Thursday, October 13, 2016

Aqidah Tahawiyyah

The beliefs of Islam elegantly summarized in 130 points explained in a dozen parts.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Hajj Workshop

Learn the etiquette of presenting yourself in the court of the King of Kings and be rewarded richly:

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Sexual Abuse: An Islamic Response

A video of a talk given recently at the Khalil Center regarding how to deal with sexual abuse in the Muslim community; pretending it doesn't exist will not make it go away...

For more information or to get help, please reach out to

Such institutions are carrying the weight of the community on their shoulders and deserve our respect, support, and assistance.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

A Rejoinder to PR/Media Islam & Muslims


As a rejoinder to our PR-oriented leadership and their Muharram-inspired press releases regarding the Charlie Hebdo fiasco in Paris, I posit the following:


I- Some Points to Consider

1- Charlie Hebdo is about the most offensive, racist, and malevolent publication one can imagine. France subjugated the nations of Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, and more recently Mali and Central African Republic to name a few, killed their people like animals, dismantled their institutions of religion, state, trade, education, and culture, and left despotic lunacy in their wake, all without ever apologizing. Those of its former colonies who decided to pursue economic opportunities in France were rewarded by ghettoisation, institutional racism, systemic discrimination in government services, jobs, and social spheres to the point that France actually legislates what a Muslim woman can and cannot wear. On top of that, they selectively enshrine the right of a racist publication to repeatedly desecrate the one who those downtrodden people love more than anyone and anything else, 'alayhissalatu wassalam?

Sound familiar? It is along the lines of what white folk in America did to Black folk, and although even I find some exaggeration in that analogy, I contend that the exaggeration is quantitative, not qualitative, in terms of the master/servant dynamic at play. Imagine if the KKK had a publication the prime directive of which was to degrade, humiliate and dehumanize black folks, Jews, and Catholics (which Charlie Hebdo does quite frequently as well, or at least did till recently); if two black men did to it what happened to Charlie Hebdo, how would black folk respond, even if they didn't agree with the methods used, or the use of lethal force? How would you expect them to respond? How fake would an outpouring of support for freedom of speech by racist parties at such an occasion be?

This is not an exaggeration. In the USA we have a more fair benchmark for freedom of speech and religion. It may not conform to the standards of Islamic law, but it is much more fair. In France, there are laws that ban female Muslims from attending school in Hijab, from wearing the Niqab at all, and mosques are systematically and routinely denied permits to build despite overcrowding and genuine need. It is a state which utterly fails to uphold freedom of religion by American standards. It also has stridently outlawed anti-Semitic (Jewish) speech, which, despite me not objecting to it, means that it also fails the American standard of freedom of speech as well. Period. Charlie Hebdo used to do business with the same staff and a different name until 1970; it was Hara Kiri Hebdo, until it was banned in that year by the French Interior Ministry for its disrespectful material regarding the death of former French President Charles de Gaulle. WAIT! WHAT? Yes, it was actually censored by the French government, and it had to reopen by a different name, Charlie Hebdo (hebdo meaning "weekly"). Now tell me how this frankly racist state (no pun intended), which has actually severely censured and censored this malevolently racist publication in the past for its outbursts against a French hero, can show a straight face when it defends the aforementioned publication as beacon of freedom and free speech? This is nonsense. Anyone who acts like what happened is a purely one-sided instance of hate against an innocent party, is being disingenuous to say the least.

2- (Points 2 and 3 require a book to be written about each of them to do them justice academically. Suffice to say that will not happen here, but it should happen in the future...)

Islam does not now, nor did in the past, sanction absolute freedom of speech. A more astute reader will note that even the US constitution or European law don't sanction absolute freedom of speech. Hate speech, shouting "fire" in a crowded theater, libel, and the like are also not protected by freedom of speech laws here either. However, Islam goes one step further. In its legal theory it considers one of the basic mandates of the law to be the protection of honor; this much is explicitly borne out by the last Sermon of the messenger of Allah, sallallahu'alayhi wa sallam. Therefore in our sacred law, there is no concept that a person is legal or morally vouchsafed the right to disparage the honor of another. Platitudes about support of freedom of speech are at best, deceptive.

I support the 1st amendment version freedom of speech, not morally, or as a scholar of the shari'ah, but to uphold my fair end of the bargain in my social contract as a practicing Muslim in my social contract with my native country, America, a social contract I intend to uphold,and encourage my fellow citizens here to uphold as well. If I were asked to comment about a situation in a third place, I would feel no legal or moral commitment, spoken or unspoken to the concept of absolute free speech, vis-a-vis the freedom to lampoon, mock and blaspheme Islam, Christianity or Judaism, or the prophets, upon whom be peace (although I do feel strongly that a human being has the right to speak the truth whenever and wherever he or she is, and this right cannot be arrogated by a state). I further would not feel it immoral if such speech was outlawed and punishable. This much is the canonical position of the Maliki school, the mainstream and normative Islamic legal tradition which I follow, and I more than suspect it is the same for the other three schools as well. The fact is that the legal precedent sent down from the age of the salaf who are essentially the prophetic companions, and the two successive generations succeeding them, is that disparaging God, the prophets, upon whom be peace, the Qur'an, and the like, was punishable by the government. Such a concept is not a fringe, nor is is a minority or even majority opinion; it is the normative Sunni tradition. One who chooses to ignore that fact, is not representative of the Sunni tradition, and if he or she claims they are, then they are being disingenuous.

Please note, that this does not mean that Islam stifles discussion or inquiry, especially from those of other faith traditions. Many sophisticated Christian, Jewish, atheistic, and heterodox Islamic refutations of the Sunni tradition were authored under the most dominant of Sunni theocracies. John of Damascus penned the first major Christian refutation of Islam under the rule of the Umayyids, during the age of the salaf. He was not killed or harassed for it. It was an academic work, not one of blasphemy, disparagement, libel, and mockery. It conveyed his intellectual and theological disagreements with Islam in an academic manner.

3- The normative moral and legal punishment in the sacred law for blasphemously disparaging the prophets, upon whom be peace, is death. This much is also clear from basic texts of the Maliki and other schools (please see from pp. 520 of volume 2, onwards in Wansharisi's canonical collection of legal precedents of the Maliki school in Andalusia, North, and West Africa, al-Miy'ar al-Mu'rib). This does not mean that anyone and everyone is encouraged or even allowed to kill each person who disparages the prophets. Vigilantism is prohibited in the Muslim sacred law for similar practical reasons it is prohibited in other legal codes: it leads to the spectacle of chaos, the avoidance of which calls for extreme measures. Legally the enforcement of the death penalty in such a case can only be done through a court procedure or as an act of war on behalf of a sovereign state. However, we said that the death penalty is not merely a legal punishment but a moral one as well, meaning that the moral right to life that one guilty of blasphemy is entitled to, is forfeit upon commission of such a crime until and unless there is repentance from the guilty party (which involves some further details) from a purely Islamic ethical point of view.

This means that one who extra-judicially kills a person guilty of blasphemy is a criminal, but his or her moral crime is not murder, rather it is that of arrogating the prerogative of the state. Even if the state chooses to punish such a person harshly due to the difficulties their act will cause society, they are not morally culpable for murder.

II- Regarding the Paris Shootings: 

My heart goes out to the families of the two police officers, one maintenance worker, and one visitor to the building that were killed in the carnage. Their deaths were morally unjustifiable by anyone who doesn't believe in the concept of morally justified loss of life as collateral damage, which includes myself to the exclusion of many in our government. Such a loss of precious life is precisely why vigilante actions such as these are not good.

As for the killing of Charlie Hebdo staff by two or three gunmen, I hold my head high and say that even though I don't sanction, encourage, or endorse what they did, I'm not going to shed any tears for the vicious, racist, and malevolent victims who were the target of their excess. If a drug dealer gets run over by a car in my neighborhood, I'm not expected to do a #Je_Suis_Drug_Dealer hash tag on twitter. I have more self-respect than that as a human being and as a Muslim. I do feel some pity for the Charlie Hebdo staff. I feel sorry that they chose to live a life of hate and die a death of hate, and that they could not find the stuff of human goodness in their hearts to do something better than be the Pharonic slave driver whipping the poor Hebrews of French society under their lash.

I don't condemn all forms of curtailing of free speech, either in the USA or abroad. I support the freedom of all people to speak the truth. I don't support the real legal right or supposed moral right for people to mock and lampoon the prophets, upon whom be peace. I do condemn racism, totalitarianism, fascism, injustice, killing innocents, and the like, worldwide and in a balanced way. If the racist French state treats some of its most disenfranchised and downtrodden people in a subhuman fashion, and then they wake up one day, see something they don't like, and scream about it, I don't feel obliged to show it sympathy for a problem it provoked in the first place; they readily provided another hand to complete the clap sounding off this whole matter.

In general, I feel that there is too much violence in this world and it needs more mercy. I also am not so enchanted by the emperor's new clothes that I feel that that mercy is the sole burden of one group to be carried at its expense to benefit the other.

Further Reading of Interest on the Matter

Free Speech Does Not Mean Freedom From Criticism

Muslims Are Right to Be Angry: Catholic League

Before You Say Je Suis Charlie Hebdo (I am Charlie Hebdo)
See, Is This Really You?  

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Deen Isn't Easy

The Deen isn't easy: A talk delivered in Masjid Hamza, Valley Stream, New York, this Ramadan.

Friday, May 30, 2014

No Honor in "Honor Killings": Why We Should Care About People Like Farzana Iqbal

Why Should We Care About Farzana Iqbal? (English)

I recently uploaded two version of essentially the same talk: one in English and one in my barely functional Urdu regarding my frustration at so many levels about the phenomenon of "Honor Killings" and its most recent well-known spectacle in the case of Farzana Iqbal, Allah have mercy upon her.

It is a very unpolished talk, which comes from the heart, and it is something I had to say, as a Muslim, as well as a student of sacred knowledge, if anyone cares to listen.

It expresses my broken heart about something that I know to be an element of jahiliyyah in many, though certainly not most, Pakistani Muslims, as well as people's lack of courage to speak out against it, which includes, sadly, many who serve sacred knowledge.

It expresses my broken heart about people and police watching, and not stopping it.

It expresses my broken heart about people, Muslim, and not, Pakistani and not, thinking that this has something to do with Islam. To tell you the truth, the fact that a Muslim might think that this has any good in it at all is a bigger catastrophe than the fact that a person of another faith might think so, as case one damages one's belief, whereas case two just takes a person from one disbelief to another.

It expresses my broken heart about people thinking that this horrific act has anything to do with the messenger of Allah, Muhammad, sallallahu'alayhi wa sallam, in any way, shape or form.

Allah guide us to something better, and make our tomorrow better than our today, and make our akhirah better than this life...

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

A Woman Recites Qur'an to Open a Session at ISNA for the First Time

I was recently sent an inquiry by a pious student of knowledge regarding a buzz on the internet hailing the first time a sister had been given the opportunity to recite the Qur'an at an ISNA Convention, this year. I figure that many others have the same question, so I have reproduced the question and answer below I added a few comments to this post that were not included in my letter to the young brother:

RE: Question about listening to a non-mahram's voice

Salaam Shaykh Hamzah,

I hope you are doing well, it was nice to see you this past weekend.

In light of the recent event of the sister reciting Qur'an at ISNA, there's been a lot of discussion going around relating to the permissibility of this. I was wondering if you could explain the Maliki position on this topic? And also if you knew the position that allows for its permissibility? I've had a hard time finding much information online, other than people saying its haram lol.

Jazak Allah Khair!

From: Hamzah Wald Maqbul

RE: Question...

Wa'alaykumussalam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu
The voice of a woman is haram for a man to listen to if it will be a cause for fitnah for him, except in specific circumstances based on dire need.
Likewise, if a woman knows that her speaking to someone or in front of someone will cause a fitnah she is prohibited from doing so, except in specific circumstances based on similar need.

[Such a fitnah is taken for granted from a young attractive woman.]

The opening recitation of Qur'an for an ISNA session is not such a need, and given that the young lady in question (whom I have met in the past) is almost surely to have caused some impropriety by having recited in front of a mixed gathering, I am not terribly excited about what happened. Often times Muslims in the west behave like they have something to prove to others, and they thereby misplace their priorities and values. I don't believe by her having recited, that the honor of Muslim women increased, and if we feel that by putting women in positions traditionally discharged by men is somehow progress, then we ourselves are admitting two things: one is that women will not be honored until they are encouraged to behave like men, and two, that centuries of intervening Muslims society and scholarship have been mired in a patriarchy that has barred them from being fair to women, until ISNA's enlightened conference organizers elevated them to that status that our `ulama were hitherto unable to accord them.
As for those who would argue that only the most extreme pervert would be put into fitnah by a Qur'anic recitation, I propose that only one who lacks basic fitrah would not be at least charmed by an attractive young lady reciting something as beautiful as the Qur'an. I did not listen to the recording, but assume she recites well. [The fact that a beautiful voice is reciting the Qur'an does not negate the possibility of fitnah, rather it compounds the sin therein, as it causes something that is sacred to be violated rather than something mundane like normal speech.]

Anyone who sat in our tasawwuf class, or classes like it from the past 14 centuries knows that the pathways to the enlightening or destruction of the heart cross through the eyes and ears. To fail to vigilantly guard over those gateways to the heart is to slacken in defending one's deen and will ensure that one is robbed of the maqam of ihsan
I'm not saying that this sister is evil or that whoever listened is surely going to hell. [In fact, I have much respect for her efforts to serve Islam, as do I for the good intentions held by those who wished to benefit from listening to the speeches of various community leaders at the conference.]
I'm just saying that all of the `ulama' I've ever studied with would be mortified by the prospect of young women reciting in a mixed gathering, and that fear is not based on bigoted patriarchy, but on the firm principles established by the sunnah. [Din is nasihah or sincere advice. If we didn't care or have some hope for good, we wouldn't have wasted our breath.]
The fact that this event is being touted as an achievement of something betrays an attitude that until we behave like them, we are backwards, otherwise I am sure that many other people recited Qur'an at other venues this weekend, and if all things were equal, those recitations would be received with acclaim. I am happy with the way of the old mashayikh of dar al-Islam and never felt that they were in need of the philosophies of modernity or western feminism in order to rectify their attitudes which are based on an usuli understanding of the sunnah.
... and Allah knows best.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Worry About Allah. Don't Worry About the People.

A great part of tasawwuf that seems to have been obscured from the masses in the era of big conferences, YouTube videos, Facebook Friends and Twitter Followers, is developing the capacity in one's self to be immune from people's praise and scorn. In an age where being shamed online causes young people to take their own lives, do what is right, and don't worry about what people think afterwards. Enjoy your good deeds because Allah loves them, not for the sake of the people, and feel shame for your sins in front of Him, and don't care what they say. If one can do this it will greatly contribute to their spiritual progress, as well as their own psychiatric well-being.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Transcontinental Boycotts and Other Perils of Contemporary Islam

A response to how to reconcile the seeming angst between some scholars and activists of Islam in .pdf format.

Read Paper Here

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Can Supplications to the Divine Change One's Destiny?

Having taught basic `aqidah courses several times over, through phone, internet, and the time honored medium of person to person contact, I can tell you that one of the trickiest subjects to tackle is always that of qadr or divine predestination: are we in control of our own lives, or are we living out a hard deterministic cosmic script in which we are bound without any choice of our own?

The brief answer according to orthodox Sunni theology based on the Qur'an and Sunnah is:

(a)     Allah knew everything before He created anything, in both gross and minute detail, that which was, that which is, and that which shall for ever be through His perfect and all-encompassing knowledge, which is an essential attribute of His divine essence.

(b)     Everything that ever happened only happened, happens and shall happen through His causing it to happen. He has control over what happens in terms of times, outcomes, measurements, amounts, quanta, etc., to the minutest degree. Nothing happens in creation against His will or according to anything other than His plan. We do not believe like the misguided nations before us, or their heretical conjugate counterparts within our fold, that anything happens against His will, or that he regrets or resents anything that happens. Indeed the meaning of the divine name al-Samad mentioned in surat al-Ikhlas is He through whom if something is to happen, it must be done, and He, who if He doesn't partake in a matter, that matter will never be realized.

(c)     Every human being has the ability to chose between good and evil at every turn. Those choices earn a person a place in the hereafter which is commensurate with the quality of said choices made.

Those choices plays out in one of five combination scenarios.

          1- Tawfiq: This is when you wish for good, and Allah wishes for you to execute that good you wish for. This results in earning a minimum of ten times that good deed's value in reward, up to 700 and beyond, as well as having further doors for good opened.

          2- Reward without tawfiq: This is when you wish for good, but Allah doesn't allow you to execute what you wished for. This results in earning the good deed intended at face value.

          3- Null result: This is when someone wishes for something which is morally neutral like buying lavender soap rather than pine. The result is likewise null whether the person gets what they wanted or not.

          4- Protection from evil: This is when one wishes to sin and indeed goes through with the attempt, but is thwarted by Allah's not wishing for that sin to be actualized. From Allah's grace, such a person is not punished for such a matter.

          5- Khudhlan: This is when a person wishes to sin, and Allah allows them to carry out such a self-destructing act so that they can be indisputably deserving of the punishment that they earn by their own hands on the day of Judgment. Such an act is punished at face value.

Now when taken in isolation, each (a), (b), and (c), seem very straightforward and even intuitive. The problem lies in reconciling, how they can all be true at the same time.

The messenger of Allah, sallallahu`alayhi wa sallam, informed us that the reconciliation would not be graspable by the mind which is trapped in the cage of time and space, so we should save our time and bandwidth from being sunk in this question. There is great wisdom in his prescription: it allows one, by accepting their inability to grasp the common thread that binds three such basic and intuitive concepts, to come to terms with the greater and more important realization that Allah has the prerogative to chose what He chooses without having to answer to others: "[None have such right that] He be asked about what He does, but [He has the right that] they be asked." (surat al-Anbiya'). 

Far from being a crippling blow to the intellect, the acceptance of (a), (b), and (c) being true at the same time is as much a sign of suspending one's intellect as using a cell phone while not being able to explain how it works in complete detail. To conceive of the idea that some parts of the mechanics of creation might be beyond the grasp of most, if not all of the creation is a given when considering that in physical scale, the laws that govern the seven firmaments, heaven, hell, multiple dimensions (which are talked about in the hadith literature), is not far-fetched. The laws of predestination apply to all of them universally, and are therefore functioning at a fundamental level that to which we have not been, and, in this life, are not to be exposed.  

This is in line with a saying attributed to Sayyiduna al-Hasan bin Ali bin Abi Talib by Shaykh Ali Hajwiri in his Kashf al-Mahjub: "I saw the position of the companions of the messenger of Allah sallallahu`alayhi wa sallam with regards to predestination was to believe in their hearts that Allah was in total control of all affairs, while practically conducting themselves as if they were in complete control of their affairs."

The messenger of Allah, sallallahu`alayhi wa sallam said, "Each is facilitated to [behave in the manner for] which he was created." This is with regards to the idea that in Allah's predestination, each soul was divinely preordained to either be from the people of felicity or wretchedness. With regards to the issue of fate, I have found that there are two reactions in people, each being indicative of one of the two aforementioned states. Those with propensity towards wretchedness will respond by saying that if they are going to hell anyways, then there is no point in even trying anymore. Those who have a propensity towards felicity will understand that the only One who has the power to switch their fate one way or the other is Allah, and so this realization will increase them in their humility toward Him, by highlighting the knowledge that He is the only one who can help them out in this matter.

To question whether such a system is fair, or why it is in place is to run afoul of the Qur'anic maxim of surat al-Anbiya' mentioned earlier: the Muslim theological definition of justice is that to which Allah commands. The fact that that command is one in which there is great mercy and benefit to us is not an essential quality of Justice, but an incidental one which Allah chose through His generosity. We do not, like the neo-Platonic mu`tazilah or the Christians, hold Allah to an external and synthetic standard of justice. If He was beholden to anything, it, rather than He would be the supreme power in the universe and more worthy of worship and veneration, which, as a concept is alien to the prophetic tradition and will lead an utterly ludicrous and paradoxical trap regarding the nature of divinity.

Finally coming to the question indicated in the title, can supplication or du`a change one's fate, the authentic hadith literature would seem to indicate so, as Hakim narrates a hadith which Dhahabi accepts as sahih: "On the authority of Thawban, [may Allah be pleased with him], the messenger of Allah, sallallahu`alayhi wa sallam said, 'Nothing can repel fate, except du`a, and nothing can increase one's lifespan, except piety. Verily a man will be deprived of his apportioned lot in this world due to sins he commits.'"

Does this mean that du`a is a wildcard in the system? Hardly. Rather the meaning is there to reaffirm (c) which is the idea that the choices that you and I make are very intimately tied to the outcomes that we experience in this world and the hereafter, by stating the benefits and power of an act of piety such as du`a or the harms of an impiety like sin. Does this necessarily negate (a) or (b)? Not at all. Allah knows that the person making du`a will make du`a and He allows it to happen. The fate that is repelled when such a person makes du`a is that evil fate that they would have had had (a), (b), and (c) not lined up in such a way to save him from it by means of du`a.

Perhaps this is what is meant in the hadith of Bukhari narrated by Sayyiduna Anas, may Allah be pleased with him: "The Messenger of Allah, sallallahu`alayhi wa sallam, said, 'Indeed the slave, when placed in his grave, and his companions turn around and leave him and he hears the footfalls of their sandals, at that time two angels will come to him, sit him up, and ask him, 'What did you used to say about this man, Muhammad, sallallahu`alahyhi wa sallam?' As for the believer, he will say, 'I testify that he is the slave of Allah and His messenger.' It will be said to him, 'Look at your your seat in the fire. Indeed Allah has exchanged for it a place in jannah.' He will be able to see both of them at the same time..." One possible fate was replaced by another through piety, all the while with Allah's primordial knowledge of one taking precedence over the other, and His allowing and facilitating one to overtake the other.

... and Allah knows best.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

This a very surreal and strange article I read recently...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Those Crazy Barbarian Muslims!

About the Battle of Manzikert, a decisive battle in which the Muslim Seljuq commander Alp Arsalan decisively checked and thwarted the Byzantine Emperor Romanos IV and his army from having a foothold in eastern Anatolia we see the following tract in the Wikipedia entry (I know it is not a very classy citation, but you'll get the point)...

"When the Emperor Romanos IV was conducted into the presence of Alp Arslan, he refused to believe that the bloodied and tattered man covered in dirt was the mighty Emperor of the Romans. After discovering the identity of the Emperor, he placed his boot on the Emperor's neck and forced him to kiss the ground.[7] A famous conversation is also reported to have taken place[17]:
Alp Arslan: "What would you do if I were brought before you as a prisoner?"
Romanos: "Perhaps I'd kill you, or exhibit you in the streets of Constantinople."
Alp Arslan: "My punishment is far heavier. I forgive you, and set you free."
Alp Arslan treated Romanos with considerable kindness[18] and again offered the terms of peace which he had offered previous to the battle."

So much for the bloodthirsty "kill all the infidels" theory...

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Thomas Friedman on Mitt Romney's Recent Mideast Tour

A very well worded, straight to the point, and genuine look at how republican utilitarian pandering helps no one...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Buddhist Monks in Burma Call For Muslim Community to Be Shunned

Monday, May 07, 2012

Ignoring the Messenger, Ignoring the Message... A Plea to the Ummah to Learn Arabic

It is not a sin to not know Arabic. Generations of righteous and pious slaves of Allah and his Rasul, sallallau`alayhi wa sallam, came and left from this world, century after century, and they didn't speak a lick of Arabic. Heck, many of them didn't even know how to read.

However, if they learned anything, they learned Arabic, because the book of Allah was the most important thing to them in existence, and the Arab prophet was the most the most dear person to them in creation. Until the twentieth century, no Muslim, righteous or unrighteous, undertook a course of education that wasn't based on the Kitab and Sunnah, nor was any institute of education built that wasn't based on the Kitab and Sunnah.

Today, we take fourteen years of compulsory government-mandated education followed by four, six, eight and ten years of additional professional education, on our own dime; none of these nearly two decades of "education" will ever see mention of Allah or His Messenger, sallallahu`alayhi wa sallam, and when they rarely do, they will see them mentioned in the context of disbelief.

Can we not see the difference between those simple farmers, housewives, slaves, and peasants, and us? They learned nothing, and had very simple lives in which they lived humbly, simply, and honestly. We are sophisticated and know everything under the sun about all things material. We learn Spanish, French, Latin, Java, C++, and literally tomes of jargon.

... but we never could be bothered to read the message sent to us by the Creator of the worlds, and we couldn't be bothered to understand His messenger, sallallahu`alayhiwasallam.

The basic understanding of Arabic, meaning enough to understand basic sentences, vocabulary, syntax, morphology, etc., and how to look up words that one doesn't know in the dictionary takes between 1-2 years of study depending on time given, rigor of study, and diligence of the student. This is enough to change salat al-Tarawih from a test of patience to a journey in wisdom divine. You won't understand all of it, but it is a beginning.

We spend twenty-some odd years learning that which will perish, and turn our back to that which will last forever...

Do we not have a need to understand the message in this era? Are we so well off that we can take it easy with Allah and focus on other things? Is our position among the nations so strong and respected that we no longer need to learn wisdom? Is our relationship with Allah so strong that we are unassailable by those who wish to harm us? These are all concerns for this world.

In the hereafter, what excuse will we have when we meet Allah?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Halal Matters: Clarity Amidst Controversy


An In-Depth Workshop on the Halal Industry by Hamzah wald Maqbul

This Saturday at ICOR From `Asr till `Isha' 3:15-8:00PM

18080 NE 68th St, Suite D 140
Redmond, WA 98052.

For Further Details Contact: 425.829.2107 or 425.974.9322 or email

Workshop Details

This Saturday-evening workshop will help the seeker of knowledge go beyond the emotionally driven quasi-intellectual mosque-foyer debates about eating at McDonalds and “Zabiha vs. Halal,” and explore some of the most pertinent and relevant issues that face the halal consumer in our time, place, and context.Attending this seminar will ready one to understand what the debate is among scholars, producers, and businessmen, and how this mix of ancient fiqh with modern industrial methods of mass production and the demands of corporate business models directs the struggle for the future of halal standards for generations to come.Topics discussed will include:An overview of the legal requirements for animal slaughter and how they relate to modern industrial techniquesMechanical Slaughter vs. Human Slaughter: Can a machine affect ritual slaughter processes?The Vertical Cut: How do traditional methods of slaughter fare with other techniques?Ingredients: Gelatin, Cochineal, Lecithin, Glycerin. etc.; what are they and where are they from?Tayyib: What does it mean? Can it be standardized and drive the market in a different direction?

Guest Speakers

Shaykh Hamzah wald Maqbul. Shaykh Hamzah was born in Whittier, California and lived in Southern California until the age of ten when he moved to Blaine, Washington. After graduating from Blaine High School, he attended the University of Washington and in 2004 completed a Bachelors of Science in Biochemistry and a Bachelors of Arts in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.After graduation, Shaykh Hamzah went on to pursue traditional Islamic studies, which took him to Syria and Egypt where he studied the Arabic language; Morocco, Mauritania, and the UAE, where he studied the madhab of Imam Malik, grammar, usul al-hadith , and the two renditions of the qira’ahof Imam Nafi ‘, Warsh and Qalun; and Pakistan where he had the opportunity to study tafsir, usul al-hadith, hadith, ‘ilm al-rijal and Hanafi fiqh. All of these studies culminated in him receiving an ijazat al-tadris, literally meaning “a license to teach.” This is the equivalent in Pakistani Islamic seminaries to a Masters of Arts in Arabic and Islamic studies, as well as receiving an unbroken chain of transmission by which to narrate the hadith of such books as the Muwatta’ of Imam Malik, the Sihah al-Sittah (Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Nasa’i and Ibn Majah), and the Sharh Ma’ani al-Athar of Imam al-Tahawi.Since his return from overseas, Shaykh Hamzah has been involved with the Halal Advocates of America and their industry-facing verification program (HFSAA); worked with the Muslim Students Associations throughout the Pacific Northwest; taught and gave Khutbah at masajid throughout the Greater Seattle area; been invited to numerous speaking engagements all along the west coast which include classes, guest khutbahs and conferences; and served as Imam in Redmond, WA, Chico, CA, and Mountlake Terrace, WA.

He is currently the Director of the Thawr Institute,
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Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Rare Look Into Israeli Introspection

I just read this article from Ha'aretz (Hebrew for al-Ardh) in which there is an honest and introspective look at Israel's position in the tumultuous Middle East that is before our eyes. It is fascinating.

It seems that the Israeli body politic has finally actually started believing much of its own propaganda, and some very few, if not ethical, then at least intelligent, observers from the inside are starting to get nervous about the facts...

Read the article here...

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Cricket: An Apocryphal Tale of the Abject Failure of a Game as a Sport

Once upon a time, not so long ago, in a madrasah far far away, a Shaykhul-Hadith sat on the pulpit and exhorted his hundreds of students on the subject of sports.

"Islam encourages Muslims to be of sound mind and strong body," he began. "The break that you get which lasts from after`Asr until Maghrib is specifically intended to be an opportunity for you to go out and exercise, so that the mind can focus better on your studies."

He further contributed, "If you were to go out for a run or the like, you will receive the benefit of exercise well and good. If you wish to play a sport, then not only will you benefit, but you will also have fun and wax your competitive spirit. Many of the more strict and stern madaris look down on sports as a waste of time, preferring the more dull forms of exercise because students often get carried away in their games and start to look forward to them more than their studies. We however think that such a draconian outlook is misplaced, especially given the fine group of students we have in this institution."

So far his speech was relatively standard. That is enough for most. However, with all due respect to my people, no desi bayan is complete without a story of incredible and unbelievable proportions. Such stories are generally treasure troves of wisdom with much practical advice to impart to one who wishes to change their life for the better; the only Achilles heel to such stories is that one will inevitably scratch their head and say, "What the hell?" Nevertheless, it is often a fault of bayan-surfers that they go to listen to bayans only to relish that one strange and wondrous story they had never heard before, if not for any other reason, then so that they can say they heard something new tonight.

If you are still reading this, then that means that you probably have a little bit of that in you too, so as a polite blog-host I am obliged to indulge you...

He continued, "Hitler was a proud leader who believed the German people to be the master race. He was devoid of divine guidance and a man of horrible action and intent. However, no one can accuse him of not being proud of his people, or not wanting only the best for them, in whatever convoluted and twisted way he was able to.

One day Hitler was sitting with his cabinet, and he asked, 'Is there any sport in which the Germans do not dominate?' One of his cronies replied, 'Sir, we dominate in every sport (as the ghost of Jesse Owen says 'pshhhhhhh!') except cricket.'

'Then we must assemble the finest of German athletes available and have them train by night and day, so that the German people can be supreme in cricket as well!'

(This is the point at which your common sense takes a coffee break, and despite having just said, 'What the hell, man,' you sit back in amused anticipation of where this is going).

Hazrat Shaykhul Hadith continues: "When this team was assembled, and they had trained long and hard, Hitler received word that they were now the most talented cricket team in the world. Pleased with himself, Hitler inquired as to who the world champion team was at that time. He was told that it was England. He ordered that England's team be invited to a grand match that was to be a display for the German people and the world. He attended the match himself.

After the first day of play, not quite understanding the game, he asked what the result was. He was told that the match wasn't over yet and that it would resume the next day.

The same thing happened on day two. He was given the same answer.

The same thing happened on day three. Upon receiving the same answer he flew into a fit of rage and said that the German people will not have their time and talents wasted on such a long, drown out, and pointless game. He thereafter decreed that no German will ever play cricket again, and thus Germany exited from the world cricket scene.

Although Hitler was a thoroughly misguided figure to say the least, on this one issue he had a point, so it is the official request of the madrasah that whatever sport you play in your break time, please do not waste your time or ours on playing cricket."

You live long enough and you will see and hear strange and mysterious things. If you keep the company of the wise, you will find wisdom in the most bizarre of places. If you listen to enough bayans, you will never cease in your wird of "what the hell..."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Education in Pre-Colonial India

courtesy of

Some Aspects of the Muslim Educational System in Pre-Colonial India

By Amer Bashir

The aim of this paper is to bring to light some of the hitherto less known aspects of the Muslim Educational System in pre-colonial India. By pre-colonial India, we refer to the time from the advent of Islam in India in the beginning of the eighth century CE up to the consolidation of colonial rule in the middle of the eighteenth century.[1] This short paper cannot do justice to all the details of the Muslim Educational System during this period. Therefore, we shall confine ourselves to only some aspects of it. These include the evolution of the curriculum over the centuries, and general contours of the educational system. We will also be challenging some conventional theories. These include the notion that before the coming of the press, books were in short supply in India. The other is that hadith was little known in India until the coming of Shah Wali Allah (d. 1762). We will be presenting individual incidents which we feel to be representative of a broader trend and from these we shall draw general conclusions.

During the period under study Muslim rule gradually extended from Sindh to include the whole of Northern India until it became one of the three major Muslim powers of that time under the Great Mughals,[2] Ottoman Turkey and Safavid Iran being the other two. Such a strong and vast empire required a strong administrative structure which in turn required an effective system of education. As we shall see later, education was sufficiently sought after, and provided for during this time, such that India at that time could favorably compare and often compete with the central lands of Islam in the field of scholarship.[3]


We begin our analysis with looking at the position of knowledge and education in Islam. Numerous Qur’anic verses and Prophetic traditions establish the centrality of knowledge in Islam. The verses include “Are those who know and those who do not know alike?” (39:9); the first revelation “Read in the name of your Lord who created” (96:1); and the prayer taught in the Qur’an, “Say (O Muhammad), My Lord! Increase me in knowledge” (20:114). Similarly, the Prophetic traditions (ahadith) exhorting people to seek knowledge are also well known. Examples include the famous tradition in which the Prophet is reported to have said, “It is obligatory upon every Muslim to seek knowledge.”[4] Similarly, al-Tirmidhi has reported a hadith in which the Prophet (pbuh) said, “The excellence of a scholar upon the worshiper is like my excellence over the lowest one amongst you.”[6] This emphasis upon knowledge and education has been taken for granted in Muslim societies since the beginning of Islam.

The religious basis for the pursuit of knowledge resulted in defining the objective of education as al-fawz bi al-sa‘adah fi al-darayn i.e. to succeed through bliss in the world and the hereafter.

This in turn implied that education should be acquired

  1. To understand the will of God and to lead one’s life according to it.
  2. To inculcate Islamic values in oneself.
  3. To cultivate cultured behavior in oneself.[7]

As can be seen from these objectives, acquiring knowledge was considered a sacred duty. It was the sole means to success. Knowledge (ilm) and practice (amal) were inter-linked. Instruction (talim) went hand in hand with training (ta’dib). The traditional Islamic concept of education was, thus, holistic as understood at that time. Muslim scholars had divided knowledge into two parts, the fardh ‘ayn (individually obligatory) and the fardh kifayah (collectively obligatory); but there was no strict separation between the religious and the secular sciences. Both formed part of an integrated whole.


As we have seen above, Islam has placed considerable emphasis upon knowledge. Because of this we find that, historically, the general attitude of Muslims, throughout the world, towards knowledge, scholars and students had been that of reverence. In every land, there were to be found a significant number of people who had dedicated themselves to learning and/or teaching. At the same time, the general public considered it an act of worship to help the scholars and the students. This public attitude coupled with safety of the roads maintained by stable and strong Muslim governments, enabled people to move across great distances in search of knowledge. In spite of the crude means of conveyance, people were constantly on the move; students setting out to learn, teachers traveling to teach. Ghulam ‘Ali Azad Bilgirami (d. 1785) writes in his book Ma’athir al-Kiram, which is a historical account of sixteenth/seventeenth century Mughal India, that:

Seekers of knowledge travel in multitudes from one place to another. Wherever, the situation is agreeable, they get busy in learning…. The well-to-do people of each town take care of these seekers of knowledge and consider it a great honor to serve them.[8]

The teachers occupied a high position in society. Though their emoluments were not always great, they commanded universal respect and confidence. Gilani mentions a number of incidents when the teachers, in spite of their poverty, refused to accept any monetary help from others; and whatever help or gift was accepted, the giver always considered it to be an honor for his gift to have been accepted.[9] This attitude was widespread throughout the period under review. Even absolutist monarchs showed deference to the ‘ulama and the Sufis. Nizami has also mentioned several incidents of ‘ulama and Sufis refusing royal gifts even while suffering from abject poverty.[10] For many, poverty was a chosen path and the royal gifts were seen as undoing years of patient hard work.


The main institutions for teaching and learning during the period of Muslim rule in India were maktabs and madrasahs,[11] mosques and khanqahs (Sufi centers), and private houses. Almost every mosque served as an elementary school. However, a large number of eminent scholars and men of letter taught independently and even supported the students who came to them to study. This then was the foundation upon which the whole system was built; the teacher and the student. The issue of budgetary allocations for school buildings and provision of other services was not the top most priority for these people. What was most important was the existence of a sincere teacher and a sincere student. If these two were obtaining, other things could be improvised. Azad has mentioned a famous teacher of his hometown Bilgiram, Mir Mubarak. He taught there for years but throughout this time, he was based in the verandah of a certain noble of the town. Hundreds came and studied from him but he continued to operate from that verandah.[12]

At the same time, the state was not negligent to matters of education. Kings as well as local Nawabs and other well-to-do people considered it an act of virtue to build maktabs, madrasahs and to support teachers and students. We find a network of such institutions; one-man schools as well as larger more organized affairs; scattered throughout the length and breadth of India. All three levels viz. elementary, secondary, higher, were catered for. However, no one level dominated in any one institution. Private houses were being used to provide basic elementary education but at the same time could be seen to provide advanced studies to those interested. In fact, this lack of bureaucratic uniformity was this system’s greatest strength. The system reflected the needs of the people. It accommodated the grassroots desires and ambitions of people regarding education. Thus, we find huge well-funded, well-organized madrasahs existing side by side with one man schools operating out of private houses.[13] The student had the liberty of choosing which teacher to study from. Problems of admissions and school discipline were rare. The focus was on the real thing: education; with very little squabbling over the means to acquire it.

Muslim rulers also patronized scholars. Amongst the earliest examples is that of the famous theologian Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d. 1209). He was also a great philosopher and expert in many Islamic sciences. He was patronized by many rulers. Among these was Shihab al-Din Ghauri (1206), the founder of Muslim rule in India proper. It is reported about him that he had al-Razi stay in his camp wherever he went. Al-Razi was the official prayer leader and delivered sermons and lectures in the camp.[14]


Muslims first reached India as conquerors in the beginning of the eighth century. The intellectual climate of their Arab homeland was extended to Sindh, the portion of India that had been conquered. At this stage we find an active participation of Sindh based scholars in the field of hadith. Their names appear in the chains of transmission of ahadith that were later on recorded by other hadith masters. Some of their names and works have also been mentioned by ‘Abd al-Hayy al-Hasani in his al-Thaqafah al-Islamiyyah fi al-Hind.[15]

However, this period lasted for only four centuries and Muslim rule was confined to Sindh and Multan (southern Punjab). Beginning towards the end of the tenth century, Muslims began to enter India from the North-West in successive waves, each time extending their territories even further towards North and Central India. Along with each invading army, and on their own as well, came ‘ulama and Sufis. Both had a role to play in the spread of Islamic knowledge in India. Major cities in the newly acquired territories quickly turned into centers of learning. Initially, Multan, then Lahore and finally Delhi became the pre-eminent centre of learning in North India.[16]

This second period starting from the end of the tenth century lasted until the last quarter of the fifteenth century. During this time, India benefited enormously from an otherwise unmitigated disaster. The Mongol hordes that ravaged Central Asia, Afghanistan and Khorasan forced many of the scholarly families based there to migrate to other countries. India was the top destination for them. Not a day passed but a noteworthy scholar would arrive in Delhi with camel loads of books. The Indian rulers were fully aware of the worth of the newcomers. They made them feel extremely welcome. Every newcomer was given a post or a stipend or an estate to support himself and his family. Thus, the nascent Muslim community of North India benefitted from a continuous supply of scholars and books.

During this period, the education system in North India consisted of three stages:

At the first stage, as has been the practice throughout Muslim history in all Islamic lands, a child’s education began with the Qur’an. Each locality had teachers who specialized in tajwid, the art of recitation of the Qur’an. It is mentioned about Nizam al-Din Awliya (d. 1325), the great Chishti Sufi saint of Delhi, that he started his education in his hometown, Badaun. This began with learning how to read the Qur’an. His teacher was a freed slave who had converted from Hinduism to Islam and knew the seven major recitations of the Qur’an.[17] After Qur’an, students would normally move on to Persian, the official language of the country. Most of the major works of Persian prose and poetry were studied. These included the works of major writers such as Sa‘di, Hafiz, Salman Saoji, Anwari, and others.[18] The education of the general population normally stopped at this level. However, it seems reasonable to assume that some elementary Arabic was also taught at this stage because the students were expected to understand the Arabic phrases that were often used in Persian books and regular conversation. We also find people with only basic education being able to freely quote from the Qur’an and Prophetic traditions.[19]

The second stage was dedicated to an intensive study of the Arabic language as well as fiqh. Some of the books taught at this stage included: Kafiyah and Mufassal for Arabic grammar; and Mukhtasar al-Quduri and Majma‘ al-Bahrayn for Hanafi fiqh (Jurisprudence). Later on, Mufassal gave way to Sharh Jami and Sharh Wiqayah replaced Majma‘ al-Bahrayn.[20] Education up to this level was considered sufficient for those wanting to engage in teaching, preaching, etc. and entitled one to be called a danishmand (wise man) or a mawlawi. Studies at this level would correspond to the fourth year of study in the present-day eight year Dars-e-Nizami.

In the third stage, also called fadhilat, advanced books of each science were studied. These included Kashshaf and Madarik for tafsir (Qur’anic Exegesis), Mishkat al-Masabih and Mashariq al-Anwar for hadith, al-Hidayah for Hanafi fiqh, and Usul al-Bazdawi for usul al-fiqh (principles of jurisprudence). Along with these, major works in the various branches of balaghah (rhetoric) were also studied. The one who completed this stage was called a fadhil.

As can be seen from this brief outline, rational sciences and kalam (dialectics) were not paid much attention in the regular curriculum. Only a few basic texts of logic and kalam such as al-Qutbi and Sharh as-Sahaif were studied.[21] In fact, the general attitude amongst the ‘ulama towards these is best summed up in this statement of Fatawa al-Tatarkhania, a fatwa collection compiled during the fourteenth century:

The issues of ‘ilm al-kalam lead to new dissentions (fitnahs) and innovations and cause deterioration of faith; (and) the ones who normally engage in it are either less-intelligent or are seeking to dominate rather than seeking the truth.[22]

This all changed towards the end of the fifteenth century and the beginning of the sixteenth century. During this third period which lasted until the beginning of the eighteenth century, logic, philosophy, and kalam got new impetus. At this time, many students of Sharif Jurjani and Sa‘d al-Din Taftazani moved to India and brought with them new books on grammar, rhetoric, kalam and fiqh.[23] Later, Fathullah Shirazi came to India from Iran and brought with him works of Dawwani, Mulla Sadra and Mirza Jan. These works were readily accepted by Indians and before long these became part and parcel of the curriculum.[24] Again during this period, purpose built institutions existed side by side with individualized private instruction.

The fourth period can be said to have begun from the early part of eighteenth century lasting until the founding of Dar al-‘Ulum at Deoband in 1866. This period is characterized by the presence of two very important personalities. Each of them contributed to education in his own way. One is Shah Wali Allah of Delhi and the other is Nizam al-Din Sihalvi of Lucknow (d. 1748). Wali Allah focused on the teaching of hadith especially the Sihah Sittah (the six major collections of hadith viz. Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Jami‘ Tirmidhi, Sunan Abu Dawud, Sunan al-Nisa’i and Sunan Ibn Majah) and al-Muwatta of Malik. Later on, his son Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, operating from his base in Delhi, helped to popularize it throughout India.

Sihalvi based at Farangi Mahal in Lucknow focused on developing a comprehensive curriculum which came to be called Dars-e-Nizami, after him. Sihalvi focused more on the ma‘qulat (rational sciences) and fiqh than on the manqulat (transmitted sciences). In fact, an examination of this curriculum shows that it included ten books on logic, five on dialectics and three on philosophy while only a portion from two works of tafsir and one book of hadith were studied.[25] This curriculum proved extremely popular because of its ability to prepare students for independent study. Even the Shi‘ites of Lucknow came to the Sunni school of Farangi Mahal to study because of the reputation of this curriculum at producing well-rounded and rational, educated individuals.

Although, our period of research ends here, however, let us state this much. Wali Allah’s curriculum and Sihalvi’s curriculum represented two extremes in their emphasis upon the transmitted and the rational sciences, respectively. Quite a number of people took advantage of both the curricula but there was still no single unified curriculum. That came about with the founding of the Dar al-‘Ulum at Deoband in 1866. The curriculum adopted at Dar al-‘Ulum, although still referred to as Dars-e-Nizami, was a combination of the two. On the one hand, rational sciences were studied in almost as much detail as Nizam al-Din had envisaged; and on the other hand, Wali Allah’s emphasis on hadith was also incorporated so that during the last year of study, the Sihah Sittah, as well as the Sharh Ma‘ani al-Athar of al-Tahawi, and the al-Muwattas of Malik and Muhammad were studied in their totality.


The prevalent idea among the vast majority of Indo-Pakistani ‘ulama is that hadith was historically a neglected science in India. It was only with the coming of Wali Allah that this changed. The unique position that Wali Allah occupies in Indian Muslim intellectual history has meant that his supporters tend to sideline the important contributions made by others before him and during his time.

Regarding the contributions of Indian ‘ulama to hadith, we have to keep Indian history in perspective. Muslims came to regard India proper (Sindh & Multan being the exception) as their home only after the coming to power of Qutb al-Din Aybak in 1206. Indian Muslims’ contributions should be examined keeping this in mind. By this time, all the major works of Hadith had already been compiled. It was too late for Indians to form part of al-Bukhari’s chain of transmitters. They could not have taken part in the formative period of the hadith sciences. Sindh, which was Islamized earlier on, did take part in these activities and was the exception. Later Indians, however, engaged in those pursuits that were still possible. They compiled newer collections based upon the original collections. They learned the hadith sciences, memorized texts with their chains and taught these to others.

In this regard, a prominent example is that of Hasan al-Saghani al-Hindi (d. 1252). He was the Indian ambassador to the Abbasid court in Baghdad. Upon orders of the then Abbasid caliph al-Mustansir Billah, he compiled Mashariq al-Anwar, a collection of 2246 ahadith from the two Sahihs of Bukhari and Muslim. The caliph himself studied this book from him. For many centuries after that, this book was an integral part of the curriculum of Islamic madrasahs. Numerous commentaries were written on it by ‘ulama in Egypt, Iraq, Syria and Hijaz. It was held in such high esteem that Sultan Muhammad ibn Tughlaq is reported to have placed it side by side with the Qur’an while taking oath of allegiance from his officers.[26]

There are many other examples from each of the succeeding centuries as well as some from the previous ones which show that learning hadith and teaching it to others was very much a part of the educational system. There was Isma‘il Muhaddith (d. 1056) who was based in Lahore and had dedicated himself to teaching the various Islamic sciences including hadith.[27] Then there were Shaykh Bahlul of Delhi and Mufti Muhammad of Lahore, both from the time of Akbar (c. sixteenth century). Both were well-known for their expertise in hadith.[28] Mufti Muhammad used to teach Sahih Bukhari and Mishkaat al-MasabiÍ.

Also from the sixteenth century is Mir Murtaza Sharifi, the grandson of Mir Sayyid Sharif Jurjani. He left Shiraz to go to Makkah and learned hadith from ibn Hajar al-Makki and got ijazah (permission/license) from him to teach it to others. He came to settle down in Agra and passed away during the reign of Akbar.[29] Then there was Hafiz Daraz Peshawari who had learned hadith from his mother. This lady had written a commentary on Sahih Bukhari in Farsi.[30] Moreover, it is mentioned about Muhammad Farrukh, the grandson of Ahmad Sirhindi, that he had memorized 70,000 ahadith along with their chains and texts and their strengths and weaknesses.[31]

This devotion to ÍadÊth was not confined to North India alone. Gujarat in western India is situated opposite the Arabian Peninsula and therefore, has enjoyed a closer relationship with the Arab peninsula from the beginning. Prominent ‘ulama such as ‘Ali Muttaqi (d. c. 1568) and his students Muhammad ibn Tahir Patni (d. 1578) and ‘Abd al-Wahhab al-Muttaqi (d. 1592) were in the forefront in the science of hadith. They flourished in Gujarat and Makkah and from there, their influence extended to various parts of the world. In Delhi, ‘Abd al-Wahhab’s student ‘Abd al-Haqq (d. 1642) was active in disseminating hadith. He wrote important commentaries on the major works of hadith. He was followed by his son Nur al-Haqq, who similarly, was quite active in serving the hadith sciences.

In South India, we find the sixteenth century scholar Bhikari Kakorvi who wrote a book on the principles of hadith, titled al-Minhaj.[32] In Zaidpur in eastern India, Maulana ‘Abd al-Awwal (d. 1560) had written a commentary on Sahih Bukhari, titled Faydh al-Bari.[33] Even Azad, more famous for the historical works that he wrote, had written a commentary on Sahih Bukhari, titled Dhaw’ al-Dharari.[34] In Kashmir, there was Mulla Inayat Allah Kashmiri (d. 1713). He had taught Sahih Bukhari thirty six times.[35] And then in the nineteenth century, we find Rahmat Allah Ilahabadi who had memorized the six books of hadith (Sihah Sittah).[36]

The rulers also took active part in patronizing hadith sciences. It is mentioned about Sultan Mahmud Shah (d. 1397) of the South Indian Bahmani kingdom that he had set aside special stipends for the scholars of hadith so that they could stay engaged in their scholarly pursuits without having to worry about earning their living.[37]


Sufis enjoy perhaps the worst reputation in Islamic scholarly circles. Much of this stems from the behavior and statements of ignorant Sufis. This then leads to a blanket condemnation of all Sufis including the classical giants of tasawwuf. Historical evidence points in a different direction. It would be helpful to consider here the case of some Sufis and their attitudes towards education. In fact, in the second half of the thirteenth century, Delhi saw the founding of the khanqah of the famous Chishti saint, Nizam al-Din Awliya. Not only had Nizam al-Din studied the above-mentioned Mashariq al-Anwar from cover to cover but also knew the entire collection by heart.[38] The best source of information about him is his utterances (malfuzat) that were recorded by his disciple Amir Hasan Sijzi (d. 1336) in his famous work Fawa’id al-Fu’ad.[39] Even a cursory glance at this collection will show that Nizam al-Din had a thorough understanding of hadith and fiqh. And this in spite of the fact that he was busy training his Sufi disciples and did not have time to be actively involved in the intellectual life of Delhi.

Another incident is worth considering. It is mentioned about a certain Akhi Siraj who had moved at a young age from his native Lakhnauti to Delhi to benefit from Nizam al-Din Awliya. He lived in Nizam al-Din’s khanqah for many years. Once, someone recommended his name to Nizam al-Din for successorship. Nizam al-Din replied that Siraj was not educated and therefore, not qualified to be a successor. Upon this, one of the scholar disciples of Nizam al-Din, Mawlana Fakhr al-Din Zarradi volunteered to teach Siraj and fulfill this important condition for him. He accomplished this in six months.[40] This shows the erudition and skill of Zarradi as well as the acumen of Siraj to learn. Above all, this incident shows the central importance that Sufis gave to education.

One could argue that the sources for all such incidents are hagiographical accounts whose sole purpose is to glorify the personality of the person being written about. Even if we were to accept this charge, although there is enough reason not to, even then, the fact that the biographers considered acquisition of knowledge to be praiseworthy shows the status of knowledge and education in the Muslim society of that time.


The scarcity of books in India before the coming of the press has been made quite an issue of. Some historians, as evidence of this claim, have cited an incident involving Wali Allah’s son, Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz. It is reported that when ‘Abd al-‘Aziz began writing his Persian commentary on the Qur’an (Fath al-‘Aziz), he could not even find al-Tafsir al-Kabir of al-Razi.[41] After a desperate search, he finally found it in the library at the Royal Palace in Delhi. This is hard to believe. All of ‘Abd al-‘Aziz works have come down to us. We find him referring directly to classical works of Shafi‘i, Abu Yusuf (the main student of Abu Hanifah), al-Ghazzali, Ibn Hazm, Ibn Taymiya, etc. Some of these works were hard to find even after coming of the press. It is reasonable to assume that someone who had access to such rare works would also have had access to al-Razi’s work. Even if the incident was to be considered true, it cannot be taken to be representative of a general trend. It appears as an exception rather than the rule.

Moreover, Gilani has cited an incident involving Azad’s teacher, Mir Tufayl. Azad writes that once Mir Tufayl went to see the Nawab of Agra. There, a debate ensued about certain linguistic aspects of the Qur’anic verse “and for those who have the power” (2:184). According to Azad even for this relatively minor issue, most major works of tafsir, including al-Razi’s al-Tafsir al-KabÊr, Kashshaf, Baidhawi, and other books of language and rhetoric were consulted.[42]

Mulla Muhib Allah Bihari (d. 1707) is a prominent scholar who flourished during Aurangzeb’s (d. 1707) reign. He is the author of Musallam as-Thubut, a famous work on the principles of jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh). A manuscript of the author’s marginalia on this work is available online.[43] In this, he mentions the books that he consulted while writing this book. The list includes all the major works of usul of each of the Sunni schools viz. Usal al-Bazdawi, Usul al-Sarkhasi, Kashf al-Bazdawi, Kashf al-Manar, al-Badi‘ along with its commentaries, al-Tawdhih wa al-Talwih, al-Tahrir along with its commentaries al-Taqrir and al-Taysir, al-Mahsul of al-Razi, al-Ihkam of al-Amidi, Qadhi’s Mukhtasar along with its various glosses, Sharh of al-Abhari, Sharh of Taftazani, gloss of Fazil Mirza Jan, al-Rudud, al-‘Unqud, al-Minhaj of al-Baidhawi along with its commentary, Mukhtasar of ibn al-HÉjib and Muntaha al-Usul. This is an exhaustive list. If these books were available to someone working in Bihar, it is quite reasonable to assume that they would have been available in the capital Delhi as well.

In fact, not only were books easily available during the period under study, rather it was not such a major issue. There are two important reasons for that.

Firstly, there was always a professional group of copyists in each locality who were called warraq (scribe) or nussakh (copyist). They kept track of all the books available in their area as well as other cities and upon demand they could quickly make copies of the desired book.[44] Secondly, amongst the general educated public most people could write quite fast. About the first contention, the following incident is quite telling.

‘Abd al-Qadir Badayuni (d. 1625) was an accomplished scholar and man of letters who was attached to Akbar’s court. Although working under Akbar, he had become thoroughly disgusted with Akbar’s eclecticism. Even though an officially approved history of Akbar’s reign had been written by Abul Fazl titled Akbar Namah, Badayuni felt that the record needed to be set right. So, in secret, he wrote his historical work titled Muntakhab at-Tawarikh, in which he showed the darker side of Akbar’s reign. He could not make it public during his own lifetime for fear of severe official reaction. After his death, some copyists got hold of it and before long its copies were to be found all over the country. By this time, Jahangir, the son of Akbar, had ascended the throne. He tried to ban the book. However, in spite of his absolutist powers, Jahangir could not take this book out of circulation. Every now and then, a report would be received that this book was seen in this town or that city.[45] This can be reasonably attributed to the easy availability of copyists who made sure that they had access to books that people wanted. In fact, this also explains the slow spread of the press in India. The effective system of copyists had relieved people of the need for a printing press.

About the second contention, i.e., the writing speed of educated people, let us present some incidents.

Azad has mentioned about a certain scholar Shaykh Kamal:

Text books of sarf (Morphology), nahw (Syntax), mantiq (Logic), hikmah (Philosophy), ma‘ani, bayan, fiqh, usul, and tafsir, all of these, he copied with his own hand. And for every book, he wrote its gloss in such a way that the text did not require the commentary anymore and the commentary did not require the text anymore.[46]

Regarding Shaykh Nagauri, the father of Abul Fazl and Fayzi, Azad writes, “He wrote 500 volumes with his own hands.”[47] Similarly, it is mentioned in the account of a certain Shaykh Junayd Hisari that he could copy the whole Qur’an in three days and that too with the diacritical marks.[48]

To close this topic, let us mention what ‘Abd al-Wahhab Muttaqi has mentioned regarding his teacher ‘Ali Muttaqi. This has been quoted by ‘Abd al-Wahhab’s student ‘Abd al-Haq Dehlavi in his Akhbar al-Akhyar. ‘Ali Muttaqi had moved to Makkah and was the foremost scholar of that city. ‘Abd al-Wahhab mentions about him that he had a habit of copying important books and sending them out to all those regions where such books were unlikely to be found and people would need them. Writing books was a religious vocation for him.[49]


A systematic study of Islamic intellectual heritage (of India as well as the rest of the Muslim world) is essential for any scholar of Islamic civilization. In the preceding account, we have tried to give a glimpse of the educational system of Muslim India. This is just a preliminary study. The abundance of historical evidence seems to suggest a very well-organized and organic system of education. Madrasahs, maktabs, mosques, private houses, all kinds of institutions existed in harmony. The options available to any sincere seeker of knowledge were many. Seeking knowledge and imparting it was a sacred exercise and not a commercial enterprise. The general attitude of the public towards knowledge and those who engaged in it was fundamental to the flourishing of this system. General interest in the various Islamic sciences meant that all segments of the population participated in the cultivation and dissemination of Islamic sciences. Sufis thus placed high value on seeking a proper Islamic education. Similarly, Indian scholars paid close attention to the hadith sciences. Many of them rose to become pre-eminent hadith scholars known for their erudition throughout the Muslim world. Moreover, the curriculum that had evolved over the years maintained a healthy balance between the secular and the religious. There were differences in terms of emphasis on the rational vs. the transmitted sciences. However, the overall curriculum was still relatively holistic. In short, Muslim India matched the central lands of Islam in terms of its educational advancement and achievements.


Al-Bayhaqi, Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn al-Husayn. (1410 AH). Vol. 2, Shu‘ab al-Iman [Bracnhes of Faith]. Bayrut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah.

Bihari, Muhib Allah. Hashiyat Musallam al-Thubut [Marginalia on the Flawless Evidence]. MS. Or. 350. University of Leipzig Library, downloaded from Usul al-Fiqh wa al-Qawa’id al-Fiqhiyyah [Principles of Jurisprudence and Legal Maxims], al-Mustafa min al-Makhtutat al-‘Arabiyyah wa al-Islamiyyah [Chosen Arabic and Islamic Manuscripts]. Retrieved August 16, 2010.أصول%20الفقه%20والقواعد%20الفقهية.

Dehlavi, ‘Abd al-Haqq. (n.d.). Akhbar al-Akhyar [Reports of the Select]. (Subhan Mahmud and Muhammad Fazil, Trans.). Karachi: Madinah Publishing Company.

Gilani, Sayyid Manazir Ahsan. (n.d.). Pak-o-Hind main Musalmanon ka Nizam e Ta‘lim-o-Tarbiyyat [The educational system of Muslims in Pakistan and India]. Lahore: Maktaba Rahmaniyya.Jaffar, S.M. (1972). Education in Muslim India. Delhi: Idara Adbiyat-e-Dilli.

Al-Hasani, ‘Abd al-Hayy. (1983). Al-Thaqafah al-Islamiyyah fi al-Hind [Islamic Civilization in India]. Damascus: Mujamma‘ al-Lugha al-‘Arabiyyah bi Dimashq.

Jaffar, S.M. (1972). Education in Muslim India. Delhi: Idara Adabiyyat-e-Dilli.

Keller, Nuh Ha Mim. (1997). Copyrights in Islam. Retrieved August 17, 2010.

Mubarakpuri, Muhammad ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Abd al-Rahim. (n.d.). Vol. 7, Tuhfat al-Ahwadhi bi Sharh Jami‘ al-Tirmidhi [Gift of the Skilful, a commentary on Jami‘ al-Tirmidhi]. Ed. ‘Abd al-Rahman Muhammad ‘Uthman. Bayrut: Dar al-Fikr.

Muhammad Ishaq. (1976). India’s Contribution to the Study of Hadith Literature. Dhaka, University of Dacca.

Muhammad Shafi‘. (2002). Futuh al-Hind [Conquests of India]. Karachi: Idarat al-Ma‘arif.

Al-Nadvi & Moinuddin, Survey of Muslim Education: India, (Cambridge: The Islamic Academy, 1985), 5.

Nizami, Khaliq Ahmad. (1961). Some Aspects of Religion & Politics in India during the 13th century. Bombay: Asia Publishing.

Nizami, Khaliq Ahmad. (1982). Islami Tehzib ka Asar Hindustan par [The effect of Islamic Civilization on India]. Lucknow, Majlis Tehqiqat-o-Nashriat Islam.

Sijzi, Amir Hasan. (1996). Fawa’id al-Fu’ad [Benefits of the Heart]. (Ziya-ul-Hasan Faruqi, Trans.). New Delhi: DK Printworld.

[1] All the dates mentioned in this paper are CE (common era) dates unless otherwise noted.

[2] “Great Mughals” is a term used to refer to the first six Mughal Emperors of India. These are, in chronological order, Babar, Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Awrangzeb. These are the first and the greatest of all Mughal Emperors. In all, they reigned from 1526 to 1707 with a fifteen year interregnum from 1539 till 1555. The empire reached its zenith with Awrangzeb (reigned from 1658-1707) and after his death began her decline which ended with the capture of the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar at the hands of the British in 1857.

[3] S.M. Jaffar, Education in Muslim India, (Delhi: Idara Adbiyat-e-Dilli, 1972), viii.

[4] Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn al-Husayn al-Bayhaqi, Shu‘ab al-Iman, (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1410AH), 2:253.

[6] Muhammad ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Abd al-Rahim Mubarakpuri, Tuhfat al-Ahwadhi bi Sharh Jami‘ al-Tirmidhi, ed. ‘Abd al-Rahman Muhammad ‘Uthman, (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, n.d.), 7:456.

[7] Al-Nadvi & Moinuddin, Survey of Muslim Education: India, (Cambridge: The Islamic Academy, 1985), 5.

[8] Sayyid Manazir Ahsan Gilani, Pak-o-Hind main Musalmanon ka Nizam-e-Ta‘lim-o-Tarbiyyat. (Lahore: Maktaba Rahmaniyya, n.d.) 19.

[9] Ibid., 24.

[10] Khaliq Ahmad Nizami, Some Aspects of Religion & Politics in India during the 13th century, (Bombay: Asia Publishing, 1961), 152-156.

[11] It should be noted that madrasah refers to an institute which offers a comprehensive multi-year course in Islamic studies. It is different from a maktab which refers to part-time schools that offer basic instruction in reading the Qur’an and basics of Islam.

[12] Gilani, 21.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Muhammad Shafi‘, Futuh al-Hind, (Karachi: Idarat al-Ma‘arif, 2002), 60-61.

[15] ‘Abd al-Hayy al-Hasani, al-Thaqafah al-Islamiyyah fi al-Hind, (Damascus: Mujamma‘ al-Lugha al-‘Arabiyyah bi Dimashq, 1983), 135.

[16] Ibid., 9-10.

[17] Gilani, 139. Also cited by Nizami in Khaliq Ahmad Nizami, Islami Tehzib ka Asar Hindustan par, (Lucknow, Majlis Tehqiqat-o-Nashriat-e-Islam, 1982), 42.

[18] Gilani, 141.

[19] Al-Nadvi & Moinuddin, 4.

[20] Ibid., 5.

[21] Gilani, 151.

[22] Ibid., 155.

[23] Al-Nadvi, 6.

[24] Ibid., 7.

[25] Al-Nadvi & Moinuddin, 10.

[26] Muhammad Ishaq, India’s Contribution to the Study of Hadith Literature, (Dhaka, University of Dacca, 1976), 218-221.

[27] Ishaq, 45-46.

[28] Gilani, 129.

[29] Ishaq, 99.

[30] Gilani, 130. For more information about women muhaddithat (traditionists) throughout Muslim history, see Akram Nadvi’s up-coming 40 volume work Al-Muhaddithat: Women Scholars in Islam. Its one volume introduction (muqaddimah) has recently been published by Interfaith Publications, UK.

[31] Gilani, 128.

[32] Ishaq, 124.

[33] Ibid., 122.

[34] Ibid, 163.

[35] Ishaq, 160 and Gilani, 128.

[36] Gilani, 128.

[37] Ibid., 134 and Ishaq, 103.

[38] Gilani, 119. See Nizami, Some Aspects…, 347 for the ijazat namah (license to teach) that Nizam al-Din received from his teacher after completing Mashariq al-Anwar.

[39] Amir Hasan Sijzi, Fawa’id al-Fu’ad, translated from Persian into Urdu by Ziya-ul-Hasan Faruqi, (New Delhi: DK Printworld, 1996).

[40] Nizami, Islami Tehzib…, 43.

[41] Gilani, 38.

[42] Ibid., 57.

[43] Muhib Allah Bihari, Hashiyat Musallam al-Thubut, MS. Or. 350, p. 1, University of Leipzig Library, downloaded from “UÎËl al-Fiqh wa al-QawÉ‘id al-Fiqhiyyah,” al-MuÎÏafÉ min al-MakhÏËÏÉt al-‘Arabiyyah wa al-IslÉmiyyah, <أصول%20الفقه%20والقواعد%20الفقهية> (accessed 16 August, 2010).

[44] During the period under study, copyrights violation was not an issue. There was no legal hindrance to making copies of other people’s books. Today, the opinion is divided among traditional scholars regarding copyrights. Some insist that they have no basis in Islamic law. Others approve of them. For a sampling, see Nuh Ha Mim Keller, “Copyrights in Islam,” Shadhili Teachings, <> (accessed 17 August, 2010).

[45] Gilani, 59.

[46] Ibid., 62.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Ibid., 63.

[49] See ‘Abd al-Haqq Dehlavi, Akhbar al-Akhyar, translated from Persian into Urdu by Subhan Mahmud and Muhammad Fazil, (Karachi: Madinah Publishing Company, n.d.), 529.