Understanding the Trends in Fiqh Literature – By Mufti Taha Karaan

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

* This article was edited from its original source.

There are certain general tendencies in Islamic legal writing:

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

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

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

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

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

Biography of Mufti Taha Karaan

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

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

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

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

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

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


The History of Social Justice – Social Justice Series

In this series, Shaykh Walead Mosaad speaks about defining social justice in the Islamic paradigm. This segment covers the history of social justice, from the times of the Ancient Greeks until today.

Social justice as we know it was first codified by John Rawls in his book A Theory of Justice, published in 1971. He based his theory upon “a veil of ignorance,” from a position where no one one anything about anybody: not their age, economic stats, race, or even gender.

From this basis, he came up with two standards. Firstly, that each person should have equal rights to the most extensive privileges available to other people enjoying the same. Secondly, that inequalities should be arranged so that no one person would be blocked from occupying any position.

Some people criticised this, saying that while it sounded great in theory, in reality people do have positions of privileged, so it would not be possible to give everyone exactly the same social position. In addition, Rawls did not have a plan of action as to how to implement this. Nonetheless, his theory formed the blueprint for many groups.

Plato and Socrates also had similar conceptions of justice. According to them, justice was embodied in a just man. Knowledge and reflection were both the keys to justice. They also believed that justice was one of the cardinal virtues, which sustained and perfects the other three: temperance, wisdom, and courage.

The challenge with philosophical theories, is that few people follow philosophers as a way of life. Rather, philosophers were mostly talking amongst themselves. However, a large amount of people would follow the Prophets’ message.

St Thomas Aquinas, a Catholic theologian, took it a step further by saying that justice was Divine. He believed that justice was a habit, by which a person gave everyone their due through perpetual will.

About the Series

Social justice has been the focus in recent times of Muslim activists and communities. More often than not, the methods and objectives employed in Muslim social justice work has drawn from practices of other communities and traditions not necessarily rooted in Islamic principles. Does the Islamic tradition contain relevant principles that can be drawn upon to inform social justice work?

Al Adar Al Karima –15 Centuries of Female Scholarship

In this series, Shaykha Tamara Gray narrates the stories of great Muslim women through the centuries, who excelled in fields of Islamic knowledge, science, and philanthropy. This segment features Al Adar Al Karima from the 8th century.

Al Adar Al Karima was the Vice-Regent of Yemen for a 14-month period, delegated by her absent son. During that short time, she was able to create peace between the warring tribes, and build a sense of justice and fairness in the land.

Al Adar was known most for her philanthropy. She was know as “The Generous Queen,” and “The Lordly Lady of Piety.”  She would use her own money to build schools and other institutions, and would sponsor students of knowledge. She would make the effort to travel out herself to search for people in need. She would be the one to enter their houses to visit them, and to find out exactly what they  needed.

She was a woman of great faith, prayer, and generosity, and a role model for all women.


With gratitude to Shaykha Tamara Gray and Rabata.

Resources for Seekers

Razia Sultan –15 Centuries of Female Scholarship

In this series, Shaykha Tamara Gray narrates the stories of great Muslim women through the centuries, who excelled in fields of Islamic knowledge, science, and philanthropy. This segment features Razia Sultan from the 7th century.

Razia Sultan was the Sultan, or political leader of the Delhi Sultanate, appointed by her father at his deathbed as he saw her as the most capable leader of all his children.

When she ascended the throne, her first project was to  build diplomatic ties with the Abbasid Caliphate, which ruled over the Muslim lands. This was an extremely significant political step, as it legitimised the lands of the Delhi Sultanate as part of the wider Muslim Ummah. She also took great pains to ensure that the non-Muslim civilians under her rule were treated with dignity and honour.

She was a patron of the arts and education. She established various libraries and centres of learning to ensure that literature and knowledge, both religious and secular, were a firm part of the society. She was also deeply concerned for the infrastructure, and took care that roads and bridges were built to serve the people.

Razia Sultan dealt with her fair share of political challenge. There were many people who protested against her leadership, not only because she was a woman, but also because her family came from slave origin and were not from a noble tribe. When rebellions would happen, she would go out herself to fight against them, as she was a talented horsewoman.  Eventually, she and her husband were both ambushed and killed. Her brother, who took over after her death, was not capable of the role and was also removed, proving that their father was right when he said that Razia Sultan had been the only one worthy of the throne.


With gratitude to Shaykha Tamara Gray and Rabata.

Resources for Seekers

How to Apply the Rules Regarding Backbiting and Slander in Historical Sources?

Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah

Question: Assalamu alaykum

1. How should one view the material rights of others that were taken by one during childhood?

2. As a student of history, I often find myself confused about how to apply the rules regarding backbiting and slander in historical sources, especially after reading Sheikh Gibril Haddad’s ruling in this matter( Could you please clarify what is permissible and impermissible to read/write in an academic context in light of the writings of great scholars such as Ibn Battuta and Ibn Khaldun?

Answer: Wa’alaykum assalam. Thank you for your questions.

May Allah reward you for seeking to make amends for past mistakes. Allah is the One who guided you to this point, so rejoice in the fact that He desires good for you and that you settle your misdeeds in this life, and not in the next life.

1. Taking others rights before and after puberty

If an item was wrongfully taken or destroyed by a pre-pubescent child, then if the child’s guardian is aware of it, then the responsibility falls on the guardian to return / repay the item, as well as teach the child correct behaviour. The cost of the item may be taken from the child’s own money if they have money.

If the item has been returned / repaid, or the owner waived the issue and forgave, then the incident is settled and no further action needs to take place.

If the item was not returned or repaid by the guardian, due to neglect or not knowing, then the onus falls on the child when they reach puberty.

We should also note that the original ruling of paying other’s rights is that of non-fulfilment. For example, if one doubts whether they paid back a debt or not, the default ruling is that they did not and the debt still stands.

In your situation then, in those situations which you are certain that the item was returned or repaid, or the owner forgave you, then you can consider them finalised.

As for those cases where you are unsure if the matter was resolved properly, or there is a chance that you have forgotten some incidents, then the obligation to return items or repay the value remains upon you.

If you can remember what you took and from who, you could either a) try to find out if you did return the item or not, or b) consider that you did not and find a way to either return the exact item or pay the value of it. You do not have to tell them the reason why you are paying them, or giving them the item.

In those case where it is impossible for you to remember what you took and from who, or if it is not possible to locate the persons, then the most you can do for now is give charity on their behalf for the value of the amount taken. If you are unsure of the exact value, then estimate and give extra. You should not seek reward from giving the money in charity, and also know that if the person turned up one day to claim their right, then you must give them it, even if you have paid the amount in charity.

In all situations, you should pray two cycles of the prayer of repentance (tawba), asking Allah to forgive you for your past mistakes. It would also be advised to give some additional charity on your own behalf as a way of atonement.

[Tuhfa al Muhtaj, ‘Iyanat al Talibin]

2. Mentioning negative traits of historical figures

We asked this question to our teacher and mufti of Tarim, Habib Ali Mashur. His answer was that if there is some benefit for the listener / reader in knowing about these historical figures and their negative traits or bad actions, then it would not be considered ghiba (backbiting).

Benefit means that one is able to learn a moral lesson from the discussion and that it helps one more fully understand the context of the topic.

It would be very difficult for a person to read any history or biography without coming across some form of personal description or discussion on the motives of an event without referring to a leading figure’s character traits. At the same, when discussing any person, historical or not, the descriptions given should only be to the extent which it is necessary to make the point being made clear, and not unnecessary or exaggerated.

The intention of the author/speaker may or may not be totally pure, but as a reader we can make our intention pure for reading the text or listening, such as making the intention to learn about history so one can understand what had taken place among people and nations, and thereby strengthen our ability to assess current situations, to learn from the mistakes of others and thereby avoid similar pitfalls, as well as relate and compare worldly events to religious teachings, thereby clearly distinguishing good from evil.

I believe it is in this context that Shaykh Gibril gave his answer.

And Allah knows best.

Warmest salams,
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah

Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.

What Should I Do About Thefts Committed During Childhood?

Answered by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat

Question: Assalamu alaykum

1. How should one view the material rights of others that were taken by one during childhood? To my shame, in my personal situation I remember having done such things more than once, and having been found out by my parents.

2. As a student of history, I often find myself confused about how to apply the rules regarding backbiting and slander in historical sources. Could you please clarify what is permissible and impermissible to read/write in an academic context?

3. Could you define ‘al-khawd fil-batil’ clearly for me so I know how to avoid it?

Answer: Wa ‘alaykum as-salam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh

Thank you for your questions.

The Messenger of Allah said, ‘The pen has been lifted from [documenting and acts of] three particular types of people: someone who is sleeping until he wakes up, a child until he reaches puberty, and an insane person until he regains his sanity’ (Narrated by Imam Ahmad). Based on this hadith you are not sinful for having taken the material possessions of others, however the Noble Shari’a still demands that their property and financial rights be returned. This is even the case if someone damages the property of another whilst asleep by falling onto it, for example.

If you cannot recall exactly what you took and when, you should make a list of what you know for certain, repent from the acts, and pay them back. If you recall anything else at a later date do the same for that too. As for anything which you cannot recall, the great master of spirituality Shaykh Abdul-Wahhab al-Sha’rani mentioned in one of his works that one should regularly perform an act of worship and then donate its reward to anyone who he many have wronged in any way; this was he will have something to compensate them with on the Day of Judgement.


The Messenger of Allah told us that mentioning something about another person which they would dislike having said about them is backbiting (Muslim). The wording of the hadith is applies to any negative comment which could be made about someone; however, what we know from other sources in the Noble Shari’a that there are certain exceptions to this rule where criticising another is not impermissible:

1. When seeking to have a wrong redressed. For example, reporting someone to the police saying that he stole your property.

2. When someone well-known to have a particular name or quality. An example of this is the famous hadith narrator al-Hafiz Muhammad b. Ja’far al-Basri, who was affectionately referred to as Ghundar, troublemaker, after an incident in his days as a student. Despite this being a derogatory term, referring to him with this name is not backbiting, but this exception is conditioned upon the person not minding being referred to like that. This would also be the case for referring to someone with a description that defines them well such as ‘Zayd, the blind man, and Yasir, the short man.’

3. When warning someone. One can mention people when warning others about the potential harm that could occur through them, such as saying, ‘Don’t do business with so and so; he’s dishonest. However, due to the legal principle Necessity only allows the bare minimum (al-Darura tuqaddaru bi qadriha) one would not be allowed to make unrelated criticisms such as, ‘His breath stinks and he doesn’t change his socks for a week!’

4. When mentioning someone who publicly sins, whilst being unconcerned about people’s regard for him. An example of this is someone who walks down the street drinking a bottle of alcohol. Such a person loses the sanctity afforded to believers. Mentioning his misdeeds in the proper context is not sinful, whereas doing so without need could land one in another sin.

5.When seeking a legal verdict, such as asking a mufti something like ‘My father forces me to work and wrongfully claim benefits; what shall I do?’

6. Seeking help to undo a wrong, such as saying to someone ‘Will you speak to your son please? He keeps stealing from the donations box.’

Some of the scholars have added another category which allows one to mention something negative about another out of concern, such as a father saying, ‘I think my son takes drugs.’

In an academic context it would be permissible to documents the misdeeds of people of the past due to the benefit future generations can gain from it. Knowing about the consequences of the disobedience of the archers at the battle of Uhud, or the ultimate end of an unjust ruler is food for thought. Also, having an accurate historical record is essential to maintain the credibility of one’s historical record amongst other things. For these reasons and others the Ulema documented and transmitted matters which may ostensibly seem like backbiting.

Delving into the Forbidden (al-Khawd fi al-Batil).

Delving into the forbidden is a sin which is defined as discussing acts of sin without a worthy purpose. The great Damascan scholar, Shaykh Abdul-Ghani al-Nabulsi mentions in his commentary on Imam al-Birgivi’s al-Tariqa al-Muhammadiyya that this means discussing sins in a way which gives one pleasure and delight – and not necessarily just mentioning the act. From this we can see that someone talking about the the sinful acts of people in a nightclub, for example, is not impermissible if there is a Shari’a countenanced purpose to it. Simply discussing sinful matters to gain a few laughs is what is not permissible.

As for literature, there are many potential benefits to be gained from works which may have some questionable content, which renders reading it permissible. For example, when teaching Arabic Rhetoric, I instruct my students to read The Lord of the Rings because it will aid in them assimilating the concepts of rhetoric easily, which ultimately leads them to being able to see that the Qur’an is inimitable book of Allah.

The concepts of evil and magic in such books are important to know so that one can develop a keen sense of right and wrong. This is especially important for developing the morality of children, who cannot appreciate nuances in the way adults can. Parents should discuss these matters with their children alongside a reading of such literature and re-enforce the morality with Islamic standards. Not knowing about bad and harmful matters leaves one vulnerable to them, which is why the companion Hudhayfa b. al-Yaman habitually asked about the difficulties which would afflict the Muslims so he could remain safe from them.

Stories based on the concept of an ‘anti-hero’, someone who does good overall but by taking bad means, should be avoided as they give a mixed message, as should literature which one is not qualified to read, such as the convoluted arguments of atheists if one does not have a thorough grounding in Islamic Theology.

May Allah bless you with the best of both worlds.

[Shaykh] Abdul-Rahim Reasat

Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat began his studies in Arabic Grammar and Morphology in 2005. After graduating with a degree in English and History he moved to Damascus in 2007 to study and sit at the feet of some of the most erudite scholars of our time.

Over the following eighteen months he studied a traditional curriculum, studying with scholars such as Shaykh Adnan Darwish, Shaykh Abdurrahman Arjan, Shaykh Hussain Darwish and Shaykh Muhammad Darwish.

In late 2008 he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continued his studies for the next six years, in Fiqh, Usul al-Fiqh, Theology, Hadith Methodology and Commentary, Shama’il, and Logic with teachers such as Dr Ashraf Muneeb, Dr Salah Abu’l-Hajj, Dr Hamza al-Bakri, Shaykh Ahmad Hasanat, Dr Mansur Abu Zina amongst others. He was also given two licences of mastery in the science of Qur’anic recital by Shakh Samir Jabr and Shaykh Yahya Qandil.

His true passion, however, arose in the presence of Shaykh Ali Hani, considered by many to be one of the foremost tafsir scholars of our time who provided him with the keys to the vast knowledge of the Quran. With Shaykh Ali, he was able to study an extensive curriculum of Qur’anic Sciences, Tafsir, Arabic Grammar, and Rhetoric.

When he finally left Jordan for the UK in 2014, Shaykh Ali gave him his distinct blessing and still recommends students in the UK to seek out Shaykh Abdul-Rahim for Quranic studies. Since his return he has trained as a therapist and has helped a number of people overcome emotional and psychosomatic issues. He is a keen promoter of emotional and mental health.

Is Historical and Cultural Knowledge Important for a Scholar?

Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah

Question: Assalamu alaykum

Is it important for an islamic scholar to know about history and cultural background to better understand the people he is advising or the world he is living in, or should he use his time to acquire only islamic knowledge?

Answer: Wa’alaykum assalam. Jazakum Allah khayr for your question. I pray this finds you in the best of states.

The acquisition of knowledge is gradual and should be systematic. This means prioritising what you learn at each stage. General knowledge of history is not essential knowledge in most cases, though can be useful and very important in other situations.

Prioritising Knowledge

How, when, and what knowledge one seeks largely depends on what age one starts seeking knowledge. A child will be able to study to both Islamic and broader subjects together, while someone setting out to study the Islamic sciences in adulthood must obviously prioritise. Most people in the West fall into the latter category.

The first thing everyone must learn is the personally obligatory knowledge. Once this has been learnt, then, if the desire still exists, then one can continue to pursue further studies, which would be fulfilling the communal obligation. During these stages, one should concentrate on their Islamic studies and not be too distracted by other sciences. If one wishes, they could set some time aside for extra-curricular reading.

Once a person has completed the bulk of their Islamic studies, then they may freely choose to explore other broader aspects of knowledge such as history and culture, and ensuring not to neglect Islamic history, which includes the seerah.

Is historical and cultural knowledge useful or essential?

The Prophet ﷺ has said, ‘Be avid for that which benefits you’. As such, anything that strengthens one’s faiths, or enables one to strengthen the faith of others, is praiseworthy. Every sound, beneficial knowledge compliments another, and doubtlessly makes a scholar a much more well-rounded individual, and broadens his thinking and ideas. This doesn’t just apply to scholars, but also to all Muslims.

Whether history is essential for a scholar really depends on the role of the scholar, his location, and the situation. As mentioned, in most cases, it is not essential for a scholar to study general history. For example, a scholar of tafsir only really needs to know history relevant to tafsir, a hadith scholar only in the context of hadith. As for a scholar of the Prophetic biography, then they need to know the history of events, while broader world history would certainly complete his knowledge, but cannot be deemed essential.

As for a jurist, a scholar of sacred law, it also depends on the situation being presented. A knowledge of history is never really necessary to reach a correct ruling, though there may be exceptions (see below). In regards to knowing the culture and customs of a people, this may not be necessary in some cases, highly preferable in others cases, and may be essential in a few situations.

In certain situations, legal rulings should only be issued from scholars of the actual area only, who have knowledge of the history, culture and customs, geo-politics, even climate if relevant, and the specific problems facing the Muslims in that area.

Another area where knowledge of culture and history might be essential is for the one calling people to Islam (da’wah). In these cases, one should gain knowledge of the local history, customs and traditions, as well the dominant beliefs, mind-set, and trends of the local people. To enter into da’wah without this knowledge, one cannot really understand the people and their backgrounds, and therefore any outreach would be limited, and maybe even inappropriate.

It goes without saying, that anyone calling people to Allah in their countries, should first ensure they have at least studied their own personally obligatory knowledge and gained a sound understanding and practice of the religion before speaking to others about it.


In conclusion, personally obligatory knowledge should always be prioritised. If one is engaged in communally obligatory knowledge, one should focus on those disciplines. Knowledge of history for a scholar is usually not essential, but is always useful. Knowledge of local customs and culture is always useful for a scholar, and sometimes can be very important and essential, depending on the role of the scholar and the specific situation. And Allah knows best.

I wish you all the best. May Allah grant you tawfiq in your studies.

Warmest salams,
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah

Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.

Caribbean Calling, An Interview with Ustadh Nazim Baksh

At the beginning of the blessed month of Rabi’al Awwal 1438, Shaykh Ahmad Saad Al-Azhari and Ustadh Nazim Baksh will visit the twin-island Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago.

Shaykh Ahmad will give a series of talks on the life of Allah’s Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, at local mosques and will teach from Al-Nubdhah Al-Sughra at the prestigious San Fernando Jama Masjid.

In this special podcast episode, Ustadh Nazim speaks to SeekersHub’s Amr Hashim about why the Caribbean and why now.

Our thanks to Raihan for the beautiful singing in this podcast episode.

Islamophobia is alive and well but are we capable of a compassionate, introspective response? Tanya Muneera Williams

WindrushOn the 22nd of June 1948 the landscape of England changed in the most unprecedented way. The arrival of the empire Windrush from Jamaica to Tilby docks in Essex has been pinpointed as one of the biggest changes in post-war British history.

It can also be said that the 500 or so passengers on board the Windrush, represented a complete rethink of what it meant to be British, and in essence it was the start of what has become known as multiculturalism.

An Era of Social Bias

My father left Jamaica and came to England in 1962 on a Spanish ship called ‘The Big Owner’, the ship docked in Southampton, and in a matter of hours my father was in the back of van on the way to Bristol, where he was met by his two brothers. This was the era of cramped housing and notorious slum landlords, this was before ‘foreigners’ could freely enter public buildings such as banks, pubs, and shops, this was the era where racial bias was an acceptable criteria in the work place, this was the era of Teddy-boys, this was the era where physical assault and verbal abuse was the norm.

Tension between minorities evident on a daily basis

Maybe this is one of the reasons why I was sickened to see the video of a black British woman, who was quite possibly of Caribbean heritage abusing a pregnant Muslim woman on the bus in a multicultural area not so far from me. A few days later, another video emerged of a young man hurling abuse at a disabled Turkish man. I should not be that surprise, because despite living in an ethnically diverse area of London, on a daily basis I see contentious interactions between mainly migrant communities, but more specifically between ‘Black British people’ and people from a Muslim background.

LondonBusRantI am often astonished how the act of sitting on a bus, or waiting in a queue can get so volatile. This was summed up perfectly when one day I was standing in rather long queue at a cash point when an East African Muslim lady who was the first person in line at the cash point, could not find her card and continued searching for it despite the queue growing longer; out of nowhere a young ‘Black British man’ maybe in his mid 20s shouted out “You can’t come to England and be a problem, now you want to take my time.”

At first the lady did not respond, but after some members of the of the queue started showing solidarity towards the man and others huffed and puffed, she swore at him and the slanging match started. Thank goodness she was able to give as good as he got, and in the end she boldly walked away, but that does not disparage the fact that an everyday event escalated in a matter of minutes and by time the incident finished, they offended each other with terms like ‘bloody refugee’ and ‘fatherless child.’ Granted these terms were said in the heat of the moment, but on some level they are indicative of wider cultural perceptions.

A deeply rooted, self-inflamed anger

Back to the bus incident, however, in the first few seconds of seeing the footage, to my shame, I thought what did the pregnant Muslim woman do or say to get the other woman so enraged, but before the first minute was over it was clear to see that the pregnant Muslim woman probably could not even speak English and even if she could, whatever issues the abusive lady had, were deeply rooted within herself, and the anger that she unleashed was self inflamed.

Not that it needs to be said, but for the sake of clarity, what happened was totally wrong, and as the abusive woman has handed herself to the police, she will no doubt see the repercussion of her wrong doings.

The antagonist is our sister in humanity

Someone asked me if it is difficult for me to see the wrongs of the ‘black woman’ being black myself, I was mystified by the logic because the school of thought that I am from is that we have to be self analytical, we have to be able to critique ourselves, our actions and inactions in order to develop and grow in a healthy way. Although it may be shocking to some, I see the antagonist as my sister, my sister in humanity and my sister in ethnicity, so as my sister I want better for her, I want her to learn that her actions are not the type of action that can be tolerated in this society, and want her to know that in short, her attitude stinks.

Descendants of immigrants become aggressors to new immigrants

Being that she is only a little older than me, the likelihood is, like me she is a second generation immigrant to this country; the hardships that my father and many others like him endured during the Windrush era and the lasting consequences of their efforts would absolutely be in vain if 50 years down the line we as their children become the aggressors to immigrants who too are seeking a better life.

Racist, derogatory responses on Muslim social media

Another interesting thing this incident bought up, which sickens me equally if not more, is the sheer amount of racism that is festering deep in the crevice of some believing people’s hearts. This is not a new phenomena, many people have been speaking about it for years, and have been told “it’s dying out”, “it’s not really racism, it’s just cultural differences”, “you have an inferiority complex”, “you are causing divisions in the Ummah” or “oh you are one of those black Muslims.”

Poetic Pilgrimage with Tanya Muneera Williams (right) and Sukina Douglas (left)

Poetic Pilgrimage with Tanya Muneera Williams (right) and Sukina Douglas (left)

But after seeing the comments to the video of the bus incident, no one can deny the sickness that in many cases is not hidden that deep beneath the surface. Some of the comments used terms like “Nigger”, which was justified by someone else saying it was only used for the ‘black women’ in question not anyone else. Another person actually said “had it not been for Islam you would all be slaves,” in reference to those from the African diaspora.

No place for racism

I feel foolish having to point out the obvious, but there is no place for racism in Islam. The conversion experience of Malcolm X attracted many converts from the African Disaspora to the Deen – particularly his experience of men of all colour treating each other equally. For many, part of the conversion process is trying to separate seemingly racist encounters with people of Muslim backgrounds, from the words of God and the practices of the Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, and it was his practice to rid racism wherever he saw it. So this should be our Sunnah, up there with men wearing beards, or fasting on a Monday and Thursday.

If the words “An Arab has no superiority over a non Arab nor a non Arab has any superiority over an Arab” and “A white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action” is not enough for us, then let us then reflect on the actions of the Prophet, peace be upon him, and how he welcomed black people into his family in the case of his adopted son Zaid b Harithah, or how he honoured and respected his Black mother by breast milk, Barakah Bint Tha’labah. We can also reflect on how Allah has honoured Bilal by allowing our Rasool, peace be upon him, to hear Bilal’s footsteps and call to prayer ahead of him in the heavens.

Allah has said in Quran 49:13 “O Mankind, We created you from a single pair of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is he who is the most righteous of you.”

Racism is not befitting to a believer, and as the reality of Islamophobia has dawned on us and we are now making strategies to tackle it, so should the reality of racism dawn on us so we can make strategies to tackle it and fulfil a sunnah.

The community’s lack of acknowledgement

These are comments and attitudes that don’t belong in Islam, and are not befitting for those who believe in the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him). It is not so much the racism that bothers me, it is our community’s lack of acknowledgement of it, which will naturally lead to inactivity toward changing it, which leaves me thinking how are we as a Muslim community in Britain going to develop and grow in a healthy way?

A polarised public discourse

Every day, “Muslim terrorist”, “sex grooming gangs”, “refugees”, “halal meat”, “Shariah law”, “Islamic State”, and whatever other negative connotations that can be conjured up are fed to us through the media. We are in the era of political parties increasingly leaning towards the right, the era of comments like “multiculturalism has failed” and “Muslims are not integrating”. Coupled with tensions between communities means that unfortunately, appalling incidents like the one we witnessed on the bus are liable to be on the increase before they decrease. A perfect example of this is another clip which recently came out, which shows a mix heritage young man acting aggressively towards an older Turkish man, again on a London bus. After his tirade, the perpetrator threw the elderly man’s zimmerframe off the bus. The direct physical threat was made clear and explicit. What was sad to see is in both this clip and the one involving the pregnant Muslim woman is that no one on either bus intervened.

Injustice to ourselves

As Muslims we keep faith, point out injustices and continue to showcase the beauty of our path, but what maybe a greater task is looking at our own short comings, pointing out when we have done an injustice to ourselves, for the sake of preserving this beautiful path.

My prayers are with the pregnant sister who was the victim of the attack, may you give birth to an awliya. My prayers are with us all.

By Tanya Muneera Williams

Tanya Muneera Williams or Muneera Pilgrim, is a Bristol born, London based, rapper, poet and cultural commentator. She is one half of the hip-hop and spoken word duo Poetic Pilgrimage. She facilitates workshops, gives seminars and performs around England and Europe and has toured South Africa, Morocco and The United States. Muneera has facilitated a series of participant led, poetry performance courses in Sudan where she lived as a teacher and performer, she conducts engagement workshops in schools and performs and hosts around England. She is currently studying for her MA in Islamic studies where she is focusing on the Caribbean contribution to Islam, migration, gender and race. Using her talent, skills and passion Muneera colourfully etches a space of dialogue that can be accessed regardless of cultural, religious or gender boundaries. Rooted in spirituality, she uses communication for edification and change.


Resources for Seekers:

Our Condition Today: the Disease and the Remedy
Advice from Habib ‘Umar: How to defend the Prophet
Hadiths on the “Bad Traits” of Black People
Letter to the West: we just have to learn to live together
Race To The Top
Would it Be Wrong To Avoid Interracial Marriages For Cultural Considerations?
Dealing With Those Who Harass Muslims“Sound societies come from sound hearts”

Allah’s Mercy and the Mercy Showed by People

Commemorating The Battle of Badr

The date of the Battle of Badr falls on the 17th day of Ramadan, in the Islamic calendar. It is one of the most important historical events for Muslims.

Why is Badr significant? Shaykh Amer Jamil explains from the site of the battle

The power of faith, lessons from the battle of Badr by Shaykh Ibrahim Osi-Efa

Dua Nasiri (text and alternate audio). This highly potent du’a by the renowned Shaykh Muhammad Ibn Nasir, was recited across Morocco and inspired resistance to the French occupation. So powerful was it that the French President had to issue an order banning its recitation from the mosques.

Photo credit: UmmSqueaky.