Posts Tagged ‘UK’

A FATWA ON ZAKAT AL-FITR AND FOOD BANKS IN THE UK

July 16, 2015

WITH THE NAME OF GOD, MOST GRACIOUS, MOST MERCIFUL

A FATWA ON ZAKAT AL-FITR (“FAST-BREAKING ALMS-GIVING” AT THE END OF RAMADAN) & FOOD BANKS IN THE UK

(Please click here for a PDF of this fatwa: Zakat al-Fitr and food banks)

All Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds.  Peace and Blessings of God be upon His Noble Messengers.

  1. The “fast-breaking alms-giving” (zakat al-fitr or sadaqat al-fitr) is a confirmed Islamic tradition at the end of Ramadan, of donating food (in the form of staple foodstuffs) to poor people before Eid prayer in the morning of the day of Eid. The majority of jurists hold that zakat al-fitr is compulsory (fard), whilst a minority hold that it is a highly-recommended tradition (sunna); a small minority even argued that it was abrogated by the full obligation of zakat.
  2. Any charitable donation may be sent abroad. However, it is a basic Islamic principle, in common with other religions, that “Charity begins at home,” or as the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, expressed it repeatedly, “Begin with your dependants.” (ibda’ bi man ta’ul, a sound hadith with several narrations)  Thus, it is recommended for Muslims in Britain to distribute their zakat al-fitr offerings locally.  Furthermore, God and His Prophets repeatedly recommend the rights of neighbours: regarding food, the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, emphatically taught, “By God, they are not trustworthy believers: those who spend the night with stomachs full whilst their neighbours go hungry!”
  3. Zakat al-fitr is usually given as food items; the Hanafi jurists allowed the giving of cash, but this was with the intention that the poor recipients may use the cash to buy food or other essential items. Therefore, it remains an option to donate zakat al-fitr as either food items or cash.
  4. The amount of zakat al-fitr payable is, per wealthy Muslim head (adult or child), traditionally equal to one saa’ (approximately 3 litres in volume[1]) of the staple food item, or possibly half of one saa’ (approximately 1.5 litres) for more expensive foodstuffs.[2] One saa’ equates to the following approximate weight of common UK staple foods: rice 2.5kg, flour 2kg, pasta 1kg, porridge (porage) oats 1kg; by comparison, one sa’ of dates (not a UK staple food) weighs approximately 2kg.[3]
  5. The retail prices of the above items imply that UK zakat al-fitr is approximately £3-£5 per person. Some jurists recommend, to be safe, giving 3kg of staple food, which would be more than one saa’ in the vast majority of cases of staple food.
  6. Alternatively, the zakat al-fitr amount was traditionally understood to be the equivalent of food for one or two meals, each meal consisting of one or two mudds (one saa’ = four mudds). Since an average, filling meal costs roughly £2.50-5.00 in the UK currently, this approach gives us a similar answer, i.e. zakat al-fitr at £2.50-5.00 or £5-10.
  7. Traditionally, zakat al-fitr was mostly given to poor Muslims: most jurists held that poor people who were not Muslim were not eligible to receive zakat al-fitr, since both poverty and Islam were conditions for recipients. But Imam Abu Hanifa and others held that poor dhimmis (non-Muslim People of Scripture, protected by Muslim authorities) were eligible to receive it, since poverty was the only condition for recipients.
  8. Since the category of dhimmis was abolished by the Ottoman caliph in 1856 in favour of equal citizenship (muwatana) irrespective of faith or religion, and since Muslims comprise only 4-5% of the population of Britain where all citizens are equal, zakat al-fitr in the UK may simply go to poor people, irrespective of their religion, faith or belief (or lack thereof).
  9. With up to a million annual estimated uses of food banks by people in the UK to complement their situation of poverty, an obvious way for Muslims to distribute their zakat al-fitr locally is via their local food banks. Since the recipients do not have to be Muslim, based on the view of Imam Abu Hanifa, this should pose no problem religiously.  Food banks based in areas of the UK with Muslim-majority populations, or those run by mosques, are likely to have recipients who are mainly Muslim.
  10. Suggestions for the staple foodstuffs of people in the UK include, but are not limited to: bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, cereals, flour, couscous, etc. (Traditionally, zakat al-fitr has been given in solid staple foodstuffs, whereas for fidya and kaffara, bread was prominently given, accompanied by oil, fat, vinegar, meat, etc. – cf. Tafsir Ibn Kathir on Qur’an 5:89 & 5:95. Long-life milk and juice is in demand at UK foodbanks, and it is arguable that these liquids are also UK staple foods.)
  11. It is thus recommended for wealthy Muslims in the UK who wish to distribute their zakat al-fitr to do so either directly to needy families, else via their local food bank, else via cash to a local, national or international charity.
  12. May God accept and bless our worship during Ramadan, Eid and all year round, and guide us towards helping to eliminate poverty and unnecessary hunger.

(Sheikh Dr) Usama Hasan: London (UK), 29th Ramadan 1436 / 16th July 2015

APPENDIX: SOME BACKGROUND RESEARCH

 

  1. EXTRACTS FROM THE BOOK OF ZAKAT AL-FITR (“FAST-BREAKING ALMSGIVING”) by IBN RUSHD / AVERROES[4]

Its ruling: The majority of jurists hold that zakat al-fitr is compulsory (fard).

The ‘Iraqi jurists and some of the later Maliki ones hold that it is a recommended tradition (sunna).

Some said that it was abrogated by the obligation of zakat, based on the hadith of Qays bin Sa’d bin ‘Ubadah, who said, “The Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace, used to order us to give it [zakat al-fitr] before the obligation of zakat was revealed.  When the verse of zakat was revealed, we were neither commanded to, nor forbidden from, giving it [zakat al-fitr], but we continue doing so.”[5]

 

When does zakat al-fitr become obligatory?

Abu Hanifa and Malik via Ibn al-Qasim: At dawn on the day of Eid al-Fitr.

Shafi’i and Malik via Ashhab: At sunset on the last day of Ramadan.

Thus, for a newborn baby between these two times, there is disagreement as to whether or not zakat al-fitr is due on his/her behalf.

 

Recipients

Poor Muslims may receive it, by consensus (ijma’).

As for poor dhimmis [protected non-Muslims], most of the jurists say that they may not receive it. Imam Abu Hanifa said that they may receive it. Some said that only monks amongst dhimmis may receive it.

 

 

  1. EXTRACT FROM FATH AL-BARI, IBN HAJAR AL-‘ASQALANI’S COMMENTARY ON SAHIH AL-BUKHARI, CHAPTERS ON SADAQAH AL-FITR, HADITHS NOS. 1503-1512 (translations of these hadiths widely available)

http://hadith.al-islam.com/Page.aspx?pageid=192&TOCID=965&BookID=33&PID=2783

Ja’far al-Firyabi narrated in his Kitab Sadaqat al-Fitr (Book of Fast-Breaking Almsgiving) that when Ibn ‘Abbas was the governor of Basra, he ordered the giving of zakat al-fitr: a saa’ of dates etc. or half a saa’ of wheat. When ‘Ali came and saw the cheap prices, he commanded that a saa’ measure be used for all foodstuffs, indicating that he considered the value of the food, whilst Abu Sa’id considered the volume of the food.

ويدل على أنهم لحظوا ذلك ما روى جعفر الفريابي في ” كتاب صدقة الفطر ” أنابن عباس لما كان أمير البصرة أمرهم بإخراج زكاة الفطر وبين لهم أنها صاع من تمر ، إلى أن قال : أو نصف صاع من بر . قال : فلما جاء علي ورأى رخص أسعارهم قال : اجعلوها صاعا من كل ، فدل على أنه كان ينظر إلى القيمة في ذلك ، ونظرأبو سعيد إلى الكيل كما سيأتي .

 

  1. ABOUT UK FOOD BANKS

In the UK, the Trussell Trust (http://www.trusselltrust.org/) runs a network of foodbanks, although there are many other independent foodbanks and collection points run by churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, community centres, etc.  Trussell can help community and faith organisations to begin a foodbank, and also have a partnership with Tesco, such that every Tesco store is potentially a foodbank collection point.  Many foodbanks distribute food parcels to the needy on one day each week.

Trussell’s recommended items for foodbanks, based on http://www.trusselltrust.org/resources/documents/foodbank/website-shopping-list.pdf and variations in printed leaflets from Trussell:

  • Milk (long-life/UHT or powdered)
  • Sugar
  • Fruit Juice (long-life or carton)
  • Soup / Hot Chocolate
  • Pasta Sauces
  • Sponge Pudding (tinned)
  • Cereals
  • Rice pudding / Custard
  • Tea Bags / Instant Coffee
  • Instant Mashed Potato
  • Rice / Pasta
  • Tinned Meat / Fish
  • Tinned Fruit, incl. tomatoes
  • Jam
  • Biscuits or Snack Bars
  1. APPROXIMATE WEIGHT (MASS) OF ONE SAA’ (THREE LITRES) OF VARIOUS FOODSTUFFS, THE RECOMMENDED AMOUNT OF ZAKAT AL-FITR TO BE GIVEN PER PERSON

This is based on simple measuring out and weighing using a measuring container and scales found in an average kitchen, by the author on the date of the fatwa. (This is a fun, instructive and educational activity for adults and children towards a religious, humanitarian objective.)

  • Rice 2.4kg
  • Flour (medium chapatti) 1.8kg
  • Dates (sticky Saudi ones) 2.1kg
  • Pasta (white fusilli) 1.0kg
  • Porridge / porage oats (Scott’s) 1.1kg
  • Corn Flakes (Kellogg’s) 480g
  • Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes (Kellogg’s) 600g
  • Cheerios (Nestle) 360g

 

  1. EXAMPLE OF DIY ZAKAT AL-FITR IN ACTION IN THE UK

On this date, the author and his wife are blessed with four children, so the following foodstuffs, all in 500g packets, were bought from a local supermarket and delivered to a local foodbank collection point, by the grace of God:

Rice 5kg

Pasta 3kg

Porridge oats 2.5kg

Total cost: £20, working out at just under £3.50 per head for a family of six

May Allah (God) accept and bless our Ramadan and Eid!

FOOTNOTES / REFERENCES

[1] Cf. http://www.bakkah.net/en/zakat-fitr-measurements-saa-three-litres-mudd.htm

[2] Cf. Sahih al-Bukhari, Book of Zakat, Chapters on Sadaqat al-Fitr, Hadiths nos. 1503-1512

[3] Note that 3 litres of water weigh exactly 3kg, so this implies that all these foods are less dense (“lighter”) than water. In fact, they are denser than water but the air trapped between the food particles means that 3 litres of food generally weighs less than 3 litres of water (3kg).

[4] Extracted from: Ibn Rushd al-Qurtubi al-Andalusi [Averroes], Bidayat al-Mujtahid [The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer], Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, Beirut, 1418/1997, vol. 1, pp. 413-420; a full English translation of this work is available, by Prof. Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee

[5] Nasa’i, Ibn Majah, Hakim & Bayhaqi

Open letter to ISIS from UK Muslims

September 11, 2014

Bismillah.  – Please add a comment if you would like to add your name to the list of signatories.  Thanks!

With the Name of God, The Compassionate, The Merciful

Friday 5th September 2014

To Mr. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,

Leader of the self-styled and so-called “Islamic State,” being neither Islamic nor a state.

 

Peace be upon those who follow true guidance.

We, a group of British Muslims, would like to remind you on this holy day of ours (Friday) that the actions of your group are utterly wrong and evil according to the religion of Islam.

Your brutal massacres of innocent people (Sunni and Shia Muslims, Christians and Yazidis) and your enslavement of women and children run totally contrary to the Qur’an, which teaches that murder is like genocide (5:32) and that “there is no compulsion in religion,” (2:256) as you must know.

Your horrific violations of justice are totally anti-Islamic in spirit, betraying the peaceful message of Islam and of the overwhelming majority of Muslims worldwide, who do not subscribe to your hateful ideology.

Your group is an affront to the noble and holy name of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, who was “a mercy to the worlds” (21:107) and who taught that “All of creation is God’s family, and those most beloved to God are those who are kindest to His creation.”

We demand that you stop your vile crimes against humanity, disband your group and stop threatening the civilised world that Muslims and non-Muslims, in partnership, have spent centuries building.

Stop all these monstrosities, and stop carrying them out in the name of God, and in the name of following Islam and the holy Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and all of God’s messengers.

We, as British Muslims, are clear that being loyal citizens and contributing fruitfully to society is at the core of our faith.

We also demand that you stop the psychological grooming of our naïve and vulnerable young men and women into joining your bloodthirsty gangs, destroying their lives and those of their hard-working British families.

Know that your so-called “Islamic State” is doomed to failure because of its tyrannical nature, and that we, along with the rest of the civilised world, will continue to oppose and resist your madness in every possible way. “Truth has arrived, and falsehood has perished: for falsehood is, by its nature, always bound to perish.” (Qur’an 17:81)

 

Signed

  1. Sheikh Dr Usama Hasan – Imam, London
  2. Khalid Mahmood MP – Labour Member of Parliament for Perry Barr
  3. Ms. Sughra Ahmed, President, Islamic Society of Britain
  4. Sheikh Dr Hafiz Ather Hussain al-Azhari – Imam, Leicester
  5. Cllr Yakub Hanif al-Naqshbandi – Imam, Luton
  6. Ms. Sara Khan, Co-Director, Inspire
  7. Sheikh Irfan Chishti al-Azhari MBE – Imam, Greater Manchester
  8. Fiyaz Mughal OBE – Director of Tell MAMA (Monitoring Anti-Muslim Attacks)
  9. Mohammed Amin – mohammedamin.com, Manchester
  10. Ms. Kalsoom Bashir, Co-Director, Inspire
  11. Dilwar Hussain, Chair, New Horizons in British Islam
  12. Mohammed Abbasi – Director of the Association of British Muslims
  13. Ms. Khola Hasan, religious scholar, Essex
  14. Haras Rafiq – Co-Founder and former Executive Director Sufi Muslim Council
  15. Sheikh Dr Irfan al-Alawi – Executive Director, Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, Birmingham
  16. Ms. S. Patel MA – Scholar in Near and Middle East Studies, London
  17. Sheikh Osman Saeed Dar al-Azhari, Imam, Greater Manchester
  18. Maajid Nawaz – Chairman of Quilliam and LibDem Parliamentary Candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, London
  19. Mufti Abu Layth, founder of The Islamic Council UK, Birmingham
  20. Syed Mohsin Abbas, Muslim Community Development Network, London
  21. Nadeem Afzal, social worker, Birmingham

 

Fatwa on fasting in Ramadan during the UK summer

June 30, 2014

UPDATE 1st Ramadan 1436 / 18 June 2015: Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim

1. There seems to be unnecessary fuss and controversy about this scholarly and practical discussion: disagreement is not disunity; a healthy discussion is not “fitnah.” A reminder: this is not a new fatwa – it was issued by Sheikh Muhammad Abduh 100 years ago, and re-iterated by Sheikh Mustafa al-Zarqa’, a leading 20th-century jurist.  The fatwa also applies to most of Europe – see below.

2. A senior Hanafi UK mufti informed me recently that medieval Hanafi jurists gave a similar fatwa, after Muslims travelled to Northern Europe including Rus (Russia).  Ibn Fadlan (Hollywood’s “Thirteenth Warrior”) famously travelled to Scandinavia, so Muslims were aware of these issues going back centuries.

3. A junior UK mufti has recently claimed that previous fatwas only applied to places where sunrise and sunset do not occur, i.e. “lands of the midnight sun.” This is simply not true: Sheikh Zarqa’ explicitly stated that the fatwa applies to lands with a latitude higher than 45 degrees (which includes most of Europe and all of Canada, Alaska and some Northern US states – as a quick glance at a map will show; it only excludes Spain, Portugal, Southern France (roughly, Bordeaux or further south), Italy etc.), whilst the “lands of the midnight sun” begin at 66.5 degrees (in the Arctic and Antarctic Circles, during their respective summers).  This is because of the earth’s tilt of 23.5 degrees, first measured by the Abbasid astronomers at the Bayt al-Hikma (House of Wisdom) in Baghdad, 11-12 centuries ago: 23.5 degrees away from the Equator gives us the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn; whilst 23.5 degrees away from the poles (90 – 23.5 = 66.5) gives us the Arctic and Antarctic Circles.

Have a happy and blessed Ramadan, with positive and pure thoughts, words and deeds!

ORIGINAL ARTICLE:

Bismillah.

1. A number of people have asked me since last year about the excessive length of fasting during UK summer months.

2. This has included those new to the practice of fasting, elderly and middle-aged people, who wish to fast but simply cannot manage the very long days. Since last year, I’ve heard reports of such people in hospital, as well as of children falling seriously ill, due to fasting more than 18 hours per day.

3. The day length in London during a midsummer Ramadan is almost 17 hours *sunrise-sunset*. Since there is no agreed beginning of dawn, the dawn-sunset timings vary from 19 to 20.5 hours.

4. The day length increases as we go further north, especially in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

a) E.g. I visited Dublin in June 2000: sunset prayers at the Dublin Islamic Centre (Clonskeagh Mosque) were held at 10.30pm, followed by night prayers at 12am and dawn prayers at 2am. Assuming dawn at 1am, this gives a 21.5-hour dawn-sunset fast.

b) On the other hand, I visited Stockholm in December 1999: sunrise was at 10.30am and sunset at 3.30pm. In winter there, the dawn-sunset fast is barely 6-7 hours, whereas it is 9-10 hours in the southern UK.

5. To reduce the fasting length, note that some of the Sahaba (Prophet’s Companions), including Hudhayfa bin al-Yaman, and Successors ate until sunrise or just before. Tabari and Ibn Kathir mention numerous narrations proving this under Qur’an 2:187, although both of them reject the practice based on a literalist reading of the verse (they lived in moderate climes). Ibn Hazm also approves the practice in his Al-Muhalla.

6. The jurists have discussed this matter for high latitudes (anything over 45 degrees, being halfway between the equator and poles, according to Mustafa Zarqa’.). As Sheikh Muhammad Abduh, Grand Mufti of Egypt, mentions in Tafsir al-Manar, classically they mentioned two possibilities to follow more moderate timings:

a) follow timings of the lands of revelation, viz. Mecca and Medina (Hijaz) – throughout the year, the dawn-sunset fast here is 12-15 hours

b) follow timings of the nearest “moderate land”

Abduh adds, “Both of these are valid, since it is a matter of judgment (ijtihad), and there is no unequivocal text (nass) about it.”

7. Note that following timings of the nearest “moderate land” is similar to following timings of the nearest “moderate time” in your own land, e.g. spring or autumn timings, when the days and nights are approximately of equal length.

8. Abduh is not alone in the above fatwa: he is quoting from centuries of earlier jurists. After him, his fatwa has been echoed by Muhammad Hamidullah, Mustafa Zarqa, Sayyid Tantawi, Jad al-Haqq, and Ali Gomaa amongst others. Texts and discussions of these fatwas may be found on the internet, e.g. see http://alrukn.com/long-fasts-fiqh/

9. The above fatwa implies partially decoupling fasting from dawn/sunset.

10. The spirit of fasting is clearly “from morning until evening” and to focus on its inner aspects, without hair-splitting about external matters.

11. The famous Qur’anic passage about fasting 2:183-7 begins and ends with taqwa (God-consciousness), and includes the memorable wisdom, “God wishes ease for you, not hardship … that you complete the course, magnify God for guiding you, and that you give thanks.”

This verse is in fact the basis of the numerous hadiths about making matters in religion relatively easy and not difficult, of the classical Hanafi principle of istihsan (attaining goodness, even if opposed to analogical reasoning) along with 39:17-18, cf. the first page of Kitab al-Istihsan in Al-Mabsut of al-Sarakhsi, and of contemporary jurists’ emphasis on taysir (easing matters), part of the Prophetic spirit and one of the principles of jurisprudence.

12. In exceptional circumstances, the Prophet (peace be upon him) understood that “morning” and “evening” were relative to people’s habits and culture.

Hadith: Safwan bin Mu’attal, who as a virgin was caught up with Aisha, Mother of the Believers, in the scandalous rumours that rocked Medina after the Mustaliq expedition, eventually got married. His wife once came to the Prophet and complained about her husband on three counts. (The Prophet defended and made excuses for him regarding all three matters.) One of these was that “he does not get up for the dawn prayer, and only offers it after sunrise when he rises.” When the Prophet asked him about this, he replied that his people or tribe customarily rose after sunrise, and not at the crack of dawn. The Prophet’s wise answer was, “In that case, pray when you wake up.” (Fa idha-stayqazta fa salli, a sound hadith in the Sunan, rated as authentic by Albani in his evaluation of the hadiths of Mishkat al-Masabih.)

Thus, for example, those who work night-shifts, working throughout the night and sleeping during the day, should fast during the night. This is because night has become day for them and vice-versa. The Qur’an that encourages fasting during the day also states that night is for sleep whilst the day is for work (e.g. 78:9-11).

13. An Azhari sheikh recently suggested to me that 12 hours’ fasting was sufficient, based on the average length of a day over a whole year: this is true of the sunrise-sunset day, for every place on earth. If we use dawn-sunset instead, we get 13-14 hours’ fasting. Note that this approach implies keeping a similar-length fast irrespective of the season in which Ramadan falls: in the winter, fasting would be much longer than the dawn-sunset timing, and some of us do follow that approach. This has an element of “continuous fasting” (sawm al-wisal, where fasting continues by night) about it: the Prophet practiced this regularly for several days at a time, but disallowed it for his followers, unless they were sure they could manage it.

14. I am reliably informed that Muslims in Norway use a 14-hour fasting timetable in the summer.

15. A case may be made for 16-hour fasts, based on Imam Ghazzali’s view that the maximum a person should sleep at night is a third of the day and night, i.e. 8 hours.

16. Insisting that those unable to complete long fasts should make them up at another time is practically equivalent to moving Ramadan out of the summer and into the seasons of autumn, winter or spring.

CONCLUSION / FATWA

All Praise belongs to God. Peace and Blessings be upon the Messengers of God.

1. Those who wish to follow dawn-sunset timings of 18-21 hour fasts and can do so safely, are free to do so.

2. Those who find this genuinely unbearable, or are convinced of the non-literalist approach of “morning to evening” rather than the literalist “dawn to sunset”, may wish to fast for 12 or preferably 14-16 hours, beginning from dawn, sunrise or even their usual morning meal (breakfast!). Such moderate timings are based on the fatwas of jurists over many centuries for high latitudes.

3. Whatever length a person fasts, they should not feel superior to others. The spirit of Ramadan and fasting includes God-consciousness, patience, perseverance, gratitude, prayer, worship, charity, generosity, humility, self-purification, self-development, helping others, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, lowering the gaze (of the eyes from lustful glances and of the heart from other than God)  and the remembrance and love of God.

May Allah, the One and Unique having Infinite Beautiful Names, bless all of humanity during this month, and shower upon us its internal and external grace.

Sheikh Dr. Usama Hasan (London, UK)

1st Ramadan 1435 / 29th June 2014 (updated: 4th Ramadan 1435/ 2nd July 2014; 11th June 2015)

Download a 2-page PDF of this fatwa here: Fasting in the UK summer

A Good Friday? Protests, Prayers and Peace at the Park – 18 April 2014

April 20, 2014

Bismillah. We often go as a family to Regent’s Park Mosque (RPM aka London Central Mosque) for prayers around Easter, since it’s a rare Friday with schools and offices shut, no congestion charge for driving around the city centre and the car parking in the park being at holiday rates: just over half the normal rate at £1.40 per hour rather than £2.40, significant when you wish to stay the whole day.

Approaching the mosque from inside the park, we noticed several police vans parked around the corner. Unusual, since there are normally only a couple of police officers outside the main entrance of the mosque in Park Rd.

Being a public holiday, the mosque congregation was much larger than usual, perhaps by 50%. We could only find parking near London Zoo and walked back, past the usual armed officers guarding Winfield House, the US Ambassador’s residence, literally a stone’s throw from the mosque’s rear entrance. On the way, I told my 7-year-old son about the Islamic tradition that spiritual reward earned for travelling to mosque is proportional to the effort required, even measured by the footsteps taken: several hadiths speak of this in a literal commentary on Qur’an (Surat Y.S. 36:12), “We write down their traces: everything have We recorded in a Clear Source.” When a particular tribe in Medina wished to move closer to the Prophet’s Mosque since they walked daily to it five times a day for prayers, he (pbuh) had replied, “Stay in your homes: your footsteps are written in tomes.” (Diyarukum, tuktabu atharukum) Ibn ‘Uthaymin once commented that the equivalent of a footstep for a car or bike was a wheel revolution.

The mosque was full, so we listened to the sermon after squeezing into the main courtyard, also full, all the way back to the car park: I counted about 40 rows, with about 40 people per row, hence over 1500 males here. The main hall holds at least 2000 males, plus the women’s sections and basement halls were all full, so I estimate at least 5000 worshippers. It’s always nicer to pray in the open air when the weather is nice, as it was on Friday: God’s wonderful dome beats any man-made one, even if it’s golden. As the Prophet (pbuh) said, “The entire earth has been made a place of worship.”

Islamic tradition demands that worshippers listen to the imam’s Friday sermon in absolute silence, which is why we easily heard the sounds of protesters, who must have been close to the main entrance. The Azhar-trained imam, Sheikh Khalifa Ezzat, had chosen his topics carefully, and probably in response to some of the protests, about which the mosque must have been informed by police: in both Arabic and English, he preached about justice (quoting Ibn al-Qayyim: “God upholds just societies and destroys or allows the self-destruction of unjust ones”) and condemned the evil crimes of sexual grooming gangs, although the latter wasn’t a great topic for a very family-oriented congregation. Listening to an Egyptian imam preaching about just society in a courtyard with one or two thousand people, I thought of Tahrir (Liberation) Square.

Straining to hear the imam’s soft-spoken voice, even through the loudspeakers, was made more difficult by the loud chants of “E, E, EDL” and rendition of “Jerusalem” (accompanied by music) by William Blake coming from the other side of the main gates. I spotted one leader of a Muslim fascist group in the courtyard, and feared trouble. The irony was that many of us British Muslims would be quite happy to sing “Jerusalem,” although not in mosque, where the ascetic atmosphere is quite rightly one of worship and devotion that transcends even spiritual music and song. Furthermore, Blake is possibly England’s greatest mystical poet (as well as Shakespeare, judging by Martin Lings’ phenomenal book about the latter), and arguably would have felt at home with the Remembrance of God in a beautiful mosque inside one of London’s prettiest Royal Parks. As the Prophet (pbuh) said, “God is beautiful and loves beauty.”

Prayers after the sermon were also disturbed by chants and another musical score that my teenage son told me later was something called “Hearts of Courage” that he liked from school.

I have uploaded short video extracts of the sermon accompanied by the sound of protest, here: and here:

Others have uploaded videos of their protests. Had I been alone, I would have gone over to see the rival protests, but there was potential for serious trouble and we took no chances with our 7-year-old twins. Furthermore, we had come to mosque for inner and outer peace, not for childish, angry protests. Police sirens also disturbed prayers, but their helicopter crew had the courtesy to only bring their noisy flying machine over once prayers were over. The chopper slowly flew above Park Rd later towards Baker St – we learnt afterwards that this to police those marching for a mediaeval Caliphate and Sharia, dutifully protected by Western freedom of expression and the “kufr (infidel) law” that they so despise providing dozens of police to keep the peace at our collective taxpayers’ expense. (The truth is, of course, that Western and Islamic law have the same basis: justice and mercy, so such protests are misplaced.)

Of the 5000 Muslims at mosque, no more than about 1% joined this march. We are the 99%. Alhamdulillah.

As ever with Friday prayers at RPM, hundreds of families streamed into the park afterwards. My wife told me about journalists trying to interview worshippers. There were a couple of Orthodox Jewish families also in the park, no doubt fresh from celebrating Passover and enjoying the sunshine before the Sabbath later. I hope they didn’t feel intimidated by the hundreds of Arabs and Muslims – I don’t think they were.

There were long queues for cake, ice-cream and boating lake tickets. Tulips were in full bloom in a gorgeous array of colours. We saw a heron amongst the ducks and swans, and came across a RSPB stall with birdspotting telescopes (spotting scopes), and got to see two different triplets of baby heron chicks nesting in the trees of the boating lake. We also saw a number of delightful ducklings snuggling up to their Mother Duck. We imagined the excitement of these herons and ducks at their new arrivals, remembering our own when our babies were born. “Every crawling creature in the earth, and every bird flying with its two wings, comprise communities and nations like your human ones. We have not omitted anything from the Record: then, to their Lord, shall they be gathered.” (Qur’an, 6:38)

We joined the RSPB as a family: they have no fixed fee, only a suggested donation of £5-10 per month: you get a membership pack with gifts and benefits including free entry to their nature reserves around the country. I encourage others to do so also, here: http://www.rspb.org.uk

After a 3-hour walk around the park, we came across a young, well-intentioned masked Muslim man on a bicycle, wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt. He was from “London Anti-Fascists” and had been riding around in an anti-EDL op, and asked whether we had had any trouble. Nice of him. I should have asked him why LAF don’t take on Muslim fascists who avowedly want a global totalitarian theocracy and to execute any dissident or non-conformist.

So come on please, EDL-ers and Caliphaters: please stop being at each other’s throats and let’s have civilised interaction rather than offending each others’ sacred symbols, such as by disturbing prayers or abusing the bases of Britishness. And let’s all help with forming trust, mediation and reconciliation, that we may yet build Jerusalem and Medina in England’s green and pleasant land.

Usama Hasan, https://unity1.wordpress.com

Hadiths on Female Circumcision (FGM)

March 19, 2014

Bismillah. Further to Quilliam’s press release last week against the call to reintroduce female circumcision (FGM) in the Maldives, here are further thoughts on the issue, including a discussion of hadiths about the subject:

1. FGM is a cultural practice that was known in pre-Islamic Arabia. It is also found in parts of Africa.

2. FGM has no religious Islamic sanction – there are just two traditions on the subject, both of which are strongly disputed, with many jurists throughout history discounting them as having nothing to do with the Prophet of Islam.

There are two hadiths in the Sunan collections (medium-level authenticity) relevant here. To paraphrase, these two hadiths say, “Cut, but don’t cut too much” and “Female circumcision is a way of honouring (!) women.”

The isnads (chains of narration) of these two hadiths are acknowledged to be weak, including by the Sheikh Albani. However, regrettably, Albani judged that the two hadiths support each other and that they are therefore sound (hasan). This judgment is quoted by many writers, including the influential Saudi scholar al-‘Arifi/’Urayfi in his “Etiquettes of Welcoming the Newborn in Islam” (Adab Istiqbal al-Mawlud fil Islam), to support FGM. [Note that thousands of copies of the latter book in Arabic were distributed for free in the UK by salafist organisations.]

However, the UK-based British-Iraqi Sheikh Abdullah al-Judai vehemently disagrees with Albani about this, declaring these hadiths to be seriously weak and FGM to be a custom not approved by Islam. [See Postscript below for more details.]

Here, it is worth analysing three claims made in the recent Lapido Media article on Maldives FGM (http://www.lapidomedia.com/node/3987):

(a) “the four Sunni schools approved of female circumcision”

This may well be the case, because of the above hadiths being accepted by jurists without scrutiny, although many Hadith scholars pointed out their weakness. Like the blasphemy and apostasy laws of medieval Islam, FGM became a theoretical juristic position even though it was rarely practiced. These issues need to be addressed by the proponents of so-called “traditional Islam” (that is actually mediaeval Islam), of both the madhhabist and salafist varieties.

(b) “one reason for this was to reduce women’s sexual appetite”

Ibn Taymiyyah certainly says so, and endorses it. He goes on to claim that “non-Muslim women, being uncircumcised, have excessive sexual desire.” (Ibn Taymiyyah, Fatawa al-Nisa’ or Jurisprudential Pronouncements relating to Women.) Other mediaeval jurists, also known for their xenophobia and misogyny notwithstanding positive qualities in other aspects, probably agreed with him.

(c) [A Maldivian cleric] quotes a hadith of the collection by Prophet Mohammed’s wife, Aisha, as saying, ‘A bath becomes obligatory if one sleeps with your wife and the circumcised parts touch each other.’ The cleric concludes: ‘The word circumcision has been applied to both men and women here. The hadith demonstrates that women must be circumcised as well.’

This hadith may be more sound but, as Sheikh Judai states, it contains no approval of (male or female) circumcision, merely providing a factual description. To claim that this hadith obliges FGM (“women must be circumcised”) is an example of very poor and flawed logic and juristic reasoning.

3. The fact that FGM is cultural, not religious, is obvious from two matters: (i) it is/was known in non-Muslim communities in Arabia and parts of Africa; (ii) female circumcision is a very rare practice in the Muslim world, unlike male circumcision that is universal in Muslim societies.

4. The hadith (of 40 Nawawi) and fundamental Sharia principle of outlawing harm (la darar wa la dirar), that is based on numerous Qur’anic verses, dictates a total Islamic ban on FGM today, now that the medical, physiological, sexual, emotional and psychological harms are indisputable. This is the position of Al-Azhar and other institutions.

5. We should welcome the recent tougher legislation and enforcement against FGM in the UK and commend the campaign of the young British-Somali woman from Bristol in this regard. We should note also that there a number of British clerics who are stuck in a mediaeval mindset and poor understanding of the hadiths and fiqh (jurisprudence) who openly promote FGM and regard it as “preferable” because of what is written in centuries-old human texts. I hope that these clerics will reconsider their positions, both intellectually and societally.

6. The literalist, fundamentalist thinking behind this call in the Maldives has also given rise to the same cleric’s insistence on the reintroduction of ancient hudud punishments such as amputation and flogging, that have no place in modern society. These punishments were abolished by the scholars and sultans of the Ottoman Empire in the 1850’s, but have been reintroduced in Muslim-majority countries by literalists in the 20th and 21st centuries.

7. An example of the danger of the above is the case of the 15-year old Maldivian girl who was sentenced to flogging for fornication, even though she was the victim of rape and sexual abuse by her stepfather. This sentence under the regressive hudud laws was only overturned after a year-long international uproar and campaign (eg https://www.amnesty.org/en/news/maldives-girl-rape-victim-be-spared-outrageous-flogging-sentence-2013-08-21), in which I served as Avaaz’s consultant on Islamic law in 2013. And, of course, there have been many similar contemporary cases under hudud laws in Pakistan, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan and other countries.

Usama Hasan
London, UK
19th March 2014

Postscript: In 2004 I attended some sessions near Watford (UK) of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, as an observer. The scholars present included Sheikhs Ibn Bayyah, Qaradawi, Judai, Faysal Mawlawi, Qarahdaghi, Anas Abu Ghuddah, Suhaib Hasan and others.

The FGM issue came up. A French-Arab cleric had written in his submission that FGM was recommended, based on the hadiths discussed above (no. 2). Sheikh Judai disagreed vehemently, stating that FGM is not a sunnah and declaring that “These hadiths are utterly weak, even though Sheikh Albani, whom I venerate in Hadith studies, authenticated them!” No other scholar contradicted Judai in that session. I asked him afterwards about the “circumcised parts meeting” hadith: he immediately replied that it contains no promotion of FGM, being merely a description (cf. 2c above).

As Imam Ghazzali said, as quoted by Ibn Bayyah, nine-tenths (90%) of juristic understanding is to understand society and other contextual realities. Even total mastery of the scriptural texts (Qur’an and Hadith) comprises no more than one tenth (10%) of jurisprudence.

Muslim clerics and jurists need to develop deeper understanding of scripture as well as human nature and society before pronouncing on critical issues and promoting harmful rules and laws for entire populations in the name of God.

Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone http://www.blackberry.com

On children fasting Ramadan in UK primary and secondary schools

July 31, 2013

Bismillah. A couple of weeks ago, a UK primary school asked me for advice. They had allowed Year 5-6 pupils (aged 9-11) to fast during Ramadan, but not anyone younger. This policy was agreed after input from local mosque leaders and the school’s Muslim governors.  However, a Year 4 child (aged 8-9) fasted the 18 hours every day and his parents insisted that he continue, even though his performance was affected negatively in the afternoons (the school admitted that this effect was no more than that on the Year 5-6 pupils). The school threatened to refer the family to social services, who could have taken the child away from parents and into care.  The parents felt their religious wishes were most important; the school held that their duty of care towards the children’s health and wellbeing was the top priority.

The advice I gave, in my personal capacity, is below, but this may be something to prepare for by next year, when nearly all of Ramadan will be in term-time and the fasts will be even longer. (This year, about half the month was during term-time.)  We have a year for proper consultation between UK schools and the Muslim parents and governors associated with them – perhaps the points below may be used as a basis for discussion.

NB 1)The primary school in question indicated that it might be easiest for them to ban fasting altogether for the next few years, as Ramadan moves through midsummer.

NB 2) Some UK mosque timetables were operating a 20-hour fast this year, others had 18 hours – the average length of the fast will increase for the next 3 years.

Anecdote: about 30 years ago, with Ramadan around midsummer in the UK, I kept my first and only full fast whilst at school, aged 11 and in the equivalent of Year 6 primary.  I was sick after iftar.  Like my brothers and many children of my generation, I began fasting the full month of Ramadan aged around 14-15, when the fasts were a little shorter.  My two sisters began the full fasting aged a couple of years younger, due to the prevalent traditional view mentioned in 2(a) below.

ISLAMIC RULES FOR CHILDREN FASTING IN UK PRIMARY & SECONDARY SCHOOLS

1. In Islamic law, children are not required to fast during Ramadan: they are only required to fast when they become adults.

2. a) The age of adulthood is disputed: some traditional views look at only biological factors, i.e. puberty. This usually equates to 12-15 years old for boys and 9-15 years old for girls (depending on when their periods start).

b) The stronger traditional view is that emotional and intellectual maturity is also required for adulthood, ie 15-20 years old for both sexes. [This view is found in all four of the main Sunni schools of law – cf. Sheikh Wahba Zuhayli’s Al-Fiqh al-Islami wa adillatuhu (Islamic Jurisprudence and its Evidential Bases); the age of 18 or 19 was often mentioned classically as true adulthood.]

3. In Islamic tradition, children are often encouraged to fast, even though it is not a legal requirement, in order to prepare them for adulthood. The situation here is analogous to that of prayer (5 times a day), which is also expected of adults. For prayer, the ages of 7-10 are traditionally when they begin. Hence, many parents introduce their children to fasting at a similar age.

4. In Islamic law, the health of an individual is the first priority after their faith. This is why adults are exempt from fasting if they are sick or face other hardships that make fasting too difficult, eg travelling or unduly laborious or safety-critical work, e.g. medical surgeons or airline pilots.

5. In Islamic law, the decisions of relevant authorities in disputed matters are upheld and respected, eg court judgments or school policy.

6. Hence, if a school has a policy on fasting in the best interest of children, with input from Muslim parents, governors and leaders, parents are obliged by Islamic law to abide by that policy, even if it goes against their wishes.

7. Violation of such a policy by parents would entail going against their religion in two ways:

(i) by breaking their agreement with the school to abide by its policy and rules; and

(ii) by mistreating their child, since the school policy and Islamic law have the same purpose, ie to safeguard the health and education of the child.

8. a) Since social services have the same aim as Islamic law also, ie to safeguard children, a school’s referral to them would also be in accordance with Islam.

b) Such a step is not ideal, of course, because of the status and importance of parents and the parent-child relationship in both Islam and UK society, and all attempts should be made to reach agreement such that a referral is not necessary.

Sheikh Dr. Usama Hasan – London, July 2013 (Ramadan 1434)

Tackling extremism in UK universities and mosques

March 3, 2013

Bismillah.  The recent cases of the “Birmingham terrorist trio”, one of whom was a university graduate, and the resurfacing of underlying problems at City University, both from the end of February 2013, as well as that of four young men from Luton pleading guilty to terrorism on 1st March, show that the problems of extremism and terrorism amongst British Muslims still persist.  Note that the men from Birmingham and Luton were all influenced by Anwar Awlaki, who lived for a while in the UK, c. 2002-3.  Campus connections to extremism and terrorism are well-documented, and the two “Undercover Mosque” programmes on Channel 4 embarrasingly exposed the same problems in a small number of UK mosques, although some of these mosques were, worryingly, major ones in London and Birmingham.

These problems continue to need to be tackled by Muslims themselves, as well as by others.  A good start would be for Muslims to stop being in denial about the small number of would-be terrorists in their midst, whose crazy actions could lead to catastrophe in this country.  Conspiracy theories must end, given the overwhelming evidence against such people, including their own “martyrdom videos” and guilty pleas, and the well-documented details of their plots, e.g. photos of unexploded bomb material from the failed 21/7 attacks and the police’s secret footage of the liquid-bomb plotters’ “bomb factory” in Forest Road, Walthamstow, screened some years ago on BBC Panorama.

Another step would be open, honest discussion about the underlying, extremist, Islamist ideology that underpins, justifies and legitimises Al-Qaeda-linked terrorism in the minds of its proponents.

Below is a relevant and, I hope, useful article reproduced from the end of 2009, i.e. just over 3 years ago.  A slightly-edited version of it was published in the print edition of the Daily Telegraph on 31st December 2009, within a week of the failed attack by the “underpants bomber” Mutallab on Christmas Day, 2009.  (Mutallab had earlier served for a year as President of the UCL Islamic Society.)  The article has never been published online before.

Following publication of this piece, a leading UK salafi scholar criticised me for it after the next Friday prayers that I led at Al-Tawhid Mosque in January 2010.  (It later turned out that Mutallab had named him as one of his major religious influences, although there is no proof that this cleric knew about the underwear-bomber’s terrorist plans.) Since most of the speakers banned from university campuses over the last few years and exposed in the mosques have been of a salafi background (with a significant number also from extremist Deobandi backgrounds), he said that I should not criticise “our brothers in creed” (ikhwanuna fi l-‘aqidah).  Of course, I did not accept this sectarian suggestion to avoid opposing people preaching hatred and extremism on the grounds that they pay lip-service to the “creed of the Companions and the Salaf” whilst having almost no sense of the latter’s spirituality: as Imam Ibn al-Qayyim stated, all the early Sufis such as Hasan Basri, Junayd, Ma’ruf, Sari and Bistami were also amongst the generations and followers of the Salaf.

Tackling Extremism on UK Campuses

Usama Hasan

(an edited version of this was published in the print edition of the Daily Telegraph on 31st December 2009, within a week of the failed attack by the “underpants bomber” Mutallab on Christmas Day of that year)

 

Students’ Islamic societies on UK campuses are dominated by fundamentalist ideas and overly-politicised interpretations of Islam.  During the 80’s and 90’s, when I spent eight years as a student at three of this country’s leading universities, serving as Islamic society president at each, I saw at close hand, and took part in, the radical activism myself. The energy was partly provided by events overseas: the Islamist revolution in Iran; the Afghan jihad against the Soviets; the Israeli invasion of Lebanon; the first Palestinian intifada; the first US-led war against Saddam; the wars in Bosnia and Chechnya. Countless Friday sermons on UK campuses, mirroring those around the world, were devoted to reinforcing the idea that all these events proved that there was a worldwide conspiracy of godless infidels (non-Muslims of all faiths and none) against Islam and Muslims everywhere.  Meanwhile, events that challenged this melodramatic worldview, such as the long and brutal Iran-Iraq war or the vicious civil war amongst the Afghan mujahedin groups after their victory over the communists, were conveniently ignored.

 

University students have a long history of radical, political activism around the world, and this is not wrong in itself.  One thinks of the French student revolts, or the brave student dissidents in Tianamen Square and Tehran.  And fundamentalism, by which I mean the reading of scripture out of context and failing to apply its universal and timeless principles faithfully to modernity, infects many religions.  But whilst those students and graduates from British universities who went off to Afghanistan and Bosnia for military training and action in the early 90’s were arguably participating in just causes, those involved in terrorist plots since 9/11, such as Umar Abdulmutallab, have lost their moral bearings completely, under the influence of Al-Qaeda and its apologists worldwide.  Part of the solution to this problem should involve providing safe alternatives to young men with an understandable desire for military training and adventure, perhaps involving the British armed forces and their reserves.

 

Alternative theological and intellectual narratives also need to be provided.  In my time on campus, there was intense rivalry between different fundamentalist factions, but all the Islamist groups agreed on the objective of a single, worldwide caliphate, governed by a strict interpretation of Islamic law or Sharia, and most of them were opposed to any form of democracy or secularism.  Vehement rhetoric against “the West” was commonplace.  Liberal and rational interpretations of Islam, inspired by Averroes, Ibn Khaldun or Iqbal were rarely heard.  The promotion of authentic Sufism on campus will help, but true religious experience will never be apolitical, so it is a question of balancing faith, politics and spirituality.

 

But the problem is not all about theory and politics: social realities have a major impact.  With traditional, devout Muslim societies being teetotal and gender-segregated and some religious authorities prohibiting music, many believers find it difficult to integrate, since British student social life is based around the bar and often seems to be a “sex, drugs and rock’n’roll” culture.  In the face of this, it is easy for believers to withdraw into cult-like social circles that reinforce a narrow worldview.  Many bodies provide advice to students regarding alcohol, drugs and sex, of course – greater cultural awareness is the key here.

 

Promoting more individual and social cohesion and balance is not easy.  A firmer emphasis at university on “higher education” of the whole person may help, such as termly meetings with mentors who help with students’ personal and social development; schemes like these are already in place at many universities, and Muslim chaplains could play an important role here.  A stronger sense of the student body, such as your batch or cohort studying the same subject, may also provide a safety-net for would-be terrorists.  Other countries seem to have a stronger tradition of this approach compared to Britain.

 

Increased interaction amongst different student communities and the open exchange of ideas are paramount.  Muslim-Jewish relations on campus are especially important: they have been poor historically, largely because of the Israeli-Arab conflict which continues to provoke religious and political extremism on both sides.  In this respect, work like that of the Lokahi Foundation and the Coexistence Trust, who organise joint campus tours by Muslim and Jewish leaders and role-models, deserves to be supported and expanded.

 

UK dawn (fajr) observation

September 10, 2012

Bismillah. From Usamah Ward:

Assalamu ‘alaikum.

September can be a good month for astronomical observations, it often has warm clear nights. Last year I spent a few good nights looking at the night sky with friends, but this year I thought I’d try to observe the start of dawn. Last Saturday morning (8 Sep 2012) was a perfect opportunity; there was no cloud within view (according to weather charts, the nearest cloud in the direction of dawn was over Scandinavia), and it was not cold.

I originally intended to drive to Walton-on-the-Naze, but that is a long way to go from London on my own; instead I drove to Leysdown-on-Sea. This is a good location I can reach in an hour, it is dark enough to see the Milky Way, it has a clear view of the north-east to east horizon over the sea, and due to its closeness has a strong relevance to London.I arrived early (3.30 AM), as it is important to allow one’s eyes to accustom to the dark. Dawn was to be expected in a direction between 050º and 060º, and was helpfully framed by The Plough to my left, and a brilliant Venus to my right which had already risen in the east and now cast a long reflection over the water.

The other advantage of arriving early was an opportunity to survey the night sky with my binoculars, with Orion above the horizon quite south of east, the waning moon shining brightly above and to the right of Venus, accompanied by Jupiter to its left, and the Pleiades somewhat above.

At the start of astronomical twilight (sun’s altitude at 18º, about 4.22 AM)) I could see no sign of dawn; indeed, I had to wait some 20 minutes. The appearance and spreading of the light of dawn I would have called for 4.45 AM, which is about the middle of astronomical twilight (15º), though some may have called it a few minutes earlier – as you’ll know, it’s not a precise moment by any means! I have to say that given the conditions I had thought I might see it a little earlier.

It is important to emphasise that this proves nothing; it is one person’s observation on one night. My attempt to photograph what I saw was, not surprisingly, a dismal failure, due the the limitations of my camera and my abilities!

However, the more we try to observe dawn, the more likely we will be able to devise meaningful timetables.For record, it is my view that:

1) Timetables that give ‘to the minute’ times for Fajr and Isha are inherently misleading, as all the evidence of science and people’s observations suggests the times vary considerably depending on atmospheric conditions. At best, they are a helpful average.

2) Angles determined by observations carried out at significantly different latitudes cannot be assumed to be valid for the UK.3) Much work needs to be done *by* Muslims in the UK *for* Muslims in the UK, partly to ensure we understand the Fiqh correctly, partly to grasp the latest scientific understanding of the phenomenon of dawn, but mostly to establish as much observational data as possible.

Usamah K Ward

Usama Hasan, https://unity1.wordpress.com