Monthly Archives: January 2019

Sunnah Wrestling

Salam

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 & Istighatha Clarified

Salam

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.”