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Today's Reminder

July 05, 2022 | Dhuʻl-Hijjah 5, 1443

Living The Quran

Special Worship
Al-Baqara (The Cow) Sura 2: Verse 183

"O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may attain taqwa (God-consciousness)."

In our legal formulation, fasting is usually listed among the ritual acts of worship but here its rules and commandments are listed immediately after the laws on the sanctity of life and of property. Traditionally, one might argue, it should have been placed after the verse mentioning Prayer and infaq, spending in the cause of Allah. But obviously, the commandments in the Quran are not arranged as they are in our books of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). Rather, their arrangement is determined by considerations of the higher wisdom of the Islamic Shariah — the reformation of society, the purification of souls and the prevailing needs of society. The commandments on fasting focus on the worship that nourishes and encourages self-control and God-consciousness, to help human beings restrain their unbridled propensities for greed, provocation, revenge and incitement.

Fasting is the special worship prescribed in Islam to nurture taqwa and patience — the moral qualities that restrain people from aggression against others or violation of their rights. At the same time, fasting encourages them to work for birr (giving each what is justly due to him or her), ihsan (compassion and kindness) and truth and justice. The commandment about fasting here provides a basis for training in implementing the previous commandments. It also lays down a firm basis for continuing patience in carrying out subsequent laws including the prohibition of bribery and stipulations on Hajj and jihad. Thus the sequence in which the commandment about fasting is placed, and its context, makes its purpose quite clear. This context helps to explain why fasting is prescribed in Islam, what are its objectives and benefits, and how it affects our social life. The entire fabric of Divine law rests on taqwa, self-restraint or God-consciousness that is gained through the ability to control one's emotions and desires. Fasting is the best means of harnessing, training and refining this ability and control.

The Muslim community is not the first or the only one for whom fasting has been prescribed. In fact, fasting has always formed a part of all revealed laws as a special worship for achieving self-control. This reference here is merely to dispel any anxiety from the minds of ordinary people. By informing them that fasting is nothing new, they are encouraged to embrace it and benefit from it.

Compiled From:
"Pondering Over The Qur'an: Surah al-Fatiha and Surah al-Baqarah" - Amin Ahsan Islahi

From Issue: 997 [Read original issue]

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Safety of The People

Anas ibn Malik reports: There was some alarm in Madinah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) borrowed a horse belonging to Abu Talhah, which was named al-Mandub. He mounted the horse and went. When he returned, he said: 'We have found nothing [to worry about], and we have found this horse to be like a sea'. [Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah]

This highly authentic hadith shows how alert the Prophet was to any danger that threatened his community. Here we see him rushing to its source, not waiting for anyone to join him, borrowing a horse in order to be able to move speedily, and returning to reassure his people once he had established that there was nothing to worry about. What local leader would do this today, let alone the leader of any state? More likely, present-day leaders would go in the opposite direction. The safety of the leader is considered as far superior to the safety of the community. Even in the most caring systems, the safety of the leader is given paramount importance, although he may take measures to ensure the safety of his people. The Prophet, however, was the one to move first thereby demonstrating to his successors that it is their duty to ensure that the people are safe.

When the Prophet reassured his companions that there was no danger, he immediately moved on to divert their attention from the cause of the alarm, so as to bring them back to normality. He thus spoke of the horse he had borrowed, describing him as highly useful and likening him to a sea, in so far as it flowed smoothly.

Compiled From:
"Al-Adab al-Mufrad with Full Commentary: A Perfect Code of Manners and Morality" - Adil Salahi

From Issue: 1023 [Read original issue]

Cool Concepts

Mutawatir Hadith

Hadith scholars have differed over the definition of the term mutawatir. Some hold that whether a hadith is mutawatir depends on the number of narrators. Imam Ibn Hajar wrote:

A hadith may be classed as mutawatir if it meets the following four conditions: (1) The number of individuals who narrated the account is so large that it would be virtually impossible for them to have colluded in deceit. (2) All individuals in the chain of narration are of equally unquestionable integrity. (3) The last individual in the chain of transmission physically witnessed the action or heard the statement in question. (4) The account in question conveys genuine knowledge to those who hear it.

Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi defined the term mutawatir as referring to reports "which have been transmitted by a sufficiently large number of people that, upon seeing them, one would know that it would have been impossible for them to have agreed amongst themselves to lie."

The question, then, is: How can we expect to acquire meaningful knowledge from a report simply because it was passed down by a certain unspecified number of people? And on what basis can we determine how large this group of people has to be in order for it to be impossible for them to collude in deception? One cannot help but note, moreover, that all the proposed definitions of mutawatir revolve around the notion of lying and deliberate deception, whereas none of them makes any mention of the possibility of error, illusion, forgetfulness and the like, to which even the most trustworthy narrator could fall prey.

Scholars have never settled amongst themselves on the number of narrators required for a report to be classified as mutawatir, with some specifying three as the minimum, and others specifying as many as 1,500! Each number proposed is based on the conclusions these scholars have drawn from relevant texts or situations. With reference to scholars' speculations on the number of narrators required for a hadith to be mutawatir, Indian scholar Abdul Hayy Lucknawi (d. 1304 ah/ 1887 ce) wrote:

All such statements and their like are invalid. The more correct view, put forward by numerous hadith scholars, is that the classification of mutawatir does not require a hadith to have been transmitted by a particular number of narrators. Rather, what matters is that it convey certain knowledge.

In the view of thinkers such as Lucknawi, the classification of a hadith as mutawatir has to do with one's reason, emotions and sense of trust or confidence in what an account is saying. After reviewing the various points of view on the number of narrators required for a hadith to be termed mutawatir, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d. 605 ah/1209 ce) stated:

None of these restrictions and qualifications has anything to do with the question at hand. You might say: "If you define knowledge based on the fulfilment of a certain, undefined quota of narrators, you will not be able to argue from this against an opponent." And to this I reply, "We do not argue in favour of certain knowledge on the basis of reports classed as mutawatir, that is, based on a requisite number of narratives that is not even specified. Rather, as we have explained, the matter of whether one may gain certain knowledge has to do with one's perceptions."

Compiled From:
"Reviving The Balance: The Authority of the Qur'an and the Status of the Sunnah" - Taha Jabir Alalwani. pp. 163-165.

From Issue: 1018 [Read original issue]