If you think I am going to capture Mr. Muhammad Shafique Kakkezai a.k.a. Javed Ahmed Ghamidi within the two bindings of his book titled Meezan like the genie of Aladdin’s lamp then sorry, I am going to disappoint you.
By ‘Meezan’ here I mean a balance i.e. tarazoo (Yes the very electoral symbol of Jamat e Islami of which Mr. Ghamidi was once a part but then … anyways!). I mean to present a critique of some of his ideas and weigh his arguments. This is episode no.1
Not long ago I decided to read Ghamidi’s book “Meezan.” You can download the latest version HERE. (Some day I shall share with the readers an account of some interesting developments over the various versions, in-sha’Allah)
In the very beginning of his book (p.13) he says that “deen” has reached us through two ways;
Thereafter he defines Qur’an and Sunnah. About Sunnah he says it is the reformed and organized form of the Abrahamic tradition handed down to us by the Holy Prophet ﷺ. At this point he undertakes a truly revolutionary task of tabulating the sunnah. (p.14) Lo and behold! Glad tidings! What you must have known till this day as total and ultimate guidance for every issue of human interest is now tabulated and can be counted on finger tips.
Five acts of worship, stipulations on two aspects of social conduct, a couple of rulings on diet, and seventeen ‘rituals and manners’. That’s it! (5+2+2+17 = 26) I am relieved! And you?
On p.15 he comments about hadith and draws some limits for hadith i.e. hadith’s scope is only about crystallizing the understanding of the Qur’an and “sunnah” (already defined and tabulated by him).
Now what is interesting is that he is not saying a Hadith is not to be accepted on face value or even not to be accepted at all if it goes against one of the “sunnahs” or Qur’an, he is practically setting up a general limit for hadith for another reason which is nothing but his own brainchild.
The trouble with this idea is on multiple levels. We see this with an example from ‘rituals and manners’ category.
From p.639 onwards he gives the details of “rituals and manners” (rusoom o ‘ibadaat). He says most of them are from the Abrahamic tradition. Then he gives them no. wise and explains each in some detail. In this category he puts things like;
- Shortening of the mustaches
- Removing of the pubic hair
- Removing the hair in the armpits
- Trimming the nails
- Cleaning the mouth, nose and teeth
Question is where did he get this from? There are only two possibilities I can think of seeing his citations or perhaps he got it from both.
- Hadith reports about what constitutes fitrah (pure human disposition)
- Knowledge of the Arabic customs possibly traceable back to Prophet Ibrahim.
In my study of this section I was amazed that he did not include beard for hadith reports about what all is from fitrah (pure human disposition) do mention beard along with the other things that Ghamidi does consider.
‘A’isha reported: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Ten are the acts according to fitrah: 1) clipping the mustaches, 2) letting the beard grow, 3) using the tooth-stick, 4) snuffing water in the nose, 5) cutting the nails, 6) washing the finger joints, 7) plucking the hair under the armpits, 8) shaving the pubes and 9) cleaning one’s private parts with water. The narrator said: I have forgotten the tenth, but it may have been 10) rinsing the mouth.
(Sahih Muslim, Hadith 502)
As for the proofs from the Arabian culture, Ghamidi relies exclusively on Dr. Jawwad Ali’s book “al-Mufassal fi Tarikh al-‘Arab qabal al-Islam” (Detailed Account of the History of Arabs before Islam). Now in the very same book beard is categorically mentioned as one of the usual practices of the Arabs. In fact Jawwad Ali writes it was one of their important practices and was considered as a sign of respect. He says to the Arabs and even Semites as a whole scorning at the beard was considered one of worst forms of disrespect. This he supports even with reference to Bible (2-Samuel 10:4). Moreover, he plainly states that this respect for beard was understood as one of the “Sunnahs” of Prophet Ibrahim (وتنسب عادة إكرام اللحى إلى سنن إبراهيم).
See, Dr. Jawwad Ali, al-Mufassal fi Tarikh al-‘Arab qabal al-Islam, (Baghdad: Baghdad University, 1993) vol.4 pp.609-610
And we know that in many hadith reports it instructed to grow beard and trim the mustaches.
For instance, Ibn ‘Umar reports;
Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said, “Trim closely the mustaches, and let the beard grow.”
(Bukhari and Muslim)
Now see the contrast.
Both growing the beard and shortening the mustache are mentioned as parts of fitrah (pure human nature), the Prophet ﷺ explicitly instructed the two, and the same was practiced by the Arabs before Islam and were both related to Prophet Ibrahim.
Ghamidi puts one in his ‘well worked out’ list of sunnahs and not only ommits the other, he even contends it in most unequivocal terms. Listen to the audio discussion about beard uploaded to YouTube HERE.
Now, if you do take a bit of trouble to listen to his words, you will know that he does have an answer to this “alleged” anomaly.
He himself says it relates to what is the essence of his difference with the mainstream scholarship. Listen at time slice 37:40 — 38:40
I say this is the very reason he has divorced with the unanimous opinion of the ummah on the fundamentals. And this is where we get to the crux of the point at hand.
He says “deen” can only be something that serves one of the three purposes and what is from “deen” according to this definition alone can be raised to the level of sunnah by the Holy Prophet ﷺ .
- Purification of body
- Purification of dietary conduct
- Purification of morals and spiritual self
(Other comments by him suggest he believes this is for other than ibadaat – acts of ritual worship)
Now towards the end of the clip he says while trimming the mustache serves one of these purposes, beard does not and one can find no rationale for it. (Time slice 41:21 — 42:21)
While one can easily contend with him by alluding to what some say with reference to recent researches that beard is indeed helpful for facial skin and protects against harmful rays of Sun, or his argument may simply be brushed aside because at best it is an ‘Argument from Ignorance‘, I say why even get into this.
Ghamidi in the same clip (time slice 45:27 — 45:50) says he has based these points on his study of Islam as a whole. And this is the point of real debate. He is suggesting that any Tom, Dick or Harry can enumerate some points based on his subjective understanding and claim of a comprehensive study and use it as a criteria to judge on Prophetic narrations. Isn’t it making one’s self rise above the Prophet in religious authority? This is especially important for the fact that he is not even saying that suggesting a legal grading for growing beard contradicts some other injunctions or anything of that nature. He is just concocting/fabricating some stipulations and using them as a judge (hakam) over hadith.
Reason says if you get to some such ideas and then come across a Prophetic saying that apparently does not go with your good beliefs and understanding then take a deep breath and reconsider your own views instead of making the axe fall on authentic hadith reports.
Mr. Ghamidi should make his intellect submit to wisdom and authority of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ rather than making it a judge over the Prophet’s ﷺ words.
This is the real point of difference between Ghamidi/Ghamidites and Followers of Sunnah. One raises itself to the position of judging over the Prophetic sayings for his own subjective reasoning having not even a shred of evidence to the contrary while the other group submits itself to commands of Lawgiver ﷺ.
His problem is he makes a cob-web of pointless sophisticated looking ideas. The “deen” is simply what is from Qur’an and the proven as a command and stressed practice of the Prophet . When Allah makes legislation about the what is lawful or otherwise the believer must be concerned primarily about the ruling and not the reasoning for it. In the beginning of Surah al-Ma’idah Allah says;
يا أيها الذين آمنوا أوفوا بالعقود أحلت لكم بهيمة الأنعام إلا ما يتلى عليكم غير محلي الصيد وأنتم حرم إن الله يحكم ما يريد
O you who believe, fulfill the contracts. The animals from the cattle have been made lawful for you, except that which shall be read over to you, provided that you do not treat hunting as lawful while you are in Ihram. Surely, Allah ordains what He wills.
Point to note here is that Qur’an makes this statement with regards commandments that are not from ritual ibadaat category.
Commenting to it Maulana Mawdudi writes:
“God is the absolute sovereign and has absolute authority to issue whatever command He might will. His creatures do not have the right to complain about any of these orders. Even though wisdom (hikmah) underlies the ordinances of God, a true believer does not obey them because he considers them either appropriate or conducive to his best interests. He obeys them simply because they are the ordinances of his Lord. He holds unlawful all that God has declared unlawful, because God has so decreed it; whatever He has declared lawful is regarded as such for no other reason than that God, the Lord of all, has allowed His servants the use of it. Hence the Qur’an establishes very firmly the principle that nothing except permission from the Lord – or lack of it – is to be taken into consideration in deciding what is lawful and what is not.”
Also see Imam ar-Razi’s commentary to this verse and likewise short Urdu commentary notes by Mufti Taqi Usmani.
And certainly the same applies to the instructions in Hadith as they also rest on the divine authority.
Point is that one may like to look deeper and try to reach out to what are the various benefits of a ruling but while he is unable to grasp it, this is no warrant to defer belief or practice on the commandments.
At another place Qur’an says:
وَمَا كَانَ لِمُؤْمِنٍ وَلَا مُؤْمِنَةٍ إِذَا قَضَى اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ أَمْرًا أَن يَكُونَ لَهُمُ الْخِيَرَةُ مِنْ أَمْرِهِمْ وَمَن يَعْصِ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ فَقَدْ ضَلَّ ضَلَالًا مُّبِينًا
It is not open for a believing man or a believing woman, once Allah and His messenger have decided a thing, that they should have a choice about their matter; and whoever disobeys Allah and His messenger, he indeed gets off the track, falling into an open error.
So, the question is; what is “deen”? Submitting one’s self to whatever has come down to us on the authority of the Prophet ﷺ or becoming a judge over it for whatever subjective nonsense reasons? Let me tell you in later case it may be a good compilation of “cool” and pseudo-rational ideas but it is not Islam – peacefully submitting to Allah and His Messenger ﷺ .
This is the simple principle of “deen”, what else Ghamidi spills out only reminds me of Iqbal.
ذرا سی بات تھی ، اندیشہ عجم نے اسے
بڑھا دیا ہے فقط زیب داستاں کے لیے
Indeed Allah knows the best!
, : I am fully aware of Ghamidi’s position on these hadith reports. In the next episode I will present a critique of his analysis of these reports, in-sha’Allah.
 If the links breaks up or video is removed, please intimate me through a comment and I will, in-sha’Allah, reproduce it online for record.