The Accessible Conspectus: Purification & Water by Mufti Musa Furber

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In the Name of God, Most Merciful and Compassionate

1. Purification

The author of The Ultimate Conspectus began his book with purification as this is the norm with books from the Shafi’i school of law. Some other schools start with the times for prayer. The reason we begin with purification is that prayer is the main form of worship, purification is its primary condition, and something that is a condition should come before the thing that depends upon it.

The Arabic word for purification is “taharah.” Its linguistic meaning is to clean and to remove dirtiness whether that dirtiness is physical or moral. It includes both physical and spiritual purification. Spiritual purification involves removing the sicknesses of the heart, such as envy, arrogance, conceit, showing off, and others. Imam al-Ghazali said that knowing their definition makes it personally obligatory to treat these sicknesses. Physical purification will be the topic of this chapter.

In the context of fiqh, purification is defined as doing that which renders prayer lawful to perform. Its examples include ablution, the purificatory bath, removing filth, dry ablution, and others.

Physical purification is achieved using various means. These include water, earth, tanning, and chemical transformation. The primary means, though, is water.

Fiqh books often begin a chapter or section by giving its definition and its textual foundation. The definition will include the primary linguistic meaning of the key terms, as well as its technical definition within the discipline of fiqh. The textual foundation demonstrates why the topic is even relevant to Islamic law. It usually consists of evidence from the Quran or Sunnah. Sometimes authors will mention that there is consensus on the issue. The textual foundation is not intended to give exhaustive evidence for the particular rulings within the section.

The textual foundation for purification comes from the Quran and Sunnah. Allah Most High says

“He sent down upon you from the sky, rain by which to purify you,” [8:11].

“And it is He who sends the winds as good tidings before His mercy, and We send down from the sky pure water,” [25:48].

The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said concerning the sea that “its water is purifying, and its dead are lawful.”

Earth is a means of purification used in the absence of water. It is considered a means in that it renders prayer permissible. Evidence for this includes that Allah Most High says,

“…and find no water, then seek clean earth and wipe [with it]…,” [4:43, 5:6].

Since water is the primary tool for achieving purification, the author begins by listing the sources of water.

1.1 Water

Purification is possible with seven types of water: rain water; sea water; river water; well water; spring water; snow; and hail. If we wish, we could shorten this and say:

“Water that descends from the sky or comes out of the ground, so long as it retains its original characteristics.”

So water includes the crystal-clear liquid you melt from glacial ice, as well as the yellowish liquid people draw from the village well.

Purchase the book: Click here

A translation of Abu Shuja’ al-Asfahani’s introduction to classical Islamic law, Matn al-Ghayat wa al-Taqrib.
This enduring classic covers the full range of basic topics within the Shafi’i school of law. It includes the full Arabic text and notes to point out where later Shafi’i jurists have differed from the author, Imam al-Nawawi’s preferences, and minor clarifications and explanations.

Comments on the Recent ‘Dogs Are Not Impure’ Article – Mufti Musa Furber

I have been asked several times about the recent article titled ‘Dogs are not impure,’ says prominent Islamic scholar. I have not seen the television show or the fatwa mentioned in the article so I can comment only on the article itself.

The bulk of my reading over the past two months has been about dogs,1 so I am familiar with the issues mentioned in the article. I find the article to be poorly researched and written. Almost every paragraph contains statements that are either misleading or false. I advise readers to ignore the article and to seek their information from a reliable source.
Given the overall unreliability of the article, I would like to provide a very brief summary of the basic rulings related to the purity of dogs, keeping dogs, and keeping dogs inside the house.
[Rulings related to the purity of dogs]
There is disagreement concerning the purity of dogs and their saliva. Numerous hadiths mention that if a dog licks from one’s bowl, its contents need to be thrown out and the bowl must be washed seven times with water – using soil in one of the washings. Scholars differ in their understanding of these ḥadīths and other evidence related to this issue, leading to disagreement over whether dogs or their saliva are pure, and whether things touched by dogs need to be cleaned in a particular way. Ḥanafīs consider dogs to be pure, but their slobber filthy. Mālikīs consider dogs and their slobber to be pure. Shāfiʿīs and Ḥanbalīs consider dogs and their slobber to be filthy.3
[Keeping dogs]
There is general agreement amongst the scholars that we are discouraged from keeping dogs, and that we should not keep dogs without need to do so. This is due to the many hadiths that mention that anyone who keeps a dog will lose rewards for each day he keeps it, unless the dog is for hunting, protecting livestock, or protecting crops. While the scholars agree that it is permissible to acquire dogs for the purposes mentioned in the ḥadīths (hunting, guarding livestock, and guarding crops), they disagree concerning other purposes. Ḥanafīs and Mālikīs tend to consider it offensive to obtain dogs for purposes other than the ones mentioned in the ḥadīths. Shāfiʿīs consider it unlawful to obtain dogs that do not fulfill a need similar to the ones mentioned in the ḥadīths (hunting and protecting). Ḥanbalīs consider it unlawful to obtain a dog unless it can carry out one of the tasks in the hadiths mentioned above.4
[Guard dogs]
There is also disagreement concerning the use of household guard dogs. In addition to the hadiths regarding purity and loss of rewards, there are also hadiths mentioning that angels will not enter houses if there is a dog inside. Commentators mention that the angels that are barred are the ones that bring blessings and mercy, and make forgiveness – not the angels assigned to individuals to record their deeds and to protect them. Ḥanafīs tend to say that one should not get a household guard dog unless out of fear for the safety of one’s life or property. Even then, the dog should not be inside the house. There is a fair amount of disagreement amongst the Mālikīs. The well-known opinion I keep finding is that it is offensive to have them inside the house. Shāfiʿīs tend to permit guard dogs for houses and alley ways – and even if the dog is permissible to keep, it should not be kept inside the house.5
What is clear when reading the various opinions within and across the schools is that no one considers it recommended or merely permissible to have a dog in the house. The most lenient ruling is that it is offensive. Some of the scholars who hold this latter position mention that one will still be subject to loss of rewards, and some angels will be barred from the house. So while there is a case for having a dog that serves a valid purpose – there does not seem to be any case for keeping a dog as a pet just for companionship or pleasure – or its appearance.6
Given all the ḥadīths related to dogs (that keeping one without justification reduces rewards, that their presence in a house bars some angels from entering, that there was an order to kill them that was later reduced out of fear of exterminating the entire species, that jet-black dogs are wicked, the extra provisions required to clean up after them – which suggests that they are filthy), one really needs to be very careful before getting a dog. Contrary to some pieces that have been written in English: those reports related to dogs were not related by a single companion (Allah be pleased with them)
Each of the rulings I mentioned above have additional conditions, constraints, and details. All of those things must be known before obtaining a dog.
And Allah knows best.
UPDATE I watched the part of the episode that was the source for the article. Sheikh Ali’s response differs significantly from what is presented in the article. Arabic speakers can check for themselves (The link should start you at the segment on dogs, 47 minutes in to the show.)

  1. Dogs today are used for a wide range of tasks not mentioned in our classical books. These tasks include: guide dogs for the blind, security dogs for the police and military, search dogs for humans trapped under rubble, detecting cancer, predicting and warning about seizures, as part of therapy for autism or PTSD, and many others. These tasks are beneficial to muslims. Many of them do not fit cleanly under hunting and guarding. Determining their legal status requires having a clear understanding of the textual evidence and rulings related to dogs, as well as a clear understanding of the contemporary task. And that’s why I have been reading so much about dogs.
  2. The links provided for this and the other hadiths enable even a semi-curious English reader to verify that the reports are each narrated from the Prophet (Peace be upon him) by three or more companions (Allah be pleased with them all), putting them within the category of well-known (mashhūr or mustafīḍ). All of them are considered rigorously authenticated (ṣaḥīḥ). These reports cannot be waved away with the claim that they are singular (aḥād) or spurious fabrications (mawḍūʿah). If you’re going to dismiss them, at least identify where the chain broke or which one of them lied – you can’t just affirm or deny a specific ḥadīth based on surmise or it being inconvenient. One of the characteristics of Islamic legal scholarship is to use all the evidence that is available, as captured in the maxim that application of an evidence is superior to its abandonment (al-iʿmāl afḍal min al-ihmāl).

  3. Al-Kashānī, Badāʾiʿ al-Ṣanāʾiʿ, 1:63; Ibn ʿĀbidīn, Ḥashiyat ʿalā Al-Durr al-Mukhtār, 1:208; Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, Al-Tamhīd, 18:296–270; al-Ṣāwī, Al-Sharḥ al-Ṣaghīr, 1:43–44; al-Anṣārī, Asnā al-Maṭālib, 1:10; al-Shirbīnī, Mughnī al-Muḥtāj, 1:226–7; al-Bahūtī, Kashshāf al-Qināʿ, 1:181; Ibn Daqīq al-ʿEid, Aḥkām al-Aḥkām, 1:75–76; al-ʿIrāqī, Ṭarḥ al-Tathrīb, 2:120–121.

  4. Kamāl ibn Humām, Fatḥ al-Qadīr, 7:118; Ṣāliḥ ʿAbd al-Samīʿ, Al-Thamr al-Dānī, 714; Al-Fawākih al-Dawānī ʿalā Risālah Ibn Abī Zayd al-Qīrwānī, 2:344; Sharḥ al-Talqīn, 2:429; al-Juwaynī, Nihāyat al-Maṭlab, 5:493; al-Nawawī, Sharḥ Ṣaḥīh Muslim, 3:186, 10:236; al-Anṣārī, Asnā al-Maṭālib, 2:9; al-Shirbīnī, Mughnī al-Muḥtāj, 3:284; Ibn Qudāmah, Al-Mughnī, 4:191–192; al-Bahūtī, Kashshāf al-Qināʿ, 3:154; Ibn Mufliḥ, Al-Ādāb al-Sharʿiyyah, 3:226.

  5. Kamāl ibn Humām, Fatḥ al-Qadīr, 7:118; Ṣāliḥ ʿAbd al-Samīʿ, Al-Thamr al-Dānī, 714; Al-Fawākih al-Dawānī ʿalā Risālah Ibn Abī Zayd al-Qīrwānī, 2:344; Sharḥ al-Talqīn, 2:429; al-Juwaynī, Nihāyat al-Maṭlab, 5:493; al-Nawawī, Sharḥ Ṣaḥīh Muslim, 3:186, 10:236; al-Anṣārī, Asnā al-Maṭālib, 2:9; al-Shirbīnī, Mughnī al-Muḥtāj, 3:284; Ibn Qudāmah, Al-Mughnī, 4:191–192; al-Bahūtī, Kashshāf al-Qināʿ, 3:154; Ibn Mufliḥ, Al-Ādāb al-Sharʿiyyah, 3:226.

  6. Al-Juwaynī, Nihāyat al-Maṭlab, 5:493; al-Nawawī, Sharḥ Ṣaḥīh Muslim, 3:186.

Originally taken from Mufti Musa Furber’s blog.

What is a fatwa? Who can give one? By Sheikh Musa Furber – Washington Post

What is a fatwa? Who can give one? – Washington Post
By Sheikh Musa Furber

Recently at a conference in Cairo, Imam Hashem Islam issued a fatwa (religious edict) to the people of Egypt. His edict was that an upcoming protest, aimed at criticizing Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi, was illegitimate, as the newly elected president was, in fact, the legitimate lawful president. Furthermore, that the protest was to be considered as one that was “apostasy” (riddah) from democracy and freedom, and that those who participated in it should be considered as engaging in the crime of plunder (hirabah) and high treason (khiyana al-uzma).

Thus, the “people of Egypt” should confront them, and if the protesters resisted by force, then the “people of Egypt” should respond with force. If the ‘people of Egypt’ were killed, they would be in paradise, while if the protesters resisted, no one would be held liable for their deaths or have to pay compensation to their families.

There was a public outcry. The preacher had claimed he was a part ofal-Azhar University’s official institution for issuing religious verdicts, which presumably gave his opinions weight. In the aftermath of his statements, the Ministry of Religious Endowments, as well as the al-Azhar University , came out in full force, contradicting the preacher’s claim that he had any connection to the al-Azhar University, beyond the fact that he is a graduate, and that his opinion was not to be given attention. Even the Muslim Brotherhood, to which Morsi belongs, rejected the fatwa.

Clearly, the mainstream religious establishment rejects this fatwa: however, the episode raised a number of points. What is a fatwa? Who can give one? What are the repercussions of a fatwa in general? And what was the meaning of this “fatwa” in particular?

As with any legal system, not anyone is competent to deliver a fatwa, which refers, simply, to a non-binding verdict of Islamic jurisprudence. Competency comes from a rigorous legal education from within the tradition of Islamic jurisprudence, with a mastery of a particular school of law, and training in the practical application of that school on contemporary issues. There is a whole science, entitled the etiquette of verdict (adab al-fatwa), that the prospective issuer of fatwas (or someone known as a mufti) needs to learn, in order to ensure all verdicts are clear, accurate and valid.

Fatwas might be issued by a number of different jurists in any given time or place – but those jurists may find that their verdicts only get followed by those who voluntarily choose to do so. In Egypt, the most famous institution that individual Egyptians will visit to receive one of these non-binding verdicts is that of the Grand Mufti of Egypt: Dar Al Ifta Al Misriyyah, or the Egyptian House of Edicts. I know that institution well – it is where I underwent my own training in delivering legal verdicts, and on a daily basis, hundreds of verdicts were delivered. That institution itself, even though it is a part of the Ministry of Justice (and thus a state institution), does not have the ability to enforce its decisions. The ability to enforce verdicts in Egypt is rightfully accorded to the state authorities – i.e., the legal system.

This recent “fatwa” was particularly problematic in a number of different ways related to the procedure of issuing a fatwa. The details that were provided were sketchy, and appear based on a rather biased political reading of the situation. This alone is a basis for repudiating the “fatwa” as the conditions of a fatwa include that it be unbiased and impartial. That the issuer of a fatwa is for or against a particular political force – whether that force is former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, Morsi, or former U.S. president George W. Bush – must never influence a fatwa he or she issues.

There are conditions to be fulfilled before someone might be considered, within Islamic law, a brigand or guilty of high treason – conditions which are clearly laid out in different books of Islamic law. Those books do not indicate that participation in protests or voicing disagreement with rulers, in and of themselves, can be considered as acts of banditry or high treason.

Even if they did meet the legal criteria for high treason or banditry (which protests do not), only the state authorities responsible for maintaining law and order have authority to consider such a verdict as it falls within the remit of the judicial system – not individual religious personalities and fatwa committees. This, on the other hand, involved an individual operating in a private capacity, and was delivered publicly to the “Egyptian people” – not an official judge to an appropriate government body. The imam’s “fatwa” is, in effect, a call to vigilantism, something in complete defiance of Islamic law.

It is compulsory upon any mufti to ponder the likely consequences of their ruling and to weigh whether their ruling obtains or denies the ultimate purposes of Islam. While it is not normally necessary for a mufti to always provide evidence for his opinion, it is incumbent upon him to give details where details are needed, such as where failure to do so can result in the misapplication of his words. This statement, on the other hand, was, essentially, a press release given over the course of a few minutes, with virtually no details. Moreover, it does not appear that the issuer gave any forethought to the consequences of people following his opinion – with bloodshed being an obvious likely consequence of its application. In issuing a statement in this fashion, he is encouraging less law and order, not more, and moreover, increasing the possibility of civil strife.

In addition to the previous major procedural issues, there are two others. Firstly, the idea that there is ‘apostasy’ from democracy and freedom, while likely a rhetorical tool void of any real meaning, it is a tool that no jurist would ever use. It’s a baseless polemic, nothing more – and has no place in a legal argument of any sort. Moreover: it was widely reported that the imam claimed to be a member of al-Azhar University’s official fatwa committee, a claim al-Azhar University itself rejects. The imam’s claim and his association with al-Azhar’s Fatwa Commitee are objective facts that can be verified. If the claim proves to be false – as opposed to being simply misrepresented by the press, which is not uncommon – this alone is sufficient to disqualify the imam from issuing fatwas as a fraud. Frankly, it would be advisable for al-Azhar University to investigate this imam, and any others who display such recklessness, lest the name of al-Azhar and religion in the public sphere be brought into disrepute.

Yet, this discussion goes far beyond the particulars concerning this preacher and his “fatwa”, and the qualifications of muftis and fatwas. The point here is the role of the religious establishment: and how seriously its members perceive that role. The religious establishment of Egypt needs to be more vigilant in ensuring that standards do not drop against the backdrop of a political space that is more infused with religious imagery. Standards cannot be allowed to drop, or weaken – rather, they have to raised, and strengthened. The participation of the religious establishment must always be a source of wisdom and insight, and never one of confusion and strife.

Sheikh Musa Furber is a research fellow at the Tabah Foundation and a qualified issuer of verdicts. He received his license to deliver legal edicts or fatwas from senior scholars at the Egyptian House of Edicts including the Grand Mufti of Egypt.

By Sheikh Musa Furber |  04:12 PM ET, 08/22/2012

See also:

Announcing “Etiquette With the Quran” eBook for iPad and iPhone – Etiquette With The Quran

Scholars say Islam teaches care for the environment

Shaykh Musa Furber, a leading American Muslim faqih and author, is interviewed on the Islamic perspective of caring for the environment.

Scholars say Islam teaches care for the environment– The National

Vesela Todorova

ABU DHABI // To many UAE residents, littering appears such a trivial matter it hardly warrants a second thought.

But if those same people were to research the religious significance of the act, they might well think again.

Littering, according to Sheikh Musa Furber, a researcher and scholar of Islamic sciences with the Abu Dhabi-based Tabah Foundation, goes against one of the most important tenets of Islam: doing good for others.

The subject is mentioned in one of the hadiths, of which about 60,000 are known to exist. Reported by Abu Hurairah, a companion of the Prophet, the hadith dictates that removing harmful things from pathways is an act of charity.

“The phrase also indicates that just as there is some reward for performing this action, there is a penalty for performing its opposite,” said Sheikh Furber, an American who discovered Islam while earning a linguistics degree in his native country.

Some scholars say the hadith is just one indication of many that environmental responsibility is deeply rooted in Islamic teachings, even if the concept is only just gaining traction.

In a June speech at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, Britain’s Prince Charles asked the audience to consider Islam’s teachings on the subject.

“The inconvenient truth is that we share this planet with the rest of creation for a very good reason – and that is, we cannot exist on our own without the intricately balanced web of life around us,” Prince Charles was quoted as saying. “Islam has always taught this and to ignore that lesson is to default on our contract with creation.”

The same month Friday sermons waded into the realm of environmentalism, reminding worshippers that conserving water was a religious duty. Sermons delivered at the UAE’s mosques are drafted by the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department.

“Let us conserve water as it is an invaluable treasure, and the country is doing a great deal to conserve it so we should value these efforts by not wasting it,” said the sermon.

Last November religious leaders gathered at Windsor Castle for Many Heavens, One Earth, an event organised by the United Nations and the Alliance of Religions and Conservation to encourage environmental action among a variety of faiths. The event helped create momentum for The Muslim Seven Year Action Plan On Climate Change (2010-2017).

The plan, supported by muftis and scholars from a variety of countries including Egypt, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and launched back in 2008, seeks to “re-introduce Islamic rituals from the environmental perspective”, take steps to create a “green Haj”, build a prototype for a “green mosque” and work towards publishing the Quran on recycled paper.

The idea that everything on Earth is inter-related is contained in a concept known to Islamic scholars as “takaful”. Although the concept is now applied mainly to insurance, where it refers to a sharing of risks, takaful also means a cosmic symbiosis or balance, according to Sheikh Furber.

“What God created is a complex system of elements dependent on each other, they are inter-related and in balance,” he said. “You cannot alter or play with that system without disturbing it.”

Islamic scholars needed to go back to the original sources and use them to explain issues faced by people today, such as conservation or global warming, said Sheikh Furber. But some basic “green” tenets of Islam were universal and easily understood.

Grand Mufti, Dr Ali Ahmed Mashael, said that another basic idea in Islam was that humans were custodians of the Earth. This concept, known to scholars as “khilafah”, came with a responsibility for humans who needed to be compassionate to other creatures and to use resources carefully.

“The Prophet said it is forbidden to kill or hurt animals without reason,” said Dr Mashael. “He also said that people should not harm themselves or others and this applies to animals as well.”

The Quran and hadiths made many references to being modest when using water, food or buying possessions, said Dr Mashael.

“People should buy only what is enough for them,” he said. “If they do not want it any more or they do not use it, they can donate.”

In Islamic law, for a sale and purchase to be considered valid they needed to have “positive wholesome use”, said Sheikh Furber.

“It is about balance and limits,” he said. “In cases where the item is useful, it is fine. But if we have too much, then no, there is a problem with that. There is a difference between having one TV set and having three or five, between driving one car and driving three or five.”

A paper published more than a decade ago is considered to contain some of the best writing to date on the topic. Environmental Protection in Islam was written by four scholars from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iraq with support from Saudi Arabia’s Meteorological and Environmental Protection Association and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

“Most Islamic nations are developing and must expand economically in order to meet basic needs,” the authors argued. “Should this expansion pass through the same evolutionary cycle as prior industrial development, the environmental impacts could be disastrous.”

Shaykh Musa Furber has translated Imam al-Nawawi’s Etiquette with the Quran available for purchase through Firdous Books