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Sharia and Reform | Dr Hatem Al-Haj

Dr. Hatem El Haj M.D Ph.D

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Many ‘conservative’ Muslims feel instantly uncomfortable when they hear someone talk about tajdeed (renewal) of the religion. Some of us do this out of fear of the unknown. This is partly because our Ummah suffers from a great deal of weakness and disunity, which fosters an environment of defensiveness and mistrust. However, our fears that stem from the call to tajdeed may not be all unjustifiable. After all, many of the callers to tajdeed of the deen are utterly unqualified for the job.

They dismiss much of the established Sunnah, and defy the definitive implications of the text of revelation with complete disregard for the cumulative tradition. They are quick to dismiss the great jurists of Islam, claiming that they were but a product of their culture and were blindfolded by their biases. It also seems to the ‘conservative’ Muslim that much of the proposed tajdeed is simply an act of unconditional surrender to the mainstream modern culture, making the Divine instruction subject to the influence of people’s relative and changing thoughts and social constructs. However, the problem that may result from our timidity to contribute to this discourse about tajdeed is that others may hijack its banner, and all the people who are frustrated with the condition of the Ummah and yearning for a change will be tempted to follow them.

The Messenger of Allah (saws) said: “Indeed, Allah sends for this Ummah, at the onset of every century, those who renew (literally: make tajdeed) of the religion for it.”[1] Therefore, the one who calls for tajdeed should not be denounced, since the first one to utter this term in this context was the Messenger of Allah (saws) himself. Rather, the discussion should revolve around the intended meaning of this tajdeed. Does it only mean ‘restoration’? If it does, why did the Prophet (saws) use it in the sense of ‘renewal’ instead, when there are Arabic words that specifically mean ‘restoration’? Also, ‘restoration’ sounds more suitable for a static structure, like a historic building that you want to bring back to its original beauty. Our deen is a living entity with one spirit, consistent objectives, and overarching maxims, but with a flexible legal framework that can appropriately engage with changing realities. ‘Renewal’ is thus the right word. But if it is about renewal, how can we ‘renew’ the religion? Does this mean we have the liberty to change the Divine instruction?

The default status in the religion is that it remains unchanging, and most of what is meant by ‘renewal’ is actually restoration done simply through reviving that which is original, and cleansing that which is unoriginal, such as the innovations and customs of people which conflict with the revelation. Aside from that, there is another type of renewal, and that is the ijtihâd-based renewal. This is what the scholars refer to by saying, “The change in rulings due to the change in times is not to be denounced.”[2] One example of this was when ‘Umar (ra) prevented al-mu’allafati quloobuhum[3] from receiving their share of zakât when he saw that Allah had empowered Islam and the Muslims during his blessed caliphate. In another instance, ‘Uthmân (ra) commanded during his caliphate that the stray camel be taken, sold, and its price kept for its owner. This was contrary to the original ruling, wherein taking stray camels is prohibited, but it was resorted to because of the moral deterioration that had occurred between the time of the Prophet (saws) and the time of the caliphate of ‘Uthmân (ra). Similarly, it was undisputed among the early Ḥanafi scholars that taking a wage for teaching Qur’an was unlawful; they later consented to allow Qur’an teachers to receive payment when volunteers became few in number – out of fear that knowledge of the Qur’an would be lost.

Did these greats change the legislated ruling? Never that, for the legislation of Allah is not subject to change. Allah, the Most High, says (what means): {They took their scholars and monks as lords besides Allah} (at-Tawbah 9:31), and the Messenger of Allah (saws) explained to ‘Adi ibn Ḥâtim (ra) that this occurred by following them in considering the unlawful as permissible and the permissible as unlawful.[4] Moreover, would this not be exactly what the Messenger of Allah (saws) prohibited when he said: “If anyone introduces into this matter of ours what is not from it, it will be rejected.”[5]?

Therefore, it is impossible that they changed the ḥukm (as it refers to the Divine khiṭâb or instruction), even if some of the scholars used that term, for they only meant the fatwa (religious edict) and not the actual ruling in Sharia. A single act can have two different fatwas because of the variant circumstances in different contextual scenarios.

To further clarify, let us take the example of receiving wages for teaching Qur’an. Its prohibition was a matter of agreement among the early Ḥanafi scholars, but then the practice was permitted by them later on. The question is, were the prohibition and permission with regard to the same thing? It appears that way, but upon taking a closer look, it becomes clear that we cannot equate between accepting a wage for teaching Qur’an at a time when many were enthusiastic about teaching it as an act of devotion (to Allah), and were supported financially from the state treasury, and a time when teachers were no longer sustained by the state treasury. In the latter situation, if they occupied themselves with teaching, their families would be lost, and if they occupied themselves with earning a livelihood, their students would be lost.

Thus, a particular scenario may call for a different set of rulings that suit it, and the mujtahid (the one who engages in ijtihâd) chooses from among them what is most suitable to it. Sometimes, the matter may fall between two rulings or two principles, in which case the judge attributes the matter to whichever of the two it seems closer. Closeness is determined either by technical deductions or through considering the ultimate objectives (maqâṣid) of Sharia, though it is preferred to give precedence to the ultimate objectives. This is obviously pertinent only to rulings which are affected by people’s customs and interests. Regarding this, Imam ash-Shâṭibi (may Allah bestow mercy upon him) said:

Rulings differing whenever customs differ is not really a difference in the Divine instruction itself, for the Sharia was revealed to be permanent and eternal. Hypothetically, were this world to remain without end, and the people remained liable [to uphold the Sharia] as well, the Sharia would not need any additions. In other words, whenever customs change, they would fall under another [different] principle of Sharia that would govern them…”[6]

In the example of taking wages for teaching the Qur’an, the first of the two principles was that there was no intention other than (the pleasure of) Allah in acts of devotion – and this supported the view of impermissibility in the first era; and the second was to preserve the Qur’an by teaching it to youngsters – and this supported the view of permissibility in the second era. The ijtihâd-based renewal considers the change of time and place, not because they are in themselves consequential to the rulings, but because they are vehicles of different circumstances that may be consequential to those rulings.

Some Practical Examples of Tajdeed

Sometimes we need to reexamine not only the rulings but the very terms we use, since the similarity of the name does not necessarily mean similarity of the named. For example, the prohibition of making a ṣoorah (translated as ‘picture’) of any being that can be said to have a soul: is this prohibition applicable to a photograph by virtue of the two things having a name in common in Arabic? Not likely. This still does not mean that they cannot share the same ruling. However, the prohibition of photographs (if one is so inclined) must be reached through analogy, and only if it meets the requirements.

Was war during the time of the Prophet like war is today? Lexically speaking, yes. However, we must ask ourselves if the one-on-one confrontation of thousands of individual soldiers sparring in a battlefield is like the mass and indiscriminate devastation that ensues from modern war. Should the difference be consequential? Should it make war an even remoter last resort? Did the early Muslims fight for humanity or against it? We are sure they fought and sacrificed their lives to achieve the cause of Divine justice and to liberate humanity from tyranny, to afford people the right to worship their Lord. If so, will the fact that most nations allow their subjects freedom of religion be consequential?

When the Prophet prohibited women from travelling alone, was travel then like travel now? Would a difference be consequential? It would, at least according to the scholars who rule as acceptable travelling with a safe company; they must have understood that there is some identifiable ‘illah (effective cause) for the prohibition. Sometimes, erudite scholars will even make the well-defined ḥikmah (wisdom/ultimate rationale) consequential to the rulings. Some may claim that, using the same rationale, we may also do away with hijab or the rules of proper conduct between the two sexes, since the human community has matured and it is safer for women to go out in whichever attire they please. This would be in defiance of the clear text and of the unchanging human nature as well. The Islamic rules of modesty were to protect women, men, and entire societies from an avalanche of evil that would result from failure to observe them. It must be also observed that the societies of the modern and ‘civilized’ humans of the twenty-first century, when compared to societies of earlier eras, are not experiencing lower rates of infidelity, family breakdown, rape, or psychological disorders related to sex. There is no level of education or cultural sophistication that has proved to be protective against any of these ills.

This religion has immense vitality, so there will never be a time where the mujtahideen fail at finding solutions for newly emerged challenges. All over the world, the change in living standards and conditions in the last two centuries has been immense. Some of these changes have had an enormous impact on family dynamics. In today’s world, if a woman had decided to stay at home for the interest of the family, and after forty years of marriage her husband divorces her, should he walk away with all of the family’s savings because it is ‘his’ money? Should she get half of it? What if this happened after only two years of marriage? Would that discourage many men from getting married? Is there a point of moderation between those two ends? The Sharia has in fact provided a solution, albeit controversial in this case, yet authentic and also supported by the apparent implication of the Qur’an, where Allah says (what means), {And for divorced women is a provision according to what is acceptable – a duty upon the righteous.} (al-Baqarah 2:241) This provision is called mut‘ah, which may be translated as ‘bereavement gift’ or alimony. If we employ this provision and make it sizeable and commensurate with the duration of marriage and the socioeconomic status of the family, we can have a legitimate solution for a new challenge.

Some people may argue that the same changes of our world should warrant a change to the laws of inheritance. This would not fall under tajdeed (renewal), but rather tabdeed (annihilation). This is a fixed law in the revelation. It is explicitly stated. It is not contingent upon the customs and interests of people. Women do not always take half of what men take. This is only true in certain cases. However, if you make the proportion of inheritance equal in all cases, you must also relieve the men from their responsibilities towards the women of their households and kin. While certain people (not necessarily Muslims) may find this to be acceptable during different times or eras, it defies the distribution of roles that Allah has designated based on innate differences between the sexes that are not subject to change. Such a suggestion would have been absurd to Westerners in the nineteenth century, and still is to many people throughout the world.

At times, we have conflicting scholarly positions. Some opinions may be indispensable in our times, even if they are counter to the majority position. When there is nothing definitive in the Quran and the Sunnah to prevent us from choosing to go with an opinion that provides a solution to a contemporary problem, we ought to. For example, in the past, the jurists differed regarding the methods by which a claim is established in the Islamic judiciary. Some limited it to whatever has been explicitly stated in, or extracted from, the revealed texts. Others widened the circle of evidences to include whatever reveals the truth and paves the way for justice. For this reason, basing rulings on qarâ’in (corroborative evidences) was a matter of debate among the jurists.

The difference today is that forensic science has evolved to such a degree that judicial systems throughout the world are extremely reliant on it. Law experts call this type of evidence ‘tangible proof,’ and despite it being considered a largely modern phenomenon, it still falls under corroborative evidences. The question is, where should the Islamic judiciary stand regarding forensic science? Should it benefit from it? Should this benefit be limited to guiding the criminal investigator and enlightening the judge with important details of the crime? Or should these evidences be used by the judge, whenever they qualify, even in the absence of the customary evidences known to Islamic jurisprudence such as the testimony of witnesses, admissions, oaths, and nukool (refusal to take an oath).

I believe that a reasoned incorporation of the tangible evidences in what counts as admissible proofs is completely warranted. This was the position of luminaries like Ibn al-Qayyim[7], Ibn Taymiyyah[8], and Ibn Farḥoon[9], and of the remaining Mâlikis, in addition to Ibn al-Ghars[10] of the Ḥanafis, and some Ḥanbalis[11]. The use of qarâ’in is emphatically not like redefining the admissible proofs or equating the testimony of women in financial matters to that of men. These actions would be in defiance of a clear text, while using corroborative evidences is not. There is reason to believe that there are specific differences between men and women that made the testimony of two women equal to that of one man in financial matters, while a woman’s testimony is of the same or higher value than a man’s in other areas, such as childbirth and breastfeeding.

Sometimes we create rigidity, and fear of ‘walking away’ from what we created. Neither the Prophet (saws) nor ‘Umar[12] (ra) decreed that the tarâweeḥ prayer should be done in congregation, or that it should be eight or twenty raka‘ât or that one juz’ ought to be completed every night. In fact, Imam Mâlik and Imam ash-Shâfi‘i consider it superior if tarâweeḥ prayers are done at home. Yet today, we adhere to a particular number of raka‘ât in tarâweeḥ and/or a specific length for its recitation, without this being binding on us. Now, with the time for ‘ishâ’ starting very late in North America and other extremely northern or extremely southern lands during the summer, and the many differences between the era of the Companions and our own, should we adhere to a particular format for the tarâweeḥ when none has been designated by Allah, His Messenger, or even any of the Companions? Should there be more time for reflection in the local language over the meanings of what is being recited? Should there be more time left for socialization and creating a bond between the ‘Ramadan only’ congregants and their local masjid? I believe all of this is warranted. On the other hand, if someone said that we should do away with the tarâweeḥ prayers in congregation, then he would be calling for the cessation of an agreed-upon practice that has been ongoing since the time of ‘Umar (ra). Once again, that is not in any way a form of tajdeed.[13]

Some people want, via tajdeed, to diminish the role of the Sharia in guiding humanity. We believe that beyond the domain of worship and family law, the Sharia already leaves enough room for human thought and creativity, and it only provides guidelines and milestones to prevent people from being victims of their own and others’ prejudices, biases, and excesses. We do believe, however, that this general guidance is much needed by humanity. We believe that the Sharia must contribute to the discourse on contemporary issues such as corporate ethics, bioethics, environmentalism, and so on. This is an important aspect of the tajdeed we seek.

In the attempts by Muslim countries to re-normalize Islam’s position in the public sphere, they will have to answer many questions. In fact, we have to develop a new fiqh that is conscious of the new world we live in: again, without departing from the objectives of the law or the constants of the revelation. The relationship between the ruler and the ruled must be re-evaluated. The consensus reported about the prohibition of rebellion against the oppressive ruler must be re-examined – at least, its modern implications.[14] If we were to accept it, we must ask whether it applies to a sectarian effort to topple a ruler or a popular uprising by the nation. Would it apply to populist revolutions, even if they were unarmed? What if it were supported by ahl ul-ḥall wal-‘aqd?[15] Is there an effective alternative to end the tyrannical regimes that have become a signature characteristic of the Muslim countries?

What about the caliphate we reminisce about? Is it a central, federal, or confederal government? What is the plausibility of that? Could the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) serve that purpose, if it took gradual steps towards becoming more like the European Union, allowing willing Muslim and non-Muslim states to join – if they wish to? Denying Muslim countries the right to seek some form of unity and denouncing the very concept of the caliphate is simply succumbing to outside pressure. This is not a genuine tajdeed in the interest of Islam and the Muslims. On the other hand, expecting a return of an Abbasid-style caliphate is a form of rigidity that is bound to impede any progress towards Muslim unity.

The presence of large Muslim minorities in non-Muslim lands is not a recent phenomenon. However, the concepts of nation-states and secular governments are relatively new. There is a pressing need to normalize – and harmonize – the relationship between those minorities and their respective countries. This effort is a major part of the needed ijtihâd-based tajdeed. We need an authentic and realistic formula to reconcile between their religious allegiance and national belonging. Muslims in non-Muslim countries must not be seen as a Trojan horse or potential traitors by their compatriots, and they should not be that.

Finally, this ijtihâd-based renewal, which does not apply to ritual acts of worship or constants of our Sharia like the kaffârât (expiations), can only be exercised by the most distinguished mujtahid scholars of each era. If the matter is left to those who have not reached this degree of ijtihâd, the religion would fall into peril and be subject to distortion, and the enormity committed by non-scholars who engage in this is beyond needing to be mentioned. This involves the greatest calamity: forging lies about Allah – the Mighty and Majestic – and speaking about Him without knowledge. Allah (st) said (what means): {And do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart – about all those [one] will be questioned.} (al-Isrâ’ 17:36)

Therefore, what is required is the reunion between theory and practice, in light of the ijtihâd that preserves the constants but accommodates the changing variables. This is what existed during the days of the rightly-guided caliphate, and it is what enabled the Ummah to accommodate the Persian, Roman, Nabataean, Kurdish, Coptic, Berber, and other cultures which led to a civilizational, developmental, and cultural birth that has never been matched in the history of this world. All of that occurred without the religion itself being tainted with any distortion. But when this vigilant ijtihâd vanished, and that was specifically around the middle of the Abbasid era, the gap between theory and practice began widening until Muslim society became divided into groups: people of extravagance that have no care for religion; Sufis who mostly fled the trials of life by escaping into spirituality and monasticism – and some to mysticism – in search of what would satisfy their souls’ longing for truth; withdrawn scholars who were fixated upon serving the texts and literature; and masses that became lost when their leaders lost their compass. Correspondingly, there remained a scarcity of God-fearing scholars, committed to the spirit and letter of the deen, to purifying the interior (actions of the heart) and upholding the law, true beacons of light that – by Allah’s bounty – no era in the life of this Ummah may be void of. They are those who remained fighting to revive the true teachings of Islam that have been subverted by heedlessness and corrupted customs, and make these teachings guide the life of the Ummah once again.

I hope that some of the examples mentioned above clarify, to some extent, what I mean by tajdeed. Some readers may justifiably ask what my role is in this effort. It is understandable that ijtihâd-based tajdeed is the lot of the mujtahideen. However, the public can always engage in the restorative tajdeed. It is also the public that will establish foundations and institutions to foster ijtihâd-based tajdeed. If we are still struggling to build masjids, when might we have endowments that could support independent and authentic research institutes?

Let the revival begin by individual repentance, purification of the hearts and intentions, learning the religion from its pristine sources, commitment to righteousness and correctness, and finally, a discerning ijtihâd that allows the Sharia to continue its role in showing humanity a balanced and holistic path to success in this world and the one to come.

[1] Collected by Abu Dâwood and al-Ḥâkim, who authenticated it on the authority of Abu Hurayrah. Sunan Abi Dâwood, verified by Muhammad Muhyid-Deen ‘Abdil-Hameed. Dâr al-Fikr, 4/109.

[2] Majallat al-Ahkaam al-‘Adliyyah, Article 39. This was also stipulated in different wordings by some of the most erudite scholars of Uṣool, such as Ibn al-Qayyim, ash-Shâṭibi, ash-Shawkâni, and others.

[3] Al-mu’allafati quloobuhum (at-Tawbah 9:60) are new or non-Muslims whose hearts the Muslims hope to win over.

[4] Sunan al-Bayhaqi al-Kubrâ (10/116) in the chapter on [The Manners of the Judge, and What the Judge Rules By], Mecca: Dâr al-Bâz, 1414H.

[5] Ṣaḥeeḥ al-Bukhâri (2/959) in the chapter on [Treaties: Agreeing Upon Unfair Terms Nulls the Treaty], Beirut: Dâr Ibn Katheer wal-Yamâmah, (3rd ed., 1407H) – and Ṣaḥeeḥ Muslim (3/1343) in the chapter on [Verdicts: Nulling False Rulings and Rejecting Innovations], Beirut: Dâr Ihyâ’ at-Turâth al-‘Arabi.

[6] Al-Muwâfaqât by ash-Shâtibi. Verified by ‘Abdullâh Drâz, Beirut: Dâr al-Ma‘rifah, 2/217.

[7] See his books I‘lâm al-Muwaqqi‘een and aṭ-Ṭuruq al-Ḥukmiyyah.

[8] See the two previous books, in addition to al-Inṣâf (10/233) by al-Mirdâwi, al-Furoo‘ (6/85) by Ibn Mufliḥ, and as-Siyâsah ash-Shar‘iyyah (p. 136) by Ibn Taymiyyah.

[9] See his book Tabṣirat al-Ḥukkâm fee Uṣool al-Aqḍiyah wa Manâhij al-Aḥkâm: the second section, regarding the types of evidences.

[10] See Hâshiyat Ibn ‘Âbideen, 5/354.

[11] These are mentioned in order of the strength of their support for the use of qarâ’in and the scope of its use in their ijtihâd.

[12] ‘Umar (ra) found the Companions praying in the masjid in small groups, so he simply brought them together and had Ubayy lead them in prayer. Many of the ṣaḥâbah continued to pray at home. Some of them, including Ibn ‘Umar, considered it inferior if done at the masjid in congregation.

[13] An even more absurd suggestion we have heard is to make the tarâweeḥ start before ‘ishâ’.

[14] The first one to report it was Ibn Mujâhid al-Baṣri (d. 370 AH). It was contested by many scholars. Ibn Mujahid (raḥimahullah) was a resident of Basra, a city deeply traumatized two centuries earlier by the defeat of Ibn al-Ash’ath, which cost it the lives of many of its eminent scholars in their fight against the Umayyads. One may ask if there is a basis in the Revelation that made them agree on this edict in the fourth century AH. If there is, how could it have been missed by all of the previous generations of the righteous predecessors and suddenly become so clear to them? If this agreement was based on reasoning related to public interest, which is most likely, then as Shaykh Shaltoot points out, such is the only consensus that may be abrogated by another upon the change of circumstances.

[15] Literally, ‘the people of authority.’ They are the elites, somewhat equivalent to today’s ‘representatives of the people,’ or the ‘senate.’ Traditionally, they were the princes, scholars, tribal chiefs, leaders of the army and various professions.

 

Dr. Hatem Al-Haj has a PhD in Comparative Fiqh from al-Jinan University. He is a pediatrician, former Dean of the College of Islamic Studies at Mishkah University, and a member of the permanent Fatwa Committee of the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA).

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Muhammad Siddique

    August 8, 2016 at 1:10 PM

    An absurd article cloaked in pseudo-scholarship. Any reputable Muslim scholar knows that the reality has to conform to Islam and not Islam to the reality. All those early people like the Arabs, Persians, Romans, Africans, People of the Sub-Continent, upon accepting Islam, became part of the Islamic culture. Even the non-Muslims residing in the Muslim lands during those times identified themselves as the citizens of the Islamic State, their culture was Islam, their religion whatever it may be. This “scholar” needs to look up the definition of culture, Parsons offers a good definition, but any good sociology textbook might do. I am most disappointed with Muslim Matters for publishing this rubbish non-sense on their site. When majority of the Muslims the world over are calling for Shariah in the Muslim lands and unity based on the Islamic ruling system, the Khilafah,(and are dying and being oppressed in record number doing that), this author has the nerve to suggest EU like union. Has he been sleeping through the Brexit? And the ensuing EU crisis? He finds the return to the Rightly Guided Khilafahs constraining when Rasul Allah (saaw) has categorically told the Muslims to emulate them.

    • Avatar

      BA MT

      August 8, 2016 at 4:22 PM

      You know, you can get your point across without being so insulting. That’s what a true person of knowledge would have done, but clearly you are not so I don’t blame you.

      You are wrong about the allegation of conformity of others to the Islamic Culture. And the term “Islamic Culture” is a loaded term that even you – the one who’s arguing for it – can’t define. So your whole argument is moot.

      Peace.

      • Avatar

        Mohammad Siddique

        August 13, 2016 at 8:39 AM

        Culture is a binding knot that holds a people together and is transmitted from one generation to the next. Talcott Parson gets into further details of norms, customs, beliefs and so on. Islamic Culture emanates from an idea about life and a method to implement that idea in life, i.e., the Islamic ideology. I was not insulting but was harsh in my comment because I found the article insulting. It is couched in a language that may make it sound sophisticated or “intellectual” but end of the day there is nothing here.

    • Avatar

      Mohammed

      August 8, 2016 at 8:57 PM

      It’s very evident that you have completely missed the point of the article. The author is not suggesting that we completely change Islam to ‘conform’ to anything. To the contrary, he repeatedly speaks against changing the constants in our deen. Additionally, if you had read this article with an open mind and at the same time understood the role of the Khilafa then you would have had no problem in entertaining this concept of a union like entity.

      Please enlighten yourself by knowing that Dr. Hatem is not the first and last scholar to suggest such an understanding.

      • Avatar

        Mohammad Siddique

        August 13, 2016 at 8:21 AM

        One of these constants is the ruling system in Islam, namely Khilafah. It is one of the greatest obligations of Islam. The “union like entity” is an innovation and does not come from Islam. OIC was a Western idea, most likely the British because they used their agent, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, to establish it and thereby tried to control Muslim voices calling for Shariah and justice and OIC has only diverted Muslim energies to fruitless endeavors, an organization led by despots and dictators and the worst among the Muslim Ummah. Understanding the reality of Muslims today requires deep thought in light of the Quran, Sunnah, Ijmah as Sahabah, our history and the knowledge of the many plots by our enemies against Islam and the Muslim Ummah. Khilafah is the only option that allows the Muslims the world over and the weak, ill treated, oppressed and the Non-Muslims a hope not constrained by limits of human reason and abilities because this ruling system comes from The Creator of all, Allah (swt).

    • Avatar

      Abu Abbaad

      August 9, 2016 at 11:54 AM

      “Therefore, what is required is the reunion between theory and practice, in light of the ijtihâd that preserves the constants but accommodates the changing variables. This is what existed during the days of the rightly-guided caliphate, and it is what enabled the Ummah to accommodate the Persian, Roman, Nabataean, Kurdish, Coptic, Berber, and other cultures which led to a civilizational, developmental, and cultural birth that has never been matched in the history of this world. All of that occurred without the religion itself being tainted with any distortion.”

      • Avatar

        Mohammad Siddique

        August 13, 2016 at 7:45 AM

        What are the constants and variables in Islam? Is Islam some mathematics or science course? Islam is a complete way of life. It has systems that govern life: political system, economic system, social and cultural systems. The role of the human mind is to understand the revelation (Quran and Sunnah) by confining the mind totally to it. Islam does not allow the human mind to wander in the implementation and aims of Shariah. In sciences and administration, the human intellect can be imaginative. Furthermore, Islam has a unique culture (a binding knot), that is transmitted from one generation to the next. Rasul Allah (saaw) has said, “Islam dominates and nothing dominates Islam.” Islam does not accommodate other cultures, it aims to conquer peoples hearts and minds, and the conquered become part of the Islamic culture. No ideology in the world can risk accommodating other cultures because by its very nature, ideology is comprehensive and seeks expansion and domination, otherwise it will wither and die. The civilizations you have mentioned like the Persians, the Romans, were conquered by the Muslims, and upon accepting the Islamic ideology, they became part of the Islamic culture that emanates from the Quran and Sunnah.

  2. Avatar

    Altaf Ghori

    August 8, 2016 at 11:14 PM

    I agree with you a 100% Dr. Hatem. Nicely written article that totally makes sense!!!!

  3. Avatar

    Baraa

    August 9, 2016 at 1:33 PM

    An excellent article and thought provoking article. May Allah bless and preserve Sheikh Hatem.

  4. Avatar

    Spirituality

    August 9, 2016 at 2:19 PM

    As Salamu Alaikum,

    I think it’s very useful in this case to know a little bit about the author of this article. I hate to say it, but some MM articles are written by authors without much Islamic knowledge and scholarship. This is not the case here….

    (Info below from his website):

    Short Bio
    Dr. Hatem al Haj
    Degrees Islamic
    PhD in Comparative Fiqh from al-Jinan University, Tripoli, Lebanon, Grade: summa cum laude
    (excellent). Master’s Degree in Islamic law (Sharee’a) from the American Open University, Grade: summa
    cum laude (excellent).

    Medical
    Board Certification in Pediatrics by the American Board of Pediatrics.
    M.B., CH.B. (Equivalent to MD) Graduated with Honors from Alexandria University Medical School, Alexandria, Egypt
    Jobs
    Currently, Dean of the College of Islamic Studies (English) – Mishkah University.
    Currently, Attending Pediatrician (Part-time).
    Memberships
    Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America (AMJA), Member of the Permanent Fatwa Committee
    The Building Blocks of Islam, President of the BOT.
    North American Imam Federation (NAIF), Member
    American Academy of Pediatrics, Fellow

  5. Avatar

    someone

    August 10, 2016 at 7:37 PM

    salaam alaykom

    ma-sha-Allah. a very nice article and informative.

    first I am surprised, as to the rhetoric used in the article….I did not truly know to what extent one could talk about such things…..I’m talking from my memory bank now, as I read the article a couple of days ago now! secondly it is truly humbling to read, as even though Allah’s knowledge compared to ours as humans is like an ocean and ours being a drop from the beak…etc. and also remembering the trees and the 7?! oceans +, but as to why it humbled me, and perhaps it is not right to say, as to make my self look even more foolish, but let me just say…majority went right over my head…..Subhan al-Aleem. and has made me ponder many things, so jezak Allah kul khair.

    may I ask a question?….there must be a body of ulema in the world, but as we are so divided and sorry for saying so, but back to question if I may, to what extent to they have an influence when they gather? and with the above mentioned and perhaps I do not understand many things…etc, but what do they discuss?…and are they our great ones working behind the shadows, like satan and his allies doing the same too?..with the latters being the opposite of the great ones obviously…..

    with that said, with out any disrespect to any scholar or aalim these days, and may be it is just me but we the average day muslims can not get access to the hiers of the prophets!….internet..is truly not a good place, I’m sure it is aware?…..’ask the sheik’ days in institutions and masajid would be a great thing to see? any kind of easier access to be made available! (i.e. allotted times)..even though that is not any solution but I am glad to put something forward, but I suppose satans now know…..!!! no matter what la yaseebna ila ma katib lina Allah……

    peace unto you

  6. Avatar

    someone

    August 10, 2016 at 7:42 PM

    sorry I meant by the rhetoric about current day events and politics……

    is there any where one could direct one to find out where one can find what is politically correct to say and what is not?..because sorry wrong place but I hate homosexuality and paedophilia and whether that is a crime as long as it is not a sin to say I do not like the actions of them- I really do not care! and just to add if I may- hate the sin but not the sinner…..

  7. Avatar

    Omer

    October 22, 2016 at 2:21 AM

    Excellent Article. .Very Well Written!!!

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More Baby, Less Shark: Planning For Kids In The Masjid

Zeba Khan

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Of all the challenges that your focus can face in prayer, there are few as insidious as Baby Shark.

Doo-doo-doo doo. Baby Shark, doo doo doo doo. Baby Shark.

If you are not a parent, or have the type of amnesia that parents sometimes develop once their kids grow up, then you might assume that not having kids in the masjid is actually a solution to Baby-Shark induced distraction.

The inconvenient (and often sticky) truth is that not having kids in the masjid is a serious problem, not a solution. No kids in the masjid means an entire generation of the Muslim community growing up outside of the Muslim community.

Restricting the presence of children and assigning masjid priority to fully-formed, quietly attentive, and spiritually disciplined attendees – like adults – is a bit like restricting health club membership to triathletes. You’re already fit. So can we please let someone else use the treadmill, even if they’re not using it as well as you could?

The masjid is the center of the community for all Muslims, not a sanctuary for the preservation of reverent silence.  For a more detailed discussion on this, please see this great Soundvision article, Children in the Masjid, Making Space for Our Future.

For suggestions on how to help your children enjoy the masjid without Baby-Sharking the rest of the congregation to tears, I present the following recommendations.

Come Prepared

Rather than assume your child will be entertained by nothing but the carpet and how many weird faces they can spot in the bilaterally symmetrical patterns, bring them something to play with. One way to do this is to prepare your child a special bag for the masjid.

Stock it with as many things applicable:

  • A reusable water bottle: Select a bottle that your child can drink from on their own, preferably not likely to tip or spill onto the masjid carpet. No one appreciates a soggy sujood
  • A nut-free snack: If you think it’s too much trouble to be considerate of people with life-threatening allergies, consider how much trouble it is to bury a child who dies of anaphylaxis. Children share snacks in the masjid, and that’s ok as long as no one dies.
  • A small, quiet toy: The dollar store can be tremendously helpful in keeping your inventory fresh and financially feasible. Please be aware of swallowing hazards, since your child is likely to share the toy with others. One hopes.
  • A sweater or blanket: Sitting for long periods of time in an air-conditioned building can make anyone cold.
  • Art Supplies: Pack crayons, pencils, or markers IF you feel your child can refrain from drawing on the walls, or allowing other, smaller children from doing so. Magic Erasers don’t work on the prayer rug.

Reverie in Blue – Artist Unknown

Critically- and I do mean critically- don’t let your children access the special masjid bag unless they are in the masjid. The last thing you want is for your child to be bored with its contents before they even make it to prayers. Storing this bag somewhere inaccessible to your child can help keep its contents fresh and interesting longer.

Non-parent tip: Keep allergen-free lollipops in your pocket. Reward the kids sitting nicely (with parents’ permission) and you have killed two birds with one stone.

  1. You’ve  helped a child establish a happy memory and relationship to the masjid.
  2. Kids with lollipops in their mouths make less noise.

Do not pack:

Balls: Not even small ones, not even for small children. Your child may not have the gross-motor skills to kick or throw a ball at people who are praying, but there will always be children in the masjid who do. They will take your child’s ball, and they will play ball with it, because that’s what balls are for. Consider also the potential damage to light fixtures, ceiling fans, audio/video equipment, and the goodwill of people who get hit, run down, or kicked in the shins. The masjid is just not the place to play ball, even if the floor is green and has lines on it.

Not every green thing with lines is a soccer field.

Scooters: Do not bring scooters, skateboards, heelies, or other mobility toys that would turn your child a faster-moving object than they already are. Your child’s long-term relationship with the community can be fostered by not crashing into it.

Slime: Slime and carpets do, in fact, go together. They go together so well as to be inextricable of one-another. Please, do not bring slime to the masjid.

Gum: Please, for the love of everyone’s socks, no gum.

Toy Guns, Play-weapons: It should go without saying. And yet, I have seen nerf guns, foam swords, and toy guns in masjid. Apart from the basic indoor etiquette of not sword-fighting, nor launching projectiles in a house of worship, please be sensitive. No one wants to see guns in their masjid.

Non-parent tip: If children playing near you are making “too much noise” smile and find another place to sit if possible. It is not always possible to ignore or move away from disruptions, but glaring, eye-rolling, and making tsk-tsk sounds is not likely to effect long-term change in either the child’s behavior or the parents’ strategic abilities. At best, you will embarrass the parents. At worst, you will push families away from the faith and the community while confirming the opinion that masjids are full of cranky, impatient people who wish kids didn’t exist in the masjid while criticizing Muslim youth for not being there. 

Avoid Electronics. But if you can’t…

I am prefacing this suggestion with a disclaimer. Habitually putting your child on a smartphone or tablet so that you can “enjoy” the masjid without the “hassle” of you making sure they behave properly is not good parenting. A child being physically present but mentally absent in the masjid is not a long-term strategy that any parent should get behind.

Having said that, if you do give your kids a tablet or phone in the masjid, please disable Youtube and bring over-ear headphones.

Do not rely on YouTube Kids to take responsibility for your child’s content choices either. Long after Baby Shark has sunk to the depths of the internet, there will always be loud, inappropriate, or just plainly distracting and disturbing things that your child can access on it.

Instead of relying on Youtube at all, install child-friendly apps that you know won’t have external links embedded in their ads, and won’t lead to inadvertent, inappropriate viewing in case your child – or my child sitting next to them – click out of their app and into the great wide world. I highly recommend anything from the Toca Boca suite of apps.

Parents at Taraweeh – Making it Work

Non-parent tip: If you see a child on a tablet, do not lecture their parent. As a special needs parent, there are times when I too allow my autistic son onto a tablet to prevent a meltdown or try to get just 15 more minutes out of him so I can finish attending a class. Do not automatically assume laziness or incompetence on behalf of parents whose children you see on an electronic device. 

Reward for Success, in this life and the next

You show up in the masjid because you hope for a reward from Allah. As an adult, you have the ability to delay the gratification of this reward until well after you die. Your kids, however, don’t.

Motivate your kids with small rewards for small accomplishments as you remind them of the reward that Allah has for them too. You can choose to reward a child after every two rakah, or after every two days. How often you reward them, and what you choose to reward them for depends on their age and their capabilities.

Make dua for your kids when you reward them. If they get a small handful of gummy bears after a good evening at the masjid, pair it with a reminder of the bigger reward too.

“Here the icecream I promised you for doing awesome in the masjid today. May Allah grant you mountains of icecream in Jannah so big you can ski down them. Ameen.”

Non-parent tip: It’s not your job to discipline the children of others, but you can help praise them. Randomly compliment kids who are sitting nicely, sharing toys, playing quietly, or wearing cute headgear. Their parents will likely not mind.

Reinforce the rules – but define them first.

“Be Good In the Masjid” is a vastly different instruction depending on who you’re instructing. For a teenager, praying with the congregation is reasonable. For a two-year-old, not climbing the congregation is reasonable.

Define your rules and frame them in a positive context that your children can remember. Remind them of what they’re supposed to be doing rather than calling them out for what they are not. For example, no running in the masjid vs. please walk in the masjid.

Avoid saying this:

Try saying this instead:

Stay out of my purse Please use the toys in your bag
Don’t draw on the walls Crayons only on the paper
No yelling Please use your “inside” voice
No food on the carpet Please have your snack in the hallway
Don’t run off Stay where I can see you, which is from [here] to [here.]
No peeing the carpet We’re taking a potty break now, and we’ll go again after the 4th rakah’.
No hitting Hands nicely to yourself.

While it might look like semantics, putting your energy into “To-Do’s” versus the “To-Don’ts” has long-term benefits. If your child is going to hear the same thing from you a hundred times before they get it right, you can help them by telling them what the right thing is. Think of the difference between the To-Do statement “Please use a tissue,” versus the To-Don’t statement of “Don’t pick your nose.” You can tell you kid a hundred times not to pick his or her nose, but if you never tell them to use a tissue, you’re missing the opportunity to replace bad behavior with its functional alternative.

Plan for Failure

Kids don’t walk the first time they try. They won’t sit nicely the first time you ask them to either. Decide what your exact plan is in case you have to retreat & regroup for another day.

  • How much noise is too much? Do your kids know what you expect of them?
  • Where are the physical boundaries you want your kids to remain in? Do they know what those boundaries are?
  • For kids too small to recognize boundaries, how far are you ok with a little one toddling before you decide that the potential danger may not be worth it?
  • Talk to your spouse or other children and get everyone on board. Being on the same page can look like different things according to different age groups. A plan of action can be “If we lose Junior Ibn Abu, we’re taking turns in prayer,” or “If you kick the Imam again, we’re all going home.”
  • If your child is too small, too rowdy, or too grumpy to sit quietly at the masjid, please take turns with your spouse. The masjid is a sweet spiritual experience that both parents should be able to enjoy, even if that means taking turns.

Don’t Give up

If you find yourself frustrated with being unable to enjoy the masjid the way you did before your child starting sucking on prayer rugs, remember this:

Raising your children with love and patience is an act of worship, even if it’s not the act of worship you thought you were coming to the masjid for. No matter what your expectations are of them – or how far they are from meeting them – the ultimate goal is for your child to love Allah and love the House of Allah.

When they get things right, praise them and reward them, and remind them that Allah’s reward is coming too. When they get it wrong, remind them and forgive them, and don’t give up. The only way children learn to walk is by falling down over, and over, and over again.

Avoiding the masjid because your kids don’t behave correctly is like not allowing them to walk because they keep falling down. The key is to hold their hand until they get it right, and maintain close supervision until you can trust them to manage on their own, InshaAllah.

May Allah make it easy for you and bless your children with love for the masjid in this life and love for Allah that will guide them through the next. Aaaaaaaameeeeeeeeen

Children @ Taraweeh: Storm in a Teacup

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Etiquettes of Praying For Your Brother And Sister | Imam Omar Suleiman

Level up your duas by including those who least expect to be in your most private moments and get angels to say Ameen

Imam Omar Suleiman

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It’s very common to find in the stories of the pious predecessors those who kept lists of people they prayed for on a nightly basis. This was a testimony to their sincerity, selflessness, and sacrifice. The basis of the act comes from a famous hadith:

وعنه أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم كان يقول‏:‏ ‏ “‏دعوة المرء المسلم لأخيه بظهر الغيب مستجابة، عند رأسه ملك موكل كلما دعا لأخيه بخير قال الملك الموكل به‏:‏ آمين، ولك بمثل‏”‏ ‏(‏‏(‏رواه مسلم‏)‏‏)‏‏.‏

“The supplication of a believer for his brother in his absence will certainly be answered. Every time he makes a supplication for good for his brother, the angel appointed for this particular task says Ameen! May it be for you too’.” [Sahih Muslim].

Since the supplication of the fasting person is accepted, this is the best time to do it. But it’s also important to be intentional about how you pray for someone. Any prayer for your brother or sister is accepted if sincere, but it becomes even more blessed when made personal and customized. Under normal circumstances, It’s also best to keep your personal prayers to yourself and without the knowledge of the person you’re praying for. Sometimes it’s ok to tell someone you’re praying for them for the sake of solidarity. But the general rule is that it’s best to conceal it even from them for the sake of sincerity. Also, make sure to include in your prayers people who would never expect you to pray for them.

Then as you start to make dua for someone, think about how you can diversify the supplications and people you make dua for so that you are 1. Touching numerous lives 2. Covering different issues and ailments 3. Guaranteeing that the return on your prayers is also comprehensive.

So, in particular, think of a person in each of the following categories and make dua for them daily:

  1. A person who has good qualities but hasn’t been guided to good faith. Make dua for guidance for that person so that perhaps Allah grants you further guidance.
  2. A person who is involved in good work, that Allah accepts from them and keeps them sincere so that perhaps Allah uses you for His cause and keeps you sincere.
  3. A person who is committing a public sin. Make dua that Allah forgives that person. Imagine if the dua is accepted for a major public sin, then the angels will say Ameen for you also and perhaps Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will forgive you for both your public and private sins.
  4. A person who is ill, that Allah grants him or her full health so that perhaps Allah will either heal you if you are sick or preserve your health for you if you are healthy.
  5. A person who is struggling financially or suffering a worldly hardship, ask Allah to help that person so that perhaps Allah will help you in that same situation.
  6. A person who has a particular blessing that you wish for, that Allah maintains that blessing upon that person without making it a means of taking him or her away from goodness in the hereafter so that perhaps Allah will grant it for you or maintain your blessings upon you without making them a means of harm for you.

This is how you bring together the Prophetic tradition of praying for your brother/sister, and the other tradition about not truly believing until you love for your sister or brother what you love for yourself.

May Allah accept your Ramadan and Laylatul Qadr, as well as all of your good deeds. And may He forgive you for your sins, and distance you from all that distances you from Him. Ameen

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Lesson 12 From Surah Al-Kahf

Tafsir of Verses 83-98

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi

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Alhamdulillah last session we were able to explore the meanings of verses 71-82. InshAllah tonight we’ll cover the meanings and lessons of verses 83-98. Just as a quick reminder the last passage of the Surah dealt with a very unique and interesting episode from the life of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him); the story of his encounter and journey with a man of God known as Khidr or Khadir. There are a number of very beneficial and practical lessons that we can learn from this particular story. That’s why it’s important for us to recite it, reflect over it and try to relate it to our daily lives.

In this next set of verses, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) tells us the story of Dhul Qarnain, a just and righteous king who ruled over the entire known world of his time. He was a righteous servant of Allah to whom Allah granted might, power and sovereignty over the world along with knowledge and wisdom. He was a special servant of God. We’re told about his journeys to the east, west, and north as well as his building of a huge wall to prevent Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj from escaping. This narrative is the answer to the third question that the Quraysh asked the Prophet ﷺ after consulting with the Jews of Madinah. If you remember at the beginning of the Surah we talked about the sabab al-nuzūl or the circumstances and background in which the Surah was revealed.

Ibn ‘Abbas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) narrated that the Quraysh sent two men, Al-Nadr ibn Al-Hartih and ‘Uqbah ibn abi Mu’ayt, to the Jewish scholars of Madinah. The Quraysh told these two men to ask the Jews about Muhammad (saw), his characteristics and to inform them about some of his teachings because they knew more about Prophets since they were people of the book. So they arrived in Madinah and told the Rabbis about Muhammad (saw), about his characteristics, his message and his teachings. They said ask him three questions; if he answers them correctly then he is a prophet and a messenger. If he doesn’t answer them then he is a fake.

  • سلوه عن ثلاث، فإن أخبركم بهن فهو نبي و إن لم يفعل فالرجل متقول

Ask him about the young men who left their city in the distant past and what happened to them, because this is a unique event. Ask him about the person who traveled the East and the West and what happened to him. Ask him about the spirit and what it is.

So they came back and posed these three questions to the Prophet ﷺ. The Prophet ﷺ told them that he would reply to them the next day expecting Allah ﷻ to send down revelation, but he forgot to say inshAllah. Allah ﷻ didn’t send down any revelation for the next fifteen days (one narration says 3) and the Quraysh began to assume that he didn’t know the answers and that his claims to prophethood were false. After 15 days Allah ﷻ revealed the entire Surah and reminded the Prophet ﷺ to always say InshAllah.

This is the fourth story mentioned in the Surah after the story of the people of the cave, the owner of the two gardens and the story of Musa (as) and Khidr. Allah ﷻ introduces the story by saying,

Verse 83: They ask you about Dhul-Qarnain. Say, “I shall now recite to you an account of him.”

Meaning the Quraysh asked you about Dhul Qarnain after consulting with the Jews of Madinah so tell them you will now recite some of his story to them that will answer their question.

Who was Dhul Qarnain?

The Quran doesn’t tell us the exact identity of Dhul Qarnain, why he was given that name, and what time period he lived in or the exact location of his travels and rule. All these details are extra and unnecessary and immaterial; no aspect of our belief or action depends on knowing these details. However, the commentators do get into discussions regarding these details in an attempt to present historical facts. So we’ll go through a brief discussion about who he was and his time period.

Some historical narratives mention that there were four people who ruled over the entire known world of their respective times, 2 believers and 2 non-believers. Throughout history, there have been a few people who were given the name Dhul Qarnain and interestingly they all had the title Alexander as well. Some people held the opinion that the Dhul Qarnain mentioned in the Quran is the famous Alexander the Great, the Greek who had Aristotle as his teacher. Although he fits the description of having ruled the East and the West he can’t be the Dhul Qarnain mentioned in the Quran because he was a non-believer. This is the conclusion of ibn Kathīr.

According to ibn Kathīr, Dhul Qarnain lived during the time period of Ibrahim (as) and he also mentions that Khidr was his minister. Other researchers are of the opinion that the Dhul Qarnain mentioned in the Quran is the ancient Persian king Cyrus the Great. In modern times this theory has been given more weight because of supporting evidence. As for the name Dhul Qarnain, it literally means “the person with two horns”. The name is due to his having reached the two ‘Horns’ of the Sun, east and west, where it rises and where it sets” during his journey. The following is what the Quran tells us about him.

Verse 84: Surely, We gave him power on earth and gave him means to (have) everything (he needs).

Meaning, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) gave him all the material instruments and resources, knowledge, insight, and experience needed to be an effective ruler. Allah gave him everything he needed to maintain just rule, establish peace and extend his area of influence.

Verse 85-86: So he followed a course until when he reached the point of sunset, he found it setting into a murky spring, and found a people near it. We said, “O Dhul-Qarnain, either punish them or treat them well.”

He traveled towards the West until he reached where the sun sets, to the extreme west beyond which there was only an Ocean, which was most likely the Atlantic. There he found the sun setting into dark, muddy spring, meaning that it looked as if the sun were setting into the Sea. Depending on our own geographic location the sun seems to set into different places within the horizon. For example, from our perspective sometimes it looks like the sun is setting into the ocean, or behind a mountain or into the sand.

At this location, there was also a nation of disbelievers. So Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) told him through Ilham (inspiration) that he has a choice. He can either punish them for their disbelief or he could deal with them kindly, invite them to the truth and teach them. Then reward those who believe and punish those who choose to disbelieve. He chose to invite them to belief first and then reward the believers and punish the non-believers.

Verse 87-88: He said, “As for him who does wrong, we shall punish him, then he will be sent back to his Lord, and He will punish him with severe punishment. As for the one who believes and acts righteously, he will have the best (life) as reward, and we shall speak to him politely in our directions.”

This is an expression of his justice; Dhul Qarnain was a just ruler who ruled according to the dictates of faith, belief, and righteousness. Those who were presented with the truth, Islam, and then chose to consciously reject it would be punished in this world and then Allah will punish them in the next. And as for those who accept Islam, who affirm faith in Allah, His prophets and the last day and do righteous deeds will be rewarded. When those who do well in the community, pursuing a fair line of action in all their pursuits, receive a good reward for their actions, and when the unjust and oppressors receive a fair punishment and humiliation, then the whole community is motivated to follow the line of goodness. But when matters go wrong, and the unjust, oppressor and corrupt people are the ones who enjoy favor with the ruler, while those who are good and fair are persecuted, then the ruler’s power becomes no more than a tool of corruption and misery for the whole community. Nothing remains fair. The whole society sinks into chaos. He established peace and justice and this location and then decided to travel towards the East.

Verse 89-90: Thereafter, he followed a course until when he reached the point of sunrise; he found it rising over a people for whom We did not make any shelter against it.

Then he travelled towards the East and there he found a group of people who were not used to the ways of advanced people. They didn’t have homes or shelter or clothes to protect against the sun. These people were also non-believers so he dealt with them in the same way as he dealt with the previous people. He employed the same policy of fairness and justice and building a society on faith.

Verse 91: Thus it was, and Our knowledge fully comprehends whatever (wealth and equipment) he had with him.

Ibn Kathīr writes that the early commentators Mujahid and As-Suddi said, “This means that Allah knew everything about him and his army, and nothing was hidden from Him, even though they came from so many different nations and lands. For, ﴿لاَ يَخْفَى عَلَيْهِ شَىْءٌ فِي الاٌّرْضِ وَلاَ فِى السَّمَآءِ﴾ truly nothing is hidden from Allah in the Earth and in the heaven. After establishing justice and peace he decided to move north.

Verse 92-93: Thereafter he followed a course until he reached between the two mountains, he found by them a people who were almost unable to understand anything said.

Then he traveled towards the North until he reached a point between two mountains. There he found a nation of people who were barely able to understand what he was saying because of their foreign language. They said to him through a translator or through some other means.

Verse 94: They said, “O Dhul-Qarnain, the (tribes of) Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj (Gog and Magog) are mischief-makers on the earth. So, should we assign a payment for you on condition that you make a barrier between us and them?”

These people recognized that Dhul Qarnain was a fair and just ruler so they asked him for help against the menace of Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj. Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj is the name of a tribe of people. There’s a lot of speculation regarding who exactly they are and what area or region they’re from, but nothing can be said with certainty. They complained to Dhul Qarnain saying that they spread mischief and corruption in our lands by killing and destruction. If we pay you some money will you build a barrier between them and us to prevent them from reaching our town?

Verse 95: He said, “What my Lord has (already) given in my control is better (for me than the payment you are offering to me), so help me (only) with strength, and I shall make a barrier between you and them.

Basically, he told them that he doesn’t need their money, but he will need their help. Meaning, Allah ﷻ had given him such great wealth and power that he had no need of what they could offer him. He would provide this service simply for the sake of righteousness and doing good.

Verse 96: Bring me big pieces of iron.” (They proceeded accordingly) until when he leveled (the gap) between the two cliffs, he said, “Blow.” (They complied) until when he made it (like) fire, he said, “Bring me molten copper, and I will pour it upon this.”

So they brought pieces of iron and filled the space between the two mountains with it. Then they made this iron really hot and poured molten copper over it making a huge metal structure.

Verse 97: So they (Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj) were not able to climb it, nor were they able to make a hole in it.

They weren’t able to climb it because of its height nor were they able to make a hole in it because of its depth and strength. After building this giant barrier Dhul Qarnain said,

Verse 98: He said, “This is a mercy from my Lord. Then, when the promise of my Lord will come, He will make it leveled to the ground. The promise of my Lord is true.”

Meaning his ability to build such a strong and impenetrable barrier was a mercy from Allah ﷻ; it had nothing to do with his own strength or ability. The “promise of my Lord” is referring to the onset of the events that will lead to the Hour; the Day of Judgment. This includes the trials of Dajjāl and the return of ‘Isa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). One of these events will be that the barrier will crumble to dust and Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj will wreak havoc across the Earth. And once their barrier is opened and they’re let loose they will descend from every elevation, attacking humanity from every single corner and angle. They will come rushing down the mountains in huge groups like waves crashing down upon the people while destroying and killing everything in sight.

There are many sings of the Day of Judgment mentioned in the Quran and Ahādīth of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Some of them are minor and some of them are major. Some of them will happen further away from the Day of Judgment and others will happen very close to the Day of Judgment. For example, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) being appointed the last and final Messenger is one of the signs that the Day of Judgment is near. As the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) told us, “I and the Last Hour have been sent like this and (he while doing it) joined the forefinger with the middle finger.”

  • عَنْ أَنَسٍ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ “‏ بُعِثْتُ أَنَا وَالسَّاعَةُ كَهَاتَيْنِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ وَضَمَّ السَّبَّابَةَ وَالْوُسْطَى ‏.

Hudhaifah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) narrated that once the Companions were sitting together in the middle of a discussion and the Prophet (saw) came and asked what they were talking about. They said they were talking about the Day of Resurrection. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Indeed the Hour will not come until you see 10 signs before it.” He mentioned the smoke, Dajjal, the beast, the rising of the sun from the west, the return of ‘Isa ibn Maryam (as), Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj and three land-slides (sink holes); one in the East, one in the West and one in the Arabian Peninsula, at the end of which fire would burn forth from Yemen, and would drive people to the place of their assembly.”

Two of the greatest trials, greatest fitnahs, this Ummah will face before the Day of Resurrection is the fitnah of Dajjal and the attack of Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj. Both of these are major signs of the Day of Judgment and will happen very close to each other. There’s a very lengthy hadīth recorded in Sahīh Muslim narrated by Al-Nawwās ibn Sam‘ān raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) that gives the details of these two specific trials, meaning the trial of Dajjal and Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj. Basically, the narration tells us about the details of the fitnah of Dajjal; his description, how long he will stay and how exactly he’s going to test us. He will stay in this world for a period of forty days; but the first day will be equivalent to one year, the second day to one month and the rest of the days will be normal. He will move extremely swiftly across the Earth spreading his mischief and asking people to believe in him. He will continue to misguide and test people until ‘Isa (as) is sent back to this world. ‘Isa (as) will search for him until he catches up with him at the eastern gate of Ludd, located in Palestine, where he will kill him.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will then reveal to him, “I have brought forth from amongst My creatures people against whom none will be able to fight. Take My servants safely to mount (Tūr).” Then Allah will send Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj, as Allah says: “And they, from every elevation, will descend.”

Another narration from Abu Sa’eed Al-Khudri raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) describes what they will do when they descend upon the people. They will be seen coming down from the mountains like waves of people overwhelming humanity, killing and destroying everything in sight. ‘Isa (as) along with his companions will take refuge on Mount Tūr and the other Muslims will retreat to their own cities and strongholds. They (Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj) will drink all the water of the land until some of them will pass a river and drink it dry, then those who come after them will pass by that place and will say, “There used to be water here once.” Then there will be no one left except those who are in their strongholds and cities. Then one of them will say, “We have defeated the people of the earth; now the people of heaven are left.” One of them will shake his spear and hurl it into the sky, and it will come back stained with blood, as a test and a trial for them.

The narration of Al-Nawwās tells us that while this is happening, ‘Isa (as) and his companions will turn to Allah asking him to remove their distress. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will answer their prayer and send an epidemic that will completely wipe Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj out. Allah will send some sort of insect that will attack their necks, and in the morning they will all perish as one. Then `Isa and his companions will come down and they will not find a single spot on earth that is free from their putrefaction and stench. Then `Isa and his companions will again beseech Allah, and He will send birds with necks like those of Bactrian camels, and they will carry them and throw them wherever Allah wills. Then Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will send rain continuously for forty days to cleanse and purify the earth. The earth will be washed clean until it looks like a mirror. Then it will be said to the earth: bring forth your fruit and restore your blessing. On that day a group of people will be able to eat from one pomegranate and seek shade under its skin, and everything will be blessed. A camel will give so much milk that it will be sufficient for a whole group of people, and a cow will give so much milk that it will be sufficient for a whole clan, and a sheep will be sufficient for an entire household. (This period of extraordinary peace, protection, and blessings will last for forty years) At that time Allah will send a pleasant wind which will reach beneath their armpits and will take the soul of every Muslim — or every believer — and there will be left only the most evil of people who will commit fornication like mules, and then the Hour will come upon them.”

From other narrations, we learn that Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj have already made a hole in their wall. Zainab bint Jahash raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) narrated that once the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) woke up from sleep saying, “There is no being worthy of worship except Allah; there is a destruction in store for Arabia because of turmoil which is at hand, the barrier of Gog and Magog has opened so much. And Sufyan made a sign of ten with the help of his hand (in order to indicate the width of the gap) and I said: Allah’s Messenger, would we perish in spite of the fact that there would be good people amongst us? Thereupon he said: Of course, but only when the evil predominates.”

  • عَنْ زَيْنَبَ بِنْتِ جَحْشٍ، أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم اسْتَيْقَظَ مِنْ نَوْمِهِ وَهُوَ يَقُولُ ‏”‏ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ وَيْلٌ لِلْعَرَبِ مِنْ شَرٍّ قَدِ اقْتَرَبَ فُتِحَ الْيَوْمَ مِنْ رَدْمِ يَأْجُوجَ وَمَأْجُوجَ مِثْلُ هَذِهِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ وَعَقَدَ سُفْيَانُ بِيَدِهِ عَشَرَةً ‏.‏ قُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَنَهْلِكُ وَفِينَا الصَّالِحُونَ قَالَ ‏”‏ نَعَمْ إِذَا كَثُرَ الْخَبَثُ ‏”‏ ‏.

In a narration recorded in Tirmidhi Abu Hurairah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (saw) said: Ya’jūj and Ma’jūj continue digging through the wall built by Dhul Qarnain. Every day the dig so much that they reach the farthest part of the iron wall. They’re so close that light from the other side is almost visible. But at that point, they stop digging and decide that they will complete the task the following day. However, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) makes the wall just as thick and strong as it was before so when they come back they have to start all over again. This cycle of digging and re-building will continue as long as Allah wills. Then one day when it has been decreed for them to be released they will dig all the way to the end and say, “If Allah wills we will cross it tomorrow. So when they return the next day they will find the wall just as they left it and break through wreaking havoc on the Earth.

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