Archive for the ‘History’ Category

The Black Flags of Khurasan

September 1, 2014

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim

With the Name of God, All-Merciful, Most Merciful

PROPHECIES ABOUT THE ARMIES OF THE BLACK FLAGS OR BANNERS FROM KHURASAN AND THE EAST

Ottoman soldiers carry a black military flag or banner during the First World War

Ottoman soldiers carry a black military flag or banner during the First World War

Usama Hasan

1st September, 2014

(minor updates: 26/10/2014)

 The Black Flags of Khurasan (PDF)

Contents

1       SUMMARY. 2

2       Fabricated hadiths: pro- and anti- ‘Abbasid propaganda. 3

2.1         Pro-Abbasid fabrications. 3

2.2         Anti-Abbasid fabrications. 4

3       Weak hadiths about the black flags or banners from Khurasan. 5

3.1         Shawkani’s brief analysis. 7

3.2         Albani’s analysis of this hadith. 7

3.2.1          [Ibn Taymiyya on the allegedly blasphemous nature of the term, “caliph of God”]. 8

3.3         Conclusion. 9

4       Contemporary propaganda about black flags. 10

4.1         The Ottomans. 10

4.2         Bin Ladin. 10

4.3         The Taliban. 10

4.4         Harmajdun (Armageddon). 10

4.5         Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HT). 10

4.6         The Boston Bombers. 11

4.7         The Ahmadiyya. 11

4.8         Contemporary Jihadist groups. 11

 

1. SUMMARY

  1. Several hadiths or traditions in Sunni Muslim sources speak of the appearance of an army carrying black flags or banners from the East, specifically Khurasan (Khorasan), in support of an apocalyptic messianic figure, the Mahdi, at the end of time.
  2. Historic Khorasan is largely in modern-day Afghanistan, but parts of it are in modern-day Iran and Turkmenistan.[1] According to another author, Khurasan is a term for a historical region spanning northeastern and eastern Iran and parts of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and northwestern Pakistan.[2]
  3. These traditions are attributed as prophecies to the Prophet Muhammad himself, peace be upon him, thus giving them a powerful resonance in the minds of many devout Muslims who hear them; in particular, modern extremist and terrorist groups regularly quote them.
  4. The traditions were first written down around the 3rd/9th century.
  5. From the earliest times until today, most Hadith scholars regarded these traditions as fabricated Abbasid propaganda that was never uttered by the Prophet. Some Hadith scholars, ignoring their historical context, accepted them as authentic teachings of the Prophet.
  6. During the century-long period of Umayyad rule, the idea of a messianic Mahdi became popular amongst rival Alid and Abbasids (descendants of Ali and Abbas, respectively) and their supporters. Abbasid propaganda in favour of their eventual overthrow of Umayyad rule included many references to the Mahdi, including fabricated hadiths claiming him as an Abbasid in response to the widespread view of him being Alid.
  7. The main Abbasid military commander who led the overthrow of the Umayyads in the 2nd/8th century, was from Khorasan, as his name signifies: Abu Muslim al-Khurasani (c. 700-755).[3] History records that his armies carried black flags or banners, cf. the histories by Tabari, Ibn Kathir, Dhahabi, Ibn Khaldun, Suyuti, etc.
  8. Based on traditional scrutiny of the hadiths’ chains of transmission (isnadsriwayah) as well as rational considerations of history (dirayah), it is the author’s firm conclusion that these hadiths were Abbasid propaganda fabricated 100-150 years after the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and are in no way true Muhammadan prophecies.
  9. The author was preceded in this view by his father, Sheikh Dr. Suhaib Hasan, who took this view in his PhD thesis: The Concept of the Mahdi amongst Ahl al-Sunna (Sunni Muslims), including a translation of the chapter on the Mahdi from Nu’aym bin Hammad’s Kitab al-Fitan (Book of Tribulations).  Nu’aym bin Hammad is generally agreed to be a weak authority by Hadith scholars, so it is unfortunate that some contemporary writers, speakers and preachers are uncomprehendingly-quoting clearly-fabricated “prophecies” from the Kitab al-Fitan and applying them to current events in Iraq and the Levant! (These fabrications repeatedly mention the “Sufyani” i.e. Umayyad, the Mahdi and real historical figures such as Saffah.)  Rather than dealing with the very real religious, ideological, political and social causes of the current crisis, it is much easier to say, “These are the end times.  This was all prophesied.”
  10. Contemporary Muslim preachers and activists should acknowledge and explain that these hadiths are at the least doubtful and disputed, if not clear fabrications, especially when they are often misused by contemporary extremist and terrorist groups.

 

2. FABRICATED HADITHS: PRO- AND ANTI- ABBASID PROPAGANDA

There are numerous fabricated (mawdu’) hadiths both in favour and against the Abbasid armies from Khurasan that appeared with black flags in the second century of Islam. This illustrates how hadiths were fabricated for use as propaganda by both sides.

2.1        Pro-Abbasid fabrications

 

  1. Fabrication, falsely attributed to the Prophet: “The Mahdi will be a descendant of my uncle ‘Abbas.” – related by Daraqutni[4]
  2. Fabrication, falsely attributed to the Prophet: “O ‘Abbas! God opened this matter by me and will seal it by a young man from your descendants who will fill the world with justice as it had been filled with tyranny. He is the one who will lead Jesus in prayer.” – related by Khatib Baghdadi in Tarikh Baghdad [“The History of Baghdad”][5]
  3. Fabrication, falsely attributed to the Prophet: “Should I not give you good tidings [O ‘Abbas]? God opened this matter by me and will seal it by your descendant.” – related by Abu Nu’aym in Hilyah al-Awliya’ [“Adornment of the Saints”][6]
  4. Khatib Baghdadi transmitted a fabrication, falsely attributed to Ibn Abbas: “When the black flags emerge, bid the Persians well, for our rule [dawlah, also meaning ‘state’] will be with them.”[7]
  5. Fabrication, falsely attributed to the Prophet: “O Abbas! When year thirty-five comes, it [the rule] will be for you and your descendants. Amongst them will be the Slayer (al-Saffah), and amongst them will be the One Helped to Victory (al-Mansur), and amongst them will be the Guided One (al-Mahdi).”[8]

2.2        Anti-Abbasid fabrications

 

  1. Fabrication, falsely attributed to the Prophet: “The flags of the descendants of Abbas have come from Khurasan, signifying the death of Islam. Whoever marches under their banner will not benefit from my intercession on the Day of Resurrection.”[9]
  2. Fabrication, falsely attributed to the Prophet: “When the black flags appear from the east: their beginning is strife, their middle period is killing, their end period is misguidance.”[10]
  3. Fabrication, falsely attributed to the Prophet: “Woe to my nation from the descendants of Abbas! … Their destruction will be at the hands of one of her household [the Umayyads],” pointing to Umm Habiba [daughter of Abu Sufyan and sister of Mu’awiya, the first Umayyad caliph][11]

 

3. WEAK HADITHS ABOUT THE BLACK FLAGS OR BANNERS FROM KHURASAN

[Below, I use the following notation for hadith isnads, first introduced by my father in his PhD thesis on Hadith: == denotes a strong mode of transmission, such as haddathana (he narrated to us) or akhbarana (he informed us), whilst – denotes a weak mode such as ‘an (“on the authority of”)]

  1. Sunan Ibn Majah, Kitab al-Fitan (Book of Tribulations), Chapter: Emergence of the Mahdi (Guided One), Hadith no. 4082[12] Ibn Majah == ‘Uthman b. Abi Shaybah == Mu’awiyah b. Hisham == ‘Ali b. Salih – Yazid b. Abi Ziyad – Ibrahim [al-Nakh’i] – ‘Alqamah – ‘Abdullah [b. Mas’ud], who said: Whilst we were with the Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace, some young men of Banu Hashim arrived. When the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, saw them his eyes flooded with tears and his colour changed. I asked, “Why do we continue to see something undesirable in your face?” He replied, “Truly, we the People of the House:[13] God has chosen the Hereafter for us over this world. The people of my house will face calamity, dispersal and exile after me until a group of people come from the east with black banners. They will ask for goodness [i.e. authority] but will not be granted it, so they will fight and achieve victory. They will then be given what they asked for [i.e. authority] but will not accept it until they assign it to a man of my house who will fill the earth with justice as others had filled it with tyranny. Whoever amongst you is alive at the time should go to them, even if he has to crawl over snow.” Albani declares this hadith to be weak.[14] Sindi, the commentator on this hadith, states: Ibn Kathir said that this indicates the kingdom of the Banu ‘Abbas [Abbasids]. However, this is precluded by his saying, “He will fill it with justice,” clearly referring to the promised Mahdi, which is why the author included this hadith in this chapter, and God knows best what is correct. [Haythami states] in al-Zawa’id, “Its chain of narration is weak because of the weakness of Yazid b. Abi Ziyad of Kufa, although he was not alone in narrating it from Ibrahim, for Hakim has related it in al-Mustadrak via ‘Umar b. Qays – Hakam – Ibrahim.”[End of quote from Sindi]
  2. Sunan Ibn Majah, Kitab al-Fitan (Book of Tribulations), Chapter: Emergence of the Mahdi (Guided One), Hadith no. 4084[15] Ibn Majah === Muhammad b. Yahya and Ahmad b. Yusuf === ‘Abd al-Razzaq [al-San’ani] — Sufyan al-Thawri — Khalid al-Hadhdha’ — Abu Qilabah — Abu Asma’ al-Rahbi — Thawban, who said:The Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace, said, “Three people, each of them the son of a caliph, will fight over your treasure. It will go to none of them. Then, the black flags will appear from the east: they will kill you with a slaughter not meted out (or faced) by any people.” He then mentioned something that I do not remember. Then he said, “When you see him [their leader], pledge allegiance to him, even if you have to crawl over snow, for he is the vicegerent (caliph of God), the Guided One [al-Mahdi].”Sindi, the commentator on this hadith, says:“Over your treasure,” i.e. “over your kingdom.” Ibn Kathir said, “The apparent meaning of the treasure mentioned is that it is the treasure of the Ka’bah.”“Then, the black flags will appear”: Ibn Kathir said, “These [armies with] black flags are not the ones that Abu Muslim of Khurasan brought, by which he toppled the Umayyad state. Rather, they are other black flags that will accompany the Mahdi, whose appearance is one of the Conditions of the Hour [i.e. Signs of the end of the world and the Day of Judgment].”[Haythami states] in al-Zawa’id, “Its chain of narration is sound; its narrators are reliable. Al-Hakim narrated it in al-Mustadrak and said: It is authentic (sahih) according to the conditions of the two shaykhs [i.e. Bukhari and Muslim].”[End of quote from Sindi]
  3. Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Kitab al-Fitan (Book of Tribulations), Hadith no. 2269[16] Tirmidhi == Qutaybah === Rishdin b. Sa’d — Yunus — Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri — Qabisah b. Dhu’ayb — Abu Hurayrah, who said:The Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace, said, “From Khurasan will emerge black flags: nothing will repulse them until they are planted in Jerusalem.” This is a strange (gharib) hadith. Thus, Imam Tirmidhi declared it to be a weak hadith by describing it only as gharib (“strange”, having links as narrow as one narrator in its chain). Albani also declared its chain of narration (isnad) to be weak (da’if). Mubarakpuri, in his commentary on Tirmidhi, confirms that the black flags refer to military banners at the heads of armies. He also elaborates on Tirmidhi’s statement, “This is a strange (gharib) hadith” as follows: “In its chain is Rishdin b. Sa’d, who is weak. In the chain of the hadith of Thawban in Musnad Ahmad [i.e. the hadith of Ibn Mas’ud, below] there is Shurayk b. Abdullah the Qadi, whose memory declined after he took the position of judge in Kufah. It also contains Ali b. Zayd, who would appear to be Ibn Jud’an, and there is some talk about him.”

3.1        Shawkani’s brief analysis[17]

 

Al-Azadi related from Ibn Mas’ud from the Prophet, “When the black flags come from Khurasan, go to them, for truly amongst them is the caliph of God, the Mahdi.”

 

Ibn al-Jawzi said, “It has no basis,” and mentioned it amongst the fabricated traditions.

 

Ibn Hajar said in al-Qawl al-Musaddad [fi l-Dhabb ‘an Musnad al-Imam Ahmad, The Accurate Word in Defence of the Musnad of the Imam Ahmad], “Ibn al-Jawzi was not correct, for Ahmad has transmitted it via ‘Ali bin Zayd bin Jud’an who is weak but was not an intentional liar such that the hadith should be classified as fabricated when he alone narrates it. How more so, then, when his narration has been supported via a different route? This has been transmitted by Ahmad and by Bayhaqi in Dala’il [al-Nubuwwa, Indications of Prophethood] from the hadith of Abu Hurayra from the Prophet, ‘Black flags will come from Khurasan, that will not be stopped until they are planted in Jerusalem.’ In its chain of narration is Rishdin bin Sa’d, who is weak.”

 

3.2        Albani’s analysis of this hadith[18]

 

In another narration of this hadith: “When you see that the black flags have come out of Khurasan, go to them even if you have to crawl …” to the end of the hadith.[19] These narrations were transmitted by Ahmad, Ibn Majah and Hakim.

 

Ibn al-Jawzi included the hadith in his collection of fabricated (mawdu’) hadiths; Dhahabi said that it was rejected (munkar). Imam Ahmad’s isnad includes ‘Ali b. Zayd b. Jud’an: Ahmad, Ibn Hajar, Munawi and others agreed that he is a weak narrator. Ibn Hajar said about Ibn al-Jawzi’s judgment, “He is not correct, because none of the narrators is accused of lying.” Albani agrees with Dhahabi that the hadith is rejected (munkar).

 

Ibn al-Jawzi’s isnad for this hadith is via ‘Amr b. Qays — Hasan — Abu ‘Ubaydah — ‘Abdullah [b. Mas’ud] — the Prophet (pbuh). Ibn al-Jawzi stated, “This has no basis: ‘Amr is nothing, and did not hear hadiths from Hasan; Hasan did not hear hadiths from Abu ‘Ubaydah.” Albani adds, “And Abu ‘Ubaydah did not hear hadiths from his father, Ibn Mas’ud … Haythami said in al-Zawa’id (249/2), ‘Its chain is authentic; the narrators are reliable.’ Hakim said, ‘It is authentic according to the conditions of the two shaykhs [Bukhari and Muslim].’ Dhahabi agreed with Hakim, although he said in the Mizan [al-I’tidal] that the hadith is rejected (munkar); the latter is correct. Those who authenticated this hadith overlooked its subtle defect, which is the ‘an’anah (ambiguous mode of reporting) of Abu Qilabah – he was known to conceal some of his authorities (tadlis), as is quoted from Dhahabi and others.”

 

Albani goes on to say, “However, the hadith is correct in meaning apart from the statement, ‘… for amongst them is the vicegerent of God [khalifat Allah], the Mahdi,’ for it has been transmitted by Ibn Majah (2/517) via ‘Alqamah from Ibn Mas’ud from the Prophet (pbuh), similarly to Thawban’s second narration. Its chain of narration is good (hasan), and does not include the phrase ‘vicegerent of God [khalifat Allah]’.”

 

3.2.1        [Ibn Taymiyya on the allegedly blasphemous nature of the term, “caliph of God”]

 

Albani continues:

 

This addition, ‘vicegerent of God [khalifat Allah],’ does not have an established route of narration, nor a supporting one. Thus it is rejected (munkar – a weak narration that contradicts authentic ones) as follows from Dhahabi’s statement quoted earlier. Part of its abhorrence is that it is not permissible in religion to refer to someone as ‘vicegerent of God’ [khalifat Allah] because that implies a shortcoming and incapacity that does not befit God the Exalted. The Shaykh of Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, may God Exalted have mercy upon him, explained this in his Fatwas (2/461):

 

‘Some mistaken commentators, such as Ibn Arabi, thought that the vicegerent [the function of khalifah attributed to Adam in Qur’an 2:30] is a vicegerent on behalf of God, like God’s deputy. But God Exalted cannot have a vicegerent, and that is why when they said to Abu Bakr, “O caliph (vicegerent) of God!” he replied, “I am not the caliph (vicegerent) of God, but the caliph (vicegerent) of the Messenger of God – that is sufficient for me.”[20] Rather, it is He, may He be glorified, Who is the vicegerent of others: the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, prayed, “Dear God! You are the Companion during a journey, and the vicegerent amongst family. Dear God, please accompany us during our journey and deputise for us amongst our families!” This is because God is the Living, Ever-Present Witness, Guardian, Self-Subsisting, Observer, Safeguarder, Independent of the Worlds, needing no partner or supporter, and none can intercede before Him except by His permission. A vicegerent or deputy only occurs when the one whose place is taken is non-existent due to death or absence, such that a deputy called a vicegerent is required … all of these meanings are impossible regarding God the Exalted, and He is absolved of them, for He is the Living, Self-Subsisting, Ever-Present Witness who does not die or become absent … It is not possible for anyone to deputise for Him or to take His place, for He has no equal or anyone worthy of His name: whoever attributes a deputy or vicegerent to Him is associating a partner with Him.’[21]

3.3        Conclusion

Note that none of the hadith scholars quoted above took the historical record into account, basing their discussions purely on the chains of narrators and thus reaching opposite conclusions, with some authenticating these traditions and others doubting them severely. From the history of the Abbasid armies from the east, specifically Khurasan, led by black banners, it would appear to be obvious that all these supposedly prophetic traditions are in fact fabrications.

 

 

4. CONTEMPORARY PROPAGANDA ABOUT BLACK FLAGS

The use of black flags is an ancient Eastern, Arab and Islamic tradition. Its significance has changed over the centuries. Below is a summary of recent developments.

4.1        The Ottomans

Some people believe that one of the Prophet’s original banners, known as the Uqab, was black, that it eventually passed to the Ottomans and that remnants of it are housed at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.[22]

4.2        Bin Ladin

Usama bin Ladin often signed his name with the location, “Khurasan, Afghanistan” at the end of his messages whilst a guest of the Taliban. His organisation, Al-Qa’ida, also specifically adopted black flags from the 1990s. Reading between the lines, it is obvious that Bin Ladin saw Al-Qa’ida as fulfilling a sacred prophecy, bringing armies led by black flags towards Damascus and Jerusalem, in preparation for the coming of the messianic figure, the Mahdi.

4.3        The Taliban

According to one contemporary writer, “Very interestingly, the Taliban hail from the Pashtun ethnicity and have traditionally used two flags, a white flag with a black Shahada (Kalma) embossed for their government and diplomatic purposes and a reversal of this i.e. a black flag with a white Shahada embossed for their military. These types of black flags are also vividly seen across the tribal Pashtun areas that are now reportedly under the control of Pakistani Taliban.”[23]

4.4        Harmajdun (Armageddon)

This influential, populist book authored by an Egyptian Azhari sheikh in 2001 quoted some of these fabricated hadiths.[24] One in particular that begins, “There will be strife at the death of a caliph …” was interpreted to refer to the impending death of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, the black flags were taken to refer to the black turbans of the Taliban. The book also claimed to be based on recently-discovered manuscripts of hadith, some of which were said to predict the 1990-1 war between Iraq and the US over Kuwait: the hadiths were said to mention a place called “little Kut” which is the literal meaning of “Kuwait.” Although popular amongst the masses, this book was dismissed by serious scholars of hadith and history.

4.5        Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HT)

HT adopted a black flag with the Islamic declaration of faith, possibly from its inception. Recently, this has led to confusion between HT flags and ISIS flags.[25] On one of HT’s public, international discussion forums, there is a lengthy discussion between October 2009 and October 2010 about the authenticity of the hadiths of the black flags, the coming of the Mahdi and the re-establishment of the caliphate, with a suggestion that the black flags refer to the Taliban.[26]

4.6        The Boston Bombers

Four months before carrying out the Boston bombings of 2013 along with another suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev appears to have “liked” and shared a video on YouTube entitled, The Emergence of Prophecy: The Black Flags From Khorasan (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJknGtKV34I).[27] This video claims about the hadiths mentioned in it that “majority of scholars say is authentic and others say is weak [sic].”

4.7        The Ahmadiyya

Some of the Ahmadiyya refer these hadiths to their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, due to his Persian ancestry. One of their writers says, “Black Flag of Khorasan … Thawban (ra) narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: ‘If you see the black banners emerging from Khurasan (Persia), seek to join their supporters even if creeping, because among them will be caliph Al-Mahdi.’ (Sunan Ibn Majah, Vol. 3, 4084) This flag is the flag of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community today (contrary to popular belief it is not the flag of any Jihadist groups since this flag would be for the followers of the Mahdi).”[28]

4.8        Contemporary Jihadist groups

In the modern era, black flags with the Islamic declaration of faith have become very popular amongst Jihadist and other Islamist groups. For example: Al-Qaeda, al-Shabab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria, al-Tawhid wal-Jihad in Iraq, Jihadist fighters in Chechnya and of course the self-styled “Islamic State,” formerly “The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” (ISIS) have all adopted black flags, with white Arabic writing consisting of the basic Islamic declarations of faith (the shahadatayn), as their emblems. The extremist but non-Jihadist international group, Hizb al-Tahrir, also employs a black flag with white shahadatayn, as its emblem. All these groups occasionally reverse these colours: a black flag for war; a white flag for peace. A white flag with black shahadatayn was especially adopted by the Taliban in Afghanistan for peacetime.

ISIS have recently adopted a black flag with white writing: an ancient-looking script for the first shahada, with the second shahada in the form of a seal, based upon the hadiths mentioning the Prophet’s own seal and ring. No-one knows for sure what the script on this seal looked like, but the form adopted by ISIS (and al-Shabab and Boko Haram) has ironically been popularised over the past two decades by populists such as the unscientific Turkish writer, Harun Yahya (Adnan Oktar).

Minor article edits: 11th September, 2014

FOOTNOTES

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khurasan (accessed 9 Sep 2013)

[2] See Charles Cameron, Ali Soufan: AQ, Khorasan and the Black Banners, http://zenpundit.com/?p=4322

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Muslim_Khorasani (accessed 9 Sep 2013)

[4] Albani, Silsilah al-Ahadith al-Da’ifah, 4th ed., al-Maktab al-Islami, Beirut/Damascus, 1398, vol. 1 p. 108, no. 80

[5] Albani, Silsilah al-Ahadith al-Da’ifah, 4th ed., al-Maktab al-Islami, Beirut/Damascus, 1398, vol. 1 p. 109, no. 81

[6] Albani, Silsilah al-Ahadith al-Da’ifah, 4th ed., al-Maktab al-Islami, Beirut/Damascus, 1398, vol. 1 pp. 109-110, no. 82

[7] Shawkani, al-Fawa’id al-Majmu’ah fi l-Ahadith al-Mawdu’ah [Collected Insights about Fabricated Traditions], Book of Praiseworthy Qualities, Chapter: Virtues of the Four Caliphs, the Prophet’s Household and the Rest of the Companions, Generally and Specifically, may God be pleased with them, and Virtues of Other People –hadith no. 1010, http://library.islamweb.net/hadith/display_hbook.php?indexstartno=0&hflag=1&pid=530423&bk_no=1015&startno=167

[8] Shawkani, al-Fawa’id al-Majmu’ah fi l-Ahadith al-Mawdu’ah [Collected Insights about Fabricated Traditions], Book of Praiseworthy Qualities, Chapter: Virtues of the Four Caliphs, the Prophet’s Household and the Rest of the Companions, Generally and Specifically, may God be pleased with them, and Virtues of Other People –hadith no. 1015, http://library.islamweb.net/hadith/display_hbook.php?indexstartno=0&hflag=1&pid=530423&bk_no=1015&startno=172 This is a very clear fabrication, since the three titles mentioned were adopted by the first three Abbasid caliphs.

[9] Shawkani, al-Fawa’id al-Majmu’ah fi l-Ahadith al-Mawdu’ah [Collected Insights about Fabricated Traditions], Book of Praiseworthy Qualities, Chapter: Virtues of the Four Caliphs, the Prophet’s Household and the Rest of the Companions, Generally and Specifically, may God be pleased with them, and Virtues of Other People –hadith no. 1009, http://library.islamweb.net/hadith/display_hbook.php?indexstartno=0&hflag=1&pid=530423&bk_no=1015&startno=166

[10] Shawkani, al-Fawa’id al-Majmu’ah fi l-Ahadith al-Mawdu’ah [Collected Insights about Fabricated Traditions], Book of Praiseworthy Qualities, Chapter: Virtues of the Four Caliphs, the Prophet’s Household and the Rest of the Companions, Generally and Specifically, may God be pleased with them, and Virtues of Other People –hadith no. 1011, http://library.islamweb.net/hadith/display_hbook.php?indexstartno=0&hflag=1&pid=530423&bk_no=1015&startno=168

[11] Shawkani, al-Fawa’id al-Majmu’ah fi l-Ahadith al-Mawdu’ah [Collected Insights about Fabricated Traditions], Book of Praiseworthy Qualities, Chapter: Virtues of the Four Caliphs, the Prophet’s Household and the Rest of the Companions, Generally and Specifically, may God be pleased with them, and Virtues of Other People –hadith no. 1014, http://library.islamweb.net/hadith/display_hbook.php?indexstartno=0&hflag=1&pid=530423&bk_no=1015&startno=171

[12] http://hadith.al-islam.com/Page.aspx?pageid=192&BookID=35&TOCID=1534

[13] Ahl al-Bayt: a phrase referring to the Prophet’s immediate family and descendants

[14] Ibn Majah, Sunan, ed. Albani & Mashhur Hasan Salman, Maktabah al-Ma’arif, Riyadh, 1417 H, hadith no. 4082. According to Shawkani (hadith no. 1013), a very similar hadith is transmitted by Hakim and Abu l-Shaykh, and includes the addition describing the flags or banners as “flags of guidance.” http://library.islamweb.net/hadith/display_hbook.php?indexstartno=0&hflag=1&pid=530423&bk_no=1015&startno=170

[15] http://hadith.al-islam.com/Page.aspx?pageid=192&TOCID=1534&BookID=35&PID=7508

[16] Tirmidhi, Sunan, ed. Albani & Mashhur Hasan Salman, Maktabah al-Ma’arif, Riyadh, 1417 H, hadith no. 2269; http://hadith.al-islam.com/Page.aspx?pageid=192&TOCID=1532&BookID=37&PID=4328

[17] Shawkani, al-Fawa’id al-Majmu’ah fi l-Ahadith al-Mawdu’ah [Collected Insights about Fabricated Traditions], Book of Praiseworthy Qualities, Chapter: Virtues of the Four Caliphs, the Prophet’s Household and the Rest of the Companions, Generally and Specifically, may God be pleased with them, and Virtues of Other People – Mention of Mu’awiya, hadith no. 1012 http://library.islamweb.net/hadith/display_hbook.php?indexstartno=0&hflag=1&pid=530423&bk_no=1015&startno=169

[18] Muhammad Nasir al-Din al-Albani, Silsilah al-Ahadith al-Da’ifah wa l-Mawdu’ah wa atharuha l-sayyi’ fi l-ummah, al-Maktab al-Islami, Beirut/Damascus, 4th ed., 1398 H, vol. 1, hadith no. 85, pp. 119-121

[19] This narration is also mentioned by al-‘Ajluni, Kashf al-Khafa’, no. 241 – where he simply says, “Related by Ahmad and Hakim on the authority of Thawban.”

[20] Related by Ahmad similarly in the Musnad (1/10-11)

[21] Although Ibn Taymiyya was responding to what he saw as the neo-incarnationist Sufi notions of Ibn Arabi, the same critique has been applied since the 20th century to the over-politicisation of the Qur’anic term “caliph/vicegerent” by the ideologues of political Islam such as Mawdudi and Qutb, cf. Jaafar Sheikh Idris, IS MAN THE VICEGERENT OF GOD? Journal of Islamic Studies (1990) 1 (1): 99-110, Oxford

[22] See e.g. The Wake-Up Project, Ukab- banner of our Prophet Muhammad (saas), http://wup-forum.com/ukab-banner-of-our-prophet-muhammad-saas-t12620.html. See also a YouTube video featuring a supposed still of this banner accompanied by Islamic songs, and tellingly uploaded by “Abu Muslim Khurasani” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rg8XkGzaMcI

[23] Black Banners From Khurasan: The Bilad-e-Khurasan in Making, Research Paper by Bilal Khan, March 30th, 2008 http://www.grandestrategy.com/2009/06/research-paper-by-bilal-khan-paper-is.html

[24] For an Urdu translation of this book, see https://archive.org/details/Harmajdoon

[25] See Seth Frantzman, A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ISLAMIC ‘BLACK FLAG’ IN JERUSALEM, 10th August 2014, http://sethfrantzman.com/2014/08/10/a-short-history-of-the-islamic-black-flag-in-the-holy-land/

[26] See discussion thread, Black flags In Khorasan, http://forum.hizbuttahrir.org/showthread.php?2599-Black-flags-In-Khorasan

[27] For more information, see Adam Serwer, Did Boston Bombing Suspect Post Al Qaeda Prophecy on YouTube?, Mother Jones, 19th April 2013, http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/04/boston-bombing-suspect-posted-video-al-qaeda-prophecy-youtube

[28] SIGNS OF MIRZA GHULAM AHMAD (AS) AS THE MAHDI AND MESSIAH, 28th June 2014, http://mysticscientist.wordpress.com/2014/06/28/signs-of-mirza-ghulam-ahmad-as-as-the-mahdi-and-messiah/

Nubians in Kenya

October 25, 2009

Bismillah.  I was born in Nairobi, hence the interest when a friend told me about his people there, the Nubians who live in the Kibera district of the Kenyan capital.

He says, “This is the link to our website Nubians in Kenya. In this page are pictures of my father (Councillor Ali Ramathan el-Ali) in the 50’s.”

Perseid Meteor Shower 2009

September 5, 2009

Bismillah.  I wrote the following short piece about the Perseid meteor shower at the request of the Guardian CIF on Wednesday 12th August 2009, around the time that the Perseids were peaking.  By the grace of Allah, or “thanks to God and then to Google,” the article was No. 1 Most Viewed on the CIF section all day on Thursday 13th August 2009 and No. 3 on the Guardian website overall, with over 115,000 views.  The photo of a meteor that CIF put at the top of the article generated many hits via Google.

Most readers were thus not regular CIFers, which is partly why there weren’t too many comments.  However, as usual, some of the comments were hilarious and well-worth reading.

The last comment is my own, an extract from the Egyptian scholar al-Suyuti (d. 911 AH/ 15th century CE) regarding meteoric events in history.  Here is an extended extract from those pages of History of the Caliphs, covering other events such as Siamese twins, etc.

[Caliph no. 53:] Al-Nasir li Din Allah, Ahmad

Al-Nasir li Din Allah, Ahmad Abu l-‘Abbas b. al-Mustadi’ bi Amr Allah.

He was born on Monday the tenth of Rajab in the year five hundred and fifty-three [553].  His mother was a Turkish umm walad [“mother of a child,” a slavewoman who is free after her master’s death due to her giving birth by him] named Zumurrud.  He was pledged allegiance when his father [Caliph no. 52, al-Mustadi’ bi Amr Allah] died at the beginning of Dhu l-Qa’dah in the year seventy-five [575].  Several scholars gave him permission to transmit from them, including Abu l-Husain ‘Abd al-Haqq al-Yusufi, Abu l-Hasan ‘Ali b. ‘Asakir al-Bata’ihi and Shuhdah.  He himself gave permission to several others to narrate from him.  They used to narrate from him during his lifetime, competing in that for the sake of fame, not of isnad.

One of his interesting anecdotes is that a servant of his named Yumn wrote him a note that included:

Biman yumann Yumn Thaman Yumn thumun

(By whom shall Yumn be favoured?  The price of Yumn is an eighth!)

In the year eighty [580]: the caliph made the tomb of Musa al-Kazim a sanctuary for anyone who took refuge there.  Large numbers of people did so, and many problems resulted.

In the year eighty-one [581]: a boy was born in al-‘Alath – his forehead was a handspan plus four fingers in width, and he had one ear.

In the year eighty-three [583]: it so happened that the first day of the (lunar) year was also the first day of the week, the first day of the solar year and the first day of the Persian year, and the sun and the moon were in the first zodiacal sign.  This was an amazing coincidence.

One of the strange matters [connected to the reconquest of Jerusalem] is that Ibn Burrajan mentioned in tafsir of “Alif Lam Mim: The Romans have been conquered” [Qur’an, 30:1-2] that Jerusalem would remain in the hands of the Crusaders (al-Rum) until the year five hundred and eighty-three [583], when they would be vanquished.  Jerusalem would be conquered and remain a Land of Islam until the end of time.  He derived all this from the arithmetic of the ayah, and it is precisely what happened.

Abu Shamah said: What Ibn Burrajan mentioned is a wondrous coincidence, for he died ages before the event, his death having occurred in the year five hundred and thirty-six [536].

In the year five hundred and ninety-two [592]: a black wind gusted over Mecca, blinding everyone.  Red sand covered the people.  A piece of the Yemeni corner [of the Ka’bah] broke off and fell.

In the year five hundred and ninety-three [593, around 1197 CE], a great celestial object fell to earth with a terrifying sound, shaking dwellings and lands. The people sought divine help and prayed publicly, and thought that this was one of the signs of the Day of Judgment.

In the year ninety-seven [597]: A great earthquake shook Egypt, Sham and Arabia, destroying many places and forts. A village near Busra sank into the ground.

In the year five hundred and ninety-nine [599, around 1202 CE] at the end of Muharram [the first month of the Islamic calendar], the stars were in commotion and swarmed around like locusts. This continued until dawn. The people were distressed and cried out to God the Exalted. The [celestial] phenomenon had only been experienced before at the advent of the Messenger of God, peace be upon him.

In the year six hundred and one [601]: a woman at Qutay’a’ gave birth to a boy with two heads, two arms and four legs.  He did not survive.

In the year six hundred and six [606]: the story of the Tatars began, which will be explained later …

Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti, Tarikh al-Khulafa or History of the Caliphs, Muassasah al-Kutub al-Thaqafiyyah, Beirut, 2nd ed., 1417/1996, pp. 390-6 (my translation)

Moon Clocks – Mediaeval & Modern

September 5, 2009
Bismillah.  For a description of a mediaeval Islamic moon-clock in Toledo, Andalusia, see below.
Firstly, a modern moon-clock project.  From the team at Aluna:
Dear All,

We were thrilled that Aluna was featured on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and also on the BBC website on September 1st 2009. Thanks to those of you who heard it and have already been in touch.

The radio piece, by BBC Science Correspondent Pallab Ghosh, features contributions from David Rooney, former curator of Timekeeping at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich (now at the Science Museum), Dr. Usama Hasan, Imam and Islamic Astronomer and Aluna’s Laura Williams.

Do take a look at the article on the BBC news website – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8226735.stm

You can also listen again to the Today Programme on the BBC iplayer for the next few days http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00m9nxp/Today_01_09_2009/


(The story starts at 44 mins 30 secs but you can skip straight there by dragging the cursor along)
For those of you who are not already aware, we’re very pleased that The Aluna Foundation has received its charitable status – granted on the July 20th, the 40th anniversary of the Moon landings!
Secondly, thanks to Mohammad Baig, an astronomer and writer, for drawing my attention to the following:
Al-Zarqali and his lunar chronograph or moon-clock
Extracts:

Abu Ishaq Ibrahim Ibn Yahya Al-Zarqali (Arzachel in Latin), was a famous Andalusian scholar known also as Al-Zarqalluh and Al-Zarqallah. He was born in 1029 and died in 1087. His life corresponded exactly to that dramatic period when the Muslim realm of Spain completely disintegrated, and nearly collapsed, only to be saved in 1089, when the Almoravids of Morocco crossed into Spain, crushed the Christians at Zalaqa, and unified Spain once more. They were followed later by the Almohads, who kept Spain under Muslim rule for another two centuries, until the middle of the 13th century, when Muslim Spain, with the exception of Granada, was lost for good.

Al-Zarqali constructed the famed clocks of Toledo, which al-Zuhri has described in a Castilian translation, published by J.M. Millas-Vallicrosa. The clocks were in use until 1135, when King Alphonso VI tried to discover how they worked and asked Hamis Ibn Zabara to dismantle them. Once they were taken apart, nobody could reassemble them. They constituted a very precise lunar calendar and were, to some extent, the predecessors of the clocks or planetary calendar devices that became fashionable six centuries later in Europe.

Ahmad Thomson has given a vivid account of the intricate working of the clocks. The clocks consisted of two basins, which filled with water or emptied according to the increasing or waning of the moon. At the moment when the new moon appeared on the horizon, water would begin to flow into the basins by means of subterranean pipes, so that there would be at day-break the fourth of a seventh part, and at the end of the day half a seventh part, of the water required to fill the basins. In this proportion the water would continue to flow until seven days and as many nights of the month had elapsed, by which time both basins would be half filled. The same process during the following seven days and nights would make the two basins quite full, at the same time that the moon was at its full. However, on the fifteenth night of the month, when the moon would begin to wane, the basins would also begin to lose every day and night half a seventh part of their water, until by the twenty-first of the month they would be half empty, and when the moon reached her twenty-ninth night not a drop of water would remain in them. It is worthy of remark that, should anyone go to any of the basins when they were not filled, and poured water into them with a view to quicken its filling, the basins would immediately absorb the additional water and retain no more than the just quantity; and, on the contrary, were anyone to try, when they were nearly filled, to extract any or the whole of their water, the moment he raised his hands from the work the basins would pour out sufficient water to fill the vacuum in an instant.

Death Threats to Sayyid al-Qimni, Egyptian historian and thinker

August 4, 2009

Update: 5th August 2009

People have pointed out that Sheikh Ali Gomaa (who is Shaykh al-Azhar, not the Grand Mufti) is against the death penalty for apostates, so he can’t have encouraged killing Qimni.  It seems he may have been asked about Qimni and said that he was an apostate.  This might be insensitive, given what happened to Faraj Fouda & Nagib Mahfuz.

Similarly, it is unlikely that the Muslim Brotherhood would officially call for Qimni’s killing.  It has millions of supporters though, so some of them might have done.  It should also be pointed out that the MB has repeatedly suffered the arrest without charge of some of its members over the years, and this continued recently.  Egyptian society needs greater openness and justice.

The whole situation is actually a good opportunity for Al-Azhar, MB, Sh. Qaradawi and others to calm people down and show some maturity and wisdom, dialogue and engagement rather than rushing to death threats at the slightest whiff of heresy.  Surely the last thing Egypt and Islam need is another Faraj Fouda or Salman Rushdie situation?

With the Name of Allah

The secular, liberal Egyptian historian and thinker Sayyid al-Qimni, son of a traditionalist Azhari sheikh, has had serious death threats issued against him by many (mainly extremist) religious scholars in Egypt since the end of June, as detailed in his Appeal (below) which he describes as ” a distress call to all bodies and individuals, a call to the consciences of every free individual in the world.”

The latest threats to him seem to have been sparked by his being elected to receive the Egyptian State Award for Social Sciences on June 25th.

In particular, it is alleged that those who have declared that he is an apostate and should be killed (perhaps even by ordinary Egyptians, not just by the state) include:

1- The Muslim Brotherhood
2- Al-Azhar Scholars’ Front headed by Yahya Ismail Habloush
3- 5,000 mosque khatibs in their Friday sermons on July 24th
4- Sheikh Ali Gomaa himself (currently still the Shaykh Al-Azhar, as far as I know)

The situation of a polarisation between religious and secular currents in is repeated in different Muslim-majority countries, eg Pakistan, Turkey, North Africa, etc., so this case is symbolic of a much wider and deeper issue, of course.

Whatever we feel about his views (I think he’s too apologetic about the history of Jihad, for example, and he should not ridicule the Islamic practice of constant remembrance of God out of frustration with the religion-exploiters), clearly, the death threats are pathetic, appalling and totally unacceptable.

Now, our FCO and embassy in Cairo has been working with Sheikh Ali Gomaa and Al-Azhar over the last few years, and also recently hosted the charming Rector of Al-Azhar in the UK.  The Archbishop of Canterbury has also been working with Sheikh Gomaa – I was present last year at Cambridge University when they were the two main speakers at a “Common Word” event.  I also took part in the FCO Projecting British Islam delegation to Egypt last year, which is partly why the matter concerns me.

I’m therefore asking for your help in encouraging our friends in the following places to do the right thing in this regard (and praying to God that they do so, if appropriate!): i.e. to investigate the death-threats and to take appropriate steps to promote peaceful dialogue and debate, including between secularists and fundamentalists, believers and non-believers, etc.

1- The FCO, especially the Foreign Secretary
2- Our embassy in Cairo, as well as the embassies there of other influential countries
3- Al-Azhar University and its various affiliated institutions
4- The office of Sheikh Ali Gomaa
5- The Muslim Brotherhood
6- The office of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi.  Qimni is highly-critical of Qaradawi.  From what I know of Qaradawi, he is at least open and committed to dialogue with others, plus he has a less-hardline position on the alleged death-penalty for apostasy.  Therefore, perhaps he may be able to have a calming influence here.
7- Religious scholars and shaykhs generally, especially those with links to the UK & Egyptian governments and religious circles
8- Lambeth Palace & the office of Dr. Rowan Williams
9- Members of the “Common Word” initiative
10- Human rights organisations & lawyers

I would appreciate your advice, suggestions, help, prayers, etc.  Please publicise this matter and forward it to the relevant people.  I attach pertinent quotes and some weblinks below.


The Arabic Network For Human Rights Information:  Sayyed Alqimni’s Life Is At Stake Amidst An Extremist Campaign. Iftaa Council Declares War Against Free Enlightened Thought.

Abu Aardvark: The secularism debate.

Politics & Religion Blog: Egyptian Reformer Sayyid al-Qimni.

Egyptian Liberal Sayid Al-Qimni & London Islamist Hani Al-Sibai Debate Secularism & Fundamentalism in Arab World.

Sayyid al-Qimni’s blog (in Arabic)

Sayyid al-Qimni is on Facebook also, with that spelling.


This appeal can be found at the Copts’ website as well as at ME Transparent.

(I have edited it for what look like translation errors.  In particular, the Arabic takfir can mean both atonement and excommunication, but clearly the latter is meant throughout this appeal.  Also, salafi means fundamentalist or traditionalist in this context.)

AN APPEAL TO THE WORLD’S CONSCIENCE
From the Egyptian writer and academic researcher of Islamic Affairs, Dr. Sayed Mahmoud El Qemany, who is being exposed to incitements to assassinate him

Qimni photo
In the context of my academic research and practical work I have been able to provide an important set of motion in the stagnant Egyptian situation. I have attempted to make reforms from the inside and worked on the disarmament of those who exploit Islam politically and make it a source of livelihood at the expense of the simple, good people of Egypt. I have therefore created a secular movement that has imposed its presence, although still at a formative stage.

In a free ballot of Egyptian thinkers, I was granted the State Award for Social Sciences, on June 25th 2009. The hard-line radical militant groups considered that the state has adopted this intellectual secular trend officially, infuriating the mentioned group which called on the State to withdraw the prize with the declaration of my defection from Islam and excommunication which means in our country, I could be slain; any citizen is allowed to kill me and be awarded by God in Paradise.

The following parties have participated in the statements of excommunication (takfir), noting that none of them have read a single word of what I wrote, and have not been able to hold a dialogue to discuss my ideas:

1 – Al-Azhar Scholars Front headed by Yahya Ismail Habloush, which issued the first statement of excommunication on July 10, 2009.
2 – The Islamic Group (condemned terrorist group) issued a statement of excommunication on July 10, 2009.
3 – The Muslim Brotherhood hailed the excommunication, and were represented at the parliament by Hamdi Hassan requesting the withdrawal of the award and the declaration of religious-defection and excommunication on July 7, 2009. The Muslim Brotherhood also declared my excommunication on Mohwar Channel on July 11, 2009 and on Al Faraeen Channel on July 13, 2009.
4 – The Salafi (Fundamentalist) Group (condemned terrorist group) dedicated its Internet site named “The Egyptians” for excommunicating me and incitements to kill me, since the date of obtaining the prize until today.
5 – Al Nas channel, which represents the theoretical side of bloody terrorism which declared excommunication and demanded “all citizens who can” to kill me immediately, on July 24 and 25, 2009.
6 – The Hisbah Sheikh Youssef Al Badri in Egypt declared on the channel “ON TV” on July 3, 2009 that I have cursed God and the Prophet Mohammad in my books even though I have challenged him and others to refer to a single text written by me where such claims were made. Due to this proclamation, he has issued an incitement to kill me.
7 – A member of the Al-Azhar scholars, Sheikh Mohammed El Berry, on Mihwar TV Channel on July 11, 2009 announced my excommunication as he also said that he did not read any of my writings since he does not read “garbage”. He repeated the same words on the channel “ON TV” on July 22, 2009
8 – Sheikh Ali Gomaa, the former Chairman of the “State Religious Affairs Advisory Board”, issued a statement declaring my infidelity and calling for slaying me for “insulting the Prophet of Islam, the God of Islam” on July 24, 2009.
9 – The Sheiks of more than 5,000 mosques on Friday prayers on July 24, 2009 declared the incitement to kill me, especially in my hometown, which led to the rampage against my family and relatives, and that could possibly evolve to some serious consequences in the coming weeks.

Due to the above, I call upon the conscience of all humanity in the free world to come to me and my children’s rescue by providing moral support and the condemnation and denunciation of the radical thinking with quick solutions to save us from the danger that is luring around us.  This is a distress call to all bodies and individuals. A call to the consciences of every free individual in the world.

Signed
Sayed Mahmoud El Qemany- Researcher

================================

We, the Liberal Egyptian intellectuals, students, followers, readers and lovers of Dr. Sayed El Qemany call upon the officials to intervene to save our distinguished and respectable intellectual from the threats of radical Islamic movements who continue to incite to murder him, openly and publicly in mosques and on satellite channels, financed by those who exploit religion to serve their political agendas for nothing but their inability to hold a valid and a scientific argument with him and totally lost their minds over his being granted the State Award for Social Sciences, The fact that lead to their predicament that the state has adopted a secular ideology, which is synonymous with heresy and atheism in their ignorant minds.

We also urge the Press Syndicate to address the abuses of the fundamentalist brothers Mahmoud and Gamal Sultan as well as Jamal Abd al-Rahim against Dr. El Qemany inciting the general public to kill him. We call upon the Attorney General as well, to bring to justice those held accountable for incitement to kill an Egyptian citizen whose only crime was to use his mind.

LET’S ALL STAND UP TO THE FUNDAMENTALIST INQUISITION!

El Qemany’s Appeal About Sayyid al-Qimni Qemani text I (English) Qemani text II (English) Qimni – Azhar – Extremism Qimni – Muslim Brotherhood – civil society Qimny on Jihad attitudes

Cover snapshots of Qimni’s books:

Qimni book 1 Qimni book 2 Qimni book 3 Qimni book 4 Qimni book 5 Qimni book 6 Qimni book 7

Arabic Arithmetic – the Abjad Numerical System

June 7, 2009

With the Name of Allah

Ever wondered what all that Arabic numerology is based on?  Here is a brief introduction to the Abjad numerical system.

Arabic Arithmetic – the Abjad Numerical System

Here’s another interesting example and puzzle, given with precisely the same wording by both Ibn Kathir (in al-Bidayah wa l-Nihayah, his history of the world) and Suyuti (in his Tarikh al-Khulafa’ or History of the Caliphs, Mu’assasah al-Kutub al-Thaqafiyyah, Beirut, 2nd ed., 1417/1996, p. 394 under the section on Al-Nasir li Din Allah who lived 553-622 and ruled 575-622, his reign including the reconquest of Jerusalem by Saladin in 583/1187).  The verbatim reproduction by Suyuti suggests that he took this from Ibn Kathir:

One of the strange matters [connected to the reconquest of Jerusalem] is that Ibn Barrajan mentioned in tafsir of “Alif Lam Mim: The Romans have been conquered” [Qur’an, 30:1-2] that Jerusalem would remain in the hands of the Crusaders (al-Rum) until the year 583, when they would be vanquished.  Jerusalem would be conquered and remain a Land of Islam until the end of time.  He derived all this from the arithmetic of the ayah, and it is precisely what happened.

Abu Shamah said: What Ibn Barrajan mentioned is a wondrous coincidence, for he died ages before the event, his death having occurred in the year 536.

(End of quote from Ibn Kathir & Suyuti)

Now, Ibn Barrajan’s arithmetic is puzzling.  Here are the Abjad values of the first two ayahs of Surah al-Rum:

1. Alif Lam Mim: 71

2. Ghulibat al-Rum: 1432, 277

The question is, how did he arrive at the year of the reconquest of Jerusalem?

The only way I can get anything to work is to use ayah 2 only, plus the Surah number (30) and the ayah number:

1432 – 277 + 30 + 2 = 1187, the CE date of the reconquest of Jerusalem which can be converted to the equivalent Hijri year.

Note that the subtraction at the beginning might be justified from the words that literally translate as “Conquered – The Romans.”

Would anyone like to comment on the following questions and notes?

(1) Was this indeed Ibn Barrajan’s arithmetic?

(2) Is there another explanation, perhaps involving a different version of the Abjad numbering (there were two different schemes in use historically: Eastern & Western) ?

(3) Did Ibn Barrajan really make this prediction, or was it interpolated into his manuscript after the event?

(4) The prediction as stated was fulfilled and remained true for almost eight centuries, but is no longer true ever since the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem in 1967.

(5) In the end, this is no more than a mathematical distraction, for the Qur’an is primarily a collection of Signs and Guidance for humanity in our journeys towards God.

Another example of numerology

Ibn Kathir quotes from the early authority Abu l-‘Aliyah that the mysterious letters may denote lifetimes of nations: “Alif is one year; Lam is thirty years; Mim is forty years.”[1]

He also quotes a narration that he dismisses as not authentic, to the effect that some Jews at the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) speculated that the Prophet’s followers would rule for periods denoted by the mysterious letters.  The narration specifically mentions the following groups of letters: ALM, ALMS, ALR and ALMR, for which the numerical equivalents add up to 734 years of rule.  Ibn Kathir then remarks, “If this method is correct, one would have to add up the values of all fourteen of these letters, which would equate to a large figure.  If you calculate taking into account repetition [of groups of letters at the beginning of different surahs], the value will be even greater, and Allah knows best.”[2]


[1] Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, Maktabah Dar al-Fayha’, Damascus/Beirut, 1413/1992 (4 vols.), vol. 1, p. 39 under Qur’an 2:1

[2] Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, Maktabah Dar al-Fayha’, Damascus/Beirut, 1413/1992 (4 vols.), vol. 1, p. 41 under Qur’an 2:1.  Note that Ibn Kathir miscalculates the value of ALMS, forgetting the L, so he gives the total as 704.  The results of the calculations he suggests at the end are 1757 and 3385 years respectively, as detailed in this table: Numerical Values of the Mysterious Letters of the Quran


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