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Al-Mudawwanah Al-Jāmi’ah: The History and Methodology of the Hadith Encyclopedia

Umer Ansari

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By Shaykh Al-Islam Mufti Taqi ‘Uthmani

Translator’s Foreword:

The following is the first formal introduction to Al-Mudawwanah Al-Jāmi’ah: The Hadith Encyclopedia in the English language.

It has been formulated based on the Arabic Muqaddimah penned by Shaykh Mufti Taqī ‘Uthmānī at the beginning of Al-Mudawwanah Al-Jāmi’ah, the Urdu introduction by our esteemed Shaykh that was published in Al-Balagh Urdu Monthly (Nov 2017), and his speech given at “Taqrīb-i Shukr” ceremony (Dec 5, 2017) at Dār al-Ulūm Karachi, the transcription of which has also been published in Al-Balagh Urdu Monthly (Jan 2018).

This translation aims to provide, in the English language, a comprehensive introduction of this historical work with the latest information available at the time.


In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful and the Ever Merciful

All praises are due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds, and peace and blessings be upon Allah’s noble messenger, his household, and all of his noble companions.

Since 2002, Dār al-‘Ulūm in Karachi has undertaken an important project in the field of hadith compilation and, by Allah’s mercy and blessings, we have reached an important milestone. The first volume of the hadith encyclopedia has been published under the title Al-Mudawwanah Al-Jāmi’ah lil-ahadith al-Marwīyah ‘an an-Nabī al-Karīm allá Allāh ‘alayhi wassallam.

By the grace of Allah, this project has been in progress without any publicity. Since the first volume is now published, however, the time is ripe on this joyous occasion that a concise introduction be presented for all the people of knowledge.

The Preservation of Hadith

For indeed, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has chosen the nation of Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) to preserve the details of His beloved messenger’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) noble life. This is so because the noble messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was sent with divine guidance for all of humanity until the Day of Judgment. Therefore, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has taken it upon Himself to protect the Qur’an. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says:

“We, Ourselves, have sent down the Dhikr (the Qur’an), and We are there to protect it.” [Al-ijr, 15:9][1]

 

Furthermore, the protection of the Qur’an entails the preservation of the sunnah of Allah’s messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) because Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) had sent him to teach and explain the Book of Allah. He says:

 

 

“We sent down the Reminder (The Qur’an) to you, so that you explain to the people what has been revealed for them, and so that they may ponder.” [an-Nal, 16:44]

 

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says:

 

Allah has surely conferred favor on the believers when He raised in their midst a messenger from among themselves  who recites to them His verses and makes them pure and teaches them the Book and the Wisdom, while earlier, they were in open error.” [Āl-i-Imrān, 3:164]

 

Therefore, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) chose some among His servants to preserve the sunnah of His Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). They dedicated their lives to preserving the sunnah by memorizing, writing, teaching, explaining, and propagating it. They spared no effort in preserving the text and the chains of narrators of ahadith, in scrutinizing the narrators to separate the reliable narrators from the unreliable, in the writing and compiling of ahadith, in explaining and extrapolating from them, and in expanding this science while preserving it, the likes of which is unprecedented in human history.

It is no secret from the people of knowledge that the way Muslims have preserved hadith of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is unparalleled and incomparable with any other nation or religion. Innumerable compilations of hadith have been written in different styles, and each one of them possesses many benefits.

When we examine the history of the hadith sciences, we find works that attempted at compiling numerous hadith. ‘Allāmah Ibn al-Athīr al-Jazarī compiled the six books of Al-Sihah Al-Sitta (also known as Al-Kutub Al-Sitta)[2] into Jāmi’ al-Usūl, however, it included Al-Muwaṭṭaʾ of Imam Mālik instead of Sunan Ibn Mājah. Then ‘Allāmah Haythami compiled his Majmau’ al-Zawāid in which he compiled the ahadith of Al-Sihāh Al-Sitta, along with Musnad Amad, Al-Mu’jam Al-abarānī, and Musnad Abu Ya’lā. This was followed by Jam’ul Fawāid in which Jāmi’ al-Usūl and Majmau’ al-Zawāid were compiled together, in addition to the narrations exclusively found in Sunan Ibn Mājah and Sunan ad-Dārimi.

Later, many other compilations took place, for example Al-Jawāmi’ of ‘Allāmah al-Suyūṭī and Kanz al-‘Ummāl to name a few. However, in these compilations, ahadith were collected with their matn (text), while leaving out their isnād (chain of narrators)[3].

Thus, every generation has served the Prophetic traditions by facilitating the need to search ahadith from the hadith compilations, details of which are well-known to the people of knowledge. In the Information Age, there are numerous programs to search hadith, the importance of which cannot be denied. However, new ways of service to the Prophetic traditions continue to manifest.

Background

About fifteen years ago a friend of mine, who would like to remain anonymous, proposed that all the Prophetic traditions should be assigned a unique international number. The current method of citing hadith is either by making a reference to the page number of the reference work, or by mentioning the hadith number found in that collection. However, such references differ quite often due to the differences in the manuscripts and publications. Therefore, such a method is not the best tool to search and cite hadith. In addition, while doing takhrīj[4], narrations of some works are missed.

Without drawing a likeness to the Qur’an, just as each Qur’anic chapter and verse are numbered, and it is enough to cite the chapter and the verse number that doesn’t differ with different prints, the proposal suggested each hadith to be assigned a unique hadith number that can be used to cite as a reference comprising of all the details (pertaining to it) in a single place.

I personally liked this proposal, and it was obvious that it would require a thorough examination to compile a new hadith encyclopedia consisting of all the traditions that are attributed to the messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) (i.e. Marfū’ ahadith)[5]. None of the compilers of hadith have claimed that they have only included hadith, after a close study of all the narrations, that are found in all of the hadith works in the world.

Along with its importance, the sheer volume of work required an insight of a scholarly body. For this reason, the gentleman who had presented this proposal wanted to host a meeting of scholars who were learned and experienced in dealing with the sciences of hadith and it’s cataloging.

The First Meeting

On the 5th and 7th of Ramaḍān, 1422 (A.H.) a meeting was held in Makkah al-Mukarramah that comprised of scholars who had expertise in hadith, especially in hadith compilation, arrangement, and preservation.

The most prominent amidst them was Shaykh Dr. Mustafa al-‘Azami, who, among his other extensive contributions to the hadith sciences, was the first to computerize hadith. His work in the digitization of hadith had earned him the King Faisal International Award[6].

Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaraḍāwī, who currently resides in Qatar, was also invited because he is a world-renowned academic.

The Grand Mufti of Pakistan Shaykh Mufti Muḥammad Rafī’ ‘Uthmāni, the Principal of Dār al-‘Ulūm Karachi in Pakistan and the muḥaddith there was invited as well.

Also present was Shaykh Dr. Abdul Malik bin Bakr al-Qāḍi, a Riyadh based scholar and the author of Diwān as-Sunan wa al-Athār, who in 1422 A.H. had personally begun to collect all the available ahadith with their text and chain of narration. He had presented to me a sample from his work in the form of Kitāb al-Zakah, seeking my advice and recommendations. I had found that his work was missing the books of the Hanafi school, for example At-aāwī, Al-Muwaṭṭaʾ of Imam Muḥammad and Kitāb al-Athār of Imam Abu Yusuf. I had written to him in my response that how can his work be called “al-Jāmi’” if it did not include these works. He then responded to me that he would include them as well. At the time we had no thought towards such a project. However, now that we were meeting in Makkah, he was invited as well so that we could benefit from his experience.

Additionally, Shaykh Dr. Maḥmūd al-Taḥān, Dr. ‘Abdul Sattar Abu Ghuddah[7], Dr. Syed Muḥammad Syed Nūḥ, Shaykh Nizām Ya’qūbi, and I were present at the meeting.

With the blessings of the month of Ramaḍān and the Ḥaramain Sharīfain, everyone was receptive to the proposal, analyzed different aspects of it, and encouraged it. We discussed the different ways this could be achieved. The first meeting was concluded by forming a four-member committee to further brainstorm the methodology for the project and how it may be implemented. The four members of this committee were Dr. Mustafa al-‘Azami, Muḥammad Taqī ‘Uthmānī, Shaykh Abdul Malik bin Bakr al-Qāḍi, and Shaykh Abdul Sattar Abu Ghuddah.

The Second Meeting

This committee convened its meeting on the 25th and 26th of Shawwāl, 1422 A.H. in Makkah al-Mukarramah, where the structure of this project was discussed.

Since Shaykh Abdul Malik bin Bakr al-Qāḍi had a head start, even though his work was missing some books, he presented his methodology in compiling hadith. Listening to his experience, it dawned upon the committee members that this project would require at least forty personnel. It was also suggested that this forty personnel should be divided into two equal groups, one based in Karachi under the supervision of Dār al-‘Ulūm Karachi and another group in Cairo under the supervision of Shaykh Abdul Malik bin Bakr al-Qāḍi.

The Suggestion of Dr. Mustafa al-‘Azami

When the project’s finances were estimated, we were in shock. I spoke with Dr. Mustafa al-‘Azami that with such estimated expenses, it did not seem possible to have forty people in two groups working on the project in two different cities, to which he agreed.

I also told him that if we were to undertake this project it would be in the footsteps of our elders in simplicity. We would do however little we can and we will leave it to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to make it reach its completion.

Dr. Mustafa al-‘Azami agreed, and he proposed that this project should be entrusted to Dār al-‘Ulūm Karachi under my humble supervision, it should not be publicized, and while relying and trusting upon Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), the work should begin.

Initial Investment

In order to initiate this project, some investment was nevertheless needed. An individual from Dubai approached us and offered to single-handedly sponsor all the finances of this project. I did not think it wise to rely on an individual for the finances of this project; rather I felt that we must solely rely upon Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Therefore, it was made clear to him that he may assist out of his own will for as long as he wishes, while we trust in Allah to arrange the needed finances.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) showed us that the individual who wanted to single-handedly sponsor the entire project backed out within four months of his claim. We believed that this project was purely for the sake of Allah, because it was in service of the hadith of the messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), therefore, Allah Most High would continue the project to operate out of His Mercy.

Whatever little finances we had, we continued to operate with it. Since this project was not Zakat eligible, those funds could not be allocated to this project.

The Department of Mawsū’ah al-Hadith

Henceforth, a separate department by the name of Mawsū’ah al-Hadith (موسوعة الحديث) was established within Dār al-‘Ulūm Karachi. A small group of researchers was formed so that by working on this project they could gain hands-on experience in researching hadith.

After laying down its methodology, this project needed a leader with rigorous qualifications: he had to be experienced, intimately familiar with the science of hadith, skillful in the art of writing scholarly publications, as well as proficient in the use of computers. Praise be to Allah that Shaykh Na’īm Ashraf[8] was appointed to this position, may Allah bless his life, knowledge, and endeavors.

Hence, they began the work fifteen years ago with very limited resources, having trust only in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Since then, Shaykh Na’īm Ashraf has been dedicating three hours a day to supervise the work. After every dhuhr salāh he brings the draft of ahadith of that day for my review; I give any needed suggestions regarding it, which are then accounted for, and the ahadith are brought for my further review the next day. The finalized ahadith get included in the encyclopedia after my signature approval. This is how the work has been progressing on a daily basis, all thanks are due to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

The Methodology

The intended purpose of the project is to include in Al-Mudawwanah all the marfū’ ahadith[9] that are available in print or in manuscripts from anywhere in the world, and assign a unique number to them along with their variations in the chain of narrators.

The total number of source works have reached up to 910 – comprising of primary and secondary books of hadith, the books of tafsīr, takhrīj, and shuruāt al-hadith[10]. From these, 80 books are the primary sources of hadith because of their original sanad and matn, while the rest are being used as supplementary sources for attesting the primary ahadith. These 80 books are the most commonly referenced works in the field of hadith, as most of the ahadith are found within them, and their authors have narrated them on the authority of their own chain of narrators. If any unique hadith is found in the secondary sources then they are also given a unique number.

An additional feature of Al-Mudawwanah is that we are mentioning the grading of ahadith with their sanad by mentioning the statement from the mutaqaddimīn scholars if available. In the occasion when a comment from the mutaqaddimīn scholars is unavailable, we do not mention our own comment on the hadith, or that of our contemporaries, unless there is a pressing need, in which case the grading of hadith is added in the footnote.

The Arrangement of Al-Mudawwanah

Regarding the arrangement of hadith, we pondered over whether it should be in alphabetical order or based on topics (abwāb). We decided that the alphabetical order would not be beneficial because ahadith, specifically the ahadith al-Fi’liyyah[11], have differences in their text and chain. Hence, Al-Mudawwanah is being arranged according to the abwāb, however, care is being taken that the abwāb do not reflect any particular juristic or theological school.

Al-Hadith al-Mukhtār

Under each chapter, the first hadith is declared as al-Hadith al-Mukhtār (الحديث المختار), which is a marfū’ hadith that is mentioned with its complete chain and has the strongest chain of narrators. This hadith is assigned a unique international number.

The second hadith is at-arīq al-Ajma’ (الطريق الأجمع) and it is also brought with its full chain. The benefit of this second hadith is that it often provides the complete background and context of the narration of al-Hadith al-Mukhtār.

After mentioning at-arīq al-Ajma’, all the different chains that are found in the books that are narrated from the companion of al-Hadith al-Mukhtār are mentioned, along with any important variations in their wordings.

Next, different mutūn (texts) of the hadith that are reported from other noble companions are therefore brought as Shāhid (corroborating evidence) and these reports are assigned subsidiary numbers.

Example: The Famous Hadith an-Niyyah

In order to explain this by an example, the first volume of Al-Mudawwanah is “Kitāb al-Imān”, and it begins with the Hadith an-Niyyah: إنما الأعمال بالنيات.

The strongest chain for this hadith is the one narrated by ‘Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb and recorded in aī al-Bukhārī. Therefore, this report is declared al-Hadith al-Mukhtār, and it is mentioned with its complete chain and assigned a unique international number of Hadith #1.

Following it are 43 different chains of transmission of this hadith that are reported from ‘Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb, which are found elsewhere within aī al-Bukhārī and other compilations, along with any variations in their wordings.

Moreover, Hadith an-Niyyah is also narrated by other noble companions, which are brought as shawāhid (corroborating evidence) and are assigned subsidiary numbers.

A subsidiary number of 1/1 is assigned to a report narrated by Abu Sa’īd al-Khudri as recorded by Imam Abu Nu’aym in ilyat-ul-Awliya’; 2/1 is assigned to a report that is narrated by Abu ad-Dardā’ and recorded by Imam Ṭabarānī in his Mu’jam al-Kabīr; 3/1 is a report that is recorded in Tārīkh ad-Dimashq of Ibn ‘Asākir on the authority of Anas; 4/1 is assigned for a report in Tārīkh Nīsābūrī of Ḥākim on the authority of Abu Hurayrah. 5/1 is a hadith reported by Muḥammad bin Yāsir al-Jiyāni on the authority of ‘Ali ibn Abi Ṭālib; 6/1 is a report on the authority of Hizāl bin Yazid that is recorded in Tārīkh Nīsābūrī; and 7/1 is a report that Ibn Bakkar has narrated as a Mursal hadith[12] on the authority of Muḥammad bin Ibrahīm bin al-Ḥārith, which is recorded in Khaāi al-Madīnah.

In summary, wherever this hadith is found in the available classical hadith sources (maādir), they are all detailed in Al-Mudawwanah. Moreover, each sanad is cited with its complete reference, i.e. the name of the book, the volume and page number, and the chapter heading and hadith number found within it.

Therefore, now it would suffice to say, “Al-Mudawwanah Al-Jāmi’ah, Hadith #1”, while making a reference to Hadith an-Niyyah, as Al-Mudawwanah Al-Jāmi’ah will provide all the pertinent details regarding this hadith and all of its different chains of transmission in a single place.

The Digitization of Al-Mudawwanah

When Shaykh Na’īm Ashraf presented the very initial draft of Al-Mudawwanah to the honorable advising committee, it was well-received and approved. Furthermore, Dr. Mustafa al-‘Azami suggested that this work should be digitized. We felt this suggestion quite appropriate and relevant to the needs of our time.

Therefore, Shaykh Na’īm Ashraf drafted a layout for data entry software for this project and hired a company. By the grace of Allah, the database software is in the Arabic language and fully capable of handling the data entry, searching and reporting, and more importantly, the composing needs of this project.

The Work Accomplished Thus Far

Thus far, all thanks are due to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) that 17,334 ahadith have been worked upon along with their 340,499 different chains of transmission.

The first volume of Al-Mudawwanah, consisting of a complete Kitāb al-Imān, has been published in high quality with the help of Dār al-Qalam, a Beirut publishing house.

The Kitāb al-Imān of Al-Mudawwanah consists of 445 unique ahadith with their 9,423 chains of transmission, whereas, an additional 515 are those ahadith that have been brought as shawāhid (corroborating evidences). Hence, the total number of ahadith under Kitāb al-Imān has reached 960[13].

The work is in constant progress with additional ahadith and their chains being added. By the will of Allah, Al-Mudawwanah is expected to have over 40 volumes.

I have personally reviewed each and every hadith, their chain of narrators, accompanied by my comments and recommendations. Each hadith was only included in Al-Mudawwanah after my signature approval.

The researchers in service of Al-Mudawwanah, under the leadership of Shaykh Na’īm Ashraf, deserve our heartfelt congratulations for their effort, endurance, and dedication with which they worked on this project. May Allah accept their services and bestow upon them increased taufīq, Ameen

Their names are:
Maulāna Mukarram Ḥussain Akhtar,
Maulāna Muḥammad ‘Abbas al-Derwī,
Maulāna ‘Abdur-Raḥmān Owais al-Marghuzī,
Maulāna Maḥmūd Ḥasan al-Kumillāī,
Maulāna ‘Ināyat-ur-Reḥmān Wahīd,
Maulāna ‘Abdur-Raḥmān al-Ḥamīdi,
Maulāna ‘Abdul ‘Azīz al-Sindhi,
Maulāna Muḥammad Taimūr al-Marghuzī,
Maulāna ‘Ubaydullah Anwar al-Multani,
Maulāna Muḥammad Ṭayyab al-Ḥussaini.

The readers are requested to supplicate to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for this project to reach its completion with sincerity and trust.

Since it is after all a human effort, the reason behind the publication of the first volume is for the people of knowledge, specifically those familiar with the hadith sciences, to review this volume and share with us any beneficial recommendations.

We ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to bestow His barakah upon this humble effort, and make it a historical milestone in the service of the noble hadith, and make this encyclopedia the most comprehensive reference work in hadith for the generations to come. Ameen.

Muḥammad Taqī ‘Uthmānī
Jumāda al-Thānī 1439 A.H. (March 2018)
Karachi, Pakistan.


Footnotes:
[1] The English translation of the verses of the Qur’an are taken from “The Meanings of the Noble Qur’an” by Shaykh al-Islām Mufti Taqī ‘Uthmānī.
[2] The six books of “al-iā al-Sitta” (also known as “al-Kutub al-Sitta”) are aī al-Bukhārī, aī al-Muslim, Jāmi’ at-Tirmidhī, Sunan Abī Dāwūd, Sunan an-Nasā’ī, and Sunan Ibn Mājah.
[3] Matn: “The matn (text) is the wording of the hadith by which meanings are formed.” Isnād: “Isnād is [the act of] reporting the chain of the text. By this, it is clear that the text is the point at which the chain of transmission ends.” (Al-‘Uthmānī, Zafar. “Qawā’id fi ‘Ulūm al-Hadith,” pg. 45. London: Turath Publishing, 2014)
[4] Takhrīj: Referencing hadith from the classical sources.
[5] Marfū’: “The marfū’ (raised) is that which is specifically ascribed to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) [through his] words, deeds, or tacit approvals whether or not it is uninterrupted or interrupted.” (Al-‘Uthmānī, Zafar. Pg. 50)
[6] He received the 1980 King Faisal International Award under the category of Islamic Studies for his monumental contribution to the Hadith Sciences, “Studies of the Prophet’s Hadith.” http://kingfaisalprize.org/professor-mohamad-mustafa-al-aazami/
[7] Nephew of Shaykh Abu Fattah Abu Ghuddah. He is an active member of Islamic Fiqh Academy and the Accounting & Auditing Standards Board of Islamic Financial Institutions. He teaches Fiqh, Islamic studies and Arabic in Riyadh and has done a valuable task of researching and compiling information for the Fiqh Encyclopedia in the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs in Kuwait. He was a member of the Fatwa Board in the Ministry from 1982 to 1990. Dr. Ghuddah holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Law from Al-Azhar University Cairo, Egypt.
[8] He specialized in hadith under Shaykh ‘Abdur Rashīd Nu’māni. He is also intimately familiar with the Science of Hadith, skillful in the art of writing scholarly publications, for example, his researched and edited works include Shar at-ībī (شرح الطيبي) in 12 volumes and al-Muī al-Burhānī (المحيط البرهاني), an encyclopedia of the Hanafi juristic school in 25 volumes.
[9] See footnote #5.
[10] Out of the total 910 source works, 80 are the primary books of hadith that are commonly referred to; while the remaining 830 are the secondary source works, of which 111 are the books of tafsīr, takhrīj, and shuruāt al-hadith.
[11] The Prophetic Traditions that refer to the practice of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).
[12] Mursal: When a Tābi’ī (Follower) narrates a hadith saying, “The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said such-and-such or he did such-and-such.” and by doing so omits the name of the Companion, is called a mursal hadith.
[13] Shaykh Na’īm Ashraf: “All thanks are due to Allah, we are not aware of any book that contains such a large number of only marfū’ ahadith on the topic of Imān alone.”

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    aronno

    May 10, 2018 at 7:25 PM

    Alhamdulillah! It is simply amazing. May Allah (SWT) bless those people who are attached with this project and bless us to get maximum benefit from this work. Ameen!

  2. Avatar

    Abdullah

    May 14, 2018 at 6:32 PM

    Whoa! Just beginning such a work is such a major accomplishment, let alone the publishing of the first volume of this work, particularly if completed would go down in the annals of history as one of the greatest works of hadith ever to be known to our din. Truly I wonder at the scholarship of Mufti Taqi Usmani hafidhahullah and his team of researchers. This should be a lesson for the tendentious pamphlet readers who promote pamphlet Islam. This is what visionary scholarship looks like, where 40 volume works drawing on 910 sources are utilized. May Allah grant tawfiq to Mufti Taqi to complete this work.

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Dawah and Interfaith

10 Lessons I Learned While Serving Those in Need

Abu Ryan Dardir

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charity
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

I have spent about a decade serving the impoverished domestically and recently, abroad. I don’t work for a major charity organization, I work for my community, through grassroots efforts. It was something embedded in me while learning Islam. Before starting a charity organization, I started studying Islam with Dr. Hatem Alhaj (my mentor) and various other scholars. The more I studied, the more I wanted to implement what I was learning. What my community needed at the time was intensive charity work, as it was neglected entirely by our community. From that, I collected 10 lessons from servicing those in need. 

My bubble burst

One of the first things I experienced was the bursting of my bubble, a sense of realization. I, like many others, was unaware of the hardship in my own community. Yes, we know the hadith and see the events unfold on the news and social media, but when a father of three cried before me because a bag of groceries was made available for him to take home, that moment changed me. We tend to forget how little it takes, to make a huge difference in someone’s life. This experience, made me understand the following hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): “Every Muslim has to give in charity.” The people then asked: “(But what) if someone has nothing to give, what should he do?” The Prophet replied: “He should work with his hands and benefit himself and also give in charity (from what he earns).” The people further asked: “If he cannot find even that?” He replied: “He should help the needy, who appeal for help.” Then the people asked: “If he cannot do (even) that?” The Prophet said finally: “Then he should perform good deeds and keep away from evil deeds, and that will be regarded as charitable deeds.” – Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 524. I

t is simply an obligation, due to the amount of good it generates after you do this one action. I then realized even more how beautiful Islam is for commanding this deed. 

Friendships were developed on good deeds

Serving the poor is a great reward in itself. The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Save yourself from hellfire by giving even half a date-fruit in charity.” – Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 498. But it is better done with a team, I began building a team of people with similar objectives in serving the needy. These people later became some of my closest friends, who better to keep close to you than one that serves Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) by helping the neediest in the same community you reside in. Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “A person is likely to follow the faith of his friend, so look whom you befriend.” [reported by Abu Dawood & Tirmidhee] This is turn kept me on the right path of pleasing Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Working with a team removes a lot of the burden as well and the depression that might occur seeing the saddest stories on a daily basis. Allah says in the Qur’ān, “Indeed the believers are brothers.” (49:10). Sometimes there is a misconception that you have to have a huge office or a large masjid in order to get work done. But honestly, all you need is a dedicated group of people with the right intention and things take off from there. 

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: 'If you love the poor and bring them near you. . .God will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection.' - Al-Tirmidhi,Click To Tweet

Made me thankful

This made me thankful for whatever I had, serving the less fortunate reminded me daily to turn to Allah and ask for forgiveness and so be thankful. This kind of service also puts things into perspective. What is truly important in life? I stepped further and further away from a materialistic lifestyle and allowed me to value things that can’t be valued by money. I learned this from the poorest of people in my community, who strived daily for their family regardless of their situation — parents who did what they can to shield their children from their harsh reality. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “If you love the poor and bring them near you. . .God will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection.” – Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1376. They had a quality about them, despite their poverty status. They were always some of the kindest people I have known. 

People want to do Good

I learned that people want to do good; they want to improve their community and society. I began to see the impact on a communal level, people were being more engaged. We were the only Muslim group helping indiscriminately in our county. Even the people we helped, gave back by volunteering at our food pantry. We have schools where small kids (under adult supervision) partake in preparing meals for the needy, local masajids, churches, and temples, high school kids from public schools, and college organizations (Muslim and nonMuslim) visit frequently from several cities in neighboring counties, cities, and states. The good spreads a lot easier and faster than evil. People want to do good, we just need more opportunities for them to join in. United we can rock this world.

“We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity.” Malcolm X. Click To Tweet

Smiles

Smiles, I have seen the wealthiest smiles on the poorest people. Despite being on the brink of homelessness, when I saw them they had the best smile on their faces. This wasn’t all of them, but then I would smile back and that changed the environment we were in. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Charity is prescribed for each descendant of Adam every day the sun rises.” He was then asked: “From what do we give charity every day?” The Prophet answered: “The doors of goodness are many…enjoining good, forbidding evil, removing harm from the road, listening to the deaf, leading the blind, guiding one to the object of his need, hurrying with the strength of one’s legs to one in sorrow who is asking for help, and supporting the feeble with the strength of one’s arms–all of these are charity prescribed for you.” He also said: “Your smile for your brother is charity.” – Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 3, Number 98. Smiles are truly universal.

It’s ok to cry

It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah said: “A man who weeps for fear of Allah will not enter Hell until the milk goes back into the udder, and dust produced (when fighting) for the sake of Allah and the smoke of Hell will never coexist.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi and al-Nasaa’i. There are situations you see that hit you hard; they fill your heart with emotions, but that never swayed my concrete belief in Allah’s wisdom. Crying before Allah, not just out of fear, but to be thankful for His Mercy upon you is a relief.

Learning to say no

It was one of the hardest things I had to do, a lot (if not all) of the requests I received for help were extremely reasonable. I do not think anyone asked for anything outrageous. Our organization started becoming the go-to organization in our area for help, but we are one organization, with limited resources, and a few times we were restricted on when or how we could help. This is where learning to say no became a learned skill. Wedid do our best to follow up with a plan or an alternative resource.

It is part of raising a family and finding yourself

How so? Being involved in your community doesn’t take away from raising your family, it is part of it. I can’t watch and do nothing and expect my children to be heroes. I have to lead by example. Helping others is good for my family’s health. Many people living in our country are consumed with their busy lives. Running out the door, getting to work, driving the kids to their after school activities, spending weekends taking care of their families, etc. So people have a fear of investing hours in doing this type of work. But in reality, this work puts more blessings in your time.

One may feel they are taking time away from their family, but in reality, when one comes back home, they find more peace in their home then they left it with. By helping others, I improve the health and culture of my community, this in turn positively impacts my family.

I enjoy being a softie with my family and friends. I am a tall bearded man, and that image suited me better. I am not sure what made me softer, having kids or serving the poor. Either way, it was rewarding and defined my role and purpose in my community.

I learned that you make your own situation. You can be a spectator, or you can get in there and do the best you can to help. It gave me an opportunity to be a role model for my own children, to show them the benefit of doing good and helping when you can.

It came with a lot of humility. Soon after starting I realized that all I am is a facilitator, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is giving an opportunity of a lifetime to do this work, a line of work very little people get to engage in regularly. My advice to my readers, if you can serve the poor do so immediately before you get occupied or busy with life.

Helping others is good for my family’s health.Click To Tweet

Dawah through action

As I mentioned before I did spend time studying, and at one point developed one of the top dawah initiatives in the country (according to IERA). But the reality is, helping the less fortunate is my type of dawah, people started to associate our food pantry and helping others with Islam. As an organization with one of the most diverse groups of volunteers, people from various religious backgrounds found the environment comfortable and hospitable. I began working with people I never would have worked before if I had stuck to traditional dawah, studying, or masjid involvement, all of which are critical. This became a symbol of Islam in our community, and while serving, we became those that embodied the Quran and Sunnah. For a lot of those we served, we were the first Muslims they encountered, and Alhamdulilah for the team we have. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) also says in the Quran: “So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you” (3:159). It is our actions that can turn people away or towards Islam.

Once you serve the needy, you do this for life

I wasn’t volunteering on occasion,— this was an unpaid job that was done regularly. I got requests and calls for emergencies daily at times. It took up hours upon hours every week. As a charity worker, I developed experience and insight in this field. I learned that this was one of the best ways I could serve Allah [swt. “They ask you (O Muhammad) what they should spend in charity. Say: ‘Whatever you spend with a good heart, give it to parents, relatives, orphans, the helpless, and travelers in need. Whatever good you do, God is aware of it.'” – The Holy Quran, 2:215

I believe the work I do with the countless people that do the same is the best work that can be done in our current political climate and globalization. My views and thoughts have evolved over the years seeing situations develop to what they are today. This gave me a comprehensive outlook on our needs as a society and allowed me to venture off and meet people top in their fields like in social activism, environmentalism, labor, etc.

I want to end with three sectors in society that Muslims prosper in and three that Muslims can improve on. We strive on individual education (noncommunal), distributing and organizing charity, and more recently being politically engaged. What we need to improve on is our environmental awareness, working with and understanding unions and labor rights, and organizing anti-war movements. 

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He Catches Me When I Fall: A Journey To Tawakkul

Merium Khan, Guest Contributor

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Tawakkul- a leaf falling
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

While discussing an emotionally-heavy issue, my therapist brought up the point that in life we can reach a point of acceptance in regards to our difficult issues: “It sounds cliche, but there’s no other way to say it: it is what it is.”

Okay, I thought, as I listened. Acceptance. Yes, I can do this eventually. She went on to add: “It is what it is, and I know that everything will be okay.””

Tears had already been flowing, but by this point, full-blown sobs started. “I…can’t….seem…to ever…believe that.” There. I had said it. I had faked being confident and accepting, even to myself. I had faked the whole, “I have these health problems, but I am so together” type of vibe that I had been putting out for years.

Maybe it was the hormones of a third pregnancy, confronting the realities of life with multiple chronic diseases, family problems, or perhaps a midlife crisis: but at that moment, I did not feel deep in my heart with true conviction that everything would be okay.

That conversation led me to reflect on the concept of tawakkul in the following weeks and months. What did it mean to have true trust in Allah? And why was it that for years I smiled and said, “Alhamdulillah, I’m coping just fine!” when in reality, the harsh truth was that I felt like I had not an ounce of tawakkul?

I had led myself to believe that denying my grief and slapping a smile on was tawakkul. I was being outwardly cheerful — I even made jokes about my life with Multiple Sclerosis — and I liked to think I was functioning all right. Until I wasn’t.

You see, the body doesn’t lie. You can tell all the lies you want to with your tongue, but after some time, the body will let you know that it’s holding oceans of grief, unshed tears, and unhealed traumas. And that period of my life is a tale for another time.

The short story is that things came to a head and I suddenly felt utterly overwhelmed and terrified daily about my future with a potentially disabling disease, while being diagnosed with a second major chronic illness, all while caring for a newborn along with my other children. Panic attacks and severe anxiety ensued. When I realized that I didn’t have true tawakkul, I had to reflect and find my way again.

I thought about Yaqub (Jacob). I thought long and hard about his grief: “Yaa asafaa ‘alaa Yusuf!” “Oh, how great is my grief for Joseph!”

He wept until he was blind. And yet, he constantly asserted, “Wallahul-Musta’aan”: “Allah is the one whose help is sought.” And he believed.

Oh, how did he believe. His sons laughed and called him an old fool for grieving over a son lost for decades. He then lost another dear son, Binyamin. And yet he said, “Perhaps it will be that my Lord will bring them to me altogether.”

There is no sin in grief Click To Tweet

So my first realization was that there was no sin in the grief. I could indeed trust Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) while feeling a sorrow so profound that it ripped me apart at times. “The heart grieves and the eyes weep, but the tongue does not say that except which pleases its Lord. Oh, Ibrahim, we are gravely saddened by your passing.” These are the words of our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) for a lost infant son, said with tears pouring down his blessed face, ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

I thought of the Year of Grief, Aamul-Huzn, when he, Allah’s peace be upon him, lost the woman who was the love of his life and the mother of his children; as well as an uncle who was like a father. The year was named after his grief! And here I was denying myself this human emotion because it somehow felt like a betrayal of true sabr?

Tawakkul, tawakkul, where are you? I searched for how I could feel it, truly feel it.Click To Tweet

Through years of introspection and then therapy, I realized that I had a personality that centered around control. I expressed this in various ways from trying to manage my siblings (curse of the firstborn), to trying to manage my childbirth and health. If I only did the “right” things, then I could have the perfect, “natural” birth and the perfect picture of health.

When I was diagnosed with a chronic disease, these illusions started to crack. And yet even then, I thought that if I did the right things, took the right supplements and alternative remedies and medications, that I wouldn’t have trouble with my MS.

See, when you think you control things and you attempt to micromanage everything, you’ve already lost tawakkul. You’ve taken the role of controlling the outcome upon yourself when in reality, your Lord is in control. It took a difficult time when I felt I was spiraling out of control for me to truly realize that I was not the master of my outcomes. Certainly, I would “tie my camel” and take my precautions, but then it was a matter of letting go.

At some point, I envisioned my experience of tawakkul as a free-fall. You know those trust exercises that you do at summer camps or company retreats? You fall back into the arms of someone and relinquish any control over your muscles. You are supposed to be limp and fully trust your partner to catch you.

I did this once with a youth group. After they fell–some gracefully and trusting, some not — I told them: “This is the example of tawakkul. Some of you didn’t trust and you tried to break your fall but some of you completely let go and let your partner catch you. Life will throw you down, it will hit you over and over, and you will fall–but He, subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), will be there to break your fall.”

I am falling. There is a degree of terror and sadness in the fall. But that point when through the pain and tears I can say, “It is what it is, and no matter what, everything will be okay”, that right there is the tranquility that comes from tawakkul.

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So You Are The Wali, Now What?

Dr Shadee Elmasry

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Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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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