Archive for January, 2011

The Imam of Peace

January 31, 2011

Bismillah. From a friend (John Butt is well-known to many Cambridge University students over the last decade, since he served there as Muslim chaplain):

Please listen to this excellent Radio 4 programme http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00xpng0

“Nadene Ghouri profiles John Butt, an Englishman who travelled to South Asia on the hippy trail, converted to Islam and trained as an imam. For the last few decades his mission has been to spread a message of peace and tolerance across Pakistan and Afghanistan. He set up a series of radio stations across the Swat Valley in Northern Pakistan and established a madrassa in Jalalabad in Afghanistan, preaching his own version of a moderate inclusive Islam. Now this work is getting tougher. The Swat operation was hit by last year’s flooding while militants attacked his madrassa, burning down a building. The jihadist threat means it is too dangerous for John Butt to travel to the Swat Valley or to visit his project in Jalalabad. Nadene Ghouri asks who’s winning – John or the extremists?”

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Lecture today – Islam & the theory of evolution

January 22, 2011

Bismillah. Apologies for the short notice, but this has been announced via the mosque website, email list & Friday prayers over the last few days.

Lecture + Q&A: Islam & the theory of evolution

By: Dr. Usama Hasan

Saturday 22nd January 2011

5-8pm, al-Tawhid Mosque, 80 High Rd, Leyton, London. E15 2BP

The Particle Zoo

January 19, 2011

Bismillah. Remember the Standard Model?

See http://www.particlezoo.net – soft toys for physicists! 🙂

With thanks to the wonderful people at the Cambridge Institute of Astronomy for pointing us to this.

Fazlur Rahman on evolution

January 14, 2011

Bismillah. Received from a friend, with thanks.

Questions for a Fitnah-Monger

January 11, 2011

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

 

QUESTIONS FOR A FITNAH-MONGER

AN OPEN LETTER TO “ABU ABDULLAH” OF THE SO-CALLED “SAVE MASJID TAWHID” PETITION

 

To Abu Abdullah,

 

As-Salamu ‘alaykum.

 

I have the following comments and questions for you, in response to your foolish petition.  I will also publish this letter on my blog (https://unity1.wordpress.com).  Please note that any reply from you may also be published there, since you have made this a public matter.

 

  1. Who are you?  What is your real name, and do you worship at MT?  Did anyone else help you write the petition and set up the website?  If so, who? Real men and women do not hide behind pseudonyms and kunyahs, except when absolutely necessary.
  2. Your petition is despicable and rejected because it is based on a pack of lies, as detailed below, and upon a hasty and ill-advised fatwa from an overseas-based sheikh who had not listened to the other side of the debate, and furthermore appears to have no grounding in modern science, a prerequisite for anyone giving a fatwa on the subject.  (For example, Imam Ibn al-Qayyim establishes in his I’lam al-Muwaqqi’in that anyone giving a fatwa on a subject must be grounded in that subject matter as well as in the foundations of Islam.) As I have already mentioned on my blog, my father has sent a five-page handwritten letter to Sheikh Sadlan, politely demanding that he reconsider his fatwa.  Personally, I do not care whether he retracts it or not, for he had no right to give it in the first place, and I shall continue to ignore it.
  3. It does not matter how many people sign your petition: these signatures will not strengthen your argument, since its foundation is based upon a collection of falsehoods.  Your petition is like a fabricated hadith that remains fabricated, no matter how many isnads are provided for it.
  4. You and the petition-signers do not represent the “community of MT” as you falsely claim: another lie.  Evidence for this is the fact that the petition has been circulated by email and texts around the UK and overseas, as I know from people who have received it.  One person who has been living abroad for years emailed me to say that he had signed it, illustrating that it has very little to do with the community, but more to do with ignorant fanatics and extremists.  Further evidence for this is the fact that the petition has been promoted by the notorious, extremist website so-called “Islamic Awakening,” run by someone who is accurately described by a fellow neo-kharijite of his as “the tantrum-throwing takfiri toddler from Tooting.”
  5. Were you involved with procuring similar fatwas in the past from sheikhs in Madinah and Kuwait?  We heard rumours about such things.  Sheikh Haitham al-Haddad told me that he heard alleged fatwas from some sheikhs about me but ignored them since he knows me.  Were you involved in circulating the false rumour for over a year that Sheikh Ahmad Owais the Somali had given a similar fatwa?  When my father eventually asked him about it, he said that he had said no such thing.  Congratulations on obtaining your fatwa finally from Sheikh Sadlan, after two years of failed efforts with lesser sheikhs.  But this will backfire on you, as you will see insha’Allah.
  6. Another huge lie and massive slander is that you accused me of denying the Qur’anic account of the creation of Adam a.s.  As I made clear in my Guardian CIF article and BBC Radio 4 “Thought for the Day” on the subject, the theory of evolution agrees with the Qur’an in that the creation of humanity began from water, earth, clay and dust.  Evolution, as a scientific theory, describes the kayfiyyah of this creation, i.e. how water, earth, clay and dust eventually became moulded into the human form.  Therefore, I have been reconciling the scientific theory with the Qur’an, something that you have failed to understand and therefore fallen into circulating serious lies.
  7. I imagine you are well-intentioned in attempting to prevent disrespect to Prophet Adam a.s.  But do not you, I and all Muslims believe that all of the great Prophets and Messengers of Allah, except Adam and Jesus Christ, peace be upon them, were created from a human sperm and ovum, the “despised fluid” (ma’ mahin) mentioned in the Qur’an?  Believing in the humble origins of humanity that we can see for ourselves is not the same as insulting or disrespecting the Prophets!
  8. Are you aware that it was Muslim thinkers that produced many of the ingredients of Darwin’s theory, and that some researchers believe that Darwin was influenced by these Muslim writings?  Ibn Miskwayh, Ikhwan al-Safa, Jahiz, Ibn Tufayl, Rumi, Ibn Khaldun, etc.  And if you say that they are unorthodox, then you must disown all of the glorious history of “Islamic science” as unorthodox, and never again quote the scientific achievements of Muslim civilisation in your da’wah.  Evolution is essentially a Muslim theory – Darwin’s genius lay in synthesising the strands and collecting overwhelming evidence for it from the Galapagos Islands and elsewhere.
  9. The new Muslim Marriage Contract was written by Mufti Barkatullah, who is also associated with the Islamic Sharia Council.  It is thus a matter of disagreement amongst Muslim scholars and jurists, and I advise you not to poke your nose into matters that are beyond you.
  10. About veiling, you have again lied by misrepresenting my view.  Are you aware that Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah, in his book Sina’ah al-Fatwa (“The Crafting of Fatwas”), under the section, “The Issue of Veiling in the West,” goes out of his way to quote Ibn ‘Ashur’s statement in his tafsir that the ‘awrah of women possibly does not include the head?  A minority opinion admittedly, but nevertheless there, and probably worthy of being magnified in the West.  Veiling is a cultural and religious practice, and I have tried to raise the level of debate about it in Western societies, for Islam has always manifested itself according to different cultural contexts.  i.e. I am asking the simple question, “How should the Eastern and Islamic practice of veiling be manifested in the West?”
  11. Are you aware that many muftis of the recent past and present have a similar view to mine about veiling?  These include Zaki Badawi and Javaid Ghamidi.  I am also told that the Azhari Sheikhs Tantawi and Sha’rawi had a similar view, but have not been able to confirm this yet.
  12. Are you aware of the numerous cases of extra-marital sex involving bearded Muslim men and headscarf-wearing Muslim women?  Of bearded, practising Muslim men being addicted to porn? Of women wearing a headscarf along with revealing and provocative clothing for the rest of the body?  In one case, a niqab-wearing sister left her husband and ran away with another man (who was not Muslim btw).  In other cases, young men who serve as imams and khatibs committed adultery (Alhamdulillah, I was not one of them), as did headscarf-wearing Muslim women.  Do you think these problems could be related to my point that the noble Qur’anic concept of hijab, which at its zenith refers to the reality that creation is veiled from God, is usually reduced to a headscarf, with an unhealthy obsession with how women dress?  Would you agree that we need to move beyond an obsession with headscarves and niqabs, and focus on the values of modesty, chastity and spirituality that can help to solve these problems?
  13. Have you discussed any of these matters with me over the past few years?  A number of decent, honest and courageous young men have come to me after Friday prayers to discuss these matters, rather than engaging in cowardly backbiting and gossiping.
  14. Are you aware that my father asked me to translate for Sheikh Sadlan at MT, but that I was unavailable?
  15. You refer to my father as “our sheikh” more than once.  How is he your sheikh? How long have you been studying, serving and/or accompanying him?  Alhamdulillah, I have been doing these things for over 30 years. For a start, did you consult him about any of these matters or before launching your petition?  If not, what kind of a student are you?
  16. What formal knowledge or tarbiyah have you gained from my father?  In terms of the latter, it is very little, evidently.  In terms of the former, I doubt that it is very much – besides, it would be useless without your learning any tarbiyah from him.
  17. Are you aware that my father has suffered from serious loss of sleep since you began your campaign via Sheikh Sadlan and then the petition?  That one person forwarded your petition to Sheikh Manwar Ali of JIMAS (who, like many others not with you, has done far more for MT by the grace of Allah than you and your supporters could ever dream of doing) along with an insult directed at my father?  All of this proves that my father is not your sheikh, and your claims otherwise constitute another enormous lie.
  18. There are many other matters that I could address, but I shall stop here due to a lack of time.  Thank you for complimenting me, at least in the past.
  19. If you are a man of courage, you will identify yourself to me next time you see me.  We can then have a civilised discussion about these matters.
  20. I advise you to withdraw the petition, for your own good in this life and the Hereafter.  Beware of the Divine Promise, “Whoever shows enmity to My friends, I declare war on him.”

May Allah forgive me and you.

Was-Salam,

 

Usama Hasan

 

London, 11th January 2011.

NY

January 6, 2011

Bismillah. In NY for the first time, Praise God, for discussions at Google Ideas & the CFR on countering religious & racist extremism.

Amazing city! Sobering to realise that 9/11 happened here. Similarities, differences and affinity between here and our beloved London are interesting.

Took the subway from JFK to Manhattan. There was a passenger reciting a rap loudly to himself all the way! Even the subway announcer sounded as though he was rapping. I keep thinking I’m in a movie, and that something action-packed & spectacular is going to happen at any time. Everyone here talks like those people in the movies. 😉

From the hotel windows, I can see a river (the Hudson?), the Empire State Building, Orion and Sirius.

Peace. 🙂

A Response to Sheikh Salih al-Sadlan and the So-Called “Save Masjid Tawhid” Petition

January 4, 2011

Bismillah.  I hope I do not have to waste too much with this, but here is an initial response.  There will be more later, God-willing.

1. Sh. Salih al-Sadlan of Riyadh gave a fatwa on not praying behind anyone who accepts Darwinism.  This fatwa was given at the Green Lane Mosque in Birmingham, HQ of Markazi Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith, during their annual conference 24-28 Dec 2010.  Sh. Sadlan is a respected Professor of Law, especially Hanbali Law, and I read and benefited from some of his books when I was much younger.  The last time I saw him was c. 1998 at the opening of the new Edinburgh Mosque followed by a conference on the issues facing Muslims in the West, discussed mostly by Saudis plus a few Azharis, all of whom were, not surprisingly, pretty clueless about the reality of trying to live as Muslims here.  I still remember the gravity with which Sh. Sadlan said the word haymanah when talking about a Muslim man’s duty towards his children, especially if he was contemplating marrying a Jewish or Christian woman! 🙂

2. I rang Sh. Sadlan on Tuesday 29 Dec 2010 and spoke to him for about 20 min whilst he was in a car on the way to the airport.  There is at least one witness (the car driver) to some of that conversation. Apart from mentioning “hasty young men” who had briefed him against me, he said that Darwinism was a denial of the Qur’an.  I asked him whether to believe that the earth is round is also a rejection of the Qur’an, for some commentators such as the authors of Tafsir al-Jalalayn said that the earth is flat, based on Surah al-Ghashiyah 88:20.

I further told him that for at least a thousand years, Muslim philosophers and scientists developed evolutionary ideas, e.g. Ibn Miskawayh, al-Jahiz in his Kitab al-Hayawan (“Book of Animals”), Ibn Tufayl in his evolutionary novel Hayy b. Yaqzan (“The Living, Son of the Awake”) and Ibn Khaldun.  I summarised Ibn Khaldun’s words on the subject (given in full below), and told him that there is some evidence that Darwin was aware of, and influenced by these evolutionary ideas developed by Muslims.  He seemed entirely unaware of any of this, and responded to Ibn Khaldun by saying that “there is no development or evolution in nature” (a statement which is patently false, but unfortunately many of our traditional scholars know nothing about modern science that has progressed exponentially in the centuries since the decline of Muslim science).  He further said the most I could do was to quote Ibn Khaldun but clarify that he was wrong and absolve myself absolutely of his statement.

(As a scientist with ijazahs from some of the world’s leading universities, by the Grace of Allah, and as a seeker of knowledge, I clearly cannot accept this based on blind following of “authority,” especially when there is no authority here, for the Muslim world has not really discussed Darwin properly.  I repeat my reply on BBC Radio 4’s Beyond Belief when asked about why the Muslim world has not come to terms with Darwin: forget Darwin, it has not come to terms with Newton yet, given the popularity of the Ash’ari theology and its absolute rejection of causality and extreme affirmation of atomism.)

I also said that I believe that it is possible to reconcile the Book of Allah with established scientific theories such as those of Darwin.  I think I also mentioned that many ayat of the Qur’an could be understood to support evolutionary theory, such as “Allah made you grow like plants out of the ground.” (Nuh 71:17) He said I mustn’t do that, and absolve myself of Darwin.  Of course, I didn’t want to argue too much with a sheikh almost twice my age, and so wished him salams and a safe return to Saudi.  He gave me salams at the beginning and end of the conversation, alhamdulillah.

3. Around 1st January, my father faxed Sh. Sadlan a five-page letter informing him about some of the work I’ve done in the past and continue to do, and requested him to reconsider his fatwa.  I am humbled and upset that my father went to such great lengths on my behalf.  Although my father is not persuaded yet about my view on Darwin ;-), he described it briefly to Sh. Sadlan in the letter and defended my right to arrive at independent conclusions.  All three of us agreed during these conclusions that these discussions must be handled carefully, especially where the public are concerned.  It may be that I publish my father’s letter on this blog later.

I plan to write a detailed paper later insha’Allah on how I believe Darwinism is compatible with the Qur’an.  I would be happy to send that to Muslim scholars around the world for their opinions.  But in the meantime, here are some quotes from scholars of the past, below.  My main ideas have already been summarised and available in this section of my blog including a slide presentation that many people have benefited from, but the others appear not to have bothered to make an effort to even try to listen, learn, understand or discuss.  People are free to disagree and make up their own minds, and I am open to discuss the matter with anyone.  Several honest souls have come to me over the last few years to ask and learn rather than backbite, gossip and slander, which is unfortunately what some others do.

Let those who wish to harmonise, discuss and learn sincerely and worship, do so.  Those who wish to gossip, slander, backbite and spread rumours, only damage themselves.

QUOTES FROM MUSLIM SCHOLARS OF THE PAST

1. Ibn Miskawayh (932-1030 or 4th century AH)

The following entry used to be at Wikipedia for several years, but has now been removed.  I found it here.

Ibn Miskawayh was one of the first to clearly describe the idea of evolution. Muhammad Hamidullah describes the evolutionary ideas found in Ibn Miskawayh’s al-Fawz al-Asghar as follows:

“[These books] state that God first created matter and invested it with energy for development. Matter, therefore, adopted the form of vapour which assumed the shape of water in due time. The next stage of development was mineral life. Different kinds of stones developed in course of time. Their highest form being mirjan (coral). It is a stone which has in it branches like those of a tree. After mineral life evolves vegetation. The evolution of vegetation culminates with a tree which bears the qualities of an animal. This is the date-palm. It has male and female genders. It does not wither if all its branches are chopped but it dies when the head is cut off. The date-palm is therefore considered the highest among the trees and resembles the lowest among animals. Then is born the lowest of animals. It evolves into an ape. This is not the statement of Darwin. This is what Ibn Maskawayh states and this is precisely what is written in the Epistles of Ikhwan al-Safa. The Muslim thinkers state that ape then evolved into a lower kind of a barbarian man. He then became a superior human being. Man becomes a saint, a prophet. He evolves into a higher stage and becomes an angel. The one higher to angels is indeed none but God. Everything begins from Him and everything returns to Him.”[1]

Arabic manuscripts of the al-Fawz al-Asghar were available in European universities by the 19th century. This work is believed to have been studied by Charles Darwin, who was a student of Arabic, and it is thought to have had an influence on his inception of Darwinism.[1]

  1. ^ a b Muhammad Hamidullah and Afzal Iqbal (1993), The Emergence of Islam: Lectures on the Development of Islamic World-view, Intellectual Tradition and Polity, p. 143-144. Islamic Research Institute, Islamabad.

2. IBN KHALDUN (d. 1408 or 8th century AH)

The 14th-century philosopher Ibn Khaldun (http://www.muslimphilosophy.com/ik/klf.htm) wrote in his famous Muqaddimah,

“One should then look at the world of creation.  It started out from the minerals and progressed, in an ingenious, gradual manner, to plants and animals.  The last stage of minerals is connected with the first stage of plants, such as herbs and seedless plants.  The last stage of plants, such as palms and vines, is connected with the first stage of animals, such as snails and shellfish which have only the power of touch.  The word ‘connection’ with regard to these created things means that the last stage of each group is fully prepared to become the first stage of the next group.”

Ibn Khaldun continues, “The animal world then widens, its species become numerous, and, in a gradual process of creation, it finally leads to man, who is able to think and to reflect.  The higher stage of man is reached from the world of the monkeys, in which both sagacity and perception are found, but which has not reached the stage of actual reflection and thinking.  At this point we come to the first stage of man.  This is as far as our (physical) observation extends.” (This is found in NJ Dawood’s abridgment of Rosenthal’s translation, p. 75)

3. RUMI

Low in the earth
I lived in realms of ore and stone;
And then I smiled in many-tinted flowers;
Then roving with the wild and wandering hours,
O’er earth and air and ocean’s zone,
In a new birth,
I dived and flew,
And crept and ran,
And all the secret of my essence drew
Within a form that brought them all to view –
And lo, a Man!

And then my goal,
Beyond the clouds, beyond the sky,
In realms where none may change or die –
In angel form; and then away
Beyond the bounds of night and day,
And Life and Death, unseen or seen,
Where all that is hath ever been,
As One and Whole.

4. Allama Muhammad Iqbal, the great 20th-century philosopher-poet-thinker and intellectual founder of Pakistan, had no problems with Darwinism, as is clear for example in his Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, where he quotes the above lines by Rumi.

5. Prof. Nidhal Guessoum, a practising Muslim and leading astronomer, has published a book recently, reconciling Islam & Evolution.  It is called Islam’s Quantum Question.  I have not seen it yet.

About the so-called “Save Masjid Tawhid” petition

1. The petitioners call themselves, “the Community of Masjid Tawhid” although they appear to be hiding behind internet anonymity so that we don’t know the real names and addresses of the petition-signers.  This is a lie because alhamdulillah, my father and I and our supporters are regulars at MT and do not support this despicable petition.

2. They say, “Now Usama Hasan calls on Muslims to believe that Prophet Adam (alayhi as-salam) evolved from apes, rather than being the Creation of Allah with His Own Two Hands, as the Qur’an informs us.”  This is a lie and a slander.  I have repeatedly said that both creation and evolution are true, since evolution is clearly involved in creation.  What do they say about Allah creating cattle with His Own Hands (Ya Sin 36:71) or building the heavens with Hands, meaning power and skill (Dhariyat 51:47) ?  Will they reject all of science due to their ignorance and misunderstanding of both the Qur’an and science?  Yet they will happily use the fruits of science, i.e. technology such as the internet and mobile phones, to continue their ridiculous campaign!

3. They refer at least twice to “our own Sheikh Suhaib Hasan.”  How is he their Sheikh, and not mine? My father is my main teacher and I do not know anyone who has studied with him more than me.  If there is such a person, I would like to meet him.  I’m fed up of people trying to drive a wedge between father and son, a heinous moral crime.  Have they not realised that my father has endorsed my imamate at the mosque throughout these years and regularly prays behind me at the mosque and at our homes?  Have they not witnessed this hundreds of times during Ramadans and Fridays?  (By the grace of Allah, I led most of the nightly Tarawih prayers at MT over a period of about 20 years.)

3. According to the petition website, it is created by Abu Abdullah (savemasjidtawhid@gmail.com).  He might as well call himself Joe Bloggs (Abu Abdullah means “Father of a Servant of God”).  Why does he not reveal his full name?

4. The petition signatures are private, not public. Enough said.

I advise the petition authors to remove the petition and engage in a civilised discussion.  But regrettably, we’ve seen this situation many times before, e.g. the fitnah-mongers who obtained fatwas against my father in the past from Ali al-Halabi, Salim al-Hilali and Muqbil bin Hadi.  All their efforts came to no avail.  Goats butting mountains.

All Praise be to Allah, in every eventuality.

Partial solar eclipse 04-Jan-2011, God-willing

January 4, 2011

Bismillah.  The BBC has reported this here.

For London, the eclipse will begin around 7am, and thus only be visible from sunrise, around 8.12am, and end around 9.31am.  DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN AT ANY TIME, WHETHER DURING AN ECLIPSE OR NOT, ELSE YOU RISK SERIOUS DAMAGE TO YOUR EYESIGHT, AND PERHAPS EVEN BLINDNESS.  The only exception to this is for the few minutes during a total solar eclipse when the moon totally obscures the sun.  Since this is a partial eclipse, that does not apply. The fact that we depend on the sun for all our light, warmth and energy needs and daily routine, yet go throughout life without ever looking at it, is a metaphor for the fact that we cannot see God in this world, being veiled from Him, although His creation and knowledge is everywhere around us.  We only get to see God in the next life, for those who deserve the Beatific Vision.

In the Islamic tradition, a solar eclipse, like any wonderful natural phenomena, is a Sign of God and therefore a good time for reflection, prayer, meditation and charity, etc.  Those who wish to observe the Islamic solar eclipse prayer at this time may wish to note the following:

1. The prayer is normally done when the eclipse is visible: in this case, from sunrise.  However, extra prayer is usually forbidden for the 5-10 minutes before and after sunrise to avoid imitating sun-worshippers.  My view is that it’s best to wait about 10 minutes after sunrise before offering the eclipse prayer.

2. It would be acceptable to offer or start an eclipse prayer an hour or so before sunrise, since the astronomical calculations are precise to within a minute or two, and hence one knows that the eclipse is taking place.  This would be similar to following Imam Subki’s fatwa that someone who knows astronomically that a visible crescent moon is present behind the clouds is permitted to observe lunar months on that basis, including Ramadan.  However, extra prayer is usually discouraged or forbidden after the dawn prayer and before sunrise, but in this case it would be acceptable as a special exception.  One could therefore, of course, begin the eclipse prayer before sunrise, continuing during sunrise and concluding afterwards.  Would that be acceptable?  The jurists may discuss it endlessly.  My view is that it would be acceptable, since it is not imitating sun-worshippers, like someone who begins the Dawn Prayer shortly before sunrise and concludes it afterwards.

3. The solar eclipse prayer consists of two rak’ahs (cycles).  In the Sunni tradition, three of the main schools have an extra ruku’ (bowing) in each cycle, making a total of two bowings and two prostrations in each cycle.  Before each bowing, the Qur’an is recited, with the jurists disagreeing over whether or not The Opening Chapter (Surah al-Fatihah) must be recited in each section, or simply once per rak’ah.  The Hanafi school holds that there are no extra bowings, so that it is a normal two-rak’ah prayer.  The other three schools accept this also as a valid form of the prayer.  All of these possibilities are valid forms of the prayer.

4. The Prophetic way was to observe a very long eclipse prayer, lasting the entire duration of the event, i.e. 2-3 hours.  This is not necessary, but recommended.  The minimum is a normal two-rak’ah prayer, as detailed above.

5. The prayer may be performed individually, or in congregation.  Congregation is better.  The jurists differ as to whether the recitation of the individual or the imam (leader of the congregation) should be aloud or quiet.  God-willing, all methods are acceptable.  Some jurists held that a lunar eclipse prayer has loud recitation whilst the solar eclipse prayer has quiet recitation since these are performed by night and day respectively, analogous to the loud recitation for the daily night and dawn (darkness) prayers and the quiet recitation in the daily afternoon prayers. For a long, congregational prayer, loud recitation may be best in both cases.  When I helped to revive the Sunnah of the solar eclipse prayer at Masjid Tawhid during August 1999 by spreading awareness and leading several hundred worshippers in a two-rak’ah prayer for over an hour, I recited loudly from the long mufassal surahs (roughly, parts 27-29) of the Qur’an.

The eclipse should be an awe-inspiring event, as usual, if we are blessed with clear skies.  Even if it is overcast or cloudy, we may be able to detect less sunlight than usual.  May we be showered with God’s blessings, internally and externally, during the eclipse and forever afterwards!

 

Have You Stopped Beating Your Wife? The Quran, Hadith and Domestic Violence

January 3, 2011

Bismillah.  I began work on this at about 5am on 1st January and, Praise God, have completed it around 55 hours later.  I am grateful to all my teachers and friends who encouraged me to write this work.

My conclusion is simple: God and Muhammad, peace be upon him, clearly wished to
ban domestic violence, as numerous hadiths indicate.  The verse was always known
to be a temporary compromise, an extremely limited concession that required
minimum use of violence, if at all.  “New” findings are:

1. Numerous hadiths say emphatically, “Don’t beat your wives.”  The Qur’an
apparently says, “You may beat your wives.”  This apparent difficulty must be
resolved.  The verse is perhaps the most quoted by critics and enemies of Islam,
the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.

2. The article tries to highlight a basic and serious flaw with the way many
Muslims read and teach the Qur’an, including some preachers and clerics.
Helping to correct this problem will, God-willing, open the way to dealing with
numerous other controversial issues and “problematic” ayahs and hadiths.

3. Many issues around human rights and women’s rights, gender-equality,
dhimmitude etc. may be fruitfully-addressed along similar lines.

Feedback is welcome, especially from students and scholars of Islam as well as activists and reformers, particularly those involved with women’s rights.  If you find the work of value, I would be grateful if you could help circulate it as widely as possible, and publicise its conclusions that are given in a 2-page summary at the beginning of this 17-page study, and repeated below (with additions) for easy reference.  May Allah reward you. – U.H.

Read the study here: Have You Stopped Beating Your Wife – The Quran on Domestic Violence

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

HAVE YOU STOPPED BEATING YOUR WIFE?

THE PLAIN TRUTH ABOUT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE & THE “WIFE-BEATING” VERSE OF THE QUR’AN, INCLUDING A HOLISTIC STUDY OF IMPORTANT BUT RARELY-QUOTED HADITHS ON THE SUBJECT

© Usama Hasan (London, UK)

3rd January, 2011

CONTENTS

1    SUMMARY OF THIS STUDY.. 3

2    INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND.. 5

3    THE QUR’ANIC VERSE REFERRING TO WIFE-BEATING.. 6

3.1       Notes on this verse. 6

3.2       Ibn ‘Ashur’s Contextualisation of the Verse: Then and Now.. 8

4    SOME HADITHS RELATED TO THE VERSE OF WIFE-BEATING   9

4.1       An Apparent Difficulty. 10

4.2       Resolution of the Difficulty. 10

4.3       A Fundamentalist Interpretation. 10

4.4       The Normative, Orthodox Interpretation. 10

4.5       A Refutation of Alternative Interpretations of “Beat Them”. 13

4.6       A Weak Hadith That Might Otherwise Justify Wife-Beating. 15

5    CONCLUSION.. 17

SUMMARY OF THIS STUDY

  1. There is a verse (ayah) of the Qur’an (Surah al-Nisa’ or Chapter: Women, 4:34) that may appear to condone domestic violence against women.  The verse says, “You may beat your wives.”
  2. Domestic violence is a problem in most, if not all, communities and societies.  For example, current statistics indicate that approximately 1 in 3 British women experience domestic violence during their lifetime.  Although the overwhelming majority of cases of domestic violence in Muslim households are due to wider human factors such as difficulties with relationships and anger-management, a handful of cases involve the husband feeling justified in using violence against his wife on the basis of this Qur’anic text.
  3. Such an attitude is not uncommon amongst socially-conservative Muslims who are “religious” in a formal sense: for example, a conservative leader of Indian Muslims is said to have given a public statement in 2010 denouncing a new law in India that criminalised domestic violence, thus: “They are taking away our divine right to hit our wives.”
  4. This fundamentalist misinterpretation of the Qur’an is sometimes sanctioned by the legal system in Muslim-majority countries, for example, as in the UAE’s Federal Supreme Court ruling of October 2010.
  5. A large number of hadiths (traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him) contain the explicit, emphatic prohibition, “Do not beat your wives!”
  6. These hadiths may appear to contradict the Qur’an, if the latter is read in a superficial, fundamentalist way.
  7. A holistic reading of the Qur’an, Sunnah and Hadiths, taking into account the socio-historical context of the revelation of the Qur’an and of the Prophetic guidance preserved in authentic hadiths, shows clearly that God and Muhammad wished to ban wife-beating and domestic violence completely.  As a temporary measure, and as a step on the way, an extremely limited, reluctant concession was given that only allowed minimal violence as a symbolic gesture of displeasure on a husband’s part.  This was in a strongly patriarchal society that used to bury baby girls alive because of their gender and where sons would inherit their fathers’ wives.  Such practices were outlawed by Islam, which also granted rights to women in 7th-century Arabia that were only achieved by European women in the 19th century, such as the independent right to own their property upon marriage.
  8. The evidence for this interpretation is overwhelming, from the 8th-century AD Mufti of Mecca, ‘Ata bin Abi Rabah, who ruled that “a man may not hit his wife” to the 20th-century Mufti of the Zaytuna in Tunis, Ibn ‘Ashur, who ruled that the State may ban domestic violence and punish any man who assaulted his wife.
  9. The “gradualist” approach of the Qur’an and Sunnah described in this case is a common feature in Islam.  Other examples are the prohibition of wine, gambling, fornication and adultery.  Modern reformers argue that the same principle applies to the abolition of slavery and the struggle towards gender-equality.
  10. Recently, a number of Muslim thinkers and scholars, unfamiliar with the holistic approach to the Qur’an, Hadith and Shari’ah embodied in the universalist Maqasid theory of Islamic law, have attempted to re-translate the “wife-beating” verse to mean something else.  Alternative translations and interpretations include temporary separation of husband and wife, travelling and even making love as a way of solving marital disputes.  A prominent example of this is Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar’s recent translation, The Sublime Qur’an (2007) that is largely-promoted based precisely on her translation of the wife-beating verse. Although well-intentioned, such interpretations and translations are either grammatically unsound or far-fetched, or both.  Furthermore, they ignore the overwhelming evidence provided by the Hadith traditions and simply do not placate the critics of Islam.  The normative, orthodox account of the issue in this study provides a thorough, honest and principled solution to the difficulties apparently posed by the wife-beating verse.
  11. The presence of hadiths with weak isnads (chains of narration) that would otherwise justify wife-beating may be evidence that some early Muslims themselves misunderstood the issue and either fabricated or misreported traditions on the subject.  The value of the work of expert Hadith scholars throughout the ages who meticulously sifted genuine narrations from the weak ones, may be seen to be crucial.  The work of al-Albani, a 20th century Hadith scholar, is especially valuable, for example his gradings for every hadith in the four famous Sunan collections of Sunni Islam.  Albani concentrated more on the chains of narration than the meanings of the traditions, but nevertheless confirmed that all the hadiths banning wife-beating or only allowing a limited concession are authentic whereas all those justifying it absolutely are weak.
  12. This study highlights a fundamental problem with the way many Muslims, including some scholars and clerics, read the Qur’an.  Rather than being read as a “textbook” or “instruction manual” as some superficial, populist, fundamentalist or Hadith-rejecting preachers advocate, it should be remembered for what it is: a collection of divine signs, guidance and wisdom revealed by God to the heart of His Beloved, Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, by God via the Archangel Gabriel (Jibril), the Holy Spirit, peace be upon him.  This guidance was transmitted by practice and oral teaching (remember that “Qur’an” means “A Reading” and hence oral transmission) at first, and only collected by the Companions as a written book after the time of the Prophet, peace be upon him, for fear of this Divine Treasure being lost for ever.  Furthermore, this guidance was always supposed to be manifested by righteous people of piety, humility, good character and the remembrance of God, taking their situation and socio-historical contexts into account.  A critical awareness of hadith and history has always been required, along with the worship of God and the service of humanity, to be guided towards the true way of following the Qur’an.

2010 in review

January 2, 2011

Bismillah.  Isn’t digital technology great? 🙂 Its basis (binary numbers) is implied in the verse, “By the Even and the Odd!” (Qur’an, 89:3), for even-ness and odd-ness are fundamentally a property of binary numbers, and of no other type of number.  Many thanks to the WordPress team for the review below.  – U.H.

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

The average container ship can carry about 4,500 containers. This blog was viewed about 23,000 times in 2010. If each view were a shipping container, your blog would have filled about 5 fully loaded ships.

 

In 2010, there were 66 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 146 posts. There were 21 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 2mb. That’s about 2 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was September 25th with 577 views. The most popular post that day was Free Jaafar al-Hasabi, a British-Bahraini human rights activist.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, mail.live.com, mail.yahoo.com, bahrainonline.org, and bahrainonline.info.tm.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for usama hasan, usama hasan blog, nahw al wadih, famous poems about unity, and unity1.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Free Jaafar al-Hasabi, a British-Bahraini human rights activist September 2010
9 comments

2

A detailed fatwa about music and singing – by Sheikh Abdullah al-Judai February 2010
21 comments

3

Dawn and Sehri/Suhur/Suhoor Timings Confusion for Ramadan in the UK 1430/2009 September 2009
4 comments

4

Hasan Charles Le Gai Eaton departs this world February 2010
7 comments

5

Date of Ramadan 1431 / 2010 August 2010
4 comments