Saturday, November 03, 2007

The resolutions of the most recent session of the OIC Fiqh Academy include some very important fatawa. They range from a robust, considered statement on the rules governing consideration of the objectives of the shari`a in ethico-legal reasoning to a statment on the rules governing the impermissibility and permissibility of various types of cosmetic surgery. May Allah reward the `ulama for their efforts.

Friday, October 19, 2007

I recently came across Ibrahim Amin's Islamic Finance Blog. According to Ustadh Ibrahim, he founded the blog to bring together several fellow `ulama' and students of Islamic ethics (talabat al-`ilm) who met in 2006 for a week long course on the AAOIFI Shari`a Standards. I was pleased to see this blog, since 1) IFP held a one day course on the AAOIFI Shari`a Standards, led by Shaykh Nizam Ya`qubi, at the Harvard Law School this summer and 2) several fellow students of Islamic ethics in the US want to expand on this course and set up a similar training program here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Shaykh Suhaib Webb visited Boston and gave the Sermon of the Feast of the Fast-Breaking (khutbat `id al-fitr) on Oct. 13, 2007. Regrettably, I was travelling, so I could not meet him!

Monday, October 15, 2007

May Allah accept our deeds! Blessed `Id.

On Thursday night, based on its evaluation of reports of the sighting of the crescent moon, the New England Council of Imams announced that Ramadan 1428 will complete 30 days and therefore Oct 13, 2007 would be of Shawwal 1, 1428 i.e. `Id al-Fitr (The Feast of the Fast-Breaking)!

Monday, October 01, 2007

A pledge of great importance posted by Shaykh Zaid, Shaykh Suhaib Webb and others.

Pledge of Mutual Respect and Cooperation Between Sunni Muslim Scholars, Organizations, and Students

Hold fast to the Rope of Allah, all together, and be not divided. (Qur’an, 3:103)

Surely, those who have made divisions in their religion and turned into factions, you have nothing to do with them. Their case rests with Allah; then He will inform them of what they used to do. (Qur’an, 6:159)

In light of the Divine Word, we recognize that the historical nature of Sunni Islam is a broad one that proceeds from a shared respect for the Qur’an and Sunnah, a shared dependence on the interpretations and derivations of the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them), and a shared respect for the writings of a vast array of scholars who have been identified by their support for and affiliation with the Sunni Muslims and have been accepted as the luminaries of Sunni Islam - as broadly defined.

Likewise, detailed discussions in matters of theology are the specific domain of trained specialists, and proceed on the basis of well-defined principles and methodologies, which are beyond the knowledge of the generality of Muslims.

Our forebears in faith, with all the dedication, brilliance and sincerity clearly manifested in their works, have debated and discussed abstruse and complex issues of creed and practice, and have failed in most instances to convince their opponents of the veracity and accuracy of their positions.

The average Muslim is only responsible for knowing the basics of creed as they relate to a simple belief in Allah, His Angels, Scriptures, the Prophets and Messengers, the Last Day, and the Divine Decree.

Recognizing that the specter of sectarianism threatens to further weaken and debilitate our struggling Muslim community at this critical time in human affairs, and recognizing that Allah, Exalted is He, has given the Muslim community in the West a unique historical opportunity to advance the cause of peace, cooperation, and goodwill amongst the people of the world, we the undersigned respectfully:

- Urge Muslims to categorically cease all attacks on individual Muslims and organizations whose varying positions can be substantiated based on the broad scholarly tradition of the Sunni Muslims. We especially urge the immediate cessation of all implicit or explicit charges of disbelief;

- Urge Muslim scholars and students of sacred knowledge to take the lead in working to end ad hominem attacks on other scholars and students; to cease unproductive, overly polemical writings and oral discourse; and to work to stimulate greater understanding and cooperation between Muslims, at both the level of the leadership and the general community;

-Urge Muslims in the West, especially our youth, to leave off unproductive and divisive discussions of involved theological issues that are the proper domain of trained specialists, and we especially discourage participation in those internet chat rooms, campus discussion groups, and other forums that only serve to create ill-will among many Muslims, while fostering a divisive, sectarian spirit;

-Urge all teachers to instruct their students, especially those attending intensive programs, to respect the diverse nature of our communities and to refrain from aggressive challenges to local scholars, especially those known for their learning and piety;

- Urge our brothers and sisters in faith to concentrate on enriching their lives by deepening their practice of Islam through properly learning the basics of the faith, adopting a consistent regimen of Qur’anic recitation, endeavoring to remember and invoke Allah in the morning and evening, learning the basics of jurisprudence, attempting to engage in voluntary fasting as much as possible, studying the Prophetic biography on a consistent basis, studying the etiquettes that guide our interactions with our fellow Muslims, and the performance of other beneficial religious acts, to the extent practical for their circumstances;

- Finally, we urge the Believers to attempt to undertake individual and collective actions that will help to counter the growing campaign of anti-Islamic misinformation and propaganda that attempts to portray our religion as a violence-prone relic of the past unsuitable for modern society, and by so doing justify indiscriminate wars against Muslim peoples, occupation of Muslim lands, and usurpation of their resources.

Saying this, we do not deny the reality of legitimate differences and approaches, nor the passionate advocacy of specific positions based on those differences. Such issues should be rightfully discussed observing established rules of debate. However, we urge the above measures to help prevent those differences from destroying the historical unity and integrity of the Muslim community, and creating irreparable divisions between our hearts. Further, we do not deny the urgency, especially in light of the situation in Iraq, of efforts to foster greater cooperation between diverse Muslim communities. Hence, this document should not be seen as negating any statements, or declarations designed to foster greater peace and harmony between diverse Muslim communities. However, we feel, as Sunni Muslims, a pressing need to first set our own affairs in order.

In conclusion, having called our brothers and sisters to act on these points, we, the undersigned, pledge to be the first to actively implement them in response to the Divine Word:

Do you enjoin righteousness on the people and refuse to follow it yourselves and all along you are reciting the scripture!? Will you not reflect? (Qur’an (2:44)

We ask Allah for the ability to do that which He loves. And Allah alone is the Grantor of Success.


Abdelrahman Helbawi
Abdul Karim Khalil
Abdullah Adhami
Abdurraheem Green
Abdur-Rahman ibn Yusuf Mangera
Abu Aaliyah Surkheel Sharif
Abu Eesa Niamatullah
Aisha Faleh AlThani
Asma Mirza
Cheikhna B. Bayyah
Dawood Yasin
Ebadur Rahman
Faraz Rabbani
Fuad Nahdi
Gul Mohammad
Haitham al-Haddad
Hamza Yusuf
Hasan al-Banna
Ibrahim Osi-Efa
Jihad Hashim Brown
M. Abdul Latif Finch
M. Afifi al-Akiti
Mehdi Kader
Mokhtar Maghroui
Muhammad Alshareef
Muhammad Ash-Shaybani
Muhammad ibn Adam
Omar Qureshi
S. Abdal-Hakim Jackson
Shamira Chothia Ahmed
Siddique Abdullah
Suhaib Webb
Tahir Anwar
Talal Al-Azem
Tanveer Hussain
Tawfique Chowdhury
Usama Canon
Usama Hasan

*Note: New Islamic Directions Supports the Amman Initiative to encourage greater respect and cooperation between Sunni and Shi’i Muslims

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Islam,

As-salamu `alaykum wa-rahmatu llah.

In sha'Allah, Wednesday night (tomorrow) is the first night of Ramadan 1428 and Thursday, Sept. 13 (the following day) is the first day of fasting. In anticipation of our making the most of the beautiful occasion, I wanted to share a bit of advice that I pray will be helpful to students, and other members of the Muslim community at Harvard, who will be on campus for Ramadan soon, if they are not here already. In sha'Allah, we will have an opportunity to discuss Ramadan-related matters on other occasions in the near future.

* As in years past, we are announcing the beginning of the blessed month of Ramadan on the Harvard Islamic Society website and over the community announcement list (his-list). There is also a post on the blog of your favorite HIS Muslim Chaplain . Note that, as in years past, in ascertaining the beginning of Ramadan, we are relying on regional Muslim organizations in the Greater Boston Area. Al-hamdu li-llah, the Imams of the Islamic Council of New England agreed at its recent meeting to continue following the methodology for ascertaining the beginning of the month that the New England Imams established several years ago. The New England Imams rely on acceptable reports of the sighting of the crescent moon of Ramadan by Muslim religious authorities from multiple locales around the world.

* Start fasting with your community wherever you are. Avoid disputes. Do not to get caught up in the wrangling about establishing the beginning of the blessed month that sometimes afflicts members of our community a day or so before Ramadan, the month of patience, begins.

* Do fix your intention (niyya) to fast during the night before fasting during the day. If you have questions about this or any of the other technical aspects fasting ask an `alim (religious scholar). Asking is a form of worship in itself. As in years past, there will be a "Ramadan Workshop" on the basics of fasting this Sunday, Sept 16, 1-3pm with Shaykh Suheil Laher (MIT Muslim Chaplain and PhD Student, Arabic and
Islamic Studies, NELC, Harvard University), Shaykh Sami ul-Ihsan Khan (JD candidate, Harvard Law School) and myself. The location will be announced soon in sha'Allah. Watch the HIS Event Calendar at the website.

* As a rule, try to make the days and nights of Ramadan different from what they are for you outside of Ramadan. Hadith: "Let not your day of fasting be like your day when not fasting."

* Try to spend a lot of time around your brothers and sisters in Islam this month. Try not to break your fast alone. Make a special effort to pray in congregation.

* Ask Allah for forgiveness a lot during the beginning of the month. Try to think of the sins with which you entered Ramadan and seek forgiveness and repent from them.

* Read the Qur'an. Recite the Qur'an. Listen to it being recited. Turn an ayah (passage) or two over of the Qur'an in your mind for a couple of minutes.

* If you normally watch TV, listening music, watch movies on DVD or the Web, give it up for the month. Try replacing it with listening to the Qur'an, reading from the Qur'an or making remembrance of Allah.

* Give a lot of sadaqa (charity). Remember that sadaqa includes saying
subhana llah ("How Perfect is Allah!"), al-hamdu li-llah ("Praise be to
Allah") and allah akbar (Allah is Greater!); smiling at your brother or
sister and helping him or her carry his stuff.

* Do not burn out. Increase your devotions as the month goes on. The
Messenger said the most beloved of deeds to Allah are those that are
[done] consistently, even if they are small.

May Allah forgive all our sins; accept our fasting, bowing, prostration,
charity, supplications and other good deed; manumit us from the Hellfire
and admit the Paradise Gardens through the Rayyan Gate!

Your Brother and the Most Needy Slave of Allah
Taha bin Hasan Abdul-Basser

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Shaykh Zaid Shakir has been translating portions of a work by the 10th/16th century Muslim religious scholar (`alim), Shaykh Abdul-Wahhab al-Sha`rani, in a series that is published on his website and entitled "Wisdoms." The series focuses on the core principle of religious sincerity (ikhlas) and the dangers of its opposite, ostentation (riya'), translated by Shaykh Zaid as "dissimulation.")

Here is taste of Imam Zaid's wonderful translation:

1. Wahb b. Munabbih would say: “Whoever seeks worldly advancement through his religious acts, God will invert his heart and record him amongst the people destined for Hell.”

2. Al-Hasan al-Basri relates that Jesus, Peace upon Him, said: “Whoever endeavors to implements his religious knowledge is a true friend of God.”

3. Sufyan b. Tahwri used to say: “My mother advised me: ‘My son! Only seek religious knowledge if you intend to implement it. Otherwise, it will be a source of torment for you on the Day of Resurrection.’”

4. Dhun-Nun al-Misri was asked: “When does the servant know that he is sincere in religion?” He replied: “When he asserts himself to the fullest in worship while desiring to gain no esteem with the people because of that.”

5. Muhammad b. al-Munkadir used to say: “I love to see the brothers being at their very best during the night [in humble devotion] for surely that is nobler than being at ones very best during the day. The reason for this is that during the day one is seen by people while during the night one is seen by the Lord of the Worlds."

Monday, July 30, 2007

Ustadh Hood Bradford offers us a proficient translation of an excerpt from Shaykh al-Tahir Ibn `Ashur's Qur'anic commentary, al-Tahrir wa al-Tanwir, in which the Shaykh comments on verse (ayah), al-Nisa' (4):34: "ar-rijalu qawwamuna `ala n-nisa'..."

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Ustadh Abu al-Hussein (may Allah reward him) posted Imam al-Nawawi's Adab al-Mufti wa l-Mustafti ("Etiquettes of Muftis and Those who Seek Responses to Ethical-Legal Questions"). Imam al-Nawawi placed this work at the beginning of his K. al-Majmu Sharh al-Muhadhdhab. In sha' Allah, I will translate and explicate portions of it in the future. For now, I include below a translation that I completed hurriedly 9 years ago of a section of Imam Ibn Salah's (d. early 7th century) own Adab al-Mufti wa l-Mustafti, a work of the same title on which Imam al-Nawawi bases his own work in part, as Imam al-Nawawi states himself. As I said then in introduction to the translation: "The section deals with the issue of responding to requests for fataawaa [legal position statements] on matters pertaining to belief [al-masaa'il al-kalaamiyyah]. The section, although originally intended for muftees in the 7th centry AH...contains important advice for today's students of knowledge....Allah is the Grantor of Success." As you may notice from this quote and the following translation, I use a tranliteration system that differs from the modified system that use throughout the other posts:

[Ibn SalaH said:] A muftee should not, when asked for a fatwaa on a creedal issue [fi-shay' min al-masaa'il al-kalaamiyyah], issue a detailed fatwaa. Rather he
should forbid the one requesting the fatwaa, and all other members of the
non-expert, Muslim populace [saa'ir al-`aammah], from discussing such a
matter; and order them to restrict themselves to belief in a general and
total fashion, without detailed exposition. He should (further) order them
to hold the position that--on this issue and the potentially confusing (mutashaabihaat) Qur'aanic aayaat and Prophetic transmissions--the correct position is that which is consistent with the Majesty of Allah and His Absolute Perfection and
Holiness; that such a position is our belief; and that we are not required
to examine such matters in detail and with precision; nor is such a course
of study appropriate for us. Rather we entrust the detailed knowledge of
such things to Allah [Sanctified and Exalted is He!] and divert our hearts
and tongues from delving into such matters.

This, and its like, that [have been transmitted] from the pre-eminent
muftees, is the correct stance on this issue; and it is the methodology of
the Early Muslims [wa-huwa sabeel as-salaf], the Imaams of the madhaahib
of note and the greatest of the fuqahaa' and righteous; and it is the most
correct and safest for the non-expert general populace and their
like--whose hearts will be corrupted by delving into such matters. Those
who hold a false belief because of such a detailed exposition are in
this way diverted therefrom--which is easier, simpler and safer.

If the authorities were to punish one who goes to extremes in deviating
from such a methodolgy, they would be emulating `Umar b. al-KhaTTaab (may
Allah be pleased with him) in his punishment of Dubay` b. `Isl, who used
to ask about the mutashaabihaat. (Even) the speculative theologians
[al-mutakallimeen] in our madhhab confess that this is the proper
methodology, in that it is safer for the one that it protects.

Al-Ghazaalee, who was one of these (mutakallimeen who held such a
position) towards the end of his life, was intense in his propagation of
this methodology and and in providing proof for its correctness. His
teacher, Abu l-Ma`aalee mentioned in his book <> that the
Imaam was as anxious as can be imagined to unify the populace in assuming
the methodology of the Salaf in this matter. Al-Ghazaalee was asked about
Kalaam Allaah (Sanctified and Exalted is He!) and he said, in part: As for
discussion about Kalaam Allaah, whether it is with voice and utterance
[Sawt wa-Harf] or not, this is bid`ah. Any one who invites the non-expert
populace to partake in discussion about it is not an Imaam of the Deen,
rather he is one who leads others astray...

<<Fatawaa wa-Masaa'il Ibn al-SalaaH fi l-Tafseer wa l-Hadeeth wa l-Usul
wa l-Fiqh: Accompanied by Adab al-Muftee wa l-Mustaftee
.>> Edited and
commented on by Dr. `Abd al-Mu`tee Ameen Qal`ajee. Bayrut, 1:84.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Al-hamdu li-llah! According to a Muslim blog, our brother and friend, Shaykh Ustadh Abdullah Hamid Ali will be taking up a position as a teacher (mudarris) at the Zaytuna Institute, alongside Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson and Shaykh Imam Zayd Shakir. May Allah benefit him, his family and us all with his knowledge, in this world and the next!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Here are some responses to questions about zakat that were posed by officers of the Harvard Islamic Society (HIS), on or about October 25, 2006. I post them so that they may be of future benefit.

Bi-smillah al-hamdu li-llahi wa-s-salatu wa-s-salamu `ala rasuli llahi wa `ala alihi wa-sahbihi wa-man tabi`ahu bi-ihsan ila yawmi d-din ama ba`du

1. Q: Does the Harvard Islamic Society (HIS) have to pay zakat on the donations that it receives and deposits in its bank account?

A: Neither the Harvard Islamic Society (i.e. the organization), its officers or any individual of whom I am aware is required to pay zakat al-mal on money that is donated to HIS and kept by HIS in its bank account, even if this money exceeds the zakat exemption limit (nisab) and remains in the possession of HIS for more than an Islamic lunar year (hawl).

Note: When donations are given without a specific restriction (an example of a specific restriction would be "use this money for the Mission Hill tutoring program"), then I do not know of anything in the shari`a that prevents HIS officers in any given year from spending such money in sadaqa (such as by feeding poor families in the local area during Ramadan) as they see fit. What we expect from our Lord (glorified and exalted is He) is that doing so would be accepted by Him as a good deed from the officers as well as the original donors. Allah knows best.

2. Q: Can the Harvard Islamic Society (HIS) collect zakat?

A: HIS may not accept zakat al-mal and use it for its own general activities. Neither HIS members (as members of HIS per se) nor its general activities are proper recipients of zakat. Conceivably, HIS could help members of the Harvard Muslim community pay zakat by announcing that it will distribute zakat on its behalf, collecting zakat, segregating these funds from its other funds and then either a) spending them on proper zakat recipients (such as local poor [faqir] or indigent [miskin] Muslims) or b) transferring the funds to trusted zakat-distributing entities in the area. HIS has done the latter in the recent past.

Advice [Nasiha]: However, I strongly suggest that HIS not collect zakat (scenario b above) at all however, since managing zakat funds is a weighty thing and there are more competent zakat distributors in the area. Allah knows best.

The needy slave of Allah,
Taha bin Hasan Abdul-Basser
October 25, 2006

Monday, June 25, 2007

An important translation by Shaykh Suhaib Webb of a response by Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah to a question about Allah's names and attributes (asma' llah wa-sifatuhu).

Also see another set of short translations by Shaykh Suhaib Webb (may Allah preserve him) that deserve attention.

Finally, a precious and affectionate post about how one can get into al-Azhar as a Westerner.

May Allah reward Shaykh Suhaib!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Hilal Sight Committee of North America met recently and published a statement. Here is the text of the resolution agreed to at the end of the meeting:

Resolution on Hilal Sighting
May 6, 2007 (Newark, California)

Bismillaah Walhamdulillaah WasSalaatu WasSalaam Ala Rasulillaah

We Muslims believe that our success in this life and the hereafter is in following the Qur’an and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (S).

We believe we can achieve unity among the Muslim community regarding the starting of all Islamic months, particularly Ramadan, Shawwal and the Dhul-Hijja by following the Hilal sighting by naked-eye in contiguous 48 states of USA and Canada

We believe the Shahada or reporting of Hilal sighting has to meet the criteria of the Shari’ah, i.e.:

1. The witness is a Muslim, sane, mature (at least reached the puberty age).

2. Known in his community to be sincere and truthful practicing Muslim

3. Accessible to Muslim Astronomers of Hilal Sighting Committee of NA for verification of the testimony.

4. If the elongation of the moon is less than 7 degree (Danjon limit), sighting claim is not acceptable.

5. If the elongation and altitude of the moon is between 7 and 10 degrees, we
need approximate 50 witnesses each from 5 places (total approximate

6. If the elongation of moon is between 10 and 12 degrees, altitude is less
than 10 degrees, and moonset-sunset lag is > 35 minutes we need 10+
witnesses each from 3+ places if cloudy and Jamme Ghafeer if clear.

7. If the moon’s elongation > 12 degree, altitude is > 10 degrees, we need 1
witness for Ramadan and 2 witnesses for all other months in case of
cloudy skies and Jamme Ghafeer for clear skies.

We the Imams and Muslim leadership present here trust and have confidence in the Hilal Sighting Committee of North America to perform the task of Hilal
sighting in a timely and professional manner.

The Shura of the Hilal Sighting Committee of North America that is consisting of Ulema of different schools of thought and the technical experts must make the final decision about the starting of the Islamic month within 4 hours after the sunset on the east coast (since we need to wait for sunset on the West coast if the Hilal is not sighted in the East and Midwest region of the US). The Ulema involved in this decision making should themselves be regular in sighting the Hilal and promoting this Sunnah.

The Muslim astronomy experts (Dr. Omar Afzal, Dr. M.A.K. Lodhi and Zaheer Uddin, Br. Qaiser Imam, Dr. Salman Zafar Shaikh, Br. Yousuf Ismail) will collect the data about the Hilal sighting and will provide to the Shura after scrutinizing it and advise the Ulema.

The member Masajid and Islamic Centers should receive the decision of Hilal Sighting Committee of North America every month via e-mail. Moreover, they or non-member Masajid and Centers or any individual can benefit through our website.

The Hilal Sighting Committee of North America would continue to base its decisions regarding the commencement of all lunar Islamic months on the
reliable actual sighting of the Hilal with the naked eye anywhere in contiguous USA (48 states) and Canada.

The Hilal Sighting Committee of North America would use for reference the astronomical data to assist in making its decisions.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The following is a quick translation of a precious response from Imam Taqi al-Din al-Subki (May Allah have mercy on him) that I come across recently while reading his compilation of ethical-legal responsa (fatawa), known as Fatawa al-Subki. Imam al-Subki said

Note (fa'ida): You asked on Saturday,Rabi` II 752 [A.H.] about the reason (`illa) for the prohibition of recitation of the Qur'an while bowing and prostrating. I said: Prayer encompasses
1) directing oneself [towards Allah] (tawajjuh), which is the aim (maqsud) of the one who is praying [as indicated by his] saying "I turned my face...";
2) recitation of the Qur'an, which is an [act of] devotion (`ibadah) intended in and of itself (maqsudah fi-nafsiha) and
3) standing, which is not an [act of] devotion per se since it is a conventional [posture] (mu`tadah). Rather directing oneself [towards Allah] and recitation of the Qur'an are what is intended [during this posture].

Then when he finishes [standing] he bows, humbling himself before Allah. [Since] bowing is an [act of] devotion intended in and of itself, he does not recite Qur'an during it because one [act of] devotion is not [to be] intruded upon by [another] act of devotion [li-anna `ibadatan la-tadkhulu `alayha `ibadah]. The supplication [that is said] while [one is bowing] is but a confirmation of the meaning of [this posture, as indicated] by his saying: "To you I bowed...". Prostration is similar [to bowing in this] and is even more complete [as a posture in which one] humbles [himself to Allah]. The supplication [recited during it], that is, "My face prostrated..." is a confirmation of the meaning of [this posture.] These three [acts of] devotion--recitation , bowing and prostrating--are the aims of prayer [maqasidu l-salah] that are, in their entirety, sheer directing oneself [towards Allah]. When he finishes [praying] he closes with the Testification (tashahhud) while sitting, which is like standing in that both are conventional [postures], the [sitting] posture not being a posture of devotion [per se]. Praising Allah and then invoking peace upon "His righteous slaves" are performed during [this posture], as though the one praying were detached from this world, advancing upon Allah (Flawless is He!) with the entirety of his self, such that when he is about to return to his senses and to the fellow members of his species, he greets "Allah's righteous slaves" with [the phrase] "peace [be upon you]" and then closes the prayers with [the same greeting], since when one who has been absent comes upon [a group of people] he says "peace [be upon you]." [So], since he was absent during his prayer and has [at this point] finished, he greets the righteous--the angels, jinn and human beings--in his presence.

(Fatawa al-Subki , K. al-Salah, s.v. "Qira'at al-Qur'an fi-l-Ruku` wa-l-Sujud")

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I had the pleasure of meeting Imam Zaid Shakir (may Allah preserve him and benefit him and others with his knowledge) again recently. I first met him about 13 years ago when he came to speak at Harvard. We have met several times, off and on, mostly at speaking events, since then. His website is a worth a visit.

Friday, April 20, 2007

A noteworthy translation of the answer that Shaykh Ibn `Abbad gave to Imam al-Shatibi about whether it is required for one to have a shaykh in the field of ihsan (spiritual excellence, also known as tasawwuf, tarbiya, yaqin, ikhlas, mu`amalah). May Allah reward Ustadh Abdullah for the efficient translation.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Al-hamdu li-llah. My teacher, the Servant of Knowledge in Bahrain, Shaykh Nizam Muhammad Salih Ya`qubi, visited Harvard University in order to participate in the recent symposium on Islamic micro-finance at the Harvard Law School. Shaykh Suheil Laher (May Allah preserve him and benefit him and others with his knowledge) and I were blessed by Allah with the opportunity to meet with Shaykh Nizam for an extended period in his hotel room Saturday evening, hear him transmit traditions (ahadith, sing. hadith) from our beloved Prophet (salla llahu `alayhi wa-sallam) and receive authorizations (ijazat) from him. May Allah bless Shaykh Nizam, benefit us with his knowledge and elevate his rank in paradise after granting him a long, beneficial life in this world! Amin.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Some Notes on the Beauties of Zakat

Bi-smillahi r-rahman r-rahim al-hamdu li-llah wa-s-salatu wa-s-salamu `ala rasulihi’l-mustafa wa-ala alihi wa-sahbihi wa-man walahu

1. Introduction

These are some notes from a short piece on the alms-tax (zakat al-mal) that I wrote a year or so ago and entitled Helping Students and Facilitating Inviters to Know Some of the Shari`a's Beauties in the Alms-Tax. (`Awn al-Tullab wa-Taysir al-Du`at fi Ma’rifat Ba`d Mahasin al-Shari`a fi’l-Zakat). In it, I briefly review some of the aims (maqasid) and beneficial wisdoms (hikam) that one finds the ethico-legal values (ahkam, sing. hukm) and etiquettes of the the shari`a that are related to zakat. May Allah accept the piece and these notes as a deeds done for Him alone and magnify it on my account on the Day of Reckoning. May Allah benefit in this world (al-dunya) and the after-life (al-akhira) whomever listens to it or reads it.

2. Definition

The term maqasid is a plural related to the noun maqsud ("aim, objective, goal") which in turn is the past participle (ism al-maf`ul) of the verb qasada ("he aimed for, he set out for").

The shari`a, lexically, "the path leading to the watering hole." It is the path taken by human beings whom Allah grants sucess in complying with the Divine Address (i.e. revelation), i.e. by doing what Allah encourages people to do and avoiding what He discourages people from doing.

Maqasid al-shari`a is a construct (idafa) that signifies "the aims of the path taken by human beings whom Allah grants sucess in complying with the Divine Address," i.e. the aims of the sacred law.

Imam Abu Ma`ali al-Haramayn al-Juwayni (d. 478/1085), Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d. 505/1111), Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d. 606/1209), Imam `Izz al-Din Ibn `Abd al-Salam (d. 660/1262)--along with other imams before and after them--explained that Allah established the shari`a such that those who conform to it achieve certain aims in this life (al-dunya) and the after life (al-akhira). The legists (fuqaha’) have written about the aims of the shari`a inreference text in the sciences of jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh) and ethics and law (furu` al-fiqh) as well as in monographs (t: dedicated works).

The primary principle (qa`ida) on which the entire shari`a is based, as stated by Imam `Izz al-Din Ibn `Abd al-Salam, is achieving interests and deflecting detriments (jalb al-masalih wa-dar’ al-mafasid). He mentions in his opus, al-Qawa`id al-Kubra, that the benefit of knowing the aims associated with any act of worship is that one will thereafter perform it better because he will be mindful of the aim associated with it while performing it.

Some maqasid are comprehensive (kulliyat) applying to all areas of the shari`a while others are particular (juz'iyyat).

There are aims associated with zakat.

Hikma pl. hikma is a noun related to the idea of making something fast or firm. It is associated with various meaning in religious technical terminology.

Hikma is wisdom. Allah is al-Hakim (the Wise).

The exegetes (mufassirun) say that the term hikma means sunna.

The fuqaha' use the term hikma as a synonym or near synonym for maqsud.

3. Maqasid al-Zakat

Some maqasid are associated with the payer (muzakki) while others are associated with the deserving receipting of (mustahiqq) of zakat.

Imam Hafiz Abu Abdullah al-Tirmidhi said: “The fruit of zakat is purification of wealth.”

Allah sayd: "Khud man amwalihm sadaqatan tutahhirhim bi-ha wa-tuzakkihim" i.e. “Take from their wealth charity (sadaqah) by which you purify them and cleanse them.”

3. Wisdoms (Hikam)

There are wisdoms associated with paying zakat. Among the wisdoms associated with zakat are the following:

3.1 Knowing who the poor and needy are.

3.2 Training oneself to be generous

3.3 Reducing attachment to wealth.

3.4 Reducing ill-feeling and resentment towards the wealthy.

3.5 Breaking the circulation of wealth among the wealthy.

4. Etiquttes (Adab)

Shaykh Wahba al-Zuhayli has mentioned several etiquettes associated with collecting, giving and receiving zakat monies (zakawat). He relates them from Ibn Juzayy al-Maliki (al-Qawanin al-Fiqhiyya, 99f as cited al-Fiqh al-Islami wa-Adillahtuh, 2:896) who compiled a similar list.

4.1. To not nullify one's zakat by reminding the receipient of the "favor" that one has shown him by giving him zakat and offending him (al-manna wa l-adha) because doing so forfeits the reward for paying zakat.

4.1.1 To not consider the amount given in zakah to be a lot (t: i.e. a big deal).

4.2. To pay zakat with ease of heart (tayyibatan nafsuhu).

4.3. To select one's zakah from the best and choicest of his earnings. Allah says: "Lan tanalu l-birra hatta tunfiqu mimma tuhibbun" i.e. "You will not achieve piety until you spend of that which you love."

4.4. Our fuqaha' differ as to whether it is better to conceal one paying zakat or to conceal it.

4.4.1 Shafi`is, Hanbalis: It is better to do so openly.

4.4.2 Maliki, Hanifi: It is better to conceal the giving of zakah. Rationale: By concealing it, one distances oneself more effectively from ostentation (riya’). Doing so it less demeaning to the poor.

Exception: If one is rich then paying zakat openly is preferably so it encourages other people to emulate him.

4.5. To engage someone to perform it on one's behalf.

4.6. To make du’a when paying: "Allahumma j`alha maghnam(an) wa-la taj`alha maghram(an)" i.e. "O Allah, make it something to be taken advantage of; do not make it a fine!" The recipient says: "Ajaraka llahu fima a`tayta wa-baraka laka fima abqayta wa-ja`alahu laka tuhura [tahura?]" i.e. May Allah reward you in what you have given, bless you in what remains (with you) and make it a purification for you!"

Among the etiquettes are the following.

4.7. That there is no need to tell the recipient that what one is giving him is zakat. (al-Fiqh al-Islami wa-Adillatuh, 2:896-899)

5. Conclusion

Zakat is one of the foundation practices of Islam. It is characterized by maqasid and hikam, as are all or most of the ahkam of the shari`a.


`Umar b. Salih Ibn `Umar. Maqasid al-Shari`a `inda al-Imam al-`Izz Ibn `Abd al-Salam, Jordan 1423/2003.

`Imad al-Din Abu Hijleh. Al-Qawl al-`Atir fi Masarif al-Zakat wa Sadaqat al-Fitr. Everett, Massachusetts, 1422/2001.

Wahba al-Zuhayli. Al-Fiqh al-Islami wa-Adillatuhu. Vol 2. Dar al-Fikr, 1404/1984.

`Izz al-Din Ibn Abd al-Salam. Al-Qawa`id al-Kubra. Dar al-Fikr, n.d.