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Discussing Correct Aqida

Ustadh Farid Dingle is asked for advice on how to counter the objections of those who say that Ash‘ari and Maturidi aqida is not true to Islam.

 

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

How do we answer objections that say the Aqida of the Ashari and the Maturidi is not the Aqida of the Salaf? They mention how Imam Abu Hanifa’s Fiqh al-Akbar was not actually written by him.

 

Answer:

Wa alaykum assaalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

Dear questioner,

If you are talking to students of Islam, please have them read The Ash‘aris & Maturidis: Standards of Mainstream Sunni Beliefs.

Otherwise, they would do well to read the following:

دفع شبه التشبيه بأكف التنزيه لابن الجوزي
إلجام العوام عن علم الكلام بتحقيق الكوثري
أهل السنة الأشاعرة : شهادة علماء الأمة وأدلتهم

Note: Don’t busy yourself with what divides the Umma and fuels the fire of cyclical debates. As the Shah al-Kirmani said, “Whoever looks at others with his own eye, falls into lengthened arguments with them; whoever looks at others with the eye of Allah, overlooks what they made do or say, and doesn’t busy himself with them.’

I pray this helps.

Farid

 

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.


 

Zanbal – Visiting the Graves of the Righteous

Nurulain Wolhuter tells of how visiting the righteous dead is a blessed act for those who seek to make their hearts alive.

 

The place is Zanbal, the resting place of the Ba‘alawi family of descendants of the Prophet in Tarim, Yemen. The time is after asr. The sun is beating on the white sand that cushions the shoe-less feet of the visitors that silently wind their way through the cemetery – shoe-less out of respect for the righteous occupants of the graves, and also in order to receive the healing that the sand is said to provide. The sky is clear and silent, a regal reminder of the power of its Creator. The scent of perfume effuses the air, and Tarimi-style wreaths left by previous visitors are dotted around the graves.

The visitors stop first to greet Sayyid Muhammad al-Faqih al-Muqaddam and then his son, Ahmad. They read Sura Ya Sin quietly and make supplication. For newcomers, a brief biography of al-Faqih al-Muqaddam is read. Born in Tarim in 574 AH, he founded the Ba‘alawi sufi order by drawing together the paths of Shaykh Abu Madyan and Shaykh Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani, and the way of his forefathers. (Buxton, Imams of the Valley) Tears start to well from the intensity of the experience of proximity to souls of this stature, as the visitors make their way to the graves of other great saints, like Imam al-Aydarus al-Akbar (born in Tarim in 811 AH). Known as the “sufi of his time,” he contributed significantly to the development of the order. (Buxton)

Visiting the graves of these righteous people is a truly blessed experience. Our standard-bearer, the Beloved of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, used to visit graves. It is narrated that he visited the grave of his mother and he wept, and moved others around him to tears, and said, “I sought permission from my Lord to beg forgiveness for her but it was not granted to me, and I sought permission to visit her grave and it was granted to me. So visit the graves, for that makes you mindful of death.” (Muslim) It is also narrated from Ibn Mas‘ud (with a weak chain) that the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “I used to forbid you to visit the graves, but now visit them, for they will draw your attention away from this world and remind you of the Hereafter.” (Sunan Ibn Majah)

In addition to drawing one closer to Allah and reminding one of the after-life, other blessings also flow from such a visit. Ibn al-Juruzi said that supplications are answered at the graves of the righteous, on known conditions. And Imam Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn Ali al-Baghdadi said (with a chain of transmission to Imam Shafi‘i) that Imam Shafi‘i said: “Indeed, I took blessings with Abu Hanifa and I came to his grave every day, visiting, and when a need befell me I prayed two rakat and came to his grave and asked Allah Most High for the need [while there] with him, and it wasn’t long before it was met.”

The visit culminates at the grave of Imam al-Haddad (born in Subayr in 1004 AH). Despite becoming blind at the age of four, he was a devoted caller to Allah. He used his many litanies and poems in aid of this cause, and became known as the mujaddid (renewer) of the 12th century AH, Allah have mercy on him. (Buxton)

Here, the visitors’ souls unite in chanting the verses the Imam left for posterity. Verses that continue to inspire thousands to this day, :

يا عالم السر منا لا تهتك الستر عنا
وعافنا واعف عنا و كن لنا حيث كنا

O Knower of our secrets, do not remove (your) protective veil from us;

Exempt us, forgive us, and – wherever we are – be there for us.

The heart is soft there, open and vulnerable, and those who have visited will always remain somehow at one with it. As a lovely Tarimi lady put it: They’re alive in their graves and they hear you, and if you love them, they love you.


For authoritative and established fatwas and arguments on the practice of visiting graves, see Nuh Ha Mim Keller, Reliance of the Traveller g.5.8; g.5.9;
نماذج من أدلة أهل السنة والجماعة في بعض المسائل التي يتعرض لها المبتدعة إعداد لجنة بدارالمصطفى .


 

The Crucial Status of Fatwa in Islam and Its Impact – Habib Umar

Habib Umar bin Hafez recently addressed the Jordanian General Ifta’ Department on the status of fatwas in Islam and the grave responsibility of the scholars who issue them.

 

The Weight of Giving Religious Verdicts

The Habib began by reminding everyone of the tremendous role that the mufti plays in that he is standing before Allah and His slaves; he conveys to them what they need to do, and how they should view Allah and His commands; their reverence and fear and general attitude is dependent upon his; and their confusion, mistrust, carelessness, and disobedience ultimately comes back to the the mufti not taking his task seriously and not revering the religion as it deserves to be revered.

Extreme Precaution Regarding Accuracy

In light of this, the Habib mentioned various well-known accounts of the precaution taken by the early Muslims when giving fatwa, such as actually shaking while giving the answer for fear and awe, such as wishing that others would answer the question first, and passing the onus of answering until it came back to the same original mufti. And he reminded the attendees of the principle that the fastest person to answer a question is the fastest to enter the Hell-Fire.

Modern Abuses of Religious Verdicts

He then went on to mention the harm modern abuses of fatwa are having on the Muslim world. He mentioned that at the end of the day, extremist tendencies can only come from fatawa: there is a lot of hype and zeal, but people only practice extremist activity when fueled by some kind of knowledge-based authority. This is also the case with super-lenient or down-right incredulous fatwas that make a laughingstock of Allah’s religion.

Mutual Tolerance

The Habib emphasized the  fact that when different scholars do not tolerate one another, and when fatwas are used for political or other agendas, the masses see Islam as source of conflict and animosity, and not solution to their problems. These leads all too naturally to doubt about the very fundamentals of the religion and a serious look at atheism as a realistic alternative.

What the Youth Need

Returning to the role that the attitude and conduct of Muslim scholars has on the average Muslim, the Habib stressed the need for the youth to have something to look up to. He said that they don’t feel like the scholars are really concerned and worried about the the religion, so they either turn away from it, or turn to more military and political forms of Islam, that are not rooted in solid traditional scholarship.

Orthodoxy

The Four Madhhabs, the Habib mentioned, were the bastions of Islamic Law, their rules, and deeper, far-reaching principles being the way that Allah has preserved Sunni Islam. Although they are not the exclusive representations of Sunni praxis, no other traditions have been granted such time- and divinely-honored reception and development. Their sophistication is such that all modern issues, however seemingly complex they may be, and can be solved by returning to their legal principles and maxims.

From Spiritual to Societal Change

The current weakness of Islam, and the general lack of religiously, rests very much the shoulders of Muslim scholars. The Habib repeated the point that if scholars showed more concern, sincerity, and seriousness, Allah would return the religion to its strength. He quoted the words of the Qur’an, “And We made them leaders guidance by Our command because they showed fortitude,” (Sura al-Sajda 32: 24), reiterating the great responsibility that rests upon them that must be taken with all due seriousness.

Keeping Silent

Part of this seriousness is knowing what to say, when, and how. Not everything should be spoken about before everyone. The Habib gave the example of Umar ibn al-Khattab delaying certain discussions raised among the masses while he was on Hajj, to deal with them clearly in a controlled way back in Medina. There are no hidden secrets in Islam, but at the same time, not everyone can contextualize everything that they hear or read. This requires that the mufti gives his questioner what they need to know, and not what they do not need to know.

Taking One’s Time

In fulfilling his duty as a spokesman for Allah, the mufti must also be very careful that he is indeed giving the right answer. (Haste, as mentioned before, is not the way with matters of halal and haram.) Imam Abu Hanifa once said that were it not for fear of the religion being lost, he wouldn’t have answered a single question. Imam Malik was famous for frequently saying that he didn’t know the answer to a particular question, as were Sufyan ibn Uyayna and Imam Ahmad, despite the fact that they knew the answer very well. This was all out of fear of making mistakes, or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

The Habib also mentioned that Umar ibn al-Khattab used to be very careful to seek the advice and insight of others, and not just say whatever he first thought of. Having fatwa councils discuss tricky issues in depth is one way this can be done. Another is to rely on authorities and living experts who truly understand the Sacred Law.

Exercising Freedom of Speech

The addresses being in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan — a country that enjoys moderate leadership and freedom of religion — the Habib encouraged the muftis to work with might and main to teach the religion as it is, by way of thanking Allah for the blessing of freedom of speech, a blessing that many other Muslim countries do not enjoy, and many of his own teachers did not enjoy. Sincerity and effort is what they needed, and this is what is required to bring about a change.

 

 


This article is a summary of a talk given by Habib Umar bin Hafez on 16 January 2019/ 10 Jumada al-Ula 1440, in the Jordanian General Ifta’ Department. The notes were written by Ustadh Farid Dingle.


 

How Two Of The Salaf Proved the Existence of God, by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Sometimes we imagine that the problems of our age are unique, but this is not the case. Atheism is not new. At the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and even before that, at the time of previous prophets (peace be upon them all), there were people who denied the existence of God. Rebecca Slenes tells us more, based on Shaykh Faraz Rabbani’s teaching of Ghazali’s Foundations of Islamic Belief.

In one of the commentaries of the Creed of Imam al-Tahawi (Aqida Tahawiya), Siraj al-Din al-Ghaznawi, an eminent Indian scholar who migrated to Egypt, gives some examples of how the early Muslims (salaf) discussed with atheists about the existence of the Creator. Through these examples, we see the importance of translating knowledge into wisdom and insight that speaks directly to people’s realities and to their hearts.

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani reminds us that a good argument is not just sound and coherent, but it is also compelling and convincing. To be effective, one needs to have a deep understanding of the context and where people are at, coupled with a deep concern for their eternal well-being. This is the concern of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. It is the concern shown by the the salaf in these stories. We have translated two of them here.

Story of Jafar al-Sadiq

One of the great imams of Islam, Jafar al-Sadiq (may Allah be pleased with him) was the 5th descendant of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and died in the year 148.

It is related that some the atheists denied the existence of the Creator in the presence of Jafar al-Sadiq. Jafar said to him, “Have you ever seen the sea and its awesomeness?”

Here, Jafar used an example that the man would relate to. This man probably lived far away and had travelled by sea. There may have been signs of this on him. It shows us the need to be attentive to people and their backgrounds.

The man said, “Yes, I have travelled by sea and there was a storm and the ship sank and the sailors drowned. I clung onto some planks of wood, then even the planks went away from me. I was pushed away by the clashing of the waves until I reached the shore.”

Imam Jafar said: “You were initially relying on the ship, the planks, and the sailors, but when these things left you did you still hope for safety?”

The man said “Yes”.

Imam Jafar said: “From whom did you hope for safety?”

The man was silent.

Imam Jafar said: “Verily in the Creator, He is the one in which you had hope in at that moment and He is the one who saved you from drowning.” And the man accepted Islam at his hand.

There are many lessons in this story, particularly related to the sunna of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) of knowing the background of the person one is dealing with. Saidina Ali ibn Talib, inspired by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), reminds us: “address people according to their understanding.” The story is also a marvelous depiction of our fundamental belief in God that cannot be denied. In moments of great danger all people, whether they affirm belief or not, tend to cling to hope of survival. The place of this hope is none other than God. Allah often tests us by taking things away from us so that we learn to place our hope in Him alone, showing us that “all things perish, except His face” (Quran 28:88).

Story of Abu Hanifa

The founder of the Hanfi school of jurisprudence, Abu Hanifa (may Allah be pleased with him) was one of the major jurists and scholars of Islamic civilization and passed away on the year 772.

It is related that Imam Abu Hanifa was a decisive debater against atheists. They used to be on the look out for any opportunity to kill him. One day they attacked him with their swords brandished as he was sitting in the mosque. They were about to kill him.

He said to them: “Answer me on one question and then you may do as you wish”.

They said: “go ahead!”

He said: “What would you say of a man who says: ‘verily I saw a ship full of cargo in stormy sea surrounded by surging waves and turbulent winds, yet the ship is sailing straight without a sailor directing her.’ Would you say that this is possible?”

They said: “No, that is not rationally possible.”

Abu Hanifa said: “Oh, Glory be to God, if the mind cannot accept that a ship sails straight without a sailor, how can it be possible for this world with its higher and lower details and all its changing states to exist with order without a Creator?”

They all cried and repented and entered Islam.

Here Abu Hanifa spoke directly to people’s intellect, calling them to believe through reason, which is a gift from God. They had come to kill Abu Hanifa and they all became Muslim at his hands. Subhanallah! He gave them life – the life of faith – after they had tried to kill him.

The importance of wisdom and mercy in addressing people

These are just a few examples of the ways of disputation of the early Muslims. We see how Imam Jafar and Imam Abu Hanifa used simple and relevant examples that spoke to people’s minds and hearts. We should reflect on the importance of wisdom and mercy in addressing people, speaking to them in accordance to their understanding, with patience and gentleness, using logical arguments and examples that they can relate to. These stories are timeless because they speak to all those of intellect. They are beautiful in that they show us the mercy of these early Muslims; even when faced with great hostility (when their lives were in danger), they used patience and wisdom and had a deep concern for those who were rejecting God. They were not debating with the intention to prove they were right or to demonstrate their knowledge; they were doing so out of sincere concern for people and for God. This is the concern and love of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) that embraces all humanity and all living creatures.

We must learn and nurture this certitude and this love in ourselves and then learn to convey it with clarity in a compelling and beautiful manner because, as our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) taught us, “None of you believes until you wish for others of the good that which you wish for yourselves!”

This reflection is based on a SeekersHub live class by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani on Ghazali’s Foundations of Islamic Belief Explained. Translation of stories from al-Ghaznawi’s Sharh Aqida Imam al-Tahawi, p. 40-42. Listen to the recording of a clip on the SeekersHub podcast: Stormy Seas: Two Stories on Proving the Existence of God.

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