The first pillar is called shahada. This is actually one of my favourite words in Islam because the word shahada in Arabic means to testify, to witness. It has the idea of seeing but it also has the idea of the material world. Shahada, the Quran says “He is the knower of the seen and unseen worlds”. This whole world is called shahada which is very beautiful because essentially what the world is saying is “la ilaha illal Allah”. The world is the shahada because the world is telling humanity that there is no God but Allah, that everything you see in creation is testifying to this ultimate truth that behind all of this is a unified reality. It is the intelligence, the power and the will behind the entire universe and so the other interesting thing about this is the Quran says “we will continue to reveal to them our signs in the self and on the horizon until it becomes clears to them that this is true” and then Allah says a really interesting thing “isn’t it enough that your Lord is witnessing everything?”. This is interesting because there are many many philosophers and only recently the physicist like Neil Bores was the first physicist to say this that “Material and substantial reality is only real because it is witnessed” in other words the universe only has reality because of consciousness. Without consciousness there is no world so this idea of Allah being the One who witnesses all things. The fact that God is aware that the world exists and that is His Qaumiyah and the moment that He removes that and that is why to turn away from it “there is no nodding with Allah and no sleep” because to do that there is no world, to turn away from one instant, it disappears. So that is the idea of shahada that the world is being witnessed by Allah and therefore when we partake in that witnessed this is what we are doing. We are giving the world its true reality. We are saying “la ilaha ill Allah” that we are witnessing too and this is what Allah says “Allah witnesses that He is One” so we are sharing in the experience of consciousness and that is something really extraordinary. That is the gift that humans have been given. That is why we are taken to account so ruthlessly. It has to be that way I mean thank God it is not that ruthless, there is a lot of mercy there, that is why we are told “My reckoning is going to be great because what I have given you is so immense. I have given you all the tools, look in your own selves, do you not see what I have given you, sight, hearing, speech, will”. Those are attributes of God. These are what you learn in tawheed. Look at what I have given you. The problem is then people start thinking they are God and that is where man goes crazy. It is because they really believed it, that I can do without God, I don’t need God. It is the promethion in rebellion, the Titans, that is what happened in Greek mythology. Originally there was dahar (time). The original god was time and was time was overthrown by the Titans. It is interesting because it is very similar to the jinn story. The jinn go into rebellion and overthrow the authority of God and then it was given to Adam. It is very interesting that the ancient Greek mythology has a similar idea there that originally there was the real god which was time, space which is dahar. Allah says “do not curse time space because I am time space” which does not mean that this is God but it is very interesting that this hadith exists. Dahar in Arabic means time stretched out. That is the shahada and obviously when you say “there is no God but Allah” the means by which you arrived at that through certainty must be recognised because we are in a world of means and that is why saying “Muhammadur Rasulullah” is gratitude to that means. That is why filial piety is the second greatest way of displaying gratitude to God, is gratitude to your parents. “That you should show gratitude to Me and then your parents”. This is the same as tawheed. First you witness that there is no God but Allah or the One God but then you witness that this man taught me this with certainty and that is why you say “wa ashadu anna Muhammadur Rasulullah” or “Isa Rasulullah” if you were in his time or “Moses Rasulullah” whoever the Prophet was but for us it is the Prophet and we should be gtrateful for that. Our time is the time which the Prophet which includes all of the previous Prophets. When we say “Muhammadar Rasulullah” we are saying Jesus Rasul, Moses Rasulullah, Abraham was a messenger of God, Noah, Yahya, they are all in that statement. So that is the shahada and obviously there is a lot to go but they deal a lot with it in imaan so I will finish there.
The second pillar after the shahada is called prayer or salah and again there are different types of prayer. It is interesting that in the Quran and this is brought out here, the thing that is commanded more than other human activity in the Quran is prayer, salah. Also the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said ”the prayer is the imad of this religion”. It is the central pole or pillar that holds the tent up. The traditional bedoium tents had four pegs on each side and then they had a central peg so the idea here is that the four other pillars, the shahada, zakah, fasting, hajj are these other pillars but the prayer is really what is giving this tent its real reality so prayer is at the essence.
The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “prayer is the bone marrow of worship” and it is really interesting from a physiological point of view to describe it as the bone marrow because the bone marrow is the core and that is what it means. The Arabs say the core of something but the bone marrow is really what gives birth to the blood, it generates blood. It also generates the defense system or the immune system. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) in another hadith said “prayer is the weapon of the believer” so the idea that the prayer is like the immune system of the body and that is why the Quran says that God does not punish a people that pray, that are calling on God so one prayer is the salatullah, that He prays on you so Allah and His prayer is mercy. His mercy is called salah. It is the same word that is used but it has a different meaning but it is still considered salah.
Then there is everything that is in the heaven and earth that is praying so there is this prayer of creation. The Quran says “everything is in a state of glorification”. In verse 24:41, “have you not see that everyone in the heavens and earth glorifies God, the birds spreading their wings, each one knows its prayer and its glorification” so each one of the things in creation has a prayer, a salah and it has a tasbih. When we pray, what do we do immediately after the prayer? SubhanAllah, Alhamdulillah and that is tasbih. So we have salah and in the prayer you are doing your tasbih as well “Subhanna Rabbi Ala”. So salah and tasbih, the idea of having a means to glorify God and that is what essentially the prayer is. It is the means by which we have been given.
The third type is the prayer that all Prophets have been given. Every Prophet was given a prayer, it might not look the same. That is why different religions have different outward forms of praying because just like different animals have different forms in which they do worship different communities have been given different forms. Allah says” We gave every ummah its own form, its own law and the way it which it goes”. Obviously things are similar which is one of the reasons why in most traditions there is some form of praying with the hands and these type of things, you will see similarities but they do not have to be the same to be a prayer.
Finally there is a specific prayer which is the ritual that the Muslims do and it is the second pillar of Islam. So those are the different types of prayer. That prayer is divided into two. Now that prayer is done five times a day which is interesting also because 5 is an interesting number obviously. We have 5 finger and 5 toes on each side of our hands. You can say why 5 and ultimately those type of things are irrational not that they are crazy but they are not something that our rational minds can arrive at. I am somebody that does not like to go into numerology, it is not because I think numbers do not have a reality but numerology is a kind of path to insanity and that is traditionally the way that Muslim have looked at it. So numbers do have a reality, do not think they are not significant, they are very significant but generally we do not like to go there but I will make a few remarks about 5.
There are five pillars in Islam. There are five prayers in Islam. There are five rulings in every action. Every action falls into one of five categories. Five is a very interesting number. It is the first number that occurs as a sum of an even and an odd. So you have after one which is the divine number and belongs to Allah alone. Allah’s number is One. That is why Wahid is the first number and Ahad is not. One is God’s number but if you look at two and three, it is the even and the odd. “By the even and the odd”, Allah swears by the even and the odd. The even and the odd is also represented in the male and female. So the coming together of these two numbers produces five. It is an interesting number and we do pray five times a day.
The quintessence is the fifth nature which is the spirit, the ruh, because you have the four elements which we are composed of which is earth, water, fire and air. Then you have the quintessence which was the fifth essence, which is the spiritual essence which permeates the world. So we pray five times a day, three of those prayers are in when the sun is not visible and two of them are when the sun is visible. So they are divided by night and day. They are also done according to the movements of the sun which again is harmonising with the world so the idea of watching the sun. If you get up before dawn, Muslim should do that. You should have been up this morning if you pray, you should have been up before the sun went up just to see that every morning is something spectacular, just to go out and look at that phenomenon of the breaking of dawn, and what that means and then watching that sun move across and becoming aware of this movement that is occurring every day because one of the things about modern human beings is that they are so out of sync with reality just with nature I mean people are completely isolated. Food comes in packages. They do not experience the earth anymore. People live in cities that are all just cement and skyscrapers block out the sky. There a lot of people that do not even know that the sun traverses the sky everyday. They are not even aware of that fact. These astronomical centres get called all the time where people are horrified that they saw the moon during the daytime and they want to know why the moon is out in the daytime. I read that in an astronomy book where people just see the moon for the first time in the daytime and “what is it doing up there in the sky? That is only supposed to come out at night”. So this is the type of detachment that people have and I remember being in New Mexico with a group of inner city youth who had never been outside of new York or New Jersey and that night when the stars came out, they were in shock. They were literally in shock. One of the things that Emmerson said was “if the stars only came out every thousand years how would we even know how to adore God”. That is part of what the stars are about. That is why Ibrahim who is the father of the anbiya, what is the first thing that he does? He was kept according to one tradition in a sirdab for 12 years, he never saw the light of the day. When he was 12, he came out and it was his first experience of the world and he saw the stars and he said “this is my Lord” then he saw the moon and said “no this is my Lord”. They kept setting and then he saw the sun “this must be it” and then it set and he said “I do not love things that set”. In other words he knew that God was the One who did not set. So the ulema say it is using the starts to prove the existence of God that the order of the heavens is one of the ways of understanding that God is real. That is something guarantee you that studying the stars will increase your imaan. Just going out looking at them, watching them, just thinking about them.
So during those prayers and obviously we have a rakah. I am going to show you something and this is not mine, it is one of the Eqyptian scholars Imam Sawhi points it out in one of his aqeedah books. Scholars call this milah. One of the things that he said is the word Ahmad is the form of prayer, that you have a standing position and then a bowing position and then a prostrating position, sitting position. He said also it is in Adam’s name which is the standing, bending, sitting and sajdah. So the letters, the human being has been designed to pray.
One of the things you can notice when you do wudu is that you are designed, the wudu works perfectly. I mean if you watch, if you do wudu, you will realise that all of your limbs are made to do this. Each one of these positions of prayer and that is why you do not go down, you stop where it is natural to stop, as you go further down it begins to hurt, if you try to go any further you will feel the pain of that. Then the sajdah, the going down on all seven limbs. This is very interesting as well of putting, everything goes down. Sitting as well, sitting position so each one of these positions, the prayer confirms with the body perfectly and these are natural positions to do. Part of the reason why in Islam you pray is because your body should be sharing in the worship of God so the body itself is participating. You do not just sit and meditate, it is not in your head. Your body is actually worshipping with you and this removes this dualistic mind-body separation. It is very profound and really if you are on a strong path you will spend your life perfecting it and mastering it. You will never reach the ultimate prayer, and that is why the prayer is something that must be done every day five times a day until you die because one of the things about kadas, when you do a kada, the reason why they have to do them everyday is not just to keep on remembering the but to perfect them. Mastery in a martial art is a lifetime experience and every martial art, I don’t care if he has reached, he will admit to you, I am not as good as my teacher, I still have not perfected this. They are always working on that perfection. That is the thing about the prayer. It is a lifetime commitment. So that is why if you are doing it the same way every day. You are missing the point. You have fallen into a perfunctory routine. You have gone to sleep. That the prayer should be a commitment, it is a lifetime commitment to the mastery of the art of communicating with God.
Now obviously you have in Islam you purify your self before you do it and that is preparation for entering into this state like the ihram before Hajj. You are going into a scared space and you want to prepare for that space. The wudu is a way and wudua comes from brightness because the face will be luminous on the day of judgment and the arms and limbs from wudu. Wudua means to be luminous and bright. They said to the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) how will you know your followers? He said “they will be like the piebald horse”. You know how these horses have white, they are brown but they have white on their face and then the front and hind are all white, this is how he describes his followers. He said “from the effects of wudu”. Again what you are doing is preparing yourself for something that occurs in the next world which is the luminosity of practice. This is why if you have ever met anybody that has mastered anything, it has affected their being. I do not care if they are a master pianist, a master ballerina, whatever it is, you will see that they will have qualities that you do not find in ordinary human beings. I guarantee you, it does not matter what the mastery is. You will find that a committed practice to something in which a person has done it religiously every day, it has an effect on their character. That is why the highest thing that you can do is to work on perfecting your soul, on your heart, on your experience of the world as a theatre of divine manifestation. So that is what prayer is about and water is a purifying element. It is an outward element but it is the purest thing that we know of in the world. We talk about it in our language in metaphors “it was crystal clear, it was clear as water”.
Then the adhan which is another amazing thing because it is so extraordinary that other religions have these calls. The Jews call with the ram’s horn, the Christians have the bell. How did the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) through a dream, different people saw it, Bilal was one of them, they saw to call with the human voice, people to pray. Not to use anything artificial but to use the voice itself to call people to the prayer. Then saying Allah is Greater, I bear witness that there is no God but Allah, I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God and then hurry to prayer, hasten to prayer, hasten to falah, falah is harvest, that is what falah is. So what you are coming to is a harvest. That is what prayer is. You are reaping the benefit of the day because the day was made for prayer. If you miss the harvest you have missed the point of the day. It is just like somebody who has planted seeds all spring and then when the summer comes, it is time to harvest, they don’t go and they don’t harvest what they planted. So what was the point? The same as being in the world, the point of being in the world is this practice and that is why never belittle the reality of the prayer, the prayer is the most important thing you will do in your life as a constant practice. You should be committed to perfecting your prayer and it is a struggle. It is a struggle to be committed to wakefulness, to be committed to doing your wudu correctly all these things. Some people can see it as tedious but the beauty of practice and every master knows this is that the proof is in the pudding like the English say. The better you get, the more important the prayer becomes.
That is why the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said to Bilal “give our soul repose by calling is to the prayer O Bilal”. He said his repose was in his prayer and he said “the coolness of my eye is in prayer”. The Arabs use the coolness of the eye as cold tears are tears of joy. Hot tears are painful tears. Cool tears are the joyful tears so what he was saying was that the joy of my life is in my prayer. Prayer was not something that was dreadful to him. Adeeb al Hatim said “from the time I became Muslim I never heard the adhan except I was yearning for the time. From the time he became Muslim, he never heard the adhan and thought “O I gotta pray now”. Anybody who does prayer seriously you thank God for that, just that stopping. So the prayer is a gift and people that really practice it, you cannot imagine it. Even though I went for 18 years without doing the Muslim prayer, since I became Muslim I have never missed a prayer. I could not imaging not praying. I could not imagine it. I couldn’t, it is just something I could not imagine being deprived of prayer would be like deprived of breathing. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) in his beautiful description points out the prayers effect. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “tell me, if one of you had a river at his door and he washed in it five time a day, would any of his filthiness remain?”. They said ”nothing of his filthiness would remain”. He said ”that is the likeness of the prayer of five times a day, God obliterates wrongs with it”. So that is the part of going back to prayer. So that is the prayer, there is a lot of verses in the Quran to use the prayer as a way of taking succor and help from Allah.
The third pillar is zakat and zakah is purifying the wealth. So just as you need to purify your body with wudu, you purify your soul with prayer, you have property in the world and that property needs to be purified and zakah comes from a root word which means to purify. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “zakah is the faeces of wealth”, that is what he called it. He said that is why Bani Hashim does not take zakat because zakat is the impurities, it is fertiliser. What faeces is, is fertiliser and the animal has to get rid of faeces in order to stay healthy and pure so zakah is a way of keeping your wealth healthily. The miser and the one constipated is the same word in Arabic, mumsik. So a person who is a miser is constipated and they get sick spiritually. Their wealth is actually causing their soul to get sick and in giving out it is letting go and that is why it is not a Freudian insight, this idea that he called anally retentive personality which one of the symptoms of that person was to be a miser and that was Freud. It is not a Freudian insight that is the Arabic language. The word for pure gold and muconian stool is the same. So his insight about gold and facers being the same, the ancient Arabs knew that because it is in their language. That is what it is and the Prophet said in Imam Ahmad’s musnad “Allah has made that which comes out of the Son of Adam a metaphor for the world” and the meaning of that is the reason that you eat is not necessarily because you need to eat, part of it is the enjoyment of eating but everything you eat ends up in the toilet and that is the nature of the world. The world has all these beautiful aspects but at the end of the day it is a world that is in annihilation. It is going to rot and we will leave it just as the people before us left it and ultimately everybody has to leave it. So do not get too caught up in it, see it for what it is.
Now this is a really important point on page 16 which just this idea of zakah that you do not pay zakah unless you are healthy financially and the insight that they derive from that is that it is a typical example of how Islam sets up priorities. In other words you do not give zakat until you are able to do that so in those things that pertain between you and God, everybody has to do that but when it is you and society you only do what you are able to do and the reason for that is you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of the world and there is a beautiful metaphor in that because we have all these social activists that want to save the world and their own personal lives are a mess. So the idea of trying to save the world and your own soul is in jeopardy. It means your priorities are wrong and so the idea of zakah, it means you start taking care of others when you have taken care of yourself. That is when you need to start thinking about other people but if you are still in a mess do not try to help other people. Religious well being demands that they accept some measure of social responsibility so zakah has this idea of social responsibility. One of the reasons that the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “a person who marries has completed half of his religion” so then to look to the other half because if the family is healthy the society is healthy. When the society is well, it is as a result of the family being well. The same is true for wealth. If your own house is intact then you can help other houses.
The fourth pillar is fasting. It is fasting the month of Ramadhan. Obviously the lunar calendar has about 355 days, each month lasts 29 or 30 days and you can do it according to the crescent moon sighting. Now I want to just look a moment at the idea of looking for a crescent moon and refer you to what you could call a phenomenological astronomer. Someone who is interested in astronomy for the phenomena and not for the theoretical aspect of it. I would just like to read something. This is a Scottish man who is not a Muslim. He says something very interesting and it just strikes me that so many Muslims do not seem to see this. When I read this, it just articulated exactly how I have always felt about the point of looking at the moon and what significance that has for us.
He said “of prime importance is the determination of the start of the holy month of Ramadhan a time of fasting and devotion but Muslim communities have a habit of starting their celebrations on different days in any one year due to the varying locations and sky conditions for sighting the crescent moon. Places lying westwards of where the crescent moon can first be seen from the earth have a better chance of seeing it, the movement of the sun and moon is westwards and more time elapses before they arrive at the horizons of these places. For the moon to move out of the sun’s light at the start of its monthly journey, also some latitudes will have the zodiac standing at a deeper more visible angle to the horizon than others. That is the belt in which the moon travels. Then there are delays caused by weather, under good conditions it is possible to sight a first crescent less than 24 hours after a new moon. 15 hours is the least. There is a record of 13 hours but it would be very rare. But it is a common sight to see it 30 hours after. To increase the Islamic observers chances, two independent witnesses are required. The Ottomans decreed that the first sighting can be made with the naked eye or a telescope”. Now listen to this. “there are efforts to standardise the Islamic calendar so that Ramadhan is started on the same day in various communities but the relationship of celestial bodies to the earth is a living thing and every location has its own sky so why shouldn’t religious festivals begin on dates peculiar to particular places? The modern mind wishes to generalise and abstract the situation so the phenomena are by passed. As with the length of the day the average is calculated and becomes the accepted truth to accommodate the limits of circular wheels and clocks yet none of the celestial bodies move in circles”.
So what he is saying is you put all your averages in and you
will get this average and it will all work out, you can make your little
calendar and it all works perfectly but that is not nature. People forget that
a 24 hour day period, that is not real time, that is our standard time. Real
time is 23 hours and 56 minutes that is what a day is. So the idea of going out
and looking at the moon is connecting the earth with nature. I think it is
really interesting that before you pray you use water and if you don’t have
water you use earth. It is like touch the world. Touch these things, feel them.
You know how children, one of the things
they love to touch mud and get in there. They love to do that, why do they like
to do that? Because they are still connected with that. The word is very real
to them. We become so abstracted, so these things are bringing us back to these
basic elements of which we are composed, earth and water, prayer, movement. Get
in your body, people behind a desk all day never stopping. Watch a cat. A cat
could not sit behind a desk all day long. They are not insane. They have to
move, they have to experience, they have to feel that, that is what they have to
do. That is why cats do that. Then they do their wudu. They have to do all
those things. They even do the wiping over the head. Have you ever watched them
do that? That is what they are doing, they are in there. All these animals,
watch them, watch animals. People forget that the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) had goats in his yard,
we knew that he used to go out and milk them. He drank milk that came out of an
udder. Have you ever had milk directly out an udder? Really I mean that is what
Hakim is always asking people about that stuff. Have you experienced nature?
That is what going out and looking at the moon. Look at the moon. Have you ever
seen a new moon born? It is called wilada. It just comes into existence. It is
an incredible thing to witness and when you see it there is this thing that
happens within you SubhanAllah that is what happens and that is why Allah is
saying go out and look at that because I made that and that is a sign of My
existence. Go out and look at it and say SubhanAllah. Feel that because that is
reality. That is you as a conscious creature with this gift of consciousness
experiencing the Creator’s world that He made for your consciousness. He has
put it all together so that you could experience it because nobody else can. We
are unique. That is the gift He gave us and that is what it is about. That is
what Fasting, Ramadhan is – lunar. Why do we have lunar calendars? Here they
have caesarean sections, they do not want natural birth. It makes it so easy
because I have my golfing appointment and then at 11am and I just go and do the
op but children do not come out at . They come out whenever they want,
they come out when they are ready, they come out when Allah decrees for them to
come out but modern mind wants to fix it all. That is if you look at arial
cities of the Islamic world they look like cells. They literally look like
living cells. Look at
Now one of the things about fasting is that things that are normally permitted are suddenly prohibited. What does that do to things that are prohibited? They become extra prohibited and suddenly you aware of backbiting in a way that you are not aware of it during the rest of the year. Suddenly you are aware of looking at somebody lustfully in a way that you were not aware of it because you think “O my God I am fasting”. In other words, what is normally permissible is now prohibited and it makes the normally prohibited seem very very real and so it is a discipline of your soul. It is teaching you how to have taqwa. It is about purification of the body and soul. The body is here and it is real, do not ignore your body. Bodies are real, they are real. Allah made them it is such a great gift to be in the body and we should take care of the body. Be good to the body because the body is good to us.
That is why the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “your body has a right over you”. Non-Muslims look at fasting as this incredibly difficult thing, for Muslims it is the best time of the year because it is the time when they are closest to Allah. That is why, they are in a state of worship despite themselves. Just by sitting there, sleeping, they are worshipping because they are fasting. That is why even the sleep of a faster is worship and that is why you feel good in Ramadhan. You might not feel physically good but you feel spiritually good. So it is this beautiful proof every year. Another thing that he points out is that is beautiful is the justice of God. If you live in the UK, half the year you are going to be fasting really short periods and the other half really long periods but over a 33 year period which is the total cycle it will work out to the same amount of fasting that the people in the middle part of the world so everybody ends up fasting the same amount of time all throughout the world.
Every religion has this idea of pilgrimage and it is the
setting out on that journey and here it is a physical journey with a metaphysical
destination. It is a physical journey but the destiny is the House of God and
God does not have a house in which He dwells. So He put a house there as a
symbol of visiting God and you are a guest of God and that is why you are
called the guest of the Merciful. He put a rock there which He called the right
hand of God that you can go kiss in the same way that if you visit a king you
would kiss the right hand of the king so the rock there is symbolic of paying
homage to the benevolent monarch, benevolent king of whom you are subject.
Obviously it is also a recognition. One of the things about going to
Then also the gift of visiting the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam). That he is there, he is amongst us, you can go visit him. There is no other Prophet in the planet that anybody can go visit with any certainty. The Jews cannot go and visit Moses. No one can go and visit Isa. They can’t visit. This is a great gift that Muslims have been given, that their Prophet is there physically in Madinah. He according to the hadith actually returns greeting so this a real visit with a response and for people who have been there and been in the right state, they know what they tasted there, they know. You can go in with different states. There are people who go in there and do not see anything. There are other people who go in there and they are wading in light. Some people are not wading they are engulfed in it. Other people that is all they can see. There are many different visits to Madinah.
Now he talks about the sixth pillar. This is a Shia concept.
He studied in
One of the most important ways to keep in our bodies is to learn the outward rules of salah very well and to adhere to them in the same way you would when you first learn to drive. When you first learn to drive, it is very troublesome because you are so conscious of the rules especially if you have the teacher next to you but at a certain point it all becomes “it is just what you do”. So initially being obsessed with the rules is problematic because you are so focused on the rules you cannot focus on the spirit of the prayer but that is a necessary stage of the prayer so learning the rules really well until they become second nature and then you begin to work on your spiritual presence of the prayer. Part of that has to do with the amount of dhikr that you do during the day and that is why the more dhikr you do, the better your prayer. Also wudu is very important. Sidi Ahmad Zarruq said “your presence in your wudu determines your presence in your prayer”. One of the things that people do is that they do wudu very hastily and very ritualistically so their wudu is no longer an act of worship.
One of the best things that I was ever exposed to was watching Muratul Hajj do wudu because it really hit home the first time I saw it. It is a deep act of worship and we tend to forget that. Wudu is part of prayer. It is a very deep act of worship. Not doing wudu in a bathroom, no doing it where the toilet is very important. One of the things that Sidi Ahmad Zarruq was saying before you start your prayer recite Surah Naas just to remove the waswasa.
It is one of the proofs of Iblis because like when you do takbir sometimes, it is the weirdest thing, why did that suddenly come into my mind? That is that component that is working. It is very interesting. Literally you do takbir and waswasa comes. Tasawuf is on the words that is used to describe the science of ihsan. It is the inner fiqh. So that is all it is, it is an inner fiqh. Just like you have fuqaha that are wrong in their outward rules you have people of tasawuf that are wrong in their inward. That is part of the problem. People throw the baby out with the bathwater because there are people of tasawuf that went way out there. Then you have extremist fuqaha.
What I was going to say was in the West one of the reasons
that you have so much perversion in sexuality is because people are so removed
form their bodies. Sex becomes a very mental thing. Their experiences of sex is
all mental. It is a disease, they want perverse sex because they cannot just
experience a natural experience of being in the body. Very strange. You do not
have that in traditional cultures where people are very much in their body. You
do not have perverted sex. I guarantee you, in
In the hadith, why are the pillars described before faith?
Obviously the first rukun of Islam is shahada and that comes out of faith. So faith in a sense precedes Islam but you can enter into Islam and your faith is very immature and undeveloped. Faith is something that comes out of practice. It is developed through practice if the practice is done properly. There are some Muslim countries, I do not want to mention names but there are some Muslim countries where hypocrisy is the norm. Where people do these outward ritual which have no impact on their spiritual reality at all. You see the most horrendous examples of hypocrisy in people that pray, fast and do everything so it is no guarantee any of it.
During the Mamluke period, slaves actually became rulers so they saw that as a fulfillment of that prophecy.
Riyaa which is spiritual showing off. It is doing an act of devotion in other words to God hoping that people see it for whatever reason. Riyaa is definitely more significant in a spiritual society. We have showing off, if somebody is a good horseman and they se people, they do a fancy jump, that is not riyaa. That is just showing off. Riyaa is when you do an act that should be done for God that you are doing for other people to say “what a generous person”. That is riyaa. There are two types of riyaa. That which is only for the people which is the worst type. In other words, you do not even care about God, you give charity so people will say “he is a generous man”. The other is when you genuinely want to do something for God but you find this desire. That is something that people have to struggle with. Imam Malik was asked about a man who was on his way to the mosque who when he set out solely for the sake of God but on the way he is hoping somebody might see him. Imam Malik said it is human nature that that element exists.
There is the famous story of a man who used to go to prayer and he was in the first line every single day for 40 years. One day he went and he missed the opening takbir and he did not want people to see him. He realised he had had that riyaa for 40 years. I do not know if that is true or not but the meaning is nice. It is just letting you know that there is a lot of subtle levels there that we are not even aware of. That is part of spiritual development. That is why they say “the good actions of righteous people are wrong actions for the people in divine presence”. That is why each maqam that you move to you start saying astagfirullah for the previous maqam because you realise how many things you were doing wrong, how many things that you thought you were doing were right. You get to a higher level of awareness, you realise “I was doing it for the wrong reason”. It is a journey, that is why it is called a path. It is a journey. May Allah help us to realise the right one.
I wanted to go over some concepts for people to understand about jihad because probably of all the topics related to Islam the two most common misconceptions I would say are probably those concerning jihad and those concerning women. Most of the attacks on Islam generally tend to focus on those two elements so I would like to talk about this first from what he mentions in this book. He mentions the idea of holy war as misleading and it is inaccurate translation. Holy war in Arabic if you did have a word for it, the Arabs actually do not, would be Harb Muqasada. The Arabs do not have a concept of holy war in that way, in fact it is actually a Christian concept and coming out of the just war concept and crusades. So the word in Arabic that is used and has in fact become an English word sometimes with a negative connotation and other times with a positive, it has been used both ways by journalists and other people.
Jihad comes from a root word which is juhud which has the idea of exerting energy. “He exerted his utmost ability” so the idea behind the word jihad and juhud is known as a verbal noun from jahada wa jahidu. The Quran says “Struggle against them with it, with the Quran a great jihad, a great struggle” which means argue with the polytheists using the Quran as the weapon of argumentation against polytheism because the Quran although it never proves the existence of God it is constantly focusing on the unity of God. So the idea was to use the arguments that the Quran presents for the oneness of God in order to explain to the people who believed in more than one god that there was one God so that is a type of jihad in the Quran. That is a great jihad, that is why the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and the Quran says “struggle with them, with your wealth, with yourselves” and also it says to the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) “to fight with them with your tongues” in other words argumentation. In fact argumentation not being disputation but rather civil debate, civil discourse because the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) if a conversation became heated he would withdraw. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) did not engage in disputation but rather in civil debate or discourse where we sit down and try to look at a problem from both sides and so you put your proofs forward, the other person puts his proofs forward and you attempt to convince somebody of a superior way. That is a civil discourse and that is jihad bil lisaan. The Quran says “and dispute with them in an excellent way” which is civil discourse using intelligence and using reason. Now the interesting thing is that war is actually when that breaks down in other words coercive force is what is used when people are not able to speak to each other in any civil way so war is actually a collapse of intelligent discourse. That is why in essence it is a very stupid thing. War is an incredibly stupid thing and that is why the Quran tells us not to be aggressors because the nature of the aggressor is he is somebody who is unable to obtain what he wants so he resorts to other ways, violent means to getting what he wants. Those type of people usually want wrong things, things that are not theirs and that is why the essence of conflict generally has to do with one person or one group of people aggressing on another group of people. So what happens is one side if is aggressed on and the other side is the aggressors. The people who are aggressed upon are the people in the Quran that are permitted to fight and this is why at the essence of physical or martial conflict and that is why when we look at jihad, there are three Quranic concepts.
The first is struggling against the self. The idea that there is an internal conflict going on so actually have to struggle with your self and part of struggling with yourself is struggling with the passions and the passion are your bestial nature. So your struggle with that is your reason and that is why when somebody is attempting not to do something that is wrong and struggle against those impulses, what he is using a higher power and the higher power, is the aql. That is why the essence of intellect in Arabic means that which constrains you or that which prevents you from doing some thing that will lead you astray. Aql yaquli means to stop, to prevent and other Arabic word that they use for intellect is nuha which comes from that which refuses or that which prevents yanha. So the essence of the intellect is that it prevents a human being from going astray. Now those people that do not listen to intellect, Allah says about them “they are like animals” but then He says “they are even more astray”. The reason for that is that animal do not do things that harm them. If an animal knows there is harm in something, it will avoid it. If an animal sees fire, it will flee from the fire. If an animal seems something that threatens it, it will either defend itself if it does not see any other venue or if by its nature the threat that it deems within its power like a lion if it is threatened by a lesser animal, the lion will tend to fight because it knows it can overpower.
So the idea of human beings resorting to the bestial element in itself is a capitulation, it is the idea of surrendering the self to something that is low and that is why if you look at the human body itself the higher organs, the heart and the intellect are an upper body and the lower organs the stomach and the genitals are upon the lower body. So the idea is that this is the way that the human being should be. He should be the ruling force, in the human being should be the heart and intellect and the subjugated force should be the bestial nature. What happens with human beings is that they become overcome by their bestial nature and so hunger and craving which is the essence of desire overwhelms the intellect so they begin to want things that are harmful for them. This is why they are worse than animals because an animal will only take what it needs. Lions do not go out and slaughter, they take what they need and they leave the rest maybe for another day but if they are not hungry they are not going to kill 10 zebras. They will kill what they need to kill and that is the difference between a human, the predations of humans are not needs. So when a predator animals attacks another animal it attacks out of need not out of want or desire. So this is very different. There is only a few animals that appear to be unprovoked. Sharks will attack unprovoked and so will certain snakes as well. There are a few snakes and there is a baboon that will attack unprovoked but it is very rare in the animal kingdom for an animal to attack unprovoked.
All creatures that have emotion and intellect, humans beings, have a self defence mechanism. It is part of human nature to defend yourself. If you fall your reaction is to put your arm out, you do not fall on your face. Human beings will not do that. In fact one of the first things they teach you in martial arts is to fall properly because you tend to want to put your hand out and break your wrist. So they teach you to learn how to fall in a way that is not actually going to harm you but the impulse is to brace yourself, is to defend yourself. The same if somebody begins to attack the thing to do is to cover your face, to protect your face. If somebody throws a blow at you, if you just stand there and o not defend yourself something is wrong with your nervous system. It is not functioning so self defence is a human, it is actually ingrained in us to defend ourselves and that is why every civil law on the planet recognises the right to self defence. There is no law that does not whether it is a Muslim or non Muslim every law recognises that a human has the right to defend himself from bodily harm, from harm to property all of these things. The first jihad is that struggle against the self and this is what makes a human being human. Bahani says that a human being…there are two words in the Quran used for human, one is bashar and the other is insaan. A bashar, it is that quality that distinguishes us from other animals so for instance birds are distinguishable from their feathers. Birds have feathers. Mammals have fur. If you look at mammals, they have fur. Human beings have skin. That is why we are called bashar. Bashar is from bashara which means skin. So the human is when you say he is a bashar you say he is a man. That is when the Prophets, what do they say about the Prophets, that say “you are just a human like us” but they are not saying insaan, they are saying bashar.
All of us share basharia but we do not all share insaaniyah in truth just as an act of generosity from God that He calls us insaan. What Ragab says if you can imagine a dog standing on its two legs as opposed to four and talking in a language then you can imagine the state that many humans beings are in. That they only share their humanity in the form not in reality and there is a verse in the Quran “We have enobled the children of Adam” and that enoblement is that we have been placed in this incredible noble form, we are not like animals, we do not walk on all fours, we do not have to go down to a plate, we take things up to our mouths. I do not have to go down and lick and lap up my water like a dog that I actually have this ability to feed myself. All these qualities that the human being has been given so acquiring virtuous qualities or noble qualities is actually a difficult thing. It takes time, it is not something that human beings are born with. Compassion is something that needs to be nurtured now some people you will have this naturally. It is something that Imam Ghazali mentions and other great scholars that there are some people who have virtuous qualities by nature. There are other people who do not. You will see in children, some children want to share things, other children refuse completely to share things and will become belligerent if they are made to share things. They have to learn. There are children that beat other children. There are other children that could not do that and would feel terrible about that. Now these qualities tend to be the more aggressive qualities in human beings are much more marked in men than they are in women and there is a reason for that as well. There is a reason why that even in their form they are less bestial than men. Women have certain qualities that are related to their biology and it has to do with the fact that they produce children. So there are certain qualities that are inherent just because they have the hormones. Some it is purely chemical and also it has to do with the fact that there is a womb raham and the essence of the womb is mercy. The word in Arabic raham, rahma are the same root words – the womb and mercy because the essence of mercy is in the womb. That is why Allah has derived the womb, He actually derived the womb from His name the Merciful. So the womb is derived from an attribute of God. That is what women have that men do not have. That is why the humanising factor in societies are women. The mother is the humanising factor and without that if the mother is destroyed then it is a disaster for the rest of society.
So this idea of acquiring virtue to become a human being to achieve one’s insaaniyah to achieve one’s insaaniyah to achieve one’s humanness is very difficult. That is a struggle.
At the root are four virtues. Courage,
temperance, wisdom and then justice. These are the root virtues that human
beings are meant to develop in their lives. All virtues come out of one of
these four virtues. So courage which is the first and most important virtue
because upon it the other ones are based. Generosity is actually the daughter
of the mother virtue which is courage because generosity is courage with one’s
wealth. Patience is also a type of courage because it is a lack of anxiety when
a calamity afflicts you and that is from a type of courage. So being patient is
rooted in courage so courage in English, courage the root word is core which is
heart. The essence of courage is the heart and so somebody who has courage has
a lot of heart and that is why the Arabs when they say in
From that it gives birth to contentment and from contentment, what comes from contentment is trustworthiness because somebody who has chastity and chaste used to mean not just with sexual mores, it has to do with everything now it is pretty much limited to the idea of temperance had to do with moderation in all things and that moderation lead to this chastity or chaste nature – a pure, virtuous nature. Then obviously from wisdom comes understanding. The virtues of the mind and intellect and then finally justice. At the essence of justice is a desire for fairness. The essence of justice is insaaf is fairness and it is very difficult. Very few people are fair in this world. Even people who are oppressors or who are oppressed will always look at the other with total lack of fairness, always. So an oppressor will always look at the one he is aggressing upon with a total lack of fairness. That is why true justice is very difficult to come about in the world because of human nature, it is so difficult for human beings to be fair to be truly fair.
The beauty of justice comes mercy. In the traditional understanding mercy came out of justice and the reason for that is an emotion that emerges when one sees somebody who is suffering or who is in a situation that he is not and from it arises this sense that this person does not deserve that. In other words, that fact that I am not in that condition, I do not want that condition for that person and that is justice. That is why mercy emerges out of justice. It is an extraordinary concept because we usually tend to see mercy and justice as mutually exclusive. You are either just or you are merciful but true mercy is actually emerging out of real sense of justice. That you do not observe that. That is why when God shows mercy to His creatures, that is coming from His justice. That is why the Quran says “my mercy outstrips my justice”. In other words, justice if the two race mercy always wins and from this idea of mercy emerging then the idea of forebearance.
Forebearance is the ability to despite somebody
aggressing upon you, to actually have this forebearance, this ability not to
desire retribution. From that virtue emerges, the virtue of forgiveness or
pardoning, that is why that is the highest virtue. The amazing thing about
forgiving, there was a really interesting study that was done in Stanford I
think, they worked with these people that were in
This is ancient tradition. Now the second type of mujahidah is the mujahidah of shaytan. Shaytan in the Islamic tradition is a force that exists in the world. There is an obersive element within the soul, a whispering that comes into the soul and also outside of oneself. It has two forms: human shayateen and jinn shayateen. Shayateen al jinn are the demons that work within another realm. Just as we are here and can see each other. There are other creatures that love along side of us that have impact on our life and we have an impact on their life but we cannot see them, they can see us. Every culture in every civilisation has reference to them. There is no culture in that you can find, I don’t care where, whether it is Japanese, if it is Indian, Russian, Irish no culture except that it has reference to this realm. German the poltergeist, mischievous spirits and things like this. Japanese culture is filled with it. They are real and they do have an impact. The way that one struggles against them is by cleanliness, by maintaining vigilance and cleanliness – urine and faeces, wudu, ritual washing, things like this. This is why most culltures have some traditions that they ward of these elements. Some of the native American tribes would burn sage in south western parts of the country to remove these elements. Incense traditionally was one of the things because the idea was they do not like good smells. That is why incense is almost a universal phenomenon. You find incense in the Christian traditions, in the Shinto, Buddhist, the Islamic tradition. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “fumigate your mosques with incense”. That is part of why this is there and also wearing perfume is also a good thing. Not listening to these impulses in the self, everybody has them whether you call them obsessive compulsive thoughts, whatever people want to call them. Psychiatrists have words for them when they get out of hand, people start having auditory hallucinations. This is what they are called, auditory hallucinations. Muslims believe that they are real. You cannot deny their reality because there are people that experience and hear them. To say it is all in your head, well it might all be in your head but it is still there. So these guys walking around, you can see them. You go to some place and they are talking and shouting. They are having these battles going on and that is called majnun, somebody who is majnun.
Now the third type of jihad is the jihad which demands that you defend what is right. That is the jihad of the sword. There are many verses in the Quran that indicate this. It did not come down all at once. It came down for 13 years. The Muslims were not allowed to fight in Makkah. They were given no permission whatsoever. That is why they simply suffered silently. They did not fight, they did not oppose what was happening to them. That was very difficult for these Arab men, people like Abu Bakr, these were men who were raised in a tradition of murooha, shaj’ah, shahama, these virtues of the Arabs of strength bravery and magnimity. So for them to watch people being persecuted in the way that they were watching and not able to do anything about it was incredible difficult. So that in itself was a test, not being able to fight was a big test. It is not the other way round but when the verse came down after 13 years the sahaba migrated to Madinah. Now at that point the difference now is that there is a state of authority and I am using the word state loosely. In other words I don’t want to use state like it is understood in the modern concept of a state because that is not really what Madinah was but they did have power that was centralised and it was a city state in that way. So at that point they were permitted to fight. This was the first verse that came down permitting them to fight “permission has been granted for those who have been fought to fight because they were oppressed”. Now remember this is 13 years later, they were persecuted from the start but permission came when the circumstances changed. The idea of fighting when you do not have legitimate state authority is not permissible. It never has been. The Muslims have never viewed that. Permission to fight comes when you have state authority. That does not mean an individual does not have the right to defend himself from being killed but if you look at the sahaba and the situations that they were in: some of them were tortured, some of them were killed. Sumayyah was stabbed with a spear, the first shahida, the first martyr in Islam. This was the first verse that came down and Allah said “those who were chased out of their homes without right for no other reason than saying my Lord is Allah”. Now this is really important because these are the two reasons that permission is granted to fight.
- People who oppose your religion
- People who steal your land
This is why Allah says in the Quran “Allah does not prevent you from showing kindness to people who have not opposed you in your religion or chased you out of your homes, to show them kindness, righteousness, to share your wealth with them and Allah loves those who are upright and just and fair”. Allah does not prevent Muslims from being kind to non Muslims but if they are fighting you in your right to worship your Lord and stealing your land and chasing you out of your homes then you have the right to fight them. That is the permission that is granted by Allah in the Quran. The second period is to fight the mushrikeen “fight those fisabilillah who fight you and do not be aggressive for Allah does not love the aggressors”. The ulema say that the fact that Allah does not love aggressors, you cannot change that. In other words the muhaba of Allah, the love of Allah is not fickle love. If Allah does not love aggressors, He does not love aggression in any time or place and so aggression is always wrong. That is why when Allay says that “fight those who fight you and do not show aggression”.
The next level Allah said “fight the polytheists completely just like they fight you completely”. Now this time because these people broke treaties with the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam), this is something very important to remember about the nature of war, that war occurs generally between two states. This is the nature of war. You can have what is called a civil war but in Islam that is called fitnah. What occurred between the Muslims and the mushrikeen was in a type of sense a fitnah and the reason for that is that they were one tribe. They were related by a shared father. Quraysh was the father of all the people in Makkah and for that reason Allah when they fought in the sacred month “they ask you about the sacred month” because the Arabs had four months that they never fought in. They asked about the sacred months, fighting in it because they had never heard of this. So Allah says “fighting in the sacred month is an enormity, it is a grave thing”. Preventing people from following their religion, disbelieving in what was given to them, rejecting it completely, preventing them from the sacred sanctuary, Makkah and then chasing people out is worse than that. This type of social division and dissention is worse than killing itself.
In other words, that there are times that the actual
engaging in martial conflict is better than allowing certain situations to
emerge. That is why when Allah says in the Quran “you will have see churches,
temples, synagogues and mosques wherein Allah’s name is recited often destroyed”
because of predations of aggressive and velacose people fighting each other so
Allah says “if Allah had not used one group of people to stop another group of
people” and in another verse it says “there would be nothing but corruption on
the earth”. This is an admittance or rather a teaching in the Quran that the
root of human nature is aggressive. The founding fathers when they were arguing
whether you had a confederation, this was the first big debate when they were
ratifying the articles of federation. Hamilton wrote a piece saying “we did not
want confederation because if you have a group of confederate states, each one
of them an individual state, you are setting yourselves up for war and that is
why he said there should be a centralised government and this is what monarchy
means “ one source of authority”. It is what it means in Greek. War occurs when
people do not accept the same sources of authority. This is at the root of war
and that is why the idea of international law is only valid in an international
community that accepts the laws. If you have vogue states that do not accept
the law, now part of the trickery of modern state theory is that the
international community itself, they are vogue states. This is part of the problem.
So far instance the real calamity right now, people do not know this, it is not
So if you look at the Muslim world now the fact that there are not mass revolutions and revolts is a testimony to the incredible patience on behalf of the Muslims. I mean I really believe that. It is a testimony to the fact that because they believe in God, because they believe in a sense that they know in essence that this about their own states not their governmental states but their spiritual states. In other words the conditions that we find ourselves in a society are reflections of the overall health of that society which at root is a spiritual health. A society is either well spiritually or sick spiritually and unfortunately the vast majority of people are very sick so this idea of jihad it is a noble concept. It is the idea of fighting for what is right, it is as simple as that and people have a right to do that. They have a right to defend their homes, to defend their religion, to defend their lands against the predations of aggressors. The Quran says “always be in preparation”. Why? Because the best way of maintaining peace is to always be prepared for war and that is unfortunately a truth of the world that we are living in until human beings can sit down and have a civil discourse and work out their problems like human beings. As long as you have people out there that are living to get and take what they want by hook or by crook by force and by power then you need to have people prepared to stand up against that.
Pacifism, the pacifist at the end of the day is
somebody that becomes landless and a victim and that is why Aboriginal people
traditionally the reasons they survived is that they lived in places that nobody
wanted. Now they want the
Now unfortunately in the modern Muslim world and
are signs of the end of time and I will say about jihad if you look at the rules
of enagagement, who determines the rules of engagement? Islamic rules of engagement
in the Mukhtasir of Sidi Khalil, it is prohibited to use poisoned arrows which
is basically biological warfare. I mean Muslims developed rules of engagement. The
Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “do not poison the wells
of your enemies” This is biological warfare or chemical warfare basically. “Do
not use fire in fighting your enemy because only Allah punishes with fire”.
Nuclear holocaust. We use incendiary
bombs all the time in this country. We use incendiary bombs. People are
incinerated literally and you can see in Nagaski,
One of the worse crimes in Islam and one of the greatest wrong actions is predating during war, to actually take property from people. No, the imam has to collect the property and then it is distributed. There are rules of engagement to make people civil in their behaviour. Abu Bakr when he sent his troops out said “do not poison wells, do not cut fruit trees, do not kill old people, do not kill women and children”. He would actually walk about and remind them of these principles and these were completely alien to the jahili Arabs. These were deeply revolutionary ideas. Jihad is grossly misunderstood, it is an unfortunately reality. I just want to finish this section in saying one thing. Last century, almost 200 million people were killed in war. 200 million people, the majority of whom were civilians. Unprecedented by far more than all of the human wars prior to that in one centuary because of modern technology. Now those people were not killed in the name of religion. They were killed in the name of communism, socialism, facism, democracy, whatever. Everything but religion. So this idea that religion causes wars is simply not true. Humans cause war, it is as simple as that. Humans are belligerent and Aristophiles the Greek playwright indicated that is really the men who are belligerent and the only war is going to stop this is if women go on strike and stop producing sons for these old men to send out to die.
There is a beautiful scene in a film that was
done, I think it was 1929 or 1930 “All Quiet on the Western Front” it is
an-anti war film that was prohibited. They did not allow it be shown in this
country. There is a scene where these German soldiers are all sitting around.
It is World War One. One of them says “how did the war start?”. The other
German says “Well France offended
The next section he goes is the shariah which is the sacred law and I want to say about that when people think about the shariah you have to be careful because there is no concept whatsoever in Islam of a theocracy. This is one of the modern myths that have been perpetrated by modernist types of Muslims. The idea that Islam is a theocracy. If you look up theocracy in the dictionary it says “the rule of God or those who stand in the place of God”. Isn’t it interesting that the word for Abu Bakr when he was called the Khalifah, he was called Khalifah ta Rasulullah. He was not called Khalifatullah. He was called the Khalifah of the Messenger of God not of God because the only one that can truly rule with God’s judgment is the Prophet of God. No one else. If Prophets are not walking the earth then nobody has that authority to say that this is the rule of God. It is as simple as that. What the Muslim shariah is in essence, understanding any circumstance you find yourself in. Each circumstance will have a ruling. One of the five rulings:
1. An obligation or a requirement which is wajib, you have to do it, paying charity
2. Something which is recommended highly encouraged to do. Zakat is wajib, sadaqah is mandoub. If someone is in need even though you have paid your 2.5% of zakat, if you see somebody in need, it is encouraged, you do not have to do it. It is highly encouraged to do it.
3. The permissible which is the majority of things in this world are simply permissible.
4. Mubah. Nobody can tell you have to do it, nobody can tell you, you cannot do it. It is just a permitted act. The majority of acts in this world are permitted. Then you have disliked actions like talking too much without benefit is disliked. To talk as in just chew the fat or something like that in this culture that type of talk is permissable unless it becomes excessive because there are things that are prohibited to say. You cannot backbite against people.
5. Prohibited: the things that are prohibited in this world are very few. If you take Imam Malik’s position all that is prohibited “what is prohibited is from eating is carrion (dead flesh), blood, pig, meat and anything that is sacrificed for other than God”. That is it and even that if he is forced to do it not out of transgression then there is no sin in that you can even eat pig if you have to eat pig if you are starving. So those are the only things that are prohibited. That intoxicants are prohibited, that is it “Do not go near fornication” it is a foul thing and has a bad end effect on society”. One you allow fornication, just look at the end results, venereal diseases, illegitimate children, breakdown of family. That is all the Quran says, it is a bad road to take. Do not go down that road. Do not slander people. Do not steal. Pretty basic things that is what is prohibited. If you want to understand the essence of shariah is that it is a logical set of understandings that enables you to live your life without harming yourself or others, that is the essence of shariah. I will give you the essence as the usoolis understand it. There are five things or six, some break the dignity into lineage, honour and name.
Every single ruling in the shariah in the sacred law of Islam is designed to preserve one of these five things:
- Religion because that is why you were created to worship God so preservation of religion and the beauty of Islam even though it is the preservation of Islam it also demands that Muslims preserve the right for other people to worship in their land. That is why the Hanafi and Maliki fiqh have even supported the Hindus, Buddhists and every religion to worship as they see their God or whatever they worship. Therefore commanding us to pray is to preserve religion. Commanding us to fast to preserve our religion. All these things hajj to preserve the religion.
- Protection of life: That is why the prohibition of killing to preserve life. So all the laws that related to transactions and treating people correctly in things have to do with the preservation of life and property. You can create wars and things like that if you treat people wrongly. You can end up fighting and things like that. “Do not kill a soul that Allah has made sacred”, “whoever kills a soul without just do or as a result of brigands or highway robbers and things like that in the earth (people that sow corruption on the earth) it is as if he has killed all humanity” so the soul is sacred, every human soul whether they are Jew, Christian, Buddhist, Hindi whatever. The soul is sacred and you have no right to take the soul without permission so those laws that related in shariah to preservation of life.
of property, of intellect. The prohibition of intoxicants is to preserve
the intellect. That is why they are prohibited because the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “intoxicants are
the roots that the matrix of so many foul things” and he said “that a man
will become so drunk and end up sleeping with his child or his relative or
kill somebody and not even know it”. Manslaughter, 50,000 people die every
year in US because of drink drivers and people intoxicated. Most of the
deaths on the road in accidents in
are related to drugs and alcohol. The prohibition of drugs and alcohol, people said we tried that in this country. We tried the temperance movement. The truth is that Muslims because they believe in it that it is from God, I mean if you think it is not God that has told you not to drink but it is just the government “well why should I do that if it is just the government, it is an absolute arbitrary law” whereas if you really believe it is from God for your protection and preservation then that is a different matter. That is why the Muslims generally have lived in societies, if you go to America , it is almost impossible to find drug taking and alcohol people, because people believe in that. They do not drink for that reason. I became Muslim when I was 18 and before that I had not touched anything. Before that I was just like teenagers in this country exposed to those things. You give it up for the sake of God. So I lived my entire adult life without every touching any intoxicant. I have not missed it, I am glad that I did not, I am glad I was protected from all that sorrow and suffering and things related to that. Then also the preservation of property. Prohibition of gambling, prohibition of usury, Prohibition of stealing, of theft, of embezzlement all these types of things to preserve property. Mauritania
- Preservation of lineage. Prohibits fornication to preserve lineage and also honour, dignity. That is why it is prohibited to slander and backbite, to speak ill of people because they have their name, their name is sacred and also you honour people’s names by not speaking ill of them. Unless you have a just reason to do that like in a court of law where you have to testify against somebody and then that rule is set aside for the greater good so there is a situational type of ethics here. There are things that override other things. That is why it is permitted to kill somebody who has taken life.
So that is the shariah. Shariah is a logical set of
principles and precepts. There are a few things that the Quran has legislated
clearly. One of them is inheritance and the reason for that is because one of
the things that breaks families apart is the distribution of wealth after death
of a wealthy relative so what shariah does it apportions that. Now out of nine
categories, six of them are women. The things about Islam is that women did not
inherit even in 19th century
The Quran and Sunnah and the historical embodiments talks about the madhabs and I want to go over that very quickly. The basic four Sunni madhabs came out of a recognition that there are many ways to interpret a verse for instance the Quran says about divorce that you should wait, the word it uses is “quru” and qur in Arabic means it is from the opposite words. It means the time in which a woman is menstruating but it also means the time she is free from menstruating. There was no clarification from the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) about which one it was and so it became an ijtihadi issue. Some of the scholars said it means the time between periods. Other said it means the time of the period. The reason that we believe that God left it like that is that it forces people to think that part of the reason that the Quran was revealed was to force people to use their intellect “We sent down this Quran in order to force you to think”. That is one of the meanings of that verse, in order for you to use your intellect. Ijtihad means it comes from jihad to exert one’s utmost intellectual endeavour, to understand the intentions behind a verse of hadith. That is what ijtihad is. For that reason there are multiple interpretations and therefore the shariah is open to interpretation as long as it is not crazy or something that is off the wall. Generally there are many different opinions. Abu Hanuifah for instance believes that Muslim and non Muslims are equated in murder so if a Muslim kills a non Muslim the the Muslim dies. Imam Malik did not. He said that they had to pay the blood money. That is a difference of opinion. You get those types of differences of opinion in the shariah and those are all open to discussion and debate.
I think a very interesting section here which is jurisprudence and politics. One of the things that modern Muslims have really come to believe is Islam is a political philosophy which is very interesting because that at its essence is the claim of Zionism. Zionism turned Judaism into a political philosophy. One of the signs of the end of time is that the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said that “you will follow Bani Israil”, you will become like Bani Israil and just as Bani Israil wanted a Zionist state there are now modern Muslims that want this thing called an Islamic state. An Islamic state is the idea that you can force people to be good Muslims which is a completely instance idea. It has never existed and it will never exist. If you think religion can be legislated by a government you are completely deluded. It is a delusional state and I have no other word for it and Allah says in the Quran “do you think that you can force people to be believers?”. Do you think that you can force people to believe? It does not work. Islam is an internal mechanism. The best thing a government can do is to provide as close as possible a court system that is not open to bribery. Even the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “out of three judges, 2 go to hell” which is bad odds. That is why traditionally Muslims scholars never wanted to be judges and that is why all four of the imams were completely apolitical. They were not involved in politics. The only political stand that Ahmad bin Hanbal took was actually not a political stand. It was related to aqeedah because he declared openly that the Quran was uncreated because the mutazalite had convinced the ruling party that the Quran was created. It was a stupid period, people did stupid things. Abu Hanifah refused to enter into politics and was imprisoned for it. Imam Malik, if you read the entire mu’aduna does not have one political statement . He was once accused of sympathizing with Muhammad Nafz Zakia who was on the family for the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) that led a rebellion in the Hijaz. He did not have political positions. All he was doing was teaching shariah. If you want to learn and apply it, murhaban, if you do not then good luck in the akhirah. That is the way that religion has to be. It has to be free of politics. Once the scholar becomes engaged in the political process he is corrupted by it because that is the nature of the world. It is a corrupting element and you do not want religion to be tainted by the temporal. You always want religion to have that atemporal quality to it. That is why Islam did not create a priesthood an ecclestical society. The idea is that every believer should try and be as close to God as he or she can. So you do not want a group of priests dictating for you. Anybody can become a scholar. There is no ordainment. Scholars if they are really routed and trained can have differences of opinion. There is no official church theory. The Pope says “no you all have to agree with me”, no the ulema differ one of them says this and another says that and people are deemed intelligent enough with common sense to be able to discern right and wrong in a healthy society.
This modern concept is really unfortunate. It
has just had a really bad effect on the Muslims because what happens is that if
these guys get into power they will be just as bad as the previous governments
if not worse. They will create the same intelligence mechanisms and they will
do the torture, the same thing. If you do not think that this country has it,
we have it. It just does not happen in the same way. The school of the Americas
they trained people to do torture and do all that stuff but they do it in South
America, they do it in the Middle East that is why some of the Qaida guys, they
want to interrogate them in other countries. So they can put the electrodes on
and do all that stuff and feel good about it because it did not happen inside
That is why Muslims always saw that scholars that were aligned with government rulers or leaders that were in their pay and things like that to visit them, to speak the truth that is encouraged. An alim should go and if he is able to tell the truth to an oppressor or a ruler. Most rulers are oppressors in one way or another, that is encouraged but to become a court mullah, the real scholars fled from that like they would flee from a lion because they knew what it meant and then in our view of things politics was never a very important issue for the vast majority of Muslims throughout history like most people. Many Muslim thinkers were intensely interested in establishing social harmony and equilibrium on the basis of shariah but they did not see this as something that should or could be instituted from above and that is the truth. I mean you look at all these ulema and read their books, they never saw the idea that you could institute ethics and morality in a society. Ethics and morality comes from families, comes from how you were raised, how your parents taught you and whether you are going to live upto those morals that they gave you. In bad societies, parents do not have ethics and morals to transmit to their children. A lot of the world now it is just very little real ethical and moral behaviour because people are not raised with those ideals anymore. They see their parents cheating and doing all those things and that is what they end up doing. So it is as simple as that.
It is mentioned that the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) considered suicide……
That was wrong. Those narrations have never been considered sound by scholars. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) would never have contemplated suicide but he was troubled by that.
As we as American taxpayers accountable for our states decision to sell weapons?
There is some accountability if you are paying taxes. There is some accountability. Theroux went to jail because he would not pay taxes. Read “Civil Disobedience”, when I was growing up they taught that in high school. I am not sure if they still teach it anymore probably not pay taxes because he thought the government was supporting slavery. He thought that was wrong. When his friend Emmerson went to get him out he looked up and said “Henry what are you doing in there?”. He looked at Ralph and said “what are you doing out there?”. He said “in an unjust society the only place for a just man is in jail”.
The global war picture, is it a war of religion?
I think it is a very strange thing but I think
right now what it seems to me that is going on is there is a lot of money to be
made now in war. The one great detriment historically for war was commerce
which is why Muslims are always commercial states and Muslims actually
preferred peace to war because they liked to do business, they liked to trade
with people and when you have a society whose number one industry is war, you
have a problem and Israel is the biggest arms producer outside of America and
France. It is just massive arms production. I do like fairness, you know the
Arabs have been saying for years they are going to chase every Jew into the
ocean and Europeans were stuck in the middle of the
Unfortunnately the Jews were treated like dirt
for centuries in
One thing that I wanted to say about jihad that I did not mention in the session was that and this leads into the madhabs. There is a difference of opinion about the reason for jihad. Out of the four Sunni imams and they are Abu Hanifah, Imam Malik, Imam Shafi and Imam Ahmad and before I go into explaining that I’ll just…..and that is the section here. When the initial Islamic event occurs which begins in 610 with the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) the beginning of the revelation and ends in approximately 632 in which the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) passes. During this time the Quran was being revealed and initially the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) prohibited them from writing down his words because he did not want the Quran to be mixed with the hadith. Just to explain the difference for the people who do not know. The Quran is Muslims believe that this is directly from God to the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) through Jibril. There is no other means of transmission. The Quran came, everything that the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) uttered that as from the Quran according to the Muslims came through Gabriel.
There is a second source of revelation which is called hadith and hadith is anything that the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said or was said of him or was done in his presence or said in his presence and he agreed with it. Then some add to that a fourth category which is descriptions of the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam). So generally that is what hadith is, obviously the strongest one would be the one he himself said.
Now the Quran is over 6000 verses and it comes in 114 chapters or surah which means enclosure. It is made of ayah which are roughly translated as verses and of over 6000 verses of the Quran there are approximately 500 that directly related to legislative matters. The vast majority of the Quran does not relate to legislation. It actually relates to what we understand about God and then the historical process, history, its purpose, what human beings are here for, a lot of it is calling human beings to reflect on the creation, some of it tells us of the stories of those who went before us, this conflict between the prophetic tradition and the pharonic tradition. The Quran in a sense sets up a dialect in the world between a pharonic impulse to control and a prophetic impulse or prophetic truth to liberate people from control models and to enter into a type of submission in which they are no longer subjugated to these control models that tyrannise them and keep them basically trapped in delusional ways of viewing the world and what the world is here for. So the pharaoh, his symbol is the pyramid. It is a very interesting symbol because the pyramid is moving to a human apax which is the Pharaoh and his inner circle and the rest of that society is supporting that structure. So human beings are really seen as servants of those in power or those in charge and those in charge then have magicians.
They have four components that the pharonic model has. Firoun which is the political component, Haman which is the economic component, it is the economic power base. Then there is the military component which empowers both the political and the economic to do what they want. Allah says that all of them are wrongdoers. So being a soldier for this system is also participating for the crime of the system. There is a fourth component and these are the magicians. These are the ones that keep people in awe, that bewitch people, that put veils over them to make them think something is real when it is not real so that is the Pharonic system. Those are the fourth components of the pharonic system that are mentioned in the Quran.
One of the things about the pharaoh is that he is very sensitive, he sends spies out so he uses a spy network. He wants to know everything that is happening in society. He is very forceful because what he is afraid of, what Allah says in the Quran “Allah is going to show Firoun his economic power, his military power, the very thing that he was fearing” so Pharaoh focuses the Prophetic element in the society because a Prophetic element is exposing the lie of the pharonic culture and so the Pharonic culture has a deep seated fear of the element because it is an element that is telling people you were not created to create pyramids, you were not created to serve pharaoh, you were not created just to make money, you were not created to exploit, you were created to worship Allah.
Now the Pharonic model uses manipulation of nature and that is why when then threw down their sticks they looked like snakes whereas with the Prophetic model, it is truth. It is not illusion. When it shows its hand, it gobbles up the falsehood. That is why they do not like the two to be together. They like to make sure that element is not allowed any type of mass audience because if it is it becomes very dangerous so that is one of the most important elements in the Quran is this model and that is why the Pharoah and Musa is the most important story in the Quran, it is repeated more than any other story. Each time it comes in the Quran it has nuances because ultimately that is the human conflict. It is between a control model which is about getting the creature to submit to higher creatures and the Islamic model is that you do not submit to creatures, you submit to the Creator. So these are in opposition. So that is one element of the Quran.
There are many different aspects of the Quran but the legislative aspect is really, it is not the major portion of the Quran. From the hadith now which are the sayings of the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam), one of the really interesting things for me as somebody that learned Arabic and can read both the Quran and the hadith is that are completely different.
Anybody who is well trained in Arabic will immediately recognise the Quran even if he does not memorise the Quran because it has a unique quality to it that is different from other Arabic speech even great poets, great orators when you read their speeches you know it is not the Quran even if you do not memorise the Quranm, the Quran has a mysterious component. It is very different to other speech and that is what the Quran says “it is not like other speech”. The Quranic challenge is to imitate the Quran and in 1400 years nobody has ever done it and there have been people who have attempted it. There is no doubt, there were attempts. Now what happens with language is because language is such a strange phenomena in the world for instance if I say “John came yesterday”. If you read that would not see intonation. I could say “John came yesterday”
The corpus of hadith is not the proof for everything in Islam and that gives you the next category of proof which is called qiyas, analogical reasoning. A large portion of shariah and a lot of Muslims do not know this, a large portion of shariah or sacred law is actually not directly from Quran or hadith. It actually comes out of human understanding. Now who do we trust? We trust people that first of all the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said that the best generation are my generation in the understanding of Islam and behaviour according to it. Then the next generation and the next generation. That third generation ends with these groups of imams. They are the last group. So they are called the people who wrote everything down. The people before them were people who heard it from the sahaba and the sahaba were people who lived it. So each generation is less adherent to the tradition then the one who preceded it. That is why the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “no time will come except the time that follows it is worse that it until you meet your Lord”. What that means is that each generation, they are less understanding, less practising and less aware of God. The ulema say that in each generation there is always exceptions so you will have somebody in a generation that might actually be better than some of the scholars that preceded him, more knowledgeable, things like that but they will still not be from a generation. The best generation were the first three, that does not negate the possibility of individuals coming later that are great like the people who went before but as large numbers of people, that disappears and it increasingly does so until the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “till people will have sex in open public places and the best people in those days will say “would you go do that somewhere else?”. There is a hadith that says that. So things get morally worse and all of these things.
The madhab is when you have a hadith that is open to several interpretations and most words by their nature can have more than one interpretation. If the imams differed on it then because they have reached a level which is called ijtihad mutlkaq where you reach a level of absolute ability to determine or derive legal rulings. That does not mean that you cannot be wrong but it means you are so knowledgeable that you have the authority to be wrong. Somebody who is a fool, even if he is right, he is wrong whereas somebody who is very brilliant and very humble and capable of his limitations which these men were then even when he is wrong, he is still right because he is basing it on deep deliberation. He is basing it on thought, he is not basing it on thoughts, opinions or foolishness, no his judgment has arrived out of serious effort. It is a very different when you meet somebody who holds an opinion because he read it in Newsweek or someone who holds an opinion because he has thoroughly examined the issue, he has weight and authority. If somebody just reads the headlines and then he is just going to spout his opinion then he is a fool and it is a fool that takes his opinion seriously. I mean that is the reality of it. That is when the Quran says “are they the same those who know and those who do not know?”. They are not the same even when they are wrong, they are not the same. Somebody who is wrong, who is speaking out of knowledge is not the same as someone who is right and speaking out of ignorance. You are still safer with the one who is wrong with deep knowledge and understanding. The thing about these people is that they will never be way off because they know the principles.
One of the things that the ancients, particularly the Greeks, they had this understanding that if you understood the universals, the particulars would take care of themselves. One of the things about modern men and women is that they are obsessed with particulars and they know nothing of universals and so when you know the general principle you are not going to make big mistakes in the particulars. You just will not make big mistakes. If you know it is a general rule “there is no harming and there is no reciprocation of harm”. That is a principle of Islam. If you know that principle that is going to save you from a lot of problems. If you know the principle “that matters are based on intentions behind them”. That is going to affect how you view people’s actions. If you understand the principle “duress necessitates facilitation or ease”. That when people are under stressful conditions you need to help them by making things easier in order to remove that stress because people in stressful situations will begin to break down mentally so that is why rulings will change in times of great difficulty. So a scholar who knows that like Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah he has opinions what other scholars they do not see it because he knows the universal so when he moves into particulars he knows how to work with them in a different way whereas there are people who lean the particulars of shariah, they memorise all the rules for a do b, for c do d and when they see c then that is what you do. Well is that always in every situation? So there is a very big difference between people who have this and this is what these imams are famous for. There were famous for this vast understanding of this philosophy behind the shariah is for human benefit and therefore if they found things that were harmful to people even thought the law said do it they would change the law and that is hard for a lot of Muslims to understand because they have lost their flexibility. Intolerance generally comes from ignorance. That is a root of intolerance.
You want to remove intolerance first you have to remove ignorance. So the madhab are based on those differences of understanding. So what I want to say about the jihad. There is a difference about what is the reason for jihad. Out of the four imams: Imam Malik, Abu Hanifah, Imam Ahmad believed that the reason that fighting was legislated was to remove aggression or belligerence. Imam Shafi said no it was to remove kufr, it was to get rid of kufr. Now that is a big difference in understanding. Generally in the history of Islam the ruling governments favoured the Hanafi and Maliki madhab which created an incredible tolerance for other peoples, non Muslims. But even with the Shafi when they had authority they basically applied the principle of the other imam. So even thought that is the principle of Imam Shafi it was not the practice of the scholars of this madhab.
As we move into Islam and iman. What is the difference between Islam and iman? Islam in the Arabic language comes from the root word “salimah” and salimah means to be whole. It is the same root of the Jewish Hebrew ward they get Shalom from shalama, The idea that salaam is wholeness, when we speak of God as as-Salaam, that is a name of God, what it means is that God has no parts. Now when you have wholeness you have peace. War comes about when you have divisiveness. Do you see how the understanding of peace comes out of this understanding of wholeness?. If people are whole, if there is an integrity in a people then you will not have wars. But when a people become divisive, you get belligerence. In Islam generally when they ruled they believed that Jews and Christians and other religions had a right to live and practice amongst them. They were certain conditions but they had that belief. It is in their religion whereas there are other religions that have ruled that did not believe that. They actually believed that they had no right at all so that creates a very different type of society. It creates a divisiveness that leads to a war. So the Muslims have always seen that.
If you look at the human body there are things on the body that do not serve a purpose for the body as a whole but they are part of the body. You can have scars on your body. They are part of the body, you do not dig further to get rid of the scar, you just leave it the way it is. There is still a wholeness even thought it might not be something you necessarily like or want there but you tolerate it because it is part of the body.
So traditionally Muslims saw other religions not as co-religions but as co-human beings. They are human beings we would rather they be Muslim but they are part of the social body and so we should tolerate them. The Quran says that they can be part of families, they can be married into families, they should be treated with dignity but even with kindness and friendship and these things.
The difference between Islam and iman is the word salimah which means whole relates to the outward of Islam. When we say Islam what we mean is an outward practice. That is why a Muslim is anyone who basically says I am a Muslim. The way they say that is “la ilaha ilal Allah”. Anyone who says “there is no God but one God and Muhammad is His messenger” is considered a Muslim whether he practises or not. That is enough to come into Islam