Life on the planet earth is changing all the time. Life is an evolution in itself. Like, around the decades of 1950s and 60s people used to study science as one subject. Gradually, the subject expanded into new fields and we came to know about major divisions of science.
Firstly, it was sciences and applied sciences; then came technology, followed by physics, chemistry, biology; then came engineering physics, nuclear physics, applied physics, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, medical sciences, biomedical sciences, management sciences, human sciences, psychological sciences, engineering sciences, mobile engineering, telecommunications, aviation engineering, space engineering, computers, internet and so on and so forth.
This is a natural evolution of science which took place during the life time of many of us. If scientist and technologists did not work in this evolution and creation of innovative things, we would not have seen the comforts of travel in space age jets, fast trains, versatile cars/transportation vehicles, shipping, etc. We would not have witnessed the communication revolution of mobile phones and internet.
Look at the development of science and technology in every field of human activity. In all these innovations, can anyone tell, has there been a change in the basic laws of science? Our answer will be an emphatic No. Laws of science remain the same but we develop new things making use of those basic laws.
The same thing applies in religious issues. In the times of Prophet Mohammad (SAWS) and his companions, Muslims looked upon, and acted on, religious issues in a composed format. As the time passed, the composed format of religion gradually developed into its detailed version.
We had Imams (scientists) of Ahadith who worked hard on this subject and developed the science of Hadith. There are many Imams of Hadith, among them, 6 have been accepted as most authentic. Their books of Hadith are accepted as most authentic versions of Hadith.
Why we accept them as Imams and follow their books? Because we accept that this is a natural evolution of the subject of Hadith.
Are not they innovators? Indeed they are as they have brought in front of us various shades of Prophet’s (SAWS) traditions which were not available in the times of the first generation companions of Prophet Mohammad (SAWS) in this detailed and written format. Their innovation is based on the basic rules of Islam.
What has been proved of this?
Any thing (new skills or knowledge) that is based on the basic rules of the religion is acceptable, rather necessary.
It is in Hadith - The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: He who sets a good precedent in Islam, there is a reward for him for this (act of goodness) and reward of that also who acted according to it subsequently, without any deduction from their rewards; and he who sets in Islam an evil precedent, there is upon him the burden of that, and the burden of him also who acted upon it subsequently, without any deduction from their burden. (Muslim Book 5, # 2219; Muslim Book 34, # 6466, Nasai – # 2554, Ibn Majah – # 203, 206, 207; Ahmad – V.4 P-358)
Similarly, the science of Exegesis of Quran developed. Earlier, we had Hazrat Abdullah Bin Abbas (RU) whose opinions on Quranic verses were available. Now we have many versatile Muslims who have written translations and exegesis of Quran. Many of these exegesis are undisputed and widely read by Muslims.
Similarly, the Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh) developed. As the time progressed, we had different Imams (scientists/Jurists) of Islamic Jurisprudence who served the nation during their life times. Out of the many Imams who have done research in this subject, four are widely accepted by Muslims as most authentic.
All Muslims who worked to develop Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh-e-Islami) are indeed innovators because they developed the science of Islamic law. These Imams portray the development of Muslim society into this modern age. Without them, the Muslim nation would have remained frozen in history. They are scientists of their times and we should learn to respect them for their hard work.
In the same way, the ‘Science of Purification of Heart (Tazkia Nafs) was developed. Earlier, in Prophet’s (SAWS) and his companions’ time, it was in a composed format. People whose hearts were required to be purified belonged a small Arab region.
As Muslim areas expanded in the world, many nations came under the banner of Islam. These nations had strong history and culture of their own from thousands of years. Our Ulema and Sufis had the difficult task of purifying hearts of these multi-cultured new Muslims.
The scientists of Purification of hearts (Sufi Shaikhs of Ihsan) had to developed new ways and means to strengthen the believes of these new converts. As has been the case with other fields of religion, new techniques were developed in purifying the hearts of people to make them truthful Muslims.
The Sufis and Shaikhs of Ihsan conducted case studies on these new Muslim nations and as per their nature and cultural background, they adopted various ideas to bring these huge population into the Islamic fold. This way, the Sufi Shaikhs in various regions of the world became popular. The people who followed them in different regions of the world were identified with their names/silsilas.
In Iraq, Hazrat Shaikh Abdul Qader Jeelani ®, in Central Asia, Hazrat Bahauddin Naqshband ®, in Easten Asia, Hazrat Khaja Moinuddin Chishti ®, in Africa, Hazrat Ali Bin Abdullah Abul Hasan Shazli ® and Shahabuddin Suharwardi ® and Hazrat Ahmad Kabir Rafa’i ®, and in Europe Hazrat Jalaluddin Maulana Room ® became popular. Are they innovators? Yes they are. They have helped Muslim nation to transform itself into the modern times. Without them, we would have remained frozen in the pages of history.
The nation which develops itself with time, remains alive. Those who do not want to adopt to the new environment by developing new skills, are left behind. Look at the impact these Sheikhs had on the history of Islam. We should learn to respect our elders and thank them for their extra-ordinary efforts in serving the nation rather than destroying their graves and try to eliminate their names from history.
The religion of Islam focuses more on human soul rather than human body. The human soul (rooh) is hidden, and our material body is visible.
What is faith? Can we (physically) see it? No. It is the attribute of soul. Can we show the face of belief? No. It is the attribute of soul, therefore it is hidden but it will remain with us in this world and in Hereafter.
Many things are related to our hearts which remain hidden from others. When someone lies, can it be seen from our eyes? No. We will have to feel that this guy is lying. Tazkia Nafs is the science of heart. Without Tazkia Nafs, no one can have 100% pure Iman. When peoples’ hearts are purified, they move up into the zone of Ihsan where, as per the Hadith of Ihsan, they can visualize their sustainer.
The sciences of the understanding of Quran, Hadith, Islamic Jurisprudence and purification of heart (Tazkia Nafs) developed simultaneously. Many people participated in the development of these sciences. In Tazkia Nafs, many Shaikhs of Ihsan, Soufis came on Islamic horizon at different times during the history of Islam. These Shuyooks adopted different ways to cleanse people’s heart.
The Shaikhs of Ihsan or the truthful Sufis are the physicians of our souls. Like a medical doctor is important to keep our body healthy, the Sufis are important to keep our soul healthy. The truthful Sufis help us to keep the Muslim society spiritually healthy. If you brand them as wrongdoers and innovators, you are not doing any harm to them. Rather you are making the entire Muslim community sick. Remember sick nation is useless and is a burden on earth. Therefore, it is important that we do not neglect this area of Islamic activity. We should locate these truthful people in our society and train our people under their able guidance so that the Muslim nation could be kept spiritually healthy for generations to come.
Salafis say that till the time of Companions of Prophet Mohammad (SAWS), the religion was pure and after that innovations appeared.
Well, during Sahaba time the religion was in a compact format. Gradually many things, like Islamic fiqh and other subjects developed.
Their above statement is like some one saying that the compact basic science book we studied in 1950s was pure and the following decades the new science subjects came up were all innovations. If someone says like this, what will be your reaction? Will you not call him crazy?
Life in itself is an evolution. When Prophet Mohammad (SAWS) appeared, the Islamic laws were made most comprehensive in the shape of Quran. Before that, the scriptures of other prophets did not contain so much details. The basics of Islam were completed during Prophet’s (SAWS) time.
It is in Quran – ‘(O’Prophet) This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you and have chosen for you Islam as your religion’. (Al-Ma’ida – 3).
If a scientist tells us more details about the solar system and discovers new planets which were unknown to us, it will be treated as the development of science.
But if someone says that the Sun has hands and eyes and ears, but these are not visible and not similar to human beings, he will be treated as a innovator, liar, because he is reporting against the fact of the matter.
The same rules apply in religion. The basic faith of Islam is Allah (SWT) is one, independent and everything else is dependent upon Him. He is free from the limitations of face, body, limbs and direction. If a group of people say that Allah (SWT) has hands, eyes and face and other limitations, they will be treated as liars and will be counseled to change their attitude and come back to the truthful teachings of Islam. If they do not heed to the good counsel, they will see the consequence of their beliefs on the Day of Judgment.
Let us look at our living in the 21st Century and compare it with the living of human beings in 7th Century when Prophet Mohammad (SAWS) started spreading the message of Islam.
Today we use cars, bikes, buses for our travel. At that time people used to walk and some affluent men used to ride horses.
Today we use transportation vehicles as goods careers and at that time people used camels, carts for transportation of goods.
Now we travel from one continent to another in a matter of few hours in speed jet airplanes. Then people needed several years to travel from one place to another.
Now, we have communication devices like phones, internet, news papers, electronic media, etc. These things were not available then.
Now we live in high rise multistorey buildings. Previously people lived in mud houses.
We have magnificent mosques and educational institutions for our religious studies, earlier these facilities were not avaialble.
Previously we read Quran which was hand written, now it is printed in big electronic machines.
Previously people used to drink water from small wells. Now people use purified sea water for drinking.
You talk of anything from then and now, everything has changed. All these changes are essentially required innovations for our survival on this planet. We have not broken any religious or natural laws for this development.
The basic laws of nature were in composed form earlier. Now they are in expanded format. Similarly, the composed laws of religion of Islam also developed into their detailed version.
Some people think that every thing new is an innovation. They try to drag people back by 1400 years into History and want us to do things in the same way as people did at that time. How could this be possible?
They say only beating of tamborene (Duf) is allowed in Islam as this instrument was used during Prophet’s (SAWS) time. The music instruments now available were not there in Prophet’s (SAWS) time. At that time, 'Duf' was allowed. Then why not ‘Dhol’ and ‘Drum’ is allowed now because these are the developed version of the old 'duf'.
They should think these things coolly and question themselves how come they are living in high rise buildings now when during Prophet’s (SAWS) time no one lived like that. When someone talks about these simple logical things, they start branding him as innovator.
We cannot explain to people who do not want to understand simple things and behave irrationally.
They say taking picture, or hanging pictures of human beings on walls is not allowed. Well, we also know about it as there are definite Ahadiths about it. But, let someone look at Saudi Arabia. Every home and every office has pictures of King and his family members. Their TV channels show serials and movies which are highly objectionable from their own standards. Their news papers, magazines, electronic and print media are all full of pictures of women, men, animals and what not?
Before talking of innovations, they should first cleanse themselves from the modern living in real terms. They should destroy everything that has been built in the name of development and start living in mud houses as people lived during the time of Prophet Mohammad (SAWS). Why don’t they follow the Salaf in everything they did?
Apparently they did not understand the basics of the religion. They got mislead by reading books independently and they lead others to believe in their misconceptions about Islam.
We do not want to dig more because what kind of objectionable things Salafis do in their homes or in their countries is not our subject of discussion. We are all human beings and we all falter in one way or another. By giving these examples, we are trying to clear their misunderstanding on innovation in religion.
What is innovation in Religion? If some one goes against the fact of the matter and says something which is contrary to the basic beliefs of Islam, it will be treated as innovation.
Like Salafis/Wahhabis say that Allah (SWT) has hands, eyes, but how they are is not known to people. This kind of statements are against the fact of the matter, therefore are innovation in the religion. Well, it is more than innovation, it is Shirk and hypocraicy.
Differences of opinions are common in Muslim Community. There was no opposition to the earlier four Imams of Fiqh even though they differed with each other in many issues. What was the reason that the entire Muslim community stood unequivocally against Ibn Taymiyyah when he introduced new faith and rejected all Imams of Islamic Jurisprudence?
Allah (SWT) had rewarded Ibn Taymiyyah with exceptional memory and a good analytical mind. When we look at his biography written by his followers we realize that he did not have the opportunity, or may be he did not like, to sit as an obedient student in front of expert sheikhs of his time.
To become an expert in Shariah, you need to spend considerable time in the company of able Shuyooq to understand the fine tuning of that subject. Ibn Taymiyyah was a zealous young man. He read many books, memorized them all, including Quran and Hadith books and before he could complete his teens (19 years), he thought himself to be a scholar in various Islamic subjects. Since he had an exceptional memory and argumentative power, he considered it was sufficient.
When scholars of his time drew his attention that what he deduced by his independent study was wrong, he should have headed to their call and tried to discipline himself for a few more years and spent some time with variety of experts and listen to their arguments with a positive mind frame. He did not do all that. He preferred to face them head on with his self acquired knowledge. If he had allowed himself to be polished with the attention of the Shaikhs of Ihsan of his time, he could have been very useful to Muslims. He used his expertise to make people believe his way of thinking. He did mesmerized crowds with his argumentative skills and encyclopedic knowledge. But he remained aloof from the intrinsic spirit of Islam.
He suffered for his new beliefs through out his life as he was imprisoned several times during his life time and in the end he died in Jail on Sunday, 26th September, 1328 AD at the age of 65. But by that time he had implanted the seed of a new sect. This seed was provided with water and manure by many people, primarily by his student Ibn Al-Qayyim ( 1292 - 1350) and later by his dedicated follower Ibn Abdul Wahhab (1703–1792). The seed has now grown into a massive banyan tree.
The doors of deducing rules as per new requirements of times is generally an ongoing process. The subject is very vast, therefore we will describe it briefly here. There are 4 types of people associated with Islamic Jurisprudence.
The Absolute Interpreter (Mujhtahid-e-Mutlaq) - He is a person of Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence. His approach of deducing things and reasoning is exclusive. The 4 Imams of Islamic Jurisprudence, Hanafi, Shafe’i, Maliki and Hanbali are covered in this category.
The Interpreter of the School of Thought ( Mujhtahid fil mazhab) - He is greatly influenced by his Imam/Shaikh. At times he differs from his Shaikh in principles; though it happens very rarely. In related issues, he deduces things as per his interpretations. He can find solutions to any new thing faced by the people. He considers minutely on Hadiths and if some Hadith is proves closer to the issue, he gives edicts differing with his Shaikh.
The Interpreter of Preference (Saheb-e-Tarjeeh) - He gives preference in the sayings of various Imams in a specific issue. As he has less strength of distinguishing things as compared to the above interpreters, he gives preference to one saying from among the sayings of the above interpreters.
The Jurisprudential Counselor (Mufti) - Muftis deduce things from the books of Islamic Jurisprudence. As a matter of fact they are only narrators. Their individual effort is only to the extent that they go through the books and bring out the answer in a given issue.
The essential requirements of Jurisprudential doctors are; they should be well versed with ancient and modern Arabic phraseology, its grammar, syntax, philology, idiomatic usage and rhetoric. In addition, they should have the knowledge of Quran, its exegesis and the principles of exegesis. The knowledge of Hadith, its principles and encyclopedic classification of narrators is a requirement. The knowledge of Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) and its principles are required. They need to know logic, the issues related with consensus of Muslims opinion and the differences of opinions between Imams of various fields. They should know the circumstances and issues of their times, the law of the country and general public trend in Muslim society. But most important of all is the requirement that they should thoroughly know the spiritual requirements of Islam, should have purified their hearts under eminent Shaikhs of Ihsan and should be trained in all the above subjects under able scholars of their times by spending decades in their company to learn the complexities of these subjects.
Following of four Jurisprudential Imams is not their personal emulation (taqleed). They are accepted teachers of Muslims in the area of Islamic Jurisprudence. The question here is not blind emulation (taqleed), rather it is the matter of trust Muslims have in these great Imams.
It is in Quran - ‘Prophet Mohammad (SAWS) is an exemplary model (for all of you) (Al-Ahzab – 21). What is the meaning of this verse? Simply follow the Prophet (SAWS) in whatever he does. Who will follow the Prophet (SAWS)? The one who has complete trust in him. They hypocrites in Prophet’s (SAWS) time did not follow him because they lacked the requirement of trust in him.
After Prophet Mohammad (SAWS), people trusted the rightful Caliphs and followed them.
After the companions, people followed the Ta’abaeen (first generation followers of the companions of Prophet Mohammad -SAWS) because they trusted in their sincerity and knowledge. Then came the time of Taba-taba’een (the followers of Ta'abaeen) and people followed them. Then came the times of Imams of various Islamic subjects. This period was followed by the Shaikhs of Ihsan or truthful Sufis. People followed all these spiritual leaders because they had trust in them.
Every time, every period in Islamic history we do have rightful people who can be followed. These virtuous souls are there in every place and every time. They are our practical examples in the following of the religion.
If the requirement of following was not to be there, then in the presence of Quran, Allah (SWT) would not have asked people to follow the Prophet (SAWS) in whatever he did. It is not blind following, rather it is the trust in a knowledgeable individual which helps us overcome our day to day problems in religious life.
Why do we go to Muftis for their edicts in certain issues? It is because we trust them for their knowledge and their sincerity in religion. If this following is removed from society, how will we deal with various issues? We believed in all Imams of Hadith, particularly the 6 famous Imams. This is the reason we follow the Hadiths mentioned in their books. First we need to have trust in Imam Bukhari, then we will believe in the Hadith mentioned in his book. This way, are not we following Imam Bukhari ®?
Muslims follow all venerable Imams, Shaikhs of Ihsan, truthful legendary Sufis, As-hab-e-Rasulullah (SAWS) in all their actions. This is the foundation on which the building of Islam rests. If you remove this foundation and ask people to go back to the books of Hadith and Quran on their own and lead the life of a Muslim; will it be possible? No, we will lose the track. We will be mislead and go astray.
If you do not study a subject under the able and experienced teacher, there is 100% possibility that you will be mislead. This is what has happened with Salafis. They thought, by reading books they can emulate and follow As-habe-Rasulullah (SAWS). It is not possible. They were mislead from the Quran and Hadith because they interpreted these books as per their limited understanding.
We have famous Salafi/Ahle Hadith scholars in our times also who have studied Quran and Hadith on their own and have memorized hundreds of books. Their talks and logical explanations look impressive on the face. They are big crowd pullers. They have learnt the art of debates and arguments. They mesmerize people from their photo finish memory. But, alas, they have been completely mislead in their basic faith.
They use their skills in misguiding thousands of people. They seemed to have ignored the fact that the study of Shariah cannot be undertaken without the help of reliable Islamic teachers. Shariah cannot be perfected without practice and close contact with the experts. This is the reason they could not understand the wisdom of the four Imams of Islamic Fiqh and rejected them en masse.
They do not say openly that they reject all 4 Imams, they say that they will follow the Imam only when his saying is in accordance with Hadith books. Meaning, they are the judge of those famous Imams and with limited, unskilled knowledge acquired by their self study, they will judge the scholars and teachers of Ummah? This shows their distrust in them. What an illiteracy is this?
This is the reason our respected Ulama warned Muslims not to seek study and understand Quran through a person who has only memorized it without knowing its contents through an expert.