The Trodden Path (Episode 2): A Glimpse At the Lives of the Illustrious Scholars and Saints of the 20th and 21st Century.

In this newly anticipated series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed of South Africa will take us on a journey through the lives and biographies of some of the most celebrated and well known scholars of the twentieth and twenty – first century. These historical accounts will provide us with refreshing insights and lessons, and motivate us to follow in the footsteps of our pious predecessors.


In this second article of the The Trodden Path series, Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed writes on the life of the Syrian scholar, Shaykh Tahir Al-Jazairi (RA).

Shaykh Tahir Al-Jazairi (1268-1338=1852-1920)

His full name is Tahir ibn Muhammad Salih ibn Ahmad ibn Mawhub Al-Samouni Al-Jazaairi Al-Dimashqi.

This reformer and great scholar of tafsir, hadith, fiqh, usul, history and the arabic language was born in Damascus in 1852 (1268) where he passed away in the year 1920 (1338).

His father Muhammad Salih emigrated from Algeria to Damascus in 1846 (1263) along with the great Algerian leader Abdul Qadir Al-Jazairi. He lived there until he passed away in (1285). His father was a scholar in the Quraanic sciences and a reputable scholar in the Maliki Madhab. He was the authorized Mufti on behalf of the Madhab in Damascus.

Shaykh Tahir received his early education from his father; thereafter he studied with other ulama in Damascus. His father, Shaykh Salih migrated from Algeria after the French occupied their lands and imposed various pressures on the Muslims. He was a scholar and was responsible for Fatwa in the Maliki madhab in Damascus. He also read and repeated the lessons in Sahih AlBukhari on behalf of Shaykh Ahmad Al-Kuzbari in the Umawy Mosque. He authored a few useful books. He passed away in Damascus in 1868 (1285).

He studied Arabic, Turkish and Persian under Shaykh AbdurRahman Al-Banushnaqi. He also studied French, Syriac, Hebrew and the Ethiopian Language. He also knew some of the Berber tribal languages, particularly of those who inhabited parts of Algeria.

The scholars under whom he studied the various Islamic sciences with were many. One of them was Shaykh Abdul Ghani Al-Ghunaymi Al-Maydani (1222-1298=1807-1881, author of AlLubaab in Hanafi Fiqh, Sharh AlAqeedah AlTahawiyah and other books), who was one of the most senior Hanafi scholars who was a student of Imam Ibn Abideen (author of Rad AlMukhtar), one of the greatest Hanafi scholars in that century. From him, Shaykh Tahir learnt how to be thorough, accurate and precise when analyzing complex fiqh issues.

Shaykh Tahir devoted all his time and energy towards studying which also included studying the natural sciences. He also studied mathematics, astronomy and history. His knowledge of history was superb and in addition he was very well acquainted with the biographies of the previous scholars and their books.

In his youth, he was among the founders in a charitable organization that was established by a group of scholars of Damascus in 1877 (1294). In 1878 (1295), at the age of 26 he was appointed as a general inspector for the primary schools. During the period he served in this position, he wrote some books that were necessary at the time for pupils in various levels. Together with Shaykh Ala Al-Din Abidin (d.1888), they agreed to establish the Al-Jamiyat Al-Khairiyah Al-Islamiyah that was very active in Damascus and was responsible for establishing many schools.

In 1879 (1296) he attempted to gather in one place all historical manuscripts from the endowment libraries in Damascus. The result of his efforts was the establishment of the Zahiriyah Library that became one of the most prominent libraries in the Arab world because of its valuable collections of manuscripts.

After his success with this library he strove to repeat the same in Jerusalem to establish the Khalidiyah Library in Al-Quds. Shaykh Tahir continued to serve the knowledge of Islam through his writing, teaching, and promoting it through his libraries.

His activities increased after 1886 after he had abandoned his work with the government. He devoted his time to teaching and towards promoting various reforms.

In 1907 (1325), he faced some harassment and pressure from the Turkish authorities in Syria. As the result he immigrated to Egypt where its scholars welcomed him, especially the likes of Ahmad Taimur Basha and Ahmad Zaki Basha.

He refused to take a cent from the State, because he feared that he would be forced to be silent on issues that were not palatable to the leaders. Instead, he lived by sacrificing his most beloved possessions. He sold his books and his manuscripts in order to survive. Even in these desperate times, he chose to sell his books to Dar Al-Kutub Al-Misriyah for half the price he would have received from the British Museum because he wanted to ensure that the books remain in Muslim lands.

Shaykh Ali Yusuf and Ahmad Taimur Basha tried to allocate some position to him, which would enable thousands to benefit from his vast knowledge and at the same time he would receive a salary. He excused himself because of his old age and his inability to fulfill official administrative and time requirements and also because he was accustomed to reading and researching the whole night right until Fajr. This was particularly his practice in the last forty years of his life. He remained in Cairo for about thirteen years and in 1920 (1337) he became seriously ill, and he returned to Damascus. Soon after his return he was elected as a member of the Arabic Academy in Damascus and the Director of the Zahiriyah Library. He passed away four months later in 1920 (1338) and is buried on the Qasiyoun Mountain in Damascus, Syria.

As Shaykh Taahir was so careful about utilizing his time, he did not care about his appearance and dressed very shabbily. He never married and used to spend a great deal of the night with his friends and the remainder in reading and writing. He enjoyed swimming and walking as an exercise. He was very particular about performing his salah punctually to the call of the adhan, no matter where he was. He defended the Arabic Language and the Hijri Calendar.

Although he was modest by nature he was fiercely independent. He never accepted any gift from the rulers. When he was financially in need, he continued to sell some of his books. The most expensive and dearest thing to him was his books and the time he spent studying and conducting his research. Nothing at all distracted him. He was able to answer questions that were posed to him with ease and was very annoyed at those who tried to insult the scholars.

He used to prepare a large quantity of coffee that would last for a few days to save on preparation time.

He drank coffee to give him energy and to keep him alert and awake. Whenever he left his home he always carried a book or some notes from which he could benefit, thus never wasting any time.

Despite the great amount of time he spent in reading, he advised students to lessen their reading during the holidays and, instead, to increase their sporting and recreational activities. He maintained that, deep immersion into books could lead to seclusion and alienation from people. He in turn had an excellent relationship with many scholars of Damascus that included; Shaykh Abdul Razaaq Al-Baytar, Shaykh Abu Al-Khair Abidin, Shaykh Salim Al-Bukhari and his special friend Shaykh Jamal Al-Din Al-Qasimi (author of a 17 volume Tafsir titled Mahaasin Al-Tawil fi Tafsir Al-Quran Al-Karim, 1283-1331=1866-1914). Shaykh Tahir visited Shaykh Jamal Al-Din daily from the beginning of 1906 until he left for Egypt in 1907. He attended Shaykh Al-Qasimi’s lessons in Mustalah Al-Hadith and Tafsir. Shaykh Tahir even reviewed Shaykh Al-Qasimi’s book in Mustalah Al-Hadith. They continued to correspond with one another even when Shaykh Tahir was in Egypt. Many orientalist scholars respected him and consulted him on numerous occasions. The Jewish orientalist scholar, Goldziher was one such scholar who even attended the Shaykh’s lessons in Damascus and translated his book Towjeeh Al-Nazhr  into German.

He wrote many books, over 35 in number on various subjects. These include aqidah, ulum Al-Quran, tajwid, the science of hadith, sirah, usul, Arabic rhetoric, Arabic literature, the philosophy of natural mathematics, history and introductions to many Islamic manuscripts.

His most important books are:

  • Irshad Alba (in teaching the Arabic Language)
  • Al-Tibyan (the science of the Quraan)
  • Towjih Al-Nazhr (in the science of hadith). This book is described by Shaykh Abu Ghuddah as one of the most extensive works on the subject. Shaykh Abdul Fattah Abu Ghuddah edited and published the last two.
  • Al-Jawahir Al-Kalamiyah fi Al-Aqaaid Al-Islamiyah (Aqidah)
  • Al-TaqribilaUsul Al-Ta’rib (Arabic Grammar)
  • Sharh Khutab Ibn Nabatah(Poetry and Literature)
  • Al-Tazkirah Al-Zhahiriyah (articles on various topics)
  • Al-Uqud Al-Alaali fi Al-Asanid Al-Awali
  • Muniyat Al-Azkiya fi Qisas Al-Anbiya
  • Mukhtasar Adab Al-Katib by Ibn Qutaybah
  • Madkhal Al-Tulabila Fan Al-Hisaab

Some of his works are still manuscripts and have never been published. Some of the titles are:

  • Asna Al-Maqasid fi Ilm Al-Aqa’id
  • Al-Ilmam bi Usul Sirat Al-Nabi Alayhi Al-Salatwa Al-Salam.
  • Al-Tafsir Al-Kabir. (4 Volumes and can be regarded as notes to Tafseer Al-Baydawi).
  • Various others describing his travels to Alexandria and other places.
  • Various compilations of biographies of scholars of different eras.
  • Selections from Al-Muwafaqat by Al-Shatibi and Zaruq’s work in Tasawwuf

He could be distinguished from many of his contemporary scholars because he enjoyed the following:

  1. His initiatives in spreading education and establishing schools. Through his interaction with the Turkish authorities, he worked tirelessly to achieve this many times convincing people who owned large palatial homes to donate a portion, which could be used for a school. These schools were in all the cities of Syria and he even established a school for girls.
  2. He personally took charge of the syllabus. He did receive some opposition from certain sectors in Damascus, who wanted this knowledge to be exclusively for them and their families. He endured and persevered and because of his acquaintance with the governor, he was successful. He also encouraged and supported the establishment of a school dedicated to teaching the seven modes of recitation of the Quran.
  3. His active participation in establishing social and charitable organizations.
  4. His efforts in promoting history and various aspects related to the Arabic language.
  5. His role in bridging the gap in some way between realities and absolute aspects of Islam and modern science.
  6. His emphasis on education (tarbiyah) and ethics (akhlaaq).
  7. His activism through writing and keeping the people informed through the newspapers. Once Ahmad Zaki Basha received 10 000 pounds from the Minister of Education to publish rare books. A year passed and nothing was done. When a new minister was appointed, this amount was returned to the Ministry. Shaykh Taahir was very annoyed and upset and he felt that Ahmad Zaki had done a great disservice to the Ummah.

His students, Shaykh Muhammad Sai’d AlBani Al-Dimashqi, Muhammad Kurd Ali, Shaykh Ali Al-Tantawi and Shaykh Adnan Al-Khatib revered him and they wrote about his productive life and distinct personality.

 

* This biography may be found in the book: Muslim Scholars of the 20th Century by Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed


Biography of Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed

Shaykh Shoayb Ahmed is a well respected South African Islamic scholar who lives in Pretoria, South Africa. He studied at the King Saud University in Riyadh and the faculty of Shariah at the Islamic University of Madina. He has attained a M.A. in Islamic Studies from the University of South Africa. Through his extensive travels he has met and benefited from many senior scholars from Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Egypt, Syria, India, Turkey etc. He has received numerous Ijazahs from the various scholars that he has met, studied with and served. He is currently a senior educator at the al – Ghazzali College in Pretoria.

He has authored two books:

  1. Muslim Scholars of the 20th Century.
  2. Muslim Scholars of the 21st Century.

He was one of the translators of Shaykh Sayyid Muhammad Alawi al – Maliki’s work: The Way of the True Salaf.


https://seekersguidance.org/articles/the-trodden-path-a-glimpse-at-the-lives-of-the-illustrious-scholars-and-saints-of-the-20th-and-21st-century/

Reflections on Isra’ (Night Journey) and Mi’raj (Ascension) – Habib Umar bin Hafiz

This article is sourced from Muwasala: Click here for the original post

Every created thing longed to have its portion of Allah’s Beloved (Peace be upon him). It was not until he (Peace be upon him) made his Mi’raj that the heavens got their portion of him.
— Al-Habib- Abdul Qadir Al Saggaf

Importance of Isra’ and Mi’raj

We are approaching the night on which the Islamic world traditionally celebrates the Isrā’ (Night Journey) and Mi`rāj (Ascension) of our Prophet, the Chosen One ﷺ. The Isrā’ and Mi`rāj was a great sign and an immense miracle which Allah gave to the Master of the people of the heavens and the earth, to demonstrate his superiority over mankind, jinn-kind, angels and the whole of creation. There are great lessons in the events that took place and a means of increasing in belief and certitude.
The scholars say that the best night in relation to the Ummah as a whole was the night on which the Prophet was born, whereas the best night in relation to the Prophet himself was the night of the Isrā’ and Mi`rāj.

Trials and Tribulations

Prior to this night the Prophet had displayed great patience in the face of hardship and it is one of Allah’s wisdoms that He bestows His gifts accompanied with hardships.
Allah says: They encountered suffering and adversity and were shaken such that the Messenger and those of faith who were with him said: “When will Allah’s assistance come?” Truly Allah’s assistance is always near.[1]
At the end of his life, the Messenger of Allah said that the worst treatment that he received from the disbelievers was his violent rejection at the hands of the people of al-Ṭā’if. Most of the scholars of the Sīrah say that that the Isrā’ and Mi`rāj took place shortly after this, a year prior to the Hijrah on the 27th night of the month of Rajab.[2]

Preparation & Journey

The Prophet ﷺ saw some of the events of the Isrā’ and Mi`rāj in his dreams as a preparation for them before the events actually occurred. Some people claim that all the events of the Isrā’ and Mi`rāj took place in a dream state but this is not the case: the Prophet experienced them with his body and soul. Had the Isrā’ been merely something the Prophet experienced in his dream, the disbelievers of Quraysh would not have had difficulty accepting it. They would not have asked: “How can you have travelled to Jerusalem last night and be with us in Makkah this morning?”
Allāh says: Transcendent is the One Who caused His slave to travel by night from al-Masjid al-Ḥarām to al-Masjid al-Aqṣā.[3] Allāh tends to express His transcendence before mentioning a great affair which is beyond what people are accustomed to.
When Allāh wished to speak to Sayyidunā Mūsā, He told him to wait thirty days and then a further ten days: We appointed for Mūsā thirty nights and we completed (the period) with ten more.[4]
Allāh, however, did not tell His Beloved to wait. Rather His order came suddenly, without any warning. The Prophet’s chest was split open and his heart was washed and filled with knowledge and forbearance. The Burāq was then brought to him. Allāh could have caused him to travel without the Burāq, but it was a means of honouring and ennobling him. Jibrīl said to the Burāq after some initial obstinacy: “Are you not ashamed, O Burāq? By Allāh, no one more noble in the sight of Allāh has ever ridden you!”
The Prophet stopped in a number of places on the Isrā’ to emphasise the importance of visiting the places in which Allah bestowed His bounties upon His pious slaves. He was ordered to seek to draw close to Allah by praying near the tree where Allah spoke to Mūsā, by praying at Mount Ṭūr, where Allah gave revelation to Mūsā, and at Bayt Laḥm, where Īsā was born.
The whole earth was made a place of prayer and prostration for the Prophet so what was the significance of him praying in those places if it was not seeking blessings (tabarruk) and spiritual assistance from them? It is also narrated in Saḥīḥ Muslim that he visited the grave of Mūsā and witnessed him praying in his grave. He said to his Companions: “If I was there I would have showed you his grave.” He was thus teaching his Ummah the importance of knowing the location of the graves of the Prophets and thus the importance of visiting them.
While on his journey, someone called him on his right side but he did not respond. Jibrīl informed him that this was the caller of the Jews, and had he responded, his Ummah would have followed the way of the Jews. Then someone called him on his left side and once again he did not respond. Jibrīl informed him that this was the caller of the Christians, and had he responded, his Ummah would have followed the way of the Christians. Thus, in spite of all the efforts of the Christians to convert people to Christianity, the Ummah remains in Allāh’s care and protection due to the steadfastness of the Prophet ﷺ.
He was called a third time, and once again he did not respond. Jibrīl informed him that it was the dunyā or the material world calling him, and had he responded, his Ummah would have chosen this life over the next. The dunyā then appeared to him in the form of an old woman. Jibrīl informed him that all that remained of the life of this world before the Day of Judgement is like the time this old woman had left to live. We witness all the wars and struggles that take place and in reality this life is like an old woman on the verge of death and ahead of us is the next life! May Allāh give us the best of endings! Due to the Prophet’s refusal to respond to the callings of the dunyā, there remain to this day people who know its worthlessness.

The Messenger of Allāh ﷺled the Prophets in prayer in al-Masjid al-Aqṣā. Jibrīl informed him that the soul of every prophet sent by Allāh from the time of Ādam to the time of Īsā was brought to pray behind him so that they would come to know the station of their master, Muḥammad. He was the imām who led all the prophets and angels in prayer. Why do we not make him our imām?
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The Ascent to Heaven

The Prophet then ascended from heaven to heaven. The angels in the heavens had been informed that he would come and it was their opportunity to be honoured by meeting him just as his Companions had that honour on the earth. The people of the earth threw stones at him and insulted him but the people of the heavens gave him the warmest of welcomes. In the Prophet’s meeting with his father Ādam and the other Prophets in the various heavens there is a lesson. In spite of the Prophet’s superiority over them, he was still ordered to greet them. There was no-one less in need of anyone else than him but he met them and displayed great etiquette and manifested his slave-hood to his Lord.
Among the things he witnessed was people who turned down freshly cooked meat and chose to eat putrid rotting meat. He was told that this was like those who leave that which is lawful and choose that which is unlawful. He saw people’s heads being smashed with rocks. As soon as their heads were smashed they would be restored and then smashed again and so on. He was told these were the people who were too lazy to pray the obligatory prayer.
He ascended to al-Bayt al-Ma`mūr, which resembles the Ka`bah above the seventh heaven. It lies directly above the Ka`bah, and every day 70,000 angels enter it. The Prophet entered it and prayed in it, along with the spirits of some of the elect of Allah. Then he came to al-Sidrat al-Muntahā, a tree whose size and beauty is indescribable. Were one of its leaves to fall it would cover the heavens and the earth. This is the end point of the knowledge of creation.
It was here that Jibrīl stopped. He said that if he went any further, he would burn but he told the Prophet to continue his journey alone.

The Divine Meeting

He duly ascended to the Throne of Allah and fell into prostration. Mūsā had been ordered to remove his sandals when Allah spoke to him, but the Beloved was not ordered to do so. Allah then ordered him to raise his head and he addressed Allah: “Greetings, blessings and the best of prayers to Allah.”
Allah responded: “Peace be upon you, O Prophet, and the mercy and blessings of Allah.”
At this point, when Allah was manifesting Himself to him, the Prophet wished to remember the pious members of his Ummah and the previous nations. He said: “Peace be upon us and upon Allah’s pious slaves.”
The angels of the heavens then cried out: “We testify that there is no deity other than Allah and that Muhammad is His slave and messenger.”
When Allāh spoke to him, He said: “I have taken you as My beloved and I have expanded your heart and raised high the esteem in which you are held so that whenever I am mentioned you are mentioned with Me. I made your nation the best of nations and I made them the last and the first on the Day of Judgement. I made you the first prophet to be created and the last to be sent.” Allāh thus spoke gently to His Beloved and reminded him of His blessings upon him. He said things to Him which only He knows.

The Blessed Gift

He made fifty prayers compulsory on his nation. This was eventually reduced to five with the reward of fifty. Are those who are unable to perform the five not ashamed of their Lord? What would they have done if it was fifty prayers that they had to perform? Allāh made five prayers compulsory upon His slaves, in which there is the opportunity to converse with Allāh and draw close to Him. “The closest the slave is to his Lord is when he is in prostration.”
The Prophet was blessed with the vision of his Lord, a blessing which no-one else will receive until they enter Paradise. The vision cannot be understood in a conventional way since Allah is transcendent and cannot be limited to a place or direction. Some Muslims deny that the vision of Allah is possible and we agree with them that the vision of Allah in a conventional sense is impossible. However, we understand the vision of Allah to be something far greater than that, a pure manifestation of Allah’s light, which is indescribable.
Sayyidunā Mūsā was keen to receive some of the light that was on the face of the Prophet ﷺ who himself had just seen his Lord. Mūsā had asked to see Allah while on the earth but his request was not granted. He thus took as much light as he could from the Prophet’s face. The Prophet ﷺ informed us that there will come a time when the Muslims will seek victory through people who had seen him, and later through people who have seen people who have seen him.[5] This shows us that secrets are transmitted through the vision of people’s faces.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺremained firm while witnessing all the things that he witnessed: His vision did not stray, nor did it go wrong[6]; His heart did not lie about what it saw, for truly did he see, of the signs of his Lord, the greatest.[7]
All of this took place in a few instants. So little time had elapsed that the place where he had been sleeping was still warm. All of these are amazing examples of divine power. We are so accustomed to the pattern of cause and effect and the laws of creation that we tend to forget the presence of divine power in everything. In reality the things which we regard to be normal are miraculous – our sitting and standing, our eating and drinking.
Allah says: Do you see the water which you drink? Did you bring it down from the clouds or did We?[8]
May Allah bestow prayers upon the one who made this awesome journey and may He resurrect us with him. Make us among those who are truthful in their following of him. Do not deprive us of the vision of him in this life, the Barzakh and the next life. Allow us to see the face of the one who You allowed to see Your countenance so that we are ready to see Your countenance in the abode of Your pleasure.

[1] Al-Baqarah, 2:214
[2] In the Islamic calendar the night precedes the day, so what is meant is the night before the 27th day
[3] Al-Isrā’ 17:1
[4] Al-A`rāf, 7:142
[5] Narrated by al-Bukhāri
[6] Al-Najm, 53:17-18
[7] Al-Najm, 53:11
[8] Al-Wāqi`ah, 56:68


Understanding the Trends in Fiqh Literature – By Mufti Taha Karaan

In this short article, Mufti Taha Karaan succinctly provides a descriptive account on the various trends and genres of fiqh literature. By way of the Shafi school of thought, Mufti Taha Karaan briefly explains the reasons and objectives of the various categories of legal writing in fiqh.

* This article was edited from its original source.


There are certain general tendencies in Islamic legal writing:

  1. There is firstly the phenomenon of the mutawwalat, lengthy, comprehensive and detailed works that would typically deal with several angles of fiqh at once: the basic points of the law, the intra-madhhab differences, the inter-madhhab differences, comparative evaluation of these differences, the extraction of qawa’id and dawabit, application of usul takhrij of ahadith, and other miscellaneous matters. The earliest works in fiqh could be classified in this genre. Imam al-Shafi’i’s Kitab al-Umm, most of Imam Muhammad ibn al-Hasan’s six works that form the zahir al-riwayah in the Hanafi madhhab, and the Mudawwanah of the Malikis would be examples.
  2. This first trend was followed by the phenomenon of ikhtisar through which the mukhtasarat, or abridgements made their appearance. Imam al-Muzani’s Mukhtasar in which he condensed the fiqh of Imam al-Shafi’i is regarded as the prototype amongst mukhtasar works. In it he (successfully) attempted to reduce the entire scope of Imam al-Shafi’i’s fiqh into manageable proportions–manageable in the sense that while it covered the entire fiqh spectrum, it did so in a size that allowed students to memorise, and teachers to cover it completely, and thereby train new generations of fuqaha in greater numbers within a comparatively short period. Such was the success of this mukhtasar that it induced al-Muzani’s nephew, Abu Ja’far al-Tahawi, to author a similar mukhtasar for the Hanafi madhhab. It would also be through the writing of a mukhtasar that Abul Husayn Al-Khiraqi laid the foundations of a systematic madhhab drawn from the fiqh of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal.
  3. The oral teaching of the mukhtasar works naturally entailed more material than the text of the mukhtasar provided. In the case of our madhhab, for example, solutions to problems as yet unsolved would be regularly provided by the fuqaha of the madhhab in the centuries following Imam al-Shafi’i’s demise. To distinguish these subsequently contributed views from the opinions of Imam al-Shafi’i himself, we call his opinions the aqwal, and their opinions the wujuh. The ones who contributed the wujuh were fuqaha who themselves possessed the requirements of ijtihad though often in an affiliated sense (mujtahid muntasib), or to a restricted degree (mujtahid muqayyad). On account of their contribution of  wujuh to the madhhab they are called the As-hab al-Wujuh. With many of the As-hab al-Wujuh it would happen that their students would document their mentor’s independent contributions to the madhhab. These would then be transmitted to subsequent generations of fuqaha, often in the form of commentaries upon Mukhtasar al-Muzani known as ta’liqat. The phenomenon we see emerging here is that of the shuruh, or commentaries whereby the trend of condensation is reversed into expansion.

The above should give you a broad idea of the expansion-condensation-expansion model along which legal writing proceeded in Islam. This same model replicates itself in the post-wujuh era. Imam al-Ghazali’s 3 abridgements of his teacher Imam al-Haramayn’s Nihayat al-Madhhab, Imam al-Rafi’i’s celebrated commentary upon the last of those 3 abridgements, al-Wajiz, Imam al-Nawawi’s condensation of this commentary by al-Rafi’i into Rawdat at-Talibin, of his Muharrar into the Minhaj, and al-Nawawi’s own magnificent commentary upon al-Shirazi’s Muhadhhab are all excellent and prominent examples.

The factors that prompted a shift from expansion to condensation and vice versa were several:

  • Firstly, the issue of need. Students needed condensed works to facilitate their studies and reduce the amount of time spent in entry level studies. It is not uncommon to find the author of a mukhtasar stating his reason for condensation to be “to facilitate memorisation and study for the beginner”.
  • Secondly, comprehensive documentation. Every stage in the development of the madhhab would bring new material; all this new material had to be incorporated into the madhhab. When the era of wujuh drew to a close we see the emergence of comprehensive works in both the Iraqi and Khurasani branches of the madhhab (or tariqahs,as they are called). In the former tariqah there are al-Muhadhdhab and al-Tanbih by Abu Ishaq al-Shirazi, and in the latter tariqah Imam al-Haramayn’s Nihayat al-Matlab, followed by his pupil al-Ghazali’s 3 abridgements al-Basital-Wasit and al-Wajiz. Similarly, after the period of recension by al-Rafi’i and al-Nawawi, the peripheral contributions to the madhhab by men such as Ibn al-Rif’ah, his pupil Taqi al-Din al-Subki, al-Bulqini, al-Isnawi, al-Adhra’i and al-Zarkashi were subsumed into the second wave of recension that came in the 10th century, in the form of the commentaries upon the Minhaj by Shaykh al-Islam Zakariyya al-Ansari and his pupils al-Khatib al-Shirbini, Ibn Hajar al-Haytami and Shams al-Din al-Ramli.
  • Thirdly, style. Language develops constantly, and one of the most pronounced forms of linguistic evolution has to be the refinement and sharpening of legal language. The systematic limpidity of Abu Ishaq al-Shirazi’s Muhadhdhab and the logically integrated arrangement of al-Ghazali’s Wasit and Wajiz give evidence of the maturation of legal style in their age.
  • Fourthly, personal development. At a somewhat less significant level, scholars would sometimes condense the work of an earlier scholar simply for the sake of thoroughly encompassing the contents of the earlier work. Such condensations would be done not for the sake of publishing the work, but rather for the advancement of the condenser’s personal knowledge.

Having thus far covered the trends in legal writing in Islam, I would like to draw a distinction between substantial or essential works on the one hand, and peripheral or supplementary works on the other. The works of which I have spoken above all fall within the substantial category, while the hawashi form the peripheral category.


Biography of Mufti Taha Karaan

Mufti Taha Karaan is a Shafi‘i scholar born in Cape Town, South Africa, to a family renowned in both its maternal and paternal lineage for Islamic scholarship. His father, the late Mufti Yusuf Karaan, may Allah have mercy on his soul, was one of the most distinguished Islamic scholars in the Cape.

Mufti Taha completed his Qur’anic memorization in one year at the Waterfall Islamic Institute, the oldest Islamic seminary in South Africa. During his stay, he assisted in the editing of the Qur’anic prints that the Institute has become famous for the world over. After finishing four years of the ‘alim course in two years, he journeyed to the Indian sub-continent and Dar al Uloom Deoband, graduating from there in 1991 with the highest of distinctions, as did his father, in a class of over 700 students. He then travelled to the Middle East and completed a two-year graduate diploma at the Higher Institute for Islamic Studies in Cairo, Egypt.

Mufti Taha is the recipient of numerous chains of transmission (ijazaat), from well-respected scholars in India, Pakistan, South Africa, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, among others, in numerous fields of the Islamic sciences.

Currently, Mufti Taha is the Mufti of the Muslim Judicial Council. He is a sought-after speaker at Islamic symposia and conferences but attends them sparingly, preferring to spend most of his time at the Islamic seminary, Dar al Uloom al Arabiyyah al Islamiyyah, that he founded in 1996. The educational thrust of the seminary reflects Mufti Taha’s own pioneering vision and commitment to squarely interface with the challenges of the modern age through the twin objectives of preservation and progress.

In his teaching, writing and legal verdicts (fatawa), Mufti Taha regularly addresses contemporary issues such as the challenges of post-modernity, feminism, Islamic economics and finance, the old and new Orientalisms, and fiqh issues affecting Diaspora Muslim communities.

His students describe him as divinely-gifted with encyclopedic knowledge; possessed of a near photographic memory; an insatiable bibliophile within the Islamic sciences and without; a teacher that never ceases to inspire; endowed with an elegant calligraphic hand and a penchant for poetry; thoroughly unassuming, pleasant, brilliant and tender-hearted.


 

7 Student Testimonials to Inspire You

Last year alone SeekersHub Global Islamic Seminary served more than 80,000 students from over 140 countries.

Here is what some of them had to say.

Traditional Knowledge from Traditional Scholars

I wanted to get traditional knowledge from traditional scholars, but I just couldn’t find that kind of knowledge in my local community. When I looked online, SeekersHub was my obvious first choice.

At first, I wasn’t sure that I would have the discipline to complete my courses. But I managed stick to the course schedule and I am really grateful that I did.

The courses were really in depth. I was able to ask questions and get a full response. That was really important to me.

There are lots of Islamic institutes online, but SeekersHub does a really good job of providing knowledge at such an intimate level.

Zakaria Syed, USA

Seeking Knowledge from the Right Sources

I started taking SeekersHub courses because I wanted to gain knowledge from the right sources, namely righteous scholars.

In addition to providing me with beneficial knowledge for my Aakhirah, I can take the courses at my convenience and they are free.

I try to convince all my family and friends to give it a try. I am thankful and grateful to all the Shuyukh and every single brother and sister who is working behind this program.

Saila Ahmed, USA

Sound Knowledge and Spiritual Growth

At first I just wanted to learn more theology and Hanafi law, then I realized my ignorance and started to take courses on spirituality for self-refinement.

These courses have given me tremendous spiritual growth and sound knowledge of the inner and outer dimensions of Islam. They have allowed me to become more balanced when dealing with myself and others.

What SeekersHub provides is perfectly sound mainstream knowledge, the same kind that flipped Imam Ghazali’s perspective on knowledge when he said: “We used to seek knowledge for other than the sake of Allah, but knowledge refused to be sought for other than the sake of Allah.”

Gadeen Desouky, USA

Light of Knowledge and Guidance

Many times, when going through the toughest times of my life, completely broken and confused, and seeking help from Allah, I would stumble upon something from SeekersHub pointing me to the exact solution to what I was struggling with.

It was like a shining Noor from Allah in the form of knowledge and guidance. The benefit I gained is beyond measure, beyond any value, it is nothing but priceless.

It is through SeekersHub that I learnt the purpose of my life and was assisted in connecting my soul back to my Lord.

Studying with SeekersHub also made me realize that even ordinary people like me can access the most extraordinary wealth of knowledge which I initially used to think belonged only the Muftis and Qazis.

Plan your time well, prioritize, and take SeekersHub courses, because the returns and knowledge gained is way beyond the time invested.

Mehnaz – India

Realizing the Spiritual

I wanted to increase my knowledge of my Deen to bring myself closer to my Lord. I looked at my options, and chose SeekersHub because I knew that it is a well researched institution. Also the fact Shaykh Faraz Rabbani is connected with it makes it worthwhile and credible.

I made my Niyya (intention) and signed up for a few courses. The biggest benefit I got was in realizing the immense spiritual aspect of this knowledge.

I ask Allah, the All-Knowing to, grant SeekersHub the reach to benefit each and every Muslim who desires to pursue the path of ‘Ilm. May Allah, the All-Knowing, grant all at SeekersHub the best in their Dunya, Deen and Akhirah.

Nazier Rumaney – Cape Town, South Africa

Understanding and Clarity

I wanted to sign up with a course from SeekersHub as I wanted to gain more knowledge on the deen, but I never knew where to start. People from various social media platforms encouraged people to be engaged with this organization as it was one of the more authentic means to gain knowledge.

When I started taking online courses, I had to organize my time in my daily life to prioritize the gaining of knowledge. This has helped me remove the unnecessary time-wasting things that I used to do on a daily basis.

SeekersHub’s courses have also helped me gain a wider understanding of things I was not clear on in the beginning. They also challenged many incorrect preconceived notions I had in my mind about this deen.

I always tell people: You have nothing to lose by signing up to a course, and the worst that could possibly happen is that you remain where you started on your path, not behind it.

Joshna Yasmin Ali – London, UK

A Shining Light

SeekersHub is a reliable and convenient way to access and learn the necessary knowledge of Islam. I really love the access it gives me to scholars, teachers, and to a community of fellow seekers.

It is truly a shining light in a darkening world. I am surprised that it doesn’t get more credit for the benefit it spreads, but I am sure the reward of those involved is awaiting them in the Hereafter.

May Allah Reward Shaykh Faraz and the entire team.

Hassan Qureshi – Sydney, Australia


Support SeekersHub Global as it reaches over 10,000 students each term through its completely free online courses. Make a donation, today. Every contribution counts, even if small: https://seekersguidance.org/donate/


 

The Internet, Learning Arabic and Islam – Interview with Ustadh Abdullah Misra

Saad Razi Shaikh interviews Ustadh Abdullah Misra on the internet’s effect on the Umma today, being a student of knowledge, the problems facing reverts, and much more.

Ustadh Abdullah Anik Misra was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, into a Hindu family of North Indian heritage. He became Muslim at the age of 18, graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in Business Administration, worked briefly in marketing, and then went abroad with his wife to seek religious knowledge full-time, first in Tarim, then in the West Indies, and finally in Amman, Jordan, where he has focussed his traditional studies on the sciences of Sacred Law (fiqh), hadith, Islamic belief, tajwid, and sira. In this interview, he speaks about the challenges reverts face today, the experience of teaching the Islamic sciences online, the traits a student should look for in a teacher, and the checklist a student needs to run through before setting out to seek knowledge. Excerpts from the interview:

What is the effect of the internet on the Umma today?

The effect of the Internet on the Umma today can only be seen in the context of the effect of the Internet on humanity in general. The Internet has brought many benefits and good things to human civilization. But there have been many great harms as well to society. So obviously the benefits are the greater and faster communication, it’s easier now to convey ideas from one part of the world to the other. Finding solutions to problems, finding answers to questions, and finding advice is possible through it. Knowledge has become democratized in a sense. Now everyone has a lot more access to knowledge. Certain points of discussions can be had, dialogues are possible now in a way that never existed before. All of these things are general benefits to mankind that the Internet has bought.

But there have been downsides too, for example, the addictions that the Internet has brought, the convenience of horrible ideas like pornography and violence. The spreading of wrong ideas become easier now. Misleading people has become easier now with stuff like fake news. There is also the dumbing down of people, that has become easier on the internet. The level of social interaction has dropped.

In the greater context, we can say that all the benefits and the harms that have happened to society at large have also occurred to the Muslim Umma. There are things that have specifically affected the Umma because there are certain things that Muslims are not supposed to be doing, on or off the Internet. Certain things like pornography are now easier for Muslims to access and fall into, for example. That’s one thing. The Umma specifically has now become more exposed to disobedience than it was before. The other thing that has happened is that corrupt ideas pop up, non-experts speaking to people, you know, everybody kind of saying what they think about an issue. This has also caused a little bit of confusion in many people.

Also, just from a spiritual perspective, the amount of ghiba that a person reads and engages in, for example, backbiting people on the Internet, has actually increased exponentially. So whereas before backbiting used to be something you tell one person, now you put it on a blog and a person’s sins multiply exponentially by everyone who reads it.

Are there good effects of the internet as well? Of course there are, without a doubt, SeekersHub itself. Then the Dawa a potential that the Internet has. How many people became Muslim through reading something on the internet or discovered or came back to a worshiping Allah Most High, came back to religiosity, came back to a sense of faith? People who were confused and had questions have found answers to their questions. Learning has become possible. Now there are people, for example, I know one girl, in a remote village somewhere in South America, who through the internet came to learn about Islam, embraced Islam and then began learning about Islam. She doesn’t have much of a support system around her. So now she finds support online. So there have been a lot of opportunities of good as well on the Internet, but its harms need to be pointed out so that we as an Umma can intelligently navigate the ocean of the Internet and take what is good and avoid what is bad.

You have worked for a long time for the SeekersHub Answers service in the past. What are some themes, some constant issues you see being asked?

Of the constant themes, number one is OCD; people having waswasa or obsessive compulsive disorder. The teaching of religion online, especially fiqh and aqida tends to be a kind of a honeypot to attract people who are susceptible to obsessive compulsive disorder. The issue is, they are seeing their religion as a source of worry and problems rather than using their religion as a source of solace and guidance to help them in their lives.

And so this is a problem of self study sometimes, having misplaced priorities and inordinate fear over hope when it comes to religion. So part of the thing SeekersHub answer service, and SeekersHub in general tries to do is help with this. If you notice, all the scholars that are related to it are trying to bring people out from looking at religion as something that is primarily based on fear, threat, haram and halal, and does and don’ts; and bringing them into a more enlightened, more fulfilling and more spiritual way of looking at their religion. This is in terms of bringing them closer to their Maker and using that relationship of love and mercy to walk in the rest of their religious journey, carrying that knowledge of Allah’s mercy with them.

So that’s one of the themes that comes up, that people have been viewing their religion in a negative light all too often. They are actually trapped and burdened by these issues. Our job would then be to encourage people to see their religion in the balanced way that it’s supposed to be. And help them use the religion to come out of their problems in their lives and find greater meaning for themselves.

Other constant issues are, I would say, family issues. These are things that are very common. Intricacies and disputes within the family, questions about adjusting to societal norms, the demands of society when it seems to clash with a one’s religious principles, and so on.

You’ve traveled to Yemen, the Caribbean and finally to Jordan for the study of sacred knowledge. Before setting out to seek knowledge, is there a checklist (of goals and needs) that a student must run through?

This is a very good question and it’s much easier to answer this question in retrospect than when you’re in the situation. Part of what helps a student go abroad is that when they’re young, they’re idealistic and they have fewer responsibilities. I was in my early mid-twenties when I left Canada. I think a part of not having the complete picture of responsibilities and being a bit more adventurous actually helps. It’s a wisdom of Allah to get young people out without considering too many things.

But there is a checklist that one needs to know. First of all, what’s my goal? At the end of the day, what do I want to do? This can actually develop and change as a student matures and grows older, and they begin to realize that their intention itself develops and grows deeper and deeper. So this is something that they should know, that they will change on their journey. In the beginning it’s good to ask yourself, why are you going abroad? What do you want to achieve from this? What do you want to do for yourself in the future? And then there are practical questions: where am I going? Am I likely to achieve my goals? How long do I plan to go for? How do I plan to support myself? Is it safe to be there?

Is it a place where I can adjust? What type of ideas will I come across? Is the environment that I’m going to study in conducive to a balanced learning of mainstream traditional Islam? So these are different questions that one has to ask oneself. They should also ask, have they consulted with the scholars and other students of knowledge who have gone to the same places and come back or still there regarding their advice? And then also, why am I going abroad and what am I leaving behind? Am I leaving things behind in a responsible way, or am I running away? Am I undertaking this to seek Allah’s pleasure or for religious tourism?

So there are different things that people should ask themselves before they go abroad. But sometimes, and most of the time, many people who enter abroad, they didn’t ask themselves these questions, but through the journey Allah taught them what they should be doing and how they should be looking at their purpose in life. So many people would come back from the journey without having achieved their goals, but having matured in different ways and finding their place back in society again. And some would go for a long time and achieve their goals. I think part of that has to do with continuously running through their purposes and their intentions, and developing the idea of what they want to do with the knowledge they gain.

What are some challenges that reverts face today?

Some of the challenges that reverts face today, I think are the fact that there are a lot of voices claiming to represent Islam. It’s not as simple as reading an introductory book on Islam and then start practicing basic religion anymore. Before, you might have found at most two or three groups in the masjid that calling you towards different things. No matter which one you join, you will become religious anyway. That’s how it was in the past, when I became Muslim. Now, I think there is a lot more confusion because certain basic principles on the Internet are challenged and questioned by those who do not have sufficient qualification or understanding and training in religion.

So this becomes very confusing for the reverts. The other thing is that because the Internet is the primary way of interacting with one’s religious search, they come across many things that dissuade them, and untruth as well. So they have to navigate through a lot more false hope to get to the truth. Another challenge that reverts face today is the level of indoctrination that they are coming from, from their own societies, and the paradigms that have to sometimes be shifted in order to settle into their new religious outlook and way of life. That is more challenging today because the world has gotten further and further away from a natural, wholesome, holistic lifestyle that is good for mankind in general from the fitra.

For example, family life is breaking down in many places. Consumerism, materialism is increasing. It’s the age of anger where shouting and insulting becomes a norm over a rational dialogue, discussion, and mutual respect. A lot of people are coming with that baggage into the truth. It takes some time to basically cleanse that out of one’s system, and become wholesome and natural in the way of living life again.

Today via the internet, learning Arabic has become much easier. Is it recommended to study Arabic online, for the purpose of understanding the Qur’an better, or is it necessary that one studies Qur’anic Arabic only in the company of a scholar?

First of all, I think one should study Arabic as a tool and then apply it to one’s understanding of Qur’an, Hadith and whatever else one wants to do with Arabic. You can study Arabic only to understand the Qur’an, but what happens is that the person’s understanding of Arabic becomes shallower than if they understand Arabic as a full-fledged, a beautiful language that it is, and then approach the Qur’an and understand what it’s saying. In our time, I don’t think there’s any one way that a person has to learn Arabic. I think the main thing is that one should take any means possible at all times and continuously apply oneself to try different means.

People often take intensive crash courses. That’s good. But the way to retain that or the way to grow is to gradually a study it over a longer period of time, right? To consolidate. Even if you do something intensive, you have to give some time every week to keep up with it. That’s one thing. The second thing is to be persistent. If one avenue doesn’t work, try another. I found that the biggest obstacle is that people usually try to study Arabic in two or three or more ways before they actually succeed in getting a modicum of Arabic language down just to understand the classical texts. The problem is every time a person tries one way and fails, they usually stop studying Arabic for a while. It could be months or even years. And then go back to it again and revisit it later on.

So many people who I see who are studying Arabic will tell me they tried this and they tried that over the years. The thing to be aware of is that if one thing doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean that you’re bad. It just means that this is not the way that you need to learn it. Just because one way of learning didn’t work for you, you shouldn’t be dissuaded from learning altogether, whether it’s online, or in the company of a scholar.

Arabic is a tool science. It need not be studied in a religious setting necessarily or under an Islamic scholar. Arabic is a tool science, meaning it’s something you need to understand the texts. Some people try to seek their spiritual and religious experience and knowledge experience through the study of language itself. And unless you’re planning to enroll in a madrasah for a number of years, I find that it’s much more effective to just look at which program is most effectively going to teach you the Arabic. Once you have the Arabic, you can then go to get your religious experience after that, once you have the tools to understand classical texts and sit in the company of scholars.

Teaching the Islamic sciences via the internet has seen a rise in the past couple of years. As a teacher at SeekersHub Global, what have been some key takeaways from your experiences?

The key takeaway is that teaching via the Internet has made it possible for us to connect with people that we never would’ve been able to connect with or know because they’re just too far apart, and too scattered, too disconnected. Allah has made a way of connecting believers to each other and to Him in a time of disconnectedness. That’s one thing. Number two, because communities have actually broken down, Allah made another way for Muslims to hang on to their tradition and their religion. So it’s a great mercy. The takeaway though is that this should transition at some point into personal, actual, on the ground interactions with teachers and scholars in order to create a healthy exchange from heart to heart.

So I think the introductory phases are okay online. But at some point in time, travelling or finding local scholars must be done. The traditional way is the best way to observe what Islam looks like when it’s actually practiced in a balanced and beautiful way. Otherwise the person runs the risk of not knowing how to balance the theory of what they learned with an actual lived example. To express things like good character, mercy, consideration for others, which are not necessarily always encoded, but that require a spiritual state and a broader understanding in order to display and demonstrate. That aspect should come into play. It shouldn’t remain on the Internet. The Internet should be a tool to connect people to each other and to use to the extent that is necessary.

This becomes possible by the Internet because now scholars can get in touch with different communities and travel to those communities or advertise, for example, when they have retreats. People can travel to that. That’s a way of connecting. Then go back to where you live and continue through the Internet. So it’s a blend. You also learn, you also meet other seekers, fellow seekers whom you can form friendships with, where people can rely on each other for spiritual support.

In seeking guidance, both online and offline, what are some traits a student should look for in a teacher?

This is a very good question. I think the number one thing is that the teacher should have a pedigree to qualified traditional scholars who themselves are a representative of the tradition, in its most balanced and beautiful way.

What does the teacher believe? Where are they coming from? The other thing the student should look for is, do the teacher’s mannerisms and inner state correspond with what they’re saying and what they’re teaching on the outward? A teacher should not just be one who knows a lot of facts or is able to memorize the most. Now that does sometimes impress people. But even if they have a lesser amount of knowledge that they reliably know but carry that with a higher level of character and a deeper spiritual understanding of the beauty of Islam, that’s better for a student in the beginning. And even later on. Someone who has a lot of knowledge, but is devoid of the prophetic example, that’s something that a student should look out for. The other thing is that there should be an understanding of the realities of what the student goes through, the modern world, the society where the student comes from. This is important as well for the student to get answers and guidance relevant to the way that they see things.

Another thing is that the teacher should not be overly polemical or partisan to the extent that their teaching becomes more about debating. Debating people and argumentation takes away the baraka from studying the religion, unless people are at a specialized level. That’s different. But for a beginning student, they should avoid a teachers that try to impose a polemical identity on them, rather than to teach them the basics of how to know, worship, and come closer to their Lord.

In the modern age, many “reformers” insisted on returning to a “pure” form of Islam, by purging it of what they saw as theological, spiritual excesses. Adherents of such an outlook continue today, rallying for it on the internet and other forums. How does such a thinking sit with the centuries-old mainstream consensus?

We have to consider the trauma the Umma went through in the last few centuries, especially in the colonial and postcolonial period. There are reforms from all different types of groups, not just for example, those who are literalist, but also those coming from what you might call the spiritual camps as well. Many different groups that insisted they’re trying to solve the question of how did we get into this situation, and many of them are speculating on the reasons as to why, what deficiency was it, what should we have been focused on and what was everyone doing wrong that got us into this position in the first place? To answer this question, they seem to focus on certain things that they believe are priorities in the religion and picked on things, or highlighted things that they felt were the causes of the problems that the Muslim world is in today.

The centuries old mainstream consensus that you’re asking about was much more balanced. It balanced fiqh, it balanced hadith, it balanced logic, it balanced aqida, it balanced politics and ethics. It balanced a spirituality, a mysticism, teaching, and philosophy.

So the previous age was an age of balance in which the Muslim Umma would balance itself out because it was at the liberty to pursue this knowledge in a safe space, and allow the free flow of knowledge between scholars in the Umma. Now because of the breakdown in the authority structures in the circles of knowledge, the institutions of knowledge, what’s happened is that different people (not just reformers, there are many groups; I don’t think we should pick on any one group necessarily) are trying to figure out what happened. What needs to be done, I believe, is that we need to go back to looking at how the Umma had its balance and how it viewed different forms of worship within Islam, within different subjects, different knowledges and sciences, the different responsibilities and prerogatives of the Umma.

We have to go back to viewing these things in a balance, rather than-a-one-size-fits-all-solution. We need to go back and invest in the things that will stabilize our communities, first at the individual, then the family, then the community level. We have to pay attention to the inward and the outward of religion, to the physical, the mental and the spiritual. We need to try to regain that sense of balance and get on an even keel before we start. What this will help us do is to express things in a balanced way, right? So then when we study, when we teach, when we call people to the religion, and we live life, we will be without theological and spiritual excesses, and deficiencies as well.


Saad Razi Shaikh is a journalist based in Mumbai. He writes on popular culture and community initiatives. He can be reached on Twitter @writweeter


The SeekersGuidance Steps Curriculum Explained

The SeekersGuidance Steps Curriculum allows you to navigate your journey from an absolute beginner in the Islamic sciences to scholarship and mastery.

The curriculum is modelled on the traditional method of teaching the Islamic sciences in large mosques, as Imam As-Shafi did in Cairo, Imam Abu Hanifa in Kufa, and other great scholars all over the Muslim world.
Students who attended these classes were arranged into a small inner circle of close and serious students,and much larger outer circles of less serious students, who flocked from all over the city, often even from all of the world, to listen to the great scholars.

The teacher interacted with the two circles in different ways. The inner circle was allowed to ask questions. The outer circles were only sometimes allowed to ask questions during class, and sometimes not allowed to ask any questions at all, but would be reminded of Allah by listening to a great teacher. Everyone had the opportunity to benefit from great scholars like Imam al-Shafi’i or Imam Abu Hanifa. The inner circle were nurtured and mentored towards scholarship; the outer circles were guided towards veneration of the divine command.

At the SeekersHub Islamic Seminary, our students are divided into three circles.

The first, outermost circle, are the beginner students, who listen to our teachers’ lessons for religious benefit and for the spiritual blessing (barakah) of being connected to gatherings of sacred knowledge.
The second, middle circle, are the intermediate students. Intermediate students are fewer in number than the beginner students. They have demonstrated a commitment to studying sacred knowledge, memorising, reviewing, and sitting exams. They can thus benefit from our teachers in a way that beginner students cannot, and interact with them at a closer level than the beginner students.
Finally, there is the third, inner circle of advanced students who have demonstrated an even higher level of commitment to studying sacred knowledge, and are on their way to scholarship and mastery of the Islamic sciences.  
These three kinds of students work their way through our five-step curriculum of Islamic sciences and our Arabic curriculum.
All students begin with Step One, as well as some basic Arabic courses, as beginner students.
Step 1 consists of eight courses that comprise of the personally essential knowledge that every Muslim must know. The basic Arabic courses teach basic Arabic reading proficiency, how to make a simple sentence, and some simple Arabic vocabulary. 
When they successfully complete all of these courses, they commit themselves to praying all five of their daily prayers on time, and earn the Essentials certificate.
Once they earn this certificate, students can choose to become intermediate students by completing a comprehensive exam that tests them on their Step One courses, as well as their knowledge of the life of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), of the proper recitation of the Qur’an, and of the memorisation of some short Qur’anic suras.
Going into Step Two, we now have two circles of students: beginner students and intermediate students. There are no advanced students yet.
These two circles of students move forward by completing Step Two along with the SeekersHub Arabic program. (Arabic is not a prerequisite for Step One or Step Two, but it is for Step Three and Step Four).
Beginner students compose the outer circles of learning; intermediate students compose the inner circle. Both complete the 15 courses in Step Two, one in each of the Islamic sciences. The goal of Step Two is to introduce students to each of the Islamic sciences using translations of traditional mutun–concise teaching texts that have been used for centuries to take students of sacred knowledge step-by-step through their study of the Islamic sciences. As they complete these courses,
  • They learn the technical terms of each Islamic science.
  • They learn the key questions of each Islamic science.
  • They learn about the historical development of each Islamic science.
  • They learn about important contemporary issues tackled by that science today
The outer circle of beginner students listen to the lessons, complete carefully designed automated assessments, and ask questions.
The inner circle of intermediate students receive closer personal attention, collaborating with their teachers as they complete case-studies in order to understand the course material at a higher level. If these intermediate students successfully complete Step Two and the SeekersGuidance Arabic program and make a commitment to a higher level of religious practice, they receive the Foundations diploma.
They now have the choice of rising to become advanced students by completing a comprehensive exam that tests them on Step Two, as well as several courses of independent study.
There are now three circles of students: an outer circle of beginner students, a middle circle of intermediate students, and an inner circle of advanced students.
Steps Three and Four are geared towards this inner circle of advanced students—Step Three initiates them into the books of the Muslim scholarly tradition, and Step Four takes them to a level of general scholarship in the Islamic sciences. In Steps Three and Four, the beginner and intermediate students are grouped together into an outer circle–these students can join any course but their interaction with teachers is limited. The teachers focus their attention on closely mentoring the advanced students as they progress towards scholarship.seekershub steps curriculum
It appears at this point that Steps Three and Four will comprise of over 50 online courses. But advanced students will complement their online learning with in-person studies with teachers in their local area, or with in-person studies by travelling to learn with teachers at the SeekersGuidance Toronto Islamic seminary, or elsewhere in the world. Teachers, institutions of learning, and time for study are now scarce everywhere, and most full-time students of sacred knowledge are unable to complete a full curriculum in the Islamic sciences anywhere in the world. Through Steps Three and Four, students all over the world can fill the gaps in their learning by studying online whatever they are unable to do in-person.
Students in Steps Three and Four study traditional commentaries on the mutun that they studied in Step Two. They now study all texts in their original Arabic. They learn how to understand the commentaries, use them as references, and apply what they reference to contemporary issues in a way that is consistent with the method and spirit of traditional Islamic scholarship.  

Advanced students who successfully complete Steps Three and Four will receive a degree of scholarship in the Islamic sciences. Full-time students who are on the SeekersGuidance learning scholarships are required to earn this degree in order to complete their studies.

The learning of sacred knowledge never stops, and students can continue to acquire mastery and specialisation in particular sciences through Step Five of the SeekersGuidance curriculum.

We pray that you are able to be a part of the SeekersGuidance Steps curriculum, and take a portion of the Islamic sciences and benefit at whatever level you are in.
Registration is completely free. Click here to register. 

 

Drawing Closer to Allah – Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad

Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad expounds on the hadith of the supererogatory acts, and makes clear the criteria for determining if someone is a wali of Allah.

In the famous Bukhari hadith narrated by Abu Hurayra, Allah be pleased with him, the holy Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, says – with the words of his Lord, so this is a hadith Qudsi where Allah Himself is speaking: “Whoever harms a wali of Mine, I declare war upon him. My slave draws nearer to Me with nothing more beloved to Me than that which I have made obligatory upon him. And then My slave continues to draw near to Me with optional acts (nawafil) until I love him. And when I love him I become the ear with which he hears, and the eye with which he sees, and the hand with which he smites, and the foot with which he walks. And if he seeks My protection I will surely grant him My protection. And if he seeks My victory I will surely grant him the victory.”

As you know this is one of the great hadiths of Islam. It has a name. It is the hadith al-nawafil. The hadith of the nawafil or the optional, supererogatory acts of religion. And it’s telling us something fundamental. The ulama gives these names to a small number of hadiths, because they have something in them that is essential to the din – of the usul, the roots, not of the furu‘, the branches.

So what is the root of our religion that is being expounded, that is being taught to us by Allah Himself in this beautiful hadith? See how He begins it. He begins it by grabbing our attention – by talking about enmity and war. That’s the thing that we most fear. And what we fear more than human war, is fear of war from Allah Most High. Who could stand against that?

The Principle of Wilaya

He says, Exalted and Most High, “Whoever harms a wali of Mine, I declare war upon him.” This is announcing that this hadith is going to be about a particular principle: the principle of wilaya. The principle of being a wali. Do we next get a technical definition of what exactly that means? We don’t. Because the Qur’an and the Hadith, and these hadith qudsiyya particularly, speak to the heart. Speak to the deeper aspect of human intuition. Speak to the core of us, the qalb (heart) and the sirr (secret). The sirr which is the center of our religious life.

We’re not going to get some technical, theological definition here. Instead we’re told how to get there and what it might be like and what are the consequences in practice. See how the hadith goes on. It seems to change direction in a surprising way. It says, “My slave draws nearer to Me with nothing more beloved to Me than that which I have made obligatory upon him.”

It begins again with an attractive principle. It started with fear. Who wants Allah’s war? Then it talks about love. Another thing all human beings are going to be magnetized by. But it’s not love for ourselves. In this hadith, Allah is saying that His love is for those things which He has made obligatory upon us.

The Path of Religion

When we begin in the path of religion we ourselves may be very far from being lovable. That’s why we don’t say, in our religion, “Allah loves everybody.” Allah loves that which is true and good and beautiful. He loves that which we are called to become. And He loves our origin in the nature of Adam, peace be upon him, which is “ahsan taqwim” (Sura al-Tin 95:4). But He doesn’t love us in all our forgetfulness, in our sinfulness, in our envy, and all of the stuff that we do. It is not possible for the Supreme Being to love imperfection. He loves what we are called to be.

In this beginning of our path, and this is a journey that the hadith is telling us about, He has said that He loves the obligations. What is it about us in our religious life that is really most beautiful? When are we in the state, truly, of khilafa and Adamiyya? It is when we are following these obligations. It is when we are sajid (in prostration). It is when we’re following the Sunna and particularly the obligatory things. The five pillars and the other obligations. Those are the aspects of our life that Allah loves. And the other stuff, not so much or not at all.

This language that the hadith uses, which is of “drawing near.” It specifically says this. This is about the journey, not about the state. The journey of religion is a journey. It is suluk, wayfaring, spiritual traveling. Nobody ever stands still. In religion, if you don’t constantly make an effort, that will be like trying to ride a bicycle on the streets of Cambridge. If you’re not pushing the bicycle will fall over. Constantly, we are required, in order to persevere with this journey, to make an effort. And the first effort is to make sure we get these obligations right.

No Heights without Foundations

Do we really know the obligatory beliefs? Do we really know how to do the obligations of prayer and fasting? Before we go on to think about more fancy stuff, have we got the foundations correct? As the ulama say, “They never reach the heights because they neglected the foundations.” We should always think carefully and constantly about, for instance, all of these thousands of prayers that, insha Allah, it will be our nasib to say in our lives – are we sure that we’ve got them right? Are we sure that we’ve got the basic rules of wudu right?

What is more ridiculous than somebody leaving out one of the arkan, basic obligations, when it might take him only a couple of seconds. And he repeats that defective ‘ibada the rest of his days. Let’s make sure that we get these usul right, because it is those things, the aspects of our life as lowly beginners beginners, that Allah, Exalted and Most High, loves. At least in those situations where we are, outwardly at least, in the state of obedience, Allah Most High loves that aspect of us.

The hadith is linking this journey – this suluk, this taqarrub, this literally drawing near to the Creator – to the principle of the Divine Love. In our theology this is always very important. How can we fly our finite selves to the pleasure of the Infinite Being? What can we do that can satisfy the perfection of an Infinite Being? Well, not very much.

Even the obligations that we do are probably done inadequately. We may be outwardly compliant. Who knows where we are inwardly? Who knows what my niyya or intention is? Who knows what we’re really thinking about during these outward forms? But out of His love, because at least we have the outward manifestation of this, that is an aspect of us that He truly loves. And in that state we should be able to begin to find our peace, which is what we all crave.

The Principle of Love

So there is this principle of love in this hadith. And there is this principal of taqarrub: drawing near to Allah, Exalted and Most High. Then the hadith goes on. It’s not just about stopping with the obligations and Allah loves that part of us. No, it’s about progressing. “Thumma!” the Arabic then says. “Then, My slave continues to draw near to Me with optional acts until I love him.”

Now it becomes serious, more serious. It’s not those outward acts that He loves, of the various things that are existent in our lives. It’s our selves. We can be loved by the Creator, Exalted and Most High, despite our maggot-like mortality. Despite the eminent weakness of who we are, and how we think, and everything that we do, He can actually love us. And that is from His generosity, His magnificent mercy that He loves us. But that doesn’t just come without an effort. What is required is these optional acts.

Beyond the obligations there must be something more. Somebody who does the outward fundamentals with ikhlas or sincerity, insha Allah, has the key to Paradise. But there’s more to it than that. There are so many additional things, and the additional things include deepening and perfecting the outward acts, as well as learning about additional acts. As well as learning about fasting on Ashura, you can think about fasting in Ramadan, but better. I could really stop lying. I could really stop being distracted. I could really stop all of the stuff that we do that makes the fast a kind of outward thing but not always an inward flowing reality.

So the nawafil don’t just mean the extra prayers, the extra fast, and the Umra, and those other things. It means deepening what we already have. And if we do that that Allah, Exalted and Most High, is making us this extraordinary promise. Whatever the world might think of us, Allah will love us if we are in that situation. That’s an extraordinary thing. Out of all the orders of creation, Adam, peace be upon him, is singled out for this unique, divine love.

Chosen above All Creation

At the beginning of the human story, the Angels, even, were commanded to bow down to him. Not to Mount Everest. Not to the Andromeda galaxy. Not to space and time itself. But to Adam, peace be upon him, because of the greatness of the divine love for His creature (safiy). This specific title says that Adam, peace be upon him, is the chosen. People say, “I can understand Ibrahim, peace be upon him, is the khalil (friend) of Allah, and Musa, peace be upon him, being kalim Allah (the one who spoke to Allah), and our master Muhammad, blessings and peace be upon him, being habib (beloved of) Allah. Yes, but safiy Allah? Chosen? When he was the only one? Not much of a choice.”

Chosen indeed! Over all the other elements of creation. Over the angelic realms. Over the rocks. Over the Great Rivers. Over the mighty seas. Adam, peace be upon him, is the one to whom even the angels in their perception, in their infallibility, are commanded to bow down. That is the extent of Allah’s love for His greatest summit of creation.

Not just this dust that Iblis, Allah curse him, saw, but the luminosity of the ruh (spirit) which has been breathed into Bani Adam, which make us something unusual and unique in creation. And of all of those countless tens of millions of species, and of all of those other planets that they can just dimly glimpse through telescopes, the only entity that we really know in the whole wide cosmos that can actually think, that can be ethical, that can make meaningful choices is our weak selves – Bani Adam.

This is the meaning of the hamla al-amana (carry this trust). Allah Exalted and Most High offered this Amana to the heavens and the earth and the mountains but they refused to carry it. And they were afraid of it. And He caused man to carry this Amana. This knowledge, this capacity to choose, this capacity to say, “la ilaha illa Allah,” volitionally, rather than compelled. And then what do we do? “He who has proved a tyrant and a fool.” (Sura al-Ahzab 33:72)

We carry this Amana. We have the capacity to be these luminous beings, with this miraculous capacity to see, to understand, to name, to choose, to be ethical, to be better than anything else. But we choose the other stuff. This is “asfala al-safilin.” (Sura al-Tin 95:5) They’re supposed to be in the best of forms, but human beings, when they’re not the best of forms, can be the worst of the worst.

The Two Paths before Us

What is more impressive in the world than the real wali who is in complete outward and inward conformity and obedience and love with his Creator, Exalted and Most High? Nothing finer. What is lower in the world than the one who’s cheating and lying and defrauding people and being brutal? What it worse? [Is there] anything in the animal kingdom worse than that tyrant? No. [Is there] anything in the natural world lower than that tyrant? [Is there] anything in the wide universe that we know of that’s more disgusting than Firaun and Haman? No. Human beings will say, No.

So we can follow Musa, peace be upon him, or we can follow Firaun. There is the possibility of this najdayn. “We have guided him to the two paths.” (Sura al-Balad 90:10) And everybody has that choice. Those two paths are in front of us not once or twice in a lifetime, but at every moment. There is no conscious waking moment in our lives when there isn’t the right thing to do, which is there, and a lot of wrong things which we could also do in that situation.

This is what is meant by constancy. This suluk is constant. This iqtirab, this becoming closer to our Lord and His favor is a constant effort. It’s like riding your bike down King’s Parade. You have to keep going or you’ll fall off. Similarly, the constant effort in order to avoid the lower possibilities, the gravitational force that pulls us down to egotism, to vice, to stupidity, to self-pity, to the ugly things that human beings are good at. Then Allah in His grace can raise us up. Until we get this amazing outcome: “Until I love him.”

If you have that – even though in the madhhab of Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama‘ – we generally say wali doesn’t know that he is a wali. If he sees amazing things happening to him and Allah’s favor, he says: “I’m afraid this is some divine ruse.” This is Ibrahim ibn Adham, concerning whom the most amazing things happened, and people came to him from East and West for his prayers. A luminous individual who’d given up his kingdom just for the sake of Allah, Exalted and Most High. Whenever something amazing happened to him in a sign of the divine favor he would look frightened and say, “I’m afraid this is some divine ruse.”

That’s the brokenness and the beauty of the one who is truly close to Allah. He is the humblest of people. Even though Allah and his angels know that he is the best of people. This is one of the secrets of religion and one of the reasons for the beauty of those people.

This Divine Love

This divine love, we may not know it. We may possibly see signs and say, “AlhamduliLlah, Allah has been generous to us.” But generally as we move on this path of iqtirab and suluk, drawing closer to our Lord, we kind of shrink in our awareness of ourselves. Firaun is convinced that he is “your greatest Lord.” Our master Musa, peace be upon him, is the humble refugee and outcast. That’s the difference.

The tyrant soul is the inflated soul of the high net-worth individual, a billionaire, the one with the executive yacht who really thinks that the world is there to serve him. But Allah, Exalted and Most High, in His grace and His love is more likely to be with the weak and the poor and the despised and refugees and the poor taxi drivers, whoever they are. Those are the people who truly are in this state of mahabba, and whom Allah loves, which is why the holy Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, prays to his Lord to be resurrected among the poor. Not among even grandiose, pious, Islamic bankers, no, among the poor. “O, Allah, resurrect me in the company of the destitute.” Their egos are humbled but their hearts can be luminous.

The hadith doesn’t stop here. It goes on and then tells us something even more shattering and something that we need to think about carefully lest we misunderstand. It’s a sound hadith. It’s from Bukhari. There’s no problem about whether this is right. But how is it right? “When I love him,” Allah says, “I become the ear with which he hears, and the eye with which he sees, and the hand with which he smites, and the foot with which he walks.”

Obviously, every scholar of Islam has always said, “Don’t take that literally. Don’t think that your hand is God’s hand in any literal sense.” No, that’s the way of people we call the hashwiyya. In Medieval Islam there was a sect of people who said, “The faithful way of reading the Qur’an and Sunna is to interpret everything in the most literal possible way. So, Allah actually has some kind of physical form and He sits on something.”

This is not the way of the of Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama‘. Obviously, if you use the hashwiyya method for a hadith like this, then you’re going to get all kinds of strange difficulties, and it won’t be tawhid. Allah, exalted and Most High, cannot inhere in anything physical because He is infinite. He cannot have finite extension. You cannot have a body. This is the error of the Christians. With the incarnation they thought the infinity of Allah, Exalted and Most High, can somehow be squeezed and crunched into the confines of the physical body of the first century Palestinian Jew and that is muhal (impossible). It doesn’t work.

The Principle of Tawhid

We have to interpret this according to a criterion that saves the principle of tawhid. Some people can go astray in this, but it’s important. So what does it mean? Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani in his great commentary, the greatest commentary of commentaries of Bukhari, Fath al-Bari, has a long discussion on this. He says, “Some of the ulama say, that when Allah says he becomes the eye with which you see, He means you only see the things that He has commanded you to see. And when he becomes the foot with which you walk that means you only go to the things that He has commanded you to go to.” That’s one interpretation. It is a perfectly valid one.

There are others which are about obedience. That is to say, you only use these outward faculties that you have in obedience to Him, Exalted and Most High. So you’re conforming to the divine command. Others will say, Allah, Exalted and Most High, is the One who is, in His qualities of course, the ground of all being in creation. Why are the Angels bowing down to Adam, peace be upon him? Not because of his Adamiyya, his humanity as such, but because of the sirr that is there. There is something noble about the perfected human being. There is something noble about the one who Allah truly loves, which means that it is more than a question of just guidance, but looking at that person can bring you to a higher spiritual state. How is that possible?

We know that the Sahaba used to go just to look at the holy Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him. This is the hadith of Umm Waraqa. They used to go just to look at him. As if just to look at him was an ‘ibada. There is something in the quality of the perfected human being that is a reminder. How does this work? Well, the hadith is saying precisely this. But the hadith then goes on to speak about the consequences. Not to engage in dangerous metaphysical speculations, but to talk about consequences. “And if he seeks My protection I will surely grant him My protection. And if he seeks My victory I will surely grant him the victory.”

This is how the early Muslims were with their amazing victories, inwardly, spiritual, military, economics, everything. That amazing civilization they produced, East and West, almost overnight, was because they were in this state of Adamiyya. Because of their absolute ‘ubudiyya, their slavehood to Allah, Exalted and Most High, in them, they manifested something of the agency of the divine intention. They were in a state of muwafaqa.

Back to the Beginning

So, to take it back to the point with which we began and this deep mystery. What is it for somebody could be in the state of iqtirab, to be close, to receive the divine love, what exactly is that all about? We’re not allowed to misunderstand it, but the hadith is saying that it is important. What does it mean to be close to Allah, Exalted and Most High? This doesn’t mean geographical closeness or temporal closeness. It means something deeper. And Allah, Exalted and Most High, has describing Himself as al-Qarib. “If my slave asks concerning Me, I am near. I respond to the prayer of the one who makes supplication when he calls upon Me.” (Sura al-Baqara 2:186) He is al-Qarib.

This iqtirab of which the hadith speaks means going close to the One who is already qarib (near). He is never mentioned as ba‘id in the Qur’an and in the hadith. No, He is always close, but we are ba‘id. We are really far, because the lower shaytanic self within ourselves likes to see the world as just being a bunch of things causing other things and neglects the divine reality that is propelling absolutely everything. The divine Names that never cease to be an action in every single moment, in every single movement of every atom in creation, there is the divine agency. That is al-Qarib. “Closer to you than your jugular vein.” (Sura Qaf 50:16)

So that whatever one does is, as it were, just a reflection of Adam’s status with Allah. That one acts simply in accordance with the divine command. Acts as an agent of the divine instruction on earth. That extraordinary thing, that place which is the recipient of the divine mahabba, is what the hadith is referring to as al-wali.

But Who Is the Wali?

There is a lot of talk in Muslim cultures about the wali. We know that it is present in the Hadith. It is present in this hadith. What exactly does it mean? Waliya in Arabic means to be close. It is quite close to the idea of qarib. Allah, Exalted and Most High, uses it with reference to Himself. “Allah is the Wali of those who have faith.” (Sura al-Baqara 2:257) Interesting divine Name, like some of the others, like Latif, like Rahim, that can be used by human beings as well as by Allah, Exalted and Most High.

In this context, the Wali, the One who is the divine friend, the divine Patron, the one who takes responsibility for and is the Patron of, and lovingly guides and helps and protects the salihin (righteous). That is the Wali. That is what it means when we refer to Allah, Exalted and Most High, as al-Wali.

When this refers to a human being what can it mean? What ought it to mean? Well, the ulama here say, closeness. Of course, through this process of iqtirab, of drawing close, one is in proximity to the divine in whatever mysterious and ineffable and difficult way we may conceptualize that, because He is not in a place. But closeness, closeness to His love. Closeness to His obedience. Closeness to conformity to His command. Closeness to the sakina, to the peace, which is in His is presence. This is what it means.

Waliya also in Arabic has the sense: to be consecutive. It is said, “The wali is the one whose actions succeed one another uninterruptedly in conformity with the Sunna.” This is how Imam al-Qushayri defines. Who is the wali? Never mind elaborate definitions of some metaphysical something. Look at the practice. By their fruits you shall know them. Who is the wali in Islam? According to Imam al-Qushayri in his Risala, “It is the one whose actions succeed one another without anything else interrupting them in conformity to the divine command.”

By their Fruits…

Abu Yazid al-Bistami, one of the great, mysterious early Muslims, who is himself revered as a great wali, was told once in this masjid there is a wali. Now any Muslim knows that if you hear of such a person that is true, you want to get near him, because he can pray for you, and his prayers are more likely to be answered than your own. Whenever Muslims travel to a new institution or new town or new country they want to know who is a wali, because their presence is beneficial. They are somebody who is completely, inwardly as well as outwardly, in conformity with the Kitab and the Sunna.

He was told, “There is a wali in that masjid.” He goes to that masjid and there is this man who is doing his ‘ibada. At the end of his ‘ibada the man gets up, and Abu Yazid is watching. And the man makes this disgusting sound with his throat. The kind of noise that you hear sometimes often and mysteriously when people are making wudu in the mosque. Abu Yazid doesn’t speak to him when he comes out. He says, “Somebody who does not look after one of the courtesies of the Shari‘a, how can he be looking after some of the secrets of Allah in creation?” It is not possible. This is fundamental. This is the essential criteria.

Do you want to know who is really a wali, and you don’t want to read a million texts of metaphysical speculation that probably don’t get to the heart of it, and may confuse you if you’re not a super scholar? Just see, first of all, is that person is conformity with the Qur’an and the Sunna? Secondly, does the company of that person make you remember Allah and feel closer to your Lord? Is it, per proximity, something that increases your desire for ‘ibada. That increases your love for human beings, that increases your humility, that makes you want to go out and help people, and see the best in people?

The Firm Criterion

This is the criterion that we offer in Islam. Conformity with the Kitab and the Sunna, because anything else is not Islamic. But also this proximity that comes about with this iqtirab. This mysterious state where the wali is seeing with eyes that, as it were, the eyes that Allah is seeing with. Whatever that means. However we conceptualize it.

Ibn Hajar offered 17 different explanations for this to the common among the ulama. Whatever that might mean is not given to us to know, but we respect them. The key criterion is conformity to the Kitab and the Sunna, and that quality has to be perceived by our soul, so that in the company of those people we are healed and improved and made upright, insha Allah.

May Allah increase the number of His awliya in this umma, and make us their followers, and help us to seek them out, and insha Allah, by them to draw near to true rather than false victory and protection to this umma in these difficult times, insha Allah. Amin.


This post was transcribed, edited, and hyperlinked from a sound file of a lesson given by Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad that was published on Youtube by tradarchive on 2 March 2017.


Insanity, Suicide, Kufr, and the Need for Scholars

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani untangles certain recurring misconceptions regarding insanity, suicide, kufr, how these misconceptions arise, and how to dispel them through knowledge.

I’ve been told that people who suffer from mental illness may be exempt from certain aspects of Shari‘a. If that’s the case, why is suicide punishable given that a lot of people that commit suicide surely have some sort of mental illness?

Moral Responsibility and Legal Capacity

Our religion is the religion of Allah, the Wise, the Just,the Merciful, and in that not everything is black or white. There are also gradations in between. When we look at a soul there are those who are considered morally responsible. The same adult who is an adult with full legal capacity. Then you have those who don’t have legal capacity, such as the children or the insane.

But then there are also intermediate cases, e.g. with children there’s a difference between the young child and the discerning child. The child is gradually morally responsible, without being morally accountable. It is a responsibility granted as training for when they hit adulthood. So they’re generally encouraged, then, specifically encouraged, then, commanded with respect to the obligations.

Degrees of Insanity

Similarly not all those lacking mental capacity, short of full sanity, are at the same level. You have what’s called al-majnun. Someone who is legally insane or lacking legal capacity. But then there are different cases of insanity.

Some people are bereft of sanity. Day in day out, they’re not able to discern and distinguish between benefit and harm, right and wrong. They’re not able to make informed choices. That’s one type of insanity: insanity that lasts.

Then there’s also the lunatic. There’s incapacity that affects someone such that they may be sane at times and lacking sanity at other times. For example in our times like someone who’s bipolar in intense cases could be oscillating between when they have capacity and when they don’t.

Then there’s also an intermediate state between full legal capacity and the legally insane or the one without legal capacity, which is someone with partial legal capacity. A person with partial legal capacity is treated like the discerning child. To the extent of their capacity to discern, they’re encouraged to do the good. They’re encouraged to uphold legal responsibility in the things within their capacity but they”re not ultimately legally accountable, just like a discerning child.

Suicide Is a Major Sin

Different cases differ. Allah Most High tells us: “Allah does not hold the soul responsible for more than its capacity.” (Sura al-Baqara 2:286) We have a very nuanced, balanced, fair, set of legal criteria by which to outwardly judge different types of individuals and their capacity so that we are able to guide them towards their best interests.

Ultimately, Allah knows every single person and where they are with respect to their responsibilities. When it comes to suicide, the ruling of suicide is that committing suicide is prohibited, and suicide is itself a major sin. However, committing suicide is not kufr. Sins are one thing. Disbelief is another.

Just as we preserve the lives of others the first life that we preserve is our own, and no one should willfully take their life. That has implications in terms of end-of-life issues and so on. However, if someone commits suicide, we don’t hasten to judge. We don’t know what triggered it. What was their mental state and what would we call legal capacity at the time they made that decision?

Sensitivity Is Key

We have to be sensitive, firstly, with respect to the person themselves. We don’t know what state they were in. Secondly, we also have to be sensitive to the living. Their family has suffered a serious loss and so on. But at the same that we don’t affirm the absurd.

We’re not there to judge in the accusation manner: “That was wrong. They’re going to hell.” – Well, who are you? Are you the Lord? At the same time, we don’t we don’t go into conjectural rulings as well: “O, Allah will forgive him because he was in a bad situation.” It’s not your decision to make. These are sensitive situations.

Most of the times these kinds of confusions arise when things like that happen within a within a family, within a community – the trouble arises in these kinds of difficult situations because of two reasons. One is from people who take religion directly from texts without appreciating their context and understanding.

Textual Literalism and the Need for Scholars

People say, “O, there are hadith that say the person who commits suicide will be punished forever.” No, there isn’t. That’s not what the hadith is saying. What is the understanding sound understanding of that hadith? That’s one danger. And the connecting danger is, especially, the application of specific rules to particular situations is a specialized skill. That is why communities require scholars of guidance.

When people deal with a sensitive situation, how do you deal with it with these considerations? One cannot take a ruling from a book and apply it to a specific situation just like that, without training, because it is likely that the harm would be greater. There’s likely harm.

We should heed the divine command: “Ask the people of remembrance if you know not.” This of course requires attention to supporting institutions that facilitate scholars to be teaching in their communities. We have to have people of knowledge in every community.

It is obligatory that there be jurists who have the capacity, who have learned our religious tradition soundly and reliably, and who are trained to apply that to the the social and lived context of individuals and communities that they operate in. That is critical and we have grave shortcomings in that around the world.


Why Muslim Youth Need Guiding Mentorship

In this memoir, a student speaks about how having knowledgeable, concerned mentorship in his teenage years helped him take the right path.

My Two Mentors

One day in my late teens, I remember being out all day with my brothers and younger cousins. We engaged in all kinds of activities, such as football, laser tag, and then going to a restaurant to eat.

We had fun all day. My father simply took us to where we wanted to go and would watch us have fun, until we were ready to go to the next one. When we got home that evening, I began talking to my cousins about the next activity my dad could take us to.

At this, my two older cousins, Umar and Ali, approached me. They both pointed out quite bluntly that I needed to be more grateful to my parents and appreciate how much effort and sacrifice they’d made for me. Only then did I realize how much I was taking them for granted.

I benefitted a lot through Umar and Ali, who served as my mentors through my teenage years. Both about ten years older than me, they had been through the same education system as me, and had been brought up in the West just like me. They’d seen the same challenges to their faith that I was going through. I knew I could speak to them whenever I needed.

I didn’t have the benefit of having learnt sacred knowledge from a young age. As a result, for the first twenty years of my life, my knowledge of Islam was quite basic. Like the other Muslims in my school, I had to figure it out largely on my own. I remember being in school at age 12, where the teacher was asking the students how many of them believed in God. Despite their age, many answered that they did not.

In most subjects there was either an anti-God, anti-religious, or anti-Islamic narrative. In history classes, the Islamic nations were always the bad guys, whether it was the Ottoman armies or the successful “kicking out” of the Muslims from Spain. Religious study lessons would include philosophical challenges to the existence of God, such as the so-called “Problem of Evil,” without mentioning the vast contributions and proofs of the great Muslim thinkers.

And of course, biology lessons always featured evolution in biased ways. When speaking about animals that were well adapted to their environments, the teacher would attribute it to the genius of evolution. But when there were apparent biological flaws in an animal, the teacher would say that a Creator would not have let that flaw to exist.

This environment impacted me greatly. I felt very insecure about not having clear answers. I’d find myself around the age of 14 and 15 lying in bed at night for hours thinking about how the universe began, whether evolution existed, and everything else.

By the grace of Allah, I always remained a Muslim in belief. However, I had fundamental questions that needed answering. During this period, I benefited immensely from Umar and Ali, who would answer my questions. They would explain how there is no problem believing in the Big Bang as long one believes it is God that caused it to happen. They explained the problems with evolution from a scientific perspective, and that explaining how science and Islam are compatible. Their mentorship was so effective because they had gone through the same journey that I had. Because of this, they were able to help me in a way that parents, aunties and uncles were not.

Battling Ideology

But my troubles weren’t over. When I began university I got involved with the Muslim student groups. Their arguments seemed logical and straightforward, and I got caught up in them. After all, why did we need to follow a school of thought, if we had the Qur’an and sunna? And why were we introducing innovations if our religion was already clear?

Alhamdulillah, yet again, there were Umar and Ali. They tried their best to gently explain the issues with textual literalism, and the importance of schools of thought and following traditional Islam. It wasn’t an overnight process, nor was it an easy one.

They would patiently tolerate me debating with them on religious issues, but would not argue with me. “Don’t worry,” I heard Umar say to Ali. “He’ll figure it out for himself one day.” With wisdom and kindness, they gave me the space to explore for myself, while also advising me at the right moments when I most needed it.

A few years later, when I was ready, Ali very generously paid for me to study some Sunni Path courses (now Qibla), including an Aqida al-Tahawi course taught by Shaykh Hamza Karamali, and a course that covered the sources of Islamic law, taught by Shaykh Farid Dingle.

I remembered how I told a brother from university that I was about to take these classes. “Be careful,” he warned. “They may be Asharis!” “What are Asharis?” I asked. “They interpret some parts of the Qur’an figuratively,” he replied. “For example, when the Qur’an refers to ‘Allah’s hand,’ they say it’s a metaphor for His power, because He does not resemble created things.”

I personally couldn’t see what was wrong with that. He gave me a CD and told me to listen to it instead. I tried, but the speaker was just bashing the other methodologies without actually proving his own points.

I decided to go ahead with the Sunni Path courses. They were detailed and well-taught, and confirmed to me the truth of traditional Sunni Islam in a clear, factual manner. The Aqida course included some articles written by Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller about the Sunni Aqida. I sent them to the brother from university.
When he finally responded, he told me that the articles were not backed up by sources from the Qur’an and Sunna.

“What do you mean?” I asked. “The whole article is based on hadith!” “Yes, but they need to be verified.” “They are sahih, what more do you want?” I was frustrated with the lack of response. Learning from Shaykh Hamza and Shaykh Farid gave me the inspiration to study more. Alhamdulillah, Ali also introduced me to the spiritual teachings of Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller, who I now learn from and do not ever want to look back.

However, their work was not yet over. When the time came for me to start searching for a spouse, it was time for them to help me again, as some of my family members, although they wanted nothing but the best for me, weren’t on the same page as me when it came to what to look for in a spouse. My cousins themselves had gone through the same challenges while looking for a spouse. By now, they were both married and starting families, and through their advice I eventually did find a wife who had the same religious perspective and goals as me.

To this day, Umar and Ali continue to guide me with their calm influence, wisdom and life experience. To me, my story is an example of the importance of Muslim youth having role models, who are older than them but not too old, and well-grounded in their own faith.

By Amjad Shaykh


This piece was written by a SeekersHub student. Looking to inspire? Consider writing for our Compass Blog! We are looking for individuals willing to submit feature pieces for publication. Share your stories with us. Contact [email protected] with your pitch and inspire and motivate hundreds – if not thousands – of others.


Islamic Scholars Fund: Make an Impact With Your Zakat

In this video Shaykh Faraz Rabbani emphasizes the importance of having an Islamic Scholars Fund.

 In our times…

In traditional Muslim societies endowment supported the best and brightest young minds to become Islamic scholars. Islamic scholars were supported, so that they could dedicate themselves to teaching and providing religious guidance and clarity to the community. Unfortunately, in our times, we don’t have such institutions, as a result, the best and brightest young minds don’t pursue the path of Islamic scholarship, and Islamic scholars, even the most capable are not very often able to dedicate themselves to teaching, guiding and providing clarity.

An urgent area of need

A few years ago SeekersHub started collecting zakat to support students of knowledge in need, to support deserving Islamic scholars. Very quickly we discovered that this is an urgent area of need, we found many cases of scholars in the most dire of circumstances. Scholars like a leading Arab scholar with disabled children whose medical bills meant that he had to work long hours and was unable to teach actively, was unable to write or research. With your support this scholar has been able to teach thousands of students around the world, and has authored many really beneficial religious works.

Lost, now found

Your support has also helped students dedicate themselves to study, students such as Sufyan, living in a suburb of Paris, who was dismayed, lost and confused about how he could study, how he could serve the community by becoming a scholar of Islam. With your support, Sufyan is now well on the path to becoming a capable teacher and scholar of prophetic guidance.

Female scholarship

Students like the many female students of knowledge whom we are supporting, mentoring and guiding to become future female scholars of Islam. How can we celebrate the great history of female scholarship in Islam, the thousands of female scholars in 9th century Baghdad if we’re not committed now, to support present day female students of knowledge?

The scholars tell us that the best charity is the charity that has the greatest impact.