Archive for the ‘History’ Category


Whenever the discussion on Islam and the modern world issues comes up we invariably hear a comment, “These mullahs are against any kind of advancement. When loudspeaker was invented they said it is haram to use it.” Having read the works of the “mullahs” I have known that it is wrong to say that at least the learned and well reputed among of the ulema were/are against technology. Actually what they are against is not the use of technology but the blind imitation of West in its culture in the name of advancement. (Suggested reading, Mufti Taqi Usmani’s “Islam and Modernism”)

In this backdrop what perplexed me the most was the suggestion that ulema once condemned the use of loudspeakers as haraam. I always wanted to know what really happened and why? How the fatwa was changed overtime? What do the scholars who were part of the process of the change in fatwa say? And how do they feel about their earlier verdict?

Lately, I found answer to all these questions and today I mean to share with you the same.

Yes, the fatwa declaring use of loudspeakers as haraam was given and it was given by a well-known scholar and jurist, Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi. Three of his fatwas on the subject are given in the first volume of Imdad al-Fatawa- the collection of religious verdicts given by him. It was compiled by his student Mufti Muhammad Shafi’. Towards the end of the volume the compiler, Mufti Muhammad Shafi’, in an addendum, explains the background, basis and reasons for eventual change in the verdict. Following is its summary.

First fatwa on the subject was given in Ramadan 1346 AH (i.e.  Feb. 1928)[1] in which Maulana Thanwi opined that its usage is altogether haraam.  Shortly thereafter the same opinion was repeated in Zil Hijjah 1346 AH (May 1928 CE). According to Mufti Shafi’ this opinion was given in the early days of instrument’s introduction (in the subcontinent) when it was not widely known. The opinion was based on the presumption that it was something like Gramophone  that was then used almost exclusively for songs and music. Moreover, since the instrument was not generally used and was mostly unknown to the people no need was felt to seek to probe deeper into the details of it.

The basic premise for declaring it unlawful for use in acts of ritual worship was that confusion on the actual working of the instrument. Maulana Thanwi and other scholars were not clear whether it simply amplifies the sound or first records it and then transmits it and to this day scholars maintain that prayers are not valid with recorded sound[2]. (It is pertinent to mention that even when Maulana Thanwi gave this opinion Mualana Shabbir Ahmad Uthmani even at that stage did not agree that prayers are nullified with its use). They set to seek the help of different people they thought were well versed in these matters. The names and replies of those people are preserved in the footnotes in Imdad al-Fatawa vol.1 pp.685-687. The opinions on the working of the instrument were sought included:

1-  Syed Shabbir Ali, M.A., Professor Science Dept., Aligarh Muslim University

2-  Burj Nandar, B.A., BSc. Science Alexander High School, Bhopal

Names of others are not specifically mentioned.

Not to say that they were some real authorities but it does show the concern and attitude of Maulana towards the issue. He did take the trouble of asking the people who were in a better position to comment on the issue he faced. Mark the fact that opinion of a Hindu was also considered. However, the confusion persisted (considering the responses he got) and Maulana Thanwi then opined that even though ritual prayers cannot be out rightly declared null and void still one needs to avoid praying with the use of this instrument. (Imdad al-Fatawa, vol.1 p.685 n.2)

In Muharram 1357 AH (March 1938 CE) in response to a detailed question about some modern instruments in which their true nature and scope of use was brought to his notice Maulana Thanwi opined that it is permissible to use it in ordinary sermons and speeches. But he maintained that it was impermissible to use it in ritual prayers (salah) and ritual sermons (khutbas of Fridays and ‘Eid) and as a reference he referred to his fatwa of Zil Hijjah 1346 AH and wrote, “All this research is written as per personal information. If someone knows more and or something different he should follow his own research and if he intimates us he will be rewarded. And Allah knows best and His knowledge is most perfect and most sound.” (Imdad al-Fatawa, vol.1 p.691)

After the death of Maulana Thanwi his disciple and student Mufti Shafi’ continued to give verdict according to his opinion. However, after the creation of Pakistan he sent the same query to experts at Radio Pakistan. The unanimous response was that the sound transmitted was simply amplified and it was not first recorded. Mufti Shafi’ writes that this actually bulldozed the entire basis of the opinion of its impermissibility of its use in prayers. Thereafter he wrote his treatise on the subject of use of the loudspeaker in Sha’ban 1372 AH and it was revised later in 1382 AH.

Here it is critical to understand the position of a mufti. He is to give a very careful opinion and his words have implications not only for the people but most importantly for himself for in a way he is responsible for any outcome of his verdict. The issue most especially related to the validity of the prayers- the most important act of worship in Islam. Approach of ulema was very practical and careful for they forbade people from using something that could, considering the doubts in their minds, possibly affect the validity of prayers while they dwelt on seeking clarity. And as the things became clear they changed their opinion.

Points to note:

1- The first fatwa was based on limited and mistaken information and that too in the absence of any pressing need to probe in to what was then a little known device.

2- To clarify the details of the working of the instrument the very reasonable attitude of consulting the experts was adopted and they did not shy away from taking the input of a Hindu as well.

3- Once the nature of the instrument was clear the scholars stopped declaring its use unlawful for activities other than ritual worship (ibadat).

4- However, they continued to forbid its use in ibadat because details of its working were not clear and ibadat require extra care in following the original rules. Nevertheless, ulema were open to more insight and asked for help in bringing clarity to the issue.

5- Later, however when the experts gave the unanimous opinion that the instrument does not record and then transmit the voice rather it simply amplifies the sound, scholars did not shy away from revising the verdict.

 No matter how weird it now appears in the hindsight but putting one in their shoes one has to accept that the approach of ulema was very meticulous. They were careful but they were not stubborn and were open to new information and adopted the right course of consulting the experts to seek clarity on the actual working of the instrument and accordingly revised their opinion.

Unless one thinks with a borrowed brain and wants Muslims to adopt everything and anything new even when it relates to specific ritual ibadat one has to appreciate the approach adopted by the ulema.

Download Link for Imdad al-Fatawa vol.1

[1] The Gregorian dates corresponding to Hijri dates are given only by the way of approximation.

[2] See for instance Shaykh Faraz Rabbani fatwa, “Tahajjud Prayer: Listening to recorded recitation


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Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad bin ‘Abdul Rahman as-Sakhawi (d. 902 AH) writes:

وكان المصري صاحب كتاب الدولتين المسمى زهرة العيون وجلاء القلوب فانه قال فيه انه وما في معناه دال على معالي الأمور ومرشد لكرائم الأخلاق والأفعال وزاجر عن الدناءة والقبح وباعث على صواب التدبير وحسن التقدير ورفق السياسة يكون للأديب تبصرة وللعالم الأريب تذكرة ولسائر الناس مؤدبا وللملوك اتراحة تعمر به المجالس في الجد والهزل وتتضح بأمثاله الحجج وتبلغ به الاراده بأخف مؤنه ويستولي به على الأمور كأنها مشاهدة وقد قال علي رضي الله عنه إن هذه القلوب تمل كما تمل الأبدان فابتغوا لها من طرائف الحكمة وكفى بالكتاب الحسن أنيسا ومحدثا وجليسا وهو عون اللبيب وتذكرة للأديب ويروى عن ابن عباس رضي الله عنهما انه كان يقول إذا أفاض من عنده بالحديث بعد القرآن والتفسير أحمضوا أي خوضوا في الشعر وغيره وعن بعضهم القلوب تصدأ كما يصدأ الحديد فنقوها بالذكر وعن أبي الدرداء رضي الله عنه أني لاستجم قلبي بالشيء من اللهو لأقوى به على الحق انتهى فكيف بما ينضم إليه مما حكيناه من فوائده

Another (historian) was al-Misri, the author of the Book of the Two Dynasties, entitles Zuhrat al-‘uyun wa-jala’ al-qulub. He said in this book: “Historical and related information is a sure guide to the most important matters and the noblest character qualities and actions. It is a deterrent to meanness and ugliness, a challenge to (exercise a) correct administration, good judgment, and smooth policies, and an enlightment for the educated, and a recreation for kings. History enlivens gatherings in serious and humorous matters. Historical examples clarify arguments. History helps one to achieve very easily what he wants. It gives the student a mastery of the affairs (of the past) as if he has seen them with his own eyes. ‘Ali said: ‘hearts are fatigued just as bodies are. Therefore, procure for them choice bits of wisdom.’ A good book can take the place of friend, storyteller, and companion. It is a help for the thoughtful and a momento for the educated. It is stated on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas that he used to say when his companions entered into  a conversation after (the occupation with) the Qur’an and its interpretation. Ahmidhu, that is talk about poetry and other things. A tradition of some (authority): ‘Hearts get rusty, just as iron does. Therefore, polish them with the memory (of God.)‘ A tradition of Abu d-Darda: ‘I refresh my heart with some light entertainment, in order to be strengthened for the truth.'” This is the end of the quotation from al-Misri. (His remarks are) emphasized by the further aspects of the usefulness of history reported by us.

See, Al-I’ilan bil Tawbikh li-man Zamma Ahl al-Tarikh (Open Denunciation of the Critics of the Historians), Al-Resalah Publications, Beirut, 1986 pp.72-73
Translation by Franz Rosenthal in A History of Muslim Historiography, E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1968 pp.324-325 

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Ignaz Goldziher is indeed the most malignant and critical orientalist on Hadith and its sciences but even he had to accept the amount of efforts put in by Hadith scholars in collection of the treasured traditions.

He writes;

From one end of the Islamic world to the other, from al-Andalus to Central Asia, wandered diligent men gathering traditions in order to be able to pass them on to their audiences. This was the only possible way of obtaining in their authentic form traditions which were scattered in the most diverse provinces. The honorific al-rahhala or al-jawwal is hardly ever absent from the names of traditionalists of recognized importance. The title tawwaf al-aqalim, wanderer in all zones, is no mere hyperbole for these travellers, who included people who could say of themselves that they had traversed the East and West four times. These men do not travel in all these countries in order to see the world or to gain experience but only to see the preserves of traditions in all these places and to hear and profit by them, ‘like the bird who alights on no tree without picking at the leaves.’ It is said of these men that they are famed for the talab, i.e. for active search and investigation of hadiths (min al-mashhurin bi’l-talab fi’l-rihla).

See:  Ignaz Glodziher, Muslim Studies (Muhammedanische Studien) Translated by C.R. Barber and S.M. Stern vol.2, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., London 1973 pp. 165-166

And Allah knows the best!

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The only living terrestrial witness to the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him)

The rediscovery of the tree where as a child the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him) met with Bahira, the Christian monk who foretold the Prophethood of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him).

Ten Thousand Films has made a 40 minute documentary on this amazing discovery. See the trailer below

For further details about the documentary see this

A couple of months back I read Mufti Taqi Usmani’s article on this in which he tells that he personally visited it and that most evidences speak for the reliability of the claim.

Allah knows the best!

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We all know about Muhajirun [i.e. the Immigrants] and the Ansar [i.e. Helpers]. But do you know there was another category, the Muhajirun Ansariyun i.e. the Immigrant Ansar?

Here is a part of the narration from Tabaqat al-Kubra of Ibn Sa’d;

فلما قدم أول من هاجر إلى قباء خرجوا إلى رسول الله، صلى الله عليه وسلم، بمكة حتى قدموا مع أصحابه في الهجرة، فهم مهاجرون أنصاريون، وهم: ذكوان بن عبد قيس، وعقبة بن وهب بن كلدة، والعباس بن عبادة بن نضلة، وزياد بن لبيد

“After the first batch of immigrants had reached Quba, some of them (Ansar) came to Makkah and then migrated with the companions; they are known as Muhajirun Ansariyun (the Immigrant Ansar). Their names are Dhakwan Ibn ‘Abd Qays, ‘Uqbah Ibn Wahb Ibn Kaldah, al-‘Abbas Ibn ‘Ubadah Ibn Nadhlah and Ziyad Ibn Labid.”

(Ibn Sa’d’s Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, English Translation by Moinul Haq vol.1, Kitab Bhavan Publishers, New Delhi, 2009 p. 262)

They were originally from al-Madinah and they had come to Makkah to return to al-Madinah as Muhajirs so that they might get the reward of Hijrah i.e. making an immigration in the way of Allah.

May Allah accept their great deed and bless them with the reward they so yearned for. And may He bless us with the same zeal to seek His good Pleasure. Aameen!

Indeed Allah knows the best!

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