This Happens Everyday in Syria

This Happens Everyday in Syria

This is as real as it gets. A young Syrian girl singing about freedom, when all of a sudden an artillery round hits, wreaking havoc all around. Absolutely shocking! —

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My Weltanschauung through Hajj and some Thoughts

My Weltanschauung through Hajj and some Thoughts

Hamid Mahmood

“We mirror the movement of the heavens, circling the ka’bah seven times. We move in harmony, as if travelling back to the beginning of time. I feel myself becoming one with those around me, with those who have come before, and all who follow”[1]

When the month of Dhul al-Hijjah approaches, the majority of Muslims prepare for the festival of Eid al-Adha, however a minority – approximately 3 million – ready themselves for the fifth pillar of Islam: Hajj. Here, I intend to focus on Hajj and how I am in awe when pondering over its magnificence and grandeur.

When beginning the journey for Hajj, a Hajji comes into the state of ihram. This state of higher spirituality includes the wearing of two simple white sheets of cloth, which diminish social status, class, race and any other boundary. It’s when a king looks, acts and is treated no differently than a pauper. H.A.R Gibb in his ‘Whither Islam?: A Survey of Modern Movements in the Moslem World’ wrote:

‘No other society has such a record of success in uniting in an equality of status, of opportunity and endeavour so many and so varied races of mankind. The great Muslim communities of Africa, India and Indonesia, perhaps also the small community in Japan, show that Islam still has the power to reconcile apparently irreconcilable elements of race and tradition. If ever the opposition of the great societies of the East and West is to be replaced by co-operation, the mediation of Islam is an indispensable condition’.

Allah has emphasised the notion of the ummah, ‘This community of yours is one single community and I am your Lord, so serve me’ (Qur’an, 21:92), and the Hajj is its practical implementation for the world to witness the sight of unity and equality. For me as a Muslim it gives me a clear Weltanschauung (worldview), which forces me to see the world differently; “I see it as one world, our world. The geography of which encompasses the ‘so called’ paradigms of ‘East’ and ‘West’, and breaks through artificial borders.” It was this very idea of equality that had Malcolm X rediscovering himself and leaving the ‘Nation of Islam’ for mainstream traditional Islam. He wrote to his wife stating,

‘There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blonds to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white’.[2]

The two sheets of ihram also remind the Muslims of their final abode, and Hajj teaches conscience of life and death. Whilst studying for a B.A. in Abrahamic Religions at Heythrop College, I remember one of our lecturers Dr Peter Vardy having kept his coffin in his office to remind him and keep him conscious of death – this has been the way of philosophers.

The rituals performed at Hajj, I believe connect the Prophet (PBUH) and Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) as does the salawat recited in prayer whilst in julus. Whilst teaching at school I ask the children of what happens to Abraham, Hagar and Ishmael in the Tanakh (Old Testament) and they respond by saying that they are sent to a barren land and the story finishes there. However, for the Muslims that is where it all begins in the Qur’an and many of the rituals performed in Hajj are a re-enactment of that. The zam-zam, a blessed spring we now drink from due to the thirst of Ismail (PBUH); men still run in between the green lights whilst performing the sa’i as did Hajar (PBUH) when searching for water. We sacrifice an animal to remember the sacrifice made by Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail (PBUT) and stone the symbolic Satan to remind us of his open enmity. Whilst in Arafah one is forced to look up at the mount of mercy, where the Prophet (PBUH) gave his final sermon – similar to Jesus’ ‘sermon on the mount’ – and envision the Prophet surrounded by his companions and ponder over his message of love for all, unity, equality between men and women, between people of all races. He shunned usury, which seems to be at the kernel of today’s problems. He emphasised the rights of the Khaliq (Creator) and the makhluq (creation).[3]


[1] Journey to Mecca – Story of Ibn-e-Battuta. Accessed online [22.10.2012]:

[2] Malcolm X (1965). The Autobiography of Malcolm X. ed. 2007. Penguin: London, UK. p. 454 – also see

[3] For a summary of the ‘Prophet’s final sermon on Hajj’ see:

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The Prophet’s Philosophy of Life

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I painted this on an iPad app after being inspired by the following Hadith of the Prophet (PBUH):

Narrated ‘Abdullah: The Prophet drew a square and then drew a line in the middle of it and let it extend outside the square and then drew several small lines attached to that central line, and said, “This is the human being, and this, (the square) in his lease of life, encircles him from all sides (or has encircled him), and this (line), which is outside (the square), is his hope, and these small lines are the calamities and troubles (which may befall him), and if one misses him, another will snap (i.e. overtake) him, and if the other misses him, a third will snap (i.e. overtake) him.”

(Sahih al-Bukhari: Book #76, Hadith #426)



By Hamid Mahmood

[Article written for ‘Many Different MuslimsMDM‘, please subscribe, LIKE on Facebook, and FOLLOW on Twitter].

Kullu banī ādam khaṭṭā’ wa khayr al-khaṭṭā’īn al-tawwābūn –

All the sons of Adam are sinners and the best of sinners are those who seek forgiveness.


The Qur’an gives a vivid description of the expulsion of Iblīs from the Heavens. “Get out of here! You are rejected: My rejection will follow you till the Day of Recompense”. To this the Iblis said, “My Lord, grant me respite till the day (the dead) are resurrected”. “Respite then is granted thee until the Appointed Day”… [upon hearing this the Iblīs replied] “then I swear by Your might! I will tempt them all, except your true servants”. A Hadith al-Qudsi further elaborates the Iblis saying ‘لا ازال اغوی بنی آدم، ما دامت ارواحھم فی اجسادھم’ “I will be tempting them till their souls remain within their bodies”. Allah then said, ‘فبعزتی و جلالی لا ازال اغفر لھم ما استغفرونی’ ‘By My majesty and My might I shall then be forgiving them whenever they seek forgiveness from Me’.

It is then made clear in the Qur’an that the Shaytān is an open enemy. In his enmity towards man he has sworn that he will make them all go astray. But, for insān there is much hope because Allah has taken an oath on His ‘izzah and jalāl that He will always be forgiving them whenever they seek forgiveness even if their sins reach the skies above. The Prophet (PBUH) out of his love and mercy told his companions that he himself repents 70 / 100 times a day to emphasise the significance of excessive istighfār. And once he said, ‘طوبیٰ لمن وجد فی صحیفتہ استغفاراً کثیراً’ ‘Glad tidings for the one in whose sahīfa (register of deeds) is found excessive repentance’. I feel at times that through seeking forgiveness one’s eyes are filled with tears, and yet he does not realise how near he has become to his Lord and neither that this one tear is sufficient to wipe away the sins he has committed and in essence to put out the fire of jahannam. On the other side Allah is now more pleased with His servant than the man, after having lost his camel with all the goods in the middle of a dessert, mistakenly – out of sheer joy and happiness – exclaims “Oh Allah You are my slave and I am your Lord”. Repentance then causes the sins to be wiped away from the register of deeds.

Repentance for me is about being human and being humble. The Prophet (PBUH) would often pray ‘الللھم اجعلنی فی عینی صغیراً و فی اعین الناس کبیراً’. For me as a Muslim istighfār gives me hope. A Sufi saint once told me, today when one is about to commit a sin he thinks that it’s all fine my Lord is all merciful (al-Rahīm) and all forgiving (al-Ghafūr) but then when the sin is committed he now loses all hope of salvation because he now ponders over ‘shadid al-‘iqāb (that Allah is just in punishing). The elder then said that we must change these thoughts ‘around’, hence before committing a sin ponder over shadīd al-‘iqāb and only once the sin has been committed think of Allah’s mercy and forgiveness and rather say to the sin, ‘you maybe big but nowhere as large and as vast as the forgiveness of my Lord’.

I always find comfort in the following istighfār because of its deeper meaning, which constantly remind me of being human; its prescription by the Prophet (PBUH); and it being known as sayyid al-istighfār ‘the Master supplication for forgiveness’:

اللَّهُمَّ أَنْتَ رَبِّي لا إِلَهَ إِلا أَنْتَ خَلَقْتَنِي وَأَنَا عَبْدُكَ وَأَنَا عَلَى عَهْدِكَ وَوَعْدِكَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُ أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ شَرِّ مَا صَنَعْتُ أَبُوءُ لَكَ بِنِعْمَتِكَ عَلَيَّ وَأَبُوءُ لَكَ بِذَنْبِي فَاغْفِرْ لِي فَإِنَّهُ لا يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ إِلا أَنْتَ

O Allah! You are my Lord! There is no lord but You. You created me and I am Your slave, and I am faithful to my covenant and my promise to the best of my ability. I seek refuge with You from all the evil I have done. I acknowledge before You all the blessings You have bestowed upon me, and I confess to You all my sins. So I entreat You to forgive my sins, for nobody can forgive sins except You.
[Sahih al-Bukhari, al-Tirmidhi, Nasa’i and Ahmad]

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My Ramadan – An Article for ‘MDM – Many Different Muslims’

By Hamid Mahmood

Abridged article on MDM Website

نہیں تیرا نشیمن قصرِ سلطانی کے گنبد پر ۔ تو شاہیں ہے! بسیرا کر پہاڑوں کی چٹانوں پر
Your abode is not on the dome of a royal palace – You, a falcon, should live on a mountainous rock! (Iqbal)

I have never been fond of the idea of being labelled and stamped under a single monolithic crystallised title except for what God Himself chose for me – ‘… He has called you Muslims …’ (Qur’an 22:78). My thoughts and practises are influenced – just as almost every other Muslim – by experiences, learning and history. I was born into a Pakistani family, hence was taught the Hanafi fiqh, which I believe made its way to India following the collapse of the Abbasid Caliphate through Hanafi Sunni refugees fleeing Mongol tyranny. My late grandfather ‘Sayyid Masum Ali Shah’ was a graduate of Dar al-Ulum Deoband, an institute founded in colonial India following the 1857 Indian Rebellion. As a result of partition he was forced to migrate with my father, who at the time was only four. Early in my life I read books about the Prophet and Prophets penned by Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi, which triggered within me the desire to explore the history of Islam. This desire was to dictate the next nine years of my life; I studied ‘traditional Islam’ at the second oldest madrasa in the UK, founded by the Tablighi Jamat. Following madrasa and the Tablighi Jamat I went through a transition from ‘tradition’ to ‘modernity’ – I studied the Abrahamic religions at the University of London, after completing my B.A. (Hons) degree I am now studying the history of Islam and the West. My thoughts are influenced by all these factors. So moving to the request, ‘it is essential that you associate yourself with a Muslim school of thought or denomination’ I find it difficult to point to one and secondly how is denomination defined in the context of Islam? Is it school of fiqh, mission, politics, etc. Hence, I find myself following the Hanafi fiqh in general without the strict taqlidi approach to it; I am at times influenced by the Deobandi (Sufi and Matrudi in creed) thought and the Tablighi mission but do not see myself entrapped by the neo-Deobandi and neo-Tablighi thought and methodology prevalent today; I am spiritually in touch with Nadwa and fully recognise the gap that this institution filled, which Deoband had widened – that of tradition and modernity. So I leave the task of defining and categorising the above to the reader.

For me every Ramadan is unique, and in every Ramadan I hope to be a better individual than I was before Ramadan. When thinking about this holy month I feel the words of Allah within my heart and as though I am spoken to directly, ‘You who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may be mindful of God … It was in the month of Ramadan that the Qur’an was revealed as a guidance for mankind, clear messages giving guidance and distinguishing between right and wrong’. (Qur’an 2:183-185). Iqbal always said, “tere zamir pe jab tak na ho nuzul-i-kitab – gira kusha he na razi na sahib-i-kashaf”, ‘That until the Book is not revealed directly onto your heart, then all exegetes the likes of Razi and the author of Kashaaf (Zamakhshari) cannot be fully understood’. For indeed the heart of a believer is then at the epicentre: ‘true believers are those whose hearts tremble with awe when God is mentioned, whose faith increases when His revelations are recited’ (Qur’an 8:2).

The Prophet (PBUH) once said, ‘sawm (fasting) is half of sabr (patience)’ and on another occasion, ‘sabr is half of iman’ – hence fasting is considered an integral part of one’s faith. And Imam al-Ghazali (R.A) elaborates that fasting then becomes ‘nisf of the nisf of iman’ half of the half of iman, which makes it ¼ of iman. When I come across the word ‘sabr’ at once my attention is drawn towards the blessed words of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH),
((عجباً لامر المومن ان امرہ کلہ خیر، و لیس ذلک لاحد یلا للمومن: ان اصابتہ سرا شکر فکان خیراً لہ، و ان اصابتہ ضرا صبر فکان خیراً لہ ))
‘How wonderful is the case of a believer, there is good for him in every state and this applies only to a believer. If goodness and prosperity befall him, he expresses gratitude towards Allah and that is good for him. And if hardship and adversity befalls him he endures it with patience and this is good for him’. Fasting I believe transforms a believer into an individual who is then prepared to undergo hardships and still remain mindful of his Creator. The Arabs of the Jahiliyyah were not so familiar with fasting, but used the word ‘sawm’ when they trained their horses to go without food and keep the faces of their horses uncovered when facing scorching winds to prepare them for the heat of battle. Hence Jarir uses this word in this context:
ظللنا بمستن الحرور کأننا لدی فرس مستقبل الریح صائم
We stood our ground against the gusts of warm wind as if we were standing beside a horse which was fighting against a strong wind and was fasting.

But the question that troubles my mind is how abstinence from eating and drinking excels one spiritually and ultimately the attainment of taqwa as the Quranic verses promise. To find my answer I turn to the Ihya of Ghazali (R.A.) and discover that fasting is more than just what we think.

Imam Ghazali (R.A.) divides sawm (fasting) into three categories:
(1) Sawm of the ‘awam (Fast of the general Muslims): It is to restrain oneself from eating and drinking and from sexual passion. This is the lowest kind of fast.
(2) Sawm of the khawas (Fast of the few select Muslims): In this kind of fasting, besides the above things, one refrains from sins of the hands, feet, eyes and other limbs of the body.
~ To gain perfection in this level it requires six duties: (1) To restrain the eyes from what is evil and from things which divert attention from Allah’s remembrance. (2) To restrain the tongue from useless talk, false-speaking, back-biting, slander, abusive speech, obscenity, hypocrisy and enmity, to adopt silence and to keep the tongue busy with the remembrance of God and reciting the Quran. (3) To restrain the ears from hearing evil because what is unlawful to utter is also unlawful to hear. (4) To save the hands, feet and other organs from sin, from evil deeds and to save the belly from doubtful things at the time of breaking fast. (5) To eat even lawful food so much at the time of breaking fast that it fills up the belly. (6) To keep the mind of a fasting man between fear and hope, because he does not know whether his fast will be accepted or not, whether he will be near God or not. This should be the case for every divine service. Once Hasan Basri (R.A.) passed by a group of men who were playing. He said: God made this month of Ramadan for excelling in virtue and competing with one another. The object of fast is to anoint one with one of the divine attributes. That attribute is Samadiat meaning to be bereft of hunger and thirst and to follow the angels as far as possible being free from desire.
(3) Sawm of the akhas al-khawas (Fast of the highest class): Believers in this category keep fast of the mind. In other words, they do not think of anything but Allah and the hereafter. They think only of the world with the intention of the next world as it is the seed ground for the future. A certain sage said: One sin is written for one whose efforts during the day are made only to prepare for breaking fast. This highest class of people are the Prophets and the near ones of Allah. This kind of fast is kept after sacrificing oneself and his thoughts fully to Allah.

I desire to undergo this mujahada and sacrifice and reach the highest of stages in the sight of Allah. The companions of the Prophet (PBUH) were described as ‘ruhban bi al-layl wa fursanun bi an-nahar’ ‘monks at night and valiant horsemen by day’. Tariq Ramadan puts this in modern context: ‘This is spirituality – this spirituality is not only to pray during the night. As I always repeat: Pray during the night in order to serve the people during the day – this is the way you serve God and yourself’. And I believe fasting is the key and the month of Ramadan the door to attain this level of spirituality through suppressing the desires and abstaining from not merely eating and drinking but beyond.

نہیں تیرا نشیمن قصرِ سلطانی کے گنبد پر ۔ تو شاہیں ہے! بسیرا کر پہاڑوں کی چٹانوں پر
Your abode is not on the dome of a royal palace – You, a falcon, should live on a mountainous rock! (Iqbal)

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General Framework for the Discussion of Islamic Finance

General Framework for Discussion of Islamic Finance

© Mohammad Akram Nadwi, Oxford

Islamic finance over the last three decades or so has grown into a huge industry. It is huge both in the sense that vast sums of money are handled by Islamic finance, and also in the sense that a great many scholars have been attracted to it, and they have helped to invent or justify financial instruments which claim to make it lawful for Muslims to do things with their money very similar to the things that non-Muslims do with theirs. Yet, if using the word ‘Islamic’ before ‘finance’ is to mean anything at all, it should mean the kind of finance that belongs in Islam, the kind that Muslims acting specifically as Muslims engage in when they are producing and exchanging goods and services, and generally building up their individual and collective means of livelihood.

Most ordinary Muslims are, I think rightly, suspicious and cautious about accepting the permissibility of many of these instruments. It does not help matters that banks and investment companies run by and for non-Muslims are happy to use these same Islamic financial instruments because it helps them to attract and keep Muslim customers.

That sounds very similar to, for example, a supermarket stocking halal meat in the hope of attracting the business of the Muslims in its neighbourhood. It is indeed similar, but it is not the same. There are known and clear procedures that must be followed before meat is called halal, and perhaps it does not matter that, at the final point of sale, the retailer is a non-Muslim – provided those procedures have been correctly and fully observed. It is not at all so clear-cut with money. Money is something abstract and symbolic as well as real and concrete. It is not just a store and physical sign of value; it is also a means of assigning and exchanging the values of different goods and services. Accordingly, it permeates all human relationships that are connected in any way to the exchange of goods and services.

That is why it matters very much to Muslims to know that the money that is circulating among and around them is, from an Islamic point of view, sound and safe, and that the transactions being done with that money are also sound and safe. The scholars engaged in developing, and justifying, Islamic financial instruments are engaged in the effort to provide Muslims with the assurance that those instruments are sound and safe from an Islamic point of view.

In order to judge whether and how far those scholars have succeeded in achieving this goal, it is necessary to step back and ask how we can know if a practice is sound from an Islamic point of view. Before we can do that we need to take a further step back and ask whether and how far such a task is possible at all. In other words, before I get into a discussion of particular instruments and contracts now being offered as Islamic finance, I want to establish as clear a framework as possible for this discussion. This is a necessary prelude to reaching a balanced judgement about these instruments and contracts based on a sufficient appreciation of the external necessities and the internal assumptions and arguments (some persuasive, some not) which have led Muslim scholars to seek out some sort of Islamic rationale for various modern financing techniques.

The world as we find it has in it three distinct orders that overlap and interpenetrate. The largest order encompasses all creatures, living and non-living, human and non-human, Muslims and non-Muslims, all together. We can call it “the natural order”. It is perceptible and intelligible to human beings; to some extent they can work out how it operates and, in some measure, influence and control what happens around them. This order includes the boundaries of time and space, and what modernists in the West call the laws of nature, to which everyone and everything is subject, involuntarily. Within that natural order, there is “the religious order” of divine commands communicated to human beings through God’s prophets and messengers. This order is addressed specifically to human will, and demands a conscious, consenting, voluntary obedience. Finally, there is “the Islamic order” of divine instructions that bind specifically Muslims, commanding or commending them, through the Book and the teachings of God’s Messenger, salla-l-lahu ‘alayhi wa-sallam, to live in certain ways and to avoid certain other ways.

Because these three orders exist together in the one same world, it is sometimes the case that the approval of a certain way of acting as Islamic, as conforming to the Book and Sunnah, does not at all contradict its being approved by non-Muslims as “practical’ or “useful” or “sensible” or “healthy” for the individual or for society. Non-Muslims just like Muslims get hungry and need food; get ill and need medical attention; get attacked and need to fight; get curious and need to explore and travel. Then, if Muslims find notably effective ways of serving these needs, we cannot be surprised if non-Muslims adopt those ways. That is obvious. It is also obvious that the converse applies: to serve their basic wants and needs, Muslims can in principle adopt ways that are or were the ways of non-Muslims. That is surely true. But it is also true to say that, in some instances, no matter how “useful’ or “efficient” certain means are for the achievement of certain ends, Muslims as Muslims will reject them as unIslamic. How do they decide when they may and when they may not adopt the ways of non-Muslims? This is not an easy question. For the time being, let us note that if we are going to refuse certain financial instruments or transactions as unIslamic, we cannot do so simply on the basis that they are of “Western” or non-Islamic origin. We must have a better reason than that.

When we try to implement the rules and norms that constitute the Islamic order, we are not exempt from the conditions that obtain in the natural order. Accordingly, those Islamic rules and norms must be implemented with a measure of flexibility. For example, in a situation of necessity, where Muslims have no freedom of action or choice, what is normally prohibited is considered lawful for the duration of the necessity. This indulgence is intended to be temporary, exceptional. It is conditional on Muslims not desiring that which is normally prohibited. The only reliable proof that Muslims are not desiring what is normally prohibited to them is that they are striving to remove themselves from the situation in which they have no freedom of action to a situation where they do have such freedom. So, even if we are forced to adopt novel kinds of financial instruments or transactions on the basis that Muslims are so powerless in the world that they have no choice but to submit to the global financial order, there is, nevertheless, no compulsion whatever to legitimize such instruments or transactions by calling them “Islamic finance”.

All humans in the normal state of things have a measure of freedom of action. What distinguishes Muslims as Muslims is that, in the normal state of things, they strive to use that freedom of action in obedience to the will of God insofar as that is known to them through the teachings of Islam. To the extent that they consciously strive to do that, their lives fulfill the purpose for which the Book tells us they were created, namely to worship God. For believing, practising Muslims, the natural order of this world, its being perceptible, intelligible, useful, beautiful, etc., is the wide space, provided by the Creator, within which human freedom of will and action are experienced as a reality. If the natural order were not as reliable as it is, freedom of will would not be experienced as real. But the natural order is there, real and reliable. That is why human life in this world can function as an enabling test, a test through which Muslims learn to perfect their obedience to God’s will and so earn the promised recompense hereafter. Thus, we should expect from Islamic finance and the financial instruments it invents or justifies that they help Muslims to (at least) avoid doing what God has prohibited, and (ideally) help them to do more easily and conveniently what God has permitted. This is not a matter of clever word games, clever labeling. Surely Muslims will not accept as permissible the kinds of transaction they had long believed to be prohibited, even if Islamic economists find clever ways to label them as permissible.

But, you will ask, how are things known to be permitted or prohibited; how do they get entered into one or the other category? The answer is that we find out by referring to Islamic teachings on the matter in question. But then we must ask: how do Islamic teachings decide the matter in question?

In answering that people often confuse two things – they confuse the authoritative sources of Islamic teachings, the Qur’an and Sunnah, with the rulings derived from those sources by Muslim scholars. The confusion leads to very serious difficulties for Muslims if, in principle or in practice, they accord to the derived rulings the authority of the primary sources. For reasons that will become clear later, I will use for the derived rulings the term “doctrines”. For the teachings in the primary sources, I will use the term “guidance”. Now, we can and do refer to the doctrines that constitute the Islamic legal and cultural tradition that we have inherited. We study and respect those doctrines; we learn from them; if we don’t know any better (and 99.9 per cent of the time we really don’t know any better), we follow them to the best of our ability in our circumstances. But the promised recompense hereafter for obedience to God’s will does not depend on our following the derived doctrines; it depends for sure on our following the guidance in the primary sources. Of course, for most of us most of the time, because of our deficiencies in `ilm and taqwa, in our knowledge and wariness of God, following the doctrines is the best way we know of following the guidance.

Because our subject today is Islamic finance, I will try to illustrate the difference between guidance and doctrine using examples connected to economic behaviour. The guidance, as presented in and constituted by the Qur’an and Sunnah, contains two kinds. One kind is quite specific, explicit, concrete instructions to do this and not that; the other kind is commands or strong encouragements to seek certain outcomes or goods. Mostly these goods are the virtues (being honest, kindly, fair, just, decent, etc.) that are connected to those concrete instructions, directly or indirectly. The sum of these good outcomes, or the supreme good, is `ibadah, worship, because that is what human beings were created for; worshipping their Creator is their proper function; doing so well, with ihsan, is what most honours and dignifies human life.

Now, consider a poor man who happens to have two bicycles. One he uses every day; the other is idle. He decides to rent out the second bicycle for a period of six months, and this becomes a source of income for him. He takes the risk that the bicycle will suffer wear and tear over the rental period, perhaps may never be returned, and so on. The rental income he gets in this way is lawful. Now consider a rich man who has two lots of money; one lot he needs for his everyday uses; the other lot is surplus. He decides to rent out the latter for a period of six months. Money does not suffer much wear and tear, but how much the same money can buy varies over time; also, there is the risk that the money may never be returned, or the return of it delayed, and so on. Yet, despite these risks attached to renting out money, doing so, and the income from doing so, is forbidden by God and by His Messenger. The language used in the Qur’an to condemn the practice is exceptionally fierce: those who indulge in riba are threatened with war from God and His Messenger, that is to say, the sanction against the practice is not just reserved to the hereafter.

In the example just given, the forbidden act is renting out money, i.e. lending it on interest. That is a simple matter to understand. It is not at all what modern banks do. They do not merely lend on interest the money that they possess directly or which they control as agents on behalf of their depositors. The banks also, as the expression goes, “create money” by lending on interest money that is not in their possession or control. Every debt owed to a bank, and the interest on it, even before it is repaid, is accounted on its books as an asset of the bank, as part of the disposable reserve of money it can lend out – which it does, again and again. All the levers of state power are called on to underwrite the authority of banks to, in this way, lend what they do not have and to charge rent for doing so. This is especially true when there is a perception that the debts owed to banks may not be repaid, which carries the threat that those who have deposited their money in the banks will not get it back. Typically, in such circumstances, the state protects the interests of the banks, not the depositors. When governments claim that they have guaranteed deposits, what they have done in fact is to protect the banks from the effects of a panic among depositors which would lead them to demand their money back from the banks – in practice the banks never hold enough money to be able to repay all at once the money they are supposed to be keeping safe. And where on earth would the government get the money from to repay all the deposits it claims to guarantee on behalf of the banks?

The prohibition of riba is an instance of a specific, explicit, concrete instruction in the Book and Sunnah. It is directly connected to an assemblage of commands and strong encouragements: to trust that God does provide for the sustenance of His creatures (the opposite of the assumption of scarcity of resources); to purify earnings through the obligatory payment of zakah, and the voluntary payment of sadaqa; to understand that the poor and needy have a right on the property of those who enjoy a surplus. It is connected to the general encouragements to deal equitably and fairly, to avoid fraud and deception, etc., to be benevolent. Economic behaviour is in no way or degree exempt from the ethical norms that apply to human relationships generally. The prohibition of riba has also been linked to the prohibition of gambling or speculation and could be linked to the prohibition of exploiting the weak-minded or minors who are unable to understand or manage their own affairs. Taken together, these topics make up the guidance of Qur’an and Sunnah on the direction and management of economic power and economic relationships. Of particular importance for our subject is the Qur’an’s strong and clear instruction not to permit wealth to circulate only among a few; the flow of wealth must not be impeded by hoarding or monopolizing essential commodities or blocking routes of transit of goods and information, or by any other means that lead to excessive concentrations of wealth in few hands. An example of a pernicious monopoly that is pervasive in modern societies is the one I just described, the power given to banks to “create money” out of the thin air of arithmetic, and then charge rent for lending it.

The doctrines that Muslim scholars developed from and around this guidance were intended to serve that guidance, to make it easier to understand and implement in the ever-variable circumstances of real-life situations in different regions with different local customs of trade and commerce. The doctrines were not developed to serve an economic or political or legal philosophy with a rationale distinct from and independent of the guidance.

But why was it necessary to do this at all?

If we ask and answer this question properly we will get a very useful insight into the nature of the doctrines.

Ordinary human experience tells us that to apply any rule fairly you have to do both of two things: you have to apply the rule consistently in different situations, and yet you have to apply the rule flexibly enough to take account of the particular circumstances to which you are applying it. If you apply the rule while ignoring the circumstances of the particular case, you risk committing an injustice of some degree. On the other hand, if you do not apply the same rule in the same way to different cases, you risk the charge of arbitrariness and favouritism. The hardship of finding the balance between these two needs is what qualifies human judges for recompense hereafter just for trying, and a double recompense if they happen to find the right balance.

The Qur’an describes itself and the Prophet as a mercy for mankind. It is one aspect of that mercy that the guidance of Qur’an and Sunnah has the power to inspire believers to do both these things – to live by the letter and by the spirit, both. The reason applied by the Muslim scholars to the guidance was practical reason, the kind that we use every day to distinguish and balance immediate and long-term priorities, to choose the course of action expected to result in the most good or the least harm. This kind of reason is quite different from the abstract reason of the Muslim philosophers and theologians who defined and elaborated concepts and rational arguments to promote or defend intellectual propositions with little or no practical relevance to the duty to follow the guidance of Qur’an and Sunnah. They were not dealing with the practical problems of Muslims, but with the intellectual or linguistic problems posed by the philosophers and theologians who came before them. Their primary point of reference, the primary stimulus or inspiration for their efforts, was not the Qur’an and Sunnah, but various personages, ideas, arguments and practices from pre-Islamic or non-Islamic cultural traditions.

For the Muslim scholars of the first centuries who were striving to help Muslims implement the guidance, the sources were the Qur’anic text and the Sunnah as recorded in the corpus of Prophetic and Companion hadiths and the historical tradition. Neither Qur’an nor Sunnah contain doctrines, of a philosophical or theological or sociological or political or legal or economic or any other kind. The material of which the guidance of Qur’an and Sunnah is composed contains very few, if any, formal propositions and arguments. The most typical form the material takes is stories: one or more incidents; report of a situation and its outcome; report of a short sequence of question and answer on a specific occasion. A woman has experienced such and such treatment from her husband; she reports the same to the Prophet; he says about it such and such. A man has sinned during the fasting month, he wants to do expiation; the Prophet says, do this, but he can’t; this other thing; but he can’t; still another thing, still he can’t; finally, the Prophet finds a way for him. People are rushing out of Madina to meet the caravans bringing merchandise into the city; they know the price the merchandise would fetch in the city market, but they want to buy it cheaper and re-sell back in Madina; the Prophet forbids this.

From this material we do not get a formal discussion, still less a definition, of virtue or justice or benevolence or the role of women or the role of the head of state, or the role of the free market, etc. What we get are instances of just and virtuous behavior, instances of what a woman might do or say that the Prophet commented on, instances of what he did as head of state in different situations, instances of what he commended or criticized in the bearing and conduct of those he appointed to positions of authority, instances of economic behaviour that he witnessed, kinds of buying and selling, kinds of contract, etc. And among the instances are many variations of judgement – from outright condemnation all the way to a silent acceptance that is not approval of a behaviour or utterance, but which is also not a rejection. On the positive side similarly, there is wide variation from passionate endorsement of the way a Companion had spoken or acted to a conditional approbation with encouragement to do still better. Also, and most importantly, there are instances of a matter being judged strictly on one occasion and judged leniently on a different occasion, because the judgement would affect persons of different capacity or be carried out in different circumstances. Within the range of the Sunnah we have examples both of strict consistency and of gracious flexibility. As noted earlier, both these are needed if we are striving for the supreme good for all Muslims, individually and collectively, namely that they worship God well. With Muslims, as with human beings generally, capacities and opportunities (that is to say, the internal and external necessities that influence our choices and actions) differ considerably. These difference have to be taken into account if all are to be guided towards the same goal of worshipping God and doing so freely and gladly, with good grace.

Regular and sustained exposure to this great wealth of material – and it was normal for scholars to internalize the Qur’an and much of the hadith corpus by memorizing it – enables Muslims to know the guidance of Islam and put it into practice. This happens in the same natural, practical way that children, after regular and sustained exposure to the language used around them, learn that language as a whole and all its parts – its words, its varied inflections and intonations suited to different contexts, and its rules of grammar which tell them when a usage is quite unacceptable or merely unusual (that is, when it is quite impossible or merely difficult for others to understand). Of course the analogy is imperfect, but it helps us to grasp the fact that there were many thousands of Muslims in the early centuries of Islam who, having lived and studied for decades with the Companions and their Followers, were adept with the sources of the guidance, and they derived very sensible and practical rulings from it. Those rulings are not systematically consistent in the way that one expects from a body of philosophically rigorous and sequential arguments. However, they were strongly consistent with the letter and spirit of the guidance, and they were strongly oriented outwards in the direction of the problems and hardships that Muslims encountered in trying to live within the natural order according to the commandments and commendations of the Islamic order.

Over time, perhaps inevitably, patterns of consistencies in the rulings, and in how the rulings were reasoned, emerged in regional centres. These patterns formed the basis of the emerging schools in the Islamic legal tradition. Still later, inheriting the excellent work of the pioneers in that tradition, the later scholars, in spite of the instruction of those very same pioneers, referred less and less to the sources of the guidance, and more and more to the derived rulings. Instead of being focused on understanding the letter and spirit of the guidance, they focused more on understanding the letter and spirit of the derived rulings. Instead of being oriented outwards to the difficulties of Muslims in their everyday lives, they became oriented inwards towards the difficulties within their own work. They strove therefore to correct and remove inconsistencies among the derived rulings – perhaps forgetting that there may have been very good practical reasons for those inconsistencies – and they strove to unify particular rulings on the basis of general legal maxims. Accordingly, it is right to speak of this later work of institutionalization of Islamic legal rulings as the construction of schools or doctrines.

Although the greatest scholars always looked outside the arguments and traditions of their own school to learn from those of other schools and criticize their own, most scholars did not do this, being content instead with loyal commentaries intended to preserve and consolidate the work of their school. So, eventually, it became possible to speak of a Hanafi or a Shafi‘i or a Maliki or a Hanbali position on this or that matter. This was the foreground of the scholars’ attention and activity; behind it, in the background, was the consciousness that, despite the differences, all these positions were all, also, Muslim. Mercifully, now and again, there arose within the community, clear-sighted and clear-hearted individuals who knew, and who said publicly, that it should be the other way round. An example is Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya, who refused to be identified as a Hanbali, and insisted on his identity as a Muslim.

From the foregoing discussion, I hope you will understand two things that will help us to reach a balanced judgement about contemporary Islamic finance. The first is that in the past, in the response of Muslim scholars to the disputes and difficulties Muslims faced in their daily lives, we can distinguish two general approaches, respectively early and late in our tradition.

In the earlier periods, the scholars looked to the guidance of the Qur’an and Sunnah, and struck a good balance between adhering to the letter of specific, explicit commands in that guidance and enabling the general outcomes connected to those commands, which the guidance urges Muslims to establish in their lives, individually and collectively. In a particular situational context, they might allow a practice that was on the edge of doing the prohibited so long as, overall, it contributed to strengthening the Islamic order. As often as not, this was an exercise of patience, accepting or allowing with some modification pre-existing established practices so as to give new Muslims or Muslims in a weak position time to adapt to the Islamic order. The commitment to the guidance of Qur’an and Sunnah is very strong in the earlier period, and the authority of these sources has absolute primacy. People are memorizing Qur’an and hadith, they are not memorizing primers of Hanafi or Shafi‘i rulings.

In the later period, the scholars looked habitually to the authority of the rulings inherited in their school or region, and looked to the authority of the original sources only in a formal, intellectually dull way. They developed a rationale for the rulings, to give them consistency and clarity and therefore intellectual authority. The result of this is distinctive definitions of terms (like riba, for example)and elaborated doctrines (for example, about the role of women, the authority of rulers to fix or not fix prices, and so on). In practice, these doctrines and definitions, while they professionalize the work of the scholars, and improve consistency in the application of rulings, also narrow the field of concern. In the later period, people are looking for conformity with the derived rulings or consistency with the rationale behind the rulings. The result is a failure of attention to the general outcomes connected to the commands, so that Islamic societies do not become more just and fair or more peaceful and prosperous as a whole, but specifically Islamic rulings are nonetheless being applied. This makes the Islamic identity of the rulings and perhaps of the society in which they are implemented mostly symbolic.

As I will show, many of the instruments and transaction contracts that are billed under Islamic finance are only just Islamic and only in the latter, symbolic sense: they build or propose legal solutions on the pattern of terminology and contracts in the late classical fiqh (contracts which, by the way, may have been intended for specific contexts only), without any regard for whether the general outcome to which these contracts contribute is even tolerable, let alone desirable, according to the guidance of Qur’an and Sunnah. But we must also anticipate in our discussion that the guidance of Islam makes allowance for the burdens of necessity that severely limit freedom of choice and action, and so it gives people time to adapt and amend, while they strive, and ask God’s help, to lighten the burdens in their lives and consciences.

Accessed online [21.05.2012]:

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The Lost Female Legacy: Women Scholars in Islam

The Legacy of Female Muslim Scholarship
Dr Akram Nadwi


The following are my notes taken from Dr Akram Nadwi’s lecture, so if there is anything not comprehensible it is the failure of my note taking skills. For further clarification and any critical notes please comment below. ( i arrived 20 mins late)

Feminist movement, no one thought about the khāliq, did He make the women less than men. There were no women to be found amongst the Greek philosophers. There were enough muḥaddithīn then why more women muḥaddithāt, our aslāf never asked this question. Allah created mankind for His worship, so they both have a responsibility. So every generation should teach the following one, that’s why we have the notion of the family. In learning there is no difference between a man and a woman, the difference is only their function within the family.

{Worship >;;;;; Family created to follow and pass the worship to the next generation}

The Qur’an does not differentiate between men and women, the story of men are examples for both e.g. Ibrahim (as) and his family. Ismail and mother left in barren land. When there is equal story the Qur’an suffices with male story. However, when there is a unique message in the narrative of a women then the Qur’an mentions it e.g. story of Pharaoh’s wife: she is mentioned because of her du’ā that she wanted to be nearer and closer to Allah, ‘رَبِّ ٱبْنِ لِي عِندَكَ بَيْتاً فِي ٱلْجَنَّة (Qur’an 66:11). The Qur’an is not a book of feminism. Al-jār qabl al-dār. So the Qur’an mentions women where you cannot find such stories amongst the men.

Whilst on ḥajj Dr Nadwi wrote ‘armaghān e ḥajj’, he wanted to mention the names of the women present on the journey but the people told him you do not need the names of our women just write wife of so and so ‘zawjah’. Musa (A.S.)’s story, only one daughter was sent to bring him home. Something unimaginable today. Musa (A.S.) asks Allah for help in time of such difficulty ‘ربِّ إِنِّي لِمَآ أَنزَلْتَ إِلَيَّ مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَقِيرٌ’ ‘My Lord, I am in dire need of whatever good thing You may send me’ (Qur’an 28:24). In the Quran women are independent beings. The verse of bay’ah was revealed in the context of women.

Ibn Mas’ūd (R.A)’s wife Zainab used to make things with her hand, hence she was rich and paid zakāt and ibn Mas’ūd (R.A.) was so poor that she wanted to give zakat to him. When she came to the Prophet to enquire of its permissibility, the Prophet was told that Zainab has come, on hearing this the Prophet (S.A.W) asked, ayyu Zayaanib? Which Zainab? Hence, we learn that the Prophet (S.A.W.) knew the names of the women of his time, and there is nothing wrong with that and we also learn that women can give zakāt to husbands and not vice versa.

[In persia kajkolahi, wearing hat bent, which became symbol of Kings and only for them. A man did that and paid daily fine but one day didn’t.]

In ‘īd gāh (field, where the ‘īd ṣalāh was performed in congregation), even women were told to come even those with ḥayḍ (in their menses) so that they too could benefit at least from the advice of the Prophet (A.S.). Single females were also told to come to the ‘īd gāh.

Fāṭimah bint Qays (R.A.) learnt the lengthy lecture of the Prophet regarding Tamim al-Daari’s journey to the island.

Umar ibn al-khaṭṭāb (R.A.) appointed women for the market supervision, which at the time was the most complex market selling goods from Persia and Byzantium. There were men available and among them great faqīhs, but ‘Umar (R.A.) chose women. Hence, those who argue that we have enough male imams and muftīs (jurist consults) and there is ‘no need’ for females, should rethink their idea, which seems is influenced by Greek philosophy according to Dr Nadwi’s research.

Ibn Najjār had 400 female teachers, imagine how many more there were at the time! Women would ask questions to the Prophet directly. Abu Bakr (R.A) used to go to the tent of the women and advise them. Umar (R.A.) accepts the argument of the woman, during his lecture, who said that Umar (R.A.) cannot condition that which Allah has not and read the verse regarding qintār.

Is a woman’s ‘aql less than that of a man? If so how can they accept ḥadīth from women. Dhuhr four sunnats before farḍ according to aḥnāf are accepted because sunan are usually performed in the house and it is from the females that this ḥadīth is narrated.

You will never find female scholars amongst the mu’tazila and philosophers because Greek philosophy has always been indifferent towards women and argue that, ‘women are inferior to men’. Dr Nadwī throughout his research of the topic, which concluded with a ‘52 volume book’, did not find learned women amongst mu’tazila and falsafiyyūn and on the contrary there are thousand amongst the muḥaddithīn. Hence from his research he found that when Greek philosophy had influence over Islamic learning, women have been put aside and when ḥadīth and revelation are influencing the times then you will find ample volumes filled with the names of these learned Muslim women. First three centuries scholarship was good, 4 and 5 it declines then in 6th , 7th , 8th and 9th there is a rise in shām. This is then followed by a decline in the 10th and 11th centuries. In the 12th century there is a rise again in hind with Shāh Waliyullāh. Now again there is a rise in Syria due to which thirty Muslim women have memorized ṣaḥīḥ Muslim by heart.

Overview of the Rise and Decline of Women scholarship in History:

1st Century (A.H.) = RISE
2nd Century (A.H.) = RISE
3rd Century (A.H.) = RISE
4th Century (A.H.) = DECLINE
5th Century (A.H.) = DECLINE
6th Century (A.H.) = RISE
7th Century (A.H.) = RISE
8th Century (A.H.) = RISE
9th Century (A.H.) = RISE
10th Century (A.H.) = DECLINE
11th Century (A.H.) = DECLINE
12th Century (A.H.) = RISE
13th Century (A.H.) = DECLINE
14th Century (A.H.) = RISING

Dr Nadwi disagrees with the notion that women have to look after the children and homes therefore cannot learn as the man. He argues that women who narrated ḥadīth too had children of their own and despite that they spent so much time in learning and passing on the ‘ilm.

Some argue, due to the presence of women there is a high chance of fitnah. Dr Nadwi replies that if there is a problem in the finger don’t cut the finger but cure the finger.

Samar al-‘Ashar, has memorized ṣaḥīḥ Muslim and has written a book on how to memorise ṣaḥīḥ Muslim.

Women are far away from taḥqīq (research) today. An example of a muḥadditha and muḥaqqiqa of the post-Waliyullāh period is Amatullāh bint ‘Abd al-Ghaniyy al-Dihlawiyy. She taught the ṣiḥāḥ sittas and also taught the aḥādīth al-musalsalāt. Amongst the musalsalāt there is the tradition of qabḍ al-liḥyā, so when the Prophet spoke the words he held his beard, and this tradition followed on from his companions doing the same onto our times. However, when Amatullāh taught this particular musalsal ḥadīth she would hold onto her chin.



What were the venues of the learning? It was sometimes in the homes, homes of others, shops, gardens, colleges, and places where men learnt women learnt alongside them.

In India and Pakistan women never go to the masjid so this has an effect on the mind. Sunnah is a continuous practice that goes back to the Prophet (S.A.W.). Women not going to the masjid is a practice that does not go back to the Prophet (S.A.W.). During the Prophet (S.A.W.)’s time the women could see the ‘aura of some of the men, hence they exclaimed, ‘wāru ‘annā ‘awrata imāmikum’.
It could have been easy for the people to make a barrier but they did not.
No jurist says that women cannot go to the masjid.
‘Ātika the wife of ‘Umar (R.A.) was very beautiful, despite this she was not stopped from going to the masjid. During the era of the khulafā (Caliph’s) time they never stopped women from coming to the masjid.

Umm Dardā’ was a tābi’iyyah, her ḥadīth are in Bukhari etc. She taught six months in Dimishq Jāmi’ (Grand Mosque of Damascus) and six months in masjid al-‘Aqṣā, Jerusalem. Her classes were attended by ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwān, and he himself was a great learned person and the ruler of the time. After class at the time of ṣalāh would help her to the women’s rows because she was an old woman. Even in the masjid of the Prophet (S.A.W.), Fāṭima bint Ibrāhīm – the teacher of Imām Subki et al – taught ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhāri. That is the highest post in madrasa. She was requested by ‘ulamā’ to teach in masjid al-nabawi. One notes, ‘when I came to the Masjid, she used to teach by the grave of the Prophet (S.A.W.), opposite the blessed head of the Prophet (S.A.W.) , and sometimes she would lean against the grave. At the end of the class she would give ijāza.

Two big Mosques in Syria: al-Jāmi’ al-Muẓaffarī, and al-Jāmi’ al-‘umawiyyīn. In both mosques men and women both have been teaching.
….. [name forgotten]… Abū ‘Abd Allāh al-Zabīdī (630 A.H.) was asked to teach Bukhārī in both mosques, and every day the names of students were written and many of them were female students. They wrote the names of women (As today, amongst the Indo-Pak community this is seen as an ‘aura) . However, Wazīra al-Tanūkhiyyah was also his student; al-Dhahabī studied under her; and she died 812 A.H; she taught 82 years after Imam Bukhari himself. During her ḥadīth career, Egypt realized the decline of ḥadīth on her soil and wrote a letter to her to teach Bukhari in the big Mosque, college and palaces of Egypt. She died at the age of 89 and whilst teaching ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī.

‘Ā’isha bint ibn al-Hādī teacher of ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī, taught him 80 books of ḥadīth, and this took place in al-Jāmi’ al-‘Umawi. 22 sound hadith have been narrated with only 14 narrators in the chain to Imām Bukārī, 18 in total to the Prophet (S.A.W.): and [‘Ā’isha or Fāṭima] is in that chain of narrators.

Zainab bint Kamāl (740 A.H) taught at jāmi’ al-Muẓaffarī and al-‘Umawī and other big madāris there. She would also lecture at the mosque near her home. After every hearing they wrote down the place and attendees of the lecture: some classes would include 400 people. She had been teaching 400 books, whereas now in traditional madāris one teaches a maximum of 6 or 7 books. Her class ran from morning till evening. She was very patient, 30 to 40 students came to her home. We should be grateful to these women.

Fāṭimah Al-Iṣfahāniyyah Al-Jūzdāniyyah, taught the whole book (Al-mu’jam al-Kabīr li al-Ṭabarānī: 25 vols, and still parts missing), and this book became known worldwide because of her. Amongst her famous students was Fāṭimah bint Sa’d al-Khayr, who was actually born in China, she was Spanish as her father had migrated from Valencia and took her to a small village called Jūzdān. Both were experts, when she came to Egypt the science of ḥadīth was dying out and she revived it. Some women used to even teach in shops: they would be teaching ḥadīth and if a buyer walked in she would pause serve the buyer and then resume with the lecture.

The current state of female scholarship and learning has not always been as it is. You do not find female scholarship in European, Chinese and also Jewish history. But in Islam almost 1/4 of the fiqh madhāhib teachings are coming from the women.

Rubayyi’ah bint al-Mu’awwiz (R.A) was an orphan. The Prophet (S.A.W) came to her house and he sat next to her on the same bed. She saw the Prophet (S.A.W) doing wuḍū’ as a bride and she taught the male ṣahāba about the Prophet (S.A.W)’s wuḍū’ including ibn ‘Abbās (R.A). Even the teachings of ghuṣl are coming from the women.

Ṣafiyyah the sister of Mukhtār was a tābi’iyyah: she narrated ḥadīth of the Prophet (S.A.W) to her husband ‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Umar, who was a close companion of the Prophet (S.A.W).

[Saeed Musayyab’s daugher. Story about man shouting from roof]

Kāsāni was the student of ‘Alā’uddin, and he wanted to marry his daughter. ‘Alā’uddin said “no” unless you write a book on the Ḥanafī Fiqh. When he completed the book, which is studied till this day in ḥanafī madāris, he allowed Kāsānī to marry his daughter. Later Kāsānī taught in Ḥalab, when he never knew answers to some of the ‘ibārāt she used to explain to him before he went to teach. And at times when he was questioned by students on problematic masā’il, he would go home and confirm with his wife. It was only when his students asked where he would go and get the answers that he told them and hence this information reaches us.

If you do not give women the opportunity to learn you bury them alive!

Many of these women used to give fatwā and also corrected judges. Many times fatāwā were signed by husband, wife and daughter. Ibn Najjār studied from 400 women and Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī from 80 women. All these great scholars learnt from women.

Amra bint ‘Abd al-Raḥmān was a qāḍī in Madina. Once a Coptic Christian was caught stealing and the qāḍī issued the ruling that his hand must be cut. Amra bint ‘Abd al-Raḥmān disagreed with the ruling and explained her reasons, the judge had to reverse his fatwā and the Copt was released. It is significant here to understand that ‘Amra knew what was happening in the town – outside her home – for her to then be able to critically analyse the notion. The qāḍī felt that her fatwā was valid. Imam Mālik quotes her whole story and then uses her opinion.

Trust of Women in Knowledge.

‘Ā’isha (R.A.) one fatwā that no one follows except for her. A man in any age becomes son of the woman whose milk he drinks as opposed to 2 years according to the other a’immah and 2 ½ years according to Imām Abū Ḥanīfa. However the ṣaḥāba respected her opinion but disagreed. She asked her sister ‘Āsima to give her milk to students she wanted to come to her. No one objected to her fatwa, they respected but disagreed.

Fāṭima bint Qays was a muftiyyah. One fatwā she issued was that when women divorced they have no right on accommodation etc. Dr Nadwī believes women muftis have been tougher on the women compared to the men. This opinion goes against the Qur’an. ‘Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb did not take her opinion, despite that people followed and even reconciled their own opinions.

Sam’ān, said I came to Karīma bint Abū Manṣūr (6th century). I asked her brother if he could ask her to teach me, but he refused many times and made excuses. So this problem of keeping the women away from teaching and learning was a problem even then. So the 8000 muḥaddithāt in number is very tiny, there were many others not even recorded.

Quraysh al-Ṭabariyyah was a Ḥāfidha of ḥadīth, which is the highest status in ḥadīth. She revived ḥadīth knowledge in Ḥijāz. She was so learned that if she had been alive and she lead the prayer – a male narrator suggests – I would have prayed behind her. He wrote a comment on this. He does not believe that leading prayer is so amazing in raising their value. Amina Wadud political statement, otherwise do it everyday. No woman has done that in the history of Islam, even ‘Ā’isha (R.A.) would tell her male students to lead the prayer.

Al-Shifā’ al-Adawiyyah (R.A.) was famous for her writing in the time of the Prophet (S.A.W). The Prophet (S.A.W) asked Hafsa (R.A.) to learn writing from her. And some muftis in India had said that writing is not allowed for women. Shuhadā’ al-Kātiba was the writer of the Caliph, and ibn al-Ḥajar knew of her writing. Many people think that ‘Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb (R.A.) stopped women from going to the masjid. But this is a misunderstanding, when Al-Shifā’ al-Adawiyyah (R.A.) was appointed as a supervisor by ‘Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb (R.A.) of the market of Madinah. Just think! The most complicated market of the world!!!! Where the goods of Persia and Byzantine were sold. She would receive letters from men ad write back to them.

[Woman adorned herself aft giving birth. Abu Sunābi proposed later after disagreeing].

Many fabricated ḥadīth exist, but not a single fabricated ḥadīth narrated by a woman. Because men had other interests and women only did it for the sake of ḥadīth.

Zainab bint Makkī al-Ḥayrāniyyah: even ibn Taymiyyah learns from her.

In Islam most important source is Quran and then Bukhari.
Both two things depended on the women. Qur’an of ‘Uthmān (R.A.) depended on the Qur’an of Hafsa (R.A.). Similarly Bukhari, the most authentic ḥadīth book is also taken from the copy of Karīmah al-Marwaziyyah (d. 463) born in Kushnihān and lived for a hundred years.

Note taker: Hamid Mahmood

To purchase Dr Mohammad Akram Nadwi’s book ‘al-Muḥāddithāt: the women scholars in Islam’ :

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