Saturday, 31 October 2015

Why do people turn away from religion?

Answered by Imam Muhammad Mutawalli ash-Sha'rawi, may Allah have mercy on him

Courtesy of the Fig Tree Group

Friday, 16 October 2015

Fasting Muḥarram and ʿĀshūrāʾ

A continuation of this article

شهر الله المحرم

Fasting Muḥarram and ʿĀshūrāʾ

By Imam Wahbah az-Zuḥaylī, may Allah have mercy on him[1]

...As for fasting the month of Muḥarram, this is due to what Muslim has narrated in his Ṣaḥīḥ on the authority of Abū Hurayrah, who said, ‘The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, {The best fast after the month of Ramaḍān is Allah’s month of Muḥarram, and the best prayer after the obligatory is the night prayer.}’[2]

In another narration of Muslim, which is also in his Ṣaḥīḥ and on the authority of Abū Hurayrah: {The best fast after the month of Ramaḍān is the month of Allah that you call al-Muarram, and the best prayer after the obligatory is in the middle of the night.}[3][4]

As for fasting ʿĀshūrāʾ, this is due to what al-Bukhārī and Muslim have narrated on the authority of Ibn ʿAbbās, who said, ‘The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, came and the Jews were fasting the day of ʿĀshūrāʾ, so he said, {What is this day that they are fasting?} They replied, ‘This is an immense day; it is the day on which Allah saved Mūsā and drowned Firʿawn, so Mūsā fasted it out of gratitude.’ The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, then said, {We have more right to Mūsā than you.} From then on, the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, fasted it and commanded others to do so.

Fasting ʿĀshūrāʾ[5] is a sunnah[6] and not an obligation, and this is due to what has been narrated by al-Bukhārī and Muslim, as well as al-Bayhaqī in his Sunan; ʿAbdullah ibn ʿUmar said – when ʿĀshūrāʾ was mentioned in his presence - : ‘It was a day that the people of Ignorance[7] used to fast, so whoever wants to fast it can do so and whoever would prefer to leave it can do so.’

Al-Bayhaqī has narrated in his Shuʿab on the authority of Abū Qatādah, who said, ‘The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, {Fasting ʿĀshūrāʾ is expiation for one year, and fasting ʿArafah is expiation for the year before it and the year after it}’, i.e. expiation for two years.

It is recommended that the fast of ʿĀshūrāʾ be two days, i.e. one also fasts the day before it or the day after it, and this is due to what Muslim and Abū Dāwūd have narrated, as well as al-Bayhaqī in his Shuʿab, on the authority of ʿAbdullah ibn ʿAbbās, who said, ‘When the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, fasted the day of ʿĀshūrāʾ and commanded others to fast it, they said, “O Messenger of Allah, it is a day that the Jews exalt.” The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, thus replied, {Next year, if Allah so wills, we will fast the ninth day as well.} And the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, passed away before the next year came.

Muslim has narrated that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, {If I live to next year I will fast the day of ʿĀshūrāʾ as well as the ninth day.} Al-Bayhaqī has related on the authority of Ibn ʿAbbās that he said, {Fast the ninth and tenth and be different from the Jews.} In another adīth, al-Bayhaqī relates on the authority of Ibn ʿAbbās that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, {If I were to remain alive I would command that you fast the day before or the day after the day of ʿĀshūrāʾ.}

It is recommended for the Muslim to be generous towards his family on the day of ʿĀshūrāʾ, and this is due to what al-Bayhaqī has related on the authority of Abū Saʿīd al-Khudrī, who said, ‘The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, {Whoever is generous towards his family on the day of ʿĀshūrāʾ, Allah will be generous towards him the rest of the year.}

Al-Bayhaqī has related on the authority of Abū Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, {Whoever is generous towards his family and his dependents on the day of ʿĀshūrāʾ, Allah will be generous towards him the rest of the year.}[8]

The benefit that one takes from these aḥādīth is that fasting the day of ʿArafah, Muarram, and the ninth and tenth of Muarram has an immense reward, and there is benefit therein for the one who fasts as there is a gap of only two months and a bit between Ramaān and these days.

Fasting is a sublime means of drawing nearer to Allah the Exalted and it has a great reward, not to mention the health, social, educational and moral benefits that fasting contains, in Ramaān and outside Ramaān, so whoever is able to fast should do so, and Allah will be pleased with him, and whoever is unable to fast, Allah will open up for him others means of attaining reward and avoiding punishment, because Allah is Most Merciful towards His slaves and He knows best about them. Thus, whoever misses a good opportunity to draw nearer to Allah the Exalted, Allah will prepare other opportunities for him.

And it has been made clear to us that fasting ʿĀshūrāʾ contains lofty evidence of the cooperation that exists between the Prophets, and that every Messenger completes the message of the Messenger who preceded him.

And today, how greatly do we need our connection to all the noble Messengers and their blessed calls to be strong, and to take knowledge from them that is of immense benefit to mankind.

[1] (tn): Translated from the Imam’s book Usūl al-Īmān wa al-Islām (Damascus: Dār al-Fikr, 2008), v.1 p.487-489
[2] Ar. ṣalāt al-layl
[3] Ar. fī jawf al-layl
[4] Ibn ʿAbbās explains that in the āyas: “And by the dawn, and the ten nights” [al-Fajr 89:1-2], the dawn (al-fajr) is Muḥarram, which is the dawn of the year.
[5] (tn): i.e. the 10th of Muḥarram
[6] (tn): i.e. recommendation, in that one is rewarded for doing it but not punished for leaving it off
[7] Ar. ahl al-Jāhiliyyah
[8] Al-Bayhaqī says in his Shuʿab (3/366): ‘These chains of transmission, even though they are weak, if one gathers them together they become stronger, and Allah knows best. The adīth of Abū Hurayrah has been mentioned in chains some of which have been declared authentic by al-Ḥāfi Abū al-Fal ibn Nāir. 

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Islam is revelation, not a race or culture

Why Islam should not be conflated with race or referred to as a set of "traditions"

Imam Muḥammad Saʿīd Ramaḍān al-Būṭī, may Allah have mercy on him, in his book Fiqh as-Sīrah[1] states:

Third: The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, took his people to task for enslaving themselves to traditions that they had inherited from their forefathers without giving thought to how valid or invalid they might be . He called upon them to free their minds from the habit of blind obedience and bigoted attachment to traditions[2] which are not based upon a foundation or sound reason.

This, in turn, serves as evidence that the underpinning for this religion, in both its theology and rulings, is none other than the intellect and reason, and that the aim behind adherence to it is the best interests of mankind, in the life and the next. Hence, one of the most important conditions for the soundness of one’s faith in Allah and whatever other beliefs are associated with this is that such faith rest on a foundation of certainty and free thought, unrestrained by convention or tradition. The author of Jawharat at-Tawḥīd says in his well-known poem:

If one just mimics others in the Oneness of Allah (tawḥīd)

His faith has not been freed of redundancy (tardīd)

From this it becomes clear that the religion of Islam came to declare war on traditions insofar as they arise from blind mimicry, since this religion – in all its principles and rulings – is based on the foundation of sound intellect and reason, while “traditions” in this sense are founded on nothing but the desire to imitate and follow, that is, without any role being given to the element of inquiry and independent thinking. After all, the word taqālīd means, according to the scholars of the Arabic language and social scientists, the sum total of the customs which have been inherited from former generations, or which maintain their validity simply by virtue of the social contract which takes place in a particular environment. As such, the element of sheer imitation is the central nerve which extends through such customs, both giving them life and enabling them to survive.

Everything people have grown accustomed to in their societies – ways of life, the forms of entertainment they engage in during times of happiness, and how they express mourning in times of misfortune and sadness – is part of what has been handed down from times of old, or what has been adopted unthinkingly through influence or contact with others; and it is all these things together which are referred to by both linguists and sociologists as “traditions”.

Once you know this, you realise that Islam cannot possibly contain anything by the name of “traditions”, whether they have to do with theology or various rulings and regulations, since the theology is based on the foundation of sound reasoning while its rulings rest on the foundation of temporal and eternal interests. Although some interests might not be comprehended by some people for this reason or that, they are, nevertheless, understandable through thought and careful reflection.

This, in turn, reveals the serious of the error committed by those who employ the phrase “Islamic traditions” to describe Islam’s various forms of worship, legislative rulings and moral precepts.

The propagation of this unfair designation may suggest to people that the value of Islamically sanctioned morality derives not from its embodying a divine principle which contains the secret of happiness for the human race – as, in fact, it does – but rather, because the Islamic law and system of morality are customs which were inherited from previous generations. If this suggestion is taken seriously, it is bound to cause people to feel oppressed by this “antiquated” heritage which others wish to impose on society in which everything is highly developed, advanced and modern.

The application of the term “Islamic traditions” to the various rulings of Islam is not, however, an innocent mistake; rather, it is one link in a series of attacks being waged on Islam by means of empty, misleading slogans.

The primary aim behind the promotion of the term “Islamic traditions” is to produce an association in people’s minds between the meaning of “tradition” in its negative sense and Islam’s various rulings and precepts. When this occurs, people forget that these precepts are, in essence, principles based on sound reason and enquiry, and they become a weak point that is vulnerable to the arrows and spears of Islam’s foes.

All the precepts and legislation that Islam has brought are, in essence, principles, and a principle is something which is founded on sound thought and reason and which aims to accomplish a specific end. Now, although principles of merely human origin may or may not hit their mark due to misconceptions on the part of their originators, the principles of Islam never miss their mark, since the One who established them is the Creator of all minds and thoughts. This alone is sufficient rational proof for one to be convinced of these principles and be certain of their correctness and soundness.

There is no doubt that if Muslims wake up from their slumber they will find that most of Islam’s principles and rulings, such as marriage and divorce, a woman covering and being maintained, and other issues of morals and manners, have been clothed in the garb of “traditions”. Therefore, it is only natural that they should find some people calling for the repudiation of such “traditions” and emancipation from the “slavery” which they impose, especially in this age of ours that is dominated by the quest for freedom of opinion and thought.

However, the reality is that there are no traditions in Islam.

Rather, as we have seen from our examination of the earliest days of the Prophet’s mission, it is a religion which came to deliver the mind from the grip of tradition.

As for traditions, they are simply behavioral trends in which people get unthinkingly swept away out of the human desire to imitate.

It is principles which must regulate development over time, not vice-versa.

As for traditions, they are just a gathering of parasites that develop by themselves in the midst of society’s intellectual fields. These are the weeds which must be uprooted, and from which sound thought must be freed.

[End of Quote] 

[1] ML: Based on the translation by Nancy Roberts and revised by Anas al-Rifāʿī (Damascus: Dār al-Fikr, 2008), p.144 to 146 (p.114 to 116 of the 2009 Arabic edition)
[2] Ar.  taqālīd, which can also be translated as customs or conventions

From the Imam's statement we can learn the following:

1) Islam has to be separated from culture. The former is revelation while the latter is simply customs and traditions that have been imitated over time; the only defense offered by those who engage in them is that they found their parents and ancestors engaging in them. One can look at Surat al-Maidah 5:104 and several other examples in the Qur'an. Culture not only has to be separated but must be completely abandoned when it goes against revelation. As one of my teachers eloquently put it, "Culture must die so that we can live."

2) We have to be wary of referring to Islam as a culture or set of traditions because it clouds Islam's revelatory source. If Islamic theology and rulings are merely part of a culture or set of traditions, i.e. something passed on from generation to generation for no apparent reason other than it being practiced by people before, it can be easily attacked and subjected to calls for its reformation or outright dismissal. Here is an example of disbelievers dismissing and castigating Islamic rulings because they are said to be part of Islamic "culture". I would include in this the term "Traditional Islam". Ahl us-Sunnah wa al-Jamaa'ah is Orthodox Islam, and they are the people who follow the Sunnah, have the correct theology (i.e. the theology that was revealed) and they are the majority. Sunni Islam is not something that is simply passed down over the years and centuries; it is revelation. Is is rooted in the Book and the Sunnah.

3) Islam is not a race, and therefore it is certainly not a wise idea to attempt to conflate race with religion. Racism is so abhorrent and indefensible because one's race can't be changed. It's entirely Allah's will and therefore completely involuntary. Religion, on the other hand, is a voluntary matter and one must have one's own conviction. Faith that is based on mere imitation, as the quote from Jawharat a-Tawheed demonstrates, is worthless. Therefore, the way that one might defend their race by saying they were born that way simply won't do when defending one's faith. One can't say that because they were born and raised a Muslim that their religion should be above criticism or reproach, or even mockery

And, as mentioned in this post, as Muslims carry on down this route of demanding legal protection after legal protection, they too will be beaten with same stick. If this is taken further, to the extent that all religions are protected because they are conflated with race, and religion is seen as an even deeper part of one's identity than one's race, then preaching Islam, and indeed any religion, will be illegal, and if Muslims in Dar al-Kufr can't preach Islam then they have no justification for being there. Is it not obvious that inviting someone to Islam can be taken offensively, as one is implying that the one being invited is wrong and unsaved, and not just the individual but their family as well?

Let us therefore heed the late Imam's advice and understand that our religion is revelation, and we must treat it as such and present it as such. It is not a race and it is not a culture.

And with Allah is every success.