Imam al-Ghazali and the signs of the ‘Ulama

Editor’s note – In his masterpiece, Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din, Imam al-Ghazali writes passionately about the evils of not acting on knowledge and the signs of the ‘ulama of the hereafter. A condensed version of this lengthy passage was rendered into Urdu by Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhalawi and produced in part two of Fada’il-i-Sadaqat, which was subsequently translated from Urdu into English by M. Tayyab Bakhsh Badayuni.

These twelve signs have, under the instructions of Dr. Hanif Kamal, been edited and are now being reproduced on; this is primarily for the benefit of the editor, the ‘ulama in general, and — since we live in confusing and delicate times — for the general lay populace to allow them to identify the true inheritors of the prophets (peace be upon them).

I pray Allah Most High grants us all, through His divine accordance, the correct understanding of His din, the ability to live according to His noble wishes and desires, and acceptance to serve His din with sincerity. Ismaeel Nakhuda.

Imam al-Ghazali (may Allah mercy him) writes: An ‘alim who is enamoured of the world is meaner and lower in spiritual status than an ignorant person; he will be punished in the hereafter more severely. Successful indeed are the ‘ulama who have been favoured with nearness to Allah Most High and who are ever concerned about the hereafter. There are certain distinguishing signs of such ‘ulama:

The First: an ‘alim is one who does not try to acquire wealth through his learning. The lowest of rank among the ‘ulama is one who is fully aware that this material world is despicable, mean, polluted and temporary; and that the life hereafter is vast, everlasting and glorious beyond imagination, the bounties whereof are absolutely pure. Besides, every true ‘alim fully understands that this world and the hereafter are opposed to each other. They are, so to say, like two wives married to one and the same husband — when one is pleased with him, the other is naturally displeased. To give another example, they are like two scales of a balance, when one goes down, the other goes up automatically. Indeed, the present world and the world hereafter are poles apart. They are like two wives of a person — if you seek to get closer to one, it will be at the expense of the other. He who does not realise that this material world is of low value and impure, the pleasures of which are gained at the cost of hardships in this world and in the hereafter, is not of sane mind.

It is a common experience that all worldly joys involve taking pains in this world and unavoidable sufferings in the hereafter. How can a person of such insane mind become an ‘alim? Furthermore, a person who has no idea of the magnificence of the hereafter and its everlastingness is not a believer. How can such a person be an ‘alim? If a person does not realise that this world and the next have opposing interests and wishes to combine both, then he is trying to do something that is undesirable. Such people are in fact ignorant of the code of life of all of the prophets of Allah Most High. If a person knows all these facts and still gives preference to his worldly interests, he is a slave of Satan, ruined by lusts and facing an evil fate. Such a lost soul cannot, obviously, be counted among the ‘ulama.

Sayyiduna Dawud (peace be upon him) relates that Allah Most High says, “If an ‘alim prefers worldly desires to My love, the least I do to him is that I deprive him of the bliss of having communion with Me, he cannot experience the sublime joys inherent in the remembrance of Allah Most High and in supplications to Him. O Dawud, have no regard for an ‘alim who has been intoxicated by his lust for this world, for he would lead you astray from My love. Such people are robbers. O Dawud, if you find someone who really seeks My countenance, become his servant. O Dawud, if anyone comes to me running, I record his name as a sane wise person and I do not punish such a man.”

Yahya bin Mu’adh al-Razi (may Allah mercy him) said, “When knowledge and wisdom are employed for gaining worldly advantages, then they are divested of lustre and glory.” Sa’id bin al-Musayyib (may Allah mercy him) said, “If you find an ‘alim remaining constantly with princes, then consider him a thief.”

Sayyiduna ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “If you find an ‘alim enamoured of this material world, then he must be blameworthy in religious matters, for everybody occupies himself with things which are dear to him.”

Someone asked a divine, “Can anyone who takes pleasure in sinful deeds become an ‘arif (a gnostic) of his Lord”? The divine replied, “I can say, without hesitation, that he who prefers this world to the next cannot be an ‘arif; relishing sins is a far greater evil.” It should also be borne in mind that no ‘alim can be regarded as one concerned about the hereafter merely due to his rejection of worldly wealth, unless he also has no ambition for worldly honour or status. For these ambitions are more harmful to the soul than the lust for wealth.

In other words, all of those warnings that have been mentioned above about giving preference to the world and seeking it not only include earning wealth but also include even more the seeking of grandeur. This is because the pitfalls and harms of seeking glory are greater than seeking wealth.

The Second distinguishing characteristic of a true ‘alim is that there should be no contradiction between his knowledge and his practice of din. He preaches good to others and does not practice himself. Allah Most High says: “Do you enjoin righteousness upon others while you ignore your own selves, although you keep reciting the Book?” (Al-Baqarah: 44)

He says elsewhere: “It is severely hateful in Allah’s sight that you say what you do not do.” (Al-Saff: 3)

Hatim al-Asam (may Allah mercy him) said, “On the day of Resurrection, none will be more grieved than an ‘alim who imparted knowledge to others which they acted upon and were granted eternal success, while he himself did not act upon his knowledge and, therefore, failed miserably.” Ibn Simak (may Allah mercy him) said, “There are many who enjoin the remembrance of Allah Most High upon others, but do not remember Him themselves; they admonish others to fear Allah, but they themselves disobey Him most audaciously; they persuade others to cultivate proximity to Allah, but are remote from Him themselves; they invite others unto Allah, but themselves flee from Him.”

‘Abd al-Rahman Ibn Ghanam (may Allah mercy him) said that ten Companions of the Prophet (may Allah be pleased with them) related to him the hadith, “We were once sitting in Masjid Quba and learning (religious) knowledge when the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) came and said to us, ‘Acquire as much knowledge as you will but Allah Most High will not reward you unless you act upon what you know.’”

The third distinguishing characteristic is that he is always concerned with such branches of knowledge that are beneficial for the hereafter and which exhort one to perform good deeds. He is least interested in that branch of knowledge that has no or little use in the hereafter. In our foolishness, we also regard that type of knowledge as ‘ilm, the purpose of which is only earning the world, even though it is sheer ignorance for such a person to consider himself educated [of the religious sciences]; it is then the case that such a person is not particular about learning religious knowledge. An illiterate person, on the other hand, is in the least conscious of his ignorance and therefore tries to acquire religious knowledge. Great indeed is the loss of a man who believes himself to be an ‘alim though he is steeped in (sheer) ignorance.

Hatim al-Asam (may Allah mercy him) was a renowned saint and favourite pupil of Shaqiq al-Balkhi (may Allah mercy him). Once the shaykh asked him, “Hatim, how long have you been here in my company?” He replied, “Thirty-three years.” The shaykh said, “What did you learn during these years from me?” Hatim (may Allah mercy him) replied, “I have learnt eight issues.” At this, Shaqiq (may Allah mercy him) out of sheer disappointment recited, “We are surely Allah’s and we shall surely return unto him.”

He said regretfully, “You learnt only eight lessons during these long years of association with me? I have wasted all my life in associating with you.” Hatim (may Allah mercy him) said, “I have learnt only eight lessons — I cannot lie to you”. The shaykh said, “Tell me, what are those eight lessons?” Hatim (may Allah mercy him) answered:

1] “I have found that everybody loves someone or something (wife, children, property, friends, etc.), but I know that as soon as he is laid in the grave, the loved ones part company with him. Consequently, I have cultivated love for good deeds so that when I do pass into the grave my loved ones accompany me and after death I am not alone.” Shaqiq (may Allah mercy him) said, “You have done well.”

2] “I have read in the Holy Qur’an that Allah Most High says: ‘Whereas for the one who feared to stand before his Lord, and restrained his self from the (evil) desire, Paradise will be the abode.’ (Al-Nazi’at: 40-41) I know that whatever Allah Most High says is true. Therefore, I have restrained myself from worldly desires until I became steadfast in devotion to Him.

3] “I saw in the world that those things which are most dearest and precious to men are preserved with great care and protected with diligence. Then I read in the Qur’an that Allah Most High says: ‘What is with you shall perish and what is with Allah shall last.’ (Al-Nahl: 96) Accordingly, whenever I came by something which was of great value to me, or which I prized above other things, I consigned it to the custody of Allah (spent it for the cause of Allah Most High), so that it should be preserved forever.

4] “I have observed that (for honour and glory) some men turn to wealth, some to nobility of parentage and others to other things of pride. That is, they take pride in wealth, high parentage etc., and assert their superiority over others. But I have read in the Qur’an that Allah Most High says: ‘Surely the noblest of you, in Allah’s sight, is the one who is most pious of you.’ (Al-Hujarat: 13) I have therefore cultivated piety in myself, so that I should become the noblest of men in the sight of Allah Most High.

5] “I have noticed that people upbraid others, revile them or find fault with them. This is all out of jealousy in that one is jealous of the other. Then, I read in the Qur’an that Allah Most High says: ‘We have allocated among them their livelihood in the worldly life, and have raised some of them over others in ranks, so that some of them may put some others to work.’ (Al-Zukhruf: 32) (That is to say, if all men were alike and equal in rank, no one would work for others or serve anybody and, consequently, there would be disorder and chaos in the affairs of the world.)

“Therefore, I have restrained myself from jealousy and ceased to concern myself with other people’s affairs. I know for certain that the distribution of livelihood is entirely in the hands of Allah Most High and He grants as much as He pleases to whomsoever He likes. I therefore ceased to harbour enmity against anyone, realising that a man’s personal effort has little to do with his prosperity or adversity. It has rather been foreordained by Allah Most High Who is the Sovereign Lord of the worlds. So, I do not feel angry with anyone.

6] “I have observed that nearly everyone in this world is hostile to someone or the other. Having paid attention, I noticed that Allah Most High says in the Qur’an: ‘Surely Satan is an enemy for you. So, take him as an enemy. He only invites his group (to falsehood) so that they become inmates of the blazing fire.’ (Al-Fatir: 6)

“So, I have directed all my hostilities against Satan alone and I try to keep away from him by all possible means. Since Allah Most High has commanded us to treat him as an enemy, I bear no enmity against anyone save Satan.

7] “I have observed that all people are struggling hard to seek livelihood, so much so that they disgrace or abase themselves before others and adopt unlawful means for procuring their daily bread. But I have read in the Qur’an that Allah Most High says: ‘There is no creature on earth whose sustenance is not undertaken by Allah.’ (Hud: 6)

“Considering that I am also one of the creatures that move on earth whose sustenance depends upon Allah Most High, I occupied myself with paying what I owe to Allah Most High and ceased to worry about what Allah Most High has taken the responsibility to provide.

8] “I have observed that all men have faith upon and put their trust in things which have themselves been created by Allah Most High. Some have faith in their estates or businesses, others in their own craftsmanship, and there are still others who trust their health and strength. In short, all people have put their trust in things that are created like themselves. I have read in the Qur’an that Allah Most High says: ‘And whoever places his trust in Allah, He is sufficient for him.’ (Al-Talaq: 3) I have, therefore, put my trust and faith in Him alone.”

Shaqiq (may Allah mercy him) thereupon said, “Hatim, may Allah bless you with tawfiq (divine aid for performance for good deeds). I have seen the teachings of the Torah, the Injil, the Zabur and the Holy Qur’an, and I believe that these eight moral lessons form a gist of all that is really good and beneficial for man. Therefore, anyone acting upon these precepts will be deemed to have practised the learning contained in all of the four scriptures revealed by Allah Most High.“

Such learning can only be attained by those ‘ulama who are really concerned about the hereafter (‘ulama al-akhirah). These truths lie too deep for those (so-called) ‘ulama who are ambitious for material wealth and who hanker after worldly honour and recognition.

The Fourth distinguishing characteristic is that ‘ulama of the hereafter are least interested in the elegance of dress or delicacies of food. Such an ‘alim should, rather, exercise moderation in these matters, and follow the example of his seniors. He should bear in mind that simplicity in dress and food will be helpful to him to advance in nearness to Allah Most High and place him at a high rank among the ‘ulama of the hereafter. Quite relevant here is an amazing episode about Shaykh Hatim al-Asam (may Allah mercy him) narrated by one of his pupils, Shaykh Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Khawwas (may Allah mercy him). He relates, “Once, we were with our shaykh in a village called Ray. There were three hundred and twenty persons with us and we were all going for the Hajj. We were a group of mutawakkilin[1] and we had no provisions or any kind of equipment but had faith in Allah to look after our needs. In the village, we came across an ordinary businessman who, though he looked rather an ascetic person, invited the entire group to dinner and we stayed there for the night.

“The next morning he said to Shaykh Hatim (may Allah mercy him) that he was going to enquire about the health of an ‘alim who was ill, and that the shaykh could accompany him if he so wished. Shaykh Hatim (may Allah mercy him) said, ‘It is a blessed deed to enquire after an ailing person and visiting an ‘alim is an act of devotion; I would be pleased to accompany you.’ This ‘alim was Shaykh Muhammad bin Muqatil, the qadi of that area. When Shaykh Hatim (may Allah mercy him) reached his house and saw its magnificence, he was lost in thought. He exclaimed to himself, ‘Allahu Akbar! An ‘alim living in such a tall house?’ Anyhow, we requested permission to enter and when we walked in we saw that its interior was most magnificent — neat, clean and spacious, with curtains hanging all round. Shaykh Hatim (may Allah mercy him) gazed upon all these things and began to wonder. Soon we reached the qadi’s room; he was lying in an extremely soft bed. A slave stood at his head fanning him.

“The businessman made salam, sat besides him and enquired about his health. Shaykh Hatim remained standing. The qadi motioned him to sit down, but the shaykh refused to take a seat. The qadi said, ‘Have you got anything to say?’ The shaykh said, ‘I want to ask you about a religious matter?’ The qadi said, ‘Say it.’ Shaykh Hatim (may Allah mercy him) said, ‘Sit up in bed?’ At this, the servants helped him and the qadi sat up in bed.

“Shaykh Hatim: ‘From whom did you acquire your knowledge?’

“Qadi: ‘I learnt it from the reliable ‘ulama.’

“Shaykh Hatim: ‘Who did these ‘ulama learn from?’

“Qadi: ‘The Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) transmitted it to them.’

“Shaykh Hatim: ‘Who imparted it to the Companions?’

“Qadi: ‘The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) imparted it to them.’

“Shaykh Hatim: ‘Who conveyed it to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace).‘

“Qadi: ‘Jibril (peace be upon him) conveyed it to him.’

“Shaykh Hatim: ‘Who revealed it to Jibril (peace be upon him)?’

“Qadi: ‘Allah Most High revealed it to him.’

“Shaykh Hatim: ‘Is there any indication, in the entire body of knowledge revealed by Allah Most High to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) through Jibril (peace be upon him) and transmitted to you through the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) and reliable ‘ulama, to the effect that the taller a man’s house the more exalted he is in the sight of Allah Most High?’

“Qadi: ‘There is no such indication in that knowledge.’

“Shaykh Hatim: ‘If not, what occurs in that body of knowledge?’

“Qadi: ‘It occurs that, in the sight of Allah Most High, those are exalted to positions of honour who abstain from the world, desire the hereafter, love the poor, and spend for the cause of Allah, thereby treasuring up their charities with Allah Most High for the Hereafter.’

“Shaykh Hatim: ‘Then, whose example are you following? Are you following the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace)? Are you imitating the Companions (may Allah be pleased with the) and god-fearing ‘ulama? Or, are you following in the footsteps of Fir’awn and Nimrud? O wicked ‘alims. The ignorant people of the world who are enamoured by it say when they see men like you, “If such is the plight of the ‘ulama, then it is normal for us to be worse than them.”‘

“Saying this, Shaykh Hatim (may Allah mercy him) went away. This severe admonition had a bad effect on the qadi’s health and he grew worse. There was much talk about this incident and someone told Shaykh Hatim (may Allah mercy him) that Shaykh Tanaffasi (may Allah mercy him), who lives in Qazwin (a city eighty-one miles from Ray) leads an even more luxurious life. So, Shaykh Hatim (may Allah mercy him) set out on a journey to Qazwin with a view to admonishing him. On reaching there, he said, ‘I am a man from a non-Arab country. I beseech you to instruct me in din, beginning with its rudiments. That is, I would like you to demonstrate to me how wudu is performed, for wudu is the key to Salah.’ Tanaffasi said, ‘With great pleasure,’ and asked someone to fetch water. He then performed wudu before the shaykh to show him how it is performed.

“Shaykh Hatim (may Allah mercy him) said, ‘Allow me to perform wudu before you, so that I may learn it properly.’ At this, Shaykh Tanaffasi got up and the shaykh sat in his place. He began to perform wudu and washed his hands four times. Shaykh Tanaffasi said, ‘This is extravagance; you should wash every limb thrice only.’ At this Shaykh Hatim said, ‘Glory to Allah Most High. It is extravagant of me to use a little extra water for wudu, but is it not extravagant of you to make use of all these accessories and accoutrements that you possess?’ Then, of course, Shaykh Tanaffasi realised that Shaykh Hatim (may Allah mercy him) had not come to learn, but to admonish him.

“After this, Shaykh Hatim (may Allah mercy him) went to Baghdad. When Imam Ahmad bin Hambal (may Allah mercy him) learnt about him and his affairs, he came to see him. The imam asked him, ‘How can one be safe from the taint of the world?’ Shaykh Hatim (may Allah mercy him) replied, ‘You cannot protect yourself from the evil influence of the world unless you possess four qualities: you forgive people for their ignorant behaviour towards you, you do not behave towards them in the same manner they behave with you, you spend on others whatever you have, and you do not feel greedy for what other people possess.’

“Later, when Hatim (may Allah mercy him) reached Madinah Munawwarah, people who heard of him, came to see him and gathered around him. He said, ‘Which city is this?’ The people said, ‘It is the city of the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace).’ Shaykh Hatim said, ‘Which is the palace of the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace)? I would like to pray two rak’ahs in his palace.’ They said that the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) did not live in a palace, but in a humble low-roofed house. Shaykh Hatim (may Allah mercy him), ‘Show me then the palaces of the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them).’ The people said, ‘The Companions also had no palaces to live in; they lived in small houses with low roofs a little above the ground.’ Shaykh Hatim said, ‘Then this must be the city of Fir’awn.’ The people seized the shaykh and presented him before the ruler (because they thought he was guilty of sacrilege in calling Madinah Munawwarah the city of Fir’awn). When the ruler demanded an explanation, Hatim said, ‘Don’t be in such a hurry. Listen to what I say till I have finished. I come from a non-Arabic country. When I entered this city, I asked which city it was and they said that it was the city of the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace).’ The shaykh then repeated the entire conversation that had passed between him and the people of Madinah and thereafter recited the following verse from the Qur’an: ‘There is indeed a good model for you in the Messenger of Allah — for the one who has hope in Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah profusely.’ (Al-Ahzab: 21) (This verse means that, in all circumstances, one should follow the example of the Messenger of Allah [may Allah bless him and grant him peace]).

“He then said, ‘Allah Most High commands us to follow in the footsteps of the Messenger of Allah. Now tell me whether you are following the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah or the way of Fir’awn?’ At this the people released him.”

Relating to this, it should be noted that it is not forbidden to enjoy things that are permissible (mubah), nor is it unlawful to have an abundance of such things in one’s possession. However, the affluence of such luxuries creates a strong liking for them to such an extent that it becomes difficult to do without them. One has to consequently busy himself in providing these things for oneself, and in increasing one’s means of income. And, the one who devotes himself to increasing his wealth often adopts a compromising attitude towards his religion. What is worse, such people often commit sinful deeds. If it had been easy to involve oneself in worldly affairs without getting contaminated, the Prophet of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) would not have so seriously admonished his Ummah to abstain from absorption in worldly pursuits, nor would he have been so personally particular about avoiding worldly taint to the extent that he refused to wear an embroidered robe.

In a letter to Imam Malik bin Anas (may Allah mercy him), Yahya bin Yazid al-Nawfali (may Allah mercy him) wrote, after praising Allah Most High and invoking His choicest blessings on the Prophet of Allah: “I have come to know that you put on fine clothes, take fine bread and sleep in a soft bed. You have also appointed a doorkeeper at your house. All this looks odd, considering that you are one of the great and renowned ‘ulama and people come to you from far off places to learn religious knowledge. You are our imam and preceptor and people follow your example. I suggest you should be very cautious in these matters. I am submitting these lines merely as a sign of my sincerest regards for you and no one except Allah Most High knows about this letter. The end. Wa al-salam.”

In reply to this letter, Imam Malik (may Allah mercy him) wrote: “I received your letter, which contained much advice and admonition for me, besides being a sign of your kindest regard for me. May Allah bless you with piety and righteousness; may Allah grant you the best rewards for this advice; may Allah grant me tawfiq (divine aid) to act upon your advice. Indeed, nobody can perform good deeds or protect himself against bad deeds without help and favour from Allah Most High; what you have heard of me is true. I am in the habit of using all these things. May Allah forgive me. However, all these things are permissible under Shari’ah. Allah Most High says: ‘Say, “Who has prohibited the adornment Allah has brought forth for His servants, and the wholesome things of sustenance?” Say, “They are for the believers during this worldly life (though shared by others), while they are purely for them on the day of Resurrection. This is how We elaborate the verses for people who understand.”‘ (Al-’Araf: 32)

“I am fully aware that, notwithstanding their permissibility, it is far better not to make use of these adornments. I should hope that, in future, you would be kind enough to write to me from time to time. I shall also continue to write letters to you. With regards. Wa al-Salam.”

Imam Malik (may Allah mercy him) has made a very subtle point. He has given a legal opinion (fatwa) about the religious permissibility for using the good things of life and, at the same time, admitted that it is better to abstain from them.

The Fifth distinguishing trait of the ‘ulama al-akhirah is that they (without any necessity) keep away from sultans and rulers, and never visit them. Rather, if they do then they keep their meetings short, because their companionship may involve seeking their pleasure and winning their goodwill. Besides, such people are often involved in oppressive and impermissible deeds, the disapproval of which is necessary, along with exposing their oppression and admonishing their sinful deeds. Remaining silent in such matters amounts to compromising one’s religion. Furthermore, if one is obliged to praise them with a view to winning their favours, then this amounts to speaking lies; and if one feels inclined towards and a yearning for their wealth, then this is forbidden. In short, associating with them leads to several detrimental issues. The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said that whosoever lives in the wild becomes hardhearted; the one who is fond of hunting becomes neglectful (of everything else); and the one who visits the kings frequently falls into temptations.

Sayyiduna Huzayfah (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “Beware of the places of temptation.” On being asked what they were, he said, “The doors to the houses of princes. Whosoever visits them will have to approve of their misdeeds and (by way of praise) he will have to attribute to them such qualities that they do not possess.”

The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) once said that the worst among the ‘ulama are those who visit princes and the best among the princes are those who visit the ‘ulama.

Shaykh Samnun (may Allah mercy him) (one of the companions of Shaykh Sirri al-Saqati [may Allah mercy him]) narrates that if you hear about an ‘alim as being enamoured of the world, consider him at fault in his religion. I experienced it myself. Whenever I went to see the king, on coming back I looked within my heart and found the ill-effects of the visit affecting my soul even though I talk to the kings with severity, contradict their views sternly and do not partake of anything that belongs to them, to the extent that I abstain from even drinking plain water so long as I am with them. Our ‘ulama are worse than the rabbis of the Children of Israel. For they go to the rulers and show them dispensations, and seek to win their favours. If they were to tell the rulers about their responsibilities in plain words, they would feel them a burden and would not like their coming; whereas their truthfulness would be a means of eternal salvation. Indeed, for the ‘ulama to visit rulers is a major fitnah and a means of Satan leading them astray, especially in the case of those who can speak eloquently. Satan tells them, “Your visiting them will lead to their rectification, they will refrain from tyranny on account of this and the symbols of Islam (shi’ar) will be preserved.” Consequently, the said person will believe that visiting them is also an act of religion, though the fact is that visiting them leads one to compromise to win their hearts, and praise them unnecessary, which is fatal to one’s din.

In a letter to Hasan al-Basri (may Allah mercy him), ‘Umar bin ‘Abd al-’Aziz (may Allah mercy him) wrote, “Send me the names and addresses of suitable persons whom I should ask to assist me in the affairs of the caliphate.” Hasan al-Basri (may Allah mercy him) replied: “The people of religion will not come to you and you will not select worldly people (and, of course, the greedy and avaricious persons should not be entrusted with such tasks, for they will corrupt the affairs of the government). Because of this, I suggest you employ persons of noble descent because their sense of honour will not allow them to tarnish their inherited nobility with dishonest deeds.”

This was the reply sent by Hasan al-Basri (may Allah mercy him) to ‘Umar bin ‘Abd al-’Aziz (may Allah mercy him) whose piety, equity and justice are exemplary, so much so that he is known as the Second ‘Umar.

This view is held by Imam al-Ghazali (may Allah mercy him), but this humble author (Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya) feels that unless it becomes necessary to decline such offers for religious reasons, there is no harm in accepting the responsibility (to assist the caliph) in the affairs of the caliphate, provided that one is watchful and capable of protecting one’s self. Rather, sometimes, it becomes imperative to accept such responsibilities in the interest of the din or because necessity demands it. However, it is very important that one does not accept such tasks for personal motives, personal interests, material gains or worldly honour and glory. One should, instead, keep in view the needs of the Muslim community. Allah Most High says: “Allah knows him who spoils (does not try to improve the lot of the people) from him who improves (the lot of the Muslims).” (Al-Baqarah: 220)

The Sixth distinguishing sign of the ‘ulama al-akhirah is that they do not take hasty decisions when giving verdicts in religious law (fatwas) and are very careful in giving advice on religious matters. They refer, as far as possible, cases to someone else whom they consider to be capable of making such decisions.

Shaykh Abu Hafs Nishapuri (may Allah mercy him) says, “A true ‘alim is one who, while giving an opinion in religious matters, is afraid and thinks that he will have to explain, on the Day of Resurrection, the authority on which he had given a decision in such and such a case.”

Some of the ‘ulama have said that the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) would greatly avoid four things:

1] Becoming an imam (one who leads the obligatory prayers);

2] The guardianship of a deceased person (i.e. the responsibility to distribute his property according to the will made by him);

3] Accepting a trust;

4] Giving decisions (fatwas) in religious matters.

And their five great interests in life were:

1] Reciting the Holy Qur’an;

2] Remaining in the masjids;

3] Remembrance of Allah Most High;

4] Enjoining what is good;

5] Forbidding evil.

Ibn Husayn (may Allah mercy him) said, “Some people hurriedly pronounce a decision (fatwa) on religious law in such important matters which, if they had been presented to Sayydiuna ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), then he would have gathered together all the leading Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) who had participated in the Battle of Badr and consult them.”

Sayyiduna Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) is such an illustrious Companion that he spent ten years in the service of the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). Still, whenever he was asked regarding an issue of fiqh, he would say, “Ask Mawlana Hasan.”[2] (This Hasan al-Basri [may Allah mercy him] was from among the famous jurists, Sufis and Tabi’is.)

When Sayyiduna Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) (who was an illustrious Companion and was given the title ra’is al-mufassirin [Leader of the Commentators of the Qur'an]) would be asked his view, he would direct people to Jabir Ibn Zayd (may Allah mercy him) who was a Tabi’i well versed in issuing fatwas. Sayyiduna ‘Abd Allah Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), himself an illustrious Companion and a profound scholar of fiqh, referred cases to the Tabi’i Sa’id Ibn al-Musayyib (may Allah mercy him).

The Seventh distinguishing characteristic of the ‘ulama al-akhirah is that they are seriously interested in the esoteric science, in other words Suluk. They strive greatly in purifying their inner selves and hearts, as this is a means of progressing in the exoteric knowledge. The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “Whosoever acts upon what he knows, Allah Most High will grant him knowledge of that which he has not acquired.”

It occurs in the scriptures of previous prophets (peace be upon them): “O children of Israel, say not, knowledge lies in the skies above; who can make it descend upon us? Nor should you say, knowledge lies in the bowels of the earth, too deep for us to dig out. Nor say, knowledge lies across the seas too far away for us to reach it. Knowledge lies within your own hearts. Remain in My presence, observing proper etiquette in the manner of great spiritual beings and cultivate the pious manners of the siddiqin; I shall cause knowledge to spring forth from your hearts, so much so that you will be overwhelmed by knowledge.” Experience shows that the pious beings who have attained nearness to Allah Most High are granted access to such knowledge and insight which cannot be found in books.

The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said that Allah Most High said, “No means whereby My servant seeks My Favour are more pleasing to Me than the observance of the fard actions (such as Salah, Zakah, Sawm, Hajj etc.). My servant keeps coming closer to Me with nafl actions, until I make him My favourite, and when I make him My favourite, I become his ears with which he hears, his eyes with which he sees, his hands with which he holds, and his feet with which he walks. If he asks Me for something, I fulfil his desire, or if he seeks refuge against anything, I grant him refuge.” (Al-Bukhari)

Meaning, his walking, seeing, hearing and all actions conform to the pleasure of Allah Most High. Some other versions of the hadith add: “Whosoever despises or bears enmity against any one of my friends has declared war against me.”

Since the thoughts and contemplation of the walis of Allah are connected to Him, the subtle knowledge of the Holy Qur’an are revealed to them, and its secrets are made clear to them; this is especially the case with those who remain constantly engaged in the dhikr and meditation of Allah Most High. And each individual receives from this, with tawfiq from Allah Most High, an amount that is equivalent to his concern for good actions and efforts.

In a lengthy hadith — quoted by Hafiz Ibn Qayyim (may Allah mercy him) in his book, Miftah Dar al-Sa’adah and by Abu Nu’aym (may Allah mercy him) in his book Al-Hilyah – Sayyiduna ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) is reported to have mentioned the qualities of the ‘ulama al-akhirah. Sayyiduna ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) said hearts are like vessels and the best hearts are those that preserve good as much as possible. He also said that gathering knowledge is better than accumulating wealth for knowledge gives you protection while wealth needs your protection, and knowledge increases through use while wealth decreases when spent. The benefits of wealth do not remain after it has been spent, but the benefits of learning are eternal.

He then heaved a deep sigh and said, within my bosom, there is much knowledge. I wish I could find people who would be capable of receiving this knowledge. However, I find those who employ religious pursuits to amass wealth; or I find people who indulge in sensual pleasures, bound by the shackles of following their desires; or involved in amassing worldly wealth.

Anyway, this is a long passage and I (Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhalwi) have only quoted a portion of it here.

The eighth distinguishing characteristic is that their faith and belief in Allah Most High is ever increasing and they are always concerned about this — firm belief is [a believer's] capital. The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “Firm belief (yaqin) is iman in its entirety.” He also said, “Learn how to believe truly.” The meaning of this hadith is that one should diligently sit with those who possess strong belief and follow their example so that, by virtue of their blessed companionship, one can attain perfect faith.

He should have perfect belief in the absolute power and attributes of Allah Most High just like his belief in the existence of the sun and the moon. He should have perfect belief that Allah Most High alone is the doer of all things, all the various material means are under His sole control and He employs these means as He wills. This is like a stick in the hands of a person who beats someone with it, but nobody holds the stick responsible for it. When this belief becomes firmly rooted in the heart, it will become easy for him to cultivate the qualities of tawakkul (trusting in Allah alone), rida (willing acceptance of what has been decreed by Allah Most High) and taslim (submission to the supreme will of Allah Most High).

He should also have perfect belief that Allah Most High is the sole individual responsible for providing sustenance (rizq), and that He has taken the responsibility for the rizq of every individual as has been predetermined; he will, under all circumstances, receive it. That which has not been predetermined will not reach him under any circumstance. When this belief becomes firm, one will exercise moderation in the struggle to earn one’s livelihood. Such belief checks greed and avarice and one will not feel grieved if one fails to achieve something.

He should also have firm belief that Allah Most High is watching all deeds, good or bad, at all times; that even an iota small good or bad deed is in the knowledge of Allah Most High; and that reward or punishment will certainly reach him. He should strongly believe that all virtues are rewarded just as he believes that eating bread satisfies one’s hunger. Similarly, he should believe that evil has certain consequences, just like the bite of a snake (in short, he should be attracted by good deeds, as a hungry person is by food; and should feel afraid of sins, as he is scared of a snake or a scorpion). When he is firm in this, then he will have complete yearning to perform every type of good deed and total care to refrain from every type of evil deed.

The ninth distinguishing characteristic of the ‘ulama al-akhirah is that, under all conditions, they should wear a true expression of being inspired with the fear of Allah Most High. His greatness, magnificence and fear should manifest from their every gesture — from the style of their dress, from their personal habits, from their speech and even from their silence. A mere look at such an ‘alim’s face will inspire one with the remembrance of Allah Most High. Calmness, serenity, modesty, and humbleness should have become his manner. He abstains from idle or meaningless talk, and his manner of speaking is natural and unassuming, as this is born of pride and haughtiness, and indicates a lack of fear of Allah Most High. Sayyiduna ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “Acquire knowledge, and acquire calmness, proper poise and gentleness for knowledge; behave modestly with those from whom you learn, and let those who learn from you be humble with you. Do not become one of the tyrannical ‘ulama for your knowledge cannot be based on ignorance.”

The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “The best of my Ummah are those who in public look happy thinking of the infinite mercy of Allah Most High, but in private weep and cry for fear of His punishment. They are bodily on earth, but their hearts are absorbed in the heavens.” Someone asked the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), “Which is the best act of virtue?” He replied, “Abstaining from what is unlawful and keeping your tongue occupied continuously with the dhikr of Allah Most High.“ Someone asked, “Who is the best companion?” He replied, “He who warns you of negligence in good deeds and aides you in performing them.” Someone asked, “Who is a bad companion?” The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) replied, “The one who does not warn you when you are negligent in your good actions, nor helps you when you want to do them.” Someone asked, “Who is the greatest ‘alim?” He replied, “The one who lives in greatest fear of Allah Most High.“ Someone asked, “With whom should we associate most frequently?” He replied, “Those who inspire you with the dhikr of Allah Most High.”

The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: “The carefree person in the life Hereafter will be the one who remained concerned in this life; the one who will laugh the most in the Hereafter will be he who wept most in this life (for fear of Allah Most High).”

The tenth distinguishing feature of the virtuous ‘ulama is that they are more concerned about those regulations of Islamic law which pertain to religious practices; to what is lawful and unlawful. That is to say, they are interested in actions that it is obligatory to perform and are very keen to know things that are necessary to avoid. Similarly, they are very particular in learning about things that may undo any virtue (for example things which make Salah invalid, the virtues of using a miswak etc.). They do not indulge in discussions relating to abstruse branches of knowledge for the sake of being regarded as a research scholar, a sage or great philosopher.

The eleventh distinguishing characteristic of a virtuous ‘alim is that he has studied, with deep insight, various branches of knowledge. He does not accept the opinions of others, for we are bound to follow the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) and seek guidance from his sayings alone. We follow the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) simply because they closely observed and followed the ways of the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). Since following the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) is of fundamental value, a true ‘alim should be very particular about collecting the hadiths of the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) and should make them the object of his serious consideration.

The twelfth distinguishing feature of the ‘ulama al-akhirah is that they are strict and stringent in their avoidance of bid’ah. Something becoming a common practice does not means that the thing is a reliable religious practice, for true religion consists in following the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). It should be seen what the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) did in such matters. Hence, it is imperative to undertake a thorough study of the ways and manners of the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) and to remain deeply involved in this.

Hasan al-Basri (may Allah mercy him) said: “Two types of person are innovators and they have introduced two kinds of innovations in Islam: [1] He who thinks Islam is that which he understands, and only he who agrees with him will attain paradise, and [2] he who lives a life of comfort and worships the world, he likes those who struggle to achieve worldly things and dislikes those who do not try to earn worldly wealth. Leave both of them alone for the hellfire. As for him whom Allah Most High has protected from these people, he is following the footsteps of the pious predecessors. He has adopted their manners and practices. It is they who will be generously rewarded in the hereafter by Allah Most High.”

Sayyiduna ‘Abd Allah Ibn Mas’ud (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “Yours is the age in which desires are restrained by (religious) knowledge; a time will soon come when knowledge will be subservient to desires.” Meaning people will try to justify whatever pleases their fancy with their knowledge.

Some Divines said, “During the times of the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them), Satan sent forth his detachments to all four corners of the world. They roamed the world and came back, disheartened and exhausted. Satan asked, ‘How did you fare?’ They said, ‘These people (the Companions) worry us. We cannot affect them in any way; we are in great difficulty because of them.’ Satan said, ‘Don’t worry. These people are the Companions of their Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace); influencing them is difficult. Soon, you will have people who will do what you desire.’ Then, once again, Satan sent forth his detachments in all directions during the times of the Followers (Tabi’in). Satan’s disciples again came back, worn out and cast down. When he asked them how they fared, they said, ‘They annoyed us; they are a strange people. During the day, we do succeed to a certain extent in tempting them. But as soon as the evening falls, they repent of their sins so sincerely that all our labours are lost.’ Satan again said, ‘Don’t worry. A time is soon coming when people will behave in a manner most pleasing to you. They will follow their own desires, taking them to be a religious duty. They will not think of repentance; they will rather give religious sanction to their irreligiousness.’ After some time, Satan introduced into Islam such innovations, which were accepted as a part of religion. How could they possibly repent from such sins when they believed themselves to be on the right path?”

This is a brief account of the twelve distinguishing characteristics of the virtuous ‘ulama that have been thoroughly discussed by Imam al-Ghazali (may Allah mercy him). The ‘ulama should, therefore, particularly fear the Day of Reckoning because their reckoning will be severe and they have a greater responsibility. The Day of Resurrection, the day on which this reckoning will take place, is a difficult day. May Allah Most High, in His Infinite bounty and mercy, protect us all from the severity of that day.

Gaining Access to the Quran

Track 1 Track 2

In his typically penetrating and thorough style, Shaykh Zulfiqar Ahmad tackles the topic of accessing the Holy Quran. He methodically analyzes one simple phrase from the Holy Quran, and uncovers multiple layers of meanings, applying his knowledge of Quranic exegesis to not only the apparent, spiritual meanings of the verse, but also to some of its less apparent scientific implications. This is essential listening for any English-speaking Muslim, especially those with knowledge of the material sciences.

Quranic Proofs for The Return of Isa(Jesus) Alayihis Salatu Wassallam

With due respect, some scholars today reject the consensus of the Scholars of Ahl Us Sunnah Wa Al Jama’ah on the Second coming of Isa(Jesus) Alayihis Salatu Wassallam in this world before Qiyamah(Day of Judgement). 
Here I will INSHALLAAH present to you the Quranic proofs from Tanwir Al Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn Abbas (Note: Ibn Abbas RadiALLAAHU Anhu was a companion of the Prophet Sallallahu Alayihi Wassallam and there can’t be anyone more knowledge in this matter than Hazrat Ibn Abbas RadiALLAAHU Anhu).
First Proof: Surah Zukhruf(Surah 43) Ayat 61:
(And lo! Verily) in the coming of Jesus the son of Mary (there is knowledge of the Hour) there is an indication of the coming of the Hour; it is also said that this means: his coming is a sign of the advent of the Hour. (So doubt ye not concerning it) so have no doubt in the coming of the Hour, (but follow Me) by professing Allah’s divine Oneness. (This) profession of divine Oneness (is the right path) an established religion with which Allah is pleased: i.e. the religion of Islam.
Second Proof: Surah Nisa(Surah 4) Ayat 159:
(There is not one of the People of the Scripture) the Jews and Christians (but will believe in him) in Jesus, that he was not a sorcerer, Allah, His son or His partner (before his death) after the soul of Jesus expires, that is after he comes down again and then dies after every single Jew in their time, (and on the Day of Resurrection he) Jesus (will be a witness against them) through delivery of the message.
After this the matter should be crystal clear in your minds that Isa(Jesus) Alayihis Salatu Wassallam will definitely return before Qiyamah.

Who Abdullah ibn Masud Cursed?

On the authority of ‘Abdullâh Ibn Mas’ûd – Allâh be pleased with him, who said:
May Allâh curse those women who tattoo or seek to be tattooed, those women who remove facial hair or seek it to be removed and those women who put gaps between their teeth for beautification; those who seek to change Allâh’s creation.
This reached a woman from Banî Asad who was called Umm Ya’qûb and who used to read the Qur`ân. She came to [Ibn Mas’ûd] and said, “What is this I hear from you, that you curse women who tattoo or seek to get tattooed, and those who remove facial hair and those who put gaps between their teeth for beauty, those who change Allâh’s creation?” ‘Abdullâh [Ibn Mas’ûd] replied, “And why should I not curse those whom Allâh’s Messenger has cursed and those who are mentioned in Allâh’s Book?” She said, “I have read [the Qur`ân] from cover to cover and I have not seen it mentioned.” He replied, “If you had really read it [carefully] you would have found it; Allâh the Mighty and Sublime said:
And whatever the Messenger gives you, take it; and whatever he forbids you, shun it. [Al-Hashr (59):7]
The woman then said, “Well I have just seen some of this on your own wife.” He said, “Go and see her.” So she went to the wife of ‘Abdullâh but didn’t see anything. She returned to him and said, “I don’t see anything.” He said, “Well, if any of those practices had been done I would not be with her any more.”
Al-Bukhârî and Muslim. This translation is from the version in Muslim.

Islam and Secularism

The Ear, Eyes, Nose, Tongue is for hearing, seeing, smelling and tasting respectively. If someone uses the tongue to see, or the ear to taste, or the eyes to hear, he will be declared a fool because it's being used out of it's limit.

If there is a table in front of you, you have touch it to feel it's of hard wood, you can see it's color with your eyes but you'll not be able to use your eyes and hands to know who made this table, and hence you cannot conclude it was created by itself because you were not there while it was created and you did not witness it's creation. Here intellect tells us that it is made by a carpenter.

And as the intellect has a limit, it fails to go beyond that. After that, the next source of knowledge if Divine Revelation(Heavenly revelations by ALLAH).
Using the intellect when you have Divine Revelation for an act or what to do in what situation is like using the ears for seeing and the eyes for hearing. People don't understand this simple concept.This does not mean the intellect is useless because it has limits rather it's highly serviceable but within it's limits. That too does not means the five senses of a human being is useless because it has limits, no they are highly serviceable but within their limits.

This is the difference b/w Islam and Secularism. Secularism have nowhere to go as a source of knowledge after the five senses and the intellect and hence when they reach their limit but are still used foolishly the system is also a foolish one. Islam uses the third source of knowledge as well, which is limitless. The Divine Revelation, The Knowledge of ALLAH Almighty. This makes Islam better than the Secular system.

Music and Singing: A Detailed Fatwa. [Especially for the Youth]

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
The worst case scenario in the event of being inflicted with a disease is when the one involved refuses to believe that he has been inflicted with that disease. The way this phenomenon is accepted and recognised in diseases and illnesses that affect the physical body, it is also true with regards to spiritual diseases and ailments.
When a person commits a sin (may Allah save us all) believing that a sin is being committed and feels regret and remorse in the heart, then this is far better then committing the sin and believing it to be lawful (halal). In the former situation, only one sin is being committed, and it is very likely that the individual may repent out of the remorse felt in the heart. In the latter case, however, in addition to the sin being committed, there is the greater sin of trying to justify it. Normally, such an individual does not receive the guidance to repent from his sin. (May Allah save us all, Ameen).
Music and Singing?
The case with music and unlawful singing is the same. It has been decisively prohibited in Shariah, as the evidences mentioned further along will show. Yet there are individuals that are not ready to believe that it is Haram.
In the modern era, music has spread to such an extent that nobody is free from it. Individuals are confronted with situations where they are forced to listen to music. It is played nearly in all department stores and supermarkets. If you sit in a taxi, make a phone call or even walk down the street, you will not be saved from this evil. Young Muslims drive around in their cars with the music fully blasted. The increasing popularity of music, which is prevalent in our society, poses a great threat to the Muslims.
Music is a direct ploy of the Non-Muslims. One of the main causes for the decline of the Muslims is their involvement in useless entertainment. Today we see that Muslims are involved, and at the forefront perhaps, of many immoralities and evils. The spiritual power which once was the trait of a Muslim is nowhere to be seen. One of the main reasons for this is music and useless entertainment.
Harms and effects of music
We should be aware that nothing has been prohibited by the Almighty Creator except that which is harmful to the Muslims and the society as a whole. There are great harms and ill-effects of music.
Islam totally forbids adultery and also those things that lead to it. Allah Most High says:
“And do not come near to adultery, for it is a shameful deed and an evil, opening the road (to other evils)” (al-Isra, 32).
Islam does not only prohibit adultery and fornication, but also those things that may lead to it. This is the reason why the Qur’an orders Muslim men and Women to lower their gazes. It prohibits one from being alone with someone from the opposite sex (khalwa). Informal interaction with the opposite sex has also been made unlawful.
This is also one of the main reasons for the prohibition of music, as it effects one’s emotions, creates arousal, passion and excitement, and also leads to various physiological changes in the person. It is a psychological proven fact that two things are instrumental in arousing the human sexual desire, one being the voice of a female (for males) and the other music.
This is the reason why Allah Most High says:
“O wives of the prophet! You are not like other women, if you are god-fearing. So do not be soft in speech. Lest in whose heart is disease should be moved with desire.” (Surah al-Ahzab, v. 32).
Thus, Islam forbids listening to the female voice with lust and desire. The great Hanafi Jurist, Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) states:
“It is permissible for women to converse with non-Mahram men at the time of need (and visa versa, m). However, what is not permissible is that they stretch, soften and raise their voice in a melodious way” (Radd al-Muhtar, V.1, P. 406).
Similarly, it is also unlawful for women to listen to the voice of non-Mahram men with lust and desire. One of the great western thinkers said: “the voice is one of the quickest ways that make a woman fall in love with a man. This is the reason why many women adore singers”.
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) was also wary of this fact when he said to the Companion Bara ibn Malik: “O Bara! Let not the women here your voice” (Kanz al-Ummal, 7/322). The same has also been reported from the Companion Anjasha (Allah be pleased with him).
Physical Effect of Music
Experiments carried out by doctors and researchers confirm that music is such that it does not only affect the brain, but each and every organ of the body. There is a close relationship between music and bodily movements.
It is also proved that music affects one’s emotions, increases arousal in terms of alertness and excitement and also leads to various psychological changes in the person. In a psychological experiment, it was found that listening to moderate type of music increased one’s normal heart beat, whilst listening to rock music the heart beat increased even further, yet people claim that music has no effect.
In conclusion, music and the instruments used for singing are a cause for arousing the sexual desire of an individual. It could lead a person to adultery and fornication. Therefore, Islam takes the preventive measure rather than suffer the consequences. This is also one of the principles of Islamic Jurisprudence, namely ‘blocking the means’ (sadd al-dhara'i). This is based on the idea of preventing an evil before it actually materializes, and is taken from the heart of the guidance of the Qur’an and Sunnah that, “Preventing harm is given precedence even to achieving possible benefits.”
Becoming Heedless of Allah
One of the harms of music is that it distracts one from his Creator. It serves as a temporary means of pleasure and satisfaction, which makes one forget who he really is and why he was created. This is the reason why musical instruments are known in the Arabic language as ‘malaahi’ meaning instruments that prevent one from the remembrance of Allah Almighty.
Human has been created for a noble purpose. Allah Most High says:
“I have created jinn and humans only that they serve (worship) me” (Surah al-Dhariyat, 56).
Music and temporary entertainments sink the human in physical pleasures and prevent him/her from true spiritual gains. In conclusion, music has a great role to play in preventing a human from realising the purpose of creation.
Un-Islamic Values
Another harm of music is that it instills the ideologies of the Non-Muslims in the heart and mind. The messages of today’s music follow a general theme of love, fornication, drugs and freedom.
We find that the whole world is obsessed with the Kufr idea of unrestrained freedom, i.e. freedom of speech and movement, etc… This idea of freedom, “it’s my life, I’ll do what I want” is a predominant theme of music today. It is used as a means of drilling western ideologies into the hearts and minds, which are totally contrary to Islamic values and teachings.
The Difference Between Legal Wisdom and Legal Reasons
The above are just some of the harms and evil effects of music. One must remember here that these are the wisdoms for the prohibition of music and not the reason (illah). The Shariah ruling is based upon the reason, and not the wisdom. In other words if the harms for the prohibition of music is taken care of, it does not make music permissible.
An example for this is that the wisdom behind the prohibition of wine and alcohol is that it creates enmity and hatred between people and it hinders one from the remembrance of Allah. The reason, however, is that it is an intoxicating substance. Now, if one was to say that wine will be Halal for me, as I will lock myself up after drinking wine, thus no destruction will be caused. Any sane person will conclude that he is wrong, as wine is Haram whether you cause any destruction and damage to others or not. The reason being, that the cause for the prohibition of wine is that it intoxicates you, regardless of whether the wisdom is present or not.
The same is with music. If one is saved from the abovementioned harms, even then music will still remain Haram. It can not be held lawful even if one is saved from its harms. This is a well established principle in the science of Usul al-Fiqh.
Ruling on musical instruments and unlawful singing
In the light of the evidences that will be mentioned later, the following are unlawful in Shariah:
a) Musical instruments that are exclusively designed for entertainment and dancing, and create charm, pleasure and bliss on their own (even without the singing), such as the drum, violin, guitar, fiddle, flute, lute, mandolin, harmonium, piano, string, etc… are impermissible to use under any circumstance.
There is a consensus of the whole Ummah on this. Since the first century, the Companions (sahaba), their followers (tabi’een), jurists (fuqaha) and the scholars have been generally unanimous on this ruling.
b) Singing that is a cause for a sin is also unlawful with the consensus of all the scholars, such as songs that prevent one from the obligatory (fard & wajib).
c) Any singing that is accompanied by other sins, such as songs that consist of unlawful, immoral, and sexual themes, or it is sang by non-Mahram women, etc will also be unlawful. This ruling is also with the consensus of all the scholars.
There are numerous evidences in the Qur’an and Sunnah which support this view. We will attempt to look at a few:
1) Allah Most High says:
“And there are among men, those that purchase idle tales, to mislead (men) from the path of Allah and throw ridicule. For such there will be a humiliating punishment” (Surah Luqman, V. 6).
The great Companion Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud (Allah be pleased with him) states in the explanation of the word “idle tales”:
“By Allah its meaning is music” (Sunan al-Bayhaqi, 1/223 & authenticated by al-Hakim in his Mustadrak, 2/411).
Imam Ibn Abi Shayba related with his own transmission that He (Ibn Mas’ud) said:
“I swear By Him besides whom there is no God that it refers to singing” (132/5).
The great Companion and exegete of the Qur’an, Abd Allah ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) states:
“The meaning of the word is music, singing and the like” (Sunan al-Bayhaqi, 1/221& Musannaf Ibn abi Shayba, 132/5).
He also stated:
“Music and the purchase of female singers” (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shayba, 132/5).
Hasan al-Basri (Allah be pleased with him) said:
“This verse was revealed in relation to singing and musical instruments” (Tafsir ibn Kathir, 3/442)
The same explanation has also been narrated from Mujahid, Ikrima, Ibrahim Nakha’i, Mak’hul and others (Allah be pleased with them all).
The above verse of the Qur’an, along with the statements regarding its meaning is clear in the prohibition of music. It also serves as a severe warning for those who are involved in the trade of music in any way, shape or form, as Allah warned them of “Humiliating punishment”.
As for those that say, the verse refers to things that prevent one from the remembrance of Allah and not music, do not contradict the aforementioned explanation. The interpretation of the verse with “things that prevent one from the remembrance of Allah” is a more general interpretation which includes music and song, as one of the foremost things that stop you from the remembrance of Allah is music. This is the reason why the majority of the exegetes of the Qur’an have interpreted the verse with music only, or with all those acts that prevent one from the truth with music being at the forefront.
2) Allah Most High says whilst describing the attributes of the servants of the Most Compassionate (ibad al-Rahman):
“Those who witness no falsehood, and if they pass by futility, they pass by it with honourable avoidance” (Surah al-Furqan, V. 72).
Imam Abu Bakr al-Jassas relates from Sayyiduna Imam Abu Hanifah (Allah be pleased with him) that the meaning of “falsehood (zur)” is music & song, (Ahkam al-Qur’an, 3/428).
3) Allah Most High said to Shaytan:
“Lead to destruction those whom you can among them with your (seductive) voice” (Surah al-Isra, V.64).
One of the great exegete, Mujahid (Allah have mercy on him) interpreted the word “voice (sawt)” by music, singing, dancing and idle things. (Ruh al-Ma’ani, 15/111).
Imam Suyuti (Allah have mercy on him) quoted Mujahid as saying: “Voice (in this verse) is singing and flute” (al-Iklil fi istinbat al-tanzil, 1444).
Another exegete, Dahhak (Allah have mercy on him) also interpreted the word “Sawt” with flutes. (Qurtubi, al-Jami` li Ahkam al-Qur’an, 10/288).
Here also, a general interpretation can be given, as indeed some commentators of the Qur ' an have done, but this, as mentioned earlier, does not contradict the meaning given by Mujahid and Dahhak, as it is included in the more broad and general meaning.
Guidance of the Messenger of Allah
(Allah bless him & give him peace)
The are many Ahadith of the blessed Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) which prohibit music and the usage of musical instruments to the extent that some scholars have gathered approximately forty Ahadith, of which the chain of transmission of some is sound (sahih), some good (hasan) and some weak (da’if). We will only mention a few here:
1) Sayyiduna Abu Malik al-Ash’ari (Allah be pleased with him) reports that he heard the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) say: “There will appear people in my Ummah, who will hold adultery, silk, alcohol and musical instruments to be lawful” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
2) Abu Malik al-Ash’ari (Allah be pleased with him) narrates a similar type of Hadith, but a different wording. He reports that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Soon there will be people from my Ummah who will consume alcohol, they will change its name (by regarding it permissible. m), on there heads will be instruments of music and singing. Allah will make the ground swallow them up, and turn them into monkeys and swine” (Sahih Ibn Hibban & Sunan Ibn Majah, with a sound chain of narration).
In the above two narrations, the word ma`azif is used. The scholars of the Arabic language are unanimous on the fact that it refers to musical instruments (Ibn Manzur, Lisan al-Arab, V.9, P.189).
The prohibition of musical instruments is clear in the two narrations. The first Hadith (recorded in Sahih al-Bukhari) mentions that certain people from the Ummah of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give peace) will try to justify the permissibility of using musical instruments, along with adultery, silk and alcohol, despite these things being unlawful (haram) in Shariah.
Moreover, by mentioning music with the likes of adultery and alcohol just shows how severe the sin is. The one who attempts to permit music is similar to the one who permits alcohol or adultery.
The second Hadith describes the fate of such people in that the ground will be ordered to swallow them and they will be turned into monkeys and swine (may Allah save us all). The warning is specific to those that will hold music, alcohol, silk and adultery to be permissible. It is something that should be of concern for those who try and justify any of these things.
Also, to say that music will only be unlawful if it is in combination with alcohol, adultery and silk is incorrect. If this was the case, then why is it that the exception is only for music from the four things? The same could also be said for adultery, alcohol and silk. One may then even justify that alcohol and adultery is also permissible unless if they are consumed in combination with the other things!
Thus the above two narrations of the beloved of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) are clear proof on the impermissibility of music and songs.
3) Imran ibn Husain (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “This Ummah will experience the swallowing up of some people by the earth, metamorphosis of some into animals, and being rained upon with stones”. A man from amongst the Muslims asked: “O Messenger of Allah! When will this be?” He said: “When female singers and musical instruments appear and alcohol will (commonly) be consumed” (Recorded by Imam Tirmizi, Imam Ibn Majah in their respective Sunan collections, and the wording here is of Sunan Tirmizi).
4) Sayyiduna Ali ibn Talib (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the blessed Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “When my Ummah begin doing fifteen things, they will be inflicted with tribulations, and (from those 15 things He said): “When female singers and musical instruments become common” (Sunan Tirmizi).
5) Na’fi reports that once Abd Allah ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with them both) heard the sound of a Sheppard’s flute. He put his fingers in his ears, turned his mule away from the road and said: “O Nafi’! Can you hear? I (Nafi’) replied with the affirmative. He carried on walking (with his fingers in his ears) until I said: “the sound has ceased” He removed his fingers from his ears, came back on to the road and said: “I saw the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) doing the same when he heard the flute of the Sheppard” (Recorded by Imam Ahmad in his Musnad and Abu Dawud & Ibn Majah in their Sunans).
6) Abd Allah Ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Verily Allah has forbidden alcohol, gambling, drum and guitar, and every intoxicant is haram” (Musnad Ahmad & Sunan Abu Dawud).
7) Abu Umama (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give peace) said: “Allah Mighty and Majestic sent me as a guidance and mercy to believers and commanded me to do away with musical instruments, flutes, strings, crucifixes, and the affairs of the pre-Islamic period of ignorance” (Musnad Ahmad & Abu Dawud Tayalisi).
8) Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Song makes hypocrisy grow in the heart as water does herbage” (Sunan al-Bayhaqi).
9) Anas (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give peace) said: “On the day of Resurrection, Allah will pour molten lead into the ears of whoever sits listening to a songstress” (Recorded by Ibn Asakir & Ibn al-Misri).
10)Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Bell is the flute of Shaytan” (Sahih Muslim & Sunan Abu Dawud).
There are many more narrations of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give peace) in prohibition of musical instruments and unlawful singing. I have merely mentioned a few as an example.
The imam of the Shafi`i school, Imam Ibn Hajr al-Haytami gathered all these Ahadith which approximately total to forty in his excellent work ‘ Kaff al-Ra’a an Muharramat al-Lahw wa al-Sama’ , and then said: “All of this is explicit and compelling textual evidence that musical instruments of all types are unlawful” (2/270).
Statements of the Fuqaha
The great Hanafi jurist al-Kasani states:
“If a singer gathers people around him only to entertain them with his voice, then he will not be considered a upright person (a’dil), even though if he does not consume alcohol, as he will be considered the leader of sinners. If however, he only sings to himself in order to eradicate loneliness, then there is nothing wrong in doing so.
As far as the one who uses musical instruments is concerned, if the instruments themselves are not unlawful, such as the bamboo and tambourine, then there is nothing wrong with that and he will still be considered upright. However, if the instrument is unlawful, such as the lute and the like, then he will not be considered a upright person (to be a witness in the court. m), as these instruments can never be considered lawful” (Bada’i al-Sana’i, 6/269).
It is stated in Khulasat al-Fatawa:
“Listening to the sound of musical instruments is unlawful (haram), as the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Listening to songs is a sin” (4/345).
Ibn Humam, the great Hanafi Mujtahid makes a decisive statement in his famous Fath al-Qadir:
“Unlawful (haram) singing is when the theme of the song consists of unlawful things, such as the description of a particular living person’s beauty and features, the virtues of wine that provoke wine-drinking, the details and particulars of family affairs or those songs that mock and ridicule others.
However, songs that are free from such unlawful things and they consist of descriptions of the natural things, such as flowers and streams, etc… will be permissible. Yes, if they are accompanied by musical instruments, then it will be unlawful even if the song is full of advice and wisdom, not because of what the songs consist of, rather due to the musical instruments that are played with it.
And it is stated in the al-Mugni of Ibn Qudamah (Hanbali Madhhab) that musical instruments are of two types:
1) Unlawful, Such as those that are specially designed for entertainment and singing, like the flute and mandolin, etc…
2) Lawful, like the playing of the tambourine (daff) at weddings and other happy occasions” (Ibn Humam, Fath al-Qadir, 6/36).
The same has more or less been mentioned in the other Hanafi works also, such as al-Ikhtiyar, al-Bahr al-Ra’iq, al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya and others.
Imam an-Nawawi, the great Hadith and Shafi’i scholar states:
“It is unlawful to use or listen to musical instruments, such as, those which the drinkers are known for, like the mandolin, lute, cymbals, and flute. It is permissible to play the tambourine (daf) at weddings, circumcisions and other times, even if it has bells on its sides. Beating the Kuba, a long drum with a narrow middle, is also unlawful” (Mugni al-muhtaj, 4/429, & Reliance of the traveller, 775).
There are many other statements of the Fuqaha and scholars such al-Qurtubi, and each of the four Madhhabs, but due to the length of the article, I will suffice with the above.
As for those who hold music to be lawful usually present the Hadith of Sahih al-Bukhari in which two girls were singing in the presence of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) and Sayyida A’isha (Allah be pleased with her).
However, the permissibility of music can not be justified with this Hadith. The Hadith expert, Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani has refuted this claim in length in his Fath al-Bari, 2/345).
Firstly, theses young girls were singing without any unlawful musical instruments and secondly, the content of the song was regarding war, thus perfectly lawful. Also, they were not professional singers as the words of the Hadith clearly indicate.
Some try to justify music with the Hadith in which the permissibility of playing the tambourine (daf) is mentioned.
However, as stated in the works of the Fuqaha, to play the tambourine is permissible at weddings, as it is not designed for sole entertainment and pleasure, rather for announcement, etc…
In the light of the above evidences from the Qur’an, sayings of our beloved Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give peace) and texts of the various Fuqaha, the following is the decisive ruling with regards to music:
Musical instruments that are solely designed for entertainment are unlawful, with or without singing. However, to play the tambourine (daf) at weddings (and other occasions according to some fuqaha) will be permissible.
As far as the songs are concerned, if they consist of anything that is unlawful or they prevent one from the obligatory duties, then they will be unlawful. However, if they are free from the abovementioned things (and they are not accompanied by instruments), then it will be permissible to sing them.
And Allah Knows best
Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari, UK

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