A blistering new piece from ‘Suede Nikita’!
After the article ‘What Really Holds Muslims Back’: https://asharisassemble.com/?s=what+really+holds+muslims&submit=Search, where the author compared the difficulties faced by Muslims in their academic and personal pursuits, such as choice of degree or career as well as marriage and relationships, with their non-Muslim colleagues, I was expecting a robust comeback from the diverse groups critiqued in that piece, especially after the exposure the article received on Paul Williams popular site ‘bloggingtheology.org’.
Instead, people focused on the claim (entirely true) that the earliest usooli (methodological) Hanafis denied stoning for adultery and on the apparent condoning of ‘free mixing’ (also not a big deal in Islam – more on this in a moment). It was even more surprising when the interlocutors for these ‘important’ bastions of Islamic faith, were ‘pwned’ by someone, who although maybe a good writer, was a rank amateur in Islamic sciences. Despite getting passionate and with the pre-requisite takfirs and accusations of hadith rejection (although the most famous hadith rejecter in modern times is Sheikh Nassiruddin Albani, who rejected some of the Sahih of Bukhari as ‘weak’ and is Imam of hadith to most of those throwing about these claims) along with modernism and high treason, they utterly failed to make their case (see the comments thread here: http://bloggingtheology.org/2014/02/05/what-really-holds-muslims-back/ despite getting extremely verbose, they failed to even establish the point about stoning).
It made me think that there were a lot of self-appointed defenders of Islam who were very visible and loud, but seemingly did not have the knowledge to match their claims. Perhaps the author was right: the Emperor had no clothes.
In fact, there do seem to be a huge number of ‘memes’ which pass for ‘necessary’ Islamic beliefs or practices which are in fact modern and cultural interpolations, which in the case of traditional Islam, are entirely unnecessary – yet they are insisted on most vehemently by many groups, including, but not limited to, Salafis, Deobandi and Brelwi brothers. These ‘tests of Islamic authenticity’ encompass some of the most controversial issues which both Muslims and non-Muslims make a big deal out of, from political participation to the aforementioned gender segregation.
I will be responding from the authoritative tradition of the Hanafite school to avoid any claims of ‘modernism’ or ‘hadith rejection’ – these are typical strategies employed by people who themselves want to interpolate their secular and modernist ideas into Islam but want to shut down people who may highlight this by accusing their opponents of what they are in fact themselves doing. The Hanafi madhab, for those who don’t know, is responsible for both the first collection of Hadith (no Hanafis or Makiliks then no Bukhari or Ibn Hajar either) and the first book after the generation of the Sahabah, ‘Kitab Al Athar’ (itself a book of hadith), as well as setting up the rules for jurisprudence and creedal issues. For example, Maturidi aqeeda (the Orthodox Islamic school of theology) is derived by Imam Abu Mansur Maturidi from the statements of Abu Hanifa himself.
Further, it is the only school of jurisprudence to survive that is actually from the Salaf of the Successors (the ta’baeen – even Imam Malik does not have this honour) and it’s superiority and primacy is established by both history, demographic influence to this day and the endorsements of the eminences of the other schools such as Shafi and Malik (though they also saw fit to criticise aggressively, a fact which is often concealed from lay Muslims and causes dismay when they find out).
Therefore one hopes that accusations of ‘unorthodoxy’ by the above-mentioned groups and disingenuous spin from Islamophobes could be curtailed, but I will include a full section on objections when they invariably unleash their rather amateurish sophistry.
So seeing that the author of the previous piece actually had a point and did a service to Muslims, here is how, if you are Muslim, ‘they’ mess you up – sometimes permanently.
Oh, and who are ‘they’ you might ask? Well, ‘they’ already know who they are. And soon, you shall be acquainted with them as well…
1) They are forever confusing you about the role of reason and revelation
Which comes first – the intellect or the Quran? You must choose! Don’t you have the courage to suspend your brain and follow the Quran you filthy heretic?!
It may even be put to you as a different perjury – which is greater the Quran or your intelligence (for intelligence, sometimes the words science, logic or ‘philosophy’ are susbtituted)? What about the hadith? Will you apply your paltry intellect to the reports of sayings of the Prophet (SAW)?!
You may also be told that Islam is a religion of naql (copying or thoughtless imitation) and not aql (intellection).
There is a great deal of confusion amongst Muslims about this: do the beliefs and commands of the Quran have to make sense, should I think about things? Is thinking about Islam only for those who have studied the requisite sciences? Am I just to do taqleed (imitation of authorities)? Should I do it on matters of faith or only on practices such as how to pray?
Of course, the clear indication ‘they’ have is that you should not think about things too much. Unless you are non-Muslim, in which case you should do nothing but think. For example, about how the Trinity does not make sense or that God can’t be an idol or even about how there are scientific miracles in the Quran. But once you are Muslim, the thinking should really stop and you should defer to the scholars and follow them blindly, in not only fiqh (jurisprudence) but aqeeda (beliefs) also.
Typical comment ‘they’ might make: ‘So what about wudu, huh?! If we are to apply our intellect to it, why do we wash areas which don’t get dirty as opposed to those that do? Why don’t we wash our armpits or private parts HUH?! Didn’t think of that did you Brainiac?! Can you give me a reason from your ‘brain’, huh?!
Of course, there is a genuine discussion in Islam about then role and the limits of the human intellect (even between the Asharis and Maturidis as well as between Ahlus Sunnah and the Mu’tazilla or Salafis), but as always, the issue has been sorted, as has the issue of ‘taqleed’ or ‘blind following’. You are being stressed out and your faith jeopardised over literally nothing.
The Quran, being the discourse of God, is obviously superior to the intellectual capacity of any or even all men. It cannot, according to us, be produced by any intellect. However, the Quran is not ‘your brain’ – you can’t shut off your brain and use the Quran to drive your car or do your maths homework. Your only possible means of interacting with the word of God is your intellect – and there is absolutely, unequivocally no escaping it. From reading it to applying it, you have to use your brain. So your brain is not as good as the Quran, but the only way you decided that the Quran was true in the first place was by using your brain.
So the brain and intellect comes first.
Similarly, if a Hindu brother decided to look into the Vedas, Upanishads and the Quran, he would have to use his brain to decide between the two and ‘they’ would wholeheartedly encourage him to do so, just as they would a Christian to examine the coherence of the doctrine of the Trinity (or even a moral issue like ‘Original Sin’) so that he/she could come to Islam.
Thus for everyone, intellect came before Quran, since this is the means by which they recognised the truth of the Quran. This does not mean that your intellect is better than the Quran, just that you only have your intellect and you are not God that you could use him instead of your brain.
But ‘they’ won’t let it go that easily. After all, they want to mess you up…
What about those fiqh issues? Do you apply your intellect to them? Do you apply it to the hadith? To the ‘essence’ of God? These issues are clarified in aqeeda and kalaam, but most of the books are not translated (so that ‘they’ can keep confusing ignorant people like us). A rare example is Mufti Mustafa Ceric’s ‘The Roots of Synthetic Theology’, which is a primer on the Maturidi creed – which explains that issues such as why there are four cycles of prayer in Zuhr (the afternoon) prayer are not to be pondered over as they are as they are because God said so, but how do we know God indeed said so is pondered over. Likewise with the example of wudu (ritual washing).
So the intellect is given unrestricted reign, except in the issue of the very essence of God, since a limited processor such as our brain trying to understand the ‘essence’ of a beginningless and endless being that exists without time and space and aka God is infinitely more futile that trying to run ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 4’ (or whatever they are up to now) on a Commodore 64.
Likewise, taqleed or blind following makes sense in issues which the layman does not have time to sort out, such as what does or does not invalidate the prayer, but not in matters of belief: we can forgive the ordinary man for taking it on trust from his doctor to take Paracetamol for a headache, but would require of him greater research and a second opinion if his doctor asked him to undergo castration. As it is with doctors of medicine, thus it is with doctors of law: they are indeed experts relative to us and most of us can never hope to reach their status of knowledge – but if they cannot explain themselves to us or their advice makes no sense from our perspective, we may have to ignore them. And we are free to do so in Islam. Otherwise all it would take to misguide all of mankind would be one misguided scholar and almost everyone else would have to follow him.
Likewise, we are happy to follow an Imam ‘without thinking’ but not on matters such as what God or religion to follow and does God have a son: we would forgive a genteel lay Catholic for taking it on trust from the Parish that he should pay alms but not that God had a son or what the ultimate fate of mankind shall be.
And if it is not an excuse for non-Muslims to say on the Day of Reckoning that ‘we took this on taqleed from our priests and Brahmins’ then it is likewise not valid for us as Muslims.
Or to put it another way, it is fine to be wrong about what breaks your prayer because you were blindly following and authority like Imam Malik, (indeed it is necessary to follow such an authority on these matters) but not about God climbing on ropes around the heavens because Ibn Taymiyya said so. In the second case you must use your intellect, even if Ibn Taymiyya knows more than you.
With this cleared up, Muslims are free to engage in not only an intellectually enriching and fearless faith, but are also thus liberated to pursue the sciences and critical thinking in other fields ‘guilt free’. Islam is indeed an religion of ‘aql’, God says so in more than seventy places in the Quran: Islam does not fear the intellect, science or philosophy because it is confident that it makes sense as Allah claims in the Quran.
So don’t let ‘them’ take away your intellectual heritage.
Let us conclude with the statement of Imam Razi (or Imam Fakhr as he is called by Persian speakers) that the one who says the duty of the intellect or mind of man is to lead one to Islam and thereafter it is to no longer be applied has indeed invalidated the means by which he came to Islam in the first place, made it untrustworthy and inserted a doubt about the religion of God.
2) They Tell You That You Are Not A Scholar/You Don’t Know Arabic
First of all…well, whose fault is that? It’s a lot easier to learn Chinese when you are a kid (or any other language) than as an adult: but most of the Madrassas, in the UK at least do not teach Arabic language, merely Quran recitation and their favourite books from their favourite sects. Tablighi Jamaat likewise will not teach anything on their excursions except their own syllabus. Although Arabic is becoming more widespread in Islamic classes, people send their children to madrassa for two hours a day with precious little to show for it except how to pray and recite Quran without understanding.
Even in the Deobandi madrassas for scholars, Aqeeda and Kalaam (the foundations of belief) are not taught adequately or correctly. They claim to teach ‘Hanafi madhab’ but then confusingly use the Shafi Mustalah (methodology) of hadith (a contradiction if there ever was one) and tolerate Salafist teachers. Other groups such as Brelwis will focus excessively on their favourite books to the expense of more authentic works of the Imams. And that’s for people wanting to become scholars – if it’s so hard and such a minefield for them, then what about the ordinary folk? Long story short, it is very hard indeed to get authentic knowledge, which leaves people open to blackmail and guilt trips about not being a scholar or not knowing Arabic.
But in reality, this plays out exactly as it did above: not being the most knowledgeable Christian does not mean you delegate your thinking about the son-ship or lack thereof of Christ to your local Priest or the Pope or Martin Luther: you have a duty to think about doctrine to the best of your ability. Just as your brain is not the Quran, it is not that of a scholar either. So what? You are indeed accountable for not having enough knowledge (adjusting for how much time, access to education as well as lifespan that God gave you – a Himalayan farmer is not as accountable for not knowing about the best argument for God’s Justice as Socrates or Plato), but you have to make the best of what you do know: and everyone has the rational faculty to work out important things like the existence of God without being a scholar.
Therefore, even if you do not have Ibn Taymiyya’s knowledge of Quran (he was a hafiz) or other things, you are free to reject his assertion that God can be reached in a bucket.
A doctor can tell you to lose weight: but you don’t have to listen, even though he has huge knowledge of Human physiology compared to you. If he told you to ingest poison, you may even tell him to go to hell, even though he has much more knowledge than you.
For God gave people the wits to survive in the midsts of experts of all kinds.
Like how Satan is an expert with huge knowledge…
If Muslims have to ‘put up or shut up’ when it comes to scholars and knowledge, by that token no Hindu can disagree with a pundit and no Catholic with the Pope and according to this logic no-on should ever change religions as people who are more knowledgeable than them told them that their religion was in fact true.
Further, the Prophet (SAW) predicted that a day would come when scholars would stand up in the mosque and talk nonsense and the ordinary people would not challenge them.
Even if this narration had no isnad, we would have to accept it. Because in our time, it came true.
3) They ‘Spam’ Hadith At You
‘Spamming’ probably is not the right word any longer, maybe it was in the day of Sheikh Muhammad Al Ghazzali who tried to address this malady in his succinct and masterful ‘The Sunnah Of The Prophet’ (and was harassed and takfired for his trouble, though he was an eminent and orthodox scholar) but nowadays we are dealing with an even worse problem: hadith carpet bombing.
This consists of a hadith being wheeled out in any given situation, usually in an inappropriate and lopsided manner and then being used to blackmail the lay people that if they do not follow it, they are going against the Prophet (SAW). It works every time because of the extreme love that all sects of Islam have for the Prophet. But it’s long term effect is to damage and reduce that love by blackmailing people into doing what the particular group wants by using the Prophet as a guarantee, all the while never explaining to the ‘victim’ of the hadith bomb how conflicting hadith are reconciled, how they are reconciled with Quran and how they may in fact be rejected.
Scene: typical romantic evening for a ‘practising’ Salafi couple.
Man: I think we should go to bed early tonight
Woman: But why? It’s a Friday, we don’t have to get up tomorrow. And I wanted to watch ‘Rambo III’ on the telly, you know the one where he joins the Taliban.
Man: Fear God and lower your gaze you wench!
Man: Anyway, I want to have sexual relations so lets go to bed early
Woman: But I want to watch telly!
Man: How dare you!
Are you unaware of the Sahih narration of The Prophet (SAW) said that if a woman does not sleep with her husband when he wants, the angels curse her till morning?! Are you going against the Prophet??!
Woman: Ahhh…So you think Hadith are your ally?
Don’t you know that the Prophet commanded clearly that you cannot insist for even your wife to have sex with you? He also said ‘the best amongst you is he who is best to his wives’. Double hadith Hadou-Ken!
How dare you go against the Prophet you ignoramus?!
Man: Huh! You merely adopted hadith, I was born into it, moulded by it. I haven’t even bothered to study fiqh or even the Quran AT ALL.
THAT’s how much I love the Prophet and hadith!
You silly munter, you don’t even know that the Prophet said that a woman must satisfy her husband EVEN if she is riding a horse. Take that you frigid cow!
Woman: As if you are man enough to ride a horse let alone satisfy a woman thereon!
Are you so ignorant of hadith as to not know that The Prophet said do not approach your women like beasts! Take that you grave-worshipping Sufi waste-man!
Man: I didn’t want to bring this up but you know I’m allowed to beat you if you refuse to sleep with me right?
Don’t make me put you over my knee woman!
Woman: Fool, The Prophet said never to beat your wife! Your knowledge of hadith sucks!
Man: Forget it, I’m not in the mood anymore.
Woman: What?! Don’t you find me attractive anymore!?
Man: Actually, I never found you attractive. I ‘married for the Deen’
Woman: Oh, that’s okay then
And if this offends you, think of the blasé way in which hadith are rolled out nowadays, regardless of situation, applicability or authenticity.
The ‘hadith bomb’ is most often dropped by scholars or groups who believe that all ‘Sahih’ hadith are certain knowledge and there is little or no need for Mustalah (methodology) of Hadith. This is absolutely wrong and is the belief of a tiny heretical (but extremely well funded and vocal) minority amongst Muslims known as ‘Ahl al Hadith’ (or ‘the party of hadith’). These individuals see the classical schools of Islamic jurisprudence (and creed) as redundant and feel that we need to ‘return to the text’. A corollary to this is that they regard ‘ahad’ (single transmission) narrations, which make up the bulk of hadith texts as ‘certain’ as opposed to speculative or 50/50 as Sunni scholarship of Hadith such as Ibn Hajar or Isa Ibn Abban or indeed Imam Malik or even Shafi (trhe most hadith oriented of this group) explained (the vast majority of ‘Sahih Hadith’ are nonetheless considered ‘ilm ul zann’, or speculative knowledge by Ahlus Sunnah/mainstream Muslims and cannot be use to decide issues of creed, nor in Maturidi/Hanafi madhab can such narrations settle major issues of fiqh unless they reach the grade of ‘Mashoor’ (famous) or ‘Muttawatir’ – certain/mass transmitted. Ahl Al hadith however think that they can be followed directly without any Usool of Hadith (principles of hadith).
The reasons they cannot and indeed should not be taken as certain, the way the mass transmitted Muttawatir hadith or the Quran are, is due to the possibility, however remote, of error or interpolation by the narrators, a possibility which heterodox modernists such as Ahl al Hadith and Salafis are unwilling to acknowledge. So in effect, ‘they’ in practice make the Sahih equal to the Quran and even a judge over it (in the words of their Imam Barbahari), a horrifying and heretical innovation.
In short, a hadith having an isnad that is ‘sahih’ is sufficient for it to be acted on for these people. Conflicts between ‘Sahih’ hadith (those with the reliable chain of narrators) are to be resolved by giving Bukhari preference and so on.
This leads to serious errors in fiqh and to taking into belief things such as the ‘Satanic Verses’ incident, which the arch-Imam of Ahl al hadith Ibn Taymiyya indeed did.
The approach has been discussed at length, save to say, it is not the approach of Sunni Muslims (nor Shia) and causes huge problems: there are a total of one million hadith, if we exclude the ones with the same text but different chains we are still left with some 300,000. If we only take the sahih ones, we still have in the region of 20,000 (Bukhari for comparison contains a mere 5,000, only 1/3 of which Imam Bukhari graded as meeting his conditions for sahih or authenticity).
Before people can ‘spam’ hadith or use them as a proof distinct from usool and the sciences of fiqh, they should know all of the hadith that pertain to the incident and whether they are accepted into fiqh aqeeda etc. Even this would not be close to sufficient, but it would be a start. Arabic language proficiency is of little use alone, but is loved by the modernist dilettantes of ‘their’ party.
For example, in the ‘romantic evening’ above, the parties should have both not got into it in the first place or if they had to, they should have referred to the fiqh or jurisprudence as opposed to trying to find support from hadith directly. But a better example may be hadith ‘hurled’ as projectiles recently on the issue of music. I am not here to talk about the permissibility of music or not (actually I am, see below) but to show how hadith are abused:
Sahih Al Bukhari Book 69 Number: 494 Narrated Abu ‘Amir or Abu Malik Al-Ash’ari: that he heard the Prophet saying, “From among my followers there will be some people who will consider illegal sexual intercourse, the wearing of silk, the drinking of alcoholic drinks and the use of musical instruments, as lawful…(continues)
I have not looked it up in the Arabic, and the translation, due to the source it was from (Darussalaam, Salafi publishers), is almost certainly ‘dodgy’, but the point was that this hadith was used to blackmail a Muslim speaker into saying that Music was haraam.
Quite apart from whether we can make things ‘haraam’ based on single ahad narrations (and we can’t in traditional Islam), this hadith cannot be used to establish the case anyway: no-one in Islamic history took it literally as modernist Salafst and Ahl al Hadith movements do: the reason is obvious – the wearing of silk is only haraam for men, not women, who are free to wear it, and that is only if the entire garment is silk (Caliph Umar had a partially silk garment). But the hadith says silk is haraam – period. So we need to see all of the other hadith about silk and music and reconcile them, according to some logical principles as the jurists did. But the literal meaning of this narration is rejected – because quite apart from the silk issue, some musical instruments, such as duff and tambourine, are allowed by ijma (consensus), but the plain text of the hadith says all musical instruments are unlawful.
Thus even if we agree with the methodology of ‘hadith spammers’, this narration cannot be used as it conflicts with others and needs clarification (further, Ibn Hazm, a favourite of ‘hadith-bombers’, says the chain of this narration is broken and it is one of the supporting and not ‘Sahih’ hadith of Bukhari anyway).
‘They’ make your life difficult and mess you up by spamming you with hadith that you will take as certain from the Prophet but may make your life unnecessarily difficult (through fiqh) or give you doubts about Islam (like the Satanic Verses hadiths or latter day scholars like Ibn Taymiyya saying that the hadith of God riding goats in ‘Sahih Ibn Khuzayma’ is acceptable) because you love the Prophet and heretical offshoots of Islam told you that every sahih hadith is a certain and applicable statement of the Prophet, you will fall for it.
But in the long run you may come to resent the Prophet or doubt Islam because you are told that you must believe in narrations that were in fact rejected from Islamic belief because the Prophet did not actually say them, despite them having a decent chain of narration as the chain is only one of the conditions, the rest are to do with the content or ‘matn’.
The correct position of Orthodox Islam is that rejecting an Ahad hadith for no-reason at all is not allowed, but if there is a valid reason to reject it as stipulated by the authentic scholars and Fuqahah (jurists and doctors of law and creed) then it is not a problem. Do yourself a favour and learn about how Muslims are supposed to approach hadith here:https://asharisassemble.com/hadith/
Or ‘they’ will be ruining a lot more than your romantic evening.
4) They Assault You With Scholars Opinions
This is really just a variation on the above two areas but deserves it’s own treatment.
There are lots of scholars in Islam.
They, like all people, deserve respect and deference, in their case for their knowledge. However, when you have a huge number of anything, say, physicists or Star Wars fans, you will get all kinds of personalities and thus all kinds of behaviours and ideas. Some physicists (including the ‘humanitarian’ Richard Feynmann) were involved in making the atomic bomb. It doesn’t mean that making weapons of mass destruction that did not exist before is the majority position of Physics or even physicists themselves (at least I hope not), just that there are some odd or even immoral physicists who nonetheless know physics to a very high level. Likewise, I was reading a book by a well respected physicist, David Deustch, where he went on a lamentable flight of fancy about how in the future, the thinking machines might ‘make’ God. This is ‘far out’ and an abuse of physics, even if it comes by way of a certainly eminent physicist who I could never hope to match (but then anyone can get strange ideas high as a kite on that ‘stuff’ while watching ‘The Matrix Reloaded’).
Likewise, amongst Islamic scholarship, which even now is a very widespread profession, all kinds of views, many of them strange, can be found. Further, the danger of the incorrect views of Islamic scholars is commented on in narrations (which ‘they’ would have to accept at face value). Did you know that the first person to enter Hell is not Satan but a Muslim scholar? As Spiderman keeps narrating as ‘Sahih’: ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ (or Islamically, ‘accountability’).
What ‘they’ like to do is have an pre-formed opinion, outside of Orthodox or classical Islam, that is held by them and then quote mine and mis-quote Islamic scholars of the past and present in support of it to confuse you into believing that if you go against them, you are going against the authoritative doctors of law. They also like to bring in the concept of ‘ijma’ or consensus (whether they believe in it or not), a valid source of Islamic law, and show that the ‘consensus’ is on their side by again quote mining, knowing that you, as a layman, have no way of checking.
Know who Imam Tabari is? Read his books? How about As Sayuti? Is Al Ghazzali Muqallid or Mujtahid? What is the difference anyway? Is he allowed to take his own stance on issues of fiqh? Can anyone?
We don’t know, most of us, so they can just say, as they often do:
Me: Such and such scholar believes in the Satanic Verses incident but I can’t accept that.
Them: Fear God you unholy handmaiden of Satan! Don’t you know that Imam Tabari and Ibn Hajar also believed in it? Do you know more than them?!
Me: But I don’t know who those guys are…
Them: They are hype guys girlfriend. Check yourself before you wreck yourself. It isn’t just so and so who believed it, it is ijma!
Me: I feel like crying now
[NOTE: They didn’t believe it, don’t worry]
The actual way traditional Islam works is that people who are scholars are not all equally qualified to express an opinion: the opinion of Imam Al Kawthari is not as weighty as Abu Hanifa and each school has various opinions of thinkers within it (much like a department at a university in the West) – each school has a head and a main opinion supported by proofs, like how Plato is the head of the Platonists or Plotinus of the Neo-Platonists and has his own ideas. But if we take the fringe and minority opinions we can make a very strange madhab. A articulate student of knowledge put this tendency quite well:
‘Moulanas, local imams and shaykhs are teaching people that a madhab (school of jurisprudence) has two opinions – the strong and the weak – and it is okay to follow the weak.
There can only be two conclusions, either they are ignorant of the correct position or they are trying to misguide the masses. Either way the result is really worrying and concerning.
If we were to form the madhab we follow based on weak opinions, we would concoct a very strange one indeed. Perhaps this is an example of the modernist Salafi influence on the madhabs.
A small example is in Hanafi madhab: there is a weak opinion that temporary marriage is allowed, according to the “leaders” would it be okay to follow this or any other weak opinion.’
The actual grades of scholars and the relative leeway they have in traditional Islam (compiled by an actual scholar! Swoon!)
1. ‘Mujtahid Mutlaq’ – Such as Imam Abu Hanifah (or Imam Malik etc) – the highest level and it is he who set up the Hanafi madhab (system of knowledge about religion). They articulate and prove first principles and base them on sound reasoning – so they elucidate the epistemology of that madhab. They should not follow any other scholars of their own or lower level and are not even allowed to do so since they are able to reason from said first principles. The requirement of intellect, memory and independent verification and peer review to reach this level is almost preposterously exacting by any system of knowledge; for example, knowing everything by heart which can include pieces of evidence ranging into the hundreds of thousands or even millions verbatim. Such people are thus exceedingly rare and none will be found to meet the required standard today (though many will claim it).
2. Mujtahid Muqayyad – such as Abu Yusuf, Imam Muhammad (Salafis disagree but this is due to their own antagonisms and novel methodology). Theoretically they shouldn’t leave the madhab and they can only use the already established principles of the madhab to issue fatwa (rulings) about non – existing masail (new problems that need answers, like for example nowadays, the permissibility of organ transplantation). But in practice we do see them leaving the madhab from time to time.
3. As’haab Tarjeeh – examples would be individuals such as Qadikhan, Sarakhsi. It’s those who can chose the stronger opinion if there is more than one opinion availible within the madhab, by weighing the evidence for each position and choosing. But if there is only one opinion they are not qualified to leave that opinion. As well as if there is more than one then they are not qualified to take some opinion from outside of the madhab.
4. Rawil-Madhab – it’s those who are trusted to narrate the mu’tamad (official) position of the Madhab.
Odds are the ‘scholar spammers’ never told you this. And when they hit you with long lists of scholars who agree with their positions (which are nearly always outside orthodox Islam), they will almost invariably be from 1) Their own sect only (in the case of Ahl al hadith or Salafis, Hashwee Mujassims (anthropomorphic corporealists) or 2) from the last two categories.
The other worrying tendency ‘they’ have is claiming that they follow authentic schools of Islam and authentic scholars but then presenting the heterodox and thoroughly modern ideas of scholars who agree with them: So Salafis will try and convince you that the opinion of Ibn Taymiyya is to be the one lens through which Islam is understood, they will then present others of his ‘brand’ of Islam as further authoritative voices: Ibn Qayyum Al Jawzi, Ibn Baz, Uthaymeen and Albani as well as a few others. They will keep telling you their opinions and say that they are the teachings of the ‘Salaf’, but the earliest of these is from the 14th century. but of course, the layman won’t know. It s the same with Deobandi brothers, who will only look at traditional Islam through the lens and books of their founding fathers (such as Sheikh Gangohi, Ashraf Ali Thanvi etc), whose mistakes then become for them the mistakes of the entire Hanafi or Maturidi madhab.
Rather, ‘they’ and others do not take from the authoritative Imams of traditional Islam and then try to make you follow the same authorities as them.
Because, like I said, they mess you up.
It is indeed strange that no-one clarified Islamic aqeeda until Ibn Qayyum – what were Muslims believing for the previous eight hundred years, were only the tiny minority who agreed with him correct? Why did it take so long for him and others to sort it out and guide the Muslims even if they were right? Likewise, did no-one understand or write about Hanafi fiqh or aqeeda until Gangohi or Thanwi? Did Hanafi madhab exist before Ahmad Ridha Khan or not?
So ‘they’ are confused and will confuse you as well.
5) They Make You Think If Something Is More Difficult, It Is More Islamic
Puritanism is best defined in my opinion as the suspicion of pleasant sensations or simply as hatred of ease. It is paradoxically loved both by ‘them’ and hedonists, liberals and atheists. In both cases, it furnishes a superb argument against religion.
But in the case of Islam, such an argument is invalid.
It is human nature to respect those endeavours which are the most difficult as the most worthy, from the Twelve Labours of Hercules to climbing Mount Everest or winning an Olympic medal.
So it is natural that we would think that the path to the most exalted thing of all, Paradise or God, should be the most difficult. How could the most precious thing be easy to achieve?
This is understandable and also ‘sort of’ true. But it also does not make complete sense: if God has made the truth the hardest thing to realise and live by, is it justice for him to them account flawed human beings who usually can’t even make it to work on time for falling short?
So it is not at all evident that being a good Muslim or Christian or Buddhist necessarily has to be as difficult as those human endeavours which we adore.
But people take great pride in their religious achievements vis-a-vis others. And pride, also known by it’s other names of self righteousness and hubris, is the only real danger of religion.
People who are religious, often fall into the trap of making their spiritual achievements seem difficult, due to the pride they take in these efforts achievements. They also feel the need to make their supererogatory acts to be essential for others. Sufis have always been careful of not trying to make their spiritual regimens compulsory on all people, but the tendency of some individuals who do well at nafl (optional) devotions and such to try and insist on these for others can lead to puritanism.
It is also because of Muslims (and others) feeling ‘under siege’ from non-Muslim society and Islamophobia that they are often automatically wary of things which seem too ‘easy’ or ‘compromising’. It becomes identity politics: for a certain type of person the best statement to make against the unfair victimisation of those who wear the niqaab is to don it to make a point. At least, they think, it is better than those who have relinquished it out of fear and pressure from the anti-Islamic forces. This again, is heroic, but must not be allowed to fall into self righteousness: we cannot make something like the niqaab, which is not required, into a necessary action for Muslims just because people are persecuting it’s wearers.
In this climate, ‘they’ want you to think that you are ‘lacking’ and sinful if you:
Don’t have a beard (Abu Hanifa says it is sunnah and not sinful to omit, Shafi and Malik say nafl only),
If you dress in a suit or ‘like the kufaar’ (Islam says no problem and the Prophet himself possessed and wore clothes of non-Muslim nations),
If you don’t have niqaab (totally not necessary according to Abu Hanifa),
If you don’t have your trousers above your ankles (not required according to consensus of schools of jurisprudence),
All of these things allegedly make you a ‘fasiq’ (an ‘openly sinful person whose testimony is not to be taken’. They do not),
Listening to music is haraam (haraam or ‘forbidden’ is a big word with big implications in Islam. And it is not),
Not praying in the mosque is sinful (it isn’t, it is merely better to pray in mosque. Not praying in congregation may be sinful, but they have not established it),
Missing ‘Sunnah Moakkadah’ (Sunnahs which the Prophet always did, like the four of the Zuhr prayer) is sinful (it isn’t but nearly all self proclaimed Hanafis say this nowadays. In fact the opposite of a sunnah which was always kept by the Prophet is ‘Isa’a’ or ‘blameworthy’ – not sin).
Thus, they make you feel guilty for things that you really don’t need to feel guilty about in traditional Islam. A bit like a Catholic if I may go so far and if my Catholic brothers and sisters will forgive me.
A simplified way to understand their puritanical formulation versus Orthodox Sunni Islam is:
Fard = Fitra (human nature), Sunnah = Fard, Nafl = Sunnah etc
Of course they take it further than just these things: living in a non-Muslim country other than for the purposes of Dawah is haraam (nonsense) and if you don’t support ‘ruling by Islam/the Caliphate/their favourite political causes, you are against Sharia/Islam (this is a trope of HT who are fond of making a big deal out of reviving the Caliphate. They neglect to tell you they offered the same deal to Khomeni – they just want ‘Caliphate’, it doesn’t matter who runs it or how. Hence their utter lack of criticism for the Taliban).
Currently it is ‘unacceptable’ to not support the Syrian ‘opposition’, and scholars from Qaradawi to Yaqoubi refuse to assert the Sunni consensus on rebelling against the ruler. People who know the truth, like Hamza Yusuf and Tim Winter, have to stay silent or face a hideous backlash. ‘They’, the real modernists, edit out those pieces of Sunni Islam they find unpalatable, like the aforementioned consensus, refused by no-one including the literalists, that the leader cannot be taken arms against unless he commits ‘Kufr Bu’wah’ (big, manifest, blatant and undeniable apostasy). Rebelling against a ruler for ‘not ruling by Islam’ is a HT/Khawarij pipe-dream that would have shocked Islamic authorities from Malik to the Ottomans: the Sahabah did not rebel against Yazid even when he raped and killed the women of Ahlulbait and the Sahahbah en mass. And they were much more orthodox (and courageous) than them.
Hard to stomach, yes – but who are the modernists? The ones sticking to the way of the Sahabah, which is correcting the ruler with advice and protest or the ones who ignore the Sahabah and consensus of all sects of Islam (apart from the Khawarij) and take up arms?
And of course the most harmful way ‘they’ make ‘more difficult = better Islam’ is…
6) They want YOU (To Die For Your Religion)
There really is no better way to mess up someone’s life (and afterlife) than this, but the allure that ‘they’ give to going and ‘fighting for your Muslim brothers’ (*only in certain select locations of course) is tragically hard to resist. Here is the heartbreaking recent case of British teenager Abdullah Deghayes, killed shortly after entering Syria to fight http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-sussex-27076266
What kind of military contribution could a martially untrained eighteen year old have made to the conflict in Syria? Who told him to go? Did he realise that he could do much more for the Syrians by perhaps living his life, getting a good job and sending them money, maybe adopting an orphan? Did he make any contribution to the war? Did an untrained eighteen year old ever even have a chance? And why was he given front line duties immediately, except as cannon fodder?
In fact, why is he involved in a proxy war between Iran and Syria on one side and Saudi Arabia, Qatar, The US and Israel on the other in the first place? Did he even know what is going on there, or who has killed more Muslims, the rebels or Assad? Did he wonder why the US won’t arm the rebels?
Because someone, usually a corpulent ‘scholar’ as uninformed about personal hygiene as he is about the religion of Islam, who would never himself dream of fighting or allowing even a third cousin from his family to fight, told him that it was his ‘Islamic duty’ to take up the jihad for his oppressed Muslim brothers against the Alewite infidel (they forgot to mention that most of Assad’s army is Sunni and he isn’t Alewite and prays in a Sunni mosque).
War is old men talking and young men dying
There is the proof, that young man, Abdullah Deghayes. No-one will remember his name. We can only hope his two brothers, also out fighting in Syria, make it home alive.
Not all of ‘them’ are telling people like Abdullah to go and fight: some of them merely get people ‘excited’, do ISOC fundraisers, others keep the young ignorant about the true fiqh and rulings around military jihad but keep them emotional at the same time.
And the glory hound Salafists on the internet will do the rest.
These people have been claiming credit for ‘saving’ the Afghans during their conflict with the Soviets (they didn’t – there are estimated to be about five hundred ‘Afghan Arabs’ under Abdullah Azzam, teacher of Bin Laden, and their contribution to a war which killed up to two million is not decisive or even significant), the Bosnians during that war (they also didn’t) and Chechnya (the Chechens in fact had them kicked them out).
It is strange that these people who get young men to fight and die for their ‘Muslim brothers’ never seem to be concerned about the support provided by Muslim countries (since they are the same ones that allow these people to operate) to Israel via the US: Saudi Arabia provides over a trillion dollars of investment into the US (as Michael Moore showed in ‘Fahrenheit 9-11’, there are academic sources too) and is a military ally and major arms purchaser from the US, and also facilitated the Gulf War and The Iraq War providing transit and military support http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Governmental_positions_on_the_Iraq_War_prior_to_the_2003_invasion_of_Iraq#Saudi_Arabia. The US which is in turn the major military ally of Israel, who is killing Palestinian ‘Muslim brothers’, as the Salafists will remind you.
Recall the recent Iraq War, in which 600,000 innocents died; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lancet_surveys_of_Iraq_War_casualties.
It is clear that the Saudi state is an organ of the United States, is the fifth biggest spender on arms (all from the UK and US) with no military action to show for it. Their vassal status can be seen from their facilitating the two Gulf Wars and recently from their offer of cut price oil to China to appease them vis-a-vis sanctions on Iran (which would have curtailed the supply to China).
Wikileaks has shown that the Saudis demanded a strike on Iran, with the help of Israel and this is now a matter of public record thanks to Julian Assange.
They support Mubarak (and offered asylum to him), yet he doesn’t ‘rule by Islam’. Should we send our teenagers to fight Saudi for supporting him then?
They also supported (with Qatar) Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen (who is a Shia) and the regime in Bahrain against their protesters. This is manifest unconcern for the life of Muslims. Shall we go from Britain to fight in Saudi?
Saudi gave asylum to Ben Ali of Tunisia (a hijaab banner). Should we fight?
Are we, according to these ‘jihadis’, to go and fight Saudi then or not? Since they killed our Iraqi and Palestinian brothers? Usually ‘they’ are not so keen on that: even Bin Laden said that the Saudi monarchy should be ‘verbally corrected’.
How about China to help the Uygurs? Ah, but that might affect trade links so…
Kashmir? Africa? Burma? Well…Not so many pretty white girls to incite unmarried and unemployed Wannabee jihadists with so…
But when it comes to you, ‘they’ want you to go and fight. And die.
But only where they tell you to.
7) Free Mixing Of The Sexes Is A Big Deal In Islam
No it isn’t, allow me to explain the correct orthodox Hanafi Islamic rulings (as this rare example of an erudite and honest scholar does: https://asharisassemble.com/2013/03/07/sex-segregation-in-islam/).
Actually, you won’t be requiring the real Islamic position on gender interaction because you won’t be interacting with the opposite sex. At all.
8) They Make You Socially Awkward (And Dependant On Them)
I have partners of friends who undertake ‘Tablighi Jamaat’ – this is a movement which started in colonial India that seeks to make Muslims start attending the mosque and get ‘into’ Islam. The way it does this is by essentially indoctrinating them with it’s heterodox formula (which of course is presented as the ‘pristine Islam’) and essentially making them stay at retreats (in the mosque) from which they may go out to invite other people (to come and stay in the mosque). They aim for daily time in the mosque and at least three days a month and thirty days a year and four months in a lifetime on retreats (in the mosque). The longer retreats can be international (yes, in a mosque). On retreats they learn from a book called the ‘Virtues of Charity’ or one about good deeds: these good deeds are basically also about staying in the mosque. There is a female version of this which is slightly less exciting as it involves staying in the house and not the mosque.
People spend huge portion of their life on this movement, which may well have it’s heart in the right place (though it was inspired by the teachings of one Muhammad Abdul Wahhab, who most certainly did not have his heart in the right place: just ask the people of Taif in Arabia which his movement attacked. Oh wait, you can’t, they killed them all). Maybe it even helped in India. Reems have been written on this movement and I will not change the minds of any of it’s heavily indoctrinated devotees but my point here is twofold: despite all of the time people spend on this, they never learn anything about the essentials of Islam: nearly zero time is spent on aqeeda, fiqh etc or anything of essential value but I guess enough is spent to satisfy some of the nominally practising people the movement is aimed at.
My main point is that this movement, like almost all of the institutes and courses that people spend their time and money on as well as most ‘dawah’ events and lately, mosque ‘fun days’, are all isolationist movements which seek to protect Muslims faith by asking them to sequester themselves in the Muslim community or the mosque. Confronted by the completely secular and un-Islamic and even immoral nature of modern Western society, these people want to avoid the ‘fitna’ (trials and tribulations) that face them outside of the mosque and even in the Islamic community. Billboards with semi-naked women, actual semi-naked women (most of the things that ‘they’ describe as ‘fitnah’ are to do with sexual temptation).
In the case of Tabligh, nearly everyone these people will know will be their friends from Tabligh or their families (who they will see increasingly less of as they follow the time consuming regimen of sequestering themselves in the mosque). They start to worry about going to work or getting a job as it will mean they have to spend less time in the mosque and missing congregational prayer. They start to dream of moving to an ‘Islamic’ country so that they can avoid ‘fitna’ and raise their kids in an Islamic environment and so on. In short, they get alienated from British society, or rather they alienate themselves from it and become socially inept around strangers and especially women. This then feeds the cycle and they are all the more comfortable in the mosque. Or Islamic course. Or Islamic institutes. Or University ISOCS, take your pick: the pattern is the same – social isolation, dependency and increased sequestration. Dependant on the movement and their colleagues for everything, many of these people struggle to find work, fail exams and have no hope of finding a partner, which is entirely dependant on the goodwill of those in charge of such movements. And trust me, when it comes to finding cash or a girl, goodwill is thin on the ground, no matter what religion you are.
Basically, it’s a cult.
But like all cults, the members don’t think so.
‘They’ make you afraid of ‘fitna’ or trials of ones faith or good character. It is understandable: if one fears God, one fears sin. A typical comment which they use to justify this is
‘Whatever leads to haraam is itself haraam’
This is true, but like most Islamic teachings, it is misrepresented by them. Clearly it cannot be applied literally: being born leads to sin as does getting out of bed in the morning or going to work. That’s just life, it cannot be helped. Strangely, these people never apply this principle to ‘fighting in the path of Allah’, which could lead to the serious sin of killing unnecessarily. They mainly rather, apply it to mixing of the sexes: mixing, or the ‘gaze’ leads to illicit sex.
And unlike traditional Islam, for them, illicit sex is the worst ever sin.
Of course they can’t say that, because there are clearly bigger sins, but the way they act and the preventative measures they take make it obvious that in their mind, if not their tongues, illicit sex is the worst thing ever.
Thus, whatever leads to sex must be forbidden: irrespective of what the Prophet or companions did. The principle must be used to make any type of mixing, talking, looking at or seclusion with women to be absolutely forbidden. If women’s faces can be covered, then all the better. If they are not allowed out without a mahrem, even better. You get the picture.
I once asked one of ‘them’ that if it is compulsory for a woman’s face to be covered, from what is the Quran telling believing men to lower their gaze from? ‘You might still get turned on by her. Maybe from her eyes.’
I’ll leave that to your intelligence.
Lowering ones gaze is one of the most hideously misunderstood teachings of the Quran: it is taken to mean that one is just not to make eye contact with the opposite sex, but again, it is not something to be taken literally: Imam Al Ghazzali explained that lowering the gaze merely meant not staring obstinately as continuous eye contact makes the other party uncomfortable. And in traditional Islam, it is understood that one should lower ones gaze if one is feeling lust. No lust, no need to lower ones gaze (unless one is considering the other party for marriage, in which case no need to lower ones’ gaze even if feeling lust).
I once explained this to a scholar who should have known better. he reposted with: ‘Ah, but it is impossible that you will look at a woman and not feel lust!’
Like Sigmund Freud, Islamic scholars can sometimes be willing to generalise their perceptions and neuroses to their flock.
In reality, sexual permissiveness is indeed proliferating in our society, but things are not so bad as they are made out to be. Like any disease, a bit of inoculation is needed against the proliferation of sex in our culture: if you have too much exposure, you will in all likelihood be led astray. No exposure and you will be too vulnerable.
These people often argue that things nowadays are much worse than they were during the time of the Prophet and the successors so ‘special measures’ like enforcing niqaab or driving bans are needed, but as usual, ‘they’ are wrong or lying: first of all, we do not have the large scale wars and rapes that we had around the time of the aforementioned Yazid – you have it very easy compared to the Companions. Nor would the sight of naked flesh shocked them – people complained to caliph Umar that servant girls would walk around with their breasts out (as in no top. Like, at all. They would be making Beyonce and Miley feel uncomfortable) and asked that he should legislate for them to be made to wear hijaab. He refused and took no action – saying the hijaab was for Muslims (a good lesson for countries such as Iran and Saudi who enforce a dress code on their non-Muslim female workers and visitors. But of course, what does Caliph Umar, second best friend and companion of the Prophet know! The Ayatollas and Ibn Baz know better!).
Also, if things are ‘bad’ sexually today what about this narration of hadrat A’isha (ALERT: Hadith spam incoming)
Aa’isha reported four kinds of marriage in pre-Islamic Arabia: The first was similar to present-day Islamic marriage procedures…In the second type, the husband would send his wife – after the menstruation period – to cohabit with another man in order to conceive. After conception her husband would, if he desired, have sexual intercourse with her. A third kind was that a group of less than ten men would have sexual intercourse with a woman. If she conceived and gave birth to a child, she would send for these men, and nobody could abstain…
Seen anything like that in London, New York or Tokyo lately?
Thought not (I deliberately didn’t mention Paris…).
Don’t let them fool you: Sahabah did not go running and hide out in the mosque because they might accidentally see a billboard or a woman in a tight dress or boob tube. There is no need for ‘special legislation’ due to the modern proliferation of sex. The reality is that ‘they’ have certain sexual paranoias which they want to ‘out’ in an Islamic garb.
In any case, the scenario these people imagine is merely a product of their social isolation and lack of knowledge of the society which they live in (which is why Hanafis made it a strict requirement that a judge or scholar should be from the land he is working in or have acquired expert knowledge thereof – hard to do when you are hidden away in the mosque).
When is the last time you went out and a girl or boy just threw themselves at you? If you are honest, it almost never happens (if it did, some of those warning you off would be the first to accept). The reality is that you can get sex, but only if you know how to get it. You don’t just leave your house planning to do some shopping and then some hot stranger offers you sex. That only happens in pornos. Which is where some of these people got their ‘knowledge’ of Western sexual norms.
Islam has already legislated for all of this and it does not require you to be a prisoner in the mosque or spend your whole life looking at the floor.
It is quite simple:
9) They Make You Worry That The Prophet Married A Nine Year Old
No-one is even sure how old the Prophet was at the time of marriage as no-one is sure of his birthday, let alone that of Ai’sha. The real reason ‘they’ are so keen to show she was nine is to appease their constituency, who would like her to be nine (never a good starting point for getting at the truth) and because they want to establish their heretical and modernist approach to hadith (that all single chain narrations are ‘certain’ knowledge as opposed to the correct position of Ahlus Sunnah that they are probabilistic). Since there are narrations saying that she is nine, they must thus insist on it, otherwise they would have to revise their approach to hadith and thus their whole heterodox epistemology. The problems their banality causes for both Muslims and those wanting to know more about Islam are immense.
They don’t even do you the favour of telling you that the narrations do not even mention that any sexual intercourse took place, merely that she ‘entered the household of the Prophet’ at nine. There is a separate narration of Abu Dawood, which contradicts the wording of the others (Bukhari etc) that mentions intercourse. Which one is the correct one? Well both according to them. But we already know: ‘they’ aren’t telling you the truth about hadith.
And as for ‘no – one disagreed with the opinion that she was nine’ (as Jonathan A C Brown, who really should know better, mistakenly said), that is not true and in any case, it is because no-one had an opinion on this. No-one made a big deal of it (apart from Ahl al Hadith of course).
It was not a big deal, but not in the way they are saying – namely that ‘everyone accepted that she was nine’. It was not a big deal because people knew these narrations are not certain knowledge. And that no-one is going to be asked by God: ‘So how old was A’isha at the time of marriage?’
The best and only reliable talk in English or Arabic on this subject is this:https://asharisassemble.com/2012/11/01/the-age-of-hadrat-aisha-ra-a-detailed-and-balanced-answer/
10) Apparently, Killing People Who Leave Islam Is A Big Deal In Islam
‘They’ stress you (and non-Muslims) out about this and make Islamophobes happy. I find most people who leave Islam to be insincere vacillators and grudge bearers. But that’s not the point: A whole cottage industry has emerged amongst dawah carriers and ‘them’ trying to find exotic justifications for this ruling of some (in fact many) jurists.
But the answer is very simple: Abu Hanifa says no killing of the male or female apostate.
11) Stoning adulterers is the acid test of whether you are an orthodox Muslim
No it isn’t: not in Quran or muttawatir hadith, never was in Quran or muttawatir hadith (according to no less than Ibn Abbas).
None of what is narrated about this area goes beyond ‘mashoor’ and denying it is not disbelief but may be innovation (bi’dat).
Except it isn’t, because, I hate to blow my ‘Hanafi’ trumpet again, but the earliest Hanafis did not accept stoning of adulterers. And their reasoning is very strong.
The previous author was given a hard time merely for saying what many Hanafi scholars know but are afraid to say (due to ‘their’ backlash). A very good treatment and defence of this Hanafi opinion that rajm (stoning) is abrogated by the Quran (abrogating in this case the Torah) is by Sheikh Abu Zara and Imam Ahmad Mustafa Sarqa.
Of course, you haven’t read these books because they decide what you read. And they didn’t translate them.
12) Don’t you have the courage to stone? You Modernist Kufaar Appeaser! Die Bitch!
This should be rephrased as ‘Do you have the recklessness and stupidity to stone someone to death when there is a difference of opinion about whether it is even allowed in Islam?’
If there is one time when differences of opinions amongst the jurists have to be respected, it is on the issue of hadd punishment. Just as belief or ‘Iman’ cannot be on uncertain or speculatively held knowledge but only on what is absolute certainty, likewise you cannot kill someone when there is a difference of opinion, from Hanafis, who are the earliest and most authoritative school of jurisprudence and belief no less, about whether it is even necessary in the first place.
13) They Make You look Down On Non-Muslims
‘Learn from your enemy until you can overcome him’
Muslims today could never do this: avoid him, insult him, kill him even, but never learn. After all, what could they teach us? As Beduzzamin Said Nursi (Abd Al Wahhab and Ibn Taymiyya never heard of him or else he would have been on their takfir list too) explained, it is a gross error to think that everything a non-Muslim does comes from the impulse of disbelief, just as it is similarly erroneous to think that everything a Muslim does is from an Islamic impulse.
In any case, non-Muslims are not ‘the enemy’ – it is ‘they’ who are the enemy.
Many non-Muslim academics have correctly understood and articulated what most Muslims have not: most of the modern ‘Islamic’ movements, from Darul-Uloom Deoband to The Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb Ut Tahrir and even the Salafis are post colonial movements. More correctly, they are a reaction to colonialism. If they are honest, said academics do not attribute the views and emphases of these movements to traditional Islam, since they emerged emphasising those aspects (or rather, adding those features) which could give Muslims a way of feeling self assurance (read: superiority) or optimism in the face of total domination by non-Muslims. However, many academics and Islamophobes, rather than admitting that all of these movements are in some sense ‘reactionary’ and thus to varying degrees distortions of traditional Islam in response to colonialism, Socialism or modernity, find their gaffes a convenient brush with which to tar Islam as a religion. Thus the militancy of Hamas or Ikhwaanis or HT becomes generalised to Muslims, as does the isolationism or gynophobia of Deobandis and their Taliban brethren.
To this end, Islamic history is often re-framed as the colonial (or even ‘workers’) struggle of the Prophet (SAW) and his dispossessed and poor band of followers against the bourgeois/colonial powers of the Quraysh, with the Jews singled out for special vilification as class traitors.
In reality, Islam views itself as a divinely revealed religion applicable to all societies, circumstances and classes: many of the Prophets earliest followers were wealthy or extremely wealthy (Khadija, Abu Bakr, Uthman) and in fact nobles or even the equivalent of royalty. It was not just a religion of slaves or the poor but a great equaliser in which everyone found a place. Nor does Islam have a ‘persecution complex’ or not know how to live with minority status or without being in power (some of the earliest companions emigrated to Abyssinia to live in a blatantly Christian state) and the Prophet only left Mecca in extremis. Of course, the hadith spammers will try and present isolated narrations of bad behaviour towards non-Muslims or minorities as historical fact, but I hope you know better by now: ahad narrations [not equal to] certainty.
In short, to a very large degree and by very many populist and well funded movements, Islam has been re-framed as identity politics: a political and cultural identity and ‘us against them’. But not ‘them’, the Ahl Al Hadith and Salafis, who are the enemy within. Rather only at the ‘enemy’ without: the colonist or neo-colonial – specifically the Non – Muslims (and Muslim class traitors who don’t ‘rule by Islam’).
To a large extent, this is understandable – take the example of Deobandi clerics who were ‘radicalised’ against the non-Muslim British due to colonial excesses against their scholars (such as execution by being strapped to the barrel of a cannon) and the continued interference in what are seen as ‘Muslim lands’ by Western (and other) foreign policy initiatives. All of this is true and justified, but as IERA like to keep saying (but never practising), we don’t change the religion, the religion changes us. We cannot make the emphasis of Islam on ‘Muslim government’, implementation of Sharia, or differentiating ourselves from or agitating the non-Muslims, unless indeed that is the main message of Islam.
Which it isn’t (we will speak about what is the real message of Islam in its due place).
Unfortunately, Islam is more of a political and cultural identity to people (both Muslims and non) than a religion or epistemic system. There are huge groups of Muslims stressing how to establish the Islamic Caliphate and feeling that they cannot be complete Muslims without it, thereby giving themselves and others living in non-Muslim countries (which is all of them) a problem: loyalty to an idea which does not exist or getting on with their real life in Britain or France or wherever and improving their and their religions’ lot in these lands. Of course, most choose the ‘fantasy ummah’ as the land of their dreams, thereby being seen as traitors to their nations (with some justification) and also not making use of the opportunities to spread Islam properly in their own lands. By the time they wake up and realise that there is no land of milk and honey where there is a wonderful Islamic state with sharia and pure Muslim wives and a welfare state that lets them sit in the mosque doing nothing all day, it is too late.
Likewise, Deobandis and Brelwis are so worried about ‘assimilation’ and free mixing of the sexes that they can’t see the woods for the trees: by teaching people the real Islam and not making them hung up on trivialities like dress, speaking to the opposite sex or the length of ones beard, they can actually impart an intellectually rigorous religion that can sustain itself in the face of the ideological challenges that are inevitable in modern society (and indeed since the inception of Islam). But they cannot pass on what they themselves don’t have.
Of course it is understandable that people would fear ‘assimilation’ or more precisely a loss of identity or distinctiveness in the face of what Tim winter has called the overwhelming ‘monoculture’, and many distinct communities of believers and races have disappeared into the dominant culture that is, say, China or the US in the past. For example, everyone who invaded China, from the Muslims to the Manchus with the Mongols in between, ended up becoming to a large degree (Han) ‘Chinese’. Intermarriage between ‘host’ populations such as the US and immigrants from places such as Vietnam, are so common that apart from further immigration, there may not even be much of a culturally distinct Vietnamese community in the US in a hundred years, since most of the children of such unions identify themselves as American as opposed to Vietnamese or indeed have little to do with that culture (interestingly the same goes for Native Americans, who have a very high rate of exogamy). ‘So what?’ you might say, interracial marriage is great, but Muslims tend to fear the loss of religious or cultural identity (also, interracial marriage tends to be asymmetric – in the US for example, you have many unions between Asian and Caucasian but very few between Asian and Black: in Malaysia there are far more Chinese-Indian unions than Chinese/Indian with Malay – there are ‘preferred’ races and ethnicities for intermarriage. See this fascinating entry on Wikipedia:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interracial_marriage_in_the_United_States#Interracial_marriage_by_pairing).
As someone who does not ‘look’ Middle or South Asian, and especially as a female, I have seen first hand how easy it is to be ‘assimilated’ into the dominant culture if you have no Muslim friends, dress or eating habits. But the way to preserve this Islamic identity is not by isolationism or by demonising the ‘host’ community, rather it is by having a coherent and self confident exposition of one’s identity that need not fear the prevailing cultural or ‘racial doctrines’. In fact it can influence or subvert them – in life, whoever has the stronger belief effects the other person. In the past, Muslims had self assurance and did not fear being influenced by the non-Muslims but were rather confident of influencing them (one of the reasons they had what would be considered today shockingly liberal views on intermarriage). But this is a lot harder than the simple ‘kufaar bashing’ and Caliphate pipe dreams than most Muslims are raised with today.
The downside (for non-Muslims) and upside (for modernist reactionary Salafist Muslim groups) is that non-Muslims are effectively the demonic ‘other’, the enemy that is trying to prevent the Islamic state, make your daughter into a Lindsey Lohan clone or whatever. Most Muslims cope with this by 1) looking down on non-Muslims for trivial matters like hygiene or dress 2) avoiding them as much as possible 3) taking them to task for drinking, sleeping around or other perceived ‘affronts to decency’ through ‘dawah’. All the while though, most Muslims are secretly nurturing the uneasy feeling that Non-Muslim society is like the tortoise Achilles was trying to catch – always in front due to a massive head start. Despite the fantastical posturings of HT and the hopes pinned on the ‘Arab Spring’, the Caliphate resolutely refuses to re-emerge, forcing many Muslims down the rabbit hole of apocalyptic dreams of the coming of Mahdi (much like the defeated Evangelicals in the United States await ‘The Rapture’).
I remember one ‘map’ no doubt produced by ‘Hizb ut Tahrir’, which showed what economic and demographic might all of the Muslim nations would have if they ‘united’. It was a map with all of the ‘Muslim’ countries painted the same colour to show an impressive swathe of the Mercator projection of Earth as green. I asked the ‘author’ if this had ever in fact happened in known history (it hasn’t) and why he had foolishly left out all of the countries which have huge numbers of Muslims but are not ‘Muslim’ (such as India, Russia, Nigeria, China) and how that fit with HT’s polemic about the halcyon age of Islamic Spain, which also was not ‘all Muslim’ by any means. The most stupid thing was that you could draw a similar, even more impressive map for Christians or Buddhists if they ‘united under one Ummah’ (in fact they are closer to doing so with organisations from NATO to NAFTA). But all of this was lost on HT; they merely want to remind you of lost glories (which never existed in the first place).
Those with one eye in the past rarely reach their destination.
The focus on establishing the Caliphate makes many believe that they will not be ‘stuck’ in the US or UK forever and that they will be able to emigrate to this ‘Islamic State’ when it comes to be. It means they lives their life chasing a dream and never making their current (and most likely future homes), namely the countries they are living in right now, as accommodating and comfortable for their religion as possible (something our Jewish cousins have recently mastered).
Most peoples’ energy is distracted into setting up a mythical Caliphate overseas rather than applying pressure by money, lobbying and voting at home and making sure that the US and UK moderate and maybe even reverse their huge Zionist bias. But no, they will wait for the ‘Caliphate’ to do that (precisely how it will do that is never explained or is left to the ‘help of Allah’).
Essentially, the relationship with non-Muslims is one of fascination/contempt (especially towards non-Muslim women, who are desired but…). This is never healthy. And the presentation of a lopsided and politicised version of Islam with ‘sharia’ (as understood by Salafists) as the essential condition (despite the fact that Sharia was implemented only a handful of times in the entirety of Islam’s history) has led to hostility and indifference from non-Muslims.
Francis Fukyama made a rare accurate statement when he said that Islam was indeed and coherent system – but no-one outside of Muslims would ever consider following it.
What do non-Muslims understand by Islam today? In the UK and US, bombs, obsession with gender and superficialism. In Malaysia, dogs are bad, pork is bad. In Saudi, an unhinged attempt to re-create a medieval state which only ever existed in the fevered dreams of Abd Al Wahhab and Ibn Taymiyya.
Imam Al Ghazzali said that the burden of disbelief in fact rests on those who made the religion of God too ugly in the eyes of the people for them to want to follow it.
Can you guess who he was talking about?
14) They (like Islamophobes) Make You Worry About Whether You Are Muslim First or [insert nationality here] First
In reality, this is one of the most stupid questions asked since ‘Can God make a stone so heavy that even He can’t lift it?’. Indeed it is also a category error, such as ‘are you female first or a mother first?’ or something equally banal, but both Islamophobes and ‘they’ love these types of apparent ‘conflicts’ of identity.
Why? Because it is a great way to manipulate you and keep you distracted and thinking about the wrong thing. It is in fact the art of misdirection. You know, like when a magician says to you; ‘see how there is nothing up my sleeves?’ But of course, now you are looking in the wrong place…
It relies on two faulty premises. Firstly, it depends on the relative value of different affiliations and can just as well be asked of non-Muslims and be equally offensive: Do you love your mum more or your dog? It depends on what place ‘dog’ and ‘mum’ occupy on your hierarchy of values.
Secondly, since they need your identity to be sufficiently malleable to get you to go and fight in their preferred overseas conflicts, they would like you to have the idea that you are affiliated to something other the than your country, some supra national entity called the ‘Islamic State’ (which has not been issuing passports recently).
Think about it very carefully: do you actually even have a choice to be affiliated with, for example, Britain for good or for bad or not? If you decide not, where are you welcome to go? Of course, Westerner Muslims, having money, are relatively welcome in other countries, so they feel they are part of an ‘Ummah’; ‘Hey, if these bloody English start giving me too much grief I can always move to Saudi/Afghanistan/Pakistan/Malaysia/[insert country here]. The Palestinians know better. Yes, if you have a British passport you can live and work in Dubai or Malaysia or wherever, but it isn’t because you are Muslim that they let you in.
It is because of the British Passport.
I am British and born in Britain and I pretty much always hated it – from the weather to the people. Just like many Non-Muslims. So what? I hardly have a choice. And if I do have one it is because of the freedom my British citizenship affords me. Just ask the Syrian refugees turned away from all of those rich Muslim countries (Saudi, Dubai, Qatar *cough).
The most obvious and yet overlooked factor is that were there an Islamic state, these people would no doubt find that it was in fact not that Islamic and then be back to square one, i.e dissatisfied that Britain is not the Caliphate or that there is not a caliphate to move their families to. When the Taliban, Saudi or Iran do set up an Islamic State, it is a far worse place for Islam than most of the countries these complainants are from. Of course they will claim that the Islamic state they long for is better than any of these (though as mentioned, HT supported both Iran and propositioned Khomeni as well as the Taliban – prostituting to the idea of Islamic statehood if there ever was). I wonder.
As Richard Dawkins might put it – there is no Islamic state or country to give allegiance to or emigrate to. Now get on with your life.
Islam itself is however always open for allegiance and loyalty. If you think Islam can only exist as a nation state or political system you have understood very little of it and insult all of those who thrived and enriched the lives of countless non-Muslims despite being minorities. People forget: the Ottomans and Andalusians were minorities, as are the Hui of China and even the Malays in Malaysia.
To imply that these people somehow incomplete is noxious and flagrantly idiotic.
15) Finally, Dogs Are Apparently a Big Deal In Islam
No they aren’t.
In fact, I don’t think dogs are a big deal in any religion.
Many authoritative Malikis in particular say there is no problem having them as pets. If you like dogs that much, be Maliki and save yourself a lot of Salafi guilt tripping and paranoia – Malik and others found the hadith relating to dogs unconvincing (since the were not Ahl Al Hadith modernists and applied their methodology before accepting narrations such as the Satanic Verses willy nilly).
Dogs are a great acid test of ‘their’ methodology and the careful observer can derive all they need to know about it from this case: I personally dislike dogs as needy and unhygienic and sometimes dangerous annoyances, and so did most jurists, but a large group, in fact the main group of Malikis disagree and allow them to be kept for purely personal or amusement reasons.
Of course, ‘they’ will start hadith bombing and scholar spamming with people and traditions that disparage the keeping of dogs as I mentioned above. This illustrates their methodology: they want to blackmail you with hadith despite the fact that hadith sans jurisprudence is confusion and misguidance. As a corollary to this, they will accost you with long lists of scholars/authorities that you have never heard of and then demand that you follow the ‘majority’. Of course, you can never trust their narrations and Salafis and Ahl Al Hadith have the principle that it is ‘okay to lie’ if it is for the purpose of ‘guiding people’, but assuming they are telling you the truth, they will say; ‘yes, Imam Malik allows it but Ahmad and blah blah did not, so it’s Malik on one side and all of the others on the contrary! Hah!’
In fact, you, as a follower of Imam Malik, are under no obligation to take account of the other opinions (unless you are a scholar or looking into the matter). You need have no guilt when following Malik in the matter of dogs, how to pray or anything else, regarding other authorities who disagreed. This would be as difficult as me trying to pray my salat according to all of the schools of thought at once: it is neither necessary nor strictly possible.
It is just a way for them to confuse you that following a madhab or Imam’s opinions (as explained in the ‘aql/naql’ debate above) is actually about looking into the opinions of everyone and then following the ‘salaf’ or the majority – which is nonsense. In fact it is another way for Ahl Al Hadith and Salafis to indoctrinate people into their methodology – they and Abd Al Wahhab argued that it is incumbent upon all Muslims to know the proofs for each thing they do and if they do not then it is ‘kufr’ or disbelief.
This is one of numerous unhinjed statements from Abd Al Wahhab and his genocidal bedfellows but in practice it means that all Salafis and Ahl Al Hadith consider that anyone speaking Arabic is a scholar and can assess the proofs – which is a bit like saying everyone who has GCSE Maths has to make up their own mind about String Theory. It is also the reason (namely, giving dilettantes free reign to give opinions and fatwas) that one finds so many strange fatwas amongst them, from driving and brazier bans for women to legitimising the killing of innocent Muslim or non-Muslim civilians. Bin Laden is, after all, the example par excellance of the home made fatwa from an unhinjed amateur (Salafis and Deobandis are in a perpetual struggle in trying to avoid ‘taking credit’ for Bin Laden).
What Is Islam Really About?
Since everyone else has told you, and it was, basically rub bish, allow me to have a go as well.
Have you seen all those awful posters in mosques and Islamic Awareness weeks at universities which say ‘What is Islam’? and then start talking about the ‘Five Pillars’, namely belief, prayer, fasting, Pilgrimage and compulsory charity.
I was once in a prayer room that had posters such as ‘what is Buddhism’?, ‘What is Islam?’ etc. they even had one for the Native American Religion:
Be perfectly honest: which seems more appealing?
Of course you don’t want to admit, even to yourself, that the bottom poster is more attractive.
But it is.
The reason is that it is actually more about Islam than the Islam poster is. And it is about frames of mind or ideas rather than merely practices, which is all the ‘Five Pillars’ poster is about.
Nonetheless, whenever anyone anywhere is asked about Islam, ‘they’ almost invariably reply with ‘The Five Pillars’.
This is what ‘they’ made you think – but it makes no sense. First of all prayer, fasting and pilgrimage are common to all religions, as is almsgiving (even Scientologists have it) – these practices cannot be the defining character of Islam or any religion as they are common to most religions.
Even the profession of faith – which all religions have – Well, who is this ‘Allah’? Can he be a Trinity or Hannuman? And who is this ‘Muhammad’? We are not told. This is because Islam is not the ‘Five Pillars’ – Is the concept of God, Prophethood, the relation of man to God, the relation of man to man clarified in them?
No – it is a profession of faith or practice that needs elucidation and is insufficient in itself to explain the main message of Islam. ‘The Five Pillars’ merely tell people what Muslims do devotionally (and not all of that either). Perhaps the confusion comes from Hanbalis and Ahl Al Hadith who do not make a distinction between faith and practice of Islam, using these terms interchangeably. This is a gross error.
As Gai Eaton, the most eloquent of the latter day Muslims said: ‘the five pillars are just that – the pillars. They are not the house itself’.
What in fact defines Islam is the reason behind these practices – the cause of them or even their esoteric meaning – which is actually far better expressed in the ‘Native American’ commandments.
Even practically, the simplistic diatribe around the ‘Five pillars’ is grossly misleading: the main concern of Islam is not ‘prayer’ etc or even faith but the preservation of life and the species because without this there will not be any humans to recognise God in the first place. There are almost as many explanations of Islam as there are Muslims but the main message of the Quran is about freeing mankind from intellectual slavery, subjugation by ones own ego, justice, the brotherhood of humanity and…well, in short, what the Native Americans said.
So now we have been led by ‘them’ into a position where we need to have Islam explained to us by non-Muslims, who seem to have ‘got it’ better than us.
All of those posters about the ‘Five Pillars’ can reduce their carbon footprint by being summarised thus: ‘Islam is believing in Islam and praying and practising it’. This explains nothing to anyone, least of all Muslims.
Of course, this will lead to yet another hadith ‘carpet bombing’ where narrations are wheeled out which mention the ‘Five Pillars’ (all of these hadith were narrated to Shahabah practising Islam already with a deep understanding of it’s rational and philosophical underpinnings, so The Prophet (SAW) advised them on these things which come after those underpinnings, much like a doctor prescribes paracetamol for a headache and then I go and generalise that everyone and to appendicitis or whatever – so they are yet more hadith taken out of context) and probably takfir by the route that I am denying the ‘fundamentals’ of Islam (rather it is they, namely Ahl Al Hadith and Salafis who takfir by saying that one who does not pray or practice is outside Islam, a belief they have but are embarrassed to share – which makes no sense anyway: as Imam Shafi said to Imam Ahmad: ‘I heard you are saying that the one who does not pray is not Muslim?’ [which is Ahmad’s opinion], Imam Ahmad replied, ‘yes’. Imam Shafi then asked: ‘then how does the person, who is according to you not Muslim because he does not pray, re-enter Islam?’. Imam Ahmad retorted, ‘By Saying the profession of faith (kalima)’. ‘But he never denied this in the first place’, said Imam Shafi. ‘Well, then by praying Salat again’ said Imam Ahmad. ‘But according to you, he would be a non-believer when he prayed the salat, and the salat of a non-believer is not accepted’ finished Imam Shafi, highlighting that belief and practice are distinct and that imam Ahmad’s opinion was, well, wrong).
Of course, no one is denying the importance and necessary nature of the ‘Five Pillars’, but practices nor rituals neither define a religion nor explain it – religion is beliefs and a world view and ideas, not ‘non-specifics’ such as fasting and prayer. What defines Islam and Muslims is not that they fast or pray (others do that too, perhaps even more) but why they fast and pray.
I think someone should make a poster about that.
But ‘they’ won’t will they?
Oh, still don’t know who ‘they’ are?
Don’t worry they know about you.
As Lenin said: You may have lost interest in War, but War has not lost interest in you.
You may think that you don’t care about Hanafis, Salafis, modernists, Hadith.
But it’s not only soldiers who are killed by guns Dear Reader…
You are breath of fresh air, especially in times such as these! Ironic I’ve been interested in American Indian spiritual tradition, and that poster “speaks more about Islam than your typical ‘Islam 101’ poster” (well put btw). Maybe we should research other spiritual traditions (ie. Hindu, Buddhism, American Indian, other), compare and contrast using Quran and sunnah and see what we find. Possibly take the new poster idea into our own hands ( seems to be the case nowadays) and see how people respond. I feel you can make a solid case that Islam is the true nature of man (fitra) without using Christianity or Judaism, rather, using older more primitive traditions. All the while giving respect and recognition to these other great traditions.
With the current situation and living in a rather Christian south (Texas), any dissenting opinion from the Israel first narrative gets you ostracized from family members. Off topic, but, bought a book ” against our better judgment: the hidden history of how the U.S. was used to create Israel” might be a good read for those who are interested.
Your piece helped a lot, I can’t thank you enough. It’s been very tough given all the stuff going on in the world. You have increased my Iman, May Allah please for this sister!
You have raised an EXCELLENT point: there is TOTAL over-reliance, coming almost entirely from the Muslim side, on using the ‘Judeo-Christian’ framework to explain Islam. This is partly due to ignorance and partly due to ‘Arab – centrism’, since Jews and Christians are the only non-Muslims Arabs usually have contact with, thus they become the ‘whole story’.
It is indeed possible to ‘explain’ Islam in reference to earlier or ‘other’ traditions, as Chinese scholars of Islam found entirely possible in the cases of Daoism and Confucianism (as made clear by scholars such as Lui Zhi and Wang Tai Yu) and less so Buddhism) and Al Bayruni did in the case of Hinduism.
But today, Muslims just flopped. Sachiko Murata is the only one who bothered to try, see her book ‘Chinese Gleams of Sufi Wisdom’ or ‘The Sage Learning of Lui Zhi’:
Although unlike the tomes of the uncouth heretic Ibn Taymiyyah, which are dished out for virtually non cost, this volume costs nearly £5,000.
Fantastic article. The Dark Night Rises reference almost made me spit my coffee out.
Well spotted…theatricality, deception: powerful weapons against the uninitiated.
But then, we aren’t uninitiated, are we Amr?
Reblogged this on Renegade Thinking.
Wow, a brilliant and devastating article, the salafi brothers will be needing some ice for those burns. I can think of plenty of people who match the description of ‘they’ 😉
First of all, we are most offended that a women dare write this…I mean did she ask her husband for permission ?
(If a card carrying neo-con can say a truth about the power of Islam, why cant Muslims ? Great article, things I disagree with, but it makes me sad that this was not available to me when I was a boy 😦
One thing to mention is: In spite of any similarities one might find with other traditions with respect to being kind to others, etc., I still believe it is important to delve into the tough metaphysical reasons why Islam is different from other religions. In addition to the lack of translations of classical Islamic works, there seems to be a big hole in traditional Muslim thinkers engaging with and answering the cosmological viewpoints of other religions. Yes, there is some work with regards to Atheism, and Deism, but this is the ‘Modern Western’ version of it – there have been numerous other versions from Chinese, Indian, Japanese, even African cultures, and I am sure if we put ourselves to the task, we can very well study and answer such things, though it needs the proper time and encouragement.
But are not you also messing up people? Let us be serious. What is it about the hanafi madhhab and all this relied opinions we hear for the first time? I am not hanafi and I do not really know much about it but I always thought it is strict on issues like music. It may be more lenient on other issues but I am quite sure it does not allow music. So how do you come to this?
If you want people to not me “messed up” try prove your claims otherwise many will do you know what (takfir).
1) You don’t know about Hanafi madhab but know we are wrong? Interesting…
2) We need to give evidence but not you?
3) Music is a takfir issue?
Evidence has been given for all of these positions, including music in the relevant articles: less takfiring, more reading.
Oh, and you’re banned, as you were told months ago!