Archive for February, 2010

Hasan Charles Le Gai Eaton departs this world

February 27, 2010

Photo, clockwise from left: Charles Le Gai Eaton, Fuad Nahdi, Martin Lings, Hamza Yusuf, Peter Sanders.  (Photo courtesy of Fareena Alam’s and Abdul-Rehman Malik’s Facebooks.)

Bismillah.  Shaykh Hasan Charles Le Gai Eaton, author of the excellent books King of the Castle and Islam & The Destiny of Man, returned to Allah this morning. His burial is at 1pm later today (Saturday 27th February 2010 / 12th Rabi’ al-Awwal 1431) at the Brockwood Cemetery in Woking, God-willing.  To Allah we belong, and to Him we are returning.

A brief biography can be found here on Wikipedia.

I read his Islam & The Destiny of Man as a teenager.  Imran Khan (the cricket legend) once mentioned this book as the most influential upon a certain phase of his life, and it seems to have also inspired Jemima Khan.

The only time I heard him lecture was in 1989/90 at a Muslim students’ event at Cambridge University, organised by Inam Siddiqui, Massoud Shadjareh, Arzu Merali, Najmuddin Hasan & others.  Eaton was joined on the panel by a Christian priest.  Elyas Patel, the lawyer from Dewsbury, asked him a question relating to the hadith qudsi narrated by Abu Hurayrah from the Prophet S that God says, Ana ‘inda zanni ‘abdi bi or “I am according to My slave-servant’s conception of Me …” (Bukhari).  Eaton’s reply, I think, was about being detached from the world, yet part of it.  I must confess, that is the only thing I remember him saying the whole evening, and even that is blurred, although come to think of it, he did mention “Remembrance of God” as well of course, and that is the title of his third major book.  The problem is that everything he said went way over my head at the time, since I was young and an utter salafi.  But his presence was amazing, and the way he spoke old-fashioned English was lovely.

The only other time I saw him was when he was seated in the front row of Shaykh Hamza Yusuf’s or Martin Lings’ lecture at The Globe Theatre in London during its Shakespeare & Islam season a few years ago (2003 or 2004), organised jointly with the Q-News team, for which alone, may Allah give them all Jannah.  He may have been at both lectures, actually. (Shaykh Hamza lectured on Othello & the Iago Factor – drama, melodrama, etc., whilst Martin Lings lectured for two hours at the age of 96 on Hamlet and themes from his Secret of Shakespeare, with even more lovely English than Eaton’s.)  Fuad Nahdi referred to Eaton in his introduction as his main shaykh in the UK.

I finally read Eaton’s King of the Castle last year – another brilliant book, full of insights.  It was once recommended-reading for Christian priests wanting arguments against atheism and agnosticism.  I made some mental notes of things I wanted to ask Eaton when I would finally have an audience with him, but that will have to wait until the Hereafter iA.  He recently also published his autobiography, entitled A Bad Beginning.

As friends have already said, Eaton is irreplaceable and his death marks the end of what might be called “his era,” which is a massive compliment in itself.  He was an enormous source of inspiration for several generations of people, tens of thousands if not millions.

May Allah shower him with His Mercy.


One Caliph to Rule Them All

February 26, 2010

Bismillah.  Here is a useful article by Rashad Ali, with good quotes from some of the classical jurists that should help in the debate about Islamism (political Islam).  I particularly like the paragraphs from the 18th-19th century Yemeni Imams San’ani and Shawkani, since they are very influential in Salafi circles, and you get Salafi Islamists as well as others (both Sunni and Shi’i, lest we forget).

al-Amir al-San’ani: ” … the implication here is that the Caliph referred to is that of a particular region because the people have never gathered together behind a single Caliph in all the lands of Islam since the time of the Abbasid State. Rather, the people of every region were independent with someone presiding over their affairs. If the hadith was taken to mean the overall Caliph which the people of Islam had united behind, then there would have been no benefit in the saying.” Subul al-Salaam, (volume 3, page 499)

Imam Shawkani also held this view: “As for when Islam spread and its territories expanded and its regions became distant [from each other], then it is known that in all of these regions loyalty was given to an Imam or Sultan… So there is no harm in the multiplicity of Imams and Sultans and it is obligatory for those people in whose land his orders and prohibitions become effective to give obedience to him after having giving bay’ah (a pledge of allegiance) to him. It is the same for the people of all the other regions.” Shawkani goes on to say that someone not understanding this will not benefit from the presentation of the dalil (scriptural evidence) as he will not “be able to comprehend it.” al-Sayl al-Jarraar (volume 4, page 512)

It is also worth reading Ibn Khaldun on the subject, as usual.  Much of the Muqaddimah is devoted to issues of political power but the section on the meaning of the caliphate and imamate is especially relevant (pp. 154-183 or Sections 23-30, Chapter III, of the abridged translation by Rosenthal/Dawood, available online here).


© Rashad Ali, 2009

Hizb ut-Tahrir, Jamaat-e-Islami, al-Ikhwan al-Muslimoon and al-Qaeda all have, as a fundamental aim: the establishment of a global dictatorship under the rule of one Caliph, an autocrat who will impose one interpretation of the Shar’iah over the entire globe. They intend to do this through unifying countries where there already exist Muslim majorities, and then launch a worldwide international effort at expanding this state through diplomatic and hostile means, i.e. warfare.

For them, there is a religious duty (fard) in which there is no dispute, that there must be a single caliphate encompassing the whole globe. There is no room for different interpretations, and anyone differing with them – especially with the likes of the Hizb and al-Qaeda, are upon Kufr (unbelief) and apostates from Islam. In fact, they would argue that all the Muslim scholars who have abandoned engaging in political activity for the sake of establishing such a super-state are upon misguidance, and Kufr, even if on the whole the Muslim jurists take the position, that there are different opinions on this issue, which are legitimate opinions – Ijtihadaat – and therefore we cannot start accusing others of being on un-Islamic positions for holding different views.

The fact is that whilst mainstream religious scholarship prefers unity to disunity, and an ideal of unified peaceful relations, it recognizes the practical and political reality that has existed throughout our history, that we have always had different states and empires. Scholarship has always recognized that there differences in all such issues which warrant recognition. Barking on about the obligation of having a leader/caliph/head of state- all of which carry the same meaning according to groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir, is not the same as proving that Muslim scholars historically or presently support the forceful unification of Muslim majority countries or expansionist states in the world. This is a false representation of classical and modern scholarship.

First of all, Muslim scholars have differed over the necessity of having a single political leadership. Rather it was considered acceptable to many scholars to have multiple political leaders.

Secondly, rejecting the concept of having a caliph and Imam or leadership was considered as erroneous (this should be differentiated form the notion of an expansionist state), but not Kufr. In fact, it was considered a form of extremism amongst classical scholars to exaggerate the issue of caliphate as there are many differences upon such issues.

Thirdly, political rebellion in order to remove leaderships by force, coup or militant means or through political agitation was considered to be: heresy and fisq (transgression); an aspect of deviant sectarian cultures such as those of the Khawarij; deemed outside of the way of mainstream Islamic teaching.  This is where the separation from classical tradition and Islamist ideological activism originates.

A question arises though about the apparently clear-cut evidences from prophetic tradition which are often cited to clearly oblige the necessity of one caliph and forbid multiple rulers. It is then claimed that such rules are clear-cut and definitive (Qat’i) permitting no other interpretations.

Methodological principles

The founder of Hizb ut-Tahrir, Taqi ul-Din al-Nabhani explains in volume 3 of Shakhsiya Islamiya page 186, in the chapter titled Mafhoom al-Shart (the concept of the condition or conditional clause):

“The mafhoom al-shart is when the rule depends upon something which has come in any of the forms of the conditional clause such as ‘if/when’ or any meaning implying a condition. It indicates the negation of the ruling when such a condition is not realised or is absent.”

Nabhani also states that absolute and general statements would be restricted by conditional clauses, or in fact more generally by the denotation (mantooq) as well as the connotation (mafhoom) of the speech.

“It is permitted to restrict the the mantooq (the meaning of the denotation of the speech), by the mafhoom (the connotation of the speech), whether this is when it is in the meaning of the statement and in harmony with it (mafhoom al-muwafaqa) or divergent from it (mafhoom al-mukhalafa) [such as the the conditional clause – he gives an example to substantiate this].” (Chapter: Restricting the Mantooq by the Mafhoom, page 255)

Hadiths about one leader and how they have been interpreted

So for example the hadith wherein the prophet is reported to have said as narrated by Sahih Muslim: “Whoever comes to you, and you are united under one man, and seeks to cause political dissention and separate your community (jama’ah), fight him” – would be interpreted as meaning when you are united under a single leadership. This would then restrict the meaning of other general texts which imply a single leadership according to Nabhani’s principles of interpretation, i.e. the specific meaning would be then understood to restrict the general implications of other texts such as, “If the pledge is given to two Caliphs, fight the latter,” as applying under a single leadership, not when there are many different states and leaderships already.

Imam al-Nawawi comments on the above hadith in the chapter: The ruling of dividing the affair of the Muslims when they are united, “Whoever comes to you and you are united …” stating that this refers to “those who rebel (kharaja) against the leader …”(!!) (page 444 of al-Minhaj bi-Sharh Sahih Muslim bin al-Hajjaj, Dar al-Marifa, Beirut – Lebanon)

He also states regarding the second hadith that “generally scholars have agreed that you cannot contract two caliphs… there is however the possibility of the opinion of Imam al-Haramayn [being correct].” (page 445) He explains that there is a possibility of different opinions in this matter. He states, “This is outside of the definitive matters (kharij min al-qawati’). And Maziri (the well-known Maliki commentator on Imam Muslim’s collection of hadith) has narrated this Qawl (opinion) from some of the later scholars of Usul, including Imam al-Haramayn.” So it is the position of Imam al-Haramayn that it is permitted to have multiple political leaders. Imam al-Nawawi is not of this view and he states “though it is an irregular position and conflicts with the views of the early scholars and the apparent, absolute meaning of the text.” (page 435) The important point is that it is not a definitive issue, it is subject to opinion and Ijtihad. Imam al-Haramayn is however one of the most widely accepted scholars agreed upon to reach the position of a Mujtahid Imam, and was the celebrated teacher of the revered Imam al-Ghazali.

What was Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwayni’s point of view? He explained this clearly in his text Ghiyath al-Umam fi Tiyath al-Zulam where he explained, “I do not deny the permissibility of appointing (two leaders) according to the need (haja) and enforcing both of their executive decisions as a religious duty. This however is a time without an overall Imam.” People have misconstrued his words, as implying that this is only when it is impossible. This is absolutely false. Not just from the quotation itself, which is that it is according to the need (not even necessity or darura), but Imam al-Haramayn explains in the following sentence, “if they agree to appoint an Imam over them, it is a right for the two leaders to submit to the decisions of this Imam in a manner he deems appropriate.” He goes on to discuss to Imams in two separate countries: neither would have claim to the leadership of all the Muslims. (pp. 168-169, Muassas al-Rayyan edition)

al-Amir al-San’ani comments on the statement, “Whoever left obedience to the Imam and separated from the community and then died, then his is a death of pagan ignorance,” as follows: “… the phrase, ‘… left obedience …’, means obedience to the Caliph with whom there is agreement. And the implication here is that the Caliph referred to is that of a particular region because the people have never gathered together behind a single Caliph in all the lands of Islam since the time of the Abbasid State. Rather, the people of every region were independent with someone presiding over their affairs. If the hadith was taken to mean the overall Caliph which the people of Islam had united behind, then there would have been no benefit in the saying.” Subul al-Salaam, (volume 3, page 499)

Imam Shawkani also held this view: “As for when Islam spread and its territories expanded and its regions became distant [from each other], then it is known that in all of these regions loyalty was given to an Imam or Sultan… So there is no harm in the multiplicity of Imams and Sultans and it is obligatory for those people in whose land his orders and prohibitions become effective to give obedience to him after having giving bay’ah (a pledge of allegiance) to him. It is the same for the people of all the other regions.” Shawkani goes on to say that someone not understanding this will not benefit from the presentation of the dalil (scriptural evidence) as he will not “be able to comprehend it.” al-Sayl al-Jarraar (volume 4, page 512)

Rejecting Imamate in principle

As for making the issue of political leadership a central aspect of faith, and declaring Kufr on ideas and people on the basis of such ideas, or even for rejecting the whole notion of having any kind of political leadership, this is considered a characteristic of extremists. As Imam al-Ghazali stated: “Know, however that error regarding the status of the Caliphate, whether or not establishing this office is a (communal) obligation, who qualifies for it, and related matters, cannot serve as grounds for condemning people as Unbelievers. Indeed Ibn al-Kaysan denied that there was any religious obligation to have a Caliphate at all; but this does not mean that he must be branded an Unbeliever. Nor do we pay any attention to those who exaggerate the matter of Imamate and equate recognition of the Imam with faith in God and His Messenger. Nor do we pay any attention to those people who oppose these people and brand them Unbelievers simply on the basis of their doctrine of on the Imamate. Both of these positions are extreme. For neither of the doctrines in question entails any claim that the Prophet perpetrated lies.” (On the Boundaries of Theological Tolerance in Islam, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali’s Faysal al-Tafriqa by Sherman A. Jackson, Oxford).

To clarify, it is considered a subsidiary branch of fatawa, not a fundamental aspect of religion. This is why someone denying any aspect of recognising political leaderships is considered by the mainstream scholars to be mistaken, at worst upon a deviant position, but not a non-Muslim or outside the community of believers.

Nihayat ul-Su’al fi-Sharh minhaj ul-Wusul lil-Qadi al-Baydawi ma al-hashiya Salam ul-Wusul li-Sharh al-Nihaya authored by Jamal ul-Din al-Asnawi and commentary by Shaykh Muhammad Bakhit al-Muti’ee, ‘Alam ul-Kutub edition, states:

“The obligation of appointing an Imam is from the branches of religious rulings (al-furu’ al-fiqhiyya), and without a doubt they are not from the fundamentals of religion (usul al-din).” (volume 3, page 92)

Political rebellion in order to forcefully remove leaderships

Imam al-Nawawi explains the orthodox position of the Sunni Muslim scholars: “We should not challenge nor dispute the legitimacy of the political leadership, nor come out in difference to them, unless we clearly see a evil perpetrated by them, definitively violating the principle of Islam. If this is seen then this evil should be denounced and you should speak the truth. As for khurooj (rebellion), this forbidden by consensus of all the Muslims.” (page 532).

So what about those who have decided to undertake military means to remove established rulers, despots and tyrants they may be, based upon their interpretation of such evidences? Well let us return to the writings of Imam al-Asnawi, Qadi al-Baydawi and Shaykh Muhammad Bakhit al-Muti’ee.

“Similarly the Khawarij, those who permit the slaughter of Muslims, taking their wealth and their famillies based upon an interpretation and speculative interpretation of the text; they are transgressors (fussaq) in our eyes, though not in theirs…” (volume 3, page 136)

Ironically Imam al-Nawawi (see above) applies the very same hadith stating that the meaning of the hadith which are politicized for their own ends by the likes of Hizb ut-Tahrir, implies that such people should themselves be fought for their crime of political rebellion!

On Prophetic birthdays and dates of death

February 25, 2010

Bismillah. An ancient Jewish tradition says that Prophets of God die on the same date as their birthday, thus nicely completing a cosmic, spiritual cycle. (I learnt this via a letter from a Jewish reader printed in a Christian newspaper, a couple of years ago).

The tradition certainly fits the last Prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon him).

A detailed fatwa about music and singing – by Sheikh Abdullah al-Judai

February 13, 2010

With the Name of Allah, All-Merciful, Most Merciful

The fatwa is given below, and in PDF format here: Juday – Music and Singing – Conclusions

Some of the Sheikh’s analysis of texts from the Qur’an and Hadith on the subject are found in this presentation here.

A brief biography of Sheikh ‘Abdullah al-Judai can be found here.

Ibn Khaldun on music & singing (pp. 328-331 of the Muqaddimah, abridged translation by Rosenthal/Dawood).


by Sheikh ‘Abdullah b. Yusuf al-Juday’

Taken from the author’s al-Musiqi wa l-Ghina’ fi Mizan al-Islam (“Music & Singing in the Balance of Islam”), Al Judai Research & Consultations, Leeds, UK, 1425/2004, pp. 597-601

Translation by Usama Hasan, 13th February 2010


After this detailed presentation of the evidence and legal ruling related to the two issues of music and singing in respective, detailed chapters, I now highlight briefly the main conclusions of this study:

  1. There is no consensus (ijma’) about the legal ruling on music and singing, whether considered together or as separate issues.
  2. There is no unequivocal text (nass) from the Noble, Generous Qur’an that speaks about these two issues.
  3. There is no unequivocal text (nass) from the Sunnah that definitely forbids music or singing.
  4. In the legal positions (madhahib) of the Companions and Successors, there is no clear prohibition of music or singing.  Rather, some of them listened to music and singing and permitted this.  Precursors of the view of prohibition began to appear after them, but without indisputable, clear-cut prohibition.
  5. To claim that the Imams of the four main Sunni Madhhabs agreed on the absolute prohibition of music or singing is inaccurate.
  6. The issues of music and singing return to the basic principle (asl) in matters of habits and objects, and the established position based on evidence in this regard is one of permission (ibahah), which cannot be modified without evidence.
  7. The basic principle (asl) in sounds and speech is the permissibility of making and listening to these, and similarly for humming.  A beautiful voice or sound, in itself, is a blessing (from God).
  8. All that is narrated in condemnation of music and singing, which some hold to, thinking it is legal evidence, includes very little that is clear and indisputable.  The latter is not authentically-narrated, and it is not permissible to base legal judgments on unsound narrations.
  9. Those texts from the authentic Sunnah which the prohibitors of music and singing think is legal evidence, are in reality evidence against them to falsify their claims.  Rather, there are numerous unequivocal texts (nusus) in the authentic Sunnah that confirm the basic principle and necessitate the view that music and singing are permissible.

A Principled Judgment on Music and Singing

  1. Musical instruments were found in Arabian society before Islam and remained afterwards: no clear-cut, authentic, indisputable text (nass) came to forbid these.
  2. Sounds arising from musical instruments are lawful (halal) in principle.  They remain within the sphere of permissibility unless they are used as a means towards disobedience (of God).
  3. The exact definition of permissible singing is: that which involves intrinsically-permissible words or lyrics, whether or not it is accompanied by music.
  4. Use of the permissible for purposes involving vice changes the ruling of permissibility to prohibition in that circumstance, not in general.
  5. There is no distinction between men and women in the ruling of permissibility for music and singing.
  6. Males listening to the singing of females, or vice-versa, is intrinsically harmless: this is authentically-narrated in several evidential texts.
  7. The usage and learning of music and singing are permissible (mubah), since there is no basis to forbid what is permissible in principle.A ruling derived from this is that practising the arts of music and singing, being attracted to these or listening to them, do not by themselves damage the integrity (‘adalah) of a person.
  8. To amuse oneself by songs, whether these are called “Islamic” or “national” or other, is permissible and allowed (mubah ja’iz), whether accompanied by music or not, as long as the lyrics are intrinsically acceptable (mashru’ah).As for the remembrance of Allah Exalted by words of sanctification and praise, and as for prayers of blessing upon His Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, it is acceptable and encouraged to gather together for such purposes.  It is permissible to do this melodiously (bi l-taghanni), as it is permissible to recite the Qur’an melodiously.  However, it should be noted that all of this is worship (‘ibadah) and not amusement (lahw), and so it cannot be accompanied by music because the latter is a form of amusement, and amusement cannot be a means of worship.  Similarly, it was disliked to use the trumpet or bell to call people for prayer, and the announcement by a human voice (adhan) was legislated instead.
  9. The ruling on music and singing does not differ in our times from previous ages.  Any judgment on what is popular in these matters is based on the individual lyrics.  If these lead to a prohibited matter, then the judgment is one of prohibition (haram).  If it (permissible music and singing) is accompanied by prohibited scenes, such as the uncovering of private parts (‘awrah), the forbiddance would extened to looking at such scenes, but not to the music and singing itself.

I conclude with the following words:

Firstly, music and singing are forms of amusement (lahw), so the basic principle is that they should be used to realise recognised benefits (maslahah mu’tabarah) such as expressing acceptable happiness or warding off boredom and tedium.  If they are used too much, the benefits will be correspondingly obstructed.  The permissible is harmless as long as it does not overcome the obligatory or recommended, or lead to what is prohibited or disliked, in which case it changes from being permissible to being prohibited or disliked.

Secondly, the fact that many people exceed the bounds of permissibility with such amusement does not falsify the basic principle regarding music and singing.  What is rejected of their actions is what is excessive, and it is not allowed to make changing times or improper use into a reason to prohibit the permissible.  Keeping people to the basic principle of the Law is safest for the responsibility of the person of knowledge, even if this agrees with the desires of a person of lust, for the sin is not incurred by doing what is lawful (halal), but by falling into the prohibited (haram).

Thirdly, the way to recognise the lawful (halal), the prohibited (haram) and the major symbols (sha’a’ir) of Islam is the Book and the authentic Sunnah, based upon clear principles and evident rules. It is not by rejected and fabricated ahadith, or by opinions devoid of proof or baseless views.  Otherwise, whoever wished to could say whatever they wanted, and people’s religion would become corrupted for them.  This is just one issue where you can see how far false narrations and weak opinions have played with the views of many people, whilst infallibility is only for the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, in what he conveyed on the authority of his Lord, Most Exalted.

This conclusion to this study will not agree with the wishes of many people, but it is enough for me that I have only arrived at it in the light of the evidence and proof of the Law, following the guidance of the basic principles and proper analysis in matters of disagreement with my opponents.

Thus, if you would like to criticise me in any aspect, let it be with arguments from the Book, the authentic Sunnah or agreed principles, not with mere opinion, for one opinion defeats another by its argument.  The most critical thing that can be said about someone who holds such as a view (as mine), it that he is to be excused according to the extent of his striving (ijtihad) and rewarded for his good intentions. Perfection is neither my attribute nor yours, and I have sought an excuse for you despite my disagreeing with your view and refuting it.

Further, I entreat you by Allah, do not refer the argument to the view of the “minority” or the “majority,” or to the dominant fatwa in a particular country, for these are not the refuges of intelligent authorities but rather, such is the state of those who follow uncritically.  And that is enough for you!

Moreover, I entreat you by Allah, do not say to me, “Your view is a tribulation (fitnah),” for tribulation lies in what opposes the message of the Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, as Allah Exalted said, “Let those who oppose his command beware that a tribulation or painful punishment may befall them.” (Al-Nur or Light, 24:63)  I have referred both you and me in judgment to what the Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, brought: I have arrived at a view different to yours.  Tribulation lies in concealing the verdict of the Law and covering it up, imagining that exposing it will mislead the masses.

It is Allah alone whom I ask for forgiveness for slips of the mind and tongue, and excesses of the pen and hand.

I also ask Him, Blessed and Exalted, to accept from me my efforts with this book, and similarly for those who have helped me from my family and brethren.  I ask Him to make this and other studies of mine examples that are followed in analysing many issues for this nation: by referring to principles and not to disagreement.  He is the One Whose Help is Sought, and there is no change of state or power except by Him.

You are Glorified, O Allah, and Praised.  There is no god but You.  I seek Your forgiveness and turn in repentance to You.

May Allah bless our master Muhammad, his family and companions, and grant them peace.

An Introduction to the Qur’an, The Mysterious Letters & Commentary on Selected Texts and Themes

February 9, 2010

Bismillah.  These documents are based on texts originally written for the Scriptural Reasoning website, to support the practice whereby Jews, Christians and Muslims read and discuss their scriptures together.

The versions here are updated and greatly expanded, especially the 10-page section on the “Mysterious Letters” in the Introduction to the Qur’an.

The text on “Wisdom and Folly” includes sections from the Kitab al-Adhkiya’ (“Tales of the Wise”) by Ibn al-Jawzi.

The text on “Repentance” includes hadiths on the subject from Riyad al-Salihin (“Gardens of the Righteous”) by Imam al-Nawawi.

The texts are suitable for interfaith study or as standalone study of Islam.

0 – An Introduction to the Quran

1- COMMON HUMANITY – Islamic Texts

2- REVELATION – Islamic Texts

3- LONGING – Islamic Texts


5- MONEY AND DEBT – Islamic Texts

6- WISDOM AND FOLLY – Islamic Texts

7- REPENTANCE – Islamic Texts