Get Ready for Ramadan: Reflecting on the Great Opportunity – Ustadh Amjad Tarsin

Ustadh Amjad Tarsin highlights the great opportunity for all Muslims in Ramadan to draw closer to Allah and be granted salvation. He urges everyone to reflect on that opportunity and increase in their aspirations for the good in Ramadan.

Ramadan: A Time for Spiritual Nourishment (2) – Shaykh Seraj Hendricks

Shaykh Seraj Hendricks, a leading and renowned scholar of South Africa, provides scholarly insights and spiritual reflections through a collection of essays on how we can make the most of Ramadan.

The Greatness of Ramadan

شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَاتٍ مِّنَ الْهُدَىٰ وَالْفُرْقَانِ ۚ
The month of Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was revealed as a guidance for humanity, as a clear proof of that guidance, and as a criterion for distinguishing between right and wrong. (Q, 2: 185).

In as much as celebrating the Prophet’s birthday can be read as a celebration of the greatness of the Prophet (saw) in his aspect of the perfect man (al-Insan al-Kamil); and in as much as Yaum Ashura (the 10th of Muharram) can be read as a celebration of the saving of the Prophet Musa (Allah’s peace be upon him) from the tyrannical pharaonic oppressors; similarly Ramadan can be read as a celebration of the revelation of the Quran during this month. It stands as living proof of the divinity of Allah, as living proof of the authenticity of the prophethood of Muhammad, and as living proof of the supremacy of revelation over all else.

But the Quran is also a Huda (a guidance). And as Huda – as true guidance – it teaches us how to live our lives as complete human beings. It teaches us how to live our lives with respect, dignity, honour, and love. It further teaches us that Allah is a divinity that embraces the concerns of all humanity.

It is also important to remember that the guidance and concerns of Allah are not limited to mere theoretical or idealistic utterances. The guidance of Allah plunges us into the mainstream of our earthly existence. One of the ways in which Allah has done this is by making the fast obligatory upon all of us.

Not only are we required to sympathize with the poor and the hungry, but we are thrown into the very experience of hunger.

Not only are we required to reflect upon our condition in a society with its mores, customs, habits, rules, and general routine – which looms far greater than the sum of its individuals – but it forces us to reflect upon the very nature of that society. It is so easy to become a cog in the political, economic, social, and industrial machine. In short, to become a spiritually forgetful being in the material and mechanical processes of ordinary life.

Fasting forces us to break this forgetfulness and forces us to anchor the consciousness of truth and spirituality in every domain of our existence i.e. to act upon the truth of Islam and to live by its spirituality.

Fasting, by depriving us of the daily luxuries and niceties of our mundane existence asserts the supremacy of our essential condition as beings endowed with a soul (ruh) over our condition as material and temporal beings. Fasting, therefore, at once draws us into the bosom of Allah (swt) and allows us to reflect upon the high moral, social, and spiritual values that Islam sets for us. In other words, fasting focuses our attention on the broader meaning of Taqwa (a heightened consciousness of Allah) as expressed in the following verse:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed upon you as it has been prescribed upon those before you so that you may learn Taqwa. (Q, 2: 183).

The Arabic of the phrase in the above verse “so that you may learn Taqwa” reads as “l’allakum tattaqun”. The term “taqwa” – in its narrower meaning – has been variously translated as fear, piety, self-restraint, and guarding against evil. However, to do justice to its meaning, and to better understand the link between the Quran as Huda (true guidance) and Taqwa as one of the most desired virtues, a more comprehensive understanding of the term is required. That understanding is dependent on our understanding of the nature of man and woman.

The Islamic perspective is that we, as people, are composed of both body and soul or matter and spirit. We are also considered to be both the vicegerents of Allah on earth and His bondsmen. As vicegerents we are commanded to perfect our earthly existence whether it be in our private, domestic, social, economic or political lives. As bondsmen of Allah we are ordered to perfect our spiritual existence. Taqwa circumscribes both these conditions. In other words, and as alluded to earlier, it means to observe our duty towards Allah in all our social and communal relations (towards Muslims and non-Muslims alike); and in our spiritual relations towards Allah Himself. This is a difficult task, and one of the means that Allah has given us to attain this level is Ramadan. But, and typical of Quranic “pragmatism”, there are no false promises. In the Arabic the emphasis is quite clearly on the phrase “l’allakum” (“so that you may” or “perhaps”). The means to Taqwa, through the great institution of fasting, have been placed at our disposal. It is up to us to use, misuse, or even ignore the means. This condition is encapsulated in the following Prophetic saying:

“For those who do not refrain from lying or acting on such lies, Allah has no need of their abandoning their food and drink” (Bukhari).

Taqwa can further be realized through three opportunities provided for us by the fast:

1. The disciplining of the will (tarbiyat ul-Iradah)
2. The purification of the self (tazkiyat un-Nafs)
3. The purification of the soul (tasfiyat ur-Ruh)

The potential of fasting as such, and Ramadan in particular, in making available these opportunities cannot be denied.

With regard to the disciplining of the will the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and salutations upon him) said:

“For everything there is a purification and the purification of the body is to fast; and fasting is half of endurance.” (Ibn Majah).

All acts of endurance are naturally a function of the strength (or otherwise) of the will. If the will is strong, endurance is strong; if weak, then endurance is weak. One of the primary aims of Sabr – as an act of will – is to bring the will of the human being in harmony with the Will of Allah. This is essential if we wish to be acknowledged as true ‘ibad (servants) of Allah.

As for purification of the self (nafs) – here understood as the egotistic self – the following Prophetic saying is a clear reference to the fact that fasting is intended as a conduit for such purification:

“If anyone of you fasts then do not speak obscenely nor act obscenely. If anyone picks a fight with him or insults him then let him say ‘I am one who fasts, I am one who fasts.’” (Bukhari and Muslim).

Here the outer manifestations of the nafs viz. that of obscene speech (rafath) and obscene behaviour (jahal), are addressed with a view to bringing under control, and hence purifying, the inner self.

The purification of the soul, on the other hand, is contingent on the extent to which it is absolved from all sin. The Prophetic saying: “Those who fast with absolute faith and absolute contentment will have all their previous sins absolved” (Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmdhi, Nisai), may be read as a definite promise to the effect that the absolution of one’s sins is guaranteed if the two ostensibly simple conditions of fasting with total faith and total contentment are met.

These three processes are intrinsic to the cultivation of genuine Taqwa, and few religious acts provide a greater opportunity for its cultivation than Ramadan.

Allah says at the conclusion of the verse initially quoted:

وَلِتُكْمِلُوا الْعِدَّةَ وَلِتُكَبِّرُوا اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَاكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ
That He wants you to complete the prescribed period (of fasting) so that you are able to magnify the greatness of Allah for His having guided you, and so that – perchance – you may be thankful. (Q, 2: 185).

The greatness of Ramadan therefore lies in the opportunity it offers for the development of Taqwa – a virtue that allows us to truly participate in that great cosmic celebration in honour of the revelation of the Quran as a Huda to all people, which is, as mentioned earlier, Ramadan itself. It is a virtue furthermore, that allows us to magnify Allah  as He ought to be magnified, namely, with complete awareness of our earthly duties and spiritual vocation; and, therefore, to be of those who are truly thankful to Allah. It is a virtue too, which is ultimately celebrated in the Quran itself, for Allah says:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَىٰ وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا ۚ إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ
O humankind! We have created you from male and female; and fashioned you into peoples and tribes that you may come to know one another. But indeed, the most honoured amongst you (in the sight of Allah) are those who are the most righteous and God-conscious. (taqwa). (Q, 49: 13).

 


Biography

Shaykh Seraj Hasan Hendricks is an internationally recognised leading scholar of normative Sunni Islam, steeped in the rich legacy of the classical heritage, based in Cape Town, South Africa. He is Resident Shaykh of the Zawiyah Institute in Cape Town, and holder of the Maqasid Chair at the International Peace University of South Africa. Shaykh Seraj studied the Islamic sciences for more than a decade in the holy city of Makka, and was appointed as khalīfa of the aforementioned muaddith of the Ḥijāz, the distinguished al-Sayyid Muhammad b. ʿAlawī al-Mālikī, master of the Ṭarīqa ʿUlamāʿ Makka – the (sufi) path of the Makkan scholars.

Shaykh Seraj Hendricks was a high school English teacher between 1980 and 1982 in Cape Town before leaving for Saudi Arabia in 1983 to study at the Umm al-Qura University in Makka. Before this, he spent many years studying at the feet of his illustrious uncle, the late Shaykh Mahdi Hendricks – erstwhile Life President of the Muslim Judicial Council and widely regarded as one of the foremost scholars of Islam in southern Africa. Shaykh Seraj was actively engaged in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa during the 80’s and early 90’s.

Shaykh Seraj spent three years at the Arabic Language Institute in Makka studying Arabic and related subjects before being accepted for the BA (Hons) Islamic Law degree. He specialised in fiqh and uūl al-fiqh in the Faculty of Sharīʿa and graduated in 1992. During his studies at Umm al-Qura University, he was also a student of the late Sayyid Muhammad ʿAlawī al-Mālikī in Makka for a period of eight years and from whom he obtained a full ijāza in the religious sciences. He also obtained ijāzāt from both the late Sayyid Ahmad Mashur al-Ḥaddād and Sayyid ʿAbd al-Qādir b. Ahmad al-Saqqaf (d. 1431/2010). These scholars are all known as some of the pre-eminent ‘ulama of the ummah in the 20th century, worldwide.

After his return to Cape Town he received an MA (Cum Laude) for his dissertation: “Taawwuf (Sufism) – Its Role and Impact on the Culture of Cape Islam” from the University of South Africa (UNISA). He is currently at the tail-end of completing his PhD at the same institution.

Apart from fiqh and uūl al-fiqh, some of Shaykh Seraj’s primary interests are in Sufism, Islamic civilisation studies, interfaith matters, gender studies, socio-political issues and related ideas of pluralism and identity. He has lectured and presented papers in many countries, sharing platforms with his contemporaries.

He has translated works of Imam al-Ghazālī, and summarised parts of the Revival of the Religious Sciences (Iyāʾ ʿUlūm al-Dīn), most notably in the Travelling Light series, together with Shaykhs ʿAbd al-Hakīm Murad and Yaḥyā Rhodus.

Some of his previous positions included being the head of the Muslim Judicial Council’s Fatwa Committee (which often led to him being described as the ‘Mufti of Cape Town’), lecturer in fiqh at the Islamic College of Southern Africa (ICOSA), and lecturer in the Study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). Currently he is a member of the Stanlib Sharīʿa Board, and chief arbitrator (akīm) of the Crescent Observer’s Society, and has been listed consecutively in the Muslim 500 from 2009 to 2018. He was also appointed Dean of the Madina Institute in South Africa, a recognised institution of higher learning in South Africa and part of the world Madina Institute seminaries led by Shaykh Dr Muhammad Ninowy. Shaykh Seraj is also a professor at the International Peace University of South Africa, holding the Maqasid Chair for Graduate Studies.

Shaykh Seraj has also been teaching a variety of Islamic-related subjects at the Zāwiyah Mosque in Cape Town, which together with his brother Shaykh Ahmad Hendricks, he is the current resident Shaykh of. Alongside his brother, he is the representative (khalīfa) of the aforementioned muaddith of the Ḥijāz, the distinguished al-Sayyid Muhammad b. ʿAlawī al-Mālikī, master of the Ṭarīqa ʿUlamāʿ Makka – the (sufi) path of the Makkan scholars.


 

Ramadan: A Time for Spiritual Nourishment – Shaykh Seraj Hendricks

Shaykh Seraj Hendricks, a leading and renowned scholar of South Africa, provides scholarly insights and spiritual reflections through a collection of essays on how we can make the most of Ramadan.

The Fellowship of Rayyan

 

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

O you who have faith! Fasting is prescribed upon you in as much as it has been prescribed upon those before you, so that perhaps you may learn God-consciousness.” (Q, 2: 183).

This verse makes it quite clear that fasting during the month of Ramadan is an obligation on every Muslim who has reached the age of legal responsibility (taklif/mukallaf). The key phrase in this verse, however, is the one that declares “so that perhaps you may learn God-consciousness”; or, in the original Arabic “la’allakum tattaqun”. This phrase – and similar ones occur with great frequency throughout the Quran – also demonstrates how eminently practical the Quranic commands are. There is no promise that the mere act of fasting would result in taqwa. The reason for this is captured in numerous hadiths that speak about the spirit of Ramadan. While the “letter” is important in the form of the law, there can be little doubt that without an awareness, an understanding and an internalisation of this spirit, that no legal rules would be able to secure the benefits of fasting. While we may argue that knowledge of the legal rulings is a platitudinous necessity; we need to argue with even greater force that knowledge of the spirit of Ramadan is essential to the actualization of ourselves as people who fast.

Amongst the prophetic sayings that clearly point to this are the following:

 “How many a person fasts without gaining anything except hunger and thirst?” (Nisa’i and Ibn Majah).

This hadith is elaborated upon and explained by the following hadith:

“Those who refuse to renounce preaching and spreading falsehood and then acting upon such falsities, Allah has no need of their abandoning their food and drink.” (Bukhari).


In another narration the Prophet (Peace and salutations upon him) said:

“Fasting (siyam) is a fortress. Therefore, if the day of fasting arrives for any of you, then refrain from any obscene behaviour and any acts of rage. And if one is insulted or physically abused then respond with the words ‘Inni Sa’im’ – I am fasting!” (Bukhari and Muslim).

Those who have the capacity to exercise such discipline, patience and restraint while fasting, will certainly be amongst the Companions and Fellowship of Rayyan. Said the Prophet – and narrated by Sa’ad ibn Sahl:

“Indeed in Paradise there is a door called Rayyan. On the Day of Resurrection those who have truly fasted shall qualify to enter that door. None other than them shall enter it. Once they have entered, the door shall be locked and barred, and none shall ever leave it.” (Bukhari, Muslim and Ibn Khuzaymah).

We can only strive and qualify for entry into this illuminated Fellowship of Rayyan if we are able to fulfil the exacting tasks of the moral and spiritual demands of the month of Ramadan.

Sacrifice and Sincerity

 

وَالصَّائِمِينَ وَالصَّائِمَاتِ وَالْحَافِظِينَ فُرُوجَهُمْ وَالْحَافِظَاتِ وَالذَّاكِرِينَ اللَّهَ كَثِيرًا وَالذَّاكِرَاتِ أَعَدَّ اللَّهُ لَهُم مَّغْفِرَةً وَأَجْرًا عَظِيمًا
For men who fast and women who fast; for men who guard their chastity and women who guard their chastity; for men who remember Allah abundantly and women who remember Allah abundantly – for them Allah has set aside forgiveness and a great reward. (Q, 33: 35)

The Prophet (Peace and salutations upon him) said that Allah says:

“‘The reward for every deed of a person is multiplied by ten till seven hundred, except for fasting. Fasting is solely for My sake and I shall personally grant the reward. The fasting person abandons all desire and food for my sake.’ There are two occasions of joy for the one who fasts. The joy one experiences when breaking one’s fast and the joy one will experience when one meets one’s Lord.” (Bukhari, Muslim, Nisai, Ibn Maja, Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi).

Two vital aspects of the condition of the fasting person are highlighted here. The first is the question of sincerity (ikhlas) and the second, that of sacrifice. The first will be dealt with here; the second in the next segment.

Unlike most sacred rituals, such as the salah for example, the act of fasting is not visible to anyone. It is almost impossible to determine whether a person is fasting or not. It is a matter entirely between the individual and Allah. In other words, it is an act of pure renunciation. As an act of pure renunciation, it brings us face-to-face with our basic human limitations and needs. And in exposing these needs – these limitations – we are in fact reminded that the normal and natural human condition ought to be one of humility and sincerity. It is only the Divine Condition that is exclusively and uniquely independent. Allah, stands alone and inimitable in His Lordship. We – as a composition of human beings, and often arrogantly so – are both dependent on and defenceless in the face of Allah’s Rububiyyah (Lordship). Allah is Rabb; the human is ‘abd. In other words, one of our defining conditions is ‘ubudiyyah (bondsmanship) and not Rububiyyah. It is in the recognition and acceptance of this state of ‘ubudiyyah that the paradox of the potential for a merciful coexistence with our fellow human beings reside – the male of us and the female of us. For it is in the recognition of this state of ‘bondsmanship’ that we discover the liberating rhythms of sincerity and humility. Humility is neither slavery nor subservience. It is a deferential state that finds its life in the hearts of the sincere and that bursts into a reverential song that celebrates the humanity, the diversity and the humanness of another. It is in this song – this song of humility and sincerity; this song of the heart – that we come to discover the meaning of respect. Hence the Prophetic command to avoid any form of obscenities (rafath) and raging (sakhab) during the month of Ramadan. No amount of hunger and thirst can either undo or even legitimise the iniquitous results of the latter two conditions.

Severing our ties with the material world during this month is merely an aid to accomplishing these elevated states of spirituality and morality. In essence, fasting is an act of self-extinction. Those, therefore, who fast the month of Ramadan with faith “(imanan) and with selfless anticipation of Allah’s generosity and reward in the hereafter (ihtisaban)” [Bukhari and Muslim] will find their reward inexpressibly immeasurable. It is for this reason – as mentioned earlier – that only Allah as opposed to any other sacred and divine reward – knows the measure of the reward of the one who truly fasts for His sake alone.

Sabr: Patience, Endurance and Perseverance

 

Sabr (patience and endurance) is mentioned in the Quran more than 90 times.

Amongst these verses is the following:

وَأَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَلَا تَنَازَعُوا فَتَفْشَلُوا وَتَذْهَبَ رِيحُكُمْ ۖ وَاصْبِرُوا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ
Obey Allah and His messenger. And do not fall into disputation amongst yourselves; for in such disputation you will lose your strength. So be patient, for indeed, Allah is with those who patiently endure (sabr). (Q, 8: 46).

Apart from the Divine rewards for this sacred human quality there are also earthly rewards. Very few things of worth come without a struggle. The joy a mother feels at giving birth is a result of nine months of patience and endurance. Likewise, the joy of graduating, of having completed a successful assignment at work, of completing a brilliant work of art, and so on, are all the fruits of sabr.

The month of Ramadan is also referred to as the Shahr as-Sabr (The Month of Patience and Endurance). On the other hand, as the Prophet (Peace and salutations upon him) said:

“Clemency is from Allah and haste is from satan.” (Tirmidhi).

Things done in haste, unthinkingly, impulsively and rashly are invariably bereft of barakah (divine grace). Even our struggles against the worst of oppression need to be conducted with wisdom and deliberation. One of the most touching hadiths dealing with the overzealous and reckless nature of haste is the following narrated by Khabbab ibn al-Aratt (May Allah be pleased with him) in Sahih Bukhari. The Companions (May Allah be pleased with them) were distressed by the persecution of Muslims in Makkah and – close to despair – they turned to the Prophet (Peace and salutations upon him) for help.

The narration is as follows:

We raised a complaint with the Messenger of Allah while he was reclining on a shawl spread out in the shade of the Ka’ba. We said: “Do you not seek assistance for us? Do you not pray for us?
The Prophet (saw) then said: “There was a time before you when a man would be taken and partially placed and buried in the earth. They would then approach him with a saw, place it on his head and slice him in two. He would then be lacerated – both flesh and bones – with rakes of steel so that he may stop pursuing his beliefs. But I swear by Allah, that Allah desires your freedom to worship to the point where one may travel from Sana’a to Hadramawt fearing none other than Allah, even while a wolf is stalking his flock. But you…you are impatient!” (Bukhari).

However, to some, the question of sabr can be an elusive matter. What we need to understand first is that this world which we inhabit is a Dar al-Bala’ (An Abode of Appraisal). We will be tested, and our attitudes and responses evaluated. The best of us would be those whose attitudes and responses most closely approximate to that of the Prophetic standard and the Quranic ethos. Allah says:

تَبَارَكَ الَّذِي بِيَدِهِ الْمُلْكُ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
الَّذِي خَلَقَ الْمَوْتَ وَالْحَيَاةَ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا ۚ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْغَفُور
Blessed is He in Whose Hands lie all dominion. And He has power over all things.
The One who has created Death and Life so that He may test those who are best in deeds. (Q, 67: 1-2).

In the sacred order of things, nihilism is absent. In this passage of the Quran, Death and Life are personified aspects of a real existence – aspects through and by which we will be tested. Those who pass this test are the people of ihsan – those whose thoughts, conduct and behaviour are marked by excellence, both outwardly and inwardly.

In three striking passages of the Quran Allah (swt) reveals three blessings of which the sabirin will be the fortunate beneficiaries. Says Allah:

وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُم بِشَيْءٍ مِّنَ الْخَوْفِ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِّنَ الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَنفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الصَّابِرِينَ

الَّذِينَ إِذَا أَصَابَتْهُم مُّصِيبَةٌ قَالُوا إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ

أُولَٰئِكَ عَلَيْهِمْ صَلَوَاتٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ وَرَحْمَةٌ ۖ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُهْتَدُونَ

We shall indeed test you with something of fear and hunger, and some loss in wealth and life and the fruits (of your labour). But give the Good News to those who patiently endure.

Those who say – when afflicted by a calamity – “To Allah we belong, and to Him is our return.”

They are those on whom the blessings of Allah descend and upon whom the Mercy of Allah is; and they are the truly guided. (Q, 2: 155-7)

It is clear from these verses that those who patiently endure are the recipients of the following three unique rewards:
1) The Grace and Blessings of Allah (Salawat)
2) His Mercy (Rahmah) and
3) The beneficiaries and recipients of His direct guidance (Huda).

Nonetheless it is important to understand – as so many mistakenly do – that sabr does not include all forms of tests and hardships, regardless of the nature. This is a seriously incorrect understanding.

Sabr eminently belongs to a domain of testing and suffering that is largely out of our reach. Such as, for example, being diagnosed with a deadly illness, the loss of a loved one or an economic crisis for which there is no immediate solution etc.

Other than the above, such as abusive husbands, tyrannical rulers, discrimination and injustice which are all within our reach to change, these are all conditions that demand, as our Islamic duty, that we attempt to try and change. Said the Prophet (Peace and salutations upon him):

Those of you who witness an abomination, let him change it with his hands; if he is unable to do so, then let him speak out against it; and if he cannot do even that, then let him reject it in his heart – and this latter is the lowest form of Iman. (Muslim).

May Allah cast us all in the mould of those who are able to patiently endure those vicissitudes of life that are often not within our reach to change or alter. But let Allah also provide us with the moral strength and courage to change those forms of unwarranted tyranny, abuse and injustice, all of which are nothing less than a reprehensible slap in the face of Islam.

 


Biography

Shaykh Seraj Hasan Hendricks is an internationally recognised leading scholar of normative Sunni Islam, steeped in the rich legacy of the classical heritage, based in Cape Town, South Africa. He is Resident Shaykh of the Zawiyah Institute in Cape Town, and holder of the Maqasid Chair at the International Peace University of South Africa. Shaykh Seraj studied the Islamic sciences for more than a decade in the holy city of Makka, and was appointed as khalīfa of the aforementioned muaddith of the Ḥijāz, the distinguished al-Sayyid Muhammad b. ʿAlawī al-Mālikī, master of the Ṭarīqa ʿUlamāʿ Makka – the (sufi) path of the Makkan scholars.

Shaykh Seraj Hendricks was a high school English teacher between 1980 and 1982 in Cape Town before leaving for Saudi Arabia in 1983 to study at the Umm al-Qura University in Makka. Before this, he spent many years studying at the feet of his illustrious uncle, the late Shaykh Mahdi Hendricks – erstwhile Life President of the Muslim Judicial Council and widely regarded as one of the foremost scholars of Islam in southern Africa. Shaykh Seraj was actively engaged in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa during the 80’s and early 90’s.

Shaykh Seraj spent three years at the Arabic Language Institute in Makka studying Arabic and related subjects before being accepted for the BA (Hons) Islamic Law degree. He specialised in fiqh and uūl al-fiqh in the Faculty of Sharīʿa and graduated in 1992. During his studies at Umm al-Qura University, he was also a student of the late Sayyid Muhammad ʿAlawī al-Mālikī in Makka for a period of eight years and from whom he obtained a full ijāza in the religious sciences. He also obtained ijāzāt from both the late Sayyid Ahmad Mashur al-Ḥaddād and Sayyid ʿAbd al-Qādir b. Ahmad al-Saqqaf (d. 1431/2010). These scholars are all known as some of the pre-eminent ‘ulama of the ummah in the 20th century, worldwide.

After his return to Cape Town he received an MA (Cum Laude) for his dissertation: “Taawwuf (Sufism) – Its Role and Impact on the Culture of Cape Islam” from the University of South Africa (UNISA). He is currently at the tail-end of completing his PhD at the same institution.

Apart from fiqh and uūl al-fiqh, some of Shaykh Seraj’s primary interests are in Sufism, Islamic civilisation studies, interfaith matters, gender studies, socio-political issues and related ideas of pluralism and identity. He has lectured and presented papers in many countries, sharing platforms with his contemporaries.

He has translated works of Imam al-Ghazālī, and summarised parts of the Revival of the Religious Sciences (Iyāʾ ʿUlūm al-Dīn), most notably in the Travelling Light series, together with Shaykhs ʿAbd al-Hakīm Murad and Yaḥyā Rhodus.

Some of his previous positions included being the head of the Muslim Judicial Council’s Fatwa Committee (which often led to him being described as the ‘Mufti of Cape Town’), lecturer in fiqh at the Islamic College of Southern Africa (ICOSA), and lecturer in the Study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). Currently he is a member of the Stanlib Sharīʿa Board, and chief arbitrator (akīm) of the Crescent Observer’s Society, and has been listed consecutively in the Muslim 500 from 2009 to 2018. He was also appointed Dean of the Madina Institute in South Africa, a recognised institution of higher learning in South Africa and part of the world Madina Institute seminaries led by Shaykh Dr Muhammad Ninowy. Shaykh Seraj is also a professor at the International Peace University of South Africa, holding the Maqasid Chair for Graduate Studies.

Shaykh Seraj has also been teaching a variety of Islamic-related subjects at the Zāwiyah Mosque in Cape Town, which together with his brother Shaykh Ahmad Hendricks, he is the current resident Shaykh of. Alongside his brother, he is the representative (khalīfa) of the aforementioned muaddith of the Ḥijāz, the distinguished al-Sayyid Muhammad b. ʿAlawī al-Mālikī, master of the Ṭarīqa ʿUlamāʿ Makka – the (sufi) path of the Makkan scholars.


 

COVID-19: Making the Most of the Opportunity – Mufti Hussain Kamani

Mufti Hussain Kamani reminds us that when a believer meets difficulty, they engage in remembrance and respond by looking at the bigger reality. Even in prayer, our heart is in a different place — it’s with God.

Tests like COVID-19 remind us that matters are not in our hands — they are in Allah’s control. And while we can’t ever say for certain why God is giving us a particular tribulation, we can always use them as opportunities to turn to Him and ask Him for forgiveness. We can ask Him for forgiveness for our shortcomings, for taking our blessings for granted, and for not taking care of our world.

The next step is to learn to cope with the challenges we face. As self-isolation brings our community and social lives to a halt, we need to follow the guidance of both our health professionals and qualified scholars on how to navigate the situations we face. But we also should look for lessons we can learn from the current pandemic. For many, COVID-19 has been an eye-opener to the fact that we could die anytime. And this in turn opens up bigger questions that can cause us to reevaluate our entire lives. What legacy will I leave behind? Am I ready to stand before my Creator?

This valuable process can be hampered, however, by the mind-numbing information overload that is social media. This is why we need to take step back to engage with our heart and soul. This which is where self isolation presents a valuable opportunity: we are afforded far more free time to connect with our family and maximize our time, as it puts us all in a virtual devotional retreat. It would be a tremendous loss if all this potential for benefit is sucked up by digital media and other forms of wasting time.

Mufti Hussain emphasizes that we should build our days around the prayer, and devote ourselves to our ritual salah, reading Qur’an, dhikr, and supplications, using this time to turn inward and focus on God. By doing these things, we can make the most of the opportunities that this quarantine presents.

This reminder is part of COVID-19: A Global Islamic Response series. As the Coronavirus pandemic spreads across the world, the Muslim community is struggling to find answers to many questions. Along with the critical advice of health and medical professionals, we are in dire need of Prophetic Guidance. In these videos, Muslim scholars and community leaders from around the world provides clarity in these challenging times on how people from all faiths should view and respond to the current situation. Watch the full playlist here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list….

COVID-19: Social Isolation in the Life of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ – Ustadh Abdullah Misra

Social isolation leaves many of us wondering what to do with ourselves as we spend much of our time at home. Ustadh Abdullah tells us that while our social channels may be disrupted during social isolation, our connection with Allah remains and can grow stronger.

He cites a number of instances we find in the life of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) of isolation from others, and shares a number of lessons we can find in these incidents.

From the Prophet’s time in the cave, we learn how to use our time to draw closer to Allah and pray to him. From the time of persecution in Mecca, we are reminded to use our time for learning and teaching. From the Boycott of Banu Hashim, we are given an example on gaining solidarity, patience, and faith. From the Prophet’s migration, we learn to be reassured with the realization that Allah Most High is with us. From the siege of Medina during the Battle of the Trench, we learn from the Prophet’s example to look at the bright side of things and maintain a positive outlook. From the Prophet’s separation from his wives, we learn the importance of deliberation and reflection. And from the Prophet’s devotional retreat in the mosque every year, we learn the importance of spiritual retreat.

Ustadh Abdullah closes by reminding that we can bring this spiritual retreat into our homes. He reminds us to makes our homes islands of faith and tranquility, to open up to others, and most importantly to open up to God and what he wants to teach us.

This reminder is part of COVID-19: A Global Islamic Response series. As the Coronavirus pandemic spreads across the world, the Muslim community is struggling to find answers to many questions. Along with the critical advice of health and medical professionals, we are in dire need of Prophetic Guidance. In these videos, Muslim scholars and community leaders from around the world provides clarity in these challenging times on how people from all faiths should view and respond to the current situation. Watch the full playlist here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list….

Poem: Locked Down – Novid Shaid

Novid Shaid, a well respected poet from the UK, writes a poem to lift our spirits during this time of isolation and lock down.

 

LOCKED DOWN

One night as I sat
Shackled up by Facebook
The jitters from the Twitter
Filled my body and my face shook
The trap of the Whatsapp
Enwrapped my intentions
But a voice from beyond
Just arrested my attention
—-
Sallahu ala Muhammad! Sallahu alayhi was sallam!
—-
Locked down to the ground
Of the multiplicity
My heart was aground
A beleaguered city
Spellbound in the haze
Of my lusts’ euphoria
But the voice cleared away
The phantasmagoria
Sallahu ala Muhammad! Sallahu alayhi was sallam!
I arose with a heave
Enclosed by acedia
My head leaking facts
From the Wikipedia
My eyes bleeding tracks
From the social media
But the voice kindled me
I rejoiced with a fever
Sallahu ala Muhammad! Sallau alayhi wa sallam!
I strained to my door
To the ways of the speaker
My phone tingling
Making me feel weaker
My soul signalling
To awake like a seeker
The voice echoing
And the light shone brighter
Sallahu ala Muhammad! Sallahu alayhi wa sallam!
I followed the voice
In my mind’s metropolis
Approached by these hawkers
And hucksters and sophists
They plied me with gadgets
And pure luxuria
But the voice stirred me
Like the Queens of Nubia
Sallahu ala Muhammad! Sallahu alayhi was sallam!
Then beyond the display
Of my urban madness
A pistachio tree
I encountered with gladness
The limbs shivering
With the breezes of Oneness
The leaves whispering
Shimmering with abundance
Sallahu ala Muhammad! Sallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam!
The roots of the tree
Spoke to me in a dialect
The fruits of the tree
Was a map to redirect
“To find the essence
When you’re feeling remoteness
Recite this sentence
Tune in to the gnosis.”
Sallahu ala Muhammad! Sallahu Alayhi Was Sallam!

Novid Shahid

The Ramadan Habit: Self Study Option – Tushar Imdad

**SPECIAL OFFER – The Ramadan Habit – SELF-STUDY OPTION

Ramadan Mubarak!

I hope you have had a brilliant start to the best month of the year.

Perhaps, like many of us, you’ve been caught slightly off-guard and feel like you’re playing catch up.

You’re so busy with work, it’s spilling into your ibaadah time.

You want to prioritize Qur’an but end up spending so much time on everything else.

You’re already worried about keeping some of your habits consistent – especially after Ramdan.

What if I told you that there is an EASIER way?

A system where you can actually FEEL GOOD about your progress every single day.

Perhaps you were interested in the Ramadan Habit course, but felt £200-400 was too much to invest.

And you didn’t want to commit to accountability, forums and buddies.

I get that.

When I ended up enrolling some relatives and friends who wanted a ‘recording only’ option, it dawned upon me that I could offer this to you as well.

Now although you won’t get the same motivation, live coaching and accountability as the full course (which is now closed for registration), I can promise you this.

The science, theory and systems for habit building have been updated and improved so much that you CAN benefit hugely from the recording-only course.

And pay just half price!

In fact, Module 1.2 ‘Use Behaviour Design to Choose the Best Habit’ is such an original and unique training that it is worth the cost of the entire course!

I guarantee that this course will make you look at building lasting habits in a completely new way.

Remember, ‘The Ramadan Habit’ is a course designed to not just plan your ‘Best Ramadan Ever’ but to build habits which last way beyond the holy month.

Imagine that, not just in Ramadan, but in May, June, July – the rest of the year, you still recited the Qur’an at the same time, each day.

Or you learned an elusive ‘character habit’ which dramatically reduced your arguments with your spouse.

All this is possible in this unique 40-day Ramadan Habit Implementation Programme.

For only £97.

Ramadan has just started. You still have time to make it your best ever.

—-
“Alhamdulillah, This programme really gave me something I have never been able to do before in my life. For 40 days I feel I lived a healthy life, exercizing everyday. My eating habits became heathier and I don’t feel the need for sugary stuff, as I did before. And more happier! Alhamdulillah. I didn’t know that one habit for Allah can lead you to so much good!”  
Hafsa Akram, Denmark

This course helped me to succeed in establishing a daily habit which I have been struggling with for a few years, so for me it has been a real milestone and worth every penny … I think this is a priceless opportunity for anyone who sincerely wants to succeed in making some positive changes in their life.”
Fahreen Afzal, Birmingham, UK
 —

Tushar’s style of teaching is amongst the best in the world. This is not a course you buy and don’t implement – it’s spread over weeks and Tushar will call you out if you fall behind!”
L.D, Manchester, UK

 —
Here’s to a productive Ramadan!

Tushar Imdad


Biography:

Tushar Imdad (aka Tushar Mohammed Imdad-ul-Haque Bhuiya) is an Islamic Time Management Coach and Educational Entrepreneur. Professionally trained as a high school English teacher, Tushar has taught or managed prominent Islamic schools in Leicester, UK, between 2007-2016. With a flair for managing multiple roles, Tushar is also a GCSE English examiner, a teacher trainer for AMS UK; professional proofreader; former lead instructor at Madrasa Manara; and is currently the Director of Shaykhspeare’s Online English Academy and High Impact Tutors.  

 A long-term student of knowledge, Tushar has studied a range of Islamic sciences at the feet of scholars such as Shaykh Nuh Keller, Umm Sahl, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Maulana Ilyas Patel and Ustadh Tabraze Azam. In 2015 he completed Level 5 of the Classical Arabic Program from the prestigious Qasid Institute, Amman.   

Throughout his varied career, Tushar has always been driven by a passion for time management. Starting in 2009, he has delivered a mixture of workshops, webinars, web-coaching and client visits, attracting delegates as varied as CEOs, corporate professionals, housewives, dentists and scholars from places spanning the UK, US and Middle East. Tushar has published articles and delivered training for ProductiveMuslim.com, SeekersGuidance.org and Qibla.com (now Kiflayn). In recent years he has immersed himself in  productivity systems, learning from world-class experts such as Demir Bentley, the authors of The One Thing, Leo Babuta and James Clear. His recent courses have included  ‘Principles of Islamic Time Management’, ‘Time Tactics 101’ and ‘The Breakthrough Habit’.


COVID-19: Recognizing Divine Control – Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat

In this lesson, Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat reminds us of the need to look at the bigger picture. He encourages us to recite and reflect upon Sura al-Mulk (Qur‘an, 67), and looks at several lessons to help us deal with this crisis.

1) Have a good opinion of Allah and expect the best from Him, realizing that everything is under His Power and control. Allah takes care of everything, and will continue to do so. Even this trial contains much good (Shaykh Abdul-Rahim even suggests we make a list!). Indeed, believers find benefit in every circumstance through their response.

2) Relax and don’t they to micromanage—trust in God. Even the companions couldn’t understand some choices the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) made until later.

3) Turn to Allah Most High. Ask him for wellbeing, and “seek assistance in patience and prayer” (Qur‘an, 2:153).

This reminder is part of COVID-19: A Global Islamic Response series. As the Coronavirus pandemic spreads across the world, the Muslim community is struggling to find answers to many questions. Along with the critical advice of health and medical professionals, we are in dire need of Prophetic Guidance. In these videos, Muslim scholars and community leaders from around the world provides clarity in these challenging times on how people from all faiths should view and respond to the current situation. Watch the full playlist here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list….

Covid-19: An Islamic Perspective – Shaykh Seraj Hendricks

In this essay, Shaykh Seraj Hendricks who is one of South Africa’s most respected scholars, provides clear guidance on Covid-19 and how Muslims should take confidence in the rich Islamic legacy which prioritizes the sanctity of human life and health.

Throughout history various peoples and places have been afflicted by severe plagues and epidemics. Millions of people have been wiped out by these calamities. Each of these peoples had to confront, contend with and rise to the challenge of these blighting conditions. Muslims no less than anyone else. The Covid-19 pandemic – spreading from Wuhan in China – is the latest to assail the contemporary world. 

Fortunately, we have a legacy undergirded by knowledge and wisdom, enveloped, as it were, in love and compassion. We need to embrace and share these timeless values with the rest of the world. 

We cannot, on the other hand, fall into an abyss of pietistic delusions, rigorous ritualism and self-righteousness. At this level the Shari’ah offers a plethora of texts in the Quran and Hadiths which, in turn, precipitated one of the greatest responses in human history to matters of this order. 

The following is but a sample of the many great doctors and pharmacologists who contributed to the evolution of medicine in its current incarnation: 

a) 8th Century: Harun al-Rashid founded the House of Wisdom (Bayt al-Hikmah). Here, many medical texts and ancient manuscripts were translated. With respect to a creative and energetic engagement of medicine, astronomy, science, mathematics and many other subjects, this marked one of the most productive periods of advancement – not only in Muslim history – but also in global history. 

b) 9th Century: Abu Bakr al-Razi. Born in Persia he was a physician, chemist and teacher. Many of his books were later translated into Latin and Greek. His contribution to building hospitals was quite immense. 

c) 10th Century: Surgeon al-Zahrawi (Abul Casis) was born in Cordoba. Apart from being the inventor of numerous medical instruments, he was the first to design an illustrated surgical book. 

d) 11th Century: In Baghdad, Ibn Sina (Avicenna) composed the Canon of Medicine (al-Qanun fi l-Tibb). This was a five-volume book that included all the known medicine up to his time. His book was prescribed for hundreds of years in European Institutions of learning. 

e) 12th Century: Ibn Rushd (Averrroes) was born in Cordoba, Spain. He was a polymath excelling in Islamic Law, Philosophy, Astronomy and Medicine. His aptitude for medicine was noted by his contemporaries and can be seen in his major enduring work Kitab al-Kulliyat fi al-Tibb (The Book Dealing with the Universals of Medicine). This book, together with Kitab al-Taysir fi al-Mudawat wa l-Tadbir (The Book of Particularities dealing with Facilitation of Medical Treatment and its Planning) written by Abu Marwan Ibn Zuhr, became the main medical textbooks for physicians in the Jewish, Christian and Muslim worlds for centuries to come.

f) 14th Century: The Ottoman, Serafeddin Sabuncuoglu was a surgeon born in Amasya, Northern Turkey. His famous work on surgery was called The Imperial Surgery. This is considered to be the first illustrated surgical Atlas and the last major medical encyclopaedia from the Muslim world. This book also features female surgeons for the first time. 

The ideas and energetic creativity contained in the works mentioned above – while representing only a fraction of Muslim contributions to these and other sciences – capture the mood and spirit that defined the Muslim zeitgeist of those periods. Let us now look at some of the sacred texts both in the Quran and Sunnah that inspired this dynamic elan in Muslim communities throughout the Islamic world. Then let us also briefly look at some of the defining principles and maxims that later scholars developed and that served to animate the sacred textual narratives of the Quran and Sunnah into a living, breathing embodiment of creative and living Fiqh

The need to address this matter becomes even more imperative in view of the dastardly incoherent responses to the current covid-19 pandemic by certain minority “Muslim” groupings. This has led to a state of shocked disbelief by both Muslims and non-Muslims throughout the world. This minoritarian madness appears to have surfaced here in South Africa too. Reports indicate that more than twenty mosques in South Africa are under pressure to open their doors to congregational prayers and activities. What these people are clamouring for are unquestionably prohibited in Islam. Let us not mistake the fact though, that most of these minority groups are obsessed with power politics. Theirs is simply shameless power play. This is often the case with those suffering from minoritarian and certain forms of extremist complexes. These people are in serious need of attention, and possibly equally in need of psychotherapy. However, under the circumstances, there is a serious need to present a reasoned and grounded perspective on the matter. 

As Muslims we need to be cognizant of the fact that we are fully responsible for the consequences of any irresponsible behaviour. The Quranic narrative is quite clear about the condition that whatever good we are beneficiaries of is what we have earned; and that whatever misfortune we might suffer is, likewise, a consequence of what we have earned.

 

لَا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتْ وَعَلَيْهَا مَا اكْتَسَبَتْ

No soul is burdened beyond its capacity. It receives every good that it has earned; and it suffers any ill that it has earned. (Baqarah, 2: 286).


The Quran is replete with references of this nature. Three of these are pertinent to our point: 

 

ظَهَرَ الْفَسَادُ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِي النَّاسِ لِيُذِيقَهُم بَعْضَ الَّذِي عَمِلُوا لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ

Mischief (and corruption) have appeared on land and on sea because of what the hands of people have wrought. (Rum, 30: 41). 

وَمَا أَصَابَكُم مِّن مُّصِيبَةٍ فَبِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِيكُمْ وَيَعْفُو عَن كَثِيرٍ

And whatever assails you of misfortune (and calamities) is a result of what your own hands have wrought, but He forgives many. (Shura, 42: 30). 

كُلُّ نَفْسٍ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ رَهِينَةٌ

Every soul will be held responsible for its deeds (Mudaththir, 74: 38) 

It is clear from these – and many other verses – that as people obligated (mukallaf) to observe the precepts of Islamic Law, that a huge measure of personal responsibility is vested in us. This is particularly pertinent with respect to circumstances such as Covid-19. The Quran prohibits us from wanton exposure to life-threatening situations: 

 

وَأَنفِقُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَلَا تُلْقُوا بِأَيْدِيكُمْ إِلَى التَّهْلُكَةِ وَأَحْسِنُوا إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ

And spend of what you have in the Way of Allah; and do not let your hands contribute to your own destruction. (Baqarah, 2: 195). 

There can be little doubt in the minds of most Muslim scholars, and lay people alike, that a wilful – and senseless – disregard for these Quranic precepts is shameless. A larger context for these precepts is provided by the many hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and the position of his Companions with respect to plagues and epidemics. 

Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: 

لَا عَدْوَى لَا يُورِدُ مُمْرِضٌ عَلَى مُصِحٍّ

Infection (and contagion) is not a matter of superstition! Do not mix the sick with the healthy. (Muslim). 

In his encyclopaedic commentary on the Hadith collection of Muslim, Imam al- Nawawi states that the command “Do not mix the sick with the healthy” is a clear instruction to the effect that anything that causes harm must be avoided; and that, moreover, this act of avoidance would be in consonance with the concepts of preordainment and predestination as understood in Islam. 

In Islam the question of the Decrees of Allah is one that envisages them as multiple and manifold. There is no one decree that forces a person in a particular direction.  

The manifold nature of Divine Decrees, therefore, allows for a large margin of choice. This is evident too – mentioned later – by the response of Umar al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) during a time when he and his army encountered a plague while out in the battlefield. However, in the case of infectious and contagious diseases, the Hadith is clear about the fact that quarantine – or isolation – is mandatory. 

Another Hadith that forcefully speaks about quarantine is the following: 

 

Sa’ad reported that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: 

إِذَا سَمِعْتُمْ بِالطَّاعُونِ بِأَرْضٍ فَلاَ تَدْخُلُوهَا، وَإِذَا وَقَعَ بِأَرْضٍ وَأَنْتُمْ بِهَا فَلاَ تَخْرُجُوا مِنْهَا

If you hear about a plague in a particular place then do not enter it: and if it occurs in a place where you are present, then do not leave that place. (Bukhari). 

A particular Hadith that has caused some unnecessary concern for some people is the following: 

‘Aysha (may Allah be pleased with her) reported that she asked the Prophet (Peace be upon him) about plagues and he said: 

أَنَّهُ كَانَ عَذَابًا يَبْعَثُهُ اللَّهُ عَلَى مَنْ يَشَاءُ، فَجَعَلَهُ اللَّهُ رَحْمَةً لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ، فَلَيْسَ مِنْ عَبْدٍ يَقَعُ الطَّاعُونُ فَيَمْكُثُ فِي بَلَدِهِ صَابِرًا، يَعْلَمُ أَنَّهُ لَنْ يُصِيبَهُ إِلاَّ مَا كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَهُ، إِلاَّ كَانَ لَهُ مِثْلُ أَجْرِ الشَّهِيدِ

It is a trial that Allah sends upon whomsoever He wills, but Allah has made it a mercy for the believers. Any bondsman who resides in a land afflicted by a plague while remaining steadfast and patient – knowing that nothing will befall him except that which Allah has decreed – will be given the reward of a martyr. (Bukhari).

This Hadith must be understood in the context of the aforementioned Hadiths. In this way it becomes obvious that the one who patiently endures the misfortune of being subjected to a plague will be rewarded if he/she exercises the choice to remain in the afflicted area. There is certainly no reward for a person who leaves that place for a non-afflicted one, thereby escalating the potential for that disease to spread further. On the contrary, that would be a criminal act according to Islamic Law. This is precisely the case with those who are demanding unqualified congregational space in mosques and elsewhere. Given the current Covid-19 state, this is criminal. Period. 

A telling case with respect to choices is the case of Umar ibn al-Khattab (alluded to earlier). The narration is as follows:  

خَرَجَ إِلَى الشَّأْمِ حَتَّى إِذَا كَانَ بِسَرْغَ لَقِيَهُ أُمَرَاءُ الأَجْنَادِ أَبُو عُبَيْدَةَ بْنُ الْجَرَّاحِ وَأَصْحَابُهُ، فَأَخْبَرُوهُ أَنَّ الْوَبَاءَ قَدْ وَقَعَ بِأَرْضِ الشَّأْمِ‏.‏ قَالَ ابْنُ عَبَّاسٍ فَقَالَ عُمَرُ ادْعُ لِي الْمُهَاجِرِينَ الأَوَّلِينَ‏.‏ فَدَعَاهُمْ فَاسْتَشَارَهُمْ وَأَخْبَرَهُمْ أَنَّ الْوَبَاءَ قَدْ وَقَعَ بِالشَّأْمِ فَاخْتَلَفُوا‏.‏ فَقَالَ بَعْضُهُمْ قَدْ خَرَجْتَ لأَمْرٍ، وَلاَ نَرَى أَنْ تَرْجِعَ عَنْهُ‏.‏ وَقَالَ بَعْضُهُمْ مَعَكَ بَقِيَّةُ النَّاسِ وَأَصْحَابُ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم وَلاَ نَرَى أَنْ تُقْدِمَهُمْ عَلَى هَذَا الْوَبَاءِ‏.‏ فَقَالَ ارْتَفِعُوا عَنِّي‏.‏ ثُمَّ قَالَ ادْعُوا لِي الأَنْصَارَ‏.‏ فَدَعَوْتُهُمْ فَاسْتَشَارَهُمْ، فَسَلَكُوا سَبِيلَ الْمُهَاجِرِينَ، وَاخْتَلَفُوا كَاخْتِلاَفِهِمْ، فَقَالَ ارْتَفِعُوا عَنِّي‏.‏ ثُمَّ قَالَ ادْعُ لِي مَنْ كَانَ هَا هُنَا مِنْ مَشْيَخَةِ قُرَيْشٍ مِنْ مُهَاجِرَةِ الْفَتْحِ‏.‏ فَدَعَوْتُهُمْ، فَلَمْ يَخْتَلِفْ مِنْهُمْ عَلَيْهِ رَجُلاَنِ، فَقَالُوا نَرَى أَنْ تَرْجِعَ بِالنَّاسِ، وَلاَ تُقْدِمَهُمْ عَلَى هَذَا الْوَبَاءِ، فَنَادَى عُمَرُ فِي النَّاسِ، إِنِّي مُصَبِّحٌ عَلَى ظَهْرٍ، فَأَصْبِحُوا عَلَيْهِ‏.‏ قَالَ أَبُو عُبَيْدَةَ بْنُ الْجَرَّاحِ أَفِرَارًا مِنْ قَدَرِ اللَّهِ فَقَالَ عُمَرُ لَوْ غَيْرُكَ قَالَهَا يَا أَبَا عُبَيْدَةَ، نَعَمْ نَفِرُّ مِنْ قَدَرِ اللَّهِ إِلَى قَدَرِ اللَّهِ، أَرَأَيْتَ لَوْ كَانَ لَكَ إِبِلٌ هَبَطَتْ وَادِيًا لَهُ عُدْوَتَانِ، إِحْدَاهُمَا خَصِبَةٌ، وَالأُخْرَى جَدْبَةٌ، أَلَيْسَ إِنْ رَعَيْتَ الْخَصْبَةَ رَعَيْتَهَا بِقَدَرِ اللَّهِ، وَإِنْ رَعَيْتَ الْجَدْبَةَ رَعَيْتَهَا بِقَدَرِ اللَّهِ  

Abdallah ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) left for Syria until they reached a place named Sargh. Here he met the commanders of the army, ‘Ubayda ibn al-Jarrah and his companions. They informed him that a plague had afflicted Syria. ‘Umar then addressed the people and said: “I will withdraw in the morning, so you too must return.” 

Abu ‘Ubayda then said: “Are you fleeing from the decree of Allah?” 

‘Umar replied: “Would that another had said so. O Ubayda! Yes, we are fleeing. But we are fleeing from the decree of Allah to the decree of Allah! Do you not see that if you descended with your camels into a valley with two fields, one fertile and the other barren, that you would graze the camels in the fertile one? You would graze in the fertile field by the decree of Allah and not the barren field (also there) by the decree of Allah!” (Bukhari). 

In this case – with particular reference to the nature of Divine Decrees – ‘Umar al- Khattab demonstrated a much more coherent and balanced concept of the matter. This is the approach that has defined our classical legacy with respect to the question of Divine Decrees (or Qada and Qadr). Short of that, we could all be fatalists – which, too, is prohibited in Islam. 

 

In addition to the textual evidence cited above, our classical scholars have also developed a host of precepts and axioms – based on their holistic readings of the texts – to aid and facilitate our understanding when confronted with challenges such as Covid-19. 

Under the rubric of Maqasid al-Shar’iah (the Higher Objectives of Islamic Law) a number of principles have been devised. Six of the important ones – also referred to as the Kulliyat al-Sitt (the six universal principles) are the following: 

a) The Preservation of Life – Hifz al-Hayat

b) The Preservation of Religion – Hifz al-Din

c) The Preservation of the Intellect – Hifz al-‘Aql

d) The Preservation of Progeny – Hifz al-Nasl

e) The Preservation of Property and Wealth – Hifz al-Mal 

f) The Preservation of Human Dignity – Hifz al-‘Ird 

To stand in violation of any of the above is considered a cardinal crime in Islam. To consider the Preservation of Life alone ought to be enough to wring the conscience of any Muslim. 

وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا النَّفْسَ الَّتِي حَرَّمَ اللَّهُ إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ

Take not life, which Allah has made sacred, except through justice and law. (al-An’am, 6: 151) 

أَنَّهُ مَن قَتَلَ نَفْسًا بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ أَوْ فَسَادٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَكَأَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا وَمَنْ أَحْيَاهَا فَكَأَنَّمَا أَحْيَا النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا

If anyone killed a person – unless it be for murder or treason in the land – it would be as if he killed the entire humanity. And if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the entire humanity. (Al-Ma’idah, 5: 35). 

Another subject in Islamic Law, also based on holistic and integrated perspectives, is referred to as al-Qawa’id al-Fiqhiyyah (Maxims of Islamic Law). There are five principle ones: 

a) Matters are to be judged by their purposes and objectives – al-Umur bi Maqasidiha

b) Certainty is not removed by doubt – al-Yaqin la Yazalu bi l-Shakk.

c) Difficulty must be alleviated – al-Mashaqqah Tajlibu l-Taysir.

d) Harm must be removed (whether harm to oneself or another) – al-Darar Yuzal.

e) Custom has the weight of law – al- ‘Adah Muhakkamah

The relevant maxim here is “Harm must be removed”. This is based on a Hadith of the Prophet (saw) where he stated “La Darar wa la Dirar – Intentional harming of oneself or another is forbidden.” (Malik, Ibn Majah, Bayhaqi and Daraqutni). According to the polymath Imam Jalal al-Din Suyuti, this maxim is intrinsically linked with the one before it “Difficulty must be alleviated.” In resolutely adhering to the rules and regulations imposed upon us by the deadly Covid-19 virus, we may eventually overcome the difficulties imposed upon us by this virus. It is our Islamic duty to adhere to all measures that are designed to protect us from the potential harm of the virus with the subsequent objective of alleviating the difficulties we have to endure. In this case the sabr (patient endurance) referred to earlier is an imperative under the circumstances. Human life is sacred in Islam. To disrespect the lives of others is unequivocal proof of the fact that one is undoubtedly bereft of self-respect.  

With respect to the latter imperatives, a further precept referred to as Dhu Nuz’ati Jama’iyyah has been developed. This precept states that the general and collective interests of the public take precedence over individual and/or minority interests – particularly where such individual or minority interests unequivocally militate against the greater and collective public interests. 

As it is in the case of demented groupings such as al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram and al-Shabaab, this is a toxicity that must be dealt with unremittingly and with firm determination. 

On a final note, let us remind ourselves that spreading fake news about a matter as serious as Covid-19 may have consequences as deadly as the virus itself. We need to shun all forms of paranoia, irrational fears and even flippancy and, instead, embrace responsible action in all that we do. We owe it to ourselves and the rest of humanity. Once again, the Quran is resolutely vocal about this: 

وَإِذَا جَاءَهُمْ أَمْرٌ مِّنَ الْأَمْنِ أَوِ الْخَوْفِ أَذَاعُوا بِهِ وَلَوْ رَدُّوهُ إِلَى الرَّسُولِ وَإِلَىٰ أُولِي الْأَمْرِ مِنْهُمْ لَعَلِمَهُ الَّذِينَ يَسْتَنبِطُونَهُ مِنْهُمْ

When a matter related to public safety and fear reaches them, they broadcast it aloud. Had they only referred it to the Messenger and to those in authority amongst them, then those with the expertise would have been able to engage all the necessary investigations. (Nisa’, 4: 83). 

As Muslims we can be proud of our legacy. We need to reclaim that legacy, so that once again we may become a productive and positive force in serving both Allah and the rest of humanity. 

Shaykh Seraj Hendricks , Azzawia Institute (April 2020).  


Biography

Shaykh Seraj Hasan Hendricks is an internationally recognised leading scholar of normative Sunni Islam, steeped in the rich legacy of the classical heritage, based in Cape Town, South Africa. He is Resident Shaykh of the Zawiyah Institute in Cape Town, and holder of the Maqasid Chair at the International Peace University of South Africa. Shaykh Seraj studied the Islamic sciences for more than a decade in the holy city of Makka, and was appointed as khalīfa of the aforementioned muaddith of the Ḥijāz, the distinguished al-Sayyid Muhammad b. ʿAlawī al-Mālikī, master of the Ṭarīqa ʿUlamāʿ Makka – the (sufi) path of the Makkan scholars.

Shaykh Seraj Hendricks was a high school English teacher between 1980 and 1982 in Cape Town before leaving for Saudi Arabia in 1983 to study at the Umm al-Qura University in Makka. Before this, he spent many years studying at the feet of his illustrious uncle, the late Shaykh Mahdi Hendricks – erstwhile Life President of the Muslim Judicial Council and widely regarded as one of the foremost scholars of Islam in southern Africa. Shaykh Seraj was actively engaged in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa during the 80’s and early 90’s.

Shaykh Seraj spent three years at the Arabic Language Institute in Makka studying Arabic and related subjects before being accepted for the BA (Hons) Islamic Law degree. He specialised in fiqh and uūl al-fiqh in the Faculty of Sharīʿa and graduated in 1992. During his studies at Umm al-Qura University, he was also a student of the late Sayyid Muhammad ʿAlawī al-Mālikī in Makka for a period of eight years and from whom he obtained a full ijāza in the religious sciences. He also obtained ijāzāt from both the late Sayyid Ahmad Mashur al-Ḥaddād and Sayyid ʿAbd al-Qādir b. Ahmad al-Saqqaf (d. 1431/2010). These scholars are all known as some of the pre-eminent ‘ulama of the ummah in the 20th century, worldwide.

After his return to Cape Town he received an MA (Cum Laude) for his dissertation: “Taawwuf (Sufism) – Its Role and Impact on the Culture of Cape Islam” from the University of South Africa (UNISA). He is currently at the tail-end of completing his PhD at the same institution.

Apart from fiqh and uūl al-fiqh, some of Shaykh Seraj’s primary interests are in Sufism, Islamic civilisation studies, interfaith matters, gender studies, socio-political issues and related ideas of pluralism and identity. He has lectured and presented papers in many countries, sharing platforms with his contemporaries.

He has translated works of Imam al-Ghazālī, and summarised parts of the Revival of the Religious Sciences (Iyāʾ ʿUlūm al-Dīn), most notably in the Travelling Light series, together with Shaykhs ʿAbd al-Hakīm Murad and Yaḥyā Rhodus.

Some of his previous positions included being the head of the Muslim Judicial Council’s Fatwa Committee (which often led to him being described as the ‘Mufti of Cape Town’), lecturer in fiqh at the Islamic College of Southern Africa (ICOSA), and lecturer in the Study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). Currently he is a member of the Stanlib Sharīʿa Board, and chief arbitrator (akīm) of the Crescent Observer’s Society, and has been listed consecutively in the Muslim500 from 2009 to 2018. He was also appointed Dean of the Madina Institute in South Africa, a recognised institution of higher learning in South Africa and part of the world Madina Institute seminaries led by Shaykh Dr Muhammad Ninowy. Shaykh Seraj is also a professor at the International Peace University of South Africa, holding the Maqasid Chair for Graduate Studies.

Shaykh Seraj has also been teaching a variety of Islamic-related subjects at the Zāwiyah Mosque in Cape Town, which together with his brother Shaykh Ahmad Hendricks, he is the current resident Shaykh of. Alongside his brother, he is the representative (khalīfa) of the aforementioned muaddith of the Ḥijāz, the distinguished al-Sayyid Muhammad b. ʿAlawī al-Mālikī, master of the Ṭarīqa ʿUlamāʿ Makka – the (sufi) path of the Makkan scholars.


 

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