Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad’s Commentary on Difficult ‘Contentions’ – Muslimology blog

Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad’s Commentary on Difficult ‘Contentions – Muslimology blog

To familiarize yourself with this great work of contemporary Islamic scholarship:

Abdal Hakim Murad’s ‘Contentions

An Introduction to the ‘Contentions

While working on my commentary of Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad’s Contentions, I corresponded with the noble shaykh and he shared some of his own commentary on the more difficult ones that I struggled in commenting on or thought perhaps…there was more to their meaning than the obvious. It was surprising to learn that even he forgot what some of them meant…and also great to finally know what some of the more ambiguous contentions meant. I meant to post it earlier on, but alas, forgot.

Here is his commentary verbatim, reproduced by his permission.

82.       He did not say: ‘Guide us to the gay path.’ (happy/joy)

He said ‘Straight path’.

3.     Some drink deeply at the Fountain of Life; others merely gargle.

The Fountain of Life ‘ab-i hayat’ is dhikr, which saves us from spiritual death. Dhikr should be internalised and enter the heart, not simply played with inside the mouth.

86.       Rigour of Moses, Ahmad’s mercy,
Beauty of Jesus, heralds all.
In Adam’s heirs no controversy,
Call for change, don’t change the call!

This is clear, surely?

67.       The world’s texture is as rich as it is because of what you are called to be.

Humans can instantiate the divine names, which were taught to Adam. The perfect human being instantiates them perfectly. The cosmos represents a field of concatenation of the Names; and its richness, despite their only partial manifestation in the non-human realm, points towards the potential of man as ‘al-kawn al-jami’, when he is fully realised.

93. To attribute the maqam of da‘wa to one’s self is to be open to the Divine ruse.

Qur’an: ‘You do not guide whom you wish, but Allah guides whomsoever He will.’

94. Wonder is the first passion.

And the Qur’an offers creation as a field of signs.

53.       The alternative to interiority is inferiority; but the alternative to the internal is not the infernal.

We may remain only exoterists, which is inferior to full conformity to the Sunna; however God’s generosity ensures that even exoterists are candidates for salvation.

69.       Ours is the Bezm-i Rindan; our leader is al-Khidr!

The bezm-i rindan is the party of wild rioters and topers, made outrageous by their obedience to the Divine command, and their love of Creator and creation. al-Khidr is the leader of those who appear antinomian, but are in reality the fullest executors of the sacred Law.

39.    No meditation without mediation. No self without the Zulf.

‘Vision cannot attain Him’. We cannot ponder the imponderable. There must be an intermediate degree in which infinite and finite interact. In Islam that is primarily the Holy Qur’an. The zulf is the tresses of the divine Beloved. In Islamic poetry the tresses veil Her face, but cannot be condemned because they are of her. That is the nature of dunya. It veils God but is His creation and array of perfect signs. Without dunya, in which we exist, there can be no human selfhood, since human selfhood is neither part of matter, nor of the divine.

81.    The body exists that we might grow wings.

This is clear enough. A discarnate spirit would not possess faculties for engagement with the world, or a full sense of delineated self. It could not be moral. ‘It is through the physical that we know the spiritual’, according to the Baal Shem Tov.

28. Theodicy? In divinis, cause is not anterior to effect.

From the Divine perspective, the future is known; God is not subject to time. Hence to ask why He causes a particular misfortune is an ignorant anthropomorphism: ‘If I were God, I would not act thus!’ His decree is not analogous to human decrees; hence moral assessment of the divine is not conventionally coherent.

65.   The doctrine of ‘ ada demands the existence of a defensible secular explanation of nature. Such an explanation thus becomes a mercy. Without it, there is only anomie and alienation.

Ada is God’s custom, sometimes known as Sunnat Allah. It refers to the normal sequence of ‘cause and effect’ –  a sword causes a wound. The reality is that God Alone is the efficient cause. Hence miracles are possible; and in a sense everything is equally a miracle, since He is not bound by ‘physical laws’. Still, His custom creates the impression that causality is real, rather as quantum mechanics denies natural causality, but produces a universe in which its appearance is solid. Without the ‘user-interface’ of an apparently real causality, our minds cannot operate. Hence it is a mercy.

62.           The monoculture’s son is Zahid; you are the Rind. But among the Zahids of Islam, where are the Rindan?

Zahid is he who focuses on forms and ignores Love. Rind is intoxicated by the Real, and is hence the object of conventional reprobation. Muslims are called to be the Rindan of this lawbound and dry age. But among religious Muslims, where is traditional rindi behaviour to be found these days?

32.           The medievals, seeing the colour of our clothes, would call us all atheists.

Religious cultures usually favour bright colours, since they are optimistic. Modernity likes grey and black, in architecture, transport, and clothes. It believes that death is the true reality and normality of the world.

Imamology is a theodicy because it assumes the categoric novelty of Islam.

‘You are not an innovator among the Messengers’. Revelation does not indicate that earlier Prophets were followed by infallible imams. Hence on the Shii view Islam is categorically novel. Hence on its view earlier dispensations were categorically inferior. But the Qur’an denies this.

25.           Twelvism: dhawban al-hasha li’ttila’ al-Molla.

‘The melting of the guts due to the Mullah’s scrutinity’, not ‘al-Mawla’s [the Lord’s] scrunity’, as in the Sufi adage. Imamology leads to hierarchy, and hierarchy leads to static exoteric control of believers.

56.            Modernity’s undoing: the person is only a mask. To this there are only two


Latin ‘persona’ = ‘mask’. Personality, in the religious view, masks the human essence. On the secular view, there is no essence; we are only our conscious minds.

2.         Maimonides made the Mishnah out of the Talmud; Sayyid Sabiq made a Talmud out of the Mishnah.

Maimonides codified Jewish law, following the example of the fiqh manuals.  Sayyid Sabiq’s book Fiqh al-Sunna rejects madhhab rulings and plunges the reader into a hevruta-type sea of questions.

48.  Optimism: the false Salafism is pollarding.

False Salafi reformers claim to lop off the branches to return to what is authentic, in the hope (‘optimism’) that like pollarding, this will reinforce the tree and allow a useful crop.

87.           In the restaurant of life, the false Salafi can do no more than eat the menu.

The fiqh and all outward religious discourse indicate, but do not constitute, Islam.

81.           The cross and the décolletage: in hoc signo vinces.

The West combines Christianity with sexual licence: a paradox which is nonetheless very effective in ruling the world.

75            Edom: In terms of the Parousia, there have been too many Years of Grace.

Why wait so long for the Second Coming? What is the point of a 2000 year interregnum? Paul thought Jesus was coming again in his lifetime. But in terms of salvation history, 2000 years is not enough: from the Prophetic perspective, all history is open to grace, BC as well as AD. A million years of human waiting was far too long.

64.  Mind the Bible with your P’s and Q’s.

P is the Priestly text of Genesis, identified by the higher criticism as a key to understanding the composition and purpose of the text. Q is Quelle, identified as the original gospel text which was the source of the synoptic gospels. In other words, this contention is about tahrif.

92 What has the Christian to do with his toes?

He has no relationship with them, since he has no fiqh. For him, body is not integrated into worship.

30. The Abrahamic wandering, for us, but not for Levinas, is to polis, toumm al-Qura. It was Islam, not Judaism, which united Abraham and Odysseus.

Levinas has Abraham as the imam of postmodernism, since he does not get anywhere, unlike Odysseus (the West) who returns home and hence brings closure. Islam has Abraham as culminating in the Mother of Cities. The Ka’ba is resolution; nomadism is eternal exile and indeterminacy.

62.           Ishmael is Bab-i Yar; Edom is Babi Yar. (‘Perhaps you may return.’)

Bab-i Yar – ‘Gate of the Friend’. Islam’s historic role as protector of the Jews. When they threw their lot in with Edom (Christendom; the West), they ended up at Babi Yar, notorious site of an SS massacre in the Ukraine. Have they realized that they have made a bad exchange?

48. Man ankara Ankara faqad ankara al-ankara.

‘Whoever dislikes Ankara has disliked what is most disliked’

27.           Kemalism: the rind-i genç became the röntgenci. (peeping tom?)

rind-i genç (bad Ottoman for young scandalous lover of God); now no longer a contemplator of divine beauty in the shahid, but a low voyeur.

22.           Which of our cities is still ‘alem-penah?

Alem-penah – ‘refuge of the world’, historic title of Istanbul, home to all asylum-seekers.

58.  Secularity: Islam has got the bends. Islam: we are suffering from oxygen deficiency.

Secularity: Islam is misbehaving because it is going up (‘progressing’) too quickly. Islam: the West is taking us up into the upper atmosphere where there is nothing to breathe. Progress or change seen from two perspectives.

61.           Leviticus, not Deuteronomy, makes the Land female, and truly welcoming. (The Eretz is polyandrous, or she is a desert.)

The Land is a bride, to both Ishmael and Isaac. If she picks only one, then she will be devastated by conflict.

41.  One turbe for both the duarum turbarum.

The Prophetic turbe in Madina is for both men and jinn (duarum turbarum = thaqalayn in Ethe’s Latin version of the Burda).

7.             The moon is always at its best. Miss Hayd is not worse than Dr Jekyll.

Hayd = menstruation. Women do not degenerate when under the monthly lunar influence; they simply change from mode to mode.

91.           Akhbaris and Usulis: has the Pharisee claimed al-Farisi, and the Sadducee al-Sadiq?

The 2 sects of 12er Shiism. One is ‘pharisaic’ – the ‘separated ones’, scripture-oriented, often supported by the poor (hence Salman al-Farisi); the other is ‘sadducee’ – more rationalistic, esoteric, genetically elitist, priestly, hence Ja’far al-Sadiq.

39.            Farsi literature : tashyi‘-i isharat tashyi‘-i janazat bud.

‘The Shi’itisation of poetic language was a funeral procession’. Because when Iran was converted to Shiism by the Safavids, great poetry stopped.

72. Cumhuriyet is possible; cumözgürlük is not.

If hurriyet (the Arabic word for Freedom) is inside a republican idea, there can be some coherence to the idea of civic virtue; if özgürlük (the non-Islamic neo-Turkish word for freedom) is inside it, it will collapse due to the intellectual and moral poverty of ethnic nationalism.

43.           The Ma‘had’s muqarrar: Mere tamrin means moronisation.

Modern lower institutes of Islamic learning employ manuals which are neither traditional texts nor exercises in promoting understanding.

37.           A miss is as good as a smile.

Seeing a beautiful woman brings warmth to the heart.

68.  Gender: the equator is only equitable if we include the sea. (Ave maris stella!)

‘Hail Star of the Sea’ – Jerome happily got this wrong: it should be ‘Maris Stilla’ – Drop of the Sea. If the sea indicates the feminine (fluid, fertile, mobile, mysterious), while the male is land, then the equator only allows a proper balance between the genders if we take both hemispheres into account.

61. Islam is the religion of women because Madina had no place for Oedipus.

Quite right. Freud’s founding myths are absent from the Sira.

21.  Maidens! Mey’den meydanlar medeniyyet’tir!

‘Spiritual dhikr spaces derived from intoxication comprise civilisation’. Without this principle polis is androcentric.

23.   The gender gap is a minor third.

It can’t be bisected harmoniously. The harmonious balance between men and women only exists if in each area of life there is a preponderance in favour of one or the other.

98. New Men without the numen neglect the marital and the martial.

Modern men, lacking the sacred, are poor lovers and warriors.


Liber Asian   ‘The Asian Book’ – the Qur’an – pun on ‘liberation’

Manu Mission  referring to the Laws of Manu, hence Hinduism, pun on ‘manumission’

Yawning Gulf ‘The Arabian Gulf’ – never filled with enough, but fatigued nonetheless.

Saga City  Madina, the city of the Sira. Pun on ‘sagacity’

Abdal Hakim Murad is Dean of the Cambridge Muslim College, UK, which trains imams for British mosques. In 2010 he was voted Britain’s most influential Muslim thinker by Jordan’s Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre.

He has translated a number of books from the Arabic, including several sections of Imam al-Ghazali’s Ihya’ Ulum al-Din.

His most recent book is Commentary on the Eleventh Contentions (2012).

Abdal Hakim Murad’s ‘Contentions

An Introduction to the ‘Contentions