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My Week as a Muslim documentary sparks racism row

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 hours 10 min ago

Muslim Council of Britain accuses Channel 4 documentary of brownface and says it has caused deep offence

A Channel 4 documentary in which a white woman is given the appearance of a Pakistani Muslim in order to experience public attitudes and Islamophobia has caused “deep offence”, the Muslim Council of Britain has said.

For the programme, to be aired next Monday, makeup artists darkened the skin of Katie Freeman and gave her a prosthetic nose. She was dressed in traditional Muslim clothing, including a hijab.

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The Ethics of Muslim Charisma | A Proposal for Leadership Standards

Muslim Matters - 18 October, 2017 - 21:19

The American Muslim communities have several distinct ethics problems. Consider these hypotheticals.

  • A professional imam trained in Islamic Studies becomes popular in his local community. The local police arrest him for improper conduct involving a woman in the Masjid. The criminal matter is quietly resolved, but the Masjid fires the imam, who is quickly able to obtain new employment at a nearby Masjid where the board did not know of the imam’s prior conduct. The imam later commits misconduct involving women and flees the jurisdiction.
  • An Islamic Scholar in the United States obtains payments from working with organizations that are funded by military contractors and governments that routinely abuse human rights.
  • A nonprofit holds a banquet where the speaker fails to disclose 25% of all donations will be the fee for the speaker himself.

I want to be clear about something. This article is not about Nouman Ali Khan. I have no unique knowledge about his case, nor do I have any position on his guilt or innocence. The subject goes far beyond the publicly known facts of his situation. However, the public discussion should cast a spotlight on how Muslim leaders handle misconduct by those who are in a position of public trust. What was clear about Nouman Ali Khan is that there was no system for managing allegations of unethical conduct, breaches of trust and “spiritual abuse” that did not rise to criminal misconduct. Furthermore, attention came to his case primarily because of Mr. Khan’s international celebrity. There is a continuing concern about ethics among imams, shuyukh, heads of charities and other public figures inside the Muslim community, regardless of if their profile is local, national or international.

As a lawyer, I am part of a regulated profession.  Think of it as an organized tribe with a group of elders that can determine who is in, and who is out.  There are rules of professional conduct. For anyone in an actual profession, Dentistry, Architecture, those who sell insurance, boats and even cannabis, there are defined standards, a group that sets them and a group that enforces them.

There are no intellgible standards in the American Muslim community for shuyukh, public figures and those who provide some form of spiritual guidance. We need them. What I want to do in this article is provide a path for us as a community to do exactly that.

Ethics for all?

The term “unethical” does not mean the same thing for all people. If you are a private business and your primary goal is value for shareholders, your ethics will be different if you are a non-profit organization meant to provide a public benefit. If you are a shaykh that specializes in Islamic Finance, the Muslim community may hold you to a different standard than if you speak out against domestic violence to Muslim groups. Those two people may not appear to belong to the same tribe, though they are similar in that they take leadership roles inside Muslim spaces and their roles may overlap.

Shuykh and imams, unfortunately, have not yet been able to regulate themselves or hold bad actors accountable in the same way other professions routinely do. So, the situation described in the initial hypothetical can still happen. What we also know all too well is that accusations of spiritual abuse and unethical conduct are in no way limited to shuyukh and professional imams. We need a broader framework.

Public figures or semi-public figures who provide spiritual guidance to Muslims can easily be social and political activists. They can also be business people, educators, professors and community members in unrelated professions who are adept at public speaking and leading halaqas. Yes, they can also be Shuyukh or professional imams. It is possible for some personalities to operate exclusively online, like YouTube or social media stars who are only “Twitter famous.” However, much of a leader’s legitimacy and indeed, capacity to personally affect people for good or ill, comes from speaking in physical spaces to live audiences organized by non-profit Muslim groups, particularly large Islamic Centers and Islamic Conferences, such as ISNA and ICNA, as well as other events for Muslim organizations.

The Non-Profit Choke Point

An organization like the Islamic Society of North America (which I do not represent here though I have a vote on its Executive Council) can invite as many as 200 speakers to a single conference, usually on Labor Day weekend in a major US city.  Many speakers are not the same from one year to another. Nearly all the best-known Muslim speakers have spoken at ISNA, as well as other conferences such as ICNA and MAS. The North American Islamic Trust either owns outright or through trust arraignments hundreds of masajid around the country, many of which (regardless of their connection to NAIT) are connected through regional shura councils.  If there is an opportunity to manage ethics in American Muslim spaces, it comes from these organizations.

These organizations can develop formal rules of ethics governing a range of subjects. A shura, such as an independent ethics commission should determine these rules, so I will not attempt to enunciate them all here. However, it is vital those who are involved in formulating these rules have no business or grant ties with foreign or domestic governments, non-profits interested in reforming Islam, defense contractors or financial institutions (more on this later).

All Muslim speakers would need to sign an ethics agreement developed by this shura, if they are famous in the Muslim community or not. It should not matter if the speaker is a head of a nonprofit, an author of the latest Islamic children’s book or a nasheed singer. Such an agreement could be universal throughout the Muslim community in the United States and can apply to board members, khateebs, halaqah leaders, youth leaders and everyone else who is a trusted voice in the community. The only speakers with no signing requirement would be foreign dignitaries and non-Muslim speakers (such as interfaith leaders and government officials). Should a group, such as shuyukh, wish to eventually regulate themselves for things that are specific to their vocations, such a system would encourage wider adoption of rules they develop. The initial ethics rules I suggest here would be broad and general and necessarily apply to a specific profession.

What if something bad happens?

Part of what these speakers and others would sign up for would be consent to a system in the event someone makes allegations of violations of these rules. This would not be to cover up criminal misdeeds. Criminal conduct gets reported to the police. However, it would be a fair and dignified way to resolve allegations where there is a violation of Islamic ethics regardless of it violates a criminal or civil code.

Perhaps the hardest part of implementing such a plan is not formulating rules, but developing a dignified resolution of an allegation that is fair to the accused and the alleged victims. It should also protect organizations- both those that associated with someone who acted with poor judgment and those groups looking at hiring a charismatic leader or speaker to fulfill their future needs. Those organizations who have subscribed to the system can protect themselves from bad actors by having access to the names of individuals who have violated the rules of ethics so that they know who to avoid.

What gets governed?

Ethics is a vast area and the goal should be to make the rules as comprehensive as possible over time. The most obvious thing that would need to be reviewed are the accusations leveled against Nouman Ali Khan, particularly “spiritual abuse.” This is not to re-litigate it, but to address how well defined the allegations were, and can we do a better job at making sure the rules are clear in the future. Vague terms do not help justice.

This agreement should also govern business practices inside the Muslim community, both in non-profits and to the extent private individuals do business with organizations that are public trusts inside the Muslim community. Many of the worst practices in business, from the exploitation of employees to profiteering, can sometimes be found in Islamic organizations. Other practices may be more specific to nonprofits, such as zakat abuse.

Lastly, a broad area of concern would have to be conflicts of interest.  How do we deal with those who may speak for the interests of a financial institution, a foreign or domestic government, defense or domestic security contractors, anti-Palestinian interests or non-profit groups looking reform Islam into a secular identity. Rules of ethics go primarily to actions and income sources, not necessarily points of view, which should be diverse. However, this is not to say that a formal or informal system of “blacklisting” does not happen already or that this is always a bad thing in a religious space. However, someone being banned from giving khutbas or speaking to youth purely because of his or her expressed point of view is often not an ethical concern. It may be that the individual does not fit the role well.

In some ethics cases, it would be appropriate for Muslim organizations to not associate with personalities because they are known to be harmful to individuals. In other situations, ethics should be looked at, not to judge a person as good or bad as an individual, but instead with a view towards protecting the independence of our community’s intellectual and spiritual development from interests that are opposed to justice, human rights or the religion of Islam itself.

Ethics in the American Muslim community is in dire need of leadership. I do hope we have people willing to provide it.

As a Muslim, I'm proud to support marriage equality | Mehreen Faruqi

The Guardian World news: Islam - 18 October, 2017 - 18:00

Ethnic communities know how it feels to face prejudice. We need to support equal rights for others.

I know that discussions about marriage equality can challenge people’s personal views. These are not easy conversations to have. Believe me, I’ve had many. I still do.

After being elected to the New South Wales upper house as the first female Muslim MP in any parliament in Australia, the media immediately focused on the question of how I would reconcile my faith with the Greens’ support for LGBTQI rights.

Related: 'Marriage equality will give hope': the faith leaders backing same-sex union

Related: We have to stop normalising relentless Islamophobia in Australia | Rabia Siddique

Related: Anglicare faces internal ructions over Sydney diocese $1m no campaign donation

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Quebec passes law banning facial coverings in public

The Guardian World news: Islam - 18 October, 2017 - 17:32

The Canadian province is barring public workers from wearing the niqab or burqa and obliging citizens to unveil while using public transit or government services

The Canadian province of Quebec has passed a sweeping ban on face coverings – barring public workers from wearing the niqab or burqa and obliging citizens to unveil when riding public transit or receiving government services – ushering in a law believed to be the first of its kind in North America.

The legislation was adopted on Wednesday, capping off two years of work by the province’s Liberal government to address the issue of state neutrality. The resulting law has been slammed by critics who say it deliberately targets Muslim women and will fuel the province’s simmering debate on identity, religion and tolerance.

Related: Quebec renews burqa ban debate in parliament

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Saudi scholars to vet teaching of prophet Muhammad to curb extremism

The Guardian World news: Islam - 18 October, 2017 - 15:38

Royal order decrees King Salman Complex be set up in holy city of Medina to root out ‘fake and extremist texts’

Saudi authorities have taken an “unprecedented” step to tackle Islamic extremism by setting up a council of scholars to vet religious teachings around the world.

A royal order issued this week by King Salman established a global body of elite scholars based in the holy city of Medina to root out and “eliminate fake and extremist texts”.

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First Aid for Workplace Burnout

Muslim Matters - 17 October, 2017 - 18:27

The General Social Survey of 2016 reports that almost 50% of people are often or always exhausted due to work. Many such cases lead to complete physical and emotional burnout. The thing that we need to keep in mind is that Muslims are not immune to mental or physical exhaustion. In fact, with increasing pressures of Islamophobia, discrimination, and tension due to current events, it wouldn’t be surprising if Muslims were experiencing the highest rates of exhaustion and burnout compared to everyone else. So what should one do to prevent and cure workplace burnout?

Earlier this year, I experienced a case of workplace burnout while managing a very large-scale international project, frequent international travel, and a very difficult colleague at the same time. At first I was completely confused and disturbed as to why I was feeling exhausted, mentally drained, and depressed. But over a couple of months, I was able to figure out that my nervous system was being affected by my overworking and not giving my mind and body time to relax and regenerate itself. Here are 3 tips to cure and prevent workplace burnout, or any kind of emotional burnout for that matter.

1. Get tested, rule the physical out, and accept.

One of the biggest mistakes that people make when they are experiencing burnout is constantly thinking their condition is much worse than it actually is. The solution to this is to get tested for conditions that would be worse, and if everything comes out clear, accept that you were not managing your stress well and continue on to the road to recovery. In the western world, this may be difficult due to health systems causing delays in testing and identification of root causes, but it’s important to find a way to get physical tests done so that you can know for a fact that you are not suffering from something worse than stress and overworking. Another point to keep in mind is that once you are tested, don’t let your mind trick you into believing the doctors are missing something. Doctors do not want to be held liable for ignoring a serious illness and will tell you if they see something wrong. Consult credible doctors and then trust their judgment – do not try to become your own doctor and become obsessed with your symptoms. If everything has been ruled out, you are OKAY!

2. Know that you are not alone.

Because mental and nervous system health is a stigma, especially in our communities, it is unlikely that you are going to hear about others who have gone through or are going through the same thing you are. For this reason, it is likely that you will convince yourself that you are the only one in your group of friends, family, and acquaintances experiencing such an illness and you will feel ashamed. Don’t be ashamed. The fact that you have gone through emotional exhaustion means that you have emotions and that you are thinking about things intensely. Research shows that top performers are most likely to get burned out, so, in a sense, you should actually feel proud to be part of this special class of people. This also creates a level of responsibility when you recover from your illness, and we should remember to try to help others by sharing our struggles so that we can start breaking the silence and stigma around this issue. One of my friends, who is the Imam at our local Masjid, told me that he often has uncles coming up to him and saying, “Do you know so and so is getting counseling,” as though this is something shameful. In fact, mental strain is exactly the same as having a pulled muscle or joint pain and is nothing to be ashamed of.

3. Throw your ego out.

At some point during my experience with burnout, when I was feeling quite devastated, I realized that I had to throw my ego out and seek help in any way, shape, or form that was available to me. I’ve always had a very independent personality and was involved with community activism, sports, and entrepreneurial activities. You could say I was a go-getter and got stuff done myself. When I started experiencing mental exhaustion and burnout, I realized I was not myself and wouldn’t be for some time. Research shows that so called ‘Targets of leadership’ recover from burnout, on average, in about 6 months, while ‘Leaders’ recover on average in about a year. This is a long time, especially for someone who is a high performer at work and active in the community and social circles. Because of this, burnout is also a very good opportunity to practice sabr and tawakkul. It might take some time for you to reach the point where you start thinking of your burnout as a blessing, but if you are able to push through the initial period and start achieving some stability, you will see that Allah has blessed you with a condition which gives you much needed realization and introspection without actually placing a physical, irreversible disease inside of you. Since I started getting a handle on my symptoms, my wife says that I have become much more patient, more ‘in the moment’, and empathetic towards others. These are qualities that are almost impossible to acquire over the course of a few months in normal circumstances.

There are many things that can be discussed when it comes to burnout, mental fatigue, and symptoms related to the nervous system, but the main thing to remember is that your body has been made resilient by Allah.

“We have certainly created man in the best of stature,” (95:4)

If you give your body and mind time to understand, reflect, and recuperate, it will re-generate itself insha’Allah. Here are a few helpful resources to get you started:
– Burnout at Work (Harvard Business Review)
– Book: Hope and help for your nerves – Dr. Claire Weekes (Available as Audiobook on Audible)
– Your local Naturopath

If you have been experiencing a case of workplace burnout and would like to email the author for advice, write to: abuawud10@gmail.com.

Disclaimer: The author is not a trained professional and responses are not guaranteed

Hate crime has become the new normal. This is how we tackle it | Shaista Aziz

The Guardian World news: Islam - 17 October, 2017 - 17:50
Police and politicians need to reach out to vulnerable groups – and encourage victims of racism, Islamophobia and misogyny to report crimes

Reported hate crime has increased by 29% in the past year, new data released by the Home Office shows. Police forces across England and Wales recorded almost 80,400 hate crimes in 2016-2017. This is the largest recorded rise in the six years since records began.

The sobering truth is that many people do not report hate crime to the police for a number of reasons – so the figures could well be even higher. According to today’s findings, the unprecedented surge correlates with the Brexit vote and an increase in terrorist attacks in the UK.

Related: Have you experienced hate crime since the Westminster Bridge terrorist attack?

Vulnerable women are being pushed back into their homes because of hate crime. How can this be happening in 2017?

Related: Online hate is real-world hate. It’s about time there were consequences | Suzanne Moore

Related: Jeremy Corbyn urges Twitter and Facebook to tackle religious hatred

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Jeremy Corbyn urges Twitter and Facebook to tackle religious hatred

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 October, 2017 - 23:03

Labour leader speaks up in defence of Muslim women and condemns ‘vile, revolting’ language used on social media

Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook must “shape up” to tackle racism and abuse, Jeremy Corbyn has said.

Speaking at a packed meeting at Finsbury Park mosque in north London called to address a rise in attacks on Muslim women over recent months, the Labour leader said: “A lot of abuse takes place on online media and on social media.”

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Review: Unrest

Indigo Jo Blogs - 15 October, 2017 - 21:49

A still of Jennifer Brea, a light-skinned mixed-race woman with short brown hair, wearing a yellow blouse, sitting in a car seat.Unrest is a film about ME, made by Jennifer Brea (right) and which tells the story of her life with the condition since it forced her to cut short her degree. It also tells the story of the outbreak of the disease in Nevada in the early 1980s, which led the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to label it hysteria and obstruct biomedical research into it for many years, featuring interviews with American scientists who have treated sufferers, including Nancy Klimas and Paul Cheney, both heavily featured in Hillary Johnson’s book Osler’s Web. It also features interviews with other sufferers such as Jessica Taylor here in the UK, as well as the parents of Karina Hansen, the Danish woman forcibly admitted to a psychiatric unit in 2013 and only released earlier this year. This was partly a KickStarter funded project and I donated some money early on when it was working under the title Canary in the Coal Mine, which meant I got access to a free stream of the film as of last week.

There have been a few film projects launched to cover the story of ME both here and in the USA; trailers for a project called What About ME? have been seen on YouTube over the years, but to my knowledge that never came to fruition. One that did was Voices From the Shadows, shot on a low budget by people with relatives with ME and released in 2011 which won the Audience Favourite award at the Mill Valley film festival that year. I wrote a review of that here and I also attended a screening at which Dr Nigel Speight, a British paediatrician who treats adults and children with ME, answered audience questions. You can watch that film for free at present on Vimeo using a link from the project’s website. I thought that film was harder-hitting than Unrest because there are no happy endings (two of the five people with ME featured had already died) and it principally features very severely affected people.

This film is mostly centred around telling the story of how its author and her husband coped with the disease and tried to mitigate its effects. There is a lot of footage of Brea in pain and her husband trying to make her comfortable, for example. It also shines a light on the appeal of quackery to many people with ME: the issue of “toxic mould” in houses comes up on ME forums time and again, and Brea tried to escape from it by moving to a desert location and living in a tent out of the house. On one occasion Brea tells her husband not to touch or get too close to the tent as he has been in the house, which is full of the alleged toxic mould, in the clothes he is wearing, which causes him some degree of annoyance and frustration. She also interviews a mother with ME whose daughter also has it, and talks about the possibility of her having a child (which would be difficult in itself but also raises the possibility of the child having it), and the other mother positively encourages her to do it. Perhaps inevitably as it’s an American film, it comes back to their relationship again and again.

This film doesn’t tread the same ground as Voices from the Shadows; it doesn’t principally feature the very severely affected, although it does feature interviews with the parents of Whitney Dafoe who is currently bedridden and very severely ill, as well as footage of and interviews with Jessica Taylor who runs the Facebook page The World of One Room and whose progress people have been able to follow on social media for some years; her book A Girl Behind Dark Glasses is due for release next year. That said, more people are affected to Brea’s level of severity than are affected in the way Emily Collingridge or Lynn Gilderdale were. It also really doesn’t look into the science, the debates about what sort of virus is the cause of ME, for example, nor the excitement and disappointment over XMRV which was ruled out as a cause of ME around the time this project started. But it’s a useful and fairly realistic look at what it’s like to have ME and the effect it has on your life, your relationships and your family, even if you’re not bedridden for 15 years.

Sadly, some of the viewer reviews of this film have been malicious; there is a group of activists who will automatically become hostile whenever the phrase “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” (CFS) is mentioned, or ME is paired with CFS as if they were the same thing; the second term has wider definitions and a history of being used to trivialise ME, but it’s also commonly used (along with “Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome” or CFIDS) to refer to ME proper. These people are known for posting “ME is not CFS” again and again in ME forums or pages, often sounding like a stuck record as they say this over and again without any attempt at reason. (I call this phenomenon “stuck record syndrome” and have had to warn moderators about it a couple of times.) There have been a few one-star reviews posted on Amazon calling this a “CFS film” and repeating the “not CFS” mantra which will drag down the average rating. I would give this four out of five because it’s a four-year effort by someone who was very ill and had to work from bed, and sheds a much-needed light on the plight of people with ME in both the US and Europe and the disbelief and abuse they still suffer.

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Muslim inmates allege humiliation and abuse by Brisbane prison staff

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 October, 2017 - 18:00

Islamic council complains of prisoners being beaten, humiliated and deprived of halal food but Queensland Corrective Services says evidence not provided

Allegations of abuse, humiliation and deprivation by prison staff have been made by Muslim inmates at a correction centre in Brisbane.

The Islamic Council of Queensland made a series of complaints about the behaviour of staff towards inmates at the Arthur Gorrie correctional centre (AGCC), the state’s largest prison.

Related: Australia's jail population hits record high after 20-year surge

Related: Children locked in cells and security footage taped over at youth detention centre

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Hanafi Legal Theory in the Ottoman Empire: The Case of the Cash Waqf

Lost Islamic History - 15 October, 2017 - 06:23

The study of Islamic law in the Ottoman Empire is a vibrant and dynamic field. After the Mongol invasions of the thirteenth century, the early Ottoman State was an important actor in the Muslim world, re-establishing Muslim sovereignty and intellectual life in Anatolia, the Levant, and Egypt, while simultaneously expanding Islam into a new frontier in the Balkans. It is partly for this reason that we see numerous structural innovations in the application of Islamic law in the Ottoman state. Unlike previous polities, the Ottomans established a clear hierarchy of religious schools (madrasas) with standardized curriculums that corresponded with a hierarchy of teachers and judges. They also institutionalized the office of the mufti, which had previously been a position that was a generally unofficial position separate from governance and created a hierarchy of muftis throughout the empire.

Yet despite this institutionalization of the structure of Islamic law, the underlying foundation of law in the Ottoman Empire continued to be traditional Islamic legal theory, particularly that of the Ḥanafī school of jurisprudence. This is most clearly seen in the legal writings of Ebū’s Suʿūd Efendi (d. 1574), who served as the grand mufti (şeyhülislam) of the Ottoman state for much of the sixteenth century. His Treatise Regarding the Permissibility of Cash Waqfs shows a strong adherence to traditional legal theory even in an ever-changing world empire.

Background

The gravestone of Ebū’s Suʿūd in Istanbul

Ebū’s Suʿūd served as the grand mufti of the Ottoman state for thirty years during the sultanate of Süleyman I after having risen up through the mufti hierarchy in the 1530s. He issued a plethora of legal opinions (fatwas) throughout his time in office, which would often be accompanied by an imperial edict, further solidifying the authority of the grand mufti. He thus likely had the biggest impact on the office of the Grand Mufti, shaping how it would be seen for centuries afterwards.

One of the most pressing issues Ebū’s Suʿūd had to deal with was the cash charitable endowment (waqf, plural awqāf). Traditionally, the waqf played a major role in Muslim societies. It would most commonly take the form of a parcel of land or a business that a wealthy benefactor would endow to a charitable cause. In theory, the land now belonged to God and all the profits made off that land were promised to whatever charitable cause the benefactor stipulated in the original endowment documents. Through such awqāf, important social services such as schools, libraries, soup kitchens, orphanages, and mosques would be supported through the perpetual profits from the waqf.

In the Ottoman Empire in the fifteenth century, there began to be awqāf established not with land, but cash. Individuals would chose to endow a certain amount of money as a waqf and stipulate that it be lent out to borrowers, with whatever profits coming from such loans being forwarded to charity. The first record of a cash waqf dates to 1423 in Edirne, but by the end of the fifteenth century, the practice was so common and widespread, that the majority of newly established awqāf came to be in the form of cash instead of land. Naturally, as a newly established practice lacking historical precedent, debate soon erupted among the jurists over whether such a practice was permissible according to Islamic law in the first place (Note: the issue of how money could be lent out while avoiding usury, ribā, was another jurisprudential issue entirely. This article will only address the debate over the establishment of the awqāf).

By the mid-sixteenth century when Ebū’s Suʿūd held the position of grand mufti, the debate had reached a boiling point and required an official judgement from the religious establishment. The result was an approximately 40 page treatise by Ebū’s Suʿūd in which he analyzed the legal theory behind awqāf and then offered his comments on the authority of a government to rule on such matters in the first place, his Treatise Regarding the Permissibility of Cash Waqfs (Risālah fi Jawāz Awqāf al-Nuqūd).

The Treatise

Ebū’s Suʿūd begins his treatise by analyzing the rulings of the early Ḥanafī jurists on whether a waqf has to be immovable (ie, land or buildings) or if it can be established with an initial investment of moveable goods such as animals or farm tools.

He notes that the eponymous founder of the school, Abū Ḥanīfa, considered any moveable waqf to be invalid. His two primary students are more permissive, however. He mentions that Abū Yūsuf allows for moveables to be a part of a land waqf. For example, farm animals or crops can be part of a waqf so long as the main part of the waqf is a parcel of land. Muḥammad al-Shaybānī is the most permissive, however. Allowing for any type of moveable waqf so long as it corresponds with local custom (taʿāruf). Ebū’s Suʿūd does note, however, that while there were varying opinions on the permissibility of moveable awqāf in general, all three of the early Ḥanafī jurists did not specifically permit a waqf to be established only with cash.

Ebū’s Suʿūd goes on to mention however, that Zufar, another of Abū Ḥanīfa’s students, was explicitly in favor of cash awqāf. He goes on to mention that there exists a narration in Bukhārī’s Ṣaḥīḥ from Ibn Shihāb al-Zuhrī about an individual who endowed a thousand dinars for orphans and that this narration could be used to support the permissibility of cash awqāf.

Yet despite this very explicit approval of the idea of the cash waqf from one of the founding figures of the Ḥanafī school combined with a narration found in perhaps the most important Sunni compilation of Ḥadīth, Ebū’s Suʿūd steers away from building his main argument on these narrations. Instead, he goes back to al-Shaybānī’s concept of local custom. He cites pre-Ottoman Ḥanafī jurists such as Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad al-Sarakhsī (d. 1090) and Burhan al-Dīn al-Marghīnānī (d. 1197) who echoed al-Shaybānī’s opinion that any type of moveable waqf is permissible so long as it is commonly accepted in any given area. He quotes another important pre-Ottoman jurist, the twelfth century Aḥmad al-ʿAtābī, as saying that while establishing a group of cows as a waqf is unheard of in his time and place (and would thus not be permissible), in another hypothetical context where such endowments are the norm, there would be no problem with it.

The tuğra of Sultan Süleyman, who appointed Ebū’s Suʿūd as grand mufti in 1545

Ebū’s Suʿūd thus argues that cash should be seen as just another type of moveable and that although such awqāf were unheard of in earlier Islamic history, the ubiquity of them in the sixteenth century Ottoman Empire would be reason enough, in accordance with the initial premise of Muhammad al-Shaybānī, to consider them valid in his context. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of his argument is that he chose to shy away from basing his argument on the explicit opinion of Zufar and the narration of al-Zuhrī as found in Ṣahīh Bukhārī in favor of cash awqāf and instead focused on the legal theory outlined by al-Shaybānī.

He recognizes that another objection could be made to his ruling in favor of the cash waqf however. Even if one would concede that al-Shaybānī allows for moveable awqāf and cash could potentially be considered just another moveable and the prevalence of the practice would allow for it in the eyes of numerous authorities in the Ḥanafī school, an interlocutor could argue that there is no reason to go through all those legal hoops when Abū Ḥanīfa himself would not have allowed for such endowments. Even if such an alternative opinion is feasible, why should the Ottoman state go with al-Shaybānī’s opinion over Abū Ḥanīfa’s?

Ebū’s Suʿūd’s response to such an objection is the core of his argument and it illustrates his thoughts on the relationship between the religious scholars and the sultanate. He calls on a very important maxim in Islamic law: that the ruling of a ruler lifts [juristic] dispute (ḥukm al-ḥākim yarfaʿ al-khilāf). The idea behind this maxim was that when jurists differ on an issue, the sultan has the prerogative to choose one ruling and make it the law of the land.

Ebū’s Suʿūd was hardly the first to employ this notion. Imām al-Shāfiʿī (d. 820) stated that a ruler has the authority to exercise his independent judgement in a case where there is no precedent in the Qurʾān and Sunnah and the jurists themselves would differ. The thirteenth century Mālikī jurist Shihāb al-Dīn al-Qarāfī (d. 1285) stated that when a ruler makes a determination on a case that is in dispute, it becomes mandatory for people to follow it. He adds that rulers only have the authority to do so in cases that are outside of the basics of worship and instead deal with issues such as “contracts, property, mortgages, charitable endowments, and similar things”. The fourteenth century Ḥanbalī scholar, Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 1328) stated that if a ruler is considered to be upright and knowledgeable about religious matters, it is mandatory for the entire population to abide by his rulings. The Andalusian scholar al-Qurṭubī (d. 1273) notes in his Tafsīr that an early Persian mystic, Sahl al-Tustari (d. 896), stated that Muslims are obliged to follow a sultan’s rulings, and that a sultan even has the prerogative to prohibit a mufti from issuing rulings if they blatantly contradict those of the sultan.

While Ebū’s Suʿūd does not directly quote any of the above jurists in his treatise, their influence on his conception of a sultan’s authority in religious law is unmistakable. He makes clear that since the cash waqf is an issue that the jurists do not all agree on, so long as the sultan choses a legitimate ruling from the jurists to support, it becomes incumbent on everyone in his jurisdiction to follow that ruling. As such, muftis could not refuse to allow cash awqāf to be established, nor could they revoke earlier endowments. This becomes an especially forceful argument considering that cash awqāf had been in use for over a century by the time Ebū’s Suʿūd wrote his treatise, allowed by five successive sultans from Murad II to Süleyman I. The practice had become so entrenched that it is doubly legitimate: both through the opinion of al-Shaybānī regarding moveable endowments and through the notion that when a ruler makes a ruling on an issue the jurists differ on, it becomes incumbent on all to follow.

Conclusions

Ebū’s Suʿūd was perhaps one of the most influential jurists in Ottoman history. His plethora of written works, his close partnership with Sultan Süleyman, and his ability to establish an efficient religious bureaucracy caused his influence on Islamic law in the Ottoman State to be felt long after his death in 1574. His conception of the relationship between the religious scholars and sultanic authority was a complex and interesting one. It is clear that he considered earlier figures in the Ḥanafī school, from the formative years of Abū Ḥanīfa and his students to later jurists like Burhan al-Dīn al-Marghīnānī, to be authorities that he could not simply overrule. He did not seek to set aside their opinions and create a new Ottoman interpretation of law that broke from past precedent. Simultaneously, he ingeniously used the inherent flexibility of Ḥanafī legal theory to allow for creative solutions to new problems, such as the cash waqf, that those earlier authorities did not directly deal with. In this way we see an Ottoman engagement with Islamic legal theory that defies commonly-cited notions of “religious” and “secular” law being in conflict. It appears that at the highest levels of the religious establishment, the Ottomans understood religious law and sultanic authority to be two realms that work together in governance, rather than as factions competing for authority in the Muslim world.

 

Further reading:

Atçıl, Abdurrahman. Scholars and Sultans in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017.

Burak, Guy. The Second Formation of Islamic Law: The Ḥanafī School in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Ebū’s Suʿūd. Risālah Fī Jawāz Waqf Al-nuqūd. Edited by Aḥmad Shāghif Al-Bākistānī. Beirut: Dār Ibn Ḥazm, 1997.

Imber, Colin. Ebu’s-suʿud: The Islamic Legal Tradition. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997.

Mandaville, Jon E. “Usurious Piety: The Cash Waqf Controversy in the Ottoman Empire.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 10, no. 3 (1979).

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