Tuesday, 22 April 2014

What is "True Islam" and does it need to be modernised?

Many people wonder about "what is the true Islam?", "does Islam need modernising?", "has the Islam we have been given and passed down been patriarchal and misogynistic?" and so on.
There have been many discussions and writings on this topic, and my aim is not to summarise them or include them all here but to point to one Sahih (authentic) hadith and then relate it to the questions mentioned above. The hadith of the Holy Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) states:
"From every succeeding generation its upright folk shall carry this knowledge in turn. They shall repeal from it the distortions of the extremists (tahrif al-ghalin), the (mis)interpretations of the ignorant (ta'wil al-jahilin), and the pretenses of the liars (intihal al-mubtilin)." (see the discussion on grading and references in Note 1 below).
If a person reflects on the above mentioned hadith, the following will be realised:
a) True Islam will be present in every generation. It will never be absent from even one generation.
b) There will be scholars representing true Islam and they will openly refute misguidance and misguided sects. Thus the true Islam will be open and victorious.
c) If you come across a sect or belief claiming to be the "true Islam" but that belief or sect did not exist in every generation, and the scholars holding its views did not "repeal the distortions etc" and were not prominent,, then it is not the true Islam. For example some "feminists" claim that Islamic scholarship was misogynistic and this led to misogynistic interpretations of Islam dominating for centuries. Thus these feminists claim to reinterpret the Qur'an, hadiths and Islam in "progressive/feminist/women-friendly" ways. Ask the feminists "Did these interpretations that the feminists bring exist in every generation of Islamic history?". If these interpretations did not exist in every generation, then know that it they are false. The same question should be asked of other modernist "Islamic" movements and even of the "Salafi" movement. For example you will never find in every generation of Islamic history a scholar saying "inheritance laws should be divided equally because the context has changed". Nor will you find in every generation a "Salafi" scholar or a "feminist" scholar.
d) Islam does not need to be "changed" or "modernised" or "progressed" or made "gender equal", because the true Islam is the Islam that has been followed for centuries. 
In conclusion one will find that the Ahlus Sunnah  existed in every generation of Islamic history and were always prominent and dominant. 
I hope the above answers the questions above.

1) Sheikh GF Haddad wrote the following:
"This hadith is narrated from the Companion Ibrahim b. `Abd al-Rahman al-`Adhari from the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace).
"From every succeeding generation its upright folk shall carry this knowledge in turn. They shall repeal from it the distortions of the extremists (tahrif al-ghalin), the (mis)interpretations of the ignorant (ta'wil al-jahilin), and the pretenses of the liars (intihal al-mubtilin)."

عَنْ إِبْرَاهِيمَ بْنِ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ الْعَذَرِىِّ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ -صلى الله عليه وسلم: يَرِثُ هَذَا الْعِلْمَ مِنْ كُلِّ خَلَفٍ عُدُولُهُ يَنْفُونَ عَنْهُ تَأْوِيلَ الْجَاهِلِينَ وَانْتِحَالَ الْمُبْطِلِينَ وَتَحْرِيفَ الْغَالِينَ

It is a fair hadith graded hasan gharib sahih by al-`Ala'i in Bughyat al-Multamis (p. 14=p. 34-35) and sahih according to Imam Ahmad (as narrated by al-Khallal in his `Ilal per al-Khatib in Sharaf As-hab al-Hadith p. 29), Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr in the introduction to his Tamhid -- as cited by Ibn Kathir in al-Bidaya wal-Nihaya (1993 Turath ed. 10:371) and al-San`ani in Thamarat al-Nazar (p. 144) -- and Ibn al-Wazir in al-`Awasim min al-Qawasim (1:312) and al-Rawd al-Basim (1:21-23) but da`if mu`dal cf. al-Daraqutni in Ibn al-Mulaqqin, al-Muqni` (1:246); `Abd al-Haqq al-Ishbili in al-Ahkam al-Wusta (1:121); Ibn Kathir in al-Ba`ith al-Hathith; al-`Iraqi in al-Taqyid (p. 116), al-Bulqini in Mahasin al-Istilah (p. 219), and al-Sakhawi's long discussion in Fath al-Mughith (2:14-17). Ibn al-Qattan discussed it in his Wahm wal-Iham (3:37-41 §691) as did Abu Ghudda in Khams Rasa'il fi `Ulum al-Hadith (p. 133-141 marginalia to Ibn `Abd al-Barr's discussion) and al-Zabidi devoted to it his monograph al-Rawd al-Mu'talif fi Takhrij Hadith Yahmilu Hadha al-`Ilma min Kulli Khalaf.


[1] from Abu Hurayra by al-Tabarani in Musnad al-Shamiyyin (1:344) with two chains, one of which is fair, and by al-Khatib in Sharaf As-hab al-Hadith (p. 28 §52) and al-Jami` (1991 ed. 1:193 §137=1983 ed. 1:128) with a very weak chain because of Maslama ibn `Ali;

[2] from Abu Umama by al-`Uqayli in the introduction to his Du`afa' (1:9) with a weak chain;

[3] from Usama b. Zayd by al-Khatib in Sharaf (p. 28 §53);

[4] from Abu Hurayra and `Abd Allah b. `Umar by al-Bazzar (Mukhtasar 1:122 §86), Tammam al-Razi (Fawa'id 1:350), Ibn `Abd al-Barr in al-Tamhid (1:59), and al-`Uqayli in al-Du`afa' (1:10) -- the latter two stating "ibn `Amr" -- with very weak chains because of `Umar b. Khalid who is discarded as a narrator (matruk) as indicated by al-Haythami (1:140);

[5] from `Abd Allah b. Mas`ud -- the first sentence only, and with "inherit" instead of "carry" -- by al-Khatib, Sharaf (p. 28 §54);

[6] mursal from the Tabi`i Abu `Abd al-Rahman Ibrahim b. `Abd al-Rahman al-`Adhari by al-Bayhaqi in al-Sunan al-Kubra (10:209 §20685-20686) and Shu`ab al-Iman (10:209), Ibn `Abd al-Barr in al-Tamhid (1:59), Ibn Abi Hatim in al-Jarh wal-Ta`dil (2:17), Ibn Hibban in al-Thiqat (4:10), and al-Khatib, Sharaf (p. 28-29 §52-56) where the latter narrates that Imam Ahmad declared it sound (sahih), a grading faulted by Yahya b. Sa`id al-Qattan as cited by Ibn `Adi in al-Kamil (1:153) from al-Khallal's `Ilal. Ibn `Adi then cites a chain of trustworthy narrators for it. Al-Dhahabi in Mizan al-I`tidal (1:45 §137) states that Ma`an ibn Rifa`a -- who reports from al-`Udhri -- is not reliable (Ibn Hajar grades him layyin, Taqrib §6747) but in al-Mughni (2:308 §6309) states that Ibn al-Madini declared him trustworthy, as did Ahmad (cf. al-Khatib, Sharaf p. 29 §56). Al-`Iraqi in al-Taqyid wal-Idah (p. 116) and al-Tabsira (1:298) said: "This narration is missing al least two sub-narrators (mu`dal) or missing the Companion-link (mursal). And this Ibrahim, who related it without naming the Companion, is not known to relate any narration other than this."

[7] From a number of other Companions -- Abu al-Darda', `Alī b. Abi Talib, Jabir b. Samura, and Mu`adh b. Jabal -- all through weak chains as stated by Abu Nu`aym followed by al-`Iraqi and al-Qari in al-Mirqat (1994 ed. 1:509 §248) cf. al-Arna'ut. in Sharh Mushkil al-Aathaar (10:18 §3884).

In view of al-Tabarani's fair chain, Ibn `Adi's chain of reliable transmitters, Ahmad and Ibn `Abd al-Barr's gradings of sahih, al-`Ala'ī's similar grading, the number of Companions related to narrate it, and the widespread use of this narration among the hadith Masters, the correct grading appears to be at the very least that of "fair" (hasan), and Allah knows best."

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