Imām Yaḥyā bin Sharaf al-Dīn al-Nawawī on Universal Brotherhood

From Abu Hamzah Anas ibn Malik (رضي الله عنه), the servant  of the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم), from the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), that he said, “None of you believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” Al-Bukhari and Muslim narrated it.


With respect to his saying (صلى الله عليه وسلم),“None of you believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself,” the first thing to be said is that it should be interpreted in terms of the universality of brotherhood even to the extent of encompassing disbelievers and Muslims. One loves for one’s disbelieving brother what one loves for oneself; his entrance into Islam, just as one loves for one’s Muslim brother his continuance in Islam. For this reason supplication for a disbeliever’s guidance is recommended. The hadith proves the incompleteness of the iman of whoever does not love for his brother what he loves for himself.


What is meant by ‘love’ is ‘willing good and benefit’, moreover what is meant is love in terms of the deen and not human love, for human nature may dislike [another’s] attainment of good and another’s being distinguished over oneself. Man must oppose human nature, supplicate for his brother and wish for him that for which he himself wishes. If a person does not love for his brother what he loves for himself he is envious.

[Imām Yaḥyā bin Sharaf al-Dīn al-Nawawī, الأربعون النووية في الأحاديث النبوية  [Al-Arba‘īn al-Nawawīyyah fi al-Aḥādīth al-Nabawīyyah] English translation: The Complete Forty Hadith by Abdassamad Clarke, Ta-Ha Publishers, London, 2000, pp. 62-63 (translator’s notes omitted)]


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Imam Zaid Shakir on the Dominant Sunnī Paradigm

There are enemies of Islam who are striving their utmost to split the historical unity of Ahl al-Sunna wa’l-Jamā‘a (the community of Islamic orthodoxy). This unity has been predicated on the acceptance of four juridical schools, Malikī, anafī, Shafi‘ī, and  anbalī, and fostered by the acceptance of an approach in creedal matters that holds reason subordinate to divine revelation (way), although scholars in the three former schools eventually came to accept the validity of applying reason and philosophical formulations as means to defend and prove the truth of revelation.

This position was generally respected by the anbalīs, except during infrequent periods of irrational intolerance. Similarly, the scholars of the three former schools respected the general inclination of the anbalīs in matters of creed (‘aqīda) to cling doggedly to the textually informed approach of the people of hadith, even though this approach generally discouraged the use of rational proofs and philosophical formulations in matters of creed, thereby limiting the ability of its advocates to respond to the attacks and arguments of the proponents of deviant and alien creeds.

This dominant Sunnī paradigm also was informed by an acceptance of Taawwuf as a valid Islamic science. This doesn’t mean that anything bearing the label Taawwuf is beyond reproach. Ibn Khaldūn has shown in his Muqaddima how elements from Ismāīlī doctrine and aspects of alien philosophies were introduced into the compilation of teachings contemporarily known as Taawwuf. However, there has always been a basic corpus of doctrines and ideas that provided the foundations for a science of spiritual purification and character reformation which was accepted by all four of the juridical schools.

In this regard, the anbalīs are no exception. The most widespread of all the schools of Taawwuf, the Qādiriyya, was founded by the great anbalī jurist, ‘Abd al-Qādir al-Jilānī. His influence on subsequent major figures in the anbalī school, as George Makdisi has clearly shown, was to reach the great, if controversial scholar, Ibn Taymiyya, his student Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, and his student Ibn Rajab. Their acceptance of the basic foundations of this science and their veneration for its early exponents helped to foster, even in this occasionally controversial area, mutual respect between the four schools [of] Islamic jurisprudence.

This mutual respect, in turn, fostered a unified “paradigm” which guided the intellectual and cultural life of Ahl al-Sunna wa’l-Jamā‘a, and it facilitated a unified and cohesive community. This unity is best exemplified in Damascus where the scholars and scholarship of the anbalīs have always been a vital part of the rich intellectual life of the city’s vibrant Sunnī community. During the past century, the leading scholar of the anbalīs, Shaykh Aḥmad al-Shāmī, was one of the most respected and loved scholars in Syria.

That respect was similarly evident throughout history among non-anbalī critics of the dominant Sunnī paradigm. An example of this can also be taken from the recent history of Damascus. At the turn of the twentieth century, Shaykh Jamāluddin al-Qāsimī emerged as the intellectual leader of the nascent “Salafī” movement in Syria. However, Shaykh al-Qāsimī situated his prolific and oftentimes critical writings within the dominant paradigm. His writings showed respect for both that paradigm and the scholars whose contributions were instrumental in shaping it.

Unfortunately, in recent years that paradigm has come under attack from within. This attack has been initiated by radical reformers whose strident rhetoric oftentimes signals their own ignorance of the very institutions they target. Leveling vicious, largely uncritical, polemics against the four juridical schools, Taawwuf, and the validity of rational proofs and philosophical formulations in creedal matters, these reformers are wittingly or unwittingly threatening the historical unity of Ahl al-Sunna wa’l-Jamā‘a.

In many instances, these reformers situate their attacks within the historical context of the anbalī school, relying on Ibn Taymiyya as their principal referent. This tendency has led in recent years to what well could be referred to as a neo-traditionalist backlash. Some defenders of the dominant Sunnī paradigm respond to the vicious attacks of the reformers with equal or surpassing venom. In their zeal, some go so far as to attempt to exclude the anbalī school from the ranks of Ahl al-Sunna wa’l-Jamā‘a. Others, while condemning those reformers who declare the likes of Shaykh Muḥyiddīn ibn ‘Arabī a nonbeliever, themselves declare Ibn Taymiyya to be outside the pale of Islam. If this polarization continues, our heartland–physically and figuratively–will be torn and divided to such an extent that we will never again be able to attain to the “critical mass” necessary to re-establish Islam as a dominant socio-political reality.

Individuals blessed with cooler heads must prevail. Ibn Rajab is an example of such an individual. He showed that it is possible to combine without conflict the constructs that have come to be known as “Sufi” and “Salafī”; that it is possible to be deeply committed to the Sunna while simultaneously advocating and defending the four juridical schools; and that one can be critical of the formulations of the speculative theologians, while simultaneously respecting the institutional reality built by their followers…He is truly an heir of the prophets. In these troubling and perplexing times, we are in dire need of luminaries of this kind.

[Imam Zaid Shakir, Introduction, The Heirs of the Prophets, Starlatch, Chicago, 2001, pp. XIII-XVI]


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Imām ‘Abd al-Raḥmān Ibn al-Jawzī on Sinning

Someone asked Wahb ibn al-Ward (رحمه الله), “Will a sinner perceive the sweet taste of obedience?” He said, “A sinner apart, even one who intends to commit a sin will be deprived of the savour of obedience. He who slackens the bridle of vision loses insight and he who fails to check his tongue is deprived of the clarity of his heart. He who fills his belly with doubtful food, darkens his inward side, is deprived of the ability to worship in the night and to savour the delight of supplication.”  Only they realise these things as punishment who take an account of their self from time to time. In this way, the return for pious deeds and taqwa is received promptly. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said, “The look at a female stranger is one of the poisonous arrows of the devil. If anyone keeps his sight away only for the sake of Allah, then He will grant him a faith whose sweetness he will feel  in his heart.”

[Imām Jamāl al-Dīn Abu al-Faraj ‘Abd al-Raḥmān Ibn al-Jawzī, صيد الخاطر (Ṣayd al-Khātir) English translation (selections) Sins and their Evil Effects by Rafique Abdur Rehman, Darul Ishaat, Karachi, 2006, pp. 35-36]

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Imām Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī on the Reality of the Dunyā

Know that in their forgetfulness the people of dunyā are like a group of people sailing upon a ship. When they come to an island, and disembark to relieve themselves, the captain warns them against returning late, and instructs them to remain only so long as is necessary, lest he raise anchor and set sail without them. Heeding this, some of them hurry back quickly, and hence find themselves able to sit in the best and most spacious part of the ship. The others, however, behave in different ways. Some become entranced by gazing at the island’s flowers and rippling streams, and its gems and precious metals, and then suddenly come to, and hasten back to the ship, and although they find spaces which are inferior to those occupied by those who preceded them, they are still safe. Others are so preoccupied by the flowers that they cannot bring themselves to leave them, although the flowers fade and dry soon enough. When the wind gets up, they are forced to throw their dry flowers overboard, and escape just with their own lives. Others, however, have penetrated the jungles and forgotten the captain’s advice, so that when they hear his final call to depart, they rush back only to find that the ship has sailed without them, and they remain marooned with what they had collected, until they perish. Still others are so obsessed with gathering good things that they are deaf even to the captain’s cry. Of these, some are eaten by wild beasts, or are poisoned by snakes, while others wander aimlessly until they die of hunger. This class resembles the people who live for the world, who are preoccupied with its mortal pleasures, and live in heedlessness of their future. How repulsive is the man who claims to be intelligent and full of insight, and yet is deluded by gems, silver and gold, and by flowers and fruits, nothing of which will accompany him to his destination!

[Imām Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī, quoted by Imām Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī in فتح الباري شرح صحيح البخاري (Fat al-Bārī Sharḥ aḥīḥ al-Bukhārī), English Translation: Selections from the Fat al-Bārī (Commentary on aḥīḥ al-Bukhārī) by Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad, Muslim Academic Trust, Cambridge, 2000, pp. 6-7]

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Shaykh Muhammad Sa‘id Ramadan al-Bouti (رحمه الله) on Islam and Western Civilization

There is a great number of Muslims now who have no clear concept about the Islamic system of the Islamic State which we are hoping for. There is a great number of Muslims who are fascinated by Democracy and its slogans. They, for instance, see how Islamists call for and insist upon the application of democratic rule, so they [Islamists] seize power under the name of Democracy. The supporters of Democracy have always wondered, whether the Islamists would rule democratically if they gained power or not…


Many Muslims nowadays are infatuated by the Western Civilization. They believe that we should apply the Western banking system (dealing with interest); and the Western mode of social relationships between men and women. They also believe that going back to the restriction of hijab is another kind of punishment which is almost impossible to apply…


The enemies of Islam are enlisting “an army of temptations,” which will be their first “arsenal” with which they can confront their Muslim enemies. How can these Muslims liberate themselves from these “lures and their fires” unless they are safeguarded by a sublime Islamic education; and shielded with a truthful submissiveness to Almighty Allah’s Will? A great many paradoxical ideologies and creeds are “cast” into the “arena” of Islamic thought so as to create divisions between various groups of people;  in consequence, it causes them to fight against each other. How can these warring factions, then, unite intimately on the one path of Jihad in the cause of Allah? Looking right and left, we find no one who might be concerned enough to solve any of these dilemmas, no matter how serious and grave these problems might sound; no matter how hard the colonialistic circles might try to retain, if not increase, these problems in the Islamic society.

[Shaykh Dr. Muhammad Sa‘id Ramadan al-Bouti (r), الجهاد في الإسلام: كيف نفهمه وكيف نمارسه English translation: Jihad in Islam: How to Understand and Practise it by Munzer Adel Absi, Dar al-Fikr, Damascus, 2006, pp. 146-148]

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Imām Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī on Hope with Fear

Looking in hope should not cut one off from fear, and vice versa, lest the former lead one into a Divine ruse, and the latter into despair. ‘Hope’ [rajā] means that someone guilty of a shortcoming should have a good opinion of what Allah will do, and hope that He will erase his sin; likewise in the case of someone who has carried out an obedient act which he hopes will be accepted. A man who, without sorrowing or ceasing, plunges into disobedience hoping not to be taken to task, is deceived.


Admirable is the saying of Abū ‘Uthmān al-Ḥīrī: ‘It is a sign of felicity that you should obey God, and fear that your action will not be accepted; and it is a sign of damnation that you should rebel against Him and hope to be saved.’


It is said that fear is the preferable state for a person who is healthy, and that hope is preferable for someone who is sick. Some say that on one’s deathbed one should limit oneself to hope alone, since this entails absolute neediness of Allah, as in the hadith which runs: ‘Let none of you die without harbouring a good opinon of Allah.’ But others say that fear is never completely to be renounced, since no-one should be entirely convinced that he is safe. This is supported by the hadith which al-Tirmidhī narrates on the authority of Anas, that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) once came in upon a young man who was dying, and asked: ‘How are you’, to which the man replied: ‘My hope is in Allah, and my fear is for my sins.’ Allah’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: ‘These two things never conjoin in the heart of a slave of Allah in this condition without Allah giving him what he hopes for, and saving him from what he fears.’

[Imām Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī, فتح الباري شرح صحيح البخاري (Fat al-Bārī Sharḥ aḥīḥ al-Bukhārī), English Translation: Selections from the Fat al-Bārī (Commentary on aḥīḥ al-Bukhārī) by Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad, Muslim Academic Trust, Cambridge, 2000, p. 15]

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Imām Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī on Takfīr

Know that a full explanation of the grounds on which a person may or may not be branded an Unbeliever would require a long and detailed discussion covering all of the various doctrines and schools of thought along with the proofs and pseudo-proofs adduced by each, as well as the manner in which they departed from the apparent meaning of scripture and the degree to which they rely on figurative interpretation. Several volumes would not be enough to cover all of this. Nor do I have time to explain it all. So, for the time being, content yourself with a piece of advice and a maxim.


As for the Advice, it is that you restrain your tongue, to the best of your ability, from indicting the people who face Mecca (on charges of Unbelief) as long as they say, ‘There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God,’ without categorically contradicting this. And for them to contradict this categorically is for them to affirm the possibility that the Prophet,* with or without excuse, delivered lies. Indeed, branding people Unbelievers is a serious matter. Remaining silent, on the other hand, entails no liability at all.


As for the Maxim, it is that speculative matters (al-naarīyāt) are of two types. One is connected with the fundamental principles of creed, the other with secondary issues. The fundamental principles are acknowledging the existence of God, the prophethood of His Prophet, and the reality of the Last Day. Everything else is secondary.


Know that there should be no branding any person an Unbeliever over any secondary issue whatsoever, as a matter of principle, with one exception: that such a person reject a religious tenet that was learned from the Prophet* and passed down via diffusely congruent channels (tawātur). Even here, however, regarding some matters he may simply be subject to being deemed wrong, as is done with legal issues. Or he may be subject to condemnation for unsanctioned innovation (bid‘a), such as with wrong ideas regarding the Caliphate and the status of the Companions.

*صلى الله عليه وسلم

[Imām Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī, فيصل التفرقة بين الإسلام والزندقة (Fayal al-Tafriqa Bayn al-Islām wa al-Zandaqa). English translation: On the Boundaries of Theological Tolerance in Islam by Dr. Sherman Abdul-Hakim Jackson, Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2002, pp. 112-113]

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