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The Mardin Conference – Understanding Ibn Taymiyyah’s Fatwa

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By Shaykh Abd al-Wahhab al-Turayri, former professor at al-Imam University in Riyadh

I wish to speak about the Mardin Conference as someone who was closely involved with it from the conceptualization phase all the way up to its concluding session when the “New Mardin Declaration” was issued.

The Conference was convened by the Global Center for Renewal and Guidance (GCRG) in cooperation with Mardin’s Artuklu University with the purpose of studying Ibn Taymiyah’s “Mardin fatwa”. The conference was chaired by the eminent scholar Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyih. Indeed, the conference was his initiative. His hope for the conference was to take Ibn Taymiyah’s Mardin fatwa from the specific geographical focus for which it was intended to a broader global focus and from the contingencies of Ibn Taymiyah’s time to a timeless understanding.

To achieve this goal, the conference needed to investigate a number of topics:

(1) A full conceptual understanding of the fatwa was needed.

(2) The correct text of the fatwa had to be determined and errors in transmission identified.

(3) A correct understanding of the Mardin fatwa must be determined on the basis of the above.

(4) The fatwa’s benefits for the present day must be investigated.

The First Investigation: Conceptualizing the Fatwa

Mardin is the region of Turkey where Ibn Taymiyah was born. His home city, Harran, is located within Mardin. The Mongols conquered and occupied Mardin when Ibn Taymiyah was seven years old, forcing him and his family to flee.

The people of Mardin were Muslims. Ibn Taymiyah regarded the Mongol occupiers who ruled them as people who were unbelievers in Islam as well as spoilers and murderers, since the Mongols carried out numerous atrocities against the inhabitants of the region. The situation in the region was one where the general populace was Muslim but living under the dominion of non-Muslim rulers.

Ibn Taymiyah was asked about the people of Mardin: Should the people of Mardin be considered as hypocrites? Is it obligatory on the Muslims population there to emigrate? Is Mardin still to be considered part of the Muslim world?

His answer – known as the Mardin fatwa – addressed these points clearly:

1. The lives and property of the people of Mardin are inviolable. Their living under the subjugation of the Mongols does not compromise any of their rights, nor can they be maligned verbally or accused of hypocrisy.

2. As long as the inhabitants of Mardin are able to practice their religion, they are not obliged to emigrate.

3. They should not give assistance to those who are fighting against the Muslims, even if they are forced to flatter them, be evasive, or absent themselves.

4. The territory is neither wholly a part of the Muslim world, since it is under the domination of the Mongols, nor is it part of the non-Muslim world since its populace is Muslim. It is in fact a composite of the two. The Muslims living therein should be treated according to their rights as Muslims, while the non-Muslims living there outside of the authority of Islamic Law should be treated according to their rights.

Ibn Taymiyah’s nuanced description of the region demonstrates something of his ingenuity in dealing with complex questions and situations.

The Second Investigation: Determining the Correct Wording of the Fatwa

The text of the fatwa is as follows:

Ibn Taymiyah was asked about the land of Mardin. Is it a land of war or peace? Are the Muslims who live there obligated to emigrate to other Muslim countries? If they are obliged to emigrate and they fail to do so, and if they assist the enemies of Islam with their lives and property, are they sinful for doing so? Are those who accuse them of hypocrisy and malign them sinful for doing so?

Ibn Taymiyah answered:

Praise be to Allah. The lives and property of the Muslims are inviolable, whether they are living in Mardin or elsewhere. Assisting those who are acting in opposition to Islam is unlawful, whether those who give the assistance are the people of Mardin or others. The people living there, if they are unable to practice their religion, then they are obliged to emigrate. Otherwise, it is preferable but not an obligation that they do so. It is unlawful for them to aid the enemies of the Muslims with their lives and property. They must refuse to do so by whatever means they can, like absenting themselves, being evasive, or showing flattery. If the only way open to them is to emigrate, then that is what they must do. It is not lawful to malign them categorically or to accuse them of hypocrisy. Disparaging and accusations of hypocrisy must be according to the designations set forth in the Qur’an and Sunnah and are equally applicable to some of the people of Mardin as they are applicable to some people elsewhere.

As for whether it is a land of war or peace, it is a composite situation. It is not an abode of peace where the legal rulings of Islam are applied and its armed forces are Muslim. Neither is it the same as an abode of war whose inhabitants are unbelievers. It is a third category. The Muslims living therein should be treated according to their rights as Muslims, while the non-Muslims living there outside of the authority of Islamic Law should be treated according to their rights.

A discrepancy has come up in some printed editions of the fatwa with regard to the final passage “The Muslims living therein should be treated according to their rights as Muslims, while the non-Muslims living there outside of the authority of Islamic Law should be treated according to their rights.”

In some printed editions, the text is corrupted to read: “…while the non-Muslims living there outside of the authority of Islamic Law should be fought as is their due.”

This change in meaning is the consequence of the substitution of two letters in a single word. Instead of the correct word yu`āmal (should be treated), the word is rendered yuqātal (should be fought). This typographic error changes the meaning of the phrase drastically.

The correct wording of the fatwa appears in the following sources:

1. The only known manuscript copy of the fatwa which is the Zahiriyyah Library manuscript (2757) archived at the Asad Library in Damascus.

2. The fatwa is quoted by Ibn Taymiyah’s student and contemporary Ibn Muflih in his work Adāb al-Sharī`ah (1/212), with its correct wording: “…while the non-Muslims living there outside of the authority of Islamic Law should be treated according to their rights.”

3. It is also quoted correctly in al-Durur al-Saniyyah (12/248)

4. Sheikh Rashid Rida quotes it correctly in the journal al-Manār.

Regarding the corrupted wording, it makes its first appearance roughly 100 years ago in the 1909 edition of Ibn Taymiyah’s Fatawathat was printed and published by Faraj Allah al-Kirdi. Thereafter, Sheikh Abdurrahman al-Qasim’s edition was printed and published based upon the text of the Kirdi edition, and therefore replicating the error (28/248).

Due to the wide availability of this edition of the Fatawa, the inaccurate wording became the one that was well known to the public and to students of religious knowledge. Likewise, when the fatwa was translated into English, French, and other languages, the printed edition containing the error was relied upon. As a result, the reputation of Islam was compromised, and also a few young people in the West who converted to Islam got a false impression of Islam’s teachings.

If the Mardin Conference achieved nothing other than to bring this error to light and correct it, then this would have been accomplishment enough.

The Third Investigation: Determining the Correct Meaning of the Fatwa

The corrupted text of the Mardin fatwa has become the basis for the legitimization of many violent and militant groups within Muslim society. Among those who used the fatwa in this manner was Abdussalam Faraj in his book al-Farīdah ahl-Ghā’ibah (p. 6), which has become a manifesto for militant groups.

Many scholars have subsequently refuted his conclusions, including the former rector of al-Azhar Sheikh Jad al-Haqq, as well as the Chairman of al-Azhar’s Fatwa Board Sheikh `Atiyyah Saqar. They successfully discussed the implications of the Mardin fatwa according to its context, even though they accepted the text as it reached them in its corrupted state. Had they known the authentic wording of the text, it would have saved them a lot of trouble.

The reason why militant groups rely upon the Mardin fatwa to legitimize their behavior is because of the corrupted phrase “…while the non-Muslims living there outside of the authority of Islamic Law should be fought.” This phrase can be seen to imply two things:

1. The directive to fight is given in the passive voice, without stating who is to carry out the fighting. Militant groups have used this as license for them to assume for themselves the role of taking up arms against people from within Muslim countries and communities.

2. The phrase “outside of the authority of Islamic Law” becomes ambiguous in the context of the corrupted rendering of the text. It could be interpreted to mean almost anyone, starting from those who commit minor sins to those who commit major violations. This has given militant groups a wide scope of interpretation for acting against others.

Once the authentic wording of the text is known, however, what the militant groups rely upon disappears entirely. The understanding of the fatwa is completely different. The correct wording of the fatwa emphasizes the inviolability of Muslim life and rules out any possibility of placing their lives or property in jeopardy. The fatwa clearly states: “The lives and property of the Muslims are inviolable, whether they are living in Mardin or elsewhere… It is not lawful to malign them categorically or to accuse them of hypocrisy.”

Also, it makes it clear that places like Mardin are neither places where Islamic Law is implemented nor places of conflict. Ibn Taymiyah in his fatwa declares that Muslims can live there as long as they are free to practice their religion and that the Muslims are entitled to be treated by other Muslims according to the rights that they have as Muslims, and the non-Muslims who live there and who are not subject to Islamic rulings should be afforded their rights as well.

This is what the Mardin fatwa really says, when its authentic text is relied upon.

The Fourth Investigation: Relevance for Our Times

Ibn Taymiyah, in his fatwa, recognizes that the world is not to be divided simplistically into Islamic lands and non-Islamic lands, unlike many before him who held to that dualistic view.

He recognized that there is a third type of society which has aspects of both. Furthermore, he stated that Muslims can live in such societies as long as they are free to practice their religion and that everyone should be afforded their rights. Muslims should recognize the religious rights of their fellow Muslims living in those lands, as well as the rights of the non-Muslims there who are not subject to Islamic Law.

This fatwa has relevance for today’s pluralistic world, where there is scarcely a country where Muslims do not live. The conditions the Muslims live under vary from country to country. In many countries of the world, Muslim minorities fully enjoy the right to practice their faith. They are allowed to worship according to Islamic teachings and they are not coerced into suppressing or abandoning their faith. Those countries may not be part of the Muslim world, but they are certainly lands of peace and security.

We can see that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) sent the first party of emigrants from Mecca to Abyssinia, a non-Muslim country, and he did so because it was a land of security where the Muslims were safe in their religion. This was because the king of Abyssinia was a just king who never wronged the people under his authority.

This is the gist of what the New Mardin Declaration stated, which was ratified by the delegates at the end of the Mardin Conference.

31 Comments

31 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Aamer

    June 29, 2010 at 1:43 AM

    Thank you very much for your effort and clarification. May Allah help us get the message across to all the peoples of the Ummah.

    I shall also rememebr that a land where one is allowed to practise Islam freely is a land where one need not migrate from. Aamer

  2. Avatar

    Ryan Mahoney

    June 29, 2010 at 7:58 AM

    An excellent article!

    The conclusion drawn from the corrupted/mis-translated version of the fatwa is completely absurd and it saddens me that any Muslim person could have ever read such a thing and not immediately know that it was bogus. Allah is the most merciful and the most just. Muslims must strive to protect the rights of all people, this is a clear message in the Qur’an.

    I think that this goes to show that Islam is under attack not only by outsiders who have their own agendas, but “insiders” who seek knowingly or unknowingly to cast the message of Islam in a way that is pleasing to them while they obscure the true and just nature of Islam.

    This fatwa is actually the tip of the ice burg. These types of errors can be found in so many texts — even the English translations of the Qur’an are rife with these kinds of inaccuracies.

    Hopefully more will be done.

  3. Avatar

    Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

    June 29, 2010 at 9:28 AM

    For those who would like to explore the issues surrounding this fatwa in more detail, Yahya Michot has a book in english on this topic:

    Ibn Taymiyya : Muslims under Non-Muslim Rule : On Fleeing from Sin, Kinds of Emigration, Status of Mardin, Domain of Peace and War, Conditions for Challenging Power (Ibn Taymiyya, Yahya Michot)

  4. Avatar

    'Abdil Kareem

    June 29, 2010 at 9:45 AM

    How freely is one supposed to be allowed to practice his religion in a non-Muslim land in order that it be permissible to live there? Is it to merely pray five times a day without suffering any persecution?

    • Avatar

      Abu Abdillah

      June 29, 2010 at 11:39 AM

      “Practicing the religion openly does not only refer to praying and minor issues of religion and avoiding haraam things such as riba, zina and so on. Rather practicing the religion openly means proclaiming Tawheed and disavowing the ways of the mushrikeen, such as associating others with Allaah in worship and other kinds of kufr and misguidance.” – Fataawa al-Shaykh Muhammad ibn Ibraaheem (1/77).

  5. Avatar

    sister

    June 29, 2010 at 9:45 AM

    Assalamualykum,

    Jazakumallahu khairaan for an excellent article.Where can I read more about Imam Ibn Tayymiah [may Allah have mercy on him]?

  6. Avatar

    Dawud Israel

    June 29, 2010 at 12:23 PM


    IT IS CRUCIAL WE SPREAD THIS INFORMATION AROUND!!! THIS WILL SAVE LIVES!!!!

    I remember Shaykh Hamza mentioning that typo in his recent talk with Tariq Ramadan on Reform, and how that single typo is what has given rise to AlQaeda and all these other messed up groups. Here are my notes and what he elaborated on:

    “Talks about fatwa on dar al-harb, dar al-kufr used to kill Anwar Sadat–when the fatwa was read, Sh. bin Bayyah said, “That can’t be right. Something is wrong with that.” And they said not to change the fatwa and he said, something is wrong with that. When he returned to Jeddah and looked the reference up and he found it did not say, “The disbeliever should be fought” but rather it said, “The disbeliever should be treated in accordance with him being a disbeliever” in other words, ther are many rules/stipulations for treating the stipulations. That fatwa was made 100 years ago, and in reprints has said, “the disbeliever should be fought” and that is the basis of Abdul Salam Farraj’s fatwa to kill Anwar Sadat–it was the basis of OBL’s fatwa to kill Americans, Saudi royal family. They based an entire philosophy on a misprint–this is the crises of our community, the crises of authority, who can read these texts and who can determine these things.”

    Unfortunately, what will now happen is that although it is clear this has been dis-proven, what psychologists call, the “Perseverance effect” will make it so people continue to believe in this falsity, since they are so used to thinking like that and so habituated to hating.

    I will upload that audio bit from Shaykh Hamza’s talk onto my Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/dawudisrael1

    And I’ll quote this article in it, with reference inshallah, if that is OK with the shaykh-author. :)

    • Avatar

      Dawud Israel

      June 30, 2010 at 12:20 AM

      Video link.

      AlQaeda is based on a Fatwa Misprint
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XC_jJqvKuxs

      Jazaka Allahu khayran.

      • Avatar

        Abdullah

        June 30, 2010 at 6:34 PM

        brother Dawud jazakAllahu khair. The audio quality on the youtube is lacking and hard to understand. Is it possible to get a more clear version?

        • Avatar

          Abdifatah

          July 1, 2010 at 11:58 PM

          Brother you can go to the Tariq Ramadan website and get the whole Hamza Yusuf and Ramadan lecture there and the quality is about the same i’ll say.

          The article is really brilliant, nothing more.
          Ma’salaam

        • Avatar

          Dawud Israel

          July 2, 2010 at 12:08 PM

          Apologies. Yeah, the audio on the original mp3 file was fuzzy, did require concentration.
          I will put up a transcript on there asap! :D

  7. Avatar

    Justin

    June 29, 2010 at 12:51 PM

    This is an excellent article; very informative, very relevant.

  8. Avatar

    adam

    June 29, 2010 at 1:15 PM

    I wonder: does this mean that if gays are given certain rights under the constitution (the right to be gay/ have a gay marriage)- must we as Muslims then respect that? What would the ruling be, for example, for supporting gays so that they in turn support Muslims (as a minority)?

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    Amad

    June 29, 2010 at 1:31 PM

    Excellent mashallah.

    One could do a PhD dissertation on this fatwa as it does have tremendous implications.

    • Avatar

      someone

      June 29, 2010 at 4:17 PM

      Subhanallah, so true! My mind is overwhelmed by the questions that this clarification has engendered. I hope that a follow up article will be written on this, bi’idnilah.

  11. Avatar

    Abdullah

    June 29, 2010 at 2:10 PM

    This types of missreading is not that uncommon with the modern day Ghair muqalids, inspired, funded in many ways by highly intolrent Ghair Muqalids from Saudi institutes. Many organisation set up in the west by mainly graduate of Madina relegious seminary to propogate the narrow understanding to the mass. These students have become the voice in Muslim Media with exapcted result of intorance. Hidden behind all the smile, lies a pathological hate of anything that is not in confirmity with their narrow understanding of Islam and muslim.
    Visiting any of the muslim websites and forums, one can see the hate for fellow muslim who are not fooled by shallow claim, hence meting out the same to non muslim is perhaps normal. Unless the saudia revert back to its pre 1970s tradition where diversity was allowed to be aired by the scholars, this will fester and the muslim will bear the brunt of the fall out. These modern day movements of extreme ghair muqalid in all its guise create disunity in the name of unity. No relegious text is sacred to them aslong as it yeilds their intended result. Missquote, misslead is the tool of this strange dawah. May Allah guide all of us to the straight path and keep us steadfast in his deen.
    Masalam

    • Avatar

      Abu Ayesha Al Emarati

      July 1, 2010 at 3:07 AM

      Everyone wants to push an agenda. Sigh!

      Just take the article for what it is brother/sister.

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      July 1, 2010 at 10:50 AM

      I wonder why the ghayr muqallids on this site posted the fatwa…? I think my ghayr ‘aql layman mind is going to explode trying to understand this contradiction foisted upon us by the Saudi royals.

      Siraaj

  12. Avatar

    Organic

    June 29, 2010 at 2:16 PM

    Interesting. If this is what the whole ideology is based on then the explanation is pretty straightforward from what was posted.

    However, what does the practive of religion in a non muslim ruled place where muslims live, really mean? Could the West where anti-muslim sentiments are deeply rooted, be a place where muslims can live or is it a place they must leave? Also another question that comes to mind, if these muslims are directly supporting a war against a muslim nation then what is the ruling? And there are many many questions like this.

    • Avatar

      Abu Ayesha Al Emarati

      July 1, 2010 at 4:08 AM

      What came first, the chicken or the egg?

      Deep-rooted anti-Muslim/Islamic sentiments; what gave rise to these sentiments?

      I can’t speak about anywhere else but the UK; if Muslims practiced their Deen like they are supposed to, there would have been no rise or indeed deep-rooted anti Muslim sentiments.

      Calling Britain Dar Al Harb, encouraging Muslims to loot and steal whilst living ”kuffar lands” (Abu Qatada), setting up an us versus them mentality.

      Now we reap what we sowed.

  13. Avatar

    Servant of Allah

    July 2, 2010 at 6:51 PM

    -Removed. Pls take your links to terrorist drivel somewhere else. -Edited

    • Avatar

      AR

      July 20, 2010 at 4:50 AM

      LOL…please do.

  14. Avatar

    Sharaaz Khan

    July 27, 2010 at 4:20 PM

    What is most perplexing about this is the fact that this misprint has come to light only now. If a Fatwa is used for so long by extremist groups, how is it that no one caught this earlier? Several decades later, here we are looking at a glaring mistake that could have saved so many lives. It also stands to shows how a single letter in Arabic can have such adverse consequences. This makes me wonder how deeply our traditional books have been affected, which we all know they have been changed. The question is…was this change deliberate? Maybe worth investigating further, if possible.

  15. Avatar

    Mardin

    July 3, 2011 at 9:52 AM

    Hello, good post. I look forward to your next post. Thanks.

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  19. Avatar

    MOHAMED MIDLAJ

    October 31, 2015 at 9:53 PM

    Mardin fatwa was quoted by several jihadist groups and Muslim terrorists, especially assasinated Osama Bin Laden. really, for several decades, this statement was misinterpreted for wills of some people. they changed the origin of fatwa to another one(from يعامل to يقاتل). it was occured in the misunderstood fatwa of mardin. thanks a lot for understanding me this subjects.

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What Does Sharia Really Say About Abortion in Islam

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice, Islam recognizes the nuance.

Reem Shaikh

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The following article on abortion is based on a research paper titled ‘The Rights of the Fetus in Islam’, at the Department of Sharia at Qatar University. My team and I presented it to multiple members of the faculty. It was approved by the Dean of the Islamic Studies College, an experienced and reputed Islamic authority.

In one swoop, liberal comedian Deven Green posing as her satirical character, Mrs. Betty Brown, “America’s best Christian”, demonized both Sharia law as well as how Islamic law treats abortion. Even in a debate about a law that has no Muslim protagonist in the middle of it, Islam is vilified because apparently, no problem in the world can occur without Islam being dragged into it.

It is important to clarify what Sharia is before discussing abortion. Sharia law is the set of rules and guidelines that Allah establishes as a way of life for Muslims. It is derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which is interpreted and compiled by scholars based on their understandings (fiqh). Sharia takes into account what is in the best interest for individuals and society as a whole, and creates a system of life for Muslims, covering every aspect, such as worship, beliefs, ethics, transactions, etc.

Muslim life is governed by Sharia – a very personal imperative. For a Muslim living in secular lands, that is what Sharia is limited to – prayers, fasting, charity and private transactions such as not dealing with interest, marriage and divorce issues, etc. Criminal statutes are one small part of the larger Sharia but are subject to interpretation, and strictly in the realm of a Muslim country that governs by it.

With respect to abortion, the first question asked is:

“Do women have rights over their bodies or does the government have rights over women’s bodies?”

The answer to this question comes from a different perspective for Muslims. Part of Islamic faith is the belief that our bodies are an amanah from God. The Arabic word amanah literally means fulfilling or upholding trusts. When you add “al” as a prefix, or al-amanah, trust becomes “The Trust”, which has a broader Islamic meaning. It is the moral responsibility of fulfilling one’s obligations due to Allah and fulfilling one’s obligations due to other humans.

The body is one such amanah. Part of that amanah includes the rights that our bodies have over us, such as taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally – these are part of a Muslim’s duty that is incumbent upon each individual.

While the Georgia and Alabama laws in the United States that make abortion illegal after the 6-week mark of pregnancy are being mockingly referred to as “Sharia Law” abortion, the fact is that the real Sharia allows much more leniency in the matter than these laws do.

First of all, it is important to be unambiguous about one general ruling: It is unanimously agreed by the scholars of Islam that abortion without a valid excuse after the soul has entered the fetus is prohibited entirely. The question then becomes, when exactly does the soul enter the fetus? Is it when there is a heartbeat? Is it related to simple timing? Most scholars rely on the timing factor because connecting a soul to a heartbeat itself is a question of opinion.

Web MD

The timing then is also a matter of ikhtilaf, or scholarly difference of opinion:

One Hundred and Twenty Days:

The majority of the traditional scholars, including the four madhahib, are united upon the view that the soul certainly is within the fetus after 120 days of pregnancy, or after the first trimester.

This view is shaped by  the following hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إن أحدكم يجمع خلقه في بطن أمه أربعين يوما ثم يكون في ذلك علقة مثل ذلك ثم يكون في ذلك مضغة مثل ذلك ثم يرسل الملك فينفخ فيه الروح..

“For every one of you, the components of his creation are gathered together in the mother’s womb for a period of forty days. Then he will remain for two more periods of the same length, after which the angel is sent and insufflates the spirit into him.”

Forty Days:

The exception to the above is that some scholars believe that the soul enters the fetus earlier, that is after the formation phase, which is around the 40 days mark of pregnancy.

This view is based on another hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إذا مر بالنطفة إثنتان وأربعون ليلة بعث الله إليها ملكاً، فصوره، وخلق سمعها وبصرها وجلدها ولحمها وعظمها…

“If a drop of semen spent in the womb forty-two nights, Allah sends an angel to it who depicts it and creates its ears, eyes, skin, flesh and bones.”

Between the two views, the more widespread and popular opinion is the former, which is that the soul enters the fetus at the 120 days (or 4 months) mark, as the second hadith implies the end of the formation period of the fetus rather than the soul entering it.

Even if one accepts that the soul enters the fetus at a certain timing mark, it does not mean that the soul-less fetus can be aborted at any time or for any reason. Here again, like most matters of Islamic jurisprudence, there is ikhtilaf of scholarly difference of opinion.

No Excuse Required:

The Hanafi madhhab is the most lenient, allowing abortion during the first trimester, even without an excuse.

Some of the later scholars from the Hanafi school consider it makruh or disliked if done without a valid reason, but the majority ruled it as allowed.

Only Under Extreme Risks:

The Malikis are the most strict in this matter; they do not allow abortion even if it is done in the first month of pregnancy unless there is an extreme risk to the mother’s health.

Other Views:

As for the Shafi’i and Hanbali schools of thought, there are multiple opinions within the schools themselves, some allowing abortion, some only allowing it in the presence of a valid excuse.

Valid excuses differ from scholar to scholar, but with a strong and clear reason, permissibility becomes more lenient. Such cases include forced pregnancy (caused by rape), reasons of health and other pressing reasons.

For example, consider a rape victim who becomes pregnant. There is hardly a more compelling reason (other than the health of the mother) where abortion should be permitted. A child born as a result in such circumstances will certainly be a reminder of pain and discomfort to the mother. Every time the woman sees this child, she will be reminded of the trauma of rape that she underwent, a trauma that is generally unmatched for a woman. Leaving aside the mother, the child himself or herself will lead a life of suffering and potentially neglect. He or she may be blamed for being born– certainly unjust but possible with his or her mother’s mindset. The woman may transfer her pain to the child, psychologically or physically because he or she is a reminder of her trauma. One of the principles of Sharia is to ward off the greater of two evils. One can certainly argue that in such a case where both mother and child are at risk of trauma and more injustice, then abortion may indeed be the lesser of the two.

The only case even more pressing than rape would be when a woman’s physical health is at risk due to the pregnancy. Where the risk is clear and sufficiently severe (that is can lead to some permanent serious health damage or even death) if the fetus remained in her uterus, then it is unanimously agreed that abortion is allowed no matter what the stage of pregnancy. This is because of the Islamic principle that necessities allow prohibitions. In this case, the necessity to save the life of the mother allows abortion, which may be otherwise prohibited.

This is the mercy of Sharia, as opposed to the popular culture image about it.

Furthermore, the principle of preventing the greater of two harms applies in this case, as the mother’s life is definite and secure, while the fetus’ is not.

Absolutely Unacceptable Reason for Abortion:

Another area of unanimous agreement is that abortion cannot be undertaken due to fear of poverty. The reason for this is that this mindset collides with having faith and trust in Allah. Allah reminds us in the Quran:

((وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ خَشْيَةَ إِمْلَاقٍ ۖ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُهُمْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ قَتْلَهُمْ كَانَ خِطْئًا كَبِيرًا))

“And do not kill your children for fear of poverty, We provide for them and for you. Indeed, their killing is ever a great sin.” (Al-Israa, 31)

Ignorance is not an excuse, but it is an acceptable excuse when it comes to mocking Islam in today’s world. Islam is a balanced religion and aims to draw ease for its adherents. Most rulings concerning fiqh are not completely cut out black and white. Rather, Islamic rulings are reasonable and consider all possible factors and circumstances, and in many cases vary from person to person.

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice. These terms have become political tools rather than sensitive choices for women who ultimately suffer the consequences either way.

Life means a lot more than just having a heartbeat. Islam completely recognizes this. Thus, Islamic rulings pertaing to abortion are detailed and varied.

As a proud Muslim, I want my fellow Muslims to be confident of their religion particularly over sensitive issues such as abortion and women’s rights to choose for themselves keeping the Creator of Life in focus at all times.

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Lesson 11 From Surah Al-Kahf

Tafsir Verses 72-81

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi

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Alhamdulillah last session we were able to explore the meanings and lessons of verses 60-70. InshAllah, we’ll try our best to cover the meanings of verse 71-82. As we learned in the last session, this passage of the Surah deals with a very unique and interesting episode from the life of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). It’s the story of his encounter and journey with a man of God known as Khidr or Khadir. We reached the point in the story where Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) finally finds Khidr and asks with the utmost humility and respect to allow him to be his student. This highlights Musa’s 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) sincerity in seeking knowledge, his lack of pride and his willingness to humble himself in front of Khidr despite his own status as a Prophet.

But Khidr initially declined his request telling him, “Truly you will not be able to bear patiently with me. And how can you be patient with that which you have no knowledge?” Khidr recognized that he would do things that Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) would find to be illogical, irrational and even impermissible. Things that on the surface level seem to be horrible and despicable. Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was sent as a Prophet of Divine Law, while Khidr had been entrusted with some unique knowledge and actions that seemed to be contradictory to that law. So he explained to Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) that he wouldn’t be able to be patient with him and his actions. But Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was extremely eager to learn. He resolved to be patient and obedient while relying upon the will of Allah ﷻ.

He tells Khidr, “You will find me patient, if Allah wills, and I shall not disobey you in any matter.” Khidr finally gave in and both of them set off on their way. This is where we’ll pick up the story again. Allah ﷻ says,

Verse 71: So they both went on till, when they had embarked upon a ship, he made a hole in it. He said, “Have you made a hole in it to drown its people? Certainly, you have done a grave thing.”

They set out walking together along the shore looking for a ship to ride. As they were walking a ship of sailors passed by them and Khidr asked for a ride. The sailors knew Khidr so they let both him and Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) come on board without any charge. After traveling for a while Khidr got up and pulled out one of the planks from the bottom of the ship using an ax making a hole in it. This placed everyone on the ship in danger of drowning. Obviously, this seemingly absurd and cruel behavior surprised Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). He was literally in shock. He couldn’t understand why Khidr would do such a thing to someone who helped him out. This went against his moral compass of what’s right and wrong. Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) forgot about the conditions of his teacher and objected. These people gave us a free ride and you’re pulling a plank to drown their ship. You’ve done something bad. “Have you made a hole in it to drown its people? Certainly, you have done a grave thing.” Khidr then reminded him gently with patience.

Verse 72: He said, “Did I not say that you can never bear with me patiently?”

Didn’t I tell you that you wouldn’t be able to be patient with me and my actions? The way he says this shows that he was willing to overlook and tolerate Musa’s (as) impatience. Musa (as) felt a sense of regret and apologized to Khidr telling him that he completely forgot about his deal.

Verse 73: He (Musa) said, “Do not hold me responsible for what I forgot, and do not make my course too difficult for me.”

Basically he apologized. He said please don’t hold me responsible for what I forgot and allow me to continue travelling in your company. While telling the story the Prophet ﷺ says, “the first (question) was out of forgetfulness. While this conversation was taking place a bird came and sat on the side of the boat and took a sip of water from the ocean. Khidr said to Musa, ‘my knowledge and yours combined in comparison to the knowledge of Allah is like the sip of water compared to the ocean.’” Khidr accepting his apology and they continued travelling on their way.

Verse 74: So, they moved ahead until when they met a boy, he killed him (the boy). He (Musa) said, “Did you kill an innocent soul while he did not kill anyone? You have committed a heinous act indeed.”

“So they continued…” They both got off the ship and started walking along the shore until they came across a young boy playing with his friends. Khidr went up to this young boy and killed him by either strangling him to death or striking him on his head. This was too much for Musa (as) to handle. He objected even more vehemently. How can he kill an innocent young boy for no reason whatsoever? To Musa (as) this seemed absolutely absurd, cruel and unjustified. It was too much for him to tolerate patiently despite his promise not to question anything that he saw. So he said, How can you kill a pure innocent child for no reason whatsoever? You have done something unjustified and have committed a heinous act. Once again Khidr reminds him of the condition that he made and the promise that Musa (as) had given.

Verse 75: He said, “Did I not tell you that you can never bear with me patiently?”

Didn’t I warn you that you wouldn’t be able to handle what I would do? Didn’t I tell you that you wouldn’t be able to remain silent when I do certain things? In this reminder, Khidr added the word “laka” to show that this time his reminder is more severe and clearer. The first time someone forgets and makes a mistake it’s overlooked. The second time it’s also overlooked but with a sense of hesitation. Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) again feels a sense of regret for breaking his word and not sticking to the conditions of Khidr. He’s now done this twice so he apologizes by saying,

Verse 76: He said, “If I ask you about something after this, do not keep me in your company. You have had enough excuses from me.”

Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)(as) again apologizes but this time gives himself one last chance. He said if he questions Khidr one more time then Khidr can choose to part ways with him. Once again Khidr accepts his apology and they set off on their way. After commenting on this part ibn Kathīr narrates a hadīth from the Prophet ﷺ. He writes, “Ibn Jarir narrated from Ibn `Abbas that Ubayy bin Ka`b said: “Whenever the Prophet ﷺ mentioned anyone, he would pray for himself first. One day he said:

  • «رَحْمَةُ اللهِ عَلَيْنَا وَعَلَى مُوسَى لَوْ لَبِثَ مَعَ صَاحِبِهِ لَأَبْصَرَ الْعَجَبَ، وَلَكِنَّهُ قَالَ:
  • ﴿إِن سَأَلْتُكَ عَن شَىْءٍ بَعْدَهَا فَلاَ تُصَاحِبْنِى قَدْ بَلَغْتَ مِن لَّدُنِّى عُذْراً﴾»

May the mercy of Allah be upon us and upon Musa. If he had stayed with his companion he would have seen wonders, but he said, (`If I ask you anything after this, keep me not in your company, you have received an excuse from me.’))” That brings us to the third and last adventure they had together.

Verse 77: Then, they moved on until they came to the people of a town and sought food from them. But they refused to show them any hospitality. Then, they found there a wall that was about to fall down. So he (Khidr) set it right. He (Musa) said, “If you wished, you could have charged a fee for this.”

Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and Khidr continued traveling until they came upon the people of a town that most commentators identify as the ancient city of Antioch. Being tired and hungry they asked them for some food but they refused to give them any or show them any hospitality whatsoever. As they were leaving the city they came across a wall that was about to fall down. Khidr stopped by it and repaired it. Now, this situation is also bizarre; Khidr is a complete stranger in a town that refused to give them food or host them yet he still stops and fixes their wall for nothing in return. Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) finds the situation full of irony. Why should a stranger exert so much effort in rebuilding a wall in a town where they were denied even a little food and all hospitality? He should have at least demanded some money for his labor and then they could have bought some food to eat.

Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) couldn’t hold himself so he objected, “If you wished, you could have charged a fee for this.” And that was the end of their relationship. Khidr responded,

Verse 78: He said, “This is the parting between me and you. I shall inform you of the meaning of that which you were unable to bear with patiently.”

Meaning, this is the end of our relationship and this is where we’ll part ways. But before we go our separate ways I’ll explain to you the wisdom and hidden meaning behind everything I did. Up till this point in the story, we’ve probably been just as impatient as Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him); we have no clue why Khidr did the things he did. But he then explains everything is detail; why he pulled a plank out of the bottom the ship, why he killed an innocent child and why he rebuilt the wall without taking anything in return.

Verse 79: As for the ship, it belonged to some poor people who worked at sea. I wanted to damage it, for just beyond them was a king who was seizing every ship by force.

Khidr is explained that his act of damaging the ship was, in reality, a means of saving it. It comes in a narration that these poor people were ten brothers, 5 of them were handicapped while the other five worked. The ship was their only source of income. The king was a cruel, tyrannical oppressor who would take ships by force. The damage done to the ship made it undesirable for the king and ultimately saved it for its owners. Had it been seaworthy, it would certainly have been confiscated by the tyrannical king. Perpetrating some small damage to the boat saved it from the greater harm and ruinous injustice which was certain to take place without it. Hence, causing such damage was a good and kindly action. So damaging the ship actually turned out to be a good thing.

Verses 80-81: And as for the young boy, his parents were believers and we feared that he would make them suffer much through rebellion and disbelief. So we desired that their Lord give them in exchange one who is better than him in purity, and nearer to mercy.

Although the young child seemed to be pure and innocent in reality the seeds of disbelief and wickedness were entrenched in his heart. If he had grown up he would have been a source of grief and sorrow for his parents who were believers. Their love for this child would have led them towards evil and wickedness as well. They would suffer because of the rebellion and disbelief. So Allah told Khidr to kill this boy to spare them that grief and to replace him with a child that would be better and more dutiful. Now obviously the parents weren’t aware of this at this time so to them this was a huge loss and tragedy. They weren’t aware of the future difficulties that they were saved from by his death.

Qatādah said, “His parents rejoiced when he was born and grieved for him when he was killed. If he had stayed alive, he would have been the cause of their doom. So let a man be content with the decree of Allah, for the decree of Allah for the believer, if he dislikes it, is better for him than if He were to decree something that he likes for him.” That’s why in connection to these verses ibn Kathīr رحمهم الله quotes the hadīth, “Allah does not decree anything for a believer, save that it is better for him.”

  • «لَا يَقْضِي اللهُ لِلْمُؤْمِنِ مِنْ قَضَاءٍ إِلَّا كَانَ خَيْرًا لَه»

It is mentioned in a narration that the parents were blessed with a pious daughter who gave birth to a Prophet. So the murder of this child actually turned out to be something good in the long run.

Verse 82: And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the city, and beneath it was a treasure belonging to them. Their father was righteous, and your Lord desired that they should reach their maturity and extract their treasure, as a mercy from your Lord. And I didn’t do this upon my own command. This is the meaning of that which you couldn’t bear with patiently.

Khidr explained to Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) that the wall that was about to fall that he rebuilt was covering a treasure that belonged to two orphan boys. If the wall had fallen down the treasure would be exposed and the orphan children would’ve been deprived of their wealth. By rebuilding the wall Khidr made it possible for them to access their treasure when they grew up. This was done partially because their father was a righteous and pious man. Khidr then explains to Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) that he didn’t do any of these things based on his own accord or understanding. Rather he did them according to the Divine command, decree, and will of Allah ﷻ. “And I didn’t do this upon my own command.” He concludes by saying, “This is the meaning of that which you couldn’t bear with patiently.” Meaning, this is the explanation of my actions that you didn’t understand and weren’t able to be patient with.

Lessons:

1) One of the most powerful and profound lessons we learn from this entire episode is that oftentimes a tragedy is a blessing in disguise. Everything that happens in this world, whether good or bad, happens according to the Divine will and decree of Allah ﷻ. There’s some deep divine wisdom behind every single thing that happens in this world. When something good happens we recognize it as a blessing. For example, if we get a good job, get a raise at work, purchase a new car or are blessed with the birth of a child. All of recognize this as something positive. On the other hand whenever we face setbacks, difficulties, hardships and tragedies we tend to lose patience.

This incident is teaching us that difficulties, tests, trials, and hardships are oftentimes blessing in disguise. The first thing to understand is that Allah isn’t sending these difficulties our way to break us or destroy us. Rather he’s sending them our way to test our patience and faith, as a source of mercy and a reminder. As a way of nurturing and training us. He’s reminding us to turn back to Him, to hold on to our faith, to be steadfast, patient, strong, and to persevere. When we’re struggling and going through difficult times we shouldn’t assume that somehow Allah is displeased with us. Similarly, when we’re comfortable and enjoying life we shouldn’t assume that Allah is pleased with us. The opposite can be true. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said,

  • « إِذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بِعَبْدِهِ الْخَيْرَ عَجَّلَ لَهُالْعُقُوبَةَ فِى الدُّنْيَا وَإِذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بِعَبْدِهِ الشَّرَّأَمْسَكَ عَنْهُ بِذَنْبِهِ حَتَّى يُوَفَّى بِهِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ

“If Allah wants good for his servant, He hurries on His punishment in this world, and if He wills ill for a servant, he holds back punishing him for his sin so He can give it to him in full on the Day of Resurrection.”

Everything we face in this world is actually a source of blessing for us. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

  • «مَا يُصِيبُ المُسْلِمَ مِنْ نَصَبٍ،وَلاَ وَصَبٍ، وَلاَ هَمِّ، وَلاَ حُزْنٍ، وَلاَ أَذًى، وَلاَ غَمِّ، حَتَّىالشَّوْكَةِ يُشَاكُهَا؛ إِلاَّ كَفَّرَ الله بِهَا مِنْ خَطَايَاهُ»

“No fatigue, illness, anxiety, sorrow, harm or sadness afflicts any Muslim, even to the extent of a thorn pricking him, without Allah wiping out his sins by it.”

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us that the main tool, the key to deal with the world and all the problems it contains is through patience and turning towards Him. When we’re dealing with our problems we should turn to Allah. We should make dhikr, read Quran, spend time in prayer and reflection and try to be around good company. We should try to focus our attention, our spiritual and emotional energy on our relationship with Allah instead of our problem. By doing so we’ll find peace and comfort. True contentment. Part of patience is recognizing that whatever we’re going through is something that we can handle. Whatever we’re going through will not last forever. That’s why throughout the Quran whenever Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) consoles and comforts the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) He reminds him to be patient and to turn to him. “So be patient over what they say and exalt [Allah] with praise of your Lord.” (20:130) “So be patient. Indeed, the promise of Allah is truth.” (30:60) “So be patient, [O Muhammad], over what they say and exalt [Allah] with praise of your Lord before the rising of the sun and before its setting.” (50:39)

2) Being content with the Divine decree of Allah ﷻ.

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Heart Soothers: Salim Bahanan

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