Monday, 30 December 2013

An Introduction to Ahadits

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is extracted from Introduction to Ahadits by Ustadzah Zafirah Jeffrey.

The study of ahadits is one of the most extensive and excruciatingly detailed fields of study in Islam.  It emphasises greatly on verification and authenticity, and a lot of investigation has gone into the collections of ahadits that we see today.  What is generally accepted amongst the Ahl as-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah is known as Kutub as-Sittah, the six major books of sunnah.  They are also known as Swihah as-Sittah, the “Authentic Six”.  The Kutub as-Sittah are six books containing collections of ahadits compiled by six scholars in the ninth century.  They were first formally grouped and defined by Imam ibn al-Qaysarani al-Maqdisi (r.a.) in the 11th Century.  Prior to his work, despite their importance, no one had undertaken such a task.  There was no way to search any of these books based on key words or important terms.

It was due to Imam ibn al-Qaysarani’s (r.a.) indexing efforts that Imam ibn Majah’s (r.a.) collection was allotted the same respect as the other five main canonical works.  Prior to Imam ibn al-Qaysarani’s (r.a.) inclusion of Imam ibn Majah’s (r.a.) collection, major ahadits scholars such as Imam ibn asw-Swalah (r.a.) did not hold Imam ibn Majah’s (r.a.) work in the esteem it later enjoyed.  Imam ibn al-Qaysarani’s (r.a.) index was also the first instance of formally organising our cannon based around specific books of ahadits.

In order of authenticity, the books are Swahih al-Bukhari, compiled by Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.), and includes 7,275 ahadits; Swahih Muslim, compiled by Imam Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj (r.a.), and includes 9,200 ahadits; Sunan asw-Swughra, compiled by Imam an-Nasa’i (r.a.); Sunan Abu Dawud, compiled by Imam Abu Dawud (r.a.); Jami’ at-Tirmidzi, compiled by Imam at-Tirmidzi (r.a.); and Sunan ibn Majah, compiled by Imam ibn Majah (r.a.).  These are collections of ahadits that are generally ranked as swahih.  The first two books are commonly referred to as the Swahihayn, the “Two Swahih” as an indication of their authenticity.  According to Imam ibn Hajr al-‘Asqalani (r.a.), they contain approximately seven thousand ahadits altogether discounting repetitions.

All the authors of Kutub as-Sittah were Persian.  Imam Muhammad ibn Isma’il al-Bukhari (r.a.) is the author of Swahih al-Bukhari, composed over a period of sixteen years.  Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.) said that he did not record any hadits before performing wudhu’ and performing two raka’at of swalah istikharah.  Imam Muslim ibn Hajjaj an-Naishaburi (r.a.) is the author of Swahih Muslim which is second in authenticity only to that of Swahih al-Bukhari.  Imam Abu Dawud Sulayman ibn Ash’ats as-Sijistani (r.a.), a Persian but of Arab descent, authored the Sunan of his name.  Imam Muhammad ibn ‘Isa al-Tirmidzi (r.a.), the author of Jami’ at-Tirmidzi, was a student of Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.).  Imam Abu ‘Abd ar-Rahman an-Nasa'i (r.a.), was from Khurasan and a student of Imam Abu Dawud (r.a.).  Imam ibn Majah al-Qazwini (r.a.), was the student of Imam ibn Abi Shaybah (r.a.), who was a source for a quarter of his Sunan.

What most Muslims are unaware of, is that there are actually thousands of similar ahadits collections, owing to the fact that there are numerous categories of ahadits.  And there are actually more than a million ahadits.  It is stated that Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.) himself knew more than a million ahadits but verified just under 700,000 of them.  The field of ahadits grades and categorises them and thus acquired its necessary terminology, muswthalah al-hadits.  Muswthalah al-hadits is mainly studied for judicial reasons.  When the need for a new ruling on a certain matter arises, a stronger hadits is preferable to be used as a basis to the ruling.  Complimentary to this, one is required to know other fields of study in relation to jurisprudence as well fields pertaining to the study of ahadits itself.

Whether a hadits is swahih, hasan or dha’if is mainly the concern of the mujtahidun, or any council of scholars concerned with the legal provisions of Muslim society.  The average Muslim is not qualified to debate the relative technical merits of a hadits.  This also refers to the tafsir and the direct application of a hadits without understanding the context of it.  This bad habit is a fitnah against Rasulullah (s.a.w.).

A hadits generally comprises an isnad, a matn and a rawi.  The term we use here is khabr which literally means news, because every hadits is generally a form of relayed news with a chain of transmitters.  The isnad is the people in the chain of narrators concerned with passing on the khabr.  The actual content of the khabr is purely what was mentioned by the Prophet (s.a.w.) and this is called the matn.  The rawi is the person who collected and reported the hadits.

There is great emphasis placed on ahadits being swahih.  This literally means “correct,” and refers to a hadits of unquestionable authenticity.  There are five requirements for a hadits to be swahih.  The chain of narration has to be continuous; no person in the chain is skipped or hidden.  The narrators must be reliable at the time of transmission.  They have to be Muslim, matured, rational and not possess any questionable or doubtful character.  This precludes notorious sinners, apostates and especially people known to have told lies of any kind.  The narration has to be precise and, if not written down prior to the transmission, this requires a strong memory.  It must not be in conflict with any other dala’il, sources of reference, namely the Qur’an and sunnah and be illogical.  There must also not be any inadequacies in the narration such as slurs or affected accents.  If a hadits does not meet these five criteria, it will be downgraded to either hasan or dha’if, depending on how many requirements it failed to fulfill.

The second tier of ahadits is hasan.  This is when every criteria for swahih is met except for the precision of the matn according to the Imam ibn Hajr (r.a.).  Because it is a midpoint between swahih and dha’if, there are slight variations as to where exactly that midpoint lies according to different muhadditsin.  This definition is the most commonly used one.  If a hasan hadits can be supported by another hasan hadits of similar content, it may be raised to swahih.  Some collections of hasan hadits include Sunan at-Tirmidzi, Sunan Abu Dawud and Sunan Daraquthni.

The final major category is dha’if.  There are many, many reasons for a hadits to be dha’if, weak.  It could be due to a questionable personality in the chain of narration, or missing narrators, or a conflict with other narrations, or simply not enough transmitters at any point of narration.  Each reason is categorised by the nature of defect, ranked according to different degrees of severity, and given respective names to identify with.  For example, a dha’if hadits may be mu’allaq, mursal, mu’dhal or munqathi’.  If a dha’if hadits is supported by other narrations with similar content, it may be upgraded to hasan.

In addition to being swahih, a hadits may be muttafaq ‘alayh, literally meaning “agreed upon.”  This is a hadits that has been collected by the Shaykhayn, Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.) and Imam Muslim (r.a.), with both narrations quoting the same matn and isnad.  If the hadits is of the same matn but taken from different chains of transmission, it is not muttafaq ‘alayh; it is instead said to be akhrajahu ash-Shaykhayn, “collected by the Shaykhayn.”

Mutawatir refers to a category of ahadits where there are many narrators at each level of transmission.  There is a difference of opinion on the minimum number of narrators for a hadits to be mutawatir, but the general opinion is ten.  There are additional requirements for a hadits to be mutawatir.  The conditions of transmission and the state of the narrators must be so that it is impossible for them to connive in misrepresenting the narration.  Also, the hadits must be something physically experienced, thus it should begin with “we heard” or “we saw” and so on.  An example of this would be Hadits Jibril.

Most of the time, when Muslims discuss ahadits, they do not fully comprehend what exactly they mention, they do not understand how the books of ahadits are reference and they have no knowledge of the sciences of ahadits.  There is much confusion and creates a fitnah against Rasulullah (s.a.w.).  When misunderstood and misused, the religion becomes difficult to accept and practice or this might cause people to reject the corpus of ahadits in their entirety.

There are generally eleven genres of ahadits collections: swahifah, ajza’, rasa’il, sunan, musannaf, jami’, musnad, mu’jam, mustadrak, mustakhraj and arba’in.

The swahifah are the earliest collections of ahadits, written down by the companions during the lifetime of the Prophet (s.a.w.), or by their followers amongst the tabi’in.  Some of these collections are also considered rasa’il or kutub.  Examples of this include the Swahifah of Abu Hurayrah (r.a.), which he taught and handed down to his nine known student, one of whom was Shaykh Hammam ibn Munabbih (r.a.).  Shaykh Hammam ibn Munabbih (r.a.) was a scholar, from among the tabi‘in and one of the narrators of hadits.  He was the son of Munabbih ibn Kamil, a knight of Persia.  Shaykh Wahb ibn Munabbih (r.a.), the famed transmitter of ahadits as well as Judeo-Christian stories, was his brother.  Swahifah Hammam ibn Munabbih is the only example of this that survived in manuscript form.

And then there was the Swahifah asw-Swadiqah.  ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aasw (r.a.), the son of ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aasw (r.a.) was a companion of the Prophet (s.a.w.).  He was the author of Swahifah asw-Swadiqah, an ahadits compilation which recorded about one thousand narrations.  He embraced Islam in 7 AH, a year before his father.  The Prophet (s.a.w.) used to show preference to ‘Abdullah (r.a.) due to his knowledge.  He was one of the first companions to write down the ahadits, after receiving permission from the Prophet (s.a.w.) to do so.  Abu Hurayrah (r.a.) used to say that ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr (r.a.) was more knowledgeable than him.

Swahifah asw-Swadiqah remained in his family and was used by his grandson, Imam ‘Amr ibn Suhayb (r.a.).  Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (r.a.) incorporated the entire work of ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr (r.a.) into his Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal.

The second type of ahadits compilation is the ajza’.  Singularly, it is a juzu’.  There are two definitions to this category.  The first refers to collections of traditions passed down on the authority of a single swahabah or tabi’in, which were then further developed into masanid.  The second definition refers to a collection of ahadits pertaining to a single subject.

The risalah or kilab is similar to a juzu’.  However, the rasa’il are more specific in terms of subject matter.  They are collections of ahadits pertaining to one of eight topics.  They are belief and dogma, ‘aqidah; legal rulings, ahkam, piety, ascetism and taswawwuf, ruqaq; etiquette, adab; exegesis and commentary of the Qur’an, tafsir; history, tarikh and sirah; crisises fitan; and, appreciation and denunciation of persons, places and events, manaqib and matsalib.  The rasa’il are also known as kutub.  Many of the works of such scholars as Imam Jalal ad-Din as-Suyuthi (r.a.) and Imam ibn Hajr al-‘Asqalani (r.a.) belong to this category.

A risalah of ahkam is also known as a sunan and include all the subjects of fiqh from thaharah to wasayahTarikh and siyar, are historical and biographical matters which include cosmology, ancient history, and the lives of the prophets, the Prophet (s.a.w.), of his swahabah and tabi’un.

The sunan are collections of ahadits that pertain solely to one category of rasa’ilshari’ah.  Examples of this would be the works of Imam Abu Dawud (r.a.), Imam an-Nasa’i (r.a.) and Imam at-Tirmidzi (r.a.).

The musannaf are large collections of ahadits that pertain to most, or all of the categories of rasa’il.  The ahadits are put together and arranged in various books or chapters, each dealing with its particular topic.  Examples of this are the books of the Shaykhayn, Swahih al-Bukhari and Swahih Muslim, as well as al-Muwaththa’ of Imam Malik (r.a.). 

The jami’ are more complete versions of the musannaf, whereby all the topics in rasa’il are addressed in their entirety.  For example, Swahih Muslim is considered a musannaf but not a jami’ like that of Imam al-Bukhari’s (r.a.) Swahih, because Swahih Muslim does not include traditions relating to all chapters of the Qur’an.  There was, originally, only one known collection that epitomises this criterion.  It is originally known as al-Jami’ al-Musnad asw-Swahih al-Mukhtaswar min Umur ar-Rasul wa Sunanihi wa Ayyaamihi; it is better known as Swahih al-Bukhari.  Imam at-Tirmidzi’s (r.a.) Jami’ also fulfills this criteria.

A musnad consists of  ahadits collected based on the final authorities to whom they are related.  The term “musnad,” meaning supported, was originally used for such traditions that were supported by a complete, uninterrupted isnad, going back to a companion who was directly associated with the Prophet (s.a.w.).  But the term was later expanded in use to include any reliable and authoritative ahadits.  In this sense, the term may also used for all reliable works in ahadits literature.  This would then include works such as  Sunan ad-Darimi, and Swahih al-Bukhari.

Technically, however, it is used only for those collections of ahadits arranged according to the names of the final authorities by whom they are related, irrespective of their subject matter.  For example, the Masanid of Imam Abu Dawud ath-Thayalisi (r.a.), Imam Ahmad ibn Abi Shaybah (r.a.), Imam Abu Kaytsama (r.a.) and Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (r.a.).  The collectors of such traditions differed slightly in their method of arrangement.  In some, the ahadits are arranged according to their isnad in alphabetical order.  In others, the ahadits are arranged based on the tsiqah, reliability, of the people in the isnad.  This relative to when they embraced Islam and which events they took part in with the Prophet (s.a.w.).  Some are even arranged according to the affinity of their tribe to the Prophet (s.a.w.).

There are, however, certain masanid which are divided into chapters devoted to various subjects, and in each chapter, the ahadits are arranged according to the original authorities, swahabah, by whom they were related.  This format is followed by Imam Abu Ya’la (r.a.) and Imam Abu ‘Abd ar-Rahman (r.a.).  These works combine the characteristics of a musnad and a musannaf.

Some of the musnad compilers tried to collect together all the available ahadits reported by the various swahabah.  Musnad ibn an-Najjar is said to have contained the ahadits related by all the swahabah.  Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal contains more than 30,000 ahadits reported by about 700 swahabah.  Musnad Abu ‘Abd ar-Rahman is reported by Shaykh Khatifah (r.a.) on the authority of Imam ibn Hazm (r.a.) to have contained traditions related by 1,300 swahabah.  There are, however, many masanid which are devoted to ahadits related either by a special group of swahabah or by one single swahabi only.

The mu’jam is a collection of ahadits arranged in alphabetical order, on various criteria.  For example, the geographical and biographical dictionaries of Imam Yaqut (r.a.) are called Mu’jam al-Buldan and Mu’jam Udaba’ respectively.  If a musnad were to be arranged in alphabetical order, it would become a mu’jam.  Some masanid are arranged under the names of the swahabah in alphabetical order and are known as mu’jam asw-swahabah.  But according to the muhadditsin, the term is used technically only for such collections of ahadits arranged, not according to the swahabah who reported them, but according to the muhaddits from whom the compiler himself received them from.  The names of such muhaddits are arranged alphabetically, and all the ahadits received from each muhaddits are then collected together, irrespective of their contents or subject matter.  Examples of this are some works by Imam ath-Thabarani (r.a.), Imam Ibrahim ibn Isma’il (r.a.) and Imam ibn al-Qani’ (r.a.).  The largest collection of ahadits by Imam ath-Thabarani (r.a.) is, in reality, a musnad, not a mu’jam since it is a mu’jam asw-swahabah, not a mu’jam ash-shuyukh.

A mustadrak are continuations of previous works.  This happens when there ahadits that meet to the criteria of a certain work but were previously not included.  The initial absence of these ahadits may be because the original collector missed them out, did not know of them or could not verify them for some reason.  These ahadits would then be collected into a mustadarak.  An example is Mustadrak al-Hakim, which is a collection of ahadits that fulfill the criteria of Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.) and Imam Muslim (r.a.).

Similar to the mustadrak, the mustakhraj is another form of expansion to already established collections.  This is when a later compiler finds new chains to previously recorded ahadits.  An example is the Mustakhraj Abu Nu’aym al-Isfahani, in which he collected fresh asanid to ahadits in Swahih al-Bukhari and Swahih Muslim.

The arba’iniyyat, as the name shows, are collections of forty ahadits relating to one or more subjects which may have appeared to be of special interest to the compiler.  This genre was popularised by Imam an-Nawawi (r.a.).  Another famous compiler of the arba’in is Shah Wali ad-Dihlawi (r.a.).

Of all these eleven classes of ahadits collections of ahadits, the swahifah, as their description shows, were the earliest in origin.  The ma’ajim, the mustadrakat, the mustakrajat and the arba’iniyyat came later.  The ajza’ and the rasa’il are also later developments.  The musannafat and the masanid works are advancements on the swahifah.  The sunan and the jami’at, came after the musannafat and the masanid but before the rest.  The development of the ahadits literature were influenced by the needs of the time.  Initially, there was an emphasis on collection, and then categorisation for practical application, and finally, belatedly, there grew an emphasis on verification due to the then growing prevalence of mawdhu’, forged, ahadits.

It would be best for a Muslim to have even the vaguest idea of what a hadits is in order to understand how it is applied, though this does not automatically make him a scholar.  This is an error that many of us make and few are aware of.  In order to understand the requirements of the ahadits, one must understand the history of the Muslim oral tradition; the conditions in which it thrived, as well as its developments over the centuries.  The demand for precision and authenticity rose to a critical height as Islam spread over wide expanses of cultures, ethnicities and former beliefs.

According to the muhadditsin, the history of the Muslim oral tradition is generally divided into seven eras.  Each era has a certain nature of development.  For example, the collections of Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.) and Imam Muslim (r.a.) did not appear until the 3rd era, which is roughly three to four centuries after the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) passing.  This is because they were dependent on the developments of the preceding era, where the foundations of ‘ulum al-hadits were laid down.  The Shaykhayn could not develop without al-jarh wa at-ta’dil and ‘ilal al-hadits, for example.  al-Jarh wa at-Ta’dil literally means “discrediting and accrediting.”  It is also known as ‘ilm ar-rijal, “knowledge of men.”  This is a form of biographical evaluation used in discerning authenticity.  ‘Ilal al-hadits literally means “flaws in hadits,” a field first established by Imam az-Zuhri (r.a.), a renowned collector of sirah.  The development of these two fields are credited to scholars such as Imam Shuhbah ibn al-Hajjaj (r.a.), Imam Sufyan ats-Tsawri (r.a.), Imam ‘Abd ar-Rahman ibn Mahdi (r.a.) and Imam az-Zuhri (r.a.).  It is also in this second era that Imam ash-Shafi’i (r.a.) wrote his famous treatise on uswul al-fiqh, ar-Risalah, in which he also explained various conditions of accepting ahadits.

The first era and the foundation of ahadits, began with the death of the Prophet (s.a.w.) until the end of the reign of the Khulafah ar-Rashidin.  The swahabah were all extremely cautious about expressively attributing anything to the Prophet (s.a.w.).  Because all of them have had direct experience with the Prophet (s.a.w.) himself, their actions could be justified and directly traced back to him, where it mattered.  Where narrations were required, the companions were very strict and highly skeptical about ahadits that they have never heard of before since they spent the most time with the Prophet (s.a.w.).  In such a situation, they would require an oath or a witness to verify that the narration was true, even if it was between the four khulafa’ themselves.  An example of such scrupulousness was when ‘Ali (k.w.) accepted Abu Bakr’s (r.a.) oath on the hadits, “Whomsoever performs wudhu’ and then proceeds to perform two raka’at, Allah will Forgive his sins”.  This does not, in any way, allude to any inadequacy on Abu Bakr’s (r.a.) part.  It only exemplifies the strictness of the swahabah with regards ahadits.  The ones who were most stringent were the khulafah themselves.

Relating to this, it should also be noted that not all ahadits is meant for the general public.  The Prophet (s.a.w.) in his wisdom, gave specific advice to specific people.  This means that one’s state, faith and piety are all precursors to the level of knowledge on which such advice is given.  This is most common amongst the gharib ahadits, ahadits with only a single narrator at the point of origin.  An example of this is the hadits narrated by Mu’adz ibn Jabal (s.a.w.), whom the Prophet (s.a.w.) told, “Whoever proclaims ‘laa ilaha illa Allah’ with a sincere heart, Allah will Prevent him from falling into the Fire”.  Mu’adz (r.a.) then asked the Prophet (s.a.w.) for permission to tell the rest and the Prophet (s.a.w.) forbade him from so for fear that it might be misunderstood, and people would neglect their deeds upon hearing it.

The ahadits collected by the dedication and love of the Prophet (s.a.w.) of many generations of Muslims all over the Muslims world, from many different schools of thought, have been a subject of study of scholars and a source of inspiration up to the present time.  The ahadits, together with the Qur'an serve the ummah as the primary basis of their social structure and theological thought.  It is from these twin foundations that the various Islamic sciences developed.  The efforts of many modernist reformers have failed because they ignored the Qur'an and the ahadits, just as some medieval sects became extinct because they had ignored their importance.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

On Wishing the Christians on the Birth of Jesus Christ (a.s.)

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is the text of Habib ‘Ali al-Jifri (r.a.) speaking on the permissibility of greeting the Christians.  He references a a fatwa by Shaykh ‘Abdullah ibn Bayyah (r.a.) on The Permissibility of Congratulating Non-Muslims on their Festivities.

“We are more deserving of Moses than them”: This was the response of the Prophet (s.a.w.) when he was told that the Jews of Madina fast on the day of ‘Ashura in celebration of Moses’ (a.s.) deliverance from Pharaoh and his people.  The Prophet (s.a.w.) used to fast this day while he was in Makkah prior to the hijrah.  He did not ask about the link between this event and its Arabic date, despite the Hebrew calendar being different to the Arabic.  Madina's Jewish community had been naturalised in Arab lands and thus adopted the Arabic calendar.  This was sufficient for the Prophet (s.a.w.) as a reason and he did not say, “How can we ensure the authenticity of the date?  The Jews have corrupted their books so it is not permissible for us to rely on them to determine the correct date for Moses’ deliverance!”  The issue of acknowledging this event is not related to the time of its happening as much as it is related to its meaning, which is joy for Allah’s (s.w.t.) sake and love for His Righteous servants.

Maintaining a connectedness to religious occasions that mark Allah’s (s.w.t.) Favour upon His righteous servants is authorised in Islam and deeply connected to it.  Hajj, the annual pilgrimage, is the fifth pillar of Islam and replete with these meanings.  For example, the circumambulation of a House built by Ibrahim (a.s.) and his son Isma’il (a.s.); the walking between Safa and Marwa where Hajar (r.a.) went on her search for water for her infant child; the throwing of stones at the jamarat in Mina where the devil tried to tempt Ibrahim (a.s.) away from sacrificing his son; and the ritual slaughter that marks the willingness of Ibrahim (a.s.) to sacrifice his son for Allah (s.w.t.).  This is the greatness of our religious rituals; that they are connected to profound meanings and not simply a mere outward performance of the act.

Allah (s.w.t.) Says in the Quran:

“… and teach them of the Days of Allah.”  Verily in this there are Signs for such as are firmly patient and constant― grateful and appreciative. (Surah Ibrahim:5)

On the occasion of Jesus Christ’s (a.s.) birth, we feel that we are present in front of a day from among the days of Allah (s.w.t.).  This day was distinguished by an immense miracle related to his birth.  This birth was connected to meanings of peace that we are in dire need of today.  Yes, Allah (s.w.t.) made Jesus Christ (a.s.) a symbol of peace for this world.  Did Allah (s.w.t.) not Say upon the tongue of Christ (a.s.), the following:

“So Peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)!” (Surah Maryam:33)

This alone is sufficient as a reason for our joy on this noble occasion, irrespective of the what the exact date is according to us or others and the difference of opinion that exists between the Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant and other denominations.  The issue is not about the precise date but the meaning which is indicated by this occasion.

I remind my brothers from among the students of sacred knowledge that the scholars who forbid congratulating non-Muslims on their religious celebrations tied their judgement to the assumption that congratulating affirms certain tenets of belief held by non-Muslims that are diametrically opposed to Islam.  They anchored their judgement on a widespread understanding and custom particular to their time that congratulating others on their religious occasions is considered an affirmation of their beliefs, hence their edicts made mention of proofs regarding the impermissibility of affirming and esteeming false tenets of belief and not clear and unambiguous proofs that forbid congratulating in and of itself.

Today we cannot imagine that congratulating others on their religious occasions affirms their tenets of belief.  Islam is well established and knowledge of its core aspects of belief are known as well as the points of divergence with other religions.  Human beings in general have also matured enough to accommodate co-existence that respects the boundaries of each others’ faiths.  A Muslim who congratulates Christians on Christmas does not come close to thinking that this affirms the divinity of Christ (a.s.) or that he is the son of God.  Likewise, a Christian who receives the season’s greetings from a Muslim will not be mislead to think that this Muslim has affirmed Christian theology.  Similarly, a Christian who congratulates a Muslim neighbour on ‘Iyd, or Ramadan or the birth of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) knows well that this does not mean he is affirming Islamic belief, nor does a Muslim think that about a Christian who congratulates him.  Contemporary custom surrounding the Christmas season no longer links congratulating one by saying ‘Merry Christmas,’ for example, with an affirmation of the belief that Jesus (a.s.) is the son of God.  Rather, it is considered a general custom that indicates good inter-human dealing.

A legal principle, qa’idah fiqhiyyah, states, “A judgement depends on its cause,” “al-hukmu yaduru ma’a ‘ilatihi wujudan wa ‘adaman”.  The cause which led to some scholars forbidding congratulating, the cause was affirmation of the others’ religious beliefs, no longer remains and thus the impermissibility of congratulating also no longer remains.  It is important to note here too that Imam ibn al-Qayyim’s (r.a.) position that the scholars were in agreement over the impermissibility of congratulating others on their religious occasions in not accurate.  Shaykh ‘Abdullah ibn Bayyah has mentioned that Imam Ahmad (r.a.) had three opinions on this issue: impermissible, disliked, and permissible.  Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.) adopted its permissibility as was related by Imam ibn al-Mardawi (r.a.) in al-Insaf.

It is the right of one who does not wish to congratulate others on their religious occasions to not do it, but wrong for them to impose their view upon others as though it is obligatory.  To condemn those who do it and doubt their iman is to reduce the shari’ah’s greatness and play frivolously with the religion!  I urge you: please stop your misuse of this great religion!

In closing, I offer my greetings to our master Muhammad (s.a.w.) on the birth of Jesus Christ (a.s.).  Yes, I greet the Prophet (s.a.w.).  Was he not the one who said, “I am more deserving of Jesus son of Mary in this world and the next”?  Likewise, I offer my greetings to Muslims, Christians and mankind in general on the birth of Jesus (a.s.).  Allah (s.w.t.) Granted him a manifestation of His name, “Peace” on the day of his birth and made him a symbol for peace.  And I say to our master, Jesus Christ (a.s.): my master the spirit of Allah and His word, peace be upon you the day you were born, the day you die and the day you will be raised to life again.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The Virgin Birth of Jesus (a.s.)

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is the text of a paper prepared for the Seminar for St. Andrew’s college for Wednesday 4th December 2013 by Mawlana Waffie Mohammed.

The appearance of Prophet Jesus (a.s.) on the earth occurred in an unusual way, according to the teachings of Islam.  Jesus (a.s.) was the only person who was sent to mankind without the agency of a father.  In order to fully comprehend how he came we need to understand the events as they occurred.  It all began with a vow made by the mother of Mary (a.s.) concerning the dedication of her pregnancy to God.  Mary’s (a.s.) mother, whose name was Hannah or Anne (r.a.), was the wife of ‘Imran (a.s.), also known as Aaron, who belonged to one of the tribes of Israel.  He was from the priestly class.  Perhaps this is one of the reasons why her mother decided to dedicate her child who was not yet born to the service of Allah (s.w.t.).  So she prayed as follows:

… “O my Lord!  I do dedicate into Thee what is in my womb for Thy special service so accept this of me!  For Thou Hearest and Knowest all things.” (Surah Ali ‘Imran:35)

At the time of making her prayer, Hannah (a.s.) was not aware of the sex of the fetus in her womb; so when the child was born she found out that it was a girl.  On seeing that it was a girl and not a boy as she had expected, she spoke to the Lord in the following words:

“O my Lord!  Behold!  I am delivered of a female child!”  And Allah Knew Best what she brought forth, “And is not the male like the female.  I have named her Mary and I commend her and her offspring to Thy Protection from the Evil One, the Rejected.” (Surah Ali ‘Imran:36)

Mary (a.s.) was put in the temple under the care of Zakariya (a.s.) and his wife Elizabeth (r.a.), who was a cousin of Mary (a.s.).  Only Zakariya (a.s.) was permitted into her room, to take care of her and provide her requirements.  Zakariya (a.s.) was always puzzled when he used to go to her room, as he found that she always had a supply of fresh fruits and food, things that he never gave to her.  When he questioned her about it, her reply was always that it came from Allah (s.w.t.) Who is the Sustainer of all.  The Qur’an Mentions about this in the following verses:

… Every time that he entered (her) chamber to see her, he found her supplied with sustenance.  He said, “O Mary!  Whence (comes) this to you?”  She said, “From Allah: for Allah Provides sustenance to whom He Pleases, without measure.” (Surah Ali ‘Imran:37)

Mary (a.s.) grew up very pure and pretty.  She was pure because she was always in seclusion, and she never experienced any monthly cycle as other women.  Allah (s.w.t.) Tells us about her as follows:

… to the care of Zakariya, was she assigned … (Surah Ali ‘Imran:37)

Mother Mary (a.s.) grew up to be a special woman, above all other women in history.  Allah (s.w.t.) Tells us about this in the Holy Qur’an in the following verse:

Behold!  The angels said, “O Mary!  Allah hath Chosen thee and Purified thee; ― Chosen thee above the women of all nations.” (Surah Ali ‘Imran:42)

Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) confirmed that Mary (a.s.) was special.  He is reported to have said that there are four great women in history.  They are Asiyah (r.a.), the wife of Pharaoh; Mary (a.s.), the mother of Jesus (a.s.); Khadijah (r.a.), his wife; and Fathimah (r.a.), his daughter.

When the time came for Prophet Jesus (a.s.) to come into the world, Allah (s.w.t.) Sent Gabriel (a.s.) to Mary (a.s.).  He appeared to her in the form of a man.  This got Mary (a.s.) disturbed as she wanted to know how he could have invaded her privacy without any permission.  The Qur’an Tells us about this incident as follows:

Relate in the Book (the story of) Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place in the East.  She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them: then We Sent to her Our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects.  She said, “I seek Refuge from thee to (Allah) Most Gracious: (come not near) if thou dost fear Allah.”  He said, “Nay, I am only a messenger from thy Lord (to announce) to thee the Gift of a holy son.”  She said, “How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?”  He said, “So (it will be): thy Lord Saith, ‘That is Easy for Me: and (We Wish) to Appoint him as a Sign unto men and a Mercy from Us’: it is a matter (so) Decreed.”  So she conceived him, and she retired with him to a remote place. (Surah Maryam:16-22)

After the discussion with her, the angel blew into her and she conceived.  Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

And Mary the daughter of ‘Imran, who guarded her chastity; and We Breathed into her (body) of Our Spirit ... (Surah at-Tahrim:12)

Scholars interpret ‘breathing into it’ to mean that he blew onto her shirt.  It does not say that the angel blew into her private part.  There are other occasions when the angel blew into persons and the soul went into the body.  For example, about Adam (a.s.), Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

But He Fashioned him in due proportion, and Breathed into him something of His spirit … (Surah as-Sajdah:9)

Even Jesus (a.s.) was able to perform this miraculous gift, when he blew into the bird which was made out of clay, and it came to life and flew away.  Allah (s.w.t.) Records about this as follows:

“And (appoint him) a Messenger to the Children of Israel, (with this message): I have come to you with a Sign from your Lord, in that I make for you out of clay as it were the figure of a bird, and breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by Allah’s Leave...” (Surah Ali ‘Imran:49)

The conception and birth of Jesus (a.s.), the son of Mary (a.s.) was unique, and different from the coming into the world of any other human being.  Except for Adam (a.s.), every single human comes into this world through conception of the sperm with the ovum.  Adam’s (a.s.) body was Formed and Fashioned and then Allah (s.w.t.) breathed, through His angel, His Spirit or Soul into his body.  He Tells us so in the Qur’an in the following verse:

But He Fashioned him in due proportion, and Breathed into him something of His spirit … (Surah as-Sajdah:9)

In the case of Jesus (a.s.), the process was slightly different.  His soul was blown into Mary (a.s.), and around the soul, the body grew.  This we know from the Qur’anic verse in which Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

O people of the Book!  Commit no excesses in your religion: nor say of Allah aught but truth.  Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a Messenger of Allah and His Word, which He Bestowed on Mary, and a Spirit proceeding from Him ... (Surah an-Nisa’:171)

When the soul of Jesus (a.s.) was put into Mary (a.s.), and she realised that she was pregnant, she left her room quietly and un-noticed and proceeded eastwards.  She rested below a date palm tree and there, Jesus (a.s.) was born.  The Qur’an Tells us about this as follows:

So she conceived him, and she retired with him to a remote place.  And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree: she cried (in her anguish), “Ah!  Would that I had died before this!  Would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight!”  But (a voice) cried to her from beneath the (palm-tree), “Grieve not!  For thy Lord hath Provided a rivulet beneath thee; and shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree: it will let fall fresh ripe dates upon thee.  So eat and drink and cool (thine) eye.  And if thou dost see any man say ‘I have vowed a fast to (Allah) Most Gracious, and this day will I enter into no talk with any human being.’”  (Surah Maryam:22-26)

Mary (a.s.) gave birth to Jesus (a.s.) under the date palm tree.  There she got food from dates and water from the stream that was flowing below her.  She stayed there until she felt strong enough to return to her people.  She then took baby Jesus and returned.  When the people saw her with a baby, they were shocked and amazed:

At length she brought the (babe) to her people, carrying him (in her arms). they said, “O Mary!  Truly an amazing thing hast thou brought!”  “O sister of Aaron!  Thy father was not a man of evil, nor thy mother a woman unchaste!”  But she pointed to the babe.  They said, “How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?”  He said, “I am indeed a servant of Allah: He hath Given me Revelation and Made me a prophet; And He hath Made me Blessed wheresoever I be, and hath Enjoined on me, prayer and charity as long as I live; (He) hath Made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable; so Peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)!” (Surah Maryam:27-33)

Jesus (a.s.) lived a private secluded life with his mother.  They were both sustained by Allah (s.w.t.).  Later in his life, he used to preach in the synagogue in the day and retreat to the mountain during the night.  As he was very critical of the doings of the hierarchy of the clergy, they wanted to get rid of him.  They thought of many ways of doing so but finally decided upon crucifying him.  The leaders of the community violated every form of justice against an innocent person, and although Allah (s.w.t.) allowed them to crucify a person, it was not Jesus (a.s.), the son of Mary (a.s.), who was crucified.  The Holy Qur’an Says:

That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah”; ― but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was Made to appear to them and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not. ― (Surah an-Nisa’:157)

Monday, 9 December 2013

Sayyidi Mawlud Fal (q.s.)

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is an article by Ustadz Fakhruddin Owaisi at-Tijani.

Sayyidi Mawlud Fal (r.a.) of Mauritania was one of the biggest khulafah of the Tijaniyyah in the 19th century.  Thousands entered the thariqa’ by his hands.  He took the thariqa’ from Shaykh Muhammad al-Hafizh ash-Shinqithi (q.s.) who took it directly from Shaykh Ahmad at-Tijani (q.s.).  He was a great scholar of shari’ah, giving lectures, but one day a well-known majdzubah of the area interrupted his lesson and said to him, “If you want real knowledge, go to Muhammad al-Hafizh.”  So he went and submitted.

Sometime after taking the thariqa’, he walked all the way to Fez, to ziyarah the grand Sayyidi, reciting Swalawat al-Fatih at every step.  Upon his arrival there, he was told that Shaykh at-Tijani (q.s.) had just passed away but had left some things for him, his muswallah and tasbih.  Among those who came to benefit from Sayyidi Mawlud (q.s.) include the great Tijani warrior-saint, Haj ‘Umar Thal (q.s.), who personally called him to honour his camp.

Haj ‘Umar (q.s.) gave Sayyidi Mawlud (q.s.) a bag full of gold coins as a hadiyyah in return for what he learned from him.  Sayyidi Mawlud (q.s.) returned the bag and said, “What I really want is a copy of your book on the thariqa’, ar-Rimah.”  As Sayyidi Mawlud (q.s.) was travelling the next morning, Haj ‘Umar (q.s.) distributed the pages of the book to all his disciples, asking them to each copy a page, so as to prepare a complete a copy of the book before dawn.

Sayyidi Mawlud’s (q.s.) descendants remain great shuyukh of the thariqa’ today and were amongst the first to enter the Faydhah Tijaniyyah of Sayyidi Ibrahim Niyas (q.s.).  Shaykh ‘Abdullah al-Hadi al-Ya’qubi (r.a.) narrated in Tawali as-Su’ud fi Hayat wa Manaqib Abi as-Su’ud, his biography of his grandfather, Sayyidi Mawlud Fal (r.a.) that Sayyidi Muhannad Baba had actually seen a dream in which he saw the caravan of Prophet (s.a.w.) stopping to rest by a certain spot near his desert encampment.  Thereafter the Prophet (s.a.w.) asked him to prepare a tent for him to make his prayers, which he did.  Then, after swalah maghrib, he saw the Prophet (s.a.w.) making a certain unique dzikr with his swahabah there.  Then the dream ended. 

Soon after this dream, the caravan of the great Mauritanian Tijani saint Sayyidi Mawlud Fal (q.s.) stopped near his desert encampment at the same spot the caravan of Prophet (s.a.w.) had stopped in the dream.  After a while, Sayyidi Mawlud (q.s.) asked Sayyidi Muhannad (q.s.) to prepare a tent for him to make his prayers, which he did.  Then, to his amazement, he saw Sayyidi Mawlud (q.s.) making the same dzikr with his disciples after swalah maghrib that he had seen the Prophet (s.a.w.) perform in the dream.

When Sayyidi Muhannad (q.s.) asked Sayyidi Mawlud (q.s.) about the dzikr, the saint told him that it was the daily Tijani wazhifah which the Prophet (s.a.w.) had instructed Quthb al-Maktum, Shaykh Ahmad at-Tijani (q.s.) and his followers to make.  Sayyidi Muhannad Baba (q.s.) immediately took bay’ah in the Tijani way, and went on to become a renowned Mauritanian Sufi ‘alim.

Sayyidi Mawlud Fal (q.s.) passed away in 1859 and is buried in the village of Tambu’ayl in Mauritania.  The great Tijani saint, Haj Malick Sy (q.s.) meditated by his Grave for one whole month.  Shaykh Ibrahim Niyas (q.s.) and Shaykh Hasan Sisi (q.s.) also visited his grave.  The family of Sayyidi Mawlud Fal (q.s.) are descendants of Zaynab bint ‘Ali (r.a.), the daughter of Fathimah az-Zahrah (r.a.) and sister of Imam Hasan (r.a.) and Imam Husayn (r.a.).