Archive for the ‘Schools of thought’ Category

Is Islamic inheritance law unfair?

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

The British newspaper The Telegraph published today an article with the heading “Islamic law is adopted by British legal chiefs”. The author, John Bingham, alleges in the article that British lawyers will now for the first time be able to write wills for their clients that “deny women an equal share of inheritances and exclude unbelievers altogether.”

Is that true? Have testators never been able to exclude from their wills heirs they resented, or wished to penalize, and given some heirs more than others and even given people who were totally unrelated to them a large portion of their estate? I doubt that, since the English law, as far as I know, regards the testator as the sole owner of his or her estate and therefore the only one who has a say in how the estate is to be distributed. Probate courts only interfere when a litigator contests the will as being contrary to common standards of fairness.

One article I found, written by a lawyers group, spells out how a testator can disinherit some heirs. I’m sure you can find many other.

However, is Bingham’s Islamophobic allegation true about Islamic law? Does Islamic law of inheritance deny women an equal share of inheritance and exclude unbelievers altogether?

Not quite as stated. The reason women inherit half of what men inherit is because Islamic law requires men to financially support women! If this requirement is not found in a Muslim community, then the division becomes invalid. I hope that the legal guidance the article refers to has taken into consideration that important proviso. Bingham really should have asked about it before he published his article.

And what about non-Muslims, can they possibly inherit from a Muslim? While some schools of thought do not allow it, there really is nothing in the Quranic verses that makes that ruling. A Muslim testator certainly can specify a bequest in his will, not to exceed one third of the estate, to be given to any one person or group who is not a regular heir.

The questions and answers page of this software may answer more of the readers questions about Islamic law of inheritance. God says in the holy Quran “Verily, God does not wrong even the weight of a speck.” (4:40) Don’t let Islamophobic writers give you the wrong impression about God.

Bingham also reports in the article that the legal guidance documents will exclude out-of-wedlock children and adopted children from inheriting. Is this true? Apart from the fact that any British testator can probably do that already under British law, Islamic law does not deprive out-of-wedlock children. The Quran does not say they are excluded! As for adopted children, they are not regular heirs for the reasons we explained in previous posts, but they can inherit by way of a bequest.

Next Islamophobic allegation in the article is the exclusion of people married in a church or in City Hall! Where is that written exactly in the Quran? If the reader can point to the verse, I’d appreciate it.

Is that guidance document “the first step on the road to a parallel legal system” for British Muslims, as the article quotes some campaigners? My humble answer to this question is that it can be, but never has to be. It all depends on how Islamic law is defined. If the definition is made by a school of thought, or some influential person, then the fears expressed in the article are legitimate. But that does not qualify as Islamic law. Islamic law is the Quran and the authentic Hadeeth, properly interpreted according to universally recognized logic, called in Islamic disciplines Usool-ul-Fiqh (Foundations of Deduction). Anything else is somebody’s opinion.

This whole issue of fear of “Sharia”, which resulted in several American states banning Sharia altogether, mixes two things which are not always related: Islam and Muslims! What Islam teaches is not necessarily followed by Muslims, and what Muslims do is not necessarily taught by Islam. To ban unfair laws is a good thing regardless of who wrote those laws. But to ban something based on misunderstanding it, or on mixing it with something else, is unwarranted.

If I were to advise the Law Society of Britain, I would only say that what they are told is Sharia may not be. It could simply be a tradition, or somebody’s refutable interpretation, and therefore should not overrule British law. They and the detractors and even many Muslims may be surprised to learn that much of British law has always been Sharia-compliant. In fact, the beginnings of the English Common Law were much influenced by Islamic law.

How can I become an Islamic scholar?

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Salam, there is something that I’ve wanted to know but couldn’t really find any defined information on.
1- What is an Islamic Scholar? 2- How does one become an Islamic Scholar? 3- How many years does it take to become one? (how long) 4- What are the necessary college classes/courses and degrees necessary to be qualified as one? (i.e., PhD?) 5-Are there different types of Islamic Scholars(specializations)? If there are, what are they?

Becoming an Islamic Scholar is something that I am really interested in in the near future. I hope this is not a lot, and I hope to hear from you soon. Thanks!

An Islamic scholar is one who can study an Islamic text, determine its credibility and then deduce intent from it. Like any other field of scholarship, this requires acquiring knowledge as well as skills of logical analysis and critical thinking honed by discipline and methodology.

Such scientific approach is crucial for weeding out whimsical opinions! If you have listened to some fatwas (religious edicts) issued by unknown, self-appointed Muslim scholars on satellite TV and YouTube, you know what I’m talking about.

Prior to modern times, Islamic scholars were not many and they all had to learn and be licensed (Ijaaza) by a recognized scholar. This approach carried over to modern times in the form of colleges and universities where Islamic disciplines are formally taught by teachers of high repute and earned licenses. If you want to be a formal Islamic scholar, this is the proper way to go about it. Such study takes about four years in reputable learning institutions such as Al-Azhar and Darul-Uloom universities in Egypt, for instance.

That said, one can attend these places of learning and graduate from them without actually becoming a scholar! Why? Because a student who simply memorized what he or she has been taught and echoes the rulings he or she has learned is a copy, not a scholar. Such a person cannot handle new, controversial or challenging issues. You will notice right away that they do not have what it takes and that they will end up giving their personal opinion, which is often based on their likes and dislikes.

God has honored scholars a number of times in the holy Quran. For instance,
“Verily, those who truly fear God out of all His worshipers are the scholars” (35:28) and
“But if they had referred the matter back to the Messenger or to those of authority among them, then the ones who can deduce from it would have known about it. And if not for the favor of God upon you and His mercy, you would have followed Satan, except for a few.” (4:83)

Thus, true Islamic scholarship can save Muslims from falling prey to Satan. It can also sort out what is religion and what is tradition. So many people mix the two.

Finally, you asked about disciplines and specialties. Disciplines are many. There are disciplines centered on the Quran, such as its language and syntax, its interpretations, how to deduce rulings from it. There are disciplines centered on the Hadeeth, such as authenticating it, knowing the biographies and credibility of its narrators, how to deduce rulings from it, how it and the Sunna explain the Quran, etc. There is also the discipline of Usool-ul-Fiqh, which I personally think is near the top of disciplines, because it teaches the foundations of deduction. It disciplines the mind to be rational, logical and methodical. That way, the many pitfalls that some fall into can be systematically avoided.

There is also the discipline of law (Sharee`a), history, comparative religions and more. You can specialize in any of it. You can study with the aim of becoming a preacher, for instance, or a judge. Your academic advisor can help guide you in this endeavor. Best wishes.

Evolution of Islamic laws

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

Thank you, Aapa, for the blog you referenced in your recent question. I particularly like the author’s post on Islamic law. I like to second the the idea he stressed: that Islamic law evolved and was flexible and took in diversity of opinions, people and circumstances. I humbly think that this is also the case with executive government, economics, etc. Any student of Islamic history who read the writings of the Salaf (Muslim antecedents), can easily notice that evolution of thought, discipline and rulings.

What the Quran and the Sunna did was not ordain a rigid set of rules, but rather a framework within which a judge, ruler or businessman may work safely. Like a parent teaches their children how the world works so they make it and not get into trouble.

I watched a YouTube video with that brother interviewing Hamza Yusef. They were discussing the fact due to internet access to translations of hadith i.e Bukari and Quran many youths make judgments. They forget that many hadiths are contextual and it takes wisdom to understand. They joked that in the old days the elders/scholars would literally give them 20 lashes for the rash judgments.

Unfortunately, nationalism has erased the words of the tribal elder. And it is easiest to control the greatest number of people with the most rigid standards. George Orwell comes to mind in 1984. As nationalism spreads we have a loss of deep understanding of our faith. We have lost the sense of compassion that was a trait characteristic of the prophets.

We forget that we need forgiveness from Allah swt. We also need to be in the mode of forgiving. Our laws today are not the Laws of Love.

We forget our history. How can we forget what happened to us in Spain?

We need a basic class in why understanding sharia helps us to be the best of moral character. We are distanced from each other not by nationalism but our ignorance of the laws that unite us.

Islam is wide, but some want it narrow. It is easy, but some want it cumbersome. It is open, but some want it strict. It welcomes diversity and history has proved it, but some want it exclusive. It is adaptable, but some want it rigid. The problems Muslims have are not the result of Islam, as some Islamophobes want you to believe, but are the result of misunderstanding Islam. Hopefully, this blog may put a dent into that misunderstanding.

Will all believers end up in Paradise?

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

I had read one of your answers regarding Muslims going to Jannah (Paradise) or not. You had mentioned, that it is Allah (SWT) who decides. Very true. But I had also come across one hadith in Bukhari
Narrated Abu Sa`id Al−Khudri: The Prophet said, “When the people of Paradise will enter Paradise and the people of Hell will go to Hell, Allah will order those who have had faith equal to the weight of a grain of mustard seed to be taken out from Hell. So they will be taken out but (by then) they will be blackened (charred). Then they will be put in the river of Haya’ (rain) or Hayat (life) (the Narrator is in doubt as to which is the right term), and they will revive like a grain that grows near the bank of a flood channel. Don’t you see that it comes out yellow and twisted”.

So what does this mean? Does it mean that people who have faith of ONE GOD & don’t do idol worship/don’t equate Allah(SWT) with anyone will go to Jannah?

I have heard that, if your bad deeds exceed your good deeds, then you are put in hell. Is it forever, that a person burns in hell? Or as the above stated Hadith, If the person believes in Allah(SWT) he will get Jannah after getting burned for his sins?

Finally, is it really necessary to follow one madhab (school of thought)? like hanafi or shafi?

Sorry brother, I ask way too many questions. It’s just the curiosity and zeal to learn more. I hope you understand.

JazakAllah Khair

Wa Iyyak (and you too), brother. Feel free to ask as many questions as you like. I only hope I’m able to answer them.

The hadeeth you quoted is authentic and it means that anyone who has the slightest faith will eventually reside in Paradise. Guess who is the only One who knows that?

Thus, it is futile to try and guess who will enter Paradise and who won’t. This is God’s domain. What we are commissioned to do is to obey God in what He told us in the Quran and obey the Prophet (PBUH) in what he authentically told us in the Hadeeth. This requires knowledge of these two sources. Nobody has an excuse nowadays not to know what God and His Messenger have said because that is documented, preserved and widely and freely available in practically all human languages.

We cannot know, nor should we try to know, whether someone’s faith is true or whether someone’s actions please God. What we should try to do instead is to make our faith as sincere as we possibly can and our words and deeds as good and as dedicated to God as best as we can.

As for following a particular school of thought, ask yourself this question: Did the founder of that school receive revelation from God? Was he infallible? The answer is obviously no. Thus, strictly following a school of thought is not required upon Muslims, unless one is unable or unwilling to study the various opinions and pick the one that makes the most sense to him or her. All the founders of schools of thought were pious and knowledgeable. Yet, they differed greatly on many issues. How come? Was it because they thought the other founder was less knowledgeable or less pious? Of course not. They simply saw alternative arguments that seemed to them more meritorious than the other founder’s argument. If God or His Messenger wanted a matter to be settled without disputes, they would have explicitly given the ruling on it. A matter being subject to various interpretations is so by design! All legitimate interpretations of it are meant.

The only people who will not be in Paradise are the people whom God said about that they will “reside in the Fire for eternity”. Pay extra attention – when you read the Quran – to those verses! May God guard our faith, rectify our words and deeds and save us from straying from His Straight Path.

Why not a Muslim Pope?

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

Why don’t the Muslims create a Muslim “Pope” to represent the ummah and clear up misconceptions about Islam and our beloved Prophet (saws)? If the Christians have someone to represent them, why can’t we? Don’t you think we need a Caliph or “Pope” like figure to represents us? Thanks.

No, I don’t. Islam is not confined to the opinion of any one person or group. The only person who ever had that kind of authority was the Prophet, peace be upon him, as he was assigned that responsibility by God. But even he had to consult with the Sahaaba (his fellows) on many issues in which he did not receive revelation. After he died, no one person or a select group had an exclusive right to interpret Islam. That is why the Salaf (Muslim predecessors) differed with each other, however respectfully, on nearly every detail of the religion that is not one of the fundamentals. That is why you see multiple schools of thought (Mazhaahib). If there would be a Muslim “Pope”, which school of thought would he follow? And what happens to Muslims who favor a different school of thought, something which they have every right to?

The Quran sets all the guidelines that Muslims need. In today’s parlance, it is a Constitution. It states principles, rules and credos. And it repeatedly invites its readers to reason and to consult each other in order to arrive at the correct conclusions. As a result, Muslims developed a very sophisticated deduction discipline (Usool-ul-Fiqh). Neither the Quran nor the Sunna (practice of the Prophet, PBUH) have sanctioned a priesthood or a clergy system. They have praise for scholars but nothing more.

As for a Caliph, it depends! A benevolent, freely elected leader of Muslims would be a good thing, but any other can do more harm than good, as history teaches us.

When to follow a fatwa

Friday, June 10th, 2011


To what degree does a Believer have to follow a fatwa (religious ruling). Is a fatwa an absolute? I do not think so but I do not have the knowledge to make a judgement.

A fatwa is a conclusion made by a scholar concerning a religious issue. Often the question answered by a fatwa is whether something is allowed, obligated or forbidden. To arrive at such conclusion, certain discipline must be followed, called Usool-ul-Fiqh (Foundations of deduction).

There is a protocol, established by the Prophet (PBUH), for the sources a scholar must consider as he analyzes an issue. This was done when he sent Mu`aazh ibn Jabal, may God have been pleased with him, to Yemen, to teach people Islam. The Prophet (PBUH) asked Mu`aazh, “How are you going to judge between the people?” Mu`aazh answered, “By the Book of God.” The Prophet liked that, then he asked him, “And when you don’t find the answer there?” Mu`aazh answered, “I consult the Hadeeth.” The Prophet liked that, then he asked him, “And if you don’t find the answer there?” Mu`aazh answered, “Then I work hard with an opinion of mine.” The Prophet (PBUH) smiled in approval.

Thus, the protocol is clear. The Quran comes first, and only if one cannot find the answer in it, then one consults the Hadeeth. Let’s say that again: If the answer is in the Quran, you do not pay attention to any other source.

While that may sound obvious to any Muslim, you will be surprised by the number of fatwas from prominent scholars which break that first rule! Their fatwa may cite a hadeeth, even one whose authenticity is suspect, and fully ignore evidence from the Quran.

So, to answer your question: If the fatwa does not reference the Quran and focuses on hadeeths, or on opinions of other scholars, then that is a red flag for you. Rarely is there an issue which the Quran has not dealt with explicitly or implicitly.

Obviously, if the fatwa uses irrelevant evidence, inauthentic text, mere opinions, poor logic, subjective interpretations, etc., then it is uncertain in its conclusion at best.

Most fatwas, especially those from well respected scholars, are meritorious and well thought of and industriously analyzed. When you hear or read such fatwas, you ought to follow them.

One final word. There are many schools of thought out there, called Mazhaahib. You are at liberty to follow any of them, or pick and choose from either. There is seldom an issue where imaams (the foremost scholars) have agreed on, save those explicitly stated in the Quran or the Hadeeth.

I’ve been praying in the wrong direction

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

I’ve recently found out that, for years, I’ve been praying in the wrong direction! What’s the ruling on that? Would I have to repeat all my salats (prayers)?

You did not do it on purpose, did you? Then it will be accepted, insha-Allah (God willing). The scholars have agreed that sins are not counted if done by mistake, forgetfulness or coercion. By the same token, one would conclude that good deeds will not be discounted if they haven’t been done correctly because of a mistake, forgetfulness or coercion. We know, for instance, that if you’re fasting in Ramadhaan and you eat something without thinking, then remember that you were fasting, that you do not have to compensate for that day and can continue the fast.

I follow the Shaafi`i school of thought, and I looked up his ruling on this matter. I found out that he had two different rulings: one says that the prayer direction must be as accurately determined as can be, and another that says that the important thing is to face the Ka`ba in Mecca and not turn your back to it.

If you have a means to accurately determine the Qibla (prayer direction), then you should. But if you don’t, then your best estimate is sufficient. The scholars have ruled that a traveler who cannot determine the Qibla may estimate the direction to the best of his ability. Remember that the verses that mandate facing the Sacrosanct Mosque all say to face “the half where the mosque is”, e.g., 2:144 and 2:149-150.

Is there consensus on blind following?

Monday, April 11th, 2011

As a muqallid (strict follower) myself I wanted to know whether there is actually ijmaa (consensus) of the ulema (scholars) that you have to follow an imaam (religious teacher) and what is their main proofs for it.

There is no such consensus. In fact, Imaam ibn Hajar, may God bless his soul, wrote that strict following of a scholar borders on idol worship!

That said, if there were consensus, it does not prove the point! A Muslim is not required to obey the scholars, he or she is required to obey God and His Messenger only. The role of the scholars is to interpret, to the best of their abilities, what God and His Messenger have taught and share their conclusions with fellow Muslims. Being human, they may err. The fact that they differ on most issues is proof that (a) only one (or none) of them got it right, or (b) there is room for multiple interpretations.

My humble advice to you and to any muqallid, is that if you’re not able or willing to study the various viewpoints of the imaams, then go ahead and strictly follow one of them. They are all good, pious, knowledgeable people. If, on the other hand, you can put in the effort to study, then you are free to pick rulings from any of them. When you have studied the Quran, the Hadeeth and Usool-ul-Fiqh (Foundations of Deduction), you can make logical deductions yourself.

Taqleed (strict following) is the easier route to take. That is why most people do it. Its danger, however, is that it suppresses the mind, God’s best gift to man after life itself. A Muqallid will do things that he or she normally would not do, such as things that are illogical, or sometimes even contrary to the teachings of the Quran, simply because it was the reported opinion of their chosen scholar.

What are Fiqh and Usool-ul-Fiqh disciplines?

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

I read a bit some of “Fiqh” books and frankly found them boring. I got lost between the various rulings on the same issue by different scholars.

Actually, I don’t quite understand what Fiqh is and how it is disciplined, if at all. And what is the discipline of Usool-ul-Fiqh?

The word Fiqh literally means “Getting the point!” Not all people who read a text or listen to a talk get the point of it. Worse yet, some may even get weird concepts from it.

In order for one to get the point, one needs to know how! That’s what the discipline of Usool-ul-Fiqh (Foundations of Deduction) comes in. It is logic applied to Islamic sources. What you are finding boring is comparative jurisprudence (Al-Fiqh al-Muqaaran).

Yes. There are schools of thought and then comes the exegesis. But the process, and I am a process person, loses its perspective. Minute replaces the objective.

What about women. Why do women not discuss Fiqh?

I think that women were generally not encouraged, or their contributions have not been publicized. But that wasn’t the case early on. Aa’isha, may God have been pleased with her, was a consultant to many Sahaaba (Fellows of the Prophet, PBUH) on all issues, not just women’s issues. Al-Hasan Al-Basri and Imaam Maalik, among many others, had female teachers. See this post, for more examples.

Is Fiqh derived from the Hadeeths? Given that the Quran is Absolute.

Fiqh applies to both the Quran and the Hadeeth, because both are texts from which rulings may be derived. Usool-ul-Fiqh work the same way for both. Hadeeth involves an additional discipline: authentication.

While the Quran is absolute, it is revealed in a human language, and therefore may be interpreted in more than one way. If interested, check out this discussion about verse 3:7.

I read the Bukhaari and Muslim compilations of authentic hadeeths and I was impressed with the arduous work involved in authentication of the Hadeeth

Indeed, may God bless the scholars of Hadeeth who verified the integrity of every narrator in every narration! A huge body of investigative research.

Should schools of thought be unified? Can they?

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

I saw a video by a Muslim scholar who calls for unifying the four schools of thought [of Islamic jurisprudence]. Is that a good idea? Can it be done?

Personally, I think that we should follow whatever reaches us which has sound evidence from the Quran and Sunnah, it can reach us from any madhab (school of thought) or any knowledgeable reliable scholar of Ahlus Sunnah (People of the Sunna).

I certainly agree.

The founders of all four schools of thought (five if you count Azh-Zhaahiriyya), as well their students, were all pious and knowledgeable people. That does not mean we must follow them though! It means that their interpretations and deductions are a very valuable database of Islamic knowledge that can save us having to re-invent the wheel. If one of their opinions in a given issue comes across as solid argument, we ought to take it. If two differing opinions come across equally convincing, we may choose either one. If none of their arguments in a given issue is strong, we may apply Ijtihaad (analysis) principles to come up with a better interpretation/deduction.

We have a treasure of knowledge; it would be dumb to dump it, but it is also not a good idea IMHO to follow it without question.