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Aqeedah and Fiqh

Line in the Sand | Part 2: Definitions Matter




Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Thankfully, this series has generated a healthy amount of dialogue regarding its central theme. Many people recognize the gravity of the topic and understand the need for it to be addressed decisively. I am glad to say that I have learned a lot from the reader responses. Their input and insights have helped to flesh out the details of this debate tremendously and have revealed nuances that I was not fully aware of. I am very happy that this series is becoming a vehicle for a live and continuing conversation.

In light of reader suggestions, a few key phrases need to be precisely defined. This installment will focus on defining these terms in the context of the Sharīʿah, as ambiguity in the interpretation of these concepts is one of the factors that allow the directing of duʿāʾ to other than Allah seem legitimate in the minds of many Muslims. While I addressed the correct interpretation of these terms in the first installment to varying degrees, I think it is useful to dedicate an article solely to defining them.


Translated as “prayer”, “invocation”, or “supplication”; Abū Sulaymān Al-Khattabi (a 4th-century scholar of fiqh, ḥadīth, and literature) defines it as:

“A servant’s calling upon his Lord for help. It’s reality is an expression of poverty to and need of Allah and admitting one’s lack of influence and power. It is a personification of servitude and recognition of the humbleness of mankind, and it implies praise of Allah and acknowledgement of His generosity”.

Ibn Manẓūr, the author of one of the definitive dictionaries of the Arabic language, Lisān Al-ʿArab, simply defines it as: “an expression of hope in Allah”.

Therefore duʿāʾ is more than just a request for help. It is an expression of a person’s deepest hopes and faith.  We can see the veracity of the Prophet’s words ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) when he called duʿāʾ “the essence of worship” (al-Tirmidhī).

What is observable from the actions of those who call upon other than Allah is that they direct these feelings of servitude, need and poverty to beings they call awliyāʾ. Their supplications are fervent and passionate, and they are often overwhelmed with tears, calling out in desperate hope, affection, and longing. They term it tawaṣṣul and justify it via an abstract intellectual caveat “but we know that only Allah answers ” akin to calling murder “collateral damage” or cheating on one’s spouse but justifying it by saying “I was actually thinking of him/her”.  It is an evil act made more brazen by the audacious excuse.


Translated as ‘worship’; the famous linguist Ibn Al-Anbari said, “A worshipper is one who is humble before his Lord, submissive and compliant with His commands.” Ibn Fāris, one of the earliest and greatest scholars of Arabic said that the root of the Arabic term (ʿ–b–d) indicates softness, compliance, and humbleness, and gave the example of a domesticated camel (baʿīr muʿabbad). Ibn Taymiyyah said, “it is an all-encompassing term for the actions that please Allah, whether internal (via the heart) or external (through the limbs and tongue)”. Such absolute submission and humility is only achievable through a deep and personal understanding of Allah’s infinite grace and glory. May Allah grant us all such a blessing.


Tawaṣṣul means “to gain closeness to something via a specified means”. Waṣīlah is “the means through which closeness is achieved”.

This term occurs in the Quran: Allah advises us to seek a means of gaining His favor and mercy, “O you who believe, do your duty to Allah and seek a waṣīlah to Him” (5:35)

Ibn ʿAbbās explained “waṣīlah” as “to become close”. His student Qatādah, further clarified, saying that it meant “to draw near to Allah by obeying Him and doing deeds which are pleasing to Him.” Imam Al-Ṭabarī explained it in similar terms in his great tafsīr, Jāmiʿ Al-Bayān: “Seek closeness to Allah by doing deeds that please Him.” Ibn Kathīr mentions that the Imāms of Tafsīr do not differ in their interpretation of this verse.  None of the scholars from Islam’s earliest and greatest generations interpreted tawaṣṣul to mean invoking the Awliyāʾ in need. Rather they interpreted it as being the good deeds that Revelation encourages us to do. And that these deeds serve as a means of gaining God’s mercy.

Thus, most forms of tawaṣṣul – as interpreted by the earliest generations – involve one’s own worship of God. The Quran and Sunnah display various manifestations of this:

To beseech Allah through His names and attributes:

 “And to Allah belong the most beautiful names, so call upon Him by them” (7:180).

To profess our weakness and need. For example, the Prophet Zakariya, whilst longing for a son to carry on the legacy of Prophethood, invoked Allah with the following:

“My Lord! Indeed my bones have become feeble and my head glistens with white hair ”(19:4).

To mention Allah’s blessings and generosity, as the Prophet Yūsuf did in the culmination of the Quranic account of his dramatic story:

“O My Lord! You have bestowed upon me a portion of the dominion and the interpretation of dreams. Creator of the Heavens and Earth! You are my Protector in this world and the hereafter. Let me die as one who submits to You and unite me with the righteous” (12:101).

To reference our own good deeds in prayer,

“O Our Lord! Indeed we have believed, so forgive us our sins and protect us from the punishment of the Fire” (3:16).

To acknowledge and seek repentance for our sins, as Ādam and Hawwa did,

“O Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves! If You do not forgive us and bestow upon us Your Mercy, we shall surely lose everything” (7:23).

These are all very moving examples of how a person may draw closer to Allah (i.e. perform tawaṣṣul as per the Quranic definition) by invoking the very intimate details of the personal relationship that exists between the humble servant and the ever-present Creator.

Tawaṣṣul through another person

As for tawaṣṣul involving the actions of another person, the authentic narrations [cited below] show that it is only allowed to ask others to pray on your behalf with the condition that they be alive and present during the time of asking. (I find it disturbing that I have to list these [what should be] obvious caveats – Islam came to do away with such blatant, superstitious folly):

The ḥadīth of ʿUthman Ibn Ḥunayf, declared authentic by Al-Tirmidhī, Al-Ṭabarānī, Al-Ḥākim, Al-Dhahabī, and Ibn Khuzaymah.

A blind man came to the Prophet and said: “Pray to Allah to cure me.” The Prophet said, “If you wish I will pray and if you wish you may be patient and that will be better for you.” He said, “Pray to Him.” The narrator said, “So the Prophet instructed him to make ablution, and then supplicate with this prayer: ‘Oh Allah, I ask You and turn to You through Your Prophet Muḥammad, the Prophet of Mercy. I turn through you, O Muhammad, to my Lord in this need of mine, that it be fulfilled. O Allah, grant him intercession for me.” 

This ḥadīth indicates that it was permissible to directly ask the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) to pray on one’s behalf as a form of intercession during his life. No analogy can be made to extend this in the Prophet’s absence or after his death. As ʿAlī (raḍi Allāh ʿanhu) noted, analogies are not  permitted in matters of worship, let alone ʿaqīdah, “If the religion were based on opinion, it would be more logical to wipe the underpart of the shoe than the upper but I have seen the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) wiping over the upperpart of his shoes.” (Abū Dāwūd).  And even the attempt at analogy is in contradiction with the spirit of ikhlāṣ (pure and uncontaminated sincerity and devotion) to the Ever-Living Creator. Ponder the words of Islam’s first Caliph, who responded to the Ummah’s darkest hour with the following words, forever reminding us all about the true spirit of our religion: “Whosoever worshipped Muḥammad, Muḥammad is dead. Whosoever worships Allah, then He is Ever-Living and does not die.” These were the words that pierced the darkest clouds of sorrow and reminded the noblest generation of their mission and purpose, and enabled them to move on after their immeasurable loss.

All other authentic implementations of this type of tawaṣṣul are identical: requesting duʿāʾ from an esteemed living pious person in the hopes that Allah will answer their prayer. As narrated in Ṣaḥīḥ Al-Bukhārī, “Whenever drought threatened the Muslims, ʿUmar bin Al-Khaṭṭāb, used to ask Al-ʿAbbās bin ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib to invoke Allah for rain. He would say, ‘O Allah! We used to ask our Prophet to invoke You for rain, and You would bless us with rain, and now we ask his uncle to invoke You for rain. O Allah! Bless us with rain.’ And it would then rain.”

During the period of ʿUmar’s reign, his sense of duty and responsibility for Islam and its followers was unparalleled. Were it permissible to invoke the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) or ask the Prophet to pray on one’s behalf, there is no doubt that ʿUmar would have done so. Yet the narration clearly indicates that asking or invoking the Prophet was no longer an option and in acknowledgement of the unavailability of this option, ʿUmar turned to the Prophet’s living relative asking him to make the duʿāʾ for rain instead. Were ʿUmar to be somehow mistaken in his interpretation, another ṣaḥābī, perhaps Al-ʿAbbās himself, would have steered him towards invoking the Prophet, but there is no record of that.

Amongst the Ṣaḥābah, all recorded manifestations of this type of tawaṣṣul were similar: requesting that an esteemed and present pious person make du‘ā’ for the benefit of others. “The sky withheld rain, so Muʿāwiyah Ibn Abī Sufyān and the people of Damascus went out to pray for rain. When Muʿāwiyah sat upon the minbar he said: ‘O Allah! We are today asking the best and most noble amongst us to supplicate to You for us, O Allah, today we put Yazīd Ibn al-Aswad al-Jurashī forward to supplicate to You for us.’ Then Yazīd raised his hands and so did the people [and he supplicated for rain], and it rained until people could hardly reach their houses.” (Narrated by Ibn Asakir in his book of history).

There are no authentic narrations demonstrating that the Ṣaḥābah performed tawaṣṣul via the absent or the dead. However, there does exist a variation of the ḥadīth mentioned above in which ʿUthman Ibn Ḥunayf teaches another man to make an invocation after the Prophet’s death:

“A man repeatedly visited ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān concerning something he needed, but ʿUthmān paid no attention to him or his need. The man met Ibn Ḥunayf and complained to him about the matter. Ibn Ḥunayf said to him: ‘Go to the place of ablution and perform ablution (wuḍūʾ), then come to the mosque, perform two rakʿahs of prayer therein, and say: “O Allah, I ask You and turn to You through our Prophet Muḥammad, the Prophet of mercy; O Muḥammad, I turn through you to my Lord, that He may fulfill my need,” and mention your need. Then come to me so that I can go with you to the caliph ʿUthmān.’

So the man left and did as he had been told, then he went to the door of ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān, and the doorman came, took him by the hand, brought him to ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān, and seated him next to him on a cushion. ʿUthmān asked, ‘What do you need?’ and the man mentioned what he wanted, and ʿUthmān accomplished it for him, then he said, ‘I hadn’t remembered your need until just now,’ adding, ‘Whenever you need something, just mention it.’ Then, the man departed, met ʿUthmān ibn Ḥunayf, and said to him, ‘May Allah reward you! He didn’t see to my need or pay any attention to me until you spoke with him.’ ʿUthmān ibn Ḥunayf replied, ‘By Allah, I didn’t speak to him, but I have seen a blind man come to the Messenger of Allah and complain to him of the loss of his eyesight. The Prophet said, “Can you not bear it?” and the man replied, “O Messenger of Allah, I do not have anyone to lead me around, and it is a great hardship for me.” The Prophet told him, “Go to the place of ablution and perform ablution (wuḍūʾ), then pray two rakʿahs of prayer and make the supplications.”’ Ibn Ḥunayf went on, “By Allah, we didn’t part company or speak long before the man returned to us as if nothing had ever been wrong with him.” 

Only one person, Shabīb Ibn Saʿīd, reports this version of the narration. He is considered a trustworthy narrator (ṣadūq) with a weak memory and in this case he contradicts more reliable narrators who do not mention this incident which occurs after the Prophet’s death. (A detailed discussion of the chain of narration can be found in the corners of the Internet and in the books of the muḥaddithīn, if anyone is interested.) However, the details and intricacies of the arguments make the discussion irrelevant except to well-trained students of ḥadīth. For the majority of Muslims, the issue will simply devolve into a matter of taqlīd. What is undisputed, however, is that there is but one, single narration that reports this incident that occurs after the Prophet’s death and that this narration has not been authenticated by the likes of Al-Bukhārī, Muslim, Al-Dhahabī, Ibn Khuzaymah, Ibn Ḥajr,  etc., scholars known for their deep and rigorous insight into the science of authenticating Prophetic narrations. As for Imām Al-Ṭabarānī’s previously mentioned declaration of “ṣaḥīḥ”, then it is in reference to the original narration which does not mention this extra story.

In determining your stance on this issue, consider the following:

1. The doubt that surrounds this narration
2. The lack of authentic supporting evidence
3. Its contradiction with the actions of the Prophet’s companions
4. Other narrations that warned against praying at the graves of prophets (“Allah’s curse be upon the Jews and Christians for taking the graves of their prophets as places of worship” – al-Bukhārī and Muslim), let alone actually directing prayer to them.
5. Its contradiction with the spirit of Islam, as embodied by the muḥkamāt of the Quran, which guide us to direct all hope and trust in Allah alone.

In light of these points, supporting the notion of making duʿāʾ to the Prophets or the Awliyāʾ based upon this singular evidence is a frail argument indeed. As Allah says, “those who take other than Allah as their Awliyāʾ are like the spider and its home; surely the frailest of all dwellings is the spider’s home, if only they truly knew” (29:41). They hang their hopes, prayers, and even their entire religion on very, very thin strands.

Shifāʾah (Intercession)    

Translated as “intercession;” within an Islamic context it means “to beseech Allah for the sake of another person”. Al-Khalīl, author of the first dictionary of the Arabic language, Kitab Al-ʿAyn, defines an intercessor as “one who requests on behalf of another”. In an authentic ḥadīth transmitted by Imām Muslim, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “There is no Muslim who dies and his funeral is attended by forty men, none of whom associate partners with Allah in any way, except that Allah will accept their intercession for him”. As is obvious from the observable practice of the ṣalāt al-janāzah (funeral prayer), the form of this intercession is the duʿāʾ made on behalf of the deceased (may Allah grant us this mercy!).

The ḥadīth above sheds light upon how one may be granted this type of intercession. The text of the ḥadīth, in complete coherence with the muhkamāt of Allah’s revelation, tells us that this intercession is granted as a reward for the worship of Allah alone. It is an honor granted to the intercessors and a mercy for the recipient, both parties are being blessed with this because of their worship of Allah. In another ḥadīth transmitted by Imām Muslim, the Prophet is asked, “Who is the one that will most enjoy your intercession, O Messenger of Allah?” The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) replied, “The one who says lā ilāha illa Allah with absolute purity (khāliṣan) of heart.” Ikhlāṣ is a very powerful word, indicating something free of any contamination, free of anything mixing with it and diminishing its purity. Imagine new fallen snow or the purest gold and you will have a good visual representation of ikhlāṣ. The objective of the sacred kalimah is to achieve this type of purity in one’s relationship with the Creator: complete devotion, absolute love, constant obedience, unwavering hope, and full submission, undiluted with excessive attachment to anything or anyone else. Islam’s laws, its myriad forms of worship, the revolutionary information and exhortations of the Quran, and the example of the Prophet and his companions all serve this extraordinary goal. Now contrast this with the act of directing one’s prayer towards someone other than Allah (regardless of what interpretive justification is offered for it); the very definition of aberration.


Commonly translated as “god”, in the Arabic language (and hence in its Quranic usage) ilāh refers to “something that is worshipped,” whether justifiably or not. In Lisān Al-ʿArab, Ibn Manẓūr says, “Ilāh refers to Allah and anything other than Him that is taken as an object of worship. That thing [the object of this worship] is termed the ilāh of the worshipper”. Fakhr Al-Dīn al-Rāzī, a famous scholar and mufassir, defined ilāh as:  “something worshipped, whether in truth or in falsehood” in adherence with the word’s linguistic roots. In numerous places in the Quran, Allah conveys the words of the pagan Arabs describing their idols as ālihah (plural of ilāh), for instance: “And they said: Will we forsake our gods (ālihah) for the sake of a mad poet?” (37:36).

The blessed kalimah: ‘lā ilāha illa Allāh’, contains only four words, so it is extremely significant to understand what each one of them means. The word ilāh appears to be the only one for which there exists conflict amongst the People of the Qiblah in regards to its interpretation, and the consequences of misunderstanding this single word are profound. If understood according to classical Arabic as established here, the kalimah can be translated as: “There is no being worthy of worship except Allah”. If its interpretation is subject to the influence of theological discourse originating in Greek philosophy, we find that many (but not all) Islamic theologians from the schools of Kalam (Speculative Theology) interpret ilāh as “a being capable of creation”. Thus, the kalimah will be interpreted as: “There is no being capable of creation other than Allah”.

Any worshipper of God not afflicted with spiritual apathy will recognize that the difference between these two interpretations is enormous. The first is a mandate that all devotion, love, and worship must be directed singularly to the One, unique God and the latter simply requires that one not recognize any other being as sharing in the creation or control of the world around us. As has been established in the first installment of this series, even the pagan Arabs recognized that Allah alone was Lord and Creator of the universe, yet that conviction did nothing to lift the charge of “shirk” from them. It was only through rejecting the worship and adulation of all beings except Allah that they were able to escape this colossal sin and be accepted into the fold of Islam.

In addition, the evidence supporting the correct interpretation of the kalimah is not limited to just a series of statements from various scholars, but also includes two decades of struggle between the Prophet and his followers and those who chose to reject his message. Any and all Sīrah books (and the Quran is the most profound conveyor of the Prophet’s life and mission) will attest that the pagan Arabs did not attribute the creation and control of the world to their idols and jinn, but rather that they worshipped these things in the belief that they would intercede for them:

“And those who take Awliyāʾ besides Allah say: We worship them only that they may bring us nearer to Allah. Indeed, Allah will judge between them in that wherein they differ. Indeed, Allah does not guide those who are false and ungrateful” (39:3)

Mujāhid, one of the most accomplished and renowned students of Ibn ʿAbbās, said in regards to this verse: “This is how Quraysh feel about their idols, and others feel the same about the angels, or ʿĪsā  the son of Mary, or Uzayr”.

Thus the nature of the relationship between the pagan Arabs and their gods was that they worshipped them in the name of intercession. Yet, these were understood to be their taken gods (as the Quran itself attests) despite the fact that they did not assign the status of Creator or Sustainer to these idols.

As Allah has promised, His book delivers clear and pure guidance to anyone who truly seeks it. Wa-l-ḥamdu li’llāh.


According to Ibn Fāris, one of the greatest Arabic linguists our Ummah has ever produced, the word shirk indicates a coupling of two things and is the opposite of “uniqueness” and “singularity”. The common translation of “to make partners with Allah” seems to be universally accepted. The problem occurs when certain sects of Islam choose to limit the generality of this term, saying that the label of shirk only applies when it concerns one’s belief about creation or sustenance or control of the world. There is no evidence for this modification, no reason to limit the vastness of this word and its implications. Linguistically, its ability to encompass every variation of the theme “making partners with Allah” is spiritually profound. To fear something as one fears God, to obey someone as one obeys God, to love and adore another as one loves and adores the Creator, all fall under the shadow of the all-encompassing term that is  shirk. To escape it, a person has to liberate his heart from attachment to the creation and re-focus all the deepest manifestations of his humanity on the unseen Creator. This is true faith and is only achievable by deeply imbibing the Prophetic legacy. This journey is the journey of Islam itself, the Straight Path.

There is no doubt that Islam’s earliest and greatest generations interpreted shirk in this all-encompassing way, making it applicable to worship, belief, love, obedience, and other actions. Limiting the concept of shirk to only matters of belief  in rubūbiyyah is in direct contradiction with Allah’s words:

“And most of them believe not in Allah except that they attribute partners unto Him (mushrikūn)”(12:106)

Ikrimah, another of Ibn ʿAbbās’ notable students of tafsīr, said the following in regards to this verse: “If asked who created them and who created the heavens and the earth, they will say “Allah,” and that is their belief in Allah, though they worship others alongside him”. Ikrimah has clearly interpreted that second half of the verse, in which these people are referred to as mushrikūn, as being shirk that occurs via worship.

Another Quranic verse that condemns the association of partners with God in any way can be found in Sūrah al-Baqarah:

And do not assign rivals (andād) unto Allah whilst you know the truth” (2:22)

We again find that the scholars of Islam’s best generations embraced a general understanding of this concept. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn Zayd ibn Aslam, an imām of Tafsīr and a freed servant of ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb, explained that the “Rivals” mentioned in the verse are the gods that the pagans worshipped, offering to them the same kind of devotion that they were offering to Allah. Ibn Jarīr al-Tabarī, the Imām of the mufassirīn and the author of Islam’s greatest collection of tafsīr, Jāmiʿ al-Bayān, said in regards to this verse: “they make partners in their worship of Allah, worshipping alongside Him their idols and gods, though these false gods have created nothing and have not provided their worshippers with anything, rather Allah alone is responsible for creation and sustenance, yet these people commit shirk by worshipping others alongside Him.” This is a testament from someone who is arguably Islam’s greatest scholar of Tafsīr (after the likes of Ibn ʿAbbās and Ibn Masʿūd) that shirk occurs via worship. The fact that the pagan Arabs and others like them recognize Allah as the sole Creator and Sustainer of the universe, yet still direct their devotion and worship to other beings is something that adds to the magnitude of their ingratitude and infidelity.

And how could things like love be excluded from this conversation when Allah says:

“Yet of mankind are those who set up rivals to Allah, loving them as only Allah should be loved. Those who believe are more fervent in their love of Allah” (2:165).

And finally, the Messenger himself ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) clarified the nature of shirk with the following ḥadīth: Nawfal al-Ashja’i said, “Oh Messenger of Allah, teach me what to say when I lie down to sleep. He said, Read Qul yā ayyuha al-kāfirūn (Surah al-Kāfirūn), then sleep after completing its recitation, for it is liberation from shirk.” (Narrated by Aḥmad, Abū Dāwūd, Al-Tirmidhī, declared Ṣaḥīḥ by al-Ḥākim and Al-Dhahabī).  Thus, the Prophetic prescription to free oneself of shirk is found in Sūrah al-Kāfirūn, a chapter of the Quran solely dedicated to the concept of worshipping Allah alone. How then, can any supposed scholar or school of Islam limit the concept of shirk to belief in Rubūbiyyah alone (Creation, Sustenance, and Control)?

May the greatest blessings of God be upon the man who delivered the Creator’s final revelation with such clarity and certainty.


Linguistically derived from the word wāḥid (the Arabic word for “one”), tawhīd means “to recognize” or “affirm something as being singular”. Ibn Fāris says that roots of this term indicate singularity. When this term is applied to the rights of the Creator, it gains a vastness that is beyond limit and means “to give unto God all that He is due, recognizing that only the Creator deserves our deepest devotion and that only He can fulfill our deepest needs”. Remembrance, devotion, worship, love, adulation, hope, and trust; these are all manifestations of the true servant’s tawḥīd. They are all steps along the Straight Path. And it is simply amazing, an honor beyond description, that Allah wants us to have such a relationship with Him.

Again, there is no evidence (and even less need) to limit the scope of this concept in relation to Allah, the Exalted. The idea that tawḥīd is restricted to only beliefs regarding creation and dominion of the world (often referred to as rubūbiyyah) is simply ludicrous. This limitation has no support from the Arabic language, it is directly contradicted by the words and actions of Islam’s greatest generations, and spiritually, it is a crippling interpretation of God’s divine right.

As we mentioned earlier, the Arabic word ilāh refers to a “worshipped being”. The scholars of Islam, reaching back to its earliest generations, refer to something called tawḥīd al-ulūhiyyah, a term derived from the word ilāh. This phrase means “affirming the singularity of Allah’s right to be worshipped” and it is by no means new. Once again we turn to Imām al-Ṭabarī, whose tafsīr contains the greatest known collection of interpretations of the Quran from Islam’s noblest generations. Here is how this true Imām of the Quran explains lā ilāha illa Allah:

“(Through this phrase) Allah informs us that al-ulūhiyyah (the right to be worshipped) is His alone and is not permitted for other gods and rivals (that men have created), that only He is deserving of worship since He is alone in Rubūbiyyah (creation and dominion of the world) and He is alone in Ulūhiyyah (the right to be worshipped), and all things besides Him are His creation and He has no partner in His dominion…”

The above interpretation of the sacred kalimah, which I have done my meager best to support throughout this entire series, comes from an undisputed Imām of tafsīr, who drank more deeply from the wisdom and insight of the Ṣaḥābah and Tābiʿīn than any mufassir that came after him. It is the interpretation that fully utilizes the richness and power of the Arabic language and it refuses any artificial intellectual constraint. The āyāt that support it are truly countless, and can be found in the words of Allah and His Messenger, as well as the wonder of Allah’s creation; for they all point to the unseen Creator as the only being worthy of our deepest affections and worship.

And Allah knows best.

I was an 18 year old beliigerent atheist when the Quran entered my life and rocked my world. Reading the Seerah later sealed the deal. I studied Arabic everywhere I could, from America to the Levant and somehow an invitation to study with Muhammad Ibn Salih Al Uthaymeen landed in my lap, may Allah have mercy on his soul. I went, I met, I sat, I studied, and words simply can't do justice to the privilege and the experience. I am still trying to figure out how to be thankful for it. I live in the States, I work in IT, and I have two boys who I am trying to help to grow into admirable men.



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    July 20, 2012 at 8:50 AM

    Very nice article mashaAllah. I was just taught the hard way recently that no matter how much someone studies this subject, they always need to go back, review, study in more depth, and never stop learning.

    jazakum Allahu khairan

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    Abu Yahya

    July 21, 2012 at 9:03 PM

    Masha’Allah, a very significant article.

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    July 21, 2012 at 10:18 PM

    An amazing much needed Article jazakallah khair.

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    Yahya Whitmer

    July 22, 2012 at 1:40 AM

    Thanks for the encouragement everyone. This article will probably be “lost” in the influx of Ramadhan media and that’s cool. I just wanted to do my duty to explain and explore this topic in a thorough manner so that it could be a future resource for anyone that has to tackle with this serious issue. More installments to come, in sha Allah.

    • Avatar


      July 28, 2012 at 4:41 PM

      Brother Yahya Here is a bit more Insight for Dialouge on the Sufi Understanding of this issue…..

      “No sufi holds Prophets or saints to be the creator, so how is their
      testification of the kalimah negated by calling upon creation for help when they believe that their ability
      to help is entirely dependent on Allah? You may say the mushrikeen were upon tawheed ur-Rabubiyyah,
      but remember this, they also violated Rabubiyyah, ilahiyyah, Asma was-Sifaat,
      Hukmiyyah and Khaliqiyyah by explicitly admitting their worship of stone idols. They believed
      that these stone idols were equal to Allah, and that Allah was only a head of the pantheon of
      dieites. The Salafi defintion of ilah is simply something that is worshipped. So whilst
      the Sufi says there is no ilah except Allah, the Salafi says There is none worthy of worship
      but Allah. The Sufi negates all possibility of other gods whereas the Wahhabi is saying
      implicitly that other gods exist, yet we only single out Allah for worship. You will find the Ibn
      Mandhur quote to be in full accordance with the Sufi understanding. Which is in-fact the classical
      understanding of

      the first three generations.”

      • Avatar

        Yahya Whitmer

        July 28, 2012 at 5:24 PM

        This difference is beyond Salafi and Sufi, so I’ll ignore those classifications for now. It is suffice to say that the Quran, the Sunnah, and the earliest generations of Mufassireen all made repeated references to idols and other things that are worshipped (including Eesa and his mother) as Alihah or “gods” – thus affirming that the correct definition of this term is : a being that is worshiped, whether justifiably or not. The Kalimah is then an affirmation that only Allah deserves worship. Nowhere in the Quran does it say that the pagans believed that stone idols were equal to Allah. Rather it affirms, time and time again, that these idols were worshiped as a means to gain closeness to Allah – “Is it not to Allah that sincere devotion is due? But those who take for protectors other than Allah (say): “We only serve them in order that they may bring us nearer to Allah.” Truly Allah will judge between them in that wherein they differ. But Allah guides not such as are false and ungrateful.” (Zumar, verse 3).

        There is a very insidious implication that can result from the interpretation that this person has put forth. By saying that the Kalimah means there is no Creator or Sustainer other than Allah, praying to other beings is harmless so long as one’s prayers do not involve one believing that this other being is equal to Allah. It’s an absurd interpretation that limits the scope of Allah’s rights and is contradiction of the old and true adage, “actions speak louder than words”

  5. Avatar

    Ahsan Arshad Ali

    July 26, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    The only thing I dont like about these articles is that they are published late (shaykh explained in previous comments that he needs time to research and I appreciate that). I just learned that the word ilah has such two diverse interpretations and similarly the word shirk…definitions really matter here.
    I wanted to question the shaykh yahya about tafsir at tabari. I am taught that it is not a great resource for a layman since contains inauthentic narrations?

    • Avatar

      Yahya Whitmer

      July 28, 2012 at 5:08 PM

      Yes, I apologize for the lateness of this article. Some delays occurred in the editing process and I took quite a while to write the article as well. Balancing between work, family, and da’wah is a difficult but rewarding process, please bear with me. As for Tafsir Al Tabari, it is the only window that we have into how the earliest and best generations of Islam understood the Quran. Its value and importance simply cannot be qualified. Here is a brief excerpt from the Wikipedia article, which you can refer to for more information: “Jami al-Bayan is an important source for attaining information about older commentaries which have not survived to the present. Its rich content which encompasses dictionaries, historical notes, law, recitation, theology and Arabic literature has made it a highly referenced book throughout history, creating a long list of editions. It is also a good example of reasoning in a tafsir by a widely accepted scholar, giving it a value of diraya.
      It was marked by the same fullness of detail as his other work. The size of this work and the independence of judgment in it seem to have prevented it from having a large circulation, but scholars such asBaghawi and Suyuti used it largely; Ibn Kathir used it in his Tafsir ibn Kathir. Scholars including Suyuti have expressed their admiration towards this tafsir, regarding it as the most valuable of commentaries,[8] and most notably the words of Theodor Nöldeke;
      If we had this book [fully] in our hands, we would not need anything else written after it”[9]

      I hope that answers your questions and I apologize again for the delay.

  6. Avatar


    July 29, 2012 at 7:44 PM

    How about this evidence?

    From the Sahabi Malik al-Dar:

    The people suffered a drought in `Umar’s khilafa, whereupon a man came to the grave of the Prophet sallAllahu `alayhi wa- Alihi wa-Sallam and said: “Messenger of Allah! Ask for rain for your Community, for verily they have but perished.” After this the Prophet appeared to him in a dream and told him: “Go to `Umar and give him my greeting, then tell him that they will be watered. Tell him: Be clever!” The man went and told `Umar. The latter wept and said: “My Lord! I spare no effort except in what escapes my power.”

    Ibn Kathir cites it thus from al-Bayhaqi’s Dala’il al-Nubuwwa (7:47) in al-Bidaya wal-Nihaya (Ma`arif ed. 7:91-92=Dar Ihya’ al-Turath ed. 7:105) saying: “isnaduhu sahih” and he also declares its chain sound (isnaduhu jayyidun qawi) in his Jami` al-Masanid (1:223) in Musnad `Umar. Ibn Abi Shayba cites it (6:352=12:31-32) with a sound (sahih) chain as confirmed by Ibn Hajar who says: “rawa Ibn Abi Shayba bi’isnadin sahih” and cites the hadith in Fath al-Bari, Book of Istisqa ch. 3 (1989 ed. 2:629-630=1959 ed. 2:495) as well as in al-Isaba (6:164 §8350=3:484) where he says that Ibn Abi Khaythama cited it. It is also thus narrated by al-Khalili in al-Irshad (1:313- 314) and Ibn `Abd al-Barr in al-Isti`ab (2:464=3:1149).

    • Avatar

      Yahya Whitmer

      July 30, 2012 at 2:16 AM

      Both Ibn Kathir and Ibn Hajir used this as evidence for asking the Imam of the Muslim community to make istisqaa, not as a justification for making du’a to the Prophet (alayhis-salam). Alhamdulillah. Again, no problem here.

      • Avatar


        July 31, 2012 at 4:04 AM

        Thanks brother Yahya. Neither Ibn Hajar nor Ibn Kathir in their books reprimanded the Companion Bilal bin al-Harith of committing shirk when he went to the grave of the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) to ask the Prophet to ask Allah for rain. And neither did the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) reprimand Bilal that he did something wrong. And no report exists from other Companions reprimanding Bilal who would certainly have done so had Bilal been wrong. What is your understanding of Bilal ibn al-Harith’s request to the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) at his noble grave?

        • Avatar

          Yahya Whitmer

          July 31, 2012 at 4:58 AM

          Dear brother, I believe a comprehensive look at the related narrations will clarify this. Ibn Abdul Barr, the great Imam of Al Magrib reported the following variation in “Al Ist’ab fee Ma’rifati Al Ashab”: The people suffered a drought during the time of ‘Umar (his khilafah), whereupon a man came to the grave of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) and said:”O Messenger of Allah, ask for rain for your Community, for verily they have but perished,” after which the Prophet appeared to him in a dream and told him: “Go to ‘Umar and tell him to do istisqa’ (ask Allah for rain) for the people, and that they will be watered. And tell him: You must be clever, you must be clever!” So, the man went and told ‘Umar, and Umar cried and said “O my Lord, I spare no effort except in what escapes my power!”

          In this narration, it clearly indicates, without a shadow of a doubt, that the Prophet himself (alayhis-salam) is guiding the person to seek the prayer of one that is living and present instead of seeking prayer from the Prophet after his passing. That is why Ibn Hajr in Fath Al Bari mentions these narrations in the context of asking the Imam to make istisqaa. So, we have the Prophet’s own directions delivered via a true dream, plus the actions of the Sahabah, plus the understanding of the Imams of Islam, all indicating that this type of tawassul should be asked of those who are alive (as Umar was) and present (hence the command to “go” to him). Alhamdulillah.

          And just for clarification, this series was never meant to address issues like this. Invocations such as “Oh Allah, I ask you by your Prophet” or “Oh Prophet, I ask you to ask Allah” are outside the scope of these articles. It is only the direct invocations, such as “Oh Prophet, give me sustenance” or “Oh Wali, heal my sickness” that we are concerned with addressing. But your contribution has enabled us to address this particular nuance, so thanks again, wa jazak Allahu khairan.

          • Avatar


            July 31, 2012 at 5:47 PM

            Brother Yahya, my question is: In spite of your interpretation of the narration above, why did Bilal bin al-Harith do what he did in the first place?

            Bilal, a Companion, went to the grave of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) to ask the Prophet to make du’a for them. You have not discussed this specific act and the fact that it was not condemned by anyone — not by other Companions, not by Ibn Kathir or Ibn Hajar of other scholars familiar with this narration, or by the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) himself in the narration.

            Had it been shirk or reprehensible in any other way, all of the aforementioned would have severely reprimanded Bilal ibn al-Harith or at least opposed it in some way. None did.

            Therefore, in spite of the interpretation you have, there is no evidence that condemns the specific act that Bilal ibn al-Harith did at the Prophet’s grave (peace and blessings upon him). If none condemned this act, it must be a permitted act.

          • Avatar

            Yahya Whitmer

            July 31, 2012 at 6:06 PM

            Assuming the narrations are authentic, the instructions of the Prophet, the actions of his companions, and the interpretations of the Imams of Islam are all crystal clear on this: Make tawassul through the living and present. The narrations do not indicate that the Prophet affirmed Bilal ibn Al Harith’s act and that he agreed to pray to Allah in response to Bilal’s request. Instead the dream instructed him to go to Omar. There’s no approval anywhere, from the Prophet, the companions or Ibn Kathir or Ibn Hajr, and approval is what is required to make it a part of the Shari’ah. This is an act of worship, and worship is only permitted via means affirmed by the Prophet (alayhis-salam). This is not mu’amalat.

          • Avatar

            Yahya Whitmer

            July 31, 2012 at 6:13 PM

            Why insist on doing something the Prophet guided you away from? It’s perplexing to me.

          • Avatar


            July 31, 2012 at 6:24 PM

            The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not condemn this act of Bilal ibn al-Harith and neither did other Companions. This is the point. It is clear that had Bilal ibn al-Harith been doing shirk — something completely unlawful and blasphemous — he would have been stopped, don’t you think? And why wouldn’t he have been stopped by anyone if he was so extremely wrong? This is simple. If there is no explicit condemnation of this act by the Prophet, Companions, or the Imams, then we accept it, even if we accept your interpretation of asking the living and present. In other words, one cannot logically deduce that if the Prophet (pbuh) says to go to Omar in this narration that it necessarily means not to go to the Prophet or anyone else in at their grave. Unless there is evidence to substantiate the latter, then Bilal’s action at the grave of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is legitimate and permissible. Do you have evidence that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the Companions, or the classical scholars of Ahl al-Sunnah condemned the act of Bilal ibn al-Harith as shirk or reprehensible?

          • Avatar

            Yahya Whitmer

            July 31, 2012 at 6:32 PM

            It’s not shirk. Never said it was. It is also not an approved means of worship, since Prophetic approval is required for affirming any act as a valid means of worship.

  7. Avatar


    July 29, 2012 at 8:12 PM

    Brother Yahya,
    Regarding the hadeeth of the man in need (via Uthman ibn Hunayf), you said:

    “Only one person, Shabīb Ibn Saʿīd, reports this version of the narration. He is considered a trustworthy narrator (ṣadūq) with a weak memory and in this case he contradicts more reliable narrators who do not mention this incident which occurs after the Prophet’s death.”
    Rather, Shabib is deemed as trustworthy. Regarding what you say about Shabib, let us look at the authentication [ta’dil] of Shabib amongst the Ulema:

    Ibn Hajar in Tahdhib al-Tahdhib (vol. 4, no. 534) mentioned Shabib as follows:

    [ 534 ] خ خد س البخاري وأبي داود في الناسخ والمنسوخ والنسائي شبيب بن سعيد التميمي الحبطي أبو سعيد البصري روى عن أبان بن أبي عياش وروح بن القاسم ويونس بن يزيد الأيلي وغيره وعنه بن وهب ويحيى بن أيوب وزيد بن بشر الحضرمي وابنه أحمد بن شبيب قال بن المديني ثقة كان يختلف في تجارة إلى مصر وكتابه كتاب صحيح وقال أبو زرعة لا بأس به وقال أبو حاتم كان عنده كتب يونس بن زيد وهو صالح الحديث لا بأس به وقال النسائي ليس به بأس وقال بن عدي ولشبيب نسخة الزهري عنده عن يونس عن الزهري أحاديث مستقيمة وحدث عنه بن وهب بأحاديث مناكير وذكره بن حبان في الثقات قلت وقال بن يونس في تاريخ الغرباء مات بالبصرة سنة ست وثمانين ومائة فيما ذكره البخاري وقال الدارقطني ثقةونقل بن خلفون توثيقه عن الذهلي ولما ذكره بن عدي وقال الكلام المتقدم قال بعده ولعل شبيبا لما قدم مصر في تجارته كتب عنه بن وهب من حفظه فغلط ووهم وأرجو أن لا يتعمد الكذب وإذا حدث عنه ابنه أحمد فكأنه شبيب آخر يعني يجود وقال الطبراني في الأوسط ثقة

    Shabib in Ta’rikh al-Kabir of Imam al-Bukhari (vol. 4)

    [ 2628 ] شبيب بن سعيد نا يونس بن يزيد وعن محمد بن عمر روى عنه عبد الله بن وهب وابنه أحمد البصري

    Shabib ibn Sa’eed in Thiqat of Ibn Hibban

    [ 13614 ] شبيب بن سعيد الحبطي أبو سعيد من أهل مصر يروى عن محمد بن عمرو ويونس بن يزيد الأيلي روى عنه بن وهب وابنه أحمد بن شبيب وهو الذي يروى عن شعبة وروح بن القاسم

    Shabib in al Jarh wa Ta’dil (4/359, no. 1572) of Ibn Abi Hatim al Razi

    [ 1572 ]
    شبيب بن سعيد أبو سعيد التميمي والد أحمد بن شبيب بن سعيد البصري

    روى عن روح بن القاسم ويونس بن يزيد ومحمد بن عمرو

    روى عنه عبد الله بن وهب وابنه أحمد بن شبيب بن سعيد سمعت أبى يقول ذلك وسألته عنه فقال كان عنده كتب يونس بن يزيد وهو صالح الحديث لا بأس به نا عبد الرحمن قال سمعت أبا زرعة يقول شبيب بن سعيد لا باس به بصرى كتب عنه بن وهب بمصر

    From the above it can be collated that the following made Tawthiq on Shabib :

    Ibn al-Madini said: Thiqa – Trustworthy

    Abu Zur’a: La Ba’sa bi-hi – There is no harm in him

    Abu Hatim: Wa huwa sâlih al-Hadith la ba’sa bihi: He is passable in Hadith, there is no harm in him

    Nasa’i: Laysa bihi ba’s – There is no harm (in his reports)

    Ibn Hibban listed him in his book on Thiqat (trustworthy narrators)

    Daraqutni: Thiqa – Trustworthy (This tawthiq from al-Daraqutni was reported by his pupil, Abu Abdullah al-Hakim in his Sawalat (no. 353) )

    Al-Dhuhli made Tawthiq (declared him Thiqa)

    Tabarani declared him Thiqa in al-Awsat (and in his al-Saghir, no. 509)

    Bukhari listed him in his Ta’rikh al-Kabir and made no disparagement on him at all, even though he mentioned that Ibn Wahb narrated from Shabib. We also know that Al-Bukhari narrated via him in his Sahih.

    We also know that: Al-Hakim in his Mustadrak (1/526) declared Shabib to be Thiqa Ma’mun – Trustworthy and reliable – which is a high form of making tawthiq on a narrator.

    So, from what was mentioned by Sh. Mamduh and provided by Sh. Abul Hasan above we conclude the following:

    The following ulema have declared Shabib to be utterly reliable / THIQA:

    Ali Ibn al-Madini,




    Ibn Hibban,

    and Imam al-Hakim (1:526=1:707) who actually said THIQA MA’MUN, which is even stronger.

    • Avatar

      Yahya Whitmer

      July 30, 2012 at 2:14 AM

      Thanks for sharing. As you may well know, the strength of a narration is not merely dependent on the status of the individual narrators, but also depends on the relationship between the narrators. Shabib’s narrations are particularly strong when transmitted by his son Ahmad, because they were written down (these are the narrations that Imam Al Bulkhari used and those are the narrations that Ibn Al Madeeni approved of). Ibn Hajr also mentions this and goes onto say the Shabib’s narrations, when transmitted by Ibn Wahb (as is the case with the narration that has the questionable content) are problematic. This information can be found in his book Taqreeb. Ibn Adiy’, who is the author of the massive and authoritative book Al Kamil fee Al Jarh wa Ta’deel, explicitly mentions that Shabib’s narrations as transmitted by Ibn Wahb are weak and contain reprehensible things. Alhamdulillah, no problems here. I wanted to avoid an in depth discussion about the narrators because it isn’t relevant for most readers, but I’m glad to engage with you. Thanks again.

      • Avatar


        July 31, 2012 at 4:32 AM

        Thanks brother Yahya. The same hadeeth we are discussing was deemed “sahih” by Imam al-Baihaqi in his “Dala’il Nubuwah”. The hadeeth isnad is as follows:

        Ya‘qub ibn Sufyan who said that Ahmad ibn Shabib ibn Sa‘id reported to me that his father [Shabib] reported to him from Rauh ibn al-Qàsim from Abu Ja‘far al-Khatami from Abu Usamah ibn Sahl ibn Hunaif that a man was going to ‘Uthmàn ibn ‘Affàn and he mentioned the story in its entirety.

        Note that the chain above does NOT contain the narrator Ibn Wahb, so no problem with the hadeeth or narrators. Therefore, we accept the hadeeth as valid and authentic. Thanks for the discussion.

        • Avatar

          Yahya Whitmer

          July 31, 2012 at 5:30 AM

          I don’t see Bayhaqi’s declaration of Saheeh for that particular chain. In fact he mentions that this extra content (ziyadah) was added during Ramadhan 44 A.H. I’m not sure of the exact context for that comment.

          • Avatar


            July 31, 2012 at 12:40 PM

            Al-Baihaqi reported the hadith in his “Dalà’ilu al-Nubuwah”, p. 166, vol. 6, and in his al-Da‘wat al-Kabir. He classified it as Sahih.

          • Avatar

            Yahya Whitmer

            July 31, 2012 at 2:13 PM

            In Dala’il An-Nubuwwah and Al-Da’wat, the only narration that Al Bayhaqi explicitly mentions as being Saheeh is the one that does not contain the incident that occurs after the Prophet’s death, just as Al Tabarani did.

          • Avatar


            July 31, 2012 at 5:35 PM

            Brother Yahya, thanks. For clarity purposes, can you please quote the part of the hadeeth that you said Imam Bayhaqi and Tabarani deemed “Sahih”? I want to make sure I’m following you without confusion. Thanks.

          • Avatar

            Yahya Whitmer

            July 31, 2012 at 5:49 PM

            It is the actual hadeeth, the incident involving the Messenger and the blind man and does not contain the story that occurs after the Prophet’s passing. Here is Bayhaqi’s text:

            أَخْبَرَنَا أَبُو عَبْدِ اللهِ الْحَافِظُ، حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو الْعَبَّاسِ مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ يَعْقُوبَ، حَدَّثَنَا الْعَبَّاسُ بْنُ مُحَمَّدٍ
            الدُّورِيُّ، وَأَنْبَأَنَا أَبُو بَكْرٍ أَحْمَدُ بْنُ الْحَسَنِ الْقَاضِي، حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو عَلِيٍّ حَامِدُ بْنُ مُحَمَّدٍ الْهَرَوِيُّ، حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ يُونُسَ، قَالَا: حَدَّثَنَا عُثْمَانُ بْنُ عُمَرَ، حَدَّثَنَا شُعْبَةُ، عَنْ أَبِي جَعْفَرٍ الْخَطْمِيِّ، قَالَ: سَمِعْتُ عُمَارَةَ بْنَ خُزَيْمَةَ بْنِ ثَابِتٍ، يُحَدِّثُ عَنْ عُثْمَانَ بْنِ حُنَيْفٍ، أَنَّ رَجُلًا ضَرِيرًا أَتَى النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، فَقَالَ: ادْعُ اللهَ لِي أَنْ يُعَافِيَنِيَ، قَالَ: «فَإِنْ شِئْتَ أَخَّرْتُ ذَلِكَ فَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَكَ، وَإِنْ شِئْتَ دَعَوْتُ اللهَ» ، قَالَ: فَادْعُهُ قَالَ: فَأَمَرَهُ أَنْ يَتَوَضَّأَ فَيُحْسِنَ الْوُضُوءَ، وَيُصَلِّيَ رَكْعَتَيْنِ وَيَدَعُوَ بِهَذَا الدُّعَاءِ: «اللهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ وَأَتَوَجَّهُ إِلَيْكَ بِنَبِيِّكَ مُحَمَّدٍ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ نَبِيِّ الرَّحْمَةِ، يَا مُحَمَّدُ إِنِّي أَتَوَجَّهُ بِكَ إِلَى رَبِّي فِي حَاجَتِي هَذِهِ فَتَقْضِيهَا لِي، اللهُمَّ شَفِّعْهُ فِيَّ وَشَفِّعْنِي فِي نَفْسِي» هَذَا لَفْظُ حَدِيثِ الْعَبَّاسِ، زَادَ مُحَمَّدَ بْنَ يُونُسَ فِي رِوَايَتِهِ، قَالَ فَقَامَ وَقَدْ أَبْصَرَ، وَرَوَيْنَاهُ فِي كِتَابِ الدَّعَوَاتِ بِإِسْنَادٍ صَحِيحٍ عَنْ رَوْحِ بْنِ عُبَادَةَ، عَنْ شُعْبَةَ، فَفَعَلَ الرَّجُلُ فَبَرَأَ، وَكَذَلِكَ رَوَاهُ حَمَّادُ بْنُ سَلَمَةَ، عَنْ أَبِي جَعْفَرٍ الْخَطْمِيِّ

  8. Avatar


    July 31, 2012 at 5:29 AM

    Dear brother Yahya, I will continue our discussion on the matters below.

    It is interesting to know what Shaykh Al-Albani said:

    “Imaam Ahmad allowed tawassul by means of the Messenger alone, and others such as Imaam ash-Shawkaanee allowed tawassul by means of him and other Prophets and the Pious.” [al-Albani, At-Tawassul p. 38]


    Imam Ahmad and Tawassul:( المرداوي في الإنصاف ( 2:456
    “… يجوز التوسل بالرجل الصالح على الصحيح من المذهب، وقيل:
    يُستحب. قال الإمام أحمد للمروذي : يتوسل بالنبي صلى اله عليه وسلم في دعائه
    وجزم به في المستوعب وغيره..”Al-Mardawi said: “The correct position of the [Hanbali] madhhab is that it is permissible in one’s du`a to use as one’s means a pious person (saalih), and it is said that it is desirable (mustahabb). Imam Ahmad said to Abu Bakr al-Marwazi: ‘Let him use the Prophet as a means in his supplication to Allah.’” (Al-Insaf 2:456) This is also cited by Ibn Taymiyyah in Majmu’ Al-Fatawa (1:140).
    Imam Shawkani and Tawassul:قال الشوكاني في تحفة الذاكرين:
    “وفي الحديث دليل على جواز التوسل برسول الله صلى اله عليه وسلم إلى الله عز وجل
    مع اعتقاد أن الفاعل هو الله سبحانه وتعالى، وأنه المعطي والمانع ما شاء.(10/ كان وما لم يشأ لم يكن” (تحفة الأحوذي 34Al-Shawkani said, in Tuhfatul Dhakireen:
    “And in this hadith is proof for the permissibility of tawassul through the Prophet [s] to Allah, with the conviction that the [actual] doer is Allah, and that He is the Giver and the Withholder. What He wills is, and what He does not will, will never be.”
    Imam Nawawi on Tawassul:النووي في المجموع شرح المهذب (كتاب الحج):
    ثم يرجع إلى موقفه الأول قبالة وجه رسول الله صلى اله عليه وسلم ويتوسل به في حق
    نفسه، ويستشفع به إلى ربه سبحانه وتعالى[The pilgrim] should then face the shrine of the Messenger of Allah (s) , make him an intermediary [to Allah], and intercede through him to Allah… (Majmu’ Sharh Al-Madhhab – Kitab Al-Hajj)
    Imam Ibn Khuzaymah and Tawassul:( 7/ ابن حجر في تهذيب التهذيب ( 339قال (الحاكم النيسابوري) وسمعت أبا بكر محمد بن المؤمل بن الحسن
    بن عيسى يقول خرجنا مع امام أهل الحديث أبي بكر بن خزيمة وعديله
    أبي علي الثقفي مع جماعة من مشائخنا وهم إذ ذاك متوافرون إلى زيارة
    قبر علي بن موسى الرضى بطوس قال فرأيت من تعظيمه يعنى ابن خزيمة
    لتلك البقعة وتواضعه لها وتضرعه عندها ما تحيرنا.
    Ibn Hajar (Tahdhib 7:339) narrates the account of the Imam of Ahlul-Hadith Ibn Khuzaymah, under the entry of the same Ali bin Musa Al-Ridha. He relates that Ibn Khuzaymah also performed tawassul at the grave of Al-Ridha.
    Ibn Hibban and Tawassul: ( 8/456/ ابن حبان في كتابه الثقات ( 14411
    مات على بن موسى الرضا بطوس من شربة سقاه إياها المأمون فمات من
    ساعته وذلك في يوم السبت آخر يوم سنة ثلاث ومائتين وقبره بسناباذ
    خارج النوقان مشهور يزار بجنب قبر الرشيد، قد زرته مرارا كثيرة وما
    حلت بي شدة في وقت مقامى بطوس فزرت قبر على بن موسى الرضا
    صلوات الله على جده وعليه ودعوت الله إزالتها عنى إلا أستجيب لي
    وزالت عنى تلك الشدة وهذا شيء جربته مرارا فوجدته كذلك أماتنا
    الله على محبة المصطفى وأهل بيته صلى الله عليه وعليهم أجمعين.
    In his Rijal book Al-Thuqat (8:456:14411), under the entry of Ali bin Musa al-Ridha, Ibn Hibban relates his own account of going to Al-Ridha’s grave, performing tawassul through him and states that whenever “I was afflicted with a problem during my stay in Tus, I would visit the grave of Ali bin Musa (Allah’s blessings be upon his grandfather and him) and ask Allah to relieve me of that problem and it (my dua) would be answered and the problem alleviated. And this is something I did, and found to work, many times …”
    The `Ulema have allowed tawassul when asking Allah through an intermediary is not present or alive. It is inconceivable that the `Ulema above did not understand their religion properly, and their understandings also contradict the understanding that you have tawassul. Thanks for sharing and I enjoy our tolerant discussion. Take care.

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      Yahya Whitmer

      July 31, 2012 at 5:46 AM

      Again, tawassul is an ambiguous term, you’re going to have to define what you mean by it. In the story above, the author (and I have no idea if its is Ibn Hibban or someone else) does not mention invoking anybody in their du’aa, only that they used to pray to Allah at their graves. The Prophet prohibited and warned of the curse of God upon anyone who took the graves of the Prophets as a place of worship, as found in narrations by Muslim and Imam Ahmad. That instruction and the obvious scenarios that can be derived from that instruction are enough for me. And yes, there are several Ulama of the earliest generations that allowed tawassul through the Prophet alone (not extending it to Awliyaa or others). Again, their interpretation of tawassul was often of the type: “Oh Allah I ask you through your Prophet” and never, ever a direct request to the Prophet for aid and succor (alayhis-salam).

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        July 31, 2012 at 11:42 AM

        Dear brother Yahya, thanks again for your kind response.

        Just so I understand your perspective clearly and do not misunderstand you, are you saying that asking ‘Allah’ through an intermediary who is absent or living the life of barzakh is okay? For example, “Oh Allah I ask you through your Prophet”. It seems from your answer above that this is agreeable to you, and that the direct invocation is problematic, i.e. “Oh Prophet of Allah, Oh Shaykh Abdal-Qadir Jeelani, etc.”. Am I correct? If yes, then you are in agreement with Imams Nawawi and Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal.

        Again, please note Imam Nawawi’s comment:
        النووي في المجموع شرح المهذب (كتاب الحج):
        ثم يرجع إلى موقفه الأول قبالة وجه رسول الله صلى اله عليه وسلم ويتوسل به في حق
        نفسه، ويستشفع به إلى ربه سبحانه وتعالى
        [The pilgrim] should then face the shrine of the Messenger of Allah (s) , make him an intermediary [to Allah], and intercede through him to Allah… (Majmu’ Sharh Al-Madhhab – Kitab Al-Hajj).

        Also, again please note the Hanbali madhab’s position on tawassul, as well as Imam Shawkani’s position. Shaykh al-Albani also confirmed this to be the case as stated in his book, “Tawassul”.

        JazakAllahu-khayr and thank for being so open and interested in discussing this matter. I greatly appreciate it and May Allah Bless you.

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          Yahya Whitmer

          July 31, 2012 at 5:44 PM

          As far as I know, the early scholars who permitted tawassul limited it to the Prophet alone, at least in the Hanbali mathhab. Their interpretation of tawassul involved asking Allah while mentioning the station of the Prophet (alayhis-salam). It never involved directing asking the Prophet for aid and even this type of tawassul is a point of contention withing the Hanbali mathhab because of the lack of supporting evidence from the actions of the Sahabah and Tabi’een and conflicting narrations from Imam Ahmad. In any case, it is a minority opinion amongst early scholars, meeting with especially stiff opposition from Abu Haneefah.

          Extending this tawassul to other people in the state of Barzakh is most definitely not the opinion of Imam Ahmad.

          I adhere to the opinion of the majority of early scholars in this issue in that it is not a recommended practice.

          The issue that we are trying to address is the act of praying to the Creation. This is often done under the guise of “tawassul” but is in reality dua’ to the creation and thus Shirk. For instance “Oh Prophet, grant me sustenance” or “Oh Ali, protect me”. This is not tawassul or shifa’ah, but rather direct invocation and Shirk.

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    Yahya Whitmer

    July 31, 2012 at 7:59 PM

    Thanks for the information. In sha Allah, I will look into this later when I have the chance. As I mentioned earlier, this form of tawassul (through the Prophet, after his death) are not at all the subject of this series and I recognize that there is legitimate difference of opinion between the early scholars regarding it. My purpose in introducing the concept of tawassul in this installment was to make readers aware that this term is sometimes used to describe the direct invocation (Such as: “Oh Wali, save me!”) of created beings and that this is a false pretense.

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    August 12, 2012 at 5:41 PM

    What a joke

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    August 14, 2012 at 1:00 AM

    What a joke

  12. Avatar


    August 15, 2012 at 9:26 PM

    Dear Br. Yahya,
    A short investigation has revealed that Muhammad is simply quoting the web-sites of people who enjoy calling on other than Allah and try to furnish proofs in its favor. It would not be useful to have a dialogue with him keeping this in mind.

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    Dawud Israel

    October 30, 2012 at 11:19 PM

    Salam aleikum Yahya,

    Belated Eid mubarak.

    I almost forgot about this series of posts. I didn’t want to make the same mistake I made with the first post, which was being presumptuous in anticipating what sort of approach you were going to take and being unfair in letting you explain your understanding, so I thought I would wait for some more posts in your series. Its not the fastest series of posts…but hey, take your time! :)

    Re: Tawassul via the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) in Life AND Death

    I think for this one has to simply look at Rasulullah (salallahu alayhi wasalam) getting assistance from Musa (alayhi salam) on Isra wa’l Miraaj to lower the number of salat we have to perform. We all know Musa (alayhi salam) had been dead for probably hundreds of years and yet everybody knows this story of clear tawassul.

    Re: Calling on the Dead

    This is not prohibited per se on its own, since it has to include intention. I think thats important to stress and emphasize. We know Rasulullah would call upon the defeated dead on Day of Badr, “O Utba! O Shayba!” and when Hamza (radiallahu anhu) died, he (salallahu alayhi wasalam) called on him weeping, “O Hamza! O Uncle of the Messenger of Allah! O Lion of Allah!” Does these dead men were gods being worshipped by being called out to?

    Furthermore, we have other examples in our history such as Sayyidina Umar (radiallahu anhu) writing a letter to the Nile River commanding it to flow, or when Sayyidina Umar (radiallahu anhu) talked to the Black Stone, an inanimate object about how it is merely a rock. Writing letters to rivers and calling out to rocks…doesn’t that sound like what an idol-worshipper would do?

    So what is the difference between this and what you are speaking about?

    Re: Praying at Graves

    Imam Nawawi’s Riyadus-Saliheen has this chapter on visiting graves and making dua to Allah at graves, which the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasalam) would do for many of the shuhada among the Sahaba. My Dar as-Salam translation of Riyadus Saliheen however, has this chapter removed from it and I think this is where the misunderstanding comes from. We all know the Prophet forbade the visitation of graves initially because the Muslims were still young in the deen and jahiliyya was still strong, but when eman had set in their hearts, he told them to visit the graves because they remind one of death. Another thing the believers found was that their duas to Allah would be quickly answered at certain times and places, and one of these places are the graves of the righteous.

    “The grave of Sayyidina Musa al-Kadhim is a tried prescription (mujarab).” – Imam al-Shafi’i

    The Maliki madhhab says it is permissible (or praiseworthy) to pray salah near a grave because the grave of 70 Prophets are buried at the Kaaba, including Ismail (alayhi salam) and his blessed mother Hajar. Praying BY a grave is different from praying TO a grave, the latter which we all know is explicitly prohibited and shirk. The only way for us to make this distinction clear and preventing shirk is by educating people about the deen.

    Their are other things and stronger proofs I would bring up but I think I will leave it at that. Most of the thing I mentioned I was not aware of, until perhaps a year ago, but the more I learn about the Seerah and Tafsir, and the more I think about it, the more I find tawassul misunderstandings a distorted anachronism of the past and a consequence of our own unwillingness to fully immerse ourself in studying Islam to discover what Allah has intended for us by it, not as how we want it to be understood. I think if we have ikhlas, inshallah these issues will be clarified.


    • Avatar


      December 10, 2012 at 8:53 PM

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      “Prophet forbade the visitation of graves initially because the Muslims were still young in the deen and jahiliyya was still strong, but when eman had set in their hearts, he told them to visit the graves because they remind one of death.”

      There is a WHOLE difference between visiting a grave and taking a grave as a place of worship. Whoever takes a grave as a place of worship has disobeyed Allah and His Messenger even if he did not commit shirk.

  14. Avatar


    May 12, 2014 at 3:48 PM

    I just wanted to add the commentary of Imam Yusuf Salihi–that he established a chapter saying “Tawassul after the Death of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w” — and after that he gave that hadith the one found in al-Tabarani’s book.. which deals with the “man in need”–
    This is what is said in Sabl al-Hadi– (12/407):
    الباب الخامس في ذكر من توسل به- صلى الله عليه وسلم- بعد موته
    روى الطبراني والبيهقي- بإسناد متّصل ورجاله ثقات- عن عثمان بن حنيف أن رجلا كان يختلف إلى عثمان بن عفّان في حاجة، فكان عثمان لا يلتفت إليه ولا ينظر في حاجته، فلقي عثمان بن حنيف فشكا إليه ذلك، فقال له عثمان بن حنيف: ائت الميضأة، فتوضأ ثمّ ائت المسجد فصلّ فيه ركعتين، ثم قال: اللهم إني أسالك وأتوجّه إليك بنبينا محمد- صلى الله عليه وسلم- نبي الرحمة، يا محمّد إني أتوجّه بك إلى ربي فتقضي حاجتي، وتذكر حاجتك، ورح حتى أروح معك، فانطلق الرجل فصنع ما قال له، ثم أتى باب عثمان، فجاءه البواب حتى أخذ بيده، فأدخله على عثمان، فأجلسه معه على الطّنفسة، فقال: ما حاجتك؟ فذكرها له، وقال له: ما ذكرت حاجتك حتى كان الساعة، وقال: ما كانت لك من حاجة فاذكرها، ثم إن الرجل خرج من عنده فلقي عثمان بن حنيف، فقال له: جزاك الله خيرا ما كان ينظر في حاجتي ولا يلتفت إلى حتى كلمته
    *He also classes this hadith as Sahih…
    * The hadith doesn’t ‘contradict’ with the other hadith of the “blind man” – instead doesn’t it actually go ‘in line’ with that hadith because the companion that tells the man after his need is fulfilled that “I saw the messenger of Allah (s.a.w) instruct a man do the same”..

  15. Avatar


    May 12, 2014 at 4:30 PM

    (1/64) #29—العدة للكرب والشدة لضياء الدين المقدسي
    قَالَ الطَّبَرَانِيُّ : لَمْ يَرْوِهِ عَنْ رَوْحِ بْنِ الْقَاسِمِ ، إِلَّا شَبِيبُ بْنُ سَعِيدٍ أَبُو سَعِيدٍ الْمَكِّيُّ ، وَهُوَ ثِقَةٌ . وَقَدْ رَوَى هَذَا الْحَدِيثَ شُعْبَةُ ، عَنْ أَبِي جَعْفَرٍ الْخَطْمِيِّ ، وَاسْمُهُ عُمَيْرُ بْنُ يَزِيدَ ، وَهُوَ ثِقَةٌ ، تَفَرَّدَ بِهِ عُثْمَانُ بْنُ عُمَرَ ، عَنْ شُعْبَةَ ، وَالْحَدِيثُ صَحِيحٌ . رَوَاهُ التِّرْمِذِيُّ مُخْتَصِرًا ذِكْرَ الدُّعَاءِ . وَالنَّسَائِيُّ فِي عَمَلِ يَوْمٍ وَلَيْلَةٍ ، جَمِيعًا عَنْ مَحْمُودِ بْنِ غَيْلَانَ ، عَنْ عُثْمَانَ بْنِ عُمَرَ ، عَنْ شُعْبَةَ ، عَنْ أَبِي جَعْفَرٍ ، عَنْ عُمَارَةَ بْنِ خُزَيْمَةَ بْنِ ثَابِتٍ ، عَنْ عُثْمَانَ بْنِ حَنِيفٍ . وَقَالَ : حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ صَحِيحٌ غَرِيبٌ . وَرَوَاهُ أَيْضًا ابْنُ مَاجَهْ ، كَذَلِكَ عَنْ أَحْمَدَ بْنِ مَنْصُورِ بْنِ سَيَّارٍ ، عَنْ عُثْمَانَ بْنِ عُمَرَ ، بِإِسْنَادِهِ نَحْوَهُ .
    -Isn’t he–Tabarani– classing both of these ‘sahih’
    -Imam Bayhaqi mentions this hadith In his Dlail al Nubuwwa at– (6/168) #2429
    -Also check Imam Mubarapuri’s commentary on Tirmidhi’s Hadith #3578–where he cites this hadith and also shows Imam Shawkani’s position on this matter.

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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



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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Should I Pray Taraweeh Or Make Up Prayers?

Danish Qasim



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)


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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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



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.


  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:

Few articles providing overview of some issues discussed:

Arguments for using calculation:

An Analysis of Moon Sighting Arguments

The argument against using calculation:

Issues of the long fast:

Combining Maghreb and Isha:

[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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