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A methodological approach to ancient Sunni dream interpretation:
Without a doubt, among the types of knowledge and the varieties of inherited wisdom with which scholars occupy themselves, there is none more obscure, necessary, exalted, and more challenging than the dream interpretation and analysis.
The ancient scholars would deliberate upon the Book of Allah and the traditions of the Prophet as the initial points of focus in their attempt at dream analysis. The proverbs of sages, the interpretation of language, semantics, and poetry would then be considered to aid in the interpretation. The interpreter would be considered an expert not only on account of their textual knowledge, but also their personal adherence to it. These interpreters were normally of refined character, and they would conduct a quick study, equipped with a practical understanding of the cultural context of the dreamer and inquire about their personal disposition. Most scholars before attempting to reflect on a person’s vision would perform ablution and ask the Almighty for assistance and fath (clarity).
There are 9 methods of Dream interpretation:
1- Ta’wil al-asma’: Interpretation through Etymology of Names
2- Ta’wil bil-Ma‘na: Interpretation via Meaning
3- Ta’wil bil Quran: Interpretation using the Quran
4- Ta’wil bil-Hadith: Interpretation using Prophetic Narrations
5- Ta’wil bil Mathal wash-Shi‘r: Interpretation using Proverbs and poetry
6- Ta’wil bil Didd wal-Maqloob: Interpretation via opposition and inversion
7- Ta’wil bil Ziyaad wal-Naqs: Interpretation via an Increase
8- Ta’wil bil Naqs: Interpretation via a decrease
9- Ta’wil bil Waqt: Interpretation with consideration of time
These nine methods are applied simultaneously and not necessary in order of the above listing. A dream may require all, or even just one of the above methods.
Further, knowing which dreams are adghathu ahlaam –confused dreams, or the ramblings of our consciousness- , is important for both the dreamer and the interpreter.
Modern researchers study dreams and attempt to delve into their meanings. Sigmund Freud for instance, thought that dreams indicated sexual problems, but since the subconscious mind had our best interest at heart, it disguised the abruptness of the message. Freud believed that if the analyst interpreted the dream for the neurotic patient, the patient’s psychological problem would be resolved.
Carl Jung on the other hand disputed Freud’s theory and argued that dreams serve a compensatory function; if we are too one-sided in our conscious outlook, the dream warns us of the inherent danger in our thought and behaviour so we may modify them.
All of that is relevant to the adghathu ahlaam. Our purpose is the discussion as it relates to the ru’ya (divinely inspired vision).
Here is a Quranic example of dream interpretation that includes all 9 methods, to illustrate how it all comes together. Over the next few articles we can draw discussions from Surah Yusuf and the following verses:
43 And the king (of Egypt) said: “Verily, I saw (in a dream) seven fat cows, whom seven lean ones were devouring – and of seven green ears of corn, and (seven) others dry. O notables! Explain to me my dream, if it be that you can interpret dreams.”
44 They said: “adghathu ahlaam Mixed up false dreams and we are not skilled in the interpretation of dreams.”
45 Then the man who was released (one of the two who were in prison), now at length remembered and said: “I will tell you its interpretation, so send me forth.”
46 (He said): “O Yusuf (Joseph), the man of truth! Explain to us (the dream) of seven fat cows whom seven lean ones were devouring, and of seven green ears of corn, and (seven) others dry, that I may return to the people, and that they may know.”
47 [(Yusuf (Joseph)] said: “For seven consecutive years, you shall sow as usual and that (the harvest) which you reap you shall leave in ears, (all) – except a little of it which you may eat.
48 “Then will come after that, seven hard (years), which will devour what you have laid by in advance for them, (all) except a little of that which you have guarded (stored).
49 “Then thereafter will come a year in which people will have abundant rain and in which they will press (wine and oil).”
Prophet Yusuf used all the methods of interpretation by focusing on: names, symbols, increase, decrease, opposites identified, inability to interpret by the king’s priests, time of year of the dream, derivation of benefit, warning of harm, concern and heeding the advice can avert harm, and most importantly, truth becomes manifest.
For our purpose here I will limit our discussion to the most accessible dimensions of interpretation and end at the fourth method – Ta’wil bil-Hadith
Ta’wil al-asma’: Interpretation through Etymology of Names
The first method focuses on the etymology of the dreamer’s name or the name of the object appearing in the dream. A simple example would be dreaming of someone named ‘Rasheed’ may signify irshaad (guidance) or, depending on the circumstances of the dream, the lack of.
Names and the roots from where they emerge are important in the initial moments of interpretation. The names of individuals, objects, titles conferred, honourable mention, nicknames, slander, shortening, elongating, changing in pronunciation, etc., are all important in the analysis.
The name of course does not need to be in Arabic to have significance.
Examples of this can be found in Sahih Muslim
Book 029, Number 5647:
Anas b. Malik reported Allah’s Messenger as saying: “I saw during the night that which a person sees during the sleep as if we are in the house of ‘Uqba b. Rafi’ that there was brought to us the fresh dates of Ibn Tab. I interpreted it as the sublimeness for us in the world and good ending in the Hereafter and that our religion is good.”
Ibn Tab is the name of significance. ‘Tab’ means ripened, made ready, good to eat, high quality.
So the interpretation was based on the name IBN TAB, signifying goodness and high quality. We say a person is a good man or woman by calling them Tayib or Tayibah.
Ta’wil bil-Ma‘na: Interpretation via Meaning
This involves taking a characteristic associated with the object of one’s dream and using this as the basis for one’s interpretation.
This is closely linked to the previous method of name association and interpretation. However, recognising the symbol of importance is at times more intricate than an apparent name. Further, a symbol may have more than one meaning depending on the context of the dream.
There are a few examples that we can mention here in sha Allah.
Sahih Al-Bukhari Volume 9, Book 87, Number 135:
Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar:
Allah’s Apostle said, “While I was sleeping, I was given a bowl full of milk (in the dream) and I drank from it (to my fill) till I noticed its wetness coming out of my limbs. Then I gave the rest of it to ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab.” The persons sitting around him, asked, “What have you interpreted (about the dream) O Allah’s Apostle?” He said, “(It is religious) knowledge.”
Is the symbol milk, wetness coming out of the limbs or both?
Milk is pure and when it is “off” it is known to be unusable from a distance (smell, change in colour). So milk is purity. Further, milk is nourishment (especially when living in Medina 1400 years ago). As well, milk is derived from a source that cannot be altered. You cannot make milk out of something. It is brought out of an animal that has been domesticated for that particular aim.
‘Ilm is derived, learned, and passed on. It is nourishment for the spiritual soul and is clearly demonstrated through rigorous standards of authentication.
The Prophet drank to his fill and kept drinking past his fill to the point that he dreamt that the milk was seeping out of his limbs (in another narration also in Bukhari, he says “out of my nails”).
This is called ziyaadah (increase of capacity and measure). Allah instructed the Prophet in Surah Taha to ask for an increase in knowledge.
Milk therefore is religious knowledge when linked with over abundance.
In other moments (Isra and Mi‘raj) and in the Quran (Surah Muhammed) milk represents constancy, pure, lack of tarnish, and incorruptibility.
Another hadith in Bukhari Volume 9, Book 87, Number 136:
Narrated Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri:
Allah’s Apostle said, “While I was sleeping, some people were displayed before me (in a dream). They were wearing shirts, some of which were merely covering their breasts, and some a bit longer. Then there passed before me, ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab wearing a shirt he was dragging it (on the ground behind him.)” They (the people) asked, “What have you interpreted (about the dream) O Allah’s Apostle?” He said, “The Religion.”
A shirt is interpreted as “ad-Deen – The Religion.”
Clothing shelters you, protects you, identifies your, differentiates you, humbles you, elevates you and accords you a position in the eyes of others.
Being completely covered implies that ‘Umar was firm in all aspects of his faith and was adorned with the “Libas at-Taqwa (Garment of Taqwa)” referred to in the beginning of Surah al-A‘raf [7;6]
Ta’wil bil Quran: Interpretation using the Quran
There is a plethora of information regarding the usage of the Quran as the primary text to be utilised by the interpreter of the dream.
This can be established through the Sunnah, and action of the sahaba and the scholars who tread upon their path.
Interestingly, Allah will speak of something and link it to more than one circumstance. As such the dream interpreter must have sound knowledge of the Quran and its meaning.
For example: A donkey
A donkey, seen during sleep, may symbolise:
Travel and also seeking knowledge – Allah says, “…is as the likeness of a donkey that carries huge burdens of books (but understands nothing from them).” [Surah al-Jumu’ah ;5]. Burdens as translated here is asfaarun coming from the same root word to denote travel.
Seeing a donkey may also imply a resurgence of livelihood or strength. Allah says: “And look at your donkey! And thus We have made of you a sign for the people. Look at the bones, how We bring them together and clothe them with flesh”. When this was clearly shown to him, he said, “I know (now) that Allah is Able to do all things.” (Surah Baqarah;259]
Seeing a donkey may also imply beautification and comfort. Allah says: “And (He has created) horses, mules and donkeys, for you to ride and as an adornment. And He creates (other) things of which you have no knowledge.” [Sureah an-Nahl;8]
Seeing a donkey may also imply destruction and the Wrath of Allah and evil soon to arrive. Allah says, “”And be moderate (or show no insolence) in your walking, and lower your voice. Verily, the harshest of all voices is the voice (braying) of the donkey.” [Surah Luqman;1]
Another example is the Adhaan.
Seeing yourself or others performing the adhaan in your ru’ya can have more than 12 different interpretations all utilising the Quran (Ibn Qutaybah, Al-baghaawi, al-Qadari, ath-Tha‘alibi and others).
It may indicate a person performing Hajj [Surah al-Hajj;27], speaking a word of truth [Surah Yusuf;70], fate to befall , position of authority [Surah at-Tahwbah;3], a journey, a death, wealth after poverty, treachery, suspicion to fall on you, losing faith, or hypocrisy.
More examples of actions or symbols and their Quranic relevance can be:
– Rope can mean an oath, covenant, contract, agreement [Surah al-Imran;103]
– Ship can mean salvation or assistance [Surahal-‘Ankabut;15]
– Wood can mean hypocrisy [Surah al-Munafiqoon;4]
– Illness can mean hypocrisy [Surah al-Baqarah;10;
– Clothing can mean woman [Surah al-Baqarah;187]
– Water can mean difficulty and ordeal [Surah al-Jinn;16-17]
– Making tasbeeh/dhikr can mean sadness and depression [Surah al-Anbiya;87]
– Heavy rain can mean difficulty and calamity [Surah an-Naml;58]
– Light rain can mean comfort and ease [Surah Qaaf;9]
– Knife can mean evidence or clarification [Surah Yusuf;31]
– Fields, farms, open earth can mean a woman [Surah al-Baqarah;223]
– A bed can mean loss of power, authority or influence [Surah Saad;34]
– Staircase can mean people seeking knowledge or to hear of you good/or evil [Surah at-Tur;38]
Of course there are many more examples to be offered.
Ta’wil bil-Hadith: Interpretation using Prophetic Narrations
The Prophet would also define particular symbols, objects and animals in a way that is significant to the dream interpreter. Of course using the definitions of the Prophet require insight into the greater corpus of the Sunnah and a working knowledge of the authentic sahih narrations from the da’eef.
Ibn Qutaybah (Ta’beer ar-Ruyaa pgs 109 onward), al-Baghawi (Sharh as-Sunnah V12 pg 221 onward) discusses many examples. Below are a few:
– A crow may mean a deviant treacherous person (The Prophet labelled the crow faasiq – Saheeha 1825)
– A rib may refer to a woman (The Prophet described the woman as being created from a rib – agreed upon)
– Vases, Cups, Glass vessels may also refer to a woman or women (The Prophet described woman as fragile vessels – Agreed upon)
– Sleeping quarters or a bed may mean impregnation (The Prophet said that the child is to be ascribed to the bed of the father – Agreed upon)
– Horses may mean an abundance of goodness (The Prophet said that horses have abundant goodness woven into their main until the Day Of Resurrection – agreed upon)
One of the problems associated with interpretation using statements from the sunnah is that many are fabricated and unauthentic narrations have been relied upon by compilers of dream symbol lists and dictionaries.
So for example:
– It is falsely claimed that the Prophet said: In a dream you may see one of these six symbols – to see a woman is Goodness, a she-camel is warfare, milk is Fitrah, greenery is Paradise, a ship is salvation, dates are Rizq (Daylami and Abul Ya’la report this narration which is Da’eef due to the fact of an unnamed reporter in the chain among numerous other flaws – See ad-Da’eefa 3653)
– Ibn Shaheen for example says in al-Isharah (767), “To see yourself walking with yellowish tanned leather sandals on your feet implies that you should look forward to Barakah and Happiness due to the hadeeth of the Prophet
The Prophet-saw] (it is wrongly claimed) said, “To wear yellowish tanned leather sandals will have barakat and happiness accompany him. And the hadeeth is saheeh.” Of course the scholars of hadeeth have refuted the assertion that the previous statement is Saheeh. It is in fact fabricated as stated by Ibn Abi Hatim in al-‘illal as Sh. Mashoor points out.
As such the dream interpreter must place emphasis only on the saheeh narrations and not follow a manual without knowledge and research.
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Faith organisations are acting as mediators between authorities and people affected by the Grenfell Tower fire, as well as providing practical help and emotional support.
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Movement to destroy al-Aqsa mosque is “the tip of the spear” of Zionism.
Yesterday I saw a Facebook post which linked to a story about a paper by Craig Considine which claimed that “newly translated” stories from the time of the Prophet (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) demonstrated that ISIS’s treatment of Christians and other non-Muslims in the lands they have occupied are at variance with the teachings of the Prophet and the Salaf (the early Muslims) in that regard. I responded by saying that we already knew that anyway, and that the lack of an English translation for these materials up until now is not that significant because the language of that region is not English and the English-speaking section of the Muslim community, globally, is not that large. The majority of hadith literature, much like the majority of Islamic scholarly works, have not been translated into any other language, and in the case of hadith, a lot of the less well-known compilations are also those of lesser reliability. However, that was not what I wanted to discuss in this. The Facebook post simply read “ISIS are the Khawarij”, a claim that has been made many times since they arose. Are they really, though?
The Khawaarij — the term means those who secede, or who go out (the singular is Khaariji, and this is often anglicised to “Kharijite”) — were a group that arose during the early period of Islam and made trouble for the Muslims over many generations. Initially they arose during the disputes between the Companions Ali and Mu’awiyyah, opposing any negotiated settlement between them and then making ludicrous demands. The majority were won back when reasoned with; others remained obdurate, launching rebellions and assassinations, splitting into small sects which regarded anyone outside their group (which included the majority of Muslims) to not be Muslims. They committed dreadful atrocities, including the murders of Sahaba (Muslims who had been companions of the Prophet, sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) and of pregnant women. Overwhelmingly they came from the desert Arab tribes of eastern Arabia, particularly the Bani Tamim tribe. This article notes how many of them were from that tribe and the other tribes of the Najd.
The book The Four Imams by Muhammad Abu Zahra (Dar al-Taqwa, 2001) notes that, although they had dissenting ideas on such matters as who could be the caliph (leader of the Muslims) and the status of one who commits a sin (i.e. that he is an unbeliever, which is not the belief of most Muslims), another important motive was their enmity for the Mudar tribes of western Arabia, of which the Quraysh was one, and this enmity predated Islam. I mention this as some modern texts portray the Kharijites as idealists with democratic or socialistic ideas, when in fact they were tribalists who resented the rise to ascendancy of a tribe they had long regarded as rivals, if not enemies.
There are hadiths about the characteristics of the Khawaarij. The most notorious was a man named Hurqus bin Zuhair, better known as Dhu’l-Khuwaisira, who challenged the Prophet (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) over the distribution of some alms, demanding that he “be fair” or “fear Allah” (some scholars regard him as a hypocrite). The incident continued:
‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said: O Messenger of Allah, give me permission to strike his neck. The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Let him be, for he has companions, in comparison to whose prayer one of you would regard his prayer as insignificant, and he would regard his fasting as insignificant in comparison to their fasting. They recite the Qur’aan but it does not go any further than their collarbones. They will pass out of Islam as an arrow passes out of the prey.”
The Khawaarij were indeed noted for assiduousness in worship. It was reported that the camp where plots to murder Companions were hatched “sounded like a beehive” with all the recitation of the Qur’an going on; it was reported that the men found in the camp of some of the early Khawaarij had foreheads that were bleeding from prostrating on the ground in prayer, and were in poor condition from much worship and little of anything else, including self-care. Even the Sahaba would think their worship insignificant compared to these people, yet it counts for nothing; they are, as mentioned in another hadith, the “dogs of Hell”.
Other characteristics of the Khawaarij as detailed in the hadeeth or observed by Companions or classical scholars were that they would kill Muslims but spare idolaters and use verses revealed about non-Muslims and interpret them as if they referred to the Muslims, to justify fighting them. The classical Khawaarij were noted, indeed, for displays of kindness towards non-Muslims; one story I have heard is of a Khariji who was doing business with a Jewish merchant in Iraq, which borders onto their Najdi homeland, and insisted that he kept the change, telling him that the Prophet (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) had told the Muslims to be good to the People of the Book. The Jew then chastised him for being kind to him while being violent to his fellow Muslims.
Reading any account of the behaviour of today’s extremists, one does not see the important characteristics of the Khawaarij. They are harsh with the Muslims, yes, and often oppressive, but no more so than the Taliban (who in their original Afghan form were Hanafis and whom nobody accused of being Khawaarij) or the Saudis (who have been, but not by some of the people who accuse ISIS of being khawaarij), but their acts of terrorism are aimed at non-Muslims, even if they are civilians and not fighters. Their roots trace back to Arabs who fought against the Russians in Afghanistan. So they are the opposite of the Khawaarij in that regard. As for excessiveness in worship, we have heard from people who have been held captive by ISIS that they never saw a copy of the Qur’an; we have heard that some young people who have travelled to live in ISIS territory and fight for them that they tried to learn their religion at the last minute by buying books with titles like “Islam for dummies”. Again, quite the opposite of the Khawaarij. In the wider extremist-Wahhabi terrorist movement, we have heard that some of their bombers had had a lifestyle quite out of keeping with Islamic behaviour, frequenting bars, drinking alcohol and having girlfriends in the months before they carried out a suicide bombing. This, also, the Khawaarij did not do.
Before comparing any modern group to the Khawaarij, we need to consider who the Khawaarij made an enemy of: the Sahaba. We hear people say that ISIS are Khawaarij because they are run by and attract young people, and encourage them to go against the scholars and rulers. Who were the scholars of that time? The Sahaba. Who were the rulers? The Sahaba. Who were the Believers? The Sahaba and Tabi’een (the Muslims who knew the Sahaba). The Sahaba established Islamic rule — most of today’s rulers do not even try, beyond some aspects of family law, and the Khawaarij fought them as they did that. The Sahaba fought and defeated the non-Muslim powers of the day — Byzantium and Persia — and the Khawaarij fought them as they did that. They passed on what they learned from the Prophet (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam). How much did we not learn from Ali because a Kharijite murdered him? We’ll never know.
They did not entrust the Muslims’ wealth to Persian banks. They did not have Roman troops stationed in the Arabian peninsula, or get them to sort out disputes between themselves. They would not even think of turning over Muslims, who had fled China in order to live their lives freely as Muslims, back over to the Chinese authorities. And for that matter, they did not expect Muslims to start fasting in the month of Sha’ban and have “Eid” in Ramadan. Going against these men, at least by itself, does not make someone a Khariji. One article lists as a characteristic of the Khawaarij that they “advocate violent opposition of oppressive Muslim leaders” — no! They called one of the most just rulers in all of history unjust, and killed him for no reason. Big difference. (Rebels motivated by justice are called bughaat in Arabic, a separate category from khawaarij.)
We see people link ISIS with the Khawaarij because, for instance, we see young people moving from their parents’ lands to the lands of ISIS, much as the Khawaarij used to expect people to move — make hijra — from the lands of what they called “kufr” to their camps. But we cannot compare moving from a non-Muslim land to a Muslim land to people moving away from the Sahaba to a camp full of ignorant, bigoted, unkempt desert Arabs. Why would anyone move from leafy east London to Raqqa or Mosul? Perhaps because they want to live in a country where most people are Muslim, where nobody is debating whether Muslims even have a place there, where Islam and Muslims are not vilified on the front pages of newspapers, where all the food is halal and where Muslim women are not spat on in the streets. This is not the hijra of the Khawaarij.
In short, I believe ISIS are not the Khawaarij of our time. The similarities between them are only superficial and the differences enormous and fundamental. That they are ignorant and overstep the bounds of decency and humanity is not in dispute but this is not what makes anyone a Khariji, any more than it made some of the tyrannical rulers of the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties Kharijites, or their lieutenants such as Al-Hajjaj. In addition, the grievances that motivate ISIS, much like those that motivated al-Qa’ida before them, and those that motivate those that flee to them, bear no resemblance to the complaints of the Khawaarij against Sayyidina ‘Ali, radhi Allahu ‘anhu. This does not mean we should encourage any young person to leave the country behind their parents’ backs and join them (though this is likely to be less common now that ISIS are losing), but you cannot dissuade anyone by comparing them to a group in history that they bear no resemblance to, and these young people can read, and can look these things up.
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I was sent the above video today. It features the well known Muslim speaker Hamza Yusuf speaking at a meeting of the Islamic Society of North America back in 2013 where he made the following remarks:
“The reality of Turkey is that Turkey has only recently paid off completely their IMF debt. Turkey is one of the only debt free countries on this planet. And why isn’t that on the news?”
I have heard similar claims from a number of other people, but are they true? Well, this article from 2013, from the Turkish publication, Hurriyet, backs up part of the claim. It confirms that Turkey did indeed pay off its debt to the IMF in 2013. However, it also points out that the IMF debt was only a very small portion of Turkey’s external debt. As of 2013, Turkey’s total foreign debt stood at 340 billion dollars, 43% of its national income.
And that debt has only gotten worse since 2013. Turkey’s own Finance Ministry now puts Turkey’s external debt in 2017 at 49.1% of its national income.
The lesson? As the motto of the UK’s leading scientific academy, the Royal Society, says: “Nullius in verba” – Take No One’s Word For It. Even if that someone is as famous as Hamza Yusuf. Study for yourself.
Muhammad al-Hasan Wald al-Dadaw (b.1383/1963) (also known as Shaykh Muhammad al-Hassan al-Amin Walid al-Didu al-Shanqiti, Dedew) is a contemporary Mauritanian scholar who is rarely described without resorting to superlatives. He is certainly one of the most impressive ‘ulama of his generation. Of Bedouin heritage, his austere Mauritanian visage belies a gentle demeanor. Yet this polymathic scholar’s intellectual forays represent some intriguing possibilities for scripturally grounded Sunni scholarship in the modern world, whether in the arena of politics, social norms, or legal hermeneutics. These should make Dadaw of interest to both the traditional ‘alim and the Western academic. For Muslims in the West, such scholars do not usually produce ideas that are importable wholesale into Western contexts; but their breadth of Islamic learning provides useful insights into possible visions of Islam in modernity.
Shaykh Dadaw’s Islamic ideas deserve engagement in and of themselves, and I hope to write more about his thought in the near future. However, this short entry aims at providing readers with the contrasting scholarly cultures of Mauritania and Saudi Arabia, seen through Dadaw’s eyes. I draw here on an anecdote from the Shaykh’s own experience as a postgraduate student at Saudi Arabia’s preeminent institution of Islamic higher learning, Jami‘at al-Imam.Scholarship in Mauritania
Dadaw’s Mauritanian heritage would usually place him within the Maliki legal school (madhhab)—the school that dominates much of North Africa—although he is not a strict adherent of the school in instances that he considers it to contravene the scriptural evidence. As he is wont to say:العمل بالراجح واجب لا راجح
“Acting in accordance with the sounder opinion is an obligation, not just more sound.”
His legal ideas concerning the schools are interesting of themselves, as he neither rejects the madhhab system wholesale, as do some modern Salafis; nor does he limit Islamic law to the four schools of law, or oblige lay Muslims to adhere to only one school, as many adherents of the Traditional Islam movement do, but this is a topic for another occasion.
Turning to the anecdote, in a 2012 interview on the Saudi-based satellite channel 4Shabab, Dadaw is asked about the differences between the scholarly culture of Mauritania and that of Saudi Arabia. In response, Dadaw presents a stark contrast between the highly-spirited Mauritanian intellectual milieu in which he was raised, and the extremely deferential academic environment of the Saudi institution in which he completed his Masters degree.
He characterises the Mauritanian scholarly culture to which he was accustomed, which was cultivated by both students and the scholars who taught them, to be one of audacity (jasara) and daring (jara’a) when it came to challenging authority. This was something that the scholars would actively encourage among their students; they would enjoy the to and fro of intellectual debate. Rather than seeking to teach a particular viewpoint, they would instead present an issue and allow the students to vigorously and freely debate it.
In my personal experience, the seminarial contexts in the UK that I have had the opportunity to study in often fostered more vibrant debate and discussion than my academic Islamic studies environment afforded. Yet, this appears to be changing in the British academic context, possibly in part due to the influx of seminary graduates into the field, many of who have a knowledge of premodern Islamic scholarship that students in Islamic academia cannot usually match. That is not to say that all Islamic seminaries in the UK are as intellectually engaging as I feel my own idiosyncratic experience was, but that the widespread stereotype—not always unfounded—regarding rote learning at seminaries provides only a partial picture of the reality in Western countries. Beyond this, it is almost certainly unreflective of major institutions of Islamic learning, such as Nadwat al-‘Ulama, though memoirs like Shaykh Mohammad Akram Nadwi’s Madrasah Life are probably more reflective of the experience of one of the institution’s more accomplished graduates.Scholarly culture in Saudi Arabia
Returning to Dadaw’s 2012 interview, he remarks that in his experience, students in Saudi Arabia treat their teachers with deference that borders on awe. As an example, he relates an instance in which he was attending a class on Islamic theology at al-Imam University, a class whose teacher—the Head of the Theology Department—was both intensely revered and feared by his students. This meant that the students dared not question the scholar’s teachings, or even correct him when he was patently wrong. Dadaw relates a humorous incident in which this scholar walked into the wrong lecture theatre, but students could not bring themselves to point out that he was in the wrong room. When the scholar spied the actual lecturer for the class patiently waiting outside, he apologised to him by citing “The Chapter of the Cow” from the Qur’an, commenting that “[All] cows [i.e. all the students] look the same to us.” (2:70) Dadaw affirms that the scholar in question, who he reveals at the end of the anecdote to be a scholar by the name of Muhammad al-Samhari, is indeed an intellectual heavyweight, deeply knowledgeable, and possessed of a phenomenal photographic memory able to quote authors works by volume, page, and line numbers.
It was in one of Samhari’s classes on Islamic creed (‘aqida) that Dadaw found himself speaking out of turn by the norms of Saudi scholarly culture. In a session in which the scholar was teaching the al-‘Aqida al-Tadmuriyya (The Creed of Palmyra) by Ibn Taymiyya (d. 728/1328), Dadaw found his teacher to be unaware of certain concepts of classical Islamic theology (‘ilm al-kalam) that Ibn Taymiyya was addressing. Thus, the scholar attempted to explain them in a way that reflected this unfamiliarity with the ideas under discussion. While the other students sat silently, possibly due to their own lack of knowledge of the theological concepts being dealt with, the then newcomer, Dadaw, plainly stated to his teacher: “You are on one path, and Ibn Taymiyya is on a completely different one.” In Mauritania, he tells the interviewer, rather than considering this insolence or irreverence, one’s teacher would be pleased by such an intervention.
In the Saudi context, by contrast, Dadaw’s cultural faux pas resulted in the lecture theatre’s shared shock, “as though a momentous event had just taken place.” The students in the room cast their collective reproachful glance upon the uninitiated Dadaw. Shaykh Samhari, on his part, responded by walking directly to the seated Dadaw and gently asking: “What are you saying, my son?” Dadaw proceeded to explain the discrepancy, and the scholar asked him to show the class using the board, and traded places with him by sitting in Dadaw’s seat. As the latter explained what he knew on the topic, Samhari, who swiftly absorbed the concepts, recognised their reasonableness. Asking some of the students to retrieve relevant works from the library, he found that they provided further corroboration of what Dadaw had mooted.Lessons for Muslims in the West
Clearly, contemporary Islamic intellectual culture varies greatly across the Muslim world. However, the above anecdote is suggestive of the fact that the vibrancy of an intellectual culture that cultivates collegial scholarly discussion and debate is likely to produce more capable scholars. Dadaw is an exceptional scholar by any measure, but there is certainly something to be said for the intellectual culture that produced him and how it contrasts with the scholarly culture in which the above anecdote was played out.
Returning to my earlier reference to what Western Muslims can learn from such scholars and anecdotes, there is no doubt a need to cleave more closely on the part of Western Muslims to a culture that engages critically with one’s teachers and scholars, all the more so as such a critical posture is celebrated in Western culture, while the stance of deference may even be viewed with derision. Furthermore, given the fast pace of change in the modern period, critical insights are needed to preserve the vibrancy of a religious tradition that risks falling further into a sclerotic condition. Some such insights may cause one’s fellows to collectively look askance at one’s interventions, but that does not necessarily mean they will not be borne out by fair-minded deliberation.
Religious police begin inquiry but woman says she didn’t post Snapchat video herself of visit to Ushaqir in skirt and crop top, without veil
A woman who appeared in videos touring one of Saudi Arabia’s heritage sites dressed in a skirt and crop top is being investigated by the kingdom’s religious police.
The woman, who is identified as Khulood, appeared in a series of clips on Snapchat over the weekend at the deserted Ushaqir heritage village in the religiously conservative province of Najd, about 100 miles (160km) north of the capital, Riyadh.Continue reading...
In bucking Palestinian boycott call, Radiohead wins endorsements from right-wing Israeli media.
The juggernaut of HS2, the new high-speed rail link from London to Birmingham and, we are told, eventually beyond, ploughs on. Today the government awarded the contracts to various major construction companies to build the first stretch of the new line — joint ventures of a mixture of British and continental companies — and confirmed that 16 new houses on a development in Sheffield are to be destroyed by the new line, which is to pass outside of the city and be connected to it by a new spur line. I’ve made no secret of my opposition to this ludicrous project, which consists of the quite unnecessary destruction of already scarce housing as well as acres and acres of prime agricultural land. Seeing the revised map of the route on the BBC news website made me ask two questions: “what?” and “why?”.
To state the obvious, its main function is to link London with Birmingham and the major cities of central and northern England. Birmingham gets most of the initial benefit. Extensions are expected to go out to Manchester and Liverpool to the north west, and Nottingham and Leeds to the north east. There are already two major railway lines running to Birmingham, a fast one, mostly consisting of four tracks, that was upgraded to accommodate Italian tilting trains about 20 years ago which runs to a major station which has just had a major redevelopment (New Street), and a slower, cheaper one that serves smaller towns such as Amersham and Banbury and also received a major redevelopment in the 90s (before which there were no direct trains on that line). There is already a major line linking London to the East Midlands and Sheffield, which unlike the new line goes to all four city centres and serves a major interchange in London with direct links to Paris, Gatwick and Heathrow airports (Luton is on the line itself) and the South Coast, Kent as well as places like Cambridge, all of which Euston lacks. There’s already a major line between London and Leeds: the East Coast Main Line, which carries some of the fastest trains on some of the straightest, flattest track on the UK network and runs into the same major interchange.
There used to be another major line between London and the East Midlands: the Great Central Railway, or Great Central Metropolitan Extension to give it its full name (as the original GCR ran from Manchester to the East Midlands). It ran from Marylebone, where there remains space unused since its closure, on a sweeping arc of track through Aylesbury, Brackley and Rugby to Leicester and was closed in the Beeching cuts of the 1960s. Parts of it are to be used for the new line, but the bits that have been built on since closure will not; they will build whole new lines to bypass places like Brackley. Buying up all the old houses would no doubt be expensive, but surely less so than bulldozing a trail of houses in north and west London.
Whoever thought that combining rail services from London to all these places along the same pair of lines could possibly be a good idea? Unless the idea is to keep this line for premium fare-paying customers, any two-track line serving all the major cities of the Midlands and North will reach capacity very quickly and will need an extra pair of tracks from London to Birmingham. The map has no reference to south-west to north-east Cross-Country trains which currently link Birmingham to the north-east and originate from Bristol and Plymouth; there is no plan to electrify the Bristol-Birmingham line, so what will happen to these trains? And the lack of direct city-centre links in the East Midlands will put it at a distinct disadvantage compared to existing links (unless they are curtailed to force passengers onto HS2) and, of course, road — there are perfectly good motorways and dual carriageways linking Birmingham with all these places.
All this while the region is crying out for decent cross-country links — the line across the Pennines is already woefully inadequate and relies on diesel-based “Sprinter” trains, but a new link here is pencilled in as “HS3” and that’s far into the future if ever. Rail links from Birmingham eastwards are practically non-existent (trains to East Anglia, for example, run via Nottingham, a considerable detour, while road links have been greatly improved over the last few years). All in all it has the feel of a wasteful, destructive prestige project in which public money is being spent on a luxury fast rail link for wealthy commuters — people who may have been abundant in the pre-2008 world but may well be less so after Brexit, particularly if handled as badly as our politicians are currently doing.
Possibly Related Posts:
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- Time for a rethink on third rail?
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- Heathrow: No free ride for Zac Goldsmith
Whoever amongst us pursued mercy and blessings in Ramadan, know that Ramadan has passed. But whoever desires mercy and blessings from Allah constantly, know that Allah is present and Ever-Living and will never pass. Allah is waiting for you throughout the year and his doors are open throughout the year and his Vast Mercy is available throughout the year.
How then can you safeguard your Ramadan? There are numerous suggestions that might help, but for the sake of brevity, let’s focus on only three:
1. Focus on the objective of Ramadan
The objective of fasting Ramadan, as Allah stated explicitly, is:يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become God-conscious.
There are 6 verses in the Qur’an that mention the objective of “gaining taqwā” and the aforementioned ayah in particular focuses on the fasting of Ramadan. Therefore, to help sustain the objective, rewards, and blessings of Ramadan throughout the year, one is advised to be consistent with fasting.
The most recommended advice is to agree to voluntary fasting with one’s family and/or friends in order to hold one another accountable, as well as to increase the “sensation” of Ramadan by breaking fast together.
The suggestions for fasting throughout the year are:
- The 6 days of Shawwāl. The Prophet ﷺ said, “Whoever fasts Ramadan and follows it with 6 days [fasting] of Shawwāl, it is as if he fasted for a lifetime.”
- Three days of every month
- Mondays and Thursdays
- The day of ʿAashurā’ (10th of Muharram)
- The day of ʿArafah (9th of Dhul Hijjah)
- Missed fasts from a previous Ramadan
- Every other day, and that is the best of fasting
Action item: Speak to your family or friends as soon as possible and agree to fast at least one day together. If not, schedule at least one day into your calendar so that you can sustain the objective of Ramadan regardless of external accountability.2. Return to the duʿā that many people have abandoned
I asked, “O Messenger of Allah, if I know which night is Laylat al-Qadr, what should I say on that night?’
He said, ‘Say: Allaahumma innaka ‘afuwwun tuhibb al-‘afwa fa’affu ‘anni (O Allah, You are forgiving and You love forgiveness, so forgive me).”
اللهم إنك عفو تحب العفو فاعف عني
Throughout the last ten nights of Ramadan, we were reminded all around the world and on social media about this beautiful duʿā, but it seems, based on the personal questioning of dozens of individuals, that many people abandon this duʿā throughout the year and only return to it when Ramadan arrives.
However, if this duʿā is recommended on the most important and blessed night of the entire year, a night that is greater than 1000 months, wouldn’t it make sense to pray with it throughout the year as well? There are numerous gems and wisdoms related to this duʿā which you can read in detail here.3. Seek knowledge consistently
One of the greatest positive impacts on the believer’s heart in Ramadan is due to the increase in knowledge via social media, the mosques, and countless other avenues. Thus, many people don’t realize that one of the reasons for increased faith in Ramadan is due to an increase in spiritual and beneficial reminders.
For those who seek knowledge consistently, continue striving and may Allah bless your efforts and accept. For those who do not seek knowledge at all throughout the year, may Allah bless your path with many opportunities and grant you the strength to take advantage of countless resources which are in abundance in our technologically-advanced era.
Knowledge is light. Knowledge is also power. Knowledge, sought sincerely for His sake, changes us and the people we interact with throughout our lives. Seek knowledge consistently and you’ll see the growth in hindsight. Seek knowledge consistently and you’ll feel your faith strengthening in its foundations, through ease and difficulty. Seek knowledge and you’ll find nearness to Allah the Exalted.
The only ayah in the Qur’an in which the Prophet ﷺ was commanded to ask for more of anything is the commandment to ask for more knowledge.وَقُل رَّبِّ زِدْنِي عِلْمًا
“…and say, “My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.”
If the only Qur’anic instruction for an increase is related to knowledge, then no doubt you and I are in greater need of it than our beloved Messenger ﷺ.
Ultimately, if one wants to safeguard the efforts of Ramadan throughout the year, then the focus should include the objective of Ramadan (taqwā) in everything that we do, and to try to return to the habits that were performed in abundance in Ramadan, such as fasting, qiyām, charity, beneficial reminders, community service, praying in the mosques, forgiving one another, etc.
May Allah accept from us and increase us in guidance, forgiveness, knowledge, wisdom, happiness, and success.
Summarized action items:
- Focus on the objective of Ramadan by fasting
- Return to the duʿā that many people have abandoned
- Seek knowledge consistently
 Qur’ān 2:183.
 Narrated by Muslim, at-Tirmidhi, Ibn Mājah, Abu Dāwūd, and an-Nasā’i.
 Reported by at-Tirmidhi and classified as Ṣaḥīḥ (authentic).
 Qur’ān 20:114.
Labor frontbencher describes Queensland convention’s vote as ‘appalling’ and says resolution at odds with multiculturalism
The Liberal National party state conference in Queensland has overwhelmingly voted against a limited Muslim immigration ban but has voted to call for headscarves to be banned for young children.
The main resolution had called for the federal government to ban immigration from countries with sharia law, with those in favour saying it was was “culturally incompatible “ with Australian values.Continue reading...
The Muslimah Sex Manual: A Halal Guide to Mind Blowing Sex is praised for empowering women
It was a confession by a newlywed friend about her disastrous sex life that gave Umm Muladhat an idea for a groundbreaking book.
Published last week, The Muslimah Sex Manual: A Halal Guide to Mind Blowing Sex is the first such guide written by a Muslim woman. The author has chosen to stay anonymous, using an alias.
I’ve had dozens of emails from men asking if I had plans for a companion book to teach them how to please their wivesContinue reading...
An outstanding range of emotion in Amer Hlehel’s one-man show on the life of Taha Muhammad Ali.