Saturday, July 17, 2004

Fatwa of the scholars of Azhar on the one who believes that Allah settles in created things or that He has a direction

The source in Arabic is found by clicking on this article's title above. Note that translator's notes are in italics, and that titles have been added by the translator. If you can't see the Arabic, make sure to go to the view menu and choose an Arabic encoding.

From the Fatwas of the scholars of Azhar regarding the one who believes that Allah enters creations or is in a material direction.


The imam and great scholar, the muhaddith, The Renewer of the Religion, Abu Muhammad, Mahmud Ibn Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Ibn Khitaab, Al-Subkiyy, Al-Azhariyy, the founder of the Association of Islamic Law in Egypt, the author of Al-Manhal Al-^Athb Al-Mawruud Sharh Sunan Abiy Daawuud (an explanation of Abu Daawuud), who died 1352 h., may God have mercy upon him, said in his book "Ithaf Al-Kaa’inaat bi-Bayaan Mathhab Al-Salaf wa Al-Khalaf Fi Al-Mutashaabihaat", page 2:

Praise to the Lord of the Worlds, who is clear of the attributes of creation, like direction and body and place and physical highness, and may God raise the rank of Prophet Muhammad, who wiped out shirk and blasphemy and ordered us to believe that Allah is clear of created attributes and revealed to him in the Koran what means that Allah is one, doesn’t have a partner or parts, that He does not need anything or anyone, does not beget and was not begotten and that He has no equal, and also revealed to him what means that Allah does not resemble anything and that He hears and sees everything. May Allah also raise the rank of the Prophet’s companions and all those who imitated his ways.

After that, Mahmud Ibn Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Ibn Khitaab, Al-Subkiyy says:

The question asked:

Some of those who desire knowledge about the beliefs of the religion and to stand firm in the school of the salaf and khalaf with regard to the hadiths and aayaat that do not have a clear or well known meaning (called mutashaabihaat in Arabic) asked as follows:

What is the saying of the scholars, may Allah protect them, regarding the one who believes that God has a physical direction, and that He sits on the throne in a special place and says, “this is the belief of the salaf!” promotes this idea, and accuses those who deny this of blasphemy. All this while pointing to the 2 aayahs:

الرحمن على العرش استوى and ءأمنتم من في السماء

(If someone translated them literally, they would say “The Merciful established on the throne” and “Do you feel safe from who is in the sky?”. In the first case one should know that istawa has some 14 different meanings in Arabic (not just to establish), and that the meaning of ^Arsh is something the scholars disagreed upon. The second Aayah is said to refer to the angels, because the sky is their abode. In other words, there is nothing which says that these two Aayas must be taken literally.)

Is this a valid or an invalid belief? If invalid, does the one who says so commit blasphemy so that all his previous works are annulled, such as prayer, fasting and other religious activities and is his marriage contract invalidated? If he dies in this state, before repenting, is he not washed and prayed for and buried in the graveyards of the muslims? Is the one who believed that what this one is saying is true, also a non-muslim, like him? What is your saying about what some people say that denying that Allah is attributed with the six directions (i.e. up, down, front, back and the two sides) is wrong, and that it entails denying His existence? Let us benefit from your showing of what the mathhab of the salaf and the khalaf in these two aayas, and other aayas, such as,

"إليه يصعد الكلم الطيب"

(If translated literally, it would say “to Him ascend the good words.”) and the hadith,

"ينـزل ربنا إلى السماء الدنيا

(If translated literally, it would say “He descends to the sky of the world.”) with a complete and satisfactory explanation.

Include the sayings of the scholars of hadith, Quran-explanation, fiqh and tawheed, and clarify completely, so that the tongues of those who speak thoughtlessly are silenced - those who liken Allah to His creation and believe that what the khalaf scholars did in terms of ta'weel (interpreting figuratively) is blasphemy, while claiming that this is the way of the Jahmiyyah, the blasphemous sect, and spread this rumor among the common people. May Allah reward you!

The Answer of The Imam Abu Muhammad Mahmud Khitaab Al-Subkiyy

The answer of the Imam Abu Muhammad Mahmud Khitaab Al-Subkiyy: So I answered, by Allah's help, and said: In the name of Allah, the one who is merciful to muslims and non-muslims in this life, but only to muslims in the next. Praise to Allah, the Creator of true guidance, and may Allah raise the rank of the one who was given wisdom and clear speech, and of those who support him and his companions, whom Allah guided and gave success and steadfastness. After saying that, the judgment is that this belief is invalid, and the one who believes it is a non-Muslim by the consensus of those who count among the scholars.

The proof in terms of reasoning

The proof of reasoning for this is that Allah's existence is eternal without a beginning, and does not resemble anything that has a beginning.

The proof in terms of Quran and Hadith

In terms of what has been related, the proof is "He does not resemble anything, and He is All-Hearing, All-Seeing." (meaning of suurah 42, 11). (What Al-Subkiy has mentioned is enough for the sound minded, because Islam does not teach something contradictory - all its teachings are harmonious in meaning. However, in order to bring Hadiths as well as Quran and logical reasoning, he might have added that Al-Bayhaqiyy, Muslim and others, related the hadith of the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam: "You are adh-Dhahir,hence there is nothing above You, and You are al-Batin, hence there is nothing underneath You." Then Al-Bayhaqiyy said (in his book "Al-Asmaa' wa as-Sifaat"): "If there is nothing above Him and nothing underneath Him, then He is not in a place.")

The consequence of these proofs for the one who believes something contradictory to them

Accordingly, anyone that believes that Allah settled in a place, or was in contact with it or anything else that has a beginning, such as the ^Arsh (sometimes translated as "throne" - it is a creation with 4 legs, and is like the Kaabah for the Angles), or the Kursiyy (sometimes translated as "chair"), or the sky, or the earth, or anything else - he is a blasphemer absolutely and without a doubt. All his religious works are invalid, such as prayer, fasting and Hajj, and his wife is separated, and he must repent immediately. If he dies with this belief, then he is not washed, not prayed for, and he is not buried in the graveyard of the muslims. In addition, all those who believed that his belief is the truth take this same judgment. May Allah protect us from the evils of our selves and the liability of our bad deeds.

As for such a person's encouragement of others to have such blasphemous beliefs, and his telling them that the one who does not have it is a blasphemer; this (activity of his) is (another) blasphemy and an abhorrent lie with the intent to spread deviance. As for him taking as evidence, according to his invalid claim, the two aayas mentioned, and their likes, to show that Allah settles on the ^arsh, or sits on it, or descends in the sky or the like, as this group of people claims... They do this despite the fact that Allah's attribute of speech (which the revealed book of the Quran refers to) is not created, and it is one of the eternal attributes of Allah that existed before the ^Arsh or the sky, so Allah is attributed with "^ala al-^arsh istawa" before the ^arsh existed. Moreover, was He sitting, according to them, on the non existing ^arsh before it existed???!! Was He (according to them) in the sky before it existed???!!

(The revealed book of the Quran refers to Allah's attribute of speech (which does not have a beginning, or an end, and does not change - as is true for all of His attributes), just as the word "Allah" refers to the Creator and is not Him Himself. Words, languages, letters and sounds are all obviously created things - if someone is in doubt, let them say "bism-i-llaah-ir-Rahmaan-ir-Rahiim" without a beginning or an end! The word "Quran" in Arabic may refer to Allah's eternal attribute of speech or to the book. It is kufr to say that the Quran is created if one means Allah's attribute. It is a sin (but not kufr) to say so if one is referring to the book, because it is inappropriate and a bid^ah.)

These (sorts of claims) are something a rational being does not even hesitate about. Does sound reason accept that something eternal settles in something that has a beginning? Verily we are Allah's creation and we will return to be judged by Him! In summary, this careless person and his likes have claimed something that cannot be verified; neither by reason, nor by what has been related. They have committed blasphemy, and they think they have done something good! And the greatest calamity that they are struck by is that they claim to be salafis, while they are deviants from the true path, and disgracing the best among the muslims. There is no power or ability other than what Allah creates!

(Subki's saying that this belief "cannot be verified neither by reason, nor by what has been related" needs some explanation. In terms of reason it is clear, because Allah is eternal, and directions are not, as Subki has already pointed out. For more details, you may read the article Foundations of the Religion. The scholars all agreed that all Hadith and Quran sayings must be understood by their apparent meaning, with two exceptions only:

The first exception is if taking it literally would lead to the absurd, i.e. it is self contradictory, such as saying "a square circle" or "the part is larger than the whole." Saying that Allah is actually in a geographical direction leads to saying either that directions are eternal or that Allah changed from being without direction to having a direction. This cannot be, because direction is an attribute of space, and space is attributed with change, therefore it must be a creation. Moreover, it cannot be that Allah changes, because that would mean He needs a creator. For more on this, see the above article link. The second exception is if there are other hadiths and Quranic sayings that contradict the literal meaning. In this case there are many texts that contradicts the claim that Allah is in a direction, among them: "He does not resemble anything," as Subki mentioned.)

The Salaf's way of dealing with mutashaabihaat

Concerning the way of the salaf (the scholars of the first 3 centuries) and khalaf (scholars after the salaf) in dealing with the aayahs and hadiths that do not have only one possible or well-known meaning: they all agreed that Allah is clear of and above the attributes of whatever has a beginning. Therefore, He does not have a place for Him on the Arsh or the sky or anywhere else. He is also not attributed with settling in or on anything that has a beginning, and not with transformation or movement or the like. Rather, He is as he was before the existence of the Arsh or the Kursi or the skies and other things that have a beginning. The Haafith (ibn Hajar al-Asqalani) said in al-Fath (Fath-ul-Baariy - the explanation of al-Bukhaariy): "the Fuqahaa' (fiqh scholars) all agreed, from east to west, upon the belief in the Quran and the hadiths that trustworthy people related from the Prophet (may Allah raise his rank) about the attributes of Allah, without likening them to creation or explanation."

They only disagreed on the matter of explaining the meaning of these aayahs, so the salaf (i.e. most of them) believe in them as they were related and that they are not literally meant, because of the saying of Allah which means, "He does not resemble anything and He is All-Hearing, All-Seeing", and leave the meaning be, due to the saying of Allah that means: "and noone knows their meaning except Allah" (suurah 3, 5 – more details later).

Accordingly, they say regarding the Aayah "Al-Rahman ^alaa al-^Arsh istawa" (if literally translated it would say “He established on the throne”), that He "istawa" in a sense that befits Him, and only He knows it, and regarding the aayah "'a 'amintum man fii al-samaa'" (if literally translated it would say: “Do You feel safe from who is in the sky?”) that we believe in it and the meaning that Allah gave it, while clearing Him of the attributes of whatever has a beginning and of settling (in a place.) They also say about the Aayah "yad-ullahi fawqa aydiyhim" (if literally translated it would say: “His hand is above their hands”) that He has a "yad" not like our yad (i.e. our hand), and only Allah knows it. This was their way in dealing with these aayahs that do not have only a single possible meaning or only one famous meaning.

A saying of Ibn Kathir and Nu^aym Ibn Hammaad about mutashaabihaat

The great salafi (i.e. that he was like the salaf in his ways, not that this is a mathhab) Imam Ibn Kathiir said: "As for the saying of Allah "thumma istawa ^alaa al-^arsh" (if someone translated it literally he would say "then He ascended the throne"), there are so very many sayings about this that this is not the place to mention them all, and we will rather take the way of the pious salaf, Malik, al-Awzaa^iy, Al-Thawriy, Al-Layth ibn Sa^d, Al-Shaafi3iy, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Ishaaq in Raahwayh and other imams, new and old, which is to pass by them without giving them a how, or a likeness, or deny them. As for the apparent literal meanings that come to the minds of those who liken Allah to His creation; those are rejected, because He does not resemble anything, and there is nothing like Him, and he is All-Seeing, All-Hearing. Rather, it is like what the imams said, among them Nu^aym Ibn Hammaad Al-Khuzaa^iyy, the sheikh of Al-Bukhaariyy: "The one who likens Allah to His creation has committed blasphemy, and the one who denies what Allah has attributed to Himself has also committed blasphemy. There is no (meaning of) likening (to the creation) in any of what Allah has attributed to Himself or what the Prophet attributed to Him. So the one who affirms what has been related in plain aayahs and authentic hadiths in a way that is befitting with Allah' greatness, and denies that Allah has any flaws; he has taken the path of guidance." The like of the above is to be found in all tafseer books of the masterful imams.

Examples of how the Salaf dealt with mutashaabihaat

They say about the hadith (which if translated literally, would say that) "our Lord descends to the sky of the world," that this has a meaning that befits Allah, and that only Allah knows it. Then there is another hadith, the Hadith of the slave girl related by Muslim and Abu Daawood where it is mentioned that the Prophet said to her: "aina Allah? and she said "fii as-samaa'" (which if translated literally, would be said to mean "where is Allah" and that she said " in the sky") and that he said "who am I?" and she answered "you are the Messenger of Allah." Then he said "free her, for she is a believer." This hadith is handled with the same approach as the aayah "'a 'amintum man fii as-samaa'" and likewise all other such hadiths and aayahs. They took this approach because of the aayah:

هو الذي أنزل عليك الكتاب منه آيات محكمات هن أم الكتاب وأخر متشابهات ، فأما الذين في قلوبهم زيغ فيتبعون ما تشابه منه ابتغاء الفتنة وابتغاء تأويله ، وما يعلم تأويله إلا الله والراسخون في العلم يقولون ءامنا به كل من عند ربنا وما يذّكّر إلا أولوا الألباب
(This Aayah (suurah3, 7) means that: Allah revealed to Prophet Muhammad some Aayahs –called muhkamaat (محكمات) - that have only one meaning according to the Arabic language or only one famous meaning, such as those prescribing halaal and haraam, and other aayahs – called mutashaabihaat (متشابهات) - that do not. Those with deviance in their hearts will emphasize the latter kind of aayahs in order to spread deviance (i.e. by contradicting the meaning of the muhkamaat) through pretending that they are only explaining the meaning. Only Allah knows their meaning, and the very knowledgeable say “we believe in them, they are all from Our Lord”, and only the sound minded take heed and ponder this.)

The salaf (i.e. the salaf in general, not all of them) said there is a full stop in the aayah after, "only Allah knows their meaning." As for the "steadfast in knowledge" mentioned after this in the Quran; this is the beginning of a new sentence (i.e. they do not know the meaning) to show that the great scholars believe in these aayahs, (i.e. without assigning a particular meaning.)

The Khalaf's way of dealing with mutashaabihaat

Regarding the Khalaf (scholars after the 3rd century); they say (i.e. it is more prevalent among them to say) that these aayahs and hadiths have a known meaning, so the meaning of "istawa" is "control", and the meaning of "man fii as-samaa'" (if literally translated it would say "who is in the sky") is that it is a figure of speech referring to His punishment, authority and orders, or it is simply a figurative way of praising Allah by attributing to him above-ness and greatness, and clearing him of lowliness or below-ness, NOT that He settles in it. This is because settlement is an attribute of bodies and signifies having a beginning, and Allah is clear of that. (Also, understanding it literally contradicts aayah 93 of surat Maryam, which means: "All those in the heavens and earth must come to Allah as a slave." It is possible also that the word "who" is referring to the angels, because the sky is their abode. Finally, the sky is below the ^arsh...

The meaning of (literally translated) "descending" in the hadith is that His Messenger or His Mercy descends. (The hadith attributes the so called "descending" to the last 3rd of the night, and since it is always the last 3rd of the night somewhere on earth, we know that the meaning is NOT that Allah is moving from one place to another.) As for the Prophet's approval of the slave-girl's hint towards the sky; this was a concise way from her of showing that she was not associating partners with Allah, because it was thereby known that she did not worship the idols on earth. (Also, some scholars said the hadith has weaknesses in its text, because Abd-ur-Razzaaq related it without any mention of the words "aina?" or "fii as-samaa'".)

This is the way of the khalaf in all aayahs and hadiths of this kind, based on their saying that the full stop in the aayah about the aayahs that do not have a single possible, or well known, meaning comes after ""only Allah knows their meaning and those steadfast in knowledge," i.e. the steadfast in knowledge knows their meaning. Their proof is that the Quran is in Arabic, and this Arabic uses these expressions. However, the weightiest opinion is that of the salaf. (Note: he means of course that the majority of the salaf take this approach to this aayah, not absolutely all, since this would be consensus (ijmaa^.))

The one who attributes to the salaf or khalaf other than this is a deviant and a deviator.

The Jahmiyyah are very different from the Khalaf

The one who claims that the way of the khalaf is the way of the Jahmiyyah is a transgressor and a liar, because the Jahmiyyah are the followers of Jahm Ibn Safwaan, who said that humans are forced to do what they do and denied all ability to humans, and claimed that Paradise and Hell will end. He also claimed that belief is only knowledge of Allah, whereas blasphemy is not knowing Him. He said that noone does anything except Allah, and that humans are said to have actions only as a figure of speech, in the same way one says that "the sun passed its zenith" or the "mill turned," without any actual real action or ability from them. He also claimed that Allah’s knowledge has a beginning, and prevented people from saying that Allah is attributed with life, knowledge or will. He said "I don't attribute to Him an adjective that can be used for others, such as existing, alive, willing and such," and accepted to say that He has power, brings into existence, acts, creates, gives life and death, because only He has these attributes. He also claimed that Allah's attribute of speech has a beginning, as the Qadariyyah sect did, and refused to say that Allah speaks. Our companions said he was a blasphemer for all his deviances, and the Qadariyyah said he was an infidel for his claim that Allah creates the acts of humans, so all the nation said that he was a Kaafir. Here ends the quote (i.e. the above description of the Jahmiyyah) from the book "Al-Farq Baina Al-Firaq", written by the Imam Abu Mansuur ^Abd-ul-Qaadir Ibn Taahir Al-Baghdaadiyy, page 199. From this you know that the scholars of the Khalaf are free from the this sect and its claims.

An answer to those that claim that denial of direction is denial of existence

As for the idea that denying that Allah is attributed with any of the six directions is a denial of His existence, this is obviously invalid since Allah existed before they existed, namely up, down, front, back, left and right. Rather, He existed before the world as a whole by consensus of ancient and later scholars. How then does someone that has even a tiny mind picture that clearing Him of being attributed with these 6 directions is the same as denying His existence??!! How can it be imagined that the Eternal Allah's existence depends on some things that have a beginning, or all of those that He created??!! You (Oh Allah) are clear of all imperfection!

This is a great lie! How (could it not be), when a number of the salaf and the khalaf have plainly stated that the one who believes that Allah is in a direction (i.e. up) is a blasphemer, as was stated by Al-Baghdadiyy. This was also the saying of Abu Hanifa, Malik, Al-Shaafi^iyy, Abu Hasan Al-Ash^ariyy and Al-Baaqillaaniyy, as mentioned by the great scholar Mullaa Aliyy Qaariy in "Sharh al-Mishkaat" in the second volume on page 137. Allah said (what means that) real blindness is not that of the eyes, but that of the heart (suurah 22, 46.) and that if Allah has not created the light of guidance in someone's heart, then he will never be guided (suurah 24, 40.) We ask Allah to guide us all on the straight path and block the misguidance of the cursed Satan, and to raise the rank of The Last Of The Prophets, and whoever follows him in his works.

A list of scholars that signed this fatwa

After writing this, I have shown this answer to a number of honorable scholars of Azhar University, and they have agreed and signed it, and they are the following distinguished companions of ours:
  • Sheikh Muhammad Najdi, the sheikh of the Shaafi^i followers.
  • Sheikh Muhammad Sabii^ Al-Dhahabi, the sheikh of the Hanbaliyy followers.
  • Sheikh Muhammad Al-^Azbi Rizq, the lecturer in the higher section.
  • Sheikh Abd-ul-Hamiid ^Ammaar, the lecturer in the higher section.
  • Sheikh Ali Al-Nahraawi, the lecturer in the higher section.
  • Sheikh Dusuuqi Abdullah Al-Arabi, from the Council of the Great Scholars.
  • Sheikh Muhammad Al-^Azbi Rizq, the lecturer in the higher section.
  • Sheikh Ali Mahfuuth, the lecturer in specialization section of Azhar.
  • Sheikh Ibrahim ^Iiaarah Al-Daljamuuni , the lecturer in specialization section of Azhar.
  • Sheikh Muhammad ^Alyaan, from great scholars of Azhar.
  • Sheikh Ahmad Makki, the lecturer in specialization section of Azhar.
  • Sheikh Muhammad Husain Hamdaan.
--End of Fatwa--

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Water for ritual purification (Brief Introduction)

This water must be pure (Taahir), purifying* (muTahhir/Tahuur) and preferably not disliked (not makruuh). This water is the pure water of rain, rivers, lakes, wells, dew or the sea. As long as it does not become filthy, or changes by coming in contact with something pure that changes its natural flow and thinness, or is of a higher quantity, or changes its name, then it remains pure and purifying. Water in a pool more than 7 meters across, and water that is flowing, only becomes filthy if a trace of filth (color, taste or smell) appears in it. If the water is still and less than 7 meters across, then it becomes filthy by mere contact with filth (and one is sure that it did.) Filthy water follows the rules of other filth, e.g. urine. The concept of water will receive a more detailed treatement in a later lesson. However, note that there is an important special permit: according to the scholar Malik, the founder of the Maliki school of Islamic Law, water does not become filthy unless the filth’s color, taste or smell appears in it.

The types of filth

Filth (Najaasah) are of two types:

1. Harsh filth. It is invalid to pray with more than the size of a dirham of this kind of filth on one's body or clothes. In this one considers the weight for najis that has a body (4.5 gram ), and the surface area (equivalent to the area in which water would remain if the hand was held open and flat) for liquid.
2. Lesser filth. It is invalid to pray with this filth on ones body if it is more than 25% of the body or 25% of a piece of clothing.
Harsh filth Lesser filth
All of the pig Urine of edible animals
The saliva, blood, urine and feces of beasts of prey Dung of cows, camels, sheep and goats
Wine from grapes Alcohol other than that from grapes
Spilled blood of any kind. Exempted is the blood remaining in the meat of a slaughtered animal. Likewise exempted is the spleen, heart and liver of a slaughtered animal. Feces of birds of prey (but the feces of edible birds that defecate while flying is not filthy - such as sparrows and doves)
The feces of poultry, geese and ducks --
The urine and eggs of inedible animals --
Anything that comes out of the body that breaks the ablution. This means that vomit is not filth until it reaches a mouthful. --

Some things that are not filth (najis):

  • The feces of edible birds that defecate while flying.
  • Tanned leather , bones and hair (cleaned from blood and grease), except if it is from the pig.
  • The meat of any animal that has been slaughtered the way edible animals are slaughtered by Muslims.
  • Some scholars said that the feces or urine of edible animals is not (najis) filthy.
  • The blood of fish, insects and animals that are both born and continue to live in the water. In the case of a frog that lives outside the water: its blood is filthy if it has flowing blood.
  • The saliva of edible animals and humans unless one is aware of filth in their mouth or lips. This means that if they drink from little water, then it remains pure, purifying and not disliked.
  • The drops of the moisture that collect on the walls and roof of bathrooms (i.e. from evaporation).

Prohibitions for the one who is ritually impure

It is forbidden for the one who does not have ablution to:

  1. Pray.
  2. Touch the book of the Quran or it's explanation directly. It is allowed to carry it in something like a cloth that is not part of the book's binding or the clothes one is wearing. It is allowed to hold books of the religious subject other that the above in the clothing one is wearing (e.g. holding the book in one's sleeve). Small boys are exempted from this for learning purposes; they can touch it without ablution.
  3. Make Tawaaf (walking around the Kaabah in Mekkah.)

For the one who is junub (from ejaculation out of desire or from intercourse without ejaculation) it is forbidden to:

  1. Do what is forbidden to do without ablution.
  2. Reciting the Quran (but one can make thikr if it is less than an aayah of he Quran.
  3. Entering a masjid.

For the woman who is in her period of postpartum bleeding or menstruation it is forbidden to:

  1. To do what is forbidden to the junub.
  2. To fast.
  3. To have intercourse.
  4. To let the man directly touch the area between the navel and the knee without a cover.

When the postpartum bleeding or menstruation stops before the habitual time

In this case, the woman should start to pray and fast, but she should not be touched between the navel and the knee or have intercourse until at least one of the following has occurred:
  1. The maximum period has passed (40 and 10 days respectively), even if she didn't take a Complete Body Wash.
  2. Her habit has been completed and she has taken Complete Body Wash.
  3. Her habit has been completed and she has taken ablution by soil for an excuse and prayed any prayer.
  4. Her menstruation stopped according to habit and the time of a prayer expired while she was not menstruating (or having postpartum bleeding,) even if she did not pray. This is provided that enough of the prayer time was left to take a Complete Body Wash and say "Allahu Akbar" when the discharge stopped.
Note that for the non-Muslim woman, it is enough that her habit was completed and the bleeding stopped. The man does not have to wait for her to take Complete Body Wash.

The woman who had menstruation or postpartum bleeding must make up the fasting the missed, but not the prayer.

Dealing with injuries and continuously breaking one's Wudu'

Removing ritual impurity (hadath) on injured body parts

If one has an injury/wound with a bandage/splint and it would be harmful to remove it, then one first washes all one is able to wash without harm, then wipes what one is able to (i.e. without harm) of the body part and wipes most of the bandage/splint.

If the bandage falls off while the wound has not yet healed, then one does not need to wipe its replacement, but it is better to do so. If the bandage falls off and reveals a healed wound, then the wiping has been invalidated, and one must wash what has not been washed.

General rule in ablution (wuduu') or the Complete Body Wash (ghusl)

If one is able to wash an injury/wound without harm one must do so (if washing the body part is an obligation). If not, then one must wipe it if this can be done without harm. If there is ointment or the like on the wound and it would be harmful to remove it, then one wipes the ointment if it is not harmful to do so.

Becoming partially excused from taking ablution

Having an excuse requires that something is breaking the ablution continuously. A person who, within the entire time period of any prayer which is obligatory to perform, could not keep his ablution for the amount of time it takes to perform the obligatory prayer and its ablution, becomes an excused person.

For example, if one of the causes breaking an ablution exists continuously, such as irregular vaginal blood (lasts less than 3 days or more than 10 days, or it falls within 15 days of an ended menstruation), urine leaks, nose bleed etc. so that from the beginning till the end of any prescribed prayer time one could not stop it long enough to take ablution and perform only the obligatory prayer, one becomes a person with an excuse.

One remains in this state until an entire prayer time passes without the occurrence of the reason for ones excuse, such as urine leakage.

A person with an excuse does not take ablution if his excuse occurs, but his ablution is invalidated by the exit of any obligatory prayer time. It is also invalidated if his ablution is broken for any other reason than the one that he is excused for. As long as his ablution is not invalidated, he can pray as much as he wants, but he cannot lead the prayer of those who are not excused.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Greater Ritual Impurity and removing it (ghusl)

Removing greater ritual impurity:

Its obligation is done by a Complete Body Wash including inside the mouth and the soft part of the nose.

Greater Ritual Impurity is caused by:

  1. Ejaculation of semen for the man or woman due to desire.
  2. Intercourse (The prophet defined it as the head of the man’s part disappearing) or anal sex (which is of course also also strictly forbidden.)
  3. Menstruation or postpartum bleeding

Postpartum bleeding:

  • There is no lower limit for postpartum bleeding, but its maximum period is 40 days. If the woman has no habitual period of postpartum bleeding, and bleeds more than 40 days, then what is beyond 40 is considered irregular blood. If she has a habit, and the blood continues past 40, then she considers all that was beyond her habit as irregular.
  • If a woman aborts and the aborted child has some human features appearing, then this is considered childbirth, except that there is no inheritance for the child, nor is it prayed for in burial. Bleeding after it is considered postpartum bleeding.
  • If a woman has twins, then the postpartum bleeding period is counted from the first child.
  • The postpartum bleeding period is counted from the moment that most of the child has come out, i.e. the child's chest has come out. If it comes out legs first, then the period starts from the moment the navel comes out. If the child is alive at this point, then it has inheritance rights and is prayed for in burial.


Menstruation as Islamically defined lasts between 3 to 10 days, no more and no less. It is not required that the blood flows out continuously in this period to be considered menstruation. The least period between two menstruations is 15 days.

The above is clarified with some examples as follows:

  • If a woman finds blood when 15 days has past since her last period, she should consider this menstruation unless it lasts less than 3 days.
  • If a woman finds blood before 15 days has passed she should consider this irregular bleeding, unless it falls within 10 days of her first seeing blood.
  • If a woman who's period usually lasts 7 days, sees blood up to 10 days, but no more, then she considers this all as menstruation (i.e. her habit changed.) However, if she sees blood on the 11th day, then she should consider all that was beyond 7 days as irregular bleeding.
  • Any prayers or obligatory fasting that was missed because of thinking irregular bleeding was menstruation has to be prayed and fasted.
  • The woman who reaches puberty while bleeding irregularly considers 10 days of the month as menstruating and 20 as non-menstruating.
  • The woman who gets irregular bleeding after having a monthly habit should follow her old habit in judging which bleeding is menstruation. E.g. if her habit was 20 days non menstruation and 7 days menstruation, she should follow this schedule by keeping track of the days.

Prerequisites of prayer - wuduu' (ablution)

The prerequisites of prayer are:

  1. Ritual impurity (hadath) has been removed by ablution or a full body wash.
  2. Filth (najâsat - substances which Islam prescribes as filthy) has been removed from the body, clothes and place of prayer.
  3. The color of the skin of those areas one is not allowed to show publicly has been covered: all the body except the face and hands for the woman, everything between the navel to below the knee for the man.
  4. One is facing in the direction of the prayer (qibla).
  5. The prescribed prayer time has entered.
  6. One has the intention of the prayer.
  7. Proscription (beginning the prayer by saying "Allahu’akbar".)

Ablution has 4 obligations:

  1. Washing (make the water flow on) the face (from the hairline to the chin and from ear to ear), except inside the eyes or the skin under a thick beard that is not seen at normal conversation length.
  2. Washing the hands and lower arms to above the elbow.
  3. Washing the feet to above the ankles.
  4. Wiping (make water touch) 1/4 of the head.
    Note: One must remove all obstacles for the water to reach (e.g. tight rings, mucus, make-up.)

Ablution described with merits and etiquettes:

  1. Intention of ablution for the sake of Allah, so that one may have credit.
  2. Say “bismillaahirraHmaanirraHiim.”
  3. Wash the hands 3 times.
  4. Rinse the mouth 3 times, then the nose 3 times.
  5. Use the siwaak (branch of a kind of tree) to clean the teeth with rinsing the mouth.
  6. Wash the face 3 times.
  7. Wash right hand and arm 3 times, then the left.
  8. Wipe all of the head, the ears, and the neck one time.
  9. Wash the right foot 3 times, then the left.
  10. In step 6, 7 and 9 use your fingers to wash between the toes, fingers and inside the beard.
  11. Perform the ablution without interrupting activities.
  12. Avoid idle talk.
  13. To not waste water, especially in the moske.

Causes of minor ritual impurity (things that invalidate ones ablution)

  1. EVERYTHING excreted from the front and rear organs, even air or a worm.
  2. Vomiting the amount of a mouthful unless it is phlegm.
  3. Blood or pus flowing out of a wound to a place required to wash in the full body wash (ghusl) (the skin, hair, mouth, inside the soft part of the nose, not inside the eyes.) Exempted are: bleeding from a wound in the mouth itself that does not make the spit red or thick black blood coming down from the head into the mouth or nose.
  4. Sleeping, unless one is sitting firmly on one's seat, thus preventing the exit of air.
  5. Fainting, going crazy, or having an epileptic fit (without exceptions.)
  6. Laughter loud enough for others to hear it during a prayer that has bowing and prostration, unless one is a child.
  7. Intense sexual contact breaks the ablution', that is, when a man and woman physically rub their private parts on each other.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Women in Islam

The women’s situation before and after the message of Prophet Muhammad (may Allah raise his rank.

Before the Prophet's (may Allah raise his rank) prophethood, in the Jaahiliyah women's situation was poor, as exemplified in the following:

  1. No inheritance rights.
  2. No limit to the number of times her husband can divorce and take her back.
  3. No limit for the number of wives for the husband.
  4. She was part of her husband's inheritance if he died.
  5. Some Arab tribes had the habit of burying female babies in fear of poverty or dishonor.
  6. They used to dislike having daughters.
  7. They used to send their wives to be impregnated by nobles.
  8. They used to habitually trade marriage by marrying the other party a sister or daughter in return for marrying his sister or daughter.

After Islam’s return after the Jaahiliyyah her situation had changed radically:

  1. In terms of her humanity: She is a human being just like he is and a partner for her husband.
  2. She is not an ill omen or the source of original sin, but can reach a high rank in paradise, just like the man. She is also responsible only for her own deeds.
  3. Her good deeds are accepted by Allah just like those of a man.
  4. She is to be treated with respect, kindness and dignity. Especially the mother of a man has the right to be well treated by her sons, to the extent that a man who carried his mother on his back in pilgrimage was informed that he had not done much. In addition, to teach and bring up well bred daughters is one of the acts that are described as a key to paradise.
  5. She has the right to inheritance, just like the man. The fact that her inheritance is sometimes (but not always) less than that of other inheritors is that she is not obligated to work or pay anybody allowance unless she is rich. The man, however, must pay allowances as prescribed, even if he is poor. Moreover, she has the right to allowance from her husband, even if she is rich and he is poor. In addition, if she is not married and needs allowance, then her relatives must pay her, unlike the man if he is able to work.
  6. She has full property rights and the right to conduct her own business dealings, including marriage.
  7. The woman was given many rights and obligations just like the man, some of which have been mentioned above. These include matters of public interest, such as childbearing, and matters of worship, such as correct belief, prayer and fasting.

Some issues that are used by the enemies of the religion to mislead people regarding women's standing in Islam:

  • Differences in inheritance. These differences are explained by the obligations of work and paying allowances that men have.
  • Differences in the fine for accidental killing. This is explained by the man's obligation to work and provide for his dependents. One clear proof of that is that the intentional killing of a woman has the same punishment as that of killing a man: capital punishment. Note that intentional killing is an attack on dignity, unlike the one by mistake.
  • Differences in the number of witnesses required. This is not an attack on her worth as a human, in fact, in some private cases regarding virginity, childbirth and so on, her witnessing is accepted without male counterparts. Note that among muslims the woman is preoccupied with the matters of her household, which may lead to forgetfulness in public matters. For this reason, Islam requires two women in the place of one man in court cases for contractual dealings.
  • Female circumcision. This issue is neither like it is described in western media, nor as practiced by some of the muslims, nor as claimed by those who speak about Islam to westerners as apologists. The least that was said is that it is an honour (makrumah), and the most that was said is that it is a duty. There are also sayings between these two, but no saying that it is not prescribed. It is done by removing a small part of the skin above the exit of the urine tract. Its purpose is to improve the sex life of both parties, just as it is for the man.
In general one should look at Islam as a holistic system that promote the greater good. One cannot look at single rules and regulations in isolation to understand their wisdom. Moreover, one must understand that the basic proof for the correctness of Islam is not how it suits peoples opinions, but the undeniable proofs of the correctness of the belief that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His prophet and messenger.

Rights of the married woman

It is not allowed for the woman's guardians to marry her away without her permission if she has reached puberty. This regardless of whether she is a virgin or not. If they marry her away before puberty, and the one conducting the marriage was neither the father nor the grandfather, then she has the right to break up the marriage when she reaches puberty.

After puberty the woman can give herself in marriage without a guardian present. However, her guardians may cancel the marriage if she has married someone that is not of her standing. In this the scholars consider his religiousness, family and ability to pay her dowry and allowance.

The woman has several rights to her husband's wealth, including dowry, allowance and a place to live.

  • Dowry: the dowry is not a condition for the validity of the marriage contract except according to Malik. However, her right to dowry does not disappear unless she gives up her right after the marriage. That is, her right to dowry does is not invalidated even if she agreed to marry without dowry; her right remains to claim the dowry of her social standing. One way to look at the purpose of dowry is that it is to show the importance of her entering a marriage under a husband.
  • Allowance: She has the right to the average food, shelter and clothing of her social standing if her husband is able. This includes their small children. This right comes in return for her being bound to his house according to his wish.
  • Housing: he needs to provide her with a place to live that is not shared with his family or other wives.
  • The woman has several non-material rights upon her husband including: the right to be treated equally with any other wife and the right not to be harmed by him. She also has the right to normal intercourse without interruption.

Rights of the Husband over the Wife

  • To be under his guardianship: the husband is in charge of the household through orders, directions and leadership, in the same manner that the King or Amiir is in charge of the public. The reason for this is that Allah has given the average man preference through foresight and management, as well as greater physical and emotional strength . In addition, the man must pay dowry and allowance. All of these are reasons why the man is in charge of the household, as indicated in the Quran:

    قال تعالى : الرجال قوّامون على النساء بما فضّل الله بعضَهم على بعضٍ وبما أنفقوا من أموالهم

  • To let her husband enjoy her lawfully if he requests it and she is able. If she is in need of purification after postpartum bleeding or childbirth, then she must do so. Also, she cannot fast optionally without his permission.
  • To prevent people that the husband don't like to enter his house from entering. However, he should let the parents visit her every week in the house or for her to visit them if they are not able. Other relatives: once per year.
  • Not to exit the house except by the husband's permission. This is provided that the house is suitable for living. In addition:
    • She is allowed to exit if she needs to ask obligatory religious questions and the husband is not able to provide her the answer.
    • She may exit to perform her obligatory Hajj pilgrimage.
    • If her parent is chronically ill (long sickness), and has no one to take care of him/her, then she can go to take care of him as required.
  • With regard to serving him; she does not have to serve her husband in terms of cooking and cleaning. If she is used to having a servant, then he must provide her one, but not more.
  • The husband alone has the right to divorce. This is due to the monetary costs he has born for the marriage. It is also because he has better foresight in terms of the future consequences, and is less likely to commit imprudent acts with far-reaching consequences. This is in the average case, not all cases; there are certainly cases where the opposite may be true, but an underlying theme of Islamic law is that general welfare is more important than that of single and peculiar incidents.
  • The husband has the right to discipline his wife if she:
    1. Refuses to make herself attractive if he orders her to do that
    2. Refuses to sleep with him if he calls her
    3. Exits from his house without his permission
    4. Leaves the obligatory prayer
    This is done first by advice, then mild warning, then not taking care of her sexual needs. Hitting (without bruising or bleeding, because the intention must be mending, not relief from anger) is the last resort, since the Prophet said "The best of you will not hit" (after he had prevented completely) when it was allowed. The following Aayah prescribes warning, leaving their beds and hitting in that order:

    قال تعالى وَاَللَّاتِي تَخَافُونَ نُشُوزَهُنَّ فَعِظُوهُنَّ وَاهْجُرُوهُنَّ فِي الْمَضاجِعِ وَاضْرِبُوهُنَّ

    The wisdom in allowing discipline is that these are his rights and without them families disintegrate and thereby the fabric of society at the cost of the greater good. Extreme cases sometimes calls for tougher measures. Moreover, it was related "look what is your standing with your husband, for he is your Paradise and your Hell" (i.e. the key to them), so this is also in her personal benefit. Indeed, it was related that some people will be dragged to Paradise. Finally, keep in mind that in general Muslims are ordered to prevent the sins of others by force or speech if able, so the issue of discipline is close to this general obligation upon all Muslims, except that the wife is generally not able to force her husband physically.

In general, the husband must be good to his wife, and not harm her by requesting too much from her, forcing her to do things she is not obligated to do, shouting at her for no reason, etc. It is virtuous for him to be courteous, playful and kind with her, even in the manner by which he speaks to her. The same is true for her; she should avoid demanding more than he can bear sexually, emotionally or financially. The following hadith states literally that "the best of you are those with the best manners toward their wives:"

يقول الرسول صلى الله عليه وسلم : أكمل المؤمنين إيمانا أحسنُهم خلُقا ، وخيارُكم خياركم لنسائهم خلقاً

The Choice of a Good Wife.

Since the woman is generally entrusted her husbands money, secrets, reputation and the upbringing of his children, Islam has defined the desired characteristics of a good choice of wife, namely that she should first of all be: religious and pious. It is also good if she comes from a family of prolific women (to increases the number of Muslims), and of pious people and scholars. She should also be intelligent, and not silly so that she might harm him without realizing it. For the man's feelings and attachment, which strengthens family bonds, it is also good if he looks for virginity and beauty. Some of the Hanbali scholars recommended that she should not be a very close relative.

Minimum Prayer-knowledge for absolute beginners

This is a bare minimum for foreigners new to Islam. There are more details that are a duty to learn as soon as possible, such as the Fatihah, and the tashahhud. The first sitting has been left out at this stage, on the basis of Imam Malik's saying that it is a sunnah, to avoid overloading the novice. However, it can be taught by this rule: "every time you have completed 2 subsets, and still have 1 or 2 left to do, you should sit for 30 seconds - unless you are praying behind someone that did not sit at that point." Novices should be encouraged to attend group prayer, since the imam's recital will cancel their need to recite.

Before Prayer make sure that:

  1. Ritual impurity (hadath) has been removed by ablution or a complete body wash (see below.)
  2. Urine, vomit, blood and pus has been removed from the body, clothes and place of prayer. It is removed by flowing water.
  3. The woman covers all the body except the face and hands; the man everything between the navel to below the knee. These bodyparts must always be covered in public; not only in prayer.
  4. The prescribed prayer time has entered.

Ablution to remove minor ritual impurity has 4 obligations:

  1. Washing (make the water flow on) the face (from the hairline to the chin and from ear to ear), except inside the eyes or the skin under a thick beard that isn't seen at normal conversation length.
  2. Washing (make the water flow on) the hands and lower arms to above the elbow
  3. Wiping (make water touch) 1/4 of the head.
  4. Washing (make the water flow on) the feet to above the ankles.
NB! One must remove all obstacles for the water to reach (e.g. tight rings/ mucus/ make-up.)

These break one’s ablution so that it must be repeated before praying again:

  1. EVERYTHING excreted from the front and rear organs, even air or a worm.
  2. Vomiting the amount of a mouthful unless it is phlegm.
  3. Blood or pus flowing out of a wound to reach the skin, hair, mouth, inside the soft part of the nose, but not inside the eyes.
  4. Sleeping, unless one is sitting firmly on one's seat, thus preventing the exit of air.
  5. Fainting, going crazy, or having an epileptic fit (without exceptions.)
  6. Intense sexual contact; a man and woman physically rub their private parts on each other.
  7. Laughter loud enough for others to hear it during a prayer that has bowing and prostration.

The obligatory Complete Body Wash to remove greater ritual impurity:

Wash all the body including inside the mouth and the soft part of the nose, not inside the eyes.

These break one’s Complete Body Wash so that it must be repeated before praying again:

  1. Ejaculation of semen for the man or woman due to desire
  2. Intercourse (The prophet defined it as the head of the man’s part disappearing) or sodomy
  3. Menstruation or postpartum bleeding

Description of Prayer:

  1. Stand facing the direction of the prayer (south-west in Kuwait)
  2. Pronounce “Alllaaahu akbar” with the intention of praying the prayer you want
  3. Recite al-FaatiHah correctly. If unable, say “malikinnnaaas ilaaahinnnaaas” 11 times.
  4. Bow to touch you knees and remain still for a moment
  5. Stand up straight
  6. Prostrate by putting your forehead and nose on the ground, supported by your hands, knees and underside of your toes. Remain still for a moment.
  7. Sit up
  8. Repeat prostration as in point number 6 above. Now you have completed one subset (rak3ah).
  9. Stand up and repeat steps 3 to 8 for your next subset.
  10. After completing the number of subsets prescribed, sit for 30+ seconds after the last prostration.
  11. Say “Asssalaaam” to end your prayer.
  12. If you are following someone and missed some subsets, you must complete the number required after he ends his prayer (you do not say "assalaam" with him).
The number of subsets in the 5 obligatory prayers are (in brackets in red): Morning Fajr (2), Early Afternoon Thuhr (4), Late Afternoon Asr (4), Sunset Maghrib (3), Night Esha (4). The prayer times are listed in the newspaper, but add a few minutes to ensure that the time has entered when you want to pray.

The Role and Importance of Knowledge in Islam

The Importance of Islamic Knowledge

Genuine Islamic knowledge is the key to success in the hereafter. Allah said in the Quran (at-Tahrim, 6):

يا أيها الذين ءامنوا قوا أنفسكم وأهليكم ناراً وَقودها الناس والحِجارة

This means that we must protect ourselves and our families from the Hellfire. The scholars commented on this and said that one does this by learning how to pray, fast, sell, buy, marry, and divorce.

Worship requires knowledge; good intentions are not enough. If good intentions were enough, then where would be no need for prophets to teach Islam. In fact, someone who commits a sin out of ignorance has two sins: one for committing it and one for not having learned. When society is full of such people it leads to disaster in this life and the next.

Obligatory Knowledge

The Prophet said that seeking the knowledge of the Religion is obligatory on every Muslim (al-Bayhaqiy.) Obligatory knowledge is of two kinds: Obligatory upon each individual and obligatory upon some in a community of Muslims.

The principle behind what is obligatory for the individual is that he needs to learn to protect him from sins and leaving obligations out of ignorance. What is obligatory depends on the individual's circumstances; some that are shared and some that are not. Everybody must learn the essentials of beliefs and what invalidates one’s Islam, as well as how to pray. One must also learn how to fast when Ramadan comes, how to pay zakaat when one owns the quota that makes it due, how to make Hajj when one going. If one deals in business transactions or other contractual dealings, such as marriage and divorce, then one must learn how to do these islamically so as not to fall in sin. All this knowledge falls under the category of knowledge called “fiqh”, except that the later scholars do not consider the knowledge of the Islamic beliefs as part of fiqh, but as a separate field of knowledge; a separate specialty. Another important category of knowledge that may be obligatory on certain individuals is how to purify the heart of insincerity, envy, greed and pride. This is if one is not able to get rid of such corruption without learning their cures.

That which is obligatory for some people in the community to know depends on the needs of the community. If enough people have this knowledge, then the obligation has been met. If there aren't enough people with this knowledge, then all who are able to acquire this knowledge (but don’t) become sinners. As for the obligations of sufficiency, these are the fields of knowledge that are necessary to uphold and preserve the Muslims in terms of their religion and their secular affairs. In secular affairs, these include fields like engineering and medicine. Among the obligations of sufficiency in the religious sciences are memorizing all of the Quran. The individual does not have to learn more than the Fatihah plus one ‘aaya, because he needs this for the duties of prayer.

Other such obligations include learning the proofs of the correct beliefs, as well as detailed studies and memorization in fiqh, hadith (reports on what the prophet said, did or did not do), the sayings of the scholars, the methodology of fiqh and the Arabic language. Knowing the proofs of fiqh, which is the knowledge of what is for or against one’s self in the afterlife, or the judging of human actions as obligatory, duty, merit, permissible, disliked, prohibited, valid or invalid, etc. is not an obligation upon every individual. This is because understanding such proofs requires substantial talent, qualification and time. In fact, most people who spend their entire lives as Islamic scholars never reach the level where they are truly qualified to weigh the evidences of the scholars capable of extracting the judgments mentioned above directly from the Quran, hadith, scholarly consensus or analogical reasoning. The obligation upon every Muslim in this matter is to go to a trustworthy scholar to get answers to his questions in fiqh. This is what Allah ordered us to do in the Quran: if you don’t know, then ask those who know.

Learning and reviewing Islamic Knowledge is the best way to get extra credit for the hereafter. It has more credit than, for example, optional prayer or fasting.

Conditions for receiving credit for learning

First: one must have a sincere intention. This condition holds for all worship. No worship is accepted unless one is doing it for the sake of Allah only, and not for money, fame or admiration. There are also conditions for the sincere intention to be correct:
  1. One must be Muslim.
  2. One must be able to understand. The insane or small children cannot have correct intentions.
  3. One must know what one is intending, i.e. wanting to do such as learning, praying, etc.

    Extra valuable points regarding learning Islamic Knowledge In Bustaan-ul-3aarifiin Abu Laith mentions what should be the intention of the student of the Islamic sciences: First, to escape from ignorance, because Allah said that those who know are better than those who don’t. Second, to be of benefit to people, because the Prophet (may Allah raise his rank) said, “the best people are those that benefit the others.” Third, to revive and preserve the religious sciences because the Prophet ordered us to learn before knowledge disappears by the disappearance of the scholars. Fourth, to act according to ones knowledge, because to do otherwise resembles acting without knowledge, which is foolish.
Second: One must receive knowledge from knowledgeable people, not merely from books. The reason is that this is the way the Prophet and the first generations of scholars after him taught and learned. Books may have typos that change meanings, or have perversions in them made by the enemies of the religion. Moreover, one needs someone to help one understand correctly.

Third: the teacher must be trustworthy; someone who avoids big sins and who’s smaller sins are fewer than his good deeds. The ancient Muslims used to ride a camel for months to cross the desert to get a reply on a certain question, or to acquire one chapter of knowledge from qualified teachers.

Be warned of those ignorant people the Prophet spoke about in his hadith related by at-Tirmidhiyy:

إن الله لا ينزع العلم بعد أن أعطاكموه انتزاعا ولكن ينتزعه منهم مع قبض العلماء بعلمهم فيبقى ناس جهّال يستفتون فيُفتون برأيهم فيضلون ويضلون

..., which means that Allah does not take away the Islamic knowledge by having it pulled out of people's hearts, but by making the scholars die. When no scholar remains, people take for themselves ignorant leaders whom they ask for religious answers. These leaders will answer them out of ignorance, and all will go astray.

If one wants to go to university, one would spend a great deal of time evaluating universities to identify the best one; if one needs a treatment from a doctor, one would usually look for a recognized specialist; if one wants to build a house, one would search for the best contractors. Most definitely the knowledge of the religion is a far more important than any of these issues, so one needs to look thoroughly to find a trustworthy teacher. The ancient Muslims used to ride a camel for months to cross the desert to get a reply on a certain case, or to acquire one chapter of knowledge from trustworthy and knowledgeable teachers.

Forbidden Sciences

There are also kinds of knowledge that are not allowed to study. One of these is the study of magic, whether it is the illusory kind or actual black magic. Also forbidden is the study of astrology and fortune telling.

The field of philosophy needs some detailed discussion, because the word can mean so many things. After all, math, logic, epistemology, theology and music are all part of philosophy, and they are not all forbidden. Math and logic, with few exceptions, are generally allowed, and one can find books in these fields that have been modified to suit the Islamic creed. It is the study of the theology of the philosophers that is forbidden, because it contains blasphemous beliefs such as the belief that the world or its kind has no beginning, or that the Hellfire has an end, or that some of Allah’s attributes have a beginning. To read theology then, or the books of other religions, such as the perverted Bible, is forbidden to regular Muslims, because one might be affected by their teachings. The exception here is a highly knowledgeable and pious scholar who is reading these books in order to fight such bad beliefs and bring proofs against them. An example of the latter was when Abu Haamid al-Ghazaaliy read philosophy in order to crush the arguments of the Aristotelian philosophers. He succeeded in his quest through authoring “The Downfall of the Philosophers” and was nicknamed Hujjat-ul-Islam (the Proof of Islam.)

The Special Importance of Fiqh

The Prophet (may Allah raise his rank) said “If Allah has willed well for someone, then he will let him understand the religion”. This means understanding fiqh. Fiqh is the most important of the Islamic sciences after the science of monotheism (also called the greatest fiqh), because it teaches the rules of all matters of the religion; it is the conclusions of studying Quran and hadith. That is why it is the best starting point for studying the other sciences as well. The Prophet (may Allah raise his rank) said: “the faqiih is tougher for the devil than one thousand regular Muslims” and “there is nothing better to worship Allah by than understanding the religion.”

The Pillar of Knowing the Rules of Islam

The pillar of Islamic knowledge is the belief in God and the Prophet and Messenger Muhammad (may Allah raise his rank). We know that God exists, because this world could not exist without a Creator. We know that the prophets bring the message of God, because they have miracles to prove who they are.

What is the meaning: of the Prophet and messenger?

The Prophet (may Allah raise his rank) is a man who received the revelation to follow and teach Islam according to the rules of the messenger who came before him. The messenger is the man who not only received the revelation to teach Islam, but the revelation also included some changes in some of the rules of the religion from the messenger before him. For example, a messenger before Prophet Mohammed (may Allah raise his rank), taught his followers to pray twice a day. During the prophethood of the Prophet Mohammed, the number of daily prayers was changed to five. All messengers are prophets, but not all prophets are messengers.

How do we know what the Prophet taught?

The Prophet (may Allah raise his rank) as is well known could neither read nor write. He taught the people in person, clarifying his teachings to the students, pointing out important aspects, responding to questions and protecting his followers from misunderstandings. When he did not teach himself, he sent his knowledgeable and trustworthy followers to do so. After his death, these followers continued to teach in the same way, as did their students in the next generation and so on. Through this method of personal instruction by trustworthy people, the religion has been kept free from perversion, and was transferred through 4 sources:

There are four sources of knowledge for the rules of Islam

  1. The Quran
  2. Traditions of the Prophet (what was related about what he said/ did not say/ did/ did not do in different situations.)
  3. Scholarly consensus (what all of the top scholars of a certain generation agreed-upon unanimously)
  4. Analogical reasoning (only if the first 3 don't give a plain answer—see below)
Some rules of the religion are unequivocally known through the first three. However, only the great scholars are qualified to determine what these issues are. This is because they need encyclopedic knowledge of:
  • The Arabic language
  • The sciences of the Quran
  • The sciences of the traditions of the Prophet
  • The various sayings of the previous scholars so as not to contradict a consensus.
In some cases, there are rules of the religion that have not directly been addressed by the Quran or by the Prophet. In these cases, scholars that meet all of these and other conditions, will use analogical reasoning to decide what the rule is. The scholars qualified to do this are very few. Even among the companions of the Prophet, the most knowledgeable generation, they are said to have been only around 12.

To other than these great scholars, no one is allowed to derive the rules of the religion directly from the Quran or the Traditions of the Prophet. To do so is a big sin called giving ruling (fatwa) without knowledge. Rather, one must go to such a great scholar or one of his trustworthy students, or their students again, and so on (see Why one must follow one of the 4 schools (mathhab)). In this manner, the teachings of the Prophet is preserved and protected from illegitimate opinions. The chain of such scholars and their trustworthy students goes all the way back to the Prophet himself (may Allah raise his rank).

The Islamic Belief in God: an explanation to fresh converts and non-Muslims

The utterance "Allah" in Arabic means "the one who is attributed with Godhood," which is the power to create. To create is to bring something into existence, whether it is a physical entity, an act or an attribute. No one and nothing has the power to create except Allah, and everything else is His creation. He alone exists without a beginning, and everything else is created and sustained by Him. Therefore, only He deserves to be worshipped. He does not need anything, but everything in existence needs Him.

With this understanding, it is perfectly acceptable to use the word "God" in English referring to Allah. However, it is important to understand that when Muslims refer to "God" as "He," they do not mean that He has gender. God is not male, female or neuter, as He is not a creature or an object. He is attributed only with complete perfection, and is clear of created attributes, such as having children, a partner, a rival or a wife.

The attributes of the Creator do not resemble the attributes of the created, because His attributes are without a beginning or an end. He is not limited by time or space; He is their Creator and all that exist in them including light, darkness, cold, heat, nature, atoms, colour, good and evil. Our imaginations are limited, so we cannot imagine Him. That is why Muslims say: "God is different from whatever you imagine in your mind."

When Muslims say that God is “one,” they don’t mean “one” as in a number; they mean that he does not have a partner, equal, rival or part. Idol worshippers believe God has a partner or a counterpart. This cannot be true because if one wants one thing and the other something else, then the one that did not get what he wanted cannot be God since he was defeated.

As for those who believe that God has parts, such as the Christians who believe in the trinity, they must also be wrong, because parts need each other to form a united whole, and whatever needs cannot be God. In addition, one of the obvious proofs of the Creator’s existence is the existence of this universe. Whenever we see something composed from parts, we say: “someone has put it there.” For example, when you see a car, you know that this car has a beginning; someone put it where it is now. If this is true for a simple car, then what about the entire universe? If one accepts this argument, then one must also accept that God is free of the attributes that makes one say “someone must have put it there”, such as weight, volume, length, width, shapes, limits, boundaries, composition, physical movement, physical distance and physical direction. In other words, you must accept that God does not resemble His creation. This is what Muslims mean when they say, “He has no equal,” i.e. nothing resembles Him.

Muslims believe that God is attributed with perfect and limitless life, sight, hearing, speech and knowing, because death, blindness, deafness, dumbness, and ignorance are weaknesses. However, His life, sight, hearing, speech and knowing do not resemble ours; the words are the same, but the meanings are completely different. For example, God’s attributes have nothing to do with instruments, such as a body, a soul, an eye, an ear, a mouth, a language or a brain. Rather, they are perfect attributes of God that have no beginning, no end, no sequence and do not change.

In addition to the above, it is clear that God specifies the things that exist and their characteristics, and that He brings them into existence. We must conclude then, that He is attributed with will and power. His attributes of will and power do not have a beginning or an end and they do not change, as is true for all God’s attributes. In the above, we have mentioned some of what Muslims must know and believe in regarding the Creator. However, God’s attributes are not limited, because God cannot be limited, bounded or deficient in any way.

The Belief in Prophet Muhammad: an overview for fresh converts

Muslims believe that Muhammad (son of ^Abdullah, the son of ^Abdul Muttalib, the son of Haashim, the son of ^Abdu Manaaf, of the noblest Arab tribe: Quraysh) was God's last Prophet and Messenger (may Allah raise his rank). He was sent to both Jinn (invisible beings that God created from fire– the non-Muslims among them are called devils) and all mankind. He was born in Mekkah, but immigrated to Medinah where he is buried.

A prophet is someone who receives a revelation to teach Islam, whereas a messenger is a Prophet that brings new rules that his followers must follow. Muslims must believe in all prophets, such as Jesus, Moses, Abraham, Noah and Adam (the first prophet) and that they all taught the same belief; that there is no god but God, the Creator of everything. Muslims must also believe in the books Allah sent to them, such as the Quran for Prophet Muhammad and Injeel for Jesus.

Allah created the Prophets with attractive attributes so that people would believe them when they taught Islam, such as: honesty, trustworthiness, intelligence, courage, beauty and good manners. Muslims must accordingly believe that the prophets never (even as children) lie, cheat, steal anything, betray or do anything indicating meanness or lowly character, such as committing adultery or even intending it. They are all born Muslims and never commit blasphemy, such as believing that Allah has a partner or a son, or worshipping celestial bodies, or believing that Allah resembles His creation or that He has created attributes, or doubting Allah's existence, or hesitating about any of these blasphemies. They are truthful about everything they say about this life and the next, as well as about what happened in the past. The best human beings are the Prophets (may Allah increase their honor), and the best Prophet is our beloved prophet Muhammad.

A prophet supports his claim of prophethood by miracles. A miracle is an (1) extraordinary event that (1) happens in support of a Prophet's claim to Prophethood. His opponents cannot duplicate it.

Believing in Prophet Muhammad entails believing in his teachings. Some of these are about what is to come in the future, such as:

  • the torture in the grave for non-Muslims and sinful Muslims
  • the pleasure in the grave for good Muslims
  • the questioning of two Angels in the grave (except for Prophets, martyrs, and children)
  • the Resurrection of all people, Jinn and animals from their graves
  • the gathering of all people on the Plain on the Day of Judgment
  • the Scale with pans and a fulcrum on which deeds are weighed
  • the Bridge which connects the Plain to Paradise and extends over Hell
  • the suffering of non-Muslims in Hell forever because they did not believe in Islam
  • the suffering of the Muslims that Allah did not forgive in Hell for some time (before entering Paradise)
  • the Day of Judgment that begins with the resurrection and ends when all those who will be in Heaven for eternity are in Heaven, and all those who will be in Hell for eternity are in Hell
  • the Basins from which the followers of each particular Prophet will drink and quench their thirst forever before entering Paradise
  • the intercession of prophets, angels and great Muslims (by the Will of Allah) by which some Muslims benefit by being forgiven or suffering less
  • the everlasting pleasure of the Muslim's body and soul in Paradise (even those who will suffer in Hell first)
  • the greatest pleasure in Paradise, which will be to see Allah without Him being in a place, direction, distance or shape (because Allah is the Creator of time and place and does not exist in them; He is not seen as a creation is seen, and cannot be imagined).
Muslims are further required to believe:
  • that Angels are beings Allah created from light to worship Him, are completely obedient to Him, and never sin; Angels are neither male nor female, and they do not eat, sleep or drink.
  • that all things both good and bad happen according to God's will.

Why one must follow one of the four schools of fiqh

  • To be a true follower of the salaf-generation you need to attend one of their schools. If and when you have gone through the curriculum and think you can be an evaluator of the schools' opinions or more, go for it! However, fiqh is like any other field of knowledge: you need to start with some basic facts and move from there. It takes years of study to tell whether a hadith, as an example, really proves an opinion or has been taken out of context. Therefore, as a beginner you are dependent on your teacher's opinions and biases, whether you like it or not, so choose with care.
  • The answers of these schools have been evaluated and tested for more than 1100 years since their establishment. This means that the remaining differences of opinion between these schools exist for very good reasons; the right answer cannot be known with certainty. It also means that following the mainstream opinion in any of these schools is much safer than relying on one's own opinion or a person that claims to be independent.
  • Relying on one's own opinion is not allowed unless you are a scholar capable of extracting answers directly from their 4 basic sources (Quran, Hadith, Consensus, Analogy). This is very unlikely, because even among the Prophet's companions there were only a handful of them, and they didn't have to evaluate chains of relators with 50 people. A person who draws his own conclusions based on Quran and Hadith is exposing himself to damnation, unless he is truly qualified. The Prophet (may Allah raise his rank) cursed the companions who told a person to take ghusl despite a severe headwound. Surely they made this ruling based on what they knew.
  • Even having an opinion of what one thinks is the best answer among the 4 schools requires years of studying. One needs to study Hadith, the science of Hadith, the Quran, quranic interpretation, grammar, liguistics, rhetoric, fiqh, the methodology of fiqh, the general rules of fiqh, etc. Most people who think they can evaluate scholarly opinions have, at best, only a rudimentary knowledge of any of these fields. Indeed, it is rare to find an individual today that truly masters a single one of them.