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Hajj – The Pilgrimage to Mecca: Essential Message of Islam: Chapter 47 and 48 (Concluding Part)

By Muhammad Yunus & Ashfaque Ullah Syed

11 September 2015

(Published Exclusively On New Age Islam with Permission of the Authors and Publishers)


47.    Hajj – The Pilgrimage to Mecca

The Qur’an calls upon the Muslims who can afford,1 to perform hajj or ‘Umrah in the service of God,2 and as a pilgrimage to the ‘First House of Worship' at Mecca,3 which was set up by the Prophet Abraham, and remains a place of peace and security to all visitors.4 Accordingly, it is forbidden to commit any obscenity or immorality or to quarrel5 or kill games6 during the hajj. Shortened hajj rites performed off-season is called ‘Umrah.

The hajj falls during specific months.5 The pilgrims can depart at the end of two days of the hajj rites, but may also extend their stay,7 and can seek of God’s bounty, such as by engaging in business during the hajjseason.8 Accordingly, since the Prophet’s time, hajj caravans carried merchandise for trading during the pilgrimage period. This was essential for providing food and basic necessities and services to the large number of pilgrims, who came from far and away.

The Qur'an embraces the key elements of hajj rites, such as circumambulating the Ka‘ba,9 striding between the two hills Safa and Marwa,10 streaming forth from the plain of Arafat,11 seeking divine blessings,12shaving the head,13 cutting short the hair,14 and symbolic sacrificing of animal (22:36/37):

“As for the (sacrificial) animal, We have made them among the symbols of God for you, in which there is good for you; so mention God's name over them (as they are) lined up (for sacrifice). Once they fall down on their sides, eat of them and feed the needy, and the miserable. We have thus subjected them to you, that you may be grateful (22:36). Neither their flesh nor their blood reaches God, but your heedfulness (Taqwa) does indeed reach Him. Thus, He has subjected them to you, that you glorify God as He has guided you; and give good news to the compassionate” (22:37).

47.1.       Sacrifice of Animal Is Symbolic – The Goal Is Taqwa

The foregoing verses (22:36/37) make three clear points. First, the slaughtering of cattle in the name of God is purely symbolic, as the flesh or blood of the slaughtered animal does not reach God. Second, in the material context, the meat of the slaughtered cattle is to be eaten by the pilgrim, and shared with the poor and the needy. Finally, the real goal is taqwa – heedfulness of God, which is also stressed in another verse.5

In the nomadic society of pre-Islamic Arabia, cattle head constituted the main instrument of asset. They were treated with honor, and sacrificed to please various deities. The Qur’an permitted the continuation of this rite, but reserved it only for God.15

Today, the pilgrim does not personally slaughter the cattle, nor does he eat its meat or share it with the poor (22:36). Besides, God’s bounty has multiplied exponentially and a cattle head is hardly a cherished asset as in the earlier times. It is therefore worth pondering whether mere slaughtering of cattle by arranging through a bank or agent, and then a state sponsored processing and distribution of the meat to poor nations really meets the letter or the spirit of the Qur’an - or there could be better ways to helping the world’s needy, such as through the generation of an International Hajj Relief Fund. God knows best!


1.      3:97.

2.      2:196, 22:27.

3.      3:96.

4.      2:125, 3:97.

5.      2:197. 

6.      5:95.

7.      2:203.

8.      2:198.

9.      2:125

10.   2:158.

11.   2:199.

12.   2:201/202.

13.   2:196.

14.   48:27.

15.   For centuries the pagans from all over Arabia used to bring their idols as well as merchandise to Mecca during the twelfth month of their lunar calendar (Dhu ‘l hajj) on annual pilgrimage (hajj), suspending all sorts of feuds and hostilities. Apart from worship and business, it afforded them a respite from inter-tribal warfare that knew no end. With the integration of Mecca, the Qur’an allowed the continuity of this tradition, dedicating it to God.

[15 references]



48.    Fasting – In the Month Of Ramadan

The Qur'anic precepts on fasting are clearly stated in a passage (2:183-185) and an explanatory verse (2:187).

“You who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you become heedful (Tattaqun) (2:183). (Fast) for a fixed number of days; but any of you who is ill or on a journey (should complete the) prescribed period from the later days. Those who are (hardly) able to (fast), their redemption is the feeding of a needy person; but anyone who can willingly do more (than this), it is better for him; but it is better still that you fast - if you only knew (184). Ramadan is the month in which the Qur'an was revealed as guidance for humanity with a clear (mandate) for guidance, and as the criteria (of right and wrong). So any of you who is at home during this month, should fast; while anyone who is ill, or on a journey, should (fast on) later days (to complete the) prescribed period. (Remember,) God desires ease for you, and He does not desire any hardship for you. So complete the prescribed period and glorify Him for having guided you, that you may be grateful” (2:185).

“It is permitted to you to make approaches to your wives on a night of the fast: they are (a source of) comfort (Libas)* for you, and you are (a source of) comfort (Libas)* for them. (Remember,) God knows that you were deceiving yourselves (and keeping away from your wives). He has therefore turned to you, and removed (this hardship) from you. So now approach them and seek what God has prescribed for you. Eat and drink until the white streak (of dawn) is distinct from the dark streak (of night) at daybreak. Then fast until nightfall, and do not approach them while you are in devotion in the mosque. These are the limits set by God; so do not get near them. Thus does God clarify His messages to humanity, that they may be heedful (Yattaqun)” (2:187). *[libas literally means ‘garments’, used in the verse figuratively for ‘comfort'.]

The underlined statement indicates that the timing for commencing a fast is not contingent on sighting the sunrise. Thus, people living near the poles, where there is practically no sunrise for months together, can also comply with it depending upon their traditional sky-signs at dawn. Jurists agree that such people may follow the timings of a nearby town at lower latitude, or that of Mecca.

48.1.       General Conditions on Fasting

The Qur’anic verses spell out the broad requirements of fasting, but do not explicitly address various contingencies that arise in day-to-day life, such as whether a fasting person can brush his teeth, or rinse his mouth; or, what happens if he inadvertently eats or drinks – to cite some common examples. This is interpreted below from Qur’anic illustration, and is corroborated by traditions. 

Since the Qur’an affirms that God desires ease for people (2:185), any inadvertent eating, or drinking, or swallowing in of water such as during gargling etc. may not mar the spiritual merit of fasting.1 However, if a person feels completely exhausted and is unable to continue his fast, it will be against the Qur’anic spirit for him or her to continue the fast. Thus, while on a journey, the Prophet publicly broke his fast under exhaustion.2 Likewise, if a fasting person bleeds or vomits, it will be up to him to continue or break the fast; and in the case of minor bleeding or vomiting, one may continue his fast.3 Similarly, a fasting plane-passenger, flying due west, might break his fast following his hometown timing.4

48.2.       The Stated Goal of Fasting

The fasting Muslims are normally extremely concerned about the finer aspects relating to their abstinence from food and drinks, and compliance with the timings for commencing or breaking the fast. They, however, ought to bear in mind that the Qur’an prescribes fasting as a means to acquiring Taqwa (2:183, 2:187) or heedfulness (Ch. 8). Thus, those who keep fast must endeavour to comply with the whole range of Qur’anic precepts that go with taqwa to merit the highest spiritual blessing from their fast.5


1.       Sahih al-Bukhari, English translation by Mohsin Khan, New Delhi, 1984, Vol. 3/ Book XXXI, Ch. 26; Acc. 154.

2.       Ibid., Acc. 169.

3.       Ibid., Chap.32.

4.       Ibid., Acc. 162.

5.       Ibid., Acc. 127.

[5 references]



1.       Encl.1   the Prophet's Earliest Biography

1.1.          Inherent Limitations of Early Biographic Accounts

Ibn Ishaq (d. 151/768) is regarded as the first biographer of the Prophet, whose manuscript, compiled about 125 years after the Prophet’s death, was edited and published by Ibn Hisham (d. 218/834) around the close of the 2nd century of Islamic calendar. Practically all scholars in the subsequent centuries used this work, or any of its versions that came to their hands, as the primary source material on the Prophet’s personal life. However, the work has its limitations:

i.   The work contains commentaries on major events - battles, martyrdom of the Prophet’s followers and killing of enemies etc. in poetry, attributed to popular poets, who excelled in creating compelling poetic imageries rather than leaving hard facts for the posterity. 

ii. All events, as well as dialogues (between the Prophet and his disciples) are based entirely on verbal accounts, originating from one or a few individuals, traced back to the Prophet’s lifetime through a chain of oral transmitters. So the reliability of his source material is debatable. 

iii. It was compiled in an era when myth and fantasy dominated human mind, and narrators turned simple events into legends through, what we shall today call, gross exaggeration and bizarre embellishment. Thus, quoting from contemporaneous sources, i) King Solomon is reported to have bedded with all his one hundred wives one night,1 and ii) Sir Key of King Arthur’s court is described to have thrown a stone ‘as large as a cow’ to dislodge the ‘stranger’, who had leaped up to the top of a tree, two hundred cubits high in a single bound.2

Taking all these factors into account, it will be a grievous error to regard the work of Ibn Ishaq as an historical document. This can amply be demonstrated by the following examples of inconsistency and speculativeness of his work:

        One section of the work shows a martyred companion of the Prophet, Khabib, articulating his deep parting emotions in a poetic imagery as he stood on the gallows just before he was hanged.3 Another section contradicts this imagery suggesting that the martyr was weeping unceasingly as he stood on the gallows.4

        The work quotes the parting dialogue between the propagandist poet Ka‘b Ibn Ashraf and his wife, just as he was coming out from ‘under the blanket’ at the call of Abu Naila, who had gone to his house to kill him.5 The poet was killed suddenly, and it is inconceivable that his widow would tell the parting words of her slain husband to those who killed him. The quoted words were obviously speculative.

The same holds for the works of al-Waqidi (d. 206/822) and Ibn Sa‘d (d. 230/845) In fact, these early biographers have been sharply criticized by many Muslim scholars of their own era.6

1.2.          Impact Of Early Accounts On Modern Scholarship

Through constant repetition down the centuries, the works of the early biographers of the Prophet have become part of history. Thus, the modern scholarship on the Prophetic mission is virtually laden with materials that, in today’s objective vocabulary, can be termed speculative, imaginative, exaggerated and even legendary. Since the persona of the Prophet occupies a very important and sacred place in Islam, and in the understanding of its message, it is essential to segment those parts of the Prophet’s biography, which are not supported or otherwise contradicted by the Qur’an. Since the historical accuracy of the Qur’an is above debate (Ch. 1.6), all reports in this segment of the Prophet’ biography must be treated, as parables and embellishments - to be fair to the early biographers, rather than historical facts.

Thus there are scores of reports about miracles attending the birth of the Prophet, his childhood and the later years of his life, though the Qur’an repeatedly attests to the Prophet’s incapability to showing any miracles (Note 9/Ch. 3), while asserting that the literary grandeur and the inter-consistency of the Qur’an were the proofs of the miraculous nature of the revelation (Notes 17, 18, 20/Ch. 1.3). There are also many colorful accounts about his marriages, spun around some passing commentaries in the Qur’an (Enc. 2). There are divergent reports on his ‘vision’ about which all that the Qur’an says is this:

“Glory to (God) Who transported His servant by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Furthest Mosque, whose precincts We blessed, that We might show him some of Our Signs: for He is Aware and Observant (17:1). Indeed We have told you (O Muhammad) that (the scheme of) your Lord encompasses humanity: We caused the vision We showed you, only as a trial for people - as also the Cursed Tree (mentioned) in the Qur'an: We put fear into them, yet it only increases their inordinate transgression” (17:60).

Then there is the story of the Satanic verses: the Prophet allegedly uttering verses venerating the chief pagan deities under Satanic influence, and later expunging them from the Qur’an.7

Down the centuries, this story (summary in the footnote 7) has been picked up by the Prophet’s critics to challenge his integrity and genuineness, and has triggered extensive research by Muslim scholars to proving its fictitious nature. Any discussion on these lines will detract from the stated modality of this exercise: to circumvent Islamic theological literature and use the Qur’an as the primary source material.

So, delving into our primary source material, the Qur’an is loud and clear in its claim on textual integrity (Note 21/Ch. 1.4). The Qur’an also attests that it was not up to the Prophet to alter the revelation in any way(Note 161/Ch. 3.14), and that he was endowed with a firm character that prevented him from inclining towards the promptings of his enemies for compromise (Note 208/Ch. 3.16) Therefore, had there been an iota of truth in the story, that is timed at an early stage of the revelation to which practically all the referred to verses belong, the shrewd Quraysh as well as Muhammad’s followers would have seen a charlatan in him and cast him away as a false prophet and his name and mission would have been lost into oblivion. But precisely the opposite has happened. Hence, in any honest and rational judgment, the report must be treated as a myth.     

Then there is the traditional account of the background of the Badr expedition, projecting the Prophet as a raider. This also contradicts the Qur’anic records as already discussed (Note 42, 43/Ch. 3.3). 

Last but not the least, there is a propensity to projecting the Prophet as a ruthless person when it comes to dealing with enemies. Thus on the strength of Ibn Ishaq, Maxime Rodinson cites the examples of vindictive killing of five named persons8 and the massacre of some eight hundred to nine hundred adults of Banu Qurayzah Jewish tribe9 at the Prophet’s command.

The authors do not pretend to suggest that the above incidents of killing are baseless. The Prophet had no police force, no secret service or military intelligence, and no court of law. So, he had to personally give all major decisions, however hard. It is conceivable that under compelling circumstances, the Prophet gave his consent for the elimination of the poets as reported by Ibn Ishaq. But there can be no doubt that the incidents are reported out of historical context, and are sprinkled with vindictiveness that was alien to the Prophet’s temperament. As for the Banu Qurayzah, as summarily pieced together in Chapter 3 based on the Qur’anic testimony, they had committed high treason by allying with the attackers in the Trench battle, and some of them were slain, some were taken captive, and their lands and houses and goods were seized(Note 116, 117/Ch. 3.7). However, the figure quoted by Ibn Ishaq, appears grossly exaggerated on the following grounds.

        Ibn Ishaq describes the alleged massacre in a cursory manner in a small paragraph,10 the brevity of which raises serious questions about its accuracy.

        In the communal society of Medina, people knew each other by their names. Accordingly, Ibn Ishaq has named many of the familiar figures from the enemy camp, who were either killed in battles, or slain individually. He, however, furnishes only four names: three males and one female against this alleged massacre of some eight hundred to nine hundred people.

        There is no evidence of any poet, Muslim or Jewish, referring to this event of allegedly mass killing, which must have been the first of its kind in the entire history of Arabs, as traditionally the victors took captives and refrained from any mass or major killing.

        There is no reference of this alleged massacre in any of the subsequent agreements with the Jewish communities, settled in other parts of Arabia.        

        Only sixty-three horses are mentioned as the booty from this affair. If indeed the entire adult community of some eight to nine hundred men and women were slaughtered, an enormous amount of gold and cash, and a few thousands of minor captives would have come to the hands of the Muslims; but, there is no reference at all of any such enormous booty or captives.

        Had the alleged massacre taken place, Muslim rulers in the subsequent generations would have wiped the entire Jewish community out of the Islamic world. But this did not happen. On the contrary, the Jews were protected and supported in the Islamic world.

        As reported by Rafiq Zakaria, quoting Barakat Ahmad: “It is not normal for Jews not to record their misfortunes. There is no mention of this massacre in Samuel Usque’s book, A Consolidation for the Tribulations of Israel, third Dialogue, which is a classic of Jewish martyriology.”11

In view of all these compelling considerations, taking the figures quoted by Ibn Ishaq on its face value will be making a mockery of history.

In sum, there are many speculative and legendary reports in the classical biography of the Prophet that are no more than embellishments, parables and conjectures, and must be treated as such. The most accurate insight on the life of the Prophet and his mission can only be obtained from the Qur’an (Note 1/Ch.3) and this is what has been attempted in this work.


1.       Sahih al-Bukhari, (23 above), Vol.7, Acc. 169.

2.       Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, USA 1988, p. 23.

3.       Ibn Hisham, Sirrat un Nabi, Urdu translation by Gholam Rasul, Delhi 1984, Vol.2, Chap.124, p. 197.

4.       Ibid., Vol. 2, Chap.124, p. 198.

5.       Ibid,, Vol.2, p. Chap.109, p. 35.

6.       To quote Rafique Zakaria:

“He (Ibn Ishaq) has been sufficiently meticulous in the collection of facts, but sometimes he does not distinguish between facts and fiction. That is why many of his contemporaries denounced him... Malik, one of the founders of four schools of Muslim theology, who was a contemporary of Ibn Ishaq, called him ‘a devil’. Hisham bin Umara, another prominent theologian of the time said, ‘the rascal lies.’ Imam Hanbal, one of the greatest jurists of Islam refused to rely on the traditions collected by him. There were many other learned men who held similar views about Ibn Ishaq’s works. The same is more or less true of his successors like al-Waqidi, Ibn Sa‘d…” - Muhammad and the Qur’an, London 1992, p. 12.

7.       Tradition related by Ibn Ishaq (d. 151/768) in his original manuscript, and reported by al-Tabari (d. 313/926) suggests that as the Prophet was preaching to a Quraysh audience, he followed up the recitation of the verses 53:19/20 with the following underlined words venerating three most popular pagan deities: 

"Have you considered al-Lat and al-‘Uzza (53:19) and another, the third (goddess), Manat (53:20)". These are the exalted birds whose intercession is approved.”

The story further suggests that these (underlined) words were later expunged from the Qur'an and replaced with what we find in the Qur'an today:

“What! For you the male sex and for Him the female (53:21)? Behold, such would indeed be the most unfair division” (53:22)?

Ibn Hisham (d. 218/834) omitted this episode in his final edited version and the compilers of the traditions make no mention of it, indicating that Ibn Hisham and his contemporaries must have been suspect of its genuineness. Some Muslim scholars have, however, accepted the episode on the basis of the Qur’anic verses 22:52/53, but the latter relate to Satan influencing the desires (tamanna) of the prophets and messengers in general and not about Satan tampering with the revelation. Therefore, the connection is untenable.

- Rafiq Zakaria, Muhammad and the Qur’an, London 1992, p.13.

8.       The reported vindictive killings were:

       The Jewish poetess Asma bint Marwan of Banu Khatama, slain while asleep by ‘Umair Ibn ‘Adi.’a

       The poet Abu Afak, killed while asleep by Salim Ibn ‘Umayr.b

       The poet Ka‘b Ibn al-Ashraf, killed by his foster brother in a secret meeting, and then the latter carried his severed head to the Prophet and threw it at his feet.c

       Sufian Ibn Khalid, the head of Banu Lihyan tribe, killed in a very conspiratorial manner while asleep, and his severed head, carried by Abdullah and flung at the feet of the Prophet, who was pleased at this.d 

- Maxime Rodinson, Muhammad, English translation, 2nd edition, London 1996, p.171 [a], 172 [b], 176 [c], 189 [d].

9.       Ibid., p. 213.

10.     All that Ibn Hisham wrote about the alleged massacre of some eight to nine hundred adults, is as follows (rendered from Urdu):       

“After they (the Jews) dislodged themselves from their fortresses, the Prophet confined them in the house of a lady of Banu Najar. Then the Prophet strolled towards the market of Medina. It was a market day. He got ditches dug. Then he called the members of Banu Qurayzah, in groups, one after another, and got them thrown into the ditches after getting them beheaded.”

- Ibn Hisham, Sirat un Nabi, Urdu translation by Gholam Rasul, Delhi 1984, Vol.2, Ch. 131, p. 278.

11.     Rafiq Zakaria, Muhammad and the Qur’an, London 1992, p.36. 

[11 references]


2.       Encl.2  Muhammad’s Marriages

When Muhammad’s first wife (Khadija) died, he was around 50. In the years to follow, until his death at age 63, he married some eight or nine widows - many past the prime of their lives and well into their middle ages. During this period, he also married Aisha, the young daughter of his close companion Abu Bakr; Safia, a Jewish captive of high birth, and finally Mariah, a freed Christian slave.

There has been a lot of research and speculations on the Prophet’s marriages both by Muslim and non-Muslim scholars, and the interpretations are often conflicting. However, of late extensive research has been carried out on the subject, which conclusively proves that all the Prophet’s marriages after Khadija’s death were dictated either by humanitarian reasons or for the cause of Islam. This can be appreciated by the following considerations:

1. The concept of marriage in those days was different from today. Marriage offered protection, status and security, and therefore, it was expected of the community leaders and rulers to take the widows of their men who laid down their lives in community cause, or those of their rivals slain in the battlefield. Thus as the head of the upcoming Muslim community, Muhammad married a number of such distressed women who were weak and powerless in the community, purely on humanitarian grounds.

2. While his Meccan enemies hurled a medley of diatribes against him, they never even remotely questioned the integrity of his character in dealing with the opposite sex.

3. In the year following Mecca’s integration (630) or 21st year into the Prophetic mission, the Qur’an restricted the Prophet from taking any further free woman in his wedlock:

“No woman shall henceforth be lawful to you, except those you have already married, nor may you exchange them for other wives no matter how their beauty should appeal to you. (Remember,) God is Watchful over everything” (33:52)

If Muhammad were indeed the author of the Qur’an, as the non-Muslims contend, he could never have imposed this restriction upon himself, having recently ascended to the position of virtually the King of the whole Arabia, after over 20 years of threat, uncertainty and struggle.

4. Questions are often raised why the Qur’an exempted the Prophet from any limitations in the number of wives (33:50), though restricting a man to having maximum four, but preferably only one wife (4:3/Ch. 31.1).

“O Prophet, We allow you your wives whom you have given their dower, and anyone under your lawful possession out of what God has provided you, and the daughters* of your* paternal uncles and aunts, and your maternal uncles and aunts, who have emigrated with you, and any believing woman who may offer herself to the Prophet, provided the Prophet wants to marry her. This is exclusively for you and not for (other) believers. We know what we have prescribed for them concerning their wives and anyone under their lawful trust. Therefore, (your marrying any of these) will not be held against you. God is Most Forgiving and Merciful” (33:50). *[The pronoun, ‘you’ and noun ‘daughters’ each appear four times in the compound Arabic construction of the verse, but we have used them sparingly for easy reading.]

There Are Two Different Explanations:

Some sources say that the verse restricting the number of wives to four came down towards the end of the revelation when the Prophet had already contracted his marriages. Since the Qur’an had declared the wives of the Prophet to be the mothers of the believers and prohibited their remarriage even after the Prophet’s death (33:53/Ch. 3.15), the wives that he would divorce (beyond the number four) would not be able to remarry, while the women divorced by other Muslim men would get remarried. Thus, if the Prophet were made to comply with the restriction, the wives he divorced would have faced immense hardship because they would have to live by themselves in the society, where unlike today, it was extremely hard for a woman to live independently. Therefore, it would have been unjust for the Prophet to divorce his wives, and accordingly he was exempted from the restriction. However in keeping with the restriction verse, the Prophet was prohibited from contracting any further marriage and from divorcing any of his wives (33:52 above).        

Other sources say that the Prophet was exempted from the limitation in the number of wives because of his unique role in the community, implying that the Prophet continued to contract marriages even after the limitation verse had been revealed, and the restriction verse came down as his mission approached its end.

5. Since questions have been raised about the Prophet’s marrying young Aisha and his divorced cousin Zaynab and since the Qur’anic references to the Prophet’s wives is restricted to only the two of them, the matter merits clarification: 

The case of marriage with Aisha: This was an historical necessity. At around age 50, Muhammad lost both his uncle Abu Talib and his first wife Khadija, and was thus left without any clan protection. This was about the tenth year of his prophetic mission in Mecca. The Quraysh, who had opposed him since the very beginning of his mission, now threatened to kill him. His marriage with Aisha, daughter of Abu Bakr, gave him the clan protection that he needed for the security of his life. The marriage also served as a strong testimony of the truth of his mission. Abu Bakr was a highly prestigious member of the Meccan society. He would never take Muhammad, a veritable pariah of the society at that moment in history, as his son-in-law, unless he was convinced of the truth of his prophetic mission.

According to several reports, Aisha was 9 at the time of her betrothal. But this figure is only indicative of how she looked and not how old she was. In the early years of Islam (and until the introduction of the Islamic hijra during the reign of Caliph Umar), people did not maintain any calendar of events such as birth dates, age etc. So, their age was described by how old they looked and not in terms of their real age. Thus a young girl in her teens who looked childlike could be described as 8 or 10 years old. Aisha, therefore, might have been 15 or so at the time of her betrothal to Muhammad as some sources describe her. However, her youth made her the target of a scandal that caused her great agony for some time, until a Qur’anic revelation declared her innocence.1  

Non-Muslim scholars have invariably attacked the Prophet over this marriage, as Aisha was very young, and therefore, it needs to be noted that in the tribal society of Arabia it was a normal custom for people to plan the marriage of their daughters from their childhood. Accordingly, the marriage of minors was a common thing, and what the Prophet did was in complete agreement with the prevalent social norms. To judge the Prophet’s marriage with Aisha with the modern yardstick is therefore totally unfair. Those who attack the Prophet over this marriage are either ignorant of the realities of seventh century Arabia or do so out of malice and ill will.

Marriage with Zaynab bint Jash: Conceivably, with the intent of elevating the status of a freed slave, Muhammad prevailed upon his first cousin, Zaynab, to marry his freed slave (by custom, adopted son) Zayd. The marriage did not work out well. Zayd complained to the Prophet several times of his intention to divorce Zaynab, but the Prophet dissuaded him from doing so, as it would have been very hard for his cousin. Finally when the Prophet’s efforts to keep the marriage failed and Zayd divorced Zaynab, her position became terrible. The prevalent Arab custom treated an adopted son like a real son, and in the medieval community, no one would marry the woman who is the divorcee of its chief’s son – a position Zayd held in the eye of the community. Eventually, the Prophet married her as a way of honouring her.2 This marriage clarified any confusion in the definition of parentage that was needed for the implementation of Qur’anic inheritance laws (Ch. 38). It also abolished this type of status sanctimony, whereby a freed slave (by tradition, an adopted son) is regarded like a real son.

Since the Qur’an makes no reference to the Prophet’s other marriages, any discussion on the latter will detract from the main theme of this work. However, the following quotations from some eminent scholars of recent times may clarify the matter to the lay readers.

“As was customary for Arab chiefs, many were political marriages to cement alliances. Others were marriages to the widows of his companions who had fallen in combat and were in need of protection.” – John L. Esposito3

“This was an age that looked upon plural marriages with favor and in a society that in pre-Biblical and post Biblical days considered polygamy an essential feature of social existence…[Muhammad’s marriages were due] partly to political reasons and partly to his concern for the wives of his companions who had fallen in battle defending the nascent Islamic state” - Caesar E. Farah4

“It is practically certain that he had the feelings towards the fair sex well under control and that he did not enter into marriages except when they were politically and socially desirable.” - MontgomeryWatt5


1. While returning from a campaign, the Prophet’s caravan departed early in the morning, and Aisha was accidentally left behind. A young Emigrant, who had also missed the caravan, got her to ride with him on his mount to the next halting site. The hypocrites (who were out to find fault with the Prophet) maligned Aisha and stirred up emotions against the Emigrants, and soon the Prophet’s followers stood sharply divided in rival camps and on the verge of taking up arms against each other. The matter lingered on for long, until the revelation testified to Aisha’s nobility (24:11-20), and removed all rivalry and dispute.

 2.   33:36-38.

 3.  John L. Esposito, Islam the Straight Path, New York 1994, p. 18.

 4.  Caesar E. Farah, Islam: Beliefs and Observances, 4th edition, New York 1987, p. 69.

  5. Montgomery Watt, extracted from Rafiq Zakaria’s Muhammad and the Qur’an, London 1992, p. 54.

[5 references]


3.       Encl.3 Polemics Surrounding the Prophet of Islam

No prophet or world leader even remotely matches Muhammad in driving his foes to researching into his personal life to prove that he was anything but a prophet. For well over a millennium scholars in the West wrote countless books with the singular aim of projecting Muhammad as a false prophet. They used every fragment of hearsay and shady accounts and stories to malign, satirize, vilify and demonize him, and totally ignored the Qur’anic testimony and various Church chronicles that contradicted their claims. However, thanks to critical modern scholarship, the attitudes are changing as illustrated by the following remarks by some of the eminent scholars of modern times. 

“No great religious leader has been so maligned as Muhammad. Attacked in the past as a heretic, an impostor, or a sensualist, it is still possible to find him referred to as ‘the false Prophet.’” - Geoffery Parrinder1

“It seems incredible now that so much of what was said of Muhammad was believed in good faith. But not only audiences, but authors believed whatever tended to show that Muhammad could not really have been the Messenger of God.” Norman Daniel2

“Part of the Western problem is that for centuries Muhammad has been seen as the antithesis of the religious spirit and the enemy of the decent civilization. Instead perhaps we should try to see him as a man of the spirit, who managed to bring peace and civilization to his people.” - Karen Armstrong3

“Even in the height of his glory Muhammad led, as in his days of obscurity, an unpretentious life in one of those clay houses consisting, as do all old-fashioned houses of present day Arabia and Syria, of a few rooms opening into a courtyard and accessible only from there. He was often seen mending his own clothes and was all times within the reach of his people.” - Philip Hitti4

The sceptics of Islam are still active today and writings are in circulation on the Prophet’s personal life, which are full of inaccuracies and misrepresentation, let alone the lampooning of the Prophet by cartoons,5 or scholarly character assassination.6 It is hoped that this briefing will help in defending the Prophet against all kinds of propagandist literature, which the Muslims must ignore in the spirit of Qur’anic exhortations to leave the matter to God (6:112, 25:31/Ch. 3.16).


1.  John L. Esposito, Islam the Straight Path, New York 1994, p. 18.

2.  Norman Daniel, Islam and the West, The Making of an Image, London 1992.

3.  Karen Armstrong, Muhammad, London 1991, p. 44.

4.  Philip K. Hitty, History of the Arabs, 1937, 10th edition; London 1993, p. 120.

5.  A cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad was published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten on 30 September 2005 ostensibly as an attempt to contribute to the debate regarding criticism of Islam and self-censorship, but obviously to lampoon the Prophet.

6.  In his latest publication (2007), Christopher Hitchens, who has been named as number five on a list of “Top 100 Public Intellectuals” by Foreign Policy and Britain’s Propspect, vicariously assassinates the character of the Prophet by comparing him with Joseph Smith, the founder of “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints” (also known as the Mormons), in this insinuating manner: 1) ‘He (Joseph Smith) did resemble Muhammad in being able to make a borrowing out of other people’s bibles’ and 2) ‘Like Muhammad, Smith could produce divine revelations at short notice and often to simply suit him (especially, and like Muhammad, when he wanted a new girl and wished to take her as another wife.’ Furthermore, the author inserts a little glimpse from Dante’s Inferno in which “Muhammad is found being disembowelled in revolting detail.” [We must however thank this towering intellectual, Mr. Hitchens, for not spelling out these details, as that would have hurt any descent reader of the book, regardless of his faith.]:

god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Toronto 2007, p. 161, 164/165, 168.

[6 references]


4.       Encl. 4 Sunnah of the Prophet and the Hadith Literature

In pre-Islamic Arabia, the term Sunnah denoted the normative behaviour and practices of the ancestors. In the absence of any books, written materials, or any other forum or institution of learning, the Sunnahs [technically, Sunnat] served as the sole repository of ancestral wisdom. Accordingly, different Arab tribes had their own Sunnah, handed down to them from their forebears. The Qur’an also uses this word, and its other roots, as a generic concept: Sunnat al-Lah:1 natural and moral laws as prescribed by God, or a practice approved by Him; Sunan al-ladhina min qablikum:2 the ideal way of life of those who lived before you; Sunnat Al-Awwalin:3 example set by ancient people.

The Arabs transmitted the Sunnahs of their ancestors in the form of oral accounts or narratives (Ahadith sing. hadith). Accordingly, the verb haththathna and its other roots (including Hadith) appear in the Qur’an with varying connotations: an ancient story,4 an account,5 a truthful account or speech,6 a topic of conversation or theme of discussion,7 social conversation (33:53/Ch. 3.15) – for example.

The term Sunnah remained in use in its generic sense during the time of the Prophet, through to the closing decades of the second century of Islam.

In the initial years after the Prophet’s death, the Hadiths [technically Ahadith] were few in number, and were rarely cited by the Prophet’s companions, jurists, and scholars, while the common man was discouraged from quoting them. The second generation Muslims entertained a greater number of Hadiths representing the Sunnah of the Prophet as well those of his companions, and the jurists and scholars of the first generation. This process continued down the generations resulting in an exponential growth in the number of Hadiths with the passing of successive generations. The multiplication in number was inevitably influenced by the following factors:

        The dynastic rulers, as well as those with vested interest forged and concocted a great many Hadiths to serve their purpose or justify their practices.

        Many of the juridical experts based their opinions on the practices of their regions. So the Hadiths representing their Sunnah were conditioned by local and personal factors.

        State of knowledge, and social and political conditions of the time when a given hadith came into currency.

        Propensity of the introducers of new Hadiths in each generation to trace their Hadiths back to the Prophet by establishing a chain of transmitters in each generation (called Isnad) going back to one of the Prophet’s companions who had seen or heard the Prophet doing or saying a thing. This was to lend credibility to their accounts.

Thus, by the later part of the second century Hijra, that is, around six to seven generations after the Prophet’s death, the Hadiths (oral accounts) became too many in number, with massive infusion of forged and concocted accounts, and inevitable influence of various local, personal, and historical factors. This created serious complications for the community, and a sharp conflict arose among the scholars. 

Muhammad al-Shafi’i (d. 205/821), a great jurist of the time, and one of the greatest in Islamic history, saved the situation by rejecting all those Hadiths which originated from any individual other than the Prophet, and accepted only those Hadiths which could be attributed to the Prophet through a chain of reliable narrators (Isnad). This literally meant redefining the generic Sunnah and Hadith to strictly the Prophetic Sunnah[Sunna] and Prophetic Hadith [Hadith] - the terms are capitalized for distinction. In other words, the term Sunnah [Sunna] became specific to only those accounts (Hadiths) [Hadiths], which encapsulated the Prophet’s normative behaviour and practices, or Sunnat al-Rasul Allah.  The latter expression, however, does not appear in the Qur’an, which enjoins the emulation of the Prophet’s exemplary moral conduct and behavior (33:21/Ch. 15).  

4.1.          Compilation of the Current Hadith Literature   

al-Shafi’i redefinition of Sunnah (Hadith) to Prophetic Sunnah (Hadith), however, did not prevent the introduction of new accounts (Hadith) in the subsequent generations. Moreover, it was simply impossible as well as pre-mature for al-Shafi’i to address all the local, personal and historical factors that had influenced the very genesis of the Hadiths in the preceding six to seven generations that separated him from the Prophet’s era. Thus, with time, there was a growing need for a thorough scrutiny and containment of the Hadith that were attributed to the Prophet. This was addressed from early third century hijra onward by Muslim compilers notably, al-Bukhari (d. 256/870), Muslim (d. 251/865), Abu Daud (d. 265/879), al-Tirmidhi (d. 282/895), Ibn Maja (d. 276/890), and their successors.

Each of these compilers screened a few hundred thousands of accounts (Hadiths) in oral circulation, by travelling long distances and contacting and verifying with the contemporaneous narrators. The first two of the compilations (by al-Bukhari and Muslim) are regarded as the most authentic and therefore called sahih (meaning, true or correct). Their compilations cover about 7000-10,000 accounts, in the form of sayings or tradition of the Prophet, or narratives attributed to him through a chain of narrators (isnad). Their works, and those of their successors have been passed down to the posterity and constitute the present day Hadith literature.

4.2.          Effect Of Time On The Screening Process Of The Hadith Literature

Since the first compilation of the Hadith literature (by al-Bukhari) was undertaken at least two centuries, or eight to nine generations after the Prophet’s death, it was humanly impossible for the compilers to address the historical factors (listed above) that had interacted during this long period. The compilers could only rely on the integrity of the narrators in the transmission chain (Isnad) through the preceding generations stretching back to the Prophet’s era. This is the best they could do, as the state of knowledge of the era was not conducive to verifying, whether:

        the narrators and transmitters of the Prophetic traditions (Hadiths) in each successive generation ever met in their lifetime.

        the substance of a given tradition (Hadith) was revoked by a subsequent Qur'anic revelation - which had continued until a few months before the  Prophet’s death.

As a result of these limitations, a large number of forged, spurious and fabricated accounts skipped the screening process and found their way into the authentic corpus. 

Many learned people of the era were aware of this, but religious passion was so intense that even the most learned and pious were afraid to question the truth of an apparently ‘questionable’ account, if it furnished a chain of reliable transmitters. Muslim, who was a disciple of al-Bukhari, raises this point, albeit obliquely, in the foreword (Muqaththimah) to his compilation.8 He talks about an arbitrary critical scholar, who would authenticate an account, only if there was clear evidence that its narrators and recipients in each of the preceding generations had personally met at least once; but would be suspect of those accounts that lacked this evidence. Muslim then goes on to state: “If we discuss about all those accounts which are held authentic before the learned, and suspect by this (arbitrary) scholar - we would simply be tired (because they are so large in number).” He then gives a few examples of such ‘suspect’ accounts, and makes this final remark in defense of his novel way of argument: “This argument is novel in its approach, and it is wrong that early scholars did not believe in this. Neither is its denial by those who came later, any ground for its repudiation... and God is there to help repudiate what is wrong in the religion of the learned and I trust in Him.”

Moreover, some accounts (Hadith) that might have been authentic in isolation were context specific and lend themselves to contradictory propositions,9 while some were specific to the era and not valid anymore.10

Last but not least, the later rulers of Islam, notably the Tatars, actively popularized many weak accounts (Hadith) (Ch. 11.5), which in the words of Muhammad Abduh, were no more than “lethal superstitions and fables.”11

In consideration of the foregoing factors, it will be simplistic and in many cases a grievous error to take the Hadith literature left by the early compilers and in currency to this day, on their face value, as the true representation the Prophet’s Sunna. Furthermore, since the literary style, setting, paradigms, and dialectical constructions of the Hadith literature date back to the early medieval era, their continued teaching and propagation, such as in traditional religious schools (madrasas), can adversely impact the mental development of the students, shackling their power of reasoning and virtually freezing their intellect into the early medieval era.


1.       33:38.

2.       4:26.

3.       8:38.

4.       12:6, 23:44.

5.       4:42.

6.       4:78, 4:87.

7.       4:140, 6:68.

8.       Sahih al-Muslim, Urdu translation by Wahiduz Zaman, Delhi 19…, Vol.1, p. 71.

9.       Sahih al-Bukhari, English translation by Mohsin Khan, New Delhi 1984. Examples of context specific traditions that lead to contradictory propositions:

        hajj is redemption of all past sins [Vol.2, Acc. 596]. The reward for hajj is commensurate to the hardship undertaken for it [Vol.3, Acc. 15].

        The dog is a clean animal as dogs used to roam about the Prophet’s mosque and even urinate there [Vol.1, Acc. 174]. The dog is an unclean animal, and so if a dog eats from a container, it is to be washed seven times to purify it before human use [Vol.1, Acc. 173].

        The dog is a blessed creature as a man was promised Paradise by God because he brought water from a well to quench the thirst of a dog [Vol.1, Acc. 174]. The dog is an accursed creature as its sale is forbidden [Vol.3, Acc. 439, 440].

        The Prophet forbade the killing of women and children [Vol.4, Acc. 257, 258]. The Prophet tacitly approved the killing of pagans at night when women were also exposed (and could be killed during attack) [Vol.4, Acc. 256].

10.     Ibid., Examples of era specific traditions include accounts forbidding Muslims from carrying the Qur’an to a hostile land [Vol.4, Acc. 233], keeping agricultural implements at homes [Vol.3, Acc. 514], taking the price of a dog [Vol.3, Acc. 439, 440], or selling fruits until they are ripe and red [Vol.1, Acc. 565].

11.     Muhammad Husayn Haykal, The Life of Muhammad, English translation by Ismail Ragi, 8th edition, Karachi 1989, p. 584.

[11 References]




1.       Theological Development in Islam

All major religions had their births at given space, time brackets, and as they spread out to new lands, they were interpreted and adapted differently to suit local customs, temperaments, and needs. Thus, with time, the core message that their founders preached got superimposed by different layers of interpretation and secondary materials, written or oral, as part of theological development. Islam is no exception. Its first three to four centuries saw concomitant evolution of the Sunna of the Prophet (Hadith) as well as diverse dogmas, philosophies and schools of law. Having reviewed the evolution of Hadith in the preceding section (Enc. 4), any further discussion on Islamic theological development may appear superfluous as well as academic, as the Hadith occupies the central place in Islamic theology today. However, a summarized review in a broad timeframe covering the key areas of Islamic theological development will inform the reader, that except for the sciences of Tafsir (exegesis or interpretation of the Qur’an), all other elements of Islamic theology have been purely the constructs of history and must be treated as such and therefore, emphasis must be placed on exploring the broader dimensions of the Qur’anic message as attempted in this book. However, the domain on hand is too expansive, interactive, heterogeneous and fragmented to be compressed into a consolidated write up without confusing the lay reader. We have therefore attempted to present the gist in simple, logical, condensed and schematic form with the sole objective of driving home our underlined views to the non-specialist and lay readers. Accordingly, we have used current vocabulary to capture the essence of various juristic and doctrinal notions instead of using classical definitions that employ specialist vocabulary.           

In historical perspective, Islamic theological development, apart from the evolution of the Hadith literature, can be divided into the following segments and indicative timeframe:

1.       Founding of the sciences of Tafsir and asbab al-nuzul [The first century of Islam]

2.       Fundamental Juristic Principles and Notions [First century]

3.       Theological doctrines [Second century]

4.       Emergence of diverse juristic views [Second century]

5.       The doctrine of infallibility of the consensus (ijma‘) of scholars [2nd- 3rd centuries]

6.       The doctrine of precedence (taqlid) [3rd – 4 th centuries]

7.       The rise and fall of Mu‘tazila school and emergence of orthodox Sunni Islam [3rd – 4th centuries]

8.       Broadening the scope of exegesis (Tafsir) [The fourth century of Islam onwards]

1.1.          Founding of the sciences of tafsir and asbab al-nuzul [The first century of Islam].1

As the revelation was underway, the learned among the Prophet’s companions were keen to understand the fuller meaning of the revealed verses and passages, particularly those, relating to their own lives and circumstances. From time to time, they approached the Prophet for clarification, and he helped them out with interpretation. This marked the beginning of the discipline of exegesis or tafsir, the science ofinterpreting the Qur’an. Many of the Prophet’s companions had earned reputation for their exegetic knowledge. Foremost among them were Ubayy Ibn Ka‘b, ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Abbas and Sa‘id Ibn Jubair: their compilations have been referred to in later literature, but not preserved.

With time, the scholars tried to construct the background of the entire process of the revelation. This led to the founding of the sciences of asbab al-nuzul, which probed the circumstances attending the Qur'anic revelations. Iqrama (d. 107/729) was among the first to undertake such exercise but his work is not preserved.

1.2.          Fundamental Juristic Principles and Notions [The first century of Islam]

The first generation jurists of Islam used the Qur’an and the sunnah of the Prophet in juristic process. However, when they couldn’t resolve an issue by the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet, they drew on the Qur’anic exhortations on trying to understand, or going into the depth of an issue through independent reasoning (root FQH, 6:65/Afterword 1.2), This led to the evolution of the principle of rational logic and reasoning (usul al-fiqha). Accordingly the jurists exercised their independent reasoning (Fiqh), by drawing analogies (qiyas) from parallel examples, and where necessary using their own better judgment (istihsan): their own idea of what is appropriate in a given situation to get to a final opinion (ra’y). Some jurists also made independent intellectual probe to arriving at a judgment (Ijtihad) for more complex cases. The transliterated notions were in currency since the early decades of Islam as underscored by the wordings of Caliph Umar’s decrees to his governors (Note 3/Ch. 21.4), but it was only in the second century that they crystallized into legal sources or instruments.       

1.3.          Theological doctrines [The second century of Islam]

While the jurists were developing the basic tenets of law (1.2 above), the religious intellectuals and philosophers were debating over a host of theological and philosophical issues, such as concerning free will, predestination, Spirit (ruh), hur (Note 4/Ch. 6.2), nafs (soul), whether the Qur’an was created or a replica of an original preserved in the heaven (Note 22/Ch. 1.4), use of reason and speculation in religion and philosophy etc. These debates were taking place in cluster groups in mosques, madrassas and halaqahs (gatherings), led by local theologians and intellectuals in all major centers of Islamic civilization. This resulted in the emergence of different theological doctrines. The majority group called themselves ahl al-Sunnah. They were traditionalists and claimed to follow the right and ideal practice of their ancestors who had lived with the Prophet and modeled their lives according to his Sunnahs. Their main rivals, the ahl al-Kalam were rationalists, who attempted to interpret the Qur'an in light of objective reality. They advocated pursuit of knowledge in all fields, and promoted material prosperity within the framework of the Qur'an. The most prominent among them were the Mu‘tazilites, who interpreted the Qur’an against its historical context and advocated ethical answerability to God – themes that ran counter to the populist discourses that drew on theological and philosophical speculations.     

The doctors of each group legitimized their views by quoting traditions (hadiths) and applying the principle of consensus (ijma‘), and repudiated and excommunicated the others. This created a chaotic situation in the theological domain. With the convergence of different sunnahs into the umbrella of the Sunna of the Prophet (Sunnat al-Rasul Allah) towards the end of this period (Enc.4), the appellation ahl al-Sunnah becameahl al-Hadith, and with time, assumed the simplistic title of Sunni Islam, and retained as such by the posterity to this day.

1.4.          Emergence of diverse juristic views [The second century of Islam] 

The doctrinal differences among the theologians and philosophers, the proliferation of hadiths apace, created confusion in the juristic discipline leading to the emergence of divergent juristic views. To offset theo-philosophical influences however, the jurists took into consideration the views and practices of the consensual majority (jama‘ah) in their respective communities.2 The jurists also used the prevalent secondary instruments of jurisprudence, notably, their own reasoning (fiqh), analogical deduction (qiyas), best of their judgment (istihsan) and independent intellectual probe (ijtihad) – the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet being the primary sources of law. Their views were conditioned by their doctrinal inclination (ahl al-Sunnah or ahl al-kalam, or any other school), creating serious legal differences across the different regions of the Islamic world.3 This triggered debates lasting for decades with juries of different regions of Islam expounding their own views and doctrines. Among the foremost jurists of the era belonging to theahl al-Sunnah were: Abu Hanifa (d. 149/766), Malik ibn Anas (d. 179/795), Muhammad al-Shafi’i (d. 205/821), and Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (d. 240/854). At a later date, as we shall see below (1.7), their discourses and those of their followers were canonized as the only legitimate schools of Shari‘ah law (mathahib) in Sunni Islam, the term Shar‘iah (Shari‘a) derived from the Qur’an (5:48/Ch. 9.4). In course of time a distinct Shi‘a School also evloved,4 led by Ja‘far as-Sadiq (d. 148/7650), who was regarded as the greatest teacher of his time in Medina.

1.5.          Infallibility of the consensus (Ijma‘) of scholars [The 2nd – 3rd centuries of Islam]

The sprawling of law schools only combined with theo-philosophical diversification and hadith multiplication to further accentuate the differences among the jurists. This brought the agreed views of the majority (Jama’ah) into sharper juristic focus and precipitated the evolution of a juristic notion of consensus (ijma‘) of the community.5 They subjected a few Qur’anic verses to analogical deduction (qiyas) and independent intellectual probe (ijtihad), using the prevalent scholastic methods to establish that the consensus reached by the community was infallible.6 They later argued that since the scholars of the community determined its consensus, the consensus reached by the scholars must be regarded as infallible. Many scholars, however, were opposed to this view. They argued that since an individual can make an error of judgment, there was no basis to regard the collective opinion above error.

In historical perspective, the doctrine of consensus played a vital role in conserving the past heritage and in cementing differences among the scholars and jurists. As a juristic tool however, it has always remained problematic, and remains a complicated jurisprudential issue to this day. As Hasan observes, “the classical theory of ijma‘ was not recognized in full even during its formative period. Because of its purely theoretical nature and perhaps for want of some definite practicable machinery it could not be utilized to reform the Muslim society.”7 The fact remains, it is not an established principle of law and never was.   

1.6.          The doctrine of precedence (taqlid) [3rd – 4th centuries of Islam].

The ideological clash between the divergent theological, philosophical and juristic factions, and between the proponents and opponents of the doctrine of infallibility of the consensus of scholars, generated enormous debates, confusion and bitterness among the scholars and the intelligentsia that lasted for generations and appeared to have no end. The jurists found a way out by stressing on the past precedence, unless there was good reason to break away from the precedent. With time, the notion or principle of precedence got popularized into following conventions and established views without applying any creative thinking or individual efforts: what the oriantalist scholarship has described as repetitive or blind conformity with the views of the past scholars. This led to a misconception among a section of scholars and orthodoxy that what had to be learnt was already there in the Qur’an and the Sunna of the Prophet (Hadith) and the posterity had to simply imitate them. This was the doctrine of taqlid, as we have touched earlier in the book in several places. The doctrine was however, not binding on all jurists and scholars, and Islamic legal system continued to remain vibrant, creative and energetic until colonization in the 17th and 18th centuries. 

1.7.          The rise and fall of Mu‘tazila school and emergence of orthodox Sunni Islam [3rd –6th centuries].

The Mu‘tazila School (1.3 above) enjoyed the patronage of the Caliphs and intellectual elite during the third and fourth centuries of Islam. Although its rationalism was rooted in the belief in God and the revelation, it was condemned and bitterly opposed by the traditionalists as it challenged many of their notions and doctrines. However, soon the Mu‘tazilites grew arrogant and fanatic. Thus in 217/833, the Caliph [al-Mamun] decreed that no judge (qadi) could hold his office or be appointed to one unless he subscribed to the Mu‘tazili view that the Qur’an was created. Later he instituted summary trials (minha) and convicted the opponents of his dogma - Ahmed Ibn Hanbal, of whom we have heard earlier (1.4 above) being among his victims. His two successors continued the persecution of ‘ulama, until 233/848, when al-Mutawakkil abrogated it and restored the dogma of the Qur’an being uncreated, preserved in the ‘Guarded Tablet’ (Note 22/Ch. 1). However, Mu‘tazila school remained dominant through to the end of the century until al-‘Ashari (d. 323/936) refuted their theories in favor of traditional Islam. The succeeding generations saw a gradual waning of Mu‘tazili influence and increasing popularity of orthodox Islam and finally al-Ghazzali (d. 504/1111), a supremely gifted religious scholar, regarded as the master of dialectical theology,8 exploded Mu‘tazila theories, and fully established the orthodox views. The major schools of Sunni Islam were canonized, and Mu‘tazilasm was declared unlawful. The mainstream Sunni Islam was thus set on an orthodox course: the doctrine of taqlid (1.6 above) was espoused as the most popular way of learning, independent intellectual probe (ijtihad) was discouraged, and rationalism was forbidden. 

1.8.          Broadening the scope of exegesis (Tafsir) [The fourth century of Islam onwards]

The confusion created by the continued fragmentation and diversification in doctrinal, legal and scholarly domains during the second and third centuries as reviewed above prompted many among the learned to access the Qur’an to understand the fundamentals of their faith. This resulted in a revival of interest in the science of tafsir, which now combined the knowledge of the sciences of Hadith with the Asbab al-Nuzul(1.1 above).

al-Tabari (d. 313/926) is credited with the compilation of one of the earliest and most elaborate works on tafsir [jami al-bayan fi tafsir al-Qur'an]. Down the centuries, a succession of scholars devoted their entire lives to producing comprehensive exegetic works. However, with the popularity of the principle or doctrine of Taqlid (1.6 above), most of the exegetes in the succeeding centuries down to the recent times followed a stereotype approach of copying from the work of a past scholar of their choice. Thus, as Abul Kalam Azad observes:9 “If an error was made in an interpretation in the third century hijra, it is inevitably copied and recopied down to the ninth century. No one thought for a moment to step out of the taqlid (strict compliance with the precedent) regime even for a moment to investigate the truth. By and by, the spirit of interpretation dipped so low that it got restricted to merely putting new margins (with comments) on the old contents.”

Copying from, and embellishing upon past works was however not all. The early exegetes presented several optional arguments while interpreting the critical verses of the Qur’an. The later interpreters often chose the weakest of these arguments. Thus in later periods, “only those Tafsir gained popularity for education and adoption, which totally lacked the beauty of those (advocated by the) ancients.”10

Furthermore, the literary style of the era, as mentioned earlier (Enc. 1) was characterized by exaggeration, embellishment and fantasy, while the Qur’an was in plain and straightforward language. The Muslim scholars were not happy that the Qur'an should remain in its simple form. “They started clothing every statement of the Qur'an in a robe (that satisfied) their intellectual ego. As this robe did not suit the Qur'an, they force-fitted it, and as a result, the consistency was compromised and all became inconsistent and complicated.”11 This characterized the traditional exegetic discipline until the turn of the last century.

However, with the revival of the spirit of independent intellectual probe (Ijtihad) in recent times, the science of exegesis has gained a high level of scholarship. Thus modern exegetic works take cognizance of the social and historical context of the revelation and draw on a much broader resource base than in the past centuries.   

1.9.          Summing Up

In a nutshell, the first four centuries of Islam saw the evolution of the diverse fields and domains of Islamic theology as tabled above. This came about as a result of the attempts of the jurists, theologians and philosophers of diverse regions, backgrounds and religious heritage to accommodate their theological, cultural, and philosophical paradigms and normative practices into the faith. It did not happen in any structured, organized or coordinated manner, nor was it the outcome of well-defined academic or theological projects undertaken at exclusive centres of learning, or sponsored by the Caliphs, nor did it follow any strict timeframe as indicated above. It all happened spontaneously in the wake of a turbulent flux of history, suddenly put off-course by the Qur’anic revelation. It was participated by jurists, theologians and philosophers in each successive generation at their own initiatives and in their own stations: courts of law, mosques, madrassas and halaqahs (gathering of the learned) that dotted the major centres of Islamic civilization (Mecca, Medina, Baghdad and Kufa). The foregoing schematic review only lists the culminating points of the evolutionary process in the given timeframe. 

Since the entire process of theological development in all the major fields has stemmed from the external history of the early centuries of Islam, dating over a millennium ago; any effort or aspiration to replicate its culminating achievements will be highly anachronistic and wishful. The only exception, however, is the discipline of Tafsir, the interpretation of the Qur’an, which like the Qur’an remains an eternally alive domain.


1.       The earliest literature on the subject now reportedly extant is a book (Arabic) by Burhanuddin Zarkhasi (d. 794/1293). The first authoritative English book on the subject is by Ahmad Von Denffer, ‘Ulum al-Qur’an, An Introduction to the Science of the Qur’an, U.K. 1983, which has been used as the source material for the write up under this title.

2.       As quoted by al-Tabari (d. 316/926), Malik Ibn Annas (d. 179/795) cited a dialogue between a jurist Ibn Abi Bakr (d. 132/750), a proponent of the views of the consensual majority (jama‘ah), and his brother, an advocate of the hadith, to conclude that “Whatever practice was agreed upon in Madinah, the agreed practice according to them was more authoritative than the Hadith.”  

- Yusuf Guraya, Origins of Islamic Jurisprudence, Delhi 1992, p. 29/30

3.       In his briefing to Caliph al-Mansur (d. 157/777), his secretary al-Muqaffa wrote: “The blood and marital relation that are permitted in Hira are prohibited in Kufah. The same kind of legal diversification is happening in the middle of Kufah. A thing is being permitted in one locality, but is being prohibited in another locality…”

- Yusuf Guaraya, Origins of Islamic Jurisprudence, Delhi 1992, p. 21.

4.       The Shi‘a school does not recognize any Sunnah of the Prophet unless narrated by a member of the Prophet’s family, and does not accept the validity of consensus (Ijma‘). It advocates the divine right of the Prophet’s descendents through Caliph Ali to act as the Imam (temporal as well as religious head) and to pass laws or validate Ijma‘(consensus) as an infallible authority. Among Sunnis, the Caliph is the head of the community, responsible for the implementation of Islamic Law (Shari‘a), and defence of the realm of Islam. He is either elected, or nominated by his predecessor, and is answerable to the Islamic court of Law like any subject.

5.       While the term ijma‘was in currency since the pre-Islamic era, it re-emerged as an authoritative force to contain the differences in Islam. - Ahmad Hasan, The Doctrine of Ijma‘ in Islam, New Delhi 1992, p. 7. 

6.       The opening statement in the verse 2:143 (Ch. 42.3), “Thus We have made you a justly balanced community” was cited to infer God’s special favor to Muslim community for all times. From this inference it was deducted that the judgment of the Muslim community could, in the Prophet’s absence, carry as much authority as that of the Prophet himself.

The opening stipulation in the verse 3:110 (Ch. 29.1), “You are the best community brought forth for humanity; you enjoin the good, and forbid the evil” was interpreted to imply that the Muslim community could never agree on error, because, if that was so, the Qur’an could never have praised it in the above terms.

The underlined corollaries were combined to evolve the doctrine of infallibility of the consensus of the Muslim community.  

7.       Ahmad Hasan, The Doctrine of Ijma‘ in Islam, New Delhi 1992, p. 259.

8.       Dialectical theology is a scholastic method of establishing or contradicting a theological proposition be laying down trains of arguments for and against it in a systematic fashion and then weighing them against each other.

9.       Abul Kalam Azad, Tarjuman al-Qur’an, 1931, reprint New Delhi 1989, Vol.1. p. 42.

10.     Ibid., p. 43.       [Translated from Urdu]

11.     Ibid., p. 34, 35. [Translated from Urdu]

[11 references]




1.1.          Today’s Relevance of Shari’a Law

Historically, jurists have insisted that the lay Muslims lack the scholarship to interpret the Qur’an, and must therefore belong to a Shar‘ia law school (mathhab) for their proper guidance in religious matters and conformity to a given legal system. Thus, the Shari‘a law schools (App. 1.4) virtually divide the Muslim community in theological, as well as juristic levels. Accordingly, the classical Islamic civilization saw each Muslim individual belonging to a Shari‘a school, and each Islamic state governed by a Shari‘a law. This did not pose much problem in the past centuries, when demography in Muslim lands was more or less onmathhab lines. However a number of things have happened in recent centuries, which raise serious questions about the present day relevance of Shari‘a law based division in Islam.

First, with increased mobility of people, the geographic identity of the law schools has been greatly blurred, if not obscured, and Muslims belonging to diverse law schools are now living in the same geo-political regions.

Second, the common Muslims have drifted so far away from their mathhab roots that it will be virtually impossible to i) dig out their mathhab lineage and ii) orient them to the basic discourses or paradigms of their mathahib.  

Third, with the advent of globalization, the barriers that historically divided humanity into rival groups – race, culture, nationality, language, and even religion are being pushed on the sidelines as a massive surge of history, and it will be antithetical to historical realities to try to reinstall a dormant or dead barrier between the global Muslim communities.

Fourth, an increasing number of Muslims of divergent mathhab rooting are living in predominantly non-Muslim countries as minorities, making any segmentation of population and personal law on mathhab lines virtually impossible.

Finally, with colonization, the Shari‘a laws in the Muslim lands have given way to Western system of jurisprudence, and baring few exceptions, modern legal systems have been fully established with all their instruments and ramifications in Muslim lands. Any attempt to reintroduce any school or schools of Islamic law in these countries would be like going in the reverse gear in civilization, let alone the controversy this will generate due to the incipient divergence in the opinions and backgrounds of present day scholars as well as those of their terms of reference - the juristic traditions of the divergent schools of law.

In consideration of these complementing factors, which are only accentuating with time, it may be too late in history to revive the division of the global Muslim community into primarily region based mathhab groups or to reintroduce Shari‘a laws. This only reinforces the underlined corollary of the preceding section under Summing Up, and therefore should not come as a shock or surprise.

From a different and purely academic perspective, with the abolition of Caliphate (1924) close to a century ago, the office of the head of Shar‘iat (Sultan) remains vacant, while the world has changed so dramatically in the interim period that Islamic Caliphate has become a closed historical event, and “there is no one to execute the behests of the Shar‘iat … and Islamic law all over the world must now be considered in a different light juristically.”1

However, this does not mean that we have to consign the entire province of Islamic law to the archives. Far from it!

The rich heritage of Islamic law must be studied and its principles must be applied to broaden the scope of modern law for the greater good of humanity. Thus the jurists of Islam have to tailor their discourses to suit the callings of the heterogeneous societies of the present day world. They can help in making refinements in the constitution and legal system of their countries, Islamic or otherwise by voicing their opinions through juristic, diplomatic and academic channels based on the universal message of the Qur’an, without the cultural orientation, adaptation and accretions of its early history. As Chiragh Ali (1844-1895), a protégé of Syed Ahmed (1817-1898), the renowned Muslim intellectual of British India, puts it succinctly: “The only law of Muhammad or Islam is the Qur’an, and only the Qur’an”2 - a priori, encapsulated in the Qur’anic claim to representing the Shari‘a of Islam (45:18/Ch. 9.4, Note, iii).

The corollary reached may affront the champions of Shari‘a Law school and the proponents of political Islam, and therefore some clarifications are warranted based on the Qur’an – the ultimate authority on all issues.

Most Islamic scholars insist on the ultimate sovereignty of God and claim that the Western secular laws are man-made while the Shari‘a laws are derived from the Qur’an and thus represent God’s will. But this argument is specious if not fallacious. From the Qur’anic perspective, all humans stand on equal footing as God’s deputy on earth and recipients of some of His Spirit (15:29, 38:72/Ch. 5.3), and therefore all noble woks of man have their origin in God’s Virtues, and human accomplishments in all fields including jurisprudence and governance of a state are nothing but the result of God’s Mercy and Grace to humankind. Therefore, rejecting any so-called secular or modern institution, just because its architects are not Muslims will be as fallacious as rejecting all the good things of modern life that characterize the Western civilization just because their origin is non-Islamic. Thus, there could be no Qur’anic basis to reject the so-called secular laws and institutions, as long as they do not repudiate any of the explicit tenets of the Qur’an. Muslims, therefore, should have no aversion to abiding by such Western/ secular laws that do not contradict the Qur’an, in as much as they readily avail of all lawful things of convenience of the Western secular world.

Finally, an answer may be needed to the concern and contention of many pious Muslims living in the West that the social environment there is not conducive to practicing their faith, and that implementation of Islamic laws could help cleanse their external environment. The Qur’an answers this upfront: “O You who believe, on you rests (the responsibility) of your souls....” (5:105). In other words, the preservation of faith and the compliance with the activities that are intrinsic to the faith is a personal responsibility and one can’t relate it with the external environment. Moreover, according to the Qur’an, Satan is an eternal tempter and those who can’t control their lower desires can commit vices in the purest of lands while those who are heedful (muttaqi) can remain steadfast in their ways in the most corrupt and vile setting. So a Muslim does not need a spiritually healthy environment to remain a good Muslim, and those Muslims living in the West can cultivate themselves to be models of goodness to earn divine blessings.    

To sum up, the immediate challenge facing the global Muslim community today is to rediscover their universal identity as God’s deputy and a true believer as encapsulated in the articles and prescribed activities of faith, rather than to divide themselves into Shar‘ia schools (mathahib) without even knowing their mathhab rooting.

1.2.          Sectarianism and Islam

As a first principle theological, ideological and political differences in any community often precipitate sectarian division, either in the natural course of history, or under the behest of vested interest. In Islam the first prominent signs of differences emerged upon the death of the Prophet (632). His dead body awaiting burial, the community was tormented on the question of his succession. Since this marked a turning point in its history and led to the evolution of a fanatic breakaway sect (Kharijites) (659) and the birth of Shi‘a Islam upon the assassination of Ali (661), we are giving a synopsis of the historical developments of the interim period in the Notes for the benefit of curious readers.3

In a nutshell, the evolution of Shi‘a Islam and the birth of the Kharijites have been purely the result of the external history of Islam dating from the demise of the Prophet, and do not derive from the Qur’anic message. With time both Shi‘a Islam and the Kharijites were subdivided into many factions and the process continued down the centuries. Thus, writing in the fifth century of Islam, Abdul Quader Jilani enumerated some seventy-one sects,4 in addition to the mainstream Sunni Islam. The onslaught of history caused the disappearance of many of the marginal sects while localized circumstances created others. Thus, there are some ten sects in Islam today. 

Historically, as in Christianity, the sectarian division in Islam has resulted in inter-sect accusations, communal riots, civil wars and even wars between nations. Thus the Islamic dynastic Caliphate (Umayyads and Abbasids) saw many Shi’ite and Kharjite revolts, and Shi‘a-Sunni antipathy has punctuated Islamic history down the centuries to this very day. There are other present day examples of Muslim sects putting the label of non-Muslim on different Islamic sects because of differences in theological beliefs.

Now turning to the Qur’an, it is clear and unambiguous in forbidding sectarian division:

“Say, He has the power to send torment upon you, from above you and beneath your feet, and to confuse you with sects (shi‘aon) to make you taste each other’s oppressions. See how do we illustrate our messages that you may understand (yafqahun)” (6:65).   

“As for those who split their religion into sects (shi‘aon) - you have nothing to do with them (O Muhammad!). Their affair is up to God, and He will tell them of what they had been doing” (6:159).

“(Believers! Do not be) among those who have split their religion and become sects (shi‘aon) – each faction pleased what they have (by way of tenets)” (30:32).

“God has enjoined on you the religion (din) that God had ordained for Noah, and that We have revealed to you (O Muhammad), and that We ordained for Abraham and Moses and Jesus. So holdfast to the din and make no division in it…” (42:13).   

The present day diverse Muslim communities must also recognize that they have no legitimacy to claim any superiority in God’s sight over members of other sects. If they do so, they will be only replicating the mistake of the Jews and Christians for which they were reproved in the Qur’an (2:111/Ch. 13.3). Moreover, no faithful Muslim must assume spiritual superiority over any fellow Muslim or a believer in God because only God knows the rightly guided (Note 1/Ch. 14).                             

The fact remains; sectarianism is an exaggerated form of tribalism. Islam came to root out tribalism but ended up with sectarianism because of obvious historical reasons. Fourteen centuries have passed since the birth of Islam and the global civilization has moved far away from tribalism and sectarianism; so it is time for Muslims to take cognizance of the fact that their sectarian division is out and out a construct of history and has nothing to do with the teachings of the Qur’an.

1.3.          Final Note of Appeal for Muslims

It has been long overdue for Muslims to make an objective and honest assessment of their secondary theological literature, notably the Hadith sciences. There can be no doubt that they are essential to understanding how the Prophet and early Muslims complied with various Islamic rites and rituals, including Salat, Zakat and hajj. But the truth remains, their evolution is purely a construct of history, and accordingly they are conditioned and corrupted by a wide array of factors impacting across some two to three hundred years as analyzed earlier (Enc.4). Considering the canonized Hadith as we have in our hands today, on their face value as truths supplementing and complementing the Qur’an as many orthodox scholars advocate, or indirect inspiration as the classical theory of Islamic law suggests,5  may lead to the following, to the great detriment of the Muslim community:

        The vast majority of Muslims, lay or educated, will have neither time, nor the necessary books, nor the scholarship to explore their expansive domains.

        Different individuals, agencies, groups and states, will be able to pick conveniently from their theological sources to legitimize their views and deeds in the whole range of matters concerning their societies. Such matters could be of social, political or theological nature, or pertain to statecraft, educational curriculum and women’s status, for example. Likewise, they will be able to enter into polemics, and have their clerics pass fatwas against conflicting views on all such matters.

        They will be questioning the completeness of the Qur’an as a font of guidance and divine criteria of right and wrong, despite its claim to be a book of wisdom that makes things clear with all kinds of illustrations and elaboration (Notes 7-10/Preface).

        Their theologians will continue to nurture and perpetuate the thought process, scholastic disposition, and paradigms that were normative in the early centuries of Islam and characterize the Hadith literature, that is revered and taught by them, and thus keep those Muslims under their direct influence, intellectually rooted in that era, with grave consequences.

        The modern Kharijites6 and Qaramites7 of Islam – the violent extremists, active in many countries of the world, will reduce Islam, in the eyes of the non-Muslims exposed to a patently biased media,8 to a cult of terrorism and suicide bombing, creating enormous difficulties for the common peace loving and law abiding Muslims settled in predominantly secular and non-Muslim societies.     

Therefore, as suggested by some of the eminent Muslim scholars, Muslims must endeavor to take guidance directly from the Qur’an.9 The best way to accomplish this, as the Qur’an advocates, is to probe into it,10and seek the best meaning,11 as attempted in this work.

Furthermore, Muslims must endeavour to cultivate an exemplary moral conduct and behavior (Uswatun Hasana) to do full justice to the heritage of their Prophet (33:21/Ch. 15), and to excel in all good things (that includes lawful pursuits) as enjoined by the Qur’an (2:148/Ch. 16; 5:48/Ch. 9.4).

There is also a pressing need to substitute the predominantly theological content of the curriculum of traditional religious schools (madrasas) with a focused study of the Qur’an and a comprehensive study of the ever expanding fields of universal sciences and diverse faculties of knowledge that are nothing but the manifestations of the Words (Kalimat) of God (18:109, 31:27/Ch. 2.1), that cannot be divided between Islamic and non-Islamic domains (Concluding paragraph, Ch. 10.2).

As for the theological discourses, notably the Hadith literature, Muslims must not accept them blindly, and cite them freely, without knowing their background and the classification.12 The Hadith remains a critical part of Islamic religion, in so much as it preserves the legacy of the Prophet, no less his companions. However, since this is a very technical field, it should be reserved for enlightened specialists who have attained sufficient maturity, knowledge, and training to distinguish between weak and reliable Hadith, and not to confuse them with the Word of God.     

Last but not least, there is an over-riding need for the Muslim intelligentsia to protest the demonization of their Holy book by some of their own theologians and jurists, who, in the name of implementing the Qur’anic ordinances, justify blatantly anti-Qur’anic heinous crimes, particularly against womenfolk, as typified by examples that hit the world media in recent years and can be readily accessed on the Internet.13

1.4.          Note of Reassurance for Non-Muslims

As to those who are not Muslims, they need not be suspicious or antagonistic about this book. There is no compulsion in religion. So they do not have to believe in the divinity of the Qur’an and keep their faiths. But the practical aspect of the Qur’anic message, as reviewed in the preceding pages, and summed up below, offers a great deal to humanity and the sympathetic reader may benefit from it.

At a personal level, the Qur’anic message fosters love, mercy, forgiveness and a balance of privileges and responsibilities between spouses. At the community level, it promotes goodwill and understanding with friends and foes, neighbours and strangers, and good inter-faith relationship. Besides, the moral and ethical paradigms of the Qur’an can moderate and balance the consumption and acquisition patterns and aspirations of people, and favourably influence their moral behaviour and ethical norms towards making them good global citizens.

There can be no doubt that much of the principles espoused by the Qur’an have, with time, permeated the global human society, but a serious reflection on the whole gamut of Qur’anic injunctions can be of benefit to many readers regardless of their faith, or even if they have no faith.

Finally, as a word of reassurance, the violent extremists – the modern Kharijites6 and Qaramites,7 of Islam are no more than poisonous sediments of history, and like their counterparts of almost a millennium ago, they are bound to be increasingly marginalized, and eventually jettisoned from the world of Islam.


 1.       Asaf A.A.Fyzee, Outlines of Muhammadan Law, 5th edition, Oxford University Press, Delhi 2005. p. 37.

2.       Chiragh Ali, Islam and Change, extracted from John L. Esposito, Islam the Straight Path, New York 1994,   p. 44.

3.       Upon the death of the Prophet, his companions agreed that none could replace him in his spiritual capacity as God’s messenger, but a successor was needed to lead and govern the community that had recently assumed the character of a national federation having treaty with diverse nomadic tribes. As it happens in a situation of sudden leadership vacuum, the major groups in the community aspire that their candidate should fill the vacuum. There were two major rival candidates. i) Abu Bakr, the elderly father-in-law of the Prophet representing the Emigrants [the converts of the Meccan period who had struggled with the Prophet throughout his mission]. ii) Ali, also an Emigrant, and a cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet; his supporters, then known as Shi‘i (literally followers) believed in the divine right of leadership (imamah) through family lineage.

The elders in the community chose Abu Bakr. But Ali and his followers were not happy, though they accepted the community’s decision in the greater cause of Islam. The resentment in Ali’s camp continued during the successive caliphate (those of Umar and Uthman) and finally eased with his election after Uthman’s assassination (656). However, more anguish was in store for them.

Uthman’s supporters were critical of Ali for not avenging his assassin, who allegedly belonged to his [Uthman’s] camp. Thus the community was divided between the supporters of Ali and the sympathizers of Uthman. The differences were however more deep-rooted and had built up over time.

Uthman was of the Umayyah family of the Quraysh, who had entered Islam after the integration of Mecca – some 18th year into the Prophetic mission. During his caliphate however Uthman appointed members of his Quraysh kin in many senior positions thus favoring those who entered Islam much later, having failed to destroy it, and having made no sacrifices for it either. This had caused deep frustration and a profound sense of betrayal among the Emigrants, and more so in case of the supporters of Ali. 

The division between the rival camps reached a climax when Mu‘awiyah, a nephew of Uthman and governor of Syria claimed the caliphate and sent a powerful army against Baghdad, the capital of the Caliphate. Ali dispatched a strong force to resist them. In the final encounter (July 28, 657), Ali’s army was on the verge of victory, when Mu‘awiyah’s shrewd leader raised the pages of the Qur’an in the air by fastening them at the tips of the lances. The sight of the sacred pages brought the battle to a halt. Mu‘awiyah then proposed arbitration to spare Muslim blood, to which Ali agreed. This alienated an extremist faction of his followers. They felt that arbitration between a genuine Caliph (Ali) and a governor making a fictitious claim (Mu‘awiyah) was no more than a political ruse, and rebelled. Ali attacked their camp and almost annihilated them (659) but eventually one of their zealots assassinated him (Jan 24 661). This shattered Ali’s followers. They viewed Ali’s betrayal successively by the first three Caliphs and then by his own men as a sign of Divine trial. So they venerated him as their supreme saint, the wali of God just as Muhammad was the messenger of God. The Shi‘a Islam was born. The rebels who had broken away from Ali’s camp were called Kharijites (the secessionists). The first sect was born in Islam.

4.       Abdul Quader Jilani, Ghunitu at-talebin, Urdu translation by Shahir Shams Barelwi, Arshad Brothers, New Delhi p.177-193.

5.       Asaf A.A.Fyzee, (1 above) p. 33.

6.       Philip K. Hitti refers to the Kharijites (See 3 above for their evolution) as a brutally fanatic sect, who readily killed their opponents and “caused rivers of blood to flow in the first three centuries of Islam.” History of the Arabs, 1937, 10th edition; London1993, p. 247.

Drawing on classical sources, Abdul Quader Jilani (d. 561/1166) has described the Kharijites as a sect that disowned the community of Muslims, “raised swords against the caliphs and made lawful their blood and their wealth.” He also mentions about some of their sects justifying the killing of the children of polytheists, their own parents, and all the non-Muslims of the world. - Ghunit al-talebin, Urdu translation by Shahir Shams Barelwi, Arshad Brothers, New Delhi p.178-180

7.       The Qaramites. Founded by Hamdan Qarmat, a power hungry Iraqi peasant, around 860 (third century of Islam), the sect grew as a Bolshevik style revolutionary movement “that developed into a most malignant growth into the body of political Islam.” Qarmat’s successors “founded an independent state on the western shore of the Persian Gulf (899), … from where they conducted a series of terrible raids on neighboring lands,.. laid waste most of lower al-Iraq, became the terror of the caliphate … and kept Syria and al-Iraq drenched in blood.”       

Philip K. Hitt, History of the Arabs, 1937, 10th edition; London 1993, p. 445.

8.       The international media tends to mention the faith of the perpetrator of terror when the terrorist is a Muslim, but makes no mention of religion if he is from any other confessional community. Thus commenting on the ‘bloody partition and cleansing of Bosnia Herzegovina’, by ‘extremist Catholic and Orthodox forces’, Christopher Hitchens observes: “Confessional terminology was reserved only for the Muslims even as their murderers went to all the trouble of distinguishing themselves by wearing large Orthodox crosses over their bandoliers, or by taping the portraits of the Virgin Mary to their rifle butts” - god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Toronto 2007, p. 22.

9.       “If Muslims will resolve and strive, taking their inspiration from the Qur’an, they can attain the rank of the Europeans, the Americans and the Japanese in learning and science and making progress,” Shakib Arsalan. “Islam is based on the Qur’an, and the Qur’an is to be interpreted in its historical setting and on chronological principles,” Asiff A.A. Fyzee.

- Extracted from Islam in Transition, by John L.Esposito, York 1982, p. 64. 190 respectively.

10.     The Qur’an States:

“We have sent down the Book to you (O Muhammad,) with blessings so that the prudent may probe into its verses (message) and be mindful of it” (38:29).

“Will they not probe into the Qur'a? - or are there hearts sealed” (47:24)?

11.     The Qur’an States:

“Those who listen to this speech and follow the best (meaning) – it is they who are guided by God, and it is they who are prudent” (39:18).

“Follow the best (meaning) of what has been sent down to you from your Lord, before suffering comes upon you of a sudden and without your knowledge” (39:55).

12. An agreed classification of Hadith features five categories depending upon authenticity 1) Sahih (authentic), 2) Hasan (sound), 3) dha'if (weak), 4) dha'if jiddan (very weak), and 5) mawdhu (fabricated).

Checked and approved by Mufti Ebrahim Desai

13. Recent Incidents That Hit World Media And Shocked The Muslim Intelligence Include:

             i.          Local clerics issued a fatwa asking a woman molested by her father-in-law to divorce her husband and marry the rapist father in-law under the behest of the Hanafi law. [June 06, 2005]

           ii.          A local Islamic jury awarded gang molestation of a newly wed girl to avenge the sexual crime committed by her brother, and the punishment was executed with the consent of the bride’s father-in-law, before the eyes of the bride. [June 05, 2005]

          iii.          A gang molested housewife, was awarded exemplary punishment by Muslim court for violating segregation laws, while the rapists, seven in number, were given far lighter punishment than what the law prescribed. [November 16, 2007]

 [13 references]



1.1.          Contemporary (20th Century) Exegetic Scholars/Website

Ali, Abdullah Yusuf: The Holy Qur’an, (First publication, 1934), Amana Publications, Maryland 1983.

Asad, Muhammad: The Message of the Qur’an, Dar al-Andalus, Gibraltar 1980.

Azad, Abul Kalam: Tarjuman al-Qur’an (4 Volumes, Sura 1-24, first published 1964), reprinted by Sahitiya Academy, New Delhi 1989.

Jones, Alan: The Koran, 3rd reprint of J.M.Rodwell’s Qur’anic translation (First publication 1909), Orion Puiblishing Group, London, and Charles E. Tuttle Company, Vermont - 1994.

Shafi, Muhammad: Mu‘arif al-Qur’an (10 Volumes), Aeteqad Publishing House, New Delhi 1993.

The Bible: New World Translation of the Holy Scripture, Rendered from the Original Languages by the New World Bible Translation Committee, Revised 1984 edition, Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of New York Inc; New York 1984.


Featuring Qur’anic translation by three of the reputed Islamic scholars, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Marmaduke Pikthall and Mohammad Shakir.

1.2.          Early Muslim Religious Scholars

Hisham, Muhammad Abdul Malik bin (d. 213/829): Siratin Nabi (2 Volumes), Urdu translation by Gholam Rasul, Aeteqad Publishing House, New Delhi 1984.

al-Bukhari, Muhammad bin Ismail (d. 256/870): Sahih al-Bukhari (9 Volumes), English translation by Mohsin Khan, Kitab Bhaban, New Delhi 1984.

Muslim, Abul Hussain (d. 261/875): Sahih al-Muslim (3 Volumes), Urdu translation by Wahiduz Zaman, Aeteqad Publishing House, New Delhi (year not mentioned). 

al-Tirmidhi (d. 282/895): Jama‘ul Tirmidhi (2 Volumes), Urdu translation by Zaman Brothers, Aeteqad Publishing House, New Delhi 1983.

al-Ghazali, Abu Hamid (d. 505/1111): Ihya ul-‘Ulum (4 Volumes), Urdu translation by Ahsan Siddiqee, Dar al-Ashaat, Karachi 1983. 

Abu Daud Sulaiman (d. 265/879): Sanan Abu Daud (3 Volumes), Urdu translation by Wahiduz Zaman, Aeteqad Publishing House, New Delhi 1993.

1.3.          Other Contemporary / Recent Sources

Abduh, Shaykh Muhammad: Sourced as quoted by Hussain Haykal (See below).

al-Tantawi, Shaykh Ali: General Introduction To Islam (Arabic), English translation, Dar Al-Manara, Makkah 1994.

Ameer Ali, Syed: The Spirit of Islam, (First publication 1923), Low Price Publications, New Delhi 1990.

Armstrong, Karen: Muhammad, Victor Gollancz Ltd., London 1991; A Short History of Islam, Modern Library, New York 2002.

Arnold, Thomas W. The Preaching of Islam, (First publication 1896, 2nd extended edition 1913). Low Price Publications, Delhi 1990.

Ali, Chriagh: Islam and Change, sourced from John L. Esposito’s Islam the Straight Path, (See below).

Azmi, Aurang Zeb, A Glossary of the Qur’an, Goodword Books, New Delhi 2003.

Bucaille, Maurice: The Bible, The Qur’an and The Science, English translation, 5th edition, Seghers Publisher, Paris 1988.

Ceaser, A. Farah: Islam, Belief and Observances, 4th Edition, Baron’s Educational Series, New York 1987.

Chapra, M. Umer: Objectives of the Islamic order (article); appearing in Islam - its Meaning and Message, Islamic Foundation, U.K. 1975, 1988 reprint.

Daniel, Norman: Islam and the West, the Making of an Image – revised edition, London 1992.

Denffer, Ahmed von: ‘Ulum al-Qur’an, An Introduction to the Science of the Qur’an, Islamic Foundation, U.K. 1983.

Esposito, John L. i) Islam in Transition, ii) The Straight Path, Oxford University Presss, Oxford/ New York, i) 1982, ii) 1994.

Fyzee, Asaf A.A: Outlines of Muhammadan Law, 5th edition, Oxford University Press, Delhi 2005.

Guraya, Muhammad Yusuf: Origin of Islamic Jurisprudence, Noor Publishing House, New Delhi 1992.

Haeri, Shaykh Fadhalla: The Elements of Islam, Element Inc. Shaftsbury, 1993.

Hitchens Christopher: god is not Great – How Religion poisons everything, McClelland and Stewart Ltd., Toronto 2007.

Hitti, Philip Khuri: History of the Arabs, (First publication 1937), 10th edition, Macmillan Press Ltd., London 1993.

Hasan, Ahmad: The Doctrine of Ijma in Islam, Kitab Bhaban, New Delhi 1992.

Haykal, Muhammad Husayn: The Life of Muhammad, (Arabic), English translation by Ismail Ragi, 8th edition, Darul Ishaat, Karachi 1989.

Hofmann, Murad Wilfred: Islam: The Alternative, Garnet Publishing Ltd., U.K. 1993.

Ibrahim, Sliman bin and Dinet, Etienne: The life of Mohammad, English translation of La Vie de Mohammad, Prophete De Allah, (Paris 1918), Princess House, London 1990.

Iqbal, Muhammad: Reconstruction of Islamic thoughts, 6th reprint, Kitab Bhavan, New Delhi, 1998.

Jonathan Bloom and Sheila Blair: Islam, Empire of Faith, BBC Series, U.K. 2001.

Lang Jeffery: Struggling to Surrender, (First publication 1994), 2nd revised edition, Amana Publications, Maryland 1998.

Lings, Martin (Abu Bakar Siraj al-Din), Muhammad, George Allen and Unwin, U.K. 1983.

Nadwi, Abdullah Abbas: Vocabulary of the Holy Qur’an - Iqra International Education Foundation, 2nd reprint, Chicago 1986.

Noumani, Shibli: al-Faruq, (First publication 1898), reprint, Dar al-Ashaat, Karachi 1991.

Parrinder, Geoffery: Jesus in the Qur’an, Oneworld Publications, Oxford 1965.

Rahman, Afzalur: Role of Women in Society, Seerah Foundation, London 1986.

Rodinson, Maxime: Muhammad, Penguin Books, London 1995.

Sells, Michael: Approaching the Qur’an, (First publication 1999), 2nd edition, White Cloud Press, Oregon 2007.

Syed, Ashfaque Ullah: Index of Qur’anic Topics, Amana Publications, Maryland 1998.

Zakaria, Rafiq (1920-2005): Muhammad and the Qur’an, Penguins Books, London 1992.

Last Revision: November 18th 2009, Toronto, Canada

Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was endorsed and authenticated by Dr. KhaledAbou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.