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Fundamental Causes of Disunity (Part 3)

Oct 1, 2010, 12:43 PM

Viewpoints regarding the genesis of madhahib

The different viewpoints about the genesis of these madhahib can be divided in two major stances:


The first stance is that of the Salafis, or those who maintain loyalty to the Pious Predecessors (salaf-e salih) and believe that the genesis of that madhahib in Islam is an innovation (bid 'ah). The current leaders of this group are the Wahhabis. One of their leaders by the name Shaykh Nasir al-Din Albani has written a book about innovations that exist even within the madhahib of the Ahl al-Sunnah. In this he declares any fatwa (legal opinion) that does not suit his own taste as an innovation.

They are of the belief that the Islam of today should be identical to the Islam of the time of the prophet(s), the companions and the Pious Predecessors, when no madhahib, path, or differences had yet appeared. Anything that has came to be after that time is an innovation.

The second group holds the belief that the development of madhahib is a positive event. However, this group as well errs in that they typically have chosen madhhab in place of religion, asserting that anyone who opposes the roots and branches of the madhhab is in fact opposing the religion.

This second view is in direct opposition to the first. The first viewpoint states that no madhhab should exist since it is an innovation, whereas the second states that my madhhab is the scale by which religion is measured and whoever disagrees with my sect is in fact disagreeing with Islam.

Given the above, which one of these two opinions should we adopt? Which represents the truth?

We can not take the view that madhahib are contrary to the nature of Islam. The Quran says:

Do they not contemplate the Quran...? (Q. 47:24) and... Why should not there go forth a group from each of their sections to become learned in religion... (Q. 9: 122)

The Quran's primary goal is to call its readers to thought, comprehension (fahm), and fiqh (deep understanding). Is it not the case that in its general meaning, tafaqquh (becoming learned) in the dimensions of beliefs, practice, and akhlaq necessarily requires thought, deduction (istinbat), and ijtihad (intellectual effort to drive legal conclusions)?

Indeed it may be said Islam itself has laid the foundations of ijtihad and forming one's own opinion. Therefore Islam must allow for difference of opinion to a reasonable extent. This is because it is not possible for the Quran on one hand to command us towards tafaqquh in religion, and on the other hand for any matter that arises to declare, "Say this, and nothing else."

Fortunately scholars of all sects believe that in fundamental (daruri) issues there is no room for ijtihad and taqlid. However, such fundamentals can be and have been used as a basis for ijtihad in non-fundamental issues. It is important here to remind ourselves those issues in Islam belonging to all the three spheres fall within three categories. One category consists of the fundamental issues, the same issues belonging to the spheres of jurisprudence, akhlaq, and beliefs that during the time of the prophet and the Pious Predecessors existed in a general, summary form but at no point came under scrutiny or study. For example, never did the question arise, is the speech of God uncreated and external (qadim) or created and temporal (hadith)? Are the Divine Attributes separate from or identical with the Divine Essence? Such questions were not even posed. All that was discussed was that the one God has been described with those attributes that have been mentioned in the Quran.

However as the Islamic sciences advanced and such questions arose in the Islamic world, what ought to have been done? Is it correct to say that no discussion should have taken place at all?

The result of restricting such discussions is that all of Islamic heritage in all its spheres would be left aside. That wound mean that the extensive fiqh (jurisprudence) of the madhahib should be erased, because in the earliest era of Islamic history there was no fiqh. There were only the Quran and the Sunnah. In the theological sphere as well, all the research of the different madhahib should be abolished, because too came to exist anew. The same would be done in the sphere of akhlaq as well.

If the past scholars of the Islamic world had also considered every new thought and methodology to be an innovation, would it be expected for someone of the likes of Ghazzali to come about in the last part of the fifth century and produce books in all of the Islamic sciences such as fiqh, usul (principles of Islamic jurisprudence), theology, and akhlaq? Or would it have being possible for someone like Shaykh Tusi to appear in the same century?... or would Ibn Taymiyyah and his student Ibn Qayyim, the founders of Salafi thought, have arisen In the 8th century? Didn't they make use of the knowledge of previous centuries in compiling and writing their own views?

The invalidity of such views is blatant. Islam itself has encouraged ijtihad, reflection, and contemplation [in verses containing]: a fala ta qilun (do you not apply reason?) and a fala tatafakkarun (do you not reflect?), and so in must permit the people to think about different issues. Of course there are conditions on how to go about the process of deriving opinion that have been stipulated elsewhere. We must be aware of God as Omnipresent and All-Seeking when presenting our opinion.

Ijtihad must exist, and its existence necessitates differing paths and tendencies, all of which are mercy [from God]. Of course different madhabib should not be seized upon for political purposes, as has unfortunately been the case. Differences are necessary for reaching the truth, and until we have not arrives at this truth, differences will exist and are laudable. Only those sorts of differences that exist even after the truth is made clear are reproachable:

(...after the manifest proofs had come to them...) Q. 2:213

Differences in and of themselves are not the cause of discord. There is no end to the amount of difference of opinion that can be found in the scientific world, in disciplines such as physics, chemistry, and medicine. Why then is difference of opinion in fiqh, kalam, and other Islamic sciences problematic? These types of differences should not be the cause of discord, hatred, and the shedding of blood! They only begin when political forces side with one opinion and promote it as part of advancing their own political strategy.

Third Cause of Disunity: Ethnicity and Nationality.

Islam accepts nationalities and ethnicities to a reasonable, normal extent:

(.....Indeed we created you from a male and female, and made you nations and tribes that you may identify yourselves with one another....) Q. 49:13.

The creation [of human beings] is based on tribes and nation. However lita arafu (so that you may identify yourselves) means that different tribes and nations should be friendly with one another and have mutual ties, not that they should deny one other. However, when one of these ethnicities falls prey to ta assub (prejudice), they act contrary to Islam and the Quran, as seen in the statement of the Prophet(s):

One who summons to prejudice is not from among us:

But unfortunately, throughout history, and particularly in the present century, this matter has had extremely negative effects in the Islamic world.

Colonial powers have understood all two well how to unwind the thread that ties together Arabs, Turks, Persians, Kurds, Lurs, non-Arabs, and others under the banner of one Islamic ummah. That is why they appealed to nationalism, especially Arab nationalism, which was a blow, the entire Islamic world has felt. The following slogan was written on one of the squares in Cairo (judgment belongs to Allah and might belongs to the Arabs) whereas God says:

(....all might belong to Allah and His Apostle, and the faithful....) Q.63:8

There is no preference for any ethnicity over another, and the only cause for preference is taqwa (God wariness). I would like to bring my discussion to an end and embellish these words with a verse from the Noble Quran:

Hold fast, all together, to Allah's cord, and do not be divided [into sects]. And remember Allah’s blessing upon you when you were enemies, then He brought your hearts together, so you become brothers with His blessing .... Q. 3: 103

The end