Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Shaykh Abul-Huda al-Sayyid Muhammad al-Yaqoubi visits HSBT, Birmingham

The young hadith scholar of our era, Shaykh Muhammad al-Ya'qoubi, visited Hazrat Sultan Bahu Trust Birmigham during the annual Traditional Halaqa on the invitation of Shaykh Gibril Haddad. His lecture on 'seeing the Prophet (May Allah shower abundant mercy and blessings upon him) in one's dream' moved many hearts and souls. His eloquency in speech and unique approach to the heart-touching subject proved to be one of the greatest talks ever to be delivered at the institute. May Allah Almighty preserve him and his knowledge for the subsequent generations yet to come, Ameen.

His bio can be read on: http://www.lightstudy.org/shkmuhammad.htm

The key to salvation-Ibn Ata'Allah Al-Iskandari

Biographical Sketch

Taj ad-Din Abu’l-Fadl Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Abd al-Karim b. Ata’ Allah al-Iskandari, al-Judhami ash-Shadhili, known simply as Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah, was born in Alexandria, Egypt, as his nisbah indicates, about the middle of the seventh/thirteenth century. His family were renowned Maliki scholars from the Banu Judham tribe, originally from Arabia. His grandfather, Abd al-Karim (d. 612 AH/1216 AD) had distinguished himself as an expert in fiqh, usul (principles of jurisprudence), and Arabic, having studied under the famous Abu’l-Hasan al-Abyari. He had written several books, among which were al-Bayin wa’t-Taqrib fi Sharh at-Tahdhib, Mukhtasar at-Tahdhib, and Mukhtasar al-Mufassal, and had been very hostile to Suflism.

On the other hand, Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah’s father Muhammad (death date unknown) seems to have been of a different mind and although a faqih, he was also the disciple of the great Sufi shaykh Abu’l-Hasan ash-Shadhili (593-656AH/1197-1258AD), the founder of the Shadhili order.

As a youth, Ibn Ata’ Allah received a traditional Islamic education in such disciplines as Qur’anic recitation, hadith, tafsir (Qur’anic commentary), grammar, usul, philosophy, belles-lettres, and of course fiqh under some of the best and most illustrious teachers of Alexandria, in addition no doubt, to the instruction given him by his own family.

Ironically, in spite of his father’s attachment to the Shadhili master Abu’l-Hasan, Ibn Ata’ Allah was initially rather hostile to Sufism much like his grandfather, as he himself admits in his book Lata’if al-Minan, but not for any definite reason. In fact, what precipitated his meeting with Shaykh Abu’l-Abbas al-Mursi, the successor of Shaykh Abu’l-Hasan was an argument with one of al-Mursi’s disciples. Consequently, Ibn Ata’ Allah decided to see for himself who this man was because after all, ‘a man of Truth has certain signs that cannot be hidden’. He found him holding forth on such lofty spiritual matters that he was dazzled. Ibn Ata’ Allah states that at that moment God removed whatever objections he had previously had. Something had obviously touched his heart and mind, so he went home to be alone and reflect.

That was apparently the turning point for him, for shortly thereafter Ibn Ata’ Allah returned to visit Shaykh Abu’l-Abbas al-Mursi who received him so warmly that he was embarrassed and humbled. Ibn Ata’ Allah states, ‘The first thing that I said to him was “O Master, by God, I love you”. Then he answered, “May God love you as you love me”. Then Ibn Ata’ Allah told him of various worries and sadnesses he had, so the shaykh told him:

There are four states of the servant, not five: blessings, trials, obedience, and disobedience. If you are blessed, then what God requires of you is thankfulness. If you are tried, then what God requires of you is patience. If you are obedient, then what God requires of you is the witnessing of His blessings upon you. If you are disobedient, then what God requires of you is asking forgiveness.

After leaving Shaykh al-Mursi, he mentions that he felt that his worries and his sadness were like a garment that had been removed. From that time in 674 AH/ 1276 AD when Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah was initiated into the Shadhili order until the death of Shaykh al-Mursi twelve years later, he became his devoted disciple and says that in all those years he never heard his shaykh say anything that contradicted the Shari’ah.

What spiritual fruits he must have received cannot be known, but his development into a Sufi master capable of guiding and teaching others took place within the lifetime of his shaykh, i.e., well within e twelve-year period before 686 AH/1288 AD. His discipline and progress in the path coupled with his great learning made him renowned as a religious authority.

Ibn Ata’ Allah’s virtue, majestic presence, eloquence, and spiritual insights were such that he had many followers. He even performed miracles, some of which have been recorded, such as speaking from his grave to one Kamal ad-Din b. al-Hamam who had gone to the shaykh’s tomb to recite Surat Hud. As a result, Ibn al-Hamam was counselled to be buried there. Another miracle attributed to Shaykh Ibn Ata’ Allah is his having been seen in Mecca at three different places by one of his disciples who had gone on Pilgrimage. When the latter returned, he asked if the shaykh had left the country in his absence and was told no. Then he went to see him and Ibn Ata’ Allah asked him, ‘Whom did you see on this trip of yours?’ The disciple answered, ‘O Master, I saw you’. So he smiled and said, ‘The realized sage fills the universe. If he summoned the qutb, verily he would answer.’

Still another miracle recorded is the story of three men on their way to attend Shaykh Ibn Ata’ Allah’s public lecture or majlis. One said, ‘If I were free from the family, I would become an ascetic’; the second one said, ‘I pray and fast but I do not see a speck of benefit’; and the third said, ‘Indeed, my prayers do not please me so how can they please my Lord?’ After arriving, they heard Ibn Ata’ Allah discourse and in their presence he said, ‘There are among people those who say…’ and he repeated their words exactly.

Ibn Ata’ Allah taught at both the Azhar Mosque and the Mansuriyyah Madrasah in Cairo as well as privately to his disciples. However, it is not known where his zawiyah was located.

Shaykh Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah died within two years of this public trial at around sixty years of age in the middle of Jumada II 709 AH/November 1309 AD. As befitting an eminent and learned teacher, he died in the Mansuriyyah Madrasah. His funeral procession was witnessed by hundreds of people and he was buried in the Qarafah Cemetery in Cairo in what is today called the City of the Dead, at the foot of Jabal al-Muqattam. His tomb became famous as the site of homage, visitation, prayer, and miraculous occurrences. To this day this is still the case.

This pious and extraordinary contemplative figure left behind a spiritual legacy no less impressive than those of his own beloved shaykh, and the august founder Shaykh Abu’l-Hasan ash-Shadhili. All the biographers refer to Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah with illustrious titles and reverence and mention how marvellously he spoke and how uplifting his words were. In spite of the fact that he followed the Maliki madhbab, the Shafi’is laid claim to him, most probably because some of his earlier teachers had been Shafi’i scholars, not to mention some of his students.

Hence, his disciples could only be all the more devoted in their attachment to and love for him. Of the untold numbers of followers that Shaykh Ibn Ata’ Allah had, both in Cairo, Alexandria, and elsewhere, only very few names are known. That is, doubtless, due to the fact that the Shadhilis did not advocate withdrawing from the world or wearing special clothing to distinguish themselves. They were ‘in the world but not of the world’, so to speak.

The Islamic Texts Society

Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence-Muhammad Hashim Kamali

Introduction to Usul al-Fiqh

I. Definition and Scope
Usul al-fiqh is concerned with the sources of Islamic law, their order of priority, and the methods by which legal rules may be deduced from the source materials of the Shari’ah. It is also concerned with regulating the exercise of ijtihad. The sources of the Shari’ah are of two kinds: revealed and non-revealed. Whereas the former provide the basic evidence and indications from which detailed rules may be derived, the latter provide the methodology and procedural guidelines to ensure correct utilisation of the source evidence. Usul al-fiqh, or the roots of Islamic law, thus expound the indications and methodology by which the rules of fiqh are deduced from their source evidence. The rules of fiqh are thereby derived from the Qur’an and Sunnah in conformity with a body of principles and methods which are collectively known as usul al-fiqh.

Some writers have described usul al-fiqh as the methodology of law, a description which is accurate but incomplete. Although methods of interpretation and deduction are of primary concern to usul al-fiqh, the latter is not exclusively devoted to methodology. To say that usul al-fiqh is the science of the sources and methodology of the law is accurate in the sense that the Qur’an and Sunnah constitute the sources as well as the subject-matter to which the methodology of usul al-fiqh is applied. The Qur’an and Sunnah contain both specific injunctions and general guidelines on law and religion, but it is the broad and general directives which occupy the larger part of the legal content of these sources. The general directives that are found in the Qur’an and Sunnah are concerned not so much with methodology as with substantive law, and they provide indications which can be used as raw material in the development of law. The methodology of usul al-fiqh refers mainly to methods of reasoning such as analogy (qiyas), juristic preference (istihsan), presumption of continuity (istishab) and the rules of interpretation and deduction. These are all designed to serve as an aid to the correct understanding of the sources of Shari’ah and ijtihad. While the clear directives of the Qur’an and the Sunnah command permanent validity, the methodology of usul does not, for it was developed after the revelation of the Qur’an and Sunnah came to an end, and most of it consists of juristic propositions and ijtihad advanced by scholars and ‘ulama’ of different periods. As an instrument of legal construction and ijtihad, the methodology of usul al-fiqh must therefore remain open to further adaptation and refinement in order to respond to the changing needs of society and civilisation.

To deduce the rules of fiqh from the indications that are provided in the sources is the expressed purpose of usul al-fiqh. Fiqh as such is the end product of usul al-fiqh; and yet the two are separate disciplines. The main difference between fiqh and usul al-fiqh is that the former is concerned with the knowledge of the detailed rules of Islamic law in its various branches, and the latter with the methods that are applied in the deduction of such rules from their sources. Fiqh, in other words, is the law itself, whereas usul al-fiqh is the methodology of the law. The relationship between the two disciplines resembles that of the rules of grammar to the language. Usul al-fiqh in this sense provides standard criteria for the correct deduction of the rules of fiqh from the sources of Shari’ah. An adequate knowledge of fiqh necessitates close familiarity with its sources. This is borne out in the definition of fiqh, which is ‘knowledge of the practical rules of Shari’ah acquired from the detailed evidence in the sources’. The knowledge of the rules of fiqh, in other words, must be acquired directly from the sources, a requirement which implies that the faqih must be in contact with the sources of fiqh. Consequently, a person who learns fiqh in isolation from its sources is not a faqih. The faqih must know not only the rule that misappropriating the property of others is forbidden, but also the detailed evidence for it in the source, that is, the Qur’anic ayah (2:188) which states: ‘Devour not each other’s property in defiance of the law.’ This is the detailed evidence, as opposed to saying merely that ‘theft is forbidden in the Qur’an’. Fiqh is acquired knowledge which is obtained by study and self-application and is therefore different from inherent knowledge, for example that of God, who is All-Knowing; it is also different from the knowledge of the Prophet, and that of the angel Gabriel, as theirs was given or transmitted to them essentially through revelation.

The word asl has several meanings, including proof, root, origin and source, such as in saying that the asl (proof) of this or that rule is ijma’; or in the expression usul al-fiqh, which means the roots of fiqh or its underlying evidence. It is also used in the sense of the original rule or norm as in the legal maxim that ‘the asl in all things is permissibility’, or when it is said that al-asl bara’ah al-dhimmah, the norm is absence of liability. Asl also means the foundation on which something is constructed. When it is said, for example, that qiyas or analogy must have an asl, this may be the Qur’an or the Sunnah. Asl also means that which is preferable (al-rajih), such as in the saying that al-asl fi’l kalam al-haqiqah (the literal meaning is preferable to the metaphorical one). And lastly, asl and usul denote rules or principles on which a branch of knowledge may be founded, such as in usul al-hadith, which is equivalent to qawa’id al-hadith, that is, the rules governing the science of hadith.

Knowledge of the rules of interpretation is essential to the proper understanding of a legal text. Unless the texts of the Qur’an or the Sunnah are correctly understood, no rules can be deduced from them, especially in cases where the text in question is not self-evident. Hence, the rules by which one is to distinguish a speculative text from a definitive one, the manifest (zahir) from the explicit (nass), the general (amm) from the specific (khass), the literal (haqiqi) from the metaphorical (majazi), etc., and how to understand the implications (dalalat) of a given text, are among the subjects which warrant the attention in usul al-fiqh. An adequate grasp of the methodology and rules of interpretation also ensures the proper use of human reasoning in a system of law which originates in divine revelation. For instance, analogy (qiyas) is an approved method of reasoning for the deduction of new rules from the sources of Shari’ah. How analogy should be constructed, what its limits are, and what authority it would command in conjunction, or in conflict, with other recognised proofs are questions which are of primary concern to usul al-fiqh. Juristic preference, or istihsan, is another rationalist doctrine and a recognised proof of Islamic law. It consists essentially of giving preference to one of the many conceivable solutions to a particular problem. The choice of one or the other of these solutions is mainly determined by the jurist in the light of considerations of equity and fairness. Which of these solutions is to be preferred and why, and what the limits are of personal preference and opinion in a particular case, is largely a question of methodology and interpretation and therefore forms part of the subject-matter of usul al-fiqh.

The principal objective of usul al-fiqh is to regulate ijtihad and to guide the jurist in his effort at deducing the law from its sources. The need for the methodology of usul al-fiqh became apparent when unqualified persons attempted to carry out ijtihad, and the risk of error and confusion in the development of Shari’ah became a source of anxiety for the ‘ulama’. The purpose of usul al-fiqh is to help the jurist obtain an adequate knowledge of the sources of Shari’ah and of the methods of juristic deduction and inference. Usul al-fiqh also regulates the application of qiyas, istihsan, istishab, istislah, etc., whose knowledge helps the jurist to distinguish which method of deduction is best suited to obtaining the hukm shar’i of a particular problem. Furthermore, usul al-fiqh enables the jurist to ascertain and compare strength and weakness in ijtihad and to give preference to that ruling of ijtihad which is in close harmony with the nusus.

It may be added here that knowledge of the rules of interpretation, the ‘amm, the khass, the mutlaq, the muqayyad, etc., is equally relevant to modern statutory law. When the jurist and the judge, whether a specialist in the Shari’ah or in secular law, fails to find any guidance in the clear text of the statute on a particular issue, he is likely to resort to judicial construction or to analogy. The skill, therefore, to interpret a legal text and to render judicial decisions is indispensable for a jurist regardless of whether he sits in a Shari’ah court or in a court of statutory jurisdiction. A specialist in usul al-fiqh will thus find his skill of considerable use in the understanding and interpretation of any legal text.

To what extent is it true to say that al-Shafi’i was the founder of usul al-fiqh? One theory has it that usul al-fiqh has existed for as long as fiqh has been known to exist. For fiqh could not have come into being in the absence of its sources, and of methods with which to utilise these source materials. This would, in turn, imply that usul al-fiqh existed long before al-Shafi’i. Numerous examples could be cited to explain how, in early Islam, the Companions deduced the rules of fiqh from their sources. Usul al-fiqh, in other words, had existed well before the period that saw the emergence of the leading Imams of jurisprudence. But it was through the works of these Imams, especially al-Shafi’i, that usul al-fiqh was articulated into a coherent body of knowledge. Even before al-Shafi’i, we know that Abu Hanifah resorted to the use of analogy and istihsan, while Imam Malik is known for his doctrine of the Medinese ijma’, subjects we shall have occasion to return to. When al-Shafi’i came on the scene, he found a wealth of juristic thought and advanced levels of argumentation on methodological issues. But the existing works were not entirely free of discordance and diversity, which had to be sifted through by the standards which al-Shafi’i articulated in his legal theory of the usul. He devoted his Risalah exclusively to this subject, and this is widely acknowledged to be the first work of authority on usul al-fiqh.

It is nevertheless accurate to say that fiqh precedes usul al-fiqh and that it was only during the second Islamic century that important developments took place in the field of usul al-fiqh, since during the first century there was no pressing need for usul al-fiqh. When the Prophet was alive, the necessary guidance and solutions to problems were obtained either through divine revelation, or his direct ruling. Similarly, during the period following the demise of the Prophet, the Companions remained in close contact with the teachings of the Prophet and their decisions were mainly inspired by his precedent. Their proximity to the sources and intimate knowledge of events, provided them with the authority to rule on practical problems without there being a pressing need for methodology. However, with the expansion of the territorial domain of Islam, the Companions were dispersed and direct access to them became increasingly difficult. With this, the possibility of confusion and error in the understanding of the textual sources became more prominent. Disputation and diversity of juristic thought in different quarters accentuated the need for clear guidelines, and the time was ripe for al-Shafi‘i to articulate the methodology of usul al-fiqh. Al-Shafi’i came on the scene when juristic controversy had become prevalent between the jurists of Madinah and Iraq, respectively known as ahl al-hadith and ahl al-ra’y. This was also a time when the ‘ulama’ of hadith had succeeded in their efforts to collect and document the hadith. Once the fuqaha’ were assured of the subject-matter of the Sunnah, they began to elaborate the law, and thus the need for a methodology to regulate ijtihad became increasingly apparent. The consolidation of usul al-fiqh as a Shari’ah discipline was, in other words, a logical conclusion of the compilation of the vast literature of hadith.

Finally, among the factors which prompted al-Shafi’i into refining the legal theory of usul al-fiqh was the extensive influx of non-Arabs into Islamic territories and the disconcerting influence that this brought about on the legal and cultural traditions of Islam. Al-Shafi’i was anxious to preserve the purity of the Shari’ah and of the language of the Qur’an. In his Risalah, al-Shafi’i enacted guidelines for ijtihad and expounded rules governing the khass and the amm, the nasikh and the mansukh, and articulated the principles governing ijma’ and qiyas. He set out the rules for relying a the solitary hadith (khabar al-wahid) and its value in the determination of the ahkam. Al-Shafi’i refuted the validity of istihsan and considered it to be no more than an arbitrary exercise in law-making. Admittedly, al-Shafi’i was not the first to address these matters, but it is widely acknowledged that he brought coherence to usul al-fiqh, which had hitherto remained scattered and unconsolidated.

The Islamic Texts Society