Posts Tagged ‘Qur'an’

On Abu Bakr al-Asamm

March 3, 2013
Bismillah.  Another interesting piece by Arnold Yasin Mol.
The Mu’tazilah Abi Bakr al-‘Asamm (أبي بكر الأصمُّ) was an early scholar and judge (died 220H/843CE), well respected by the then Sunni caliph. As far as I know none of his complete works have survived, but many tafasir/Qur’an commentaries mention his opinions and interpretations in their works, especially Imam al-Razi, al-Tabarsi and al-Tusi. From their works Dr. Hudr Muhammad Nabha has distilled al-‘Asamm’s tafsir into one volume, which I’m researching now. Al-‘Asamm has many interesting opinions that show that to him, reason/’aql has more authority than tradition/naql, a typical early theological Kalam tafsir approach (tafsir al-ra’y/exegesis of opinion) of the Mu’tazilah school.

One of the surprising and rare opinions is on the place of Surah al-Fatiha in the daily salat prayer. As far as I know, all scholars deem it mandatory to recite it in the daily prayers, although they differ if it has to be recited with every raka’ah. This is also how the tafsir of al-‘Asamm begins before the surprising twist:

(في المسائل الفقهية المستنبطة من هذه السورة : أجمع الأكثرون على أن القراءة واجبة في الصلاة، و عن الأصمّ والحسن بن صالح أنها لا تجب.) “On the deduced juristic issue on this chapter: The consensus of the majority on its mandatory recitation in the prayer. And (the opinion) of al-‘Asamm and al-Hasan bin Salah that it (the recitation of al-Fatiha) is not mandatory.”

Al-‘Asmm’s proof (حجّة الأصمّ) is that the Prophet’s saying (صلّوا كما رأيتموني أصلي) “Pray as you’ve seen me pray”, (جعل الصلاة الأشياء المرئية والقراءة ليست بمرئية، فوجب كونها خارجة عن الصلاة) and this makes the prayer of the visual things and recitation is not visual. Thus what is only mandatory is the exterior of the prayer.”

Further on he is quoted as saying: (وهو أن القراءة غير واجبة أصلا) “And the recitation (in prayer) is not a primary obligation.”

His interpretation of the famous Hadith “Pray as you’ve seen me pray” [graded hasan in Bukhari] is unique in that that the term “ra’ytumuni/you’ve seen me” is reduced to visual observation only, and all the things said, every prayer and Qur’an recitation, are thus not part of the mandatory Sunna of prayer. Only the movements are mandatory, but not the spoken contents. There are of course many other Ahadith/Prophetic traditions concerning prayer and al-Fatiha’s place in it, but the above mentioned Hadith belongs to on of the most accepted traditions among the schools, and thus it seems al-‘Asamm took the most used and accepted Hadith on prayer and interpreted it in a way which makes most of the other Ahadith on prayer unauthentic. Was he aware that this opinion would make all the verbal sayings in the prayer, next to Qur’an recitation, not prescribed in a mandatory way? As the Qur’an nowhere clearly mentions how or what to pray (it only gives direction/qibla, timings, general movements, and that the Qur’an is recited in it without specifying what parts), it may explain al-‘Asamm’s reluctance to make anything outside of the Qur’an mandatory practice, but I’ve to research his opinions more to see if he takes similar stances elsewhere. The Mu’tazilah laid great emphasis on the Qur’an as unique revelation, and saw Ahadith not really as secondary revelation. Ahadith were a source of knowledge and were needed to understand the rituals of worship, but they were not as enforcing as the Qur’an or human reason.

Interesting is that this opinion of al-‘Asamm became his most infamous one as he is mentioned in several works on prayer (Fiqh al-‘Ibadat) as ‘the one who alone believes al-Fatiha is not mandatory in prayer’.

[p.31, Tafsīr Abī Bakr al-‘Asamm, Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 2007, Beirut]

A 13th-century Moroccan Sufi on the Hadith of the 73 Sects

February 24, 2013

Bismillah.  An important explanation of what is meant by “What I and my Companions are upon” in the hadith of the 73 sects, a phrase often abused nowadays by un-Islamic, sectarian mindsets.  With thanks to Arnold Yasin Mol for digging this out.

In the tafsir by the 12-13th century Moroccan Sufi, Abu al-’Abbas al-Subti, he makes a very interesting exegesis on Qur’an verse 16:90 and the famous 72-sects Hadith. Through Asbab al-Nuzul he sees that 16:90 was revealed about the brotherhood pact between the first Muslims from Mecca (Muhajirun) and the helping community in Medina (Ansar) through which they obliged each other to share everything equally. The word ‘adl (عدل) in 16:90 means ‘equal value/weight/justice’, and so al-Subti understands that true justice means sharing everything equally among everybody. Later he sees that the famous 72-sects Hadith (72 Muslim sects go to Hell, 1 sect is saved) which is abused by many groups and sects to declare themselves the ‘saved sect’ and all others as condemned, was said the day after the ‘equal sharing pact’ was made, and thus equal sharing is what the Prophet and the first Muslims followed. The Hadith isn’t about following detailed sectarian rules concerning creed and ritual; to be saved is to share equally among mankind.

“I found a verse in the Book of God that had a great effect on both my heart and my tongue. It was, ‘Verily, God commands justice and the doing of good.’ I pondered this and said [to myself], ‘Perhaps [finding] this is no coincidence and I am the one who is meant by this verse.’ I continued to examine its meaning in the books of exegesis until I found Gharib at-Tafsir, which stated that [the verse] was revealed when the Prophet established brotherhood between the Emigrants (Muhajirun) and the Helpers (Ansar). They had asked the Prophet to establish a pact of brotherhood between them, so he commanded them to share among themselves. In this way, they learned that the justice commanded [by God] was through sharing. Then I looked into the saying of the Prophet: ‘My community will be divided into seventy-two sects, all of which will be in the Fire except the one followed by me and my companions,’ and found that he said this on the morning of the day that he had ordered the pact of brotherhood [to be established] between the Emigrants and the Helpers … So I understood that what he and his companions adhered to were the practices of equal sharing (mushatara) and favouring others (ithar). Then I swore to God Most High that when anything came to me I would share it with my believing brethren among the poor. I followed this practice for twenty years, and this rule affected my ideas to the point where nothing dominated my thoughts more than uncompromising honesty (sidq).”

[translation: Vincent J. Cornell, “Realm of the Saint: Power and Authority in Moroccan Sufism”]

Cornell also mentions that to Abu ‘l-‘Abbas, every act of human mercy (rahma) evoked a merciful response from the all-merciful God (ar-Rahim). He summed up his theory of reciprocity with the maxim: “[Divine] Being is actualised by generosity” (al-wujud yanfa’ilu bi ‘l-jud).

Islamic teachings about looking after orphans

August 5, 2012

Bismillah. These also apply to orphans who are fostered or adopted, of course. This is written in the hope that it will be of benefit to individuals, charities and other agencies that help orphans.

One of the inspirations to do this was recently meeting an elderly Somali-Yemeni woman in London who is fostering two Afghani orphans with the help of the UK welfare state.

ISLAMIC TEACHINGS ABOUT ORPHANS

Did He not find you orphaned, and give you shelter? … So as for the orphan, do not oppress! (Qur’an 93: 6 & 9)

Piety is not to face east or west in prayer, but piety is to have faith in God … and to spend of your wealth, out of love for God and despite your love of wealth, on relatives, orphans, the needy and others … (Qur’an 2:177)

The righteous, they give food, out of love for God and despite their love of food, to the needy, the orphan and the prisoner. (Qur’an 76:8)

The following are sound (sahih) traditions, except where indicated, recorded in Imam Bukhari’s al-Adab al-Mufrad, nos. 131-140, in chapters about orphans.

“One who strives on behalf of the widow and the needy is like the one who fights in the path of God, or fasts by day and stands in prayer by night.” – The Prophet, peace be upon him. [1]

“Whoever is tested with young daughters [including orphans] and shows kindness to them: they will be a barrier between him or her and the Fire.” – The Prophet, peace be upon him. [1]

“I and the one who takes care of an orphan will be like these two in the Garden.” – The Prophet, peace be upon him, indicating with his forefinger and middle finger. [2]

Abdullah, son of Omar, Companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him), would not eat without one or more orphans sharing his meal.

An orphan used to eat at mealtimes with Abdullah, son of Omar, Companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Once, he arrived late and the food had all been eaten, so Abdullah brought him some porridge with honey. [3]

“The best of homes are those where an orphan is shown kindness. The worst of homes are those where an orphan is shown cruelty.” – attributed to The Prophet, peace be upon him. [4]

“Be to an orphan like a merciful father or mother.” – Dawud [5]

A man asked Ibn Sirin [5], “How should I treat an orphan under my care?” He replied, “Exactly as you treat your own child.”

NOTES

[1] Also in Sahih al-Bukhari & Sahih Muslim.

[2] Also in Sahih al-Bukhari.

[3] Narration weak; meaning sound.

[4] Narration weak; meaning sound. Also in Sunan Ibn Majah.

[5] A disciple of the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

WHAT HAPPENS TO A MARRIAGE IF ONE OF THE COUPLE CONVERTS TO ISLAM?

January 13, 2012

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim

WHAT HAPPENS TO A MARRIAGE IF ONE OF THE COUPLE CONVERTS TO ISLAM?

 Traditional Islamic jurisprudence says that Muslims should only marry each other.  The only exception to this is that Muslim men are allowed to marry women who are Ahl al-Kitab (People of Scripture), usually limited to Jews and Christians.  Traditionally, Muslim women were not allowed to marry non-Muslim men.  But what happens to a non-Muslim couple who are married, and later one or both of them convert to Islam?  Here are some fatwas on the issue, that slightly differ from each other:

A. Fatwa of The European Council for Fatwa & Research, including Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Sheikh ‘Abdullah bin Bayyah, Sheikh ‘Abdullah al-Judai, Sheikh Suhaib Hasan and others (from Sheikh ‘Abdullah bin Bayyah, Sina’at al-Fatwa, pp. 356-7)

  1. If both of the couple become Muslim, and they are not close relatives by blood or suckling that would make the marriage invalid, their marriage continues in its validity. (NB they do not need an Islamic nikah ceremony.)
  2. If only the husband converts to Islam, they are not close relatives and the wife is a person of scripture, their marriage continues in its validity.
  3. If only the wife converts to Islam, the view of the Council is that: a) if she converts before the marriage is consummated, she must leave him immediately; b) if she converts after consummation and her husband converts within 3 months or within 3 of her monthly cycles, their marriage continues in its validity; c) as before, but if a long time period has passed, she may remain with him in the expectation that he will convert also.  If he eventually converts, their marriage continues in its validity, without needing a new marriage ceremony.  d) If she wishes to leave her husband after the 3-month time period, she should seek dissolution of her marriage from the relevant authorities.

4. If the wife is Muslim and the husband is not, the four Madhhabs do not allow her to remain with him after the expiry of the 3-month period, or to have sexual relations with him.  However, some scholars allow her to remain with him, fully-married, as long as he does not harm her regarding her religious practice and as long as she has hope that he will also convert to Islam eventually.

It is authentically narrated from ‘Umar bin al-Khattab that a woman became a Muslim while her husband remained non-Muslim: he ruled, “If she wishes, she may leave him or if she wishes, she may remain with him.”  Also, there is an authentic narration from ‘Ali bin Abi Talib: “If the wife of a Jewish or Christian man becomes Muslim, he is entitled to remain her husband, since he has a covenant with the Muslims.”  Similar views are authentically-narrated from Ibrahim al-Nakh’i, Imam Sha’bi and Hammad bin Abi Sulayman.

 

B. FATWA OF SHEIKH ‘ABDULLAH AL-JUDAI (from his book Islam Ahad al-Zawjayn, pp. 249-251)

  1. There is no decisive, unequivocal text (nass qati’) about this matter.
  2. There is no consensus (ijma’) about this matter.
  3. Pre-Islamic marriages are sound and valid.  They can only be annulled for definite reasons.  Difference of religion is not a definite cause of invalidity due to the absence of an unequivocal text and due to the existence of a difference of opinion about the matter.
  4. Evidence from the Qur’an and Sunnah shows that a couple remaining together with a difference of religion does not damage the basis of their faiths.  Their relationship remains sound, not corrupt.
  5. The simple fact that one of them converts to Islam does not invalidate the marriage.
  6. Despite the multitude of people converting to Islam in his time, it is not recorded at all that the Prophet (pbuh) separated a husband and wife or ordered their separation due to one of them converting, or due to one of them converting before the other.  What is authentic from him is the opposite, as in the case of his daughter Zaynab who remained married to Abul-‘As for six years after she converted to Islam and before he did so, just before the Conquest of Mecca and after the revelation of Surah al-Mumtahinah.  The most that happened was that she emigrated and left him in Mecca after the Battle of Badr, but her emigration (hijrah) did not nullify their marriage.
  7. To say that the ayah of al-Mumtahinah ends marital relations due to a difference of religion is not correct.  It only applies when one spouse is at war with Islam (harbi), not simply a non-Muslim (kafir).
  8. The ayah of al-Mumtahinah allows a believer to marry a believing woman whose husband is at war with Islam.  It does not obligate this.  The story of Zaynab shows that a woman’s marriage to a non-Muslim (harbi) man changes from being binding to being allowed.  The reason for this is the difficulty of her returning to her harbi husband, and the difficulty she faces without a husband.
  9. The ayah forbids a Muslim man from retaining a non-Muslim wife who has not joined him in emigrating from a land of kufr to a land of Islam, or has fled from him, renouncing her faith and joining non-Muslims who are at war with Islam.  The reason for this is to prevent an inclination towards ones enemies, as happened with Hatib bin Abi Balta’ah, who wrote to the polytheists about some of the movements of the Muslims due to the presence of some of his relatives in Mecca.
  10. When one of the couple converts to Islam whilst the other is not at war with Islam, they are allowed to remain together.  They are not separated simply due to difference of religion.  The evidence for this is the practice of the Prophet (pbuh) and the Companions regarding those who embraced Islam in Mecca before the Hijrah and at the Conquest of Mecca.  This was also the fatwa given by ‘Umar during his caliphate without any opposition, and also by ‘Ali.
  11. A difference in religion due to the conversion of one of the couple to Islam allows the annulment of the marriage but does not obligate it, as shown by the judgment of ‘Umar with the endorsement of the Companions.
  12. The conclusions of the Madhhabs in this matter are not to be given precedence due to their opposition to what is established, weakness of evidence (dalil), weakness of juristic indication (istidlal), or all of the above.
  13. The allowance for the couple to remain together means that their marital life together is permitted, including sexual intercourse.

 

C. TAKING INTO ACCOUNT THE LIKELY EFFECTS ON CHILDREN

The majority of jurists regard a man who doesn’t pray regularly out of laziness as still a Muslim and not a kafir, so his wife is not obliged to divorce him.

In certain situations, the wife is allowed to have patience and persevere with her marriage, despite the objectionable behaviour of her husband, especially if she has children from him and she fears that they will become psychologically ruined and wasted.

(Sheikh ‘Abdullah bin Bayyah, Sina’at al-Fatwa, p. 353)

Compiled and translated by Usama Hasan, London, 13th January 2012

Minor updates: 21/12/2015

A PDF version of this article can be found here: One of a couple converting to Islam

Update: 26/01/2017

D. A SIMILAR ANSWER GIVEN BY SHAYKH GIBRIL FOUAD HADDAD

Q&A reposted from http://eshaykh.com/halal_haram/convert-required-to-divorce-non-muslim-spouse/

Convert required to divorce non-Muslim spouse?

Question:

As-salamu ‘alaikum,

An urgent question that has certainly come up again and again, requiring an absolutely authoritative answer, is what is to be done if a married woman accepts Islam but her husband does not.

Let’s say as an extreme example that they’ve been married for fifty years, have ten children together and love each other dearly. The wife has no job skills with which to provide for herself, much less for her children; the husband is ill or handicapped and his wife takes care of his needs. He’s fine with her new faith and lets her practice as she likes and teach it to their children but does not want to accept or commit to it for himself.

What to do? Telling a Muslim woman who is already married to a non-Muslim man that she must divorce him because staying with him is haram, deserves the death penalty and will earn her Hell isn’t the same thing as telling an unmarried Muslimah that their intended marriage to a non-Muslim man is prohibited and will nullify her profession of Islam. Moreover, there are no children involved who love their father and might end up traumatized and hating Islam if it the breakup of the household. Additionally, forcing *already-married couples *to break up would certainly deter many non-Muslim women from converting to Islam, no matter how much they may wish to if it means breaking an existing or possible future marriage.

Please understand that I’m not arguing with Allah Subhanuhu wa T’a’ala. Hasha,  God forbid! Rather, I’m just trying to understand how the Islamic Shar’iah deals with this specific situation, which is certainly not rare in our time. The website,

https://unity1.wordpress.com/2012/01/13/what-happens-to-a-marriage-if-one-of-the-couple-converts-to-islam/

deals with the issue but I need to know how acceptable this opinion is for Ahl-us-Sunnah wal-Jam’ah. May Allah greatly reward you for any help you can give.

Answer:

Alaykum salam,

If there is acceptance on his part and tolerance for his wife’s religion then there is hope for himself eventually accepting Islam. This hope is the basis for validating the continuity of their marriage as in the case of Fatima bint Asad and her non-Muslim husband Abu Talib.

And Allah knows best.

Hajj Gibril Haddad

Inner Aspects of Ramadan

August 23, 2011

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

Inner Aspects of Ramadan

Three Levels of Fasting

Imam al-Ghazzali, in his Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din (Revival of the Sciences of Religion), describes the following three levels of fasting (cf. Inner Dimensions of Islamic Worship, publ. Islamic Foundation, which is a translation by the late Mukhtar Holland of an extract from the Ihya’):

  1. Fasting of the body: abstaining from food, drink and sex
  2. Fasting of the tongue: abstaining from backbiting, gossip, slander, idle talk, etc.
  3. Fasting of the heart and soul: abstaining from the remembrance of anything or anyone except God and engaging constantly in dhikr Allah, the mention or remembrance of God

Patience & Gratitude (Sabr & Shukr)

Allah says often in the Qur’an (e.g. 14:5, 34:19, 42:33), especially in regard to the ups and downs of life and history that constitute the Days of God (ayyam Allah), “… In this there are Signs for every extremely patient one, given to much gratitude.” (sabbar shakur, both intensive active participles derived from sabr and shukr, respectively)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) taught, “One who eats gratefully is like one who fasts patiently.” (al-ta’im al-shakir ka l-sa’im al-sabir, a sound hadith found in the Sunan collections)  Thus, eating wholesome food with thanks to God is spiritually equal to depriving oneself of food and drink for the sake of God.

Some of the early Muslim authorities (Salaf) said, especially in explaining the above Qur’anic ayah, “Faith has two halves: half of faith is patience; the other half is gratitude.” (al-iman nisfan: nisf sabr wa nisf shukr)

Thus, as Imam Ibn al-Qayyim explains, Patience and Gratitude are two sides of the same coin of faith: we are required to have patience in troubled times, and show gratitude to God in good times.  This is why these two qualities are mentioned in the Qur’an alongside lessons from time and history, or the Days of God.

Showing gratitude to God includes being grateful to people through whom we receive God’s favours. It also includes using our God-given talents, skills and faculties for good and noble purposes, rather than for disobeying God and engaging in mischief and evil: all good actions thus become part of the worship of God.

Imam Ibn al-Qayyim, further explains the importance of balancing these two qualities to achieve true faith and grow closer to God, with the following simile: “Patience and Gratitude are like the two wings of a believer in their flight to their Lord.”

Another beautiful teaching of the Prophet, peace be upon him, that reinforces these themes, is the following: “Wonderful is the situation of the believer! If he or she is afflicted by misfortune, he or she is patient, and this is good for him or her.  If he or she is touched by good fortune, he or she is grateful, and this is good for him or her.  This (grace) is not available to anyone except the believer!” (A sound hadith transmitted by Bukhari and Muslim)

(For further reading, refer to Patience and Gratitude by Ibn al-Qayyim, trans. Huda Khattab, publ. Dar al-Taqwa, London)

Life & Death

The Prophet (peace be upon him) famously taught that “The person fasting enjoys two moments of happiness: (1) happiness upon breaking the fast and (2) happiness upon meeting the Lord.”

Thus, the joy of iftar or Fitr (breaking the fast) is a foretaste of the joy of meeting God.

The daily cycle of fast and break-fast is a symbol of life and death: the daily fast symbolises the constraints, difficulties and tribulations of life; the daily break-fast symbolises the joy of death and meeting God, for the believer.

These inner meanings are wider: the entire month of fasting symbolises the tribulations of life, whilst ‘Id al-Fitr (the Festival of Breaking the Fast) symbolises the joy of meeting God.

The practice of I’tikaf (Seclusion in the Mosque) during the last ten days and nights of Ramadan, partly in order to seek the greatest night of the year, also contains reminders of these themes, amongst many other benefits.  Seclusion in the mosque entails devoting time to prayer, remembrance of God and other types of worship, avoiding worldly matters completely and minimising profane thought and talk.  Seclusion affords much time for silence and reflection.  The time of I’tikaf, i.e. the last third of Ramadan, is followed immediately by the ‘Id celebration.

I’tikaf may thus be seen and felt as a foretaste of our time in the grave, followed by ‘Id, which we hope is a foretaste of Paradise!

The authentic Sunnah (Way of the Prophet, peace be upon him) is that women may also stay in the mosque also for the spiritual seclusion of I’tikaf: many of the Prophet’s wives and female disciples engaged in this practice.  Mosques should thus be available to women for this uplifting bodily-and-spiritual practice.

Ramadan Cheer, Generosity and Spirit

As described by his Companions, Allah be pleased with them, the Prophet, peace be upon him, was the most generous of people and was especially generous during the month of Ramadan: even more generous than the winds that herald live-giving rains.  He, peace be upon him, himself explained why this was so: it was because the Archangel Jibril (Gabriel), the Ruh al-Qudus (Spirit of Holiness or Holy Spirit), would visit him daily to rehearse the Qur’an with him, consolidating during each Ramadan all that had been revealed of the Qur’an so far.  In the final Ramadan of the Prophet’s life, Jibril rehearsed the Qur’an with him twice, indicating that the revelation of the Qur’an was almost complete.  All the minor variations in the Qur’anic revelation were thus superseded by this “final rehearsal” (al-‘ard al-akhir), as it is known in Qur’anic studies.

Much may be learnt from this breathtaking meeting of Spirits (the Prophet Muhammad, the Noble Qur’an and the Archangel Gabriel) during Ramadan in Madinah during that Blessed Age:

  • The importance of visiting each other to strengthen spiritual contact.  The Prophet, peace be upon him, would sometimes complain to Gabriel outside Ramadan that the latter did not visit him enough, upon which the verse of the Qur’an was revealed, describing the movements of the angels, “We do not descend, except by the command of your Lord …” (19:64)
  • The blessed practice of rehearsing as much as one knows of the Qur’an during Ramadan, especially with someone who has preserved it equally or better (e.g. a teacher or colleague).  This should be done whether a person knows one verse or ten, one surah or ten, and in the case of preservers of the whole Qur’an (huffaz), one recitation (qira’ah) or ten.
  • The blessings of spirituality and generosity that arise from the above two matters: the Prophet’s generosity peaked during Ramadan due to these two factors.

Thus, Ramadan is the month of: fasting, recitation of the Qur’an, remembrance of God, generosity, mercy, charity and Jihad (struggling against all forms of evil).  And just as our Christian friends speak about “Christmas cheer,” Muslims should manifest the “Ramadan cheer, generosity and spirit.”

Tips for Getting the Most out of Ramadan

The following obvious tips may be derived from the Divine guidance to the Prophet, peace be upon him, “So when you have completed and become free (of worldly matters), stand (in worship).  And to your Lord, turn your desire!” (94:7-8)

  • Take time off work if possible
  • Get important worldly matters out of the way before Ramadan, e.g. house/car/furniture purchases and maintenance, bills, payments, etc.
  • Devote time to worship in all its forms, e.g. prayer, fasting, charity, reconciliation amongst people, serving people and the rest of God’s creation in general

May Allah shower upon us all the blessings of Ramadan, this year and every year.

© Usama Hasan

Have You Stopped Beating Your Wife? The Quran, Hadith and Domestic Violence

January 3, 2011

Bismillah.  I began work on this at about 5am on 1st January and, Praise God, have completed it around 55 hours later.  I am grateful to all my teachers and friends who encouraged me to write this work.

My conclusion is simple: God and Muhammad, peace be upon him, clearly wished to
ban domestic violence, as numerous hadiths indicate.  The verse was always known
to be a temporary compromise, an extremely limited concession that required
minimum use of violence, if at all.  “New” findings are:

1. Numerous hadiths say emphatically, “Don’t beat your wives.”  The Qur’an
apparently says, “You may beat your wives.”  This apparent difficulty must be
resolved.  The verse is perhaps the most quoted by critics and enemies of Islam,
the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.

2. The article tries to highlight a basic and serious flaw with the way many
Muslims read and teach the Qur’an, including some preachers and clerics.
Helping to correct this problem will, God-willing, open the way to dealing with
numerous other controversial issues and “problematic” ayahs and hadiths.

3. Many issues around human rights and women’s rights, gender-equality,
dhimmitude etc. may be fruitfully-addressed along similar lines.

Feedback is welcome, especially from students and scholars of Islam as well as activists and reformers, particularly those involved with women’s rights.  If you find the work of value, I would be grateful if you could help circulate it as widely as possible, and publicise its conclusions that are given in a 2-page summary at the beginning of this 17-page study, and repeated below (with additions) for easy reference.  May Allah reward you. – U.H.

Read the study here: Have You Stopped Beating Your Wife – The Quran on Domestic Violence

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

HAVE YOU STOPPED BEATING YOUR WIFE?

THE PLAIN TRUTH ABOUT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE & THE “WIFE-BEATING” VERSE OF THE QUR’AN, INCLUDING A HOLISTIC STUDY OF IMPORTANT BUT RARELY-QUOTED HADITHS ON THE SUBJECT

© Usama Hasan (London, UK)

3rd January, 2011

CONTENTS

1    SUMMARY OF THIS STUDY.. 3

2    INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND.. 5

3    THE QUR’ANIC VERSE REFERRING TO WIFE-BEATING.. 6

3.1       Notes on this verse. 6

3.2       Ibn ‘Ashur’s Contextualisation of the Verse: Then and Now.. 8

4    SOME HADITHS RELATED TO THE VERSE OF WIFE-BEATING   9

4.1       An Apparent Difficulty. 10

4.2       Resolution of the Difficulty. 10

4.3       A Fundamentalist Interpretation. 10

4.4       The Normative, Orthodox Interpretation. 10

4.5       A Refutation of Alternative Interpretations of “Beat Them”. 13

4.6       A Weak Hadith That Might Otherwise Justify Wife-Beating. 15

5    CONCLUSION.. 17

SUMMARY OF THIS STUDY

  1. There is a verse (ayah) of the Qur’an (Surah al-Nisa’ or Chapter: Women, 4:34) that may appear to condone domestic violence against women.  The verse says, “You may beat your wives.”
  2. Domestic violence is a problem in most, if not all, communities and societies.  For example, current statistics indicate that approximately 1 in 3 British women experience domestic violence during their lifetime.  Although the overwhelming majority of cases of domestic violence in Muslim households are due to wider human factors such as difficulties with relationships and anger-management, a handful of cases involve the husband feeling justified in using violence against his wife on the basis of this Qur’anic text.
  3. Such an attitude is not uncommon amongst socially-conservative Muslims who are “religious” in a formal sense: for example, a conservative leader of Indian Muslims is said to have given a public statement in 2010 denouncing a new law in India that criminalised domestic violence, thus: “They are taking away our divine right to hit our wives.”
  4. This fundamentalist misinterpretation of the Qur’an is sometimes sanctioned by the legal system in Muslim-majority countries, for example, as in the UAE’s Federal Supreme Court ruling of October 2010.
  5. A large number of hadiths (traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him) contain the explicit, emphatic prohibition, “Do not beat your wives!”
  6. These hadiths may appear to contradict the Qur’an, if the latter is read in a superficial, fundamentalist way.
  7. A holistic reading of the Qur’an, Sunnah and Hadiths, taking into account the socio-historical context of the revelation of the Qur’an and of the Prophetic guidance preserved in authentic hadiths, shows clearly that God and Muhammad wished to ban wife-beating and domestic violence completely.  As a temporary measure, and as a step on the way, an extremely limited, reluctant concession was given that only allowed minimal violence as a symbolic gesture of displeasure on a husband’s part.  This was in a strongly patriarchal society that used to bury baby girls alive because of their gender and where sons would inherit their fathers’ wives.  Such practices were outlawed by Islam, which also granted rights to women in 7th-century Arabia that were only achieved by European women in the 19th century, such as the independent right to own their property upon marriage.
  8. The evidence for this interpretation is overwhelming, from the 8th-century AD Mufti of Mecca, ‘Ata bin Abi Rabah, who ruled that “a man may not hit his wife” to the 20th-century Mufti of the Zaytuna in Tunis, Ibn ‘Ashur, who ruled that the State may ban domestic violence and punish any man who assaulted his wife.
  9. The “gradualist” approach of the Qur’an and Sunnah described in this case is a common feature in Islam.  Other examples are the prohibition of wine, gambling, fornication and adultery.  Modern reformers argue that the same principle applies to the abolition of slavery and the struggle towards gender-equality.
  10. Recently, a number of Muslim thinkers and scholars, unfamiliar with the holistic approach to the Qur’an, Hadith and Shari’ah embodied in the universalist Maqasid theory of Islamic law, have attempted to re-translate the “wife-beating” verse to mean something else.  Alternative translations and interpretations include temporary separation of husband and wife, travelling and even making love as a way of solving marital disputes.  A prominent example of this is Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar’s recent translation, The Sublime Qur’an (2007) that is largely-promoted based precisely on her translation of the wife-beating verse. Although well-intentioned, such interpretations and translations are either grammatically unsound or far-fetched, or both.  Furthermore, they ignore the overwhelming evidence provided by the Hadith traditions and simply do not placate the critics of Islam.  The normative, orthodox account of the issue in this study provides a thorough, honest and principled solution to the difficulties apparently posed by the wife-beating verse.
  11. The presence of hadiths with weak isnads (chains of narration) that would otherwise justify wife-beating may be evidence that some early Muslims themselves misunderstood the issue and either fabricated or misreported traditions on the subject.  The value of the work of expert Hadith scholars throughout the ages who meticulously sifted genuine narrations from the weak ones, may be seen to be crucial.  The work of al-Albani, a 20th century Hadith scholar, is especially valuable, for example his gradings for every hadith in the four famous Sunan collections of Sunni Islam.  Albani concentrated more on the chains of narration than the meanings of the traditions, but nevertheless confirmed that all the hadiths banning wife-beating or only allowing a limited concession are authentic whereas all those justifying it absolutely are weak.
  12. This study highlights a fundamental problem with the way many Muslims, including some scholars and clerics, read the Qur’an.  Rather than being read as a “textbook” or “instruction manual” as some superficial, populist, fundamentalist or Hadith-rejecting preachers advocate, it should be remembered for what it is: a collection of divine signs, guidance and wisdom revealed by God to the heart of His Beloved, Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, by God via the Archangel Gabriel (Jibril), the Holy Spirit, peace be upon him.  This guidance was transmitted by practice and oral teaching (remember that “Qur’an” means “A Reading” and hence oral transmission) at first, and only collected by the Companions as a written book after the time of the Prophet, peace be upon him, for fear of this Divine Treasure being lost for ever.  Furthermore, this guidance was always supposed to be manifested by righteous people of piety, humility, good character and the remembrance of God, taking their situation and socio-historical contexts into account.  A critical awareness of hadith and history has always been required, along with the worship of God and the service of humanity, to be guided towards the true way of following the Qur’an.

Qur’an 57:25 – benefits and dangers of technology, by Muhammad Asad (Leopold Weiss)

September 24, 2010

Bismillah. With thanks to Dr. Ameen Kamlana for this.

The mention in verse 25 of “iron” and all that this word implies (see note 2 below) so impressed the contemporaries and successors of the Prophet that this surah (al-Hadid) has always been known as “the surah in which iron is mentioned” (Tabari).

In The Name of God, The Most Gracious, The Dispenser of Grace

Indeed, [even aforetime] did We send forth Our apostles with all evidence of [this] truth;

and through them We bestowed revelation from on high,

and [thus gave you] a balance [wherewith to weigh right and wrong],

so that men might behave with equity;

and We bestowed [upon you] from on high [the ability to make use of] iron,

in which there is awesome power [1] as well as [a source of] benefits for man [2]:

and [all this was given to you] so that God might mark out those who would stand up for him and His Apostles,

even though He [Himself] is beyond the reach of human perception.

Verily, God is powerful, almighty! [57:25]

 

Footnotes:

(1) Or: “potential evil”

(2) Side by side with enabling man to discriminate between right and wrong (which is the innermost purpose of all divine revelation), God has endowed him with the ability to convert to his use the natural resources of his earthly environment.

An outstanding symbol of this ability is man’s skill, unique among all animated beings, in making tools; and the primary material for all tool-making – and, indeed, for all human technology – is iron: the one metal which is found abundantly on earth, and which can be utilized for beneficial as well as destructive ends.

The “awesome power” (ba’s shadid) inherent in iron manifests itself not merely in the manufacture of weapons of war but also, more subtly, in man’s ever-growing tendency to foster the development of an increasingly complicated technology which places the machine in the foreground of all human existence and which, by its inherent – almost irresistible – dynamism, gradually estranges man from all inner connection with nature. This process of growing mechanization, so evident in our modern life, jeopardizes the very structure of human society and, thus, contributes to a gradual dissolution of all moral and spiritual perceptions epitomized in the concept of “divine guidance”.

It is to warn man of this danger that the Qur’an stresses – symbolically and metonymically – the potential evil (ba’s) of “iron” if it is put to wrong use: in other words, the danger of man’s allowing his technological ingenuity to run wild and thus to overwhelm his spiritual consciousness and, ultimately, to destroy all possibility of individual and social happiness.

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

February 13, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

A DETAILED FATWA ABOUT MUSIC & SINGING

by Sheikh ‘Abdullah b. Yusuf al-Juday’

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

Translation by Usama Hasan, 13th February 2010

SUMMARY & CONCLUSION

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

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

A Principled Judgment on Music and Singing

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

I conclude with the following words:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 9, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

0 – An Introduction to the Quran

1- COMMON HUMANITY – Islamic Texts

2- REVELATION – Islamic Texts

3- LONGING – Islamic Texts

4- TEACHING AND LEARNING – Islamic Texts

5- MONEY AND DEBT – Islamic Texts

6- WISDOM AND FOLLY – Islamic Texts

7- REPENTANCE – Islamic Texts

Understanding Islam by Frithjof Schuon

December 8, 2009

Bismillah. A short piece from a classic book that introduces the Sufi understanding of Islam, with thanks to the friend who sent it to me.

Surah al-Fatihah (The Opening Chapter of the Qur’an)

“That which opens” (the Qur’an) has a capital importance, for it constitutes the unanimous prayer of Islam. It is composed of several propositions or verses:

[In the Name of God, the Infinitely Good, the Ever Merciful]

1. Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds;

2. The Infinitely Good, the Ever Merciful;

3. King of the Last Judgement;

4. It is Thee we worship, and it is in Thee we seek refuge;

5. Lead us on the straight path;

6. The path of those on whom is Thy Grace;

7. Not of those on whom is Thy Wrath, nor of those who go astray.

The Shahadah (Bearing Witness, or Testimony of Faith)

The doctrine of Islam consists of two statements: first, “There is no divinity (or reality, or absolute) save the sole Divinity (or Reality, or Absolute)”, and “Muhammad (the Glorified, the Perfect) is the Messenger (the spokesman, the intermediary, the manifestation, the symbol) of the Divinity”; these are the first and the second Testimonies of the faith.

For Sufism, which is Islam’s kernel, the metaphysical doctrine is that “there is no reality save the One Reality” and that, insofar as as we are obliged to take account of the existence of the world and of ourselves, “the cosmos is the manifestation of Reality.”