Good Deeds & Salvation: Putting Our Works Into Perspective

Answered by Sidi Salman Younas

Question: What role do actions play in salvation?  There are, of course, Muslims out there who have adopted ideas similar to the Christians that belief is all that you need to be saved. What would you advise that I tell them.

Answer: assalamu `alaykum

All that one needs to be saved is Allah. Neither actions nor beliefs alone guarantee one’s salvation.

`A’isha (Allah be well pleased with her) narrates that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “Perform your deeds properly and in moderation, and know that one’s deeds will not cause anyone of you to enter Heaven, and that the most beloved of actions to Allah are the most consistent ones even if little in amount.” [Bukhari]

Abu Hurayra (Allah be well-pleased with him) narrates that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “There is no one whose deeds will cause him to enter Heaven. It was said, ‘Not even you, Messenger of Allah?’ He (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, ‘Not even me unless my Lord envelops me with His mercy.'” [Muslim]

In another narration the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “There is no one whose deeds will cause his salvation. It was said, ‘Not even you Messenger of Allah? He (Allah bless him and grant him peace), ‘Not even me unless my Lord takes hold of me with mercy.'” [Muslim]

Understanding Allah’s Greatness:

In order to understand  the narrations properly, as well as the relation of one’s deeds to salvation, some key points of belief need to be outlined. The most essential is knowledge that Allah is not obligated to do anything.

Imam Nawawi, while explaining the above narrations, states, “Know that the position of Ahl al-Sunna is that reward, punishment, obligatoriness, impermissibility, and other than them two from the categories of moral responsibility, are not established by the rational intellect (`aql). All of this and other than it is not established except by recourse to divine revelation. The position of the Ahl al-Sunna is also that there is absolutely nothing obligatory on Allah Most High. Rather, the cosmos is His possession, and this world and the next are subject to His mastery; He does in them whatever He wills. So, if He punished every obedient and righteous slave and caused them to enter the Fire this would be considered equitable justice from Him, and if He honored them, blessed them, and entered them into Heaven then it is a gracious favor from Him. If He graciously favored the disbelievers and entered them into Heaven it would also be akin to this. However, He Most High has informed us – and His message is true – that He will not do so…” [Sharh Sahih Muslim]

Similarly, Imam Bajuri states, “So, the position of Ahl al-Sunna is that His rewarding us is due to pure gracious favor that is not admixed with compulsion or obligation [to do so].” [Tuhfat al-Murid]

Imam Haramayn al-Juwayni, the teacher of Imam Ghazali, states, “Similarly, with a person who is highly respected within his family, if he is generous with his son and provides all his needs, and the son honors him, respects him and seeks his approval and strives to earn it, therefore, that person is not owed in regard for his assistance anymore then he has already obtained from the beneficence that has accrued to his credit. If then this is the situation with a person who provides services to another like himself, a servant who tried to compare his own acts of service with God’s bounteous generosity to him in any single instance would find the beneficence of God completely acquitted and fulfilled in regard to any of his own good deeds.” [Kitab al-Irshad]

What Are Your Deeds? Allah’s Creation

The above becomes clearer when one realizes what one’s deeds really are: a creation of Allah. Unlike certain groups that believed that humans create their own choiceful acts, the Ahl al-Sunna unanimously agree that all of one’s actions are created by Allah. This is clear from the verse, “Allah created you and that which you do.” [37: 96] The commentators of the Qur’an agree that the vast majority constituted this as a proof of Allah’s being the creator of all actions. [Razi, Tafsir al-Kabir; Baydawi, Anwar al-Tanzil; Qurtubi, Jami` al-Ahkam al-Qur’an]

Similarly, the scholars defined “divinely given success” (tawfiq) as “Allah’s creating the ability to perform acts of obedience within the slave.” [Bajuri, Tuhfat al-Murid; Sawi, Sharh `ala al-Jawhara]

As such, since our actions are a creaton of Allah and only came into being due to His will and omnipotent power, the servant has no right to claim that his deeds will cause his salvation, or that he deserves salvation due to them, since his deeds properly belong to Allah who created them, not the servant himself. Deeds not only include outward rituals, but also inward belief and convictions, all of which are blessings bestowed upon us by Allah. As the Qur’an states, “Whatever blessing you have, it is from Allah.” [16:53]

Imam Nawawi, while explaining the verse “enter heaven enveloped in what you did [of good acts]” [16: 32], states that “entering heaven is due to actions, yet divinely give success (tawfiq) to perform those acts, being guided in having sincerity in them, and their acceptance is due to Allah’s mercy and gracious favor.” [Sharh Sahih Muslim] Ibn Hajar `Asqalani stated that some scholars, such as Ibn Battal and Qadi `Iyyad, stated that one’s entry into heaven is purely out of Allah’s mercy whereas the degree where one will be in heaven is commensurate with one’s deeds. This was also mentioned by Ibn al-Jawzi, who added that since actions are only for a limited earthly time-span, the eternal reward of heaven is not, strictly speaking, due to them but due to Allah’s blessing upon the servant. [Fath al-Bari]

The Goal is Allah: Putting Deeds Into Perspective

At the same time, this does not mean that one can leave performing the deeds that one has been commanded to perform. It remains an obligation on every morally responsible individual to fulfill the command of Allah Most High and strive to do so with excellence. This is not only decisively conveyed in the Qur’an but the narratives in question also state this unequivocally, such as the statement “perform your deeds properly and in moderation”. When closely looked at, it becomes clear that the purpose of these narratives is not to completely deemphasize the place of works, but to put them into correct perspective. The lessons that the narratives convey include:

[1] Being moderate and not excessive in one’s worship: The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “This religion is ease and none makes it difficult except that it will overwhelm him. So, perform your deeds properly and in moderation…” [Bukhari] The wording of this narration is akin to the wording of the narratives related to our discussion here.

Imam Sakhawi quotes `A’isha (Allah be well-pleased with her) as stating that the ploy of the devil in relation to the servants duty to perform certain acts revolves around making him go to excess or making him lax in fulfilling these duties. [Maqasid al-Husna] The best way is to take the middle path and do a moderate amount of work with presence and purity of heart. Bakr al-Muzani said, “Abu Bakr did not surpass the Companions of the Prophet with [abundant] fasts and prayers but due to something in his heart.” [Saffarini, Ghida al-Albab; Ghazali, Ihya’ `Ulum al-Din]

[2] Being consistent in one’s deeds (mudawama): Some of the narrations, after mentioning that deeds are not a guarantee of one’s entry into heaven, clearly state that the most beloved of works to Allah is the good deed that is done consistently.

[3] Reflecting on the mercy and generosity of Allah (tafkir): Qadi `Iyyad says that the purpose of stating that none will enter heaven except he whom Allah shows mercy and generosity towards is not to demean the status of righteous acts. Rather, it is to allow the servant to contemplate on the fact that actions are only carried out and completed by the favor and generosity of Allah. Good deeds are in fact a sign to the slave of Allah’s mercy pouring down upon him. [Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir; Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari]

[4] Thanking Allah for all of the blessings He has given one (shukr): The Qur’an states, “If you are thankful, I shall certainly increase you.” [14: 8] The scholars have defined “thankfulness” as “the slaves directing all that which he has been blessed with towards that which it was created for.” [Bajuri, Tuhfat al-Murid] This should be expressed with one’s heart, tongue, and all of one’s limbs. This should not only be for the continual bestowal of these blessings, which include acts of worship, but also out of realization that Allah is truly deserving of all thanks. Even the mere existence of a person is enough of a reason to thank Allah.

[5] Realizing one’s complete neediness towards Allah (faqr): This is the very definition of “God”, namely He whom all others are in utter need of and who Himself is in need of nothing. [Bajuri, Tuhfat al-Murid; Sawi, Sharh `ala al-Jawhara] Abu Bakr al-Shibli said, “Neediness is that a slave not be in need of anything other than Allah.” [Qushayri, Risala]

[6] Relying on Allah alone, not one’s works (tawakkul): The Qur’an repeatedly mentions reliance on Allah stating, “Place your reliance in the Living God, the Undying” [25: 58] and “Whoever places his reliance on Allah then He is his sufficiency.” [65: 3]

Reliance on Allah entails recognizing His oneness, which is a oneness in essence, attributes, as well as acts. When one realizes that the acts one performs are in reality not from oneself but from Allah then one ceases to rely solely on works. Rather, the servant then turns to the Creator of those works. Imam Ghazali states, “When this was unveiled to you, you did not cast a glance towards anything other than Him. Rather, your fear was now from Him, and your hope towards Him… If the doors of unveiling were opened to you this reality would be made patently clear to you with a clarity more complete than witnessing with actual sight.” [Ihya’ `Ulum al-Din]

Abu `Abdullah al-Qurshi was asked about reliance and he stated, “It is being attached to Allah in every moment.” Ibn Masruq stated, “It is submitting to the blows of fate and sacred rulings.” Abu Usman al-Hiri said, “It is sufficing with Allah while being dependent upon Him.” [Qushayri, Risala]

It was in this context that Ibn Ata’illah said, “One of the signs of relying on deeds is loss of hope when a misstep occurs.” [Hikam] Those who rely on Allah never lose hope, whereas those who rely on themselves eventually slip and plummet. The prophetic narratives regarding the insufficiency of deeds is a reminder of this point.

[7] Being sincere in servitude (ikhlas): All of the above indicates a higher reality, a reality seldom understood or consciously realized, which is that the reason why Allah is worshipped and should be worshiped is because He is Allah, the Master of everything. There is a difference, as scholars have stated, between an individual who carries out the command of a king because he wants to spend the night at his castle, or have some gift bestowed upon him, and between someone who does so because the king truly deserves such service, regardless of any benefits that may accrue from it.

Among the definitions of sincerity given are: “It is singularizing the Real in one’s obedience through resolve, and this is that one desires to seek closeness to Allah through his obedience and nothing else”; “It is forgetting that deeds exact reward in the next life”; “Lowering one’s gaze from catching sight of [one’s] actions”; “It is a secret between Allah and the slave”; “It is that its possessor not desire repayment for it in the two abodes [this world and the next]”; “That you not see in your acts other than Allah”. [Qushayri, Risala]

Conclusion: Opening the Doors to Allah’s Bounty

The conclusion to all of this is that neither faith alone nor deeds suffice in guaranteeing salvation for one. Rather, it is only though Allah’s mercy and favor that any individual will enter heaven. This is indicated by numerous prophetic narratives.

Yet, at the same time, this does not absolve anyone of the duty to believe and perform righteous deeds, as commanded by Allah. Doing so is a sign of Allah enveloping the slave in His mercy and blessing him with divine success. The narrations of the Prophet (Allah bless him) seek to make people understand the role and place of deeds in our Islamic tradition, and to turn hearts towards the one favoring one with those acts, towards the one who is sought through those acts.. When this is done and the heart attaches itself to Allah through purity, complete reliance, thankfulness, need, sincerity, and faithful following of the sunna, one will be blessed with righteous works and divine favors, both in this world and the next.

In essence, the prophetic words and teachings are a means for us to find increase in our worship, to optimize it, and to allow us to be submerged in the immense bounties of Allah Most High. It is a key to the door that leads to divine bestowals, if followed and understood correctly.

May Allah grant us success in this life and the next.

And Allah Knows Best

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Placing the Qur’an on the Floor: Not Permissible

Answered by Sidi Salman Younas

Question: Regarding the Quran, are there any explicit sayings from the Quran itself, hadith, or scholars regarding placing it on the floor or low places?

Answer: assalamu `alaykum

I pray you are well.

There are many general proofs for the impermissibility of placing the Qur’an on the floor, or treating it in any way indicative of debasement or lack of respect.

Allah Most High stated, “Whoever exalts the signs of Allah, that is indeed from the piety of hearts.” [22.32] There is no doubt that the Qur’an is from among the greatest “signs” of Allah, rather His Speech to creation that serves as a guidance for all.

Tamim al-Dari narrates that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “The religion is sincere counsel. We said, ‘To whom, Oh Messenger of Allah?’ He said, ‘To Allah, His book, His Messengers, the Muslim leaders, and the laity.'” [Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi] The scholars mention that sincere counsel as it relates to the Qur’an includes having immense respect for it, to believe it is the Word of Allah, to recite ir properly, to reflect on it and its lessons, to implement its guidance, and so forth. [Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim]

Imam Nawawi states that there is consensus between the scholars on the obligation of respecting the Qur’an. [Ibn Muflih, Adab al-Shari`ah] Imam Qurtubi states explicitly that one should not place the Qur’an on the ground, nor should one place other books on top of it. For more, please see Etiquette of Reading and Handling the Qur’an.


Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Etiquette of Reading and Handling the Qur’an

Answered by Imam Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Qurtubi

Question: What is the etiquette of reading and handling the Qur’an?

Answer: Imam Muhammad ibn Ahmad Qurtubi says in al-Jami’ li ahkam al-Qur’an [Taken from Reliance of the Traveler]

It is the inviolability of the Qur’an:

1. not to touch the Qur’an except in the state of ritual purity in wudu, and to recite it when in a state of ritual purity;

2. to brush one’s teeth with a toothstick (siwak), remove food particles from between the them, and to freshen one’s mouth before reciting, since it is the way through which the Qur’an passes;

3. to sit up straight if not in prayer, and not lean back;

4. to dress for reciting as if intending to visit a prince, for the reciter is engaged in an intimate discourse;

5. to face the direction of prayer (qiblah) to recite;

6. to rinse the mouth out with water if one coughs up mucus or phlegm;

7. to stop reciting when one yawns, for when reciting , one is addressing one’s Lord in intimate conversation, while yawning is from the Devil;

8. when begining to recite, to take refuge from in Allah from the accursed Devil and say the Basmala, whether one has begun at the first surah or some other part one has reached;

9. once one has begun, not to interrupt one’s recital from moment to moment with human words, unless absolutely necessary;

10. to be alone when reciting it, so that no one interrupts one, forcing one to mix the words of the Qur’an with replying, for this nullifies the effectivness of having taken refuge in Allah from the Devil at the beginning;

11. to recite it leisurely and without haste, distinctly pronouncing each letter;

12. to use one’s mind and understanding in order to comprehend what is being said to one;

13. to pause at verses that promise Allah’s favour, to long for Allah Most High and ask of His bounty; and at verses that warn of His punishment to ask Him to save one from it;

14. to pause at the accounts of bygone peoples and individuals to heed and benefit from their example;

15. to find out the meanings of the Qur’an’s unusual lexical usages;

16. to give each letter its due so as to clearly and fully pronounce every word, for each letter counts as ten good deeds;

17. whenever one finishes reciting, to attest to the veracity of ones’s Lord, and that His messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) has delivered his message, and to testify to this, saying: “Our Lord, You have spoken the truth, Your messengers have delivered their tidings, and bear witness to this. O Allah, make us of those who bear witness to the truth and who act with justice”: after which one supplicates Allah with prayers.

18. not to select certain verses from each surah to recite, but rather the recite the whole surah;

19. if one puts down the Qur’an, not to leave it open;

20. not to place other books upon the Qur’an, which should always be higher than all other books, whether they are books of Sacred Knowledge or something else;

21. to place the Qur’an on one’s lap when reading; or on something in front of one, not on the floor;

22. not to wipe it from a slate with spittle, but rather wash it off with water; and if one washes it off with water, to avoid putting the water where there are unclean substances (najasa) or where people walk. Such water has its own inviolability, and there were those of the early Muslims before us who used water that washed away Qur’an to effect cures.

23. not to use sheets upon which it has been written as bookcovers, which is extremely rude, but rather to erase the Qur’an from them with water;

24. not to let a day go by without looking at least once at the pages of the Qur’an;

25. to give one’s eyes their share of looking at it, for the eyes lead to the soul (nafs), whereas there is a veil between the breast and the soul, and the Qur’an is in the breast.

26. not to trivially quote the Qur’an at the occurrence of everyday events, as by saying, for example, when someone comes, “You have come hither according to a decree, O Moses” [Qur’an 69:24],

or,  “Eat and drink heartily for what you have done aforetimes, in days gone by” [Qur’an 69:24], when food is brought out, and so forth;

27. not to recite it to songs tunes like those of the corrupt, or with the tremulous tones of Christians or the plaintiveness of monkery, all of which is misguidance;

28. when writing the Qur’an to do so in a clear, elegant hand;

29. not to recite it out aloud over another’s reciting of it, so as to spoil it for him or make him resent what he hears, making it as if it were some kind of competition;

30. not to recite it in marketplaces, places of clamour and frivolity, or where fools gather;

31. not to use the Qur’an as pillow, or lean upon it;

32. not to toss it when one wants to hand it to another;

33. not to miniaturize the Qur’an, mix into it what is not of it, or mingle this worldly adornment with it by embellishing or writing it with gold;

34. not to write it on the ground or on walls, as is done in some new mosques;

35. not to write an amulet with it and enter the lavatory, unless it is encased in leather, silver, or other, for then it is as if kept in the heart;

36. if one writes it and then drinks it (for cure or other purpose), one should say the Basmala at every breath and make a noble and worthy intention, for Allah only gives to one according to one’s intention;

37. and if one finishes reciting the entire Qur’an, to begin it anew, that it may not resemble something that has been abandoned.

(Taken from an excellent resource for traditional Islam)

The Concept of Bid’a in the Islamic Shari’a

Answered by Shaykh Nuh Keller

Question: The Concept of Bid’a in the Islamic Shari’a

Answer: The following is the text of a talk given by Shaikh Nuh Ha Mim Keller at Nottingham and Trent University on Wednesday 25th January 1995.

In the name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

There are few topics that generate as much controversy today in Islam as what is sunna and what is bida or reprehensible innovation, perhaps because of the times Muslims live in today and the challenges they face. Without a doubt, one of the greatest events in impact upon Muslims in the last thousand years is the end of the Islamic caliphate at the first of this century, an event that marked not only the passing of temporal, political authority, but in many respects the passing of the consensus of orthodox Sunni Islam as well. No one familiar with the classical literature in any of the Islamic legal sciences, whether Qur’anic exegesis (tafsir), hadith, or jurisprudence (fiqh), can fail to be struck by the fact that questions are asked today about basic fundamentals of Islamic Sacred Law (Sharia) and its ancillary disciplines that would not have been asked in the Islamic period not because Islamic scholars were not brilliant enough to produce the questions, but because they already knew the answers.

My talk tonight will aim to clarify some possible misunderstandings of the concept of innovation (bida) in Islam, in light of the prophetic hadith,

“Beware of matters newly begun, for every matter newly begun is innovation, every innovation is misguidance, and every misguidance is in hell.”

The sources I use are traditional Islamic sources, and my discussion will centre on three points:

The first point is that scholars say that the above hadith does not refer to all new things without restriction, but only to those which nothing in Sacred Law attests to the validity of. The use of the word “every” in the hadith does not indicate an absolute generalization, for there are many examples of similar generalizations in the Qur’an and sunna that are not applicable without restriction, but rather are qualified by restrictions found in other primary textual evidence.

The second point is that the sunna and way of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was to accept new acts initiated in Islam that were of the good and did not conflict with established principles of Sacred Law, and to reject things that were otherwise.

And our third and last point is that new matters in Islam may not be rejected merely because they did not exist in the first century, but must be evaluated and judged according to the comprehensive methodology of Sacred Law, by virtue of which it is and remains the final and universal moral code for all peoples until the end of time.

Our first point, that the hadith does not refer to all new things without restriction, but only to those which nothing in Sacred Law attests to the validity of, may at first seem strange, in view of the wording of the hadith, which says, “every matter newly begun is innovation, every innovation is misguidance, and every misguidance is in hell.” Now the word “bida” or “innovation” linguistically means anything new, So our first question must be about the generalizability of the word every in the hadith: does it literally mean that everything new in the world is haram or unlawful? The answer is no. Why?

In answer to this question, we may note that there are many similar generalities in the Qur’an and sunna, all of them admitting of some qualification, such as the word of Allah Most High in Surat al-Najm,

“. . . A man can have nothing, except what he strives for” (Qur’an 53:39),

despite there being an overwhelming amount of evidence that a Muslim benefits from the spiritual works of others, for example, from his fellow Muslims, the prayers of angels for him, the funeral prayer over him, charity given by others in his name, and the supplications of believers for him;

Or consider the words of Allah to unbelievers in Surat al-Anbiya,

“Verily you and what you worship apart from Allah are the fuel of hell” (Qur’an 21:98),

“what you worship” being a general expression, while there is no doubt that Jesus, his mother, and the angels were all worshipped apart from Allah, but are not “the fuel of hell”, so are not what is meant by the verse; Or the word of Allah Most High in Surat al-Anam about past nations who paid no heed to the warners who were sent to them,

“But when they forgot what they had been reminded of, We opened unto them the doors of everything” (Qur’an 6:44),

though the doors of mercy were not opened unto them; And the hadith related by Muslim that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said,

“No one who prays before sunrise and before sunset will enter hell”,

which is a generalised expression that definitely does not mean what its outward generality implies, for someone who prays the dawn and midafternoon prayers and neglects all other prayers and obligatory works is certainly not meant. It is rather a generalization whose intended referent is particular, or a generalization that is qualified by other texts, for when there are fully authenticated hadiths, it is obligatory to reach an accord between them, because they are in reality as a single hadith, the statements that appear without further qualification being qualified by those that furnish the qualification, that the combined implications of all of them may be utilized.

Let us look for a moment at bida or innovation in the light of the sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) concerning new matters. Sunna and innovation (bida) are two opposed terms in the language of the Lawgiver (Allah bless him and give him peace), such that neither can be defined without reference to the other, meaning that they are opposites, and things are made clear by their opposites. Many writers have sought to define innovation (bida) without defining the sunna, while it is primary, and have thus fallen into inextricable difficulties and conflicts with the primary textual evidence that contradicts their definition of innovation, whereas if they had first defined the sunna, they would have produced a criterion free of shortcomings.

Sunna, in both the language of the Arabs and the Sacred Law, means way, as is illustrated by the words of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace),

“He who inaugurates a good sunna in Islam [dis: Reliance of the Traveller p58.1(2)] …And he who introduces a bad sunna in Islam…”, sunna meaning way or custom. The way of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) in giving guidance, accepting, and rejecting: this is the sunna. For “good sunna” and “bad sunna” mean a “good way” or “bad way”, and cannot possibly mean anything else. Thus, the meaning of “sunna” is not what most students, let alone ordinary people, understand; namely, that it is the prophetic hadith (as when sunna is contrasted with “Kitab”, i.e. Qur’an, in distinguishing textual sources), or the opposite of the obligatory (as when sunna, i.e. recommended, is contrasted with obligatory in legal contexts), since the former is a technical usage coined by hadith scholars, while the latter is a technical usage coined by legal scholars and specialists in fundamentals of jurisprudence. Both of these are usages of later origin that are not what is meant by sunna here. Rather, the sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is his way of acting, ordering, accepting, and rejecting, and the way of his Rightly Guided Caliphs who followed his way acting, ordering, accepting, and rejecting. So practices that are newly begun must be examined in light of the sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and his way and path in acceptance or rejection.

Now, there are a great number of hadiths, most of them in the rigorously authenticated (sahih) collections, showing that many of the prophetic Companions initiated new acts, forms of invocation (dhikr), supplications (dua), and so on, that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) had never previously done or ordered to be done. Rather, the Companions did them because of their inference and conviction that such acts were of the good that Islam and the Prophet of Islam came with and in general terms urged the like of to be done, in accordance with the word of Allah Most High in Surat al-Hajj,

“And do the good, that haply you may succeed” (Qur’an 22:77),

and the hadith of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace),

“He who inaugurates a good sunna in Islam earns the reward of it and all who perform it after him without diminishing their own rewards in the slightest.”

Though the original context of the hadith was giving charity, the interpretative principle established by the scholarly consensus (def: Reliance of the Traveller b7) of specialists in fundamentals of Sacred Law is that the point of primary texts lies in the generality of their lexical significance, not the specificity of their historical context, without this implying that just anyone may make provisions in the Sacred Law, for Islam is defined by principles and criteria, such that whatever one initiates as a sunna must be subject to its rules, strictures, and primary textual evidence.

From this investigative point of departure, one may observe that many of the prophetic Companions performed various acts through their own personal reasoning, (ijtihad), and that the sunna and way of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was both to accept those that were acts of worship and good deeds conformable with what the Sacred Law had established and not in conflict with it; and to reject those which were otherwise. This was his sunna and way, upon which his caliphal successors and Companions proceeded, and from which Islamic scholars (Allah be well pleased with them) have established the rule that any new matter must be judged according to the principles and primary texts of Sacred Law: whatever is attested to by the law as being good is acknowledged as good, and whatever is attested to by the law as being a contravention and bad is rejected as a blameworthy innovation (bida). They sometimes term the former a good innovation (bida hasana) in view of it lexically being termed an innovation , but legally speaking it is not really an innovation but rather an inferable sunna as long as the primary texts of the Sacred Law attest to its being acceptable.

We now turn to the primary textual evidence previously alluded to concerning the acts of the Companions and how the Prophet, (Allah bless him and give him peace) responded to them:

(1) Bukhari and Muslim relate from Abu Hurayra (Allah be well pleased with him) that at the dawn prayer the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to Bilal, “Bilal, tell me which of your acts in Islam you are most hopeful about, for I have heard the footfall of your sandals in paradise”, and he replied, “I have done nothing I am more hopeful about than the fact that I do not perform ablution at any time of the night or day without praying with that ablution whatever has been destined for me to pray.”

Ibn Hajar Asqalani says in Fath al-Bari that the hadith shows it is permissible to use personal reasoning (ijtihad) in choosing times for acts of worship, for Bilal reached the conclusions he mentioned by his own inference, and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) confirmed him therein.

Similar to this is the hadith in Bukhari about Khubayb (who asked to pray two rakas before being executed by idolaters in Mecca) who was the first to establish the sunna of two rak’as for those who are steadfast in going to their death. These hadiths are explicit evidence that Bilal and Khubayb used their own personal reasoning (ijtihad) in choosing the times of acts of worship, without any previous command or precedent from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) other than the general demand to perform the prayer.

(2) Bukhari and Muslim relate that Rifa’a ibn Rafi said, “When we were praying behind the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and he raised his head from bowing and said , “Allah hears whoever praises Him”, a man behind him said, “Our Lord, Yours is the praise, abundantly, wholesomely, and blessedly therein.” When he rose to leave, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) asked “who said it”, and when the man replied that it was he, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “I saw thirty-odd angels each striving to be the one to write it.” Ibn Hajar says in Fath al-Bari that the hadith indicates the permissibility of initiating new expressions of dhikr in the prayer other than the ones related through hadith texts, as long as they do not contradict those conveyed by the hadith [since the above words were a mere enhancement and addendum to the known, sunna dhikr].

(3) Bukhari relates from Aisha (Allah be well pleased with her) that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) dispatched a man at the head of a military expedition who recited the Qur’an for his companions at prayer, finishing each recital with al-Ikhlas (Qur’an 112). When they returned, they mentioned this to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), who told them, “Ask him why he does this”, and when they asked him, the man replied, “because it describes the All-merciful, and I love to recite it.” The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to them, “Tell him Allah loves him.” In spite of this, we do not know of any scholar who holds that doing the above is recommended, for the acts the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to do regularly are superior, though his confirming the like of this illustrates his sunna regarding his acceptance of various forms of obedience and acts of worship, and shows he did not consider the like of this to be a reprehensible innovation (bida), as do the bigots who vie with each other to be the first to brand acts as innovation and misguidance. Further, it will be noticed that all the preceding hadiths are about the prayer, which is the most important of bodily acts of worship, and of which the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Pray as you have seen me pray”, despite which he accepted the above examples of personal reasoning because they did not depart from the form defined by the Lawgiver, for every limit must be observed, while there is latitude in everything besides, as long as it is within the general category of being called for by Sacred Law. This is the sunna of the Prophet and his way (Allah bless him and give him peace) and is as clear as can be. Islamic scholars infer from it that every act for which there is evidence in Sacred Law that it is called for and which does not oppose an unequivocal primary text or entail harmful consequences is not included in the category of reprehensible innovation (bida), but rather is of the sunna, even if there should exist something whose performance is superior to it.

(4) Bukhari relates from Abu Said al-Khudri that a band of the Companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) departed on one of their journeys, alighting at the encampment of some desert Arabs whom they asked to be their hosts, but who refused to have them as guests. The leader of the encampment was stung by a scorpion, and his followers tried everything to cure him, and when all had failed, one said, “If you would approach the group camped near you, one of them might have something”. So they came to them and said, “O band of men, our leader has been stung and weve tried everything. Do any of you have something for it?” and one of them replied, “Yes, by Allah, I recite healing words [ruqya, def: Reliance of the Traveller w17] over people, but by Allah, we asked you to be our hosts and you refused, so I will not recite anything unless you give us a fee”. They then agreed upon a herd of sheep, so the man went and began spitting and reciting the Fatiha over the victim until he got up and walked as if he were a camel released from its hobble, nothing the matter with him. They paid the agreed upon fee, which some of the Companions wanted to divide up, but the man who had done the reciting told them, “Do not do so until we reach the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and tell him what has happened, to see what he may order us to do”. They came to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and told him what had occurred, and he said, “How did you know it was of the words which heal? You were right. Divide up the herd and give me a share.”

The hadith is explicit that the Companion had no previous knowledge that reciting the Fatiha to heal (ruqya) was countenanced by Sacred Law, but rather did so because of his own personal reasoning (ijtihad), and since it did not contravene anything that had been legislated, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) confirmed him therein because it was of his sunna and way to accept and confirm what contained good and did not entail harm, even if it did not proceed from the acts of the Prophet himself (Allah bless him and give him peace) as a definitive precedent.

(5) Bukhari relates from Abu Said al-Khudri that one man heard another reciting al-Ikhlas (Qur’an 112) over and over again, so when morning came he went to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and sarcastically mentioned it to him. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “By Him in whose hand is my soul, it equals one-third of the Qur’an.” Daraqutni recorded another version of this hadith in which the man said, “I have a neighbor who prays at night and does not recite anything but al-Ikhlas.” The hadith shows that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) confirmed the persons restricting himself to this sura while praying at night, despite its not being what the Prophet himself did (Allah bless him and give him peace), for though the Prophets practice of reciting from the whole Qur’an was superior, the mans act was within the general parameters of the sunna and there was nothing blameworthy about it in any case.

(6) Ahmad and Ibn Hibban relates from Abdullah ibn Burayda that his father said, I entered the mosque with the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), where a man was at prayer, supplicating: “O Allah, I ask You by the fact that I testify You are Allah, there is no god but You, the One, the Ultimate, who did not beget and was not begotten, and to whom none is equal”, and the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “By Him in whose hand is my soul, he has asked Allah by His greatest name, which if He is asked by it He gives, and if supplicated He answers”. It is plain that this supplication came spontaneously from the Companion, and since it conformed to what the Sacred Law calls for, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) confirmed it with the highest degree of approbation and acceptance, while it is not known that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) had ever taught it to him (Adilla Ahl al-Sunna wa’al-Jamaa, 119-33).

We are now able to return to the hadith with which I began my talk tonight, in which the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “. . . Beware of matters newly begun, for every innovation is misguidance”. And understand it as expounded by a classic scholar of Islam, Sheikh Muhammad Jurdani, who said:

“Beware of matters newly begun”, distance yourselves and be wary of matters newly innovated that did not previously exist”, i.e. things invented in Islam that contravene the Sacred Law, “for every innovation is misguidance” meaning that every innovation is the opposite of the truth, i.e. falsehood, a hadith that has been related elsewhere as: “for every newly begun matter is innovation, every innovation is misguidance, and every misguidance is in hell” meaning that everyone who is misguided, whether through himself or by following another, is in hell, the hadith referring to matters that are not good innovations with a basis in Sacred Law. It has been stated (by Izz ibn Abd al-Salam) that innovations (bida) fall under the five headings of the Sacred Law (n: i.e. the obligatory, unlawful, recommended, offensive, and permissible):

(1) The first category comprises innovations that are obligatory , such as recording the Qur’an and the laws of Islam in writing when it was feared that something might be lost from them; the study of the disciplines of Arabic that are necessary to understand the Qur’an and sunna such as grammar, word declension, and lexicography; hadith classification to distinguish between genuine and spurious prophetic traditions; and the philosophical refutations of arguments advanced by the Mu’tazilites and the like.

(2) The second category is that of unlawful innovations such as non- Islamic taxes and levies, giving positions of authority in Sacred Law to those unfit for them, and devoting ones time to learning the beliefs of heretical sects that contravene the tenets of faith of Ahl al-Sunna.

(3) The third category consists of recommended innovations such as building hostels and schools of Sacred Law, recording the research of Islamic schools of legal thought, writing books on beneficial subjects, extensive research into fundamentals and particular applications of Sacred Law, in-depth studies of Arabic linguistics, the reciting of wirds (def: Reliance of the Traveller w20) by those with a Sufi path, and commemorating the birth (mawlid), of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) and wearing ones best and rejoicing at it.

(4) The fourth category includes innovations that are offensive, such as embellishing mosques, decorating the Qur’an and having a backup man (muballigh) loudly repeat the spoken Allahu Akbar of the imam when the latter’s voice is already clearly audible to those who are praying behind him.

(5) the fifth category is that of innovations that are permissible, such as sifting flour, using spoons and having more enjoyable food, drink and housing. (al Jawahir al-luluiyya fi sharh al-Arbain al-nawawiyya, 220-21).

I will conclude my remarks tonight with a translation of Sheikh Abdullah al-Ghimari, who said: In his al-Qawaid al-kubra, “Izz ibn Abd al-Salam classifies innovations (bida), according to their benefit, harm, or indifference, into the five categories of rulings: the obligatory, recommended, unlawful, offensive, and permissible; giving examples of each and mentioning the principles of Sacred Law that verify his classification. His words on the subject display his keen insight and comprehensive knowledge of both the principles of jurisprudence and the human advantages and disadvantages in view of which the Lawgiver has established the rulings of Sacred Law.

Because his classification of innovation (bida) was established on a firm basis in Islamic jurisprudence and legal principles, it was confirmed by Imam Nawawi, Ibn Hajar Asqalani, and the vast majority of Islamic scholars, who received his words with acceptance and viewed it obligatory to apply them to the new events and contingencies that occur with the changing times and the peoples who live in them. One may not support the denial of his classification by clinging to the hadith “Every innovation is misguidance”, because the only form of innovation that is without exception misguidance is that concerning tenets of faith, like the innovations of the Mutazilites, Qadarites, Murjiites, and so on, that contradicted the beliefs of the early Muslims. This is the innovation of misguidance because it is harmful and devoid of benefit. As for innovation in works, meaning the occurrence of an act connected with worship or something else that did not exist in the first century of Islam, it must necessarily be judged according to the five categories mentioned by Izz ibn Abd al-Salam. To claim that such innovation is misguidance without further qualification is simply not applicable to it, for new things are among the exigencies brought into being by the passage of time and generations, and nothing that is new lacks a ruling of Allah Most High that is applicable to it, whether explicitly mentioned in primary texts, or inferable from them in some way. The only reason that Islamic law can be valid for every time and place and be the consummate and most perfect of all divine laws is because it comprises general methodological principles and universal criteria, together with the ability its scholars have been endowed with to understand its primary texts, the knowledge of types of analogy and parallelism, and the other excellences that characterize it. Were we to rule that every new act that has come into being after the first century of Islam is an innovation of misguidance without considering whether it entails benefit or harm, it would invalidate a large share of the fundamental bases of Sacred Law as well as those rulings established by analogical reasoning, and would narrow and limit the Sacred Laws vast and comprehensive scope. (Adilla Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jamaa, 145-47).

Wa Jazakum Allahu khayran, wal-hamdu lillahi Rabbil Alamin

[Taken from Sidi Masud’s site is an excellent and essential resource for understanding Traditional Sunni Islam]

Hearts Broken for Allah’s Sake

Answered by Sidi Salman Younas

Question: Is the narration “I am by the side of those whose hearts are broken for My sake” authentic? What does it mean?

Answer: assalamu `alaykum

I pray you are well.

The saying, “I am with those whose hearts are broken (munkasirah) for My sake” was:

(a) Mentioned as a prophetic report by Ghazali in his Bidayat al-Hidayah, without a chain of transmission. However, it has no basis as a prophetic narration as stated by Mulla `Ali al-Qari in his al-Asrar al-Marfu`a.

(b) Mentioned as a Divine discourse with Sayyidina Musa (Allah bless him) by Ahmad in al-Zuhd and Abu Nu`aym in Hilyat al-Awliya’.

(c) Mentioned as a Divine discourse with Sayyidina Dawud (Allah bless him) by ibn Kathir in al-Bidayah, Ibn Abi al-Dunya in al-Humm wa’l Huzn, and Abu Nu`aym in Hilyat.

(d) Mentioned as a statement of Imam Shafi`i by the hadith scholar al-Hafiz Muhammad al-Sinbati in his al-Nukhbat al-Bahiyyah.

Imam Munawi, in his Fayd al-Qadir, mentions this narration when explaining the words of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), “The most afflicted of people in this world is a Messenger or a righteous servant.” Through affliction, the desires melt away and hearts are lowered in front of Allah allowing one’s rank to increase in His eyes. Imam Qurtubi said, “Allah loves to afflict his chosen servants in order to perfect their virtues and to raise their rank with Him. This is neither a flaw for them nor a punishment.” [al-Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir]

Ibn `Ajibah cites it in the context of explaining the broken-heartedness of the sinner, stating that the performance of good works that leads to arrogance and pride is worse than the performance of something sinful that results in sincere regret. Rather, this state of regret, lowliness, and debasement is in fact the reality of true servitude (`ubudiyyah). [Iqadh al-Himmam]

Elsewhere, explaining the narration, he states, “His moral rectification [s: the servants] is through the companionship of the people of realization – and through reading their books if one was unable to find them -, to learn about their reports and merits, coupled with perpetual contemplation and reflection, increased worship, humility, and neediness, and latching on to debasement and sincere absolute remorse. Allah said in some reports, ‘I am with those whose hearts are broken for My sake.'” [Ibn `Ajibah; Bahr al-Madid]

And Allah knows best

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

The Conversion of Fudhala ibn `Umayr

Answered by Sidi Salman Younas

Question: There is a narration about a man named Fudhala who after planning to kill the Prophet (peace be upon him) with a dagger was overcome by the Prophet’s compassion and became a Muslim. Could I please know the book of Hadith this hadith is from? Could I please get an exact citation of this hadith?

Answer: assalamu `alaykum

I pray you are well.

Ibn Hajar `Asqalani relates the above incident in his work al-Isaba, a compendium of the names and details of the companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), quoting ibn `Abd al-Barr’s Kitab al-Durar. It was also related by Ibn Kathir in al-Bidayah wa’l Nihayah from Ibn Hisham, the author of the famous Sira. The full name of the companion was Fudhala ibn `Umayr al-Laythi (May Allah be well pleased with him).

Ibn Hajar said:

“Ibn `Abd al-Barr mentioned in his Kitab al-Durar that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) passed by him [s: Fudhala] while he was intent on suddenly attacking him, and so the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) asked, ‘What are you conversing to yourself about?’ He said, ‘Nothing. I was making remembrance of Allah.’ The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) laughed and said, ‘I seek forgiveness from Allah for you’ then placed his hand on his [s: Fudhala’s] chest. He [s: Ibn `Abd al-Barr] said, ‘Fudhala said, ‘By Allah, he had not even lifted his hand from my chest until I did not find anyone more beloved to me on the face of the earth than him.'”

Note: The Prophet’s (Allah bless him and grant him peace) placing or striking the chest with his blessed hand is associated with driving away evil whispers. For more details on this see: The Imposition of Hands in the Sunna by Shaykh Gibril Haddad.

May Allah give us all the opportunity to be with our Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) in the afterlife.


Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Standing for a Funeral Procession

Answered by Sidi Salman Younas

Question: Can you please clarify what the position is regarding standing at funerals.

Answer: assalamu `alaykum

Jabir ibn `Abdullah is reported to have said, “A funeral procession passed by us and so the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) stood up for it and we stood because of him. We said, ‘Oh Messenger of Allah, it is the funeral procession of a Jew.’ He said, ‘When you see a funeral procession, stand.” [Bukhari] In Muslim it is narrated with the additional wording, “Indeed, death is alarmingly frightful so if you see a funeral procession, stand.” In another narration the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “Is he not a soul?” [Bukhari, Muslim]

Anas ibn Malik narrated other reasons why standing at the sight of funeral procession was generally performed stating, “We only stood for the angels” [Hakim, Mustadrak] whereas `Abdullah ibn `Amr narrated, “You only stood out of reverence for the one who takes all souls.” [Ahmad, Musnad; Hakim, Mustadrak; Ibn Hibban, Sahih] Ibn Hajar `Asqalani mentions that all of the above return to the initial reasoning mentioned, namely out of alarm and fear of death. [Fath al-Bari]

As for the narration of `Ali ibn Abi Talib, it is narrated with the words, “The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) stood (s: for the funeral prayer) then he sat.” [Muslim, Tirmidhi] Another version states, “He commanded us to stand for the funeral procession then he sat after that and commanded us to sit.” [Ibn Hibban, Sahih]

The scholars differed regarding whether the narration of `Ali ibn Abi Talib abrogated the previous command of standing or not. Qadi iyyad said: “People differed on this issue. Malik, Shafi`i, and Abu Hanifa said that the standing was abrogated. Ahmad, Ishaq, Ibn Habib, and Ibn Majishawn – [the latter] two Malikis – said that one has a choice (s: of standing or remaining seated).” [Nawawi, Sharh Sahih al-Muslim]

Imam Nawawi, explaining the Shafi`i position, said, “The well known position in our school is that standing is not recommended. They said, ‘It was abrogated by the narration of `Ali.’ Mutawalli, from our companions, chose that it was recommended. This is the preferred position, and so the command to stand for it is for recommendation and sitting is in order to clarify the permissibility [of sitting].” [ibid] He stated elsewhere, “The narrations commanding standing have been authenticated, and nothing has been established concerning sitting except the narration of `Ali, which is not clear in its abrogation.” [Nawawi, Sharh al-Muhadhab]

As for the Hanafi position, then one does not stand up for a funeral possession that is passing by, except in order to walk behind the procession. [Halabi, Halabi Kabir; `Ala al-Din ibn `Abidin, Hadiyyah al-Ala’iyyah]

In the end, the matter is differed upon and therefore one should not make it a matter of contention.



Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Home Financing

Answered by Shaykh Taha Abdul-Basser

Question: What are the principles to be used when getting a home loan that is in accordance to the Shariah from the various Islamic Banks?

Answer: Al-hamdu li-llah wa-s salatu wa-s salamu `ala sayyidina muhammad wa-`ala alihi wa sahbihi wa-man ihtada bi-hadyihi ila yawm d-din

There are several principles that one should be aware of and attempt to apply when going about obtaining property financing from a Shari`a-compliant financing institution:

1. Intention

1.1 As is the case for all acts of obedience (ta`at), one should make the effort to obtain financing from a Shari`a-compliant financing entity for Allah’s sake, wanting to please Him by sticking to the permissible (halal) and avoiding the impermissible (haram).

2. Choosing a Financing entity

2.2 One should restrict oneself to a financial institutions that have each engaged a Shari`ah review board (/hay`at al-riqaba shar`iyya/). A Shari`ah review board is a independent body, composed of 3 or more /fuqaha’/  who specialize in and are known for their expertise in the application of /fiqh/ to contemporary financial issues.  The Shari`ah review board advises, examines, audits and monitors the products and services that the financial institution offers for compliance with the precepts (/mabadi’/), established principles (/qawa`id/) and ethico-legal values (/ahkam/) of the Shari`ah.

1.3 One should look for and prefer to do business with financial institutions that openly commit themselves to adherence to the AAOIFI (Auditing and Accounting Organization of Islamic Financial Institutions) Shari`a Standards. The AAOIFI Shari`a Standards are painstakingly drafted by a council of leading /fuqaha’/. They document the preponderant (/rajih/) and adopted (/muqarrar/) /fiqh/ positions that are 1) the basis for actual practice and 2) form the content of the ethico-legal /responsa/ of our leading specialist-fuqaha’ in the area of the application of /fiqh/ to contemporary financial issues.

1.4 One should restrict oneself to financial institutions that publish (e.g. on their website) their Shari`ah review boards’ certificate of compliance (CoC), i.e. the /fatwa/ that states that a set of products or services as Shari`ah compliant, i.e. halal (permissible).

[Ref: AAOIFI Shari`a Standards, AAOIFI, Manama, Bahrain, n.d.]

And Allah knows best.

Wa s-salam.
The Needy Slave of Allah
Taha Abdul-Basser
Framingham, Massachusetts
6 Muharram 1431


1. Since the banks and financing companies that offer Shari`ah compliant property financing do not *lend* money, per se, but typically finance the acquisition of property through various sales-based transactions, “home loan” is not technically correct. Rather “home financing” or a similar term is more accurate.

Meeting A Potential Spouse Through School or Work?

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq

Question: “It is also fine to meet someone through school or work or a community gathering as long as the parameters of modest behavior are observed. If you meet someone you would like to discuss marriage with, just arrange for the brother to meet your wali or family.” (Sister  Zaynab, title: How does a Muslim woman find a spouse for herself?) This quote has brought me great confusion. Secret but modest premarital relationships are permissible in Islam? Can a man talk to a girl, get to know personal things about her and get intimate without the consent and awareness of her guardian as long as modest behavior is observed?

Also, I’ve been reading about “suitability” in marriage. Can a father refuse a man because he did not satisfy one of the conditions of kafa’ah?

Answer: In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. May the peace and blessings of Allah descend on the Prophet Muhammad, his family, his companions, and those who follow them.

Dear Brother,

Assalamu alaikum,

Thank you for your question.

There should be no confusion about my answer to the referenced question, “How does a Muslim woman find a spouse by herself?”

If you read my entire answer, you will see that I was quite emphatic about meetings between a woman and her potential suitor taking place in the presence of chaperones. I answered this question for a sister who had failed to find a husband through traditional networks. Please understand that many Muslims, particularly those who are converts to Islam, do not have access to the traditional kinship networks through which many transnational Muslims find spouses. Instead, many converts find spouses in various social or professional settings. If a person sees someone they would like to approach for marriage and they have no idea who this person is or how to contact their family, then common sense would dictate that they establish some sort of communication. This is why I stressed observing the parameters of modest behavior.

The bottom line is: If you live in the modern world, then you will inevitably find yourself in situations where you will interact with women. And you may find, after conversing with a particular woman, that you would like to pursue marriage talks. My answer was all about how to proceed in a way that is Islamically appropriate. Nowhere in my answer did I even hint at “secret” relationships.

As to taking your fiancée on a date, then it would depend on the nature of your relationship. If you’ve merely expressed interest in marriage, then the woman is not your wife and it would not be permissible to take her out. If, however, you have formally gone through the Islamic marriage contract with this woman, even if only verbally, then she is your wife and you may go out.

As for the question on kafa’ah from Reliance of the Traveller, it is better to pose that to a Shafi’i scholar. In general, a woman’s guardian may prevent her from marrying someone he deems unsuitable. However, the ulama caution that fathers should handle these matters with sensitivity.

May Allah reward you,

Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq

Sunday, November 08, 2009
Dhul Qa’dah 21, 1430

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

When Is Laylat al-Qadr?

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: When is Laylat al-Qadr?

Answer: Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whoever prays on Laylat al-Qadr out of faith and sincerity, shall have all their past sins forgiven.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

Abu Sa`id al-Khudri (Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) also said, “Seek it in the last ten days, on the odd nights.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

The scholars have affirmed that it is the best of nights, [al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya, quoting Mi`raj al-Diraya, 1.216] because of Allah Most High’s words,

“Lo! We revealed it on the Night of Power.

Ah, what will convey unto thee what the Night of Power is!

The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.

The angels and the Spirit [Jibril] descend therein, by the permission of their Lord, will all decrees.

(That night is) Peace until the rising of the dawn.”

(Qur’an, Surat al-Qadr: 97)

Imam Nawawi and others explain that the verse, ‘The Night of Power is better than a thousand months,’ means that it is better than a thousand months without it.

Given the tremendousness of this night, it is recommended to seek it out, and to worship Allah in it, with prayer, supplications (du`a), remembrance of Allah (dhikr), and other acts of worship. [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar, quoting Mi`raj al-Diraya; Nawawi, al-Majmu`] Because obligatory acts are more beloved to Allah than supererogatory ones, the most important thing for men is to pray both Isha and Fajr at the mosque.

When is Laylat al-Qadr?

There is a long standing difference of opinion about when Laylat al-Qadr is, because it is of those matters whose certain knowledge has been lifted by Allah Most High from this Ummah, for the wisdom that people strive to seek it:

The scholars generally agreed that it is most likely to be in the last ten nights of Ramadan, with the odd nights being more likely, and the 27th night the most likely out of the odd nights. Imam Shafi`i said that it is most likely to be the 21st, then the 23rd, then the 27th. Imam Nawawi followed the position of Imam Muzani and Imam Ibn Khuzayma that it moves around within the last ten nights. [Nawawi, al-Majmu` Sharh al-Muhadhdhab, 6.488]

However, it could also be outside the last ten nights within Ramadan. It may even fall outside Ramadan altogether according to both early and late scholars. This has been transmitted from many of the Companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace), including Ibn Mas`ud (Allah be pleased with him) as mentioned by Buhuti in his Kashshaf al-Qina`. It is also one of the positions reported from Imam Abu Hanifa, and also of many of the great knowers of Allah, including Ibn Arabi (whose position is quoted by Ibn Abidin with support), Abu’l Hasan al-Shadhili, Sha`rani, and many others.

May Allah give us the success of following in the footsteps of the inheritors of the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace), outwardly and inwardly, and may He make us of those whom He loves.

This is one of the many reasons why one should strive to establish the night vigil prayer (tahajjud), daily.


It has been reported that, “Once the last ten [days of Ramadan] started, the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him, his family, and companions) used to spend the nights in worship, wake his family, strive, and tighten his belt.” [Bukhari and Muslim] Tighten his belt refers to determination.

The established position of Abu Hanifa and his two main companions, Abu Yusuf and Muhammad ibn al-Hasan (Allah have mercy on them) is that it is specific to Ramadan. Abu Hanifa, however, said that it moves around in the month and is not fixed to a specific date. [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar, from al-Bahr and al-Kafi] As for the hadiths about it being the night of the 27th, Ibn Abidin mentions that Abu Hanifa explained them as refering to a particular year.

Ibn Abidin quotes Ibn Nujaym’s Bahr al-Ra’iq that this is one transmitted position of Abu Hanifa. Another, mentioned in Qadikhan’s Fatawa al-Khaniyya, one of the most important works for fatwa in the school, is that the famous transmission from Imam Abu Hanifa is that it moves around the entire year; it could be in Ramadan, and it could be in a month outside of Ramadan.

Ibn Abidin said,

“This is supported by what the Master of the Knowers of Allah Sayyidi Muhyi al-Din Ibn Arabi mentioned in his Futuhat al-Makkiyya,

‘People differed about Laylat al-Qadr. Some said it moves around the entire year. This is my position, for I have seen it in the month of Sha`ban, and in Rabi`, and in Ramadan. I have seen it most, though, in the month of Ramadan, and, specifically, in the last nights. I saw it once in the second third of Ramadan, on an even night, and once on an odd night. Therefore, I am certain that it moves around the entire year, on both odd and even nights.’

And there are many opinions regarding this, which reach 46 different positions.” [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

Imam al-Nafrawi al-Maliki mentions in his al-Fawakih al-Dawani fi Sharh Risalat Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani that the position of Imam Malik, Imam Shafi`i and Imam Ahmad, and the majority of the scholars is that Laylat al-Qadr is not a specific night. Rather, it moves around.

Imam Sarakhsi mentions in his Mabsut, a 30-volume masterpiece of Hanafi legal reasoning, proofs, and comparative fiqh that was mainly authored by dictation to students while unjustly imprisoned in a pot well, that the position of most of the Companions (Allah be pleased with him) was that it is on the night of the 27th. (3.127) This, others explain, means that its most likely night is the night of the 27th of Ramadan. [As in Ruhaybani’s Matalib Uli’n Nuha Sharh Ghayat al-Muntaha 2.225 in Hanbali fiqh]

And Allah alone gives success.

Walaikum assalam,
Faraz Rabbani.