A short passage to reflect over and ponder, especially for those from an Indian Subcontinent background where matters are always presented as black and white.
Shaykh Yusuf al-Nabhani , the recent prominent Sunni theologian of Palestine wrote the following passage in his work Shawahid al-Haqq (p.62).
“Know that the belief I hold regarding Ibn Taymiyyah and his two students – Ibn al-Qayyim and Ibn Abd al-Hadi – is that they are from the Imams of the religion and from the prominent (akabir) Muslim scholars. They have greatly benefitted the Muhammadan community with their knowledge, even though they made serious errors regarding the issues of visitation and istighatha as a result which they caused significant harm to Islam and the Muslims. I swear by Allah to Magnificent! Before my coming across their statements regarding these issues regarding the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) I did not believe that a Muslim could venture to say such a thing. I have now for a number of months been reflecting over citing their statements but cannot venture to do so even for the sake of refuting them out of fear that I might be a means of increasing their circulation such is their ugliness. May Allah forgive them and have mercy on them according to their intentions and not deprive us from seeking mercy for them and benefitting from their knowledge.”
I came across the following short extract when looking for material regarding a description of wrestling at the time of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) 1500 years ago. It seems clear – to me at least – that the wrestling referred to in Muslim sources is closer in spirit to the stand up (Tachi-Waza) throwing techniques of Judo than the ground grappling focus of BJJ.
The great Moroccan sholar Shaykh Abd al-Hayy al-Kattani mentions the following in his work Taratib al-Idariyyah:
Ibn Ishaq amongst others mentions in his Sirah that in Mecca there was a person of immense strength who was skilled in wrestling. People would come from other places to wrestle him and he would defeat them. One day when he was in one of the valleys of Mecca he met the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) who said to him, ‘O Rukanah, are you not conscious of Allah and accept that which I call you to?’ Rukanah replied, ‘O Muhammad, do you have anything as proof of your truthfulness?’ He replied, ‘Yes, if I was to defeat you in wrestling would you have faith in Allah and His Messenger?’
Rukanah replied, ‘Yes O Muhammad, prepare for a wrestling match!’
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, ‘I am ready,’ at which point the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) drew closer to Rukanah and threw him down.
Rukanah was astonished at this and asked for another match, and he was defeated for a second and then a third time. Rukanah stood up amazed and said, ‘Your matter is astonishing.’
This was narrated by Abu Nuaym and al-Bayhaqi from Abu Umamah from two routes of transmission, one Marfu and the other Mursal.
The Rukanah who has been mentioned here is Ibn Abd Yazid bin Hisham bin al-Muttalib bin Abd Manaf, al-Qurashi, a Meccan companion who entered in to Islam in the year of the Meccan conquest. He died in Medina during the caliphate of Muawiyah in the year 42. Rukanah was fearsome, well built, strong and well known for his wrestling skills, such that no one had ever defeated him in wrestling nor had his skin ever touched the ground in defeat.
It is authentically reported that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) wrestled him and defeated him, as was stated by al-Khafaji in al-Nasim.
In Ibn al-Tayyib al-Fasi’s notes on the Qamus it is mentioned regarding Rukanah, ‘His story is well known, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) defeating him is from his great miracles, for Rukanah was the most skilled wrestler of his age. His strength was such that he would stand on a piece of camel skin of a good flexible quality which would be pulled by ten men without his being moved from his spot, this was stated in the commentaries of the Shifa, al-Mawahib and other works.'”
The author then discussed some scholars who highlighted some weakness in the chain for this incident as well as it not being authentically established that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) wrestled Abu Jahl. It would however appear that the incident above with Rukanah does have a number of chains of transmission. Shaykh Abd al-Hayy al-Kattani continued:
I have in my possession a short work by Hafiz al-Suyuti named Al-Musarah ila al-Musarah in which he mentioned the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) wrestling with Abu Rukanah via a number of chains of transmission, likewise the younger companions wrestling amongst themselves to gain permission for military service. He also mentioned that Meccans were skilled in wrestling and defeated all others…and narrated via routes of transmission that Hasan and Hussain (Upon both of them be peace) wrestled in the presence of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).”
Note: I have been informed that the short treatise of Imam al-Suyuti referenced above has been translated and will inshAllah be published soon.
Shah Waliullah and the topic of istighatha can be confusing. You have the anti-istighatha scholars usually citing passages from his Hujatullah al-Baligha and at times other disputed works which seem to support their argument. Yet when you read works of Shah Waliullah such as the Anfas al-Arifin you get a totally different impression, as it contains a number of pro istighatha anecdotes and comments, some of which have been presented on this site. So which is the real Shah Waliullah? I had been thinking for some time that the written words of a scholar can be misinterpreted and misrepresented by parties seeking to validate their own views, and that a record of the personal practice of an individual is often the best means to understand their view on an issue. I was therefore overjoyed to some time ago come across the authorised biography of Shah Waliullah which was penned by his close disciple, and which happens to shed light on the issue of istighatha in such as a decisive way that only a stubborn partisan fanatic would engage in intellectual gymnastics to refute it.
Shaykh Muhammad Ashiq Phulati, the close disciple of Shah Waliullah and author of his authorised biography named Qawl al-Jalli mentions (p.82-83) a clear instance of istighatha which Shah Waliullah taught his students and which is cited approvingly by Shaykh Muhammad Ashiq Phulati. He said:
“A person named Muhammad Yusuf, who was a learned and pious mystic (darwesh) person narrates from a person named Dost Muhammad who was also a pious learned (fadil) person who narrated the following incident:
I would usually go to a person who I was close to who was well known in tasawwuf but regarding whom I knew that his beliefs (aqaid) were not good. I would also go to another person whose company I found beneficial and outwardly he conformed to the sacred law (shariah), and I had full trust in both of them.
One day I got up for the Fajr prayer and the congregation was ready and about to begin, I wished to pray 2 units and then join the congregation, however just as I had formed my intention for this that both of these Shaykhs forms manifested in front of me and attempted to prevent me from praying. I wished to get rid of them and begin the prayer but despite my attempts I was unable to do so. One of the Shaykhs sat down at the place of prostration (sajda) in order to prevent me from prostrating. The other Shaykh stood next to me* and was preventing me…when I found I was unable to do anything I began to recite, ‘La Hawla…’ but I did not find this beneficial to my predicament. I was increasingly becoming more distressed and was aware that the time for the prayer was running out.
I then began to individually recite the names of the pious folk of the past, meaning the noble awliyah and great Prophets and seeking help from them. I then remembered that Hazrat-e-Aqdas (Shah Waliullah) had once said that at a time of distress or difficulty remember my name. As soon as I had called out/took the name of Hazrat-e-Aqdas and sought help from him that I saw that Hazrat-e-Aqdas appeared and with his two hands took both Shaykhs by the ear and banished them and saved me from this tribulation.
I thanked Allah for this and busied myself with the prayer, and this incident was a reason for my increased veneration of Hazrat-e-Aqdas.”
Some brief comments from Saleh Malik in defence of the Kuwaiti scholar: Shaykh Fahd al-Kandari regarding the blessed parents of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and an explanation of some lines of the Burda.
Have any of the classical Hanbali scholars made mention of Imam Hussain and Karbala in their works? The answer is: Yes.
Imam Ibn Abd al-Hadi al-Maqdisi, better known as Ibn al-Mibrad (d.909 Hijri) discussed this in his work related to the Islamic months of the year in the entry for Muharram.
He said in his book Ma-arif al-Inam wa Fadl al-Shuhur wal-Ayyam p.71:
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Hasan and Hussain are leaders of the youth of Paradise.” [Tirmidhi 3768; Ibn Majah 118]
Abdullah bin Nujayy reports from his father that he was travelling with Ali (Upon him be peace)…when they came close to Nineveh on their way to Siffin, Ali called out: Have patience O Abdullah at the banks of the Euphrates! I said: What is this?
Ali replied: I entered upon the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) one day and found that he had tears in his eyes. I said: O Prophet of Allah, has someone upset you? He replied: No. I then said: Why is it that you have tears in your eyes?
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) replied: Gibril visited me and informed me that Hussain will be killed at the bank of the Euphrates, and he said to me: Would you like to smell the fragrance from its soil? I said: Yes. He [Gibril] then extended his hand and took a handful of soil which he gave to me, and I was unable to stop myself crying.” [Imam Ahmad in his Musnad 1/85]
(Poem) I weep over the one murdered in Karbala His body soaked with blood I weep over the one murdered by oppressive tyrants For no reason except Wafa (faithfulness) I weep for the murdered one for whom weeped out of sorrow The people of the earth and the heavens
We narrate that: A rock was found 300 years before the coming of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) upon which it was written in Greek:
(Poem) Do the group who murdered Hussain hope for The intercession of his grandfather on the day of reckoning?
Woe be to the killer of Hussain, how will his matter be with Hussain’s parents and his grandfather!
My brothers! I ask you by Allah, those who were treacherous to Yusuf, with which face can they face Yaqub?
(Poem) Fatima will pass through on the day of judgement Her shirt having the blood of Hussain on it Woe be to the one whose supposed intercessors will in fact be his enemies On the day of judgement when people are resurrected.
The following is a quick rough translation of a recent beneficial post by Shaykh Abd al-Wahid al-Azhari, a young Hanbali scholar based in Qatar. In this he talks briefly about his experiences in the Salafi movement and the issue of love of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).
O Lord, grant us death in the land of your Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace), in a manner which You are pleased with, and grant us burial there!
I have pointed out in the past, even when I was counted as being a part of the Salafi movement (and records are a witness to this) that some of the viewpoints of the Wahabis relating to the understanding of love of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and the issues of difference between them and the majority of the Ummah: the jurists and others – and I do not say it is only the sufis – such as tawassul, tabarruk, travelling to visit the Prophet etc, contain an element of animosity and injustice… which is not hidden to intelligent folk. I do not say as some of their extreme enemies do that they do not love the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) or do not honour him as they should, nor do I say that this exists in each of them, no by Allah, there are those amongst them who are not like this… However I say: the manifestation of animosity, coarse disrespect and aversion are apparent in many of them which cannot be missed by the observant person.
This is a reaction of theirs as to what they perceive of exaggeration of their opponents in loving the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), praise of him, and attachment to him…the examples of this are many and evident.
It is sufficient as evidence that you will not find them (the Salafis) holding gatherings of praise for the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) not gathering together to recite his sirah or salawat upon him, and even it does occur then it is little and cannot be compared to those that they accuse of going to extremes!
You will not find in their literary output anything which comes close to the Burdah or that which is similar to it, even if it is free of that which they criticise, except for some recent efforts by them, but that is a separate topic of discussion.
It is sufficient for you to present to them the statements of the Imams…regarding the excellence of the blessed resting place of the Prophet and it being superior to the Kabah, or some of that which is recorded regarding their spiritual states in Medina such as that which is reported from Imam Malik and what is mentioned by Qadi Iyad in al-Shifa, and then look at their behaviour in such places and attitude.
They proclaim assertively that the meaning of love is following the Prophet!
This is an understanding which there is no difference of opinion over, rather the discussion is about a matter at a higher level which only a deprived person is ignorant of.
I will here mention a story of one of the prominent students of knowledge from my friends, a pleasant Salafi, advanced in knowledge with some beneficial published works. He resided in a city close to Medina al-Nabawiyyah – I will not name it so he is not identified – he was living there for a number of years. He said to me after the passing of several years: I have not visited Medina since I have come here, not even once!
I was greatly shocked at his statement, for I know those who would expend their wealth and health just to visit it once, rather they are prepared to choose visiting Medina over their continuing to live if they had a choice. I asked him – out of disbelief almost – Why? He said: “Because prayer in Mecca is rewarded at 100,000 and in Medina it is 1000, so what is it that can make me give preference to visiting Medina over Mecca? When I have the opportunity the visit to Mecca is given preference without a doubt.”
The above statement is a financial calculation (if it can be described as such) which a lover (of the Prophet) would not utter. Neither would someone who understands the statements of the fuqaha truthfully or has examined the states of the truthful lovers (of the Prophet).
This statement can only be uttered by an uncouth idiot who does not understand and is unaware, or a materialistic fool who is devoid of affection. This statement should not be stated by a pious man who I know well is righteous and desirous of doing good. It is however the distorted understanding and comprehension that these people inherit, and this person is a senior figure amongst them.
Were it that this person had looked at the longing of visiting the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), attachment to the places which his blessed foot touched, the resting place wherein resides his noble body along witth longing to see those famous places and other necessary results of truthful love – and that this is more beloved to Allah than many righteous bodily acts – he would not have made this statement nor would have thought in this diseased way.
Were it that he had he looked at the strengthening of faith and serenity which occurs for a visitor to Medina.
Were it that he had looked at the statements of the Fuqaha and great Imams such as Ahmad bin Hanbal who said, “If you are performing an optional Hajj then go first to Medina.” Ibn Nasrullah commented on this saying, “This means that the visiting (of Medina) is superior to an optional Hajj.”, and there are numerous other statements and well known stories…
However this is a veil of coarsness and animosity which a person does not realise he is afflicted by, rather they are deceived by the shaitan that they are intelligent and possess understanding, and help is sought from Allah.
This post is for the purpose of sincere advice and evaluation, not to shame or defame, and Allah is the guider to the straight path.
Imam Ibn Balban said in his work Mukhtasar al-Ifadat:
“Point of benefit: If a person walks with someone who is higher than them in terms of rank and virtue, then he should walk on the other person’s hand side, similar to how he would be to the Imam in the prayer. If however the other person (he is walking with) is lesser than him in rank then he should walk on the other person’s left hand side, meaning that this person is to his right.”
Please find below some advice regarding a matter which we may regard as insignificant but was identified by the scholars of the past as in need of rectifying. Shaykh Abd al-Wahab al-Sharani said in his work Tanbih al-Mughtarrin p.128:
And from the Salaf’s character traits – Allah the Exalted be pleased with them – was their regularly asking about the condition of their friends, this was in order to be able to assist them regarding their needs such as food, clothing, money, paying of debts…and the possessors of this character trait in this age are rare. People in this time practice the opposite of this, a person may say to his friend, “how are you?” To which his friend will respond, “I am fine” but in fact hiding his true state of affairs because of his knowing of the emptiness of heart of his friend…rather many a time a person will pass by his brother and say, “How are you” but not wait for an answer, thus the one asking does not wait for an answer nor does the person being asked trouble himself to utter a response.
It was due to this that Sayyidi Ali al-Khawwas – Allah the Exalted have mercy on him – would say: If you do not have a firm resolve to help your brother or share in his worries or supplicate for him – then do not ask him “How are you” for this will become a case of hypocrisy.
Hatim al-Asam – Allah the Exalted have mercy on him – said: if you say to your friend: How are you this morning? and he replies: “I am in need of a particular thing”, however you do not deal with it seriously and do not fulfil his need, then your saying “How are you this morning” is a mockery of him, and this is predominant amongst the folk of this age.
We have detailed elsewhere on this blog the great Indian scholar Shah Waliullah al-Dehlawi’s link to the Ba Alawi tariqah by means of his Hajj journey where he met scholarly members of the family in the Hijaz. Shaykh Muhammad Ashiq al-Phulati in the biography of his teacher (Qawl al-Jalli p.100-101) records an additional incident related to the Ba Alawi order writing that:
An Arab man by the name of Ahmad Ba Raja was afflicted by fever, an illness which increased daily. One day he saw in a dream that he was at the tomb of Sayyid Abd al-Rahman Saqqaf who is from the Sadat of the family of Ali (Allah be pleased with him) and is buried in Hadramawt. At the tomb he found that our Hazrat-e-Aqdas (Shah Waliullah) was also present and that he recited Surah Yasin to donate the reward to the deceased. This man then proceeded to recite Surah Mulk, after which both of them recited Fatiha. Hazrat-e-Aqdas gave this man a small amount of halwa and said, “Eat this, for the cure for your illness is in this halwa.”
After this the man awoke and came to to visit Hazrat-e-Aqdas and informed him of the whole dream. Shah Waliullah affirmed this dream and proceeded to recite Surah Yasin, Surah Mulk and then recited Fatiha for this saint (Sayyid Abd al-Rahman Saqqaf). Shah Waliullah then asked for some halwa and said to the man, “Eat this, the cure for your illness is in this”, the man duly ate and went to his home. It was only a few days later that he returned back to Shah Waliullah and said, “I ate the halwa and my tribulation has vanished.” (Akaltu al-Halwa Zalat al-Balwa).
Imam Abd al-Wahab al-Sharani’s work entitled Tanbih al-Mughtarrin (which could be roughly translated as “A note to the deluded”) is a book I have dipped in to many times over the past 15 years. In this book the author highlights the different akhlaq (character traits) of the salaf (pious early Muslims) which the people and scholars of his era had abandoned. I will InshAllah see if I can share some extracts from it in the near future, in the meantime the introduction to the work presented below gives a fascinating insight in to the reason for its being written and the reception it received. Imam Abd al-Wahab al-Sharani said:
“From the main reasons for my writing this work was what I witnessed from the investigation undertaken by the staff of Mawlana, the Sultan Sulayman bin Uthman in second half of the 10th [Islamic] century looking in to the theft of his wealth by government employees and others, and their reason for [this investigation] was in order to support him.
I noticed that none of the scholars of the sacred law had undertaken an investigation – with the intention of supporting the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) – in to the prominent akhlaq of the Muhammadan shariah which had become extinct, just as the staff of Mawlana the Sultan (May Allah grant him victory) had done so.
I was overcome by a feeling of protectiveness (ghayrah al-imaniyyah) to the sacred law and thus authored this book as clarification as to what has disappeared from the prominent akhlaq from the world of scholars of the outer and inner (al-zahir wal-batin). It is a work which is beneficial to every jurist and Sufi in this age to the point that perhaps none of them are without need of looking in to it as you will find out when you examine the book – InshAllah Taala.
This book is akin to a sword striking the neck of every unqualified claimant to being a Shaykh in this time. This book will bankrupt him because he will find that he is divorced from the akhlaq of righteous people just as snake sheds its skin.
I know a group of people who have become aware of this book and are grieved, if it was possible for them to steal it and delete its contents they would do so out of fear that a person who holds them in esteem will read it and as a result change their view regarding them when they see that they do not possess the akhlaq of the righteous people whom they claim to be the deputies of.
It is more appropriate that they had rejoiced and been happy at its being written for all of it is sincere advice, and they will not find anyone in this age who will give the likes of this advice.”