Posts Tagged ‘Islam’

THE AGE OF AISHA AT MARRIAGE

September 26, 2021

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

THE AGE OF AISHA AT MARRIAGE

Abridged translation from Islam Bahiri, Aisha’s marriage to the Prophet aged nine – a big mistake in the books of Hadith (in Arabic), Al-Yawm al-Sabi’, 15th July 2008. With additions from Salahi (2013).

Translation and editing by Usama Hasan

ABSTRACT

Aisha was about 18 years old when her marriage to the Prophet was consummated, and not nine.  The narrations of Bukhari and Muslim saying otherwise are dubious in their texts and chains of transmission.  They contradict the law (Sharia), the intellect, authentic hadiths, and the customs, habits and ethos of the age of Prophethood.  Furthermore, they are completely incongruous with the timeline of the Prophetic mission.

1   The hadith of Bukhari about the age of Aisha at marriage

Imam Bukhari included this hadith with five slightly-different chains of narration in his Sahih:

Aisha said: The Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, married me when I was six years old. We then came to Medina and I gave myself to him: I was nine years old then.

2         Timeline of the Prophetic Mission

The foundational sources of Islamic history and of the life of the Prophet overwhelmingly agree on the following timeline of the Prophetic mission:[1]

570-1 CE: Birth of the Prophet

610: Beginning of the Prophetic mission (aged 40)

623: Migration (Hijrah) to Medina, after 13 years of the mission in Mecca

632-3: Death of the Prophet in Medina, after 10 years of his mission there.

3         Historical critique of the narration of Bukhari

According to the narration of Bukhari, the Prophet married Aisha in 620 when she was six, and the marriage was consummated in 623 when she was nine. This would mean that she was born in 614, four years into the Prophet’s mission. This is a glaring error, as we shall now show.

3.1        Comparing Aisha’s age to that of her older sister Asma

The above historical sources are unanimous that Asma was 10 years older than Aisha, and that Asma was born 27 years before the Hijrah, i.e. in 596.

Thus:

Asma was born in 596: she was 14 when the Prophetic mission began and 27 at the time of the Hijrah.

Aisha was born in 606: she was 4 when the Prophetic mission began and 17 at the time of the Hijrah. She was married at 14; the marriage was consummated when she was 17, or 18 if we allow for a few months after the Hijrah.

The historical sources are unanimous that Asma died soon after a famous historical incident, the death of her son Abdullah bin Zubayr at the hands of Hajjaj bin Yusuf in 73 H, when she was aged 100.

Thus, she was born in 596 and died c. 693-696.[2]

3.2        Tabari: all of Abu Bakr’s children were born before the Prophetic mission

The previous point is in agreement with Tabari’s statement that all of Abu Bakr’s children, including Asma and Aisha, were born before the Prophetic mission.

When the Prophetic mission began, Asma was 14 and Aisha was 4. This further confirms the weakness of Bukhari’s narration.

3.3        Comparing Aisha’s age to that of Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter

Ibn Hajar, author of the premier commentary on Bukhari, mentions a narration in his Al-Isabah that Fatima was born in the year of the rebuilding of the Ka’bah, when the Prophet was 35 years old, and that she was 5 years older than Aisha.

According to this, Aisha would have been born around the time of the Prophetic mission. She would then have been 13 at the time of the Hijrah, and not 9 as the narration of Bukhari says.

This again illustrates that the narration of Bukhari is unreliable and suffers from what is known as idtirab (inconsistency) in Hadith terminology.

[NB: Ibn Hajar does not appear to have noticed this inconsistency, because in his same work Al-Isabah, he repeats that Aisha was born four years into the Prophet’s mission, even though other narrations, some of which he himself mentions, indicates that she was born several years before this. – U.H.]

3.4        Aisha’s age when she accepted Islam

Ibn Kathir mentions in Al-Bidayah wa l-Nihayah that “amongst the females who accepted Islam during the first three years of the Prophetic mission were Asma and Aisha. This was whilst the Prophet’s preaching was covert. Then, in the fourth year of his mission, God commanded him to announce his mission publicly.”

This again contradicts the original narration of Bukhari, since the latter implies that Aisha was born in the fourth year of the Prophetic mission.

However, according to the correct calculation, Aisha was born 4 years before the Prophetic mission began and so was 7 when she accepted Islam, being just about old enough to do so.

[Salahi (p. 204) further adds that Aisha is mentioned in Ibn Ishaq’s Sirah, the earliest book on the biography of the Prophet, amongst the first fifty people to accept Islam.  She is nineteenth on the list. There are no children on the list, although Ibn Ishaq mentions that she was young.  Salahi estimates that she must have been at least ten, making her 18 at the time of her marriage. – U.H.]

3.5        Aisha’s early memories of Islam

Imam Bukhari himself narrates in a chapter, “Abu Bakr’s neighbouring the Prophet” that Aisha said:

“My earliest memories are of my parents already practising Islam. The Prophet would visit us daily, morning and evening. When the Muslims were persecuted, Abu Bakr left, intending to migrate to Abyssinia.” [He was persuaded to return from the outskirts of Mecca. – U.H.]

The historical sources are unanimous that the first Muslim migration to Abyssinia was in Year 5 of the Prophetic mission. If Aisha was born in Year 4 of the Prophetic mission, there is no way she could have remembered her father heading towards Abyssinia. But the correct date for her birth is 4 years before the Prophetic mission: this is consistent with her remembering her father’s attempted journey, when she would have been around 9 years old.

3.6        The appropriate age of marriage

In his Musnad, section on Aisha, Imam Ahmad narrates that when the Prophet’s first wife Khadijah bint Khuwaylid died, Khawlah bint Hakeem, wife of Uthman bin Maz’oon, came to the Prophet and suggested that he should remarry. When the Prophet asked to whom, she said,

“A virgin or a matron, as you wish.”

The Prophet replied, “A virgin.”

Khawlah then recommended Aisha.

This establishes that Aisha was ready for marriage at this time, and that the Prophet did not need to wait for a few years.

The Qur’an (Women, 4:6) confirms that the minimum age of marriage is the same as that for financial responsibility.

Therefore, there is no way that Aisha could have been only 6 years old at this time.

3.7        Aisha’s previous engagement

In his Musnad, Imam Ahmad also narrates from Khawlah bint Hakeem that Abu Bakr had already agreed with Mut’im bin Adi that Aisha would marry the latter’s son, Jubayr bin Mut’im.  Abu Bakr then called off this engagement so that she could marry the Prophet.

Now, there is no way that Abu Bakr would have engaged her to Jubayr after the beginning of the Prophet’s mission, because Mut’im and his family were polytheists; Jubayr even fought against the Muslims at the Battles of Badr and Uhud.  Thus, this engagement must have been when Jubayr and Aisha were both children, before the Prophet’s mission began.  This again confirms that Aisha could not have been born four years into the Prophet’s mission; in fact, she was born four years before it began, as we have established above.

3.8        Aisha remembering the revelation of a Qur’anic verse as a child

Imam Bukhari narrates that Aisha said: “I was a little girl playing when this verse was revealed to Muhammad: Nay, the Hour is their appointed time; the Hour is more calamitous and more bitter.[3]

Now, it is established that Surat al-Qamar was revealed c. 614 CE, around four years into the Prophet’s mission.  This again is consistent with the correct view that Aisha would have been around 8 years old at this time: this fits with her saying, “I was a little girl playing then.”

3.9        A virgin must not be married without her permission

Imam Bukhari also narrates from the Prophet that he said, “A virgin must not be married without her permission.” 

It is impossible that the Prophet could say such a thing and do the opposite, for if the original hadith is to be believed, Aisha was six years old and playing with her friends and dolls when she got married – there is no mention of her permission being asked.  And even if it had been, it would have no Sharia acceptability, since it was before her age of responsibility, puberty and intellectual maturity.

3.10    Aisha nurses the wounded at the Battle of Uhud

[Salahi reminds us that Imam Bukhari also quotes that Aisha, along with Umm Salamah, nursed the Muslim soldiers at the Battle of Uhud, which took place 18 months after her marriage.[4]  Had she been nine upon marriage, she would have been only eleven at this time.  The Prophet did not allow anyone under 15 to join the army as a soldier – would he have allowed a girl of 11 to come along?  (Abdullah bin Umar turned 15 between the Battles of Badr and Uhud: he was not allowed to participate at Badr, but was allowed at Uhud.)]

4         Criticism of the chain of transmission

The original hadith has five routes of narration in Sahih Al-Bukhari.

4.1        The narrations in Bukhari are all suspect, because they are those of Hisham bin ‘Urwah to the people of Iraq

The five different chains of transmission (isnad) given by Imam Bukhari all have two narrators between him and Hisham bin ‘Urwah, who narrates from his father ‘Urwah from Aisha.  Thus, the hadith is singly-narrated by Hisham, Urwah and Aisha.  The two narrators between Bukhari and Hisham in each case are all people of Iraq:

  • Farwah bin Abi l-Mighra’ and Ali bin Mishar
  • ‘Ubayd bin Isma’il and Abu Usamah
  • Mu’alla bin Asad and Wuhayb
  • Muhammad bin Yusuf and Sufyan [bin ‘Uyaynah]
  • Qabisah bin ‘Uqbah and Sufyan [bin ‘Uyaynah]

Hisham appears to be the weak link in this chain.  Ibn Hajar narrates in his Hady al-Sari as well as in his Tahdhib that Imam Malik did not approve of Hisham’s narrations to the people of Iraq. Imam Malik said that Hisham went to Kufa in Iraq three times to narrate hadiths: the first time, he said: “My father narrated to me that he heard Aisha …” The second time, he said: “My father informed me on the authority of Aisha …”  The third time, he said: “My father, on the authority of Aisha …”

In other words, Imam Malik did not accept Hisham’s narrations in Iraq, since he went there to narrate in his old age when his memory had faltered somewhat, and he practised tadlis, i.e. obscuring or omitting the mode of transmission, making the narration suspect. 

4.2        Hisham never narrated these hadiths in Medina: the Muwatta omits them completely

Furthermore, Imam Malik learnt hadiths directly from Hisham in Medina for many years, but the age of Aisha at marriage is not mentioned in the Muwatta at all.  Thus, Hisham never mentioned this narration at all in Medina, but only in Iraq where his narrations are suspect anyway.  These considerations strengthen the earlier historical ones, confirming that the hadith about the age of Aisha is seriously flawed.

5         Conclusion

Islam Bahiri concludes:

Aisha was about 18 years old when her marriage to the Prophet was consummated, and not nine.  The narrations of Bukhari and Muslim saying otherwise are textually corrupt and dubious in their chains of transmission.  They contradict the law (Sharia), the intellect, authentic hadiths, and the customs, habits and ethos of the age of Prophethood.  Furthermore, they are completely incongruous with the timeline of the Prophetic mission.

Thus, we are not obliged to revere Bukhari and Muslim more than the Prophet, peace be upon him.  We have the right to reject what they accepted and accept what they rejected.  Islam is neither confined to the scholars of Hadith and Fiqh, nor to their time.  Thus, we are able to critique, correct and evaluate the books of Hadith, Fiqh, Sirah and Tafsir.  We are able to reject the numerous mistakes and fabrications found in them. In the end, these books are a purely human heritage: we are not obliged, and in fact it does not befit us, to imbue them with sacredness or divinity.  We are equal human beings to the people of our history.

6         References

  1. Islam Bahiri, Aisha’s marriage to the Prophet aged nine – a big mistake (or lie) in the books of Hadith (in Arabic), Al-Yawm al-Sabi’, 15th July 2008. Reproduced in Jamal al-Banna, Tajrid al-Bukhari wa Muslim min al-ahadith allati la tulzim [Expunging Bukhari and Muslim of non-binding hadiths], Da’wah al-Ihya’ al-Islamiyyah, Cairo, Dhu l-Qi’dah 1429 / November 2008.

  2. Adil Salahi, Muhammad – His Character and Conduct, Islamic Foundation, Markfield, 2013, pp. 203-5

[1] Al Kamil fi l-Tarikh by Ibn al-Athir; Tarikh Dimashq by Ibn ‘Asakir; Siyar A’lam al-Nubala’ by Dhahabi; Tarikh by Tabari; Al-Bidayah wa l-Nihayah by Ibn Kathir; Tarikh Baghdad by Khatib Baghdadi; Wafayat al-A’yan by Ibn Khillakan and many others.

[2] The three years’ uncertainty in her date of death is simply due to uncertainty between the pre-Islamic lunisolar Arabian calendar and the Islamic lunar calendar: over a century, the two differ by three years. – U.H.

[3] Qur’an, Surat al-Qamar, The Moon, 54:46

[4] Bukhari, Sahih, Kitab al-Jihad wa l-Siyar (Book of War and Military Expeditions), Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, Beirut, 1423/2002, p. 530, no. 2880.

Pakistan – improvement in the rights of religious minorities under Imran Khan’s government, 2018-2020

June 3, 2021
There are 2-3 million Pakistani Christians, about 1.3% of the country’s population.

Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers

Webinar: Protecting the Rights of Religious Minorities in the Age of COVID-19

with Minister Ijaz Alam Augustine,

Provincial Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Affairs in Punjab, Pakistan.

28th May, 2020 – notes by Usama Hasan

Minister: 

  1. We have been in power for 2 years.  In Punjab [Pakistan’s most populous province, with over half of Pakistan’s population of approximately 220 million people], we have achieved gains for minorities that had not happened in the previous 70 years. [In 2019, Pakistan celebrated 72 years since Independence.]

  2. The new Government of Punjab introduced a Minority Empowerment Package within its first 100 days. This has now been passed.  It addresses the following:

    • Education – access to universities, where there is a 2% quota for minorities.

    • Prisons – reprieve for inmates if they turn to religion & reading scripture, on a par with Muslims.

    • Hate speech – control of.  This is prevalent in Pakistan: incitement of religious hatred.

    • Previously, religious subjects were Islamic Studies only.  Now, 60% is ethics & 40% according to one’s own religion, eg Bible for Christians, Gita for Hindus, Granth for Sikhs.

    • Religious tourism: our religious heritage was neglected for 70 years, including religious tourism & pilgrimage.  Eg St. Thomas, disciple of Jesus, settled in Taxila for a while.  Some 200-year-old churches had fallen into disrepair. These are now being repaired and maintained.

    • Jobs for minorities – we have a 5% government jobs quota for minorities, secured by the previous minister Shahbaz Shareef, but this was not being fulfilled.  But minorities are not achieving university degrees (cf. 1 above).

  3. Punjab, most populous province in Pakistan, is the first to achieve this milestone of 2% quota for religious minorities in HE & 5% in government jobs.  Other provinces are following example set by Punjab.

  4. In Punjab, we set up a board to remove religious hate speech from our educational textbooks.  The hate speech was leading to many blasphemy cases also being brought against people from religious minorities.

  5. Punjab was the first province to set up a high-level commission on forced conversion to Islam, especially of girls for marriage. The Federal government followed us to set up a national mechanism.  The commission assesses whether a person is mature enough to change religions, especially for marriage, and whether the conversion is forced or of a free will.

  6. Many forced conversions happened in underdeveloped, underprivileged, slum-like areas.  We set up a ‘modern village’ in Christian-dominated Yuhannabad, population 300,000.  This will eventually become a modern city. Funds have been earmarked for roads, water, sanitation, etc.

  7. The funds for this development were doubled by Imran Khan’s government from Rs. 500 million [£2.5 million] to Rs. 1 billion [£5 million].

  8. After Imran Khan’s government released Asia Bibi, we have reduced the current blasphemy cases from hundreds to 20-25 only.  This is by introducing safeguards against frivolous blasphemy cases that were increasing before in number.

  9. With help from the EU, we have improved our human rights record.  We have district-level human rights committees now, including minority representation, to assess local human rights issues.  This was part of the agreement for GSP+, a trade agreement between the EU and Pakistan.

  10. When we have cases of religious discrimination reported, I visit the place personally.

  11. Pakistan has about 40 24/7 Christian TV channels, unregistered with the regulator PEMRA.  But the government has never taken any action against them.

  12. These are some of our achievements & humble contributions in Punjab.  This government has another 3 years, so we hope to achieve more by the grace of God:  reduce discrimination & hate-speech, improve tolerance and create a more harmonious society.

  13. We think the Marrakesh Declaration is a great resource.  We wish to have a major interfaith conference in Pakistan.  We proposed an interfaith forum in Punjab, which is in the process of being legally registered, & to have a major interfaith dialogue conference in Lahore.  Our interfaith policy is being developed, influenced by the Marrakesh Declaration, with the input of religious minorities.

  14. The Imran Khan government announced that all nationalised religious schools would be returned to the respective religious minorities. This includes the Ahmadis.

  15. There is a current blasphemy case involving Ahmadis – we are dealing with it sensitively.

  16. Covid-19 & religious minorities: there was some scapegoating of the Tablighi Jamaat early in the crisis – they were accused of having brought covid-19 to Pakistan and spread it here.  But this scapegoating was quickly eliminated – we have no concept of majority/minority with regard to covid, since we are all in this together.

  17. With covid, our curve in Pakistan is still rising and has not flattened yet. We are keen that structural discrimination against minorities is not increased or enhanced because of the covid crisis.

  18. Regarding women’s and youth empowerment, our work on higher education covers some of that.

  19. We have also offered 5,000 people (60% youth, 40% women) via 177 training centres in Punjab, free skills development & professional/technical training programme, with a sufficient monthly stipend of Rs 2,000 [£10].  We then provide them with Rs. 500,000 [£2,500] grant each for business start-up, entrepreneurship & development.

  20. Sadly, no Christian organisation or country has contacted us about St. Thomas’ heritage in Pakistan, eg Taxila & for the last 72 years: there has been no major contact from the Vatican or Church of England.  In contrast, embassies of Buddhist-majority countries have helped to fund the preservation of Buddhist sites.
Pakistan’s flag: the green represents the country’s Muslims, whilst the white strip on one edge represents religious minorities.

40 Years a Muslim – In Memoriam: Merryl Wyn Davies of Merthyr Tydfil (1949-2021)

February 4, 2021
Merryl Wyn Davies giving concluding remarks at the inaugural Ibn Rushd lecture. Photo (c) Muslim Institute

Introduction: British converts to Islam in the 1970s/80s: Stevens, Davis & Davies

Bismillah. Growing up in a devout, immigrant Pakistani Muslim family in London in the 1970s & 80s amidst a somewhat-racist society, my experience was that it was natural that white, European converts to Islam would attract a lot of attention within Muslim communities. The most famous convert/revert/new-Muslim was, of course, Yusuf Islam: formerly, the musician Cat Stevens.

But there were also a couple of female converts who became household names in Muslim activist circles: Maryam Davis & Merryl Wyn Davies. Naturally, these two women were often confused for each other, and I imagine that many people might have thought they were the same person, with Merryl adopting the name Maryam upon conversion. However, as MWD made clear in this interview with Wales Online on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, she never changed her name. (Her reasoning was spot-on: there is no Islamic requirement for anyone to adopt an Arabic name; the Prophet, peace be upon him, only changed names that had idolatrous, polytheistic or bad connotations. The use of an Arabic or “Islamic” name is entirely up to the individual, depending on their journey: there are pros and cons involved. Many people use both their original name plus a “Muslim” name as well, depending on the situation.)

Maryam Davis’ conversion story, 1980s

As a teenager, I remember attending a lecture to a Muslim audience by one of them about the story of her conversion: I’m fairly, although not entirely, sure that this was Maryam Davis. She began by clarifying the difference between her and the other “MD”: she was the one without the ‘e’ in her surname: she said that ‘Davies’ was a Welsh surname whilst ‘Davis’ was English [I think of Steve Davis, the snooker legend].

(Or was it MWD, saying that she did have the ‘e’ ?) The thing that struck me most about Maryam Davis’ lecture was when she spoke of different events as forming a connected, unified thread through her life: I’d never heard such a reflection before, but it prepared me for the Sufi commentary that I read decades later about the Qur’anic story of Musa (Moses) & Khidr (the “Green Man” who is connected to the English legends of St. George & the “Green Man” of nature), where the 3 actions for which Moses rebuked Khidr were all reflections of incidents from Moses’ own life. The only other thing that I remember from this lecture is that MD had witnessed the so-called “Islamic [read: islamist] Revolution” in Iran, and it had helped to inspire her to convert. “Imagine a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people, all shouting Allahu Akbar [God is Greater / God is Greatest] ?” she said.

(I haven’t heard any news about Maryam Davis since the 1980s, and would be grateful if anyone can provide some.)

Merryl Wyn Davies & the Muslim Institute, 2010s-2020s

The thing is, MWD had also been influenced by the “Islamic [read: islamist] Revolution” (in Muslim circles, who wasn’t?), as she mentioned in her 2011 Wales Online interview. But she was later instrumental, along with Prof Zia Sardar & Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, in transforming the Muslim Institute, which had been strongly pro-Khomeinist (Shia islamist) under the leadership of Dr Kalim Siddiqui during the 80s & 90s, into a Fellowship-based organisation since the 2010s that is overwhelmingly critical of islamism. For example, its Winter Gathering 2019 was themed, Iran – The Revolution Goes Wrong.

See also this short but insightful speech by MWD at the MI’s inaugural Ibn Rushd lecture.

The Islamic Education Conference, Mecca, 1977

Islamic Education Series, publ. Hodder & Stoughton / King Abdulaziz University. Proceedings of Muslim World League conference, 1977. Photo (c) Usama Hasan, 2021

I first met MWD around 2010/11 at a MECO iftar in Oxford. She told me about the new Fellowship-based revamping of the Muslim Institute and encouraged me to join, which I did. After that, I met her almost every time I attended an MI event, which was probably every other year on average. So in total, I only met her half a dozen times or so, but it was always very inspiring to meet her and she left a deep impression on me because of her welcoming nature and love of life, people and knowledge.

She once told me that she had covered the above conference in Mecca, hosted by the Muslim World League and the King Abdul Aziz University, for the BBC or other international, English media. Given the difficulties for a woman to direct and produce media interviews in Saudi at the time, she had turned her hotel room into a makeshift studio. My recollection of her account is that this was at the Intercontinental Hotel that was just outside Mecca, outside the limits of the haram sanctuary, so non-Muslims are allowed to stay there (MWD converted to Islam a few years after the 1977 conference, in 1981).

The Islamic Education Conference of 1977 was clearly very influential: 313 scholars from around the world assembled in Mecca. (Almost certainly, the number 313 was deliberately chosen to match the number of Muslim warriors at the first, historic and decisive battle between Islam and its 1,000-strong enemy at Badr, between Mecca and Medina.) It also came about a year after the 1976 World of Islam festival in London that notably attracted an editorial in The Times newspaper. (I have listened to audio recordings of all the main lectures from the WOI festival, along with Q+A.) Many scholars would have attended both conferences.

Standard blurb for every volume of the Islamic Education Series, publ. Hodder & Stoughton / King Abdulaziz University. Proceedings of Muslim World League conference, 1977. Photo (c) Usama Hasan, 2021

The influence of this conference around the Muslim world is obvious from a list of the editors and contributors to each volume:

  1. Aims & Objectives of Islamic Education, ed. Syed Naqib Al-Attas
  2. Crisis in Muslim Education, ed. Syed Sajad Husain & Syed Ali Ashraf
  3. Education & Society in the Muslim World, ed. Mohammad Wasiullah Khan
  4. Curriculum & Teacher Education, ed. Muhammad Hamid Al-Afendi & Nabi Ahmed Baloch
  5. Social & Natural Sciences, ed. Ismail Rajhi Al-Faruqi & Abdullah Omar Naseef
  6. Philosophy, Literature & Fine Arts, ed. Seyyed Hossein Nasr

Further Contributors:

Saeed Ateyya Abu Aali, Abdul Haq Ansari, Muhammad Anwar, Muhammad al-Aroosi, Zaki Badawi, Ilyas Ba-Yunus, Ahmad al-Beely, AK Brohi, Ibrahim Titus Burckhardt, Abdul G Chaudhri, Prince Muhammad al-Faisal, Syed Altaf Gauhar, MM Ghaly, Abdul Hamid al-Hashimi, Peter Hobson (Ismail Abdul Baqi), SM Hossain, Sayyid Waqar Ahmad Husaini, Ahmad Salah Jamjoom, Kazi A Kadir, Syed Ali Muhammad Khusro, Abdul Halim Khaldoon Kinany, Ahmed Rifat Abdul Latif, Saibo Mohamed Mauroof, Jean-Louis Michon (Ali Abdul Khaliq), Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi, HM Abdul Quddoos Qasmi, Muhammad Qutb, Afzalur Rahman, Ata-ur-Rahman, Muhammad Al-Ahmed Al-Rasheed, Ghulam Nabi Saqib, AFA Sayeed, Ahmed Shalabi, Muhammad Ansar Ahmed Shami, Hadi Sharifi, Abdul Hamid Siddiqui, Kalim Siddiqui, Mohammad Nejatullah Siddiqui, Abdul Hamid Abu Suleiman, Basheer Tom, SM Yusuf.

(The reader will notice that the above list of scholars is entirely male. This underlines MWD’s perseverance to conduct dozens of interviews as a young, Welsh woman in a very male world on the outskirts of Mecca.)

Islamic Education Series, publ. Hodder & Stoughton / King Abdulaziz University. Proceedings of Muslim World League conference, 1977. Photo (c) Usama Hasan, 2021

I have actually never read these volumes, although they’ve been in my possession for over 20 years, but I plan to do so now God-willing, and partly to honour Merryl.

Back to the Muslim Institute, 2010s

At the 2016 Winter Gathering, during the “ISIS years,” I was asked to speak about Wahhabism. I think I was expected to focus on its negatives, given a talk I had given there 3 years earlier in 2013 that had been written up as an anti-Wahhabi polemic by Andrew Brown of The Guardian. (I had begun that or an earlier talk by saying what an honour it was to address the annual Muslim Institute gathering for the first time, in the presence of so many honourable friends and especially childhood inspirations: in the latter category, I specifically named Ziauddin Sardar and Merryl Wyn Davies, who inspired me separately but obviously did great work together for decades.)

However, as a Wahhabi-Sufi or Salafi-Sufi (“Salufi”), the gist of my talk was that the negatives were well-known, and I focussed on the positives of Wahhabism/Salafism: a strict egalitarianism and rejection of ultimate authorities besides God and His Prophet; a rejection of superstition and other harmful innovations, as opposed to good innovations; an emphasis on a return to the authentic sources, reason and spirit of Islam; promotion of some women’s rights, including female imams & women’s rights to divorce; a rejection of madhhabism, including the absurd practices of multiple prayer-services according to the different timings and methods of schools such as the Hanafi & Shafi’i. (Multiple prayer-services and sectarian minbars/pulpits had been correctly abolished under Wahhabi/Salafi influence in Mecca, Damascus & elsewhere.)

I argued that the MI crowd in practice were influenced positively by aspects of Wahhabism, since they weren’t into madhhabism, rigid legalism or superstition and fake sufism. I also argued that the narrow-mindedness and intolerance of many Wahhabi groups was not unique to them, but actually shared by many traditionalist Muslims, whether Sunni or Shia. In fact, Wahhabism could be regarded as the most conservative and puritanical interpretation of Sunni Islam: it was a failure of Sunnis, and Muslims generally, to blame problems like Al-Qaeda & ISIS purely on Wahhabism, when in fact these groups quoted medieval Sunni texts all the time. (As one scholar at the Sufi-friendly 2015 Marrakesh Declaration conference put it: we cannot condemn ISIS for reintroducing slavery etc. and simultaneously teach jurisprudential texts about such matters all the time in our seminaries! We must reform our curricula to help stop any resurgence of ISIS.) I suppose that some of my arguments are similar to those of Natana Delong-Bas’ Wahhabi Islam.

I was dreading a hostile reception, since the MI crowd are not exactly fans of Wahhabis/Salafis. However, I was pleasantly surprised at the generally positive, or at least neutral, reception I received. And it was Merryl who took the time to engage with me most profoundly, recommending that I read Geoffrey Robertson’s book about The Levellers, a movement that had evolved from the Puritans and were early Western radical democrats. (The Puritans under Oliver Cromwell had banned the celebration of Christmas in the UK – I had mentioned in my talk that this was a parallel with Wahhabi and other puritan movements within Islam.) I haven’t read this book yet, but plan to do so now God-willing, and partly to honour Merryl.

She was approximately Mum’s age, and always had that kind, motherly approach to complement her uncompromising devotion to principle and her sharp wit. At that last meeting, she also asked me directly, rather than listening to hearsay, about something Ayaan Hirsi Ali had attributed to me on BBC TV. I confirmed that Ali had misquoted me. “I thought so,” Merryl replied in her lovely Welsh accent, “I nearly fell off my sofa when she claimed you’d said that!”

As the Muslim Institute’s touching tribute to Merryl shows, she was very proud of her Welsh heritage and referred to the Wales men’s rugby team as “my boys.” My last interaction with her, as far as I can remember, was when I posted some photos on Facebook of my 2018 tour of the Principality (formerly Millenium) Stadium in Cardiff, home of her national team. Merryl commented on the following photo from the stadium display, showing men dressed in traditional Welsh warrior costumes, holding a large, partially-sheathed sword. (I was struck by this photo because of the similarity to traditional Arab/Eastern/African costumes.) Merryl explained the traditional Welsh cries associated with a particular festival, where they unsheath and then sheath the sword and make several exclamations about upholding peace.

Men in traditional Welsh dress, unsheathing then sheathing a sword & making exclamations about upholding peace, as explained to me by Merryl Wyn Davies in 2018. Photo displayed at the Principality (formerly Millenium) Stadium, Cardiff. Photo (c) Usama Hasan, 2018

I learnt of Merryl’s departure, and her final resting place in the blessed city of Kuala Lumpur, yesterday afternoon. After sunset prayers, we prayed the funeral prayer in absentia (salat al-janazah ‘ala l-gha’ibah / janaza ghaebana) for her as a family.

Merryl was a Muslim in the technical sense for 40 years, from her conversion to Islam in 1981 to her death this year, 2021.

She was working for the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) when 9/11 happened, helping with their communications. She returned to God the day after the MCB announced its first female Secretary-General, who had won the election for that post. I don’t know much about the new Sec-Gen, or whether or not this news reached Merryl, but there is no doubt that she was one of the pioneering female activists within British Muslim communities for a whole generation, or even lifetime (40 years), before this historic moment. I’m sure Merryl would have welcomed the fact that a Muslim woman had finally broken this glass ceiling.

Our heartfelt condolences to all her family and friends on our collective loss.

Her name meant ‘a small thing from the sea’ in Welsh. Her hometown name, Merthyr Tydfil, means “(Mausoleum of the Relics of) Tydfil the Martyr” after a female, Christian, pre-Islamic Welsh martyr (5th century CE).

May Allah receive our “Merryl of Merthyr” with Mercy, accept her as a martyr (witness and shaheed to God) and shower upon her infinite Oceans of Love, Truth and Peace: values that she upheld valiantly throughout her blessed life. Amin.

U.H., London, UK, 4th February 2021 / 21st Jumada al-Thani 1442 (daytime)

Edited: 6th February 2021 / 24th Jumada al-Thani 1442 (after sunset)

Postscript: On 6th February 2021 / 23rd Jumada al-Thani 1442 (before sunset), about a dozen of us met online to discuss issues and possible solutions related to the needs of British converts/reverts to Islam. We ended the meeting by fittingly saying a collective prayer for Merryl and praising God for her inspiring life.

Taqiyyah Sunrise: Shining Light on Contemporary Deception

December 22, 2019

 

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

Let not the Believers

Take for friends or helpers

Unbelievers rather than Believers:

If any do that, in nothing will there be help

From Allah: except by way of precaution,

That ye may guard yourselves from them.

[Qur’an, The Family of Imran (Amram), 3:28 – Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s translation]

There has been some discussion over the past few weeks over the uses and misuses of the term taqiyyah within Islamic jurisprudence. This article seeks to clarify the origins, meaning, and application of the concept of taqiyyah. In doing so, my purpose is to minimise its use, as part of a hostile narrative which paints Muslims are religiously-obligated liars.

I also attempt to explain the damage which the malicious misuse of that term inflicts on British Muslims.

The context of the verse quoted above is the melodramatic battle between the Meccan Unbelievers and Medinan Believers that took place in the earliest days of Islam. The Arabic for “precaution” is tuqaah, an alternative version of which is taqiyyah. As a footnote, as advanced students of Qur’anic studies will know, there are 20 equally-valid recitations of the Qur’an from a basic text that had no vowels or diacritical marks: two of these versions read taqiyyah, whilst the rest read it as the synonymous tuqaah.

The main meaning of the verse is very simple and rather obvious: in times of conflict, one may protect oneself from one’s enemy by apparently ingratiating oneself with them means of dissimulation. This was particularly important for the Muslims persecuted in Mecca, and explains why Ibn Kathir, the 14th-century Qur’anic scholar of Damascus, related it explicitly to the following one:

Anyone who, after accepting Faith in Allah,

Utters unbelief – except under compulsion,

His heart remaining firm in Faith – but such as

Open their breast to Unbelief – on them is Wrath from Allah,

And theirs will be a dreadful penalty.

[Qur’an, The Honey-Bee, 16:106]

That passage makes it clear that the exception to the basic moral obligation to tell the truth about one’s religious faith applies only in circumstances of compulsion. This was not a purely hypothetical situation in the first days of Islam. Many of the Prophet’s early followers were forced, under pain of death, to practice taqiyyah, although some of them notably preferred to express their faith and achieve martyrdom. The above verse was revealed to the Prophet regarding the case of Ammar, son of Yasir and Sumayyah, all of whom were slaves owned by Meccan polytheists. Yasir and Sumayyah were both killed by their owners for rejecting polytheism and embracing monotheism: Sumayyah, a woman, was the first martyr of Islam. But Ammar wasn’t quite as strong as his parents, and was given permission to hide his monotheistic faith by outwardly professing polytheism.

Throughout Islamic history, therefore, persecuted people often had to resort to taqiyyah. The most famous examples of these originate in the experience of the Shia minority, who were often oppressed by Sunni rulers: although this situation was sometimes reversed in regional variations. Muslims persecuted during the Crusades, Reconquista and Spanish Inquisition also applied the principle of taqiyyah for self-preservation.

The principle of taqiyyah is, as you might expect, not limited to Islam: faced with severe persecution or death, and especially in war, most moral and religious codes permit dissimulation. “War is deception” is a principle found across many cultures, from Sun-Tzu’s The Art of War onwards. A takfiri jihadist, particularly one who had been caught and imprisoned while engaged in terrorism, might well believe that he was being persecuted, or was at war, and therefore was permitted to engage in religiously sanctioned dishonesty. It is not objectionable to point that out. However, many of the most deadly forms of incitement and stereotyping often take the form of distortion and misapplication.

To take a parallel example, the Hebrew term “hasbara”, which means “explaining” or “diplomacy” is commonly deployed by antisemites to suggest that Jews customarily engage in insincere propagandistic deception, and so should never be believed. There is a significant difference between observing, on the one hand, that a particular statement from a named Israeli government minister is propaganda, and suggesting that everything that Jews say can be dismissed as lies, on the other.

In a similar manner, it has become a common trope of anti-Muslim hatred, in particular by the far-right, to accuse all Muslims of taqiyyah. It is an accusation that is obviously impossible to rebut in the eyes of the haters, because no matter what Muslims may say or do, they may be practising taqiyyah!

That the alt-right and far-right peddle conspiracy theories involving taqiyyah is not surprising. But it is disappointing that The Times of London, one of the most important newspapers in the world, should publish Melanie Phillips saying so.

Melanie Phillips is a Times columnist and often appears on the BBC in its TV and radio programmes such as Question Time and The Moral Maze. She also writes for the Jewish Chronicle. In her article, “Islamists are not the same as other prisoners,” (The Times, 3 December 2019) she claims that “taqiyya, the command to deceive for Islam … is of fundamental importance in Islam. Practically every Islamic sect agrees to it and practises it.” Her authority? A minor Lebanese academic who is a member of the relatively heterodox Druze sect. This is a bit like deploying Neturei Karta against mainstream Jewish sects, or quoting a Jehovah’s Witness as an authority on the doctrinal content of post-Nicene Christianity.

There is value in deepening our collective understanding of the commonalities between the approaches Abrahamic faiths: a task which I, a priest and a rabbi attempt to undertake in our book: People of the Book: How Jews, Christians and Muslims understand their Sacred Scriptures. Jewish and Islamic jurisprudence have many similarities, and an analogous principle to taqiyyah is found in Judaism: Rabbi Michael C. Hilton writes, “Melanie Phillips should know that there are important Jewish precedents for hiding your beliefs in a situation of persecution.”

And Rabbi Mark Solomon of London writes,

“I teach about taqiya in the context of medieval philosophers (like Maimonides) using taqiya to obscure their most radical ideas behind a screen of orthodoxy, but to accuse all Muslims of it is deception of a different order.”

Ironically, the vast majority of Muslims, 80% of whom are non-Arab, are probably unaware of this obscure concept that is mentioned only once in the entire Qur’an. To give an example, Osama Filali-Naji, founder of the Arab Millenials network, comments:

Interestingly, growing up as a Sunni Muslim, I never heard of the concept. The first I learned of it was from islamophobes who claimed I was practising taqiyyah. Ultimate paranoia!

It is true that hardened islamist terrorists, such as the Al-Qaeda & ISIS supporter Usman Khan who murdered two people at Fishmongers’ Hall, do misuse the principle of taqiyyah in order to further their cause. However, the charge that all Muslims are generally religiously obligated to lie, and do so routinely, is both dangerous and untrue. Moreover, it is dehumanising. It suggests that deception is in our nature, and that we are not to be trusted. At secondary school in North London in the 1980s, I learned in history classes that the Nazis had compared Jews to rats in cinema films. In 2013, at the Museum of the Jewish People at Tel Aviv University, I remember my horror in viewing the Nazi footage that painted Jews as a plague on humanity. We understand, from the experience of too many persecuted minorities throughout the world, the deadly consequences of years of the steady, drip-drip effect of demonisation.

This is not a new complaint: just over a decade ago, Ed Husain warned of such use of the taqiyyah trope by the same writer. More recently, the Deputy Director of Hope Not Hate, writing in the Jewish Chronicle, TellMAMA and Dr Hisham Hellyer have raised similar concerns.

I cannot overstate how damaging the charge that Muslims are directed by their religion to lie has been. It is impossible for us to “prove ourselves” against the backdrop of this pernicious accusation of taqiyyah and consequent implication that Muslims can never be trusted. The Times, the JC, the Spectator, and the BBC should be ashamed of promoting someone who has made this charge against us for so many years.

Seventeen years ago, the New Statesman published an issue with a front cover which referred to a “Kosher Conspiracy”. The language of that headline invoked ancient accusations that Jews were conspiring to control the government. The subsequent reputational damage to that magazine, and to its then editor Peter Wilby, was significant.

The Times should learn the lessons of that episode. It is outrageous that a respected national newspaper should render the tropes of anti-Muslim hatred mainstream in this manner.


(Imam Dr) Usama Hasan

London, UK

22nd December, 2019

This article is slightly modified from the version published by the Jewish Chronicle on 19/12/19.  The main modification is the addition of several hyperlinks, plus a couple of other edits.  In particular, the taqiyyah reading is found in 1/10 qira’ats (Ya’qub al-Hadrami only), equating to 2/20 riwayats (Rawh & Ruways from Ya’qub), and not 1/20 as I incorrectly stated in the JC version.

Modern Islamic Warfare Ethics

November 10, 2019

Modern Islamic Warfare Ethics

[Bismillah.  Part of the conclusion to Usama Hasan & Salah al-Ansari’s Tackling Terror: A Rebuttal of ISIS’ Fiqh al-Dima’  or Jurisprudence of Blood (Quilliam, 2018), consisting of 13 aspects of modern, Islamic warfare ethics as discussed by 20th-21st century Muslim jurists.]

During the course of this study, we have been able to demonstrate that ISIS’ warfare ethics are often medieval. We have also countered their positions by pointing out the balanced positions of mainstream scholars that effectively constitute modern Islamic warfare ethics. We summarise those here, as a positive alternative to ISIS’ medieval barbarism.

1.  Warfare can only be waged legitimately by modern nation-states.

2.  Peace is the default, basic norm governing international relations.

3.  War is only permitted for self-defence or to remove persecution in accordance with international law, not to coerce others into Islam.

4.  Suicide is prohibited, according to Islamic ethics. Suicide attacks are unethical, inhuman and un-Islamic.

5.  Islamic warfare ethics have always distinguished between combatants and non-combatants. Modern interpretations agree with the Geneva Conventions on legitimate targets in warfare.

6.  Weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, and “scorched earth” operations including the killing of animals, are prohibited by Islamic warfare ethics.

7.  The kidnapping of civilians is not permitted in Islam and contravenes basic human rights and the Geneva Conventions, to which Muslim-majority states have generally signed up.

8.  Mutilation and decapitations (beheading) are prohibited; this prohibition of mutilation also includes the harvesting of organs for sale or trafficking.

9.  In a nation-state where the citizens are equal before the law, the army is composed of personnel whose loyalty to one another lies not in their religious affiliation but in their shared sense of obligation and citizenship.

10.  There is no harm in any state recruiting anyone who is eligible to work in the army; and, moreover, that no impediments should be made because of a citizen’s religious beliefs. Equally, there is no harm in a state going into an alliance with foreign forces if it is believed that this will achieve the best interests of their nation.

11.  There is great similarity between modern Islamic morality and humanitarian international law. The two moral frameworks agree that espionage is a punishable crime but that the punishment varies from one country to another. International law gives a special status to combatant spies. According to The Hague Regulations (1899), Article 31 provides that: a spy who, after re-joining the army to which he belongs, is subsequently captured by the enemy, is treated as a prisoner of war. Moreover, they are to incur no further punishment for their previous acts of espionage. This is consistent with the modern adapted principles of the sharia.

12.  The Geneva Conventions on prisoners of war (POWs) are in harmony with the Islamic tradition of warfare ethics.

13.  Military retreat, surrender and other strategies are acceptable, depending on pragmatism; there is no religious requirement to “fight to the death.”

TEN TRUTHS ABOUT JIHAD

November 10, 2019

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

 

TEN TRUTHS ABOUT JIHAD

 

Bismillah. During the Islamic lunar month of Rabi’ al-Awwal [originally, the “first month of spring”], when the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was born and died, thus fulfilling an ancient Jewish or Israelite prophecy about the Prophets being born and dying on the same date, thus completing a cosmic cycle, I am moved to republish this article that I wrote in 2017, since the Prophet and his name continues to be praised and vilified around the world.  I suggest that it may be useful as a basis for Friday sermons (Jumu’ah / Jumma khutbahs) about Jihad, for those who agree with this content.

Within those last two years, some more things have happened:

(1) I was reminded that there are narrations in the Sirah tradition saying that the Prophet’s birth name was not Muhammad, but Qutham, and that Muhammad (“The Oft-Praised One”) was a title given to him later.  If these are true, then “Muhammad” would be much like “Christ” or “Buddha,” i.e. a title originally, not a name, although of course many titles become names later, and vice-versa, as with Caesar.

(2) Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson recommended to me the book by Juan Cole, Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires (Hachette USA, 2018).  I’ve read a few chapters, and it is a very interesting read.  And it tends to confirm my own conclusions that I wrote on 1st August 2017 for the Muslim Reform Movement, and that are republished here as: Ten Truths About Jihad.  In particular, see the quote from Ibn Sa’d via Ibn al-Qayyim on the context of Qur’an, Repentance, 9:29, that appears to be the most militant verse in the Qur’an, but the context again suggests a meaning of self-defence!

(3) A modified version of this article was included by me and my friend, Sheikh Dr Salah al-Ansari al-Azhari in our Tackling Terror (Quilliam, 2018), a rebuttal of ISIS’ Fiqh al-Dima’ or Jurisprudence of Blood.

(4) I also discussed some of this with Prof. Rabbi Dan Cohn-Sherbok and Dr. George Chryssides in our chapter on “War and Peace” in our People of the Book – How Jews, Christians and Muslims Understand Their Sacred Scriptures (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2018)

But here we are, back to my original article [with a few additions in square brackets]:

 

TEN TRUTHS ABOUT JIHAD

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

[Note: the Meccan period of the Prophet’s mission represented peaceful preaching under persecution; the Medinan period represented city-state-power and included war. Hence the reference to Meccan & Medinan verses, to understand context.]

 

  1. THE ESSENTIAL QUR’ANIC TEACHING ABOUT JIHAD IS THAT IT IS A LIFELONG, NONVIOLENT STRUGGLE FOR GOODNESS, JUSTICE AND TRUTH AGAINST EVIL, INJUSTICE AND FALSEHOOD

The essential Qur’anic teaching about Jihad is that it is a non-violent struggle for goodness of all kinds, and against evil of all types.  This is clear from the following Meccan verses of the Qur’an:

“Struggle in God, as the struggle (jihad) deserves …” (Pilgrimage 22:78); and

“Obey not the concealers (of truth), and struggle against them with it (the Qur’an): a great struggle (jihad).” (The Criterion 25:52)

 

  1. DURING HIS 13 YEARS’ MISSION IN MECCA, THE PROPHET AND HIS FOLLOWERS WERE SUBJECTED TO PERSECUTION, BUT WERE ORDERED TO REMAIN PATIENT & NONVIOLENT

This is clear from verses such as the following:

“Withhold your hands (from violence in self-defence): establish prayer and give in charity” (Women 4:77)

Note that during this time, the Prophet’s followers were persecuted, tortured and killed. He himself was the subject of assassination attempts and plots (Spoils of War 8:30), but the Muslim response remained peaceful and nonviolent.

 

  1. DURING THE PROPHET’S 10-YEAR MISSION IN MEDINA, MILITARY JIHAD IN SELF-DEFENCE WAS EVENTUALLY PERMITTED

This is clear from Medinan verses such as the following:

“Permission has been given to those who were fought (to fight back), because they have been oppressed … those who were unjustly expelled from their homes, only for saying: ‘Our Lord is God’.” (Pilgrimage 22:39-40)

“Fight, in the way of God, those who fight you, and transgress not: truly, God does not love transgressors.” (The Heifer 2:190)

 

  1. MILITARY JIHAD MAY ONLY BE DECLARED BY A LEGITIMATE AUTHORITY

An example of such an authority was the Prophet Muhammad, undisputed leader of the city-state of Medina – see the Medina Charter, an agreement between the Prophet and the non-Muslim, largely Jewish, tribes of Medina, for clauses relating to mutual defence of Medina against external aggression.

Several Qur’anic verses that speak of fighting and concluding peace are addressed in the singular to the Prophet, e.g. Women 4:84 and Spoils of War 8:61. This is because only he, as the legitimate ruler of the city-state of Medina, had the authority to declare a state of war or peace.

Throughout the centuries of Islamic jurisprudence on warfare ethics, the jurists have agreed that only a legitimate authority can declare a state of war or military jihad. In modern times, this means that only legitimate states have the authority to declare a state of war or military jihad: vigilante or non-state actors such as terrorist groups have no Islamic authority whatsoever to issue a call to arms in the name of jihad. This is why we stated in the Muslim Reform Movement Declaration that “we reject violent jihad.” [i.e. by non-state actors]

 

  1. EVEN THE MOST APPARENTLY-BELLIGERENT VERSES ABOUT JIHAD ARE IN SELF-DEFENCE

For example, the eighth and ninth surahs or chapters of the Qur’an, al-Anfal (Spoils of War) and al-Tawbah (Repentance):

In Surah al-Anfal, the command to “Prepare against them your strength to the utmost …” is followed by the exhortation to accept overtures of peace from the enemy: “If they incline towards peace, then also incline towards it, and trust in God.” (Spoils of War 8:60-61)

Thus, the preparation of utmost strength is largely a deterrent, to encourage any enemies to sue for peace.

In Surah al-Tawbah, the command to “Fight them: God will punish them at your hands …” was preceded by the cause: “They violated their oaths and … attacked you first.” (Repentance, 9:12-15)

Thus, as in The Heifer 2:190 and Pilgrimage 22:39, fighting was ordered in self-defence. Note that in the Medinan era, the pagan, polytheistic Meccan armies attacked the Muslims in Medina several times, aiming to wipe the latter out, e.g. at the Battles of Uhud and the Trench. Thus, the Prophet and the Muslims in Medina were utterly justified in waging military jihad to protect themselves. The numerous Qur’anic verses dealing with military jihad against the Meccan polytheists must be understood in this context.

Finally, the verse of jizya (Repentance 9:29) was revealed when the Byzantines and their allies under Emperor Heraclius threatened the northern regions of Islamic Arabia from Syria, resulting in the Tabuk expedition that ended without any fighting.[1]

The jizya protection- and poll-tax, the name itself deriving from Persian [according to a narration by Imam al-Qurtubi under 9:29], was always a political tax, not religious. This is evident in the fact that some Islamic jurists later advised Muslims under the Reconquista in Andalusia to pay jizya to their Christian conquerors. Furthermore, the Ottoman Caliph abolished the jizya and the associated category of dhimma in the mid-19th century CE, with the agreement of his most senior Islamic scholars, recognising that it was no longer relevant to the modern world of the time.[2]

Thus, although early Muslim armies did take part in expansionist campaigns, at least partly motivated by the war strategem that ‘Offence is the best form of defence’, Muslim authorities, both political and religious, have recognised for at least two centuries that this kind of military jihad has no place in the modern world that is governed by treaties, peace agreements and international collaboration.

 

  1. MILITARY JIHAD WAS ALSO LEGISLATED TO PROTECT & PROMOTE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

This is clear from the following Qur’anic verse:

“Permission has been given to those who were fought (to fight back), because they have been oppressed … those who were unjustly expelled from their homes, only for saying: ‘Our Lord is God’.

And were God not to check some people by means of others, then monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques, where God’s name is mentioned often, would surely be demolished.” (Pilgrimage 22:39-40)

Thus, military Jihad was also legislated to protect the religious freedom of Muslims, Jews and Christians, according to the explicit text of the Qur’an. Muhammad bin Qasim, the 8th-century CE Muslim commander who first brought Islam to India, extended this religious protection to Zoroastrian and Hindu temples.[3]

Note that this religious protection also originally extended to the idolatrous polytheists of Mecca and Medina – the latter were included in the Medina Charter, and both were covered by the Qur’anic dictum, “To you, your religion: to me, my religion.” (The Concealers of Truth, 109:6) It was only when the Meccan polytheists refused to be peaceful and violently persecuted the Muslims, attempting genocide, that they were fought. Even then, the Hudaybiya peace treaty was concluded with them later.

 

  1. MILITARY JIHAD WAS ALWAYS CONDITIONED BY STRONG ETHICAL RESTRICTIONS

Numerous hadiths speak of the obligation of avoiding the killing of women, children, old people, peasants, monks and others in war – in the 7th-century CE, these were advanced, civilised teachings. Further hadiths forbid the chopping down of trees, burning of orchards or poisoning wells or other water supplies as part of war tactics. These teachings may be seen as Islamic forerunners of modern warfare ethics, such as the Geneva Conventions, that are also Islamic in spirit and must be seen as binding upon Muslims worldwide.

The 12th-13th century CE Andalusian philosopher and jurist, Ibn Rushd (Averroes), in his short ‘Book of Jihad’, part of his Bidayat al-Mujtahid (available in English as ‘The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer‘), discusses ten issues related to the philosophy and ethics of war or military jihad. Thus, Islam has a long tradition of warfare ethics.

 

  1. TO REITERATE, JIHAD IS A STRUGGLE FOR GOOD AGAINST EVIL

This may take many forms: jihad bil-mal is charitable spending; jihad bil-lisan is speaking truth or goodness against evil and injustice. Thus, all forms of social, intellectual and political struggle with noble aims are a type of jihad, in traditional Islamic terminology.  An example of this is the hadith or Prophet’s teaching, “The best jihad is to speak a word of truth before a tyrant ruler.”

However, this teaching does not privilege so-called ‘Islamic political parties’ or islamist groups that wrongly claim to monopolise interpretations of Islam in the social and political realms.

Jihad is a universal struggle for good against evil. The verse, “Struggle in God, as the struggle (jihad) deserves …” (Pilgrimage 22:78) also includes the teachings, “… This is the path of your father Abraham … Establish prayer, give charity and hold to God: He is your Protector  …”

 

  1. THE OUTER JIHAD IS ALWAYS UNDERPINNED BY INNER JIHAD

Inner jihad or jihad al-nafs (struggle against the self’s base desires) has always been understood as a prerequisite for taking part in the outer jihad, or struggle for goodness and truth in the world.

This is reflected in the Qur’anic promise of heaven to whoever fears standing before God and “forbids their self from base desires” (The Snatchers 79:40-41). Furthermore, a hadith states, “The true mujahid (holy warrior) is the one who struggles against their own self for the sake of God.”

Ibrahim bin Abi Ablah, an early ascetic of Islam, once remarked after a military expedition, “We have returned from the lesser jihad to the greater jihad,” i.e. from the lesser, military jihad to the greater jihad of lifelong struggle against evil. This teaching was also attributed to the Prophet himself and widely favoured by the Sufis, who were keen to preserve the spiritual dimensions of Islam during the early centuries of astonishing Islamic military conquests and worldly success. [Although many Hadith scholars did not accept this as a saying of the Prophet, they accepted its meaning, since it came from someone regarded as a holy main or saint (wali). Such scholars include Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani.]

 

  1. JIHAD TODAY

As shown above, Islamic teachings about jihad are essentially spiritual and non-violent. All charitable efforts or struggles by Muslims today for goodness, truth and justice against evil and injustice may be termed jihad. For example, the Prophet termed “struggling to help widows and orphans” and “struggling to serve elderly parents” as types of jihad. [Sound hadiths of Bukhari & Muslim, etc.]

Armed or military jihad is the strict preserve of legitimate authority such as modern nation-states engaging in ethical warfare: this is why the Muslim Reform Movement firmly rejects ‘violent jihad’ carried out by non-state actors or vigilante groups such as terrorist organisations.

What we really need is a jihad for universal human rights, dignity, equality, peace and justice, tempered by the mercy and compassion that are the essential spirit of Islam and the Qur’an.

 

Imam Dr Usama Hasan (briefly an armed mujahid alongside the anti-communist mujahideen in Afghanistan, 1990-1)

London, UK, 1st August 2017

Modified & republished: 10th November 2019 / 12th Rabi’ al-Awwal 1441

 

NOTES:

 

[1] Ibn Sa’d said, “It reached the Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace, that the Romans [Byzantines] had gathered large multitudes in Syria, and that Heraclius had prepared provision for his men for a year. He had brought with him the tribes of Lakhm, Judham, ‘Amilah and Ghassan. They had sent an advance party to al-Balqa’.” – cf. Ibn al-Qayyim, Zad al-Ma’ad, Al-Matba’ah al-Misriyyah wa Maktabatuha, n.d., vol. 3, p. 2

[2] cf. Usama Hasan, From Dhimmitude to Democracy, Quilliam, 2015

[3] Al-Baladhuri, as quoted by Ihsanoglu. cf. Usama Hasan, From Dhimmitude to Democracy, Quilliam, 2015, p. 26

 

In Memoriam: Amatul Haseeb of Dehli, Karachi and Lahore (c. 1928-2019)

September 7, 2019

Grave of Amatul-Haseeb, Bait-ur-Rehmat cemetery, Lahore, Jumma 6th Muharram 1441, Friday 6th September 2019. Photo (c) Abdullah Qazi

Grave of Amatul-Haseeb, Bait-ur-Rehmat cemetery, Lahore, c. 12th Rabi’ al-Awwal 1441, Sunday 10th November 2019

“Whoever biographs a believer, it is as though he has brought him or her back to life.”
(man arrakha mu’minan fa ka’annama ahyahu) – Imam Sakhawi

[I would extend the above phrase to biographing any person.]

Amatul-Haseeb

Bismillah.  I write this after helping with the funeral prayers & burial of my mum’s mum (Nani Ammi), Amatul-Haseeb (servant/slave of the Reckoner), of the Ahl-e-Hadees families of Dehli (Delhi): Shah Waliullah of Delhi (Dehli) is the most famous name in our intellectual, scholarly and spiritual lineage.  Her father-in-law was Mawlana Yunus Qureshi, nephew of Mawlana Ahmadullah, student of Sayyid Nadheer Husain of Dehli. She outlived her husband, Mawlana Zubair Qureshi, by approximately 50 years, living as a pious, ascetic widow devoted to God and then to family.

Dada Abba and Nani Ammi

When our Dada Abba or paternal grandfather departed a decade ago, leaving Nani Ammi as our only surviving grandparent, my sister Hafsa observed that Nani Ammi didn’t have the public limelight that Dada Abba had (he had served as a senior Islamic scholar in India, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia), but that she was an unsung heroine who quietly lived her saintly life.

[A mathematical interlude]

According to the famous hadith, the most special people in the world, in order, are: Mum, Mum, Mum, Dad. Here is some mathematical analysis – I would be grateful for other mathematical insights into this kind of calculation: there is a unity of knowledge, so there should be no problem mixing mathematics and hadith.

If we use simple arithmetic, the relative importance is: Mum 3, Dad 1. Or as fractions converted to percentages:

Mum 75%, Dad 25%

Multiplying to grandparents, we get:

Mum’s Mum: 9 (56%)

Mum’s Dad: 3 (19%)

Dad’s Mum: 3 (19%)

Dad’s Dad: 1 (6%)

TOTAL: 16 (100%)

If we use exponents, what happens?

[Answers on a postcard or in the comments below, please: I don’t have time to do the math(s) right now.]

Nani Ammi the Qur’an-teacher

I have been honoured to accompany my mum on her last two trips to Lahore – to see our Nani Ammi alive for the last time in the Spring, with my brother Mujahid, and now to participate in her funeral and burial.  My sisters Khola and Hafsa visited her last year along with their husbands.

I didn’t know that Nani Ammi had been a Qur’an teacher: she had taught my mum and her three sisters and brother, and completed that career by the time of my earliest memories of her in Karachi: devoted to prayer, reading the Qur’an and domestic duties as a widow with young children. So she is the grandteacher of the hundreds of Mum’s Qur’an students, including myself and my siblings.  She only lost her own mum about 24 years ago, after attending a wedding in the UK.

Karachi: Dehli Colony & North Nazimabad

Dehli Colony in Karachi was literally a small town of people transplanted from Dehli after Partition in 1947: entire families living in one room, clay pots for cooking and storing water, simple sewage systems, house doors that remained open throughout the day guarded by a curtain, and daily life revolving around the five daily prayers at the mosque, with the boys playing cricket and even football between the late afternoon and sunset prayers, when it was much cooler.

In North Nazimabad, one of my abiding memories of her was breaking down the huge blocks of ice that we bought a couple of days a week from the ice-seller: a huge block covered in matting, and wheeled through the streets on a cart, in the days before refrigerators. She would break the ice into small pieces so they could fit into the water cooler using a little chisel, although we as naughty kids would eat most of these ice pieces.  She would also encourage us to observe the five daily prayers in the mosque as far as possible, and to do our daily Qur’an study.  Being woken up for the dawn prayer by the prodding of her bony fingers was tough love!

Visiting the UK

Nani Ammi visited the UK several times, attending most of her grandchildren’s weddings there.  She clearly felt like a fish out of water in the UK.  She also gently rebuked me once for spending too much time in front of the television!

Dehli again, and the comparison of the Partitions of India (1947) & Palestine (1948)

During my year in Pakistan in 2002-3 (as Visiting Associate Professor at NUST, the National University of Sciences & Technology, in Rawalpindi-Islamabad), I was obviously more aware of the history of the region.  I realised that Nani Ammi must have been a teenager or about 20 when partition happened (I’m still trying to confirm her year of birth).  I asked her, “Do you remember Dehli much?”  Her reply astonished me: “I think about Dehli every day! It was such a lovely place and a nice life.” This was after approximately 56 years in exile from Dehli in Karachi!  My yearning for Dehli grew that day, and I often think about the parallels between the Partition of India in 1947 and that of Palestine in 1948.

(Azzam Tamimi once said in a public talk at Cambridge University, when I shared a panel with him in the early 2000s, that he would not stop struggling until “he was able to return to his grandmother’s house in Beersheba” and I wondered whether we Dehlawis or Dehli-origin people would be justified in applying the same logic to our grandmothers’ houses in Dehli.)

The end

Her final, bedridden year has been very tough on all the family.  During our last visits, Dr. Liaquat Ali had been able to help on medical aspects, whilst Shaharuddin applied his photography expertise to take stunning photos of our aged grandmother. During my visit in April, I thought the best thing I could do was to recite her beloved Qur’an to her loudly, because she had become quite hard of hearing.  My brother Hafiz Dr Mujahid was able to help on medical aspects as well as recite the Qur’an to her!

Back in April, I recited from Surah al-Baqarah (The Heifer, 2) to her one day.  We were leaving Lahore on the Friday night, and I had a meeting planned with Prof. Suheyl Umar in the afternoon/evening before our flight to Karachi.  So I resolved to recite Surah al-Kahf (The Cave, 18) to her on the Friday morning before Jumma (Friday congregational) prayers, as per traditional practice. I sat beside her and asked if I could recite the Qur’an to her.  “Yes,” she said, “recite Surah Ya Sin (Y.S., 36).” Traditional Muslim practice is to recite this surah over dying or deceased people.  Freaked out, and not in the mood to recite Surah Ya Sin over my beloved grandmother, I said, “Nani Ammi, I would like to recite Surat-ul-Kahf to you because it is Jumma.”  “Aaj Jumma hai? (Is it Jumma today?)” she asked, because of course she had lost track of time, and deeply regretted not being able to pray according to the natural cycles of day and night.

I replied that yes, it was Jumma, and recited the first few verses (ayat) of Surat-ul-Kahf to her.  I paused to check that she could hear me all right? “I can hear you,” she replied, “but you’re reading it wrong. Recite Surah Ya Sin!” I was now overruled, and duly recited Surah Ya Sin to her.  Her last words to me were, “You recite the Qur’an very well. May God forgive all your sins and bless your wife and children!”  I will obviously treasure those words for the rest of my life.

She breathed her last in the company of her only son, our uncle, on Thursday 5th Muharram 1441 / 5th September 2019.  A few days earlier, Mum had had a vivid dream where Nani Ammi came to hug her goodbye, although Mum couldn’t feel the flesh and bones of her Mum.

When we arrived this morning, Mum embraced the walls of the room where Nani Ammi had spent her final year, the room now being bare after her death, in the way pilgrims embrace the walls of the Ka’bah in Mecca.  The bare room did remind me of the inside of the Ka’bah (I’ve been there aged 11, as a guest of the Saudis, may God guide us and them – for all their faults, they have served the Holy Places of Mecca and Medina well, at least outwardly.) It now has chairs for the guests arriving for condolences.

I reflected that this was appropriate, because the House of God in Mecca is a symbol of the House of God in the heart, and in the Islamic tradition, after God, Mum is number one, being the reflection and manifestation par excellence of Divine Mercy.

Mum later prayed in that room.  For those who understand such realities: on a spiritual level, Mum was praying inside the Ka’bah (trust me: I’ve been there, at least outwardly).

The local mosque imam led her funeral prayer – family wanted me to lead, but I preferred to defer to authority, otherwise the imam becomes redundant if family members always lead the funeral prayer.  The imam offered the prayer in the traditional Hanafi style, with her body outside the mosque on a small verandah, and no women inside the mosque.  Just as we finished, Mum and some aunties and female cousins arrived, so I led them in another funeral prayer, taking the opportunity to follow an Ahl-e-Hadith method based on sound hadiths, for over the past quarter-century, some brothers and sisters in the West have tried to replace salafi straitjackets with medieval-madhhabi straitjackets that are just as bad or even worse. This salafi method allows women at the prayer and inside the mosque, reciting the funeral prayer loudly as well as recitation after the Fatiha, based on an authentic expression of the Sunnah, one amongst many.  The verses I chose were Surat al-Ikhlas (Sincerity, 112), preceded by the last four verses of Surat al-Fajr (Dawn, 89:27-30) that are especially appropriate because they are addressed to the feminine (soul), so the final verses recited over her in prayer were:

O contented soul! 

Return to your Lord, pleasing and pleased with.

Enter amongst My servants:

Yea, enter My Garden!

In the Name of God, Most Merciful, All-Merciful

Say: He [or It] is God, One!

God, the Source of All!

Not giving birth, not being born:

Nothing equal to Him: No-One!

 

[These verses often form epitaphs over Muslim graves, including that of my wife’s beloved aunt, Mrs. Anjum Manazir Ahsan in the Muslim section of the Saffron Lane cemetery in Leicester, UK.]

Mum had led the washing of her mum’s body, along with two of her sisters. The ambulance had sped Nani Ammi’s to the local mosque for the funeral prayer, with its flashing light and siren.  Now, the men took over and we accompanied Nani Ammi to the graveyard. One of my relatives commented that the noise of the siren was a little disrespectful to the dead, but upon reflection, I thought it was appropriate: after a 90-year-lifetime serving others ahead of herself, it was entirely appropriate now that people of the blessed city of Lahore were making way for her and that she was speeding towards the cemetery, reminding everyone in the way of the inevitable reality of death.  (The speed is from the Islamic tradition of hastening burial.)

We buried her between the late afternoon (‘asr) and sunset (maghrib) prayers at the Bait-ur-Rehmat (House of Mercy) graveyard in Lahore.

[Note to fellow students: I haven’t Arabised this to Bayt al-Rahmah as I would have done in the past: we Indian Muslims with ancestry including Arabs, Persians and Turks, did not overthrow British colonial rule in order to be re-colonised by Arabs! We speak Urdu, Hindi, Bengali and other local languages that have strong Arabic influences but are not pure Arabic, so let’s please stop pretending to be Arabs, especially given the appalling racism faced by our people in parts of the Arab world, though not all. End of rant.]

The skies were clear, and the first-quarter moon shone at its zenith overhead as the sun set and the call to sunset prayer was chanted from the adjacent mosque, indicating the first week of Muharram and the new Islamic year, reckoning time and dates appropriately for her name, Amat-ul-Haseeb (Servant/Slave of the Reckoner).

[An astronomical interlude]

The sun reaches its zenith daily at midday or noon.  The moon’s zenith depends on its phase:

New moon: same as the sun, although invisible.

First quarter: zenith at sunset [as with the timing of Nani Ammi’s burial.  There will be a mystical symbolism to this, but I haven’t been able to reflect on it yet.]

Full moon: zenith at midnight

Last quarter: zenith at sunrise.

The Bait-ur-Rehmat [House of Mercy] cemetery, Lahore

The appropriately-named cemetery is the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, with lots of trees, including palm trees, dotted around the graves, providing much shade and coolness.  We know from the science that the bodies of the deceased are literally recycled to life in the trees and plants that grow in the soil. Until today, I had thought that woodland burials, where trees grow out of the graves, were unique to the West, but this is clearly not the case!

I can honestly say that in over 40 years, I cannot recall even a single unkind word from Nani Ammi.

Nani Ammi is survived by her son and four daughters, approximately 20-25 grandchildren and approximately 40 great-grandchildren. May we too be blessed with some of her light, Amin.

A Fitting Poem

And in a nod to some of her blessed great-grandchildren in London: last month our sons bought us an anniversary present.  (I’m old-fashioned and prefer not to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, preferring communal celebrations only such as Eid, although there is of course goodness too in the Western individualism of celebrating birthdays, such as valuing individuals.)  It was the BBC publication, The Nation’s Favourite Poems, edited with an introduction by Griff Rhys-Jones.  The BBC conducted a poll and published the top 100 British people’s poems.  But the editor included a brilliant poem in the introduction that did not make the top 100.  It’s the only one I’ve read so far in the collection, and so it was waiting for Nani Ammi:

Do not stand at my grave and weep:
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

(c) Usama Hasan

Lahore, Pakistan.

7th Muharram 1441 / 7th September 2019 [updated 8/1/41, 8/9/19, 10/11/19 – Remembrance Sunday & the Prophet’s Birthday]

Grave of Amatul-Haseeb before burial, Bait-ur-Rehmat cemetery, Lahore, Jumma 6th Muharram 1441, Friday 6th September 2019. Photo (c) Abdullah Qazi

Brown Hawk over Lahore sunset, taken from the balcony opposite Amatul-Haseeb’s room, 4th April 2019, five months before her departure from this world. Photo: (c) Usama Hasan

Postscripts

Wohaib Hasan [6/9/19]: Her patt [sheets of caramelised nuts] was legendary, but it’s the poverty of Delhi Colony that will always be my recollection of her. The one time Mum came unannounced, there was nothing to eat at home aside from daal chawal [rice & lentils]. But Naani’s mother, sitting on her throne (bed) always in white as everyone else paid their respects, totally a scene from Pakeezah. Jum’ah days were the highlight of the week, we would always have her lamb salan [curry] after the prayers with roti, fresh off her tawa. And she taught us to read the Quran, yes, we learnt from our Mum but she is the one I remember guiding me through the qaida [Qur’anic Arabic primer, and nothing to do with Al-Qaida]. In those early days she wore the white shuttlecock burka to be replaced with the black one as time passed. But, I’ll always remember the rickshaw rides with her, the wind blowing in my face, the scent of Karachi, and her leaning forward as she shouted directions to the driver. But yes, our uncle was her favourite, and her saying his name in that scoldy fashion will be my enduring memory of her.

Hafsa Hasan [7/9/19]: Just as an aside, I did go back to her house in Delhi that you mentioned, well, as close as I could … The lane behind the mosque in Chandni Chowk directly opposite the Red Fort & mosque complex. The houses are all a jumble of famous bazaars now and the atmosphere… if you can imagine at the foot of the greatest Mughal buildings ever built: My one year of studying Mughal history at SOAS made so much sense …

Khola Hasan [7/9/19]: Read her reflections here.

ISLAM AND UNIVERSAL EQUALITY (A FRIDAY OR EID SERMON FOR HAJJ OR EID AL-ADHA)

August 9, 2019

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

 

ISLAM AND UNIVERSAL EQUALITY
(A FRIDAY OR EID SERMON FOR HAJJ OR EID AL-ADHA)

 

Mount of Mercy (Jabal al-Rahma), Arafat, near Mecca, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, 2006. This is where the Prophet Muhammad delivered his Farewell Sermon to humanity in 632 CE, echoing God’s last message to humanity in the Qur’an [49:13].  Photo credit: (c) Haris Ahmad

 

The “Million Man March” on Washington DC, 23 August 1968, that included Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic, “I Have A Dream” speech. Photo credit – Wikipedia

[This sermon is written to be read out, or adapted and edited by each individual preacher, khateeb or khateeba according to their unique situation, community and congregation. Delivery time is approximately 20-30 minutes, depending on your oratory style and any gems of wisdom that you would like to add further. You may also wish to add the traditional blessings upon mention of the Messengers of God, such as: “may God bless him and grant him peace.” You will also probably want to recite the Qur’anic verses quoted in Arabic as well – apologies that I do not have the time or technology at the moment to add the proper, mushaf text in Arabic. I hope to do that in the future, God-willing.]

 

[FIRST SERMON]

Al-hamdu li’Llahi rabbi-l-‘alamin. Was-salatu was-salamu ‘alal-mursalin – All Praise belongs to God, Lord of the Worlds. Blessings and Peace be upon the Messengers of God.

 

As hundreds of millions of people around our world mark the occasion of Hajj and Eid al-Adha this week, let us be reminded and inspired by the Qur’an,

 

O Humanity! We created you from Male and Female, and made you into Nations and Tribes, that you may know each other. Truly, the most honoured of you in the presence of God are the most pious of you. Truly, God is All-Knowing, All-Aware [Qur’an, Surat-ul-Hujurat, Chapter: The Chambers, 49:13]

 

… And by the Prophet Muhammad’s “Farewell Sermon” or Khutbat-ul-Wida’ delivered at the Hajj in the 10th year of the Islamic calendar or the year 632 of the Christian or Common Era. The Prophet’s farewell sermon was appropriately, and breathtakingly-symbolically, delivered at the “Mount of Mercy” (Jabal al-Rahma), for he was the most merciful messenger of God Most Merciful, and echoed the Qur’anic verse above:

 

“O people, truly your Lord is One and your ancestor is one. Truly, there is no superiority of Arab over non-Arab, of non-Arab over Arab, of white over black, of black over white, except by piety: all of you descended from Adam, and Adam was created from dust (or the soil of the earth).”  This is a soundly-transmitted, authentic or sahih hadith, and perfectly-congruent in meaning with the individual and holistic messages of the Qur’an.

 

These are the definitive Islamic declarations of universal equality: although clearly some people do more good than evil and vice-versa, since piety is only known to God, outwardly and essentially in this life, all people are absolutely equal.

 

When Martin Luther King Jr. famously declared,

 

I have a dream … that one day people will be judged not by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character …

 

he was actually not stating anything new, except perhaps in the 1960s US context of the civil rights movement, a clear example of a blessed, social jihad, despite the US founding declaration that it was a self-evident truth that “all men are created equal.” The Muslim world had possessed this teaching for over 13 centuries, for “content of character” is another way of saying “piety” or “righteousness”, as in the above examples from the Book of God and the Way of His Messenger.

 

Let’s reflect on that again:

 

Firstly, in the 7th century of the Christian or Common Era, that is, in what many people today regard as backward medieval times, the Prophet Muhammad was inspired with a message of God that began, ya ayyuhan-nas: “O people or humanity!” Now, we know that there are many ayat or verses of the Qur’an, dozens in fact, that begin with ya ayyuhan-nas: “O people or humanity!” But if we study their tarteeb an-nuzul or chronological, time-based order of revelation, do you know which one was revealed last after 23 long years of prophethood, persecution and patient struggle in the path of God?

 

It was this verse of Surat-ul-Hujurat!

 

Secondly, after those long, 23 years of utter submission, servitude and spirituality, the Prophet chose, and he was guided by God as always, to impart this key teaching, or deliver this key message, as part of his farewell sermon on the Mount of Mercy that, like Jesus Christ’s Sermon on the Mount of Olives and Moses’ receipt of the revelation of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai centuries earlier, would resonate for millenia with the millions and millions of men and women of God.

 

The last verse of the Book of God addressed explicitly to humanity, and the last major message of the Messenger of God to mankind, delivered in the mountains of Mecca, the mountains that witnessed the message and still resonate with it, if only we knew. Therefore, this is indeed a universal, Islamic declaration by God and then by the Messenger of God, echoing and confirming his Brother-Messengers before him. But what does this universal Muhammadan proclamation say after ya ayyuhan-nas?

 

The Prophetic proclamation says, to paraphrase, that God created us and reflected in us the breathtaking beauty of His diversity, as males and females, and across the spectrum of gender and sexuality, for as we learn in multiple fields of God-given, beneficial knowledge, all of which is drops from the oceans of the Divine Knowledge, from mathematics to music to medicine to metaphysics, and from physics to photography to philology to politics and philosophy, the “opposite poles” of a spectrum such as “male and female” are often the dominant forces, normal modes, eigen-vectors and eigen-functions, but they also imply the entire spectrum itself.  “We created you from Male and Female.”

 

And in the Farewell Sermon, the Prophet reminded the male-dominated society that gender-based rights are mutual and that people of both sexes, the opposite pairs that imply the entire spectrum in between, complement each other in all aspects of life:

 

O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you … Do treat your women well and be kind to them, for they are your lifelong partners and committed helpers.

 

Another passage of the Qur’an reminds us of our humble origins, our need for loving partners and spouses, and our ethnic and linguist diversity:

 

Amongst His Signs is this, that He created you from dust; and then,- behold, you are people scattered (far and wide)!

 

And amongst His Signs is this, that He created for you mates, partners and spouses from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has placed love and mercy between your (hearts): truly, in that are Signs for those who reflect.

 

And amongst His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variation and diversity in your languages and your colours: truly, in that are Signs for those who know.

[Qur’an, Surat al-Rum, Chapter: The Romans or Byzantines, 30:20-22]

 

The message of the Messenger continues with this depth of diversity by reminding us that we are different nations and tribes: different peoples in language, culture, with collectively multi-coloured skins and multi-coloured personalities. We have individual identities, but also group identities: nations and tribes, a tribe being a very large family. People now have new tribes, from political and religious affiliations to fans and supporters of particular sports-clubs and genres of art or music.

 

Nations and tribes lead to nationalism and tribalism, both of which can be good or bad, or a mixture of the two. The positives of nations and tribes is that these matters give us a sense of belonging and the comfort of community, for we are social creatures. Nations and tribes can do great things, such as feeding the poor, looking after widows, widowers and orphans, caring for animals and the earth, toppling tyrants, fighting oppression and injustice and building great civilisations that reflect the Majesty and Beauty of God by harnessing the power of collective effort and the synergy of diverse material and spiritual forces.

 

But nations and tribes can do immense evil when these forces descend, like vicious, collective egos into cycles of hatred, violence and revenge. “My nation first, whether it’s right or wrong!  My tribe first, whether it’s right or wrong!” The whole of human history, including the past, present and future, is littered with the awful cruelty, violence, warmongering and genocide caused by God-given nations and tribes being utterly misused, for evil rather than good.

 

And this is why, in this verse of Surat-ul-Hujurat, God follows mention of nations and tribes with: li ta’arafu: that you may know and recognise each other deeply. Know yourself, and know your nation and tribe, to give you a strong sense of the positive values, individual and collective, that inspire you to goodness, but do not use them to hate other people, other nations, other tribes, other sports fans, other political parties, simply for being different to you and irrespective of right and wrong.

 

Fourteen centuries ago, the Qur’an reminded us to dig deep and harness our individual and collective energies for goodness, and to bring people together. God didn’t say: li tanafaru or li taqatalu, that I created you in different nations and tribes to hate each other or to fight and kill each other and indulge your mad, genocidal impulses, but li ta’arafu: that you may know and recognise each other deeply, and see the beauty of God in each other’s good qualities, for people are mirrors of each other, with all our goodness and evil reflected back at us.

 

One of the great strengths and positive resources of today’s world is that through our God-given learning, telecommunication and travel, We, the peoples of the world, not just “We, the people” of America or Britain or Russia or Saudi Arabia or Iran or India or Pakistan or the blessed lands of Africa and the other great continents, but “We, the peoples of the world” are able to know, communicate with, learn about and develop deep friendships, and therefore to recognise each other on a deep human level, individually and collectively, more than ever before.

 

I seek the forgiveness of God, for me and for you all, for all of us. Seek His forgiveness, for truly, He alone is the Forgiver, the Merciful.

 

 

[SECOND SERMON]

Al-hamdu li’Llahi rabbi-n-nas, maliki-n-nas, ilahi-n-nas. All Praise belongs to God, Lord of humanity, King of humanity, Deity of humanity.

We now come to the crux, literally, of these majestic, divine teachings that are perhaps more relevant today than in all the bygone millenia of human history, because of the ever-increasing size of the human race and the competition for the earth’s scarce resource. Within our lifetimes, ours and our living parents and grandparents, the human family has rocketed from 2 billion people to nearly 8 billion today.

 

God says: Truly, the most honoured of you in the presence of God are the most pious of you.

 

And the Prophet said in his last message to the crowds of thousands gathered around him on his Hajjat-ul-Wida’ or Farewell Pilgrimage to Mecca:

 

O people, truly your Lord is One and your ancestor is one. Truly, there is no superiority of Arab over non-Arab, of non-Arab over Arab, of white over black, of black over white, except by piety: all of you descended from Adam, and Adam was created from dust (or the soil of the earth).

 

In other words, we are united despite our diversity: we are one human family, for as our scientists tell us, we are a narrow species as a human race, and there is no real scientific evidence for different races, only different skin-colours, that themselves will disappear through the increasing inter-marriage accelerated by globalisation, so that humans in a few centuries or millenia will all be the same colour and it will be clearer that there is only one race: the human race, and that is our ultimate nation and tribe.

 

There is no superiority of Arab over non-Arab, of non-Arab over Arab, of white over black, of black over white, except by piety.

 

And let’s face it bluntly and honestly, many Muslims have forgotten this and our communities and societies are plagued with racism: Arab v. non-Arab, North African Arab v. Black African, Arab v. Turk v. Kurd v. Persian v. Indian v. Chinese and all the subdivisions underneath. This jahiliyyah that Islam brilliantly eradicated in the City of the Prophet is back with a vengeance.  As we know from other Qur’anic verses and commentary and study of history from a Qur’anic lens, God honoured the Israelites with being custodians of His Covenant. Then this duty and honour passed to the Ishmaelites or Arabs. A century after the Prophet, it passed to the Persians and North Africans and Black Africans and Kurds and Mongols and Indians and Turks.  And now, each of these groups have nation-states that are vying for leadership of the Muslim world, and each one is claiming superiority over the other based on its history and supposedly-better culture. And the Arabs in particular – and my family, like most families of Indian Muslim heritage, claim Arab ancestry, have no superiority over others because, as Imam al-Shafi’i categorically showed, every Muslim is an Arab of sorts because every Muslim can recite at least one line from the Qur’an in Arabic. Furthermore, the Qur’an being in classical Arabic, does not make any Arab or Indian or Turk or Persian superior, if we do not live by the exalted ideals of God’s Holy, Noble and Majestic Word.

No!  The people who deserve to lead the “Muslim world” are the true people of God, plain and simple, those who love God and are loved by Him and who are always with the poor and the oppressed and the marginalised. And sometimes, it requires the greatest courage to keep saying basic truths when these are being forgotten and ridiculed.

As the greatest custodians and authorities of the Islamic tradition agreed:

God will give dominance to a non-Muslim state that practises justice over a Muslim state that practises oppression.

This is because God is Truth, and God is Just, and He underpinned His creation with the Balance, that we may not transgress the Balance. And there is no point countering Islamophobia with Westophobia, for Western, non-Muslim societies that are more just and better at human rights will continue to dominate Muslim societies that are culturally infested by racism, inequality, oppression of women, have appalling human rights records and even practise medieval slavery in a few places, although human-trafficking of men, women and children for forced labour and sexual slavery is a new problem all over the world, and it is called “modern slavery.”

 

 

Piety, or God-consciousness or true spirituality, is ultimately the most important “content of character.”

May Allah inspire us with the examples of His beloved servants. May Allah bless all of our countries, our nations, our peoples, our tribes, and enable us to do good and avoid evil.

 

[DU’AS OR SUPPLICATIONS]

 

[May Allah be with you, and accept and bless your sermons and your prayers!]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Usama Hasan

London, UK

Friday 8th Dhul Hijjah 1440 / 9th August, 2019

 

 

 

 Muslim Modernism – A Case For A New Pakistan

August 8, 2019

Muslim Modernism: A Case For A New Pakistan

Review & Discussion of the book by Nadeem Farooq Paracha
(Vanguard Books, 2019)

Review & Discussion by Imam Dr Usama Hasan

Bismillah. I recommend this concise and readable book, “Muslim Modernism – A Case for Naya [New] Pakistan” by the leading Karachi-based Pakistani journalist, Nadeem Farooq Paracha, for those interested in the field, as it highlights key issues for debate. Paracha’s main points are that the Islam/state relationship was understood by different Pakistani political leaders, roughly as follows:

 

(i) 1900-1950s: “Muslim Modernism” – Iqbal and Jinnah; continued by General Ayyub Khan and others. “Muslim Modernism” is a 19th-century idea, whose evolution I also traced, discussing similar concepts in my essay, From Dhimmitude to Democracy (Quilliam, 2016). In a nutshell, “Muslim Modernism” could be described as embracing all the positive aspects of modernity, including beneficial science and technology, democracy and national self-determination, whilst remaining faithful to the positive principles and practices of Islam.

For illustration, both Paracha and I feature this famous quote from Jinnah, founding father of Pakistan, at the inception of the state in 1947:

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State … We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State … Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.”

(ii) 1960s-70s: “Islamic socialism” – Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, father of Benazir. The cleric Mawdudi, founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami, critiqued this idea by saying that Islam was inherently committed to social justice, so that the “socialism” part was redundant.  However, many islamist leaders were inconsistent, not applying the same critique to terms such as “Islamic democracy,” that they used themselves.  Their defence was that Bhutto’s “socialism” was a cover for godless, atheist communism, and therefore could not be Islamised.  The “Islamic socialists” argued that “Muslim communism,” rooted in some of the strictly-egalitarian, social and economic teachings of the Prophet, was important, as discussed in this 2016 New York Times article. (I have a 90-year-old relative in Karachi, who is basically a “Wahhabi communist,” and committed to strict egalitarianism in religion, society, economics and politics.)

(iii) 1980s-90s: Islamism – General Zia-ul-Haq, influenced by Mawdudi, Dr Israr Ahmad and others. [Paracha says that Zia, as a young army officer, used to distribute Mawdudi’s booklets within the barracks.  However, this was disputed by a senior JI leader to whom I spoke.  It is certainly true that Dr Israr was a major TV preacher during the Zia era.] This was a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam that especially emphasised its political aspects: Zia justified his support of the Afghan military jihad against the Soviet invasion on its basis.  Zia’s Islamisation policies also included educational aspects, such as the Pakistan Hijra Council’s translations into English of medieval Islamic texts about mathematics, science and technology.  Zia’s cultural “Islamisation” led to many restrictions on the once-thriving Pakistani arts scene.

(iv) 1990s-2000s: “Enlightened moderation” – General Pervez Musharraf, who attempted to reverse some of Zia’s influence but was largely pre-occupied by the US-led “War on Terror”, in which Pakistan has been a willing and unwilling ally, after 9/11.  Just as the medic-turned-preacher, Dr Israr Ahmad, had arguably been one of Zia’s most influential clerics, Musharraf brought in Javed Ghamidi, a traditional scholar with a strong rationalist outlook who was forced into self-imposed exile since 2010, firstly in Malaysia and now in the USA, by security threats from Taliban-style militias in Pakistan.

(v) 2000s-10s: a return to “Muslim Modernism” – General Raheel Sharif and possibly Imran Khan.  It may be that the current rulers of Pakistan are once again trying to recapture the spirit of Jinnah, according to Paracha.  However, since the book was written, General Sharif has resigned as Pakistan’s military leader to head up the Saudi-led international Muslim military effort against ISIL.

Imran Khan, being a powerful blend of Eastern and Western influences, much like Iqbal, Jinnah and Benazir before him, and having fathered two children with the English socialite and activist Jemima Khan (née Goldsmith) is a complex leader placed in an extraordinarily-complex situation as current PM of Pakistan. (Just a few years ago in 2016, Imran Khan helped Jemima’s brother Zac Goldsmith’s campaign as Mayor of London candidate against the eventual winner, Sadiq Khan, also of Pakistani origin. These examples illustrate Pakistani influence around the world, e.g. via the million-strong Britons of Pakistani origin.)

Seemingly-trivial details often mask huge controversies.  For example, the word “Islamic” in the official name, “Islamic Republic of Pakistan” was dropped for some years, but later restored after a tense debate about the implications of these terms for religion/state relationships.

For another example, despite his otherwise-brilliant analysis, Paracha makes a basic error when he refers to zakat (an alms-tax regarded as one of the five, basic pillars of Islam) as a “voluntary” tax.  This is perhaps on the opposite extreme to the fundamentalist position espoused by the influential Muslim jurist Qaradawi, who describes zakat, in his Fiqh al-Zakat or Jurisprudence of Zakat, as a unique, divinely-revealed system that is perfect in every way, as though the Bible and other scriptures have nothing similar and as though Muslim jurists have never differed about the voluminous details of zakat. The simple truth is that, similarly to other basic practices in Islam and other religions, zakat has individual as well as communal and political aspects, some voluntary and others enforceable by political authority, all of which have been hotly debated and disputed by jurists and politicians throughout the history of Islam, and these aspects and differences should be acknowledged.  The clearest example of this is the first Caliph of Islam, Abu Bakr’s war on the newly-Islamised Arabian tribes who refused to continue paying the zakat for political and economic reasons after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.

The relationship(s) between Islam and the modern nation-state is one of the key issues of our time. There are about 50 Muslim-majority states in the world, each grappling with these issues in different ways. Pakistan’s experience in this regard is instructive in many ways, and on various levels.  Paracha’s brief and accessible book is a good start for interested readers, and his basic thesis, that Pakistan (and presumably, other Islamic republics and Muslim-majority countries) must adopt an appropriate form of “Muslim Modernism”, deserves to be taken seriously.

 

Usama Hasan

London, UK

6th Zul Hijja 1440 / 7th August 2019

(minor modifications: 7.12.1440 / 8.8.2019)

 

FROM THE PROPHET TO THE KING (A FRIDAY SERMON FOR MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY)

January 25, 2019

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

 

FROM THE PROPHET TO THE KING – AN ISLAMIC FRIDAY SERMON ON THE UNIVERSAL EQUALITY OF HUMANITY, TO MARK THE WEEK OF MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. DAY

 

Mount of Mercy (Jabal al-Rahma), Arafat, near Mecca, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, 2006. This is where the Prophet Muhammad delivered his Farewell Sermon to humanity in 632 CE, echoing God’s last message to humanity in the Qur’an [49:13].  Photo credit: (c) Haris Ahmad

 

The “Million Man March” on Washington DC, 23 August 1968, that included Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic, “I Have A Dream” speech. Photo credit – Wikipedia

[This sermon is written to be read out, or adapted and edited by each individual preacher, khateeb or khateeba according to their unique situation, community and congregation. Delivery time is approximately 20-30 minutes, depending on your oratory style and any gems of wisdom that you would like to add further. You may also wish to add the traditional blessings upon mention of the Messengers of God, such as: “may God bless him and grant him peace.” You will also probably want to recite the Qur’anic verses quoted in Arabic as well – apologies that I do not have the time or technology at the moment to add the proper, mushaf text in Arabic. I hope to do that in the future, God-willing.]

 

[FIRST SERMON]

Al-hamdu li’Llahi rabbi-l-‘alamin. Was-salatu was-salamu ‘alal-mursalin – All Praise belongs to God, Lord of the Worlds. Blessings and Peace be upon the Messengers of God.

 

As tens of millions of people around our world marked Martin Luther King Jr. Day this week, let us be reminded and inspired by the Qur’an,

 

O Humanity! We created you from Male and Female, and made you into Nations and Tribes, that you may know each other. Truly, the most honoured of you in the presence of God are the most pious of you. Truly, God is All-Knowing, All-Aware [Qur’an, Surat-ul-Hujurat, Chapter: The Chambers, 49:13]

 

… And by the Prophet Muhammad’s “Farewell Sermon” or Khutbat-ul-Wida’ delivered at the Hajj in the 10th year of the Islamic calendar or the year 632 of the Christian or Common Era. The Prophet’s farewell sermon was appropriately, and breathtakingly-symbolically, delivered at the “Mount of Mercy” (Jabal al-Rahma), for he was the most merciful messenger of God Most Merciful, and echoed the Qur’anic verse above:

 

“O people, truly your Lord is One and your ancestor is one. Truly, there is no superiority of Arab over non-Arab, of non-Arab over Arab, of white over black, of black over white, except by piety: all of you descended from Adam, and Adam was created from dust (or the soil of the earth).”  This is a soundly-transmitted, authentic or sahih hadith, and perfectly-congruent in meaning with the individual and holistic messages of the Qur’an.

 

These are the definitive Islamic declarations of universal equality: although clearly some people do more good than evil and vice-versa, since piety is only known to God, outwardly and essentially in this life, all people are absolutely equal.

 

When Martin Luther King Jr. famously declared,

 

I have a dream … that one day people will be judged not by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character …

 

he was actually not stating anything new, except perhaps in the 1960s US context of the civil rights movement, a clear example of a blessed, social jihad, despite the US founding declaration that it was a self-evident truth that “all men are created equal.” The Muslim world had possessed this teaching for over 13 centuries, for “content of character” is another way of saying “piety” or “righteousness”, as in the above examples from the Book of God and the Way of His Messenger.

 

Let’s reflect on that again:

 

Firstly, in the 7th century of the Christian or Common Era, that is, in what many people today regard as backward medieval times, the Prophet Muhammad was inspired with a message of God that began, ya ayyuhan-nas: “O people or humanity!” Now, we know that there are many ayat or verses of the Qur’an, dozens in fact, that begin with ya ayyuhan-nas: “O people or humanity!” But if we study their tarteeb an-nuzul or chronological, time-based order of revelation, do you know which one was revealed last after 23 long years of prophethood, persecution and patient struggle in the path of God?

 

It was this verse of Surat-ul-Hujurat!

 

Secondly, after those long, 23 years of utter submission, servitude and spirituality, the Prophet chose, and he was guided by God as always, to impart this key teaching, or deliver this key message, as part of his farewell sermon on the Mount of Mercy that, like Jesus Christ’s Sermon on the Mount of Olives and Moses’ receipt of the revelation of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai centuries earlier, would resonate for millenia with the millions and millions of men and women of God.

 

The last verse of the Book of God addressed explicitly to humanity, and the last major message of the Messenger of God to mankind, delivered in the mountains of Mecca, the mountains that witnessed the message and still resonate with it, if only we knew. Therefore, this is indeed a universal, Islamic declaration by God and then by the Messenger of God, echoing and confirming his Brother-Messengers before him. But what does this universal Muhammadan proclamation say after ya ayyuhan-nas?

 

The Prophetic proclamation says, to paraphrase, that God created us and reflected in us the breathtaking beauty of His diversity, as males and females, and across the spectrum of gender and sexuality, for as we learn in multiple fields of God-given, beneficial knowledge, all of which is drops from the oceans of the Divine Knowledge, from mathematics to music to medicine to metaphysics, and from physics to photography to philology to politics and philosophy, the “opposite poles” of a spectrum such as “male and female” are often the dominant forces, normal modes, eigen-vectors and eigen-functions, but they also imply the entire spectrum itself.  “We created you from Male and Female.”

 

And in the Farewell Sermon, the Prophet reminded the male-dominated society that gender-based rights are mutual and that people of both sexes, the opposite pairs that imply the entire spectrum in between, complement each other in all aspects of life:

 

O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you … Do treat your women well and be kind to them, for they are your lifelong partners and committed helpers.

 

Another passage of the Qur’an reminds us of our humble origins, our need for loving partners and spouses, and our ethnic and linguist diversity:

 

Amongst His Signs is this, that He created you from dust; and then,- behold, you are people scattered (far and wide)!

 

And amongst His Signs is this, that He created for you mates, partners and spouses from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has placed love and mercy between your (hearts): truly, in that are Signs for those who reflect.

 

And amongst His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variation and diversity in your languages and your colours: truly, in that are Signs for those who know.

[Qur’an, Surat al-Rum, Chapter: The Romans or Byzantines, 30:20-22]

 

The message of the Messenger continues with this depth of diversity by reminding us that we are different nations and tribes: different peoples in language, culture, with collectively multi-coloured skins and multi-coloured personalities. We have individual identities, but also group identities: nations and tribes, a tribe being a very large family. People now have new tribes, from political and religious affiliations to fans and supporters of particular sports-clubs and genres of art or music.

 

Nations and tribes lead to nationalism and tribalism, both of which can be good or bad, or a mixture of the two. The positives of nations and tribes is that these matters give us a sense of belonging and the comfort of community, for we are social creatures. Nations and tribes can do great things, such as feeding the poor, looking after widows, widowers and orphans, caring for animals and the earth, toppling tyrants, fighting oppression and injustice and building great civilisations that reflect the Majesty and Beauty of God by harnessing the power of collective effort and the synergy of diverse material and spiritual forces.

 

But nations and tribes can do immense evil when these forces descend, like vicious, collective egos into cycles of hatred, violence and revenge. “My nation first, whether it’s right or wrong!  My tribe first, whether it’s right or wrong!” The whole of human history, including the past, present and future, is littered with the awful cruelty, violence, warmongering and genocide caused by God-given nations and tribes being utterly misused, for evil rather than good.

 

And this is why, in this verse of Surat-ul-Hujurat, God follows mention of nations and tribes with: li ta’arafu: that you may know and recognise each other deeply. Know yourself, and know your nation and tribe, to give you a strong sense of the positive values, individual and collective, that inspire you to goodness, but do not use them to hate other people, other nations, other tribes, other sports fans, other political parties, simply for being different to you and irrespective of right and wrong.

 

Fourteen centuries ago, the Qur’an reminded us to dig deep and harness our individual and collective energies for goodness, and to bring people together. God didn’t say: li tanafaru or li taqatalu, that I created you in different nations and tribes to hate each other or to fight and kill each other and indulge your mad, genocidal impulses, but li ta’arafu: that you may know and recognise each other deeply, and see the beauty of God in each other’s good qualities, for people are mirrors of each other, with all our goodness and evil reflected back at us.

 

One of the great strengths and positive resources of today’s world is that through our God-given learning, telecommunication and travel, We, the peoples of the world, not just “We, the people” of America or Britain or Russia or Saudi Arabia or Iran or India or Pakistan or the blessed lands of Africa and the other great continents, but “We, the peoples of the world” are able to know, communicate with, learn about and develop deep friendships, and therefore to recognise each other on a deep human level, individually and collectively, more than ever before.

 

I seek the forgiveness of God, for me and for you all, for all of us. Seek His forgiveness, for truly, He alone is the Forgiver, the Merciful.

 

 

[SECOND SERMON]

Al-hamdu li’Llahi rabbi-n-nas, maliki-n-nas, ilahi-n-nas. All Praise belongs to God, Lord of humanity, King of humanity, Deity of humanity.

We now come to the crux, literally, of these majestic, divine teachings that are perhaps more relevant today than in all the bygone millenia of human history, because of the ever-increasing size of the human race and the competition for the earth’s scarce resource. Within our lifetimes, ours and our living parents and grandparents, the human family has rocketed from 2 billion people to nearly 8 billion today.

 

God says: Truly, the most honoured of you in the presence of God are the most pious of you.

 

And the Prophet said in his last message to the crowds of thousands gathered around him on his Hajjat-ul-Wida’ or Farewell Pilgrimage to Mecca:

 

O people, truly your Lord is One and your ancestor is one. Truly, there is no superiority of Arab over non-Arab, of non-Arab over Arab, of white over black, of black over white, except by piety: all of you descended from Adam, and Adam was created from dust (or the soil of the earth).

 

In other words, we are united despite our diversity: we are one human family, for as our scientists tell us, we are a narrow species as a human race, and there is no real scientific evidence for different races, only different skin-colours, that themselves will disappear through the increasing inter-marriage accelerated by globalisation, so that humans in a few centuries or millenia will all be the same colour and it will be clearer that there is only one race: the human race, and that is our ultimate nation and tribe.

 

There is no superiority of Arab over non-Arab, of non-Arab over Arab, of white over black, of black over white, except by piety.

 

And let’s face it bluntly and honestly, many Muslims have forgotten this and our communities and societies are plagued with racism: Arab v. non-Arab, North African Arab v. Black African, Arab v. Turk v. Kurd v. Persian v. Indian v. Chinese and all the subdivisions underneath. This jahiliyyah that Islam brilliantly eradicated in the City of the Prophet is back with a vengeance.  As we know from other Qur’anic verses and commentary and study of history from a Qur’anic lens, God honoured the Israelites with being custodians of His Covenant. Then this duty and honour passed to the Ishmaelites or Arabs. A century after the Prophet, it passed to the Persians and North Africans and Black Africans and Kurds and Mongols and Indians and Turks.  And now, each of these groups have nation-states that are vying for leadership of the Muslim world, and each one is claiming superiority over the other based on its history and supposedly-better culture. And the Arabs in particular – and my family, like most families of Indian Muslim heritage, claim Arab ancestry, have no superiority over others because, as Imam al-Shafi’i categorically showed, every Muslim is an Arab of sorts because every Muslim can recite at least one line from the Qur’an in Arabic. Furthermore, the Qur’an being in classical Arabic, does not make any Arab or Indian or Turk or Persian superior, if we do not live by the exalted ideals of God’s Holy, Noble and Majestic Word.

No!  The people who deserve to lead the “Muslim world” are the true people of God, plain and simple, those who love God and are loved by Him and who are always with the poor and the oppressed and the marginalised. And sometimes, it requires the greatest courage to keep saying basic truths when these are being forgotten and ridiculed.

As the greatest custodians and authorities of the Islamic tradition agreed:

God will give dominance to a non-Muslim state that practises justice over a Muslim state that practises oppression.

This is because God is Truth, and God is Just, and He underpinned His creation with the Balance, that we may not transgress the Balance. And there is no point countering Islamophobia with Westophobia, for Western, non-Muslim societies that are more just and better at human rights will continue to dominate Muslim societies that are culturally infested by racism, inequality, oppression of women, have appalling human rights records and even practise medieval slavery in a few places, although human-trafficking of men, women and children for forced labour and sexual slavery is a new problem all over the world, and it is called “modern slavery.”

 

 

Piety, or God-consciousness or true spirituality, is ultimately the most important “content of character.”

 

Hence, we’ve gone from the Prophet, Messenger of God, to the King, Reverend Martin Luther King, a man of God:

 

I have a dream … that one day people will be judged not by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character …

 

 

Whether you’re inspired to universal equality by the Qur’an, the Prophet Muhammad, Martin Luther King Jr. or any other person, scripture or text, please remember that all people are indeed equal, and entitled to basic respect. We may disagree and criticise each other’s views, behaviour and actions, but we remain equal in our essence and our source, and our own behaviour and responses to others should reflect this fundamental truth.

 

In the week that many people remember Martin Luther King Jr., let us Muslims remember that Prophet Muhammad, Messenger of God, delivered the same message, but with even more depth, spirituality and heroic human spirit, and lived it out from Mecca to Medina and back to Mecca, nearly a millennium and a half ago.

 

May Allah inspire us with the examples of His beloved servants. May Allah bless all of our countries, our nations, our peoples, our tribes, and enable us to do good and avoid evil.

 

[DU’AS OR SUPPLICATIONS]

 

[Recommendation for the 2-rak’at salat (Friday prayer): recite Surah al-Hujurat over the two rak’ahs, preferably all of it or at least some of it, e.g.:

 

1st rak’ah: Verses 1-10

2nd rak’ah: Verses 11-17

I recommend also reading, just reading with no comment, a good translation of the entire Surah, after the prayer – we must rekindle the effect of sacred words, eloquently said from the heart, for then the Word of God needs no explanation, and will move mountains and hearts.

May Allah be with you, and accept and bless your sermons and your prayers!]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Usama Hasan

USA

Friday 25th January, 2019

 

[Version 1.0: 12.30pm GMT/UST ~2,000 words or 15-20 minutes’ sermon

Version 1.1:  11pm GMT/UST ~2,800 words or 20-30 minutes’ sermon]