Archive for the ‘Blind following’ Category

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.

What is Sunna and what is not

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

An article I read suggests that a congregational supplication after a prayer is discouraged, because neither the Prophet (PBUH) nor the Sahaba (his fellows) have done it.

They may not have done it, but the Prophet (PBUH) never said we couldn’t do it. There is a difference between “not practiced” and “forbidden.”

The problem with issues like that one is that the people who rule in such a way, do so out of concern that something which is not Sunna becomes a regular part of Islam in the minds of the masses. That would establish a Bid`a (novelty) in religion, which the Prophet (PBUH) warned us not to do. The solution to this problem, IMHO, is not to forbid what is not forbidden, but to ensure that it doesn’t become a novelty, by deliberately not doing it on a consistent basis.

Scholars have differed on what constitutes a Sunna (Practice of the Prophet). That’s because following the Sunna is a requirement of Islam. Therefore, knowing what is Sunna and what is not becomes of religious essence.

The Sunna is not simply everything that the Prophet (PBUH) said or did or approved or did not disapprove, but rather what he consistently said and did and encouraged us to follow him on. The scholars have attempted to differentiate between the two by classifying the latter as Sunna Mu’akkada (Emphasized practice). That’s fine. Then, what we are required to follow is the emphasized Sunna.

As usual you gave me the words to clarify the issue. Not practiced and forbidden. A world apart. It opens a new universe.

You may already know this hadeeth, but it illustrates the point very clearly. One day, Khaalid ibn Al-Waleed (RA) invited the Prophet (PBUH) and others to dinner. His aunt, Maymoona, had prepared for them a grilled porcupine! Everyone stretched their hands to grab a bite of it, except the Prophet. Khalid’s face paled like he saw a ghost. He said to the Prophet (PBUH), “Is it forbidden, O Messenger of God?” He answered, “No, but I find myself not agreeing with it!” Narrated by Khaalid and reported by Al-Bukhaari.

So, just because the Prophet didn’t do something is no reason for us not to do it. Only if he told us “don’t do it!”, then we will have to stay away from it. It seems obvious, but in these days of massive confusion and disinformation, the obvious needs to be stated!

That is why the world always needs teachers. They are know to excel in one thing: to repeat and repeat and repeat.

We have so much confusion. Our faith is ripe not with bida but cultural and nationalistic nonsense. Yet, the hadeeth of the simple woman who kept repeating her question to the embarrassment of the Prophet (swas) helps us. She wanted an answer, although it was intimate, she would not give up until she gained knowledge.

We need to simplify Islam. We have so much on the agenda. Let’s forget trying to save the universe and remember how to make salat.

On a personal note: Eid Mubarak. May Allah reward you immensely for your kindness to me. I have been given a trial which in turn seems to be a blessing. It has made me reach deep into my being. Kinda sorta letting go of a lot of pretenses in life, too. I heard a sheik relate a hadeeth about the Prophet (swas) telling some Sahaba (ra) sometimes our deen is like a hot coal in our hands. (I have always been the princess who felt the pea at the bottom of ten mattresses). Your kindness is akin to the cool of the fire for Prophet Ibrahim.

A blessed and happy Eid to you and your loved ones.

Thank you for your kind words.

How do you simplify something which both God and His Messenger have repeatedly said was already simple? By removing the fluff and pork that accumulated on it over the centuries. My blog is my humble way of doing that.


All I can respond is to write “Blog on baby blog on!” It takes wisdom to understand simplicity. When endeavoring to resolve a complex problem the walls are everywhere. Once we have the solution it is so simple.

Likewise, our faith has been mingled with politics and men of various ambitions. The simple laity is lazy. We want the ends and care little about the means. For those of us who are foolish, we seek the means. It makes for a lonely road. (Cf. Zen/Sufism).

Your blog serves the purpose of giving the readers solutions without having to do all the homework. Blog on baby blog on.

(Trust me, I do take advantage of your wisdom…I am all over the universe in my thoughts and it helps to have some notion of being grounded).

There is no problem in taking a voyage in a hot-air balloon, as long as you can always land safely on earth 🙂

I guess I have a license, then, to keep blogging? LOL.

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.

Does analytical thinking reduce religious belief?

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

VANCOUVER — A University of British Columbia study suggests analytical thinking can be harmful to religious faith. The psychology report, published Thursday in the prestigious journal Science, reveals that religious belief drops after subjects perform analytical tasks or are exposed to Auguste Rodin’s sculpture, The Thinker.

However, UBC social psychologists Will Gervais and Ara Norenzayan insist they are not debunking religion or promoting atheism. Instead, they are trying to figure out the psychological origins of spirituality.

Source: UBC study | Holy Post | National Post.

Interesting study, but notice how it does not name the religions espoused by the participants? It means that they bundled all religions together versus atheism. That is an assumption on their part whose validity they first had to prove. Was a wide spectrum of religions represented in the survey takers? If not, the results would be biased.

Those snags aside, it is particularly profound to observe that the Quran keeps prodding its readers to think, reflect, examine, analyze, reason and adopt sound logic in conjunction with having faith and consulting ones heart, conscience, guts and feelings. That is the consistent message of Islam: Balance. Things in life are not “either or”, but rather “both and.” The challenge before each of us in life is how to correctly balance the seemingly opposite demands of aspects of our lives all of which we need. A Muslim finds enormous help on this tough task through the guidance of the Holy Quran and the teachings of the Sunna. In Islam, there is no conflict between science and faith, between scripture and history, between the individual and society, or between the spiritual and the material. They can all coexist and must. So can and must the heart and the mind just like the left brain and the right brain coexist and cooperate!

Blind faith is as bad as atheism. The former cancels the mind. The latter cancels the heart.

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.

Why do some people follow Quran but reject Hadith?

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

The following was asked on a discussion forum I follow. I need your help in answering it.

A few weeks ago, I joined a woman’s group and we post questions to get to know each other and answer questions, give advice, and so on. It was a mixed group with Muslims and non-Muslims with the majority being Muslim. Anyway, there were several debates in which some women would argue over why they reject hadith and only follow Quran. I’m wondering how can they be Muslim when they reject certain aspects of Islam?

Almighty Allah SWT says: “This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion” (5:3)

Rejecting the Hadeeth altogether is irrational! Because it is the Hadeeth that tells us how many prayers we have to pray everyday, how to pray and what to say in a prayer, what proprotion of our money are we to take out for the Zakah (mandatory alms), among hundreds of other teachings without which the religion would not be complete.

More importantly, rejecting the Hadeeth is tantamount to disobeying God, who says, “Whoever obeys the Messenger has obeyed God” (4:80). How do we obey the Prophet (PBUH) if we don’t know what he said?!

Which brings me to the reason which is probably why these folks reject the Hadeeth. Namely, they do not trust that the prophet (PBUH) said what the Hadeeths say he said. I doubt that any Muslim would actually know that the Prophet ordered something and they consciously decide not to do it!

So, the issue actually is the authenticity of the Hadeeth. There is reason to be suspicious of the authenticity of the Hadeeth, but that’s no reason to reject it; it is reason to scrutinize it.

This is exactly why our righteous predecessors spent lifetimes collecting narrations, verifying the integrity and competence of each narrator and ensuring the continuity of the “chain of narrators”. May God have been pleased with their phenomenal efforts. They found out that 90% of all narrations going around were either weak or outright fabrications! They discovered that many narrators were not credible or were incompetent.

The good news is that they ended up with the creme of the crop: Men and women of impeccable reputation, remarkable memory, mastery of language, piety and knowledge. Those are the narrators of the Hadeeths rated authentic by the leading Hadeeth scholars, such as Al-Bukhaari and Muslim.

The disciplines of Hadeeth study are many and are sophisticated; you actually are taught them in specialized universities in the Muslim world! There is the Usool discipline (Foundations), the Takhreej discipline (scrutinization and rating of narrations), Ta’reekh discipline (biography of narrators), Al-Jarh wat-Ta`deel discipline (assessment of narrators), as well as the need to learn the vocabulary, customs, geography and society at the time of the Prophet (PBUH) until the Hadeeth books were authored three Centuries later.

What the Hadeeth scholars have done is a showcase of scientific discipline. Yet, they were human still and as human they could err despite their best efforts. Therefore, it is conceivable that a hadeeth could be rated authentic but has fundamental problems with it. This is a sensitive issue, because strict Muslims, such as the Salafis (blind followers of ancestors) reject the notion that the Salaf (ancestors) could have made mistakes. Other Muslims are puzzled by the apparent discrepancy, even contradiction, of what some hadeeths say and what the Quran says. Whenever such situation happens, Muslims typically have one of four reactions: (a) Pretend that there is no discrepancy, (b) Attempt to reconcile the two texts, (c) Favor the Quran over the Hadeeth, or, believe it or not, (d) Favor the Hadeeth over the Quran!

I humbly suggest that everybody should do (b)! And if they can’t, then at least (c). The other approaches to the problem are irrational, because a true hadeeth cannot possibly conflict with the Quran.

The women in your friend’s group have taken the cop-out position, which, IMHO, is just as bad as pretending there’s no problem.

Verse 5:3, which you cited, and the subsequent two verses were the last verses revealed of the Quran. The Prophet (PBUH) knew that his mission is complete and that perhaps his time was up. He said on his “farewell sermon” which immediately followed the revelation of 5:3-5, “Listen to me and understand what I’m saying, perhaps I will not see you again after this year of ours!” He died three months later. Thus, the “completion verse” meant that not only was the Quran complete, but the Hadeeth too. Their conveyor, peace be upon him, would shortly die.

So, to answer your main question: Those people don’t know how to handle hadeeths that seem to contradict the Quran, so they don’t bother with the Hadeeth at all. It’s a radical reaction, kind of like being diagnosed differently by different doctors then deciding that you won’t treat yourself at all! The right thing to do is to scrutinize the hadeeth. By doing so, and provided the hadeeth is authentic, one gains knowledge of what the hadeeth actually means and can see that no conflict exists between it and the Quran. That is a task that is understandably beyond the capacity of most Muslims. It is an obligation, IMHO, upon Muslim scholars to do this and ease people’s minds.

Is there any good Taqleed?

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

You have come down hard on Taqleed (blind following) in several posts. I see your point, but is there any good Taqleed? Can we blindly or strictly follow someone we really trust not to mislead us?

Yes! That one is God. He is the only One we should follow. But even He, may He be sanctified and exalted, does not want us to follow Him blindly! He wants us to examine what He has sent us and His signs. Then, when we are convinced in our hearts and minds that what He sent us is the Truth, then we follow it strictly with confidence. It is an educated following.

God summarizes this criterion as follows,

Follow what has been to you from your Lord...(Quran 7:3)
“Follow what has been sent down to you from your Lord, and do not follow beside Him [any] allies. Little that ye remember!” (7:3)

Why is that? Because all humans tend to err, misconstrue, misinterpret, etc., and their understanding evolves and changes over the years. The Prophet (PBUH) said, “I am but a human; I get it right sometimes and wrong other times. You come to me to judge between you, and one of you may be more articulate than the other. If I cut you a piece that belongs to your brother, I’ve cut you a piece of the Fire!” Narrated by Umm Salama and reported by Al-Bukhaari and Muslim.

So, if the Prophet himself, peace be upon him, may err or misjudge, what about others who do not have his knowledge or the benefit of revelation?

I repeat, in case some readers think that I’m denigrating the scholars: Most scholars are wonderful people whom we owe a debt of gratitude for sharing their valuable knowledge and analysis with us. But that is no cause for blindly following them.

I find this verse fascinating,
“Those are the ones whom God has guided (the prophets), so emulate their guidance.” (6:90).
Notice how God instructs the Prophet (PBUH) to follow their guidance? He did not tell him to follow them.

Cut-and-paste Muslims

Monday, May 30th, 2011

I think we need to discuss Taqleed (blind following). I see so much culture infused with blind following.

The confidence it takes to use your mind is a tome in itself. We have a generation of cut-and-pasters who do not take the time to reflect.

How do I put it? Those who follow blindly do not take well to questions posed from a philosophical perspective. And specifically from a western orientation and or Sufism. I am seeking the essence of matters. Blind following has no room for seeking the essence. It is the easy way out.

If blind followers pause for a minute to reflect, they may ask themselves this simple question: Is the man, or group you’re following blindly, are they infallible?

The answer is obviously not, and I’m sure most of them will answer correctly. With that established, how can they justify following those who may be wrong, may have misconstrued things, may have misinterpreted the texts, may have misunderstood the intent and/or spirit of the revelation?

They can’t, of course, but in their minds, there is no better alternative! They do not trust their own minds. They see those whom they follow as superior to them in knowledge, intellect and spirituality. While that may be true, it is no reason to annul one’s mind and choose to be led by others without questioning. If that were part of our religion, then how come God asks us many times in the Quran the rhetorical questions,

“Have you not been using your minds?” (36:62),
“Did they not walk in the land and have hearts with which to understand, or ears with which to hear? Verily, it is not the eyes that go blind, but the hearts which are in the bosoms.” (22:46),
“Don’t you use your minds?” (2:44),
“Should you not then reason?” (7:169),
“That is because they were a folk who did not reason.” (5:58),
“The most evil of creatures, in the sight of God, are the dumb, mute who do not reason!” (8:22),
“Or do you think that most of them hear or reason? They are but like animals, nay, they are more misguided!” (25:44)

What a strong and harsh chastisement to those who elect to suspend their minds! If any reader is a blind follower, I urge you to reflect on Rumi’s advice, “Do not let others lead you; they may be blind, or worse: vulchures!”

God gave each of us a sound mind as a valuable gift, urges us to use it and trusts it to make the right decisions! Don’t turn away God’s gift.

Does Islam allow marriage to children?

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

Why the need to exploit children via..child brides? Does it not say in the Quran what puberty is? What are the motives behind child brides and its popularity? Who are the scholars who would preach such strange ideology? This is serious.

It sure is serious and must end, for it violates human rights, offends Islam, which is absolved of it, attributes abhorrence to the Prophet (PBUH), who is totally innocent of such foul charge, and contradicts the Quran!

The Muqallid scholars (strict followers of predecessors) are the ones who allow child brides. They are trapped by a Hadeeth that is rated authentic, attributed to `Aa’isha (RA) in which she is reported to have said that she was engaged at age six and married at age nine.

Despite the fact that that hadeeth was rated authentic, it has numerous problems. For one, it is solely narrated by her maid. The Arabs were mostly illiterate. They could not read, write or count. That goes double for their women and goes triple for the slaves. If we believe the Matn (content) of the hadeeth, it is most likely an error in counting: mixing six with sixteen and nine with nineteen, as I postulated in this previous post.

Hadeeths narrated by only a few narrators, called Aahaad in Hadeeth discipline, are not to be relied on for mandates or prohibitions. This hadeeth should never have been relied on for allowing what is obviously wrong.

But the problems with this hadeeth do not end there. It is contradictory to the Quran. The Quran has consistently referred to wives as “an-nisaa'”, the same word for women. Not girls. Children are referred to as “al-atfaal” and nowhere in the Quran or the authentic hadeeth is there any mention of allowance to marry a child!

You’re right that puberty is what transitions a girl into a woman. Verse 24:59 makes it clear that this is what ends childhood.

Taqleed (strict following of predecessors) is the culprit in this atrocity. People who follow blindly, even if what they’re following is abhorrent, illogical or factually false, will do wrong and think they’re doing good! What misguidance!

I read your previous post.

Child brides make no sense. No sense. But, in my manner I wish to bring this to light for Muslim women. We have many good and educated women with time on their hands. Insha’Allah I may be able to write an article and bring this light.
Is this hadeeth in Bukari..or Muslim?

Why are we so preoccupied with the age of Aisha. It seems to be one of the major stumbling blocks in our faith. I do not mean to be childish but we are stuck on it.

The Hadeeth is reported in both books. That’s why it’s so problematic. It defies the established consensus that all hadeeths in these two books are authentic. But the reality is that most hadeeths in these two books are authentic, but not all. For two centuries after the two authors, no one has said that all hadeeths reported in the two books were authentic. All they said was that the two books contain more authentic text than all other books, save the Quran.

It wasn’t until the Fifth Century A.H. (After Hijra, the Islamic calendar), that scholars started to declare that all hadeeths in Al-Bukhaari and Muslim were authentic. That broad statement did not go unchallenged, however. Ibn Hazm Azh-Zhaahiri, a highly regarded Sunni Imaam, has written and showed how some of the hadeeths in these two books were not authentic and should not have been included in them. More recently, Sheikh Al-Albaani, a very well known and very respected Hadeeth scholar made the same conclusion.

Once you free yourself from unwarranted assumptions, such as that one, you’re not stuck anymore. The Quran clears up any confusion, if you’re willing to make it judge any issue.

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.