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Islam A Short History
The following is a reproduction of some observations I made while reading the first chapter of Karen Armstrong’s book “Islam: A Short History” well over a year ago.
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All quotes and page numbers are from the e-book here
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She writes;

” … the opposition grew, led by Abu al-Hakam (who is called Abu Jahl, “Father of Lies,” in the Quran), …” (p.12)

The Qur’an no where mentions Abu Jahl explicitly, what to say of giving him this title.

Islamic tradition would later assert that there had been 124,000 such prophets, a symbolic number suggesting infinity.” (p.8)

Clear reflection of the mythological orientalist belief that Hadith is a later “invention”

“On one occasion his most intelligent wife,Umm Salamah, helped to prevent a mutiny.” (p.16)
This is a reference to short lived reluctance of the companions to put off ihram at the eve of Hudaybiya. Giving it the name of mutiny can be the work of an orientalist genius only.
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Giving plain injunctions the sense of mere “tradition”

One instrument often used by the orientalists and otherwise Muslim writers following their line is to put the garb of “tradition” on the plain injunctions of Islam. This is important because it exposes the plain narratives of Qur’an (and Hadith) to natural outburst against tradition.

“The Quran prescribes some degree of segregation and veiling for the Prophet’s wives, but there is nothing in the Quran that requires the veiling of all women or their seclusion in a separate part of the house. These customs were adopted some three or four generations after the Prophet’s death. Muslims at that time were copying the Greek Christians of Byzantium, who had long veiled and segregated their women in this manner; they also appropriated some of their Christian misogyny.” (p.16)

There can’t be greater ignorance of the Qur’an than this. See the wording in the Qur’an;

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ قُلْ لِأَزْوَاجِكَ وَبَنَاتِكَ وَنِسَاءِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِنْ جَلَابِيبِهِنَّ

“O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments.” (33:59)

Pragmatism and planning- the underpinning of Prophet’s maneuvers

The most crucial issue is about the attributing every kind of pragmatism to the Prophet (ﷺ) to ward off any idea of revelation guiding his course.

It starts with the attributing the change the Prophet (ﷺ) eventually brought to Arabia’s urge for something of the kind as if the Prophet (ﷺ) merely cashed what was just imminent. This is out-rightly false.

“There was also spiritual restlessness in Mecca and throughout the peninsula” and feeling of being left out of the divine plan (p.3) She repeats the same on p.7

Talking of the physical concomitants of revelation she writes;

“In purely secular terms, we could say that Muhammad had perceived the great problems confronting his people at a deeper level than most of his contemporaries, and that as he “listened” to events, he had to delve deeply and painfully into his inner being to find a solution that was not only politically viable but spiritually illuminating. He was also creating a new literary form and a masterpiece of Arab prose and poetry.” (p.5)

This is to say  revelation was not communication with divine but some extra-ordinary internal thought process. But she was well short of Watt’s all time record of verbal gimmicks on this particular subject.

Then she mentions the rise of religions bracketing Islam with rationalism of Europe. And further that;

“The Axial Age prophets and reformers all built on the old pagan rites of their region, and Muhammad would do the same.” (pp.7-8)

And then without any mincing or game of words;

Muhammad had been greatly excited by the prospect of working closely with the Jewish tribes, and had even, shortly before the hijrah, introduced some practices (such as communal prayer on Friday afternoons, when Jews would be preparing for the Sabbath, and a fast on the Jewish Day of Atonement) to align Islam more closely with Judaism. (pp.16-17)

But some of the Jews in the smaller clans were friendly and enhanced Muhammad’s knowledge of Jewish scripture. He was especially delighted to hear that in the Book of Genesis Abraham had two sons: Isaac and Ishmael (who became Ismail in Arabic), the child of his concubine Hagar …. This was music to Muhammad’s ears. (p.17)

In short, they would accept Prophet as a great politician, reformer, manager, leader, statesman but nothing close to someone on a mission from God.
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One may ask what else should one expect from non-Muslims? The point is not about expectation from non-Muslims, rather it is about the effect it has when a Muslim reads them with awe and preconceived notion of objectivity on their part. It can create havoc as their writings slowly erode or dim the idea of revelation being the cornerstone of the entire Islamic rubric.
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For more information and insight into the orientalist approach towards the life of the Holy Prophet (ﷺ) see this translation of a paper by Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi.
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Yellow Journalism

On May 28, 2009 Federal Shariat Court of Pakistan decided on a petition against Hudood Ordinance’s articles about punishment on drinking.

The way Daily Dawn presented it gave the false notion that the Court had ruled that drinking is not a punishable crime. True that the report did not explicitly say so but while it reproduced the contentions of the petitioner in great detail and highlighted some reservations of a judge which were actually not even nuanced in the original petition it failed to mention the most important fact that the Court had totally dismissed the petition calling it “misconceived and without any substance.

You find Daily Dawn’s report HERE

But our ever frustrated and allergic-to-anything-Islamic liberals played to the ingenuous catch of the cunning liberal/secular media. A simple google search tells you how the report was taken to imply that the court ruled drinking was not unlawful or not punishable at least. (Now defunct link on some pages suggest it was later reported by Pakistan Observer as well)

The petitioner, Muhammad Aslam Khaki, had contended that punishment of 80 lashes was unIslamic and there was nothing in Qur’an and Sunnah to support it. Federal Shariat Court (FSC) dismissed it out-rightly on May 28th 2009 (a day before the above piece appeared on Dawn)

Complete decision of the Court published in PLD (vol. LXII, pp. 191-214) is available on the FSC’s website

For the contention of the petitioner see para 1 on p.4.  He challenged Article 8 and 25 of Prohibition Order (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance 1979, in which drinking was provided as Hadd, prescribing 80 lashes as punishment for the offense.
 

The court after detailed discussion ruled.

The upshot of the above discussion is that since there is no Verse or Hadith that contradicts the impugned provision of law in any way, we find this petition misconceived and without any substance and therefore, dismiss it accordingly.

see para 27 on pp.209-210 (pdf file pp.19-20)

It is signed by Justice Dr. Fida Muhammad Khan and other judges agreed to it.

Arguments of the petitioner (Dr. Aslam Khaki) and the ulema, namely; Dr. Yousuf Faruqi and Maulana Tafazzul Ali who was deputed by Mufti Rafi Usmani and Sardar Abdul Majeed, Standing Counsel for the Federation, are also (summarily?) given. Allama Talab Jauhari and Javed Ahmed Ghamidi did not respond to/appear in the court.

What was actually exploited by the liberal media is the note of Prof. Haziqul Haq Khairi towards the end of the decision. It only speaks of reservations on defects and ambiguities in the provisio of Code of Criminal Procedure 1898 for it can lead to imprisonment as well whereas there is no such punishment in Islam for this crime. Thereafter he suggests an amendment in section 4 of the Whipping Ordinance 1979 defining whip. (See, para 8 of the note on p.212 of PLD)

Summary:

  • The verdict does not say taking intoxicants is permissible.
  • It does not say there is no punishment for intoxication.
  • It rather dismisses the petition against the punishment.
  • The verdict does not declare whipping for drinking un-Islamic.
  • It rather defines whipping.

The twist was about reporting the contention of the petitioner in detail without telling the fact that it was dismissed by FSC. Even while mentioning the ruling, not the decision but the arguments in the dismissed petition are highlighted. The other observation about definition of whip was made on a side note.

It is important for us to double check the reporting of secular media outlets on everything that concerns Islamic law and Muslims who stand for upholding it.

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doubts(Following is the summary of Maulana Thanwi’s talk at M.A.O. College Aligarh delivered in November 1909)

“The first of these deficiencies is that although religious doubts are spiritual ailments, yet you do not regard them as ailments. That is why you never dealt with them in the manner you deal with physical ailments. May Allah protect you from all harm, but whenever it so happens that you fall ill, you never wait for the official physician of the college to come down to your room[1] for himself in order to examine you and to treat you. When you were ill, you must rather have gone to his residence yourself and spoken to him about your illness. And if his treatment did you no good, you must have gone beyond the boundary of the college to the town, and seen the civil surgeon at the hospital.

And, in case even his treatment did no prove effective, you must have left even the town and made a journey to other cities, and must have spent quite a good sum of money in bearing the expenses of the journey, in paying the doctors and in buying medicines. In short, you had no peace of body or mind until you had fully regained your health. This being so, how is it that when you are affected with religious doubts, you just expect that the ulema themselves should attend you? Why do you not turn to them yourselves? And if, during this quest, one ‘alim fails to restore your health (either because his answer is not sufficient, or because it not to your taste), why do you not seek other ulema? Why do you jump to the conclusion that your problem is insoluble? You should at least have made a thorough search for its solutions. The expense it entails is almost nothing in comparison with what you spent on a physical cure. What could be simpler than to send a reply-paid post card to any religious scholar you choose, and to ask him whatever you like?

The second deficiency is that you too often have an absolute confidence in your own opinion and judgment, and assume that nothing can be wrong with your way of thinking. This is another reason why you never turn to any religious scholar (‘alim). This is itself a great error, if you seek a verification of your opinion from the ulema, you would soon be aware of the errors you commit.

The third deficiency is that, in religious matters, you are habitually reluctant to follow anyone. That is why you do not accept the authority of any expert in any religious matters, but always pry into explanations, reasons and arguments of everything, while the truth is that one who is not an expert cannot at all do without accepting the authority of an expert. This does not mean that scholars of the shariah do not possess any reasons or arguments. They do possess all that. But many things are beyond your understanding. Just as it is very difficult to explain a theorem of Euclid to a man who is ignorant of the first principles, definitions and other preliminaries necessary for a proper study of geometry in the same way there are certain sciences which serve as instruments and elementary principles for a study of the injunctions of the shariah. Anyone who wishes to understand them fully must necessarily acquire knowledge of these sciences to begin with. But the man who has not the time or the inclination to do so, cannot help accepting the authority of someone else.

I would, therefore, advise you to adopt this method. Whenever you have a doubt with regard to any religious matter, you should continue to put it before different ulema until it has been finally removed, and should in no case rely on your own judgment. If there is something which you are unable to understand perfectly, you had better admit your own short-coming, and then trust and follow those ulema who are experts in their own field. If you adopt this procedure, I do hope that Allah will help you, and you will soon be able to correct your errors.”

(Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi, Answer to Modernism, trans. by Prof. Hassan Askari, (Karachi: Maktaba Darul Uloom,, 1992) 6-8


[1] M.A.O. College was a boarding institute.

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Islamic Laws

In this age questioning and objecting to Islamic principles is the best pastime of the ‘educated’ yet intellectually impaired. They fail to understand Islam’s approach and vent the anger for their ignorance on the whoever they can – the idea or the people who stand for it.

1) Hudood (prescribed punishments) in Islam are indeed very strict and the mess other legal traditions have created after failing to check the crimes and dealing with the convicts supports the idea of having strict punishments. (the case of the rapist and serial killer Clifford Olson is a classical example of what confused legal traditions can lead to.)

2) Islamic law of witnesses is also very strict. This is especially true for cases involving sex offenses (in which case carrying out hudood requires 4 witnesses) as it relates to two sensitive issues simultaneously 1) Life 2) Honor.  In fact it won’t be out of place to say that punishment based on witnesses is extremely rare. When the skeptics say that having four witnesses is extremely difficult they make no revelation.

A classical jurist stated:

لم ينقل عن السلف ثبوت الزنا عند الإمام بالشهادة، إذ رؤية أربعة رجال عدول على الوصف المذكور كالميل في المكحلة كما في الكلاب في غاية الندرة

“Establishment of the proof of adultery in legal proceedings based on witnesses is not reported from the predecessors (salaf), because it is extremely rare for four trustworthy men to witness it in the required way of seeing it like collyrium stick in its case as it happens among dogs .”[1]

3) Islam by the virtue of its very nature of being a religion promising salvation in the Hereafter inspires people to confess the offenses committed so that they may be free of blame in the next world. This ensures some practical examples of the execution of the prescribed punishments (hudood) that duly serve the purpose of deterrence against crimes. The cases of Ghamidia and Ma’iz al-Aslami who were stoned to death by the Prophet ﷺ are perfect examples.[2]

4) In any case 2) does not entail an offender can go unpunished in the absence of 4 witnesses because the whole scheme of ta’zirat (discretionary punishments) is there. Such punishments can be given for any other evidence including lesser number of witnesses, DNA or any other circumstantial evidence that convinces a judge of the accused being a culprit.

If, for example, a person is accused of rape repeatedly and every time crime is proven through DNA and similar proofs alone, the judge -according to what I understand as the strongest opinion[3]– can even give him capital punishment (though it cannot be stoning to death). Or a judge may even go for such strict discretionary punishment as a deterrence when the frequency of the crime gets on the rise.

5) All this collectively make hudood the ultimate defense against social evils. If 2) and 3) are religiously observed no one will be punished unjustly and 4) will have to be invoked only rarely because seeing someone stoned to death or even lashed in public will tame the animal within most people. This is why the Prophet ﷺ said,

إقامة حد من حدود الله، خير من مطر أربعين ليلة في بلاد الله عز وجل

“Carrying out one of  the  legal  punishments prescribed by Allah  is better than forty nights of (blissful) rain in the lands of Allah.”[4]

References:

[1] al-Baabarti, Abu ‘Abdullah Akmal ad-Deen, al-‘Inayah Sharh al-Hidayah, (Beirut: Dar al-Fekr, n.d.) vol.5, 278

[2] Muslim bin Hajjaj, as-Sahih, (Riyadh: Maktaba Dar-us-Salam, 2007) Hadith 4432 (23-1695)

[3] This is the opinion of the jurists of the Hanafi school (at least).

[4] Ibn Majah, as-Sunan, (Beirut: Dar al-Jeel, 1418 AH) Hadith 2537. Classified as Hasan by al-Albani.

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