By Imam Ghayth Nur Kashif
An 11 year old manuscript but relevant
26 January 1998
Allah says in the Quran,
"Thus we have made of you an ummah justly balanced, that you might be witnesses over the nations, and the Messenger a witness over you." (Quran 2:143)
The Prophet (saaw) reportedly said,
"Beware of excessiveness in religion before you have perished as a result of such excessiveness in religion." (Reported by Ahmad)
Allah states in the Quran that He,
"Intends every facility for you; He does not want to put you in difficulties". (Quran 2:185)
"Religion," the Prophet is reported to have said, "is very easy, and whoever overburdens himself will not be able to continue in that way. Be right (without excessiveness or negligence), near perfection, and have good timing (in being rewarded for your regular deeds)." (Bukhâri)
The people of the Book were warned: "O people of the Book, commit no excesses in your religion, nor say of Allah anything but the Truth...." 4:171.
He warns the Muslims likewise: "O' you who believe! Make not unlawful the good things, which Allah has made lawful for you, and commit no excess; for Allah loves not those given to excess." (Quran 5:87)
Until recently Muslims in America have been spared much of the tradition-bound and sectarian division that have led to violent oppression and fratricidal warfare among various Muslim proponents, leading often to mutual slaughter, "In the Name of Allah."
Distortion of Ahadith
Allah forbid that they should invoke His Name or the name of the Prophet as "partners" in their mutual disputes and violence. These are "inventions against Allah's Name." Just as the early pagans and their partners acted, making "alluring the slaughter of their children in order to lead them to their own destruction and cause confusion in their religion." Allah warned them that "He will requite them for their 'invention." (Quran: 5:137-8)
Unfortunately this "traditional baggage" has now entered into the ethos of the Islamic growth in America, where we find innocent Muslims being caught up in the negligence and excesses of the worldwide 'Ummah" following them in their schisms, ranging from claims of "sacred" cultural mores to disputes of the interpretation of the Sunnah (and ahâdîth) of the Prophet (saaw), to claims of the supremacy of ahâdîth over the Quran. Allah, Forbid! Then we now have claims of supremacy of one "School of Thought" over the others. And again claims of supremacy of one community over the other in the knowledge of Quran and Sunnah. How are we caught up in this? Allah forbid.
We fear that we stand in great danger of going the way of societies before us unless we pause and take heed to Allah's command:
"hold fast all together, by the rope which Allah stretches to you, and be not divided among yourselves..." (Quran 3:103)
Allah has warned: "And obey Allah and His Messenger; and fall not into disputes, lest you lose heart and your power departs..." (Quran 8:47) Allah warns in another ayah: "(their doom is) because Allah sent down the Book in truth but those who seek cause of dispute in the Book are in schism, far (from the purpose)." (Quran 2:176). As He said of the People of the Book: "there is among them a section who distorts the book with their tongues. You think that it is a part of the book, but it is no part of the book, and they say, "This is from Allah, but it is not from Allah. It is they who tell a lie against Allah." (Quran 3:48)
Muslims in America
Should not Muslims in America reflect upon the relevant examples in the Quran? Why should Muslims in America take on the historic and manifest failures of the Ummah, following their manifestations of divisions and disputations over this or that fatwah, this or that purported hadith, in contradistinction of another? Muslim opponents have taken delight in this and have come to mock the Muslims in America and elsewhere for these circus-like conflicts. Should Muslim in America become partisans to these conflicts between proponent of the so-called schools of thought, or to the Sunni/Shii disputes (and more recently, Allah forbid: Sunnah v. Quran conflicts.)
When these parties are questioned about their circus-like tendencies and the exaltation of traditions canonized by their fathers, they retort to reckless slander: charging that the people who question them do not believe in the Sunnah. At the other extreme there are those who reject, out of hand, the Quranically confirmed traditions of the Prophet (saaw) (i.e. where the sayings and actions of the Prophet are underpinned by an overriding principle that has been, beforehand, clearly established in the Quran---an example being Salat.)
Thus we should be careful not fall in the trap laid by the evil seducer, Shaitan, himself, who "Whispers, then withdraws--then comes later as an arbitrator to settle the disputes with cunning and flowery speech. Let us not be deceived, nor think that we can out-flank Shaitan while indulging in the schisms he sets up. Allah says that Shaitan "and his tribe watches you from a position where you cannot see them..." (7:27)
Cannot we see that these forged disputes are an attempt to move the innocent Muslim away from his commitment to take in the orphan, to feed the poor, to clothe the naked, to feed the homeless, and to build a balanced community? His "religion" has thus become one of criticizing and attacking Muslims with whom he differs, often on insignificant issues. Unfortunately from these individual differences, exploited as such, grows the seeds of sectarianism and shirk, followed by fitnah (subversion and rebellion). This is shameful, indeed!
"He Has No Partners"
Let us beware: Remember those before us who took idols, angels, and even prophets, making them partners with Allah and equal in the Godhead. They began to mention their names at every mention of the Name of Allah.
"When Allah the One and Only is mentioned the hearts of those who believe not in the Hereafter are filled with disgust and horror; but when (gods) other than He are mentioned behold they are filled with joy!" (Quran 39:45)
Think of the case of Issa, (saaw) They began by declaring stories (ahadith) written about him, such as the 'New Testament by Mark, Luke, John and Paul to be Divine, or in fact the Injîl (Revelation) itself. Gradually, over time, they began to include Issa as a co-equal with Allah Himself. They have thrown the Injîl behind their backs just as they threw the Torah behind their backs. Allah, however, has cleared His Prophet Issa (saaw) of any such charge.
May Allah be praised forever! He distinguishes His Revelation from all else. He is One. His Revelation is One. He is Allah. None is like Him. No partners, No associates. Muslims in America must be aware of the "baggage" of extremism exported to North America as legitimate Sunnah and fiqh. This "baggage" is propagated by zealots (innocent and otherwise) who insistently accuse others of "bid'ah" (innovation in religion), wantonness, unbelief and deviation. They are known to claim piety for themselves, exalt the Sunnah over the Quran and engage others in endless arguments.
Imam al Nawawi reported that the Prophet (saaw) repeated three times:
"Ruined are the people who indulged in hair-splitting."
Thus it is important to identify the mode operandi of these mercenaries because of the harm they bring to the innocent Muslims in America.
We find that they make a grandiose show of their recital of selected ahadith in Arabic; often daif (weak) or highly contextual in time and circumstance. Their display of their "erudition" is supposed to confirm their "hikma" (wisdom or implied piety) in the Deen (Al-Islam). Yet Sincerity lies in the heart and breast. They make an impressive show of embellishing their arguments with Arabic, particularly to the new Muslims who understand little more than As-Salaam-Alaikum and Al-Faatihah. Yes, it IS time for the (balanced) Muslim communities to put a stop to the purveyors of deliberate confusion and disunity.
Please note: In no way does this imply that learning to read and recite the Quran in Arabic is not essential to the deeper understanding and practice of our Deen. IT IS, and Muslims must strive to acquit themselves, especially in the study of Quranic Arabic. No excuse, however, can be given to those whose intent is to obfuscate. (Quran: 3:78)
What Must Be Done?
What then must be done? How may we express our differences? How do we correct a wrong? We take note here of the utter abuse and misapplication of the reported Hadith of the Prophet (saaw) i.e.: to correct a wrong with your hand, your heart or your tongue.
Often lacking adequate knowledge, we tear into others with the belief that our particular perspective or rendering of an issue, ritual, or interpretation of Hadith or Quran is unquestionably right or authentic.
This crude approach often masks, or excuses an aggressive, ill-reasoned action or response to something we differ about that has long been in question, even at the highest levels of the scholarly ummah over the centuries. Another over-worked hadith is that the scholar is "worth more than a thousand ignorant worshippers." In most cases it is exalted by those whose scholarship has become the end goal, rather than the means.
Scholarship / Dialogue
It (scholarship) has become the objective, and not for the pleasure of Allah. Allah is no longer the goal of such pursuers, but sophistic scholarship is! Thus we have fallen into disputes of the so-called "learned": like that of Western Philosophers, i.e.: "How many angels can sit on the head of a pin?"
These "extremes,'" among the literate and the illiterate becomes a perverse "religion". Yet they understand not. Allah knows best: whenever we begin to exalt anything as equal to Him or His Words (Guarded Revelations), then we are truly gravitating toward Shirk. Let us consider the advice found on page 428 of the Encyclopedia of Seerah, (vol. 6)
The author writes: "If there is any difference of opinion, it cannot be on the Truth of the Quran and its Message, which is one and the same for all time. If there is a difference among Muslims, it can only be in their imperfect understanding of the Quran and its Message; but if this difference of opinion is within limits of acceptable interpretations, it is not bad nor evil, nor is it dangerous or injurious to the collective. If however, people go beyond the acceptable limits and start arguing on a political, sectarian, or sophistic basis (for argument sake) then there is no cure for such disputes and wrongdoing."
The Way of the Companions
The different opinions of the companions of the Prophet were of the former (above). This type of difference is called a mercy. But if these differences or details are considered as al-din (compulsory) and made the means of dispute between different sections of people, then even this type of difference becomes condemned.
Truth is only the Quran and people's opinions are only opinions, and as such may be right or wrong.
According to Ibn Kathir, Allah's Prophet disliked these things: "first, unnecessary disputes and arguments, questioning and inquiring without any need, and wastage of wealth."
Having grown weak from disputes, many Muslims have lost their sense of purpose in bringing glad tidings to the believers and warning the rulers and citizens of the land, both yesterday and today. They are content to rail, and mock, becoming obsessed with simply calling others "Kafir." They exhibit little evidence of dawah, such as feeding the poor, or working collectively with any Muslim community to establish a good life in society.
Rather they are bent upon trying to "convert" the converted. They demonstrate a lack of Îmân by raising doubts of others. Could this be hypocrisy, in disguise? Could this be subversion, in disguise? Allah Knows.
Muslims are obligated to warn and to argue in the best manner, i.e.: (words, manners, and conduct). Furthermore Muslims are obligated to call for justice, for the release of the slave, for the feeding of the hungry, for the housing of the homeless and for the sharing of wealth., The Muslims must warn against Riba, against arrogance, against mis-education, against waste and lack of economic productivity. Cannot we hear? Cannot we understand? Do we not know that we have Watchers over our souls?
Imam Ghayth Nur Kashif is the Imam for Masjid ash-Shura Washington DC. He was one of the founders of the American Muslim Council and served as in-house editor for the International Institute of Islamic Studies in Virginia, USA. As a writer, his writings have been published in significant publications. He is listed in WHO'S' WHO in Black America and WHO'S WHO among International Authors and Writers. His main interest lies in the rise of Islam in USA and the effects of international foreign policy upon Muslims in USA. He has travelled widely and has had acquaintance with such peer personalities as Malcolm X Shabazz, Muhammad Ali and W.D. Mohammad, etc., all early pioneers in the Islamic movements in America.