The Meaning of the Black Stone – Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad

In this deep and insightful talk, Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad explains why does one turn to the Kaaba, when “Allah is with you wherever you may be,” and “Wherever you turn, there is the Face of Allah,” as Allah tells us in the Qur’an.

black stone National Geographic

The Shaykh discusses the reality of the Closeness and Presence of Allah, and how it is we who are distant from Allah. We are but shadows, and our lives are but fleeting things. But the Most True is the Truth of every situation. The Self-Sustaining (al-Qayyum), who sustains all things.

Listen to this brilliant lesson, and reflect.

Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad is Dean of the Cambridge Muslim College, UK, which trains imams for British mosques. In 2010 he was voted Britain’s most influential Muslim thinker by Jordan’s Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre.
He has translated a number of books from the Arabic, including several sections of Imam al-Ghazali’s Ihya’ Ulum al-Din.
His most recent book is Commentary on the Eleventh Contentions, in which he deals with a range of modern social and political controversies.
Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad, a Sunni Muslim, regularly leads Jum’a prayers at the Cambridge central mosque, and has spoken in major mosques in Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Spain, and the United States. Recordings of his talks are available on the Cambridge Khutbas website. His articles have appeared in The Independent, the London Evening Standard, the Daily Telegraph, The Times, the Catholic Herald, Islamica, Zaman, the Times Literary Supplement, and Prospect. He is also a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day
Under Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad’s guidance, Cambridge Muslim College is tackling the urgent challenges faced by the Muslim community by upskilling our future leaders.
Please support them by donating here
You can find many excellent articles written by Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad here:

Resources for seekers:

Building Our Trust in Religious Leadership, by Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad
Donald Trump and the Triumph of Islam, by Shaykh Abdal-Hakim Murad
Rethinking Islamic Education – Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad
Riding the Tiger of Modernity – Shaykh Abdal-Hakim Murad
Consciousness Beyond Mindfulness – Shaykh Abdal Hakim M/urad
Cultural investment is the way forward – Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad
The Orphan – Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad – Cambridge Khutbahs Etc.
The Sunnah as Primordiality – Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad
The Four Friends and Islamic History – Abdal Hakim Murad – Cambridge Khutbahs Etc.
The Power of Zakat in the 21st Century, by Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad

What Role Does Culture Play in Islam?

Question: Could you please clarify what is the view of Islam regarding different peoples maintaining their native character and mentality, and being proud of them: I mean not in a bad way, which denies validity of other peoples, but simply appreciating what they have been given and cultivating it as their unique heritage? Does really Islam ultimately deny value of native, ancient heritage and cultivating it in terms of that which does not go against Islamic principles, like decent folk songs and costumes, symbols and distinctive, irreducible mentality and world-view? I ask this because I see that for many of my compatriots this is a major obstacle for accepting Islam: they might actually, perhaps partly unconsciously be considering Islam as something alien to our mentality, coming from distant Arab lands, suitable for Arabs; so they might see accepting Islam as a kind of treachery towards this ancient heritage, which additionally is already on the brink of extinction thanks to globalization, modernity and so on. However, I feel that it cannot be true – it is Allāh that created all the different peoples with their peculiarities as a sign from Him, not to be ignored and destroyed, and Islam is intended for all of those people.
I will truly appreciate any qualified suggestions and clarifications.

Answer: Assalaamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah. Please see below.

Maxim Five: Custom has the weight of law. (Taken from Dr. Umar Abd-Allah’s ‘Living Islam with Purpose.’)

This maxim is the theme of the Nawawi Foundation Paper “Islam and the Cultural Imperative,” which illustrates the importance of culture in Islam and the imperative that Muslims in America create their own distinctive indigenous culture.55 The maxim “culture has the weight of law” affirms that Islam is not culturally predatory, and it teaches Muslims to look upon all cultural heritages with an open mind, especially those where they live and to which they belong.


Once, a group of Ethiopian converts began to dance with drums and spears in the Prophet’s mosque in celebration of an annual Islamic festival. The Companion ‘Umar attempted to stop them, but the Prophet intervened and urged them to continue. In one Hadith, he said to them: “Play your games, sons of Ethiopia, so that the Jews and Christians know that there is flexibility (fusḥa) in our religion.”57 By this and similar acts, the Prophet set the precedent of affirming cultural differences and made it clear that, for non-Arabs, entering Islam did not require them to give up their own cultural norms for those of the Arabs.

The Qur’an revealed the following verse to the Prophet on the eve of his migration to Medina, where his legislative activity began.

It establishes several primary legal principles, acceptance of culture being one of them: “Accept from people what comes naturally for them; command what is good by custom; and turn away from the ignorant without responding in kind” (Qur’an 7:199). The Prophet’s attitude toward ethnic and cultural identity provides an example of the application of this verse. He did not destroy the indigenous cultures and subcultures of pre-Islamic Arabia, rather he lived in harmony with them, correcting what was unsound and repealing what was degenerate. Perhaps, the best example of the Prophet’s accommodation of Arabian subcultural norms was his practice of propagating the Qur’an in the seven principal dialectical variations (aḥruf) of Arabic. Throughout Arabia, the Arab tribes understood the Meccan dialect of the Prophet’s tribe, Quraysh, which served as the linguistic standard for all. The Prophet’s use of the seven dialectical variations was not a necessity; it was a respectful gesture toward the Arab tribes, which acknowledged the integrity of each tribe’s cultural identity.

The Prophet’s attitude toward the cultural norms of the Arab tribes and other ethnic groups constitutes a major precedent and a basic standard in Islamic law. Because the Prophet gave broad endorsement to diverse cultural conventions and did not alter them except when necessary, Abū Yūsuf, the principal student of Imam Abū Ḥanīfa, regarded Islam’s openness toward other cultures as the Prophet’s Sunna. Abū Yūsuf’s position contrasts sharply with certain Muslims today who regard the Sunna (narrowly defined as certain details of dress and personal behavior) as a substitute for culture.

Islamic legal theory regards sound cultural norms as constituting an independent and authoritative source of Islamic law. The noted Ḥanafī jurist al-Sarakhsī stated: “Whatever is established by good custom is equally well established by sound legal proof.”

Al-Tusūlī, a prominent Mālikī judge and legal scholar, wrote: “It is obligatory to let people follow their customs, usages, and general aspirations in life. To hand down rulings in opposition to them is gross deviation and tyranny.”

The word “custom” (ʿāda) as used in the maxim “custom has the weight of law” refers to acceptable cultural norms. Jurists define their usage of the word “custom” as “matters that are firmly established in practice and frequently repeated in people’s lives and acceptable to sound natures (al-ṭibāʿ al-salīma).” Reference to “sound natures” is linked to the Islamic belief that human beings are created with sound natures; humans are intrinsically good and endowed with basic intuitive knowledge of God, good and evil, benefit and harm. In a normative state, human beings adopt cultural norms suitable for themselves and the particular circumstances, times, and places in which they live. Thus, the basic purpose of cultural conventions is to obtain benefits and ward off harms to the furthest extent possible in widely divergent contexts. From the perspective of Islamic law, the nature of indigenous cultures and subcultures is fundamentally linked to the wellbeing of the social groups that have adopted them. For this reason, Muslim jurists regard Islam’s endorsement of diverse cultural norms as an instance of its overriding commitment to acquiring benefits and protecting from harms.

Cultural conventions make up a fundamental part of identity and have a strong hold over people accustomed to them. Islamic law acknowledges this reality and expresses it in the form of the legal maxim: “Custom is second nature” (al-ʿāda ṭabīʿa thāniya).

Customs are so deeply ingrained in people that it is difficult to distinguish them from their intrinsic natures. Therefore, it is all the more wise, from the standpoint of the law, to leave customs unchanged insofar as possible. Changing customary conventions unnecessarily is detrimental, because of the strong connection between customs and societal needs. When unhealthy customs must be altered or repealed, the process requires wise strategies and must be given time. Here again, the Prophet’s example sets the precedent; he brought his Companions into full compliance with Islamic norms gradually through a process that lasted more than two decades.

Some Muslims challenge the validity of indigenous customs by citing the Hadith mentioned earlier: “Whoever imitates (tashabbaha) a people belongs to them.” As noted, the Hadith condemns the servile imitation of others; it does not condemn healthy cultural interaction or the mere act of resembling (tashābaha) other people.

The value of such interaction is especially clear when it is done for laudable reasons like living with others harmoniously and building bridges of understanding and cooperation. Furthermore, it is indisputable in the light of a body of authentic Hadith that the Prophet himself often wore various types of non-Muslim clothing that were given to him as gifts from Byzantium, Yemen, and other distant regions.

When introduced to this maxim, “custom has the weight of law,” some American Muslims have anxieties about which indigenous customs are acceptable and which are not. In certain cases, their response reflects the culture of inhibition in which many of them grew up and the general presumption of prohibition common to that culture. It should also be noted that the word “culture” has taken on a pejorative meaning for many Muslims in America, especially those who come from immigrant families. For them, the word “culture” is often associated with the old world folkways of their parents, certain aspects of which they may deem to be “un-Islamic,” in conflict with American norms, or otherwise unacceptable.

“Custom has the weight of law” cannot be invoked to repeal what is clearly obligatory or prohibited in the Prophetic law, and the law categorically repudiates detrimental and degenerate customs.

But, as has been seen, Islamic law takes an open-minded attitude toward customs in general, and, when judging cultural norms, it prefers to err on the side of leniency and not rigidity. The presumption of permissibility also applies to indigenous customs; customs too must be presumed acceptable until proven otherwise. A relevant maxim states: “Permissibility is the basic rule in customs” (al-aṣl fi al-ʿādāt al-ibāḥa). As before, the burden of proof that a particular customary convention is impermissible falls exclusively on those who repudiate it, not on those who affirm it. Nevertheless, in borderline cases, the law prefers to err on the side of lenience. The applicable maxim in this regard states: “The basic rule in customs is exemption” (al-aṣl fī al-ʿādāt al-ʿafw), meaning that they are exempt from blame.

Accommodation of indigenous cultures made it possible for Islam to lay indigenous roots wherever it spread on the continents of Africa and Eurasia. Muslims learned new weights and measurements.

They adopted and enriched local languages. In addition to the Islamic lunar calendar, Muslims adopted solar and astral calendars to determine the seasons and the best times for planting and harvest. They designed distinctive styles of dress; the long onepiece garment (thawb) and many other items of clothing that some Muslims today call “Sunna” are largely cultural products and differ significantly from the dress of the Prophet and his Companions. Muslim cultural genius is still reflected in simple things like the ways they receive guests and prepare food and in grand things like their achievements in regional styles of art and architecture.

Throughout the pre-modern period, local expressions of Islam bore witness to indigenous cultural creativity. When Islam entered Indonesia, Muslims found that the standard Islamic call to prayer (adhān) did not always serve its purpose. The human voice could not carry well in the dense Indonesian rain forests. Muslims adopted the local cultural convention of communicating through “talking” drums. They preserved the Sunna of making the prayer call but complemented it by using enormous drums, which they hung horizontally outside their mosques and beat loudly to call people to prayer. The deep, hollow sounds of the drums resonated through the forests. The drumbeats signified that the place from which they came was empty and needed to be filled; they stopped what they were doing and came to prayer.

In many parts of Indonesia, Muslims worked in rice paddies and came to the mosques with muddy feet. Instead of repeatedly reminding the rice farmers to clean their feet before entering the mosques, indigenous architects constructed shallow pools in front of the mosque entrances. The farmers could not enter the mosques without walking through them, which cleaned their feet. But the standing water in the pools created the potential hazard of becoming habitats for mosquitoes and other insects. So the pools were also used tobreed carp; the fish ate the insect larvae, and the people ate the fish.

In speaking about creating an indigenous Muslim culture in the United States, it must be emphasized that such a culture would not be a single, monolithic whole, nor would it necessarily develop along the lines of the dominant culture or any particular subculture.

American culture, like human cultures everywhere, is not a single uniform entity. It is a complex of many diverse cultures and subcultures coexisting. They complement and compete against each other and have the same relation with the dominant culture of the mainstream. Endorsement of American culture means being open-minded toward all the multiple expressions of the indigenous cultural heritage. As emphasized before, the maxim “culture has the weight of law” disallows outright rejection of any of cultural or subcultural legacy; the maxim allows American Muslims to adopt or to adapt what they like from what they like as long as it is not detrimental. Our attitude should remain consistent with Islam’s default position that customs are presumed to be permissible, beneficial, and good until proven otherwise; in borderline cases, we have recourse to the maxim “the basic rule in customs is exemption.”

In traditional Muslim societies, creative adaptation of indigenous norms was conspicuous and often more beneficial than mere adoption of them. Likewise, American Muslims need not be content with just adopting good cultural norms; it is often better to adapt them imaginatively in order to produce results that are more beautiful and more beneficial than what existed before. In this regard, noteworthy achievements have already been made in areas like music, poetry, comedy, journalism, fiction, non-fiction, fashion, and interior design.

One of the most significant cultural challenges before American Muslims is to design truly indigenous styles of American mosques. The American mosque should not have a single set form. As stated above, American culture is multiplex; American mosques must reflect that complexity and suit the localities and neighborhoods where they are built. Several North American Muslim communities have made laudable efforts in this direction already.

Throughout history, Muslim mosques have been the products of regional cultures and subcultures. Islam does not dictate a set design for mosques; the only necessary architectural element in a mosque is that it have an area for prayer. Some Muslims regard domes and minarets as essential features of the mosque. The Prophet’s mosque did not have a dome or minarets during his lifetime.

Domes and minarets were post-Prophetic cultural innovations in the Muslim world. The dome were a relatively late development in Islamic architecture; its design was created to allow for expansive prayer areas that were not taken up by pillars in an age when builders did not have access to iron and steel beams. Minarets were also later developments. They were ideal for making the call to prayer in an age without microphones, but they also had a second primary purpose. Just as lighthouses are beacons for ships, minarets were originally beacons for caravans. Bonfires were lit on the tops of the minarets after the night prayer to give distant caravans a point of reference. The name “minaret” reflects their original cultural function; in Arabic mināra (minaret) means “place of fire.” Muslims in China, Andalusia, and North and West Africa did not adopt domes or minarets, in part, because they did not suit their environments.

A mosque should fit in harmoniously with its surroundings. Historically, the design, structure, and landscaping of mosques were suited to local and regional architectural norms, topography, and climate. Mosques should not clash with indigenous tastes and styles; they should not appear out of place or give the impression of being foreign transplants. Like all architectural achievements, creation of American mosque styles requires artistic, technical, and cultural genius. At a time when secular architecture is the dominant norm, the Western mosque must be attractive and inviting by today’s standards yet readily identifiable as sacred space.

Related Answers:

Giving & Receiving Christmas Gifts
Partaking in a Thanksgiving Dinner: Permitted or Not?
Did The Prophetﷺ or Companions Partake in Poetry?
Listening to Islamic Songs with Musical Instruments
Denim Clothes, Saris, and Imitating The Unbelievers
Can Women Wear Colourful Clothing?
Women & The Workplace

Related podcasts and videos:

In Conversation with Dr. Umar Abd-Allah: Islam and The Cultural Imperative
Mercy of Diversity: Cultivating Understanding Despite Difference (Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad)

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

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

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

Abdal Hakim Murad’s ‘Contentions

An Introduction to the ‘Contentions

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

Here is his commentary verbatim, reproduced by his permission.

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

He said ‘Straight path’.

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

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

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

This is clear, surely?

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

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

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

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

94. Wonder is the first passion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

81.    The body exists that we might grow wings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

48.  Optimism: the false Salafism is pollarding.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

92 What has the Christian to do with his toes?

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

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

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

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

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

48. Man ankara Ankara faqad ankara al-ankara.

‘Whoever dislikes Ankara has disliked what is most disliked’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

41.  One turbe for both the duarum turbarum.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

72. Cumhuriyet is possible; cumözgürlük is not.

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

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

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

37.           A miss is as good as a smile.

Seeing a beautiful woman brings warmth to the heart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

23.   The gender gap is a minor third.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abdal Hakim Murad’s ‘Contentions

An Introduction to the ‘Contentions

The Four Friends and Islamic History – Abdal Hakim Murad – Cambridge Khutbahs Etc.

cambridge khutbas etc.

Assalamu alaikum all,

We thought it would be a good time to point you all in the direction of a couple of sets of informative talks given by the Sheikh.

The Four Caliphs

The first set concerns the lives of the Khulafa al-Rashidun, the first 4 Caliphs, ‘rightly guided’. The talks on Hazrat Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman have already been given (the last one pending uploading to the site) and the last talk entitled ‘Ali: the Mortal Choice’ will be given soon insha-Allah. To view the videos and sign onto the mailing list so that you can take part in the last session live, please visit the following link:

A Crash course in Islamic History

The next set of talks is entitled ‘a crash course in Islamic history’; 7 sessions which was given over the course of a weekend in Oslo in early 2011. The audio has been kindly uploaded and made available by

Picture from the Eski Camii (Old Mosque) in Edirne, calligraphic depiction of the name ‘Uthman’. Taken by the CKETC team.

Video: The Khilafa of Abu Bakr -A Time of Challenge – Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad – Quilliam Press

Video: The Khilafa of Abu Bakr – Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad – Quilliam Press

The Khilafa of Abu Bakr – excerpt from Bismillah on Vimeo.

Click here to watch whole video.

A far-sighted and deeply religious man, Abu Bakr al-Siddiq was the first adult free convert to Islam, and became a major narrator of Hadith and a fountainhead of spiritual wisdom.

He also became the first Khalifa of the Holy Prophet ﷺ. Facing rebellions by followers of false prophets, he reestablished the unity of Arabia under Islam.

He became a byword for humble rulership. When he assumed the leadership he said: “If I am right, help me. If I am wrong, correct me. I shall strengthen the weak man among you until he enjoys his rights. I shall weaken the strong man among you until I have taken what is due from him. Obey me for as long as I obey Allah and His prophet; but if I disobey them, then disobey me.”

The Orphan – Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad – Cambridge Khutbahs Etc.

The Orphan – Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad – Cambridge Khutbahs Etc.

Friday sermon (jum’ah khutba) – Sheikh Abdal Hakim Murad – Cambridge – 17th February 2012 – 26mins 44secs
Seest thou one who denies the Judgement (to come)?
Then such is the (man) who repulses the orphan (with harshness),
And encourages not the feeding of the indigent.
So woe to the worshippers
Who are neglectful of their Prayers,
Those who (want but) to be seen (of men),
But refuse (to supply) (Even) neighbourly needs.
In his first khutba given after the Winter hiatus the Sheikh begins with a recitation of Surah Ma’un, that Surah that would ‘strike at the heart of the one with sincerity’. These verses cover the vices of boastfulness and pride, miserliness and hypocrisy, but before all of these harmful vices Allah in this chapter mentions the active repulsion of the orphan. To be an orphan is to be without the warmth, shelter and security that a parent’s care provides naturally. That this should stir our compassionate instincts is understandable, as is Allah’s stern reprimand to the one who would repulse them, especially since their condition in this life mirrors all of ours’ on the Day of Judgment. The Sheikh goes on to explore the early life of the greatest orphan of them all, the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, who was orphaned three times over, of his father, mother and then grandfather.
What is striking in the life of the Prophet is that in society’s eyes he had nothing, and yet Allah used him as an instrument to evoke the greatest changes in society the world has ever seen. This is why the sermon ends with a urgent exhortation to avoid the lassitude of being idle spectators and try as a community to care for those children who may then go on to change the world for the better. This cannot be done with the cold failing approach of the care home but with the prime Islamic virtue of mercy, evoked by the first hadith that scholars are asked to memorise when embarking on their studies:
Those who have mercy will receive the mercy of the Most Merciful. Have mercy on those who are on earth, the One in heavens will have mercy on you.”
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The Sunnah as Primordiality – Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad

The Sunnah as Primordiality

Source:, one of the best Internet sites on Islam

The Sunna as Primordiality

©Abdal Hakim Murad(April 1999)

Twentieth-century Western art is not a subject for which we Muslims have much time. The alert among us are conscious that it neatly represents the decline of the Western Christian worldview and its replacement first with the titanic fantasies of the Renaissance, those absurd nude figures urging us to consider the human creature as sufficient unto himself; and then, when two world wars convinced the Western elite that the human creature left to his own devices was unlikely to create his own paradise on earth, the grotesqueries of the modern period. Today, one of the best-known of British artists is Damien Hurst, famous for exhibiting a sheep floating in formaldehyde. Hardly less famous are Gilbert and George, two middle-aged homosexuals in grey Marks and Spencers suits, who paint vast canvases using their own body fluids. The winner of the 1998 Turner Prize, the most prestigious gong in the British art world, was painted with the excrement of an elephant. Perhaps this is why we Muslims find modern Western art particularly disagreeable and resistant to our contemplation: if art is the crystallisation of a civilisation, then to amble along the corridors of the Tate Gallery is to be confronted with a disturbing realisation. Christianity, when it was taken seriously by the cultural elite, produced significant works, which Muslims can recognise as beautiful, despite the inherent dangers of its love of the graven image. Christianity was sapped by the so-called enlightenment; and now that the enlightenment itself has run its course, the Western soul, as articulated by its most intelligent and most respected artistic representatives, has shifted its concerns to the human entrails. From the spirit, to the mind, to the body – and now to its waste products: a depressing trajectory, and one from which we avert our gaze. But it is immensely instructive, nonetheless, to visit art galleries just to observe the consistency of the decline. It serves as a reminder not only that we dislike the modern world, but also that we don’t like disliking it. We would rather feel that there existed some authentic connection between our worldview and that of the Western elite: but such a link appears no longer to exist. It is not that we are extreme. It is not we who destroyed the bridge. We are simply holding to the norms generally recognised by our species for 99% of its history. It is the West that is extreme, that has grown strange, that seems to have gone mad.

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A warning we should heed – Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad

The message of Islam is that pursuit of money for its own sake is unnatural, inhumane, and will lead us to catastrophe, argues Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad.

O you who believe! Let not your wealth nor your children distract you from remembrance of Allah. Those who do so, they are the losers. (63:9)

This verse in the Qur’an is an invitation for humanity to make a relatively small effort in this world, in return for the eternal reward of the hereafter. It is a call to save ourselves from becoming fixated on our wealth and on providing our children with the latest gadget and games, which ultimately are mere distractions from our remembrance of the creator.

But humans are short-termist; we think primarily of our pleasures now rather than the harmony and serenity of the world to come. Chapter 102 of the Qur’an says that we are distracted by competing in worldly increase, until we finally end up in our graves where we will be questioned about our excesses.

Does this mean that it is wrong to own things? Of course not, as money and offspring can be positive things in the life of a believer, and we do of course have basic needs which need to be met. But we must remember that the pleasures of consumption are quickly gone, while lasting benefit comes only from using our wealth to uphold the rights of others; namely the orphan, the traveller, and the needy. Wealth is thus truly ours only once it has been given away.

Those who are genuinely distracted by worldly increase, and who make it an end in and of itself rather than as a means towards something better are in effect guilty of a form of idolatry. Ours is an age that has made idols of the great banks and finance houses, driven to frenzy by competition amongst billionaires who are kept awake at night by the thought that a rival might make a business deal more quickly than them. A banker who can asset strip companies and throw its employees out onto the street is someone who is in the grip of an obsession that has thrown him beyond of the normal frontiers of humanity.
Neo-classical economics has traditionally focused on four things: land, labour, capital and money, the first three of which are finite, while the fourth, money, is theoretically infinite, and is therefore where human greed has been particularly focussed. Thus arose a system where someone could, with approval, set up a bank with only £1, and then lend £100 using property and other assets promised by others as security.

The lender now has £100 including interest, which they earned by just sitting there and doing nothing. On the basis of this £100, they can then lend £1000, and on and on, until the cancerous growth lubricated by greed becomes so huge that it leads to a fundamental breakdown in the system. Such a system based on usury, with interest as the bizarre “price of money” which itself becomes a commodity, was once prohibited by all faiths. People had a simple and natural intuition that the commoditisation of a measurement of value would open the door to trading in unreal assets, and ultimately to a model of finance that would destroy natural restraints and even, potentially, the planet.

In the classical Islamic system, by contrast, money is the substance of either gold or silver. With a tangible and finite asset being the only measure of value, there is a great deal more certainty about the value of assets and the price of money. This basic wisdom was though not just a theoretical ideal; it succeeded. Muslim society at its height was mercantile, and it was successful. Never was money assigned its own value and never was it seen as an end in and of itself.

Since the abolition of the gold standard however, theoretical limits on the price of money were removed. Last year’s meltdown, whose final consequences were unguessable, was a sign of the inbuilt dangers of a usurious world. Humans are naturally short-termist but in times of crisis we must take stock. As with the related environmental crisis, now is the time to be smarter and more self-restrained. The believer is in any case allergic to the mad amassing of wealth, since he or she expects true happiness and peace only in the remembering of God and in the next world.

Now is the time to think seriously about finding an economic system to replace the one whose dangers have just been revealed. Upon the conquest of Mecca, a verse of the Qur’an was revealed commanding people to give up what remained of their interest-based transactions, upon which a new system based on the value of gold and silver was initiated.

Those who relied so heavily on the old system would of course have been unable to understand a system without banking charges, but not only was such a system created but a successful civilisation was created using these ideas.

Last year we peered into the abyss; now we must apply self-restraint and wisdom, before complete catastrophe ensues.

Cover photo by alexcoitus.

Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad – Friday Khutba – The Two Emigrations – Cambridge

cambridge khutbas etc.: Two Emigrations

In this sermon, the sheikh relates parts of the stories of the migration of Musa (peace be upon him) and his people from Egypt to Palestine, and of Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the Companions from Mecca to Medina. The two stories are of course very well known, but with every re-telling they offer new lessons and inpsiration. Here the two stories are told and compared once more, may Allah allow us to benefit from them.

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Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad – Hypocrisy and Sincerity – a Talk

cambridge khutbas etc.: Hypocrisy & Sincerity

In this sermon, the sheikh relates a hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) about the qualities that indicate hypocrisy (nifaq) in someone’s heart: telling lies, breaking promises, distorting the truth in an argument and breaking one’s pledge. He highlights the seriousness of these faults because of God’s command to be among the people of truth and sincerity (sidq), and discusses how they can affect us in everyday life.

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