Letters to the Editor
Q: Is everything the Prophet practiced Sunnah? If so, are we required to practice all of them?
No, everything that the Prophet did is not the Sunnah that must be practiced by his followers. There were several things specific to the Prophet, such as, for example, the things that he was forced to do by the circumstances. Such as, for instance, purchasing grain from the traders on credit. Or using beasts for transport. Further, there were things that were part of the culture of the time. That culture has changed and it is not binding on anyone to follow that culture. To give you an example, wearing two cloaks, one for the upper half of the body and another for the lower half. Today’s cultural dictates ask for different kinds of clothes.
His followers are obliged to follow him only in things that he emphasized that they be done in the manner he did. Such as, e.g., that they do everything good with the right hand, or enter into a good place with the right foot, or, use miswak, or say supplications when mounting a transport vehicle, etc.
Despite that, Sunnah remains Sunnah, no matter how emphatic the hadith about it. It does not become Wajib. The scholars, such as the four Fuqaha’, have already worked out what of the Shari`ah is Wajib (obligatory) and what is lower in order of importance. Only such things as they say are obligatory, should be treated as obligatory. E.g., the Prophet’s statement, “Do your (non-obligatory) prayers in your houses. Do not convert them into graveyards.” This statement does not make it obligatory that Nawaafil prayers be done at home. Although, the textual words of the hadith gives such an impression. But the scholars have pointed out that it was by way of emphasis, and to express the importance, that those kind of words were chosen, and not to make it obligatory. That is why we said above that one should follow the Fuqaha` for determining what is obligatory, and what is not.
As to the question, does Islam require that we practice all that is Sunnah? The answer is, ideally yes. But, a basic principle must be remembered. Things must be attempted in order of importance, both in practice, as well as when preaching. It is the basic principles of Islam that need to be emphasized, put into practice, and preached to others. Both of them – the primary as well as the secondary – must receive the emphasis that is due to each of them. Many people lay emphasis on the secondary, often to the neglect of primary.
Further, Islamic ordinances allow for gradualism. The Prophet advised Mu`adh b. Jabal and Abu Musa al-Ash`ari while sending them to Yemen, both in different directions, in words: “Make it easy for them and not hard. Give glad tidings and do not create aversion. And co-operate with each other.” He also told Mu`adh: “You are going to a people who are Holders of the Book. When you meet them, invite them to the testimony that there is no deity save Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger. If they obey you in this, then let them know that Allah (swt) has made five prayers every day and night obligatory on them. If they obey you in that, tell them that Allah (swt) has obliged them to spend in charity. The amount will be taken from their rich and returned to their poor. If they agree to that, then, avoid taking the best of their wealth. And, avoid the prayer of an oppressed against you, for, there is no veil between it and Allah (swt).”
Q: Is wearing pants above our ankles a compulsion or preferable (please elaborate). Is there any Hadith regarding punishment if we don’t do it?
Yes, there are several reports that say that on the Day of Judgement Allah (swt) will not look at a man who dragged his clothes below the ankles. However, the prevalent opinion is that it applies to those who do it out of pride. It was in vogue during the time of the Prophet that the proud people dragged their garments.
Further, the prohibition is extended to shirts and headgear by a hadith in Nasa’i, Ibn Majah and Ahmed. A third hadith extends it to the hair also. In short, anything worn out of pride is disapproved.
Q: I am a computer engineer and you can understand how difficult it is for me to practice wearing pants like that in my office, with people looking at me with strange eyes, plus many Muslims point out that it is not applicable in today’s context. Moreover, I am not able to give them a good reason (though I intend to practice every Sunnah of the Prophet).
Perhaps being a computer engineer makes things more difficult for you. That is because you feel, as most IT men do, (although the bubble burst has shaken them a little), that they are a special people, which of course they are not. What is possible for anyone is possible for a computer engineer and what is difficult for a computer engineer is difficult for everyone.
In any case, the answer is already given above.
Q: Inshallah I will be leaving for America very soon. I will try to follow this over there as well. But people around me will probably question me. This disturbs me a lot and I cannot concentrate on the core subject of Islam (da’wah) or any other thing. Please help me out.
If you are disturbed and unable to concentrate on other aspects of Islam, then, that is exactly what the anti-Islamic forces intended, and that’s what they have achieved. They want the younger generation to get entangled with petty matters and remain confused, unable to know, understand, practice and preach the true and meaningful Islamic principles.
Q: Can I wear ties of silk, because any other good tie is much more expensive?
Syed Shahabuddin Qaudri,
Does the Hereafter come cheap?
Q: I had been watching indecent films. Now I have stopped. Is there repentance for me?
Zaher Hasan Zaidi,
There is repentance for every sin. We advise you to read “I would like to repent, but…” by M.Munajjid, an IQRA Publication, for a fuller understanding.
Q: Did the Taliban do the right thing by breaking up statues?
It was the Afghans who carved them. It is the Afghans who blew them up. What business anybody else has to object? Of all the people, was it for the Millah of an iconoclast to cry out in disgust? It was the first time in the history of idols that believers in One God protested at their destruction. The event showed how close the Ummah has come to accepting idols and idol-worshipers: give the name to them it will: cultural inheritance, historical production, monument of the past, or whatever else. Names don’t change realities. Tears are not shed, pain is not felt, hearts do not cry, pens do not move, but in love of the dear. Like the Gulf crisis which exposed the elite of the Ummah, to the Ummah, the Afghan action exposed many who think their faith and beliefs are beyond questioning. But is that so? Allah (swt) said (29: 2), “Do the people think they will be spared that they say, ‘We have believed,’ and they will not be tried?” He also said (47: 29), “Do those in whose heart is a sickness imagine that Allah will not bring out the feelings (they conceal) in their hearts?”
May Allah (swt) spare us trials. But, in its sequel, it was a terrible thing to happen to Muslims, especially those who think they are above faults of the nature of faith and belief, because they are engaged in service to Islam or Muslims. Yet, it was also a blessing in disguise. No self-examination can reveal what tests can reveal. Nobody knows if he can jump across a ravine, unless he is made to jump. Now they know, and can take corrective action.
Q: Did the Prophet break any idols, statues? Please give reference.
Why do you think the Prophet (saws) is hated all around? That’s the main thing he accomplished in his life. He, as any Prophet, was raised for that precise function. The Christian Cross is distantly related to idols. But ‘Isa (asws), when he comes a second time, will not spare even this symbol.
As for reference, you may read any book on the Prophet’s life.
Q: Is the Taliban government recognized by others?
In our knowledge, by none. In fact, the world governments are working on ways to destabilise the government in Afghanistan.
The Taliban will have to give up implementing Islam at the state level, before they can be recognised by the rest of the world governments. Whether it is those who are openly opposed to Islam, such as the non-Muslim governments of the West and the East, or, those who are secretly opposed to it, such as the Muslim states, none of them will accept a purely Islamic state.
Muslim governments of today, no matter what their heads of state say in public, as a means of camouflage, do not approve of a political Islam. They want the Muslims to follow Islam of rituals: prayers, fasts, Hajj and ‘Umrah. These governments will never recognise the Taleban, or any purely Islamic regime, unless it is for reasons of contingency, and to wait for an opportunity when they can strike and break the regime’s backbone.
Q: I am a regular reader of YMD for the past three years. And I am totally satisfied with the way you quote from the Qur’an. I have a problem. My son who is thirteen years of age was studying in the best of schools in Hyderabad, but due to bad environment, I had to remove him from that school when he was in the seventh standard.
How can you call a school “the best” which hasn’t got a good environment? Yes, societal environment does spoil the efforts of a good school. But the internal environment cannot be altered drastically by outside forces if the staff is well trained and dedicated.
Q: On top of that, due to lack of concentration now he is not interested in studies.
This is one of the commonest of problems among Muslim children. This month’s editorial is devoted to this issue. You might look into it for possible applications.
In your case, whatever the reason of the child’s lack of interest in studies, removing him from his school was not a good decision. He will surely feel disoriented for a while. The loss of friends, familiar environment of the previous school, and, if the new school is not of the same standard, then, lack of facilities in the new school, will make him sad and even angry. (Unless you have put him into a school of higher standard). Further, if there is one kind of evil in one school, there is another kind in another. The fact is, for a variety of reason Muslims have not been able to set up good schools of their own. So, you can move about from school to school to gain some advantages but also to bag some disadvantages. Non-Muslim schools can even be worse where while one category assiduously studies, another indulges in wine, drugs, pornography, etc.
In any case, since the child has already been moved to a new school, which might have hurt him, he now needs sympathy more than admonition. Most importantly, he needs reassurance that you have not lost hopes in him, that this is a passing storm after which he will emerge stronger and wiser. If he feels convinced that his parents have trust in his abilities to weather the present storm, he will feel encouraged. Further, promises that he could be shifted to yet a third school, better than the other two, if he did well in his studies will also excite renewed interest.
A few issues are crucial at this stage: 1) The child should not lose confidence in himself, 2) He should not be led to the conclusion about himself as someone who cannot study, 3) Parents should not lose confidence in their child. There are still many turns in the child’s life, and he may take a good turn somewhere, and 4) they should not let the child feel his parents have lost confidence in him, even if they truly have. If these four things happen, the case will become irreversible. Patience and good hope are the key words. The child must receive the unmistakable message from the parents that what is happening or has happened is because of bad outside influences, otherwise, he has lots of good within himself and that one day that good will reassert itself.
The above answer, however, assumes that there are no other problems involved at the family level. If there are, they would need to be attended first. Family problems reflect on child’s behaviour.
Q: I would be happy if you would give me advice, if I should put him in a hostel, if so can you recommend me a good hostel in Bangalore where together with studies religious studies are also offered.
Hostel environments are no different from school environments. Further, there are no good hostels in Hyderabad, at least in our knowledge. There is one in Madras. It is the Crescent School. Over all, the standard of this school and its hostel is better than any other in the South.
Q: One more thing. He has the habit of show off, lavish life, rude behavior, in spite of receiving religious instruction at home.
Rudeness, show off, lavish living, etc., are perhaps because the family is financially well off. That gives rise to the qualities you have stated. If there are servants in the house, then the children normally become arrogant and look down upon the poor. Nevertheless, we do not consider these things in this age of the child as things very serious. As the child grows and is trained properly in school, college and at home, he is likely to shed off these characteristics. It is when these qualities are acquired after a man has made some personal achievements, that they are dangerous. In comparison, a child’s pride rests on the achievements of his parents. Once that prop is removed, or the person recognizes as he grows that they are not his creation, but his parent’s, he is expected to get rid of them.
Q: I have been reading YMD for the last ten years and have asked questions whenever I needed. This time I am going to ask you about a topic that you have hardly touched during these years. I find YMD highly authentic; so I am referring to you alone for this sensitive question. I hope on the basis of your answer, I will be able to form an opinion.
The fact that we have hardly touched on this issue – of Tasawwuf – during your ten years, and our twenty-five, should tell you something about how much importance we attach to it.
This is because tasawwuf is theory as well as practice. Both go together. Now, with the prevalence of ignorance, and spread of wrongful ideas, the theoretical part is much weakened and quite distorted. As regards the practical part, once there were true Sufis who led to the paths of correction, reformation, and improvement. When they left – the last of them half a century ago – they were followed by what you can call as the true and untrue Sufis: half and half. By now, most of this latter class have also left without leaving replacements behind them. Now, those dominate who are untrue Sufis, or, occasionally an half and half. (Below, you have mentioned Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanwi. But, he was almost the last true Sufi of India).
Thus, with the theory in confusion, the true men gone, and a third factor, requirements of the new age completely altered, the issue has become irrelevant and out of tune with modern times, modern needs. Whatever remains of it, is a package of ideas abhorrent to Islam, in the hands of con men who are in the field more for economic rather than religious reasons, and whose sources of knowledge are anything but the Qur’an and Sunnah. They thrive on the ignorance of their followers and are inexorably driving them closer to paganism. A few others mix up truth with falsehood, knowledge with ignorance and are no less dangerous to those who come under their influence than non-Islamic. Their followers lose firm grounds of the fuqaha’, but cannot take off to fly about in the spiritual world of the hukama’. Some others, especially in the West, promote pantheism.
Q: Let me give my brief introduction so that you would be in a better position to render advice. Presently I am about to complete my MBBS course. Regarding religious thinking, I totally agree with your views and opinions. I do easily grasp the motives behind your answers to the questions asked and can comprehend your basic aim i.e., propagating the basic source of knowledge viz., Qur’an and Sunnah, and disregarding bid`ah.
I have always been of the opinion that it is of not much importance. But, of late, I have come across some books that have confused me. My general impression about Tasawwuf was that it is foreign to Islam and mainly prevalent among the men of bida’ah. But now my impression is changing and I am trying to find the answer.
The kind of Sufism that is now overwhelmingly prevalent and in practice, allows you the room to retain your older impression.
Q: Firstly, I have read in Tafsir ‘Maariful Quran‘ by Mufti Muhammad Shafee while reading the explanation of verse 129 of Surah al Baqarah about Tariqah and functions of a spiritual guide.
So, your opinion began to change when you started to read about “tasawwuf.” We hope the error is evident in this simple sentence. To explain, had you started reading on “vegetables,” you would have, after some reading, been convinced of how important it is to know about vegetable, to eat vegetables, and promote the cause of vegetarian diet. That applies to anything. Anything that you read about excessively, will, after a time, impress on the mind as an important issue of life.
But we say a different thing. We recommend that you first read the Qur’an, Sunnah, life of the Prophet, and the early history of Islam. If it is this primary religious literature that drives you to aspire for other, farther or higher truths, then, well and good. But, so long as they do not invoke the desire, one needn’t worry about vegetables.
Does it mean it is undesirable to read any other literature, except the said primary Islamic literature? No, not at all. But rather, an order has to be pursued. Anyone wishing to understand Islam, should first devote himself to the study of its primary literature to a sufficient level of understanding. One might read them with an open mind, and endeavour to live by what he learns. It is after a certain degree of understanding is acquired, that one should next go to other related and larger disciplines. Two precautions might be observed. One, the interest in the discipline of next choice should come from the primary literature. That is, there might be areas in the primary literature that need elaboration, or removal of vagueness, or further precision in understanding, for which higher learning will be necessary. The legs should now move in that direction. In other words, study of the primary literature may create a desire to study another discipline that was henceforth untouched. One might then follow the impulse. Second, initially, the books to be read must be chosen with the help of specialists in that subject.
Q: Subsequently, the Mufti writes that men need for guidance, on the one hand, a Divine teaching in the form of a Book, and on the other hand, a human teacher in the form of a prophet. For the coming generation too, the two basic principles of guidance have remained functioning in the form of Shari’ah and ‘the Men of Allah.’ I have come across such views in other books also. It is argued that just as a person can’t learn any science (say medical) by reading books of medicine alone, without associating himself with a doctor or teacher, in the same way we can’t fully comprehend spiritualism without associating ourselves with a religious teacher.
I was finally convinced by the book, Hayat-ul-Muslimeen, by Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi. In this book, the Maulana has recommended in chapter ‘How to rectify – how to reform’ that the following ways are highly effective in strengthening one’s resolve in overcoming weakness and lack of courage: ‘Associating with a Kaamil Sheikh of Tasawwuf’ (page 45-46).
Then he goes on to mention the qualifications of a Shaikh-e-Kaamil.
The argument about the need of a human guide is valid. Qur’anic verses support this. No one ever disagrees with it. But, he need not be the “so-called Sheikh al-Kamil.” Good Muslims, in general (the Jama`ah), are enough and serve the same function, variously. Allah (swt) taught us to pray, “Guide us to the straight path: the path of those You favoured…” Scholars have explained that the allusion is to the way of the true believers. Allah (swt) did not say, “Lead us to a Sheikh al-Kamil.”
Further, Sheikh al-Kamil, if he exists, (a doubtful proposition in our times), is not recognizable by the masses, and are not accessible to everyone. Therefore, it cannot be said that a Sheikh al-Kamil alone is necessary for spiritual purification. Yes, if one is on hand, easily accessible, one may profit from him through contact. Yet, a word of caution. It is not at all necessary that one should join a Sufi Order. A Sheik al-Kamil who insists on that, is not one. His advice should be available to everyone – the brothers in Islam – and should not come with strings. That has been the way of the true Sufis of the past.
Another thing to take note of is that those who were once writing in favour of Sufism, were fighting for a cause, a noble cause, that served its functions in a particular phase of Islamic history. But now the cause is all but dead, despite their efforts. They wrote on the need, but could not leave behind men that could play the leading role. To promote it today would be like enrolling students for a course, for which neither teachers are available, nor books.
Those who talk of Sufism today, are, therefore, promoting religious anarchy. For, in the absence of the true masters, bogus and fraudulent imitators have saddled themselves in position and mislead the masses, making them spiritually sicker than what they would be if left alone.
The alternative course of self-development for the people today is one of the following three. If they know Arabic language, they must directly study the sources in Arabic, relentlessly: the Qur’an, the Sunnah, the Seerah, life of the Salaf, etc. Those who do not know Arabic but are serious about their religion, must learn the language. If they cannot, they must choose translations of the source books with the help of local scholars and put themselves onto a course of study until they have been through the major works. As for those who cannot put themselves on to the course of study as outlined above – the masses – they might simply follow a trustworthy local scholar in the affairs of their life. But, since they cannot differentiate between a trustworthy scholar and an impostor, they need guidance towards the choice. For such guidance, the Madaaris al-Arabiyyah in India are the best centres. Teachers in these institutions are generally aware of good and trustworthy scholars in various parts of the land. Leading institution of learning in India are: the Madrasah at Deoband and Nadwatul ‘Ulama at Lucknow. Then there are institutions that are allied to one of the above. They are spread all over the country and are easily accessible. There are a few other Madaaris. But, they belong to minority religious groups. They must only be consulted if they lead to local scholars without differentiating between the schools of thought and Fiqh. If they lead only to a particular school of Fiqh, or to scholars outside the country, then their guidance may not be followed. They lead the masses into sandy tracts. A prejudiced scholar has more love for his faction, whose numbers he wishes to increase at the cost of the Islamic unity. He should be avoided.
Q: At the end of the book, Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi writes: “Shariat and Tareeqat are both the same things. There is no conflict between the two. Thus Tasawwuf is not at variance with the Shariah.”
What the Mawlana must have written is that there is no conflict between the two: Shari`at and Tariqat. But they are not the same things. Shari`at is a body of law. Tariqat is the way adopted by a seeker of salvation.
Q: I request you to throw light on this topic. I reckon I have touched on a sensitive issue, but it is also a part of Islam and for spiritual gains every Muslim should know about it.
Tasawwuf is not an essential part of Islam. To some, it is very important because by their nature they are inclined towards spiritualism. Now, in the absence of the masters, and corruption in the orders, it is advisable to search for spiritualism through a return to the basic principles of Islam and study of its sources. They are sure to invoke and guide a man to such acts and deeds that will provide contentment to a spiritually inclined person, and inwardly suggest ways of further development.
Q: I know about a Kaamil Shaikh (who is in accordance with the guidelines put forth by Maulana Ashraf Ali).
All the pre-requisites written by the Masters for recognition of a true Peer, are useless for the masses who lack the discerning eye, the differentiating mind, and the measuring gauges. Those are written more for the Peers to use for self-training than for a non-expert to judge by. For the common man, the true Sheikh or Peer is one who is thought so by the scholars of Islam. This is also stated by the Masters themselves, including Mawlana Thanwi. It is only doctors who know which one of them is skilled, and not the patients, who go more by public opinion based in rumour than on research figures.
Q: He lives about 20 kilometers from our home and, on Sundays, he engages his mureeds in dhikr and spiritual exercise. Should I associate myself with this Shaikh-Kaamil to improve my resolve about Islam?
In our knowledge, the last of the Khulafa` of Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanwi is dead. We know nothing about the Sheikh you have mentioned. However, if Dhikr is what he engages his followers in, regardless of their intellectual capacities, their present activities, their inborn propensities, and so on, then, there is no need to go to him. Firstly, someone ignorant of his follower’s capacities, qualifications and other things will never be able to put him on the shortest course to reformation. Secondly, someone ignorant of the Qur’an, Sunnah and the ways of the Salaf, will not make much headway in the spiritual direction, even if shown the way. Thirdly, Hadith literature provides sufficient instructions about the words of Dhikr for different occasions, at different times, as well as about such supererogatory acts that go a long way in developing a man spiritually. A Sheikh is hardly needed for instruction or elaboration.
As for hopes of the present simple activities leading to some lofty ends in future, we might point out that the religion of Islam is a comprehensive one. It is not for admiration but for practice. It offers instructions for everything of importance. The creed, rituals of worship (Salah, Fasts and Hajj), dealings with the people (topped by acts of charity such as: feeding the poor, Sadaqaat and Zakah), moral principles, service to mankind, Da`wah, Jihad, etc., are things that must be all attempted, and some level of proficiency achieved, before it can be recommended that one initiate further spiritual exercises.
Here too, there is precedence. Those who took to the spiritual path in the earlier times, possessed a working knowledge of Islam, knew enough Arabic to have an idea of what the sources were about, were far from the ignorance of the modern times, practiced no bid`ah, indulged in no immoral practices (of the sort now prevalent), earned their livelihood by halal means, and could well distinguish between truth and falsehood, lawful and unlawful. It is such people who went to the spiritual guides aspiring for higher truths. Higher truths were like perfume for men and women of clean hearts and sinless lives. Today’s man is sunk deep in slime. Perfumes will do him little good, if a perfumist was available.
Further, life has grown very complicated. Once upon a time, a good cure for the love of this world was to simply subject a Mureed to abstinence which consisted in taking up the life of a fakir, subsisting on very little, consuming coarse food, serving the sick, living among the destitute, etc. But today, love of the world cannot be treated off, a man converted into a fakir and poverty declared a virtue. In our times, poverty is a crime if brought on oneself. The dependants of a poor person today are exposed to crimes, drugs, smuggling, and other vices. Whether one loves the world or not, there is no alternative today to being economically well-off. Therefore, any exercise to reduce the love of the world, without a proper education about the necessity to live in a clean neighbourhood, in proper sanitary conditions, consuming halal, hygienic food, education of the children in the right type of school, provision to them of the right kind of extra curricular activities, their religious education under a proper teacher, etc., are such requirements that cannot be met without a man being financially well-off. Today’s Sheikh or Peer has to take the new realities into account and formulate new ways of achieving spiritual ends without destroying a family root and branch by sending it to the slums. But where are such Shuyukh today?
Q: Please answer in detail (an editorial or a series of articles) and suggest further reading on the subject
At a time when the knowledge of the basic sources of Islam has reached the sinful level, we do not recommend any other religious literature to the people. At best, we recommend the study of Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din of Imam Ghazali, unto those who are at least engaged in the study of the Qur’an and Sunnah. That is, side by side they could also read Ihya’. We certainly do not recommend books of Tasawwuf, not even those of Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanwi, to those who have not done the initial studies.
Q: I am student of MBBS, first year. I have a problem that is bothering me. I hope you can help me by highlighting the issue in Islamic perspective. We have to dissect human bodies. I have no idea whether what we are doing is right. What I mean is, will the dead person feel the agony.
KIMS Ladies Hostel,
Once the body is separated from the soul, it loses all contacts with it and has no sensation whatsoever. It is gradually reduced to dust. The questioning in Barzakh takes place with the person’s soul, but not the body as he possessed during his life.
Q: For their disbelief and disrespect towards God’s commands and warnings, Prophet Nuh’s son, Prophet Lut’s wife, Prophet Ibrahim’s father, and finally our own last Messenger Muhammad’s uncle were punished. Though those prophets prayed to Allah (swt) to pardon the victims of His anger. But He did not spare them. Will you please quote an example where a mother of a prophet was also punished for disbelief?
Mulla Muhammad Quresh,
Allah’s rules are common and apply equally to men and women.