Archive for the ‘Authentication’ Category

What does Zikr mean?

Monday, July 6th, 2015

God has vowed to preserve the Quran Himself. He says, most emphatically, in verse 15:9,
“Verily, it is We who sent down the Zikr and verily, We surely shall be of it Preservers.” (15:9)

The word Zikr (with a fricative Z as in this or that) means mention, remembrance or reminder. The syntax and context are what determines which semantic is meant. The scholars have been unanimous that the Zikr mentioned in 15:9 is the Quran. What they did not agree on is whether it is only the Quran. The reason they thought other items may be included in the Zikr in 15:9 is the apparent implication of other verses. For instance,
“And We sent down to you the Reminder that you may make clear to the people what was sent down to them and that they might reflect.” (16:44).

In this verse, if the Zikr is only the Quran, then what is “what was sent down to them”? Isn’t that the Quran also? That is why many scholars have opined that the Zikr here refers to the Hadeeth.

But if the Zikr includes the Hadeeth, then it too must have been preserved by God. While the strict Muslims take that position, historical evidence begs otherwise. While the Quran was written down before the death of the Prophet (PBUH), and committed to memory by thousands of people, the Hadeeth was not written down for two hundred years after the Prophet’s death. It was only then that the Hadeeth was meticulously authenticated and less than one in ten narrations have been found to be authentic. This means that the Hadeeths evaluated as authentic can be relied on in matters of the religion, but it also means that the Hadeeth was not preserved, or else it would not have required such massive effort to authenticate.

Therefore, I respectfully disagree that the Zikr refers to the Hadeeth, or includes it. So, how can we explain 16:44?

The key to understand 16:44 is to notice the word “people” in it. People include non-Muslims! Thus, what this verse is saying is that one of the functions of the Quran is to clarify to non-Muslims the scriptures which were sent to them, e.g., the Torah and the Gospel.

This conclusion is backed up by a later verse in the same Chapter,
“By God, We did certainly send [messengers] to communities before you [, O Muhammad], then Satan embellished for them their works, so he is their ally Today and for them is a painful torment.

And We have not sent down upon you the Book [, O Muhammad], but so that you may clarify to them what they differed about and as guidance and mercy for a folk who believe.” (16:63-64)

16:63 makes it clear that the pronoun “them” in 16:64 refers to followers of prior scriptures.

A reader may jump in here and quote,
“And We certainly did write in the Zaboor (Psalms), after the Remembrance (Torah), that the land – shall inherit it My righteous worshipers.” (23:105)
and argue that the Torah has been described as the Zikr. It was. But then, it was humanly altered thus it ceased to be Zikr. Only the original, pure revelation from God qualify as Zikr. The only scripture that God has vowed to preserve Himself is the Quran.

Dispropotionate expiation?

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

I have a question regarding fasting. I heard that if one were to intentionally break 1 day of their fast without any good reason then they would have to fast 60 consecutive days. Now when I heard this I was a little surprised as I never heard of such a thing. But when I looked it up on the internet I found out that it is a real thing.

Now I read it was from a hadith but a lot of hadiths out there aren’t authentic and have a lot of problems. This particular hadith in my initial opinion contradicts the Quran where Allah says that he doesn’t want to ‘burden us more than we can bear,’. And where the prophet says in a hadith that ‘this religion is easy and to not make it hard on yourself’. With that said, 60 days of fasting for only missing one fast is a little excessive for me and doesn’t seem like a fair thing. And I don’t think that that is something Allah wants for us.

So can you please clear up this issue for me and explain this hadith and this whole “60 day fast for only missing 1 fast type thing”?

Both Adam and Satan disobeyed a direct order from God. Yet, God forgave Adam and gave him a second chance, while He cursed Satan till the Day of Judgment. Why?

The difference between the two is that Adam recognized his error, regretted it and begged God to forgive him. Satan, on the other hand, refused to acknowledge that he did anything wrong and did not even attempt an apology to God. Adam knew his place; Satan deemed himself too big. Adam admitted his mistake; Satan argued with God. Adam bowed his head; Satan thumbed his nose. Adam submitted; Satan arrogated.

When you say “missed one day of fasting”, you’re not being accurate. Missing implies inability or forgetfulness. When one can fast but won’t, it’s not called missing, it’s called defiance. Missing is excusable; defiance is not.

That is why the expiation (“Kaffaara”) is different for each. The expiation for excusable breaking of the fast is one day of fasting later, or feeding a poor person a day’s worth of meals. The expiation of inexcusable breaking of the fast is to fast two consecutive months or feed sixty poor people. It is to teach the sinner humility before God. God does not benefit an iota from our worship. We do. It is in the best interest of the servant of God to be reminded of his place whenever he transgresses. If God leaves a sinner to himself, then know that the sinner is a lost cause, a hopeless case.

That is why the expiation, as harsh as it looks, is not disproportionate at all, nor unfair, nor contrasting God’s grace. Rather, it is tough love. A needed training of the believer who was headed the wrong way.

As for the hadeeth that tells us what the expiation is for inexcusable breaking of the fast, it was narrated by Abu-Hurayra and reported by Al-Bukhaari, Muslim, Abu-Daawood and Ibn Hibbaan. It is authentic. However, it is specific about mating during the fasting day. Scholars have concluded, however, that other inexcusable acts may be expiated the same way by analogy (Qiyaas). In other words, mating is just one example.

The expiation, according to this hadeeth is (a) freeing a slave, or, if not possible, (b) fasting two consecutive months, or, if not possible, (c) feeding of sixty poor persons.

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.

Does Islam prophesy an Anti-Christ?

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

What do you know and what do you believe about this person whom some people claimed that Prophet Muhammad prophesied as Mahdi and this event called Dajjal Fitnah. I’m not sure but I think these are unfounded claims as far as the Qur’an is concerned. I don’t know but some people relate these things to what is happening in Syria.

There are several authentic hadeeths, reported in Al-Bukhaari and Muslim’s compilations and narrated by Al-Khudri, Ibn Umar and others, which mention Al-Maseeh Ad-Dajjaal (the luring messiah). In these hadeeths, the Prophet (PBUH) forewarns Muslims of the coming of the Anti-Christ, a man who will possess great powers, even power to resurrect people from the dead, and succeed in luring most people away from true faith to follow him instead. He will claim to be God. The Prophet (PBUH) said that the Dajjaal Fitna (test of faith) is the greatest and that every prophet had forewarned his people against it.

While the Quran does not mention Ad-Dajjaal, there is no reason to doubt the story. It would be a different matter if the Quran has contradicted the story. One authentic hadeeth I know of is reported by Al-Bukhaari and narrated by `Aa’isha, may God have been pleased with her, in which she relates that the Prophet (PBUH) used to say in his supplication during prayer, “O God, I seek refuge in You from the trying times of the Luring Messiah.”

Several authentic hadeeths also mention the coming of the Anti-Christ as one of several grand signs of the approach of the Hour (the Day of Judgment). Most of the signs mentioned in those hadeeths are also mentioned in the Quran, such as the second coming of Jesus Christ, the release of Gog and Magog, and the animal which will preach to people. Thus, there is no cause to deny the story about the Anti-Christ while the other, equally spectacular stories are confirmed by the Quran.

There is no evidence that the war in Syria has anything to do with the Anti-Christ.

As for Al-Mahdi (the guided one), the hadeeths about him are far less authentic. Neither Al-Bukhaari nor Muslim have reported any hadeeth about him, to the best of my knowledge. Whether he will exist has no bearing on your or my faith, since we already have all we need to be true believers: the holy Quran and the authentic Sunna.

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.

The complex soul

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Assalamu Alaikum WR WB Akhi.

Just need a clarification on this issue.

I had to attend a lecture today in my school and the shaikh was saying that we have 03 types of Nafs
01 Nafsul Ammara
02 Nafsul Lawwama
03 Nafsul Mudhdhima

The third one is the worst one ever, and each level of Nafs has 07 different “Sub- Nafs” , all together 27 sub stuffs, and that why people throw 21 stones at the Hajj per head…

Is this analogy true??

Plus, Is there any doubtful issues regarding the Hajar Al Aaswad stone… I mean, people say that thee is no valid proof for it to be sent down from the heaven, Plz do throw light on this issue as well. Insha Allah

Fee Amanillah

Wa Alaykum Assalaam WR WB (and upon you may be peace, the Mercy of God and His Blessings).

There are no sub-nafses 🙂 There is only one Nafs (self/soul). But it has two sides, as mentioned in the Quran:
(1) An-Nafs Al-Lawwaama (the chastising self/soul) and
(2) An-Nafs Al-Ammaaratu bis-Soo’ (the sin-inducing self/soul).

The third mention of Nafs, An-Nafs Al-Mutma’inna (the tranquil self/soul) is the one where the chastising side of it has won over the sin-inducing side.

Whenever one lets the sin-inducing side of one’s soul win over, one is doing wrong to one’s soul (Zhaalimun li-Nafsih), because the soul wants to submit to God and do good and man fails it.

As for the black stone, there are narrations that say that it was sent down from Paradise and was originally white as snow. These hadeeths range between Sound (Hasan) and weak in authenticity. Neither Al-Bukhaari nor Muslim have reported it. In matters of Aqeeda (theology), don’t crowd your head with less than authentic texts.

What about the Sufis..The three levels of the soul..could the lecturer have been alluding to those constructs?

Possibly. I’m not acquainted with this Sufi teaching, but if they are referring to Islam, Eeman (faith) and Ihsaan (Benevolence), then these are three promotions of the same soul, hence the attribute “levels.”

What these promotions are based on is a hadeeth of the Prophet (PBUH) in which it is narrated that a man wearing all white, whom nobody recognized, and who did not look like he’s been traveling, dropped in on the Prophet (PBUH) while he was sitting down with several people. The man greeted the Prophet (PBUH) and sat very close to him. He asked the Prophet (PBUH), “What is Islam?” The Prophet (PBUH) answered him by telling him of the five pillars of Islam. The man replied, “Right!” People were puzzled by this man asking the Prophet (PBUH) and then confirming his answer! Then the man asked the Prophet (PBUH), “What is Eemaan (faith)?” The Prophet (PBUH) answered him with the six pillars of faith. The man again replied, “Right!” Finally the man asked him, “What is Ihsaan (benevolence)?” The Prophet (PBUH) answered, “Ihsaan is to worship God as if you see Him. Though you don’t see Him, He sees you!” The man smiled and said again, “Right!” Then he bid farewell to the group and left. The Prophet (PBUH) then said, “Do you know who that was? It was Jibreel (Gabriel); he came to teach you your religion!” Narrated by Umar ibn Al-Khattaab and reported by Muslim who rated it authentic.

Souls…well the Sufi’s have this one down…They spend more time on the inner journey…the rest break the world into the duyna and deen..the Sufi goes internal…they examine the soul from all aspects and dwell on polishing the heart to reach the soul and keep it clear. My question has always been..we become so hard on ourselves as the struggle against ourselves is really our test. You used the word promotion of souls. Yet, if there is promotion of soul there is the counterpart..the demotion of souls. And the hard part…to put this to test in the duyna..

Let me know what you think about my thoughts and InshaAllah, have a blessed day

You said the keyword that the Quran uses a lot: the heart. It is not that ticking muscle; it’s a metaphor for all that is not physical in us. It can be “sound”, as Abraham’s was,

“And among his (Noah’s) affiliates surely is Abraham. As he came to his Lord with a sound heart” (37:83-84)

A sound heart is our only savior,

“On a Day when neither wealth nor children will benefit [anyone], except him who came to his Lord with a sound heart.” (26:88-89)

The flip side is that a heart may rust from sins,

“No! Rather the rust has built up on their hearts because of what they have earned. No! They verily are from their Lord that Day are kept away.” (83:14-15)

The Prophet (PBUH) explained 83:14 like this, “When a worshiper sins, a dark stain is imprinted on his heart. When he quits and repents, it is polished away. If he comes back to it, it builds up. That is the Raan (build-up) that God mentions (in 83:14)”, narrated by Abu-Hurayra and reported by At-Tirmizhi who rated it soundly authentic.

Thus, demotion of the soul is done by sinning, and its promotion by good deeds and keeping rapport with God. Our hearts are capable of both…to the extreme:

“We have certainly created man in the best stature. Then We turned him back to the lowest of the low!” (95:4-5)

We can be saints and we can be devils. And the choice is entirely ours.

Is there such a thing as Bida Hasana?

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

There is a hadeeth that says that every bida (novelty) is a misguidance and every misguidance ends up in Hell, right? Yet, I hear the expression “Bida Hasana” (good novelty). Is there such a thing?

As famous as this quote is, it is actually not a hadeeth! It is a saying of Abdullah ibn Mas`ood, may God have been pleased with him, a fellow of the Propeht (PBUH). Some scholars, such as Al-Albaani have rated it authentic, but the consensus is that those words were not of the Prophet, but of Ibn Mas`ood.

A bid`a is a novelty in religion, not any novelty. Things like TV, telephone and cars are novelties, but they are not bida` (plural of bid`a).

What is a novelty in religion? It’s anything that is added to the religion, removed from it or changes it. Saying that the number of prayers is now six, instead of five, would be a bid`a, for instance.

To create a bid`a, one would have to either mandate something that is not mandated, or forbid something that is not forbidden. Only God can mandate or forbid when it comes to religion. By delegation from God, so could the Prophet, peace be upon him.

This is a serious matter. God warns people often in the Quran not to say, “this is allowed and this is not allowed!” Consider,

“And do not say untruth about what your tongues assert, ‘This is lawful and this is unlawful,’ to invent falsehood about God. Indeed, those who invent falsehood about God will not prosper.” (16:116)

and

“Say, ‘Have you seen what God has sent down to you of provision of which you have made [some] lawful and [some] unlawful?’ Say, ‘Has God permitted you [to do so], or do you invent [something] about God?’ ” (10:59)

Despite that, you’ll find many people who feel they can declare things mandated or forbidden based on shaky evidence. By doing so, they risk being mubtadi`a (novelty starters). May God save us from falling in that trap.

So, can there be a good novelty in religion? No! But novelties such as domes on mosques, carpets in mosques, taking the shoes off before entering a mosque, praying Taraweeh at Ramadhaan eves in congregation in the mosque, etc., all are good things, as long as people do not believe they are required by God or by His Messenger.

Speaking of Taraweeh prayers, the Prophet (PBUH) prayed them in congregation in the mosque on the first and second eves of Ramadhaan. On the third eve, he only prayed `Ishaa’ (night prayer) then he went inside his house and did not come out until the Fajr (dawn) prayer! Clearly, he did not want people to get the impression that Taraweeh prayers in the mosque are a Sunna.

The verses you quoted seem to me to disable all fatwas! How can any scholar then rule on a religious matter?

As long as they say, “And God knows best” at the end of their fatwa (ruling), then they are fine. That makes their fatwa an intellectual exercise in logical deduction based on Usool-ul-Fiqh (the discipline of Foundations of Deduction). Most scholars do that.

Muhammad ibn Al-Mubaarak, may God bless his soul, a Taabi`i (second generation) scholar, had a wonderful, but frightening saying. He said, “A scholar enters between God and the servant, so let him seek an exit!”

Was the Quran burned after Muhammad’s death?

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

There is a sister I know, who claims that the burning of the Quran was a political move. She insists the motive was to govern the growing faith. She feels we do not have evidence that refutes her position. In other words the original copies of the Quran were burnt and the versions we have are somewhat edited. I am at a loss. I usually change the subject. She also says the Prophet asked everyone to be educated so there were multiple copies subject to change. I have not read anything to support her argument. However, I am not a scholar. Is there any meticulous evidence that would refute her thinking?

Yes we have an argument against her! The Quran itself. It says that God vows to preserve it Himself just as He revealed it Himself. See verse 15:9.

What is her evidence that the Quran was burned? Without authentic evidence, anybody can say anything about anything and anybody! Don’t pay attention to people who theorize. Insist on evidence and reasoning, or else you will easily be lost like millions are.

The only thing that comes to mind, is that maybe she is confused about what Uthmaan ibn `Affaan, may God have been pleased with him, what he did to the copies that people claimed were Quran. He compared each such copy against the Mus-haf (bound volume of the Quran) that the Prophet (PBUH) left with his wife Hafsa before he died. The Prophet (PBUH) also left another identical copy with his daughter Faatima, may God have been pleased with both. Uthmaan promptly burned all inauthentic copies claimed to be Quran but did not exactly match Hafsa’s Mus-haf. He had an authentic original to compare with!

She is a revert who calls herself a Qurani. One who upholds the Quran. She was with the Salafis for a minute. As Allah has promised us the Guardianship over corruption, I will use this ayat (verse) in the future. I do not like to argue (surprise, surprise).

Quranis take the other extreme. I dislike extremes. Islam is in the middle, but people just love to take one extreme or the other!

Quranis discard the Hadeeth altogether. That’s illogical, not to mention wrong. Because we could not know how to pray if it weren’t for the Hadeeth! It is also wrong because God orders us to obey the Prophet (PBUH), see verse 4:80. How can we do that if we don’t know what he said?!

Just because many hadeeths are unauthentic or problematic is no reason to dismiss all hadeeths! Rather, it’s reason to authenticate the Hadeeth, not just in its Sanad (attribution), but also in its Matn (content).

Is Aql subservient to Naql?

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

What is the status of Aql (mind) in Islam? Is it true that Ahl-us-Sunna wal-Jamaa`a (People of the Sunna and consensus) believe that Aql is subservient to Naql (narrations)?

We know the validity and authenticity of any narration by way of the mind! Therefore, `Aql (the mind) is superior to Naql (narrations), not the other way around.

The reason we know that the Quran is God’s word is because we’ve read it and came to the unshakable conclusion that it is the truth. The Quran made its case for being holy scripture by invoking our minds, as well as our hearts, and inviting us repeatedly to think, contemplate and reason. Thus, the Quran makes it clear that the mind is one of the two ways we can find the truth. The other being the heart. Both are required.

With that established, we can now feel comfortable accepting matters of the Beyond that are hinted at in the Quran. Because we trust the Source of information, we can trust everything He says, even if our minds cannot grasp it. That is the point where Ahl-us-Sunna wal-Jamaa`a mean when they say that `Aql is subservient to Naql: they mean authenticated Naql.

This is a key differentiator of Islam. Belief in Islam is not blind and is not without questioning. Faith in Islam is educated. It is only after you have become convinced in your heart and in your mind that the Quran is the whole truth about God, then you believe in Islam. And the Quran emphasizes that each of us can tell if it is the truth or not!

As for narrations, such as the Hadeeth, they have been evaluated by scholars on two fronts: Sanad (attribution chain) and Matn (content). A narration that passes authenticity tests of both fronts may be declared authentic and only then does it become part of the religion.

The question “Is `Aql subservient to Naql” has two problems: (a) It does not define what is meant by either term, and (b) It is what is called in logic a false dilemma. It makes an assumption that has not been established as fact, namely, that one of the two is superior and the other is inferior. A third option, which is the case actually, is that both are equally important.

Is the Niqab required for Muslim women?

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

This week, France applied its new law banning the wearing of the Niqab (face veil) in public. A Muslim French woman was fined a 150 Euros for wearing a niqab. What is your view on the niqab and on the debate about it. Belgium is doing the same thing, but the US sees the issue as a personal liberty issue.

It is not only a personal liberty issue, it is also a religious issue. Many Muslim women who wear the niqaab, do so out of conviction that it is required on them and that they would be living in sin if they didn’t wear it. Banning them from wearing it, therefore, is religious persecution.

Can society force a dress code on its citizens? Yes, but what are the limits? French society sees nothing objectionable when women wear very little clothing, but sees a great deal of problem, when they cover up on religious grounds. Sounds like an agenda, doesn’t it? If you listened to the French Parliament debate on the issue, prior to approving the ban, you’d be surprised that an advanced, enlightened society like France would put forward such ridiculous arguments for a silly law and broadcast the session! One of the silliest arguments was that people have the right to know whom they are talking to and the niqab prevents that. Solution: identification card! When it is very cold in France, people wear head cover to protect them from freezing. Those head covers expose only the eyes, just like a niqab does. How come those head covers are not banned?

That said, the niqaab is not required in Islam. It is not mentioned in the Quran or in the authentic Hadeeth. The hadeeth that some scholars build the niqaab case on, reported by Abu-Daawood and narrated by `Aa’isha, may God have been pleased with her, about her sister Asmaa’, is vague about what the Prophet (PBUH) was pointing to when he said, “No woman who reached puberty should show of her body but this and this.” He pointed to his hands and head. The pro-niqaab scholars interpreted that to mean he pointed to the eyes. The pro-hijaab (veil that only covers the hair, like a scarf) interpreted it to mean he pointed to the face. Those are the majority of scholars. Others interpreted it to mean he pointed to the entire head, hence not even hijaab is required. The debate is not settled and probably won’t be any time soon, because the text is not definitive on it, therefore the conclusion cannot be certain. Adding to the uncertainty is the fact that this hadeeth is rated Mursal (open ended). That is, it not certain that `Aa’isha said it because the narrator who said he heard from her, never met her! Other Hadeeth scholars rated it weak. That makes it an invalid evidence for a mandate, in the rules of Deduction Discipline (Usool-ul-Fiqh).

The funny thing about the debate is that all sorts of folks got into it on both sides. I’ve read arguments by feminists some of whom are for it and others are against it! To me, the matter is simpler than all this: It is every woman’s own business whether to wear the niqaab. It is not anybody else’s business. I am against the niqaab, because it is an unnecessary burden, but I’m also against a ban on the niqaab.