Monday, 31 December 2018

Imam ash-Shafi'i On Seeing Allah In The Hereafter

By Imam Muhammad Saeed Ramadan al-Bouti, may Allah have mercy on him

Imam ash-Shafi'i, may Allah be pleased with him, worshipped Allah for who He is, not out of fear of the Fire or desire for Paradise. Please see Imam an-Nawawi's commentary on the first hadith of his collection of Forty (الأربعين النووية) for further details.

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Friday, 23 November 2018

How To Look At Death

By Imam Muhammad Saeed Ramadan al-Bouti, may Allah have mercy on him


For more on this topic, my translation of Imam as-Suyuti's book شرح الصدور بشرح حال الموتى والقبور will be available soon, if Allah so wills. You can read an extract here.

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Saturday, 13 October 2018

Luqman's Advice To His Son

A follow-up to this podcast from The Foreword

In this episode, we look at Ayaat 12-15 from Surat Luqman with the tafseer of Imam Wahbah az-Zuhayli, may Allah have mercy on him. This part covers gratitude to Allah as well as warning against idolatry and showing disobedience to parents.

In this episode, we look at Ayaat 16-19 from Surat Luqman with the tafseer of Imam Wahbah az-Zuhayli, may Allah have mercy on him. This part covers:
- Appreciating Allah's power
- Establishing the prayer 
- Commanding what is right and forbidding what is wrong #
- Being patient with trials 
- Not being haughty or walking about arrogantly 
- Lowering one's voice and speaking to people gently 
- Avoiding harsh speech and raising one's voice beyond what is necessary 

Related Podcasts: 

Further Reading: 

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Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Remember Me and I will Remember You

The tafsīr of the Exalted’s statement:

“Remember Me and I will remember you. Be grateful to Me and do not be ungrateful.” [al-Baqarah 2:152]

This noble ayāh means whoever remembers Allah with his heart, by pondering on Allah’s signs, the manifestations of divine perfection in this unique creation and the organisation that forces doubters to yield and submit while increasing those who are guided in their guidance.

It means whoever remembers Allah with his tongue, with the various form of dhikr that have reached us, such as subhān Allah, la ilāha illa Allah, Allahu Akbar[1] and sending blessings upon the Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.

It is also means whoever remembers Allah with his limbs, by carrying out his Lord’s commands and refraining from what He has prohibited, emanating from a heart that is alive and feelings that are awake.

Allah will reward all of the above by raising their rank and improving their standing, and other elevated stations that are beyond bounds and limits. Allah expressed this with the word ‘remember’ because when one remembers something one knows its truth and understands what is for it and what is against it. Because of this, a human being must always, and especially a Muslim, remember Allah in every circumstance and in every moment, so that he is not denied Allah’s grace and bounty.

The ayāh thus encourages remembrance and calls to it based on what we’ve mentioned.
And after commanding to remembrance and explaining its benefit comes the command to be grateful. The command to remember takes precedence over the command to be grateful because the one who remembers is preoccupied with Allah the Exalted while the one who is grateful is preoccupied with Allah’s blessings, and being preoccupied with Allah is more important than being preoccupied with blessings.

And whoever doesn’t thank Allah is ungrateful for His blessings, and Allah’s blessings are many…they cannot be counted: “If you tried to number Allah’s blessings, you could never count them.” [an-Naḥl 16:18], and whoever is persistent in thanking Allah, Allah, Glorified is He, will increase him in blessings.

“If you are grateful, I will certainly give you more.” [Ibrāhīm 14:7]

The one who is grateful and remembers is content, and thus he is happy in this life until he meets Allah the Glorified, and then he rejoices at meeting his Lord.

[Translated from Fatāwā al-Imām ʿAbdul Ḥalīm Maḥmūd (Cairo: Dār al-Maʿārif, 1979, 5th edition), v.1, p.178]

[1] (tn): The imam uses the word taqdīs, the noun of the verb nuqaddisu, which is found in Surat al-Baqarah 2:30. One of the meanings of taqdīs, according to Ibn ʿAbbās, may Allah be pleased with both of them, is takbīr. Please see Zād al-Masīr fī ʿIlm at-Tafsīr by Imam ʿAbdur Raḥmān ibn al-Jawzī (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, 1422/2002), v.1, p.30.

Monday, 3 September 2018

Book Review: The Big Step

 Plus a couple other announcements

Alhamdulilah, al-Hajj Abu Ja'far al-Hanbali has written this beneficial review. Please take the time to have a read. He has also included the interview we did for The Foreword podcast.

I have also learned that the book is now available from Amazon

So, to mark this progress, from today there is a 10% discount if you purchase the book from Lulu.

Book Release: The Big Step

Sunday, 19 August 2018

The Wisdoms of the Hajj and Umrah

A new podcast from The Foreword

Based on the chapter entitled

حكمة الحج والعمرة وفوائدهما

from the book al-Fiqh al-Manhaji 'ala Madhab al-Imam ash-Shafi'i

Related Posts:
Explanation of the Rituals of Hajj and Umrah
Visiting the Grave of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace
Notes on Eid al-Adha

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Monday, 30 July 2018

Can Women Be Awliyāʾ of Allah?

Answered by Imam ʿAbdul Ḥalīm Maḥmūd, may Allah have mercy on him

There is no objection in the Revealed Law to Allah having awliyāʾ[1] who are women, for the conditions for being a walī in Islam are known, and they are mentioned in the Noble Qurʾān: “Yes, the awliyāʾ of Allah will feel no fear and know no sorrow: those who believe and have taqwā…” [Yūnus 10:62] Faith and taqwā are required of both men and women and the door of striving therein is open to everyone, men and women.

“Their Lord responds to them: 'I will not let the deeds of any doer amongst you go to waste, male or female – you are both the same in that respect.’” [Āl ʿImrān 3:195]

And in the Qurʾān we find several mentions of awliyāʾ who are women, wonders (karāmāt) happening to them that support their standing in faith and are evidence of how far they have travelled on the path to be being awliyāʾ. One of the most prominent of these is Maryam the daughter of ʿImrān, who protected her chastity[2]  and whom the angels spoke to: “When the angels said, 'Maryam, Allah gives you good news of a Word from Him. His name is al-Masīḥ, the son of Maryam, of high esteem in this world and the Next World, and one of those brought near.” [Āl ʿImrān 3:45]

And when she had given birth to the Messiah, peace be upon him, her people said, “Sister of Hārūn, your father was not an evil man nor was your mother an unchaste woman, so she pointed towards him…” [Maryam 19:28-29] And thus he spoke to them as a baby, which was a karāmah for her and absolved her of any evil. This same Maryam would have her substance come to her in the masjid: “Every time Zakariyyah visted her in the miḥrāb, he found food with her…” [Āl ʿImrān 3:37]

And there is Āsiyah, the wife of Firʿawn, and Allah mentions her in the Qurʾān as an example: “Allah has made an example of those who believe: the wife of Firʿawn when she said, ‘My Lord, build a house in Paradise for me in Your presence. Rescue me from Firʿawn and his deeds and rescue me from these wrongdoing people.’” [at-Ṭalāq 66:10]

And in our Islamic history there are many women who achieved the rank of walī, and they include Sayyidah Nafīsah, may Allah be pleased with her, who was a scholar who acted upon her knowledge. Her reputation as both a scholar and a walī is well-known. There is also Rābiʿah al-ʿAdawiyah, may Allah be pleased with her, who would fast in the day and stand in prayer at night, and who stripped her worship of being for the sake of entering Paradise or being spared the Fire. She is the one who said, in meaning, ‘O Allah, if I am worshipping You out of a desire to enter Paradise then prevent me from it. If I am worshipping You out of fear of the Fire then put me in it. But if I am worshipping you for who You are, then do not deny me the blessings of seeing You, O Most Merciful of those who show mercy.’

[Translated from Fatāwā al-Imām ʿAbdul Ḥalīm Maḥmūd (Cairo: Dār al-Maʿārif, 1979, 5th edition), v.2, p.182-3]

Also by the imam:

[1] (tn): i.e. saints
[2] (tn): Please see Sūrat al-Anbiyāʾ 21:91

Saturday, 28 July 2018

The Scientific Method for Researching Truth

The translation of Chapter 1 of Imam Muhammad Saeed Ramadan al-Bouti's theology text Kubra al-Yaqiniyyaat al-Kawniyyah (Damascus: Dar al-Fikr, 1428/2008)

The Library at al-Azhar, Cairo

  1. The Scientific Method for Researching Truth
According to Muslim Scholars and Others

If realising the truth as it actually is is science, as they say, then the method that is used to achieve this realisation should–without a doubt–also be scientific, i.e. the method that is used should be none other than a series of true realisations in and of themselves that remove the veil from the reality that is being sought.

This is because science is not the product of anything but another science like it. Conjecture can never arrive at knowledge, and if this were not the case then two conjectural premises could bring about a definitive result, and this is clearly impossible.

Therefore, everyone who searches for the truth must use a scientific method that is not corrupted by whims and fancies. He must cling to this method and not deviate from it in any way.

This is a clear axiom that nobody can dispute.

However, it is very likely that we can ask: to what extent do Islamic thought and Western thought apply this axiom and pay attention to it?

Maybe the word “objective research” is a quick answer, a well-known and widespread phrase that is commonly associated, amongst some people, with the research of orientalists, so does it answer this question?

It seems that relying on this “objective research” alone to arrive at a judgement is a way to truth that is tumultuous and not scientific. There is no doubt that it causes us to deviate from the truth while at the same time deluding us into thinking that we have actually found it.

It would be good for us to look for the answer to this question by looking at the actual path that is taken by both Muslim and Western scholars to arrive at some truth, whether it is evaluative (as they say) or historical.

We must–before anything else–establish a truth that has importance in this regard, and it is that the primary factor in subjugating Islamic thought to an exact and scientific method of research, as we will see, is nothing other than the religion. If it were not for their religious belief, Muslims would not burden themselves with the difficulty of such a method that requires time and effort and does not bring about any specific material gain, and then ardently cling to it until it becomes something normal for all of them, as they encounter it and study it together.

This religious objective is exemplified in many passages in the Book of Allah the Exalted, one of them being His saying, Glorified and Majestic: “And do not concern yourself with anything that you have no knowledge of. Indeed the ears, the eyes and the hearts will all be brought to account.” [Al-Isrāʾ 17:36]. This saying of His, Glorified and Majestic, is a rebuke of people who have plunged their intellects into the obscurities of whims and conjectures which, by their very nature, cover the truth and do not reveal it.

“For most of them follow nothing but conjecture: conjecture can never be a substitute for truth. Verily, Allah has full knowledge of all that they do.” [Yūnus 10:36]

You can see how embodied in this motive is the prohibition against adopting any idea, even the religion itself, from being the outcome of anything other than a path established by an intellect that readily accepts definitive proofs that by their nature reveal the truth that is sought.

It is because of this that the scholars of tawhid have stipulated as a condition for a believer’s faith that it be based solely on knowledge-based proof and not suspicious facts resulting from merely following someone else.

This is because scientific truth–in the ruling of the religion[1]–is the summit of all intellectually sacred things, as are its sources. It is that which thought must turn to in humility and revolve around. Is there a stronger evidence in this regard than the fact that the religion itself is not satisfied with its existence and its sanctity being based on anything other than knowledge and its proofs, and it is not pleased to take a judge for itself from anywhere else?

All of this means that Islam grants a religious quality to searching for the truth with only the two lights of knowledge and the intellect. If a non-Muslim, by his nature, engages in this because of his love for research, then indeed the Muslim is motivated to do research because he feels that it is an obligation that he is rewarded for doing and punished for not doing.

And this is how Islamic thought found itself in front of a religious duty, and it is the necessity of searching for the truth, whether it is by way of transmission or by way of claims. It is self-evident that fulfilling this duty will require the laying down of a method of research. It is obvious that as long as the objective is sound and intact and only the intellect can judge regarding it, the method of attaining the objective will also be sound and intact, being governed only by the intellect.

But despite that we are not writing this study so that we can rush and make a judgement that the scientific method that the Muslims have is sound and intact and is only governed by the intellect. Our only intention is to study this method and we will make a decision regarding it afterwards.

The Method of Research according to Muslim Scholars:

The scientific method of research according to Muslim scholars can be summarized in the great and glorious maxim that no-one else has anything that compares to it, and it is their statement:

If you are transmitting then [you need to] authenticate it, and if you are claiming [something then you need] evidence.

This means that the topic of research must either be a piece of information that has been transmitted or a claim that has been made. As for that which may be a transmitted piece of information, research into it must be restricted to verifying the relationship between it and its source. Otherwise the door is open for speculation, confusion and doubt. If speculation is eliminated and the veil is lifted then the result of the transmitted information is a specific scientific truth, on the condition that it possesses decisive evidence.

As for that which is merely a claim, research into it must be directed towards scientific evidences that agree with it and which by their nature will reveal the extent to which this claim is true.

For every type of claim there is a type of scientific evidence that suits it and cannot be substituted for anything else. Claims that are related to the nature of material things and their essence can only be connected to scientific proofs that are tangible and experiential. Claims that are connected to things like logic and numbers can only be accepted alongside established and sound proofs. Claims that are connected to civil rights and affairs can only be of benefit if they are accompanied by clear proofs upon which there is agreement that they are necessarily applicable. In this way a claim does not become an established scientific truth unless it is presented with the appropriate evidence. Evidence that may back up the claim does not have any scientific value unless there is conformity between them in terms of nature and type.

Bearing that in mind, what, then, is the scientific method that the scholars of Islam have laid down in order to verify the relationship between the piece of information and its source and to verify the scientific value of a claim according to what we have just mentioned?

The path that is taken to verify a piece of information:

In this path a number of specific techniques have emerged that cannot be found in history outside of the Islamic library, and they are: ḥadīth terminology (muṣṭala al-ḥadīth), authentification and classification (al-jarḥ wa al-taʿdīl) and the biographies of men (tarājum al-rijāl), and these three techniques intersect in order to lay down an exact standard for distinguishing a true piece of information from what is otherwise, and the difference between a rigorously authentic piece of information that brings about conjecture and that which brings about certainty.

A piece of information reaches the level of rigorously authentic (ṣiḥah) when it is firmly established, by way of exact analysis and research, that the chain of transmission is joined from the one who carries the piece of information all the way back to its source, and this transmission is accurate and just throughout such that there is no anomaly in its content and no defect in its narration. If the piece of information does not reach this level, because a ring in the chain of transmission is missing because we do not know who he is, or there is lack of confidence in his uprightness, or a lack of certainty regarding his memorisation and his precision, or the actual text that is being transmitted does not agree with what has been generally accepted, then it is not rigorously authentic.

But the rigorously authentic, in and of itself, has ascending levels, starting from strong probability to certain realization. If the chain of transmission that carries all the essentials of rigorous authenticity is comprised of single narrators who transmitted the information between themselves, then it is inevitable that it will be conjectural information according to the intellect. If the rings in the chain of transmission are comprised of two or three narrators then it is still conjectural information but it is stronger than the first example while remaining less than certain.

If each chain becomes chains, i.e. groups of narrators, then the intellect is satisfied that no lie has been made, and at that point the narrated information acquires the attribute of certainty, and it is what is called mass-transmitted (mutawātir) information.[2]

As for rigorously authentic information that is conjectural, the Islamic ruling does not consider it in matters of creed, because conjecture is of no benefit in this matter. The Qurʾān has prohibited (in the field of studying creed) the following of conjecture. This is as you have seen. However, it is considered in the scope of practical laws, to affirm mass-transmitted information and decisive evidence based on the fact that the Muslim–with regards to scientific conduct–is legally obligated to depend on the rigorously authentic that is conjectural. This is because it is valid for legal rulings to be based on rigorously authentic aḥādīth even if they are from a single chain of transmission (āḥād), and this is caution and prudence in the matter.

As for the rigorously authentic that is certain, what is called mass-transmitted information, it alone is what is considered when establishing the creed and indisputable established concepts. This means that man is not obliged to believe in something transmitted unless it is based on mass-transmitted proof. If the evidence is from a single chain of transmission then certainty in it depends on one’s own personal satisfaction and contentment.

You may ask me: How does the researcher know the conditions for a piece of information to be rigorously authentic? We have made it obligatory that he hears the chain of transmission, but how can he know about the contact that these narrators had with one another when they are all reliable, trustworthy and precise?

The answer: indeed both sciences of authentification and classification and the biographies of men have facilitated the path of this study and made easy the examination of the position that should be adopted.

In our Islamic library, there are several works that present details about the men whose names are found in any of the chains of transmission that we have.  You can stop and look at the biography of whomever you wish in order to classify and authenticate him and determine the age in which he lived, and thereby you will know his contemporaries whom he may have come into contact with.  What is strange is that those imams who concentrated on the gathering of the biographies of men–and they are trustworthy imams, and each one of them is considered to be an authority in this regard–were not worried, whilst looking for the truth and respecting the scientific standard, that any corruption would tarnish it, such that they put the points on their letters to provide a very exact description of each person regardless of whether they would conclude that such a person was unreliable and to be avoided or he was to be trusted and relied upon. 

And so forth, for in our Islamic library there are dictionaries of a different kind that have been compiled... dictionaries that accurately describe individuals and men; from then you can learn about what is false and not connected to the subject with the same ease that allows you to learn the accurate definition of a word and its explanation in the known dictionaries and lexicons of language.

As we have in our library a specific discipline that has been compiled in this regard, and it is what is called the discipline of ḥadīth terminology, and this technique includes all the various essentials for substantiating transmissions and pieces of information in accordance with a unique scientific method.

This is a brief summary of the scientific path that the scholars of Islam possess for substantiating transmissions and pieces of information, and there is no desire in these brief words to go into further detail and explanation, but whoever wishes to go further must apply himself to the techniques that we have pointed to in order to find the amazing, inimitable effort that was expended for the sake of extracting the scientific value from the transmitted “word”.

The path taken in order to substantiate claims:

This path differs, as we have said, according to how claims differ, and thus that which is connected to some material existence is dealt with by way of analysis and modification. It is inevitable that one rely on evidences and proofs from the five senses, i.e. on that which is called in modern parlance “experience and observation”. Therefore, it is the natural means of arriving at certainty in these kinds of matters.

Islam does not hesitate to adopt anything that has been definitely established by this means.

As for the opposite side, indeed science cannot present to us, even today, any scientific reality that contravenes any particular of Islamic theology.

Furthermore, nothing in the Book or the Sunnah has made us legally responsible for any clear, specific information connected to the material things in existence around us. Rather, the Book and the Sunnah have given us expressions that indicate them and prompt us to think about them and reflect on them, more so than giving us information about them, and this is by relying on the means and apparatuses that Allah has provided man with and which are the natural tool for removing the veil of ignorance from every material reality in existence.

This is the secret behind the Qurʾān not going into great detail with regards to the scientific laws that are connected to that which is tangible and observable. If the Qurʾān had done that, it would have thus become obligatory upon people to believe in these details, and that in turn would have burdened human minds with having to adopt scientific realities without arriving at them by way of the proofs that are harmonious with them, i.e. experience and observation. The Qurʾān has not burdened anyone with this task, and this is in order to honour the intellect and give it the freedom to use its natural method of unveiling tangible realities.

This is why, in these matters, you find the Qurʾān doing no more than pushing those endowed with intellect towards exploring and investigating by using their scientific, unveiling means. As for what it contains by way of information about the unseen, it has undoubtedly gone into great detail, because there is absolutely no way for experience and observation to arrive at that information. The only way to arrive at certainty in these matters is through Allah’s Book, Mighty and Majestic is He, or the mass-transmitted Sunnah.

This is the case for claims that are connected to tangible matters.

As for claims that are connected to the unseen and are not subject to any of the outward senses, there is that which you find in the Book or the mass-transmitted Sunnah by way of a clear text and there is that for which you do not find in either of them any clear account.

As for that which is found in clear texts, this comes within the scope of indisputable established concepts.

The path of certainty is either by way of the transmission of the Book or the transmission of the Sunnah, going back to the certainty of a mass-transmitted piece of information, which we have already discussed. Thus, the Qurʾān is the words that were revealed to Muhammad, may Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him, and they have come to us by way of mass transmission. Thus, there is absolutely no doubt that its words are Qurʾānic, and like the Qurʾān the same goes for the Sunnah if it has reached us by way of mass-transmission.

As for the veracity of what the Qurʾān itself contains, regardless of whether it is Qurʾān and has reached us from the Prophet, may Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him, with certainty, that is another scientific matter that falls under the second category of claims connected to abstract issues or unseen matters. Know that the underlying cause of that goes back to verifying the phenomenon of revelation in the lifetime of the Prophet, may Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him, and verifying the matter therein, which is based on proofs of certainty that rely on full examination and clear necessity, as we will show later in our study.

In other words, the decisive and established texts in the Book give us certainty regarding their contents, and this is after passing two stages of investigation: the first stage is verifying the chain of transmission of the Qurʾān from our master Muhammad, may Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him, to us. The second stage is verifying his, may Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him, informing that the Qurʾān is from Allah.

If the second stage is verified in light of the principles that we shall mention shortly, then the texts of the Book become a source of permanent certainty. This is the meaning of what we said before: (As for that which is found in clear texts, this comes within the scope of indisputable established concepts.)

After that there is no difference between the intellect having a means of digesting and understanding these unseen matters in its own way and not having those means, just like those unseen matters that we only know about because we have been veraciously informed of them, such as the establishment of the Hour, the gathering of the bodies, and the existence of Paradise, the Fire and the Angels. It is sufficient for these things to be realised with certainty by the fact that they have been informed of and dealt with by a clear text from the Book of Allah or a mass-transmitted ḥadīth from the Sunnah.

Despite the nature of the Qurʾān in this regard, it still presses us to reflect and investigate everything that it informs us of and have certainty in it, namely those unseen matters that the human intellect can go around and sense the reality thereof, such as the existence of Allah, Mighty and Majestic, the occurrence of that which is possible,[3] certain things being made the means for other things,[4] and similar matters.

The scholars of scholastic theology (ʿilm al-kalām) have gone deep into researching these matters by way of merely the intellect and speculation, without placing veracious information as an intermediary between them on the one hand and the intellect and speculation on the other. They have not done so because it is the only means but rather for the sake of opening another path of research towards certainty alongside the path of veracious information.

Thus, Islamic thought arrives at faith in Allah’s existence and His oneness, along with that which follows from it, by travelling along two paths, both of which are an exact and scientific method without any defect:

The first path begins with the stage of researching the phenomenon of revelation, and once that has been passed, one moves on to the stage of researching the veracity of what has been transmitted and the essentials of certainty being abundantly present therein. Once that has been passed, one can be certain of the matter and its veracity because of the veracity of its preliminary matters.

As for the second path, it is shorter. One researches the matter based on guidance from nothing but thinking and rational proofs, without moving too far away from prophecy and its reality and the Qurʾān and its veracity.

In the end, both paths lead the researcher to the truth. Indeed, they eventually meet and strengthen one another.

As for that which is not mentioned by a certain, mass-transmitted piece of information, without any clear or obvious text, then the means of knowing the truth therein are restricted to rational investigation alone, which is realised by way of two paths:

The First Path: To follow what is called dalālat al-iltizām[5]