stage, the blood in the embryo does not circulate until the end of the third week.5  Thus, the embryo at this stage is like a clot of blood.

Figure 4: Diagram of the primitive cardiovascular system in an embryo during thealaqah stage.  The external appearance of the embryo and its sacs is similar to that of a blood clot, due to the presence of relatively large amounts of blood present in the embryo. (The Developing Human, Moore, 5th ed., p. 65.)  (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

So the three meanings of the word alaqah correspond accurately to the descriptions of the embryo at the alaqah stage.

The next stage mentioned in the verse is the mudghah stage.  The Arabic word mudghah means “chewed substance.”  If one were to take a piece of gum and chew it in his or her mouth and then compare it with an embryo at the mudghahstage, we would conclude that the embryo at the mudghah stage acquires the appearance of a chewed substance.  This is because of the somites at the back of the embryo that “somewhat resemble teethmarks in a chewed substance.”6 (see figures 5 and 6).

Figure 5: Photograph of an embryo at themudghah stage (28 days old).  The embryo at this stage acquires the appearance of a chewed substance, because the somites at the back of the embryo somewhat resemble teeth marks in a chewed substance.  The actual size of the embryo is 4 mm. (The Developing Human, Moore and Persaud, 5th ed., p. 82, from Professor Hideo Nishimura, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan.)

  

Figure 6: When comparing the appearance of an embryo at themudghah stage with a piece of gum that has been chewed, we find similarity between the two. A) Drawing of an embryo at themudghah stage.  We can see here the somites at the back of the embryo that look like teeth marks. (The Developing Human, Moore and Persaud, 5th ed., p. 79.) B)Photograph of a piece of gum that has been chewed.
(Click on the image to enlarge it.)

How could Muhammad (SAW) have possibly known all this 1400 years ago, when scientists have only recently discovered this using advanced equipment and powerful microscopes which did not exist at that time?  Hamm and Leeuwenhoek were the first scientists to observe human sperm cells (spermatozoa) using an improved microscope in 1677 (more than 1000 years after Muhammad(SAW) ).  They mistakenly thought that the sperm cell contained a miniature preformed human being that grew when it was deposited in the female genital tract.7

Professor Emeritus Keith L. Moore8 is one of the world’s most prominent scientists in the fields of anatomy and embryology and is the author of the book entitled The Developing Human, which has been translated into eight languages.  This book is a scientific reference work and was chosen by a special committee in the United States as the best book authored by one person.  Dr. Keith Moore is Professor Emeritus of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.  There, he was Associate Dean of Basic Sciences at the Faculty of Medicine and for 8 years was the Chairman of the Department of Anatomy.  In 1984, he received the most distinguished award presented in the field of anatomy in Canada, the J.C.B. Grant Award from the Canadian Association of Anatomists.  He has directed many international associations, such as the Canadian and American Association of Anatomists and the Council of the Union of Biological Sciences.

In 1981, during the Seventh Medical Conference in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, Professor Moore said: “It has been a great pleasure for me to help clarify statements in the Quran about human development.  It is clear to me that these statements must have come to Muhammad from God, because almost all of this knowledge was not discovered until many centuries later.  This proves to me that Muhammad must have been a messenger of God.”9  (To view the RealPlayer video of this comment click here ).

Consequently, Professor Moore was asked the following question: “Does this mean that you believe that the Quran is the word of God?”  He replied: “I find no difficulty in accepting this.”10

During one conference, Professor Moore stated: “….Because the staging of human embryos is complex, owing to the continuous process of change during development, it is proposed that a new system of classification could be developed using the terms mentioned in the Quran and Sunnah (what Muhammad (SAW)  said, did, or approved of).  The proposed system is simple, comprehensive, and conforms with present embryological knowledge.  The intensive studies of the Quran and hadeeth (reliably transmitted reports by the Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW)  companions of what he said, did, or approved of) in the last four years have revealed a system for classifying human embryos that is amazing since it was recorded in the seventh century A.D.  Although Aristotle, the founder of the science of embryology, realized that chick embryos developed in stages from his studies of hen’s eggs in the fourth century B.C., he did not give any details about these stages.  As far as it is known from the history of embryology, little was known about the staging and classification of human embryos until the twentieth century.  For this reason, the descriptions of the human embryo in the Quran cannot be based on scientific knowledge in the seventh century.  The only reasonable conclusion is: these descriptions were revealed to Muhammad from God.  He could not have known such details because he was an illiterate man with absolutely no scientific training.”11  (View the RealPlayer video of this comment ).

_____________________________

Footnotes:

(1)in this web site is only a translation of the meaning of the Quran.  It is not the Quran itself, which is in Arabic.

(2) The Developing Human, Moore and Persaud, 5th ed., p. 8.

(3) Human Development as Described in the Quran and Sunnah, Moore and others, p. 36.

(4) Human Development as Described in the Quran and Sunnah, Moore and others, pp. 37-38. 

(5) The Developing Human, Moore and Persaud, 5th ed., p. 65. 

(6) The Developing Human, Moore and Persaud, 5th ed., p. 8. 

(7) The Developing Human, Moore and Persaud, 5th ed., p. 9. 

(8) Note: The occupations of all the scientists mentioned in this web site were last updated in 1997. 

(9) The reference for this saying is This is the Truth (videotape).  For a copy of this videotape, please visit

(10) This is the Truth (videotape). 

(11) This is the Truth (videotape).  For a copy, see footnote no. 9.

 The Quran On Mountains

A book entitled Earth is a basic reference textbook in many universities around the world.  One of its two authors is Professor Emeritus Frank Press.  He was the Science Advisor to former US President Jimmy Carter, and for 12 years was the President of the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC. His book says that mountains have underlying roots.1  These roots are deeply embedded in the ground, thus, mountains have a shape like a peg (see figures 7, 8, and 9).

Figure 7: Mountains have deep roots under the surface of the ground. (Earth, Press and Siever, p. 413.)

Figure 8: Schematic section.  The mountains, like pegs, have deep roots embedded in the ground. (Anatomy of the Earth, Cailleux, p. 220.)  (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

Figure 9: Another illustration shows how the mountains are peg-like in shape, due to their deep roots. (Earth Science, Tarbuck and Lutgens, p. 158.)  (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

This is how the Quran has described mountains.  God has said in the Quran:

 Have We not made the earth as a bed, and the mountains as pegs?     (Quran, 78:6-7)

Modern earth sciences have proven that mountains have deep roots under the surface of the ground (see figure 9) and that these roots can reach several times their elevations above the surface of the ground.2  So the most suitable word to describe mountains on the basis of this information is the word ‘peg,’ since most of a properly set peg is hidden under the surface of the ground.  The history of science tells us that the theory of mountains having deep roots was introduced only in the latter half of the nineteenth century.3

Mountains also play an important role in stabilizing the crust of the earth.4  They hinder the shaking of the earth.  God has said in the Quran:

And He has set firm mountains in the earth so that it would not shake with you…  (Quran, 16:15)

Likewise, the modern theory of plate tectonics holds that mountains work as stabilizers for the earth.  This knowledge about the role of mountains as stabilizers for the earth has just begun to be understood in the framework of plate tectonics since the late 1960’s.5

Could anyone during the time of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) have known of the true shape of mountains?  Could anyone imagine that the solid massive mountain which he sees before him actually extends deep into the earth and has a root, as scientists assert?  A large number of books of geology, when discussing mountains, only describe that part which is above the surface of the earth.  This is because these books were not written by specialists in geology.  However, modern geology hasconfirmed the truth of the Quranic verses.
 

 Footnotes:

(1) Earth, Press and Siever, p. 435.  Also see Earth Science, Tarbuck and Lutgens, p. 157.

(2) The Geological Concept of Mountains in the Quran, El-Naggar, p. 5.

(3) The Geological Concept of Mountains in the Quran, p. 5.

(4) The Geological Concept of Mountains in the Quran, pp. 44-45.

(5) The Geological Concept of Mountains in the Quran, p. 5.

The Quran On The Origin Of The Universe

The science of modern cosmology, observational and theoretical, clearly indicates that, at one point in time, the whole universe was nothing but a cloud of ‘smoke’ (i.e. an opaque highly dense and hot gaseous composition).1  This is one of the undisputed principles of standard modern cosmology.  Scientists now can observe new stars forming out of the remnants of that ‘smoke’ (see figures 10 and 11).

Figure 10: A new star forming out of a cloud of gas and dust (nebula), which is one of the remnants of the ‘smoke’ that was the origin of the whole universe. (The Space Atlas, Heather and Henbest, p. 50.)

Figure 11: The Lagoon nebula is a cloud of gas and dust, about 60 light years in diameter.  It is excited by the ultraviolet radiation of the hot stars that have recently formed within its bulk. (Horizons, Exploring the Universe, Seeds, plate 9, from Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc.)  (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

The illuminating stars we see at night were, just as was the whole universe, in that ‘smoke’ material.  God has said in the Quran:

Then He turned to the heaven when it was smoke…  (Quran, 41:11)

Because the earth and the heavens above (the sun, the moon, stars, planets, galaxies, etc.) have been formed from this same ‘smoke,’ we conclude that the earth and the heavens were one connected entity.  Then out of this homogeneous ‘smoke,’ they formed and separated from each other. God has said in the Quran:

 Have not those who disbelieved known that the heavens and the earth were one connected entity, then We separated them?…  (Quran, 21:30)

Dr. Alfred Kroner is one of the world’s renowned geologists.  He is Professor of Geology and the Chairman of the Department of Geology at the Institute of Geosciences, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany.  He said: “Thinking where Muhammad came from … I think it is almost impossible that he could have known about things like the common origin of the universe, because scientists have only found out within the last few years, with very complicated and advanced technological methods, that this is the case.”2  (To view the RealPlayer video of this comment click here ).  Also he said: “Somebody who did not know something about nuclear physics fourteen hundred years ago could not, I think, be in a position to find out from his own mind, for instance, that the earth and the heavens had the same origin.”3  (View the RealPlayer video of this comment ).

Footnotes:

(1) The First Three Minutes, a Modern View of the Origin of the Universe, Weinberg, pp. 94-105.

(2) The reference for this saying is This is the Truth (videotape).  For a copy of this videotape, please visit.

(3) This is the Truth (videotape).

The Quran On The Cerebrum

God has said in the Quran about one of the evil unbelievers who forbade the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) from praying at the Kaaba:

No!  If he does not stop, We will take him by the naseyah (front of the head), a lying, sinful naseyah(front of the head)!  (Quran, 96:15-16)

Why did the Quran describe the front of the head as being lying and sinful?  Why didn’t the Quran say that the person was lying and sinful?  What is the relationship between the front of the head and lying and sinfulness?

If we look into the skull at the front of the head, we will find the prefrontal area of the cerebrum (see figure 12).  What does physiology tell us about the function of this area?  A book entitled Essentials of Anatomy & Physiology says about this area, “The motivation and the foresight to plan and initiate movements occur in the anterior portion of the frontal lobes, the prefrontal area. This is a region of association cortex…”1  Also the book says, “In relation to its involvement in motivation, the prefrontal area is also thought to be the functional center for aggression….”2

Figure 12: Functional regions of the left hemisphere of the cerebral cortex.  The prefrontal area is located at the front of the cerebral cortex. (Essentials of Anatomy & Physiology, Seeley and others, p. 210.)  (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

So, this area of the cerebrum is responsible for planning, motivating, and initiating good and sinful behavior and is responsible for the telling of lies and the speaking of truth.  Thus, it is proper to describe the front of the head as lying and sinful when someone lies or commits a sin, as the Quran has said, “…A lying, sinful naseyah (front of the head)!”

Scientists have only discovered these functions of the prefrontal area in the last sixty years, according to Professor Keith L. Moore.3

Footnotes:

(1) Essentials of Anatomy & Physiology, Seeley and others, p. 211.  Also see The Human Nervous System, Noback and others, pp. 410-411.

(2) Essentials of Anatomy & Physiology, Seeley and others, p. 211.

(3) Al-Ejaz al-Elmy fee al-Naseyah (The Scientific Miracles in the Front of the Head), Moore and others, p. 41

The Quran On Seas And Rivers

Modern Science has discovered that in the places where two different seas meet, there is a barrier between them.  This barrier divides the two seas so that each sea has its own temperature, salinity, and density.1  For example, Mediterranean sea water is warm, saline, and less dense, compared to Atlantic ocean water.  When Mediterranean sea water enters the Atlantic over the Gibraltar sill, it moves several hundred kilometers into the Atlantic at a depth of about 1000 meters with its own warm, saline, and less dense characteristics.  The Mediterranean water stabilizes at this depth2 (see figure 13).

Figure 13: The Mediterranean sea water as it enters the Atlantic over the Gibraltar sill with its own warm, saline, and less dense characteristics, because of the barrier that distinguishes between them.  Temperatures are in degrees Celsius (C°). (Marine Geology, Kuenen, p. 43, with a slight enhancement.)  (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

Although there are large waves, strong currents, and tides in these seas, they do not mix or transgress this barrier.

The Holy Quran mentioned that there is a barrier between two seas that meet and that they do not transgress.  God has said:

He has set free the two seas meeting together.  There is a barrier between them.  They do not transgress.  (Quran, 55:19-20)

But when the Quran speaks about the divider between fresh and salt water, it mentions the existence of “a forbidding partition” with the barrier.  God has said in the Quran:

He is the one who has set free the two kinds of water, one sweet and palatable, and the other salty and bitter.  And He has made between them a barrier and a forbidding partition.  (Quran, 25:53)

One may ask, why did the Quran mention the partition when speaking about the divider between fresh and salt water, but did not mention it when speaking about the divider between the two seas?

Modern science has discovered that in estuaries, where fresh (sweet) and salt water meet, the situation is somewhat different from what is found in places where two seas meet.  It has been discovered that what distinguishes fresh water from salt water in estuaries is a “pycnocline zone with a marked density discontinuity separating the two layers.”3  This partition (zone of separation) has a different salinity from the fresh water and from the salt water4 (see figure 14).

Figure 14: Longitudinal section showing salinity (parts per thousand ‰) in an estuary.  We can see here the partition (zone of separation) between the fresh and the salt water. (Introductory Oceanography, Thurman, p. 301, with a slight enhancement.)  (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

This information has been discovered only recently, using advanced equipment to measure temperature, salinity, density, oxygen dissolubility, etc.  The human eye cannot see the difference between the two seas that meet, rather the two seas appear to us as one homogeneous sea.  Likewise, the human eye cannot see the division of water in estuaries into the three kinds: fresh water, salt water, and the partition (zone of separation).

Footnotes:

(1) Principles of Oceanography, Davis, pp. 92-93.

(2) Principles of Oceanography, Davis, p. 93.

(3) Oceanography, Gross, p. 242.  Also see Introductory Oceanography, Thurman, pp. 300-301.

(4) Oceanography, Gross, p. 244, and Introductory Oceanography, Thurman, pp. 300-301.

The Quran On Deep Seas And Internal Waves

God has said in the Quran

Or (the unbelievers’ state) is like the darkness in a deep sea.  It is covered by waves, above which are waves, above which are clouds.  Darknesses, one above another.  If a man stretches out his hand, he cannot see it…. (Quran, 24:40)

This verse mentions the darkness found in deep seas and oceans, where if a man stretches out his hand, he cannot see it.  The darkness in deep seas and oceans is found around a depth of 200 meters and below.  At this depth, there is almost no light (see figure 15).  Below a depth of 1000 meters there is no light at all.1  Human beings are not able to dive more than forty meters without the aid of submarines or special equipment.  Human beings cannot survive unaided in the deep dark part of the oceans, such as at a depth of 200 meters.

Figure 15: Between 3 and 30 percent of the sunlight is reflected at the sea surface.  Then almost all of the seven colors of the light spectrum are absorbed one after another in the first 200 meters, except the blue light. (Oceans, Elder and Pernetta, p. 27.)

Scientists have recently discovered this darkness by means of special equipment and submarines that have enabled them to dive into the depths of the oceans.

We can also understand from the following sentences in the previous verse, “…in a deep sea.  It is covered by waves, above which are waves, above which are clouds….”, that the deep waters of seas and oceans are covered by waves, and above these waves are other waves.  It is clear that the second set of waves are the surface waves that we see, because the verse mentions that above the second waves there are clouds.  But what about the first waves?  Scientists have recently discovered that there are internal waves which “occur on density interfaces between layers of different densities.”2 (see figure 16).

Figure 16: Internal waves at interface between two layers of water of different densities.  One is dense (the lower one), the other one is less dense (the upper one). (Oceanography, Gross, p. 204.)

The internal waves cover the deep waters of seas and oceans because the deep waters have a higher density than the waters above them.  Internal waves act like surface waves.  They can also break, just like surface waves.  Internal waves cannot be seen by the human eye, but they can be detected by studying temperature or salinity changes at a given location.3

Footnotes:

(1) Oceans, Elder and Pernetta, p. 27.

(2) Oceanography, Gross, p. 205.

(3) Oceanography, Gross, p. 205.

The Quran On Clouds

Scientists have studied cloud types and have realized that rain clouds are formed and shaped according to definite systems and certain steps connected with certain types of wind and clouds.

One kind of rain cloud is the cumulonimbus cloud.  Meteorologists have studied how cumulonimbus clouds are formed and how they produce rain, hail, and lightning.

They have found that cumulonimbus clouds go through the following steps to produce rain:

1)  The clouds are pushed by the wind: Cumulonimbus clouds begin to form when wind pushes some small pieces of clouds (cumulus clouds) to an area where these clouds converge (see figures 17 and 18).

Figure 17: Satellite photo showing the clouds moving towards the convergence areas B, C, and D.  The arrows indicate the directions of the wind. (The Use of Satellite Pictures in Weather Analysis and Forecasting, Anderson and others, p. 188.)  (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

Figure 18: Small pieces of clouds (cumulus clouds) moving towards a convergence zone near the horizon, where we can see a large cumulonimbus cloud. (Clouds and Storms, Ludlam, plate 7.4.)   (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

2)  Joining: Then the small clouds join together forming a larger cloud1 (see figures 18 and 19).

Figure 19: (A) Isolated small pieces of clouds (cumulus clouds).  (B) When the small clouds join together, updrafts within the larger cloud increase, so the cloud is stacked up.  Water drops are indicated by ·. (The Atmosphere, Anthes and others, p. 269.)  (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

3)  Stacking: When the small clouds join together, updrafts within the larger cloud increase.  The updrafts near the center of the cloud are stronger than those near the edges.2  These updrafts cause the cloud body to grow vertically, so the cloud is stacked up (see figures 19 (B), 20, and 21).  This vertical growth causes the cloud body to stretch into cooler regions of the atmosphere, where drops of water and hail formulate and begin to grow larger and larger.  When these drops of water and hail become too heavy for the updrafts to support them, they begin to fall from the cloud as rain, hail, etc.3

Figure 20: A cumulonimbus cloud.  After the cloud is stacked up, rain comes out of it. (Weather and Climate, Bodin, p.123.)

Figure 21: A cumulonimbus cloud. (A Colour Guide to Clouds, Scorer and Wexler, p. 23.)

God has said in the Quran:

Have you not seen how God makes the clouds move gently, then joins them together, then makes them into a stack, and then you see the rain come out of it….  (Quran, 24:43)

Meteorologists have only recently come to know these details of cloud formation, structure, and function by using advanced equipment like planes, satellites, computers, balloons, and other equipment, to study wind and its direction, to measure humidity and its variations, and to determine the levels and variations of atmospheric pressure.4

The preceding verse, after mentioning clouds and rain, speaks about hail and lightning:

….And He sends down hail from mountains (clouds) in the sky, and He strikes with it whomever He wills, and turns it from whomever He wills. The vivid flash of its lightning nearly blinds the sight.  (Quran, 24:43)

Meteorologists have found that these cumulonimbus clouds, that shower hail, reach a height of 25,000 to 30,000 ft (4.7 to 5.7 miles),5 like mountains, as the Quran said, “…And He sends down hail from mountains (clouds) in the sky…”(see figure 21 above).

This verse may raise a question.  Why does the verse say “its lightning” in a reference to the hail?  Does this mean that hail is the major factor in producing lightning?  Let us see what the book entitled Meteorology Today says about this.  It says that a cloud becomes electrified as hail falls through a region in the cloud of supercooled droplets and ice crystals.  As liquid droplets collide with a hailstone, they freeze on contact and release latent heat. 

This keeps the surface of the hailstone warmer than that of the surrounding ice crystals.  When the hailstone comes in contact with an ice crystal, an important phenomenon occurs: electrons flow from the colder object toward the warmer object.  Hence, the hailstone becomes negatively charged.  The same effect occurs when supercooled droplets come in contact with a hailstone and tiny splinters of positively charged ice break off.  These lighter positively charged particles are then carried to the upper part of the cloud by updrafts.  The hail, left with a negative charge, falls towards the bottom of the cloud, thus the lower part of the cloud becomes negatively charged.  These negative charges are then discharged as lightning.6  We conclude from this that hail is the major factor in producing lightning.

This information on lightning was discovered recently.  Until 1600 AD, Aristotle’s ideas on meteorology were dominant.  For example, he said that the atmosphere contains two kinds of exhalation, moist and dry.  He also said that thunder is the sound of the collision of the dry exhalation with the neighboring clouds, and lightning is the inflaming and burning of the dry exhalation with a thin and faint fire.7  These are some of the ideas on meteorology that were dominant at the time of the Quran’s revelation, fourteen centuries ago.
 

Footnotes:

(1) See The Atmosphere, Anthes and others, pp. 268-269, and Elements of Meteorology, Miller and Thompson, p. 141.

(2) The updrafts near the center are stronger, because they are protected from the cooling effects by the outer portion of the cloud.

(3) See The Atmosphere, Anthes and others, p. 269, and Elements of Meteorology, Miller and Thompson, pp. 141-142.

(4) See Eejaz al-Quran al-Kareem fee Wasf Anwa al-Riyah, al-Sohob, al-Matar, Makky and others, p. 55.

(5) Elements of Meteorology, Miller and Thompson, p. 141.

(6) Meteorology Today, Ahrens, p. 437.

(7) The Works of Aristotle Translated into English: Meteorologica, vol. 3, Ross and others, pp. 369a-369b.

Scientists’ Comments On The Scientific Miracles In The Holy Quran

The following are some comments of scientists1 on the scientific miracles in the Holy Quran.  All of these comments have been taken from the videotape entitled This is the Truth.  In this videotape, you can see and hear the scientists while they are giving the following comments.  (To view the RealPlayer video of a comment, click on the link at the end of that comment.

1)  Dr. T. V. N. Persaud is Professor of Anatomy, Professor of Pediatrics and Child Health, and Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.  There, he was the Chairman of the Department of Anatomy for 16 years.  He is well-known in his field.  He is the author or editor of 22 textbooks and has published over 181 scientific papers.  In 1991, he received the most distinguished award presented in the field of anatomy in Canada, the J.C.B. Grant Award from the Canadian Association of Anatomists.  When he was asked about the scientific miracles in the Quran which he has researched, he stated the following:

“The way it was explained to me is that Muhammad was a very ordinary man.  He could not read, didn’t know [how] to write. In fact, he was an illiterate.  And we’re talking about twelve [actually about fourteen] hundred years ago.  You have someone illiterate making profound pronouncements and statements and that are amazingly accurate about scientific nature.  And I personally can’t see how this could be a mere chance.  There are too many accuracies and, like Dr. Moore, I have no difficulty in my mind that this is a divine inspiration or revelation which led him to these statements.”  (View the RealPlayer video of this comment )

Professor Persaud has included some Quranic verses and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad(SAW)  in some of his books.  He has also presented these verses and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW)  at several conferences.

2)  Dr. Joe Leigh Simpson is the Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Professor of Molecular and Human Genetics at the Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA.  Formerly, he was Professor of Ob-Gyn and the Chairman of the Department of Ob-Gyn at the University of Tennessee, Memphis, Tennessee, USA.  He was also the President of the American Fertility Society.  He has received many awards, including the Association of Professors of Obstetrics and Gynecology Public Recognition Award in 1992.  Professor Simpson studied the following two sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) :

{In every one of you, all components of your creation are collected together in your mother’s womb by forty days…}2

{If forty-two nights have passed over the embryo, God sends an angel to it, who shapes it and creates its hearing, vision, skin, flesh, and bones….}3

He studied these two sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) extensively, noting that the first forty days constitute a clearly distinguishable stage of embryo-genesis.  He was particularly impressed by the absolute precision and accuracy of those sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) .  Then, during one conference, he gave the following opinion:

“So that the two hadeeths (the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) ) that have been noted provide us with a specific time table for the main embryological development before forty days.  Again, the point has been made, I think, repeatedly by other speakers this morning: these hadeeths could not have been obtained on the basis of the scientific knowledge that was available [at] the time of their writing … . It follows, I think, that not only there is no conflict between genetics and religion but, in fact, religion can guide science by adding revelation to some of the traditional scientific approaches, that there exist statements in the Quran shown centuries later to be valid, which support knowledge in the Quran having been derived from God.”  (View the RealPlayer video of this comment )

3)  Dr. E. Marshall Johnson is Professor Emeritus of Anatomy and Developmental Biology at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.  There, for 22 years he was Professor of Anatomy, the Chairman of the Department of Anatomy, and the Director of the Daniel Baugh Institute.  He was also the President of the Teratology Society.  He has authored more than 200 publications.  In 1981, during the Seventh Medical Conference in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, Professor Johnson said in the presentation of his research paper:

“Summary: The Quran describes not only the development of external form, but emphasizes also the internal stages, the stages inside the embryo, of its creation and development, emphasizing major events recognized by contemporary science.”  (View the RealPlayer video of this comment )

Also he said: “As a scientist, I can only deal with things which I can specifically see.  I can understand embryology and developmental biology.  I can understand the words that are translated to me from the Quran.  As I gave the example before, if I were to transpose myself into that era, knowing what I knew today and describing things, I could not describe the things which were described.  I see no evidence for the fact to refute the concept that this individual, Muhammad, had to be developing this information from some place.  So I see nothing here in conflict with the concept that divine intervention was involved in what he was able to write.”4  (View the RealPlayer video of this comment )

4)  Dr. William W. Hay is a well-known marine scientist.  He is Professor of Geological Sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA.  He was formerly the Dean of the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami, Miami, Florida, USA.  After a discussion with Professor Hay about the Quran’s mention of recently discovered facts on seas, he said:

“I find it very interesting that this sort of information is in the ancient scriptures of the Holy Quran, and I have no way of knowing where they would come from, but I think it is extremely interesting that they are there and that this work is going on to discover it, the meaning of some of the passages.”  And when he was asked about the source of the Quran, he replied: “Well, I would think it must be the divine being.”  (View the RealPlayer video of this comment
)

5)  Dr. Gerald C. Goeringer is Course Director and Associate Professor of Medical Embryology at the Department of Cell Biology, School of Medicine, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, USA.  During the Eighth Saudi Medical Conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Professor Goeringer stated the following in the presentation of his research paper:

“In a relatively few aayahs (Quranic verses) is contained a rather comprehensive description of human development from the time of commingling of the gametes through organogenesis.  No such distinct and complete record of human development, such as classification, terminology, and description, existed previously.  In most, if not all, instances, this description antedates by many centuries the recording of the various stages of human embryonic and fetal development recorded in the traditional scientific literature.”  (View the RealPlayer video of this comment )

6)  Dr. Yoshihide Kozai is Professor Emeritus at Tokyo University, Hongo, Tokyo, Japan, and was the Director of the National Astronomical Observatory, Mitaka, Tokyo, Japan.  He said:

“I am very much impressed by finding true astronomical facts in [the] Quran, and for us the modern astronomers have been studying very small pieces of the universe.  We’ve concentrated our efforts for understanding of [a] very small part.  Because by using telescopes, we can see only very few parts [of] the sky without thinking [about the] whole universe.  So, by reading [the] Quran and by answering to the questions, I think I can find my future way for investigation of the universe.”  (View the RealPlayer video of this comment )

7)  Professor Tejatat Tejasen is the Chairman of the Department of Anatomy at Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai, Thailand.  Previously, he was the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the same university.  During the Eighth Saudi Medical Conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Professor Tejasen stood up and said:

“During the last three years, I became interested in the Quran … . From my study and what I have learned from this conference, I believe that everything that has been recorded in the Quran fourteen hundred years ago must be the truth, that can be proved by the scientific means.  Since the Prophet Muhammad could neither read nor write, Muhammad must be a messenger who relayed this truth, which was revealed to him as an enlightenment by the one who is eligible [as the] creator.  This creator must be God.  Therefore, I think this is the time to say La ilaha illa Allah, there is no god to worship except Allah (God), Muhammadur rasoolu Allah, Muhammad is Messenger (Prophet) of Allah (God).  Lastly, I must congratulate for the excellent and highly successful arrangement for this conference … . I have gained not only from the scientific point of view and religious point of view but also the great chance of meeting many well-known scientists and making many new friends among the participants.  The most precious thing of all that I have gained by coming to this place is La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammadur rasoolu Allah, and to have become a Muslim.”  (View the RealPlayer video of this comment )

After all these examples we have seen about the scientific miracles in the Holy Quran and all these scientists’ comments on this, let us ask ourselves these questions:

n  Could it be a coincidence that all this recently discovered scientific information from different fields was mentioned in the Quran, which was revealed fourteen centuries ago?

n  Could this Quran have been authored by Muhammad (SAW) or by any other human being?

The only possible answer is that this Quran must be the literal word of God, revealed by Him.
 

Footnotes:

(1) Note: The occupations of all the scientists mentioned in this web site were last updated in 1997. 

(2) Narrated in Saheeh Muslim, #2643, and Saheeh Al-Bukhari, #3208.

Note: What is between these special brackets {…} in this guide is a translation of what the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said.  Also note that this symbol # used in the footnotes, indicates the number of the hadeeth.  A hadeeth is a reliably transmitted report by the Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) companions of what he said, did, or approved of. 

(3) Narrated in Saheeh Muslim, #2645. 

(4) The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was illiterate.  He could not read nor write, but he dictated the Quran to his Companions and commanded some of them to write it down. 

The Great Challenge To Produce One Chapter Like The Chapters Of The Holy Quran

God has said in the Quran

 And if you are in doubt about what We have revealed (the Quran) to Our worshiper (Muhammad (SAW) ), then produce a chapter like it, and call your witnesses (supporters and helpers) besides God if you are truthful.  And if you do not do it, and you can never do it, then fear the Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones.  It has been prepared for disbelievers.  And give good news (O Muhammad) to those who believe and do good deeds, that for them are gardens (Paradise) in which rivers flow…. (Quran, 2:23-25)

Ever since the Quran was revealed, fourteen centuries ago, no one has been able to produce a single chapter like the chapters of the Quran in their beauty, eloquence, splendor, wise legislation, true information, true prophecy, and other perfect attributes.  Also, note that the smallest chapter in the Quran (Chapter 108) is only ten words, yet no one has ever been able to meet this challenge, then or today.1  Some of the disbelieving Arabs who were enemies of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) tried to meet this challenge to prove that Muhammad (SAW)  was not a true prophet, but they failed to do so.2  This failure was despite the fact that the Quran was revealed in their own language and dialect and that the Arabs at the time of Muhammad (SAW) were a very eloquent people who used to compose beautiful and excellent poetry, still read and appreciated today.

The smallest chapter in the Holy Quran (Chapter 108) is only ten words, yet no one has ever been able to meet the challenge to produce one chapter like the chapters of the Holy Quran.

Footnotes:

(1) See Al-Borhan fee Oloom Al-Quran, Al-Zarkashy, vol. 2, p. 224.

(2) See Al-Borhan fee Oloom Al-Quran, Al-Zarkashy, vol. 2, p. 226.

Biblical Prophecies On The Advent Of Muhammad (SAW) , The Prophet Of Islam

The Biblical Prophecies On The Advent Of The Prophet Muhammad (SAW)  Are Evidence Of The Truth Of Islam For People Who Believe In The Bible.

In Deuteronomy 18, Moses stated that God told him: “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.  If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.” (Deuteronomy 18:18-19).1

From these verses we conclude that the prophet in this prophecy must have the following three characteristics:

1)  That he will be like Moses.

2)  That he will come from the brothers of the Israelites, i.e. the Ishmaelites.

3)  That God will put His words in to the mouth of this prophet and that he will declare what God commands him.

Let us examine these three characteristics in more depth:

1)  A Prophet Like Moses:

There were hardly any two prophets who were so much alike as Moses and Muhammad(SAW).  Both were given a comprehensive law and code of life. Both encountered their enemies and were victorious in miraculous ways.  Both were accepted as prophets and statesmen.  Both migrated following conspiracies to assassinate them.  Analogies between Moses and Jesus overlook not only the above similarities but other crucial ones as well.  These include the natural birth, the family life, and death of Moses and Muhammad (SAW)  but not of Jesus.  Moreover Jesus was regarded by his followers as the Son of God and not exclusively as a prophet of God, as Moses and Muhammad (SAW)  were and as Muslims believe Jesus was.  So, this prophecy refers to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW)  and not to Jesus, because Muhammad  (SAW) is more like Moses than Jesus.

Also, one notices from the Gospel of John that the Jews were waiting for the fulfillment of three distinct prophecies.  The first was the coming of Christ.  The second was the coming of Elijah.  The third was the coming of the Prophet.  This is obvious from the three questions that were posed to John the Baptist: “Now this was John’s testimony, when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was.  He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ.”  They asked him, “Then who are you?  Are you Elijah?”  He said, “I am not.”  “Are you the Prophet?”  He answered, “No.” (John 1:19-21).  If we look in a Bible with cross-references, we will find in the marginal notes where the words “the Prophet” occur in John 1:21, that these words refer to the prophecy of Deuteronomy 18:15and 18:18.2  We conclude from this that Jesus Christ is not the prophet mentioned in Deuteronomy 18:18.

2) From The Brothers Of The Israelites:

Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac (Genesis 21).  Ishmael became the grandfather of the Arab nation, and Isaac became the grandfather of the Jewish nation.  The prophet spoken of was not to come from among the Jews themselves, but from among their brothers, i.e. the Ishmaelites.  Muhammad (SAW) , a descendant of Ishmael, is indeed this prophet.

Also, Isaiah 42:1-13 speaks of the servant of God, His “chosen one” and “messenger” who will bring down a law.  “He will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth.  In his law the islands will put their hope.” (Isaiah 42:4).  Verse 11, connects that awaited one with the descendants of Kedar.  Who is Kedar?  According to Genesis 25:13, Kedar was the second son of Ishmael, the ancestor of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

3) God Will Put His Words In The Mouth Of This Prophet:

The words of God (the Holy Quran) were truly put into Muhammad’s(SAW)  mouth.  God sent the Angel Gabriel to teach Muhammad (SAW)  the exact words of God (the Holy Quran) and asked him to dictate them to the people as he heard them.  The words are therefore not his own.  They did not come from his own thoughts, but were put into his mouth by the Angel Gabriel.  During the life time of Muhammad (SAW), and under his supervision, these words were then memorized and written by his companions.

Also, this prophecy in Deuteronomy mentioned that this prophet will speak the words of God in the name of God.  If we looked to the Holy Quran, we will find that all its chapters, except Chapter 9, are preceded or begin with the phrase, “In the Name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.”

Another indication (other than the prophecy in Deuteronomy) is that Isaiah ties the messenger connected with Kedar with a new song (a scripture in a new language) to be sung to the Lord (Isaiah 42:10-11).  This is mentioned more clearly in the prophecy of Isaiah“and another tongue, will he speak to this people” (Isaiah 28:11 KJV).  Another related point, is that the Quran was revealed in sections over a span of twenty-three years.  It is interesting to compare this with Isaiah 28 which speaks of the same thing, “For it is: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there.” (Isaiah 28:10).

Note that God has said in the prophecy of Deuteronomy 18“If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.” (Deuteronomy, 18:19).  This means that whoever believes in the Bible must believe in what this prophet says, and this prophet is the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
 

Footnotes:

(1) All of the verses on this page have been taken from The NIV Study Bible, New International Version, except where noted as being KJV which means King James Version.

(2) See the marginal notes in The NIV Study Bible, New International Version on verse 1:21, p. 1594.

The Verses in the Quran That Mention Future Events Which Later Came to Pass

One example of the events foretold in the Quran is the victory of the Romans over the Persians within three to nine years after the Romans were defeated by the Persians. God has said in the Quran:

 The Romans have been defeated in the nearest land (to the Arabian Peninsula), and they, after their defeat, will be victorious within bedd’ (three to nine) years….  (Quran, 30:2-4)

Let us see what history tells us about these wars.  A book entitled History of the Byzantine State says that the Roman army was badly defeated at Antioch in 613, and as a result, the Persians swiftly pushed forward on all fronts.1  At that time, it was hard to imagine that the Romans would defeat the Persians, but the Quran foretold that the Romans would be victorious within three to nine years.  In 622, nine years after the Romans’ defeat, the two forces (Romans and Persians) met on Armenian soil, and the result was the decisive victory of the Romans over the Persians, for the first time after the Romans’ defeat in 613.2  The prophecy was fulfilled just as God has said in the Quran.

There are also many other verses in the Quran and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) that mention future events which later came to pass.

Footnotes:

(1) History of the Byzantine State, Ostrogorsky, p. 95. 

(2) History of the Byzantine State, Ostrogorsky, pp. 100-101, andHistory of Persia, Sykes, vol. 1, pp. 483-484.  Also see The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, Micropaedia vol. 4, p. 1036. 

Miracles Performed by the Prophet Muhammad (SAW)

Many miracles were performed by the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) by God’s permission.  These miracles were witnessed by many people.  For example:

n  When the unbelievers in Makkah asked the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) to show them a miracle, he showed them the splitting of the moon.1

n  Another miracle was the flowing of water through Muhammad’s(SAW) fingers when his companions got thirsty and had no water except a little in a vessel.  They came to him and told him that they had no water to make ablution nor to drink except for what was in the vessel.  So, Muhammad (SAW) put his hand in the vessel, and the water started gushing out between his fingers.  So, they drank and made ablution.  They were one thousand five hundred companions.2

There were also many other miracles that were performed by him or which happened to him.

Footnotes:

(1) Narrated in Saheeh Al-Bukhari, #3637, and Saheeh Muslim, #2802. 

(2) Narrated in Saheeh Al-Bukhari, #3576, and Saheeh Muslim, #1856. 


The Simple Life of Muhammad (SAW)

If we compare the life of Muhammad (SAW) before his mission as a prophet and his life after he began his mission as a prophet, we will conclude that it is beyond reason to think that Muhammad (SAW) was a false prophet, who claimed prophethood to attain material gains, greatness, glory, or power.

Before his mission as a prophet, Muhammad (SAW) had no financial worries.  As a successful and reputed merchant, Muhammad (SAW) drew a satisfactory and comfortable income.  After his mission as a prophet and because of it, he became worse off materially.  To clarify this more, let us browse the following sayings on his life:

   Aa’isha, Muhammad’s (SAW) wife, said, “O my nephew, we would sight three new moons in two months without lighting a fire (to cook a meal) in the Prophet’s (SAW) houses.”  Her nephew asked, “O Aunt, what sustained you?”  She said, “The two black things, dates and water, but the Prophet (SAW) had some Ansar neighbors who had milk-giving she-camels and they used to send the Prophet (SAW) some of its milk.”1

   Sahl Ibn Sa’ad, one of Muhammad’s (SAW) companions, said, “The Prophet of God (SAW) did not see bread made from fine flour from the time God sent him (as a prophet) until he died.”2

   Aa’isha, Muhammad’s (SAW) wife, said, “The mattress of the Prophet (SAW), on which he slept, was made of leather stuffed with the fiber of the date-palm tree.”3

   Amr Ibn Al-Hareth, one of Muhammad’s (SAW) companions, said that when the Prophet (SAW) died, he left neither money nor anything else except his white riding mule, his arms, and a piece of land which he left to charity.4

Muhammad (SAW) lived this hard life till he died although the Muslim treasury was at his disposal, the greater part of the Arabian Peninsula was Muslim before he died, and the Muslims were victorious after eighteen years of his mission.

Is it possible that Muhammad (SAW) might have claimed prophethood in order to attain status, greatness, and power?  The desire to enjoy status and power is usually associated with good food, fancy clothing, monumental palaces, colorful guards, and indisputable authority.  Do any of these indicators apply to Muhammad (SAW)?  A few glimpses of his life that may help answer this question follow.

Despite his responsibilities as a prophet, a teacher, a statesman, and a judge, Muhammad (SAW) used to milk his goat,mend his clothes, repair his shoes,6 help with the household work,7 and visit poor people when they got sick.8  He also helped his companions in digging a trench by moving sand with them.9  His life was an amazing model of simplicity and humbleness.

Muhammad’s (SAW) followers loved him, respected him, and trusted him to an amazing extent.  Yet he continued to emphasize that deification should be directed to God and not to him personally.  Anas, one of Muhammad’s (SAW) companions, said that there was no person whom they loved more than the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), yet when he came to them, they did not stand up for him because he hated their standing up for him,10 as other people do with their great people.

Long before there was any prospect of success for Islam and at the outset of a long and painful era of torture, suffering, and persecution of Muhammad (SAW) and his followers, he received an interesting offer.  An envoy of the pagan leaders, Otba, came to him saying, “…If you want money, we will collect enough money for you so that you will be the richest one of us.  If you want leadership, we will take you as our leader and never decide on any matter without your approval.  If you want a kingdom, we will crown you king over us…”  Only one concession was required from Muhammad (SAW) in return for that, to give up calling people to Islam and worshipping God alone without any partner.  Wouldn’t this offer be tempting to one pursuing worldly benefit?  Was Muhammad (SAW) hesitant when the offer was made?  Did he turn it down as a bargaining strategy leaving the door open for a better offer?  The following was his answer: {In the Name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful}  And he recited to Otba the verses of the Quran 41:1-38.11 The Following are some of these verses:

A revelation from (God), the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful; a Book whereof the verses are explained in detail; a Quran in Arabic, for people who know, giving good news and warning, yet most of them turn away, so they do not listen.  (Quran, 41:2-4)

On another occasion and in response to his uncle’s plea to stop calling people to Islam, Muhammad’s (SAW) answer was as decisive and sincere: {I swear by the name of God, O Uncle!, that if they place the sun in my right-hand and the moon in my left-hand in return for giving up this matter (calling people to Islam), I will never desist until either God makes it triumph or I perish defending it.}12

Muhammad (SAW) and his few followers did not only suffer from persecution for thirteen years but the unbelievers even tried to kill Muhammad (SAW) several times.  On one occasion they attempted to kill him by dropping a large boulder, which could barely be lifted, on his head.13  Another time they tried to kill him by poisoning his food.14  What could justify such a life of suffering and sacrifice even after he was fully triumphant over his adversaries?  What could explain the humbleness and nobility which he demonstrated in his most glorious moments when he insisted that success is due only to God’s help and not to his own genius?  Are these the characteristics of a power-hungry or a self-centered man?

Footnotes:

(1) Narrated in Saheeh Muslim, #2972, and Saheeh Al-Bukhari, #2567. 

(2) Narrated in Saheeh Al-Bukhari, #5413, and Al-Tirmizi, #2364. 

(3) Narrated in Saheeh Muslim, #2082, and Saheeh Al-Bukhari, #6456. 

(4) Narrated in Saheeh Al-Bukhari, #2739, and Mosnad Ahmad, #17990. 

(5) Narrated in Mosnad Ahmad, #25662. 

(6) Narrated in Saheeh Al-Bukhari, #676, and Mosnad Ahmad, #25517. 

(7) Narrated in Saheeh Al-Bukhari, #676, and Mosnad Ahmad, #23706. 

(8) Narrated in Mowatta Malek, #531. 

(9) Narrated in Saheeh Al-Bukhari, #3034, and Saheeh Muslim, #1803, and Mosnad Ahmad, #18017. 

(10) Narrated in Mosnad Ahmad, #12117, and Al-Tirmizi, #2754. 

(11) Al-Serah Al-Nabaweyyah, Ibn Hesham, vol. 1, pp. 293-294. 

(12) Al-Serah Al-Nabaweyyah, Ibn Hesham, vol. 1, pp. 265-266. 

(13) Al-Serah Al-Nabaweyyah, Ibn Hesham, vol. 1, pp. 298-299. 

(14) Narrated in Al-Daremey, #68, and Abu-Dawood, #4510. 

The Phenomenal Growth of Islam

At the end of this chapter, it may be appropriate to point out an important indication of the truth of Islam.  It is well known that in the USA and the whole world, Islam is the fastest-growing religion.  The following are some observations on this phenomenon:

n  “Islam is the fastest-growing religion in America, a guide and pillar of stability for many of our people…” (Hillary Rodham Clinton, Los Angeles Times).

n  “Moslems are the world’s fastest-growing group…” (The Population Reference Bureau, USA Today).

n  “….Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the country.” (Geraldine Baum; Newsday Religion Writer, Newsday).

n  “Islam, the fastest-growing religion in the United States…” (Ari L. Goldman, New York Times).

This phenomenon indicates that Islam is truly a religion from God.  It is unreasonable to think that so many Americans and people from different countries have converted to Islam without careful consideration and deep contemplation before concluding that Islam is true.  These converts have come from different countries, classes, races, and walks of life.  They include scientists, professors, philosophers, journalists, politicians, actors, and athletes.

The points mentioned in this chapter constitute only some of the evidence supporting the belief that the Quran is the literal word of God, that Muhammad (SAW) is truly a prophet sent by God, and that Islam is truly a religion from God.

Footnotes:

(1) Larry B. Stammer, Times Religion Writer, “First Lady Breaks Ground With Muslims,” Los Angeles Times, Home Edition, Metro Section, Part B, May 31, 1996, p. 3. 

(2) Timothy Kenny, “Elsewhere in the World,” USA Today, Final Edition, News Section, February 17, 1989, p. 4A. 

(3) Geraldine Baum, “For Love of Allah,” Newsday, Nassau and Suffolk Edition, Part II, March 7, 1989, p. 4. 

(4) Ari L. Goldman, “Mainstream Islam Rapidly Embraced By Black Americans,” New York Times, Late City Final Edition, February 21, 1989, p. 1. 


Basic Benefits Of Islam 

Islam provides many benefits for the individual and the society.  This chapter mentions some of the benefits gained through Islam for the individual.

(1) The Door to Eternal Paradise

God has said in the Quran:

 And give good news (O Muhammad) to those who believe and do good deeds, that they will have gardens (Paradise) in which rivers flow….    (Quran, 2:25)

God has also said:

 Race one with another for forgiveness from your Lord and for Paradise, whose width is as the width of the heavens and the earth, which has been prepared for those who believe in God and His messengers….  (Quran, 57:21)

The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) told us that the lowest in rank among the dwellers of Paradise will have ten times the like of this world,1 and he or she will have whatever he or she desires and ten times like it.2  Also, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: {A space in Paradise equivalent to the size of a foot would be better than the world and what is in it.}3  He also said: {In Paradise there are things which no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no human mind has thought of.}4  He also said: {The most miserable man in the world of those meant for Paradise will be dipped once in Paradise.  Then he will be asked, “Son of Adam, did you ever face any misery?  Did you ever experience any hardship?”  So he will say, “No, by God, O Lord!  I never faced any misery, and I never experienced any hardship.”}5

If you enter Paradise, you will live a very happy life without sickness, pain, sadness, or death; God will be pleased with you; and you will live there forever.  God has said in the Quran:

But those who believe and do good deeds, We will admit them to gardens (Paradise) in which rivers flow, lasting in them forever….  (Quran, 4:57)
 

Footnotes:

(1) Narrated in Saheeh Muslim, #186, and Saheeh Al-Bukhari, #6571. 

(2) Narrated in Saheeh Muslim, #188, and Mosnad Ahmad, #10832. 

(3) Narrated in Saheeh Al-Bukhari, #6568, and Mosnad Ahmad, #13368. 

(4) Narrated in Saheeh Muslim, #2825, and Mosnad Ahmad, #8609. 

(5) Narrated in Saheeh Muslim, #2807, and Mosnad Ahmad, #12699. 

Salvation From Hellfire

God has said in the Quran:

 Those who have disbelieved and died in disbelief, the earth full of gold would not be accepted from any of them if one offered it as a ransom. They will have a painful punishment, and they will have no helpers. (Quran, 3:91)

So, this life is our only chance to win Paradise and to escape from Hellfire, because if someone dies in disbelief, he will not have another chance to come back to this world to believe.  As God has said in the Quran about what is going to happen for the unbelievers on the Day of Judgment:

If you could but see when they are set before the Fire (Hell) and say, “Would that we might return (to the world)!  Then we would not reject the verses of our Lord, but we would be of the believers!”  (Quran, 6:27)

But no one will have this second opportunity.

The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: {The happiest man in the world of those doomed to the Fire (Hell) on the Day of Judgment will be dipped in the Fire once.  Then he will be asked, “Son of Adam, did you ever see any good?  Did you ever experience any blessing?”  So he will say, “No, by God, O Lord!”}1

Footnotes:

(1) Narrated in Saheeh Muslim, #2807, and Mosnad Ahmad, #12699. 

Real Happiness And Inner Peace

Real happiness and peace can be found in submitting to the commands of the Creator and the Sustainer of this world.  God has said in the Quran:

 Truly, in remembering God do hearts find rest.  (Quran, 13:28)

On the other hand, the one who turns away from the Quran will have a life of hardship in this world.  God has said:

But whoever turns away from the Quran,1 he will have a hard life, and We will raise him up blind on the Day of Judgment.  (Quran, 20:124)

This may explain why some people commit suicide while they enjoy the material comfort money can buy.  For example, look at Cat Stevens (now Yusuf Islam), formerly a famous pop singer who used to earn sometimes more than $150,000 a night.  After he converted to Islam, he found true happiness and peace, which he had not found in material success.2

Footnotes:

(1) i.e. neither believes in the Quran nor acts on its orders. 

(2) The present mailing address of Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam), in case you would like to ask him about his feelings after he converted to Islam, is: 2 Digswell Street, London N7 8JX, United Kingdom. 

Forgiveness For All Previous Sins

When someone converts to Islam, God forgives all of his previous sins and evil deeds.  A man called Amr came to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and said, “Give me your right hand so that I may give you my pledge of loyalty.”  The Prophet (SAW) stretched out his right hand.  Amr withdrew his hand.  The Prophet (SAW) said: {What has happened to you, O Amr?}  He replied, “I intend to lay down a condition.”  The Prophet (SAW) asked: {What condition do you intend to put forward?}  Amr said, “That God forgive my sins.”  The Prophet (SAW) said: {Didn’t you know that converting to Islam erases all previous sins?}1

After converting to Islam, the person will be rewarded for his or her good and bad deeds according to the following saying of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW): {Your Lord, Who is blessed and exalted, is most merciful.  If someone intends to do a good deed but does not do it, a good deed will be recorded for him.  And if he does do it, (a reward of) ten to seven hundred or many more times (the reward of the good deed), will be recorded for him.  And if someone intends to do a bad deed but does not do it, a good deed will be recorded for him.  And if he does do it, a bad deed will be recorded against him or God will wipe it out.}2

Footnotes:

(1) Narrated in Saheeh Muslim, #121, and Mosnad Ahmad, #17357. 

(2) Narrated in Mosnad Ahmad, #2515, and Saheeh Muslim, #131. 

Some Basic Islamic Beliefs

1) Belief in God:

Muslims believe in one, unique, incomparable God, Who has no son nor partner, and that none has the right to be worshipped but Him alone.  He is the true God, and every other deity is false.  He has the most magnificent names and sublime perfect attributes.  No one shares His divinity, nor His attributes.  In the Quran, God describes Himself:

Say, “He is God, the One.  God, to Whom the creatures turn for their needs.  He begets not, nor was He begotten, and there is none like Him.” (Quran, 112:1-4)

Chapter 112 of the Quran written in Arabic calligraphy

Chapter 112 of the Quran written in Arabic calligraphy.

No one has the right to be invoked, supplicated, prayed to, or shown any act of worship, but God alone.

God alone is the Almighty, the Creator, the Sovereign, and the Sustainer of everything in the whole universe.  He manages all affairs.  He stands in need of none of His creatures, and all His creatures depend on Him for all that they need.  He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing, and the All-Knowing.  In a perfect manner, His knowledge encompasses all things, the open and the secret, and the public and the private.  He knows what has happened, what will happen, and how it will happen.  No affair occurs in the whole world except by His will.  Whatever He wills is, and whatever He does not will is not and will never be.  His will is above the will of all the creatures.  He has power over all things, and He is able to do everything.  He is the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, and the Most Beneficent.  In one of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), we are told that God is more merciful to His creatures than a mother to her child.1  God is far removed from injustice and tyranny.  He is All-Wise in all of His actions and decrees.  If someone wants something from God, he or she can ask God directly without asking anyone else to intercede with God for him or her.

God is not Jesus, and Jesus is not God.2  Even Jesus himself rejected this.  God has said in the Quran:

Indeed, they have disbelieved who have said, “God is the Messiah (Jesus), son of Mary.”  The Messiah said, “Children of Israel, worship God, my Lord and your Lord.  Whoever associates partners in worship with God, then God has forbidden Paradise for him, and his home is the Fire (Hell).  For the wrongdoers,there will be no helpers.”  (Quran, 5:72)

God is not a trinity.  God has said in the Quran:

Indeed, they disbelieve who say, “God is the third of three (in a trinity),” when there is no god but one God.  If they desist not from what they say, truly, a painful punishment will befall the disbelievers among them. Would they not rather repent to God and ask His forgiveness?  For God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.  The Messiah (Jesus), son of Mary, was no more than a messenger…  (Quran, 5:73-75)

Islam rejects that God rested on the seventh day of the creation, that He wrestled with one of His angels, that He is an envious plotter against mankind, or that He is incarnate in any human being.  Islam also rejects the attribution of any human form to God. All of these are considered blasphemous.  God is the Exalted.  He is far removed from every imperfection.  He never becomes weary.  He does not become drowsy nor does he sleep.

The Arabic word Allah means God (the one and only true God who created the whole universe).  This word Allah is a name for God, which is used by Arabic speakers, both Arab Muslims and Arab Christians.  This word cannot be used to designate anything other than the one true God.  The Arabic word Allah occurs in the Quran about 2700 times.  In Aramaic, a language related closely to Arabic and the language that Jesus habitually spoke,4 God is also referred to as Allah.

2) Belief in the Angels:

Muslims believe in the existence of the angels and that they are honored creatures.  The angels worship God alone, obey Him, and act only by His command.  Among the angels is Gabriel, who brought down the Quran to Muhammad (SAW).

3) Belief in God’s Revealed Books:

Muslims believe that God revealed books to His messengers as proof for mankind and as guidance for them.  Among these books is the Quran, which God revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).  God has guaranteed the Quran’s protection from any corruption or distortion.  God has said:

 Indeed, We have sent down the Quran, and surely We will guard it (from corruption).  (Quran, 15:9)

4) Belief in the Prophets and Messengers of God:

Muslims believe in the prophets and messengers of God, starting with Adam, including Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Jesus (peace be upon them).  But God’s final message to man, a reconfirmation of the eternal message, was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).  Muslims believe that Muhammad (SAW) is the last prophet sent by God, as God has said:

Muhammad is not the father of any one of your men, but he is the Messenger of God and the last of the prophets… (Quran, 33:40)

Muslims believe that all the prophets and messengers were created human beings who had none of the divine qualities of God.

5) Belief in the Day of Judgment:

Muslims believe in the Day of Judgment (the Day of Resurrection) when all people will be resurrected for God’s judgment according to their beliefs and deeds.

6) Belief in Al-Qadar:

Muslims believe in Al-Qadar, which is Divine Predestination, but this belief in Divine Predestination does not mean that human beings do not have freewill.  Rather, Muslims believe that God has given human beings freewill.  This means that they can choose right or wrong and that they are responsible for their choices.

The belief in Divine Predestination includes belief in four things: 1) God knows everything.  He knows what has happened and what will happen.  2) God has recorded all that has happened and all that will happen.  3) Whatever God wills to happen happens, and whatever He wills not to happen does not happen.  4) God is the Creator of everything.
 

Footnotes:

(1) Narrated in Saheeh Muslim, #2754, and Saheeh Al-Bukhari, #5999. 

(2) It was reported by the Associated Press, London, on June 25, 1984, that a majority of the Anglican bishops surveyed by a television program said, “Christians are not obliged to believe that Jesus Christ was God.”  The poll was of 31 of England’s 39 bishops.  The report further stated that 19 of the 31 bishops said it was sufficient to regard Jesus as “God’s supreme agent.”  The poll was conducted by London Weekend Television’s weekly religious program, “Credo.” 

(3) The wrongdoers include the polytheists.

(4) NIV Compact Dictionary of the Bible, Douglas, p. 42. 

Is There Any Sacred Source Other Than The Quran?

Yes.  The sunnah (what the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said, did, or approved of) is the second source in Islam.  The sunnah is comprised of hadeeths, which are reliably transmitted reports by the Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) companions of what he said, did, or approved of.  Belief in the sunnah is a basic Islamic belief.

Examples of the Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) Sayings

 {The believers, in their love, mercy, and kindness to one another are like a body: if any part of it is ill, the whole body shares its sleeplessness and fever.}1

 {The most perfect of the believers in faith are the best of them in morals.  And the best among them are those who are best to their wives.}2

 {None of you believes (completely) until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.}3

 {The merciful are shown mercy by the All-Merciful.  Show mercy to those on earth, and God will show mercy to you.}4

 {Smiling at your brother is charity}5

 {A good word is charity.}6

 {Whoever believes in God and the Last Day (the Day of Judgment) should do good to his neighbor.}7

 {God does not judge you according to your appearance and your wealth, but He looks at your hearts and looks into your deeds.}8

 {Pay the worker his wage before his sweat dries.}9

 {A man walking along a path felt very thirsty.  Reaching a well, he descended into it, drank his fill, and came up.  Then he saw a dog with its tongue hanging out, trying to lick up mud to quench its thirst.  The man said, “This dog is feeling the same thirst that I felt.”  So he went down into the well again, filled his shoe with water, and gave the dog a drink.  So, God thanked him and forgave his sins.}  The Prophet (SAW) was asked, “Messenger of God, are we rewarded for kindness towards animals?”  He said: {There is a reward for kindness to every living animal or human.}10

Footnotes:

(1) Narrated in Saheeh Muslim, #2586, and Saheeh Al-Bukhari, #6011. 

(2) Narrated in Mosnad Ahmad, #7354, and Al-Tirmizi, #1162. 

(3) Narrated in Saheeh Al-Bukhari, #13, and Saheeh Muslim, #45. 

(4) Narrated in Al-Tirmizi, #1924, and Abu-Dawood, #4941. 

(5) Narrated in Al-Tirmizi, #1956. 

(6) Narrated in Saheeh Muslim, #1009, and Saheeh Al-Bukhari, #2989. 

(7) Narrated in Saheeh Muslim, #48, and Saheeh Al-Bukhari, #6019. 

(8) Narrated in Saheeh Muslim, #2564. 

(9) Narrated in Ibn Majah, #2443. 

(10) Narrated in Saheeh Muslim, #2244, and Saheeh Al-Bukhari, #2466. 

What Does Islam Say About The Day Of Judgment?

Like Christians, Muslims believe that the present life is only a trial preparation for the next realm of existence.  This life is a test for each individual for the life after death.  A day will come when the whole universe will be destroyed and the dead will be resurrected for judgment by God.  This day will be the beginning of a life that will never end.  This day is the Day of Judgment.  On that day, all people will be rewarded by God according to their beliefs and deeds.  Those who die while believing that “There is no true god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger (Prophet) of God” and are Muslim will be rewarded on that day and will be admitted to Paradise forever, as God has said:

And those who believe and do good deeds, they are dwellers of Paradise, they dwell therein forever. (Quran, 2:82)

But those who die while not believing that “There is no true god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger (Prophet) of God” or are not Muslim will lose Paradise forever and will be sent to Hellfire, as God has said:

And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will not be accepted from him and he will be one of the losers in the Hereafter.  (Quran, 3:85)

And as He has said:

Those who have disbelieved and died in disbelief, the earth full of gold would not be accepted from any of them if it were offered as a ransom.  They will have a painful punishment, and they will have no helpers. (Quran, 3:91)

One may ask, ‘I think Islam is a good religion, but if I were to convert to Islam, my family, friends, and other people would persecute me and make fun of me.  So if I do not convert to Islam, will I enter Paradise and be saved from Hellfire?’

The answer is what God has said in the preceding verse, “And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will not be accepted from him and he will be one of the losers in the Hereafter.”

After having sent the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) to call people to Islam, God does not accept adherence to any religion other than Islam.  God is our Creator and Sustainer.  He created for us whatever is in the earth.  All the blessings and good things we have are from Him.  So after all this, when someone rejects belief in God, His Prophet Muhammad (SAW), or His religion of Islam, it is just that he or she be punished in the Hereafter.  Actually, the main purpose of our creation is to worship God alone and to obey Him, as God has said in the Holy Quran (51:56).

This life we live today is a very short life.  The unbelievers on the Day of Judgment will think that the life they lived on earth was only a day or part of a day, as God has said:

He (God) will say, “How many years did you stay on the earth?”  They will say: “We stayed a day or part of a day….” (Quran, 23:112-113)

And He has said:

Did you then think that We had created you in jest (without any purpose), and that you would not be returned to Us (in the Hereafter)?  So, God is exalted, the True King.  None has the right to be worshipped but Him… (Quran, 23:115-116)

The life in the Hereafter is a very real life.  It is not only spiritual, but physical as well.  We will live there with our souls and bodies.

In comparing this world with the Hereafter, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: {The value of this world compared to that of the Hereafter is like what your finger brings from the sea when you put it in and then take it out.}1  The meaning is that, the value of this world compared to that of the Hereafter is like a few drops of water compared to the sea.

Footnotes:

(1) Narrated in Saheeh Muslim, #2858, and Mosnad Ahmad, #17560. Back from footnote (1)

How Does Someone Become A Muslim?

Simply by saying with conviction, La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammadur rasoolu Allah, one converts to Islam and becomes a Muslim (to hear it click here).  This saying means “There is no true god but God (Allah),1 and Muhammad is the Messenger (Prophet) of God.”  The first part, “There is no true god but God,” means that none has the right to be worshipped but God alone, and that God has neither partner nor son.  To be a Muslim, one should also:

n  Believe that the Holy Quran is the literal word of God, revealed by Him.

n  Believe that the Day of Judgment (the Day of Resurrection) is true and will come, as God promised in the Quran.

n  Accept Islam as his or her religion.

n  Not worship anything nor anyone except God.

The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: {God is more joyful at the repentance of someone when he turns to Him in repentance than one of you would be if he were riding his camel in the wilderness, and it runs away from him, carrying his food and drink, so that he loses all hope of getting it back.  He comes to a tree and lies down in its shade (awaiting death), for he has lost all hope of finding his camel.  Then, while he is in that state (of desperation), suddenly it is there before him!  So he seizes its halter and cries out from the depth of his joy, “O God, You are my servant and I am Your Lord!”  His mistake comes from the intensity of his joy.}2

The saying, There is no true god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger (Prophet) of God

The saying, “There is no true god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger (Prophet) of God,” inscribed over an entrance.

Footnotes:

(1) As was mentioned previously, the Arabic word Allah means God (the one and only true God who created the whole universe).  This word Allah is a name for God, which is used by Arabic speakers, both Arab Muslims and Arab Christians.  For more details on the word Allahclick here.

(2) Narrated in Saheeh Muslim, #2747, and Saheeh Al-Bukhari, #6309. Back from footnote (2)

What Is The Quran About?

The Quran, the last revealed word of God, is the primary source of every Muslim’s faith and practice.  It deals with all the subjects which concern human beings: wisdom, doctrine, worship, transactions, law, etc., but its basic theme is the relationship between God and His creatures.  At the same time, it provides guidelines and detailed teachings for a just society, proper human conduct, and an equitable economic system.

Note that the Quran was revealed to Muhammad (SAW) in Arabic only.  So, any Quranic translation, either in English or any other language, is neither a Quran, nor a version of the Quran, but rather it is only a translation of the meaning of the Quran.  The Quran exists only in the Arabic in which it was revealed.


 

Who Is The Prophet Muhammad (SAW)?

Muhammad (SAW) was born in Makkah in the year 570.  Since his father died before his birth and his mother died shortly thereafter, he was raised by his uncle who was from the respected tribe of Quraysh.  He was raised illiterate, unable to read or write, and remained so till his death.  His people, before his mission as a prophet, were ignorant of science and most of them were illiterate.  As he grew up, he became known to be truthful, honest, trustworthy, generous, and sincere.  He was so trustworthy that they called him the Trustworthy.1  Muhammad (SAW) was very religious, and he had long detested the decadence and idolatry of his society.

The Prophet Muhammads Mosque in Madinah

The Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) Mosque in Madinah.

At the age of forty, Muhammad (SAW) received his first revelation from God through the Angel Gabriel. The revelations continued for twenty-three years, and they are collectively known as the Quran.

As soon as he began to recite the Quran and to preach the truth which God had revealed to him, he and his small group of followers suffered persecution from unbelievers.  The persecution grew so fierce that in the year 622 God gave them the command to emigrate.  This emigration from Makkah to the city of Madinah, some 260 miles to the north, marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar.

After several years, Muhammad (SAW) and his followers were able to return to Makkah, where they forgave their enemies.  Before Muhammad (SAW) died, at the age of sixty-three, the greater part of the Arabian Peninsula had become Muslim, and within a century of his death, Islam had spread to Spain in the West and as far East as China.  Among the reasons for the rapid and peaceful spread of Islam was the truth and clarity of its doctrine.  Islam calls for faith in only one God, Who is the only one worthy of worship.

The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was a perfect example of an honest, just, merciful, compassionate, truthful, and brave human being.  Though he was a man, he was far removed from all evil characteristics and strove solely for the sake of God and His reward in the Hereafter.  Moreover, in all his actions and dealings, he was ever mindful and fearful of God.

(For more information on the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), please refer to the links at More on the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).)
 

Footnotes:

(1) Narrated in Mosnad Ahmad, #15078.