Traditionalists’ vs Traditionalism

[By Samir Hussain]

بسم الله الرحمان الرحيم

This is a very important piece that I should have written a long time ago, but in the end Allah’s will is supreme.

Traditionalism as understood in this article is the collective amalgamate of Sunni theological, legal and spiritual traditions. In theology, the Ash’ari, Maturidi and Athari traditions in theology, the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafii and Hanbali traditions in fiqh, and mystical and non-mystical understandings of tasawwuf either via a tariqah or independently of them.

Traditionalists as understood in this article are those who claim either be in support of, part of or participating in tradition and traditionalism as outlined above.

As the name of this article suggests, I want to discuss a sentiment that is increasingly common among many Muslims today, which is the de-legitimization of tradition and traditionalism as a valid and useful means of understanding Islam and defining Islamic orthodoxy and normative understandings. As I have come to observe, much of this is done for two reasons: either due to a harmful attachment to modernism and liberalism inspired by Western/Eurocentric cultural and political hegemony, or a disillusionment with the varied and increasingly public gaffes of many traditionalists.

As such, I want to explain two things in this article:

  • That traditionalism is not just a useful means of understanding Islam, but rather that it is THE authoritative means by which to understand Islam.
  • That the mistakes of many traditionalists in either understanding of applying tradition is not indicative of the weakness of tradition and traditionalism in and of itself.

So why is traditionalism the ideal candidate by which to understand Islam?

Firstly, Sunni intellectual tradition serves as a direct or indirect commentary to the sacred texts of Islam – the Qur’an and the Sunnah. The primacy of the Qur’an and the Prophetic Sunnah in understanding Islam and forming an authentic and normative Islamic ontology should be an a priori understanding for every Sunni Muslim. Any attempt to understand Islam without giving primacy to the Qur’an and Sunnah is not an attempt to understand Islam as a religion, rather it is something else.

So, for example, understanding Islamic history or Islamic political theory to be a primary paradigm by which to understand Islam itself is not approaching the question from a theological or religious studies perspective, it is rather a historical or political one. Yes, Islamic history or political theory are useful secondary extractions from the Qur’an and Sunnah by which we can add to our understanding of the sacred texts themselves, but they are not the primary ontologies by which we begin to understand Islam. The Qur’an makes this clear on numerous occasions, giving primacy to obeying the Creator and his Prophet as a characterizing feature of being a believer:

O believers! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. Should you disagree on anything, then refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if you ˹truly˺ believe in Allah and the Last Day. This is the best and fairest understanding. [4:59]

Therefore, Sunni intellectual tradition, since its claim to the normative is based on being true – in varying degrees – to this ontological premise, acts as a sort of intellectual means to understand the Quran and Sunnah. If the Sunnah is to be understood as Prophetic commentary on the Quran – as per Shafii parlance, then Sunni intellectual tradition is a resulting meta-commentary on both.

So, this is establishing the utility of tradition and traditionalism purely from an epistemological perspective. And it is in my view, an inescapable truth. Not only does the verse of the Qur’an quoted above in its mention of authority – widely understood to be referring to intellectual authority – implicitly state this, but one observes that even those who attempt to deconstruct tradition such as those of anti-madhhab Salafis/Ahul-Hadithpersuasion, or progressive Muslims attempting to challenge the authority of tradition find no means to do so except by referring to the tradition itself.

Indeed the fact that it comes across as ridiculously unscientific, unsophisticated, arrogant and disingenuous to claim a normative understanding of Islam that is not based in any way on any previous understanding is enough of a proof in itself, as that would indicate that 1400+ years of Muslim understanding of the sacred texts was incorrect. Most Sunni Muslims with enough understanding foundational themes of the Qur’an would instantly rebuke such an attempt, unless it was veiled and hidden away effectively enough – which would amount to deception.

The second argument to be made in favor of traditionalism is its pedagogical utility. An effective pedagogy to learn an intellectual construct must by necessity be based on the ontology that the same construct is based on. For example, if we suggest that the better means by which to understand the natural sciences is a more empirical approach grounded in some sort of scientific method, a scientific education that did not comprise of some participating in laboratory experiments and methodological practicums would be an undoubtedly poor scientific education.

In a similar vein, traditionalism must form a substantial part of any effective pedagogy for studying and learning Sunni Islam. And by simply analyzing the different fields of study that make up the Sunni intellectual tradition, one can easily understand why it is so effective. Take the emphasis in most traditional curricula on the Arabic language i.e. the sciences of Arabic literature, syntax, morphology and rhetoric is a highly logical approach to understanding sacred text presented in the Arabic language, and that purports itself to be miraculously worded, and ontologically comprehensive. Or the emphasis on usul-ul-fiqh and mustalah al-hadith, the very sciences designed to filter out accurate understandings of sacred text from inaccurate ones. Lastly of course is the emphasis on direct study of the resulting extraction of fiqh that the above is based on, as well as direct study of tafsir and hadith themselves.

In this way, no pedagogical approach is able to overcome subjects of traditional study in their utility of understanding Islam, unless it incorporates traditional study itself because these subjects by their very nature are founded on a direct interaction with the sacred texts themselves.

The third argument to be made in favor of traditionalism is its decolonial utility. A commonly understood problem in Islamic academia whether salafi, traditional or contemporary is the obstacle of colonial or post-colonial influence on Islamic understandings. These are often considered foreign, malignant and insidious intrusions into Islamic thought whose main concern was to undermine authentic Islamic understandings, deconstruct Islamic intellectual culture, and dismantle Islamic civilization from within to render it politically impotent and thus unable to ideologically withstand the onslaught of European imperialism.

Intellectual tradition, therefore, a preserved continuation of the Islamic intellectual legacy, has immense utility in delineating where an Islamicate understanding of Islam ends, and when a foreign imposed or unwittingly abstracted-in understanding of Islam begins. Otherwise there is no other way to isolate colonial and post-colonial influence, as ill-intentioned Orientalist or Islamophobe understandings of Islam also utilize sacred text with which to mount their assault against Islam and Muslims. Most contemporary academics in Islamic Studies – Muslim or non-Muslim – have understood this, and it’s only a rare few who persist in trying to put forward an anti-traditional narrative which ends up contributing little to nothing substantial in our understanding of Islam.

In conclusion, Sunni intellectual tradition is critical to understanding Islam (i.e. Sunni Islam for the majority of Muslims who consider Sunni Islam to be the authentic understanding of Islam in opposition to Shi’i Islam). It is why to this day, those who do not have a sufficient academic background in the traditional Islamic disciplines will always fail to accurately, academically and intelligently delineate what exactly Islam is and what it isn’t, rendering any applicative effort on their part to understand an extra-Islamic idea, philosophy or ideology to be weak and quite often wrong.

Any Muslim who wishes to pursue research in anything ‘Islamic’ whether it be for the purpose of activism, academia or polemics, must be proficient at some level in the Islamic tradition for their work to be efficient, productive and contributive to the Islamic tradition and Muslims as a whole. Otherwise, when the definition of Islam is itself of low resolution and ill-defined, there is a high risk of denying that which can be correctly defined as ‘Islamic’ or approving of that which can be correctly defined as ‘unIslamic’ in whatever pursuit they are engaged in.

In my humble opinion, it is worse to be purposefully weak in the Islamic tradition and engage in such work, rather than to serve Islam intellectually while being deficient in the understanding of the tradition. I use the word ‘purposefully’ here for a reason: to demonstrate that these individuals always have the option for acquiring a traditional Islamic Studies background via the many local and online educational services available today. Learning Islam has never been easier, and it’s a disservice to themselves and to the community for them to speak about Islam without sufficient knowledge of it, not to mention a grave sin as understood by almost all traditional scholars of Islam.

The problem with traditionalists

Just like how Muslims do not necessarily indicate a causatively linked problem within Islam, neither do the mistakes of traditionalists necessarily indicate a causatively linked problem with traditionalism. Unfortunately, many Muslims seem to have done just that, which is to not understand tradition and traditionalism before debating the problems with traditionalists. This has resulted in many Muslims believing traditionalism to be outdated, problematic or unnecessary. Let us discuss some of these mistakes and understand why this conclusion is untrue:

1) Poor political acumen – Ever since the Arab Spring – for our generation at least – traditionalists have been under intense scrutiny by both ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ Muslims for their betrayal of the public in correcting the course of Muslim states headed by corrupt, despotic and oppressive leaders and their respective bureaucracies. Many a traditional scholar has been rightfully ‘exposed’ often in self-incriminating rhetoric or guilt by association in their support, aid or cooperation with rulers who have otherwise caused much grief to either their own constituents or others in Muslims lands.

But the truth – as most students of traditional knowledge know from experience with their teachers – is that this is not true of all traditional scholars. Many are the scholars who have left positions with the government or avoided joining them to prevent themselves from being taken to account by the Creator. Still too are the many scholars such as in Malaysia, India, Turkey or Qatar who do have a voice and use it quite effectively.

One should also not forget how many scholars either sit behind bars or are afraid to voice their political views out of fear of being thrown in jail or worse. Others have chosen the ‘wiser’ approach, engaging in rectification of Muslim minds or giving subtle reminders to rulers, realizing that a drastic public engagement with these tyrants is often unproductive or even destructive. It is unwise and foolish to judge an entire scholastic community with the examples of just a handful of outwardly problematic figures.

The poor political choices made by some do not demonstrate any problem with traditionalism, rather they demonstrate a poor grasp of politics and dealing with politicians in general, or a general naivete in dealing with practical problems that the ummahfaces. Also, academically minded people in general don’t always have a good sense for the viciousness of politics. This leads us into our next point.

2) Intellectual ossification and traditionalist culture – One of the core problems of traditionalists is their fear of change in the tradition. Brought about by a century and a half’s worth of unhealthy exposure to the rhetoric and antagonism of foreign colonial powers and Muslim liberals, secularists, modernists, progressives and salafis, many traditionalists have retreated into their own bubbles and isolationist ideologies, fearing rebellious and drastic measures by some to either drastically revise or effectively neuter tradition.

But a contemporary understanding of Islam that is effective in demonstrating the sophistication, applicability, utility and relevance of Islamic tradition – as well as granting it philosophical and civilizational strength, power and transformative capability – must by necessity incorporate elements of the contemporary world.

Tradition MUST continue to evolve, and traditionalists MUST be a part of that process. In fact such an understanding is clearly demonstrated in the early half of Islamic history. Otherwise the people who will be most involved are the same people lacking a traditional background that are intruding into Islamic understandings in the first place.

An absence of this understanding has contributed to a traditionalist ‘culture’ in many places. Although now it is starting to change alhamdulillah, for the most part most traditionalist scholars and institutions display a strong disregard and dismissal of the need for traditional knowledge to be combined with contemporary fields of study. The most effective example of this is the Islamic seminary. Although seminaries – especially the larger ones – should be applauded for their excellent traditional curricula. But the graduates emerge with an intellectual chasm obstructing them from the mind and life of the contemporary Muslim. Not only have they been locked away in a seminary for years, they will often enter the world of religious work – being an Imam or otherwise that will continue to isolate them from real people and real-world experience. This leads us into our next point.

3) A poor grasp of the contemporary world – Most traditionalist students and scholars unfortunately do not end up learning much about the contemporary world. Although they do acquire systematic knowledge and understanding of traditional Islamic knowledge, very few will do so for the natural or social sciences. Few are those also who will study tradition but continue to live and exist in the real world.

This creates an understanding of tradition that is irrelevant and disconnected to Muslims, thus cutting them off from tradition and rendering them vulnerable to ideologies such as salafism, liberalism and progressivism.

Traditional curricula must be merged together with contemporary ones. The mutakallim who hasn’t studied contemporary epistemology and philosophy of logic and language, the faqih who lacks a systematic understanding of contemporary law and ethics, and the muhaddith who falls short in contemporary historical method and critique will all be somewhat capable in their own fields, but will be unable to deliver much to the average educated Muslim who is in desperate need of relevancy and applicability in their Islam.

Ignoring this problem may be intellectually convenient for many, but it will result in a failure to bring back a globally significant Islamic civilization and renders any hope for a future Islamic state or polity useless and fantastical. It is also without precedent – Muslim Imams and scholars were known not just for their mastery of traditional Islamic disciplines, but also of their polymathic abilities across different fields, whether they be philosophy, Greek metaphysics, medicine, mathematics or even the social sciences in rare examples like Ibn Khaldun.

4) Traditionalists without tradition –Another problem common in many traditionalists is a poor understanding of traditionalism, leaving them traditionalists in name only rather than substance. If you read this article, you will see an example where traditionalists are not following the example of Imams that they themselves champion and portray as legendary intellectual figures.

There are many other examples of this. Students of fiqh who don’t understand how fiqh evolved over time or who over-utilize شذوذ from the madhhabs, students of kalam and usul who can’t think logically, understand the effects of their philosophical environments and make irrevocably ridiculous claims, students of hadith who deny the authenticity of Bukhari or students of the Arabic language who can’t understand the difference between linguistic and legal analysis.

Seminaries themselves are often at fault for this. Attempting to squeeze traditional curricula into a crowd-pleasing space of 4 or 5 years is a disaster in the making. I personally have met students who have completed a study of the Hanafi fiqhmanual al-Hidayah, as well as attended readings of the six famous hadith texts, yet have barely studied a text or so in usul-ul-fiqh, Arabic syntax, rhetoric or literature. Students who emerge from such poorly designed and destructive curricula are effectively drones, not muftis or scholars as they are often celebrated to be. For intellectually sophisticated madhhabs such as the Hanafi and Maturidi schools, this is a neutered education where the graduate bears little resemblance to the traditional legacy he or she claims to have studied and become a part of.

This is of course, not even mentioning the many Muslims who characterize themselves as ‘traditionalists’ but have little to show in terms of traditional study, understanding or character.

5) Ego – Lastly, and probably the most unfortunate characteristic common in some traditionalists, is the ego and poor adab that naturally accompanies all the previous problems listed. As traditionalists are forced to defend their contracted understanding of tradition, they often develop ego problems out of their constant defense and debate for the sake of what they rightly perceive is the best way to study and understand Islam.

I have seen it all unfortunately – whether it be a takfirist attitude towards Imam ibn Taymiyyah and salafis in general, an exclusionary attitude towards Atharis and Hanbalis, a fondness for overly conservative and ‘hard’ positions on social issues, a resistance to being corrected on the aforementioned, or a condescending perspective towards the common public or those who find it difficult to understand the importance of traditionalism.

And this is in stark contrast to many of traditionalist legends in tasawwuf and character. Those how demonstrated a softness towards the average Muslim and a resentment to judging others too harshly. It’s problematic nature could also be compared to our jadal tradition and openness to critique that many of the early Imams possessed.

In conclusion, these problems show not a problem with traditionalism, but that many traditionalists are not good examples of how traditionalism should look like in a scholar. There are numerous historical, political and social reasons for these problems, and they do not indicate that traditionalism in itself is necessarily a problem. If anything, they indicate that traditionalism manifested in its true form among traditionalists is what is really needed and missing.

And Allah is more knowing.

RELIGIOUS PLURALISM IN AL-ANDALUS: TRANSLATING AN OLD GREEK TEXT

[By Firas al-Khateeb]

The Middle Ages are commonly associated with ideas such as religious intolerance and intellectual backwardness. Images are conjured up of despotic kings using religion as a pretext for destructive wars that prevented Europe from achieving the prosperity and intellectualism it had during the Roman Empire.

But that image does not necessarily reflect reality. The long history of Muslim rule in the Iberian Peninsula (711-1492) was characterized much more by religious tolerance and intellectual pursuits of both religious and scientific knowledge.

A prime example of this Muslim society that prized religious pluralism is seen in the mid-tenth century, during the reign of the Umayyad caliph ‘Abd al-Rahman III (r.912-961) when an ancient Greek medical text was sent in the year 948 by the Byzantine co-emperors Constantine VII and Romans to the Umayyad caliph. The team that translated the text into Arabic consisted of Muslims and Christians, and was sponsored by a Jewish advisor to the caliph.

The story behind it is relayed by the contemporary Andalusian historian of medicine, Ibn Juljul (c.944-994). His account of the translation effort is copied below:

The book of Dioscorides was translated from Greek into Arabic by Istifan b. Basil the interpreter, in the City of Peace [Baghdad] in the reign of the ‘Abbasid Ja’far al-Mutawakkil [847-61]. Hunayn b. Ishaq the translator went over it, corrected it and approved it for publication. Those Greek names [of plants] for which Istifan knew Arabic equivalents current in his time were explained by him in Arabic, while those for which he knew no equivalents in Arabic he left in their Greek forms in his version, trusting that God would send after his death someone who would understand them and explain them in Arabic…

“This book came to Andalusia in the translation of Istifan, with some things [plants] in it known by Arabic names and some unknown. And so people in both the East and Andalusia made use of what was known in it, until the time of an-Nasir ‘Abd ar-Rahman [III] b. Muhammad, who was then sovereign of Andalusia. King Romanus of Constantinople exchanged letters with him – I reckon in 337 [948/49] – and sent him presents of great value, including the book of Dioscorides, illustrated with wonderful pictures of the herbs in Byzantine style. The book was written in Greek (bi l-Ighriqi), i.e. Hellenic (al-Yunani). With it he sent the book of Orosius the narrator, which is a wonderful Roman (li r-Rum) book of history, containing records of past ages and narratives concerning the early monarchs of great interest. In his letter
to Nasir Romanus wrote:

“‘The benefit of Dioscorides’ book can only be reaped with the aid of someone who is familiar with its Greek expressions and knows the characteristics of those remedies; so if there is anyone in your country with such knowledge you can derive benefit from the book, oh king! As for the book of Orosius, you have Roman Catholics (al-Latiniyyin) in your country who read Latin, and if you show it to them they will translate it for you from Latin into Arabic.’

“Now at that time none of the Christians of Andalusia read Greek, which is the ancient Hellenic, so the book of Dioscorides remained in the library of ‘Abd ar-Rahman an-Nasir in Greek, untranslated into Arabic, but all the while present in Andalusia; and what was in circulation was the translation of Istifan which had come from the City of Peace. So when Nasir replied to King Romanus he requested him to send him someone who spoke Greek and Latin, to teach servants of his to be translators. King Romanus therefore sent Nasir a monk by the name of Nicholas, who arrived in Cordoba in 340 [951/52].

“At that time there was in Cordoba a group of doctors who were keen to find out by research and inquiry the Arabic names of the simple remedies of Dioscorides that were [still] unknown; and from the court of King ‘Abd ar-Rahman an-Nasir they were encouraged in that research by the Jew Hasday b. Shaprut. Above all he favored and honored Nicholas the monk, who explained the names of the unknown remedies in the book of Dioscorides. …Among the doctors who were then making research into the names of the remedies in the book, and determining the characteristics of each, were Muhammad known as ash-Shajjar, a man called al-Bisbasi, Abi ‘Uthman al-Hazzaz nicknamed al-Yabisa, Muhammad b. Sa’id the Doctor, ‘Abd ar-Rahman b. Ishaq b. Haytham, and Abu ‘Abdallah the Sicilian, who spoke [Byzantine] Greek and understood the characteristics of remedies.

“This group was all present at the same time as Nicholas the monk; I was his and their contemporary in the time of Mustansir, and associated with them in the time of Mustansir al-Hakam; Nicholas the monk died early in his reign. Thus the book of Dioscorides was revised through the research of these few men into the names of remedies.

Source: Hourani, George F. “The Early Growth of the Secular Sciences in Andalusia.” Studia Islamica 32 (1970): 143-56.

AND EVEN DUA WILL NOT AVAIL

[By Mujlisul Ulama]

WHEN THE UMMAH exceed all limits of transgression, then Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) has warned of destruction with the Athaab of Allah Azza Wa Jal. When Muslim rebellion and treachery legitimize Divine Chastisement, then Allah Ta’ala appoints brutal tyrants to persecute the people. When this type of Divine Punishment overtakes the people, they will supplicate to Allah Ta’ala for safety. But then even the supplications of the Sulaha (the pious) of the time will go unheard. The tyrants will show no respects for the seniors nor any mercy to the little ones.

When such Divine Chastisement overwhelms people, then no amount of Qunoot-e-Naazilah and other Duas will avail. The imperative condition for the Duas to pierce the Heavens is Inaabat ilallaah –to turn in repentance to Allah Ta’ala and to abandon the life of kufr, bid’ah, fisq and fujoor which has become the culture of the Ummah of this era.

Dark clouds of greater Athaab are overhanging this miscreant Ummah of the time. The current misery of the Ummah is the ‘lesser punishment’ to jolt us into realization, repentance and reformation. If we fail to heed this Divine Warning, viz., the lesser punishment, then be sure of the ‘greater punishment’ which will utterly uproot and destroy.

THE “PARAQLEITA (COMFORTER)” IN THE GOSPEL OF BARNABAS

“Then said the priests, how shall the comforter be called? And what signs shall revealed his coming? Jesus answered the name of the comforter is ADMIRABLE, for God gave him the name when he had created his soul and place it in a celestial splendor. God said, wait O MUHAMMAD; for thy seek I will create paradise, the world a great multitude of creatures where of I made thee a present in so much that whosoever shall bless thee shall be blessed, and whosoever shall cursed thee shall be cursed. When I shall send thee into the world, I shall send thee as my messenger of salvation; heaven and earth shall fell; but thy word shall never fell. Muhammad is his blessed name. Then the crowed lifted up their voice saying; O God, send us thy messenger. O Muhammad, come quickly for the salvation of the world. [Gospel of Barnabas 97:10-17]

It is interesting seeing that the above passage from the Gospel of Barnabas was compatible with the narration reflected in the Holy Quran.

And giving glad tidings of a messenger to come after me (Jesus) whose name shall be Ahmad. [Quran 61:6]

Ahmad is the second name of our beloved prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), which corresponding English meaning is Admirable. It is even more enthusiastic that the name Muhammad was clearly stated in the passage.

Even though, the Gospel of Barnabas was declared an apocrypha, but history makes it clear that the early Christians had attested to the canonicity of the Gospel, and was accepted and used by the early Christian Churches. However, we have comprehended that the banning of the Gospel of Barnabas by the church was because it contained the name of our beloved prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), and described Jesus Christ in exactly the same way as the Qur’an. Through this, the incapable Christians were enticed with the dubious word APOCRYPHA.

Originally, the meaning of “Apocrypha” is “hidden or secret”, but the church is seditious to vitiate the meaning as full of doubt or not genuine. What however the meaning may be; the Bible described Barnabas as a good man and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith (Act 11:24). And in Colossians 4:10, Paul described Barnabas Saying,
(Barnabas) “Concerning whom you receive commandments, if he comes to you; receive him”.

Here, Paul refers to the commandments of Jesus. But in objection to this Biblical testimony, the church rejected the Gospel of Barnabas, and the four gospels canonized by the Church were full of contradictions and discrepancies.

THE STENCH OF ATHEISM AND MATERIALISM

By Mujlisul Ulama

Hadhrat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (Rahmatullah alayh) expressing his opinion regarding the Muslims of the city of Amritsar and Lahore (which was still in India at that time), said:

“I perceive the fragrance of Muhabbat (love for the Deen) emanating from the people (the Muslims) of Amritsar. But in Lahore, nothing but atheism and materialism are seen.”

That was 80 years ago. The condition of Imaan of Muslims, not only of Lahore, but of the world has deteriorated by leaps and bounds to enter into the realm of kufr. Today applies the Hadith narrated by Hadhrat Abdullah Bin Amr (Radhiyallahu anhu):

“A time will dawn when the people will gather in their Musaajid and perform Salaat while not a single one will be a Mu’min.”

Today, they are gathering even kuffaar and prostitutes in the Musaajid. The ‘open day’ Satanism initiated by professed ‘Muslims’ who are in reality munaafiqeen, also confirms the validity of the prediction of Rasulullah (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam). Rasulullah

Thus, the universal (aam) Athaab (Punishment) of Allah Ta’ala befalling Ummah all over the world should not be surprising. May Allah Ta’ala have mercy on us. May He grant Muslims the taufeeq for Inaabat – to turn towards Him in repentance and with obedience.

ON THE EVILS OF CLAIMING TO SEE ALLAH WITH THE PHYSICAL EYES

[By Shaykh Muhammad Shareef bin Farid]

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent the Merciful, may Allah send blessing upon our master Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) his family and Companions and grant them abundant peace.

Among the most pervasive evils which Satan has caused to emerge on the tongues of those associated with Sufism in this post-modernist era is the false claim that a person can see Allah with the physical eyes. This pernicious claim is a denial of the Infallible Book of Allah and the Sunna of His infallible Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. It is also a denial of the consensus opinion of the scholars of Islam from the earliest times to the present.

You hear on the tongue of rank amateurs in the Path to Allah, and by those who have not even smelt the scent of the sound faith and knowledge, that Allah is the Manifest (Dhaahir) and the Hidden (Baatin) and that everything you see is none other than Him. We seek refuge with Allah Ta`ala from inventing lies against Him without authority (sultan) and from compounded ignorance.

These are ideas which these novices misread and extracted from the pages of the spiritually unveiled sages and incorrectly repeated them without having the least understanding of the true import of their words and wisdom. It is for this reason that prior to the age of the European Christians (zaman ‘n-nasaara), it was forbidden to induct into the Tareeqa anyone who had no completed the mastery of their individual obligations in knowledge (fard’l-ayyaan fee ‘l-`ilm).

Today, charlatan murshids & shaykhs and their charlatan mureeds induct any ignoramus into the Sufi path and expose them to advanced ideas on Divine Unity; who then speak on things about Allah which they have no true knowledge or guidance.

This false idea that claims that a person can see Allah Ta`ala with physical sight is categorically denied by the Book and the Sunna. Allah Ta`ala says:

ﻻَّ ﺗُﺪْﺭِﻛُﻪُ ﺍﻷَﺑْﺼَﺎﺭُ ﻭَﻫُﻮَ ﻳُﺪْﺭِﻙُ ﺍﻷَﺑْﺼَﺎﺭَ ﻭَﻫُﻮَ ﺍﻟﻠَّﻄِﻴﻒُ ﺍﻟْﺨَﺒِﻴﺮُ * ﻗَﺪْ ﺟَﺎﺀَﻛُﻢْ ﺑَﺼَﺎﺋِﺮٌ ﻣِﻦْ ﺭَّﺑِّﻜُﻢْ ﻓَﻤَﻦْ ﺃَﺑْﺼَﺮَ ﻓَﻠِﻨَﻔْﺴِﻪِ ﻭَﻣَﻦْ ﻋَﻤِﻲَ ﻓَﻌَﻠَﻴْﻬَﺎ ﻭَﻣَﺎ ﺃَﻧَﺎ ﻋَﻠَﻴْﻜُﻢْ ﺑِﺤَﻔِﻴْﻆٍ

“He cannot be seen by vision, and He sees (all) vision; and He is the Subtlety Kind, the Aware. Indeed there have come to you clear insight from your Lord; whoever will therefore have insight, it will be for their own souls and whoever will be blind, it shall be against themselves; for I am not over you as a protector.” [6:103-104]

Shaykh Abdullahi Dan Fodio said in his Diya ‘t-Ta`weel fee Ma`ana ‘t-Tanzeel about the meaning of the above two verses: “He cannot be seen by vision’, means you cannot encompass Him in vision. This is the interpolation of the large majority of the scholars of the exegesis of the Quran (tafsir ‘l-jamhuur).

Or a second interpolation is that it means, that you cannot physically see Him in this life, because seeing Him is specific for the visions which the believers will have of Him in the Hereafter. This is based upon His words:

ﻭُﺟُﻮﻩٌ ﻳَﻮْﻣَﺌِﺬٍ ﻧَﺎﺿِﺮَﺓٌ ﺇَﻟَﻰ ﺭَﺑِّﻬِﺎَ ﻧَﺎﻇِﺮَﺓً

‘Faces on that Day will be gazing on their Lord in amazement’.

It has been related by the two Shaykhs, al-Bukhari and Muslim, that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace said:

ﺇِﻧَّﻜُﻢْ ﺳَﺘَﺮَﻭْﻥَ ﺭَﺑَّﻜُﻢْ ﻛَﻤَﺎ ﺗَﺮَﻭْﻥَ ﺍَﻟْﻘَﻤَﺮَ ﻟَﻴْﻠَﺔَ ﺍَﻟْﺒَﺪْﺭِ

“Indeed you will see your Lord, just as you see the moon on the night of the full moon.”

The phrase vision (absaar) is plural for sight (basar); which is a light lodged in the organ with which things are seen.

The concept of vision is applied unrestrictedly to the eyes, since it is the locus of sight.

The first interpolation is foremost and is what is intended based upon His words: ‘and He sees (all) vision‘; and means that His knowledge encompasses all visions, since He is the One who singled them out with vision. This means that He encompasses and sees the vision of the eyes; and not just the organ of sight.

This is explicit denial of anything besides Allah seeing or comprehending Him with physical or sensory vision.
Shaykh Abdullahi Dan Fodio said that the meaning of His words: ‘and He is the Subtle the Kind’, i.e., the Intimately Compassionate to His awliyya. This Divine Name ‘Lateef’ is from the etymological root ‘lutf’ (kindness) and follows the conjugation of the word ‘nusr’ (assistance).

The meaning of His words: ‘the Aware’, is that He is acutely aware of them. That is to say, that He, Allah cannot be seen by ocular vision because He is the Subtle the Kind; and yet He sees and encompasses all visions because He is the Acutely Aware.

The One who is Subtle, Kind (Lateef) is an indication that He can only be comprehended through spiritual unveiling (kashif), since He cannot be comprehended via sensory perception because there is no likeness to Him in the sensory. The sensory creation is not Allah Ta`ala.

It is other than Him and everything other than Him is in a constant state of fluctuation and annihilation. However, creation’s state of atrophy is an indication of its Creator who is Ever Living, Pre-Eternal and Eternally Continuous. This means that while creation cannot comprehend or see Allah via sensory perception, He can be comprehended through the inner vision and insight of the heart.

That is what the exalted Creator meant when He said on the tongue of our beloved Prophet: “Neither My heavens or My earth can encompass Me, but I am encompassed in the heart of the true believer.”

This truth was confirmed by Shaykh Abdullahi Dan Fodio when he said continuing his exegesis of the verses: “Then Allah Ta`ala: ‘say to them: ‘Indeed there have come to you clear insight from your Lord’, where the phrase ‘clear insight’ (basaa’ir) is plural for ‘baseera’, which is the vision given to the heart (qalb), like the sensory sight (basar) is given to the eyes (`ayn).

What this means is that Allah has made decisive evidences (dalaa’l qaati`a) as insight to the hearts giving evidence of the utmost extent of His Self-disclosure (jalaa’).”

His words: ‘whoever will therefore have insight’, means whoever will have inner insight of these evidences of His Self-disclosure, will come to truly believe in Him.

His words: ‘it will be for their own souls’, means that this Divine insight will increase them in insight, since its reward is increased insight of Him.
His words: ‘and whoever will be blind’, in his heart from comprehending the evidences in creation which indicate His existence; then ‘it shall be against themselves’, meaning that their error will return to them.

His words: ‘for I am not over you as a protector’, means that the Prophet, upon him be peace was not sent as a guardian of your deeds and actions. He is merely a warner. It is Allah who is the Protector (Hafeedh) of you through His preservation of your actions and deeds, and His sanctioning of them. Or it means that he, the Prophet, is unable to defend you from what Allah desires with you.”

The gnostic sage Imam al-Alusi, may Allah be merciful to him, said in his monumental exegesis of the Quran regarding His words:

“He cannot be seen by vision’ where the phrase ‘absaar’ is plural for ‘basar’ (sight); and is used unrestrictedly to refer to the organ of sight (jaarihat naadhira) and refers to the strength of vision that is in the eyes; as well inner vision itself, since it is the strength of comprehension of the heart (quwwat ‘l-qalb). Comprehension (idraak) of a thing means attaining understanding of its fullest extent and having encompassment of that thing.

The majority of the scholars of scholastic theology assert that the meaning of sight (basar) in this Quranic verse refers to the sensory organ of sight since it is the locus for the strength of vision. It is said that this reference is an indication of that and of the illusions and understanding; as Amir ‘l-Mu’mineen Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah ennoble his face said:
“Genuine Divine Unity is that you not have any false illusions about Him.” He also said: “Everything that can be comprehended and understood, by the senses, He is other than that.”

It has been related by Ibn Jareer on the authority of Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him who said that the words of Allah:

“He cannot be seen by vision” means that the sensory vision of nothing or no-one can encompass Allah Ta`ala.”

Some of the scholars assert that even in the Hereafter, Allah will not be seen by sensory perception but through a new form of ‘seeing’ which Allah Ta`ala will create as a sense perception for the believers in the hereafter.

This is confirmed by what, the Imam of the Taabi`, Daraar ibn `Amr al-Kufi said: “Indeed Allah will not be seen with the sensory eyes, but He will be seen by a sixth sense which He Subhannahu will create for them on the Day of Judgement.”

These are the illuminated ideas regarding this subject from the words of the best of early communities of Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. This is evidence that any Muslim, especially, a Sufi who claims that Allah can be seen by the eyes in the outward and that Allah is everything witnessed in existence, has strayed far from the Straight Path.
This is the same for those who claim that Allah is “all-in-all”, or that Allah is all Black people; and other than these from fallacious ideas which emerge from this central falsehood of the sensory vision of Allah in this existence.
As for the ideas of the masters of the Sufis regarding the sensory vision of Allah in this life and in apparent existence; they too, categorically deny this claim in the most eloquent elucidations after whose words nothing else need be said.

The SULTAN of the AWLIYYA our spiritual master, Muyh’d-Deen Abd’l-Qaadir al-Jaylani said about the meaning of these words of Allah:

“He cannot be seen by vision, and He sees (all) vision; and He is the Subtlety Kind, the Aware. Indeed there have come to you clear insight from your Lord; whoever will therefore have insight, it will be for their own souls and whoever will be blind, it shall be against themselves; for I am not over you as a protector.”

“Indeed it is so, that ‘He cannot be seen,’ due to the extreme degree of His Self-manifestation (dhuhuur) and the Self disclosure (jalaa’). He cannot be seen: ‘by vision’, due solely to the deficiency in ocular sensory vision perceiving His Immense Light; ‘and’, further, how can physical sensory vision see Him; when, ‘He, with His Essence, ‘sees’, i.e. perceives. ‘(all) vision’?

For the One that sees all vision cannot be seen by physical ocular vision; ‘and’, even further, how can He be seen, when ‘He is the Subtlety Kind’, Imperceptibly Transcendent above all forms of imagery (mujaazaat), semblance (muqaabila), natural simulation (inttibaa`) or likeness (muhaaka).”

This is emphatic denial of any false claimant who declares that Allah Ta`ala can be seen outwardly in creation; or those who fall into to open disbelief by claiming that the apparent creation that we witness (mushaahadaat) is none other than Allah because He is the Manifest (Dhaahir).

Or that Allah infuses Himself in creation; or that He impersonates Creation; or that He incarnates or “comes in the person” or locus of some created being, such as Jesus, the son of Mary, Fard Muhammad, Ogun, Horus, or any other physical incarnation inspired by Satan into the hearts of his friends.

This false ideology leads to open shirk and association of Allah with His creation; and identifying creation as a deity. We seek refuge with Allah from open disbelief after being guided!

Shaykh Muyh’d-Deen Abd’l-Qaadir al-Jaylani continues:

“Since He, Allah is: ‘the Aware”, so how can anything besides Himself be truly aware of Him? In summation, nothing sees Allah except Allah, nothing is innately aware of Allah except Him; for everything is in an innate state of atrophy and destruction except His countenance. To Him belongs the judgment, and it is to Him that you all will return, just as a shadow returns back to what caste the shadow.”

Our master, Abu Bakr as-Sideeq, may Allah be pleased with him said corroborating the above principle: “The acknowledgement of the inability to comprehend (`adamu’l-istidraak) Him is comprehension of Him.”

However, Allah Ta`ala does disclose Himself, His Names and Attributes as well as His Actions in creation to His close intimate friends (awliyya) when He says: ‘Indeed there have come to you clear insight from your Lord.’

Shaykh Abdl-Qaadir al-Jaylani said about these words:

‘Indeed there have come to you’, i.e., there has occurred among some of you, who have a propensity (majbuul) for the original lucid state of Divine Unity (fitra ‘t-tawheed), ‘clear insight’, that is to say, there has come to you clear evidences (shawaahid) and dialectical moments of spiritual unveiling (kawaashif), ‘from your Lord’, who brought you into existence and disclosed these to you.
‘Whoever will therefore have insight’, that is to say, the one who actually witnesses these evidences of His Self-disclosure and those who experience genuine unveiling with them, ‘it will be for their own souls’.

This means that the advantage will naturally recur to them; ‘and whoever will be blind’, i.e., veiled from it; ‘it shall be against themselves’. This means that the harm of being blinded and veiled to these realities returns back to them.
‘For I am not over you as a protector’; that is to say, I am not your overseer responsible for managing you. I am only a deliverer of prophetic news. Your preservation and that of all things besides Him is in the Hand of Allah. For, management is by His omnipotent power. He alone guides whom he wills and leads astray whomever He wills.”
How did this pernicious idea permeate some of those who claim association with the Path of the Sufis? It came from a prevalent heretical innovation which emerged with those charlatan Sufi shaykhs who were more concerned with garnering large numbers of mureeds, so out of lust for this world’s life and its rubble; these business tycoons posing as shaykhs; threw away the basic principle in inducting people into the Tareeqa.

The basic rule for inducting a person, man, or woman, into the Path of the Sufis was that the person had to, as a prerequisite, have completed the attainment, and understanding of the rules (ahkaam) of the individual obligations (`ilm fard al-`ayyaan).
However, with the emergence of the Hour of the European Christian imperial control of globe, there also emerged avaricious marabous, shaykhs, murshids whose only aim was to increase in followers, fame and to assure a constant flow of wealth into their coffers.

Thus, the doors of the spiritual guilds were flung open to every kind of wanton spirit, desirous for power, rank, and wealth. In the past a student of knowledge who had exerted themselves in the pursuit of sacred knowledge by completion of the sciences which are obligatory upon every Muslim to know and act upon; would then seek out a Shaykh murrabi (a teaching guide) who could then instruct them in the deeper aspects of faith, and gnosis of Allah.

Or, sometimes the Shaykh murrabi would have students of knowledge studying the basic usuul whose characters, enthusiasm, uprightness and resolve were signals for the teacher to introduce them to the ancient Way or Tareeqa of direct gnosis of Allah ta`ala based upon sound sanad (corroborated chain) going back to the Beloved Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.

Alas, those days are long gone! It has become like Imam Ibn Mubaarak said: “The chains of authority are from the deen. If there are no chains of authority, then whoever likes can say whatever he likes.”

Today, everyone is a shaykh! Every knows the asraar! Everyone has an opinion and most of what they say about Allah and His Path is pure nonsense!

Today, people whose nafs is like that of donkeys have put on the glorious saddle of stallions (maqarrabuun) of the Path and without the bridal of taqwa to reign them in or a general of the path guide them; they now trample over the Garden of the Knowers Allah, utilizing the language of the People; whose Path, they have never truly followed nor have they a sound chain of authority connecting them.

These people claim to have reached the Pleiades of gnosis of Allah when they have never left the suffocating bowels of their own souls which command to evil (nafs al-amaara bi’s-suu).

Imam Ibn al-Mubarak said about them: “The likeness of one who seeks an issue of his deen without a chain of authority is like the one who desires to climb to the roof without a ladder.”

Many of these charlatans, peruse the books of the People of spiritual insight and unveiling (tabassur wa inkishaaf) and with lack of training or discipline repeat what they misread and misunderstand from these noble texts. They end up deceiving themselves and deceiving whoever had the misfortune of listening to them.

It is about these kinds of spiritual charlatans this reason that the Imam of the Sufis, Shaykh Abu’l-Qaasim Junayd al-Baghdadi:

“There is nothing worse than the ignorant sufi!”

Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio said in his renown Ihya as-Sunna:

“Among the heretical innovations in the Path of the Sufis is searching in the books of the people of spiritual unveiling (ahl’l-kashf) by those who cannot tell the difference between a gnat and an elephant in knowledge. This is a forbidden innovation.

Searching and examining the books of the people of spiritual unveiling is not permissible except for the scholar who knows the Book of Allah and the Sunna of His Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. He should take from these books that which clarify guidance for him and he should leave what it is not clear. He should accept the validity of what is not clear, but not act in accordance with it.

This should be done not because of any deficiency in its words, but because his own knowledge has not reached to the level of comprehending it. This is because no person is held responsible for that which his knowledge does not encompass. On the contrary, it is not permissible for him to follow it,

ﻭَﻻَ ﺗَﻘْﻒُ ﻣَﺎ ﻟَﻴْﺲَ ﻟَﻚَ ﺑِﻪِ ﻋِﻠْﻢٌ

“Do not follow that which you have no knowledge.” [17:36]

So, people who lack the training to understand the immense depth of the wisdom of the sages; will swear that the falsehoods that they espouse were the words of their Shaykh, who is the Qutb of this and the Qutb of that; without knowing the import of their Shaykhs words and how their words spring from the Two Sacred Infallible sources, the Quran, Sunna and the fundamental principles of the early community (as-salaf).

Shaykh Abdullahi Dan Fodio said in his Diya’u ‘s-Siyaasa:

“When the Knower of Allah speaks from knowledge, his words should be viewed from the perspective of its source from the Book of Allah, the Sunna of His Messenger and the traditions of the Salaf; because knowledge is interpreted based upon its foundation.

When the Knower of Allah speaks from his spiritual states (ahwaal), its meaning should be surrendered to the understanding of the one who has had the same experience. However, he is not to be followed because of the lack of universal application of his judgment except by the one who has attained the same spiritual experience. The one who possesses spiritual states (ahwaal) is not to be followed in that.”

Similarly words uttered by the shuyuukh and the sages of this sacred Path should not be repeated just because they sound profound, deep and makes a person appear wise. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace said: “Address people according to their intelligence.” Not every word of wisdom should be spoken. There are certain spiritual states, spiritual ideas and knowledge which should be experienced and tasted…and not talked about.
Allah is a Witness for what I say.

THE ANGELS OF THE HEAVENS

By Jamiatul Ulama Gauteng

The inhabitants (who are Malaaikah) of the first heaven have the forms of a bull. Their commander is called Ismaaeel.

The inhabitants of the second heaven have the forms of horses. They are the army whose commander is the Angel, Dardiyaaeel. Their Tasbeeh is like thunder. Glittering Noor radiates from their mouths.

The Commander in the third heaven is Junjayaaeel. His army of Angels have the forms of birds of a great variety of colours. Every bird has 70 wings.

The Commander in the fourth heaven is Salsiyaaeel. His army of Angels have the forms of eagles. Each one has a thousand wings.

The Commander in the fifth heaven is Samkhiyaaeel. Here the Angels have the forms of small children. Each one of them is aware of seventy thousand languages (in which they recite Tasbeehaat).

The Commander in the sixth heaven is Sooryaaeel. These Angels have the form of Al-Hoorul Eeen (Damsels of Jannat). Musk emerges from their Tasbeeh.

The Commander of the seventh heaven is Beekhaaeel. His army of Angels have human forms. They perpetually seek forgiveness for Bani Aadam (i.e. human beings), and they cry when human beings die.

Some other Hadith narrations indicate other forms of Angels also inhabiting these heavens. It appears that each heaven has different forms of Malaaikah. In addition to those mentioned above, there are also Angels who have the forms of scorpions, humans, Hoor-e-Eeen (Damsels of Jannat), eagles, etc.

Above the seven heavens there is a wonderful creation called Karubi. They are constantly engaged in Tasbeeh. A Karubi dwarfs even the huge Malaaikah. He has 70,000 tongues. Each tongue recites a different Tasbeeh of Allah Azza Wa Jal. The creation of Allah Ta’ala is mind boggling and unfathomable.

In another lengthy Hadith of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) narrated by Allaamah Jalaaluddin Suyuti (rahmatullah alayhi) the following description of the various classes of Malaaikah (Angels) inhabiting the different levels of the Heavens is given:

1) The first heaven (Samaa-e-Dunya) has been created a powerful solid structure. The inhabitants occupying this heaven are powerful beings having the form of cattle. Each one has wings. Some have two, some three and some four wings.

Their number equals the number of the stars. They perpetually recite Tasbeeh, Kalimah Tayyibah and Takbeer.

2) The Angels inhabiting the second heaven are as numerous as raindrops. They are in the form of scorpions. Neither do they sleep nor pause a moment in their recitation of Tasbeeh.

3) The Angels of the third heaven have human form and they are as numerous as the grains of sand. They perpetually seek refuge with Allah Ta’ala.

4) The Angels inhabiting the fourth heaven are in the form of Hoor-e-Een (Damsels of Jannat). They are as numerous as all the leaves on all the trees. They stand in rows shoulder to shoulder. Some are in Ruku’ while others are in Sajdah. Noor emanating from the Tasbeehaat which they recite permeates the heavens and the earth.

5) The Angels of the fifth heaven are twice the number of the entire animal kingdom. They have the form of eagles. They are engaged in recording divine laws. Some are supervisors of others.

6) The Angels occupying the sixth heaven have the form of beautiful horses. They are called Hizbullaah (The Army of Allah).

7) The inhabitants of the seventh heaven are the Muqarrab Angels. They enjoy a very close relationship with Allah Ta’ala. Among them are the Angels who deliver the manuscrips of deeds. Above them are the Angels who bear aloft the Divine Throne.

Above the seventh heaven is another huge, wondrous specimen of creation known as Karubi. There are many levels among them as well.