Letters to the Editor

Explaining Differences

Shabbir Ahmed, via email

This has reference to your article ‘Understanding the Four Madhabs’ (Parts I & II) by Abdul Hakim Murad in YMD issues of April and May 2008 which very elaborately dealt with the history and need for Madhabs with special mention of Ijtihaad.

You will agree that each of the four Imams had different styles of Salah whether it be the Five canonical prayers, Witr, Tahajjud or `Eid prayers, number of rak’ats and Surahs recited in these prayers.


No, we do not agree.

It is incorrect to say that the four Imams have had different styles of Salah. In fact we do not know in any detail how the four Imams offered their Prayers. This is because, how the four Imams did their rituals, or what kind of opinions they held about a rule of Law, is not important in their respective madh-habs. The process of codification was started by the Four Imams, but the four Schools were developed after them, by top order Mujtahids, during centuries of research, who formulated Principles of Law, before making laws. If someone disagrees with their rulings, he will have to criticize their Principles of Law, to demonstrate how those Principles or any part of them is incorrect.

With regard to your statement that the Five Prayers or other Prayers, differ in number of rak`ah, etc., this too is not correct. There are differences of minor nature in Prayers but they do not affect:

Fard (obligatory) Prayers in number of rak`ah.

Fard Prayers in the Surah to be recited. E.g., recitation of Surah al-Fatiha is necessary in all four Madh-habs (whether they call it Fard or Wajib is inconsequential).

There could be differences in Witr Prayers, but Witr is not Fard, so it is out of discussion.

Tahajjud Prayer is also not Fard, and so out of discussion (although there is no difference in opinion between the Four schools that its minimum is two with no maximum limits).

`Eid Prayers: There is no differences in `Eid Prayers in the number of rak`ah or the Surah to be recited.

So, all that you have stated above as differences, is wrong.

Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Shafi’i differ in their styles of Salah which I am aware of. The same may be the practice with Imam Malik and Imam Hanbal which I am not aware of. But, we all agree unanimously that each Imam preached, practiced and lived according to the Hadeeth of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihiwa Sallam) amidst all kinds of trials meted out to them by the Abbassid rulers and the confusion in Islam prevailing at that time.


It is apparent that sadly, you have no idea of what was happening during our early historical phase. There was no confusion in Islam at the time of `Abbasids or other ruling families. The differences in opinion between some of the scholars and their respective rulers were on no more than a single issue.

Imam Ahmad differed with the Caliph over one issue. Imam Malik differed over one issue. Imam Abu Hanifah differed over one issue. Imam Shafe`i differed over NO issue.

And, when they differed, the differences lasted no more than a couple of years out of 60-70 years of their lives. So, the differences played no role in the development of the Law or in its codification, which was not happening in the Court but in private sitting romms, and simple mosques.

But because you have not studied history, you think it was a time of complete turmoil during which every scholar was getting whipped and forced to adopt opinions of the rulers.

Far from that; there were hundreds of scholars at the time of each of the four known Fuqaha’, who were no less than their Imams in quality of knowledge, who had never even perhaps seen the rulers’ faces because they lived in a different world and never came into contact with them; so neither got whipped nor rewarded.

Perhaps you do not know that the persecution of scientists in modern times is greater than persecution of religious scholars has been at any time in Islam. Down to this day, no scientist can use the word “God” in any article. No scientist can say he believes in the existence of the “soul.” No scientist is allowed to say that “evolution” is a doubtful theory. If he does it, sooner of later he will lose his job, and, if he is an important scientist, will be assigned a research project that is not his field, to be conducted in the basement of the building; and no article of his is accepted by any major scientific magazine for publication. Many scientists complain of this hold on them by the top brasses, who are, in many cases, Jews and atheists. Thus, the Jews and atheists decide the direction in which science will go, and that direction is God-less.

So, persecution of scholars by the rulers in Islam is a complete myth, as freedom of science from persecution is a complete myth.

You have made many assumptions. Do you feel satisfied that first you make assumptions, and then you arrive at conclusions based on those assumptions, and then you raise objections following those conclusions?

I require the following clarifications:

1. When each Imam has followed the Hadeeth of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihiwa Sallam) without room for any error, why do they differ in their styles of Salah?

2. What was the original style of Salah followed by Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihiwa Sallam) as taught to him by Allah (Subhaanu wa ta’alah)?

Please explain in detail in order to clear the many doubts in Muslim brethren like me as to which Madhab follows the correct style of Salah of Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihiwa Sallam) with respect to all aspects mentioned above.

I am sure this answer of YMD will pave the way for our Muslim brethren to adopt the correct style of Salah and earn Allah (Subhaanuwatha’aalah‘s) acceptance of our prayers and receive His Blessings. Let YMD be the harbinger of this initiative.


YMD has no desire to be a harbinger of an innovation.

It is apparent that you have made no study of Islamic history, but have heard some extremists who inform every possible prey coming out of the mosque that the Salah he just offered is not acceptable for such and such reasons; implying that the Four Fuqaha’ were not quite qualified to issue rulings, and that even if they issued rulings they instructed that their rulings may be thrown into the dustbin (if they clashed with a hadith, which these people believe happened most of the time); and hence, they conclude, follow none of the Four Schools of Fiqh.

How would it be if a few clerks employed in a court of law, start a discussion between themselves over why the American and British constitutions, and hence the Laws in the respective countries, differ from each other. Everyone will admit that it is beyond their scope; and that they should not be discussing such issues. Perhaps the leading lawyers and judges would be better qualified to take up such a topic for discussion; yet they would not, because the topic is silly enough to be sent back to the clerks to air their airy views between themselves.

As common people, they should use commonsense and common logic. Several countries have implemented the Shari`ah Law: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Omman, Yemen and others are examples. So, as common people they should go by common man’s logic that if the Shari`ah Law as developed by the Four Schools of Law is defective, how modern states could succeed in implementing them?

As common men they need to also consider the differences in the Schools of Law as something for which there must be good reasons. They must ask themselves: “If differences could be removed, those who had heads a hundred times bigger than ours would have removed them by now. Surely, there must be some complications hidden from us, illiterate as we are.”

Speaking of complications, let us point out one or two. We do it despite the knowledge that the basic problems are two: first, a great majority of Muslims lack faith in Islam; second, a greater majority of them has no interest in knowing Islam. So, it is quite a hopeless situation. On the other hand there are mischievous elements in Muslim society. They attack those who are nominal Muslims, and nominally interested in knowing about Islam, to shake them in their shaky faith. Yet, somebody has to take the trouble to remove the doubts of those few who are victims of ignorance and mischief:

There are four sources of Islamic Law: (a) the Qur’an, (b) the Sunnah, (c) consensus of the Companions, and (d) Analogy.

Has someone a quarrel with any of them? Would he like to remove one of them? No?

Good. Let us move forward:

There are some 78,000 words in the Qur’an, which go with 325,000 articles. Is it possible to obtain consensus of all the peoples of the world over the meaning of all the 78,000 words? Is it possible that the entire Muslim world would agree that each of the words of the Qur’an has a specific meaning, and no other; so that 78,000 words yield exactly 78,000 meanings?

Or, is it possible that meanings of hundreds (if not thousands) of words will be contested? What do you expect?

So, where is the consensus you are looking for? From where will you bring it?

And you are still in words; and still in the Qur’an; and still dealing with a single issue. Add the other three sources. How do you think you will obtain consensus?

Let us consider the Hadith.

If someone decides that he will read translation of Hadith books and live by his own Fiqh, he will run into trouble sooner than he had expected. He will open Bukhari and [after the first hadith on “intention”] he will go to the first hadith under the chapter entitled, “Kitab al-‘Eiman.”  The hadith is as follows:


بَاب اْلايمَان وَقَوْلُ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ بُنِيَ الْإِسْلَامُ عَلَى خَمْسٍ وَهُوَ قَوْلٌ وَفِعْلٌ وَيَزِيدُ وَيَنْقُصُ قَالَ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى{لِيَزْدَادُوا إِيمَانًا مَعَ إِيمَانِهِمْ}{وَزِدْنَاهُمْ هُدًى}{وَيَزِيدُ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ اهْتَدَوْا هُدًى}{وَالَّذِينَ اهْتَدَوْا زَادَهُمْ هُدًى وَآتَاهُمْ تَقْوَاهُمْ}{وَيَزْدَادَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِيمَانًا}وَقَوْلُهُ{أَيُّكُمْ زَادَتْهُ هَذِهِ إِيمَانًا فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا فَزَادَتْهُمْ إِيمَانًا}وَقَوْلُهُ جَلَّ ذِكْرُهُ{فَاخْشَوْهُمْ فَزَادَهُمْ إِيمَانًا}وَقَوْلُهُ تَعَالَى{وَمَا زَادَهُمْ إِلَّا إِيمَانًا وَتَسْلِيمًا}وَالْحُبُّ فِي اللَّهِ وَالْبُغْضُ فِي اللَّهِ مِنْ الْإِيمَانِ وَكَتَبَ عُمَرُ بْنُ عَبْدِ الْعَزِيزِ إِلَى عَدِيِّ بْنِ عَدِيٍّ إِنَّ لِلْإِيمَانِ فَرَائِضَ وَشَرَائِعَ وَحُدُودًا وَسُنَنًا فَمَنْ اسْتَكْمَلَهَا اسْتَكْمَلَ الْإِيمَانَ وَمَنْ لَمْ يَسْتَكْمِلْهَا لَمْ يَسْتَكْمِلْ الْإِيمَانَ فَإِنْ أَعِشْ فَسَأُبَيِّنُهَا لَكُمْ حَتَّى تَعْمَلُوا بِهَا وَإِنْ أَمُتْ فَمَا أَنَا عَلَى صُحْبَتِكُمْ بِحَرِيصٍ وَقَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ{وَلَكِنْ لِيَطْمَئِنَّ قَلْبِي}وَقَالَ مُعَاذٌ اجْلِسْ بِنَا نُؤْمِنْ سَاعَةً وَقَالَ ابْنُ مَسْعُودٍ الْيَقِينُ الْإِيمَانُ كُلُّهُ وَقَالَ ابْنُ عُمَرَ لَا يَبْلُغُ الْعَبْدُ حَقِيقَةَ التَّقْوَى حَتَّى يَدَعَ مَا حَاكَ فِي الصَّدْرِ وَقَالَ مُجَاهِدٌ{شَرَعَ لَكُمْ}أَوْصَيْنَاكَ يَا مُحَمَّدُ وَإِيَّاهُ دِينًا وَاحِدًا وَقَالَ ابْنُ عَبَّاسٍ{شِرْعَةً وَمِنْهَاجًا}سَبِيلًا وَسُنَّةً – (صحيح البخاري)


It reads: “Chapter on ‘Eiman.”

“Fair enough,” he tells himself. If you do not know what is ‘Eiman, you will never understand anything else properly in Islam.

As he reads he will be greeted by the first surprise. He reads: “The Prophet’s statement that ‘Islam is based on five.’”

He is surprised because he thought he will get ahadith on ‘Eiman under the chapter called “Chapter on ‘Eiman.” He doesn’t. The first hadith is on “Islam,” and not “’Eiman.”

As he continues reading, he discovers that the first hadith that Imam Bukhari quotes is incomplete. He starts a hadith and then abruptly cuts it off ignoring the rest. It says, “Islam is based on five!” The reader asks himself, “what five?” But he doesn’t get the answer. He will have to discontinue reading, and start looking for what those “five” are, which Imam Bukhari failed to mention.

As the reader moves on, he discovers that after quoting 4 words of the Hadith (and deleting the rest) Imam Bukhari sends a shock, so to say, for a non-specialist. He offers his own definition of what ‘Eiman is.

He had imagined that Bukhari’s collection is that of ahadith. So he had expected that the Imam will provide the definition of ‘Eiman by quoting hadith after hadith. But the Imam is merely offering his own or maybe somebody else’s definition.

He is somewhat disheartened. Is it not to escape from the opinions of other than the Prophet that he said he will rather apply himself to a Hadith collection? He doesn’t want any share of opinions other than those of the Prophet. That had been his endeavor.

He discovers that not only Imam Bukhari quotes a non-hadith statement as the definition of ‘Eiman, which disappoints him, but also moves on to qualify it by saying, “It increases and decreases.”

By now, the poor reader, who has no idea how eminent scholars arranged their thoughts and works, is suffering a shock. He thought Imam Bukhari’s collection is that of ahadith; one hadith after another. But, in the very first few sentences Imam Bukhari is stating his personal opinions, the latest being: ‘Eiman increases and decreases.

[Of course he respects Bukhari’s opinion. But he wishes to read the Prophet’s opinions, i.e., ahadith, pure and simple].

As he moves forward, he discovers that after making his personal opinion known, Imam Bukhari proceeds to defend his opinion. This sends the simple reader into a sort of disillusionment.

But it gets deeper when he discovers as he reads more, that while defending his opinion about ‘Eiman, (namely, “increases and decreases,”), Imam Bukhari presents evidences for only one half of his opinion. That is, he demonstrates with the help of Qur’anic verses that ‘Eiman increases. But he does not present a single Qur’anic ayah to defend his personal opinion that ‘Eiman decreases also.

The searcher after True Religion, as he thought of himself, the reader is quite confused: Imam Bukhari makes known his personal opinion about ‘Eiman’s increase and decrease, but provides evidences for only half of it.

As the confused man gathers his steam to continue, he encounters, not a direct statement of the Prophet, but another intriguing statement, without any certainty that it is a Prophetic statement, that of another, or of Bukhari himself. It says: “And love in Allah and hate in Allah is a part of faith.”

As the poor man looking forward to working out his own Fiqh based on no input from the Fuqaha’ but directly based on ahadith from a famous hadith work, urges himself to move forward, he encounters something more confounding. He did not expect it from Bukhari; who actually starts quoting statements and opinions [not of the Prophet] but those of `Umar b. `Abd al-`Azeez, Ibrahim (asws), Mu`adh (b. Jabal), Ibn Mas`ud, Ibn `Umar, Mujahid, and Ibn `Abbas.

It is time to give up.

The researcher begins to wonder: Is it possible that the Prophet’s statements are to be understood in the light of what scholars of Islam understood? Is it possible that Imam Bukhari, though a great Hadith collector, himself depended not entirely on Hadith, as he was told by the man at the mosque corner, but on the opinions of scholars who preceded him. And, does it not straightaway imply that if he tried to understand Prophetic statements, he will have to go back to those he had thought at the start that they did not understand the religion properly?

That is what Imam Bukhari did. He did not quote a hadith but quoted opinions of scholars. So, there is no “go to the Hadith, directly,” but, “understand the Hadith the way the scholars of Islam understood it.”

He asks himself, “Where shall I go?”

Well, the answer is simple, logical, rational: go to the experts of each field of knowledge, to the specialists of every discipline. In Hadith, do not maintain your own opinion about which is trustworthy and which is not. Be a muqallid. Blindly follow Bukhari, Muslim and other collectors to find out which is trustworthy, which is not. Similarly, in Law – which happens to be the most difficult of the disciplines – go to one of the Four schools of Fiqh, and follow it blindly, in a way that is called taqlid.

In the meanwhile of course, keep studying the Hadith. But do not start with Bukhari. He is for the specialists. Even in Madrasas, Bukhari is taught at the end of the course. Start with perhaps Riyad al-Saleheen.

The above was an explanation for common people’s understanding, otherwise, Law is something extremely complicated. We shall offer some technical details in one of the issues of the future, Allah willing. Please see this month’s editorial for other aspects.

USA Foreign Policy

I have a question regarding America’s intentions. Is America really against Muslims? First, it was Afghanistan, then Iraq, now it is launching missiles on Pakistan, and also refused to sign on ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel, just because of Olmert’s call. Please comment.

Nawaz Baig, via email


There is little doubt among a sizable number of intellectuals in the West that American Foreign Policy for the Middle-east is made by Israel.

Few people know the extent of Jewish hold on American politics and economics. It is complete. In this, they have the support of three elements: (a) High profile Jews in every place of importance: Senate, White House, Universities, Media, Banks, corporate owners, and Policy-guiding Institutes. (b) They being the biggest financers of campaign funds, decide who gets elected and who does not. (c) The support they derive from the Christian Right of the USA. These people are certain that the time has come for the Messiah’s arrival. He is expected any moment. They believe they – along with the Jews – will annihilate the Muslims, and therefore, must do everything possible to maintain a Jewish colony in Palestine.

These two are powerful and fanatic elements in world politics. They can and are likely to bring a lot of hardship on mankind.

To be sure, Muslims are also waiting for the Messiah. But since they know that he will be preceded by Dajjal (Anti-Christ), who will be the cause of lots of destruction, every generation of Muslims wishes that he appear in the next generation, out of fear of the turmoil that he will cause.

So, in a way, Muslims would like to wishfully avoid Messiah to come in their generation. But Jews and Christians would actually like to facilitate his coming, and are actively preparing the ground for his appearance. It is in this sense, and in the sense of death and displacement of millions of people at their hands, that we think they are fanatics.


My question to you is: I have a small brother who can’t walk and has frequent urination problems, and he has no sense of urination. Can he offer salah?

Mukarram Jagirdar, via email


You have not stated the age of your brother. If he is immature, he is not obliged to pray.

But if the boy is of age, does not suffer from Down Syndrome, but is bedridden, then he should make tayammum for every Prayer and offer on time. If he cannot move, he may do it in signs. If his pampers can be changed before every Prayer, it may be done.

But if he suffers from Down Syndrome or is paralyzed, Prayers are not obligatory on him.

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