Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Definition of Iman

The following is a chapter from the book 'The Ark of Salvation' by Abdul-Kareem Hassan and Imam Murad el-Adnany:



The Meaning of Imaan in Arabic Language:

Imaan is `attesting to the truth', i.e., Tassdeeq.

Imam Tabari in his Tafseer of al-Baqarah, verse 3 says: "Belief (Imaan) for the Arabs is attesting to the truth (Tassdeeq) [of something] : someone who verbally attests to the truth of something is called a believer in it, and someone who attests to the truth of what he says by what he does is called a believer. Hence the words of Allah [in which Jacob's sons fabricate the story of Joseph's disappearance before their father]: "You would never believe us, even if we spoke the truth."[TMQ 12:17], i.e., you would never attest to the truth of what we said."

The Definition of Imaan in Shari'ah Terminology:

Imaan is the decisive belief, i.e., Tassdeeq jaazim.

This is the view of the scholars of ahl al-Sunnah as mentioned by Imam Nawawi in his book Sharh Sahih Muslim: "The people of sunnah, the people of hadith, the scholars, and the people of speech (ilmal kallam) hold that the believers, who are the people of the Qibla (the direction of prayer)and who will not remain in hell forever, are those who believe in Islam definitively with certainty (yaqeen), without speculation or doubt, and who pronounce the shahada (i.e. there is no Allah but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah)"[1]

Some have argued that Imaan does not require certainty, i.e., Yaqeen, they quote in their support the verse: "Behold ! Abraham said: My Lord! Show me how thou givest life to the dead. He said `Does thou not believe' He said: Yes! But to satisfy my own heart." [TMQ 2:260] They are saying that Abraham's question was an indication of speculation or conjecture, in Arabic known as zann. In this verse Abraham's question does not relate to the power to give life to the dead, because most certainly Abraham's heart was satisfied on this matter. Rather, the question concerns the manner of giving life to the dead, in other words the know-how. This is clear from the answer Abraham gave to Allah's question: "Does thou not then believe?". He answered yes, he believed. One would be foolish and ignorant to say that Abraham was not 100% convinced that Allah could give life back to the dead. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) said: "We, rather than Abraham, would doubt." [Bukhari, Muslim] In other words, if Muhammad (peace be upon him) did not doubt the power of Allah to bring back the life to the dead then Abraham definitely did not doubt. Concerning this matter Qadi 'Iyad said Ibrahim's words, "Yes! But to satisfy my own heart." do not contradict the clear proof that the Prophets' Tawheed (belief in the unity of Allah), their knowledge of Allah and the attributes of Allah, their belief in Allah, and what was revealed to them is based on clear knowledge and certainty, free of ignorance, doubt or suspicion. "Ibrahim did not doubt what Allah had told him about bringing the dead to life. He wanted to put his heart at peace and to be free of any contentiousness by actually seeing the dead brought to life. He first acquired indirect knowledge of its occurrence and then subsequently he desired knowledge by direct witnessing"[2]

Faith must be decisive (al-Imaanu Yaqeeni) Allah says in the Quran:"He who worships with Allah a partner for which he has no proof, his reckoning will be with His Lord. Truly the unbelievers will not prosper or have they decided to put Allah beside him. Say bring your proof."[al-Anbiya 21:24] "Do they take another Allah with Allah? Say to them bring your proof if you are telling the truth." [al-Qasas 28:75 ]. In these verses, and others similar to them in meaning, the word proof (in Arabic burhan) is connected with belief; and the condition for the proof is that it be an irrefutable proof. Belief must be decisive and free from doubt that comes from speculation. The articles of faith cannot be open to interpretation and Ijtihad. Ijtihad is the effort made by a jurist in order to deduce a ruling which is not self-evident in the source. By definition Ijtihad entails speculation. Thus scholars have held that the result of Ijtihad can only ever be described as probably correct, because the possibility of error cannot be excluded.

People may differ in their viewpoint on a subject matter for a variety of reasons, but in particular because of differences concerning the authenticity of the textural evidence and/or differences in understanding the meaning of a text.

Evidences Can Be Definitive (Qati) Or Speculative (Zann).

In respect of Imaan they must be definitive, because "speculation (zann) can be of no avail against the Truth." [Yunus 10: 36]. Allah in the Quran defames those who follow speculation and conjecture: In surah al Najm verse 23 Allah informs us that the unbelievers claimed that the idols (Lat, `Uzza & Manat) and angels were the daughters of Allah whom they worshipped as intercessors between them and Allah. At the same time they held the female sex in low esteem. Indeed, they slaughtered the new-born females. Thus Allah says: "What! For you the male sex, and for Him, the female?... It is not but names you and your forefathers used for which Allah has not sent authority. They follow nothing but conjecture (zann) and what their souls desire even though there has already come to them guidance." In verses 27 and 28 of the same surah Allah says: "Those who believe not in the Hereafter, name the angels with female names. But they have no knowledge therein. They follow nothing but conjecture (zann); and conjecture avails nothing against truth." There are many other such verses of the Quran relating to the subject matter of belief that conclude with Allah blaming and censuring those who have built their faith on speculation.[3]

What Is A Definitive Proof (Ad-Dalilu Al-Qaat'i) For Belief ?

The scholars of Islam have held that a definitive (qati) proof is one which derives from the Quran or hadith mutawatir (a tradition reported by a group of people related in such a way as to preclude the possibility of their agreement to perpetuate a lie)[4] wherein the text is clear and specific; it has only one meaning and admits of no other interpretations.

Both Quran and hadith mutawatir engenders certainty (Yaqeen) and `positive knowledge'. The authenticity of the Quran and the hadith mutawatir are not open to doubt, they are decisive in their authenticity. The entire text of the Quran has come down to us through continuous testimony (tawatur) and therefore there exists no disagreement over the authenticity of the contents of the Quran. Imam as-Suyuti says in his book "al-Itqan fi Ulum al-Quran" (The Precision in the Sciences of the Quran): "There is no dispute that everything taken from the Quran is mutawatir in its source and parts, as well as in its classification, placement and position."

Hadith Ahad, A Speculative Proof (Ad-Dalilu Athani).

Disagreement amongst the Muslims has tended to occur over the Sunnah transmitted in the form of singularly narrated reports (hadith ahad). Imam al-Nawawi states in Sharh Sahih Muslim, "The individual report is a report that does not fulfil the conditions of the mutawatir report, regardless of whether the narrator was a single person or more. It is the kind of report that generates dispute over its ruling. The overwhelming majority of Muslims, ranging from the Companions, Successors of the Companions, and the following generation of narrators of tradition (muhaditheen), jurists (fuqaha), scholars of usul (foundations of jurisprudence) agree to take the individual report as evidence in the sacred law relating to actions, but they do in fact entail speculation and not certainty." [5]. The solitary tradition, known as hadith ahad, does not impart positive knowledge, it engenders speculative knowledge. Accordingly, differences have arisen over questions of authenticity as well as interpretation. Consequently, "Ahad may not, according to the majority of the ulema, be relied upon as the basis of belief (Aqeedah). For matters of belief must be founded in certainty even if a conjecture (zann) may at times seem preferable." [6]

Imam al-Shatibi in his book al-Muwafaqat states, "The Lawgiver allowed singularly narrated traditions which engender speculation only in matters concerning actions which are in the branches (furu') but not the foundation (usul) of the deen."

In respect of the sacred law the majority of scholars have held that singularly narrated traditions are to be taken as evidences for actions and can establish a legal ruling. However the Hanafi jurists have held that if a hadith ahad conveys a demand to do something it is not compulsory (fard), but wajib. In Arabic wajib and fard have the same meaning and the other scholars have used the terms interchangeably, however, Abu Hanifah has drawn a distinction between the terms based on whether the text is speculative, such as hadith ahad, or not. The consequence of this is that the person who refuses to believe in the binding nature of a fard becomes an unbeliever, whereas if he denies the wajib he becomes a transgressor, .i.e., sinful, and not an infidel. Likewise the Hanafi jurists have held that a prohibition contained in a hadith ahad produces makruh tahrimi (abominable) and not haram (prohibition). For example they have held that the wearing of gold and silk by men is makruh tahrimi as opposed to haram, because they are forbidden by solitary hadith. Other scholars have not recognised this distinction.[7]

It should therefore be apparent that the Hanafi jurists do not consider that a singularly narrated tradition is devoid of doubt, in other words, it is not a definitive proof. Imam Malik has also held that a hadith ahad does not constitute a definitive proof. Imam Malik would rely on a ahad report on condition that it did not contradict the practice of the people of Madinah ('amal ahl al-Madinah).[8]

Imam Shafi'i acknowledged the difference between the knowledge that comes from texts that are decisive in their authenticity, and texts that are speculative in their authenticity in his famous work al-Risala, he says: "Legal knowledge is of two kinds: one is for the general public, and no sober and mature person should be ignorant of it...For example, that the daily prayers are five, that men owe it to Allah to fast the month of Ramadan, to make the pilgrimage to the [sacred] House whenever they are able, and to [pay] the legal alms in their estate; that He [Allah] has prohibited usury, adultery, homicide, theft [the drinking of] wine, and [everything] of that sort which He has obligated men to comprehend, to perform, to pay in their property, and to abstain from [because] He has forbidden it to them.

This kind of knowledge may be found textually in the Book of Allah, or may be found generally among the people of Islam. The public relates it from the preceding public and ascribes it to the Messenger of Allah, nobody ever questions its ascription or its binding force upon them. It is the kind of knowledge which admits of error neither in its narrative nor in its interpretation; it is not permissible to question it."

In reply to the question `What is the second kind?' Shafi'i replies: "It consists of the detailed duties and rules obligatory on men, concerning which there exists neither a text in the Book of Allah, nor regarding most of them, a Sunnah (tradition). Whenever a Sunnah exists, it is of the kind related by few authorities, not by the public, and is subject to different interpretations arrived at by analogy."[9]

Imam Shafi'i makes the distinction between legal knowledge which he describes as 'ilm al-ammah which is transmitted from the people at large to the people at large, and knowledge which comes from a Sunnah related by a few authorities, i.e., ahad reports. Ilm al-ammah was later termed tawatur. The knowledge acquired through tawatur is certain (qati).[10]

The minority of scholars that hold the view that the singularly narrated tradition engenders positive knowledge as opposed to speculative knowledge, such as Ibn Taymiyyah, cite in their support the extensive evidences put forward by Imam Shafi'i in his Risala as proof for the authentication of the singularly narrated traditions; such as the Prophet, (peace and blessings be upon him), sending twelve messengers simultaneously to twelve rulers inviting them to Islam, and sending a messenger to the men of Qubba to inform them that the direction to face in prayer had been changed from Jerusalem to Makkah; and sending Muadth bin Jabal to Yemen, and other governors to other regions. Shafi'is treatise on the foundations of Islamic jurisprudence was important in that he emphasised the authority of the hadith from the Prophet in preference to the opinion of the community, the Companions and the Successors. His work was directed against the prevailing practice among the jurists of his time (he died 204 AH /820 AD)who gave preference to the practice of the community and the decisions of the Companions over the hadith.[11]. The fact that Imam Shafi'i had to argue the case for the acceptance of singularly narrated traditions in the sacred law is a clear proof in itself that that the contemporary jurists of Shafi'i, like Malik and Shaybani, did not consider that singularly narrated hadith established positive knowledge required for belief. The subject matter of Shafi'i's essay on the singularly narrated traditions is the proof of it being binding in matters of the divine law, thus Shafi'i reports at length the scholars, transmitters and notables who all accepted the singularly narrated traditions as the basis for fatwas.[12]

The Distinction Between Mutawatir And Ahad Reports.

The distinction between the ahad reports and the mutawatir reports is based on the manner in which the tradition has been communicated from the Messenger of Allah, (peace be upon him), to us. The large number of people involved in reporting the mutawatir report produces certainty that the report is without doubt the hadith of the Messenger of Allah. Ahad reports are those where the number of people who have related the report are less than the number required to produce this certainty.

When the Messenger of Allah, (peace and blessings be upon him), sent individuals to communicate Islam, the people receiving the message could verify the authenticity of the report if they were in any doubt. Shafi'i states: "On one occasion [the Prophet] sent twelve messengers simultaneously to twelve rulers, inviting them to accept Islam. Those [messengers] were sent only [to people] who either had already received the summons to Islam and who had been confronted with its arguments, or who had and received [from the Prophet] letters indicating to those to whom the messengers had been sent that the letters were from the Prophet. He [the Prophet] was careful to choose well-known men both as his messengers and as his commanders. For example, he sent Dihya [b.Khalifa al-Kalbi] to the region in which he was known. For if [the person] to whom the messenger was sent had not known him, he first would have had to ascertain that he had been sent by the Prophet so as to rid himself of any doubt as to whether it was the Prophet's message, thus obliging the messenger to wait until his identity had been certified....The Prophet sent only messengers who were known as truthful to those to whom they were sent, and whose veracity could be certified by those on the spot. In case the recipient suspected that the letter carried by the messenger had been altered, or found that there were circumstances giving rise to a suspicion that the messenger who brought the communication had been forgetful, it was his duty to seek enlightenment regarding that which he suspected so that he could carry out the orders of the Prophet after they had been confirmed to his satisfaction."[13] Thus whilst the Prophet, (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), was alive people could verify the authenticity of a singularly narrated report. Umar bin al-Khattab narrates that during the lifetime of the Prophet, (peace be upon him), he heard Hisham bin Hakim reciting surah al-Furqan in a different way from what he had been taught, and so he verified Hisham's recitation with the Prophet, (peace be upon him).[14][14] After the death of the Prophet, (peace and blessings be upon him), doubt could not be removed by verification. Hence, the scholars have agreed that nothing less than mutawatir is accept in evidence to establish the authenticity of the variant readings of the Quran. Thus the variant reading of some words in a few verses attributed to Abdullah bin Masud, for example is not a part of the Quran. In the context of penance (kaffarah) of false oath, for example, the Quran provides this is to be three days of fasting. But Ibn Masud's version has it as three consecutive days of fasting. Since the additional element (i.e. consecutive) in the relevant verse in surah al-Ma'idah [5:92] is not established by tawatur, but only by ahad it is not part of the Quran and has no effect. This also applies to two other instances of variant readings attributed to Abdullah bin Masud concerning the punishment of theft in al-Maidah 5:38, and the form of divorce known as al ila' in al-Baqarah 2:226.[15]

Imam al-Suyuti in volume two of his book "The Precision in the Sciences of the Quran", comments in the chapter entitled `The Single and Odd Readings' that ahad reports , even if the narration is authentic, cannot be taken as an evidence in the matter of belief, or in the foundations of the deen (i.e. Islam); as the Quran is the source of the sources and is concerned with the creed, obliging belief in it, then tawatur becomes a condition for confirming it. Hence solitary reports will not be taken as evidence.

An analogy for accepting different degrees of verification can be drawn from the rules of testimony where two male witnesses, or one male and two females witnesses, are required in cases involving property, two witnesses are required for cases of murder, and four witnesses are required in cases of adultery. In cases of adultery if there are three or less witnesses testifying they are scourged; in other cases if the number of witnesses are less than the minimum required they are not scourged. Different conditions have been laid down to verify testimony according to the case involved.

The creed is the foundation of our deen and must be decisive. Given the rules of testimony one could rationally argue that singularly narrated traditions should not be accepted even in the sacred law, because the sacred law does not accept the testimony of one witness. This is what Sheikh Muhammad Jamal ud-Din al-Qasami means when he states in his book `The Foundation of Narration': "The consensus of the Muslim community of the Companions and those who followed them, and scholars and narrators who followed, as well as scholars who established their own foundations, all agreed that the single trusted account is an evidence in sacred law which obliges to be taken in action but not in belief because it contains doubt. This is all undoubtedly true. Although rationally a single account should not be taken in action, the sacred law made it mandatory to be taken in actions."[16]

For the avoidance of doubt in this matter it should be stressed that all the scholars of ahl al-Sunnah are unanimous that while hadith ahad cannot be relied upon as the basis for belief, acting upon hadith ahad is obligatory in the sacred law.

There is no inconsistency in arguing that singularly narrated traditions can be relied upon for the purpose of deducing sacred law but not for establishing belief. The Prophet, (peace be upon him), said: "When a judge exercises ijtihad and gives a right judgement, he will have two rewards, but if he errs in his judgement, he will still have earned one reward." [Abu Dawud].The Messenger of Allah, (peace be upon him), in this tradition states that the judge will be rewarded even for an erroneous ijtihad; to have more than one opinion in the Shari'ah (sacred law) is therefore not forbidden, because Allah would not reward a forbidden action. Moreover, after the death of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, who can say which ijtihad is the correct one. All that can be said is the opinion is most convincing, probably correct but possibly be wrong. Hence, speculative opinions based on speculative proofs are permitted in the Shari'ah. However, the subject of creed is all together a different matter, because the result of an erroneous creed is not reward, as in the case of ijtihad in Shari'ah, but Hell-fire. As Muslims we are not allowed to have different faiths, Allah says: "Be not like those who separated and disputed after the clear proofs had come unto them: For such there is an awful doom."[al-Imran 3:105]; "As for those who divide their religion and break up into sects, thou has no part in them in the least: Their affair is with Allah: He will in the end tell them the truth of all that they did." [al_An'am 6:159]; "... be not ye among those who join Allahs with Allah, Those who split up their religion, and become (mere) sects, each party rejoicing in that which is with itself." [al-Rum 30:32].

It Is Not Permitted To Deny Matters From Hadith Ahad:

Although one must not take matters relating to belief from hadith ahad, a Muslim is not allowed to deny them either, because to deny something as belief also requires a definitive evidence. Those people who deny those matters, of the nature of belief, that have been transmitted through hadith ahad, such as the Mutazilah who denied punishment in the grave (`adhab al-qabr), and the visual sighting of Allah on the Day of Reckoning are fasiq (sinners), but not infidels. Al-Miruzi said in his Musnad that Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal said: "the punishment of the grave can only be denied by a dhaal (deviant) or mudhil (deviator)". Not taking matters of the nature of belief derived from hadith ahad or speculative meanings of the Quran into ones creed, means people are not labelled as believers or infidels on account of affirming or denying them.

The Tranquil Belief (Al Imaanu Al-Muttma'en):

Notwithstanding what has already been said, Imam al-Surkhusi states in his book Usul al-Surkhusi: "Some reports could be confirmed by individuals if the content were to serve as information only, such as reports about the punishment of the grave, Munkir wa Nakeer (angels who question the dead in the grave), and the visual sighting of Allah on the Day of Reckoning; thus in such cases, and others similar, we could say that the individual report entails conviction. However, it is as if the narrator has failed to differentiate between peace of mind and tranquillity of the heart, and absolute certainty; the possibility of lying in the narration of the fallible cannot be ignored. Therefore, with this possibility and the residue of suspicion, the absolute certainty cannot be established for that entails peace of mind and tranquillity of the heart." Al-Surkhusi is describing something called al Imaanu al-muttma'en, i.e., tranquil belief, which is described by Sheikh Shalabi in his book "Usul al-Fiqh" as "belief with some reservations that it is not free from doubt, mistake or lying, but because it inclines to be trustworthy the hearts are filled with satisfaction. Accordingly it is called the tranquil belief because it appears authentic but does not confirm definite belief."[17] Matters such as the punishment in the grave because of the way they have reached us, i.e., through hadith ahad, do not produce certainty. Thus, although some classical scholars like al-Tahawi and al-Ghazali have clearly stated that we must believe in the trial of the grave, we cannot exclude the people like the Mutazila, who have denied the trial of the grave, from the body of Muslims.

Differences In Understanding:

The meaning of creed (Aqeedah) is "what the heart is knotted upon". If the articles of faith can be disputed or are open to different interpretations the Aqeedah cannot be certain and the Muslims will differ in their creed; a matter which is forbidden: "And verily this nation of yours is a single nation and I am your Lord, so keep your duty unto Me. But they have broken their religion among them into sects, each sect rejoicing in its tenets." [al-Mu'minun 23:52-53].

The main reason for the Muslims having different convictions in creed matters is interpretation of the texts. Allah says in surah al-Imran: "He it is who sent down the Book to you. In it are verses clear and decisive (muhkam) - they are the mother of the Book - and others multivalent(mutashabih)." [3:7]. Commenting on this verse Sayyid Qutb states in Fi Zilal al-Quran: "...As for the precise fundamentals of the creed (Aqeedah) and the sacred law (Shari'ah), they are easily understood, decisive in their meaning, and their purport can be readily grasped. These verses are the essence of this book." The obscure verses are such that their meaning cannot be known with certainty and have been the source of the disagreements between the various schools of thought. The scholars of Islam have not agreed on what verses are the multivalent verses, thus Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi in his al-Tafseer al-Kabir says: "The adherent of every sect or school of thought considers the verses which agree with his school to be clear and decisive, and those which support the view of his opponents to be multivalent. Thus a Mutazili would consider the verse `Let him who so wishes have faith, and let him who so wishes reject faith.'[18:29] to be muhkam, and Allah's saying: `Yet you shall not will unless Allah wills, the Lord of all beings' [81:29] to be mutashabih. A Sunni Muslim, however, would reverse the matter." This reflects the Mutazili view of absolute free will. An illustration of Razi's view is given by Zamakhshari, the Mutazili scholar, in his Tafseer, who cites the verse: "Sight cannot encompass Him" [6:103] as a muhkam verse; and the verse: "There shall be radiant faces on that day, gazing at their Lord." [75:22-23] as a mutashabih verse. This reflects the Mutazili view that rejects the visual sighting of Allah on the Day of Judgement. Although the scholars of Islam have differed on what verses are mutashabih, the general view is that the mutashabih is that whose literal meaning cannot be discerned without linking it to other verses which would clarify its meaning.

Verses can be understood literally (haqiqi or lafdi), such as: "Kill not (la Taqtulu) the life which Allah has made sacrosanct." ; or metaphorically (majazi), such as: "Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth." [al-Nur 24:35]. Scholars have differed as to which verses are to be understood literally. The Mutazilah have held that the verses referring to Allah's attributes, such as: "The hand of Allah is over their hands."[al-Fath 48:10], and: "Build a ship under Our eyes and Our inspiration." [Hud 11:37] are to be understood metaphorically. Ibn Taymiyya insisted that they have to be understood literally. Others have held that such verses should not be given a definitive interpretation and should not be discussed, the knowledge of them should be left to Allah, Most High. The potential for disagreement is therefore considerable. Imam Razi says: "Among the errors of the Christians is their insistence on the literal meaning of some of the verses which refer to Jesus, such as that he is the spirit of Allah and His Word (al-Nisa 4:171]".

A further reason for different opinions arises because the Arabic word used in the text is inherently ambiguous, the ambiguity can only be removed by ijtihad. For example Allah says in surah al-Imran verse 55: "Remember when Allah said, `O Jesus, I will surely mutawaffik (receive you or cause you to die) and raise you up to me. I shall purify you of those who have rejected faith. I will set those who have followed you above those who have rejected faith till the Day of Resurrection. Then will you all return to me, and I shall judge you concerning all that in which you were in disagreement." The scholars have differed as to the meaning of mutawaffik. The Shiite commentator Tabarsi observes that the lexical meaning of the word is "I will cause you to die." Ibn Kathir asserts that most commentators of the Quran interpret mutawaffik to mean "I will cause you to sleep". Ibn Abbas and Wahb bin Munabbah said, "Allah caused Jesus to die for three hours of the day, during which He raised him up to Him." Hasan al Basri said that Jesus did not die, but will return before the Day of Resurrection. Imam Tabari understands the word to mean I will receive you, because of the many hadith of the Prophet (saw) which assert that Jesus will descend, he will kill the one-eyed deceiver (al-Dajjal), he will live on earth for a time and will die and the Muslims will pray over him and bury him. If Allah caused Jesus to die once, He would not cause him to die yet another time, so that he would die two deaths: "Allah it is who creates you, then provisions you. He then causes you to die, then will He revive you." [ar-Rum 30:40]. The mystic Abu Bakr al-Wasiti interpreted the phrase as "I will cause you to die to your desires and the worldly attainments of your soul." Thus, when Isa (son of Marry) was taken to heaven he became like the angels, free from lust, anger, and other unworthy characteristics. Imam Razi presents another view which is "I will cause you to be like one who is dead", because when Jesus was taken up to heaven he had no further relation with the earth. [18]

Another example of this is the Prophet's (saw) "Night Journey" (Isra) from Makkah to Jerusalem, Allah says: "Limitless in His glory is He who transported His servant by night from the Inviolable House of worship (at Makkah) to the Remote House of Worship (at Jerusalem) - the environs of which We had blessed." [al-Isra 17:1] That the Prophet (peace be upon him) made the Night Journey is definite (qati); but whether he made this journey in body and soul, or just by soul (bi-ruh) is speculative (zann). The Mother of the Believers Ayshah said "he was transported only in his spirit, while his body did not leave its place." [Tabari, Zamakhshari and Ibn Kathir in their Tafseers of 17:1]. Muawiyah, and al Hassan al Basri held the same view. However the great majority of the Companions were of the view that the Prophet made the Night Journey bodily, for Allah says: "He transported His servant by night (asra bi-abdihi)" [17:1] The word "abd" meaning servant denotes a living being in its entirety.

A word or text, which is inherently unclear and open to different interpretations, must not be taken as a line to distinguish between the believer and infidel. The disagreement and presence of different interpretations means that the knowledge engendered can only be speculative. Many of the subsidiary matters of belief belong to multivalent verses, wherein those who indulge in discussing them end up in uncertainty and unnecessary confusion and complexity without reaching any assurance of a truth or contentment of the heart. The tenets of our faith are established by a definitive evidence and definitive meaning. The Night Journey is proven by a definite text, i.e., the Quran, and definite meaning, but the manner of the Prophet's (saw) journey is speculative and does not form an article of faith. The belief in the Night Journey is from the subsidiaries of the foundation of Islam, known as furu' al-usool. Whilst disagreement in the subsidiaries (furu') can be accepted, disagreement in the usul cannot, because to deny an established part of the Muslim faith is disbelief.


[1] Vol. 1, p149

[2] Ash-Shifa of Qadi 'Iyad, p280
[3] See for example 2:78; 6:116, 148; 10: 66,68; 72:7; 41:22-23.

[4] . Hadith Mutawatir is of two types: Mutawatir bi'l-lafz (verbal mutawatir) and Mutawatir bi'l-ma'na (conceptual mutawatir). Verbal mutawatir is when all the reports are identical on the exact wording of the hadith, such as the hadith : "Whoever lies about me deliberately must prepare himself for a place in Hell-fire." This form of mutawatir is rare. Conceptual mutawatir is when you have a large number of solitary hadith which differ in the wording but have a common meaning, in such a case the meaning is considered to be mutawatir. For example, if a person narrated that Hatim gave a camel, and someone else narrated that he gave a horse, another narrated that he gave a sheep, a dress, money etc., the common purport is that Hatim was generous. Examples of this type of mutawatir are the wiping of the socks, which have been narrated by more than seventy companions, and the prophet raising his hands in supplication, which has been narrated by more than one hundred solitary hadith. The scholars have differed in their opinions about what matters have been established as conceptual meaning. Imam Shawkani for example has stated that the questioning in the grave and the return of Jesus to this earth are proven by conceptual mutawatir. Other scholars have differed on these points. The essential requirement is the attainment of certainty. Qadi 'Iyad commenting on the miracles of the Prophet in his book ash-Shifa says, "The miracles of the Prophet fall into two categories. One category is of those that are well-known and have been transmitted to us through many channels - like the Quran. There is no dispute that the Prophet brought it and it appeared from him and that he used it as a proof...One of our Imams said: `This principle applies generally to the signs and the breaking of norms that occurred at the hands of the Prophet, for if no single one of them on its own is absolutely fixed and decisive, all of them together reach the level of indisputability....It is well known that these sort of things happened in the case of our prophet just as it indisputably follows that Hatim was generous, 'Antara was brave and al-Ahnaf was forbearing since the reports transmitted about them all agree that the first was generous, the second brave and the third forbearing. However each separate report would not in itself necessitate coming to that conclusion nor would it constitute decisive validation. The second category consists of those things that do not reach the level of certainty." [p138-139]

[5] al-Muwafaqat pp130-131

[6] . Mohammad Hasim Kamali, Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence,1991, p72; see alsoImam al-Nawawi's Sharh Sahih Muslim, Vol.1, pp 130-131; Imam al-Surkhusi's Usul al-Surkhusi, Vol.1, p.112, p.329; Sheikh Mohammad Jamal Uddin al-Qasmi, The Foundation of Narration, pp.147-148; Sheikh Muhammad Mustafa Shalabi, Usul al Fiqh, Vol.1, p.132; Abdul-Rahman al-Juzairi, al-Fiqh alal Mazhib al-Arb'ah, Vol.5, pp.391-392; Imam al-Kasani, Badae'ul Sanae' fi tarteebul Shara'e, Vol.1, p.14; Imam Suyouti, al-Itqan fi Ulum al-Quran, Vol.1 p.77.

[7] For a full discussion of this point see Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence, M.H.Kamali

[8] See Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence, p76.

[9] al-Shafi'i's Risala translated by Majid Khadduri,pp81-82

[10] Ahmad Hasan, The Doctrine of Ijma, p.61

[11] . Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence, Kamali, p48; and Hadith Literature, its Origin, Development & Special Features, Muhammad Zubayr Siddiqi, Islamic Texts Society, 1993, pp. 112-113.

[12] p276-277

[13] al-Risala, pp.259-260

[14] al-Bukhari, Vol.6, p482 of Dr Muhammad Muhsin Khan's translation
[15] Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence, Kamali, p.17

[16] 2nd Edition, pp.147-148

[17] Vol.1, p.132.
[18] See M.M.Ayoub, The Quran and its Interpreters Vol.2, pp.169-182


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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Assalamu Alaikum

I would first like to thank you for this article may Allah reward you, I had a few points I wanted to raise

1. You mention Iman to be based on certainty and show it from a classical scholars point of view - automatically I agreed but one thing.. Why don't you mention that those who take NO action and do NO good deeds do not have iman and that iman is also related to action because I assumed from your article that iman is only in the heart and its simply just believing in your heart

Hadith about "noone is truly believes unless they love for their brother what they love for themselves" - This indicates action and iman is related.. why didn't you raise this up I was confused by this for a while

2. Is iman seperate from action? is Iman ONLY in the heart or is iman also related to your action?

3. I have heard iman goes up and down from somewhere - can you explain this because in this article you are saying iman is desisive belief and how can that change? I am confused help me

4. can you prove that there is such a thing as "furoo" and "usool" in aqeedah by the classical scholars (contemporary scholars no recent scholars)

5. the issues of furoo we should have iman mutmaeen and issues of usul we have iman mufassil .. Is this correct or what I am not sure I don't understand

6. when it comes to issues like punishment of the grave do we have "iman" in it.. i.e. do we have belief in it (iman mutmaeen) and act upon it? I have heard uthaymeen say there is no distinction between iman and action

Anonymous said...

does iman "go up and down" I have heard that so so many times .. does this mean there are different types of iman or ..?