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The Hanafi Madhab’s Approach to Classifying Legal Rulings

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: Please explain the Hanafi classification of legal rulings.

Answer: Walaikum assalam,

The scholars agree that in reality, every human action has a ruling unique to it. Killing an innocent human and an innocent petty lie are both unlawful (haram); however, one is immensely more grave than the other.

The Hanafis and the other schools agree on the main five-part classification of the rulings of the Shariah into:

Obligatory
Sunna
Permitted
Disliked
Prohibited.

However, the Hanafis then note that obligation and prohibition may both be established in one of two ways:

Through a decisive text
Through a probabilistic text.

It is undeniable that obligation or prohibition established through a decisive text is more serious in its implications than that which is established through a probabilistic text.

Thus, they divided obligation into:

The obligatory (fard)
The necessary (wajib).

And, through detailed, careful study of the primary texts–discussed at length in the more expansive works of the fundamentals of legal methodology (usul al-fiqh)–they deduced the differences in implications between the obligatory and necessary.

The same applies to prohibitions, which were thus divided into:

The prohibited (haram)
The prohibitively disliked (makruh tahriman).

Similarly, we see that the sunna of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) consists of:

Matters that he strongly emphasized (or warned against leaving), and
Matters that he did sometimes or by way of habit.

Thus, the sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace was divided into:

The emphasized sunna (sunna mu’akkada)
The recommended (mustahabb or mandub).

The rulings related to each of these two levels of sunna acts differs, too, as described.

[Sources: Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar; Ala’ al-Din al-Bukhari, Kashf al-Asrar `ala Usul al-Bazdawi]

And Allah alone gives success.

Related Answer:

The Rulings of the Sacred Law

Faraz Rabbani.

Are We Sinful for Missing Sunnah Prayers, or Are They Just for Extra Reward?

Answered by: Sidi Tabraze Azam

Question: Are we sinful for missing sunnah prayers, or are they just for extra reward?

Answer: Assalaamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I hope you are in the best of health and spirits, insha’Allah.

I apologize for the delay in answering your question.

The confirmed sunna in the Hanafi school almost equates to the level of necessary (wajib); therefore, leaving it would be blameworthy and if consistently left, could even be sinful. [Ibn Abidin, Radd ul-Muhtar]

The Types of Sunna

Firstly, it is important to know that there are two types of sunna, the confirmed (mu’akkada) and the non-confirmed (ghair mu’akkada).

The confirmed sunna actions are things like praying in congregation, the call to prayer (adhan), washing one’s face thrice in the ritual ablution (wudu) and the like. Whilst non-confirmed sunna actions include sitting, standing and dressing like the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). [ibid.]

The Ruling of the Confirmed and the Non-Confirmed Sunna

Our teacher, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani beautifully explains that the confirmed sunna (mu’akkada) is, “an act upheld regularly by the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and was not of worldly habits. This is whilst letting it be known that it is not obligatory (fard). These acts are legally considered to complete the obligatory acts. Omission here would not be punishable although it is blameworthy due to leaving the way of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). ” [The Absolute Essentials of Islam]

As for the non-confirmed sunna or recommended (mustahab) actions, the one who performs these is rewarded and the one who leaves it is not sinful nor is it blameworthy.

Further Detail

Imam Abd al-Hayy al-Lacknawi mentions that some have said the punishment for leaving the confirmed sunna is the prevention (t: of some types) of the intercession of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) reaching one.  [Lacknawi, Tuhfat al-Ikhyar bi Ihya Sunnat Sayyid al-Abrar] As mentioned, there are different types of intercession and this is not talking about the greatest intercession (shafat al-`udhma). Nevertheless, it should be enough that the scholars have even mentioned this. It suffices to say that in our school, the confirmed sunna is very important.

The Way of the Righteous

A simple principle: following the Beloved is the means to becoming beloved. Strive to learn the sunna out of love, apply it in your life out of devotion and become realised in what it means. The sunna is the way of performing our religious duties in the best and most beautiful of ways and a means of loving him (Allah bless him and give him peace) when one truly understands the reality.

And Allah alone gives success.

wassalaam,

Tabraze Azam

Why Is the Prophet’s Character Described as Being Tremendous? – Faraz Rabbani

by Faraz Rabbani (originally published in Islamica Magazine)

In the Qur’an, the Prophet is addressed directly, “Truly, you are of tremendous character.” [Qur’an, 68.4] This Qur’anic verse intrigued Muslim scholars, early and late, especially the Qur’anic exegetes and the masters of the spiritual path, especially as the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) himself emphasized that, “I was only sent to perfect noble character,” [Ahmad] and said, “The believers most perfect in faith are those best in character.” [Tirmidhi]

What is good character?

Good character, Ghazali explains in his Ihya’, is an inward disposition that causes one to incline towards praiseworthy inward traits and praiseworthy outward actions.

How is good character manifest?

Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali and others relate that the sum of Prophetic teachings is that good character is manifest in five matters:

(1) Fulfilling the rights of others

(2) Avoiding hurting or harming others

(3) Being cheerful and positive in one’s dealing with others

(4) Recognizing the good of others and reciprocating

(5) Responding to the wrong of others with nothing but the good.

These five manifestations of good character don’t only summarize the Prophetic teachings on good character, but they also summarize the Prophet Muhammad’s own character and conduct.

First. As for fulfilling the rights of others, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) emphasized that, “Give everyone who has a right their due right,” [Bukhari] and he warned against non-fulfillment of others’ rights, “Injustice shall become manifold darkness on the Day of Judgment.” [Bukhari]

Second. Avoiding hurting or harming others is a corollary of fulfilling the rights of others. However, sometimes one can fulfill others’ rights in ways that hurt them; or we follow the follow the fulfillment of rights with hurtful reminders; or strive to fulfill rights, without considering how others feel or may consider our efforts.

Third. Being cheerful and positive in one’s dealings with others. The Prophet is described as always having been full of concern, yet he was always cheerful.

Fourth. Recognizing the good of others entails not only thanking and reciprocating those who do obvious acts of good to one, but to reflect, consider, and appreciate the less-obvious (but significant) good that countless people to for one–both directly and indirectly. We owe our very lives to our parents. When did we last thank them? Our teachers, whether at school or university, have taught us so much. When did we last thank them? The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) cautioned that, “Whoever is not thankful to people is not thankful to God.” [Ahmad, Tirmidhi, and Abu Dawud]

Fifth. The greatest test of character is responding to the wrong of others with nothing but the good. This tests one’s character because one’s personal urge would customarily be to reciprocate; and one’s negative urge would be to affirm oneself. However, the way of Prophets is to respond with nothing but the good.

Upon Entering Mecca, Victorious

When the Prophet Muhamamad (peace and blessings be upon him) entered Mecca as a victor, people expected that he would seek revenge two decades of opposition, wrong, and injustice from his people. The Meccans were fearful, and some hastened to declare that, “Today is a day of slaughter.” The Prophet responded that, instead, “Today is a day of righteousness and loyalty,” and he forgave them in public address, saying, “I say to you today as Joseph said to his brothers,’There is no blame on you today. May God forgive you, and He is the Most Merciful of the merciful.’ [Qur’an, 12.92] Go! For you are free.” [Salihi, Subul al-Huda wa’l Rashad]

A bedouin once came to the Prophet, seeking some money. Without introduction or greetings, he said, “Muhammad! Give me, for you’re not giving me from your money or your father’s money.”

Despite the man’s rudeness, the Prophet gave him, and asked, “Have I pleased you?” The bedouin replied, “No, and you haven’t done me good.”

The Muslims who were standing around them were angered and surrounded the bedouin. The Prophet signaled for them to restrain, and he entered his house.

He asked for the bedouin to be invited in. When he entered, the Prophet gave him some money, and asked, “Are you pleased?” He replied, “No.” The Prophet gave him more, and asked, “Are you pleased?” The bedouin responded, “Yes, we are pleased.”

The Prophet told him, “You came to us and asked us. We gave you, and then you said what you said. As a result, there is something in the hearts of the Muslims regarding that. If you were to say in front of them what you said to me, that might remove those feelings from their hearts.” The man agreed, and mentioned the Prophet with praise and thanked him in front of the Prophet’s Companions. [Salihi, Subul al-Huda wa’l Rashad]

The Prophet was unaffected by the man’s words. His concern was for the good of the man himself and the feelings of his Companions. Why? This returns to the understanding why the Prophet character was described as being “tremendous” in the Qur’an.

Imam Junayd al-Baghdadi, one of the foremost authorities of Islamic spirituality (tasawwuf) and others have explained that, “The Prophet’s character was termed tremendous because his concern was for God alone.” [Qurtubi, Jami Ahkam al-Qur’an] What moved the Prophet was the pursuit of His Lord’s pleasure, both in acting and in responding.

This was manifest in small matters, too. Once a woman brought a baby for the Prophet to bless him. The Prophet placed him on his chest, and the child urinated. The mother reached out for the child, anxious. The Prophet signalled to let the child finish first. After that, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) calmly rinsed the area lightly. He didn’t want to alarm the child, nor make the mother feel bad.

It is also related that though he was the busiest of people, young girls in Medina would take the Prophet’s hand and would take him wherever they went–and he wouldn’t let go of their hand until they let go of his. [Bukhari, Sahih]

Lessons in Mercy

We see from this that the Prophetic example is nothing but a manifestation of mercy. And any understanding of religion lacking in mercy is lacking in true understanding. After all, the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) having been, “sent only as a mercy to all creation.” [Qur’an, 21.107] The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) himself emphasized that, “I was only sent as a gift of Mercy.” [Bazzar and Tabarani]

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) explained, too, that, “The merciful are shown mercy by the All-Merciful. Be merciful to those on earth and the Lord of the Heavens will be merciful to you.” [Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud, from Abd Allah ibn Amr; rigorously authentic] It is a sign of the way of traditional Islamic scholarship that this is the first Hadith (Prophetic teaching) traditionally conveyed by a scholar to their students.

This mercy, manifest in good character in one’s dealings with people, is the test and barometer of faith. After all, “The believers most perfect in faith are those best in character,” as the Prophet affirmed. [Tirmidhi]

It once happened that some non-Muslims greeted the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) with an insult. His wife, A’isha, insulted them back. But the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) did not. Rather, he simply replied, “And upon you,” which is the standard reply to the greeting of, “Peace be upon you.” Then, he said to his dear wife, “A’isha! Allah is gentle and loves gentleness in all matters.” [Bukhari, from Ai’sha] And he also taught that, “Gentleness is not found in anything except that it makes it beautiful; and gentleness is not taken out of anything except that is makes it ugly.” [Muslim and others, also from A’isha]

The Key to All Relations

The Prophet made clear that the key to all relationships is upholding good character and maintaining it, even when tested. He said, “Deal with people on the basis of good character,” [Tirmidhi] and affirmed that, “Forbearance is the very best of character.”

Forbearance is for one not to be moved by anger or negative emotion–but to make one’s response based on reason and (for a believer) Revelation. Forbearance is, ultimately, intelligence, as it is the capacity to respond in the best of ways to each situation.

This restraint and concern for excellence and the greater good that underly excellence of character–and that made the Prophet Muhammad’s character “tremendous”–are virtues each of us would do well to strive for in our own lives and relationships, both as individuals and communities.

‘Should Muslims Be Concerned About Haiti?’ by Shaykh Jihad Brown – The National (Abu Dhabi)

Should Muslims be concerned about Haiti?

by Shaykh Jihad Hashim Brown

(The National, Abu Dhabi)

Shaykh Jihad Hashim Brown is director of research at the Tabah Foundation. He delivers the Friday sermon at the Maryam bint Sultan Mosque in Abu Dhabi

Eleven-year-old Anna St Louis was going to be a lawyer. For three days she lay trapped beneath the rubble of a building in Haiti, her right leg crushed by a steel beam. “Lord God save me. I don’t want to die,” she cried out. Far from the capital Port-au-Prince, far from assistance, neighbours tried desperately to cut the beam with a hacksaw, while others gave her water. Her final rescue was covered by international news agencies, the town celebrated, Anna was grateful. With nothing more than painkillers to give her, the Cuban doctor volunteering in that area advised that she must be taken three hours away where more sufficient medical care could be given. Anna was brave enough to suggest her readiness to have her leg amputated. “I may lose my feet, but I will always have my life,” she has seen saying. But within 24 hours of being rescued, Anna had expired due to severe internal bleeding.

The first statement of the Prophet Mohammed to be taught to every student of Sacred Knowledge is: “Those who show compassion to others, compassion will be shown to them by the All Compassionate; show compassion to those in the Earth and those in the heavens will show compassion to you.”

Some will inevitably say that this does not apply to the non-Muslim. “We should only give our assistance to Muslims,” they will say. But an analysis of the above mentioned narration does not bear this out.

Read more

In the Spirit of Tradition, by Nazim Baksh

islam-symbol-meaning“Tradition” in academic circles has come to signify old fashioned customs, archaic cultural practices, ossified ideas handed down from the past and articulated to the letter by naïve, simple minded neo-Luddites. In popular discourse, to be traditional is to adamantly cling in the past. Those espousing traditional values are often lumped into the same category as the tree-huggers and angry protesters hurling insults at the towers of free-trade, liberalization and globalization and in the process braving the batons and pepper-spray of heavily armed policemen.

From this perspective, tradition is not only diametrically opposed to modernity; it represents a distinct historical period from which modernity saved the world by liberating itself from the shackles of tradition. Thus, anyone who consciously clings to the profound and perennial “Truths” or “Virtues” if you wish, embodied in all sacred traditions, is regarded as “backward looking,” anti-progress or worst, hopeless romantics.

In “Arguing Sainthood: Modernity, Psychoanalysis and Islam,” Katherine Pratt Ewing eloquently explains and historically illustrates that what has come to be regarded as “traditional” was never static nor monolithic, but was instead varied and constantly evolving over time. The accusation of rigidity was hurled at tradition, she argues, by the architects of colonization in order to establish the colonizer’s hegemony over the colonized. Ultimately, in order for the colonizer to succeed in his colonization, the modern had to be cast as superior to the existing order. And thus the only reason why civilizations of old were destroyed, the argument goes, was because they failed to develop, progress, and to change. In other words, leave the old and dilapidated and get with the new program.

Unfortunately, many Muslims today have swallowed the false discursive assumption that tradition is something static. Therefore, in order to move forward, they have to tear themselves away from the past and embrace the modern, and by extension, the post-modern, with all its technological gadgetry, and its shifting house of virtues and ethics.

The consequence of this charge has produced some rather abnormal collective behavioral traits among us. We find in the murky water of contemporary Muslim reality those who feel the need to label themselves: modernists, progressives, reformists, fundamentalists; and even when there is absolutely no need for other categories, they nevertheless continue to pile up.

At this particular juncture, when young Muslims in the west are feeling a burning desire to understand and perhaps also experience something of the intellectual, spiritual, ethical and virtuous ambiance of earlier generations, it is important to clarify what we mean by the term “traditional.”

tree-old-rootsAccording to Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, executive director of Zaytuna Institute in Hayward, CA, traditional Islam is the “plumb line”, the trunk of the Islamic tree, if you prefer, whose roots are firmly buried in the soil of Prophethood.

Over time, tributaries sprout from the “plumb line” and eventually die out, but the line continues because ours is a tradition based on isnad – sound, authentic, reliable transmission of sacred knowledge.

Young Muslims in the West, I believe, are responding positively to the call of “tradition” because they are a tad fed up with the many tributaries that have fractured from the “plumb line.” They want to experience an Islam free of ideology, statist or otherwise, an Islam free of political affiliations, organizational goals, and market driven visions hatched in lofty towers by engineers and doctors.

Therefore, by “tradition” we mean the “Sunnah” of our Noble Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, in all its timeless, living and sacred glory. The Sunnah here is the worldly manifestation of the divine revelation which has been codified and preserved in the sacred text of Al-Qur’an.

To follow this sacred tradition means to stake all claims, whatever they are, in the two sources of Truth: The Qur’an and the Sunnah. In our Ummah, no one, regardless of what category he puts himself in, will argue to the contrary. Some may choose to stress only the intellectual, cultural, social, or spiritual aspects of the Islamic tradition instead of treating the tradition as an integrated whole. Regardless of what is given priority, it must be based on the explicit “Truths” evident in the Qur’an and the Sunnah for it to be regarded as within the parameters of the Islamic tradition.

This tradition is the whole of Islam (al-din) and whenever an attempt is made to compartmentalize or divide it up into edible portions, for whatever reasons, that effort will never survive the test of time. Having said that, we should recognize that those who emphasize one aspect of the tradition may be doing it out of a need and not an attempt to split the tradition into parts.

In order for speak of a sacred tradition there must be a model that serves as its reference point. We therefore recognize that the community of our Beloved Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, was established with divine guidance as a model, and at no time in history will there ever be another community like it. Further, the Islamic sacred tradition has been from its inception a living tradition and rigorously documented as such.

traditional-madrassah-samarkandIn order for the tradition to remain valid it has to be transmitted in a way that will stand the test of time. A sacred tradition cannot survive without transmission and the key to transmission is isnad, or sound and verifiable links that stitches each generation of believers to the preceding one all the way back to the Blessed Messenger.

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, has often said that “isnad” is the secret of this Ummah and a gift from Allah. Without “isnad” the entire tradition could very well collapse. The system of ijaza (teaching licenses) is intricately linked to isnad in that one takes his knowledge from noble men and women who took their knowledge from those who took their knowledge from those….all the way back to that model community and to the blessed Messenger himself, whose knowledge, without a shadow of doubt, came from the Lord of the Divine Throne through his messenger, the angel Gibril, upon him be peace.

There is a tested and established tradition aimed at preserving and transmitting sacred knowledge within the overall tradition of Islam. We recognize its validity and importance today especially when the “sacred” has been relegated to an inferior position in our modern educational system. Zaytuna Institute in California, and a host of other well-established organizations in the U.S.A., Canada and the UK, have dedicated themselves to preserving and re-establishing the traditional educational method of teaching the Islamic sacred sciences to the present generation of Muslims in the West.

The fact that the tradition must be transmitted to remain valid, necessarily entails that it cannot be static because time does not stand still and the world is certainly not one big snapshot. The established Truths of the Islamic tradition will always confront and must reconcile itself to new situations, events and circumstances.

A lot of the divisions and acrimony we find in our communities today is as a direct result over a problem in determining exactly what is an “authentic” tradition.

In “Rethinking tradition in modern Islamic thought” Daniel Brown points out: “…it is also evident that tradition is frequently appealed to as a way of defending against perceived innovation, as a way of preserving threatened values. Alternative uses of tradition are thus a major battleground; there is fierce competition to control the process by which the content of tradition is defined, and for modern Muslims, sunna has become the bitterest point of conflict. Thus, the modern problem of sunna arises out of conflict among Muslims over the definition and content of the authentic tradition, and over the method by which the tradition is to be defined.” (page 3)

The only way to effectively deal with the thorny issue of what constitutes an authentic application of our tradition is to recognize that the mujatahid imams (individual who is qualified to exercise independent reasoning in the evaluation of Islamic law), and by extension the ‘ulama (scholars) who follow in their methodological footprints, are the final arbiters. This applies to fiqh as well as to the other branches of the Islamic sacred sciences.

Differences of opinions and interpretations in our sacred tradition is not a sign of weakness in the tradition, but instead, they attest to its richness and complexity.

When we live according to the Sunnah today we are preserving our tradition and ensuring its continuity and validity in time by handing it down to the next generation in much the same way as it was given to us by the pervious. The point here is that we act upon the tradition, not impose our modern sensibilities upon it, in the hope that the divine barakah may trickle down on us.

Finally, we are aware that the Islamic tradition, handed down to us over the years, is our link to the historic Prophetic community. By living it we are confirming that the way of our noble Messenger is as valid today as it was when Allah The Almighty sent him as a Mercy to all of mankind 1400 years ago.

This is what we mean by “tradition” and so when reference is made to the work we do as being “traditional,” it is not an attempt to label, but to identify a focus that’s broad enough to include all Muslims.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr, in his “Traditional Islam in the Modern World” offers the following comprehensive definition of tradition and one that I think works well as a summary:

“Tradition is at once al-din in the vastest sense of the word, which embraces all aspects of religion and its ramifications, al-sunnah, or that which, based upon sacred models, has become tradition as this word is usually understood, and al-silsilah, or the chain which relates each period, episode or stage of life and thought in the traditional world to the Origin….Tradition, therefore, is like a tree, the roots of which are sunk through revelation in the Divine Nature and from which the trunk and branches have grown over the ages. At the heart of the tree of tradition resides religion, and its sap consists of that grace or barakah which, originating with the revelation, makes possible the continuity of the life of the tree. Tradition implies the sacred, the eternal, the immutable Truth; the perennial wisdom, as well as the continuous application of its immutable principles to various conditions of space and time.” (page 13).

nazim_bakshNazim Baksh is a mentor and friend to SeekersHub. A veteran journalist with Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Toronto, Canada, Sidi Nazim has been instrumental in the establishment of traditional learning programs in North America.

Sunnahs of Eating

Answered by  Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: This question is regarding your mention of the sunnah of eating, implying being seated on the floor, eating with one’s hands, etc. How do the scholars determine which of these practices are considered rewardable sunnah, as opposed to happenstances related to the Holy Prophet’s time and place, peace be upon Him? I.e., how do we answer the question, were the Prophet (s) alive today, would he still eat without utensils, etc.

Answer: The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is unconditionally our exemplar. Everything he did or even approved of is an example for us.

The “sunnas of habit” are rewarded if followed. Some of them are more emphasized than others, which is why we need fiqh and depth of understanding.

Utensils existed in the time of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace); people sat at tables… but he showed us a way of elegant simplicity. This is a value and a practice.

And Allah alone gives success.

Faraz Rabbani