Category: Practice&Law

Islamic Regulations regarding Acknowledgment (of Obligation or Responsibility)

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

(OF LEGAL OBLIGATIONS OR RESPONSIBILITIES)

PARTIAL TRANSLATION by Suheil Laher from

Kitab al-Iqrar in Mukhtasar al-Quduri

(a summary-text of Hanafi law).

Rulings presented are as inferred from Qur’an and Sunnah by scholars of the Hanafi school.

1.0 MONEY OR ITEMS OWED

  1. If a free, adult, sane [person] confesses to a right [due] upon him, his acknowledgment is binding upon him, whether what he confesses to is unknown or know, and he is instructed, “Clarify the unknown.
    • If he says, “I owe something to so-and-so ,” he must describe something that has value. His word is taken in the matter, along with an oath, if the person to whom the debt is acknowledged claims it to be more than that.
    • If he says, “I owe so-and-so money,” then recourse is made to him to clarify it, and his word is taken in [the case of his specifying] either a little or a lot.
      • [But] if he says, “I owe so-and-so a lot of money,” his word is not accepted for less than 200 dirhams, and if he says, “[I owe] many dirhams,” then he is not believed in [any amount] less than 10 dirhams.
      • If he [simply] says, “dirhams,” then [it is taken as 3, unless he specifies more than that.
        • If he says, “I owe him kadha kadha (such-such) dirhams,” he is not believed if [he claims it to be] less than 11 dirhams. If he says, kadha wa kadha (such and such) dirhams, then he is not believed if [he claims it to be] less than 21 dirhams.
  1. If he says, “I owe him,” or “I am liable to him (lahu qibali),” then he has confessed to a debt, whereas if he says, “I have….”, or “There is with me….” then it is an acknowledgment of a wadi`a (item deposited with him for safekeeping) in his custody.
  2. If a man says to him, “You owe me a thousand,” and he says, “Take it by weight, “ or “Take it in cash,” or “Give me an extension,” or, “I will pay it back to you, “ then it is an acknowledgment.

2.0 DUE-DATES AND EXCLUSIONS

  1. If someone admits to a deferred debt, and the one to whom he acknowledges [the debt] affirms him in the [existence of] the debt, but claims he is lying about the deferral,  then he is obliged to pay the debt immediately, [but] the plaintiff is made to swear an oath concerning the deferral.
  2. If someone admits [to an amount] but without delay he excepts some [amount] from his admission, is obliged to pay the remainder, regardless of whether he excepted a small or large amount. But if he excepted the entire amount, he is obliged to pay the entire amount, and his exception is void.
  3. If he says, “I owe him 200 dirhams, less one dinar” or “less a qafiz of wheat,” then he is obliged to pay 200 dirhams less the value of the dinar or the qafiz. But if he says, “I owe him one hundred and a dirham,” then the 100 are all [taken to be] dirhams. If he says, “ I owe him 100 and a garment” then he is asked to clarify what the 100 are.
  4. If someone acknowledges a debt but adds, “if God wills,” without delay, then his acknowledgment is not considered binding upon him.
  5. If someone acknowledges [a debt] but stipulates his having a choice [“I owe you, if I want”], then his acknowledgment is  binding, and his stipulation of choice is void.
  6. If someone acknowledges [owing] a home, but makes an exception for its building for himself. Then the one to whom he acknowledges [the debt] is entitled to the home and the building, but if he says, “the building of this property is mine, but the lot belongs to so-and-so,” then it is [considered to be] as he described.
  7. If someone acknowledges dates in a straw container (qawsarra) is liable for the dates and the straw container. But if someone acknowledges an animal in a stable, he is liable only for the animal.
  8. If he says, “I took a garment in a cloth,” he is liable for both, and [similarly] if he says, “a garment in a garment.” But if he says, “I took a garment in 10 garments,” then he is liable for only one garment according to Abu Hanifah and Abu Yusuf. Muhammad said: he is liable for 11 garments.

.

3.0 ISSUES INVOLVING HEIRS

  1. If someone says, “I owe 1,000 to the unborn child with whom so-and-so is pregnant,” then if he says, “So-and-so left it as a bequest for him,” or “His father died, so he inherits it,” then the acknowledgment is valid, but if he did not specify then it is not valid according to Abu Yusuf. But if he declares that a man is entitled to the unborn fetus of a ewe, the declaration is valid and binding
  2. If a man in his terminal illness admits to debts, and he [already] has [known] debts incurred during his healthy days, as well as debts incurred for known causes during his illness, then the debts from his healthy days and the known debts from his illness are given priority over others. If those are paid, and there remains something [of his money] then it goes towards the debt he admitted to. But if he did not have prior debts, then the admission is binding, and the creditor has more right to the money than the heirs.
  3. A man’s acknowledgment of a debt to his heir is void, unless the other heirs all confirm it.
  4. If someone in his [last] illness acknowledges a debt to [someone thought to be] a non-relative, then says, “He is my son.” Then his lineage is established but the acknowledgment of debt is void. But if he acknowledges a debt to an unrelated woman, then marries her, the acknowledgment of debt is not voided.
  5. If someone in his [last] illness divorces his wife thrice [or less]  [at her request] then acknowledges a debt to her and dies while she is in the waiting-period] then she is entitled to the lesser amount of the debt and her inheritance [because they might have colluded to use the divorce as a means to validate the acknowledgment].

4.0 ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF RELATIONSHIPS

  1. If someone acknowledges [paternity] of a boy, the like of whom could be born to the like of him, and [the boy] has no known lineage, his paternity is established even if [the man] is sick, and [the boy] shares in the inheritance with the [other] heirs.
  2. A man’s acknowledgment of someone as his parent, child, wife or freed-slave is valid.
  3. A woman’s acknowledgment of someone as her parent, husband, or freed-slave is valid, but [if she is married or in her waiting period then] her acknowledgment of someone as her child is not valid unless the husband affirms her or a midwife testifies to the birth [in which case the paternity is ascribed to her husband].

Islamic Regulations of Hunting and Slaughtering (Food)

FOOD (HUNTING AND SLAUGHTERING)”

Translated by Suheil Laher from

Kitab al-Sayd wal-Dhaba’ih in Mukhtasar al-Quduri

(a summary-text of Hanafi law), with some re-arrangement and editing.

Rulings presented are as inferred from Qur’an and Sunnah by scholars of the Hanafi school.

DISCLAIMER: Information presented here is for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as a call to perform or abstain from any specific action mentioned in the text. Religious decisions should be taken with due care and thought, after reading and investigating, but also after consulting with reliable people of knowledge – who are aware of one’s particular circumstances – and then pondering and exercising one’s conscience.

 

    • Permissibility
    • Use of Animals
    • Shooting

 

 

    • Conditions
    • The Animal
    • Types

 

 

1.0 HUNTING

1.1 Permissibility

1. The hunting of a Zoroastrian, apostate or idolater may not be eaten.

2. It is permissible to hunt those animals whose meat may be eaten [for the purpose of acquiring food],
and also those which may not be eaten [for the purpose of non-food benefits and/or prevention of harm].

  • If one slaughters that whose meat may not be eaten, its flesh and skin become pure [but not permissible to eat], except for the human and the pig, for slaughter does not have any effect on them [i.e. they remain impermissible both to consume and to use]

1.2 Use of Animals

1. It is permissible to hunt with a trained dog, panther, falcon, or any other trained predatory animal or bird.

  • The training of a dog is : that it refrain from eating three times.
  • The training of a falcon is : that it return when you call it.

2. So, if one sends his trained dog, or falcon, or hawk, and mentions the name of Allah, the Exalted upon it at the time of sending, and then [the animal] seizes the prey and wounds it such that it dies, it is permissible to eat it.

  • If the dog eats from it, [the prey] may not be eaten, but if the falcon eats from it, it can be eaten.
  • If the dog strangles [the prey] and does not wound it, it may not be eaten.
  • If an untrained dog – or a Zoroastrian’s dog, or a dog on which the name of Allah, the Exalted was not mentioned – participated with [the trained dog], [the prey] may not be eaten.

3. If the sender reaches the prey alive, it is obligatory upon him to slaughter it, and so if he refrains from slaughtering it until it died, then it may not be eaten.

1.3 Shooting

1. If a man shoots an arrow at prey, and mentions the name of Allah at the time of shooting, he may eat what he strikes provided the arrow wounded it so that it died [as a result]. But, if he reaches it alive, he [must] slaughter it, and so if he refrains from slaughtering it until it died, then it may not be eaten.

  • If the arrow strikes, and the animal struggles [and moves] so that it disappears from him, but he continues to pursue it until he overcomes it dead, it may be eaten. But, if he sat back from pursuing it, and then came upon
    it dead, it may not be eaten.
  • If he strikes quarry which then falls into the water and dies, it may not be eaten.
  • Similarly, if it falls on an inclined surface or mountain, and then tumbles down to the ground, it may not be eaten, but if it falls to the ground initially, it may be eaten.
  • If someone shoots a quarry, and strikes it without incapacitating it nor preventing it from escaping, and then someone else shoots it and kills it, it is his and may be eaten. But, if the first one incapacitates it and then the second one kills it, it may not be eaten, and the latter must reimburse the former for its price less its wound

2. That which a featherless arrow strikes with its breadth may not be eaten, but if it wounds [the quarry] it may be eaten.

  • That which is struck by a pebble may not be eaten if it dies from that.

3. If one shoots at quarry and severs a piece from it, [the animal] may be eaten, but the piece may not be eaten. But, if he cuts it in thirds, and the major portion is adjacent to the rump, then it may [all]be eaten. If the major portion is adjacent ot the head, the larger portion may be eaten, but the lesser one may not.

2.0 SLAUGHTERING

2.1 Conditions for Slaughtering

1. The slaughter of a Muslim or a Kitabi is permissible [to eat].

  • The slaughter of a Zoroastrian, apostate, idolator, or of [a Muslim] in ihram may not be eaten.

2. If the slaughterer omitted the pronouncment of the name [of Allah] deliberately, then the slaughter is carrion which may not be eaten. But, if he left it out forgetfully, it may be eaten.

3. The vessels which must be severed in slaughtering are four : the trachea, the oesophagus and the two jugular veins. So, if he cut [all] these, eating [from the animal] is permissible. If he cut most of them, then similarly [it is valid] according to Abu Hanifah. Abu Yusuf and Muhammad said : it is essential to cut the trachea, the oesophagus and one of the two jugular veins.

  • If one reaches the spinal cord with the knife, or severs the head, that is repugnant for him [to do], but the slaughter may be eaten.
  • If one slaughters a ewe from the back of its head, then if it remains alive until he severs the [required] vessels it is valid but repugnant. But, if it dies before the cutting of the vessels it may not be eaten.

4. It is permissible to slaughter with a sharp reed or stone, or anything that causes the blood to flow out, except for an intact tooth or an intact nail.

It is recommended that the slaughterer sharpen his blade.

2.2 The Sacrifical Animal

1. An animal with severed ears or [severed] tail does not suffice, nor one from which the major part of the ear has gone. But, if the major portion of the ear or tail remains, it is permissible.

2. It is valid to sacrifice a hornless animal, a castrated animal, a mangy animal [provided it is plump], or an insane
animal [provided it is plump].

3. Animal-sacrifice is [only] from amongst camels, cows and sheep [or goats].

A thaniyy [two-year old cow/buffalo or five-year old camel, or one-year old sheep/goat], or better, of [any of] these suffices, except for the sheep, of which a jadha` [well-built six-month old] suffices.

4. If one performs nahr on a camel, or slaughters a cow or sheep, and then finds in its belly a dead fetus, it may not be eaten, [egardless of] whether its features are discernible or not.

2.3 Methods of Slaughter

1. Domesticated game must be slaughtered, and wild livestock may be wounded [as in hunting].

2. The recommended [technique] for camels is nahr [thrusting the knife into the base of the neck], but if one slaughters them, it is valid but disliked.

3. The recommended [technique] for cows and sheep is slaughtering, but if one performs nahr on them, it is valid but disliked.

3.0 WHAT MAY AND MAY NOT BE EATEN

1. It is not permissible to eat any canine-toothed beast of prey, nor any taloned [predatory] bird.

  • There is no objection to [eating] the agrarian crow, but the speckled one that eats corpses may not be eaten.
  • It is repugnant to eat the hyena.

2. [It is repugnant to eat the] lizard and all vermin.

3. It is not permissible to eat the flesh of the domesticated donkey or mule.

  • The meat of the horse is discouraged according to Abu Hanifah.

4. There is no objection to eating the rabbit.

5. Nothing may be eaten of the animals of the water except fish.

6. It is repugnant to eat floating [fish that died on their own].

7. There is no harm in eating the jirrith and eel

8. It is permissible to eat locusts, and there is no slaughter [needed] for them.

 

Lawful and Prohibited : Miscellaneous Islamic Regulations

PROHIBITION AND PERMISSIBILITY”

Translated by Suheil Laher from

Kitab al-Hazr wal-Ibaha in Mukhtasar al-Quduri

(a summary-text of Hanafi law), with some re-arrangement and editing.

Rulings presented are as inferred from Qur’an and Sunnah by scholars of the Hanafi school.

DISCLAIMER: Information presented here is for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as a call to perform or abstain from any specific action mentioned in the text. Religious decisions should be taken with due care and thought, after reading and investigating, but also after consulting with reliable people of knowledge – who are aware of one’s particular circumstances – and then pondering and exercising one’s conscience.

1.0 SILK

1. It is not permissible for men to wear silk, but it is permissible for women.

  • There is no harm in reclining on it according to Abu Hanifah. Abu Yusuf and Muhammad said : It is
    repugnant to recline on it.

2. There is no objection to wearing pure silk in war according to the two of them, but it is repugnant according to Abu Hanifah.

3. There is objection to wearing [clothing made of] a blended fabric if its warp is silk and its weft is cotton.

[

‘Blended fabric’ here refers to an interlaced or interwoven fabric, with warp and weft not of the same material.

Warp” is the set of threads held in tension on a loom.

Weft” is the set of threads interlaced with the warp.

]

2.0 GOLD AND SILVER

2.1 Jewelry and Decorations

1. It is not permissible for men to use jewelry of gold,

2. Nor [may they wear jewelry of] silver excepting:

  • a ring
  • [decorations of] a belt
  • the decoration of a sword from silver.

3. It is permissible for women to use jewelry of gold and silver.

4. It is repugnant to make a [minor] boy wear gold and silk.

5. It is disliked to mark verses in tens in the mushaf, and [also] to add diacritical dots [when
not needed for correct reading].

6. There is no objection to decorating the mushaf, [nor to] engraving mosques and decorating them [on
the outside] with gold-water.

2.2 Vessels

1. It is not permissible to eat, drink, use oil or perfume from vessels of gold or silver, neither for men nor for women.

  • It is permissible to drink from a silver-decorated vessel according to Abu Hanifah, and [similarly] to
    ride on a silver-decorated saddle and to sit on a silver-decorated bed [provided one avoids contact with the areas of silver]

2. There is no objection to using vessels of glass, crystal or cornelian.

[“Cornelian” is a reddish-white variety of quartz.]

3.0 LOOKING AND TOUCHING

3.1 Looking at Women

1. It is not permissible for a man to look at a stranger-woman, except at her face and hands. But, if he
did not consider himself safe from lust, he may not look at her face except out of need.

  • [But] it is permissible for
    • the judge, when he wishes to pass judgement over her
    • the witness, when he wishes to testify concerning her
    • [the suitor, when he is considering proposing marriage to her]

to look at her face, even if he fears he may experience lust.

    • It is permissible for the doctor to look at the afflicted spot on her.
  • The [regulation] of a eunuch regarding looking at a stranger-woman is like [the regulation for] a
    non-eunuch.

2. A man may look at his mahram’s (i.e. permanently umarriageable female relatives’) face, head, chest,
shins and arms, but he may not look at their back or belly. There is objection to touching what it is permissible to look at [of the mahrams] [for a legitimate reason, i.e. provided there is no fear of lust or other inappropriate consequences].

3. A man may look at his wife [entirely] including [even] her genitals.

  • One may not practise coitus interruptus with his wife except with her permission.

4. A woman may look at that [much] of another woman that a man may look at of another man.

3.2 Looking at Men

1. A man may look at all of the body of another man except for what is between his navel to his knee.

2. It is permissible for a woman to look at that [part] of a man which another man may look at.

3. It is repugnant to employ the service of eunuchs [if that involves perpetuation of the
practice of castration, which is a prohibited act of mutilation]

  • There is no harm in castrating cattle, nor in mating a donkey with a horse.

4.0 CREDIBILITY

2. It is permissible to accept, in [the matter of] a gift or permission, the word of a child or servant.

3. The word of a transgressor is acceptable in transactions [and other mundane matters]

4. Only the word of a morally upright (`adl) person is acceptable in religious matters.

5.0 TRADE

1. Hoarding of staple-foods of humans and cattle is repugnant, if that is in a land in which hoarding harms
the inhabitants.

2. One who hoards the produce of his [own] estate, or what he has imported from another land, is not [termed] a hoarder.

3. It is not appropriate for the ruler to regulate prices for people [as long as they do not reach the level
of exploitation, which is harmful to the public interest]

4. It is repugnant to sell weapons in times of fitna [i.e. turmoil (in which the side of truth is unclear) or sedition (in which there is unjustified rebellion against a legitimate ruler and one is selling weapons to the rebels)]

5. There is no [judicial] objection to selling juice to someone whom it is known will produce wine from it [but notwithstanding the absence of worldly prosecution, the seller might still be sinful in the spiritual domain].

Chivalric Glory and Extremist Ignominy

By Suheil Laher

Chivalry and bravery have long been valued as noble human qualities. I remember a picture book in the library of my Kindergarten 2 class (at St Margaret’s Kindergarten School) about King Arthur’s knights, who are often regarded as emblematic of such ideals in the West. Jihad in Islam includes not only an inner dimension of spiritual struggle, but also an external dimension of helping the weak and striving against injustice. Extremist jihadi groups like ISIS appeal to Muslim youth (and others) on the basis of the latter, but by selective, decontextualized citations from an amalgam of history, medieval law and Islamic sacred texts, they bypass the honorable chivalrous teachings, higher objectives and profound vision of sacred law that are held to by mainstream Muslim scholars.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 drew widespread international condemnation, including a resolution by the UN General Assembly. In accordance with both the UN Charter[1] and the Islamic understanding of self-defence against aggression, Afghans as well as many non-Afghan Muslims rallied against the Soviet intervention. The liberation effort was widely recognized in the Muslim world as a glorious jihad, and the United States government (among other Western and Eastern non-Muslim nations) was openly and actively providing financial, material, and moral support to the mujahideen. Naturally, many American Muslims also either supported the Afghan jihad or looked upon it favorably.

It was a euphoric time, but it was not to last. After the departure of the Soviets from Afghanistan in 1989, and the toppling of the Soviet-backed president in 1992, things took  a darker turn. Civil war broke out among the mujahideen in Afghanistan, and some of the foreign mujahideen were left grappling with post-war trauma, along with the difficulty of reintegration into civilian life, compounded by their being unwelcome in some of their home countries due to fears that they would harness popular grievances to foment revolution against those Middle Eastern governments.

It was in such circumstances that some of the former mujahideen began to move in a new direction: away from the honorable chivalry of true jihad towards an ignominous extremist ideology. Al-Qaeda, and eventually ISIS were born. Extremists might capitalize on the acclaimedly glorious status of the Afghan jihad, to present themselves as its heirs and perpetuators. But in Islam, actions are validated by sacred texts, not by appeals to charismatic lineage. A religious rhetoric, similar to that which was once used to enthuse Muslims with the noble spirit of just resistance against Soviets, has now been subverted and perverted to call towards extremism and terrorism. The rhetoric is similar, and might appeal to some of the same principles (such as resisting oppression) and sacred texts, but the big difference is that it is now out of touch with the noble chivalry of true jihad that we find in the Qur’an and Sunna.

I advise Muslims (including, but not limited to, Muslim youth) not to be duped by half-baked religious rhetoric. To realize that while injustices exist in the world, and jihad continues until the day of Judgment, nevertheless true jihad must be carried out through legitimate and honorable means. Radical ISIS-style extremism is a crude and dangerous caricature of jihad. Exercise caution in your charitable giving, and don’t be deceived into thinking that you are helping Islam by supporting groups that are actually hurting the cause of Islam and Muslims. Do not capitulate to a cult mentality, where you take religious teaching from a limited set of scholars, who use emotions to make you feel that you would be betraying faith and justice if you listen to those who condemn terrorist acts. If you are not willing to listen to the other side, how can you be so sure you are correct? Did not the Prophet (peace be upon him) warn of people who would recite the Qur’an, and zealously worship and strive, and yet be a liability to Islam because of their lack of deeper understanding? Truth prevails, and Allah has given you a conscience and a mind that allow you to think for yourself. Islam is a profound religion that seeks to actualize lofty and noble objectives in both individual and society. If you refuse to think about and to see the bigger picture, and content yourself with a narrow tunnel-vision of Islam, I think you are short-changing yourself.

أما الخيام فإنها كخيامهم ** وأرى نساء الحي غير نساءها
(A poet describing with anguish how, in desparate search of the nomadic tribe of his fiancee, he discovers tents that look like their tents, only to discover that the people inhabiting them are different people.)

ENDNOTE
[1] “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations” Chapter VII, Article 51.

Non-Muslim Minorities and Religious Tolerance

The arrival of Islamic rule marked an end to the persecution to which non-Zoroastrian minorities had been subjected in pre-Islamic Persia.[1] It is sadly strange then, that fourteen centuries later, Islam is now being invoked and interpreted in an attempt to exterminate such populations, and moreover to do so in grisly and inhumane ways that are themselves incongruous with Islam’s central values of kindness and compassion.

I was incredulous when I first read recent reports of members of the non-Muslim Yazidi minority in Iraq being killed and enslaved in the name of Islam. The reported actions troubled my conscience, and furthermore, for historical and theological reasons, did not sit right with my understanding of Islam. Yet, I was aware of statements in medieval books of Islamic law that might be produced as partial justification of the actions, and so I felt the need to articulate a coherent response to questions such as the following: As a Muslim, am I required to agree with such killing and enslavement? If they are correct, then how can it be that these religious minorities have survived fourteen centuries in the heart of the Islamic lands without yet having been exterminated?

The majority opinion among Muslim jurists, and the dominant operative view across Muslim history has been that of tolerance to all non-Muslim religious communities.  After explaining this to be the case, I will show how this view is also in line with a general Qur’anic principle backed by common sense.

Muslim scholars, across sects and the various legal schools, are in agreement that Jews and Christians, being People of Scripture, can live as subjects of the Islamic state, and are not forced to convert to Islam (although they are welcome and encouraged to do so). They are subject to a tax called the jizyah, which was paid, as British Orientalist Thomas Arnold Walker explains, “by those whose religion precluded them from serving in the army, in return for the protection secured for them by the armies of the Musulmans.”[2] Muslim scholars are further agreed that Zoroastrians can similarly live as subjects of the Islamic state, even though they are not decisively People of Scripture, because the Prophet Muhammad himself afforded them such treatment. Jurists of the Maliki school (which dominates North and West Africa), and the Zaydi Shi`ite school, along with Imam al-Awza`i (whose school was widely followed in the Levant and across North Africa before being displaced by the Malikis and Shafi`is), generalized from this to conclude that the same courtesy is extended to people of all religions. The Hanafi school (geographically and historically the school with the widest following among the public and the most implemented by rulers) concluded similarly, making an exception only for idolators of Arabia which is actually a moot point given that idolatry did not survive there following the large-scale conversions to Islam during the Prophet Muhammad’s lifetime. When the Muslims ruled Mogul India, the (idolatrous) Hindus remained tolerated under Hanafi legal doctrine.[3]

Reframing the preceding breakdown of views, we realize that the earliest schools of Islamic law and the most widely followed (Hanafi, Maliki and Awza`i), allow and tolerate non-Muslim minorities of any religion within the Islamic lands (i.e. the “Islamic state”). Given the status of these schools and their adoption by Muslim governments across the centuries (until the Muslim world was largely secularized in early modernity), this view has also been the operative view across the overwhelming bulk of Muslim history. The dissenting view (of the (later) Shafi`is and Hanbalis, along with the Imamis), for practical purposes, persisted as little more than hypothetical juristic cogitations, and perhaps as reminders of the more stark era of war in the Hebrew Bible, where for example we read that the city of Jericho (including even the women, children and beasts) was put to the sword apparently for idolatry.[4] That tolerance of all religious groups was the norm in Muslim history is reflected in the fact that the Mandaeans, Yazidis and others have survived and maintained a presence in Islamic lands to this day.

It is worthwhile to note that the dominant Islamic view, of tolerance towards other religious communities, is also backed by general Qur’anic principle, and by common sense. The Qur’anic principle is that, “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of the] religion” (Qur’an, 2:256), and common sense confirms that a forced conversion is unlikely to be genuine. How can it be reasonable to suddenly expect Yazidis, who have been raised in their own religion all their lives, to suddenly give it up at the point of a sword or rifle? Thomas Jefferson wrote, “that if there be but one right [religion], and ours that one, we should wish to see the 999 wandering sects gathered into the fold of truth. But against such a majority we cannot effect this by force. Reason and persuasion are the only practicable instruments. To make way for these, free enquiry must be indulged.”[5] The Qur’an foreshadows these wise words of Jefferson’s:

“Then, [O Muhammad], would you compel the people in order that they become believers? And it is not for a soul to believe except by permission of Allah , and He will place defilement upon those who will not use reason.” (Qur’an, 10:99-100)

“[U]pon you is only the [duty of] notification, and upon Us is the account.” (Qur’an, 13:40)

“Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best. Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of who has strayed from His way, and He is most knowing of who is [rightly] guided.” [Qur’an, 16:125]

Further Considerations

So far, we have established that the majority and operative position across history has been tolerance of all non-Muslim religious communities. This is sufficient to refute the notion that the killing and enslavement of non-Muslims represents the majority of Muslims, and to dispel the idea that those actions are a clear and immutable Islamic teaching. But what if a Muslim claims that he wants to follow a minority position on religious tolerance, and to revive the practices of enslavement and concubinage? In what follows, I explain how such actions are actually inconsistent with several broader Islamic principles:

(i) The Qur’anic principle (backed by common-sense) of non-coercion in faith, already mentioned earlier (above).

(ii) The importance of priorities. Even if someone truly believes it justified to target the non-Muslim minorities, they should ask themselves: If these minorities were not exterminated by the Prophet, nor by the Rightly-Guided Caliphs, then how can a Muslim group today consider it their prerogative and priority to undertake such a genocide?

(iii) Categorical imperative: If we as Muslims are to exterminate or expel indigenous non-Muslims who have been living in a country for centuries, how are we better than the Zionists who attempt to do the same to indigenous Palestinians?

(iv) The use of inhumane techniques (such as attempting to inflict forced starvation on people because of their religion) contradict the Prophet Muhammad’s code of ethics in war and peace. When Thumama ibn Athal, a South Arabian chief, imposed a wheat embargo on the idolatrous Makkans to punish them for their mistreatment of the Muslims, Prophet Muhammad asked him to lift the embargo to prevent the starvation of the Makkan idolators and especially of their women and children.[6]

(v) The Prophetic paradigm calls for wisdom, which includes recognition of people’s sensibilities and thinking. The Prophet Muhammad once remarked to his wife that he would have liked to demolish the Ka`bah[7], and then to rebuild it according to the original pattern on which Prophet Abraham had built it. However, he refrained from this, citing as a reason the fact that people had only recently come out the state of idolatrous ignorance (and would therefore misconstrue his action as sacrilegous).[8] The fourth Caliph, the Prophet’s son-in-law `Ali, drawing attention to the importance of sensitivity in engaging people, said, “Speak to people with what they can relate to. Would you like for God and His Messenger to be considered liars?”[9] The renowned 19th century Hanafi Muslim jurist Ibn `Abidin wrote, in his didactic poem Rasm al-Mufti, “Customary norms are to be given consideration in the Sacred Law, and hence the legal determination may hinge upon it.” Actions such as forced conversions and enslavement surely have a bigger impact on the public than mere words, and taking a human life is clearly more drastic than demolishing a brick-structure. Even if (hypothetically) someone’s conscience is genuinely not troubled in the least by such actions as enslavement, they should ponder deeply the consequences of their actions on the image and perception of Islam among non-Muslims, and remind themselves that Islam’s mission is to be a source of blessing to all.

“We have not sent you [Muhammad], except as a blessing to all creatures.” [Qur’an, 21:107]


[1] “The followers of all those varied forms of faith could breathe again under a rule that granted them religious freedom and exemption from military service, on payment of a light tribute.” Thomas Arnold Walker, The Preaching of Islam: a history of the Propagation of the Muslim Faith, (Westminster: Archibald Constable & Co., 1896), 177.

[2] Walker, The Preaching of Islam, 55-57.

[3] See, for example, the following medieval references of Islamic law: Ibn `Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar; al-Qurtubi, Al-Jami` li-Ahkam al-Qur’an; Ahmad ibn Yahya al-Murtada, al-Azhar fi FIqh al-A’immahal-Athar.

[4] See: Joshua, 6:21.

[5] Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, ed. William Peden (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1982) 160.

[6] See: Ibn Hisham, Al-Sirah al-Nabawiyyah.

[7] The building, in Makkah, that Muslims believe was the first house of pure monotheistic worship on earth, built by Prophet Abraham.

[8] Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim.

[9] Narrated by Bukhari.

On Celebrating Mawlid/Milad

By Suheil  Laher

Prophet Muhammad (Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) was a wonderful and exemplary human being who was concerned for the spiritual welfare of humankind, and endured great hardship to convey and explain God’s final message. Every Muslim loves him, and indeed love for him necessarily follows from belief in God. I have personally seen signs of deep love for him among various flavors of Muslim, across sectarian and ideological spectra: Sunni, Shi`i, Sufi, Salafi and others, and this is one of numerous central teachings that unite us as Muslims. I feel it is important to keep this in mind, at this time of year in which controversies emerge — sometimes even rage — over whether (and if so how) to celebrate the birthday of the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him).  If we consider the situation carefully, I am confident we can greatly reduce, hopefully even eliminate, stereotyping and condemning other Muslims with whom we happen to disagree on this matter.

If you don’t celebrate, then realize that those celebrating the occasion are moved by love for the beloved Prophet, even if you disagree with some of the specifics of how they are celebrating. You might believe they are wrong or mistaken in those details, but you cannot cast aspersions on their sincerity. Give them the benefit of the doubt as far as possible if you see or hear something objectionable from them[1]. If you do celebrate, then avoid the temptation to think that those not celebrating are lacking in love for the beloved Prophet[2]. Whatever your view, realize that the Muslim holding the opposing view on Mawlid might be better than you (overall and in the final analysis), and perhaps even love the Prophet more. In our world, we need more dialogue, tolerance and unity between Muslims, and we positively want to avoid entrenching ourselves into narrow, exclusive moulds. We may note that when Hindus in India were objecting to Shi`ite Muharram processions (which are often considered a heretical practice by Sunnis), a prominent Sunni (Hanafi Deboandi) scholar, Moulana Asraf Ali Thanwi, told Sunni Muslims in India to support the Shi`ites right to perform them.[3]

 

There is no disagreement that the Prophet’s birthday was not celebrated as a festival until approximately 600 years after him[4], and therefore no Muslim would be so bold to claim that it is a religiously mandated festival on par with the Two Eids (al-Fitr and al-Adha). Yes, many scholars across history have found such celebration to be acceptable, within certain boundaries, but there is further difference of opinion on what precisely those boundaries are. Those who endorse the celebration resort to general texts and concepts that show the legitimacy of feeling joy for the coming of the Prophet, and the permissibility of giving lectures about his life and reciting poetry praising him[5]. e.g.

  • “And remind them of the days of God.” [Qur’an, 14:5]
  • “Say: In the bounty of God and His mercy, in that let them then rejoice.” [Qur’an, 10:58]
  • Various hadiths on the virtues of conveying from the Prophet, and incidents in which some of the Companions recited poetry praising the Prophet.
  • Some might add as a partial justification: the importance of finding opportunities for keeping Muslims (and especially the children) in touch with their religion while living as a minority in a non-Muslim country.

Those who object to celebrating the Mawlid do not deny these general concepts (and they certainly do not deny the necessity of loving the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him and his Household)). Rather, their objections are based on one or more of the following points:

i) The festival was not observed by the first generations of Muslims, and since it has a religious component, there is the danger of it being (or becoming) a heretical practice (bid`ah). While there is no objection, in principle, to lectures or poetry about the Prophet, nevertheless fixing a particular time of year for such acts, and/or a rigid format, are problematic, and over time may lead to people thinking that it is integral to Islam, or that there is special virtue in doing it on that day and/or in that specific way.[6] (This is aside from the uncertainty about the precise day on which the Prophet (Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) was born[7].)

ii) Indeed, in some parts of the  Muslim world, some people effectively see the Mawlid as a required devotional act, such that those who choose not to attend are considered to be deficient in their Islam. Conversely, some ignorant  folk come to believe that by attending the Mawlid to show love for the Prophet, they are automatically good Muslims even if they neglect their daily prayers and other religious obligations.

iii) Information inaccuracy: it is not uncommon to find speakers at a Mawlid quoting narrations/hadith that are extremely weak in their transmission or even fabricated. Similarly, some people exaggerate in praising the Prophet, in ways that he himself may have disapproved of, and which in some cases can even be tantamount to (or at least close to) polytheism (shirk). The shaykh of some of our shuyukh, the Morocan Shadhili master `Abdullah al-Ghumari (Allah’s mercy be upon him) compiled a small booklet warning against some of these widely-quoted yet unreliable hadiths.[8]

iv) Sometimes, there are other objectionable aspects to Mawlid gatherings, such as unrestrained mixing between genders, or neglect of prayer-times during the celebration.

In summary, it is your decision to celebrate or not celebrate, depending on how comfortable your conscience is with the matter. If you do celebrate, avoid the pitfalls mentioned earlier. And whether or not you celebrate:

1)                 Make sure your regular daily conduct and behavior reflect your love for the Prophet (Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him).

2)                 Exercise wisdom in your dealings with those who disagree with you about the Mawlid. If you believe they are wrong/mistaken, then there are etiquettes for dealing with disagreements. Dialogue, based on acknowledgement of the other’s sincerity and meritorious deeds, along with a sincere desire for their (and your own) improvement will go much further than labelling, condemnation and polar isolationism.

Before closing this article, I must make some comments on a personal note[9]. I will say that I do have reservations about Mawlid gatherings that include the pitfalls mentioned earlier, and if I know for a fact that some of the more serious infractions will be present, I would decline participation. However, if (as I was recently called upon to do so), I am invited to give a lecture about some aspect of the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him and his Household), then I don’t find myself obliged to decline, nor to interrogate the attendees and organizers on their beliefs about it, but I go in clear about my own intentions. We read that Imam Malik once entered the mosque after `Asr and directly sat down, for he believed the Tahiyyat al-Masjid prayer to be impermissible during this time.  But when a boy innocently told him to stand up perform the prayer, he obliged, later explaining, “I feared being one of those who ‘when they are told to bow, they do not  bow.’”[10] It is an honor for me to speak about the Prophet, and if my words can be of some benefit, then I am happy. However, my speaking at such a gathering should not be taken as an acceptance or endorsement of everything said and done there by others. I might very well disagree with some things, but even if the disagreement is not within what I would consider legitimate scholarly disagreement, I will try to give them the benefit of the doubt, with the hope that they are rewarded for their good intentions, and that – at some point – they come to realize where they had been going wrong. It is not always a priority (and sometimes more damaging than beneficial) to speak out against something one sees as wrong. Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal disapproved of decorating pages of the Qur’an, but when he was asked about a man who had spent a lot of money adorning a Qur’an with pure gold, he did not call for condemnation, but rather made a remark indicating that there are worse uses to which the gold could have been put.[11]

I am acutely aware that we do have bigger and more pressing problems in our communities than discussing the Mawlid, but it is precisely because of this fact that I feel it is important for us to be able to properly contextualize the Mawlid and take it in stride as we (hopefully) continue in more lofty pursuits.

May Allah bless Muhammad and his Household and grant them peace.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Image of moon from http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/image/planetary/moon/clem_full_moon_strtrk.jpg, accessed 1/21/14, 10:46pm.


FOOTNOTES

[1] The Hanbali polymath, Shaykhul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah insightfully observed that among those who are censuring heretical practices (bid`ah), we find many individuals who are themselves actually negligent in observing the sunnah, so much so that they might actually be in a worse spiritual condition than those who are performing those disputed acts of devotion that include some heretical aspect. Thus, even though Ibn Taymiyyah was opposed to celebration of the Mawlid, and considered it a bid`ah, he writes that there is great (spiritual) reward in it for some people, because of their good intention and veneration for the Prophet. [Iqtida’ al-Sirat al-Mustaqim (Dar al-Fikr, s.d.) p. 297] Return to main text

[2] I remember one of my teachers, a devoted Sufi and Hanafi, remarking how one statement he came across in Shaykh Muhammad ibn `Abdil-Wahhab’s Kitab al-Tawhid convinced him that the man had deep love for the Prophet. This is one of several personal anecdotes I could share from my teachers to illustrate respect across sectarian boundaries. Return to main text

[3] See, e.g. `Allamah Zafar al-`Uthmani, I`la al-Sunan. Return to main text

[4] The Ayyubid governor Muzaffar al-Din Kawkabri (d. 630 H / 1232 C.E.) is typically credited as the first to institute the festival. [See, e.g. Dhahabi, Siyar A`lam al-Nubala’] Return to main text

[5] See, for example, `Allamah Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti’s Husn al-Maqsid fi `Amal al-Mawlid. Return to main text

[6] Our shaykh, and shaykh of some of our shaykhs, Muhammad Hasan Dado al-Shinqiti, who identifies as Salafi, observes (in a clip available on youtube) that there is no objection to feeling happy when one recollects that the Prophet was born during this month. He criticizes both those who go beyond acceptable limits in celebrating, and those who go to the other extreme of trying to behave as if there is nothing joyful in the fact. It is not a festival (`Eid), but is nevertheless one of a number of happy occasions. Return to main text

[7] It is popularly held, in the Sunni world (and among the Zaydi Shi`ah), that he was born on 12th Rabi` al-Awwal, but this is one view among several. The Shafi`I Sunni scholar Ibn Kathir considered 2nd Rabi al-Awwal as the strongest view, and listed the other possibilities as: 8th, 10th, 12th, Rabi` al-Awwal, and a fringe view (of al-Zubayr ibn Bakkar) that it was in the month of Ramadan. Another prominent view (again, among both Sunnis and Zaydis) is 9th Rabi` al-Awwal. The Imami Shi`ah typically prefer 17th Rabi` al-Awwal. [See: Hafiz Ibn Kathir, al-Fusul fi Sirat al-Rasul; Dr. Murtada al-Mahatwary al-Hasany, Al-Sirah al-Nabawiyyah; Shaykh Safiyy al-Mubarakpuri, The Sealed Nectar] Return to main text

[8] Its title is Irshad al-Talib al-Najib ila ma fil-Mawlid al-Nabawiyy min al-Akadhib. Return to main text

[9] I generally avoid speaking about myself and my personal views, but make an exception here because some people are apparently confused by my recent participation in a particular gathering. Return to main text

[10] See: Qurtubi, Al-Jami` li-Ahkam al-Qur’an, under the verse 77:48. Return to main text

[11] Ibn Taymiyyah, ibid. Return to main text

Lost in Translation: Friendships with Non-Muslims

A closer analysis of Qur’an, 5:51

By Suheil Laher

Are Muslims allowed have non-Muslim friends? If not, then what should be our stance towards others?! Anyone who thinks that Muslims must take all non-Muslims as enemies is ignorant of the Qur’an and the life and teachings of Prophet Muhammad, and ignorant of the centuries of friendly co-existence between Muslims and others across history, not mention that such a person is blind to the decency and goodness to be found and appreciated in many other human beings. The Prophet’s own example clearly illustrates that the attitude of the Muslim toward the non-Muslim is not one of bigotry or unconditional animosity. For example, “when Makkah was in the grip of famine, [the Prophet Muhammad] personally went out to help his enemies. When non-Muslim prisoners of war were presented before him, he treated them with such tenderness [as] many cannot even claim to have done in respect to their children. A delegation from Banu Thaqif who had not yet embraced Islam upto that time came to visit him. They were given the honor of staying in the Mosque of the Prophet. Umar [the second Caliph] gave allowances to needy dhimmis (non-Muslim subjects) [rather than obliging them to pay the jizyah tax.” [see: Muhammad Shafi`’s (erstwhile Grand-Mufti of Pakistan) Ma`ariful-Qur’an, 2/57-58.]

Nor can it be that Muslims are supposed to just pretend to be nice to others while hating and cursing them among themselves in private, for the Prophet has denounced duplicity:

You will find the worst person to be the two-faced one, who comes to [one people] with one face, and to [another people] with another face.” [Bukhari]

In the Qur’an, the common origin (and hence essential oneness) of the human race is stressed:

O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” [Qur’an, 49:13]

And basic values and decency are not to be reserved only for fellow Muslims:

God does not prohibit you from being kind and just to those who have not fought you on account of religion, nor expelled you from your homes. Allah loves those who are just.” Q[60:8]

We may note that the word used in the verse for ‘kindness’ (al-birr) is the same word used in some hadiths for loving, kind treatment of one’s parents.

Continue reading “Lost in Translation: Friendships with Non-Muslims”

Perverted Priorities : Who Is and Isn’t a Muslim?

concepts,courts,decisions,gavels,government,judgment,law,metaphors,silhouettesBy Suheil Laher

 

“If you don’t convert to (my sect) you might as well not convert to Islam!” exclaimed the ‘uncle’ to the young Christian lady. The lady’s husband, a Muslim, had requested his elder friend (despite his different school of thought in Islam) to come and help explain to her why Islam is so important to her husband, and why he’d like her, too, to share in its joy. The husband was startled by this narrow-minded bombshell. The shocking words of the ‘uncle’ highlight a lack of priorities plaguing some of those who profess themselves to be Muslim.

[….]

More specifically, some Muslims are sometimes (and any frequency is too often for something this important) too quick to declare someone to be outside the fold of Islam due to (i) imperfect practice, or (ii) disagreement on a non-core belief (e.g. whether and when capital punishment is mandated for apostasy, or stoning for adultery)

Read full article on MuslimMatters.orgMuslimmatters.org

Actions for Laylatul-Qadr

Islamic man praying at night

These are nights for increasing one’s worship to Allah, and seeking closeness to Him.

“The Messenger of Allah, when the [Last] Ten [Nights of Ramadan] entered, kept the night alive, awoke his family, and tightened his belt.” [Bukhari and others]
Ibn Rajab said, “The optimal worship (`ibadah) is to combine prayer (salah), recitation [of Qur’an], supplication (du`a) and meditation.”

The specific deeds listed (below) can be observed. But make a plan for yourself, whereby you:

  • Establish a baseline: do at least something extra on all the last ten nights
  • Do still more on the odd-numbered nights
  • And maximum effort on the one (or two, or three) nights that you feel are most likely to be Laylatul-Qadr (based on the conditions observed on the night, as well as the ahadith narrated about its occurrence).

1. Supplicate using these words:

اللَهُمَّ إِنَّكَ عَفُوٌّ تُحِبُّ العَفوَ فاعفُ عَنّي

“O Allah You are pardoning, and love to pardon, so pardon me.” [Narrated by Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Nasa’I, Ibn Majah]

2. Pray `Isha’, as well as Maghrib and Fajr, in congregation.

Sa`id ibn al-Musayyib said: “Whoever caught `isha’ [in jama`ah] on Laylatul-Qadr has taken his share of [the night].” [Malik]

“One who performs `Isha’ prayer in congregation, is as if he has performed Salat for half of the night. And one who performs the Fajr prayer in congregation, is as if he has performed Salat the whole night.” [Muslim]

3. Pray Tarawih

“Whoever stands [in prayer] on Laylatul-Qadr, with faith and expectation [of reward], his previous sins are forgiven him.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

4. Pray Tahajjud

The last part of the night is especially valuable for supplicating for forgiveness, and for your needs (of this world and the Hereafter), as is indicated by numerous sayings of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace).

5. Do I`tikaf – for the entire 10 days, or for one or more nights

Spending the night in the mosque, is a way to earn credit even during the time you sleep.

6. Wash yourself, and wear good clothes.

The early Muslims (salaf ) used to consider it recommended to perform ghusl for this night and to wear good clothes for it. [Ibn Jareer].

Thabit al-Bunani and Humayd al-Taweel used to dress up, apply perfume, and perfume the mosques. Tameem al-Dari had a costly (1,000 dirham) garment only worn on this night, and similar was the case with Anas ibn Malik. [Ghumari, Ghayat al-Ihsan]

And Allah knows best.

Completing the Qur’an in Tarawih

Image of Quran (book)

Completing recitation of the Qur’an at least once in Tarawih can be shown to be recommended (mustahabb). This article discusses the basis for this ruling, and concludes with some practical notes and advice.

[Note: this article does not discuss the preferred number of rak`ah of tarawih, nor the ruling on offering tarawih in jama`ah.]

Ramadan is the month of revelation of the Qur’an [Qur’an, 2:185], and a month for more intensive recitation and study of the Qur’an. The Prophet (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace) used to meet Angel Gabriel (peace be upon him) every night, and they would study the Qur’an [Bukhari]. Another narration tells us that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace) would go over the entire Qur’an with him once every Ramadan, and that in the last Ramadan of the Prophet’s life, they reviewed the entire Qur’an twice [Bukhari, Muslim]. Hence, it is sunnah to recite or listen to the recitation of the entire Qur’an at least once during the month. Imam Ja`far al-Sadiq is reported to have allowed finishing the Qur’an only once a month outside of Ramadan, but once every three days in Ramadan. [Wasa’il].

Recitation does not necessarily have to be in tarawih, although recitation in salah is generally held to be more meritorious than recitation outside of salah.
[This can be supported by the logical reasoning that recitation in salah is necessarily accompanied by additional good deeds: wudu’, ruku`, sujud, etc. A hadith in Mishkat al-Masabih states explicitly that, “Recitation of Qur’an in salah is more virtuous that recitation of Qur’an not in salah”, but its chain of transmision is weak.]
Nevertheless, tarawih itself could be performed even with recitation of short surahs, even every day, if need be. It is reported that Caliph `Ali ibn Abi Talib led the tarawih reciting 5 verses in each rak`ah. [Yahya ibn Hamzah in al-Intisar], which would mean approximately half a juz’ was recited per night.
[Twenty rak`ah were performed each night during Caliph `Ali’s time, as we find in the Musnad of Imam Zayd ibn `Ali and elsewhere].
Rabi`ah, the famous teacher of Imam Malik, observed that in the past, not all the imams of tarawih had memorized the entire Qur’an [Mudawwanah]. Certainly, if there are time constraints, whether on the community (such as during summer tarawih in extremely northern latitudes, where the night is extremely short) or on the individual (who has work commitments, for example, or who is praying alone and has not memorized long surahs), then it is valid to shorten the tarawih recitation in this manner, and the sunnah of finishing the Qur’an could be accomplished outside of salah. In the absence of such constraints, the preference is for prolonged recitation in the optional night prayer.
“Arise [to pray] the night, except for a little – Half of it – or subtract from it a little. Or add to it, and recite the Qur’an with measured recitation. Indeed, We will cast upon you a heavy word. Indeed, the hours of the night are more effective for concurrence [of heart and tongue] and more suitable for words.” [Qur’an, 73:2-6]

There are further textual indications that make a case for completion of the Qur’an in tarawih being a sunnah. We know that in general, throughout the year, the Prophet (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace) used to stand in prolonged prayer by night, to the extent that his feet would become swollen [Bukhari], or torn [Tirmidhi]. The Mother of the Believers, Aishah, was asked about his prayer by night, and she replied that he would offer 8 rak`ah every night – but do not ask about how long and beautiful they were [Bukhari]. There are also narrations that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace) would exert himself even harder in the last ten nights of Ramadan [Muslim], when he might stay awake all night [Bukhari]. Given these descriptions of the Prophet’s (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace) night prayer, we can easily conclude that he must have completed recitation of the Qur’an at least once during the month in his night prayer. In addition to this enacted sunnah of the Prophet, we also find an authentic hadith of verbal encouragement for long recitation in salah.
“Whoever stands [in prayer] with 10 verses will not be written among the negligent. Whoever stands [in prayer] with 100 verses will be written among the devoted. Whoever stands [in prayer] with 1000 verses will be written among those amassing a treasure.” [Narrated by Abu Dawud.]

A narration recorded by Bayhaqi might provide further support for this practice:
“The Messenger of Allah came out one night in Ramadan, and saw people in a corner of the mosque praying, whereupon he asked, “What are these [people] doing?” Someone replied, “O Messenger of Allah, these are people who do not have the Qur’an [memorized], so Ubayy ibn Ka`b is reciting and they are following him in salah.” He said, “They are doing good,” or “They are correct,” and he did not disapprove of that.”
[There is disagreement over the authenticity of this hadith. It was narrated by Abu Dawud, who graded it weak on account of one of its narrators (Muslim ibn Khalid). Al-`Ala’i judged it acceptable (salih) in his fatawa, and Nimawi graded it as good (jayyid) in Athar al-Sunan; vide I`la al-Sunan, 7/69]
If authentic then this indicates that they were praying with the specific aim of hearing the entire Qur’an, for Ubayy had memorized the Qur’an, whereas not all of the other Companions had.

The precedent set by the Prophet (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace) was continued by his Companions and subequent generations after him. In every generation, there are many Muslims who have not memorized large portions of the Qur’an, and who therefore seek to benefit from hearing it being recited by others. Hence, the Companions would gather in small groups in the masjid, each group praying behind a reciter/memorizer. This was the state of affairs that motivated Caliph `Umar ibn al-Khattab to gather people in a single congregation, reviving and institutionalizing the congregational aspect of the prayer that had only been performed on a couple of nights by the Prophet (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace) himself [Bukhari, Malik]. `Umar appointed Ubayy ibn Ka`b to lead the men and (according to one narration) Tamim al-Dari to lead the woman in salah, because they were both memorizers of the Qur’an. The more authentic narrations tell us that the Companions would perform 20 rak`ah every night. Some narrations also point out that the recitation was long, to the extent that people would even tend to support themselves with sticks towards the end, due to the length of standing. [Recorded by Bayhaqi, and authenticated by Nawawi and others] Bayhaqi has also recorded a narration [I have not found discussion of, nor looked into, its authenticity yet] which states that Caliph `Umar summoned three reciters, and had them recite before him. Then, he told the fastest one to recite 30 ayat in each rak`ah, the medium-paced to recite 25 ayat in each rak`ah, and the slowest to recite 20. Even with 20 ayat per rak`ah, and 20 rak`ah, the Qur’an would actually be finished twice over a month. In the face of all of this, it is inevitable that they would be completing recitation of the Qur’an at least once during the month.

`Umar ibn `Abdil-`Aziz told the Taraweh leaders to recite 10 ayat in each rak`ah (which would lead to completion of the Qur’an once over a month) [Mudawwanah]. Imam al-Bukhari used to lead his companions in tarawih reciting 20 ayat in each rak`ah until they completed the Qur’an [Reported by al-Hakim]. Some of the imams of fiqh (Malik and Ahmad) permitted reading from the mushaf in tarawih, even if they did not normally permit it, due to the importance they saw in completing recitation of the Qur’an in tarawih. This emphasis actually can be traced back to the Companions. The wife of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace) Ummul-Mu’mineen Aishah (who would have her servant Dhakwan lead her in tarawih from the mushaf) [Cited by Bukhari as ta`liq]. Imam al-Zuhri of the Tabi`in said, “[Some of] the best of us used to recite from the mushaf [in Ramadan].” These scholars would not have conceded permissibility of reading from the mushaf had completing the recitation of the Qur’an in tarawih not been a sunnah.

In summary then: Ramadan is the month of the Qur’an, the Prophet (may Allah bless him and his Household and grant them peace) would go through the entire Qur’an during Ramadan with Gabriel (peace be upon him), and we also know he would stand in prolonged salah by night. The Companions continued upon his path, and the practice of completing the Qur’an at least once in tarawih every year continued to be handed down through the generations. This practice has played an important role in the oral preservation of the Qur’an.

Practical Notes / Advice

Without detracting from the above strong desirability and importance, we may nevertheless observe that:

1) It is not necessary to complete the Qur’an inside tarawih, so if it is a personal or communal hardship to do so, then the tarawih can be made shorter.

2) Completion of the Qur’an is not the sole aim of tarawih. Some mosques hold ‘marathon’ tarawih sessions in which the Qur’an is completed within the first ten nights or less (3 juz’ per night). This is well and good, but those who attend should not be doing so with the aim of ‘getting the khatm done’ and then neglecting tarawih (or performing it with extremely short recitation) for the rest of the month. Nor should the recitation ever be so fast that the letters and words are not properly pronounced.

Those who complete the tarawih khatm a few nights before the end of Ramadan are encouraged to avoid the temptation to thereafter perform tarawih with only the last 10 surahs each night (especially if they are able to recite other verses). There is no harm in shortening the duration of the tarawih if circumstances call for it, but the sunnah is actually to increase the volume of worship in the last ten nights, in search of Laylat al-Qadr (the Night of Destiny / Value). Even the 27th night of Ramadan, although considered very likely by many scholars is not guaranteed to be Laylat al-Qadr.

And Allah knows best.


Photo credit: Afshad Subair,