Hujjat al-Islam Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali and Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah on Fanaticism

Hujjat al-Islam Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali d. 505 a.h [may Allah have mercy upon him.] said:

“Thus, if you see a scholar of law wading into declaring others infidels and misguided, shun him and do not busy your heart nor tongue with him! Indeed, provocations in knowledge are from people’s nature, and the ignorant one is not able to exercise patience with it. And because of this, differences have multiplied amongst people. And if the knowledge was forcefully taken from the ignorant, then differences would subside.”

Al-Hafidh al-Dhahabi [may Allah have mercy upon him] states, “I heard our Sheikh, Ibn Taymiyyah d. 728 a.h [may Allah have mercy upon him], say towards the end of his life, “I will never declare anyone from the people of the Qiblah (Muslim direction of prayer) as an infidel.”

Imam al-Ash’ari [may Allah have mercy upon him] on Aqidah

This is a short summary on the creed of the people of hadith and the people of the Sunnah. This important tract was written by the great Imam, scholar and intellectual giant Imam Abu Hasan al-Ash’ari [may Allah have mercy upon him] d. 330 A.H. In it he provides a glimpse into the creed held by the people of the Sunna and the People of Hadith up until his time. Plain and simple, one can truly appreciate the pure an unadulterated faith before the introduction of Greek logic and ‘Ilm al-Kalam were injected into the discussion surrounding creed. Such a faith built a young budding Muslim community, gave it a sense of identity and enabled the Muslims to express their faith in a vibrant manner that touched every end of the known world. It was this faith that created true rabaniyin, left disputes and allowed the Muslims to focus on their universal role instead of falling in the quicksand of particulars and secondary mundane issues. In short, this was a creed that gave a person identity. It was, the creed based on the athar passed from the companions [may Allah be pleased with them] until the time of this great Imam. May Allah have mercy upon him and those who follow the way of the Prophet [peace be upon him] until the end of time.
The Text:

This is summary of the statements of the people of hadith and the people of the Sunna [regarding creed]

“In brief, the people of hadith and the Sunnah were upon: Affirming (faith) in Allah, His angels, His books and His messengers [may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon them]. And [they affirmed] everything that came from Allah, and was related by the trustworthy on behalf of the messenger of Allah [peace and blessing of Allah be upon him] with out rejecting anything therein. [And they affirm] that Allah [the Sublime is He] is the one, solitary everlasting God and that there is no god [worshiped in truth] but He and He has taken neither wife nor offspring. [And they affirm] that Muhammad [peace and blessing of Allah be upon him] is His slave and His messenger. And that Paradise is true and the Hell fire is true and that, for sure, the Hour is coming there is doubt [at all] in it and that Allah will raise the dead [to life].

And [they affirm] that Allah [May he be exalted] is on his throne as He says:

“The Beneficent One, Who is established on the Throne.” [24/5]

And [they affirm] that He has two hands* without [them knowing or going into] how [the reality of His hands is left to Him alone and they are neither like His creation nor vice versa]. As He [may He be exalted] said,

“To whom I have created with my hands?” [38/75]

And,

“Nay, both His hands are widely outstretched: He gives and spends (of His bounty) as He pleases.” [5/64]

And [they affirm] that He has two eyes without [them knowing or trying to explain them and they are neither like His creation nor vice versa] how [the reality of which is left to Him alone]. As He said,

“Sailing, before Our eyes, a reward for him who was denied.” [54/14]

And [they affirm] that He has a face [and it is neither like His creation nor vice versa] as He said,

“But will abide (for ever) the Face of thy Lord, full of Majesty, Bounty and Honour.” [55/27]

And they do not separate the names of Allah from Allah as the M’utazila and the khawarij have claimed.

And they affirm [the attribute of] knowledge to Allah as He says,

“He has revealed it with His knowledge.” [4/166]

And as He said,

“And no female bears, nor does she bring forth, except with His knowledge.” [11/35]

And [they affirm] the hearing and the seeing [of Allah] and they did not repudiate that as the ‘Mutazilah did. And [they affirm] that to Allah is [the attribute] of strength as He [the most high] says,

“What! did they not see that Allah, Who created them, was superior to them in strength?” [41/15]

[may the peace and blessing be upon the Prophet, his companions and those who follow them. Allah praise is to Allah [alone] the Lord of all.]

* Some may attribute the statement of the Imam “Two hands” as an act of tajsim [may Allah protect us]. Perhaps one will base this assumption on the verse found in Surah al-Dhariyat that states, “The heavens that We built with Aydina”? A simple glimpse of the verse might cause one to conclude that the plural for the word hand is being used here. However, as explained by Ibn al-Khuzaymah [may Allah have mercy upon him] “This [understanding] shows one’s ignorance of the Arabic language.” For, as he mentions, aydi is used here as a Masdar and not as the plural for the word hand. Hence, its meaning, as a masdar, carries the meaning of power. Thus Allah says about Dawod, “Dhu al-Aaydi” here it would be impossible to assume that the words means anything put power. And Allah knows best.

Translated from the monumental classic Muqalat al-Islamiyin wa ikhtilaf al-Musalin by Imam Abu Hassan al-Ash’ari d. 330 A.H. Under the chapter a brief account of the words [regarding faith] of the people of hadith and the people of the Sunnah. This work was critically edited by Sh. Muhamad Muyhi Din Abdul Hamid [may Allah have mercy upon him] who is most famous for his work in Arabic grammar. It was published by Dar al-Nahda 1389 a.h. The most complete hand writing copy of this text lies in Istanbul. May Allah grant us insaf.

Translated by Suhaib Webb

The Superiority of knowledge and Imam al-Shatibi’s Question (may Allah have mercy upon him).

Asalamu alaykum,I would like to thank a group of sincere brothers for their advice. Today I sat with one of our scholars and discussed this translation as best as possible. He noted that the word fiqh was out of place and encouraged us to change it to knowledge, however he felt that the rest of the translation and the footnotes were fine. I am very grateful for the advice of our brothers and sisters and pray that the truth will be more beloved to us than anything else. There is none free of errors and I’m happy to admit my own. Please pray for us and continue to give us council. My errors are representative of my own weaknesses and not that of the others who write for this site.

Suhaib

The Superiority of knowledge

Imam Al-Shatibi (may Allah have mercy on him) wrote a letter to Abi ‘Abdillah Muhammad bin ‘Ubad Al-Nafzi (may Allah have mercy on him) the preacher of Jam’I Al-Qayrawin (the main mosque and center of learning in Qayrawin) in the city of Fez and the sheikh of the people of tazkiyah of his day. The letter contained an important question surrounding an issue that arose in Granada and served as a cause of discussion and disagreement amongst the scholars.

The Question: from al-Shatibi (may Allah have mercy upon him)

“Is it incumbent upon the one traversing the spiritual path to Allah to take a sheikh of a tariqah and tarbiyah and to travel upon his hands? Or is it allowable to take this path by seeking knowledge and taking from the people of knowledge without having a sheikh of a tariqah?”

The Answer: (Two Types of Teachers)

“For the one traversing the path towards Allah there are two types of sheikhs:

1) Sheikhs of Tariqahs and Tarbiyah (Sufi Path)
2) Sheikhs of knowledge who do not specify a program of tarbiyah and spiritual training

The Sheikh of Tarbiyah is not a necessity for every seeker. However, the one who needs such a sheikh is he who has a limited intellect and disobedient soul. As for the one who possesses an ample intellect and submissive character, then it is not incumbent on him to take such a sheikh. However, what is an obligation on every seeker is to take a sheikh who will teach him and educate him

The sheikh of tarbiyah is incumbent upon those mentioned earlier. This is due to the thick veils which cover their souls. Thus, they could not be left alone to raise them (the veils), nor correct them without the aide of such a sheikh who can train and nurture them. Their likeness is as one who suffers from a delicate aliment that only an intelligent physician could cure with a powerful remedy.

As for those who are free from the obligation to take a sheikh of tarbiyah it is due to their sound intellects and obedient souls. These things (qualities) free them from such a sheikh. Their actions are made sound by the knowledge they learn and the things they take from the people of knowledge and understanding, and this person, by Allah’s will, will reach (his goal). Thus, there is no need to fear for him from any harm on his way (to Allah swt).

Historical Background

The reliance on a sheikh of tarbiyah is something that came from the latter scholars of tasawuf, and the reliance on a person of knowledge (for one’s training) was the way of the first from amongst them (the early scholars). This is apparent from their writings and compilations. For example, the works of al-Muhasibi (may Allah have mercy upon him) and Abu Talib al-Maki (may Allah have mercy upon him) and others show that they did not ascribe to a sheikh of tarbiyah the way the latter one’s did. They (the earlier people of tazkiyah) would mention the fundamentals and branches of knowledge especially Sheikh Abu Talib, however, their absence of ascribing to a certain sheikh is a proof that such a sheikh was not incumbent, nor a condition, for those seeking Allah in their time.

The Way of The First Generations: Knowledge and Brotherhood

And this way of traveling to Allah, this was the program of the majority and represents the way of the salaf and the earlier generations. This is established by the fact that it has not been transmitted that they used to stick to a sheikh of tarbiyah, submit themselves to him and serve as his apprentice and student. However, theirs was only a time of the acquisition of knowledge and reform by spending time in good companionship and fraternal relations. Due to this, they experienced an amazing development which appeared on their inner and outer states. Thus, they traveled the lands and strove to meet with the friends of Allah, the scholars and those engrossed in servitude to the Divine.

The Superiority of Knowledge

As for the books of the people of tasawuf then they must be examined by the people of knowledge because their benefit is exclusively based on the trusted view that the author (of such books) is from the people of knowledge and cognizant (of Allah may He be exalted). And such an opinion can only arise from the people of knowledge, which one has entrusted his affairs to. Thus, if what appears beneficial from these texts agrees with the shari’ah, then it is sufficient. However, if that is not they case, then there is no way out except with the sheikh of knowledge and understanding who can clarify things. Thus, he (the seeker) has no other choice then to rely on a sheikh of knowledge.”

End of the Letter
Translated by Suhaib Webb:from Sh. Abdul Fatah Abu Ghuda’s (may Allah have mercy upon him) commentary on Risalatul Mustarshiden of Imam Al-Muhasibi (may Allah have mercy upon him).

The Lost and Found Nation of Qur’an: Ust. Suhaib Webb

The Qur’an’s role in developing the right mindset and attitude towards life cannot be underestimated. Unfortunately the Qur’an, for many, has become a book of mere blessings. Let there be no doubt that its blessings cannot be fathomed nor its beauty and aroma captured. However, many have left a real, daily, practical relation with the Book of Allah and, instead, have settled for a mystical relationship whose outcomes are not easily measured nor understood. This is very dangerous and the outcomes of such an attitude have had paralyzing effects:
1. A chronic negligence of the Arabic language
2. Preference is given to other sources prior to the Qur’an
3. Dark depression that one, as a layman, is not able to comprehend nor understand the message of the Creator to Humanity

I would like to address the third point as I feel it is really the cause for points one and two. Many feel that they are unable to approach the Qur’an, draw conclusions from its lessons and articulate its beautiful message in their daily lives. Thus, we have an Ummah cut from it umbilical cord, frustrated, spiritually tired and on the verge of colapse. The further we draw back from our relationship with the Qur’an our reference for life is replaced by other sources. In my eyes this is one of the major reasons for the problems we see in our communities:

1. A brother who spent the majority of his pre-pubescent and early adult life listening to DMX, 50 Cent and Biggie is going to surely have issues when he gets married. When his wife trips his mind will not revert to the statement of Allah, “And live with them (your wives) in an honorable manner.” But instead, “Girl $#$%^*!” Or perhaps he will go back to his “Tommy Vercetti” and try to take manners into his own hands?

2. A sister who makes here seven circuits around the black elevator at her local mall once a week. Who busies herself looking at the Sunday news papers in order to get, “The Best deals” and “The finest clothes” and compounds that with a 62 ounce Big Gulp of films, songs and Internet sources that can only increase the desire to have and be, has to really start to ask some hard questions. What type of wife will she be to a brother involved in the struggle for dawa? I’ve seen many of the sisters involved in seeking knowledge and the dawa sell their fellow brothers out and opt for a high flying Muslim Donald Trump who doesn’t practice. Then after some time she’s gone from the work and we lose an important piece to the puzzle. They leave the brothers, who’ve made sacrifices for the din trying to find Condoleza Right, and settle for the comforts of this life. No doubt we should be taking care of our sisters, but those brothers involved in the Dawa are in need of the best sisters. But, if those sisters, leave those brothers on the front lines empty handed, then the dawa takes a hit (Before any sisters start to burn their Mothers of Believer Cds don’t worry the same applies to brothers who leave the sisters in the dawa and run after the latest Aishwarya Rai).

These are the outcomes, perhaps a bit over the top, of materialism and selfishness (look at the crazy cost of mahrs these days). If our constructs are based on revelation, strong tarbiyah and a correct understanding of community many of these problems would, not go away but, be addressed with the medication of revelation and communal support. However, we are constantly hounded with the fact that we are mere ‘Awam, Qur’anic illiterates lacking the basic skills to interpret the Creators message. In turn, this has led to another phenomenon:

hijrah from the Qur’an.

Sh. Muhammad al-Hassan Walid al-Dido al-Shanqiti [may Allah preserve him] stated that the Qur’an’s verses were divided by the scholars into the following:

1. Those verses who’s meanings are only known to Allah (for example alif lam mim)
2. Those verses who’s interpretation must be done by those who are specialized scholars, have finished a sound curriculum of study and are recognized by the fellow contemporaries
3. Those verse that can be explained by the serious students of knowledge who have access to scholars and resources
4. Those verses that are understood by the common person. For example, “Say He is Allah the unique.” or “And there is nothing lik Him.”

Verses found under the fourth category are understood by all. They are clear and offer a treasure of lessons for those who sit and ponder on them. We must bring back this understanding to Western Muslims who are struggling to uncover the true essence of their identity, role and purpose. If the common Muslim is disconnected from the roots of his identity then it is not fair for religious leaders to blame them, nor chastise them for something those very religious leaders forbade them from. The Prophet’s [may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him] companions [May Allah be pleased with them], if they lost the rope that tied their camel, would seek the answer in the Book of Allah. Then what can we say about those who are trying to find the answers to their purpose and identity?

Action Items:

1. Start a weekly halaqa of Qur’an in your home. Read a few verses and discuss them as a family or by yourself (if by yourself keep a diary of what you’ve read and your thoughts. Then, when you have a family, you can use what you’ve written)

May Allah bless us to love the Qur’an, read it and act on its profound lessons

Akukum Suhaib

The Answer to the Heat Wave of Fitnah. Grab the Umbrella of Taqwa (Advice for Summer): Ust. Suhaib Webb

Asalamu alaykum,I hope all of you are well and pray that everyone is in a state of being close to Allah. Just 10 short years ago I was struggling as a new convert to Islam and one of the greatest hurdles was the ladies. My college days were rough in many regards. Before my conversion I was a successful DJ (I had just got my hands on a really nice four track mixer. Okay so you know I’m old school. But, in those days I could make it fly) and was about to walk the Burning Sands and pledge Alpha Phi Alpha. All praise be to God that instead I became Muslim and slowly started to pull out of those things. It was rough but the most difficult part was dealing with the other gender.

Young brothers and sister I feel your pain man. It is difficult and as the summer months roll up it gets more and more difficult to manage as the clothes roll up as well. We all know the routine: “Lower the gaze! Lower the gaze! Lower the gaze!” But, if the heart is not lowered in awe of Allah’s magnificence and His tremendous bounties, then how can we expect the eyes to lower?

Tonight I attended a reading of the Shamil Muhamadiyah with Sh. Ibrahim al-Khalifa from Saudi Arabia. He is visiting Egypt for a few weeks and I had just finished my exam and decided to go and listen to his dars. The streets in Cairo are a mix of cars, buses, donkeys, cows and pollution that, seriously, when you make wudu slides off your face. I can only liken the air to a full vacuum bag that spews its contents creating a small cloud of dust. However, in the heat I remembered the homies in the West: My Boyz in Chicago, the brothers in L.A and most importantly the brothers in the Bay. I miss them all. The love for brothers is something that we should cherish and hold on to like we hold on to our checkbooks.

Anyways, after reading from the Shamail, the Sheikh moved on to al-Muhasibi’s Risalat Mustarshidin with the tahqiq by Sh. Abdul Fatah Abu Ghuda who is considered one of the greatest scholars of hadith from the last century. The Sheikh was talking about worshiping Allah as though you see the Hereafter close and understand that your time is up. “Be ready! Don’t let this life delude you! Be good people. Treat others with respect and worship your Lord as though you are going to leave this life soon.” It was a real masterpiece to watch the Sheikh tie vice with the rope of responsibility and knowing that one is going to die one day and answer for his time. Imam al-Muhasibi’s texts is intense and I felt a buzz in my chest as the Sheikh started to get into the flow.

This is for the all the young brothers and sisters struggling:

The Sheikh, after talking about this responsibility linked it to a very interesting story. That, for me, is the sign of a good Imam,teacher or Sheikh that they can tie things into our daily lives. Thus, such a style gives the din fresh legs, opens up one’s heart and soothes the coals of sin. He said that during the time of ‘Umar there was a young man who’s desires got the best of him. It all started with the look and the next thing the young man was alone with a woman. Suddenly, as the clock was starting to turn, the young man heard a verse of Qur’an being recited that reminded him of Allah’s greatness. He left the young woman, stood up shaking from the fear of Allah and fell dead from this fear. ‘Umar (may Allah have mercy on him) buried this youth and after hearing how he died walked over to the fresh grave and recited the following verse from Surah al-Rahman, “And for the one who fears the meeting with Allah there are two gardens.” Suddenly a response came from the grave reciting the verse, “We have found the promise of our Lord to be true.”

Dear brothers and sisters,

The summer is upon you and it is no joke. Statistics show that as the barometer rises that evil rise as well. One of the most important things you can take with you is Allah’s awesome nature and bounties. Reflect! Turn of the PS3! Put down the I-Pod and think for a minute! Put handcuffs on your Internet use and know that you will be asked about your youth. Where are you headed? What are you doing and how are you going to use this summer? Take sometime away from the gadgets and turn on your heart. Make some goals for yourself to do some good things in your community. Remember that when you see something that causes your temperature to fly that Allah is watching you. He knows what is in your heart and understands that it ain’t easy. Ask Him for His help and try to withstand the attacks of Iblis. I have a lot of faith that our young brothers and sisters can do loads of wonderful things in their communities!

Cool the heat of summer with the following:

1. Good friends who take you to good places. The Prophet (sa) said, “A person is on the faith of his friend.” One nice note about the hadith of the three people stuck in the cave. If they had not been together then they would have not been able to help each other get out. However, since they were all decent guys they were able to work together and use their good to remove the rock from the cave.

2. Have some goals for this summer:

1. Community (volunteer with any number of Muslim/Non-Muslim organziations and do something good for your neighborhoods
2. Spiritual (get those five prayers rocking and if you are real with it you will through in some night prayers and extra fasts)
3. Educational (try and attend some lessons or educational programs that will boost your faith)
4. Family (spend some time with the wife/husband (find one) kids and close relatives

3. Have some nice activities:
1. Qiyam
2. B-Ball tourneys (all nighters) followed by Qiyam, Fajir and some Aunties phat spicy eggs
3. Sleep overs
4. Camping
5. Weekly ‘Itikaf (inshallah, when I’m back in the stats I’m down)

I ask Allah to help us, bless us and let us use our time well. I would appreciate it if whoever reads this could help us generate a list of things to do this summer.

Suhaib

The Seven Conditions Related to Successful Dawa: Ust. Suhaib Webb

The Seven Conditions Related to Successful Dawa: Ust. Suhaib Webb

Things are distinguished by their characteristics. The caller to Allah should have the best attributes and qualities as the message he/she brings is from his/her Lord. Inshallah, this article will touch on seven conditions for successful dawa. But first, a few words on the importance of dawa.

Dawa is so important that Allah (swt) described His Prophet [may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him] as a “caller to Allah.”

Allah [the Most Exalted] says:

“And a caller to Allah and a torch spreading light.”
Surah al-Ahzab 46

In fact, Sheikh Muhammad al-Hassan Walid Dodo al-Shanqiti said, “The importance of dawa can be seen the even Allah [the Exalted] describes Himself as a caller!”

Allah [the Exalted] says:

“Allah calls you to Paradise and forgiveness by His leave.”
Surah al-Baqara 221

The role of the caller is no less great when met with a number of challenges and difficulties. Although there are a large number or external obstacles, the greatest challenges are those from within the Muslim community. Thus, the caller must juggle many different objects and, at the same time, maintain his/her own balance.

This article is one of grave importance and it is hoped that it will be used by MAS, YM and other organizations, studied, built upon and developed so it can serve as an important piece in the total tarbiyah process. I’ve left things out on purpose hoping that you will fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle with your own ideas and thoughts.

    The Seven Conditions Related to Successful Dawa

These conditions for success are found in the following verses:

“Say: This is my Way: I call on Allah with sure knowledge. I and whosoever follows me – Glory be to Allah! – and I am not of the idolaters.”
Surah Yusuf 108

And:

“Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and reason with them in the better way.”

    The First Verse [Four conditions]

“Say: This is my Way: I call on Allah with sure knowledge. I and whosoever follows me – Glory be to Allah! – and I am not of the idolaters.” Surah Yusuf 108

1. The statement of Allah, “With sure knowledge”
This entails knowing what one is calling to, who one is calling to and the environment which one lives in and taking time to understand its norms, customs and cultural nuances.

2. The statement of Allah, “I and whoever follows me”
One cannot go it alone. One of the greatest challenges of dawa work is to listen to others ideas, share and put up with peoples stuff. However, there is a blessing in group work and this makes it one of the conditions for successful dawa

3. The statement of Allah, “Glory be to Allah”
This is an interesting clause that seemingly comes out of nowhere to rattle the reader. However, the scholars have stated that a few points can be taken from this:

The caller does not rely upon anyone other than Allah
The caller does not expect rewards from any other than Allah
The caller is a Rabbani (person connected to Allah). Meaning after the knowledge and the group work there is still a strong spiritual presence about this person. They mind their prayers, stand in the night while others are sleeping and weep for Humanity’s guidance. It could also imply that they don’t get caught up in the means forgetting the ultimate objective. Many movements lost their course when they were intoxicated with attracting the large crowds. However, the truth is the truth and it must stay the ultimate goal. Let us not forget that some Prophet’s had 0 followers. Thus, this principle insures quality over quantity. Allah says, “Who created life and death as a test for you to see which of you is best in actions.” Commenting on this a scholar said, “Allah said, “Best in actions” not most in actions.”

4. The Statement of Allah, “And I am not of the idolaters”
Thus the caller is does not engage in acts which are immoral or seen as repulsive. No, he/she is different in his/her moral standing. He/she is not ostentatious, but the caller’s righteousness is like a merciful spring that makes others around better. Recently rookie Daniel Gibson said, after the Cavs closed out the Pistons, that Lebron James told him, “Just keep shooting” the result was a 31 point game and a 19 point 4th quarter. The caller is not a indicter but an inviter. He/she give others strength and motivation; building others.

    The Second verse [Three conditions]

“Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and reason with them in the better way.”

1. The statement of Allah, “With wisdom”
Wisdom, according to the Arabic language, means to put something in its proper place. Thus, when it is time to be soft, one is soft, when it is time to be firm one is firm, when it is time to play, then it is time to play, and when it is time to work, it is time to be serious. The Prophet [may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him] said, “There is a time for this and a time for that.”

2. The statement of Allah, “With fair exhortation”
It is important to communicate in a way that others can understand and appreciate. In addition, methods style and body language all play and essential role in delivering a good message.

3. The statement of Allah, “And reason with them in a better way.”
Here reasoning in a way that is better is not related to style alone as that was addressed by the previous condition. Here reasoning in a better way is related to the content of one’s argument. Insuring that one has sound knowledge and proofs related to the discussion at hand.

    Thus, the conditions for successful dawa are:

1. Knowledge
2. Team effort
3. Rabaniyah (Connected with Allah)
4. Sincerity in doing what one says and distinguished character
5. Wisdom
6. Fair preaching (style and method)
7. Reason in the best way (content and knowledge)

It would be great if MAS and YM could discuss this article and fill in the areas that I left blank. Practical examples, stories and other verses and hadith are awaiting your discovery. Also, anyone is free to comment or add any points they feel will enhance the post.

Suhaib Webb

Thoughts on Paul Williams’ Article-Muslim Apologetics: Abul Hussien al-Azhari

 

Bismillah Wa Alhamdullilah Wa Salatu Wa Salaam Al’a Rasulilah Wa Aali Baythi Wa Asahabi Wa Ba’d:

 

In light of the nature of the Paul Williams article, which seems to further contribute to the increasing breakdown of an environment suitable for a program of civil dialogue between Muslims thereby, revealing a crisis of vision, authority and rationality among Muslims in the West, I decided to publish my thoughts. I would have to agree that the article contributes to extending the spirit and intent of the Rand report in that it gives recognition to a particular section of the Muslim community over others, in the name of critical reason. In effect, the article gives social recognition to a section of Muslim leadership in the West, which aligned itself with traditionalism, while likewise endorsing the school of perennialism and the school of Muhammad Asad as a suitable model for da’wah in the West.

Leaving aside the school of traditionalism we will briefly look to the schools of perennialism, and that of Muhammd Asad. In fact, these three schools were combined in the article Muslim Apologetics into one category and that is a methodological error:

Williams said:

Gai Eaton, Martin Lings[r], Muhammad Asad[r] and Hamza Yusuf. This quartet of Muslim intellectuals share common backgrounds and characteristics: they are Western converts to Islam and have made substantial contributions to scholarship that is recognized and highly valued in both East and West, amongst Muslims and non-Muslims. Although their work could not be characterized as polemical in nature they are all Islamic apologists in the sense of a person who speaks or writes in defense of Islam.

If the school of perennialism, which for our sakes here is represented by Gai Eaton and Martin Lings and that of Muhammad Asad are of one grain then by which standard are we to come to see the commonality between them? I thought we were discussing ideas here and not cultural backgrounds. Are we to say that because the individuals who comprise the quartet were converts that this will be the point of commonality between them? Is the point of commonality that they have some status in Western society? In the scope of analysis that these matters have sociological significance? However, I thought that the purpose here was to analyze ideas. Frankly these parties of concern: Gai Eaton, Martin Lings and Muhammad Asad are the same in that what these schools do hold in common: a spirit of anti-modernity.

 

The school of Muhammad Asad is anti-western and carries an anti-sufi current so what real tie does it have to the other schools beside being connected by the fact that the head of the school was a Westerner? Is being Western a criteria for judging discourse this is a sociological catergory not an intellectual mark that lets us discuss ideas.

 

This school, that of Asad harnessed an anti-western discourse, and represents the rhetoric of political protest, which overshadowed a good degree of Islamic thought in the time that it emerged. These factors set it apart from the school of perennialism.

 

 

The differences between these two schools in question is visible in the tafsir of Muhammad Asad {r} that was alluded to by the author of the article and it should be brought into our discourse. The tafsir of Muhammad Asad was highly influenced by Shaikh al-Allama Rashid Rida {r} and is more inclined to favor a Salafi methodology. The Salafi methodology mentioned here by definition is represented by two tendencies Muhammad Abdu {r} who was a rationalist and Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahab who called to the school of Ibn Taymiyah {r} to some degree and revived the approach of Ibn Khuzaimah Ash-Shafi {r} in aqeeda as represented in the Book Of Tawheed compiled by Ibn Khuzaimah {r}. On the other hand, the school of perennialism, when put to the lens of examination is a metaphysical protest against modernity – philosophically and scientifically. In Western Civilization texts it is read by referring to Aldous Huxley.

 

In addition to being a defense of the spirituality and cosmology of the middle-ages perennialism is essentially a school of mysticism and has been a point of debate in every religion being as though it claims a religion above religions. This school of mysticism does not align itself with one religious tradition but rather subscribes to the notion of the Unity of Religions. In effect, this clashes with the idea of “abrogation,” which Islam espouses. That is that Islam is the final revelation.

 

The perennialist school holds the claim that there is a common core to all religions, although the forms of these religions are different. The best exponents today of this school are Jacob Needleman, Seyyed Hussein Nasr the last being greatly influenced by Franz Schuon. Martin Lings [r] was tied into this school and so was Gai Eaton and Rene Gue’non and for this reason the status of Martin Lings came into question in the school of traditionalism some time in the near past.

By default the da’wah model Williams proposes by pinpointing a “quartet” does nothing more but solidify, and further incite tension between Sufis and Salafis given the elevation of perennialism and to some degree traditionalism over any other tendency. In our estimation it was a methodological error to include Muhammad Asad into the Quartet without referring to the Salafi schools that he inclined to. Likewise Williams gave rank and importance to Sufism as a point of departure by claiming the other schools of da’wah like that of Ahmed Deedat and others are anti-sufi setting the other schools of da’wah that he mentioned against the Quartet. What we say here is that evidence should be established for the assumption presented given the conflict that could emerge from this within the Muslim community.

 

 

In our estimation, to bring indirectly into play the anti-western tendency current in the world today by referring to Asad and perennialism works to undermine the project of fiqh of minorities introduced to the West by esteemed scholars such as Abdullah Ibn Bayyah, Taha Jabir Al-Alwani not to mention the European Fiqh council and other scholars of repute in the West and East. The project of fiqh of minorities indicates that Muslims have no need to be apologetic. In actual fact, we are flexible in dealing with the West, especially under the condition that and in an environement in which the rules of justice and law are applied fairly as is claimed in major democracies.

 

Elevating these two schools that of Asad and perennialism does not create a platform of dialogue. Rather doing so undermines the effort of disciplined dialogue by giving precendent to these two schools which reflect a soirit of anti-modernity. And establishing their discourse over other discourses present in the public space. In actuality a da’wah to the Qur’an and the Sunnah is much more flexible then these schools in that we are not bound by the spirit of anti-modernity but rather we judge the good and bad in modernity according to morality and public good.

 

It is our estimation also that elevating these schools works to displace the project of fiqh of minorities which in itself is an attempt to address modernity in a constructive manner. By elevating the school of Muhammad Asad, which promotes an Islamized version of the Clash of Civilization thesis and on giving recognition to perennialism, which is permeated by the spirit of anti-modernity where are we to stand except to collide with the West in toto.

 

Perennialism has been an object of debate not only among Sufis and Salafis in general but also among “traditionalists” themselves in particular. So why should we espouse such a model of daw’ah as suggested by Williams? This model incites division and rancour among Muslims for the reasons given above. Perennialism is a more refined argument against modernity than the school of Asad, which at times is marked by militant overtones.

 

Perennialism, in sum, is a school of apology for the spirituality and thought of the middle-ages and in not considered authoritative as a source of Islamic teaching. So,we find the model Williams proposes to be problematic initially by virtue of his identifying sources for Islamic discourse which are questionable. Likewise his schema of speakers promotes division among Muslims and support for contentious matters while claiming to serve the cause of dialogue between faiths. In addition, this model does not remove us further from the thesis of clash of civilizations and bring us to the platform of dialogue between civilizations. Instead it encourages the spirit of anti-modernity, among Muslims and this impedes the project of islamization of knowledge or a dialogue with Western intellectual traditions. How are we to judge what is acceptable in these traditions if we are against them from the outset based on no premise other than that they are Western and modern? Likewise there is no mention of looking to Islamic tradition to assist us in building an Islamic identity in the West that is capable of dealing with current day trials and realities. Not to mention that the Qur’an and the Sunnah as points of reference for defining what morality, beauty and good and evil are are never mentioned.. In fact, by dismissing Ahmed Deedat and the likes it is as if we are asked to dismiss the Qur’an and the Sunnah and build on an exchange of philosophical ideas without any reference to revelation.

 

In our readings of the schools of Asad and perennialism we see that there is no serious potential for a dialogue of civilizations in perennialism nor the school of Asad. These schools are governed by intellectual frames of reference that set us on a course of schizophrenia incapacitating us, making us incapable of dealing with Western life and its intellectual traditions in a manner that will initiate a new renaisannce because they are destroyers of those traditions and also distanced from the realities of Islam and the message of revelation.

 

 

Given the state of confusion among Muslims today we wanted to attempt to bring balance to the new discourse on Islam that is emerging in the West. This new discourse is characterized most by its claim to: higher rationality, critical rationality, rationality capable of exposing the truth, establishing the truth and by the assumption that this rationality is absent in contemporary Muslim thought. In light of this new emerging discourse, which mirrors various aspects of the spirit of Orientalism, there is a dire necessity that is not given much attention. Muslims in the West by necessity need to embrace a degree of distance from the internal conflict that has infected and plagued the Muslim mind in the West and examine thoroughly the assumptions and aims of this new discourse which demands to become part and parcel of the intellect of the Muslim in the West. To say the least this task is fard-kifayah.

 

We hope that the intellectual leadership of Muslims in the West would devote more time to three efforts:

 

1.] qualm the tension among Muslims

 

2.] take to task this new strand of Orientalism that Muhammad Asad {r} said would be done by Muslims themselves and that is critique Islam

 

3.] focus more on the project of fiqh of minorities which is being sponsored by scholars of repute and translate what the scholars are saying and their works in fiqh and other sciences which cater to the Muslims in the West.

 

 

What need do we have of perennialism? The vast majority of Muslims in the West are ignorant of the Qur’an not to mention the Sunnah and works of the great Ulema of this Ummah. As far as the thought of Asad there is not much difference in the angles of Muhammad Asad [r] from those of Said Qutb [r] but we hear critiques of Qutb and few on Asad. These two figures emerged in a time when the Cold War riveted the attention of the world dividing the world into Capitalists and Communists. They were thinkers with a political vision not full blown scholars so we should not elevate these figures in our intellectual universe as we proceed to make sense of being Muslim in the contemporary age. In turn, we should focus our attention on elevate the position of the Qur’an in our intellectual and spirtual lives making the Qur’an central in our intellectual and spiritual diets. This intellectual and spiritual regiment should be supplemented by all that will help us to make sense of the Qur’an such as the Sunnah and the scholarly tradition which embodied Islamic sciences that are key to undestanding the sources of Islam.

 

 

Muslims in the West have made great strides but still possess great distance from the Qur’an and the Sunnah and the scholarly legacy of Islam. Unfortunately, Muslims in the West have no real tie to experienced and tempered scholarship capable of dealing with new and unprecedented events that arise their live this further exacerbates the feeling of alienation that comes from being distanct from the sources of revelation.

 

In this context that Muslims in the West live we must ask why are we giving ear to discourses which are not contributing to establishing Muslim community and identity nor islamic literacy? Why are we distant from those scholars capable of helping us in the effort of dealing with life today? We have marginalized them and continue to do so and fuel internal conflict by presenting perennialism, and Asad as figures upon, which to base our identity upon and da’wah upon and through which we ought understand Islam.

Until now there is a refusal to accept a scholarly reference [mar’je wa mar’jiyyah] in the life of the Muslim community in the West. Where do Muslims in the West refer to for scholarly guidance is the key question? Many have problems in answering this question in a positive and freshin manner and yet there are calls for Muslims in the West to disconnect from or break ties with the East. How is da’wah served without guidance and by incorporating critiques on Islam from figures who hold no weight in the world of Islamic scholarship?

 

Who will rise to give fatwa and deal with the crisis of reference that we are facing in the West will we continue ro refer to unqualified figures? If we are going to engage critique with regard to Islamic discourse than there needs to be a clear understanding of the fiqh of critique. It must be made clear what is allowable and open to critique and what is not. There needs to be a reference to a body of qualified scholars tempered in the sciences of Islam despite the fact he may be a migrant or a convert, despite race or color. The fulcrum point is scholarly qualification and faith.

 

Knowledge and faith are the criteria by which we judge qualification for leadership. Let us take an example from the Maliki school of fiqh and make and analogy from this example. In this school of Malik the Imam of Salah is chosen based on memorization of Qur’an and knowledge of fiqh this is the criteria for picking an Imam in Salah. Now we must ask do we have at least this criteria in place for choosing Imams in da’wah or for the intellectual leadership of the Ummah in the West?

 

Should not our senior leaders work together and be trained in islamic sources and sciences and be capable of some degree of ijithad in addition to understanding the world they live in, not to mention the culture of the people they serve?

 

 

Why have we marginalized The Fiqh Council of Europe and why did we allow the Fiqh Council of North America to become obsolete? We don’t need personalities to lead us we need Ulema to point to us the path with pleases Allah {swt}.

 

 

Critical thought if it is to be acceptable we are obliged to ask under what conditions and keeping in mind what ends and upon what foundations are we to establish, accept, and judge the legitimacy of a claim to “critical thought,” what are the parameters of critical thought in Islamic epistemology and what is the hukm shar’i on engaging critical thought and its various forms? Now that the door has been opened to critique of Islam and Muslim leaders and scholars by Muslims and non-Muslims it is clear to understand what forms of reasoning are acceptable and what type are not according to the five legal judgments: Haram, Makruh, Mubah, Halal and Mandub.

 

 

Presently, many have taken to engaging in critique but possess no scholarly credentials no authority, no foundation in Islamic learning that if possessed would qualifiy them to do so. We see that in the circles that make ijaza a criteria for scholarship we do not hear that critics of Islam are asked for ijaza. Why? Despite the necessity for qualification in knowledge being a must for a person to speak regarding Islam unqualified voices whether Muslim or not, are given an audience. In an environment where people inquire much about ijaza and correct aqeeda how is it that this is possible that the illiterate in Islam have weight in Muslim discourse?

 

Being the case that the Williams article was posted for public consumption on a prominent and respected Islamic website identifies the importance of bringing shar’iah parameters to the table if we are going to understand how to engage in critique. That we failed to do this during the time of the cartoon contest in Europe seems to indicate to us that we need to seriously talk and analyze our condition in the West in light of sha’riah a bit more seriously.

 

A shallow glance at the various ideas out there in the world of Sunni cyberspace we see that some mock the prospect of working unity between Muslims and others mock the prospect of functioning in the West but very few establish an authoritative opinion on these matters that realizes the common good as defined by the Shar’iah. There are a few questions here in need of answer given this millieu:

 

Does the Williams Article, which is established on a few baseless premises and upon visible bigoted assumptions help us to live as Muslims together in the West?

 

Does the article help us continue with the prospect of da’wah to non-Muslims and maintain our identity as Muslims or does it call us to put aside our identity by asking us to espouse perennialism?

 

Does the Williams article fuel hostility to some degree between Muslims?

 

These question we ought ponder seriously and answer them for ourselves and be clear with each other on what our conclusions are.

 

It seems Muslims in the West are in urgent need to identify who is qualified to do da’wah and what are the conditions of da’wah, its principles and parameters and this must be done under the guidance of a body of scholars. Likewise we need to discuss openly who and what is a scholar considering the various realities in Islamic education today.

 

Until now there have been assertions made in the Muslim community about who is a scholar and how da’wah should proceed but no real criteria is set forth that is clearly agreed upon to identify the scholar. The opinions in circulation regarding Islamic scholarship until now are plausible but lack support from senior scholars in the Sunni world. They are in fact the saying of individuals and not a body of scholars that represent the Ummah. We need a majority voice in this serious matter given that defining what scholarship is and who is a scholar has been clouded by sectarian difference.

 

We are pressed to ask in this chaotic setting that we live in: “where is the necessary balance in approach and discourse in solving our problems and why do we refuse to return to the Shar’iah as the criteria for judging beauty and right and wrong, the good and the truth and justice and oppression?”

 

Instead of referring to the shar’iah as a criteria by which disputes are settled and from which we receive guidance, we prefer intellectual duels and verbal wars and high flown discourses which have nothing to do with our needs as Muslims.

 

 

We are in need to build community and support effort at increasing Islamic literacy plus address social matters for all, Muslims and non-Muslims. What is it that we are giving to society at the end of the day and how are we contributing to the well being of humanity?

 

 

In the post 911 West it has become fashionable to “critique” Islam, the Qur’an, scholars etc., in the name of “rationality” so much so the affair has become profitable. If we shun from the responsibility to know, or refuse to bring a fiqh of critique and a fiqh of da’wah to the table we will soon find ourselves in a trying position. More and more people will be confused with the possibility of some turning to militancy to defend what they think to be correct out of desperation and others to kufr out of disgust. We saw a glimpse of this happen during the cartoon contest that took place in Europe and we hope not to see such insanity re-occur.

 

A question arises here. If we support free-speech under what conditions and in what spirit are we to support it and uphold it? Why do we want to continue to promote a Cold War between Sufis and Salafis in the West instead of answer the above question? According to some codes of law in the West free-speech is tolerated as long as there is no liable or does not contribute to a clear and present danger in these cases free-speech is limited.

 

Until now Muslims in the West have not demonstrated that they understand clearly the fiqh of free-speech, nor the freedom, which allows for critique and the responsibility that comes with that freedom. Despite our illiteracy in these areas of fiqh some of us endorse ideas that claim to be critical but which in fact contribute to, fuel and lead to the disintegration of the Muslim community in the West. The Williams article is an example of this new form of critique that is endorsed by some Muslims because it supports there ideas and efforts despite the fact that it assassinates another group of Muslims without ever really discussing real ideas in an academic and critical manner.

 

 

What we need and want in the West is to build cordial relations with others and we want our dignity preserved as the preservation of dignity is an objective of the Shar’iah in the thought of Imam Qarafi {r}. We need clear scholarly leadership that guides us we don’t need sectarianism. Muslims in the West must stand with one another and the oppressed and refuse to oppress others.

We are in desperate need of a fiqh of critique and da’wah and even debate and a fiqh of leadership. Given the number of educated Muslims in the West I am shocked that we are plagued with deficiencies in the basics of discussion and debate and critique and in leadership. That there has to be a fiqh of how to deal with the critique of Islam and da’wah is what the Williams article makes clear to me.

The only good that I see that came out of the Williams article being posted on a public Muslim forum is that it reintroduced in the consiousness of Muslims if only for a shirt time the need for understanding “fiqh of minorities” and “fiqh of dealing with media“ and a “fiqh of da’wah” and a “fiqh of leadership.” What I learned overall from the event of the Williams article being posted is that there is an absence of two things: a fiqh of da’wah and a fiqh of critique among Muslims, and it is fard kifayah that at least some of us know this fiqh which is not in traditional fiqh manuals. Very few seem to be interested in these branches of fiqh but engage the new school of critique without knowing the ahkam of such activity. This is problematic.

I would hope that those engaged in fiqh that represent the organizations in the West begin to consider this matter seriously and address it in a mature manner making clear the ahkam for such action.

Allahu Al’am Wa Al’a Wa Billahi Taufiq Wa AstagfirUllah

Abul-Hussein