Toward a Remedy for Extremisim
|After throwing light on the socalled "religious
extremism," pointing out aspects of its true nature and characteristics and revealing
its most important causes, motives, and stimulants, we now need to outline a remedy for
it, its means, and methods. It should be emphasized at the outset that the remedy is
inseparable from the causes and must, therefore, be as varied and complex as the causes
themselves are. Needless to say, no magical touch can put an end to extremism or bring
back the extremists to the line of moderation. The malaise afflicting the soul and mind of
mankind is far more deeply rooted than we think, and consequently more difficult to treat.
Extremism is essentially a religious phenomenon with a variety of psychological, social,
and political dimensions. As such, all of these aspects must be tackled from an Islamic
point of view.
I do not agree with the determinists who hold either society alone or the prevailing economic conditions responsible for the causes of the phenomenon, while they ignore the actions and behavior of the young, whom they consider to be totally helpless. It is unjust to hold the young alone responsible and to exonerate the society, the regime, and its governmental departments especially those in charge of education, guidance, and the media. The responsibility is in fact mutual, and each partly played an important part. The Prophet (SAAS) said: "All of you are guardians and responsible for your wards and the things under your care."1 Therefore, we intend to discuss in the following part the duties that should be played by society in order to overcome extremism, as well as the duties of the youth to resist this destructive tendency.
I have already pointed out that the inner contradictions and the chaos which characterize presentday Muslim societies, as well as the estrangement of these societies from Islam, have significantly contributed to the birth and spread of extremism. Therefore, these societies must play a positive role in the remedy. The initial step for a Muslim society is to acknowledge and confirm its genuine commitment to Islam. This cannot be achieved through a verbal declaration or expression, or through a set of slogans or a clause in the constitution stating that "[slam is the official religion of the state," but only through true adherence to the teachings of Islam.
Islam is a comprehensive system of life. It invests its divine character in life and guides it along an ethical direction; it sets up the framework, the landmarks, and the limits which govern the movement and goals of life, always keeping it on the right path, protecting it from pitfalls or from straying. For this reason, Islam consists of beliefs which can enrich the mind, of 'ibadat which purify the heart, of morals which purify the soul, of legislations which establish justice, and of manners which beautify life. To be really Islamic society must commit itself to Islam in its totality, unlike the Israelites who adopted only parts of the Torah but ignored the rest. Consequently, Allah (SWT) admonished them in the Quran:Then is it only a part of the Book that you believe in, and do you reject the rest? But what is the reward for those among you who behave like this but disgrace in this life'? And on the Day of Judgment they shall be consigned to the most grievous penalty.
Furthermore, for a society to be Islamic it must be willing to apply Allah's injunctions and the Sunnah of His Prophet (SA'AS) on all the affairs and aspects of life: social, economic, political, or intellectual. This is the requisite of iman: But no, by the Lord, they can have no [real] faith, until they make you judge in all disputes between them, and find in their souls no resistance against your decisions, but accept them with the fullest conviction .
Our societies must endeavor to eliminate this obvious
contradiction we believe in Islam both as a divine creed and a Shariah, but we have
abandoned its Shariah and disregarded its guidance and moral teachings.
Indeed, these rulers' defiance of the conscience of Muslims in most Muslim countries has become intolerable. Some of them openly reject Islam and express their commitment to an Eastern or a Western ideology. Moreover, they deprive Islam of any form of expression. Even the mosque and its religious activities are manipulated to express support for regimes and rulers. Those who dare to object are harshly and severely punished. Other rulers in Muslim countries profess to be Muslims, but their concept of Islam is a version of their own coinage and satanic whims. They pick and choose, accepting that which serves their own egotistic pursuit, and discarding that which does not appeal to them! What they themselves "believe" and declare to be "Islamic" is the "truth," and what they reject is "bat l." In this contention, they disregard all the interpretations of the venerable forebears, as well as their renowned successors and contemporaries. They unscrupulously disagree with the whole Ummah, ignoring the established traditions of the companions of the Prophet (SA'AS), the jurists, the interpreters of the Quran and Hadith. They see no need or reason to consult any of these. Such a ruler considers himself to be a faqih, an interpreter, a narrator, a mutakallim, and a philosopher.
Such a ruler claims to be that one man to whom there is no second. He does not see any need to learn anything even from the Prophet Muhammad (SA'AS) himself, claiming that he relies on the Qur'an alone, forgetting that the Prophet (SA'AS) is the interpreter of the Qur'an. In this respect Allah (SWT) says: "He who obeys the Messenger, obeys Allah". Nevertheless, some of these rulers allow the operation 0f Shariah pertaining only to private affairs, as well as insignificant opportunities for talks about Islam on the radio and on television; they also permit a column in a daily newspaper to appear on Fridays only. Its theme-if any-is confined to religion in its Western Christian conception as a relationship between the conscience of the individual and his Creator. It has nothing to do with either society or life; Caesar and the Lord each gets that which belongs to him! Theirs is the concept of "religion" as "faith" without Shariah, a "din" without an Islamic state, private "'ibadah" without any dawah, jihad, or an obligation to command the common good and prohibit evil and the undesirable. If a person condemns something as wrong, criticizes certain deviations, advocates a call for the right path, confronts basil, either from the platform of a mosque or in a newspaper, he is harshly reminded that he has exceeded all bounds by mixing religion and politics! For such rulers there is neither a place for religion in politics, nor politics in religion. All this contradicts, of course, the teachings of Allah (SWT) and the Sunnah of His Prophet (SA'AS), as well as the practices of the companions and Tabi'un. It is indeed high time for our rulers to realize that there can neither be stability in their societies nor hope for their peoples except treal commitment and adherence to Islam. 'Umar ibn al Khattab (RA'A) said: "We had been the lowest of nations, but Allah honored us with Islam. Should we try to attain honor through means other than Islam, Allah will debase us." Furthermore, unless Shariah is applied, our societies will continue to breed extremists, religious or otherwise.
The second step of the remedy pertains to the attitude of the Society towards the youth. To begin with, we-the old-must not address them from ivory towers, showing a superiority or a disregard for them. This attitude is bound to create a deep rift which will force them to refuse to trust or listen to us. Equally, we must not fail to understand them or to have insight into the deep recesses of their lives and the reality of their concerns. Our attitude towards them should not only be that of accusation mainly concerned with publicizing their demerits, exaggerating their negative characteristics and suspecting and discrediting their intentions and actions in an endeavor to prove them eligible for the most severe punishments. On the contrary, we should first and foremost treat them with paternal and brotherly love, making them feel that they are a part of us, our beloved ones, and the hope of the future of the Ummah. Through love and compassion, rather than through accusations and arrogance, we can come nearer to them. We should stand in their defense since allegations from all directions are raised against themtrue and false, wellmeaning and malicious. If we cannot assume the role of the defender, for one reason or another, we should at least stand firmly for the application of justice, which neither punishes without evidence nor sides with either the claimant or the defendant.
One of our defects is our tendency to make hasty, generalized final and conclusive judgments on social issues. This is often done without listening to the defense of the accused or the evidence citedan attitude devoid of any sense of justice. Many people rush to judge these youth without actually knowing them, without mixing With them in order to find out how they think, feel, behave, and react. Many judge them all through the behavior of a few, despite the fact that the majority cannot be held responsible for the deeds and behavior of the minority. It is for this reason that Muslim jurists legislated that the judgment passed on the majority is binding on the whole but not vice versa. Furthermore, some people pass final judgments on a person on the basis of one single instance of behavior for which he may have had his own motives and specific personal circumstances. If his accusers but listen patiently to his justifications, they may change their minds. In any case, no final, changing moral judgment should be passed on a person on the basis of one or two actions. A person should-in the light of the following Quranic verse-be evaluated on the basis of the totality of his actions and behavior: "Then those whose balance [of good deeds] is heavy, they will attain salvation".
On the other hand, there are people who judge the youth through their own personal conception of what religion is and what it means to be religious. In the opinion of such people, these youth Muslims are merely eccentrics suffering from psychological problems. This may be true of a small number, but on the whole the youth are psychologically sound, the sincerity of their deeds is unquestionable their private and public practice and performance are, indeed, harmonious. They are free from any dichotomy between belief and practice, between what they publicly profess and what they cherish in their hearts. I myself have known very well many of these young Muslims in many Muslim countries; I bear witness that I found strength in their iman, firmness in their convictions, truth in their words, and sincerity in their work. I also admire their love for the truth and hatred of basil, their ardor for disseminating the divine message, their determination to command the common good and forbid evil and the undesirable, their zeal for jihad, their concern for Muslims everywhere in the world, their aspiration for the establishment of an Islamic society which lives in accordance with the teachings of Allah (SWT), is guided by Islam, and disciplined by Shariah and its ethical values.
My meetings and contacts with these youth have convinced me of the tremendous differences between our traditional Islamic conception and theirs; they are committed to a new vital Islam which opposes our own wornout traditional belief. Their ',man is warm and ardent while ours is cold; their determination to righteousness is solid and unflinching while ours is apathetic; their hearts fear Allah (SWT) and are full of love for Him-their hearts beat with His remembrance in their constant recitation of the Qur'an. One must also acknowledge their determination to recapture the true Islamic spirit and to reconstruct life according to it. I know that many of them spend whole nights in ibadah, offer siyam during the day, ask Allah's forgiveness at dawn, and emulate good deeds It is for this reason that many people, including myself, entertain the hope that the future of Islam will, in shaa Allah, be realized through the determined endeavors of these youths. This is why I have declared on several occasions in Egypt that the young generation who grew up in righteousness and piety is the real treasure upon which Egypt could build its hopes. They are more valuable than any material considerations.
I equally believe that whoever tries to suggest a remedy for this issue must show balance, justice, and openmindedness. Otherwise, such a person is himself bound to display extremism while discussing the phenomenon and suggesting its remedy. The first characteristic of balance in this regard is to avoid exaggerating the manifestations of the alleged phenomenon, making much fuss about nothing, thereby spreading fright and terror. This, unfortunately, is our customary tendency in dealing with such issues. Exaggeration is extremely damaging because it distorts the facts, upsets the criteria of judgment, blurs vision, and contaminates clear thinking. Consequently, any verdict for or against the issue is bound to be either unjust or, at least, incomplete.
It is regrettable that a great deal of what has been or is being said or written in the aftermath of the crisis resulting from the authorities' clash with the Muslim youth in Egypt and the emergence of socalled "religious extremism" is not free from exaggeration and excessiveness in the attempt to tackle the issue. These attempts are influenced by the inconducive, illwilled atmosphere shared by the majority of people against the youth. This attitude provoked the Egyptian sociologist, Dr. Sad al Din Ibrahim, who observed their phenomenon to respond to this campaign directed against the youth in an article published in al Ahram newspaper. Dr. Ibrahim pointed out that those who have taken part in analyzing this issue are actually ignorant of its rudiments.
Indeed, it would have been more proper if these people had kept silent or had approached the subject with truth and fairness, examining the phenomenon in a realistic and balanced manner.
But this requires qualities which these people do not
possess. A balanced opinion would take into consideration the fact that religious
extremism is often a reaction to another opposing extremism such as permissiveness and
laxity in religious matters or cynical attitudes towards religion. Therefore there should
be an attempt to bring both extremes to the moderation of Islam. The very nature of living
occasionally sets one form of extremism against another in order to create a balance, a
concept found in the Qur'an:
Moreover, we have witnessed many forms of Christian religious extremism all directed against the Muslims, not only in Lebanon, but also in Cyprus, Eritrea, the Philippines, as well as in other places and countries. It matters little whether it is Catholic extremism, Orthodox extremism, or Protestant extremism; it is Christian extremisma new Crusade.
Furthermore, almost every year extremist Hindu religions groups massacre many innocent and peaceful Muslims. The irony is that those who slaughter human beings in cold blood prohibit the slaughter of animals because they claim it is cruel and merciless to kill a living creature! For this same reason, they do not kill mice but allow them to eat up the wheat that grows in millions of acres. All of these creatures, they claim, should not be harmed because they have "souls"! But these people never hesitate to slaughter Muslims, as if the latter were the only beings devoid of souls!
In addition to all this we have to realize that we live in
an age of uneasiness, anxiety, and rebellion generated by the spread of a materialism
which has twisted human thought and behavior. Although man has succeeded in landing on the
moon, he has failed miserably to realize his happiness on earth. It is obvious that the
twentieth century has witnessed rapid progress in all the fields of science, a development
which only brought about materialnot spiritual-prosperity. This, however, has not been
able to create the happiness and peace of mind for which so many of its beneficiaries had
hoped. On the contrary, it has caused an everincreasing number of people-like the
hippies to feel lost and confused, and to rebel against this "modernization"
by going back to nature. For them, life has no meaning, and civilization has failed to
answer their persistent questions: Who am I? What is my message? Where did I come from and
to where am I going? Such anxiety and rebellion found an echo in our countries as well,
where it led either to irreligiosity or to a greater commitment and adherence to Islam.
Some young Muslims found the answers to their questions in Islam and therefore turned to
it with warmth and often with excessive zeal.
One day while he was with a group of his companions, a man said to him: "O, Caliph, fear Allah..."'Umar's companions were angered by this, but he asked them to let the man express himself freely, saying: "There is no good in you if you do not speak up (like this man), and there is no good in us (the rulers) if we do not listen (to your advice and criticism)."
On another occasion, 'Umar addressed his audience: "If any of you sees any deviation in me, it is his duty to put it right." Upon hearing this, a bedouin stood up and said: "By Allah, if we see any deviation in you, wc will put it right with our swords (i.e., even if we have to use force)," 'Umar was not angered, but was pleased enough to say: "Al Hamdu /i Allah that there are Muslims ready to use their swords to put 'Umar on the right path."
An atmosphere of freedom produces ideas which can be rationally discussed and analyzed by the learned, either to be adapted and adopted or to be discarded and rejected and eventually disappear. Otherwise ideas are bound to thrive secretly, to be nurtured covertly, and to eventually take roots, develop and grow until they become dominant and strong, taking people by surprise because they were neither aware of their birth nor development. Deviant thought and understanding are the sources of extremism, and sound thought and correct understanding must therefore be utilized in its treatment. It is indeed a grave mistake to resort to power to counter deviant thought; confused thoughts must be carefully, patiently, and intellectually rectified. The brutal methods adopted by tsecret police, by leaders of military coups who torture and kill whoever disagree with them, cannot possibly put an end to extremism. They may succeed temporarily, but they will ultimately fail in their endeavor. If one extreme group is crushed, another-even more violent-is in the making.
The first duty then is to create a rational Islamic awareness based on an enlightened fiqh in the teachings of Islam: a fiqh of deep insight which does not concentrate on the marginal issues only but on the essentials as well; a fiqh which relates the parts to the whole, the branches to the roots, the hypothetical to the definitive; a fiqh which seeks judgments from the original sources, not only from the branches. Creating such an awareness and developing such a fiqh among the extremist is not easy. Moreover, to change the beliefs and convictions of people needs sincere effort, great patience, and the support and guidance of Allah ta 'ala.
Those in authority imagine-or are led to believe-that such changes can be easily effected by the media. They think that these channels can alter the intellectual as well as the spiritual convictions of people in the direction they desire. They either unwittingly or deliberately ignore the fact that the statecontrolled media and their spokesmen, agents, and agencies are incapable of actualizing the required changes and consciousness, because the form and substance of such endeavors are totally rejected by the youth. This has been attempted by various regimes in different countries where the authorities exploited some ulama' and speakers to lecture prisoners in order to brainwash them. But all these lectures, speeches, and sermons were mocked and failed miserably to achieve that end. The aspired imparting of knowledge can only be realized by 'ulama who are free from the crippling influence of authority-scholars who enjoy the confidence of the youth because of the originality of their knowledge and the impeccability of their religious convictions. In addition, this requires a naturally conducive atmosphere free from the false promises and intellectual terrorism which prevail behind closed doors. Furthermore, such transformation cannot be achieved overnight through lofty inculcation and martial orders. On the contrary, it requires free encounter' constructive dialogue, and mutual communication, all of which are needed to realize this goal in the long run. What I wish to emphasize in this respect is the danger of confronting one form of intellectual extremism with another; that is, confronting obstinacy with obstinancy, bigotry with bigotry, reacting to a misdeed with another misdeed. The danger manifests itself, for example, in a tendency to accuse of kufr the extremists who accuse others of being kufar. Perhaps some of the people who adopt such an attitude cite the following hadith as evidence of the truth of their claim: "He himself who accuses a Muslim of kufr commits kafr:' The truth is that if we behave in this manner, we fall into the same pitfall. However, the hadith under consideration does not include a Muslim who accuses another Muslim of kufr as a result of judicial misinterpretation and misunderstanding. This can be demonstrated by authentic ahaith as well as confirmed events in the lives of the companions (RA'A).
We have a good example in the attitude of the caliph 'Alir ibn Abu Talib (RA'A) towards the Khawarij who fought him and unjustly accused him of the kind of repulsive abominations that could not be hurled against an ordinary Muslim, let alone Ali, the most renowned and courageous Muslim hero, the cousin of the Prophet (SA'AS) and his soninlaw. Nonetheless, 'Ali condemned the Khawarij's false and nugatory allegations without branding them kuffar, as they had done to him. Furthermore, he accommodated them in the fold of Islam thinking well of their intention.
Hence when the people asked 'AII whether the Khawarij were kuffar, he replied: "They have escaped kufr...." The people persisted: "What are they then?" 'Ali answered: "Our brothers in the past who wrong us today!" This means that the Khawarij are to be judged as those committing baghy, not as kuffar or murtaddin. Bughat-in this case-are those who do not obey a just Muslim imam on the basis of a judicial misinterpretation.
If such people are powerful and rebel against the imam, he should not hasten to fight them, but should send to them people who can rectify their errors by arguing nicely, wisely, and patiently with them in order to prevent the shedding of Muslim blood and to preserve Muslim unity If they persist in their attitude and initiate war, they should be fought until they abide by Allah's command. But during fighting, those of them who flee from the battlefield should not be persecuted, nor should their wounded or prisoners of war be killed, their women should not be taken captive, and their belongings should not be confiscated. They are to be treated as Muslims who are fought only because they constitute a menance to the Ummah, since the aim is not to exterminate them but to bring them back to the fold of Islam. Convictions can neither be altered by force nor by the threat of the sword.
Another instance of' Ali's attitude is worth mentioning as evidence of the unprecedented level of the freedom of expression-especially that of the opposition-attained in the early days of Islam; a level which other countries achieved only many centuries afterwards. The Khawarij dissented because they rejected 'All's acceptance of arbitration claiming that: "The [command] is only Allah's." Ali replied to this with his laconic, proverbial saying: "This is a word of truth twisted in the service of basil." In spite of their opposition to him, 'All told them clearly and frankly: "We are committed not to prevent you from .salah in mosques, nor from your share in booty, nor to initiate fighting with you unless you create corruption in the land (of Islam)." Thus 'All granted the opposition-the
Khawarij-all these rights, although each of them was a
fully trained, armed soldier capable of taking up arms at any moment. It is also worth
pointing out in this respect that although an authentic hadith describes the Khawarij as
dissenters there was a consensus among the 'ulama'to refrain from branding them as kaffar,
and sanctioned fighting and killing them, and although they themselves have branded all
Muslims kuffar. Al Imam al Shawkani says in Nayl al Awtar:
Al Khatabi says:
Al Ghazali says in al Tafriqah bayn al iman wa al Zandiqah:
Ibn Battal says:
The first duty of the Muslim youth is to rectify their views and thoughts with a view to knowing their din on the basis of clear evidence and Understanding and according to a proper methodology. The right start is acquiring the proper methodology of comprehending Islam, and of dealing with themselves, people and life.
Historically, Muslim scholars have established certain principles and methods which have enhanced the proper comprehension, and deduction of matters and issues whether supported by texts or not. This led to the establishment of the science of usul al fiqh: a discipline which studies the methodology of deriving laws from the sources of Islam and of establishing their juristic or constitutional validity. Thus, they established the principles of the controlling and controlled evidence, the subject and object of controlling aspects of evidence: the main and the subsidiary, the imperative and the negative, the general and the particular, the absolute and the restricted, the pronounced and the comprehend. They also established the total aims of the Shariah, such as safeguarding people's welfare, counteracting evil and harm; they divided needs into: essential, necessary and comforts. This is indeed a unique science of which there is no equal, and of which Muslims have the right to be proud. In addition, there are other principles and rules of fiqh which may not be available in the books of usul but are found in various books on usul al tafsir and Qur'anic sciences, as well as usul al hadith, and Hadith sciences. In addition to these, there are various rules and principles scattered in books of beliefs, hadith interpretation, and jurisprudence which can be observed by those who have acquired an insight into the purpose of Shariah and its innermost recesses.
What is required, therefore, is not a shallow understanding
of the texts but rather a deep knowledge and a genuine comprehension of the purposes of
Qur'anic verses and the ahad'ith. The fiqh, the awareness, and the knowledge required must
take the following into consideration
For this reason, Imam al Shatibi set two conditions for
ijtihad: (1) understanding the purposes of Shariah in its totality, and (2) the ability to derive and to draw conclusions on the basis of this
understanding.' This can only be fulfilled when there is a deep and wide knowledge of the
texts, especially the ahaith and the traditions, in addition to an insight into the
reasons, the events, the circumstances, and the purposes of each text, as well as an
ability to distinguish between the eternal and unalterable and those formulated to meet a
temporary need, an existing custom or tradition, or certain transient circumstances which
can be changed when the latter change.
The textile industry was unknown then, so people used to
wear clothes imported from the Yemen, Egypt, and Syria. In our time, we wear- without any
inhibition-underwear, head coverings, shoes, etc., which were unknown during the Prophet's
time. Why then this excessive fuss about the thawb in particular?
It is a blessing that Allah (SWT) has bestowed on some Muslim ulama' the ability to ascertain, to examine closely, and to decide on matters of disagreement without prejudice against any madhhab or opinion. These include the following a'immah: Ibn Daqiq al 'Id, Ibn Taymiyah, Ibn Qayyim, Ibn Kathir, Ibn Hajar al 'Asqalai, al Dahlawi, al Shawkani, al San'ani, and others. But differences are bound to arise and continue because they are deeply rooted in the nature of man, life, language and -Divine commandment. Attempts to eradicate these differences will fail, because they will actually be battling against human nature, against life, against all sunan. As we have already mentioned, disagreement based on authentic ijtihad which does not create discord or disunity is a blessing for the Ummah and an enrichment of fiqh. Objective disagreement in itself poses no threat if it is coupled with tolerance and openmindedness, and if it is free from fanaticism, accusations, and narrowmindedness. The Prophet's Companions differed among themselves on many issues and practical a,hkam, but they still never condemned one another and had very cordial and strong relations. 'Umar ibn 'Abd al 'Aziz said: "I never wished that the Prophet's companions had rot had disagreements. Their disagreement was a mercy."
Different interpretations even emerged during the life of the Prophet (SA'AS). These were sanctioned by him, and he did not single out one party or group for blame. Immediately after the battle of the Akzab, the Prophet (.SAAS) said to his Companions: 'whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day must not perform ,salat al asr until he has reached [the dwellings of] Banu Qurayzah. Some of the Companions found. This practically impossible, and therefore performed salat al Asr before reaching their destination. Otherswho were literalists-only performed salah when they reached the dwellings of Banu Qurayzah as the Prophet (SA'AS) had asked them. When the Prophet (SA'AS) was told, he approved of the action of both parties although one of them must have been wrong.
This clearly indicates that there is no sin in acting upon an interpretation which is based on solid evidence, sincere genuine intention and ijtihad. Ibn al Qayyim described those who applied the essence of ahadith as Ahl al Qiyas (analogy applicants) and those who applied the letter of a,hadith as Zahiriyah (literalists).
Unfortunately, there are people these days who not only assume that they know the whole truth and all the answers, but who also try to coerce other people to follow them, believing that they can eradicate all madhahib and disagreements and unite all people in one single stroke. They tend to forget that their own understanding and interpretation of the texts are no more than hypotheses which may be right or wrong. Moreover, no human (i.e., no 'alim) is infallible, even though he may satisfy all the conditions and requisities of ijtihad. All that is certain is the reward he will obtain for his ijtihad, whether it was right or wrong, should the intention be sincere. Therefore, such people would achieve nothing except the creation of an additional madhhab! It is strange and absurd that while they disapprove of people's adherence to different madhahib, they themselves try to persuade people to imitate them and follow their new madhhab.
No one should jump to the conclusion that I reject their call for adherence to the texts or their own interpretations and understanding. This is absolutely the right granted to everyone who can fulfill the conditions of ijtihad and its means. No one has the right to close the gates of ijtihad which were opened by the Prophet (SA'AS) for the whole Ummah What I do reject is their selfpresumption, arrogance, vanity, and disregard for the findings of their learned predecessors, their disrespect for the fifh we have inherited from our great forebears. I reject their false claim that they alone are right, as well as their erroneous impression that they can eliminate disparity and disagreement and unite people on one opinion-their own.
One of the followers of this "oneopinion" school asked me once why all Muslims should not agree on the juristic opinion supported by the text I replied that the text first has to be authentic and accepted by all, its meaning has to be plain, and it should not be contradicted by another text, whether stonger or similar in evidence. There should be full agreement as regards the three preceding points. A text may be regarded as authentic by an imam, but another imam may see it as weak or as authentic but without proven evidence justifying its given meaning; a text may be regarded as general by an imam but as particular by another, or it may be seen as absolute or restricted; it may also be regarded as categorrical or abrogated. Such variance leads to producing different ahkam i.e. something may be wajib or haram, mustahabb or makruh. In short all these difference fall within the considerations pointed out by Ibn Taymiyah in his book, Raf al Malam an al A'immat al A'lam, and mentioned by Waliy Allah al Dahlaw' in his book, .Hujjat Allah al Balighah, and in his, al Insaf fi Asbab al Ikhtilaf, and detailed by al Shaykn 'Al. al Khafif in his book, Asbab Ikhtilaf al Fuqaha' Let us consider the following ahadah:
Justists have different attitudes toward these ahadith:
Has the existence of these ahadith prevented disagreement on their authenticity or guidance? Can the modern "traditionalist school" eradicate disagreement and unite all people on one opinion on the basis of ahadith or a tradition which they use as evidence? The answer is clear enough: people will continue to disagree and differ amongst themselves, and this will, in shaa Allah, pose no danger or problem. Allah ta 'ala says: "To each is a goal to which Allah turns him".
In this respect, I feel inclined to admit that the
religious leader who, in this age, has understood the essence and ethics of disagreements
was hasan al Banna (d. 1949). He brought up his followers to believe in and adhere to
these ethics. Despite his unflinching commitment to the cause of Muslim solidarity and his
sincere efforts to unite the various Muslim groups and make them agree at least on minimum
Islamic concepts and principals, as is clear from his own known work al Usul al 'Ishrun,
he was convinced of the inevitability of disagreement on the subsidiary issues and the
practical ahkam of Islam. This he has eloquently discussed in many of his messages which
have proved to be useful In Dawatuna (Our Da'wah), al Banna spoke of the characteristics
of his da'wah as being general ones which neither patronize a particular sect nor advocate
a particular line of thought. Interest is in the core of din and its essence; it hopes
that all endeavors are united so that a more fruitful work can be done to produce greater
results; it supports truth everywhere; it likes consensus and dislikes eccentricity; it
attributes a great deal of the mishaps which have befallen Muslims to misguided
disagreement and to disunity; it believes that love and unity are the major factor of
their victories, and that the only hope for invigorating and revitalizing the presentday
Ummah lies in reviving and adopting the practice of the early generations of Muslims. But,
in spite of his strong belief in the necessity of unity and dislike of disunity, al Banna
The abundance of the sources of knowledge in some parts of
the Islamic world and their scarcity in other places is also an important factor. Malik
said to Abu Ja'far: "The Prophet's companions scattered into remote regions, each
group possessing specific knowledge. If you were to force them to follow one opinion you
would create fitnah.
Also, a cause of difference lies in assessing the evidence
of ahkam; some give precedence to people's practices over ahadith narrated through by one
single narrator, etc.
Furthermore, we understand the reasons of those who disagree with us on subsidiary and marginal issues. Such disagreement does not affect our mutual love or cooperation, as we are all contained within the comprehensiveness of Islam. Aren't we all Muslim, required to like for our Muslim brothers what we like for ourselves? Why disagreement then, and why cannot each of us have our different opinions, and also try to reach an agreement, if possible, in an atmosphere of candor and love?
The companions of the Prophet (SA'AS) had disagreed in fatwa, but that did not create any disunity or rupture. The incident of the salah and Banu Qurayzah is a case in point. If these who have known the ahkam better than us have had their disagreements, isn't it absurd that we maliciously disagree with each other on frivolous matters? If our a'immah, who more than any one else know the Qur'an and Sunnah, have had their disagreements and their debates, why cannot we do the same? If there was disagreement on even clear and wellknown subsidiary issues, such as the fivetimesaday adhan, which were supported by texts and by tradition, what about the more delicate issues which are subject to opinion and deduction?
We also need to remember that during the time of the Caliphate, disagreements were referred to, and settled by, the
Caliph. Since there are no caliphs these days, Muslims must
find a judge to which they can refer their case. Otherwise, their disagreement will lead
to another disagreement.
The above is a brief summary of Imam al Bannas views on
juristic disagreements and his attitude toward them. It clearly shows his deep knowledge
of Islam, of history, and of reality.
Many fair Muslim ulama have clearly sanctioned this. The
following quotation is from one of the .Hanabilah books entitled Sharh Ghayat al Muntaha:
Ibn Taymiyah says in al Fatawa al Misriyah:
Our purpose is only to mention the Prophet's Sunnah, which is our guiding principle in this book and which we seek to investigate. Having said that, I wish to point out that I have not tried to deal with what is permissible and what is not. Our concern is with the permissible practice which the Prophet (SA'AS) used to choose for himself, and which is the best and most perfect. If we say that there is no indication in his Sunnah that he consistently performed qunut during Salat ul Fajr or uttered the basmalah loudly, this does not mean or indicate that we should consider consistency in performing them as makruh? or bidah. It only means that his guidance is the best and most perfect.
Moreover, an individual is permitted to continue his salah
behind an imam of a different madhhab even if he believes that the latter has done
something which nullifies his ablution, or makes his salah nugatory, if the imam's madhhab
permits that. Ibn Taymiyah says in al Fawakih al Adidah:
However, Ahmad ibn Hanbal was of the opinion that ablution
must be done after cupping and nosebleeding. Confronted with a hypothetical situation
whether a member of the congregation who notices a discharge of blood from the imam, who
does not renew his ablution, should continue his Salah behind him, Ibn Hanbal said:
"It is inconceivable not to perform Salah behind Said ibn al Musayyab and
Malik." He then added that there are two considerations in this issue:
Knowledge of, end fiqh in, din help in the assessment of
the value as well as the status, in the Shariah, of actions and duties which have their
specific place in the scale of the commandments and the prohibitions. Such knowledge
prevents any confusion regarding status, variations, or similarities concerning the
juristic value of actions. Islam has given a specific value to each specific action
according to its positive influence on life or according to the degree of damage and
negative effect which it may create.
It is common knowledge that fard is classified into two categories: fard kifayah (collective obligation), and fard ayn (individual obligation). The individual obligation has to be performed by each Muslim. The collective obligation, on the other hand, entails no punishment on those who have not participated in it if others have done so. Individual obligations are further classified. The most important are those faraid which are considered in Islam fundamental articles of faith: the shahadah- i.e., the act of witnessing that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His Prophet, Servant, and Messenger, the verbal content of that act-salah, zakah, siyam, and hajj for those who can afford the journey. There are other fara'id of a lesser status than the aforementioned, but they are still absolutely compulsory. There is no doubt that Islam gives precedence to fard ayn over fard kifayah. Thus kindness and submission to parents, which is fard ayn has precedence over jihad, as long as it is fard kifayah. A son is therefore not allowed to participate in jihad without the prior consent and permission of the parents. This is enshrined in authentic ahadith. Moreover, a fard ayn which is connected with the rights of the community has precedence over another fard ayn which is connected with the rights of an individual, or a number of individuals, like jihad and devotion to parents. Therefore in the case of foreign aggression against a Muslim land, jihad becomes fard ayn with a precedence over the rights of parents. Further, fard has precedence over wajib, wajib over sunnah, and confirmed sunnah over mustahabb. Islam also gives precedence to acts of common social nature over those which concern individual kinship, and prefers acts which benefit more than one person to those which only benefit an individual. For this reason Islam prefers jihad and fiqh over personal 'ibadah, reconciliation between warring parties over voluntary salah, siyam, and sadaqah. Similarly, "a just ruler is rewarded more for his adherence to justice for a single day than he is for his performance of voluntary 'ibadah for sixty years".
Some of the grave mistakes committed by Muslims during the period of decline and decadence are outlined below:
The prohibitions are classified into the following: those which are makruhat (hateful) but do not entail punishment; those which are detested but not categorically prohibited and are therefore nearer to haram than halal. The mutashabihat (doubtful) are those not known to many people and are therefore committed out of ignorance. Those who commit then commit haram. The categorical haram (unlawful prohibitions) are those detailed in the Qur'an and Sunnah. Allah (SWT) says: "Why should you not eat of [meats] on which Allah's name has been pronounced, when He has explained to you in detail what is forbidden to you?.
These prohibitions are divided into two: major and minor.
The minor ones can be expiated by the performance of religious devotions such as salah,
siyam, and charity. We learn in the Qur'an that "Good deeds remove those that are
evil. In the Prophet's traditions we learn that constant adherence to the five daily
salawat, salat al jumuah, and siyam, during Ramadan expiates whatever minor sins a person
may commit in between if he avoids the major ones. Those can only expiated by genuine
repentance. The worst of these sins is shirk-the association of other beings with A(SWT)-a
sin which is never forgiven:
Next in order are sins mentioned in ahdith such as: disobedience to parents, bearing false witness, sorcery, murder, usury, taking liberty with the property and money of orphans, and false accusationespecially of fornication-of chaste Muslim women. Defectiveness and confusion have resulted from the following:
Similarly, people, i.e., individual Muslims, are different.
Some religious youth commit a gross mistake when they look at and treat people as if they
were similar and equal in their knowledge, endurance, iman, etc., and therefore fail to
distinguish between the people at large and the learned and committed Muslim; between
those who have only recently embraced Islam and those whose beliefs are wellestablished;
between the weak and the strong; in spite of the fact that there is room in Islam for
every one of these according to their status and their readiness. In recognition of these
natural differences, Islam provides opportunities for perseverance and facility, fara'id,
and nawafil, and the obligatory and the voluntary. Hence Allah (SWT) says:
In this respect, the person who wrongs himself has been defined as he who commits prohibitions and whose observance of the obligatory duties is incomplete. And the person who follows a middle course is he who performs only the obligatory duties and eschews prohibitions. The person who is foremost in good deeds" is he ``who, in addition to performing the obligatory as well as the recommended, eschews not only prohibitions, but also the recommended against as well as the doubtful acts All these types of people, including the person who wrongs himself are included in the fold of Islam, and belong to the chosen Islamic Ummah to whom Allah (SWT) has given the Quran: "Then We have given the Book for inheritance to such of Our servants as We have chosen. It is therefore wrong and indeed nonsensical to exclude people from the fold of Islam and the Ummah simply because they have wronged themselves. It is equally wrong to fail to recognize and admit such classification and to treat people as if they are all foremost in good deeds Consequently, enthusiastic young Muslims should not hasten to accuse other Muslims of fisq, to show animosity and antipathy toward them simply because they have committed some minor sins or some acts on which judgment is obscure and on which there is contradicting evidence, and which cannot therefore be considered as absolutely haram. In their own sincerity to their cause, these young people have forgotten that the Qur'an has clearly distinguished between minor and major sins or faults: the former do not exclude the Muslim from the fold of Islam and can be expiated by eschewing the latter.
Allah (SWT) says:
The word muhsinun has been interpreted to mean those who avoid great sins and shameful deeds, i.e., the major prohibitions. If such people commit small faults, Allah will forgive and protect them, as He promised in another verse: "If you [but] eschew the most heinous of the things which you are forbidden to do, we shall expel out of you all the evil in you, end admit you to a gate of great honor. Those who avoid great sins and shameful deeds only commit small faults, which is a clear exclusion since small faults lamam are subcategories of minor sins and shameful acts.
Ibn Kathir then mentioned the following: Ibn 'Abbas said,
"I have not come across things which are closer to lamam than in the following hadith
narrated by Abu Hurayrah:
The other interpretation of lamam is also related by Ibn Abbas to mean a person who commits a shameful deed but repents of it. He then quoted a line of a verse which can be paraphrased to mean: "Allah, O Your Forgiveness is plenteous, because there is no one among Your servants who does not commit small faults. Abu Hurayrah and al Hasan supported the above. Some also argue that lamam are those which are committed by a person without seriously giving them consideration, and not very often. All this means is that there is enough room in Islam for everyone who does not persistently commit great sins, because Allah's mercy extends to all those who repent.
One of the most instructive Islamic examples for teaching people how to overlook the small mistakes and faults of those who perform the obligatory duties, as man is not infallible nor an angel, comes from the attitude of 'Umar ibn al Khattab (RA'A). It is related23 that some people went to Abd Allah ibn'Umar when he was in Egypt and told him that they observed that many teachings of the Qur'an were not being adhered to by their contemporaries, and wanted to question the Caliph, 'Umar ibn al Khattab, about this matter. 'Abd Allah then took. them to 'Umar (RA'A) in Madinah. When 'Umar met 'Abd Allah, the latter informed him of the purpose of the visit and of the people who came with him. 'Umar (RA`A) then asked Abd Allah to arrange for a meeting. When the people from Egypt came to the meeting, 'Umar (RA'A) turned to the nearest of them and said: "Tell me truly, have you read the whole Qur'an?" The man answered in the affirmative. Umar then asked him, consecutive questions: "Have you yourself strictly followed its teachings in your intentions in order to purify your heart and to reflect on your actions'?" The man answered in the negative. 'Umar (RA'A) then asked: "Have you strictly followed its teaching in your gaze [by not looking at things which Allah has prohibited], in your utterance, and in your living'?" To each of these the man answered in the negative. 'Umar (RAA) then asked the same questions of the other members of the group who all answered in the negative to each question.
'Umar (RA'A) then said: "How can you demand from him [the Caliph, in this instance 'Umar himself! to force people to adhere to your own understanding of Allah's Book when you yourselves have failed to do that as you have admitted? Our Lord knows that each one of us is liable to commit some evil actions." He then recited the following verse: "If you [but] eschew themost heinous of the things which you are forbidden to do, we shall expel out of you all the evil in you and admit you to a gate of great honor.
Turning to the group he asked: "Do the people of
Madinah know why you are here?" When they answered in the negative, he then said:
"Had they known, I would have made an example of you [by severe punishment]."
This incident is narrated by Ibn Jarir in Ibn Kathir's tafsir, and Uqbah approved its
authencity and isnad.
Another aspect of fiqh lacking in extremists is to cherish a sympathetic understanding of and a deep appreciation for the varying levels of individual abilities limitations and circumstances which may hinder other Muslims in coping with the requirements of ideal Islamic life. It would be a great mistake to expect or demand all people to become martyrs like Hamzah ibn Abd al Muttalib (RA'A) by firmly standing up against the perpetrators of oppression, injustice, and exploitation, and to sacrifice everything for the cause of da'wah. This is a virtue which none but the exceptionally persevering few can aspire to or actually realize. Some people may be content with only quietly voicing the truth; others may even resort to complete silence out of their conviction that the prevailing conditions have reached such a dominance that it is futile, and probably dangerous, to object openly or try to change things. Others may believe that reform must begin from the bottom, not from the top, and thus direct their efforts towards individuals who they believe are capable of effecting the desired change and reform after being armed with clarity of vision and purpose, though the eradication of Westernized and secular regimes and systems cannot be realized without a deeprooted and longterm collective struggle led by a popular Islamic movement and based upon clearcut objectives, welldesigned methods, andfortitude.
However, the Shariah justifies -even requires- silence on seeing munkar(evil), if it will lead to a greater munkar. This is in keeping with the Islamic axiom that a Muslim can choose to endure a lesser evil lest a greater one may result thereof. Such a choice is sanctioned by the Qur'an, and is especially obvious in the story of Musa ('AS) and his brother, Harun ('AS), who were commissioned to preach the divine message to Pharoah and his people. Musa ('AS) ascended Mount Sinai and left his people with Harun ('AS) as deputy. But as soon as Musa ('AS) had left, the Israelites began to worship a golden image of a calf, as was suggested to them by the Samiri, and refused to listen to Harun's dissuasions against such deviation.
Harun had already, before this said to them: "O my people! You are being tested in this: for verily your Lord is Most Gracious: so follow me and obey my command." They had said "We will not abandon this cult, but we will devote ourselves to it until Musa returns to us.
Finding them adamant, however, Harun ('AS) kept silent.
When Musa ('AS) returned and discovered the deviation of his people, he was angered and
full of grief, rebuked Harun ('AS) and was very rough with him:
Harun ('AS) replied:
Harun ('AS) considered the preservation of the unity of the
community until its leader returnedso that he would not be accused of taking a hasty
decision and of initiating-discord, a good reason for his silence. This is relevant to the
hadith, mentioned earlier, in which the Prophet (.SA'AS) said that he would have destroyed
the old Ka'bah and rebuilt it on the foundations laid down by Ibrahim ('AS) but for his
consideration of the fact that his followers had only recently abandoned their paganism.
He places no burden on people greater than that which they are capable of. He said: "On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear". Also: "But those who believe and do righteousness, no burden do We place on any soul but that which it can bear, and: "No soul shall have a burden laid on it greater than it can bear" , as well as: "Allah puts no burden on any person beyond what He has given him".
Allah has also commanded man to obey Him as best he can. He said: "So heed Allah as much as you can". The believers themselves have prayed to Him: "Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden like that which You laid on those before us. Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden greater than we have the strength to bear". Allah (SWT) accepted their request. All these texts, therefore, show that He does not put a burden on a person which the latter cannot fulfill, contrary to the philosophy of the predeterminist Jahamiyah; He does not punish those who fall into error or forget, contrary to the fatalist Qadariyah, and the rationalist Muitazilah.
The point to be emphasized is that if a ruler, an imam, a scholar, a jurist, or a mufti, etc., exercises ijtihad to the best j of his ability and with a genuine heal of Allah, his ijtihad ·:is that which Allah has asked of him, and He will not be punished if his verdict is wrong. This is contrary to the predetermined Jahamiyah who view a mujtahid as obedient to Allah but may or may not have reached the truth. This is contrary, also to both the Qadariyah and the Mu'tazilah, who view all those exercising ijtihad to have reached the truth; their attitude in this regard is basil (false).
The same is granted to the kuffar: those who received the Prophet's da'wah in the land of kufr, recognized him as the Messenger of Allah, believed in what was revealed to him, and obeyed Allah as best they could- like the Negus and others- but could not emigrate to the homeland of Islam and could not adhere to the totality of the Shari'ah, either because they were not permitted to emigrate or because they were not allowed to practise their beliefs openly; and those who had no one to teach them Islamic Shari'ah. All those are believers among the people of Jannah, in shaa Allah. Examples are the believer among the people of Pharaoh, the wife of Pharaoh, and Yusuf the Truthful ('AS) who called the people of Egyptwho were kuffar-to iman and monotheism although he was unable to tell them all that he knew about Islam. But they still refused to listen to him. In the Quran, the believer among the people of Pharaoh said to them: "And to you there came Yusuf in times gone by, with clear signs, but you ceased not to doubt the mission for which he had come. At length, when he died, you said, "No apostle will Allah send after him".
Moreover, although the Negus was the king of the Christians, they did not obey him when he asked them to embrace Islam. Only a small group followed him, and therefore, when he died there was no one to perform sa/ah on him. However the Prophet (SA'AS) performed salah on him in Madinah where a large number joined the salah as the Prophet (.SA'AS) told them of the Negus' death and said: "A righteous brother of yours from the people of Abyssinia has died," The Negus, however, was unable to adhere to a great number of the teachings of Islam, and he did not emigrate to the homeland of Islam, participate in jihad, nor perform hajj. It is also related that he did not perform the five salawat, nor siyam, or give zakah, because these would reveal his conviction to his people whom he could not go against. We know for sure that he could not apply on his people the judgments of the Qur'an, although Allah has commanded His Messenger to apply these judgments on the People of the Book if they seek Him. Allah also warned the Prophet not to let the People of the Book persuade him to deviate from even part of what Allah has revealed to him.
'Umar ibn Abd al 'Aziz (RA'A) encountered a great deal of animosity and suffering because of his unwavering commitment to justice. It is believed that he was poisoned because of this. However, the Negus and others like him are happy in Jannah, although they did not adhere except to that part of the Shariah which they were able to, and although they applied the laws and judgment which were applicable.
Islam is the religion of rational and critical minds. This
is why one of its fundamental goals is to make man aware of the paramount significance of
gradation, fortitude, and maturity. Haste is an inherent characteristic of man in general,
and of the young in particular. Indeed, haste is an outstanding characteristic of our own
age. It has made our youth eager to saw the seeds today and to harvest the next day. But
Allah's will in His own creation does not allow that: a tree goes through stages of
growth, short or long, before it bears fruit. The very creation of a human being
illustrates this very clearly:
A child is born, breastfed and weaned, then he/she
gradually grows from childhood to maturity. Similarly, life gradually moves from one stage
to another until Allah's sunan (patterns) are realized. Islam began as a simple ~n, then
gradually the obligatory duties were introduced, the prohibitions prescribed, and
legislative matters detailed. Gradually, the structure took full shape, and Allah's favors
and blessings were diffused everywhere. Then the following verse was revealed:
The enthusiastic young people are outraged by the corruption that surrounds them as they witness, and daily live, the rapidly worsening condition of the Islamic Ummah. The common concern initiates group meetings; they undertake to put things right, to salvage what is worth keeping. But in their haste and enthusiasm, they lose clarity of vision, they begin to daydream and build castles in the air, believing that they can blot out all forms of corruption and falsehood in addition to; establishing the ideal Islamic state overnight. They underestimate or
disregard the incalculable obstacles and pitfalls that exceed their means and potential. Their dilemma is like that of the man who asked Ibn Sirin to interpret a dream for him: he dreamed that he was swimming on dry land, flying without wings. Ibn Sirin told him that he too was a man of too many dreams and wishes. 'Ali ibn Abu Talib (RA'A) warned his son: " . .and beware of relying on wishes, for they are the goods of fools"
It is common knowledge that corrupt realities cannot be
changed by immature strategies based only upon good wishes and intentions It is pertinent
here to draw attention to an invaluable book: Hatta Yughayyiru Ma fi Anfusihim (Until They
Change That Within Their Souls) written by the Syrian scholar Jawdat Sa'id. The book
discusses the "patterns of change of the soul and of society" and its title is
derived from the following two Quranic verses:
The gravest selfinflicted injustice is, indeed, the faito perceive the inherent subservient relationship between man, the universe, and society. As a result, man misjudges his own abilities and fails to put himself where he can harness human and natural potential to advantage in accordance with the sunan inherent in these. Accordingly, we can say that two attitudes are open for the human mind when confronted with a problem: to believe that the problem is governed by certain patterns and can therefore be solved and controlled; or to believe that it is mysterious and supernatural and therefore not governed by any patterns, or that such patterns cannot be revealed. Between these two extremes there are numerous other intermediate attitudes: each hypothesis has a practical result which is relatively reflected in the attitudes and behavior of people depending on the direction they adopt.
The failure of Muslims to live in accordance with the teachings of Islam is a problem which is easily proved. Even when the problem is accepted, the question still remains: which of the foregoing attitudes should Muslims take? The discussion of the issue in such a way as to bring it to the awareness of the Muslim will help him to determine his attitude toward the problem and to abandon the ambiguous attitude which he might take. In many cases, when the two attitudes are entangled and therefore paralyze the effect of each other, the issues remain ambiguous. A solution requires, to a great extent, a sound hypothesis.
Below is the dialogue which took place between a young Muslim enthusiast and myself. He asked and I answered:
Q: Are we not following haqq
(truth) and our opponents following basil (falsehood)?
And in another verse:
Q: But we may patiently persevere
for too long without ever succeeding in establishing an Islamic state which will apply the
Shari'ah, resurrect the Muslim Ummah, and once again raise the banner of Islam.