Thursday, 14 December 2017

Bid'ah is Not Always Blameworthy

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

How did innovation automatically become a bad thing in Islam?  It arises from a misunderstanding of the nature of bid’ah.  There is a muttafaq ‘alayh narration, from ash-Shaykhayn, where the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Beware of matters newly begun, for every matter newly begun is an innovation, and every innovation is misguidance.”  The scholars of Islam are in almost unanimous agreement that this hadits cannot possibly refer literally to all new things without restriction, but only to those things which have no basis in the shari’ah.

There is a process that scholars use to derive rulings from an-nuswusw, the primary sources of shari’ah, and categorise innovations into one of the five classifications of action: mandatory, recommend, neutral, disliked, and forbidden.  A hadits cannot be taken literally, without consideration of the context and prophetic intent.  We do not consider every new thing as some sort of misguiding innovation.  It is the sunnah to accept new acts initiated in Islam that are good and do not conflict with the established principles of shari’ah.  This involved careful consideration.  No real scholar would reject something outright on the flimsy excuse that such a thing was not performed or existed in the time of the Prophet (s.a.w.), and the swahabah.  The shari’ah is flexible, and fiqh is based on deep understanding.

Coming back to the hadits on innovation, the primary misunderstanding is the word “kull”, “every”; in the phrase, “every innovation is misguidance”.  Too many people, particularly the literalist Wahhabi sect, take this as an absolute generalisation.  This cannot be so.  Imam an-Nawawi (r.a.), in his Sharh Swahih Muslim, wrote, “This generality concerns a specific division, for the intended meaning is the majority of innovation, for not all innovation is blameworthy.”  The basis of this statement is found in the Qur’an and sunnah.

Verily ye, (unbelievers) and the (false) gods that ye worship besides Allah, are (but) fuel for Hell!  To it, will ye (surely) come! (Surah al-Anbiya’:98)

Here, the phrase “the (false) gods that ye worship” is an absolute statement when taken according to its literal sense in Arabic.  However, this apparently absolute statement is qualified by numerous restrictions; many people worship Jesus (a.s.), his mother, and the angels, apart from Allah (s.w.t.), yet none of them are “fuel for Hell

But when they forget the Warning they had received, We Opened to them the gates of all (good) things, until, in the midst of their enjoyment of Our gifts, on a sudden, We Called them to Account, when lo! they were plunged in despair! (Surah al-An’am:44)

Here, there is kulli shay’in”, “all (good) things”.  However, it is also a qualified statement, not an absolute one, since the “abwab”, “gates” of Guidance, were not Opened to them.  If they were, there would be no need to call them to account.

“Everything will it destroy, by the Command of its Lord!”  Then by the morning, they find nothing was to be seen but (the ruins of) their houses!  Thus, do We Recompense those given to sin! (Surah al-Ahqaf:25)

Here, there is kulli shay’in”, referring to the wind Sent to destroy “everything”.  But everything does not refer to the buildings that were left as monuments to Divine Wrath, or the mountains and surrounding hills and valleys.

It is recorded, in Swahih Muslim, that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “No one who prays before sunrise and sunset will enter Hell.”  Again, this is not to be taken as an absolute statement, since a person who only prays fajr and maghrib is still found wanting in fulfilling his duties.  Or, a person who prays but his intent is astray, or who commits major sins is still accountable for them and not guaranteed Salvation.  In the same vein, the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) statement, “every innovation is misguidance”, is not a literal absolute blanket prohibition against all innovation.

Then, there is the hadits, “Every eye is adulterous.”  This is recorded in Imam at-Tirmidzi’s (r.a.) Jami’, Imam an-Nasa’i’s (r.a.) Sunan al-Kubra’, Imam ad-Darimi’s (r.a.) Sunan, Imam Ahmad’s (r.a.) Musnad, Imam ibn Khuzaymah’s (r.a.) Swahih, Imam Hakim’s (r.a.) Mustadrak, Imam ibn Hibban’s (r.a.) Swahih, Imam al-Bayhaqi’s (r.a.) Shu’ab al-Iman, Imam al-Bazzar’s (r.a.) Sunan, Imam al-Haytsami’s (r.a.) Majma’ Zawa’id, and Imam as-Suyuthi’s (r.a.) Jami’ as-Saghir.  Here, we understand that the Prophet (s.a.w.) means “every eye” that looks with an indecent intent, not in the literal sense of every single eye.  Otherwise, it would be impossible to function in society.

It is also recorded that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “He who introduces a good practice, in Islam, earns the Reward of it, and of all who performs it after him without diminishing their own Reward, in the least; and he who introduces a bad practice, in Islam, earns the punishment of it, and of all who perform it, after him without diminishing their own punishment in the least.”  This is recorded in Imam Muslims’ (r.a.) Swahih, Imam at-Tirmidzi’s (r.a.) Jami’, Imam an-Nasa’i’s (r.a.) Sunan al-Kubra’, Imam Ahmad’s (r.a.) Musnad, Imam ibn Majah’s (r.a.) Sunan, Imam al-Bazzar’s (r.a.) Sunan, and many others; from Jarir ibn ‘Abdullah al-Bajali (r.a.), Abu Hurayrah (r.a.), Abu Juhayfah (r.a.), Hudzayfah ibn al-Yaman (r.a.), ‘Aishah (r.a.), and other companions; making it mutawatir.

This hadits is a clear statement that some innovations are good, particularly those that are in conformance with the shari’ah; and some innovations are bad.  In another hadits, the Prophet (s.a.w.) defined a bad innovation as “an innovation of misguidance which Displeases Allah and His Messenger.”  This is recorded by Imam at-Tirmidzi (r.a.), and Imam ibn Majah (r.a.).  This is also found in the Qur’an:

Then, in their wake, We Followed them up with (others of) Our Messengers: We Sent after them Jesus, the son of Mary, and Bestowed on him the Gospel; and We Ordained, in the hearts of those who followed him, compassion and mercy.  But the monasticism, which they invented for themselves, We did not prescribe for them: (We Commanded) only the seeking for the Good Pleasure of Allah; but that, they did not foster as they should have done.  Yet We Bestowed, on those among them who believed, their (due) Reward, but many of them are rebellious transgressors. (Surah al-Hadid:27)

Allah (s.w.t.) does not say that monasticism is necessarily bad since He Says, “We Bestowed, on those among them who believed, their (due) Reward,” meaning that the sincere zahidun amongst them were Rewarded.

Similarly, the Prophet (s.a.w.) also said, “You must follow my sunnah, and the sunnah of the rightly-guided successors after me”; the “and” referring to matters that the companions would introduce that did not explicitly come from him, otherwise, he would have simply referred to those acts as “my sunnah”.

It is recorded, in Imam al-Bukhari’s (r.a.) Swahih, and Imam Malik’s (r.a.) al-Muwaththa’, that ‘Umar (r.a.) gathered the community of Madina together to perform twenty raka’at of swalah at-tarawih, as a jama’ah, behind one imam, Ubay ibn Ka’b al-Answari (r.a.).  He famously exclaimed, “Ni’ma al-bid’atu hadzihi”, “What an excellent innovation, this is”.  We must also remember that he increased the number of raka’at from eight to twenty.  Imam at-Tirmidzi (r.a.) recorded that the community of Madina actually performed 41 raka’at of swalah at-tarawih, including the witr.  This is something that neither the Prophet (s.a.w.), nor the four Khulafah ar-Rashidin did.

In his commentary on the hadits, “every innovation is misguidance”, Imam ibn Hajr al-‘Asqalani (r.a.) wrote, in his Fath al-Bari, “The root lexical meaning of ‘innovation’ is what is produced without precedent.  It is applied, in the shari’ah, in opposition to the sunnah, and is, therefore, blameworthy.  In reality, if it is part of what is generally classifiable as commendable by the shari’ah, then it is a good innovation; while if it is part of what is classified as blameworthy by the shari’ah, then it is blameworthy; otherwise it falls in the category of what is permitted indifferently.  It can be divided into the known five categories.”

For example, when ibn ‘Umar (r.a.) was asked about swalah adh-dhuha’ being prayed regularly, in congregation, he said, “It is an innovation, and how fine an innovation it is!”  In another narration, he said, “The people have invented nothing more beloved to me than it.” This is recorded by Imam ibn Abi Shaybah (r.a.), in his Muswannaf, Imam ‘Abd ar-Razzaq (r.a.), in his Muswannaf; and by Imam ath-Thabarani (r.a.), in both his Mu’jam al-Kabir, and Mu’jam al-Awsath.  Imam ibn Hajr (r.a.) stated, in his Fath al-Bari, that these narrations are swahih.  Imam ash-Shafi’i (r.a.) himself used these narrations as an example of praiseworthy innovation.

Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.) himself wrote that ibn ‘Umar (r.a.) was asked whether he, his father, Abu Bakr (r.a.), or the Prophet (s.a.w.) performed swalah adh-dhuha’.  ibn ‘Umar (r.a.) said none of them did, in the time of the Prophet (s.a.w.).  He also said that ‘Aishah (r.a.) said, “I never saw the Prophet (s.a.w.) pray swalah adh-dhuha’, but I always pray it.”  Aside from Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.), this was also recorded by Imam Muslim (r.a.), Imam Malik (r.a.), Imam Ahmad (r.a.), Imam Abu Dawud (r.a.), Imam ad-Darimi (r.a.), Imam ‘Abd ar-Razzaq (r.a.), Imam al-Bayhaqi (r.a.), and Imam ath-Thayalisi (r.a.).  Similar statements were related from Abu Bakr (r.a.), as recorded in Ima ath-Thabarani’s (r.a.) Awsath.

However, we must understand that this does not mean that swalah adh-dhuha’ was something the companions made up.  What these two narrations mean is that they did not see the Prophet (s.a.w.) perform swalah adh-dhuha’ in the mosque on a regular basis, in congregation, so that it would not become an obligation.  There are dozens of other narrations which state that he used to pray swalah adh-dhuha’, related on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (r.a.), Abu Sa’id al-Khudri (r.a.), ‘Umar (r.a.), ibn Mas’ud (r.a.), al-Hasan (r.a.), Abu Umamah (r.a.), Zayd ibn Arqam (r.a.), Anas ibn Malik (r.a.), Abu Dzar (r.a.), Abu Darda’ (r.a.), and others, in addition to ‘Aishah (r.a.) herself.  Imam ibn Hibban (r.a.) recorded, in his Swahih, that ‘Aishah (r.a.) said, regarding swalah adh-dhuha’, “The Prophet (s.a.w.) used to leave a lot of actions, even if he loved to do them, out of fear that the people might take them to be obligatory.”

Another meritorious act of bid’ah was the compilation of the Qur’an into one muswhaf, when many of the huffazh died in battle.  ‘Umar (r.a.) approached the caliph, Abu Bakr (r.a.), and suggested it.  Abu Bakr (r.a.) replied, holding on to the beard of ‘Umar (r.a.), “How could I do something the Prophet (s.a.w.) never did or asked to do?”  But after deliberation, they agreed it was the wise thing to do.  Abu Bakr (r.a.) later said that he felt his chest expanding, and him feeling calm, after this decision.  It was the right thing to do.  This story is recorded in Imam al-Bukhari’s (r.a.) Swahih, Imam at-Tirmidzi’s (r.a.) Jami’, Imam Ahmad’s (r.a.) Musnad, Imam al-Bayhaqi’s (r.a.) Sunan, Imam ath-Thabarani’s (r.a.) Mu’jam al-Kabir, and elsewhere.

It was also recorded by Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.), Imam Muslim (r.a.), Imam ibn Khuzaymah (r.a.), Imam at-Tirmidzi (r.a.), and Imam Ahmad (r.a.) that Bilal (r.a.) used his initiative to pray two raka’at of swalah tahiyyat al-wudhu’.  At the time of the fajr prayer, the Prophet (s.a.w.) asked Bilal (r.a.), “Tell me of the best deed you did after embracing Islam, for I heard your footsteps before me in Paradise.”

Bilal (r.a.) replied, “I did not do anything worth mentioning except that whenever I performed ablution during the day or night, I prayed after that ablution as much as was written for me.”  Imam ibn Hajr (r.a.) said that this is proof of the validity of inferring and introducing specific times and occasions for acts of worship, because Bilal (r.a.) arrived at this through his own ijtihad.  In another example, Khubayb ibn ‘Adi (r.a.) performed two raka’at before his execution by the Quraysh, after Badr.  This is mentioned in Imam al-Bukhari’s (r.a.) Swahih, and Imam Ahmad’s Musnad, amongst others.

It is recorded in ash-Shaykhayn and elsewhere, on the authority of Rifa’ah ibn Rafi’ az-Zuraqi (r.a.), that a man was praying behind the Prophet (s.a.w.), and when they stood up from ruku’, that man exclaimed, “Rabbana wa laka al-hamdu hamdan katsiran thayyiban mubarakan fihi”, “Our Rabb, all praises are for You, many good and blessed praises.”

When the Prophet (s.a.w.) finished praying, he asked, “Who said those words?”  The man identified himself, and the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “I saw over thirty angels competing to write it first.”  And this is also an innovation.

And then there is an incident, which was recorded, in Swahih al-Bukhari, and elsewhere, through Abu Sa’id al-Khudri (r.a.).  A group of companions were on a journey when they were asked to treat a person stung by a scorpion.  One of them recited Surah al-Fatihah over the wound and spat on it.  The man was instantly cured.  When they returned and told this to the Prophet (s.a.w.), he said, “How did you know it was of the words which heal?”  This clearly shows that they derived this from their own initiative, when they used verses of the Qur’an for ruqyah.

It is also recorded, by Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.), Imam at-Tirmidzi (r.a.), Imam an-Nasa’i (r.a.), Imam Abu Dawud (r.a.), Imam Ahmad (r.a.), Imam ibn Khuzaymah (r.a.), and others; that ‘Utsman ibn ‘Affan (r.a.) introduced the calling of the adzan at the beginning of the time of dzuhr, during Friday prayers.  This is something that did not happen previously.  ‘Utsman (r.a.) recognised that there was a need to call the people to gather, and allow them time to take their wudhu’ before calling the actual adzan for the commencement of swalah al-juma’ah.

Imam an-Nawawi (r.a.), in his Sharh Swahih Muslim, wrote that when a companion of the Prophet (s.a.w.) introduced an innovation, such as all of the examples above, they are considered to be from the fundamentals of shari’ah, and the sunnah, and when they become widely acted upon or accepted, they are part of the established ijma’.  Any act that the swahabah unanimously accepted becomes a binding ijma’, and there is no question as to its authenticity.

Imam ibn Hajr (r.a.) wrote, in Fath al-Bari, that ‘Aishah (r.a.) said that the maqam of Ibrahim (a.s.) used to be attached to the Ka’bah during the lifetime of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and Abu Bakr (r.a.).  Then ‘Umar (r.a.) created a separate structure during his caliphate.  Imam ibn Hajr (r.a.) said, “None of the swahabah disagreed with ‘Umar in what he did, nor did those after them, and so it became a silent consensus ...”

Imam al-Bazzar (r.a.) and others recorded, that ‘Ali ibn Abi Thalib (k.w.) introduced a second ‘Iyd prayer in the mosque.  In the time of the Prophet (s.a.w.), and the caliphs before him, there was only one ‘Iyd prayer for each ‘Iyd in Madina.  During his reign, he was told that there were infirm people in the town, who could not make it to the prayers at the early time that he prayed.  He then appointed another imam to lead a second, later prayer, for these people.

Approved innovations in acts of worship are derived not only from the swahabah, but from pious Muslims of every age, and accepted, as long as these acts conform to the principles of the shari’ah, and the prophetic intent.  I have used examples from the swahabah to show that this basis was approved from the very earliest days of Islam.  For example, Imam ibn Qudamah (r.a.) wrote. in his Mughni’, that Imam Ahmad (r.a.) said, that upon khatm of the Qur’an in swalah at-tarawih, “If you finish reading Surah an-Naas, then lift your hands up before making ruku’, and recite a du’a.” When he was asked his source for this, he replied that Imam Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah (r.a.), one of the great scholars of tabi’un, used to do it in Makkah when he led swalah at-tarawih.  So, we know that there is no specific dalil to the Qur’an and ahadits, making this a bid’ah.

It is on this basis that the ummah have the mawlid, the prayers of Laylat al-Qadr, Laylat al-Bara’ah, Laylat al-Isra’ wa al-Mi’raj, the tahlil, the congregational dzikr, and so many practices.  Whilst the manner in which they are done are not exactly as was performed in the time of the Prophet (s.a.w.), or in some cases, not performed at all, that does not necessarily make them proscribed.  The intent is the pleasure of Allah (s.w.t.), and the remembrance of the Prophet (s.a.w.), and the performance of these acts of worship are in accordance with the limits shari’ah.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

The Pure Lineage of the Prophet (s.a.w.)

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Shaykh Osman Nuri Topbas wrote, in “The Prophet Muhammad Musthafa the Elect (s.a.w.)”, on the pure lineage of the Prophet (s.a.w.).

The Prophet’s (s.a.w.) father is ‘Abdullah and his mother is Aminah, a blessed lineage stemming from Ibrahim (a.s.) and Isma’il (a.s.) through Adnan, the most honourable member of the Kayzar family.

Adnan’s son, Ma’ad, is said to be a contemporary of ‘Isa (a.s.).  Both maternally and paternally, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) belonged to the purest family of Quraysh, a purity of lineage confirmed by the Prophet (s.a.w.) himself in the following hadits: “I was born from my mother and father without being marred by any of the evils of the Period of Ignorance.  From Adam to my mother and father, every preceding member of lineage was conceived by none other than religiously legal marriage, never from fornication.”  This is found in Hafizh ibn Katsir’s (r.a.) al-Bidayah wa an-Nihayah.

Another name of the Prophet (s.a.w.) is “Musthafa”, meaning one who is delicately chosen.  Whenever there was a split of lineage, the forefathers of the Blessed Prophet (s.a.w.) always succeeded from among the better of the two.  Since Adam (a.s.) and Hawa, therefore, the Prophetic Light passed on through the purest of mothers and fathers, from one generation to another.

It is thought to be referenced in the Qur’an:

And put thy trust on the Exalted in Might, the Merciful ― Who Seeth thee standing forth (in prayer), and thy movements among those who prostrate themselves. (Surah ash-Shu’ara:211-219)

This ayat was understood by a number of commentators, including ibn ‘Abbas (r.a.), as a reference to the descent of the Blessed Prophet (s.a.w.)  through his ancestors, all of whom were men of utmost piety; that is until reaching him, the light of the Prophet (s.a.w.)  was transmitted only through those who fell prostrate to Allah (s.w.t.).  This was mentioned by Imam al-Qurthubi (r.a.), and Imam al-Haytsami (r.a.).

As recorded by Imam Muslim (r.a.), and Imam at-Tirmidzi (r.a.), the Prophet (s.a.w.)  confirmed his pure lineage through the following: “Allah (s.w.t.) Chose Isma’il from among the sons of Ibrahim, Banu Kinanah from among the descendants of Isma’il, Quraysh from among the sons of Kinanah, the sons of Hashim from among Quraysh, and the sons of ‘Abd al-Muththalib from among Hashim; and me from among the sons of ‘Abd al-Muththalib.”

Regarding the well-known purity of genealogy of the Blessed Prophet (s.a.w.)  and his eminent forefathers, the great scholar, Imam ibn Khaldun said, “No other person than Prophet Muhammed (s.a.w.) has a well recorded lineage that is moreover blessed with uninterrupted purity and nobility since Adam (a.s.).  This is a special gift to His Beloved by the Almighty.”

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Shaykh ibn al-Atsir (r.a.) on Jesus (a.s.)

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Shaykh Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad (r.a.) was better known as Shaykh ‘Ali ‘Izz ad-Din ibn al-Atsir al-Jazari.  He was an Arab or Kurdish historian and biographer who wrote in Arabic and he was from the famous ibn al-Atsir family.  Shaykh ibn al-Atsir (r.a.) lived a scholarly life in Mosul.  He often visited Baghdad and for a time, travelled with Sultan Swalah ad-Din’s (r.a.) army in Syria.  He later lived in Aleppo and Damascus.  His chief work was a history of the world, al-Kamil fi at-Tarikh, “The Complete History.”

Shaykh ibn al-Atsir (r.a.) wrote, in al-Kamil, concerning Jesus (a.s.), “The learned have differed concerning his death before his being raised up.  Some say, ‘He was raised up and did not die.’  Others say, ‘No, Allah Made him die for three hours.’  Others say, ‘For seven hours, then He Brought him back to life.’  And those who say this are expounding His Saying:

… ‘O Jesus!  I will Take thee and Raise thee to Myself ….’ (Surah Ali ‘Imran:55)

And when the Jews seized the person who had been Made to resemble him, they bound him and began to lead him with a rope and say to him, ‘You were raising the dead.  Can you not save yourself from this rope?’  And they were spitting in his face and putting thorns on him; and they crucified him on the cross for six hours.  Then Joseph the carpenter asked for him from the governor who was over the Jews, whose name was Pilate and whose title was Herod, and buried him in a grave which the aforementioned Joseph had prepared for himself.  Then Allah (s.w.t.) Sent down the Messiah from Heaven to his mother, Mary (a.s.), when she was weeping for him, and he said to her, ‘Verily Allah has Raised me to Himself and nothing but good has befallen me.’  And he gave her instructions, and she gathered the disciples to him and he sent them through the earth as messengers from Allah and he ordered them to convey from him the Message Allah (s.w.t.) had Commanded him.

Then Allah (s.w.t.) Raised him to Himself and the disciples scattered where he commanded them.  The Messiah’s (a.s.) Raising up was three hundred and thirty-six years after Alexander’s conquest of Darius.”

It is important to note that Shaykh ibn al-Atsir (r.a.) was only conveying what he had gathered.  We have historical evidence that Pontius Pilate may have been the governor of Ideorum, what the Romans called Judea.  Herod Agrippa, the usurper was a distinct person and an enemy of the prophets.  Also, “Joseph the carpenter” here, refers to Joseph of Arimathea, not Joseph, the supposed spouse of Mary (a.s.).

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Kurt Vonnegut on Hammurabi & Jesus (a.s.)

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Kurt Vonnegut said, “Every act of war, every act of violence celebrates Hammurabi and shows contempt for Jesus Christ.”  Hammurabi’s Code was the essence of the “an eye for an eye” philosophy, whereas Jesus (a.s.) told us to “turn the other cheek.”