Towards Understanding Islam

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  • Towards Understanding Islam



    Up till now we have been dealing with Din or Faith. we now come to a discussion of the Shari'ah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). But let us first be clear about the difference between Din and Shari'ah.

    Distinction Between Din and Shari'ah

    In the foregoing chapters we have said that all the Prophets who made their appearance from time to time propagated Islam. This is a very basic fact. They propagated Islam that is a faith in God with all His attributes faith in the Day of Judgment faith in the Prophets and the Books and asked people consequently to live a life of obedience and submission to their Lord. This is what constitutes al-Din and it was common to the teaching of all the Prophets.

    Apart from this Din there is the Shari'ah or the detailed code of conduct or the canons comprising ways and modes of worship standards of morals and life law that allow and prescribe that judge between right and wrong. Such canon law has been undergoing amendments from time to time and though each Prophet had the same Din he brought with him a different Shari'ah that would suit the conditions of his own people and time. This served the purpose of training different people over all ages for a better civilization and equipping them with better morals. The process ended with the advent of Muhammad the last Prophet (peace be upon him) who brought with him the final code which was to apply to all mankind for all times to come. Din has undergone no change but now all the previous Shari'ah stand abrogated in view of the comprehensive Shari'ah that Muhammad (peace be upon him) has brought with him. This is the climax or the final of the great process of training that was started at the dawn of the human era.

    The Sources of the Shari'ah

    We draw upon two major sources in order to acquaint ourselves with the Shari'ah of Muhammad (peace be upon him), viz. the Qur'an and the Hadith. The Qur'an is a divine revelation each and every word of the instructions issued or the memoirs of the last Prophet's conduct and behavior, as preserved by those who were present in his company or those to whom these were handed down by the first witness. These were later sifted and collected by divines and compiled in the form of books among which the collections made by Malik, BukhariMuslim, Tirmizi, Abu Dawud, Nasa'i and Ibn Majah are considered to be the most authentic.


    Detailed law derived from the Qur'an and the Ahadith covering the myriads from of problems that arise in the course of man's life have been compiled by some of the leading legists in the past. Thus the Muslim Peoples shall for ever be grateful to those men of leading and vision who devoted their lives to gaining a mastery of the Qur'an and the Hadith who made it easy for every Muslim to fashion his everyday affairs according to the requirements of the Shari'ah. It is due to them alone that the Muslims all over the world can follow the Shari'ah easily even though their attainments in religion are never such that they could themselves give a correct and authentic interpretation to the Qur'an or the Ahadith.

    Though in the beginning a large number of religious leaders applied themselves to the task now only four major school of thought remain. They are1:

    1. Fiqh-e-Hanafi: This is the Fiqh compiled by Abu Hanifa Nu'man bin Thabit with the assistance and cooperation of Abu Yusuf, Muhammad, Zufar, and others all of whom had high religious attainments to their credit. This is known as the Hanafi School of Fiqh.

    2. Fiqh-e-Maliki: This Fiqh was derived by Malik bin Anas Asbahi.

     3. Fiqh-e-Shafi'i: Founded by Muhammad bin Idress al-Shafi'i.

     4. Fiqh-e-Hanbali: Founded by Ahmed bin Hanbal.

    All of these were given the final form within two hundred years of the time of the Prophet. The difference that appear in the four school are but the natural outcome of the fact that is many sided. When different persons employ themselves in interpreting a given event, they come out with explanations according to their own lights. What gives these various schools of thought the authenticity that is associated with them them is the unimpeachable integrity of their respective founders and the authenticity of the method they adopted. That's why all Muslims, whatever school they may belong to regard all the four schools of Fiqh goes unchallenged, one can follow only one of them in one's life, though there is the group of Ahl-i-Hadith who believe that those who have the required knowledge and learning should directly approach the Qur'an and the Hadith for guidance and those who are not bestowed with such knowledge and faculties should follow whomsoever they may choose to in a particular matter.


    Fiqh deals with the apparent and the observable conduct the fulfilling of a duty in letter. What concerns itself with the spirit of conduct is known as Tasawwuf. For example, when we say our prayers Fiqh will judge us only by the fulfillment of the outward requirements such as ablution. Facing towards the Ka'ba, the timing and the number of Rak'ats, while Tasawwuf will judge our prayers by our concentration devotion purification of our souls and the effect of prayers on our morals and manners. Thus the true Islamic Tasawwuf is the means of our spirit of obedience and sincerity while Fiqh governs our carrying out commands to the last detail. An 'Ibadat devoid of spirit, though correct in procedure is like a man handsome in appearance but lacking in character and an 'Ibadat full of spirit but defective in execution is like a man noble in character but deformed in appearance.

    The above example makes clear the relation between Fiqh and Tasawwuf. But it is to the misfortune of the Muslims that as they sank in knowledge and character with the passage of time they also succumbed to the misguided philosophies of nations which were then dominant partook of them and patched Islam with their perverted dogmas.

    They polluted the pure spring of Islamic Tasawwuf with absurdities that could not be justified by any stretch of imagination on the basis of the Qur'an and the Hadith. Gradually a section of Muslims appeared who thought and proclaimed themselves immune to and above the requirements of the Shari'ah. These people are totally ignorant of Islam for Islam cannot admit of Tasawwuf that loosens itself out of the Shari'ah and takes liberties with it. No Sufi has the right to transgress the limits of the Shari'ah or treat the primary obligations (Fara'iz) such as daily prayers fasting zakat and the hajj, Tasawwuf, in the true sense is but an intense love of Allah and Muhammad (peace be upon him) and such love requires a strict obedience to their commands as embodied in the Book of God and the Sunnah of His Prophet. Anyone who deviates from the divine commands makes a false claim of his love for Allah and His Apostle.


    1 The periods and present position of the respective Fiqhs ars as follows:

        Abu Hanifa Nu'man bin Thabit was born in 80 A.H. (699 A.D.) and died in 150 A.H. (767 A.D.). There are approximately 340 million followers of this Fiqh in the world mosly concentraed in Turkey, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Transjordan, Indo-China, China, and Sovie Russia.

        Malik bin Anas Asbahi was born in 93 A.H. (714 A.D.) and died in 179 A.H. (798 A.D.). There are approximately 45 million followers of this Fiqh in the world mainly concentrated in Morocco, Algeria, Tunis, Sudan, Kuwait, and Bahrein.

        Mohammad bin Idrees al-Shafi'i was born in 150 A.H. (767 A.D.) and died in 240 A.H. (854 A.D.). His followers are approximately 100 million and concentrated mainly in Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Indonesia.

        Ahmed bin Hanbal was born in 164 A.H. (780 A.D.) and died in  241 A.H. (955 A.D.). There are some 30 lakh followers of his Fiqh mainly concentrated in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Syria.


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