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The Status of the Companions in Light of the Qur’an

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ngc7331_gabany_f1.jpgThe source material for this article are some notes I took from an excellent lecture by Dr. Salāh al-Sāwī. Unfortunately, my notes were brief and so I am not able to do full justice to the talk that Shaykh al-Sāwī gave. Nonetheless, I will try my best to clarify the true status of the Companions in the light of the verses of Allāh’s Book.

Islām’s Teachings Concerning Cursing, Revulsion, and Vulgar Language

Before we come to the Qur’ān’s teachings concerning the Companions, I would just like to very briefly clarify some matters related to the character of the Muslim. Imām Ahmad and al-Tirmidhī relate with an authentic isnād that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:

لَيْسَ الْمُؤْمِنُ بِطَعَّانٍ وَلَا بِلَعَّانٍ وَلَا الْفَاحِشِ الْبَذِيءِ
“The believer is not given to insults, nor cursing, nor is he one given to wicked, shameless speech.”

Allāh has addressed the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) in the Qur’ān describing him thusly:

“And verily, you are on an exalted standard of character.” [68:4]

Thus, it comes as no surprise that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) refrained from engaging in cursing or other vulgar speech. Al-Bukhārī reports from `Ā’ishah, may Allāh be pleased with her:

Once, a group of Jews entered upon Allāh’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and said “Al-Sāmu `Alaykum (Death be upon you).”

I understood what they had said, so I responded, “Al-Sāmu `Alaykum Wa’l-La`nah (Death be upon you and curse).”

At this, Allāh’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said, “Take it easy `Ā’ishah, for indeed, Allāh loves gentleness in all matters.”

I said, “O Messenger of Allāh, did you not hear what they said?”

Allāh’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said, “I already said, ‘wa `alaykum (and upon you)’.”

With regards to cursing or reviling a Muslim, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) has stated, “Cursing a Muslim is fusūq.” [Al-Bukhārī, Muslim]

The meaning of fusūq is to depart from obedience to Allāh. In fact, such revulsion can even lead to disbelief if it is on account of that person’s religiosity. Thus, in that case, it would amount to reviling the religion and that is one of the nullifiers of faith.

In fact, Allāh has prohibited us from insulting even the idols, the false gods, of the disbelievers lest this should lead them to insulting Allāh:

“And insult not those whom they (disbelievers) invoke besides Allāh, lest they insult Allāh wrongfully without knowledge.” [6:108]

With this precaution, let us now come to the main theme of the article:

The Status of the Companions in the Qur’ān

“And know that among you is the Messenger of Allāh. If he were to obey you in much of the matter, you would be in difficulty, but Allāh has made beloved to you the faith and has beautified it in your hearts and has made hateful to you disbelief, wickedness, and disobedience. Those are the [rightly] guided.” [49:7]

This verse is clearly addressed to the Companions, for the Messenger of Allāh is amongst them. Note that Allāh says that He has made Īmān beloved to them and has beautified it in their hearts and He has made them hate kufr, fusūq, and `isyān. He further describes them as being rightly-guided (rāshidūn). Surely, no one will doubt that anyone to whom Allāh has made faith beloved and beautified in their hearts would not be rightly guided? Then, furthermore, after that, who can deny they are rightly guided when He has also made all forms of disbelief, wickedness and disobedience hated to them?

This particular categorization: disbelief (kufr), wickedness (fusūq), and disobedience (`isyān) has been mentioned for the purpose of clarification. It emphasizes their innocence of any quality that would expel them from the religion while also exonerating them of having any love for committing any sort of sin that would be less than that. The term fusūq is applied to those acts of disobedience which are particularly reprehensible or wicked, whereas the term `isyān would encompass even the slightest act of disobedience. Thus, they can neither be thought of as disbelievers (kuffār) nor sinners (fussāq).

Promise Fulfilled

“Allāh has promised those among you who believe, and do righteous good deeds, that He will certainly grant them succession [to authority] in the earth, as He granted it to those before them, and that He will surely establish for them [therein] their religion which He is pleased with for them. And He will surely give them in exchange a safe security after their fear (provided) they (believers) worship Me and do not associate anything with Me. But whoever disbelieved after this, they are disobedient sinners.” [24:55]

To understand the implications of this verse, we must look back at history. Allāh is promising those who were present at the revelation of this verse that those of them who believe and do righteous deeds (1) shall be granted authority in the earth, (2) He will establish for them their religion, and (3) He will exchange their state of fear for one of security.

Consider what happened after the death of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم). Does history not show us how Allāh granted the Companions authority in the earth and established for them their religion? Indeed it does. In fact, the conquests achieved in their short rule were so great that nothing the like of it has been seen before nor since in history. The `Arabs, with little technological know-how or numbers, swept all the way into Spain in the West and the heart of Asia in the East in just a matter of decades. At their hands, not just one but both of the world superpowers were humbled. What is most amazing of all is that most of these farfetched lands that entered into Islām at the hands of the Companions so many centuries ago are still Muslim lands to this day. If the words of this verse are not true of them, then tell me, by Allāh, of whom then are they true?

Does this verse not also indicate to us that in their time, Allāh established for them the religion with which He is pleased? Is this not an indication that the Islām of Abū Bakr, `Umar, `Uthmān, `Alī, and all of the beloved Companions was the very Islām that was brought by our beloved Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم)?

The People of Badr

In Sūrah al-Anfāl, Allāh states:

“He it is Who has supported you with His Help and with the believers.” [8:62]

This verse refers to Allāh’s Aid of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) at the Battle of Badr. Thus, Allāh has testified that those of the Companions who witnessed Badr were believers. This testimony has come to us in a verse of the Qur’ān that shall be recited in the masjids, upon the pulpits, and upon the lips of every believer until the time when Allāh shall inherit the earth and all those upon it. Is there any greater testimony of faith than that?

At this battle, the Companions who were present was some three hundred plus Companions.

The Pledge of Divine Pleasure (Bay`ah al-Ridwān)

“Certainly was Allāh pleased with the believers when they pledged allegiance to you, [O Muhammad], under the tree, and He knew what was in their hearts, so He sent down tranquillity upon them and rewarded them with an imminent conquest.” [48:18]

The Companions who witnessed this pledge were some 1400 in number. In this verse, Allāh has stated:

(1) He was pleased with them
(2) Borne witness that they are believers
(3) And borne witness to the purity of their hearts.

The Expedition of Tabūk

In reference to the great military expedition that went out to Tabūk with the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), Allāh states:

“Allāh has already forgiven the Prophet and the Muhājirīn and the Ansār who followed him in the hour of difficulty after the hearts of a party of them had almost inclined [to doubt], and then He forgave them. Indeed, He is to them Kind and Merciful.” [9:117]

The army that went out with the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was composed of about 30,000 men. Is this not indicative that the generality of the Companions of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) are of a high statuse. Particularly, it is true of the Muhājirīn, those who migrated from Makkah to Madīnah at a time when they were being persecuted for their faith and who sacrificed their homes and wealth to migrate in the Path of Allāh, and it is true of the Ansār who risked the ire of all the Arabs to give shelter to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and to their brothers, the Muhājirīn.

The Description of the Muhājirīn and the Ansār

Thus it is that Allāh describes them in Sūrah al-Hashr, saying:

“[And there is also a share in this booty] for the poor emigrants, who were expelled from their homes and their property, seeking Bounties from Allāh and to please Him, and supporting Allāh and His Messenger. Such indeed are indeed the truthful (to what they say); And [also for] those who, before them, had settled in the City and the Faith, love those who have emigrated to them, and have no jealousy in their breasts for that which they have been given, and give them (emigrants) preference over themselves, even though they were in great need. And whosoever is saved from his own covetousness, such are they who will be the successful.” [59:8-9]

Thus Allāh informs us that the Muhājīrūn had only migrated seeking Allāh’s Bounty and Pleasure, and in order to support the religion of Allāh and His Messengers. As for the Ansār, Allāh describes them as those who تبوءوا الدار والإيمان tabawwa’ū’l-dār wa’l-īmān. Tabawwu’ is to become settled in some place. Thus the Ansār had become settled in their faith.

Then, in the next verse, Allāh informs us:

“And those who came after them say: “Our Lord! Forgive us and our brethren who have preceded us in Faith, and put not in our hearts any hatred against those who have believed. Our Lord! You are indeed full of kindness, Most Merciful.” [59:10]

O Allāh forgive the Muhājirīn and Ansār who preceded us in Fatih, and do not put in our hearts any hatred against those who have believed!

The Spectre of Hypocrisy (Nifāq)

Now the there arises a question that some may ask, “Were there not hypocrites in al-Madīnah?” Of course, every Muslim knows that the answer is yes. In fact, one might ask: is it not true that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) did not know the exact identity of those hypocrites? This also is true as Allāh tells us:

“And among those around you of the bedouins are hypocrites, and [also] from the people of Madinah. They have become accustomed to hypocrisy. You do not know them, [but] We know them.” [9:101]

This is a reality established by the Qur’ān without a doubt. Allāh also says:

“And if We willed, We could show them to you, and you would know them by their mark; but you will surely know them by the tone of [their] speech. And Allah knows your deeds.” [47:30]

Thus, the hypocrites have a way of speaking that gave away their inclinations and which was recognizable to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم).Furthermore, Allāh tells us in the Qur’ān that He is going to distinguish the pure (tayyib) from the filthy (khabīth) by testing the believers in various ways. Thus, after the Battle of Uhud, Allāh says:

“Allāh would not leave the believers in that [state] you are in [presently] until He separates the evil from the good.” [3:179]

This process of purifying the ranks of the Companions is just what took place in the years to follow in Madīnah. Thus, of the Battle of the Confederates (al-Ahzāb), Allāh says:

“There (in that situation), the believers were tried and shaken with a severe shaking.” [33:11]

As for the hypocrites, they said:

“‘O people of Yathrib (al-Madīnah)! There is no stand (possible) for you (against the enemy attack!) Therefore go back!’ And a band of them ask for permission of the Prophet saying: ‘Truly, our homes lie open (to the enemy),’ and they lay not open. They but wished to flee.” [33:13]

Contrast this with the position taken by the believers in this great difficulty:

“And when the believers saw the companies, they said, ‘This is what Allāh and His Messenger had promised us, and Allāh and His Messenger spoke the truth.’ And it increased them only in faith and acceptance.” [33:22]

Likewise, Allāh refers to the expedition of Tabūk in the Qur’ān as “the hour of difficulty” as we have cited earlier. It was a time of great difficulty and hardship. As for the believers, they embraced the opportunity to please Allāh and His Messenger, while the hypocrites lingered behind in al-Madīnah, afterwards making excuses for their absence.

Thus, we see that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was able to distinguish the believers from the disbelievers from the positions that they took in trying times.

Furthermore, Allāh says in the Qur’ān:

“They hypocrites are apprehensive lest a sūrah be revealed about them, informing them of what is in their hearts. Say, ‘Mock [as you wish]; indeed, Allāh will expose that which you fear.’” [9:64]

A group of the hypocrites were mocking the recitors, who were no less than the scholars and the elite of the Companions. Because of this mockery, the following verses were revealed:

“And if you ask them, they will surely say, ‘We were only talking idly and joking.’ Say, ‘Is it Allāh and His verses and His Messenger that you were mocking?’ Make no excuse; you have disbelieved after your belief.” [9:65-66]

Thus, in light of these verses, to claim that Abū Bakr and `Umar, were hypocrites, and all the while he was unaware of it, is the pinnacle of sophistry! They were his close companions, his trusted advisors, and the fathers of two of his wives, and yet he was unaware of their true state? What could be more farfetched.

Conclusion

It is important to understand that if anyone is expelled from the fold of Islām, then this means that anything they relate to us of the religion cannot be accepted. Is it anyone but Abū Bakr, `Umar, and all the rest of the trustworthy Companions of our beloved Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) that we rely on to transmit the religion down to us? In fact, it was under the supervision of Abū Bakr, and later `Uthmān that the mushaf was compiled.

This is why so many of our scholars of the past have stated that if you see anyone reviling the Companions, may Allāh be pleased with them, then be weary of him, for he is seeking the destruction of Islām.

As a final note, it is important to keep in mind that, as Ahl al-Sunnah, when addressing those with whom we disagree, we should advise them with gentleness so that the advice may benefit them. Thus, Allāh gave Mūsā and Hārūn (عليهما الصلاة والسلام) the following instructions for dealing with Fir`awn:

“And speak to him with gentle speech that perhaps he may be reminded or fear [Allāh].” [20:44]

And this is what our scholars mean when they say, “Ahl al-Sunnah are the most knowledgeable of people concerning the truth, and the most merciful of people to the creation.”

25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. ibnabeeomar

    ibnabeeomar

    April 30, 2007 at 8:53 AM

    mashallah, jazakallahu khayr for this excellent and informative post. may Allah(swt) be pleased with all of the Sahabah.

  2. Avatar

    Hassan

    April 30, 2007 at 10:19 AM

    Prophet Muhammad PBUH married daughters of Abu Bakr(RA) and Umar(RA). Prophet Muhammad was rarely seen without them with his sides. It was Abu Bakr who Allah referred as
    “sahib” in the cave of thur. It was A’aisha(RA) for whom verses of Quran were revealed to exonerate her. It was Umar(RA) for whom, Allah sent verses to support his opinions. It was Umar from whom Shaytan would run away terrified (shaytan and his allies hate Umar(RA), no surprise). It was Abu Bakr(RA) for which prophet Muhammad PBUH said, I have returned all favors of humans, except Abu Bakr, and his reward is with Allah. It is Abu Bakr, who is Atqa (surah Layl), who gives charity left and right and purify himself. And he does not do it but to seek the pleasure of Allah. Verily who has animosity towards awliya of Allah, Allah would take them enemy.

    Ali(RA) cried on minbar saying Abu Bakr was the best. He was the better than momin of firaun family thousand times, who Allah describes in surah Ghafir. Ali(RA) gave his daughter to Umar(RA) in marriage.

    Yet all shias have to say, this was all “tuqiyah”. Naodbillah it can not be. but to imply hypocrisy in part of Muhammad(PBUH) and Ali(RA).

    I applogize to brother Abu Bakr, he wrote excellent article, but I got emotional and carried away.

  3. Amad

    Amad

    April 30, 2007 at 11:03 AM

    ASA, Yes, let’s not get carried away ikhwaan.

    Sometimes our dealings with people who share none of our faith becomes unfortunately better than our dealing with those who do share the kalimah and a lot of our deen with us.

    As we know, most of the scholars consider Shia masses to be Muslims, i.e. our brethren. We can discuss matters of difference (and they are significant no doubt) in a kind, factual manner. Also, it is important not to conflate subjects. The previous subject dealt with politics, not theology. This post deals with theology and not politics. It is important to keep issues separate so that they can be discussed in a positive manner.

    If there are comments made about either Sunnis or Shias, that are disparaging or insulting or really have no benefit, we’ll have no choice but to moderate them out.

    So, in that spirit, I’d like to repeat a question: what is the general feeling among mainstream Shias about the shrine built over Umar (RD)’s murderer, Abu Lulu’s grave (click on P.S. tab above for the photo). Is that considered an extremist position or do most Shias agree with this outrage?

  4. Avatar

    Anon.

    April 30, 2007 at 11:36 AM

    I talked with many shi’a who say they haven’t got anything against the sahaba :)

  5. Avatar

    Hassan

    April 30, 2007 at 11:48 AM

    Anon, yes I have met many shias like that, and I hope they are not doing “tuqiyah” which according to one of their fabricated hadith is that a person is not mumin who does not do tuqiyah. Hence they give tuqiyah in explanation of all what they can not explain otherwise, like prophet Muhammad(PBUH) marrying daughters of Abu Bakr(RA) and Umar(RA), Umar(RA) marrying daughter of Ali(RA), Ali(RA) not standing up against Abu Bakr(RA), Umar(RA) and Uthman(RA), Ali(RA) being a close consultant to Umar(RA) always and many more.

    By the way I was under impression that one of the bloggers from the muslimmatters was going to quote shia authentic books to show what they believe about sahabah.

  6. logic

    logic

    April 30, 2007 at 2:41 PM

    I did read the article on Sahabas but as usual it is a very narrow minded twisted narration. There are many thing which are very easily questioned.

    1) Vulgar and offensive comments have been exchanged between Sahabas and proof exist in Sahih book of this exchange furthermore History does testify that Ali (A.S) was abused from mimber

    2) On the matter of Hypocrisy and companions you can again refer to the hadith in sahih and i quote
    “Narrated ‘Abdullah:

    The Prophet said, “I am your predecessor at the Lake-Fount (Kauthar) and some men amongst you will be brought to me, and when I will try to hand them some water, they will be pulled away from me by force whereupon I will say, ‘O Lord, my companions!’ Then the Almighty will say, ‘You do not know what they did after you left, they introduced new things into the religion after you.’””

    There are many more instances where the author has just over simplified and as usual applied the Blanket Immunity.. This is a never ending debate and can never be concluded on a blog for sure.

    For my conclusion i would just like to say the original author on this page is insulting the intelligence of all those people that are coverting on the bare premise that they are converting cause Hizbollah stood up to Israel!!!

    Maybe they converted when they noticed people like you make up false stories which hold no weight and the actual face of Shiaism is a lot different then what their lying sheikhs have presented to them.

    If their steadfast behaviour was the issue then lets test it, Let all the neighbouring Arab Sunni countries stand up in defiance instead of shaking hands and their tails.

  7. Avatar

    Abu Bakr

    April 30, 2007 at 5:04 PM

    It seems from your diverting the topic that you do not have a response to the verses of the Qur’an.

    As for your arguing from hadith, you have not brought anything new or shocking. You probably know full well that the narrators of hadith narrate by meaning. Other narrations of this hadith in the Sahih have the wording “men from my ummah.” In any case, with either wording, it is by no means necessary that it is referring to the Companions of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) but merely to some of his ummah who were not faithful to his path. To say that it necessarily applies to his Companions is in need of evidence. This claim is not backed up by the Qur’an and since you are discussing our hadith literature, then it is not backed up by that either. Take for example, the hadith in the sahih “The sign of iman is loving the Ansar and the sign of hypocrisy is hating the Ansar.”

    As for your claim that Ali was abused from the mimbar, we absolutely do not accept this as all such reports come from unverifiable sources. There is no use in pointing out that such narrations can be found in sunni source books, because the collectors of those sunni source books on history intended to gather together all that had been related, true or otherwise. For that reason, you will find that they even mention the narrations of narrators whom all classical sunni historians and traditionists have agreed in classifying as “rafidi liars.”

    As for angry words being exchanged between some Companions at some times, noone has claimed infallibility for any of the Companions except for the Shi’a who claim it for Ali and for their other Imams. If they were at times to commit errors or sins, it is because they are human and not infallible like the prophets. This does not diminish from their being faithful followers of the Prophet’s teachings (صلى الله عليه وسلم).

    In conclusion, I would just like to say, reread this article with an open mind and heart. Go back and read the Qur’an. Can an impartial reader honestly derive from the Qur’an that the main focal point of the religion should be Ali or the concept of Imamat.

    What’s more, the Shia, like many of the so-called Sunni groups, frequently engage in invoking others besides Allah. For the Shia, it is their Imams. For some other sects, it is the “Awliyaa.” You should know that this goes against the heart of the Qur’anic message:

    وَأَنَّ الْمَسَاجِدَ لِلَّهِ فَلَا تَدْعُوا مَعَ اللَّهِ أَحَداً
    “And the masjids are for Allah, so do not make du’a to anyone alongside Allah.”

    Yet, at hajj, while making tawaf around the Ka’ba at al-Masjid al-Haram, I have heard the group leaders for the Shia groups coming from Iran making du’a “Ya Ali…” “Ya Hasan…” “Ya Husayn…” and so forth… and no doubt countless others have witnessed this and heard it

    You should know that this is a path that will lead only to ruin and destruction. So I advise you sincerely, for your own sake, consider this matter, and study it, read the Qur’an and ask Allah and Allah alone to help you understand it and no doubt, if you are sincere, He will guide you to the Straight Path.

  8. Pingback: Status of the Sahabas at Ijtema

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    Editor @ I J T E M A

    April 30, 2007 at 5:55 PM

    Assalamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah
    I pray that you are in the best of health & imaan.
    This is a short message to notify you that this entry has been selected
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  10. Avatar

    restingtraveller

    April 30, 2007 at 7:27 PM

    jazakAllahu khayran for an awesome post. Very beneficial.

  11. Avatar

    Mujahideen Ryder

    April 30, 2007 at 10:16 PM

    I needed this.

  12. Avatar

    Abu Bakr

    April 30, 2007 at 10:36 PM

    Wa Iyyak

  13. Amad

    Amad

    May 2, 2007 at 7:42 AM

    ‘Logic’ (see his comments here ) was emailed to inform him that his comments were not deleted, but moved here to its appropriate location. In a couple of exchanges, here were some of his more colorful comments:

    “Listen dude you can dance around my complaint all you want but the fact of the matter is there is no insult greater then questioning some man’s faith”

    “The difference is in your thinking. We as Shias dont curse, We call them out for what they really were! we dont believe in blanket immunity! We dont give anyone any honor simply cause they enjoyed the Prophet (saww) companionship cause as it is stated “One soul does not bear the sins of another” hence one soul cannot merit from another either!”

    “Can you pass this message to your friends, I am a extremely proud Rafidha infact i thank Allah for this favor but somehow calling you people Bakris seem to incite some sort of mood change.”

    “As for the retarded article by Abu Bakr, Tell him to go visit Sunnipath…instead and correct his deviance”

    “we end this with a prayer That on the day of Judgement may Allah raise you with the Prophet (saww) companions and me with his (saww) family.”

    “P.S. Can you pass this message to your friends, I am a extremely proud Rafidha infact i thank Allah for this favor but somehow calling you people Bakris seem to incite some sort of mood change.”

    ——————

    I’ll let Br. Abu Bakr respond to what is really a display of insults and arrogance… but I would like to mention a few things:

    ‘Logic’ is all up in arms because his “faith was questioned”. Yet, he sees no problem in questioning the faith of the Sahabah, based on his Shia speculation about what was in the Sahaba’s heart. So, he finds our protest incredulous… should not we be offended when he insults our fathers’ faith? For instance, he refers to people who respect Abu Bakr as “bakris” (“goats” in Urdu)…

    I insisted in my email to him that there is safety in respecting all the Sahabah, both the ahl-bayt and others. How could you go wrong? Would Allah punish us for holding our tongue against the Sahabah, EVEN if we were to assume that the Shia have some truth? That is, if the Shia position is correct, and Sunnis are wrong, then we are still good because we kept our tongues guarded against all the Sahabah. However, if the Sunni position is correct, then aren’t the Shias in kind of a HUGE pickle? Logically speaking, then, ‘Logic’ could be in a lot of trouble. His response “we [shias] call them [sahabas] out for what they were” says a lot; so is it that Allah send a special revelation to tell the Shia who the ‘bad’ Sahabah were and who the good were? What benefit is there in cursing, attacking Sahabas, and in some cases, building shrines over murderers’ grave (e.g. Abu Lulu)?

    Finally, I love the last line, pushing a rhetorical wedge between the Sahabah and the Ahl-Bayt. As if they were mutually exclusive to each other, and you could only choose one or the other. This is the common technique employed in many discussions… the point being we all (sunnis/shias) agree on the immediate ahl-bayt as being righteous (only the ahl-bayt amongst the salaf or whose righteousness is known, no blanket immunity to borrow Logic’s phrase)… so then they are trying to put you on a spot by putting this barrier. The logical problem in the argument is clear. This only works if only one party is right and the other is wrong (in the sense of hell-bound and heaven-bound). What we, Sunnis, say is that the best of the ahl-bayt are AMONG the sahaba, and the best of the sahaba is Abu Bakr, then Omar, then Uthman, and then Ali. We cover all bases alhamdulilah. That is ultimately and undoubtedly the safest position.

    May Allah guide us all to the truth in our deen.

    wallahualam

  14. Avatar

    Abu Bakr

    May 2, 2007 at 12:44 PM

    Quite frankly, there is nothing to respond to … he demanded proofs from the Qur’an for our view, and I gave them to him.

    His protests against “questioning his faith” are a roundabout way to kill any attempts to discuss these matters, for by merely discussing them we now stand accused of “questioning his faith.”

    One more interesting note, vis-a-vis the Qur’an and the Shia, it is only in the hadith literature that Ali and Fatimah and their children are referred to as Ahl al-Bayt (and it is authentic and well-established in the Sahih). However, when one reads the verse in the Qur’an referring to Ahl al-Bayt, it is pretty clear from the context that it is referring to the wives of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم). Of course, there is no contradiction as they are all members of the Prophetic household, but as Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) says,

    “Whoever Allah has not appointed for him a light, then for him there is no light.”

    And may Allah send peace and salutations upon the Prophet, His Family, and all His Companions. Aameen.

  15. Avatar

    Hassan

    May 3, 2007 at 11:01 AM

    http://www.ahlelbayt.com/

    One of the best site I found. Very interesting articles.

  16. Avatar

    Abu Bakr

    May 3, 2007 at 1:41 PM

    Thanks for the link; this is on their front page and relevant to the topic:

    http://www.ahlelbayt.com/articles/ahlel-bayt/cursing-wives-and-sahabah

    “The following fatwa is found on the Official Website of Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Shahroudi. Please note how the Grand Ayatollah allows the cursing but it must be done in such a way as not to reveal the Taqiyyah that is being done in front of the Sunni masses. Perhaps this will wake up those Sunnis who are fooled by the Shia lies when they say that they do not curse the Prophet’s wives or Sahabah. This comes from the mouth of the Grand Ayatollah himself.”

  17. Amad

    Amad

    May 3, 2007 at 7:08 PM

    More from “Logic” (who I am assuming is afraid to engage here):

    This was my response to him to the last email:

    Logic, you wrote “That on the day of Judgement may Allah raise you with the Prophet (saww) companions and me with his (saww) family.”
    And I say, what if the family is included in the companions… I guess you may be left alone buddy…. Your attempt to drive a wedge between the companions and his family, as if there isn’t an overlap, is shameless and typical of shia rhetoric in order to confuse people. SubhanAllah your hatred for people consumes your intelligence…. I pray that Allah will forgive you and guide you to the path of love for ALL the companions, not just his family.

    To which he replied, replete with insults and arrogance— basically, trying to differentiate between ahl-bayt and Sahabah, so that they can have free-will to do the cursing, subhanAllah, I always question as to what the purpose of this cursing is? Can’t you have your religion and leave the Sahabas alone? Anyway here it is more:

    Do you have any clue of what you are talking about? Islam is not built on your insane “What if” statements it has logic behind it. Now to take your coment apart one just has to look at these examples

    1) Durood – Ahlulbayt first then followed by companions
    2) Ghadeer khum – Quraan and Ahlulbayt not companion
    3) Salman Farsi – difference between companion and Ahlulbayt
    4) Once someone asked Imam Shafi (I think not sure but a major imam nontheless) on the names of companions so he replied with all the names except Ali. When asked why he left Ali out the imam replied cause you asked me about companions.

    Should i keep going on the huge difference between Ahlulbayt and companion or has the point been proven. Sheer insanity is how your mind works if you cant differentiate between these 2. No wonder you people have reduced the glory of the Prophet (Saww) to ordinary people.

    There are plenty of instance of bad character of Sahabas but obviously you are stuck in the “What if” mode which is full of Blanket immunity to all people devoid of all reasoning.

    To Quote you
    “I pray that Allah will forgive you and guide you to the path of love for ALL the companions, not just his family. ”

    I appreciate you praying for me and your wish but i refuse it for All companions.. If our queen Bibi fatima (A.S) died unhappy with your shiekh Abu Bakr then may we all follow her path…

    P.S: Tell Abu Bakr to check out tawwasul from Sunni path and see if it shirk or not. Calling someone a kaafir who is not, the curse comes back at your face…Think about it..Before you come back with another what if reply go look up Bukhari on this..

    I am sorry if you found anything i said to be offending. please forgive me if you did.

    *END* [of course it wasn’t offensive, it was ridiculous- Amad].

  18. Avatar

    amatulwahhaab

    May 5, 2007 at 4:55 PM

    Assalaamu alaykum,

    jazaak Allaah for the article. It sure seems like a very interesting discussion was going on afterwards…

    I recommend this site: http://www.shiaexposed.blogspot.com for more information WITH EVIDENCES regarding the shee’ah. Also, if anyone speaks Arabic they’ll easily find lectures and sites about shee’ahs as well (look at sites like saaid.net, islamway.com, ansar.org).

    Also at wylsh.com they have videos and testimonies of ex-shee’ahs guided to sunni islaam, alhamdulillaah.

  19. Avatar

    jinnzaman

    October 10, 2007 at 7:43 PM

    Assalamu alaikum

    I think this is my favorite post on Muslim Matters. :)

    May Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) reward you with jannat al firdaus. Ameen.

    masalama

  20. Pingback: muslimmatters.org » Authority of Sunnah Part-3: Status of Sahaba (Companions)

  21. Pingback: Open Thread Sunday 6-8-08 | MuslimMatters.org

  22. Avatar

    Abu the Baker

    May 24, 2009 at 7:04 PM

    Volume 8, Book 76, Number 585:

    Narrated Abu Hazim from Sahl bin Sa’d:

    The Prophet said, “I am your predecessor (forerunner) at the Lake-Fount, and whoever will pass by there, he will drink from it and whoever will drink from it, he will never be thirsty. There will come to me some people whom I will recognize, and they will recognize me, but a barrier will be placed between me and them.” Abu Hazim added: An-Nu’man bin Abi ‘Aiyash, on hearing me, said. “Did you hear this from Sahl?” I said, “Yes.” He said, ” I bear witness that I heard Abu Said Al-Khudri saying the same, adding that the Prophet said: ‘I will say: They are of me (i.e. my followers). It will be said, ‘You do not know what they innovated (new things) in the religion after you left’. I will say, ‘Far removed, far removed (from mercy), those who changed (their religion) after me.” Abu Huraira narrated that the Prophet said, “On the Day of Resurrection a group of companions will come to me, but will be driven away from the Lake-Fount, and I will say, ‘O Lord (those are) my companions!’ It will be said, ‘You have no knowledge as to what they innovated after you left; they turned apostate as renegades (reverted from Islam).”

    http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagement/resources/texts/muslim/hadith/bukhari/076.sbt.html#008.076.585

  23. Avatar

    Abû Mûsâ Al-Ḥabashî

    May 25, 2009 at 5:01 PM

    “Abu the Baker”,

    Abu Bakr already responded to that in this comment.

  24. Avatar

    AsimG

    May 25, 2009 at 7:33 PM

    I really need to stop reading comments on MM. It’s bad for the mind and the heart. Too much debate :(

  25. Avatar

    Mahmud

    July 2, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    This article was pretty good. Are there any more articles from this author or is this the only one?

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#Islam

Should I Pray Taraweeh Or Make Up Prayers?

Danish Qasim

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Every Ramadan I’m asked by Muslims whether they should pray Taraweeh or make up missed prayers. They have the guilt of missed prayers but the desire to pray Taraweeh. They do not want to miss out on the special Taraweeh prayer but know that they have to make up obligatory prayers.

I find Muslims bogged down by not only the number of prayers to make up but by the fact that they have to make up prayers that they missed, sometimes too many to count. They emotionally want to move past the memory of missing prayers. While one should not dwell on the sin of missed prayer, at the same time, they should also realize that the prayers remain a debt that needs to be addressed.

Many of us feel a shame associated with past sins. This connection is a sign of true repentance. Shame due to sins, however, becomes problematic when it serves as an impediment for our religious progress. When the guilt reaches this level, one should seek refuge in Allah from Shaytaan and ignore all negative thoughts.

We, as Muslims, should believe that Allah has forgiven our sins, including missed prayers. Forgiveness is done through our repentance. Therefore, we should see makeup prayers as an opportunity to draw closer to Allah, rather than a punishment. Allah tells us in a Hadith Qudsi that

“My servant does not draw nearer to Me with anything more beloved to Me than what I have ordained upon him. He continues to draw near to me with nafl (non-obligatory) actions until I love him” (Bukhari).

Each time we perform a make-up prayer, we are doing what Allah loves us to do the most- an obligatory action. We are drawing nearer to Allah and should feel grateful for being able to do so.

In the Hanafi school of thought, one can pray makeup prayers as non-emphasized sunnahs, which include the prayer of greeting the mosque[1] and Tahajjud prayer. Many Muslims feel more spiritual praying these types of nafl prayers, and they will take their time to pray with the presence of heart. However, when they pray makeup prayers, they rush, praying quickly to get past it as soon as possible. The dreadful feeling of makeup prayers is due to a negative association for the initial neglect, but we must see makeup prayers as not only more critical than nafl prayers, but as something that can be done as nafl prayers.

Taraweeh is an emphasized Sunnah[2] and for Hanafis that means one does not neglect taraweeh[3] due to previously missed prayers[4]. One should have a regiment of making up prayers, such as praying one makeup of Zuhur after praying Zuhur for the day and manage that along with Taraweeh.

For Malikis[5] and Shafis[6] however, one is not supposed to pray Taraweeh if he has prayers to make up. For those following this view, I would advise them to still go to the masjid if that is their habit during the Taraweeh time and pray those due prayers in a space outside of the congregation so they can still enjoy the Ramadan atmosphere in the masjid. Also, it’s worth noting that in the Shafi school, one can have the intention of a makeup prayer even if the imam is praying a different prayer[7]. Hence, twenty rakah of Taraweeh in units of two can be prayed by a follower as ten makeup prayers for Fajr.

Ramadan is a great time to form positive habits. If you do not already have a routine of making up missed prayers, establish one this Ramadan. Make your routine something that you can be consistent with throughout the year, not just when you have the Ramadan energy. We are advised in a hadith to only take on the amount of good actions that we are able to bear because the best actions are those in which we can be persistent, even if they are minor (Ibn Majah 4240).

Lastly, as Ramadan is here, I urge everyone to remember that praying Isha in congregation is more important than praying Taraweeh in congregation. Taraweeh is more alluring due to its uniqueness, and you will see latecomers quickly praying Isha so they can join the Taraweeh prayer. Each prayer is worship, but the priorities of worship are based on its status. Obligatory prayer is more important than a non-obligatory prayer, although every prayer is important. We must prioritize what God prioritizes.

[1]  “ويسن تحية ) رب ( المسجد ، وهي ركعتان ، وأداء الفرض ) أو غيره ، وكذا دخوله بنية فرض أو اقتداء ( ينوب عنها ) بلا نية)”
(رد المحتار على الدر المختار)

[2]  (التراويح سنة  مؤكدة لمواظبة الخلفاء الراشدين  للرجال والنساء إجماعا ” ( رد المحتار على الدر المختار

[3] (والسنة نوعان : سنة الهدي ، وتركها يوجب إساءة وكراهية…”  (رد المحتار على الدر المختار”

[4] وأما النفل فقال في المضمرات : الاشتغال بقضاء الفوائت أولى وأهم من النوافل إلا سنن…”
المفروضة وصلاة الضحى وصلاة التسبيح والصلاة التي رويت فيها الأخبار . ا هـ . ط أي كتحية المسجد ، والأربع قبل العصر والست بعد المغرب” (رد المحتار على الدر المختار،باب قضاء الفوائت)

[5]   (ولا يتنفل من عليه القضاء، ولا يصلي الضحى، ولا قيام رمضان…”  (لأخضري”

[6]   “وَإِنْ كَانَتْ فَاتَتْ بِغَيْرِ عُذْرٍ لَمْ يَجُزْ لَهُ فِعْلُ شَيْءٍ مِنْ النَّوَافِلِ قَبْلَ قَضَائِهَا”
(الفتاوى الكبرى الفقهية على مذهب الإمام الشافعي ,فتاوى ابن حجر الهيتمي)

[7]

تنبيه : تصح قدوة المؤدي بالقاضي ، والمفترض بالمتنفل ، وفي الظهر بالعصر ، وكذلك القاضي بالمؤدي ، والمتنفل بالمفترض ، وفي العصر بالظهر ؛ نظراً لاتفاق الفعل في الصلاتين وإن تخالفت النية ، والانفراد هنا أفضل ؛ خروجاً من الخلاف ، وعلى أن الخلاف في هذا الاقتداء ضعيف جداً فلم يقتض تفويت فضيلة الجماعة ، وإن كان الانفراد أفضل . ( تحفة المحتاج مع حاشية الشر واني ۲ / ۳۳۲ – ۳۳۳ )

وذكر في ( إعانة الطالبين ۲ / ۷ ) : وإن لم تتفق مقضيتها شخصاً . . فهي خلاف الأولى ولا تكره

. وذكر في « البجيرمي على المنهج ۱ / ۳۳۳ ) : قوله ( ويصح الاقتداء لمؤد بقاض ومفترض بمتنفل . . . ) : أي ويحصل له فضل الجماعة في جميع هذه الصور على ما اعتمده الرملي .

————————————————————

– قول متن المنهاج ( وتصح قدوة المؤدي بالقاضي ، والمفترض بالمتنفل . . . ) قضية كلام المصنف – أي النووي – كالشارح الرملي أن هذا مما لا خلاف فيه ، وعبارة الزيادي وابن حجر : ( والانفراد هنا أفضل ؛ خروجاً من الخلاف( فيحتمل أنه خلاف لبعض الأئمة وأنه خلاف مذهبي لم يذكره المصنف ، لكن قول ابن حجر بعد على أن الخلاف في هذا الاقتداء ضعيف جداً . . ظاهر في أن الخلاف مذهبي . ( الشبراملسي ) . ( حاشية الشرواني ۲ / ۳۳۲ )

وهذا لا يجوز في المذهب  الحنفي  “…يشترط أن يكون حال الإمام أقوى من حال المؤتم أو مساويا”  (رد المحتار على الدر المختار(

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#Islam

Shedding Light on the Moonsighting, Isha / Fajr times, and Long Fasts

Shaykh Abdullah Hasan and Shaykh Naveed Idrees discuss the many issues that crop up pre-Ramadan, seeking harmony amid confusion.

Sh. Abdullah Hasan

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The aim of this discussion paper is to place the annual debate on moonsighting and fasting in its jurisprudential context, namely, that it is an area where the application of the sacred texts are open to different but valid interpretations ( ijtihadat). The sincere efforts of scholars on all sides to arrive at what they believe is the strongest opinion must be acknowledged and respected. This discussion paper does not seek to promote any particular viewpoint, but merely to illustrate the breadth of acceptable opinion.

It is also important to recognise that difference of opinion in these matters relates to the furu’ (derivative law) and not the core definitively established aspects of Religion. As individuals and groups, we should not allow differences of opinion on peripheral matters to undermine the cohesion of our families and communities. When strongly held views in Fiqh lead to dissension, discord and division, then we should give greater weighting to community cohesion and seek to avoid the negative impact on the lives of the Muslim community. There are definitively established texts that regard unity and community cohesion as wajib (an obligation). In addition, the principle of muwafaqa ahl-al-bilad (conforming with the local community) should be followed, irrespective of one’s belief in the correctness or otherwise of the dominant ijtihad in one’s locality.

Preliminaries[1]

  1. Islamic Law and the Natural World

It is part of the sacred beauty of Islam – the religion of natural disposition (din al-fitra) – that throughout our lives, our daily worship interpenetrates the rhythms of nature: the rising and setting of the sun, the waxing and waning of the moon, the turning of the seasons, and the elemental forces of fire, air, earth and water. The external world is a manifestation of the attributes of the Creator; everything within it a sign of Allah perceived by the senses (ayatullah al-manzur).

We are not merely urged to turn our gazes to the created world as an act of sacred contemplation; but rather are compelled to do so, in order to consecrate acts of worship to the Lord who transcends that same creation. The times of obligatory prayer can only be known through observation of sunlight and shadow; the obligatory and optional fasts through the phases of the moon. The length of those fasts are determined by the order of the seasons; purification for prayer is attained through water or earth.

Considering this, it is clear that far from there being animosity between ‘fiqh’ and ‘fact,’ they are mutually dependent. Science is nothing but the systematization of the same kind of observations as determine the times of prayer and fasting, and their extrapolation on the basis of sound, verifiable principles. Therefore the opinions of experts in fields such as astronomy have always been taken into consideration when issuing fatwa. An example might be the expert medical opinion which has always played a central role in applying various dispensations regarding purification, prayer, fasting and hajj.  Given this fact of our scripture and our history, the idea that both legal and scientific experts can and should work collaboratively to determine the onset of true dawn is both right and proper. At the same time, one should be cognisant of where priority lies when the opinions of these experts appear mutually contradictory.

  1. The Imperative to Follow Qualified Scholarship

Allah describes the Quran as ‘a comprehensive explanation of all things (tibyan li-kulli shay).’ However, a central pillar of its revealed guidance has been the commanding of recourse to those eminently qualified to guide others as to the true interpretation – or interpretations – of the Divine scripture. First without equal among these guides is, of course, our beloved Master Muhammad (endless peace and blessing upon him and his family); the imperative to obey him is one of the most oft-repeated commands found in the Quran. Thereafter, believers are commanded to follow those steeped in understanding of the Quran and Prophetic Sunnah – known variously as: ‘possessors of living hearts (ulu al-albab),’ ‘those deeply rooted in knowledge (al-mustanbitin fi al-ilm)’, and ‘the people of the Remembrance (ahl al-dhikr).’

The central Quranic verse on this subject is, ‘if you know not, ask the people of the Remembrance.’[2] Its clear implication is that, when matters are unclear or uncertain, the primary responsibility of the Muslim is to have the critical self-honesty to acknowledge his or her own lack of understanding. Thereafter, it behoves one to have the humility to consult those who do have true expertise in the field of religion, whom the Holy Prophet (s) termed ‘inheritors of Prophetic knowledge[3] – the scholars of Sunni Islam. These are the authorised representatives of the four orthodox schools of law – the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafii and Hanbali madhabs.

These four knowledge traditions, though they concur on most major articles of law, will often differ in its various derivative aspects, providing different answers to the same question. This is sometimes a matter of consternation for the lay Muslim – for how can the truth be multiple? And if the truth is indeed one, how can one determine which school has grasped it? The doctrine of Sunni Islam clarifies that, although the truth is indeed one, attaining unto that truth is not always obligatory.

To explain further: if the lay Muslim has obeyed Allah by asking the people of knowledge about an obscure or difficult matter, then he or she has fulfilled God’s right over them. Similarly, if those scholars have obeyed Allah by exercising all their learning and expertise to sincerely comprehend Allah’s command, they have fulfilled God’s right over them. In both cases, they will be rewarded and brought near to Allah, even if their conclusions are wrong. This is clear from the hadith, ‘if the verifying scholar is correct, he (or she) receives two rewards; if incorrect, they receive one.’[4]

On the contrary, if a lay Muslim seeks to bypass the Prophetic inheritors and determine the truth for himself – despite having none of the pre-requisite knowledge, qualities or skills – they will have disobeyed Allah and deserve His censure – even if they stumble across the right answer! This is similarly based on the hadith, ‘whoever interprets the Quran on based on [unqualified] opinion should prepare to take their seat in Hell.’[5]

It is clear, then, that the responsibility of the individual Muslim begins and ends with seeking qualified scholars to advise them on the derivative rulings of sacred law, such as the issue of when precisely the fast begins and fajr can be prayed. Thereafter, it is the responsibility of the ulamah to exert all their efforts to determine the answer to this question with as much precision as possible.

It should, of course, be noted that the terms ‘lay Muslim’ and ‘scholar’ are not absolute divisions; a learned 21st century Muslim, university-educated in physics and astronomy, is not the same as an illiterate peasant farmer in a 15th Century Turkish village. In legal terms, there is a difference between an educated non-specialist (‘aami thaqafi) and an ignorant non-specialist (‘aami jahil). The difference between them, however, lies in the nature of the questions they might ask, rather than their ability to answer them in correspondence with the sophisticated legal principles of the religion.

  1. Respecting Valid Differences of Opinion

The preceding indicates that one sometimes finds a range of opinions on a particular matter of law. There would not merely be a difference of opinion between schools, but sometimes within schools as well. Classically, these discussions would be conducted in closed classes, private debates or by correspondence between the scholars concerned. Crucially, the debates were between people who – by and large – understood the ethics of debate and disagreement. Their longstanding and sometimes fiercely contested arguments would nonetheless be characterised by civility and mutual respect.

The nature of the modern world – especially the near-total eradication of private space – has entailed these debates spilling over into the ever-expanding public domain. Increasingly, they have been witnessed by the Muslim laity who do not understand the ethics of disagreement, and erroneously assume that differences of opinion must entail antagonism. Imam Ghazali stated that, ‘debating over religion is disliked for scholars and forbidden for the laity.’[6]

A fundamental principle of our religion is that, on matters genuinely differed-upon, there can be no mutual condemnation (la inkar fi masa’il mukhtalaf fihi).[7] This has been elucidated by many scholars from the earliest generations up until present day, and accounts for the harmonious co-existence of different schools of law who worship, trade and conduct their family lives in different ways. The fact that a Hanafi might pray Dhuhr when a Shafii is praying Asr brings about no acrimony or dissension.

This does not entail a free-for-all in the domain of legal opinion; it has been further expounded by our scholarly tradition that genuine difference of opinion (alikhtilaf) is based on opinions that are derived through sound methodology from authenticated narrations. As the ulamah state, ‘if you transmit a position, let it be an authenticated one; if you make a claim, prove your point.’[8] It thus excludes aberrant, unfounded opinions or roundly rejected interpretations from the ambit of this toleration.

Overview of the specific issues that are a source of difference of opinion

There are 3 key issues that are matter of difference of opinion amongst scholars and different groups:

  1. Determining the start and end of Ramadan
  2. Determining the start and end time of Isha and start time of Fajr/Suhur in periods of persistent twilight during the summer months
  3. How to deal with the issue of long fasts during the summer period?

A Summary of the Context of these Issues

  • Scripture provides broad indicators to establish prayer and fasting times linked to the Sun and moon that are generally reliable in hot climates where the skies are clear and day & night are of moderate length
  • These indicators are not defined in a scientific manner e.g. based on precise minutes or degrees, but rely upon general observations that any ordinary person could make as part of their daily life
  • Over the last 100 years sizable communities of Muslims have established themselves in the Northern Hemisphere above 48.5 degrees latitude
  • The climate in the these regions makes it difficult to observe the Sun and Moon consistently. There are days when there is persistent twilight which means Isha and Fajr/Suhur times are difficult to establish, and there are extreme variations in the length of night and day, especially in Summer and Winter periods
  • The growth in the use of artificial lighting, industrialisation of society, and progress in the means of communication over the last 150 years has meant that work and leisure patterns were no longer linked to sunrise and sunset; instead, clocks became the means of telling the time and regulating daily life. In practice, the shari’ah indicators no longer directly play an active part in daily life.
  • Although there are texts in the Qur’an and Sunnah on these matters (see below), their application in Northern Regions above 48.5* latitude is not clear-cut and requires scholarly interpretation. This is the source of difference of opinion on these matters.
  • Scholars have attempted to convert astronomical signs which were meant to be broad into scientific and precise formulas, relying on scientific definitions, e.g. 18* as definition of disappearance of twilight and start of night/true dawn
  • Scholars continue to debate the strength and weaknesses of each opinion and whether they accurately reflect the shari’ah indicators. All opinions are supported by strong direct or indirect proofs and evidences, and are backed by references to the works of eminent scholars

An Overview of the Different Positions

Issue 1: Moonsighting

A variety of methods have been suggested in classical and modern scholarship to determine the beginning of the new month, especially Ramadan, Shawwal and Dhul Hijja. They are all based on some interpretation of what the hadith ‘fast when you see it and cease the fast when you see it’ actually means – who are ‘you’ and what does ‘seeing’ mean?

 

Position Notes Issues
Local sighting Only sighting by a local populace validates the new month, else 30 days are completed. The classical strong position of the Shafii and Maliki schools. ‘You’ means ‘the local community’ What does ‘local’ mean in the context of the modern ease of communication over vast distances, and why? On what legal basis should one restrict ‘local’ to a city, country or region?
Global sighting A valid sighting anywhere in the world is applicable to everywhere in the world. The classical strong position of the Hanafi school and some Malikis. ‘You’ means ‘the Muslims in general’ Practically, this would entail that a sighting of the moon in California at 6pm would be retrospectively valid for Muslims in Indonesia, for whom it would be 2pm the next day, so this is impractical despite the ease of communication
‘Horizonal’ sighting A valid sighting anywhere to the east, north or south is applicable for everyone to the west. A strong variant of the Shafii position and the Hanafi school Avoids the logistical difficulties of the first two options, but introduces an arbitrary restriction for which there is no textual basis. Effectively assumes the possibility of sighting the moon to the west if it has been actually sighted in the east.
Calculation If it is determined (by agreed criteria) that it is possible to sight the crescent, that possibility is deemed an actual sighting.   A strong position in the Shafii school, and held by others as well. ‘See’ means ‘potentially see’ – based on the variant hadith of Bukhari: ‘if it is obscured, then calculate’ Potential sighting criteria need to be agreed. Deviates from the literal sense of the central hadith and rejected by a number of schools. However, enables future planning of calendars and so determination of important dates in advance.[9]
Following Saudi Arabia Effectively the proposal that the Saudi decision should be binding on all Muslims. Possible to adopt as any country may choose to follow the ruling of Qadi outside its jurisdiction. ‘See’ means only the Saudis. Not a classical position despite being possible in the Middle East. Significant concerns about the validity of sightings done there, given the calculation basis of the rest of the year’s calendar (Umm al-Qura). Major Saudi scholars reject the position.

Issue 2 – Determining Suhur and Isha time during persistent twilight

Both the fajr prayer and the fast commence at al-subh al-sadiq (true dawn) by consensus, which Allah describes as being when ‘the white thread (of the sky) has become clearly distinct to you from the black thread (of the horizon) at the time of fajr’. Any fajr prayer performed before this, or fast commenced after, is definitively invalid. What precisely constitutes al-subh al-sadiq, however, is not definitive, because dawn is not a binary event: the intensity and spread of light on the horizon changes incrementally over time, making the precise determination of phenomenon open to interpretation. Equally, isha time commences by consensus at the disappearance of twilight (ghuyub al-shafaq), but there is similarly a difference of opinion about what this constitutes and how to determine it. There are thus a variety of opinions on what precise observable phenomena constitute these two critical periods.

Far northern latitudes, however, additionally experience persistent twilight, where the sun does not sink sufficiently low beneath the horizon during summer, and twilight can persist through the night until morning. This entails that the normal signs indicating the onset of isha, fajr, and the fast are absent. Classical jurists have discussed this intermittently over 800 years, focussing almost entirely on isha rather than fajr, and reaching no consensus on how to deal with this issue. In modern times, a number of suggestions have thus been propounded, given how many people are now affected by this issue. A summary of these options, most of which revolve around determining a time (taqdir) for isha and fajr, follows:

Position Notes Issues
Perform isha after midnight Assumes that there was a very brief isha time that has been missed, so it is performed effectively in fajr time Fajr therefore begins just after midnight, leading to a very long fast (up to 21-22 hours).   There also clearly is no isha time that has been missed
Taqdir according to the nearest place/time where isha enters The classical Shafii position, adopted by Malikis, Hanbalis and some Hanafis Entails a very brief isha period between 0100-0130 if adopted strictly, as well as a very long fast.
Taqdir by fixing a duration A modern solution (including Umm al-Qura) of creating an isha by adding 90 mins to sunset and subtracting 90 mins from sunrise Creates a reasonable isha and fajr time, but has no basis in observation, astronomy or Islamic law. Also entails a jump between a very early fajr/late isha to the 90 min taqdir
Taqdir by an average of the normal durations The so-called ‘1/7th of the night position’ – formed by looking at the average ration of maghrib : isha through the year A variant of the original Shafii position that avoids the hardship of the nearest place/time position but also has some basis in the observations through the year and scholarly precedent
Combine maghrib and Isha This is the position of the Islamic Fiqh Council, European Council for Fatwa & Research. This of course should not be done in perpetuity. A means of avoiding hardship, but why should it not be applied also to a very late but validly entering isha? If it should, when does it become hard? Also does not answer the question of when fajr begins
Isha is not obligatory A position debated in the classical Hanafi school, because its signs do not enter Rejected by the virtual consensus of modern scholarship, as would entail no performance of isha for months.

Issue 3 – Dealing with a Very Long Fast

The length of the fast varies much more widely in northern latitudes than in any of the classical Muslim lands, with the significant exception of the lands of Bulghar, which are now in Kazakhstan. In summer, the fasts can reach to 18-21 hours, depending on how far north one is and what position to determine fajr one adopts. As such, very little attention is paid to the length of the fast in summer months in northern latitudes in classical works, likely because a textually-specified dispensation for hardship already exists. The default is that the fast remains obligatory no matter how long it is, though the time of al-subh al-sadiq can be determined by taqdir. Should keeping the fast prove too onerous, it should be broken and made up on easier days. This has been the default practice of the Bulghars for hundreds of years, as well as the Muslim populations of the west for the last 40 years or so.

However, a number of renowned Egyptian scholars in the 19th-20th centuries proposed that fast durations should be artificially set in far northern countries in the same way that prayer times were determined there by taqdir. It was proposed that the length be set by either the length of that day’s fast in Makka or another mid-latitude country. Their rationale was three-fold: an extension of the taqdir of prayer times in the absence of their signs (in this case the onset of dawn), the relieving of excessive and harmful difficulty from people in having to keep such long fasts, and retaining the sanctity of Ramadan – as it would be inconceivable to simply not fast during a summer Ramadan. Scripture relating to the timings of the fast needed to be understood in the context of the geographical realities of mid-latitude countries, and to not exempt those outside this range would be to misunderstand the underlying purpose of sacred law related to the fast.

The position has been critiqued from a number of perspectives: the explicit delineation of fasting times by scripture, the fact that – though the onset of the fast can be estimated by taqdir – sunset does in fact occur and should be adhered to, the existence of a scripturally-mandated dispensation for difficult fasts, and the crucial factor that there is neither medical or experiential evidence that fasting 18-21 hours daily is significantly harmful to health or functioning in most cases. Given this, the position of these late Azhari scholars should be considered anomalous (shadh) and in contradiction to that of the overwhelming majority of both classical and modern scholars, and therefore not followed. If people are genuinely struggling and fasting causes harm then the legal dispensation is present in the shari’ah to break the fast. Individuals should consult reliable and authoritative scholars in their locality.

General Counsel to the Muslims

We would strongly counsel the lay Muslim to remember and act upon the following principles in their daily practice:

  1. It is a communal obligation (fard kifaya) to accurately determine the prayer times and the start and end times of the fast, as well as the commencement of Islamic months. If some members of the community have fulfilled the responsibility, it is lifted from the remainder.[10]
  2. Furthermore, such determinations are a matter of public order (min al-umur al-intizamiyya) – that is, they are not meant to be carried out by just anyone. Rather, in the traditional Muslim world, fulfilling this particular duty would be the role of a government department or authorized working group. For those living as minorities in non-Muslim lands, the responsibility devolves onto the community as a whole, who in turn appoint figures of authority, such as the ulamah and educated mosque committees, to fulfil the task on their behalf. In either case, it is imperative to act in consultation with those qualified for the task (ashab al-ahliyya) – in this case, legal and scientific experts.
  3. By the grace of Allah, this fard kifaya has already been performed by a number of scholars over the decades in the UK. Their differing results are likely a function of the sighting difficulties and differing legal positions noted earlier on.
  4. Most importantly, it should be noted that senior, qualified scholars have given fatwa on the differing positions. In accordance with the well-known legal principle, in the absence of a judge (qadi) to rule decisively or a clear preponderance of opinion in a school, the lay Muslim may follow any of the positions agreed by their scholars without fear of their prayers or fasts being invalid. By doing so, they have fulfilled their personal responsibility to Allah.
  5. At the same time, we urge those given responsibility by the community to come together, clearly review the evidence – scriptural, legal, astronomical and observational – and agree upon a way forward for all their communities that brings unity (muwafaqa) despite any ethnic, legal or minor doctrinal differences that may exist in our diverse community.
  6. Finally, it is imperative that we avoid sowing doubt in people’s minds about the validity of their fasts and prayers. This is a matter of genuine scholarly debate and ongoing discussion – there is much work that still needs to be done. We would therefore urge everybody to remember that there should be no condemnation about matters genuinely differed upon in the religion.[11]

May Allah provision our minds with clear understanding, our bodies with willing and joyful submission, and our hearts with a unity that comes from love and mutual respect, despite our differences.

‘Oh Allah, let us see the truth as true and follow it, and let us see falsehood as false, and avoid it.’

Appendix 1: Central Source Texts for Moonsighting, Prayer Times and Fasting

As a starting point, ijtihad (independent juristic reasoning) is only permissible in the absence of a clear and unequivocal text (Nass) whose authenticity is established (qat’i al-dalalah, qat’i- al wurud). In the context of these issues, the sacred texts establish clear positions in general terms, but are open to multiple interpretations when applied in different contexts. For ease, only basic referencing will be used – for further discussion, please refer to specialist works on the topics.

Texts relevant to Key Issue 1 (determining the start and end of Ramadan – moonsighting)

“They ask you concerning the crescent moons, say they are measurements of time for people and for the pilgrimage” (2:189).

Abu Huraira narrated: The Prophet (s) said, “Start fasting on seeing the crescent (of Ramadan), and give up fasting on seeing the crescent (of Shawwal), and if the sky is overcast, complete thirty days of Sha’ban.”

(Sahih Bukhari, book 30, hadith 19).

Do not fast until you see the crescent-moon, and do not break the fast until you have seen the crescent moon, but if conditions are overcast for you then calculate it (f’aqdiruhu).”

[Bukhari, Muslim, Muwatta]

What is definitively established from the above texts (qat’i al dalala) is that the start and end of Ramadan should be established based on the sighting of the moon.   These texts, however, are not definitive on the issue of what should be done if visibility is impaired, or whether some form of local sighting (ikhtilaf al matal’i) is sufficient, or can a sighting anywhere (ittihad al-matal’i) in the world be relied upon, or whether calculations can be relied on if atmospheric conditions do not permit sighting of the moon.   There are multiple interpretations within the parameters of these texts that are possible, and this has been an area of discussion and debate amongst scholars both past and present. Similarly, scholars have differed over the nature of seeing e.g actual physical sighting, scientific data only as ru’ya can mean to know, or actual physical sighting with use of scientific data to support or negate (Ithbat wa Nafiy). Completing 30 days in regions such as the UK over a number of months will lead to some months eventually being 25 or 26 days, and the lunar year would become more than 355 days!

Texts relevant to Key Issue 2 (determining suhur and prayer times during periods of persistent twilight)

‘And eat and drink until the white thread (light) of dawn appears to You distinct from the black thread (darkness of night), Then complete Your Saum (fast) till the nightfall.’ (2:187)

The above text is definitive in establishing the start of the Fast (imsak) where these astronomical signs are observable. However, in regions above 48.5 degrees latitude the phenomenon of persistent twilight means that the distinguishing signs are no longer observable. In these regions, this is an area where ijtihad is permitted, as the text is not clear on what approach should be taken in the absence of these signs. Scholars have resorted to various methods of estimating the start time of suhur (subh Sadiq) by trying to find an equivalence based on solar degrees of depression ranging from 12-18 degrees ( see Appendix). However, it is important to note that there is no direct text that links the astronomical signs with any particular degree. These correspondences are based on the ijithad of scholars. Similarly, there is no (definitive and unequivocal) text that supports the options for taqdir (calculation of a time): nearest day, nearest city, one seventh of the night, Umm al Qura time (1hour 20/30 mins), Half night (nisf-ul-layl). The legal basis of all these is the intellectual efforts of scholars since the 4th Century Hijri.

As for the timings of prayer, many texts establish these times. For example:

‘Establish regular prayers – at the sun’s decline till the darkness of the night, and the morning prayer and reading: for the prayer and reading in the morning are witnessed.’ (15:78)

“The time for the morning prayer lasts as long as the first visible part of the rising sun does not appear and the time of the noon prayer is when the sun declines from the zenith and it is not time for the afternoon prayer and the time for the afternoon prayer is so long as the sun does not become pale and its first visible part does not set, and the time for the evening prayer is that when the sun disappears and (it lasts) till the twilight is no more and the time for the night prayer is up to the midnight.”

(Sahih Muslim)

This and other similar texts are clear that Isha time starts with the disappearance of twilight. The scholars have differed on the meaning of twilight whether it refers to the redness or whiteness after sunset. In addition, these texts are not definitive on the issue of when Isha time starts during periods of persistent twilight. This again is an area where the scholars have exerted their efforts to arrive at a solution.

Texts relevant to key issue 3 (long fasts in summer days)

‘And eat and drink until the white thread (light) of dawn appears to You distinct from the black thread (darkness of night), Then complete Your fast till the nightfall … but if anyone is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (Should be made up) during later days. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties.’ (2:187)

Allah’s Messenger (s) said, “When night falls from this side and the day vanishes from this side and the sun sets, then the fasting person should break his fast.” (Sahih Bukhari)

The phenomenon of fasts of more than 18 hours is an issue that has arisen in modern times due to the settlement of significant Muslim communities in the Northern Hemisphere. This text is definitive and unequivocal in regions that do not experience persistent twilight. In regions that experience this phenomenon it is impossible to distinguish darkness of night from twilight, therefore 2:189 is not a Nass that can be applied.   The scholars have proposed various solutions to resolve this issue (see appendix 1).

There is a difference of opinion amongst scholars whether the texts that relate to timings of prayer are applicable only where day and night are roughly equal. In regions where there is a significant disparity e.g day length is more than 18 hours, these texts are silent and therefore ijtihad can be relied upon to achieve an outcome that is consistent with the aims of the Shari’ah. This is based on the juristic principle that a hadith scholar, “The [primary] texts pertain to common and normal circumstances and not to what is uncommon.” (Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, in Fath al-Bari (2/62): and “the general texts are construed in reference to what is prevalent and common and not in reference to what is uncommon and unknown. (Ibn ‘Abdin, Rad al-Muhtar ‘ala al-Dur al-Mukhtar (2/123), and “The [prayer] times, which Jibril (pbuh) taught the Prophet [pbuh], and which the Prophet [pbuh] taught his community, are those which the scholars mentioned in their books, and which refer to normal days.” (Sheikh Ibn Taymiyah, Mukhtasar al-Fatawa al-Misriyyah (1/38). As a result some scholars ( e.g Sh Mustafa Zarqa’) have stated that people living in these regions should fast based on an average day, and have proposed fasting to the length of Makkah or Madinah. العقل والفقه في فهم الحديث النبوي للشيخ الزرقا   ص : 124 طبعة دار

القلم 1996

Ayah 2:185 is a definitive and unequivocal text on creating an exemption from fasting for one who is ill or is travelling. However, it is not clear on the issue of one who is struggling to fast during long summer days. Based on ijtihad some scholars have extended the exemption in 2:185 to include people living in regions that have abnormal length of day, based on analogy (qiyas) with those who are ill, and have advised people to make up (qadaa’) of fasts at another time of the year.

Appendix 2: Key Texts on The principle of Muwafaqa Ahl-al-Bilad (conforming with the local community)

The importance of maintaining community cohesion and not dividing the family or community has been explicitly mentioned in the Quran, and is a core principle of religion.

3:13. the same Religion has He established for you As that which He enjoined on Noah – the which we have sent by inspiration to Thee – and that which we enjoined on Abraham, Moses, and Jesus: Namely, that ye should remain steadfast In religion, and make no divisions therein: to those who worship other things than Allah, hard is the (way) to which Thou callest them.

19:94. He [Hârûn (Aaron)] said: “O son of My mother! seize (me) not by My beard, nor by My head! Verily, I feared lest You should say: ‘You have caused a division among the Children of Israel, and You have not respected My word!’ “

In matters relating to communal religious practice that are not based on qat’i texts and that relate to differences of opinion, it is obligatory to maintain unity within a local community than to insist on following one’s opinion. An example of this is the principle of ‘muwafaqa ahl al-bilad’ (conforming with the local community) which seeks to avoid ill feeling, hatred and division in a local community. There are countless examples of the pious predecessors (salaf) giving up their opinion to maintain community cohesion. In the context of Eid and Ramadan, the principle of Muwafaqa states that one should fast with the local community even if it means that you end up fasting one day extra or one day less. Aisha overruled Masruq when he sought to fast out of caution on the day of Sacrifice stating:

‘Sacrifice is on the day that people make the sacrifice, and the end of the fast is when people end the fast’

This is supported by the following hadith:

The fast is the day when you all fast, and the end of the fast is when you all end the fast, and the Eid of sacrifice is when you make the sacrifice.

(Tirmidhi 697 – hasan gharib), Abu Dawud (2324), Ibn Majah (1660)

Commenting on this Hadith Imam Tirmidhi states: ‘some of the people of knowledge have explained this to mean that one should fast and end the fasting with the community (Jama’a) and the majority of the people.’   Similarly, San‘ani comments: ‘in this is evidence that the conformity of a people on can be taken into account when establishing the Day of Eid, and that it is obligatory (wajib) on a solitary witness who has sighted the moon, to conform with the local community.

The scholars are clear that even if the local community makes an error in their ijtihad on the day of Eid or Ramadan, this will not affect the validity of the fasts and Eid even if it later transpires that a mistake was made. For instance Abu Dawud narrated the aforementioned hadith of the Prophet under the chapter heading: ‘if people make an error in sighting the moon’. Finally, the following hadith also has bearing on this matter:

‘If you see differences, then stick with the vast majority…’

It is important to point out that there can never be Eid on one day all over the globe, due to different time zones. However, what is obligatory is that within one family, neighbourhood or city, there should be one Eid. This is in keeping with the core principle of religion which came to bring people together, it is time to revive the Sunnah of the pious predecessors (salaf) and give up our opinions on matters that are from the ‘Furu’ (peripheral) aspects of religion, in order not to fall into the conundrum of creating fitnah and division amongst the believers.

Appendix 3: Parameters within which the Moonsighting and Ramadan Debate should take place

  1. The issue of which method should be used is a matter that relates to the Furu’ (Peripherals) and not the Usul (Core matters) of the Deen established by definitive /texts/ proofs based on al-Dalil al-Qat’i)
  2. This is a matter that relates to Fiqh and not Aqidah
  3. It is not a matter on which takfir of individuals or groups should be made
  4. The Nusus (text) on many of these issues are open to different interpretations
  5. There is no ijma’ (consensus) amongst the scholars on which method to deploy if visibility is impaired, or there is persistent twilight
  6. All parties are sincerely trying to arrive at what they believe is the strongest shar’i (legal) position
  7. People are free to follow any of the sound and valid ijtihads
  8. It is not wajib to follow any of these ijtihads exclusively
  9. It is legally (in fiqh terms) wrong to claim that the fast/Eid of those who follow a different ijtihad is invalidated.
  10. The matter of creating harmony and avoiding discord amongst the community of Believers is established by definitive texts. This is wajib.
  11. Giving up the ijtihad of the group or scholar you follow to avoid discord and division will not invalidate your fast/Eid
  12. In some cases it may be considered wajib to give up the opinion you feel strongly about, if it will cause division within a family or a town/city
  13. The Qur’an and Sunnah are full of examples of prioritising community cohesions and harmony e.g The prophet pbuh ordered a Mosque to be pulled down, as it was dividing the Muslim community, the Prophet Haroon did not enforce his will on the Children of Israel for fear of splitting the community (faraqta bayna bani israeel, Surah Taha)
  14. Disagreements in this area amongst the Muslims, leads to a negative portrayal of Islam, and is damaging from a Dawah perspective
  15. The Maqasid of Eid as a celebration that brings the entire community together is violated by having Eid on different days within the same family, town or city
  16. There is no precedent in Fiqh that justifies Eid being celebrated on different days within the same family, town, city for people who are resident there (Ahadith refer to companions who were travelling and returning to their city)
  17. Having Eid on different days disrupts the education of children, makes it difficult to organise holiday leave for working people, which means that many people end up booking the wrong day and therefore end up working on Eid day

Appendix 4: further reading

Book: Shedding light on the dawn: on the determination of prayer and fasting times at high latitudes by Sheikh Asim Yusuf

The challenge of how to determine twilight prayer and fasting times at high latitudes is an issue that has vexed successive generations of Muslims since the community first began to dwell in northern lands. This work represents the most comprehensive, meticulous and balanced approach to the subject composed in any language. The author has both demonstrated and collapsed the complexity of the subject by exploring it from the perspective of definitions, science, scripture, and sacred law, as well as providing a literature survey of classical and modern attempts at observation, before presenting the results of his own systematic, scientifically-rigorous set of observations. As well as providing a comprehensive set of recommendations for the issue under discussion, this work sets a standard for works on modern legal issues in general.

This is a necessary read on this subject. The author is a friend and colleague who has tirelessly and meticulously researched the issues of long fasts and prayer times. Some of the discussions above have been taken from the book.

For more information on the book and how to purchase it: http://www.lightonthedawn.com/

Few articles providing overview of some issues discussed:

http://www.understanding-islam.org.uk/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=8054:towards-understanding-the-moonsighting-debate-in-the-u-k&Itemid=102

Arguments for using calculation:

https://musafurber.com/2015/06/06/ramadan-moonfighting-shafi%CA%BFic-calculations/

An Analysis of Moon Sighting Arguments

The argument against using calculation:

http://www.islam21c.com/islamic-law/964-an-insight-into-moon-sighting/

https://almadinainstitute.org/blog/an-islamic-legal-analysis-of-the-astronomical-determination-of-the-beginnin/

Issues of the long fast:

http://www.islamtoday.net/bohooth/artshow-86-136794.htm

http://www.exploring-islam.com/fasting-during-the-long-summer-days-in-some-western-countriesworship.html

http://alrukn.com/long-fasts-fiqh/

Combining Maghreb and Isha:

https://www.e-cfr.org/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%B1%D9%82%D9%85-3-2/

https://www.leedsgrandmosque.com/isha-prayer-in-british-summer

https://www.islam21c.com/fataawa/166-summer-isha-a-fajr-prayer-times/

[1] All from the introduction to ‘Shedding Light on the Dawn’

[2] Al-Nahl 16:43

[3] Jami’ Tirmidhi 2683

[4] Bukhari 7352, Muslim 4487

[5] Jami Tirmidhi

[6] Ihya Ulum al-Din, Kitab al-Ilm

[7] Al-Ashbah wa al-Naza’ir of Suyuti – a very well-known principle among the righteous predecessors (salaf) and their successors (khalaf).

[8] Kubra al-Yaqiniyyat al-Kawniyya 34: in kunta naqilan fa al-sihha, wa in kunta muda’iyyan fa al-dalil.

[9] NB: contrary to popular opinion, crescent visibility curves are not a modern invention, having been known about in the classical Muslim period. There are many examples in medieval astronomical literature that look very similar to modern ones

[10] Ibn Qudama in his al-Mughni [2:30-31], for example, notes that, ‘when one hears the adhan from a reliable source, one should commence prayer, without attempting to work out whether the time has entered oneself, for the Prophet (s) said, ‘the muadhins are entrusted,’ (Abu Dawud) and ‘there are two duties Muslims must perform that hang from the necks of the muadhins: their prayers and their fasts’ (ibn Majah). – dar alam al-kutub

[11] Al-Ashbah wa al-Naza’ir of Suyuti 224 – la yunkar al-mukhtalaf fihi, innama yunkar al-mujma’ alayh: a well-known principle among the righteous predecessors (salaf) and their successors (khalaf).

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Prophets and Social Activism

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Bt Shaykh Tarik Ata

The undeniable primary role of prophets was to call society to Allah and establish a relationship with him. Along with their ideological engagement, the Quran references the social aspects prophets addressed. In long passages from chapters 7 and 11,[1] the Quran describes particular social problems that seemingly were widespread at the time. For example, the people of Noah suffered from a system of social hierarchy which stereotyped the commoner as being weak minded and invaluable “So the eminent among those who disbelieved from his people said, “We do not see you but as a man like ourselves, and we do not see you followed except by those who are the lowest of us [and] at first suggestion. And we do not see in you over us any merit; rather, we think you are liars.”[2] The people of Madyan suffered from widespread monetary conning and exploitation “And do not decrease from the measure and the scale.”[3] Prophet Lot called out his people’s practice of homosexuality as being something despised by God “Do you approach males among the worlds And leave what your Lord has created for you as mates? But you are a people transgressing.” They said, “If you do not desist, O Lot, you will surely be of those evicted.” He said, “Indeed, I am, toward your deed, of those who detest [it]. My Lord, save me and my family from [the consequence of] what they do.”[4]

What must be pointed out, however, is that the social change sought out by prophets was related to their theological duty. These social ails threatened, first and foremost, society’s relationship to Allah. Therefore, these verses constantly reference Allah and return the issue back to theology. After every attempted refutation of the prophet’s position, the prophet responds with theology as if to make it known that their duty as prophets is to call people to Allah and establish that relationship between the individual and their Creator. Thus, elements of social activism enacted by prophets were not to allow unrestricted lifestyles with the ability to choose what is right or wrong based solely on their customs or desires. Rather, their efforts aimed at redirecting society to Allah; to free them from the creation in order to become servants of the creator.

One may attempt to refute this analysis of these Quranic passages as being selective and not representative of the larger picture. Such a concern is invalid since these stories are presented in multiple chapters throughout the Quran consistently portraying the prophets as upholding the duty of changing theology and calling people to follow Allah’s commands.[5] It does not limit their social engagement to the political authority with the intention of freeing society from their shackles or to allow them the freedom to choose any lifestyle they please. Even the story of Moses, which involves a great tyrant, centralizes monotheism. Likewise, the final phase of his life dealt with rebuilding the children of Israel after enduring decades of oppression and injustices. Even then the central focus is their theological deviations while alluding to their social deviations as being rooted in weak theology.[6]

To put it concisely, prophets’ involvement in greater society revolved around preaching theology and expressed social criticism using theology. The primary goal of social engagement and criticisms of injustice and oppression was an effort to alleviate society from that which taints its theology or creates barriers between the individual and Allah. One example from the Quran is Surah Al-Ma’oun which reads “Have you seen the one who denies the Recompense [the Day of Judgement]? (1) For that is the one who drives away the orphan (2) And does not encourage the feeding of the poor. (3)” The verses ascribe abuse of orphans and the poor to disbelief in the day of judgement – a pillar of faith.

Labeling Prophets as Activists

Another recent phenomenon is the labeling of prophets as activists. Since prophets hold a high status in Islam and are considered a pillar of faith the topic of prophets and speaking on their behalf is sensitive. Furthermore, it indicates that improper belief in them threatens the person’s faith as a whole and for this reason the Quran forbids speaking ill of them or mocking them even lightheartedly “And if you ask them, they will surely say, “We were only conversing and playing.” Say, “Is it Allah and His verses and His Messenger that you were mocking? Make no excuse; you have disbelieved after your belief. If We pardon one faction of you – We will punish another faction because they were criminals.”[7] Following these verses is a description of hypocrites (those who outwardly accept Islam but their hearts reject it) eluding to the reader that disrespect of prophets is an attribute of hypocrites and a form of hypocrisy. Anything less than the utmost reverence and respect for prophets is unacceptable and therefore is best to refer to them in a manner that the Quran and hadith affirm.

Both the Quran and hadith tradition address the prophets with titles and attributes that highlight their piety and relationship with Allah. They are not labeled with secular titles void of religious connotation. Furthermore, these titles and attributes can only be understood in a positive manner. For example, al-ameen, which means the truthful and trustworthy, is consistently a praiseworthy attribute that is understood in a positive manner. Words that can be understood both positively and negatively, such as an activist, should not to be used as titles for prophets such as referring to them as activists. An activist can promote good and can promote evil depending on what they are actively promoting. And although prophets had elements of social activism, activism in contemporary times is packaged with politics and ideologies that are often inconsistent with Islamic principles and prophetic characteristics.

One may say that they referring to prophets as activists does not indicate any disrespect so what is the problem? Allah says in the Quran “Do not make [your] calling of the Messenger among yourselves as the call of one of you to another.”[8] Bedouins during the time of the Prophet would call upon him with loud voices using his name or kunya Abu Al-Qasim. Such was the nature of Bedouins who had rough personalities and this verse prohibited them from this characteristic. Calling prophets does not carry positive religious value nor does it offer an aspect of uniqueness. Anyone can be an activist, a Muslim and non-Muslim, a good person and a bad person, a pious person and an un-pious person, but only people chosen by Allah can be prophets and messengers. Therefore the most appropriate manner to address them is with the title “messenger” or “prophet.”

I encourage Muslims to reflect upon the following verse “O you who have believed, do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet or be loud to him in speech like the loudness of some of you to others, lest your deeds become worthless while you perceive not.” Disrespect of the Prophet can occur without one being aware and could have dire consequences such as the nullifying of the person’s deeds.

Allah knows best.

Shaykh Tarik Ata was born and raised in the Southwest Suburbs of Chicago. Shaykh Tarik pursued his higher education at Northern Illinois University where he attained a BA in psychology. After graduating from NIU, Shaykh Tarik studied at the World Islamic and Science Education University (also called the Islamic University) in Jordan. He received a BA in Islamic Jurisprudence and its foundations, as well as an MA in Islamic Jurisprudence with a specialty in Islamic commerce and finance. While working on his degrees, Sheikh Tarik also studied with scholars and achieved various certifications (ijazat) in Islamic Jurisprudence, the foundations of Jurisprudence, the science of Hadith, the Arabic language, Quranic recitation, and Islamic creed/theology. He is currently the imam at the Orange County Islamic Foundation.

[1] Quran 7:59-93, 11:25-95

[2] Quran 11:27

[3] Quran 11:84

[4] Quran 26:169

[5] See Quran 6:74-82, 7:59-94, 11:25-95, 26:1-191

[6] Quran 2:40-105, 7:138-163

[7] Quran 9:65-66

[8] Quran 24:63

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