Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Are you rejecting the Prophet if you reject lies attributed to him?

Are you rejecting the Prophet if you reject lies attributed to him?

I totally agree that to aspire to be a Muslim, one can take guidance primarily from the Quran and secondarily from the Sunnah of the prophet and thirdly, from the signs of God.

The Quran is in front of you and you can take all the steps necessary to verify whether the copy of the Quran that you have before you is authentic or not. This is easily done by comparing copies from various countries. Then, if you are like me and would like to explore whether the Quran is indeed the "word of God" and not that of human creation, you can also do it - though it takes much of your time, effort and thinking. My research has convinced me that it is indeed not the work of any mortal. For me, there are “no issues” as far as the Quran is concerned - It is from the Creator.

Now the Sunnah. The Sunnah is often understood as the conduct of the Prophet by the ulema of Hadith.  To the ulema of hadith, “sunnah” refers to all that is narrated from the prophet, his acts, his sayings, whatever he has tacitly approved plus all the reports of his physical attributes and characters. Today, this “Sunnah” is in a written from often called the Hadith (on hadith later).  In the Quran, the word “ Sunnah” has been used on 16 occasions and it has been used to imply an established practice or course of conduct.  

Example (1): Quran 15:13: “That they should not believe in the (Message); but the ways (Sunna) of the ancients have passed away”.

Example (2): Quran 33:38 “There can be no difficulty to the Prophet in what Allah has indicated to him as a duty. It was the practice of Allah (sunnata Allahi ) amongst those of old that have passed away. And the command of Allah is a decree determined”.

Example (3): Quran 35:43 “On account of their arrogance in the land and their plotting of Evil, but the plotting of Evil will hem in only the authors thereof. Now are they but looking for the way the ancients (sunnata alawwaleena) were dealt with? But no change wilt thou find in Allah.s way (lisunnati Allahi)  (of dealing): no turning off wilt thou find in Allah.s way (lisunnati Allahi) (of dealing)”.

Quran 35:43 is interesting that the word “sunna” in the first instance refers to the “practice/ways of the ancients” while in the second and third instance it refers to the “practice/ways of Allah”.

However, in all the instances the word “Sunnah” is used in the Quran, there is not a single instance where it is used in relation to the Prophet. In the Quran, however, you do have Allah referring to the Prophet as an excellent example of conduct in surah 33 verse 21 as follows:

“Certainly you have in the Messenger of Allah an excellent example (oswatun hasanatun) for him who hopes in Allah and the latter day and remembers Allah much”.

In recorded literature, therefore, it is the ulema of Hadith that have linked this word to the Prophet, hence the word “Sunnah Rasul”. According to Professor Dr Hashim Kamali, “There is evidence to suggest that the Sunnah of the Prophet was introduced into the legal theory by the jurists of Iraq towards the end of the first century”. (Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence, page 45). This means therefore, that you can either believe the jurists wholeheartedly that everything they allege to be the sunnah of the prophet is indeed the sunnah of the prophet or you may want to take personal responsibility by verifying the same. This is an important decision to make if indeed you truly believe in Allah’s words in the Quran in surah 6 verse 94:

“And certainly you have come to Us alone as We created you at first, and you have left behind your backs the things which We gave you, and We do not see with you your intercessors about whom you asserted that they were (Allah's) associates in respect to you; certainly the ties between you are now cut off and what you asserted is gone from you”.

Many like to use the jurists or ulemas as their intercessors in determining their faith in Allah with the excuse that the jurists are experts and they themselves are not. Of course, the role of some jurists in assisting research is commendable and helpful. We may draw useful information and knowledge from their work. However, this is not the same as being negligent or lazy or apathetic by delegating our responsibility in shaping our faith based on grounds that we are personally convinced to others. However, it is also a fact that the majority prefer to blindly believe based on conjectures and lies as in Quran 6:116

“And if you obey most of those in the earth, they will lead you astray from Allah's way; they follow but conjecture and they only lie”.

And there are quite a number who would rather follow what their families have taught them then to reflect and examine the Quran for themselves as in Quran 7:70:

“They said: Have you come to us that we may serve Allah alone and give up what our fathers used to serve? Then bring to us what you threaten us with, if you are of the truthful ones”.

Now the “hadith”. Ulemas have often used the word “hadith” and “Sunnah” interchangeably.  Hadith literally means a narrative, communication or news consisting of factual account of an event. The word “hadith” occurs in the Quran 23 times and not once does it refer, in the technical sense, to the exclusive sayings of the Prophet.  On the other hand, the Quran has referred to itself as the “ahanal hadees” in Quran 39:23 as follows:

“Allah has revealed the most beautiful Message (ahsana alhadeethi) in the form of a Book conformable in its various parts, repeating, whereat do shudder the skins of those who fear their Lord, then their skins and their hearts become pliant to the remembrance of Allah; this is Allah's guidance, He guides with it whom He pleases; and (as for) him whom Allah makes err, there is no guide for him”.

In fact, the Quran goes further to challenge human beings as to “which other hadees” after the narrations in the Quran will they believe in?

Quran 77:50 “Then what message (hadeethin), after that, will they believe in?”

Today, for all practical purposes, when you speak of hadith literature in the Sunni world, you are referring to what is known as the Al-Sihah al-Sittah" translated literarily to mean "The Six Authentic", even though they are not all considered authentic (sahih), except for the first two collections. (The Shias have their own collections of hadith).
Sunni Muslims view the Six major Hadith collections as their most important. They are, in order of authenticity:
  1. Sahih Bukhari, collected by Imam Bukhari (d. 870), includes 7275 hadiths
  2. Sahih Muslim, collected by Muslim b. al-Hajjaj (d. 875), includes 9200
  3. Sunan al-Sughra, collected by al-Nasa'i (d. 915)
  4. Sunan Abi Da'ud, collected by Abu Da'ud (d. 888)
  5. Sunan al-Tirmidhi, collected by al-Tirmidhi (d. 892)
  6. Sometimes referred to as Al-Muwatta, collected by Imam Malik (d. 796) and sometimes, Sunan Ibn Majah, collected by Ibnu Majah (d. 886). Some have even considered Sunan al-Darami to be the sixth.
The first two are referred to as the Two Sahihs as an indication of their authenticity. Combined the Two Sahihs contain approximately seven thousand hadith without repetition according to Ibn Hajar.
All these hadiths collections were said to be complied some 150 to 200 years after the passing away of the Prophet. It is also interesting to note that the Muwatta of Imam Malik contains 1,720 hadiths out of which 822 are attributed to the Prophet while the rest are attributed to the companions, successors and others (Prof Dr Hashim Kamali, Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence, page 48).

I shall not discuss here the hadith collections of the Shias as Malaysians are primarily Sunnis.

Hadith “science” is complex. There are many hadiths that have been forged in the name of the Prophet and many more that are considered weak or daif as to its authenticity. There numerous classification of the authenticity of a hadith. For the active and sincere believer, I would suggest that you check on the authenticity of a hadith before you negligently attribute it to the Prophet. Sincerity should not be confused with laziness or apathy or blind faith.

If anyone quotes a hadith or attributes it to the Prophet, ask for its reference so that you can verify it for yourself. Do not go around accusing that if someone rejects a particular hadith, he must therefore be rejecting the Prophet. (It will also help if you self examine whether you have a solid basis for your own views.) If this is so then, you will be accusing scholars like Imam Bukhari and Muslim who have rejected many hadiths on grounds that it is forged and where it is unverifiable according to their standards. The fact is: we are required to reject lies attributed to our Prophet.


NOTE: The above views are entirely my understanding and no one is required to agree with them. Kindly check with your own copy of the Quran and make up your own minds and thoughts. If I have erred in my facts, kindly highlight to me.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Struggle for Justice vs Pragmatism

Without the slightest of doubt, everyone you speak to will want justice. They will extol virtues of justice and make speeches of it. But how many will fight for it? How many will fight against injustice when it does not affect them indirectly?  Allah says this:

“O you who believe! Why say you that which you do not do?   Grievously odious is it in the sight of God that you say that which you do not do”. (Quran: 61:2-3)

We are all good people, we like to believe. We often tell ourselves that we should try to live a “non-controversial life, a safe life” and therefore we do not want to meddle with things that do not directly concern us or our family. We even turn a blind eye to the injustice suffered by others on the pretext of: “what can I alone do?”  Since everyone asks that question, nobody does anything! Some of us consider ourselves as believers and find it sufficient that we do the safe, “minimum religious requirements” while, Allah in strong terms commands the following:

“And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in God; but if they cease, Let there be no hostility except to those who practise oppression”. (Quran: 2:193) 

It is a clear commandment, yet many would prefer to turn a blind eye with many excuses. Often too, we find ourselves groping in the dark to find out what is this justice all about? Some mistakenly think that it is all about law or fiqh.  Others have pragmatic excuses – I cannot risk my position, cannot risk my family’s welfare, maybe one day when I am stable, there is no freedom of speech in this society, etc,etc.. Hence, most end up as arm-chair critics (that too with absolute anonymity) and “complainers”.

I am afraid all these have been covered in the Quran such that there is no excuse that any believer can give –no place to hide from God!

Prophet Moses was adopted by Pharoah’s family. He grew up in the palace as an adopted son. His adopted brother became the new Pharoah (Quran: 28:7-9). Moses saw that the Egyptian people were oppressed by Pharoah. The most pragmatic thing for Moses to do would probably be to safeguard his position in the place – status, wealth and influence. Probably, his friends will have advised him that the “right and practical thing” to do will be to remain in the palace. But he left the palace and returned to meet the Pharoah with the message to submit to God and therefore to establish justice. Moses was prepared to fight for justice and in that process forsakes his place in the palace.

Ironically, in the quest for justice family sentiments are never an excuse. Pharoah’s wife for example was honest enough to admit and detest her husband’s wrongdoings (Quran: 66:11). Today however, some women are under a misconception that it is virtuous to support the husband and even defend him when he commits grave injustice to others. Otherwise, how do you explain, for example, the wife who is “blind” to the husband who is providing for her way beyond his means???

Luth’s and Noah’s wives are other examples of challenges from within when you are on a quest for justice (Quran: 66:10). The pragmatic thing to do, in modern terms, would be to appease your wife and turn a blind eye to injustices? I have actually heard many, many times in my life some people telling me that they cannot take part in a movement for a good cause because their wives do not like it or it takes their time away from their adoring wives! Any struggle calls for “sacrifice”.

Prophet Shuaib strikes me as an economic reformer who wanted his people to do business without cheating and profiteering (Quran: 7:85-93) He went around to meet the business community of his time passing the message. Obviously he did not sit somewhere in the ivory tower keeping “his hands clean”, so to speak. He went down to the ground where life is going on. His quest for justice appears to be in the economic domain.

Prophet Abraham’s history is another challenge to the notion of pragmatism versus adherence to the truth (Quran 26:70-104). He was turned away by his own father because he refused to worship idols made by the hands of men. He was rebuked by his own father for logically arguing with his father that the idols that his father worshipped cannot even help themselves.  What is this message of serving one God that is so powerful? Human beings cannot live in a vacuum, if they do not “serve” the Creator; they end up serving other gods including their ego and lust. You have to read the entire struggle of Abraham in the Quran to understand what he struggled for. My understanding is: his struggle was a realistic struggle for living with justice.  Allah proclaimed in the Quran that Abraham is a good role model to follow.

Unfortunately, today many Muslims insist that prophets cannot be followed as a role model because they have “mukjizat”.  It is sad that models shown by Allah in the Quran have been “alleviated” by some to a dubious “religious status” that seems beyond the reach of normal human beings.

Prophet Muhammad had to endure severe hardship, loss of wealth, positions , etc simply in his quest for a better society based on God’s teachings. He had to go against the norms and accepted culture of the Arabs of his time. Would not the most pragmatic thing be to focus on his business and family and “live happily ever after’?  But his call was greater than his love for this transient life.

He was persecuted simply because he invited people of his times to serve only one God and his causes like - to stop the despicable practice of oppressing women in cruel ways (Quran: 81: 8 -9 ), freedom of  faith ( Quran: 10:99),  quest for justice and fighting against oppression (Quran: 16:90; 2:193)), responsibility to orphans (Quran: 4:22), charity and kindness to the poor and needy (Quran 2:177),  kindness to parents and neighbours (Quran: 4:36), etc, etc. 

If anyone is sincerely looking for causes in life – there are plenty in the Quran. It is a daily struggle and a never ending one. One cannot wait for “safe circumstances” because as the circumstances of the role models show, wherever there is injustice, there is no such thing as a “safe time” other than an excuse in our mind not to lift a finger.

Every single prophet that is mentioned in the Quran “fought” for something for their society. They mingled with the society they lived in. Today’s religious people merely lecture down to you. They do not get their hands soiled trying to make society a little better. They take upon themselves “too pure” and “too exalted” to come down to the grassroots, so to speak.

You can either cook up excuses or do something useful in your lives other than serving your own selfish needs.

I have tremendous love and respect for those who make time for the “social work of sorts” – the environment,  fight against women abuse, fight for a better justice system, better education, better medical care, against corruption, helping the homeless, etc, etc.  may God give you all the strength, resources and courage and protect you from those who wish to stop your efforts. To me, you are certainly following the ways of the prophets in that sense.


NOTE: The above views are entirely my understanding and no one is required to agree with them. Kindly check with your own copy of the Quran and make up your own minds and thoughts. If I have erred in my facts, kindly highlight to me.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Power Hungry Clerics Can Confuse The People.

History has repeatedly shown us the danger posed by power hungry clerics when they have the opportunity to occupy positions of power in politics This opportunity is often used to confuse the people with regards to truth and falsehood. With this confusion, it becomes easy for them to infuse their influence in the minds and hearts of the people. A Muslim who is guided by the Quran know the warning alerted by God as follows in surah At-Taubah:

“O you who believe! there are indeed many among the priests and anchorites, who in falsehood devour the wealth of people and hinder (them) from the way of God. And there are those who bury gold and silver and spend it not in the way of God: announce unto them a most grievous penalty” (Quran: 9:34)

Such power hungry clerics not only cheat people of their wealth but also hinder them from God’s way. They will try to mobilize the people to support them with wealth and life so that they can achieve their selfish desires. Their methods of deviating the people away from the path of God are subtle. They will not openly oppose the truth but will project themselves as the ‘light of truth’. They will position themselves such that any acceptance of their view equals acceptance of God and any opposition to their views will be construed as opposition to God. Muslims who adhere strictly to the Quran will not be duped by this psychological trap as they are fully aware of the following verse in the surah az-Zumar:

“Is it not to God that sincere devotion is due? But those who take for protectors other than God (say): "We only serve them in order that they may bring us nearer to God." Truly God will judge between them in that wherein they differ. But God guides not such as are false and ungrateful”. (Quran 39:3)

Every injunction and prohibition of these power-hungry clerics will be presented to the people as a ‘fatawa’ that is compulsory to be followed in order to be near God. As is clear from God’s commandment in surah Az-Zumar above, the people will mistakenly think that this is the way to be close to God and Islam. When people surrender their thinking and blindly follow the injunctions and prohibitions as determined by the power hungry clerics blindly, the clerics are worshipped and God is set aside. Power hungry clerics also represent themselves as the ultimate interpreter of the Quran and hence they often arrogantly lie to the people that the Quran is difficult to understand.

Their character and attitude is completely different from the great scholars such as Imam Ghazali, Imam Hanbali, Shafie, and Maliki. Such scholars encourage and invite people to think about the teachings of Allah and His messenger without causing any deliberate enmity. Only a true scholar or cleric will abide by the teachings of Allah as follows:

"Call them to the path of your Lord through wisdom and good advice and argue with them in the best manner. God knows well about those who stray from His path and those who seek guidance". (Quran 16:125)

On the other hand, power hungry clerics will find ways to maintain themselves as the absolute experts and ultimate source of injunctions or hukm regarding a person’s belief structure.

As such, they do not hesitate to label their political enemies and those who wish to adhere to the Quran and the Sunnah of the Messenger as infidels or apostates. If such clerics attain total power, they will not hesitate to kill these people with the mistaken belief that this will also bury God’s teachings.

They mutate into theological dictators. They will not only be intolerant of differing views from their own clan, but will be unable to coexist with others from a different clan. Any political marriage that they forge is for pure political expediency and will not last. They will only learn and agree with any religious views or knowledge that suits their purpose. They will dress and speak in ways that are popularly viewed as Islam so that their true colours will be well hidden from the public eye. To this group, the religious symbols are more important than the substance and spirit of Allah’s teachings.

Their speeches will be spiced up with names of respected Islamic scholars. It will also be sprinkled with long Arabic phrases even though they are fully aware that the audience only understands Malay or English. Their purpose is to mesmerize, influence, confuse and not to invite the audience to the way of Allah. Such techniques are sophisticated and subtle as they have succeeded in distancing many from people from God’s way by manipulating the name of “Islam and Allah”. However, such techniques are not new as Allah ahs forewarned us of this in the following verse:

“There is among them a section who distort the Book with their tongues: (As they read) you would think it is a part of the Book, but it is no part of the Book; and they say, "That is from God," but it is not from God: It is they who tell a lie against God, and (well) they know it! (Quran: 3:78)

If we were to ponder over the civil war in Afghanistan, not a single “Islamic country” was able to bring them towards peace. In 2001, the “Islamic government of” Afghanistan’s representative in Kuala Lumpur said that the Talibans are mad extremists who are inclined towards violence. However, the Taliban’s under the leadership of Mullah Mohammad Omar felt that they represented the group that wants to establish an “Islamic State”. Being intolerant to dissenting views, they killed and mutilated each other in the quest for political supremacy through violence in the name of “Islam and Allah”. The unfortunate fact is the sufferings of the ordinary, poor Afghan citizens who have deplorable living conditions. Today, many Afghan female children are sold off into slavery and prostitution. Many also do not know that Afghanistan used to be a major supplier of heroin to the world.

Is Afghanistan an “Islamic State” or a failed State of Muslims? It will not be incorrect to say that the Afghan clerics not only failed to create peace in Afghanistan but are equally responsible for the violence and sufferings of the Afghan people. This certainly cannot be a situation condoned by Islam. Those who wish may take heed from the following verse:

“The Evil one threatens you with poverty and bids you to conduct unseemly. God promises you His forgiveness and bounties. And God cares for all and He knows all things” (Quran: 2:268)

Hence, it is impossible that poverty, violence, sufferings, oppression, enmity and destruction of property are teachings of Allah and His Messenger. We should learn from the signs that are shown by God.

Malaysians will face untold regret if we continue with the attitude of suppressing our thoughts when faced with “religious issues and matters”. Religious ignorance is fertile ground for the birth of extremism and violence in the name of religion. When the mind is devoid of knowledge, it is easy for the power hungry clerics to fan emotions, and sentiments to achieve their evil ambitions. Families, neighbours, and friends will be persuaded to become enemies of each other such that a civil war may ensue. Let us not think that this will never happen as the signs show that they are not only possible but families have been made into enemies purely on “religious grounds”.

We should be cautious of the monopoly of religion by the power hungry clerics if we want to maintain the peace and the practice of humanitarian values as taught by Allah. The young became easy targets of influence by these power hungry clerics. This is the reason why the young are often the wall and the soldiers in any militant group and the old play the role of teachers who control.

The ultimate objective of power hungry clerics is to exert total control over the people be dictatorial like the Pharaoh. Any objection or dissent will be misrepresented as objections to the teachings of Allah and one will have to face fatal repercussions. Will this group of power hungry clerics allow us to ask them the following question?

“Or have you Covenants with Us to oath, reaching to the Day of Judgment, (providing) that you shall have whatever ye shall demand (say)? Ask you of them, which of them will stand surety (guarantee) for that! (Quran: 68:39 - 40)

Peace !