Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Orientalist Approach towards the Prophet’s Biography -Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi

Orientalist Approach towards the Prophet’s Biography | ICRAA

Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi
Translated by Waqar Akbar Cheema


Translator’s note:

Though this article was written decades ago it is equally relevant today. The problems that the writings of Carlyle’s ilk can potentially pose are there in the writings of contemporary orientalists like Karen Armstrong and Lesley Hazleton as well. It is hoped that this article will expose to the Muslims the fundamental problems with the writings of the orientalists and the kind of subconscious impressions they can leave on the minds of Muslims not fully aware of the reality of the Orientalist school of thought and its considerations and limitations in an age of widespread, though blatantly mistaken, notions of West’s intellectual superiority.

George Finlay was a prominent British orientalist in the middle of the nineteenth century. He studied at University of Göttingen, Germany completing his M.A. and L.L.B. there. His special interest was the history of Greece. Between 1826 and 1864 he produced a number of works on the history of Greece. In 1844 he published his book ‘Greece under the Romans’ which was for long considered an authoritative reference on the subject. The advent of Islam coincides with the period covered in this work. During the time of the Prophet (ﷺ) Greece was a province of the Roman Empire. Early encounters between Companions of the Prophet (ﷺ) and the Romans happened in Greece, therefore the book mentions Islam and first Muslims.

The author had no particular bias and the book was not written as a polemic against Islam but nevertheless it is work of an orientalist. The forthcoming will show how even the unbiased orientalists presented the facts on Islam in mutilated form and subjected the life of the Prophet (ﷺ) to insinuations, albeit in an indirect way.

That few odd individuals had given up idolatry in favor of monotheism before the advent of the Prophet (ﷺ), the author portrays it as if there was a widespread yearning for change and reform in Arabia already. He writes:

It may be remarked that the Arabs had been gradually advancing in moral and political civilisation during the sixth century, and that their religious ideas had undergone a very great change. The decline of their powerful neighbours had allowed them to increase the importance of the commerce which they retained in their own hands, and its extension gave them more enlarged views of their own importance, and suggested ideas of national unity which they had not previously entertained. These causes had produced powerful effects on the whole of the Arab population during the century which preceded the accession of Heraclius ; and it must not be overlooked that Mahomet himself was born during the reign of Justin II., and that he was educated under the influence of this national excitement.[2]

There can be no greater manifestation of frustration. The author knows the miraculous achievement of the Prophet (ﷺ) and he is wondering how to tone it down. He is confused whether to portray the Prophet’s mission as of religious nature or to present it in merely political terms. He ends up writing what suggests that the Prophet’s mission was originally political in nature namely; to unite the Arabian tribes and to form a national alliance. One can only marvel at such a presentation.

If the objective was just political one wonders what then was the need to come so hard at the cult of idolatry, fight wars to destroy it, present a specific set of beliefs and to determine a new code for worship? Moreover, as a ‘bona fide’ historian, Finlay should have given us at least a few names of the proponents of the political movement for national unity that he suggests had already started in Arabia before the rise of Islam.

If the author meant to say that the movement was religious but its foundations had been laid already even then it would have been great if he could a name a few of those early religious reformers. Perhaps it could then be estimated as to how much the ground had been prepared and to what extent Islam contributed to it. Ibn Hisham etc. could manage to give us the names of four people who had become fed up of the paganism and idolatry and were roaming from to place in search of the true faith of Abraham. Two of them eventually became Christians[3]. One of them kept changing to different religions[4] till his end and only one of them remained firm on the monotheistic creed.[5]

Is this called the preparation of the ground? Which nation or age has not seen such few odd sensible people?

It needs to be seen if the Arabs at large had been receptive to the influence of these odd individuals, or that of Christianity, Judaism or any other religion? Non-affirmative answer to this has been given not only by Muslim historians, even orientalist Muir has said the same. He states:

During the youth of Mohammad, the aspect of the Peninsula was strongly conservative; perhaps never at any previous time was reform more hopeless. Causes are sometimes conjured up to account for results produced by an agent apparently inadequate to effect [sic] them. Mohammad arose, and forthwith the Arabs were aroused to a new and a spiritual faith; hence the conclusion that Arabia was fermenting for the change, and prepared to adopt it. To us, calmly reviewing the past, pre-Islamite history belies the assumption.[6]

Defeat of Heraclius at the hands of the Muslim army is one of the most wonderful events of history. On one side were every kind of logistics, generations of military experience, wealth, and knowledge of the warfare, great army and large quantity of ammunition. On the other side there were a small number with meagre resources of weapons, virtually no knowledge of arts and sciences and sheer dearth of logistics. Yet victory and a manifest victory embraces this second group. The author mentions this in the following words;

While Heraclius was endeavouring to restore the strength of the empire in the East, and enforce unity of religious views, the pursuit of which has ever been one of the greatest errors of the human mind,—Mahomet [sic], by a juster [sic] application of the aspiration of mankind after unity, had succeeded in uniting Arabia into one state, and in persuading it to adopt one religion.[7]

Amazing! When Heraclius who held the crown of a great empire, belonged to a centuries old dynasty, had hoards of wealth, and was surrounded by experts of different fields fails in his efforts it is termed as ‘one of the greatest errors of the human mind.’ But when an illiterate from the wilderness of Arabia, far removed from the centers of civilization and sophistication, impoverished and destitute within a span of few years changes the destiny of nations and revolutionizes not just their beliefs but also their practices no superhuman force is seen behind it, no signs of revelation are traced. Instead, it is naively suggested that he was able to do it simply with ‘a juster application of the aspiration of mankind after unity.’ Is this objective historiography and enlightened scholarship?

These quotes are a good sample of West’s mastery of insinuations about Islam and its Prophet. The author is not a priest or a Christian missionary. He is a historian known for his knowledge. The subject of his work is not polemics on Islam rather it is history of Greece. Islam and its Prophet (ﷺ) are mentioned only as a side-note. Reader passes over the passage without any prior thoughts about the author and finds a mention of the Prophet (ﷺ) of Islam. The mention is without any apparent fault-finding and ridicule rather it has admiration for his achievements. But it presents him not as a true Prophet (ﷺ) or recipient of the divine revelation, not even as holy figure or saint but only as an intelligent and successful leader. Praise for his prophetic achievements is concluded by saying that he made a better judgment of human aspirations. An ordinary gullible Muslim who has already given in to the notions of author’s objective, non-partisan scholarly approach falls for the author’s bid to affect him the way he wants to. Unwittingly, he contents at considering the Prophet (ﷺ) merely as a victor and a statesman. The polemic attacks of a Christian missionaries and a priest are at least blunt and head on, the strikes of an orientalist ‘scholar’ are always covert and catching one unaware he stabs in the back.

Victories in the battlefields are eternal miracles of the Prophet (ﷺ) and an evidence unto the disbelievers. The disbelievers used to ask for evident distinguishing sign (furqan). The evident sign came in the empirical form through victories in the battlefield. Even the most stubborn disbeliever cannot deny these glaring victories. However, the modern day disbeliever despite accepting them tries hard to see them in a different way. Heretic of the old used to dub the miracles as sorcery, modern day disbeliever basks on some innovative terms and tries to feed them to his intellect. Introducing the era of Islamic conquests Finlay states;

Strange as were the vicissitudes in the fortunes of the Persian and Roman empires during the reigns of Chosroes and Heraclius, every event in their records sinks into comparative insignificance, from the mighty influence which their contemporary Mahomet, the Prophet (ﷺ) of Arabia, soon began to exercise on the political, moral, and religious condition of the countries whose possession these sovereigns had so eagerly disputed.[8]

In other words, the miraculous achievements of the Prophet (ﷺ) are acknowledged, it is also accepted that the revolution he set up in no time had no parallel in the mighty empires of Persia and Rome but – and this is the root of all trouble- it is not recognized that all this was due to the merit of his claim to the office of prophethood rather, the suggestion is, it was merely for his ingenuity and intelligence. Finlay writes;

The success of Mahomet as a law giver, among the most ancient nations of Asia, and the stability of his institutions during a long series of generations, and in every condition of social polity, prove that this extraordinary man was formed by a rare combination of the qualities both of a Lycurgus and an Alexander.[9]

It is thus acknowledged that the Prophet (ﷺ) personality was, in ways, superhuman. It is also recognized that that his reforms were wonderful but there is no chance of accepting that he was true in his claims. However, the sole secret of his achievements was, it is suggested, the combination of rare qualities of great conquerors and law-givers. Traditions tells us when Abu Jahl was humbled by miracles and material signs he used to seek refuge from his frustration by saying, ‘this is man is a sorcerer.’ How different is the rejection of prophecy by our days’ ‘enlightened’ from the mentality of Abu Jahl?

Which military general of the world made such great conquests with so meager resources at his disposal? Did Alexander, Napoleon or Genghis do it? Which general had the army displaying such morals as the companions of the Prophet (ﷺ) did? Which conqueror commanded over such righteous and noble men? Which army fought multiple times larger armies fasting during the day-time and praying at night only to seek Allah’s pleasure? Who was the legislator to formulate laws with universal application and due consideration of human needs? Who was the law-giver to uphold the ideals of truth and justice, chastity and nobility, and self-purification above all ad hoc preferences and temporary benefits? Did the author not feel any shame in counting such a noble character among the conquerors and legislators of the world? If this is research and objectivity then wonder what ignorance would be.

Moving on he again acknowledges the greatness of the Prophet’s person and his feats but as if mindful of not affirming to prophethood he further states;

The circumstances of the age in which Mahomet lived, were indeed favourable to his career; they formed the mind of this wonderful man, who has left their impress, as well as that of his own character, on succeeding generations. He was born at a period of visible intellectual decline amongst the aristocratic and governing classes throughout the civilised world. Aspirations after something better than the then social condition of the bulk of mankind, had rendered the inhabitants of almost every country dissatisfied with the existing order of things. A better religion than the paganism of the Arabs was felt to be necessary in Arabia; and, at the same time, even the people of Persia, Syria, and Egypt, required something more satisfactory to their religious feelings than the disputed doctrines which the Magi, Jews, and Christians inculcated as the most important features of their respective religions, merely because they presented the points of greatest dissimilarity.[10]

So, everyone was looking for a “better religion” yet when that “better religion” was presented the whole of Arabia gathered to resist and fight it and everyone turned an enemy to its Prophet. Is this a proof of “aspiration”? Is the said “aspiration” proven by years of bloody conflict and all-out war against the Prophet (ﷺ) of this religion? If Arabia and its environs were really so yearning for a new religion why then they did not readily accept the message? Why did not there rise at least a sizeable group responding positively to his call?[11] Even otherwise, if merely a new call could guarantee success why then Musaylama and Aswad al-Ansi who claimed prophethood in the same years not succeed?

Dr. Finlay could not have been unaware of this evident objection. Perhaps his conscious felt the guilt but the response he gave is even more ironic. He says;

The excitement in the public mind of Arabia, which produced the mission of Mahomet, induced many other prophets to make their appearance during his lifetime. His superior talents, and his clearer perception of justice, and, we may say, truth, destroyed all their schemes.[12]

In a nutshell, all of the Prophet’s qualities shall be acknowledged, his ability, wisdom, foresightedness, personal uprightness, honesty et al. However, what shall not be referred to in any way is that this truthful and able person was true also in his claim to prophethood. And every effort is made to ensure that reader does not give a thought to this belief.

Thomas Carlyle was a man of letters not a historian. He was one of the most well-known writers of the nineteenth century. In 1841 he published his book On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and The Heroic in History. In its various chapters famous people from different fields have been presented as heroes; Shakespeare and Dante from among the poets, Cromwell and Napoleon among the leaders, and likewise, and review of their lives has been presented. One of the chapters is about the Holy Prophet. He is termed as a hero among the prophets and in this backdrop comments are made about his life and Islam.

Evangelic priests have used such a language about the Holy Prophet (ﷺ) that they no more make any mark even in Europe. At least no Muslim would take any effect from their works. Besides these priests, the other orientalist writers are of two types. Firstly there are such who openly call the Holy Prophet (ﷺ) an imposter and make all kinds of allegations against him. Second category is of the writers who appear as harbingers of tolerance, justice, and objectivity and they rather highlight the ‘bright aspects’ of the Prophet’s life-history. Carlyle belongs to this second category. Characteristic style of these writers is; People have defamed such a great personality of the world, it is now the time to remove such notions. We must redress our injustices. Muhammad, the Arabian reformer and the great hero from the East does not deserve the accusations made against him. He was neither a thief, nor deceitful or licentious. He was a great and successful reformer of his age. He changed the destiny of Arabia. He was sincere and truthful. Millions of people hold him in reverence, we must also honor him.

The poor, simple young student and a weak Muslim mostly falls for such a style. He begins to trust the intention and objectivity of the author and starts to mold his thoughts according. And by the time he finishes reading the book in most cases the mental picture of the Prophet (ﷺ) he draws is not of a true Prophet (ﷺ) of Allah or His Messenger to the entire mankind rather only that of a sincere and noble reformer. Carlyle’s essay has this characteristic. The author[13] of this paper has himself experienced this in his college days. The ill-beliefs he developed were not due to some blunt critic of Islam rather it was due to the writings such friend like foes. To conceptualize about the Prophet (ﷺ) in this way is akin to terming the governor of the state as more powerful than a low level administrative staff or a peon. Is this display of respect towards the governor or a ridicule?

Towards the end of his essay Carlyle passionately states;

To the Arab Nation it was as a birth from darkness into light; Arabia first became alive by means of it. A poor shepherd people, roaming unnoticed in its deserts since the creation of the world: a Hero-Prophet was sent down to them with a word they could believe: see, the unnoticed becomes world-notable, the small has grown world-great; within one century afterwards, Arabia is at Grenada on this hand, at Delhi on that;[14]

The pagans of Arabia sought after material signs only. They always asked for ‘tangible’ miracles. Same mentality prevails in the West. Their best minds and intellectuals cannot go beyond recognizing that an illiterate united the whole country, defeated empires of the world and who performed such material and tangible feats. If he is not to be accepted as a statesman and great intellectual what else is to be done then? Gist of the above quote from Carlyle is that the Prophet (ﷺ) actualized a great revolution in Arabia. When an unknowing, and unwitty Muslim youth rattled by Carlyle’s fame reads this paragraph he praises Carlyle’s enlightened and just nature. Moreover, his conception of the Prophet’s greatness gets capped as that of great reformer who brought the Arabs out of the veils of ignorance and made turned them into world leaders. From beginning of the essay to the end Islam is the ‘religion of Muhammad’. As if a brainchild of the Prophet (ﷺ) it has nothing to with divine revelation.

See a few selected examples of what he wrote in favor of the Prophet;

But of a Great Man especially, of him I will venture to assert that it is incredible he should have been other than true. It seems to me the primary foundation of him, and of all that can lie in him, this. No Mirabeau, Napoleon, Burns, Cromwell, no man adequate to do anything, but is first of all in right earnest about it; what I call a sincere man. I should say sincerity, a deep, great, genuine sincerity, is the first characteristic of all men in any way heroic.[15]

So you see the reality of Prophet’s sincerity and truth? It’s not that he was true in his claim to prophethood, in fact just like Napoleon and Cromwell etc. were true and committed to their ventures, the Prophet’s intent was likewise free of deceit and falsehood. He faithfully did what he felt like and what he believed at heart. His word and his heart were not averse to each other.

This Mahomet, then, we will in no wise consider as an Inanity and Theatricality, a poor conscious ambitious schemer; we cannot conceive him so. The rude message he delivered was a real one withal; an earnest confused voice from the unknown Deep … Neither can the faults, imperfections, insincerities even, of Mahomet, if such were never so well proved against him, shake this primary fact about him.[16]

Carlyle’s sympathy for Islam is now evident to you? This was still not his best. The real specimens of the filth he uttered are yet to come. It is not to say that he meant to misguide Muslims. Perhaps he never thought his book will be read by Muslims. The question is not of his intentions rather it’s about the effects his writings have. Whatever his intention may be; even if it was genuinely to remove blame from the Prophet (ﷺ), whatever may be the case, the fact is his writings dim the grandeur and greatness of prophethood from one’s heart. His reader goes farther from believing in prophecy. The large number of youth who are becoming averse to religion today, their journey starts from the writings of such authors.

After leaving the impression of his sympathy for Islam, this is what he says about the word of Allah- Qur’an;

A wearisome confused, jumble, crude, incondite; endless iterations, long-windedness, entanglement; most crude, incondite; insupportable stupidity, in short! Nothing but a sense of duty could carry any European through the Koran.[17]

This is the opinion of one of the intellectuals from the intellectuals of Europe about your holy Book which has remained and will continue to remain unmatched by any other scripture in its spiritual, literal and ethical content. How did he develop this opinion? Not after reading the Qur’an but after reading its English translation done by a priest. Further, it is not a direct translation even, it is English rendering of a Latin translation. It is, however, not clear if the Latin translation was direct or if it was in turn based on some other translation. This is the wisdom and objectivity of the Western intellectuals. They base such firm opinions on second hand indirect translations and that too done by those adverse to Islam and yet they so adamantly propagate their views. Justice demanded laying to rest any suggestion of Carlyle’s wisdom, fairness and mental stability after reading such an irresponsible opinion. But with rattled and borrowed mind Muslim youth thinks to himself that such a great thinker and well established scholar’s opinion must have some basis at least- and this is the real strife (fitna) of Westernized education, Western culture and West’s overlordship.

Such light had come, as it could, to illuminate the darkness of this wild Arab soul. A confused dazzling splendor as of life and Heaven, in the great darkness which threatened to be death: he called it revelation and the angel Gabriel;—who of us yet can know what to call it?[18]

In other words, a reformer found an illumination on his heart and he decided to call it ‘revelation’ and named the angel Gabriel. There is no direct charge of being an imposter rather there is acknowledgement of his sincerity and good faith but implicitly the refutation of Prophet’s claim is all over.

The blasphemous and evil comments he made about Qur’an are not required to be reproduced here. What has been shown as a sample is enough. Since they are already convinced of and rattled by the names of Western authors our youth take effect of their ‘profound research.’ They do not even consider the possibility of these writers going wrong. Instead this is how the thoughts shape up: ‘When such impartial and objective writers despite their sympathetic approach towards Islam reach these conclusions there must be some truth to it. It seems the ideas and stories we have heard from our family and society till now are actually fairy tales. There must be some serious issues and evident problems with the Qur’an that such an intelligent mind did not miss them and had to recognize the truth.’

This is how Western writers likes Carlyle and Gibbon are far more dangerous than open polemicists like Rajpal[19]. Seeing the vulgarities of Rajpal etc. a namesake Muslim will also boil in rage and he will get ready to defend his faith. But once a person reads Carlyle etc. considering them impartial the defense mechanism is not activated and a sudden covert attack on the belief system takes the faith away. If someone attacks with a naked sword one can easily draw his own sword to fight back but who can defend himself against a ‘friend’ who presents a poisoned drink?

— This article also appeared in Monthly Al-Balagh, Karachi (December, 2015) 15-26


Daryabadi in his autobiography states how he was, in his youth, lead to heresy;

A priest, a follower of Arya Samaj (a Hindu extremist movement), or any open adversary of Islam had no sway over me as such. If I was affected, then it was by the more insidious and hidden adversaries; their knowledge and intellectual endowment, their immaculate research and scrutiny, with claims of impartiality and objectivity on their tongues. But, wittingly or unwittingly within they continued to inject this slow poison [of doubt]. And, a simple and nubile reader, without his defences on alert continued to be engulfed by their writings and thought. My mind was already completely enamoured by the greatness and reverence of knowledge of intellectuals and grey-beards of the West. And, their every word, every utterance beyond reproach and above doubt.[20]

References & Notes:

[1] This paper “Seerat-i-Nabawi aur Ulema-i-Farang” is taken from a collection of Daryabadi’s articles about the Holy Prophet (ﷺ) titled, “Sultan-i-Maa Muhammad” (Lahore: Dar al-Tazkir, 2006) 85-101

[2] Finlay, George, Greece under the Romans, (London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1857) 397

[3] They were Waraqa bin Nawfal and ‘Uthman bin al-Huwayrith

[4] He was ‘Úbaydullah bin Jahsh who first shunned idolatry, then became a Muslim then turned apostate and died as a Christian in Abyssinia

[5] He was Zayd bin ‘Amr bin Nufayl. He died before the Prophet (ﷺ) proclaimed the message.

[6] Muir, William, The Life of Mohammad, (Edinburgh: John Grant, 1923) xcvii

[7] Finlay, George, Greece under the Romans, 423

[8] ibid., 436

[9] ibid., 436-437

[10] ibid., 437-438

[11] Karen Armstrong repeats the same flawed assertion refuted by Daryabadi. In her work, Islam: A Short History; she writes, “There was also spiritual restlessness in Mecca and throughout the peninsula.” (p.3) and “but there was a growing tendency to worship only one God” (p.7)

[12] Finlay, George, Greece under the Romans, 438

[13] Refers to the author; Abdul Majid Daryabadi. See a quote from his autobiography, ‘Aap Beeti’ in the addendum.

[14] Carlyle, Thomas, On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and The Heroic in History, 75

[15] ibid., 44

[16] ibid., 45

[17] ibid., 63

[18] ibid., 56

[19] Mahashay Rajpal was a Hindu publisher who published a blasphemous book about the Holy Prophet (ﷺ) in 1927. He was eventually slain by Ghazi Ilm-ud-Din Shaheed.

[20] Daryabadi, Abdul Majid, Aap Beeti, (Karachi: Majlis Nashriyat Islam, 1996) 243

Published : July 16, 2014                 Last modified : December 24th, 2015

Monday, September 23, 2019

Does Islam Favour Men Over Women in Inheritance laws?

Does Islam Favour Men Over Women in Inheritance laws?
-Sh Mohammed Osman


Linguistically, the word irth means a estate that is transferred from person to person. It can also mean ‘an aged affair’ or ‘remnants’. Its technical, jurisprudential meaning has been defined by the Hanbali jurist Afdhal al-Deen al-Khunji as, “A right which can divided to those legislatively entitled to it, after the passing of the deceased, due to qarābah (familial closeness) or that which is similar to it.”i

For the most part, the legislative laws that act as the foundation for inheritance are defined in textual sources from both the Qur’an and ahādith, leaving little room for any independent interpretation.

The Mechanisms of Islamic Inheritance

The rulings of inheritance observe a number of criteria in determining the allocated shares each party receives.

Firstly, the proximity (qarābah) or remoteness of the heirs is considered. For example, the daughter of the deceased inherits half the estate than her grandmother would, whereas the deceased’s father is entitled to only a fourth.

Secondly, the Sharī’ah seeks to observe the generational position of the heirs. For example, a daughter will inherit more than her grandmother, yet both are females. Likewise, a daughter will inherit half of her father’s estate, whilst the deceased’s father is only deserving of the unclaimed remainder of the estate.

Thirdly, the financial burden and obligations of the heirs are taken into account. It is this third criteria that results in the usual difference in respective shares. As discussed previously in the meaning of the qiwāmah, the financial responsibility upon a husband is considered from amongst the foremost rights of the wife, and indeed the greater family as a whole, including other dependents for whom the man serves as the primary provider. At the same time, the wife is entitled to her husband’s wealth (without his permission in certain cases), whereas she has complete autonomy with her own wealth and shares none of the financial responsibilities meted out to the husband.

Down To The Facts

An exhaustive reading (istiqrā’) within various jurisprudential compendiums – avoiding minute, valid differences amongst the mathāhib – presents the following scenarios of inheritance:

1. There exist only four scenarios in which a female inherits half that of a male (of equal position).
For example:
a. The presence of a daughter and a son, or indeed a granddaughter and grandson, in which case the son (or grandson) will inherit twice as much as the daughter (granddaughter), outlined in the verse, “Allah instructs you concerning your children: for the male, what is equal to the share of two females” [4:11].
b. The deceased father and mother being the only inheritors, without spouses or children. Regarding this case, Allah says, “But if he [i.e. the deceased] had no children and the parents (alone) inherit from him, then for his mother is one-third” [4:11]. Thus, one-third is reserved for the mother, whilst the father will receive two-thirds.

2. At least eleven scenarios where a female inherits the same share as a male.
For example:
a. The inheritance of a mother and father, with the presence of the deceased son. In this case, both the mother and father will inherit one-sixth, whilst the son will receive the remainder of the estate.
b. A scenario termed al-Mushtarikah, in which the husband, mother, two maternal sisters, and her full brother remain. The husband will inherit one-half, the mother one-sixth, and both maternal sisters and the full brother will inherit one-third divided equally amongst them.

3. Sixteen scenarios in which a female inherits more than a male. This is because Islamic inheritance relies upon two main mechanisms. The first is inheritance via a fixed portion due to specific individuals (providing relevant conditions are fulfilled). This is termed ashāb al-furudh and is specified in the Qur’an and Prophetic tradition. These fixed portions are as follows: two-thirds, one-third, one-sixth, one-half, one-quarter, and one-eighth. The second mechanism is inheritance due to other than the specific individuals specified from the ashāb al-furudh; these heirs are referred to as ‘asabah. The ‘asabah have no specific share.

We can thus deduce the following (notwithstanding the relevant conditions for each type of heir):
a. The largest share from the fixed portions are two-thirds, and this has been specified for women alone (in specific: four types of women).
b. Half of an estate is reserved for four types of women, in comparison to only one male (a husband).
c. One-third is due to two types of women: a mother, and maternal sisters.
d. One-sixth is due to five types of women and only three types of men. e. One-fourth is reserved for a wife and likewise for a husband.
f. One-eighth is also reserved for a wife alone. Thus, seventeen out of twenty-three fixed portions are due to women and, as shown above, they duly inherit more than males.

4. Five scenarios in which females inherit, and males do not inherit anything at all.
For example, in the presence of a husband and full sister, the paternal sister will inherit 14.3%, whereas the paternal brother is not entitled to anything.ii


We have shown that the Islamic laws of inheritance are incredibly detailed and exhaustive. The 19th century professor of law Almaric Rumsey wrote:
The Mohammadan law of inheritance comprises, beyond question, the most refined and elaborate system of rules for the devolution of property that is known to the civilized world, and its beauty and symmetry are such that it is worthy to be studied, not only by lawyers with a view to its practical application, but for its own sake, and by those who have no other object in view than their intellectual culture and gratification.iii

This is in stark contrast to the Western tradition in which women in general, and married women in specific, had virtually no right to intestate succession. Until the end of the sixteenth century, women were denied the right to inherit property.iv

The Islamic position is also favourable when compared with other ancient world religions, such as Judaism, in which emphasis is largely placed on the care of the widow, with very few scenarios in which she or other female members have a right to inherit. This is notwithstanding the fact that Islam legislated the inheritance of freed bondsmen and women and ensured their right to the former owner’s estate (known as walā). This particular area offers an interesting scope for further research, and particularly from the angle of the maqāsid (higher aims and objective of the Sharī’ah) in inheritance as a whole.

It is within the larger picture of the intricate system of Islamic finance that contextualisation represents a vital step towards understanding the rulings of inheritance, rather than superficial and shallow attempts (intentional or not) at representing the breadth and diversity present therein.


i Al-Mawsu’ah al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kuwaitiyyah. Wazarat al-Awqaf wash Shu’un al-Islamiyyah- Kuwait. 3/17.
ii Salah al-deen Sultan. Mirath almar’ah wa qadhaiyyh al-musawah. 1999. Nahdha Misr. See also: Shalabi, Muhammad Mustapha. Ahkam al-mawarith beyna al-fiqh wa’l Qanun. Maktabah al-Nasr. 1992.
iii Almaric Rumsey, Moohummudan Law of Inheritance and right and relations affecting it: Sunni Doctrine, 3rd ed. (London: W.H. Allen, 1880) as cited in Alshankiti, Asma. A Doctrinal and Law and Economics Justification of the Treatment of Women in Islamic Inheritance Laws. Masters Thesis. 2012. University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.
iv Mary F. Radford, The Inheritance Rights of Women Under Jewish and Islamic Law, 23 B.C. Int'l & Comp. L. Rev. 135 (2000),

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Difference between “not from sunnah” and “against the sunnah” by Mufti Taqi Usmani

Difference between “not from sunnah” and “against the sunnah”


There is a matter that most people do not understand. An act’s “not being from sunnah” is one thing and its being “against sunnah” is another. These two are different. For instance, using electronic appliances is not from sunnah. Now if a person says using electricity or using electric fan is “against sunnah” it will be wrong.

An act shall be termed as “against the sunnah” if the Messenger of Allah ﷺ had advised doing it even if only as a recommendation (mustahab). In such a case if a person leaves that act and does otherwise it shall be “against the sunnah.” And whatever act will be “against sunnah” it will be reprehensible (makruh) at least.

But if there is something that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ did not do and a person does that it shall not be termed as something “against the sunnah.” For instance, it is reported in a hadith that never was a well baked thin-bread (khubz) prepared for the Messenger of Allah ﷺ nor did he eat it in a small plate (sukrujah)[1]. It does not mean eating thin-bread or eating it in a small plate is “against sunnah.” Rather, it shall be said that the act is “not from sunnah” and an act’s being “not from sunnah” does not necessitate its being “against the sunnah” … Therefore, everything should be understood in its due context and it is not right to exaggerate it.

— Usmani, Muhammad Taqi, Taqrir Tirmidhi, (Karachi: Memon Books, 1999) Vol.2, 361-362
[1] Sahih Bukhari, Hadith 5386, 5415

Monday, September 9, 2019

What Prophet Muhammad ﷺ changed in society (socio-political reforms):

What Prophet Muhammad ﷺ changed in society (socio-political reforms):

1.Equality. Made rulers & common man, rich & poor, slaves & masters stand as equals.

2.Made it lawful for slave masters to marry slaves. Something that USA only achieved in 1967.

3.Banned interest based exploitation. India banned bonded labour in 1976.

4.Successful ban on female infanticide. Something that India is still not able to achieve.

5.Inheritance, ownership & business rights for women. 

6.Marriage based on consent & mutually agreed socio-legal contract, with dowry compulsorily given by the man to the woman.

7.Divorce. A step by step way of dealing with failed marriages including provision for divorce, which is not present in any other religion.

8.Removed priests from power. Before the Islamic revolution in Arabia the idols of the Kaaba held the power. The priests who held the keys to Kaaba controlled the population. Islam connected the People with God directly without any need for intermediaries.

9.Made charity compulsory on all Muslims except the poor.

10.Made justice equal for all races, castes, classes & tribes. This is a relatively new concept as there were always different scales of justice for nobles and slaves, Brahmans and non Brahmans.
Made judiciary independent of the rulers and even the legislative power is in the hands of independent jurists and legal experts who have the power to interpret the Shariat laws. Even the parliament or supreme court cannot take away the rights given to the people in the Shariat laws. This is unique from even the modern democratic systems where any party with brute majority in parliament can amend the constitution and take away the guaranteed rights as they please even against the will of the affected people.

11.No dictatorship. Rulers to be chosen by free selection process based on pure merit.

12.Autonomy to religious minorities. Non-muslims are free to manage their Cultural, Social and Religious affairs according to their own beliefs and to choose their own representatives. This concept was unique in history, till recently.

13.Promoted universal education for all men and women, including the poor and the slaves.

14.End to all superstitions, which freed people from getting exploited by priests, fake clergy, babas & gurus.

15.Promoted a simple and natural way of life and strongly discouraged lavish and luxurious living and prohibited wastage of resources.

16.Taught responsible usage of natural resources and prohibited polluting them.

17.Prohibition of alcohol. Many countries have tried and failed, including USA.

18.Humanised the battlefield by prohibiting killing of non-combatants, forbade destruction of trees and crops and other strict code of conduct. In all the battles fought by the prophet ﷺ in his entire life when he conquered the entire Arabia, only a few hundreds were killed in wars from both sides!

If anyone in today's world can achieve even one of the above reforms that person will be seen as a great reformer worthy of all the praise and awards in this world. 

Lamartine, the renowned historian speaking on the essentials of human greatness wonders:

"If greatness of purpose, smallness of means and astounding results are the three criteria of human genius, who could dare to compare any great man in modern history with Muhammad?"
"Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational dogmas, of a cult without images, the founder of twenty terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire, that is MUHAMMAD. As regards all the standards by which Human Greatness may be measured, we may well ask, IS THERE ANY MAN GREATER THAN HE?" (Lamartine, HISTOIRE DE LA TURQUIE, Paris, 1854, Vol. II, pp 276-277)

MICHAEL H. HART in his recently published book on ratings of men who contributed towards the benefit and upliftment of mankind writes:
"My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world's most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels." (M.H. Hart, THE 100: A RANKING OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL PERSONS IN HISTORY, New York, 1978, p. 33)

Wednesday, September 4, 2019


Some Muslims, who insist on calling themselves “feminists”, often complain that when other Muslims criticise the values and concepts behind the Feminism, this is only the mainstream (and origin) of Feminism, “Western Feminism”, and they say this is a different feminism from “their” feminism.

This is because they have taken the word Feminism (from the West) and then amongst themselves re-defined it their way, and called it “Muslim Feminism”, which they claim doesn’t take the same values as “Western Feminism”. These “Muslim Feminists” then complain that those criticising Feminism shouldn’t generalise feminism! ( #NotAllFeminists …)

“Muslim Feminists” then claim that despite its origins, original meanings, mainstream Western understandings, large preponderance of Western scholars, activists and philosophers, that “Muslim Feminism”, as their small coterie of followers have chosen to define, doesn’t contradict Islam and therefore shouldn’t be resisted by Muslims.

Muslims hearing this then wonder what’s the point of taking a Western term, with a mainstream global following, intellectuals and activists, and pre-existing understanding, and superimposing it on Islam, when Islam is accepted by all Muslims to be self-sufficient? Indeed, wouldn’t it act only to provide confusion?

Unfortunately, when Muslims point out all these issues, “Muslim Feminists” react angrily and use defensive tactics like responding “Why are you against rights for Muslim women?!” Which is as fallacious an accusation as being told “why are you against the rights of poor people and the working class?!” just because you criticise Communism…

Furthermore, using unIslamic ideologically loaded labels, could possibly provide an entry for unIslamic ideas, as Muslims calling themselves “Feminists” then bump into the mainstream (Western) understanding, which also labels itself as Feminism (and as vastly more literature and history).

On the other side of the coin, another problem so-called “Muslim Feminists” encounter, is that in the West, Westerners don’t call Feminism as “Western Feminism”, they simply call it “Feminism”. And why not? They invented it. They defined it. And ALL schools of thought within Feminism agree with the minimal definition of the Secular liberal (and also Communist) formula that Feminism means “equal rights for women” – by which they mean gender identicality under law. However, while Islam believes that the souls of men and women have equal value in the eyes of God, Islamic law doesn’t posit identical gender roles or obligations.

The difference between Islam and mainstream Feminism become highlighted when these so-called “Muslim feminists” appear on TV, or hold talks and conferences where mainstream “Western” feminists turn up and challenge them on Islam’s contradictions with mainstream (original) Feminism. Points raised by Feminists include the idea of head of the family, inheritance, lack of identical rights, and the gender roles of women and men in families, as well as gender differences in political/military responsibilities – leading to “Muslim Feminists” being put on the spot and desperately obfuscating at best, or obsequiously placating “Western” Feminists with “reinterpretations” of Islam at worst.

In order to avoid scrutiny from Western mainstream society into the details of “Muslim Feminism”, some “Muslim Feminists” use diversion tactics, like complaining that they’re having their “definition” of “feminism” being imposed upon by “Western Feminism” advocated by “white people” and “colonialists”.

Sadly, the irony is that it is actually the “Muslim Feminists” who have been already colonialised in thought, as evidences by the fact they desperately sought to borrow Western terms and ideological labels like “Feminism” to make themselves look respectable and gain currency for themselves in the first place!

These Muslims cling with all their might to the term “feminism”, because they wish to use Western language in their causes in order to gain currency for then – regardless of whether or not these terms carry pre-existing and well known unIslamic connotations and ideological baggage!

But as everybody knows, if you use the currency of a country, you surrender to them the right to determine its value – and eventually, you end up paying for it.

As famously (allegedly) narrated of Jesus in the New Testament, when in the Holy Temple, He (SAAW) was (allegedly) asked by his opponents about whether devout Jews should pay taxes to the pagan emperor in Rome, whose Empire was occupying the lands of the Jews:

‘Should we pay or shouldn’t we?” But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.”They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him’ [Mark 12:15-17].

An amazing response indeed, because the people had gladly accepted the coin and currency of their dominator (even in their holy Temple), but hypocritically quibbled on paying taxes to him to make themselves look good.

Falsehood belongs to humans, and anything taken from them should be returned, but to God belongs everything in the heavens and the earth – including human affairs, law, rights and duties.

Therefore in response, we must hold up the proverbial Roman denarius and ask “Muslim Feminists”:

 “Who coined the term Feminism, stamped their image upon it, and originated it – which you use for currency?

They’ll sheepishly admit: “The West”

Say: “Give back to the West, what belongs to the West, and give unto God what belongs to God”

‘Do they then seek the judgement of [those in] Ignorance? And who is better in judgement than Allah for a people who have firm Faith’
[QURAN, al-Maa’idah 5:49-50]


Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Women's rights through Islam & not feminism:

Women's rights with out feminism:
-Ustadha Fatima Barkatulla (UK)

I care about the rights of women (and men). I also care about the responsibilities of women (and men).
Had a discussion yesterday with someone about why I choose not to use the language of feminism to discuss women's rights. Feminism is an ideology: a system of ideas and ideals. Feminism has its architects, ideologues and its own language. Words such as 'patriarchy', 'misogyny', 'toxic masculinity', etc are ideological words and are loaded.

Some Muslim women use them and add their own meanings to them, but they are part of an ideology outside of Islam.

Psychoanalyst Carl Jung said something along the lines of: "People don’t have ideas; ideas have people."

Question is: which set of ideas do you as a Muslim belong to? Which ideals? What is the source of our ideals and our values? It is Islam and the sources of Islam.

Islam has its own framework for correcting oppression, it has its own ideals regarding men and women and the best way for them to live in this world. And therefore Islam contains within it, all that we need to correct any oppression that exists within the Muslim community.

Feminism - on the other hand is a set of ideals that originated in the minds of a few human ideologues. Many of those ideologues ended up regretting/changing their minds about things they held as facts and truths. They were/are fallible and limited and frankly make mistakes.

Feminism will never be happy with the fact that God chose male prophets, that the majority of the most influential scholars of Islam were men, that the man is the head of the family, that a woman requires a Wali to get married...because it is intrinsically suspicious of men. It cannot accept that men and women are different and not the same. God doesn't come into the picture when it comes to feminism.

For the Muslim, God is everything. God is the source of our understanding regarding the rights and responsibilities of men and women.

So as my friend Zara Faris points out: Feminism is one response out of many, to the question of women's rights, just as capitalism or communism are responses to the question of the economy.

Islam is our response to the question of women's rights.

So even when we see injustice in our communities, as Muslims we need not invoke feminism and its idols to fight that injustice.

We need to invoke the Qur'an and Sunnah. We need to be knowledgeable and win arguments through correct thinking, educating and reasoning with others.

When women are prevented from mosques, we need to understand that social and cultural reasons have led to this becoming the norm in some cultures.
We tell them that Allah's messenger s.said:
"Do not prevent the female servants of Allah from the Houses of Allah" (Bukhari & Muslim)

This is what the sahabiyat - the female disciples did! When Umar was trying to limit dowries a lady stood up and quoted the Quran to him - that he had no right to limit dowries...

As Muslims we rectify each other via the authority of the Qur’an and Sunnah, not via mere social pressures & attitudes dictated to us by ideologies outside of the guidance of Islam.

Issues with feminist terms like 'patriarchy': Its definition according to Oxford Dictionary: "A system of society or government in which the father or eldest male is head of the family and descent is reckoned through the male line."

By that definition Feminists would regard Islam as patriarchal.
As Muslims we do not accept the premise that 'patriarchal' or men being in charge or in positions of leadership and power is intrinsically bad. Prophets who were chosen by God as leaders and guides for humanity were men. Men are the protectors of women, guardians of women.

The Prophets came to establish the guidance of Allah and justice in society. not to remove so-called 'patriarchy' per se. Some or much of that guidance would never be accepted by feminist ideologues as being in line with feminism.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Attending Gatherings where sinful acts are being done:

Attending Gatherings where sinful acts are being done:

Having been invited to a Walima feast, Abdullah bin Masud رضى الله عنه went to attend it. When he reached there and saw the acts of disobedience and absurdities being committed he instantly turned back. On being asked the reason, he narrated the following saying of the Holy Prophet:
من كثرسوادقوم فھومنھم, ومن رضى عمل قوم كان
شريكاً من عمل به- 
“He who increased the number of a people shall be counted from among them. And if a person is pleased with an act of a people he shall be regarded as their partner in that act. 
(Reported by Abu Yala (in his Musnad), Nasbur Rayah vol. 4 p.346, Kanzul Ummal vol. 9 p.22 No24735, Jamiul-Masanid wal Sunan vol. 27p.308)

Abdullah Ibn Mubarak mentioned a similar incident of Hazrat Abu Dhar Ghaffari رضي الله ﺗﻌﺎﻟﯽٰ عنه in his book al-Zuhd wal- Riqaq almost in the same words. 

These narrations establish it well that taking part in the gatherings assembled for committing sins, bidaat and disbelief amounts to inviting the wrath from Allah. This is a general rule which doubtlessly includes the religious functions and festivities of the disbelieving people.