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The Glorious Virtues of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa

Ammar Al Shukry

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When speaking about Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa the third holiest sight in Islam, many Muslims are familiar with the hadith of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) as reported by Bukhari and Muslim

وَعَنْ أَبِي سَعِيدٍ اَلْخُدْرِيِّ ‏- رضى الله عنه ‏- قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اَللَّهِ ‏- صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏-: { لَا تُشَدُّ اَلرِّحَالُ إِلَّا إِلَى ثَلَاثَةِ مَسَاجِدَ: اَلْمَسْجِدِ اَلْحَرَامِ, وَمَسْجِدِي هَذَا, وَالْمَسْجِدِ اَلْأَقْصَى } مُتَّفَقٌ عَلَيْهِ 1‏

“One should not undertake journeys except to three mosques: al-Masque al-Haram (in Makkah), this Masjid of mine (in Medinah) and Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa (in Jerusalem)

And so this hadith restricts the undertaking of religious pilgrimages or religious journeys to any masjid other than these three. In the past two weeks you’ve heard about Al-Masjid Al-Haram in Mecca, and Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi, what then about Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa makes it special?

A few qualities about Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa:

Firstly, it is in Al-Shaam.

And this is unique and something that is not shared by Al-Masjid Al-Haram and Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi in that although those places in and of themselves are incredibly blessed, Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa is not just blessed in and of itself, but it is in a region that is blessed, that region being al-Shaam.

Al-Sham (Greater Syria) is bordered by the Euphrates River on the northeast and by Egypt on the southwest. Al-Shaam is the region that includes the modern day countries of Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, and there are many verses and hadith that mention that it is a blessed land. Its major cities are Damascus, Jerusalem, Nabulus, Homs, Hemah, Halab, Amman, Beirut, Askalan, Gaza, Saida; Sur, Tripoli, Ba’labek, Manbij and Al-Ma’rah. Al-Sham is a vast land with an abundance of blessings. It is full of gardens, farms and fields. Fruits are abundant and cheap, and there is generous rain and snow. Al-Sham is a blessed and sacred land that Allah destined to be the place of revelations, the birthplace of prophets and a refuge for godly men.

Allah says,

سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي أَسْرَىٰ بِعَبْدِهِ لَيْلًا مِّنَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ إِلَى الْمَسْجِدِ الْأَقْصَى الَّذِي بَارَكْنَا حَوْلَهُ لِنُرِيَهُ مِنْ آيَاتِنَا ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ

Exalted is He who took His Servant by night from al-Masjid al-Haram to al-Masjid al- Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Seeing. (Al-Isra v. 1)

And so here Allah mentions that not only is the Masjid Al-Aqsa blessed but it’s surroundings have been blessed and this is unique to this land of Al-Shaam.

It being blessed is mentioned in a number of other verses, of them are;

وَنَجَّيْنَاهُ وَلُوطًا إِلَى الأَرْضِ الَّتِي بَارَكْنَا فِيهَا لِلْعَالَمِينَ [الأنبياء:71]

And We delivered him and Lot to the land which We had blessed for the worlds.

Ibn Taymiyyah said “it is known that Allah delivered Ibrahim and Lot to Al-Shaam from the lands of the peninsula and Iraq.”

And as for Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) Allah says,

وَأَوْرَثْنَا الْقَوْمَ الَّذِينَ كَانُوا يُسْتَضْعَفُونَ مَشَارِقَ الأَرْضِ وَمَغَارِبَهَا الَّتِي بَارَكْنَا فِيهَا

And We caused the people who had been oppressed to inherit the eastern regions of the land and the western ones, which We had blessed. (Al-A’raaf v. 137)

Al-Hassan and Qatadah both said, “It is Al-Shaam”

يَا قَوْمِ ادْخُلُوا الأَرْضَ الْمُقَدَّسَةَ الَّتِي كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ وَلا تَرْتَدُّوا عَلَى أَدْبَارِكُمْ فَتَنْقَلِبُوا خَاسِرِينَ [المائدة:21]

O my people, enter the Holy Land which Allah has assigned to you and do not turn back [from fighting in Allah ‘s cause] and [thus] become losers.

And the Kingdom of Sulayman was in Al-Shaam

وَلِسُلَيْمَانَ الرِّيحَ عَاصِفَةً تَجْرِي بِأَمْرِهِ إِلَى الأَرْضِ الَّتِي بَارَكْنَا فِيهَا وَكُنَّا بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَالِمِينَ [الأنبياء:81]

And to Solomon [We subjected] the wind, blowing forcefully, proceeding by his command toward the land which We had blessed. And We are ever, of all things, Knowing.

وَجَعَلْنَا بَيْنَهُمْ وَبَيْنَ الْقُرَى الَّتِي بَارَكْنَا فِيهَا قُرًى ظَاهِرَةً وَقَدَّرْنَا فِيهَا السَّيْرَ سِيرُوا فِيهَا لَيَالِيَ وَأَيَّامًا آمِنِينَ [سبأ:18]

And We placed between them and the cities which We had blessed [many] visible cities. And We determined between them the [distances of] journey, [saying], “Travel between them by night or day in safety

Ibn Abbas, Qatadah and Mujahid all mentioned that the land mentioned in this verse is Al-Shaam.

Some manifestations of the blessings of Al-Shaam

As we read the hadith that speak about the virtues of Al-Shaam it is important to note that this all falls under the realm of prophecy. The prophet (ﷺ) was not speaking about a land that had fallen under his authority during his lifetime, in fact the Muslim armies did not begin to conquer Al-Shaam until the time of ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab, yet the amount of praise and blessings accorded to this land indicates that Al-Shaam would not only become Muslim but a pillar of Islam until the day of Judgment.

Firstly, the angels extending their wings over Al-Shaam

عَنْ زَيْدِ بْنِ ثَابِتٍ، قَالَ كُنَّا عِنْدَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم نُؤَلِّفُ الْقُرْآنَ مِنَ الرِّقَاعِ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ طُوبَى لِلشَّأْمِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ فَقُلْنَا لأَىٍّ ذَلِكَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ قَالَ ‏”‏ لأَنَّ مَلاَئِكَةَ الرَّحْمَنِ بَاسِطَةٌ أَجْنِحَتَهَا عَلَيْهَا ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ هَذَا حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ غَرِيبٌ إِنَّمَا نَعْرِفُهُ مِنْ حَدِيثِ يَحْيَى بْنِ أَيُّوبَ

Zaid ibn Thabit Narrates, “We were with the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) collecting the Qur’an on pieces of cloth, then the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: ‘Tuba is for Ash-Sham.’ So we said: ‘Why is that O Messenger of Allah?’ He said: ‘Because the angels of Ar-Rahman spread their wings over it.'” (Tirmithi)

And Toobaa is a prayer for glad tidings. Al-’Izz ibn Abdisalaam said, “The prophet (ﷺ) indicated that Allah had designated angels to protect and preserve Al-Shaam.”

Secondly, It is the chosen land of God

 

عَنِ ابْنِ حَوَالَةَ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ سَيَصِيرُ الأَمْرُ إِلَى أَنْ تَكُونُوا جُنُودًا مُجَنَّدَةً جُنْدٌ بِالشَّامِ وَجُنْدٌ بِالْيَمَنِ وَجُنْدٌ بِالْعِرَاقِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ ابْنُ حَوَالَةَ خِرْ لِي يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ إِنْ أَدْرَكْتُ ذَلِكَ ‏.‏ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ عَلَيْكَ بِالشَّامِ فَإِنَّهَا خِيَرَةُ اللَّهِ مِنْ أَرْضِهِ يَجْتَبِي إِلَيْهَا خِيَرَتَهُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ فَأَمَّا إِنْ أَبَيْتُمْ فَعَلَيْكُمْ بِيَمَنِكُمْ وَاسْقُوا مِنْ غُدُرِكُمْ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ تَوَكَّلَ لِي بِالشَّامِ وَأَهْلِهِ

 

The Prophet (ﷺ) said: It will turn out that you will be armed troops, one in Al-Shaam, one in the Yemen and one in Iraq. Ibn Hawalah said: Choose for me, Messenger of Allah, if I reach that time. He replied: Go to Al-Shaam, for it is Allah’s chosen land, to which his best servants will be gathered, but if you are unwilling, go to your Yemen, and draw water from your tanks, for Allah has on my account taken special charge of Al-Shaam and its people. (Abu Dawood, Authenticated by Al-Abaani)

Thirdly, The Pillar of the Book (ie Faith) was placed in Al-Shaam

عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ حَوَالَةَ ، قَالَ : قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : ” رَأَيْتُ لَيْلَةَ أُسْرِيَ بِي عَمُودًا أَبْيَضَ كَأَنَّهُ لُؤْلُؤَةٌ تَحْمِلُهُ الْمَلائِكَةُ ، فَقُلْتُ : مَا تَحْمِلُونَ ؟ فَقَالُوا : عَمُودُ الإِسْلامِ ، أُمِرْنَا أَنْ نَضَعَهُ بِالشَّامِ ، وَبَيْنَا أَنَا نَائِمٌ رَأَيْتُ عَمُودَ الْكِتَابِ اخْتُلِسَ مِنْ تَحْتِ رَأْسِي ، فَظَنَنْتُ أَنَّ اللَّهَ تَعَالَى قَدْ تَخَلَّى مِنْ أَهْلِ الأَرْضِ ، فَأَتْبَعْتُهُ بَصَرِي وَإِذَا هُوَ نُورٌ سَاطِعٌ بَيْنَ يَدِي حَتَّى وُضِعَ بِالشَّامِ ” ، فَقَالَ ابْنُ حَوَالَةَ : يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ، خِرْ لِي . فَقَالَ : ” عَلَيْكَ بِالشَّامِ

I saw the night of my Isra a white pillar as if it were of pearl being carried by the angels, I said, “What are you carrying?” They said, “The pillar of Islam, and we were commanded to place it in Al-Shaam. And while I was sleep I saw the pillar of the book taken from underneath my head, and so I thought that Allah had takhala from the people of the world, and so I followed it with my sight and it was a bright light in front of me until it was placed in Al-Shaam. Ibn Hawala then said, “Oh Messenger of Allah, choose for me! He said, “Upon you is Al-Shaam.” Reported by Ibn Asakir in Tarikh Dimashq and authenticated by Ibn Hajr in Fath Al-Bari.

In another version reported by Al-Tabari in his tafsir the prophet (ﷺ) said,

رَأَيْتُ فِي الْمَنَامِ أَنَّهُمْ أَخَذُوا عَمُودَ الْكِتَابِ فَعَمَدُوا بِهِ إِلَى الشَّامِ، فَإِذَا وَقَعَتِ الْفِتْنَةُ فَالْأَمْنُ بِالشَّامِ

While I was alseep I saw that they had taken the pillar of the book and carried it to Al-Shaam, so when fitan (trials) touch down, faith will be in Al-Shaam.

Al-Haakim said, “This is a authentic hadith upon the conditions of the two shaykhs (Bukhari and Muslim) and Al-Dhahabi agreed. Al-Izz ibn Abdissalaam defined “The Pillar of the Book” to be “Iman” or faith. 

Fourthly, the Prophet (ﷺ) prayed for it to be blessed

عَنِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ، قَالَ ذَكَرَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ لَنَا فِي شَأْمِنَا، اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ لَنَا فِي يَمَنِنَا ‏”‏‏.‏ قَالُوا وَفِي نَجْدِنَا‏.‏ قَالَ ‏”‏ اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ لَنَا فِي شَأْمِنَا، اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ لَنَا فِي يَمَنِنَا ‏”‏‏.‏ قَالُوا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَفِي نَجْدِنَا فَأَظُنُّهُ قَالَ فِي الثَّالِثَةَ ‏”‏ هُنَاكَ الزَّلاَزِلُ وَالْفِتَنُ، وَبِهَا يَطْلُعُ قَرْنُ الشَّيْطَانِ

Ibn ‘Umar reports that

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “O Allah! Bestow Your blessings on our Sham! O Allah! Bestow Your blessings on our Yemen.” The People said, “And also on our Najd.” He said, “O Allah! Bestow Your blessings on our Sham (north)! O Allah! Bestow Your blessings on our Yemen.” The people said, “O Allah’s Apostle! And also on our Najd.” I think the third time the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “There (in Najd) is the place of earthquakes and afflictions and from there comes out the side of the head of Satan.” (Bukhari)

Fifthly, Al-Shaam is a yardstick for the righteousness of the ummah

عَنْ مُعَاوِيَةَ بْنِ قُرَّةَ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ إِذَا فَسَدَ أَهْلُ الشَّامِ فَلاَ خَيْرَ فِيكُمْ

Ma’awiyyah ibn Qurrah reports from His father that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said,

“When the inhabitants of Ash-Sham become corrupt, then there is no good in you.”

(Recorded by Al-Tirmithi who graded it a Hassan Sahih hadith).

Sixthly, Al-Shaam will host a group of people unwavering upon the truth

قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي عُمَيْرُ بْنُ هَانِئٍ، أَنَّهُ سَمِعَ مُعَاوِيَةَ، يَقُولُ سَمِعْتُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ ‏ “‏ لاَ يَزَالُ مِنْ أُمَّتِي أُمَّةٌ قَائِمَةٌ بِأَمْرِ اللَّهِ، لاَ يَضُرُّهُمْ مَنْ خَذَلَهُمْ وَلاَ مَنْ خَالَفَهُمْ حَتَّى يَأْتِيَهُمْ أَمْرُ اللَّهِ وَهُمْ عَلَى ذَلِكَ ‏”‏‏.‏ قَالَ عُمَيْرٌ فَقَالَ مَالِكُ بْنُ يُخَامِرَ قَالَ مُعَاذٌ وَهُمْ بِالشَّأْمِ‏.‏ فَقَالَ مُعَاوِيَةُ هَذَا مَالِكٌ يَزْعُمُ أَنَّهُ سَمِعَ مُعَاذًا يَقُولُ وَهُمْ بِالشَّامِ

‘Umayr ibn Hani stated that he heard Mu’awiyyah says,

“I heard the Prophet (ﷺ) saying, “A group of people amongst my followers will remain obedient to Allah’s orders and they will not be harmed by anyone who will not help them or who will oppose them, till Allah’s Order (the Last Day) comes upon them while they are still on the right path.”

‘Umayr said, Malik ibn Yukhamir said, “Mu’adh said, ‘they are in Al-Shaam”

Seventhly: It is a land of many martyrs

أتاني جبريل بالحمى والطاعون فأمسكت الحمى بالمدينة وأرسلت الطاعون إلى الشام، فالطاعون شهادة لأمتي ورحمة لهم ورجس على الكافرين‏

“Jibreel came to me with (carrying) fever and plague. Fever was kept in Medina and Plague was sent to Al-Shaam. Plague is martyrdom for my ummah and mercy and wrath upon the disbelievers. (Ahmad, authenticated by Al-Albani in Sahih Al-Targhib wal Tarhib)

And so plague has touched the region of Al-Shaam many times over from the dawn of Islam as early as the army of Abu ‘Ubaydah ibn Al-Jarrah in 638-639 AD in two waves and it is accounted that 25,000 soldiers died of that plague, of them Mu’adh ibn Jabal, his son Abdulrahman and Abu Ubaydah ibn Al-Jarrah himself. The Middle East Black Death epidemic in which it is reported that around 10,000 people died in Gaza between April 10 and May 10 1348. Plagues that affected the crusaders and cholera outbreaks over the past two centuries among others.

 The Virtues of Al- Masjid Al-Aqsa

It is the second masjid ever built

عَنْ أَبِي ذَرٍّ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ قَالَ قُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ‏.‏ أَىُّ مَسْجِدٍ وُضِعَ أَوَّلُ قَالَ ‏”‏ الْمَسْجِدُ الْحَرَامُ ‏”‏‏.‏ قُلْتُ ثُمَّ أَىٌّ قَالَ ‏”‏ ثُمَّ الْمَسْجِدُ الأَقْصَى ‏”‏‏.‏ قُلْتُ كَمْ كَانَ بَيْنَهُمَا قَالَ ‏”‏ أَرْبَعُونَ ‏”‏‏.‏ ثُمَّ قَالَ ‏”‏ حَيْثُمَا أَدْرَكَتْكَ الصَّلاَةُ فَصَلِّ، وَالأَرْضُ لَكَ مَسْجِدٌ

Narrated Abu Dhaar:

I said, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! Which mosque was built first?” He replied, “Al-Masjid-ul-Haram.” I asked, “Which (was built) next?” He replied, “Al-Masjid-ul-Aqs-a (i.e. Jerusalem).” I asked, “What was the period in between them?” He replied, “Forty (years).” He then added, “Wherever the time for the prayer comes upon you, perform the prayer, for all the earth is a place of worshipping for you.”

Although it’s commonly considered that Ibrahim and Sulayman are the ones who built those masjids respectively, this hadith becomes difficult to resolve when there was more than a thousand years between them! Ibn Hajar mentions a number of positions on who built Al-Ka’abah and Bayt Al-Maqdis he says,

Adam built Al-Ka’abah and then his children built Al-Aqsa

Ibrahim built Al-Ka’abah and then he built Al-Aqsa so he built both

Ibrahim built the Ka’abah and Ya’qoob his grandson built Al-Aqsa and Sulayman rebuilt the Aqsa

It is where the prophets intended and migrated to:

It is where Abraham and Lot migrated to, it is where Moses intended to take Bani Israel

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ قَالَ أُرْسِلَ مَلَكُ الْمَوْتِ إِلَى مُوسَى ـ عَلَيْهِمَا السَّلاَمُ ـ فَلَمَّا جَاءَهُ صَكَّهُ، فَرَجَعَ إِلَى رَبِّهِ، فَقَالَ أَرْسَلْتَنِي إِلَى عَبْدٍ لاَ يُرِيدُ الْمَوْتَ‏.‏ قَالَ ارْجِعْ إِلَيْهِ، فَقُلْ لَهُ يَضَعُ يَدَهُ عَلَى مَتْنِ ثَوْرٍ، فَلَهُ بِمَا غَطَّتْ يَدُهُ بِكُلِّ شَعَرَةٍ سَنَةٌ‏.‏ قَالَ أَىْ رَبِّ، ثُمَّ مَاذَا قَالَ ثُمَّ الْمَوْتُ‏.‏ قَالَ فَالآنَ‏.‏ قَالَ فَسَأَلَ اللَّهَ أَنْ يُدْنِيَهُ مِنَ الأَرْضِ الْمُقَدَّسَةِ رَمْيَةً بِحَجَرٍ‏.‏ قَالَ أَبُو هُرَيْرَةَ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ “‏ لَوْ كُنْتُ ثَمَّ لأَرَيْتُكُمْ قَبْرَهُ إِلَى جَانِبِ الطَّرِيقِ تَحْتَ الْكَثِيبِ الأَحْمَرِ ‏”‏‏.‏ قَالَ وَأَخْبَرَنَا مَعْمَرٌ عَنْ هَمَّامٍ حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو هُرَيْرَةَ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم نَحْوَهُ‏

The Angel of Death was sent to Moses when he came to Moses, Moses slapped him on the eye. The angel returned to his Lord and said, “You have sent me to a Slave who does not want to die.” Allah said, “Return to him and tell him to put his hand on the back of an ox and for every hair that will come under it, he will be granted one year of life.” Moses said, “O Lord! What will happen after that?” Allah replied, “Then death.” Moses said, “Let it come now.” Moses then requested Allah to let him die close to the Sacred Land so much so that he would be at a distance of a stone’s throw from it.” Abu Huraira added, “Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, ‘If I were there, I would show you his grave below the red sand hill on the side of the road.” (Bukhari)

The Sun stood still for the Conquest of Jerusalem

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ “‏ غَزَا نَبِيٌّ مِنَ الأَنْبِيَاءِ فَقَالَ لِقَوْمِهِ لاَ يَتْبَعْنِي رَجُلٌ مَلَكَ بُضْعَ امْرَأَةٍ وَهْوَ يُرِيدُ أَنْ يَبْنِيَ بِهَا وَلَمَّا يَبْنِ بِهَا، وَلاَ أَحَدٌ بَنَى بُيُوتًا وَلَمْ يَرْفَعْ سُقُوفَهَا، وَلاَ أَحَدٌ اشْتَرَى غَنَمًا أَوْ خَلِفَاتٍ وَهْوَ يَنْتَظِرُ وِلاَدَهَا‏.‏ فَغَزَا فَدَنَا مِنَ الْقَرْيَةِ صَلاَةَ الْعَصْرِ أَوْ قَرِيبًا مِنْ ذَلِكَ فَقَالَ لِلشَّمْسِ إِنَّكِ مَأْمُورَةٌ وَأَنَا مَأْمُورٌ، اللَّهُمَّ احْبِسْهَا عَلَيْنَا‏.‏ فَحُبِسَتْ، حَتَّى فَتَحَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “A prophet amongst the prophets carried out a holy military expedition, so he said to his followers, ‘Anyone who has married a woman and wants to consummate the marriage, and has not done so yet, should not accompany me; nor should a man who has built a house but has not completed its roof; nor a man who has sheep or shecamels and is waiting for the birth of their young ones.’ So, the prophet carried out the expedition and when he reached that town at the time or nearly at the time of the `Asr prayer, he said to the sun, ‘O sun! You are under Allah’s Order and I am under Allah’s Order O Allah! Stop it (i.e. the sun) from setting.’ (Bukhari)

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ ، قَالَ : قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : ” مَا حُبِسَتِ الشَّمْسُ عَلَى بَشَرٍ قَطُّ إِلا عَلَى يُوشَعَ بْنِ نُونَ لَيَالِي سَارَ إِلَى بَيْتِ الْمَقْدِسِ

The sun has never stopped for any man besides Yusha bin Noon when he when he was campaigning to conquer Bayt al-Maqdis.” (Ahmed)

Bayt Al-Maqdis is the abode of the prophets.

It is the abode of Ya’qoob and the prayer place of Dawood, and the prayer place of Mary, and the abode of Sulayman and Zakariyyah, John the Baptist and Jesus.

The Prayer of Sulayman

عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَمْرٍو، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ قَالَ ‏”‏ لَمَّا فَرَغَ سُلَيْمَانُ بْنُ دَاوُدَ مِنْ بِنَاءِ بَيْتِ الْمَقْدِسِ سَأَلَ اللَّهَ ثَلاَثًا حُكْمًا يُصَادِفُ حُكْمَهُ وَمُلْكًا لاَ يَنْبَغِي لأَحَدٍ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ وَأَلاَّ يَأْتِيَ هَذَا الْمَسْجِدَ أَحَدٌ لاَ يُرِيدُ إِلاَّ الصَّلاَةَ فِيهِ إِلاَّ خَرَجَ مِنْ ذُنُوبِهِ كَيَوْمَ وَلَدَتْهُ أُمُّهُ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ فَقَالَ النَّبِيُّ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ ‏”‏ أَمَّا اثْنَتَانِ فَقَدْ أُعْطِيَهُمَا وَأَرْجُو أَنْ يَكُونَ قَدْ أُعْطِيَ الثَّالِثَةَ

 

Abdullah Ibn Amr raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) reports that the prophet (ﷺ) said,

“When Sulaiman bin Dawud finished building Baitil-Maqdis, he asked Allah for three things: judgment that was in harmony with His judgment, a dominion that no one after him would have, and that no one should come to this mosque, intending only to pray there, but he would emerge free of sin as the day his mother bore him.” The Prophet (ﷺ) said: “Two prayers were granted, and I hope that the third was also granted.” (Ibn Majah, Authentic)

It is the first Qiblah

The prophet (ﷺ) for the entire time that he was in Mecca and the first 16 months that he was in Medinah would pray towards Jerusalem. And so while he was in Medinah he would pray with his back towards Mecca. This was until Allah revealed the verses in Surat Al- Baqarah.

Originally that Qiblah was the dome of the rock itself, and when Jerusalem surrendered in the year 15 H to the forces of Umar ibn Al-Khattab and Umar himself arrived he saw the Masjid and at that time it was ruin. He said, “Allahu Akbar, by the One in whose Hand is my soul, this is the masjid of David that the prophet (S) told us he was taken on a nights journey to.” He then told Ka’b Al-Ahbar do you know where the place of the rock is? He informed him and said dig there and you will find it, at the time it was a dump. When it was excavated or found Ka’b suggested to Umar that the masjid be placed behind the wall so that the two Qiblahs would merge and ‘Umar rebuked him for that and built the masjid in front of the rock.

The Prophet (ﷺ) was taken on a Night’s journey there.

The scholars mentioned that of the wisdoms on why the prophet (S) was taken to Bayt Al-Maqdis was to establish proof against the polytheists and those who doubted him. Meaning that if the prophet (ﷺ) had simply ascended to the heavens from Mecca there would have been no way for them to test his truthfulness. However when he claimed that he had traveled to Jerusalem, they asked him to describe to them Bayt Al-Maqdis, a place that they were familiar with due to their trade and travels. They also knew that the Messenger (ﷺ) had never been there and so when he was able to describe in detail Bayt Al-Maqdis it established the truthfulness of his claim, and if they were to believe him in that they would also believe in him traveling to the heavens.

Also, Bayt Al-Maqdis is the migratory point of the prophets and the first of the two Qiblahs and the second of the two masjids built and Allah took the prophet (ﷺ) there to honor him by having him pray in both places.

Prayers are Multiplied

عَنْ أَبِي ذَرٍّ ، قَالَ : تَذَاكَرْنَا وَنَحْنُ عِنْدَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ، أَيُّهُمَا أَفْضَلُ : أَمَسْجِدُ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَمْ بَيْتُ الْمَقْدِسِ ؟ ، فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : ” صَلاةٌ فِي مَسْجِدِي أَفْضَلُ مِنْ أَرْبَعِ صَلَوَاتٍ فِيهِ وَلَنِعْمَ الْمُصَلَّى هُوَ , وَلَيُوشِكَنَّ لأَنْ يَكُونَ لِلرَّجُلِ مِثْلُ شَطَنِ فَرَسِهِ مِنَ الأَرْضِ حَيْثُ يَرَى مِنْهُ بَيْتَ الْمَقْدِسِ خَيْرًا لَهُ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا جَمِيعًا ” ، قَالَ : أَوْ قَالَ : ” خَيْرٌ لَهُ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا وَمَا فِيهَا

Abu Dhar mentions we were discussing in the presence of the prophet (S) which Masjid was better, the Masjid of the prophet (S) or Bayt Al-Maqdis. He, (S), said, “A prayer in my masjid is better than four prayers there, and what an excellent prayer place it is, and there may come a time when a person having the size of a rope of land from which they can see Bayt Al-Maqdis is more beloved to them then the entire world.” Or he said, “the world and everything in it.” Reported by Al-Hakim which an authentic chain.

But this also alludes to something which we will close with and that is there will come a time when if a person had just a little bit of space in Al-Quds with a view of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa. It would be so beloved to them. These are some of the virtues of Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa, there is more to be said about the Masjid and Al-Shaam in general especially when it comes to the End of Days as much of what was described of battles near the end of days, the return of Jesus Christ and the killing of the AntiChrist, as well as Gog and Magog who meet their demise in Al-Shaam.

What we ask for is to be allowed to pray in this Masjid, and be able to visit it and be a part of those who work towards freeing it and it’s people.

FAQ’s

What is Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa; it is not just the dome of the rock and it’s not just just the masjid itself it’s the entire prayer complex. That is all Al-masjid Al-Aqsa as mentioned by the scholars in the past and present.

Is it a Haram? No it is not a Haram, and it is not correct to call it the third Haram. A Haram is a place in which hunting and plucking of fruits is haram, and there is nothing to that effect in Al-Aqsa.

Is there anything special that is done there? It is like Masjid Al-Nabawi in that sense, there is nothing that is done there other than what is normally done in a Masjid.

Is there anything virtuous to be done at the Dome of the Rock? Ibn Taymiyyah writes about the ‘Dome’ that it was not prayed at by Umar or the companions, nor did any of the rightly guided khulafa build a dome over it. It was uncovered before, during the time of Umar, Uthman, Ali, Ma’awiyyah, Yazeed and Murwan, but when Abd Al-Malik took over Al-Shaam and he had his fitnah between him and Ibn Al-Zubayr people would go to perform the hajj and would meet with Ibn Al-Zubayr. AbdulMalik wanted to divert people away from Ibn Al-Zubayr, so he built the dome over the rock. As for the people of knowledge from the sahaah and tabi’een they did not exhalt the dome of the rock, it is a abrogated qiblah, just like Saturday was a holiday in the law of Mose and now Friday is the holiday in the law of Muhammad and so it is not persmissible for Muslims to specifiy Saturday or Sunday with any acts of worship as the Jews or Christians do.

A call to action:

A hadith that is controversial in its authenticity

 

عَنْ مَيْمُونَةَ، مَوْلاَةِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَنَّهَا قَالَتْ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَفْتِنَا فِي بَيْتِ الْمَقْدِسِ فَقَالَ ‏”‏ ائْتُوهُ فَصَلُّوا فِيهِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ – وَكَانَتِ الْبِلاَدُ إِذْ ذَاكَ حَرْبًا – فَإِنْ لَمْ تَأْتُوهُ وَتُصَلُّوا فِيهِ فَابْعَثُوا بِزَيْتٍ يُسْرَجُ فِي قَنَادِيلِهِ

Narrated Maymunah ibn Sa’d:

I said: Messenger of Allah, tell us the legal injunction about (visiting) Bayt al-Muqaddas (the dome of the Rock at Jerusalem). The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: go and pray there. All the cities at that time were effected by war. If you cannot visit it and pray there, then send some oil to be used in the lamps.

Weak, Abu Dawood

(This hadith was authenticated by Al-Hafidh Al-Iraqi, Al-Tahawi and Al-Nawawi and declared weak by Al-Albani).

Though this hadith may not be authentic the meaning that it carries is one that we should internalize and that is that if a person is never able to make it to Bayt-Al-Maqdis that they act to serve it still in whatever capacity they can. And there are many ways that a person can serve Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa; communicating what is happening there to others, visiting the Masjid, supporting the people of Al-Aqsa especially those who are protecting the Masjid and praying there, as well as praying for them regularly in your own supplications,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ammar Al Shukry is the author of the Poetry Collection: "What the Pen Wrote." Ammar AlShukry is Content Director of FaithEssentials, a complete learning hub for the everyday Muslim. FaithEssentials can be found at www.faithessentials.online

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Amatullah

    September 19, 2017 at 3:26 AM

    Amazing. SubhanAllah. I dint know there were so many ahadith regarding Ash-Shaam. May Allah have mercy on the people of Ash-Shaam.
    jazakhAllah khayr brother.

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#Life

So You Are The Wali, Now What?

Dr Shadee Elmasry

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The way most Muslims (as well as conservative Christians and Jews) live, a man asks for a woman’s hand in marriage from the father.

The father is not just a turnstile who has to say yes. He is a “wali” or protector and guardian of his daughter’s rights. So he will be asking some serious questions that would be awkward if the woman had to ask them.

Furthermore, in the Muslim community today esp. in the West, there are many converts that seek out a wali because they have no male relative who is Muslim. In this post, I share some guidelines aimed at the wali in his new role and stories that are useful.

Being a wali is not an honorary role. You’re not just throwing out the first pitch. You’re actually trying to throw curveballs to see whether the proposal checks out or has issues.

Here are some questions and demands a wali should make:

Background check: Call and meet at least four people that were close to the man who has proposed and interview them. There’s no husn al-zann (good opinion) in marriage. As a potential suitor, you are rejected until you prove yourself, much like an application for employment. These days, most people’s background can be found on their social media, so the wali has to spend time scrolling down. Keep scrolling, read the comments, look at the pictures, click on who’s tagged in those pictures. Get a good idea. You are a private investigator *before* the problem happens, not after. 

Check financials:  You need to see the financials to make sure they are not in some ridiculous debt or have bad credit such that they can’t even rent an apartment or cover basic needs. You want some evidence that he can fulfill the obligation of maintenance.

Check the educational background or skill set: This is a given. If it’s solid, then it can outweigh lack of funds at this moment.

Check medical records: If this is a stranger, the wali needs medical records. There was once a wealthy, handsome young man that was suave and a seemingly amazing prospect who proposed for a girl who was comparatively of average looks and from a family of very modest means. The mother and daughter were head over heels, but the dad had enough common sense to know something was up.

“Why would he come knocking on our door?,” he asked.

So the father demanded medical records. The guy never produced them. When the dad pressed him, the man admitted, he had a sexually transmitted disease (STD) and that’s why he couldn’t find anyone else to marry him.

Now note, there are legitimate cases where people have a past when they have made mistakes. This happens to the best of us, and the door for tawbah (repentance) is open. In those cases, there are organizations that match-make for Muslims with STDs. People should act in a responsible manner and not damage the lives of other humans beings.

Lifestyle: It is your job to check if the two parties have agreed on life essentials such as religious beliefs, where to live, how to school kids, etc?

In-laws: Have you at least met the family of the suitor and spent some time with them to make sure there’s nothing alarming?

Engagement: Contrary to popular understanding, there is such a thing as engagement in Islam. It’s an announcement of a future commitment to marriage. Nothing changes between the fiancees, but nobody is allowed to propose anymore. The purpose of engagement is to give time for both parties to get ready. For example, the groom may want to save up some money, or the girl may be finishing up college. Also, it’s easy to put on a face during the get-to-know process, but it’s hard to fake it over an eight or nine-month period. I remember a story where a young woman was engaged, and four months into the engagement they discovered the young man was still getting to know other women. He basically reserved the girl and then went to check for better options. Needless to say, he was dumped on the spot. Engagements are commonly a few months. I think more than a year is too much.

Legal/Civil:  The marriage should be legal/civil in the country where you will settle. If you accept a Shariah marriage but not a civil one, know that you’re asking for legal complications, especially if a child enters the picture. (Ed. Note- we realize that some countries do not allow legal registration of more than one marriage- if that is a consideration please look at all options to protect your ward. There are ways to get insurance that can be set up.)

Mahr: Get 50% of the dowry upfront (or some decent amount) and whatever is scheduled to be paid later should be written and signed. I’ve seen too many cases where a really nice dowry is “promised” but never produced.

The dowry should be commensurate to current standards depending on the man’s job. For example in our area in America 5, 7, or 10k is a common range.

In sum, there are very few things in life that are as bad as misery in marriage. The wali’s job is to eliminate the bad things that could have been avoided. If that means he has to be demanding and hated for a few months, it’s worth the cost.

It’s preventative medicine.

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#Islam

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf And The Question of Rebellion In The Islamic Tradition

Dr Usaama al-Azami

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Sepoy rebellion, Shaykh Hamza

In recent years, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, a notable Islamic scholar from North America, has gained global prominence by supporting efforts by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to deal with the fallout of the Arab revolutions. The UAE is a Middle Eastern autocracy that has been the chief strategist behind quelling the Arab revolutionary aspiration for accountable government in the region. Shaykh Hamza views himself as helping prevent the region from falling into chaos by supporting one of its influential autocratic states. However, more recently, he has become embroiled in another controversy because of comments he made regarding the Syrian revolution in 2016 that surfaced online earlier this week and for which he has since apologised. I will not discuss these comments directly in this article, but the present piece does have a bearing on the issue of revolution as it addresses the question of how Islamic scholars have traditionally responded to tyranny. Thus, in what follows, I somewhat narrowly focus on another recent recording of Shaykh Hamza that has been published by a third party in the past couple of weeks entitled: “Hamza Yusuf’s response to the criticism for working with Trump administration”. While it was published online at the end of August 2019, the short clip may, in fact, predate the Trump controversy, as it only addresses the more general charge that Shaykh Hamza is supportive of tyrannical governments.

Thus, despite its title, the primary focus of the recording is what the Islamic tradition purportedly says about the duty of Muslims to render virtually unconditional obedience to even the most tyrannical of rulers. In what follows, I argue that Shaykh Hamza’s contention that the Islamic tradition has uniformly called for rendering obedience to tyrannical rule—a contention that he has been repeating for many years—is inaccurate. Indeed, it is so demonstrably inaccurate that one wonders how a scholar as learned as Shaykh Hamza can portray it as the mainstream interpretation of the Islamic tradition rather than as representing a particularly selective reading of fourteen hundred years of scholarship. Rather than rest on this claim, I will attempt to demonstrate this in what follows. (Note: this article was sent to Shaykh Hamza for comment at the beginning of this month, but he has not replied in time for publication.)

Opposing all government vs opposing a government

Shaykh Hamza argues that “the Islamic tradition” demands that one render virtually absolute obedience to one’s rulers. He bases this assertion on a number of grounds, each of which I will address in turn. Firstly, he argues that Islam requires government, because the opposite of having a government would be a state of chaos. This is, however, to mischaracterise the arguments of the majority of mainstream scholars in Islamic history down to the present who, following explicit Qur’anic and Prophetic teachings, opposed supporting tyrannical rulers. None of these scholars ever advocated the removal of government altogether. They only opposed tyranny. For some reason that is difficult to account for, Shaykh Hamza does not, in addressing the arguments of his interlocutors, make the straightforward distinction between opposing tyranny, and opposing the existence of any government at all.

A complex tradition

Rather than support these tyrannical governments, the Islamic tradition provides a variety of responses to how one should oppose such governments, ranging from the more quietist—opposing them only in one’s heart—to the more activist—opposing them through armed rebellion. The majority of later scholars, including masters such as al-Ghazzali (d. 505/1111), Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali (d. 795/1393), and Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani (d. 852/1449) appear to have fallen somewhere between these two poles, advocating rebellion only in limited circumstances, and mostly advising a vocally critical posture towards tyranny. Of course, some early scholars, such as the sanctified member of the Prophetic Household, Sayyiduna Husayn (d. 61/680) had engaged in armed opposition to the tyranny of the Umayyads resulting in his martyrdom. Similarly, the Companion ‘Abdullah b. Zubayr (d. 73/692), grandson of Abu Bakr (d. 13/634), and son of al-Zubayr b. al-‘Awwam (d. 36/656), two of the Ten Companions Promised Paradise, had established a Caliphate based in Makkah that militarily tried to unseat the Umayyad Caliphal counter-claimant.

However, the model of outright military rebellion adopted by these illustrious scholars was generally relinquished in later centuries in favour of other forms of resisting tyranny. This notwithstanding, I will try to show that the principle of vocally resisting tyranny has always remained at the heart of the Islamic tradition contrary to the contentions of Shaykh Hamza. Indeed, I argue that the suggestion that Shaykh Hamza’s work with the UAE, an especially oppressive regime in the Arab world, is somehow backed by the Islamic tradition can only be read as a mischaracterisation of this tradition. He only explicitly cites two scholars from Islamic history to support his contention, namely Shaykhs Ahmad Zarruq (d. 899/1493) and Abu Bakr al-Turtushi (d. 520/1126), both of whom were notable Maliki scholars from the Islamic West. Two scholars of the same legal school, from roughly the same relatively peripheral geographic region, living roughly four hundred years apart, cannot fairly be used to represent the swathe of Islamic views to be found over fourteen hundred years in lands as far-flung as India to the east, Russia to the north, and southern Africa to the south.

What does the tradition actually say?

Let me briefly illustrate the diversity of opinion on this issue within the Islamic tradition by citing several more prominent and more influential figures from the same tradition alongside their very different stances on the issue of how one ought to respond to tyrannical rulers. Most of the Four Imams are in fact reported to have supported rebellion (khuruj) which is, by definition, armed. A good summary of their positions is found in the excellent study in Arabic by Shaykh ‘Abdullah al-Dumayji, who is himself opposed to rebellion, but who notes that outright rebellion against tyrannical rule was in fact encouraged by Abu Hanifa (d. 150/767) and Malik (d. 179/795), and is narrated as one of the legal positions adopted by al-Shafi‘i (d. 204/820) and Ahmad b. Hanbal (d. 241/855). As these scholars’ legal ideas developed and matured into schools of thought, many later adherents also maintained similar positions to those attributed to the founders of these schools. To avoid suggesting that armed rebellion against tyrants was the dominant position of the later Islamic tradition, let me preface this section with a note from Holberg Prize-winning Islamic historian, Michael Cook, who notes in his magisterial study of the doctrine of commanding right and forbidding wrong that “in the face of the delinquency of the ruler, there is a clear mainstream position [in the Islamic tradition]: rebuke is endorsed while [armed] rebellion is rejected.”

But there were also clearly plenty of outliers, or more qualified endorsements of rebellion against tyrants, as well as the frequent disavowal of the obligation to render them any obedience. Thus for the Malikis, one can find Qadi Abu Bakr b. al-‘Arabi (d. 543/1148) who asserts that advocating rebellion against tyrants is the main position of the madhhab; similarly among later Hanafis, one finds Qadi Abu Bakr al-Jassas (d. 370/981); for the Hanbalis, one may cite the positions of the prolific scholars Imam Ibn ‘Aqil (d. 513/1119), Ibn al-Jawzi (d. 597/1201), and in a more qualified sense, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali. Among later Shafi‘is, I have found less explicit discussions of rebellion in my limited search, but a prominent Shafi‘i like the influential exegete and theologian al-Fakhr al-Razi (d. 606/1210) makes explicit, contrary to Shaykh Hamza’s claims, that not only is obeying rulers not an obligation, in fact “most of the time it is prohibited, since they command to nothing but tyranny.” This is similar in ways to the stance of other great Shafi‘is such as al-hafiz Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani who notes concerning tyrannical rulers (umara’ al-jawr) that the ulama state that “if it is possible to depose them without fitna and oppression, it is an obligation to do so. Otherwise, it is obligatory to be patient.” It is worth noting that the normative influence of such a statement cited by Ibn Hajar transcends the Shafi‘i school given that it is made in his influential commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari. Once again, contrary to the assertions of Shaykh Hamza, there is nothing to suggest that any of the illustrious scholars who supported rebellion against tyrannical rulers was advocating the anarchist removal of all government. Rather they were explicitly advocating the replacement of a tyrant with a just ruler where this was possible.

Al-Ghazzali on confronting tyrants

A final example may be taken from the writing of Imam al-Ghazzali, an exceptionally influential scholar in the Islamic tradition who Shaykh Hamza particularly admires. On al-Ghazzali, who is generally opposed to rebellion but not other forms of opposition to tyranny, I would like to once again cite the historian Michael Cook. In his previously cited work, after an extensive discussion of al-Ghazzali’s articulation of the doctrine of commanding right and forbidding wrong, Cook concludes (p. 456):

As we have seen, his views on this subject are marked by a certain flirtation with radicalism. In this Ghazzālī may have owed something to his teacher Juwaynī, and he may also have been reacting to the Ḥanafī chauvinism of the Seljūq rulers of his day. The duty, of course, extends to everyone, not just rulers and scholars. More remarkably, he is prepared to allow individual subjects to have recourse to weapons where necessary, and even to sanction the formation of armed bands to implement the duty without the permission of the ruler. And while there is no question of countenancing rebellion, Ghazzālī is no accommodationist: he displays great enthusiasm for men who take their lives in their hands and rebuke unjust rulers in harsh and uncompromising language.

Most of the material Cook bases his discussion upon is taken from al-Ghazzali’s magnum opus, The Revival of the Religious Sciences. Such works once again demonstrate that the Islamic tradition, or great Sufi masters and their masterworks, cannot be the basis for the supportive attitude towards tyrannical rule on the part of a minority of modern scholars.

Modern discontinuities and their high stakes

But modern times give rise to certain changes that also merit our attention. In modern times, new technologies of governance, such as democracy, have gone some way to dealing with challenges such as the management of the transition of power without social breakdown and the loss of life, as well as other forms of accountability that are not possible in absolute autocracies. For their part, absolute autocracies have had their tyrannical dimensions amplified with Orwellian technologies that invade private spaces and facilitate barbaric forms of torture and inhumane degradation on a scale that was likely unimaginable to premodern scholars. The stakes of a scholar’s decision of whether to support autocracy or democracy could not be higher.

Modern scholars like Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi (b. 1345/1926), someone who Shaykh Hamza’s own mentor, Shaykh Abdullah b. Bayyah (b. 1353f./1935) considered a teacher until fairly recently, has advocated for an Islamic conception of democracy as a possible means to deal with the problem of tyranny that plagues much of the Muslim world. He is hardly the only scholar to do so. And in contrast with some of the scholars of the past who advocated armed rebellion in response to tyranny, most contemporary scholars supporting the Arab revolutions have argued for peaceful political change wherever possible. They have advocated for peaceful protest in opposition to tyranny. Where this devolved into violence in places like Libya, Syria, and Yemen, this was generally because of the disproportionately violent responses of regimes to peaceful protests.

Shaykh Hamza on the nature of government

For Shaykh Hamza, the fault here appears to lie with the peaceful protestors for provoking these governments to crush them. Such a conception of the dynamics of protest appears to assume that the autocratic governmental response to this is a natural law akin to cause and effect. The logic would seem to be: if one peacefully calls for reform and one is murdered in cold blood by a tyrannical government, then one has only oneself to blame. Governments, according to this viewpoint, have no choice but to be murderous and tyrannical. But in an age in which nearly half of the world’s governments are democracies, however flawed at times, why not aspire to greater accountability and less violent forms of governance than outright military dictatorship?

Rather than ask this question, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf appears to be willing to defend autocracy no matter what they do on the grounds that government, in principle, is what is at stake. Indeed, in defending government as necessary and a blessing, he rhetorically challenges his critics to “ask the people of Libya whether government is a blessing; ask the people of Yemen whether government is a blessing; ask the people of Syria whether government is a blessing?” The tragic irony of such statements is that these countries have, in part, been destroyed because of the interventions of a government, one for which Shaykh Hamza serves as an official, namely the UAE. This government has one of the most aggressive foreign policies in the region and has been instrumental in the failure of representative governments and the survival of tyrannical regimes throughout the Middle East.

Where do we go from here?

In summary, Shaykh Hamza’s critics are not concerned that he is “supporting governments,” rather they are concerned that for the last few years, he has found himself supporting bad government and effectively opposing the potential for good government in a region that is desperately in need of it. And while he may view himself as, in fact, supporting stability in the region by supporting the UAE, such a view is difficult if not impossible to reconcile with the evidence. Given his working relationship with the UAE government, perhaps Shaykh Hamza could use his position to remind the UAE of the blessing of government in an effort to stop them from destroying the governments in the region through proxy wars that result in death on an epic scale. If he is unable to do this, then the most honourable thing to do under such circumstances would be to withdraw from such political affiliations and use all of his influence and abilities to call for genuine accountability in the region in the same way that he is currently using his influence and abilities to provide cover, even if unwittingly, for the UAE’s oppression.

And Allah knows best.

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Can Women Attend The Burial Of The Deceased?

A short survey on what leading scholars and the four schools of law (madhhabs) have to say on the issue

Dr Usaama al-Azami

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Quran at graveyard, woman attend burial

A few weeks ago, my brother passed away, may Allah have mercy on his soul. By Allah’s grace, his funeral was well-attended by many friends, relatives, and students of his, including a number of women. In this context, someone asked me about the Sharia’s guidance regarding women attending the burial of the deceased, and in what follows I consider what leading scholars and the four schools of law (madhhabs) have to say on the issue. The short survey below is by no means exhaustive, something that will need to be left for a much longer piece, but I hope it can be considered representative for the purposes of a general readership. 

This is not a fatwa, but rather a brief outline of what past scholars have argued to be the case with some suggestions as to how this might be understood in modern times. Finally, I should note that this is a discussion about accompanying the deceased to their final resting place (ittiba‘/tashyi‘ al-jinaza) after the conducting of funeral prayers (salat al-janaza). Accompanying the deceased on the part of women is considered more contentious than simply attending the funeral prayer, so in general, jurists who permit such accompaniment would allow for attending the prayer, while jurists who do not permit accompaniment of the deceased may be more reluctant to permit prayer. Whatever the specific cases may be, I do not go into this discussion below.

Key positions and evidence

In brief, I have been able to discern three general positions regarding women accompanying the deceased until they are buried: 1. A clear majority of scholars indicate that women are permitted to attend the burial of the deceased, but it is generally discouraged (makruh). 2. Some scholars permitted elderly women’s attendance of the burial unconditionally. 3. Others prohibited all women’s attendance unconditionally.

Overall, it is clear that most schools have permitted women’s attendance of burial, with most of these scholars discouraging it for reasons we shall consider below. The notion that women should not attend the burial of the deceased will thus clearly be shown to be a minority position in the tradition, past and present. Being a minority position does not mean it cannot be practiced, as we will consider in due course. The evidence from the Sunnah is the main legal basis for the ruling, and I shall now consider the most authentic hadiths on the matter.

The general rule for legal commands is that they apply to both genders equally. Accordingly, in a hadith narrated by Bukhari and Muslim, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) strongly encouraged attending the burial of the deceased. That the ruling for women would be one of discouragement (karaha) rather than of encouragement (istihbab) would thus necessarily arise from countervailing evidence. This may be found in another hadith narrated by both of the earlier authorities. This short hadith is worth quoting in full: 

(‏متفق عليه‏) قالت أم عطية: نهينا عن اتباع الجنائز، ولم يعزم علينا

In translation, this reads: Umm ‘Atiyya said, “We were prohibited from following the funeral procession, but it was not insisted upon.”

Interpreting the evidence

The Sharia’s ruling on this matter hinges on how this hadith is understood. On this point, scholars of various schools have adopted a range of positions as outlined earlier. But on the specifics of how the wording of the hadith should be understood, it is worth considering the reading of one of the towering figures of hadith studies, Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani (d. 852/1449). In his authoritative commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari entitled Fath al-Bari, he glosses the phrase in the aforementioned hadith “but it was not insisted upon” as meaning, “the prohibition was not insisted upon.” He adds: “It is as though she is saying: ‘it was discouraged for us to follow the funeral procession, without it being prohibited.’”

The hadith has, however, been interpreted in various ways by the schools of law. A useful summary of these interpretations may be found in encyclopedic works of fiqh written in recent decades. In his al-Fiqh al-Islami wa-Adillatuhu, the prolific Syrian scholar Wahba al-Zuhayli (d. 1436/2015) notes (on p. 518) that the majority of jurists consider women’s joining the funeral procession to be mildly discouraged (makruh tanzihi) on the basis of the aforementioned hadith of Umm ‘Atiyya. However, he adds, the Hanafis have historically considered it prohibitively discouraged (makruh tahrimi) on the basis of another hadith in which the Prophet reportedly told a group of women who were awaiting a funeral procession, “Return with sins and without reward.”

Al-Zuhayli inclines towards this ruling despite noting in a footnote that the hadith he has just mentioned is weak (da‘if) in its attribution to the Prophet. However, he also adds that the Malikis permitted elderly women to attend the burial of the deceased unconditionally, and also young women from whom no fitna was feared. What constitutes fitna is not generally specified in these discussions and perhaps needs further study, but one contemporary Hanafi defines it as “intermingling with the opposite sex,” and thus suggests that where there is no such intermingling between members of the opposite sex, it is permissible for young women to attend funerals and burials.

Another valuable encyclopedic source for learning about the juristic rulings of various schools and individual scholars is the important 45-volume al-Mawsu‘a al-Fiqhiyya compiled by a team of scholars and published by the Kuwaiti Ministry of Endowments a quarter of a century ago. In its section on this issue, it notes that the Hanafis prohibitively discourage women’s attendance of the funeral procession, the Shafi‘is mildly discourage it, the Malikis permit it where there is no fear of fitna, and the Hanbalis mildly discourage it. The reasoning behind these positions may be found in the Arabic original, and ought to be made available in English by Muslims in the West investing in translating such voluminous works into English. 

From the above, we may gather that of the four schools, only the pre-modern Hanafis prohibit women’s attendance of funeral processions. I have already indicated one example of a modern Hanafi who moves closer to the position of the less restrictive schools in this issue, but it is worth highlighting another. Shaykh Nur al-Din ‘Itr (b. 1355/1937), one of the greatest Hanafi hadith experts alive today, in his commentary on the hadith of Umm ‘Atiyya writes that the report indicates that women’s attending a funeral procession is only mildly discouraged (makruh tanzihi). Additionally, in a footnote, he criticises a contemporary who interprets the hadith as indicating prohibition and then proceeds to cite the less restrictive Maliki position with apparent approval.

The fiqh of modernity

In none of the above am I necessarily arguing that one of these positions is stronger than the other. I present these so that people may be familiar with the range of opinions on the matter in the Islamic tradition. However, this range also indicates the existence of legitimate difference of opinion that should prevent holders of one position from criticising those who follow one of the legitimate alternatives with the unfounded charge that they are not following the Qur’an and Sunna.

Furthermore, there are often interesting assumptions embedded in the premodern juristic tradition which modern Muslims find themselves out of step with, such as the assumption that women should generally stay at home. This is clearly an expectation in some of the fiqh literature, and in modern times, we sometimes find that this results in incoherent legal positions being advocated in Muslim communities. We find, for example, that in much of the premodern fiqh literature, Hanafis prohibit women from attending the mosque for fear of fitna, while we live in times in which women frequently work outside the home. As one of my teachers in fiqh, the Oxford-based Hanafi jurist Shaykh Mohammad Akram Nadwi, once remarked in class, is it not absurd for a scholar to prohibit women from attending the mosque for fear of fitna while none of these scholars would prohibit a woman from going to a mall/shopping centre?

This underlines the need for balanced fiqh that is suited to our times, one that allows both men and women to participate in spiritually elevated activities, such as going to the mosque and attending funerals while observing the appropriate Islamic decorum, so that the rest of their lives may be inspired by such actions. The answer to modernity’s generalised spiritual malaise is not the shutting out of opportunities for spiritual growth, but rather its opposite. This will only come about when Muslims, individually and communally, invest more of their energy in reflecting on how they can faithfully live according to the Qur’an and Sunna in contexts very different to those in which the ulama of past centuries resided.

And God knows best.

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