Regarding the dubious Tafsir that was published recently in America

To the honourable scholars, al-salam ‘alaykum.

Recently, an English translation and commentary of the Quran entitled ‘the Study Quran’, was published. It was undertaken by a group of western academics. The work includes Shia, Sunni, Sufi tafsir, in addition to several essays as appendices. Unfortunately, in spite of some benefits in the work, the authors have, while commentating on certain verses, presented interpretations that accord with the belief in the universal validity of religions. For instance, during the discussion on the tafsir to the verse: Truly the religion in the sight of God is submission (3:20), it says:

Many Muslims say that this verse shows that the only religion acceptable to God is the one revealed to the Prophet of Islam, but the most universal meaning of it, which been emphasised by many Islamic authorities over the ages, is that Islam in this verse refers to submission to God even if it is not in the context of Islam as the specific religion revealed through the Quran … [p. 135]

The reader is then referred to the essay at the end of the book entitled ‘The Quranic View of Sacred History and of Other Religions’ in which it is argued that previous scriptures and religions are not abrogated by Islam:

The notion that previous scriptures have been abrogated in the sense of being nullified or excessively distorted to such an extent that the message no longer reflects  the particularity of the original teachings, as some Muslims maintain, would seem to be contradicted by verses such as 5:43: And how is it that they come to thee for judgement …  It would be contradictory for the Quran to speak of the efficacy of judging by the Torah and the Gospel if it were to also maintain that these Scriptures have been abrogated or excessively distorted … If the previous religions were abrogated by the revelation of the Quran, it will be implausible to tell the Prophet Muhammad to seek their counsel when it says, Ask the people of the Reminder, if you know not. [p. 1767]

Regarding the verse: Whoever seeks a religion other than submission it shall not be accepted of him… (3:85), it says:

However, the idea that 3:85 abrogates 2:62 is connected to the interpretation expressed by some commentators that this verse denies the “acceptability” of any form of religion other than that brought by the Prophet Muhammad. This opinion is not without its inconsistencies, however, since it does not take into account the more general and universal use of Islam and muslim in the Quran to refer to all true, monotheistic religion… [p. 153]

Moreover, regarding the interpretation of the verse on the Christian trinitarian belief: They certainly disbelieve, those who say, “Truly God is the third of three,”… [5: 73], it says:

However, the verse clearly threatens punishment only for those among them who disbelieved, suggesting that it is not for all Christians. Moreover, an interpretation that considers all Christians to be barred from the garden in the next life would openly contradict both v. 69 and 2:62 where Christians and anyone who believes in God and the Last Day and works righteousness shall have the reward with their Lord. No fear shall, upon them, nor shall they grieve, and is not consistent with the description of Christian virtue in vv. 82-85. [p. 316-17]

The same author says in the above-mentioned essay as he speaks about the concept of trinity criticised in the Quran:

And say not “Three.” Refrain! … (4:171) … They certainly disbelieve, those who say,” Truly God is the third of three…” This, however, is not a direct condemnation of Christian theology, for trinitarian theology does not make God one of three, but rather speaks of the triune God, Who is both one and three in a manner that transcends human understanding. Viewed in this light, 5:73 does not oppose the various forms of orthodox trinitarian doctrine that have prevailed for most of Christian history. Rather, it appears to oppose crude misunderstandings of it that would lead one to believe that there are three gods instead of one. [p. 1779]

Similar notions to the above are frequently found throughout the work.

The author of another essay, also within the work, states the following on the matter of perpetuity of hellfire:

During the early period of Islam, scholars differed about the duration of Hell. The majority of them argued that Hell is perpetual and an actualised state that never ends. But some groups argued otherwise, citing verses that hinted at an end to Hell’s torment and arguing that this was more consistent with God’s saying, ‘My Mercy exceeds My Wrath.’ Thus the scholars fell into three camps. The first believed that although Hell did not end, its punishment and torment did. The proof for this was the verse: Truly Hell lies in ambush, a place unto which the rebellious return, to tarry therein for ages (78:21-23). This was the opinion of Aḥmad ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Qayyim, and Ibn al-ʿArabī; a similar opinion that the majority of Hell’s denizens are ultimately released also appears to have been held by al-Ghazzālī, as is evident in his Fayṣal al-tafriqah (Decisive Criterion). [p. 1849-50]

The work would probably not have gained much popularity were it not for certain popular Muslim preachers in West who promoted and endorsed the work unconditionally without any caution against its absurd interpretations and false beliefs; one of them went to the extent of describing it as ‘A major victory and a gift from god’, and another said, ‘It is probably the best work in English to date’ and called it ‘A mercy from God.’ This latter individual made the matter worse by allowing the hosting of an event in his Islamic institute in America wherein one of the translators of the work was invited to speak about the book. None of the panel attendees refuted or challenged his claims. Instead, they encouraged the attendees to purchase a copy of the book at the end of the session and get it signed by the translator.  Since the book has gained much popularity and is increasingly bought we fear that it will pollute the minds of readers and therefore seek your guidance and fatwa in regards to the following questions:

1. What is the status of those who believe in the validity of all religions other than Islam, claiming that it does not abrogate the previous religions: does it take them out of the pale of Islam even if they an interpretation (ta’wil) for such a belief?

2. What is the ruling on believing that Hellfire or its torment will eventually extinguish? Is there a valid scholarly disagreement over the issue?

3. What is the ruling on promoting, endorsing, and encouraging people to buy and read such a work, knowing full well its contents, without cautioning readers against the problematic points?

4. What is the ruling on laymen reading such a work?

Answered by Shaykh Muḥammad Tawfīq Ramaḍān:

In the Name of Allah, the All Merciful, the Most Merciful

Praise be to Allah, the Unique, the One, the Singular, the Everlasting Sustainer, who has not given birth and was not born, and no one is comparable to Him, and blessings and peace be upon our master Muḥammad and upon his family, all of his companions and those who follow them on the path of truth until the Day of Repayment. To proceed:

I have looked at the explanation (tafsīr)[1] of certain verses from the Book of Allah which offends what the people of truth are upon and contradicts the Qurʾānic texts with interpretations that are inconsistent with what is correct. I believe that whoever stated them is upon misguidance in his theology and whoever has followed him is obliged to return to the path of truth. If not, then one becomes one of those whom Allah, may His affair be manifest, described by saying: “Do you, then, believe in one part of the Book and reject the other? What repayment will there be for any of you who do that except disgrace in this world? And on the Day of Standing, they will be returned to the harshest of punishments. Allah is not unaware of what you do.” [Sūrat al-Baqarah 2:85]

Indeed the Book of Allah the Exalted has commanded us to debate kindly with the People of the Book[2] whom we differ with regarding what they believe about our master ʿĪsā (Jesus), peace and blessing be upon him or ʿUzayr (Uzair), peace and blessings be upon him. The Book of Allah calls on the People of the Book to have faith in our master Muḥammad, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, and it does not consider those who disbelieve in our master Muḥammad to be from the people of salvation nor does it consider those who believe Allah to be the third of three or that the Messiah is the son of Allah to be from the people of salvation.[3] Our theology is not taken from those who are suspect in their theology nor from those who flatter those who contradict the truth, seeking to ingratiate themselves while having certain interests, or something similar, in mind.

Indeed a tafsīr like this aims to ruin the Muslims and to take them away from the true paths of knowing their religion and their theology. Indeed, treating the People of the Book kindly is one thing and presenting relinquishments to them in violation of our theology and our Revealed Law is something else. The obligation to debate with the People of the book in the kindest of ways is one thing and violating what is clear in the Book of Allah, seeking to ingratiate oneself with them, is something else.

Indeed the belief that the People of the Book, with the beliefs that they currently hold, are not disbelievers contradicts what is clear in the Book of Allah, and the circulation of such publications is one of the waves of misguidance that Muslims are exposed to, in addition to their other afflictions.

Likewise, the belief that the people of the Fire are not in there eternally is inconsistent with the Exalted’s statement: “As for those who disbelieve in Our Signs, We will roast them in a Fire. Every time their skins are burned off We will replace them with new skins so that they can taste the punishment. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise.” [Sūrat an-Nisāʾ 4:56] and other verses that clearly show that the people of the Fire are therein eternally and that the people of Paradise are therein eternally, and this is aside from what this tafsīr ignores from the clear, authentic Prophetic ḥadīths on this matter. This shows that the authors of this tafsīr have shunned the Exalted’s statement: “And we have sent down the Reminder to you so that you can make clear to mankind what has been sent down to them so that hopefully they will reflect.” [Sūrat an-Naḥl 16:44] Al-Bukhārī has related on the authority of Abū Saʿīd al-Khudrī, may Allah be pleased with him, who said, ‘The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, {Death will come in the form of a black and white ram and then a caller will call out, ‘O people of Paradise’, and at that point they will stretch their necks and look. He will say, ‘Do you know what this is?’ They will respond, ‘Yes. This is death.’ and all of them will have seen it. Then he will call out, ‘O people of the Fire’, at which point they will stretch their necks and look. He will say, ‘Do you know what this is?’ They will respond, ‘Yes. This is death.’ and all of them will have seen it. It will thus be slaughtered and then he will say, ‘O people of Paradise, eternity and thus no death, and O people of the Fire, eternity and thus no death.’} Then he recited, “Warn them of the Day of Bitter Regret when the affair will be resolved. But they take no notice [i.e. the people of this worldly life]. They do not believe.” [Sūrat Maryam 19:39]

Indeed circulating books like this is to take part in misguiding and in serving the plan to disrupt the thinking of the Ummah away from the right path. And Allah knows best.

The servant of knowledge: Muḥammad Tawfīq Ramaḍān

[Translated by Mahdi Lock]


[1] (tn): because it is not actually possible to fully translate the Qurʾān, and thus any so-called translation is in fact only a conveyance of some of the meanings, and therefore it’s an explanation, or tafsīr

[2] (tn): for instance, see Sūrat an-Naḥl 16:125

[3]  (tn): for instance, see Sūrat al-Māʾidah 5:72-73

“Every Saint has a past and every sinner has a future”

This statement of Oscar Wilde truly summarises the Islamic tradition where sinners like Malik ibn Dinar (d. 130 AH), ‘Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak (d. 181 AH), al-Fudhayl ibn ‘Iyadh (d. 187 AH), and many others, abandoned their sinful lives and lived on to become Saints after a sincere utterance of Astaghfirullah [I seek Allah’s forgiveness].

Many classical texts on Tasawwuf or Islamic Spirituality highlight that one’s spiritual journey begins with Tawbah or Repentance. Allah says in the Qur’an: ‘Believers, all of you, turn to God so that you may prosper.’ [Surah an-Nur 24:31]

Ibn Juzayy al-Kalbi (d. 741AH) comments on the above verse in his commentary Al-Tashil li ‘Ulum al-Tanzil:

“Repentance is an obligation upon every legally-responsible believer according to the evidences in the Book, the Sunnah and the consensus of the [Muslim] nation.

It has three obligations:

  1. Feeling remorse over the sin due to disobeying God, not due to some harm that may have come to one’s wealth or self.
  2. Refraining from the sin as immediately as possible, without procrastination or slackness.
  3. Resolving not to repeat it again; but if one does, then one renews the resolve.

It has three etiquettes:

  1. To acknowledge one’s sin along with feeling utterly broken.
  2. To increase in entreating God and beseeching His forgiveness.
  3. To increase in doing good works so as to erase past wrongs.
It has seven degrees:
  1. Repentance of disbelievers from disbelief.
  2. Repentance of the sincere ones from major sins.
  3. Repentance of the upright ones from minor sins.
  4. Repentance of the devout worshippers from slackness.
  5. Repentance of wayfarers from the defects and vices of the heart.
  6. Repentance of the high-minded, scrupulous ones from doubtful matters.
  7. Repentance of those spiritually witnessing God from being distracted from God.
The causes of repentance are seven:
  1. Fear of punishment.
  2. Hope of reward.
  3. Embarrassment of being held responsible.
  4. Love for the Beloved.
  5. The vigilance of the vigilant one who is near.
  6. Glorifying the station.
  7. Gratitude for numerous bounties.”


[Ibn Juzayy al-Kalbi, Al-Tashil li ‘Ulum al-Tanzil (Hawally, Kuwait: Dar al-Dhiya’, 2009), Vol. 2 pg. 537. Tr. Abu Aaliya]
[Ibn Juzayy al-Kalbi, Al-Tashil li ‘Ulum al-Tanzil (Hawally, Kuwait: Dar al-Dhiya’, 2009), Vol. 2 pg. 537. Tr. Abu Aaliya]

The World is like Water – Imam al-Qurtubi [d. 671 AH]

Allah, the Mighty and Majestic, says:

Tell them, too, what the life of this world is like: We send water down from the skies and the Earth’s vegetation absorbs it, but soon the plants turn to dry stubble scattered about by the wind: God has power over everything.” [Sūrah al-Kahf 18:45]

Commentary:


Imām Al-Qurṭubī says that Allah, the Mighty and Majestic, compares the world to water for five reasons:

  1. Water does not settle in any location, similarly this world does not remain with one person for life.
  2. Water does not remain in a single state, similarly this world is constantly changing.
  3. Water does not last, it disappears after some time, similarly this world disappears sooner or later.
  4. No one can enter water without getting wet; similarly anyone who enters this world will not be safe from its trials and tribulations.
  5. In certain limited amounts water is beneficial and causes plants to grow. But if it surpasses the beneficial amount it becomes harmful and destructive. Similarly, taking what is sufficient from this world is beneficial, while taking excess can be harmful.

Will I be punished even if I believe in the Divine?

hopeThe answer can be found in the following verse of the Qur’an, Surah an-Nisā 4:147, in which Allah says:

{ مَّا يَفْعَلُ ٱللَّهُ بِعَذَابِكُمْ إِن شَكَرْتُمْ وَآمَنْتُمْ وَكَانَ ٱللَّهُ شَاكِراً عَلِيماً }

Why would God punish you if you are thankful and believe? God is ever Thankful, Knowing.

Imam al-Qushayrī [d.376 AH] comments:

This verse is among the verses which engenders beautiful hopefulness and powerful optimism because He has made two things: “Thankfulness” (Shukr) and “Belief” (Īmān), among the signs of protection (amān) in what is to come; and these are easy and light qualities…

It is said that if you are thankful and believe, you confirm the truth that your salvation is through God, not because of your thankfulness or your belief.

It is said, Allah is thankful to his servant because He knows his weakness, and it is said He is thankful to him because He knows that his servant is not disobedient and that his aim is not to oppose His Lord. Rather, he sins because of the overwhelming cravings that are among the states of being human.

It is said [the servant] is thankful to Him because he knows in the state of his sins that he has a Lord who pardons him.

[Latā’if al-Ishārāt [Subtleties of the Allusions] by Imām Abu’l-Qāsim al-Qushayrī].

If you look for the words “most people” in the Qur’an, you will find that most of mankind:

 “do not know” [7:187],
“do not give thanks” [2:243]
“do not believe” [11:17].
“defiantly disobedient” [5:59],
“ignorant” [6:111],
“turning away” [21:24],
“do not reason” [29:23], and
“do not listen” [8:21].

So be of the “few”, whom Allah says about them:

“And few of My servants are grateful.” (34:13)
“But none had believed with him, except a few.” (11:40)

May Allah forgive us all and make us amongst those who believe and are thankful.

Moon-sighting or Saudi-following?

Firstly, giving an *informed opinion* about an issue is not the same as “confusing the people”; it’s cognitive dissonance if anything. When ignorance is widespread, knowledge is what is needed; knowledge of Fardhul ‘Ayn because knowledge comes before action.

Allah says in the Qur’an:

“So whoever from amongst you *witnesses* the month, let him fast.”
[Sūrah al-Baqarah, V. 185]

Ibn Abdul Barr comments on the above Ayah:

He means – and God knows best – whoever among you knows, with a knowledge that is certain, that the month has indeed begun must fast it.” And knowledge that is certain is (based on) either a clear and widespread sound sighting or the completion of thirty days of the previous month.”

Qur’an demands testimony of sighting as the Sabab (causation). Testimony must only be of factual presence, not based on possibilities.

“Sighting of the crescent is demanded by Sharī’ah”

[Hanafī: Hāshiyah Radd al-Mukhtār]
[Mālikī: Risālah ibn Abī Zayd]
[Shāfi’ī: Muhadhdhab of Shirāzī]
[Hanbalī: Mughnī of Ibn Qudāmah]

Imām as-Subkī says:

If a calculation shows that moon doesn’t exist on the horizon yet a Muslim claims to have seen it, then this testimony is to be *rejected*, due to the absence of evidentiary qualities.

As for “sighting”, there are two opinions:
1) Local Sighting: Various horizons at locality (points of rising).
2) Global Sighting: Single horizon globally.

There is no such thing as “Saudi sighting” or “Pakistani Sighting”. The formation and visibility of new crescent will never be at the same location, every month.

Here are some statistics for countries that relied on *calculation* for Ramadhan:

– Saudi Arabia: From 1961-2004, went with the *wrong* day 64% of the time, when the crescent was *not* even present on the horizon; 23% possible and 13% definite.

– Syria: From 1950-2001, went with the *wrong* day 59% of the time, when the crescent was *not* even present on the horizon; 33% possible and 13% definite.

– Morocco: From 1963-2004, went with the *wrong* day 1% of the time, when the crescent was not even present on the horizon; 74% possible and 25% definite. They relied on accurate calculations *with* local (naked-eye) sighting.

Saudi Arabia is *not* the Muslim Vatican, so if you really want to follow the sighting of a particular country, it should be obvious (based on the above) which one you should really be following.

Imām al-Bājī said:

If anyone did rely on calculations (for moonsighting) I opine that he should *not* consider his fasting sound based upon calculation and return to sighting (the crescent) or the completion of thirty-days. If that results in him having to make up any days, he should…

Etiquettes of Reading and Handling the Qur’an – Imam al-Qurtubi [d. 671 AH]

It is the inviolability of the Qur’ān:

1. not to touch the Qur’ān except in the state of ritual purity in wudu, and to recite it when in a state of ritual purity;

2. to brush one’s teeth with a toothstick (siwāk), remove food particles from between the them, and to freshen one’s mouth before reciting, since it is the way through which the Qur’ān passes;

3. to sit up straight if not in prayer, and not lean back;

4. to dress for reciting as if intending to visit a prince, for the reciter is engaged in an intimate discourse;

5. to face the direction of prayer (qiblah) to recite;

6. to rinse the mouth out with water if one coughs up mucus or phlegm;

7. to stop reciting when one yawns, for when reciting , one is addressing one’s Lord in intimate conversation, while yawning is from the Devil;

8. when begining to recite, to take refuge from in Allāh from the accursed Devil and say the Basmala, whether one has begun at the first sūrah or some other part one has reached;

9. once one has begun, not to interrupt one’s recital from moment to moment with human words, unless absolutely necessary;

10. to be alone when reciting it, so that no one interrupts one, forcing one to mix the words of the Qur’ān with replying, for this nullifies the effectivness of having taken refuge in Allāh from the Devil at the beginning;

11. to recite it leisurely and without haste, distinctly pronouncing each letter;

12. to use one’s mind and understanding in order to comprehend what is being said to one;

13. to pause at verses that promise Allāh’s favour, to long for Allāh Most High and ask of His bounty; and at verses that warn of His punishment to ask Him to save one from it;

14. to pause at the accounts of bygone peoples and individuals to heed and benefit from their example;

15. to find out the meanings of the Qur’ān’s unusual lexical usages;

16. to give each letter its due so as to clearly and fully pronounce every word, for each letter counts as ten good deeds;

17. whenever one finishes reciting, to attest to the veracity of ones’s Lord, and that His messenger ﷺ has delivered his message, and to testify to this, saying: “Our Lord, You have spoken the truth, Your messengers have delivered their tidings, and bear witness to this. O Allāh, make us of those who bear witness to the truth and who act with justice”: after which one supplicates Allāh with prayers.

18. not to select certain verses from each surah to recite, but rather the recite the whole surah;

19. if one puts down the Qur’ān, not to leave it open;

20. not to place other books upon the Qur’ān, which should always be higher than all other books, whether they are books of Sacred Knowledge or something else;

21. to place the Qur’ān on one’s lap when reading; or on something in front of one, not on the floor;

22. not to wipe it from a slate with spittle, but rather wash it off with water; and if one washes it off with water, to avoid putting the water where there are unclean substances (najāsa) or where people walk. Such water has its own inviolability, and there were those of the early Muslims before us who used water that washed away Qur’ān to effect cures.

23. not to use sheets upon which it has been written as bookcovers, which is extremely rude, but rather to erase the Qur’ān from them with water;

24. not to let a day go by without looking at least once at the pages of the Qur’ān;

25. to give one’s eyes their share of looking at it, for the eyes lead to the soul (nafs), whereas there is a veil between the breast and the soul, and the Qur’ān is in the breast.

26. not to trivially quote the Qur’ān at the occurrence of everyday events, as by saying, for example, when someone comes, “You have come hither according to a decree, O Moses” [Qur’an 69:24],
or, “Eat and drink heartily for what you have done aforetimes, in days gone by” [Qur’an 69:24], when food is brought out, and so forth;

27. not to recite it to songs tunes like those of the corrupt, or with the tremulous tones of Christians or the plaintiveness of monkery, all of which is misguidance;

28. when writing the Qur’ān to do so in a clear, elegant hand;

29. not to recite it out aloud over another’s reciting of it, so as to spoil it for him or make him resent what he hears, making it as if it were some kind of competition;

30. not to recite it in marketplaces, places of clamour and frivolity, or where fools gather;

31. not to use the Qur’ān as pillow, or lean upon it;

32. not to toss it when one wants to hand it to another;

33. not to miniaturize the Qur’ān, mix into it what is not of it, or mingle this worldly adornment with it by embellishing or writing it with gold;

34. not to write it on the ground or on walls, as is done in some new mosques;

35. not to write an amulet with it and enter the lavatory, unless it is encased in leather, silver, or other, for then it is as if kept in the heart;

36. if one writes it and then drinks it (for cure or other purpose), one should say the Basmala at every breath and make a noble and worthy intention, for Allāh only gives to one according to one’s intention;

37. and if one finishes reciting the entire Qur’ān, to begin it anew, that it may not resemble something that has been abandoned.

[Jāmi’ li-Aḥkām al-Qur’ān of Imām Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad al-Qurṭubī (d. 637 AH)]
Taken from: Mas’ud Blog

The Obligation to Follow One of the Four Schools of Thought

By Shaykh Murābit al-Hājj al-Mālikī
Translated by: Hamza Yusuf

In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

Amongst the most important replies that I have given, is my reply concerning the one who has deviated to the point where he censures the importance of studying the branches [furu’] of jurisprudence, and we seek refuge in Allah from the deviation of such a wandering deviant. Would that he simply had claimed independent reasoning (ijtihad) for himself only, and Allah is his reckoner, but abandoned the call of Muslims to leave that which is incumbent upon them. In our reply to such a one, we make mention what the scholars of the methodological bases of Islamic jurisprudence (usuli’un) and the Imams of jurisprudence themselves have said about such a matter. As for my labelling him a deviant, it is only because he has desired to impose upon common people the precious rank of absolute independent reasoning [ijtihad], about which Muhammad an-Nabigha  said,

And ijtihad in the land of the Moroccans,
The western phoenix has taken to flight with it.

I say in reply, that the following of qualified scholarship (taqlid) is an obligation on anyone other than an absolute mujtahid. I shall make mention of all his prerequisites if Allah wills. [Sidi Abdullah Ould Hajj Ibrahim] has said in his Maraqi as-Sa’ud:

“[taqlid] is necessary for other than the one who has achieved the rank of absolute ijtihad. Even if he is a limited [mujtahid] who is unable [to perform absolute ijtihad].”

Commenting on this line, [Sidi Abdullah] said in Nashru al-bunud,

“It means that taqlid is an obligation on anyone who is not an absolute mujtahid, even if he has achieved the limited rank of ijtihad muqayyad . . . [until he says], ‘And ask the people of the reminder, if you yourselves do not know.’”

By using the line of Muhammad an-Nabigha above, I am in no way claiming that all ijtihad has been severed in every land; how [could I say such a thing] when [Sidi Abdullah] says in Maraqi as-sa’ud:

“The earth will never be void of a mujtahid scholar until its very foundations shake.”

He also said,

“[Regarding] the necessity of binding to a specific madhhab, the [scholars] have mentioned its obligation upon anyone falling short [of the conditions of ijtihad].”

He says in Nashru al-bunud,

“It means that it is incumbent for whoever falls short of achieving the rank of absolute ijtihad to follow a particular madhhab.”

Again, in Maraqi as-Sa’ud, Sidi Abdullah says,

“The consensus today is on the four, and all have prohibited following [any] others.”

He says in Nashru al-bunud,

“This means that the consensus of the scholars today is on the four schools of thought, and I mean by the schools of Malik, Abu Hanifa, Shafi’i and Ahmad. Indeed, all of the scholars have prohibited following any other school of an independent and absolute mujtahid since the eighth century when the school of Dawud adh-Dhahiri died out and until the 12th Century and all subsequent ones.”

In the chapter concerning inferential reasoning, from Maraqi as-sa’ud, [Sidi Abdullah] says,

“As for the one who is not a mujtahid, then basing his actions on primary textual evidence [Qur’an and hadith] is not permissible.”

He says in Nashru al-bunud,

“It means that it is prohibited for other than a mujtahid to base his actions upon a direct text from either the Book or the Sunna even if its transmission was sound because of the sheer likelihood of there being other considerations such as abrogation, limitations, specificity to certain situations, and other such matters that none but the mujtahid fully comprehends with precision. Thus, nothing can save him from Allah the Exalted excepted following a mujtahid. Imām al-Qarāfī1 says,

‘And beware of doing what some students do when they reason directly from the hadith, and yet they don’t know their soundness, let alone what has been mentioned [by the Imams] concerning the subtleties involved in them; by doing this, they went astray and led others astray. And whoever interprets a verse or hadith in a manner that deviates from its intended meaning without proof [dalil] is a kafir.’”

As for the conditions of the absolute and independent ijtihad, they are mentioned in the Maraqi as-sa’ud in the following line and what follows:

“And that [word ‘faqīh2]  is synonymous with the [word] ‘mujtahid’ coupled with those things which bear upon [him] the burden of responsibility,

Such as his being of extreme intelligence by nature, and there is some debate about one who is known to reject juristic analogy [qiyas]

He knows the [juristic] responsibilities through intellectual proofs unless a clear transmitted proof indicates otherwise.

[Sidi Abdullah] says [in his commentary] Nashru al-bunud,

“This means that among the conditions of ijtihad is that [the mujtahid] knows that he must adhere to the intellectual proof which is the foundational condition [al-bara’atu al-asliyya3]  until a transmitted proof from a sacred law indicates otherwise.”

He then goes on to mention the other conditions of a mujtahid:

[The sciences of] grammar, prosody, philology, combined with those of usul and rhetoric he must master.

According to the people of precision, [he must know] where the judgements can be found without the condition of having memorized the actual texts.

[All of the above must be known] according to a middle ranked mastery at least. He must also know those matters upon which there is consensus.

[Moreover, he must know] things such as the condition of single hadiths and what carries the authority of great numbers of transmissions; also [knowledge of] what is sound and what is weak is necessary.

Furthermore, what has been abrogated and what abrogates, as well as the conditions under which a verse was revealed or a hadith was transmitted is a condition that must be met.

The states of the narrators and the companions [must also be known]. Therefore, you may follow anyone who fulfils these conditions mentioned above according to the soundest opinion.

So, consider all of the above-mentioned, and may Allah have mercy upon you, and [may you] see for yourself whether your companion is characterized by such qualities and fulfils these conditions—and I highly doubt it. More likely, he is just pointing people to himself in his demands that the people of this age take their judgements directly from the Book and Sunna. If, on the other hand, he does not possess the necessary conditions, then further discussion is useless.

In Muhammad ‘Illish’s, Fath al-‘Ali al-Malik, there are many strong rebukes for those who wish to force people to abandon the study of the judicial branches and take directly from the Book and the Sunna. The actual text of the question put to him is as follows:

“What do you say about someone who was following one of the four Imams, may Allah the Exalted be pleased with them, and then left claiming that he could derive his judgements directly form the Qur’an and the soundly transmitted hadiths, thus leaving the books of jurisprudence and inclining towards the view of Ahmad bin Idris? Moreover, he says to the one who clings to the speech of the Imams and their followers, “I say to you ‘Allah and His Messenger say’, and you reply ‘Malik said’ and ‘Ibn al-Qasim said’ or ‘Khalil said.’”

To this, Imam ‘Illish replies:

“My answer to this all this is as follows: Praise be to Allah, and Prayer and Safety be upon our Master Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah. It is not permissible for a common person to abandon following the four Imams and take directly from the textual sources of the Qur’an and the hadiths for the simple reason that this entails a great many conditions that have been clarified in the books of usul. Moreover, these conditions are rarely met by the great scholars, especially in these last days in which Islam has become a stranger just as it began a stranger.”

Ibn ‘Uyyana, may Allah be pleased with him, has said,

“The hadiths are a source of error except for the jurists.”

What he means is that people, other than the scholars, might interpret a tradition based on an apparent meaning, and yet [the hadith may] have another interpretation based on some other hadith that clarifies the meaning or some proof that remains hidden [to the common people]. After a long discussion, he remarks,

“That as for their saying, ‘How can you leave clear Qur’anic verses and sound hadiths and follow the Imams in their ijtihads, which have a clear probability of error,’”

His answer to them is as follows:

“Surely the following of our [rightly guided] Imams is not abandoning the Qur’anic verses or the sound hadiths; it is the very essence of adhering to them and taking our judgements from them. This is because the Qur’an has not come down to us except by means of these very Imams [who are more worthy of following] by virtue of being more knowledgeable than us in [the sciences of] the abrogating and abrogated, the absolute and the conditional, the equivocal and the clarifying, the probabilistic and the plain, the circumstances surrounding revelation and their various meanings, as well as their possible interpretations and various linguistic and philological considerations, [not to mention] the various other ancillary sciences [involved in understanding the Qur’an] needed.

“Also, they took all of that from the students of the companions (tabi’in) who received their instruction from the companions themselves, who received their instructions from the Lawgiver himself, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, divinely protected from every mistake, who bore witness that the first three generations of Muslims would be ones of virtue and righteousness. Furthermore, the prophetic traditions have also reached us through their means given that they were also more knowledgeable than us through their means given that they were also more knowledgeable than those who came after them concerning the rigorously authenticated (sahih), the well authenticated (hasan), and the weak (da’if) channels of transmission, as well as the marfu’u4, mursal5, mutawatir6, ahad7, mu’dal8 and gharid9 transmissions.

“Thus, as far as this little band of men is concerned, there is only one of two possibilities: either they are attributing ignorance to Imams whose knowledge is considered by consensus to have reached human perfection as witnessed in several traditions of the truthful Lawgiver, upon him be prayers and peace, or they are actually attributing misguidance and lack of din to Imams who are all from the best of generations by the testimony of the magnificent Messenger himself, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. Surely, it is not the eyes that are blind, but blind are the hearts in our breasts.

As for their saying to the one who imitates Malik, for example, “We say to you ‘Allah says’ or ‘the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, says’ and you reply, ‘Malik says’, or ‘Ibn al-Qasim says’, or ‘Khalil says’, for example,” our response is that the follower who says, “Malik says . . . etc.,” means that, “Malik says based on his deep understanding of the Word of Allah, or of the words of the Messenger, or of those firmly adhering to the actions of the companions, or of the tabi’in who understood clearly the Word of Allah and the word of the Messenger of Allah or took their example from the actions of His Messenger.” And the meaning of [a follower] saying “Ibn al-Qasim said . . .” is that he has [faithfully] transmitted what Malik said based on his understanding of the Word of Allah or of what Ibn al-Qasim himself understood from the word of Allah the Most Exalted. And the meaning of him saying, “Khalil said . . . .”, for example, is that he is transmitting only from those [Imams] aforementioned. As for Malik and Ibn al-Qasim, they are both Imams whose spiritual and judicial authority is agreed upon by unanimous consensus of this Umma; and they are both from the best of generations.

As for the one who leaves their leadership and says, “Allah said and His Messenger said . . . ,” he has relied solely on his own understanding despite the fact that he is incapable of having any precision in the verses and hadiths that he quotes since he is unable even to provide chains of transmission [with any authority], let alone that he lacks knowledge concerning the abrogated, the absolute and the conditional, the ambiguous and the clarifying, the apparent and the textual, the general and the specific, the dimensions of the Arabic and the cause for revelation, the various linguistic considerations, and other various ancillary sciences needed. So, consider for yourself which is preferable: the word of a follower who simply quotes the understanding of Malik, an Imam by consensus—or the word of this ignoramus who said “Allah said and His Messenger said . . . .” But it is not the sight that goes blind, but rather the hearts in our breasts.

Furthermore, know that the origin of this deviation is from the Dhahiriyya10 who appeared in Andalucia [Muslim Spain] and whose power waxed from a period until Allah obliterated all traces of them until this little band of men set about to revive their beliefs. Imam al-Barzuli said, “The first one ever to attack the Mudawwana11 was Sa’id bin al-Haddad .”

If you consider carefully the above-mentioned texts, you will realize that the one who censures you from following [the Imams] is truly a deviant. And I am using the word “deviant” to describe them only because the scholars [before me] have labelled this little band and their view (madhhab) as deviant. Moreover, you should know that those who condemn your adherence to the Imams have been fully refuted by Muhammad al-Khadir bin Mayyaba  with the most piercing of refutations, and he himself called them, in his book, “the people of deviation and heterodoxy.” He called his book, Refuting the people of deviation of heterodoxy who attack the following [taqlid] of the Imams of independent reasoning, and I used to have a copy but no longer do. So, my brother, I seriously warn you from following the madhhab of these people and even from sitting in their company, unless there is an absolute necessity, and certainly from listening to anything they have to say, because the scholars have declared their ideas deviant. Ibn al-Hajj  says in his book, al-Madkhal,

“;Umar ibn al-‘Aziz said, ‘Never give one whose heart is deviant access to your two ears, for surely you never know what may find fixity in you.’”

I ask Allah to make you and me from those who listen to matters and follow the best of them.

Murabtal Haaj, Mauritania
Source: Masud Ahmed Khan’s Blog

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Footnotes

  1. Ahmad ibn Idris Shihabudin as-Sanhaji al-Qarafi al-Maliki was born in Egypt in the seventh Century, and died there in the year 684. He was one of the greatest Maliki scholars who ever lived and is especially known for his work in methodology and law (usul al-fiqh). He was a master of the Arabic language and has remarkable works in grammar. His book adh-Dhakhira is a magisterial 14 volume work recently published in the Emirates, that looks at Maliki fiqh with proofs from usuli sources. He is buried in Qarafi in Egypt near Imam as-Shafi’i. May Allah have mercy on them both.
  2. Sidi Abdullah says in his commentary on this line that the faqih is synonymous with mujtahid in the science of usul. There are different types of faqih. A faqih according to the scholars of usul is anyone who has achieved the rank of ijtihad. According to the scholars of furu’u, a faqih is anyone who has reached the level of knowledge in which he can give valid juristic opinion. This latter definition is important considering endowments that are given to fuqaha. See Nashur al-bunud `ala maraqi as-sa’udkitab al-ijtihad fi al-furu’u (1409 Hijrah. Beirut: Maktabat al-Kutub. p.309)
  3. The foundational condition is that a human being is not asked by Allah to do anything other than those things which have a firm proof through the transmission of the prophets, peace be upon them, and that the human being is only accountable for those things in which there is clear responsibility. All other matters are considered permissible because of the lack of a proof indicating their impermissibility.
  4. The transmission (sanad) goes to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) the hadith came from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).
  5. tabi’i related it from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace); a companion (sahabah) is missing from the line of the transmission.
  6. The hadith comes from so many sources that it is an absolute proof.
  7. A hadith, that at some point in the line of transmission, has only one narrator.
  8. Two people in a row are missing in the chain of narrators.
  9. The narrator of the hadith is trustworthy, but no one else related the hadith.
  10. The Dhahiriyya followed Daw’ud ad-Dhahiri’s madhhab.
  11. Mudawwana: Imam Malik’s work of fiqh.

Related Articles:
Understanding the Four Madhhabs – Abdal-Hakim Murad
What is a Madhhab and Why is it Necessary to Follow one? – Nuh Ha Mim Keller