Monday, March 18, 2019


MY OP ED ON CHRISTCHURCH MASSACRE: One paragraph ( below) is missing and will be added :
"Some want us to believe that white supremacism has been a reaction to and wouldn't exist if there was no Islamist terrorism. While there is a link between the two, we should not forget that white supremacism existed much earlier and that its victims both in the recent and not so recent past have been Jewish and African American communities".

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Using Progressive Muslim Thought to Take Down Patriarchy

the very exciting new issue of Tikkum Olam on "Beyond Patriarchy" is out ' ( with a contribution of my own on "Using Progressive Muslim Thought to Take Down Patriarchy" )....I highly recommend this magazine to all progressive minded people:

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Ḥadith at the Time of Shafiʾi, Ahmed Ibn Ḥanbal and Beyond:Nature,Extent and Importance

 The increase in volume and importance of Ḥadith in the theological and legal interpretation of the Qurʾān and Sunnah induced in the coming generations a frame-of mind in which it was expected that “ever new Ḥadith should continue to come into existence in new situations to face novel problems—social, moral, religious.” The champion and proponent of this Ḥadith-based Qurʾānico-Sunnahic hermeneutic was Shafiʾi. Shafiʾi’s insistence on Sunnah being only in a written form with an authentic isnād going (in most cases) back to the Prophet diminished the value of the ijtihād–ijmāʿ element inherent in the concept of ʿamal- and oral-based Sunnah, and its overall importance in evolution of legal hermeneutic development, and substituted it with that of Ḥadith-based one.126 Noticing this conceptual shift in Sunnah, Rahman asserts that:

Whereas Sunnah was largely and primarily a practical phenomenon, geared as it was to behavioural norms, Ḥadith became the vehicle not only of legal norms but of religious beliefs and principles as well.

In other words, the largely ʿamal-based, ethico-religious or value-objectivebased and non-written-dependent concept of Sunnah that existed at the time of the first three generations of Muslims now became increasingly viewed as being qualitatively and quantitatively identical to specific, edified and static view of the Sunnah as reflected in proliferating Ḥadith. This process was, however, not entirely complete. Shafiʾi madhhab indeed differed from the ʿahl-ul-hadith movement (as well as Ḥanafi and Maliki madhhab) spear-headed by Ahmed ibn Ḥanbal on several hermeneutic principles so that the former was described as semi-traditionalist whilst latter was referred to as traditionalist. Maliki and Ḥanafi madhahīb were usually referred to as rationalist.

Ibn Ḥanbal, the major proponent of ʿahl-ul-ḥadith movement’s purely Ḥadith-based Sunnahic hermeneutic restricted the scope of non-textual and non-literal interpretations of the Sunnah (and the Qurʾān) which still featured to some extent in Shafiʾi thought even further. His approach to the concept of Sunnah is clearly demonstrated in his treatise Tabagatul Ḥanaabilah in which he states: And the Sunnah with us are the aathaar (narrations) of the Prophet” (wa-s-sunnatu ʿindana atharu resulillah). Moreover, in terms of epistemologico-methodological value and interpretational tool of Ḥadith, Ḥanbal maintains that: “the Sunnah (i.e. athar/ Ḥadith) explains and clarifies the Qurʾān (wa-s-sunnetu tufassiru-l-qurʾaan) . . . there is no analogical reasoning in the Sunnah and the examples are not to be made for it” (wa laisa fi-s-sunneti qiyyas, wa la tudhrebu laha al-amthal). Nor is it [Sunnah] grasped and comprehended by the intellects or the desires (wa la tudreke bi-l-ʿuquli wa la-l ahwaʾ).
Thus, Sunnah was epistemologically and methodologically self-identified with Ḥadith/athar and was considered as supreme commentary upon the already earlier discussed deutungsbeduerfigkeit of the Qurʾān.

This period also witnessed for the first time the ordering of Ḥadith books solely according to legal subjects going back to the Prophet, such as Bukhari’s and Muslim’s Saḥ ̣īḥayn (pl. of Saḥ ̣īḥ). The criticism of Ḥadith literature, however, has since continued135 so that the science of ʿulum-ulḥadith saw its efflorescence in the works of later authorities such as AlBaghdadi (d. 463 AH), Al-Salah (d. 643 AH) and Al-Nawawi (d. 676 AH). It may therefore not come as a surprise to note that the most authentic Ḥadith compendia, such as those of Bukhari and Muslim, contain Ḥadith that were subsequently identified as weak (ḍaʿīf ) or which did not fulfill some of the pre-requisites of authenticity for a Saḥ ̣īḥ Ḥadith.”

The major juristic works of this time still did not exhibit the purely Ḥadith-based Sunnah hermeneutic. Indeed, Calder argues that all of the early Ḥanafi texts on law (based on the writings of Abu Ḥanifa, Abu Yusuf and Shaybani) Kitab-ul-ʿAsl or Mabsūt “displays a minimum quantity ̣ of Prophetic Ḥadith.” Additionally, “a real systematic interest in the hermeneutic argument based on appeal to Prophetic Ḥadith can hardly be demonstrated for the Ḥanafi tradition prior to the corpus of works ascribed to Al-Tahtawi (d. 321 AH).”

Calder’s analysis of Sahnun’s (160-240 AH) Mudawwana, a juristic work from the Maliki school of law, also lead him to the following conclusion: Of material or literary forms which suggest that the law is hermeneutically derived from the Prophetic Ḥadith there are only hints throughout the Mudawwana . . . Prophetic Ḥadith are relatively few and it is difficult to accept that there was a widespread recognition of the authority of Prophetic Ḥadith for legal purposes. The same author based on the study of Muzan’s (d. 264 AH) Mukhtasar, a Shafiʾī school of law juristic composition, asserts that the author “refers to Ḥadith but rarely in full and never gives an isnād.” Lucas in this context asserts that “prior to the mid-third century the majority of the material found in the sunnan books was not prophetic reports and consisted instead of sahabi and tabiʾi athar. . . .”


 This article attempts to present a brief chronological analysis of the development of the Sunni Ḥadith literature and the concept of an authentic Ḥadith. The article has focused in particular on the question as to what extent the classical definition of the concept of Sunnah can be seen to embody the concept of Sunnah as it was understood during the formative period of Islamic thought. Relevant, recent Western scholarship found in literature was used in order to shed light on this issue. In this context, the extent, importance and nature of Ḥadith literature as well as the developmental stages of an authentic Ḥadith, during the first four generations of Muslims, have been investigated. The findings presented herein suggest that the writing of Prophetic reports probably took place even during the Prophet’s time, although the conditions for its widespread writing, transmission and proliferation were not favourable, not only in relation to circumstances surrounding the Prophet’s life but also on the basis of cultural preferences for oral transmission of knowledge. This led Juynboll to assert that the volume of Ḥadith literature remained very small during  the first century.142 Moreover, its importance during this period of time as source of law against the regional concepts of Sunnah was negligible. A marked growth in the corpus of Ḥadith literature, although still not in its ‘authentic form’, took place from the middle of the second century. It was during this period of transition that an epistemologico-methodological shift in the concept of Sunnah was becoming ever more prominent. Consequently, this resulted in its more frequent semantic association with Ḥadith. However, as Souaiaia demonstrated in relation to Islamic inheritance laws during the formative period of Islamic thought, spanning the first two and one half centuries or so, traditions from the Prophet in form of Ḥadith as defined by classical ʿulum-ul-ḥadith sciences could not alone produce an adequate framing of inheritance laws.As such, even towards the end of the second century, Sunnah and Ḥadith were seen as conceptually different terms. Due to his effort to bring more uniformity into the largely divergent legal theories in various regions of the Muslim empire, Shafiʾi was the first second-century-born jurist to narrow down the concept of Sunnah to that of an ‘authentic Ḥadith’ usually going back to the Prophet. This conceptual alteration in Sunnah provided by Shafiʾi was brought to its logical extreme, accepted and further consolidated by Ahmed ibn Ḥanbal. It is his literal, decontextualised, reason-condemning bilā kaifa (‘without asking how’) approach to ‘authentic Ḥadith’ as sole repository, conveyer and ultimate interpretational tool of Sunnah that is implied by the muḥaddithūn’s classical definition of the concept of Sunnah which did not correspond to the way the concept of Sunnah was understood by the first four generations of Muslims but is still prevalent in the majority mainstream Muslim community.

taken from this article ( Free PDF)

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Ḥadith at the Time of Successors up to and including Shafiʾi (130-200 AH): Extent, Nature and Importance

 We have previously briefly noted the reasons for increased ‘Ḥadithification’ of the concept of Sunnah. We refer to these as the forces of traditionalisation that were responsible for the paradigm shift in the way in which not only the concept of Sunnah came to be understood but also the entire subsequent Islamic thought. The process of traditionalisation is defined here as those social, political and jurisprudential mechanisms that throughout the second century of Hijrah contributed to:

 1. the gradual shift in formulation, preservation and transmission of knowledge from the oral to the written mode in general and, as a corollary, the continued growth and proliferation of Ḥadith;

2. the increased perceived importance given to Ḥadith at the cost of the ethico-moral and ʿamal-based concept of Sunnah;
 3. the absorption of practical and oral-based Sunnah into Ḥadith;
4. the increased application of Ḥadith in Qurʾānic and Sunnahic sciences such as tafsīr, ʿusūl-ul-fiqh ̣ and ʿusūl-as-sunnah ̣ including theology and ʿaqīdah; and
 5. the development of hierarchical, literal legal hermeneutic models that were entirely textually based (i.e. based on the Qurʾān and Ḥadith) and the marginalisation of non-textually based epistemologicomethodological tools of Sunnah (and Qurʾān) such as notions about of raʾy and ijtihād.

However, this process of traditionalisation during the first half of the second century of Hijrah still did not appear to be dominant. For example, according to Motzki who analysed the content of Abdarrazaq’s (d. 211 AH) Musannaf which contains materials from Ibn Abbas (d. 68 AH) and his disciples, only 14% of Ibn Juraij’s (d. 150 AH) text collections were based on Prophetic aḥādīth, not all of which were considered binding but only those which were seen to be in accordance with the established Meccan tradition. In this context he argues that:

 Propheten aḥādīth haben [daher] auch in der ersten Haelfte des 2. Jahrhunderts im mekkanischen Fiqh nur eine untergeordnete Rolle gespielt.
(During the first half of the second century hijri the hadith of the prophet played a very modest role  in Meccan fiqh.)

It is also worth mentioning that of those 14%, less then one half of the Ḥadith going back to the Prophet had a complete isnād and for those aḥādīth whose chain of narrators stopped at the level of the Companions had even a lesser number of complete isnād.  It is during the last half of the second century that the above-stated traditionalisation forces started to be felt more markedly. Therefore, this period can be rightfully described as a period of transition between regional non-Ḥadith-dependent concept of Sunnah and emerging concept of Ḥadith-based Sunnah. What was the attitude of major authorities on law towards this phenomenon, especially with regard to Ḥadith-based Sunnah proliferation?

When talking about the same period under examination in terms of Ḥadith-independent Sunnah, the opinion of Abu Yusuf was quoted as to his attitude with regard to the problem of ever-expanding Ḥadith literature. This methodology is also repeated in another passage found in Abu Yusuf’s work al-Radd ʿalā Siyar al-Awzaʾi in which he states: Ḥadith multiplies so much so that some Ḥadith are traced back through chains of transmission are not well known to legal experts, nor do they conform to Qurʾān and Sunnah. Beware of solitary Ḥadith and keep close to the collective spirit of Ḥadith. The use of words well-known is highly significant here because it suggests that the well-known Sunnah was still conceptually different from Ḥadith and was used as a methodological tool, along with the Qurʾān, to divorce Sunnah from Ḥadith. Having examined the use of Ḥadith in Malik’s Muwatta, al-Shaibani’s Kitab al-Siyar and writings of Awzaʾi Rahman makes an important conclusion in saying that: Awzaʾi regards the Ḥadith of the Prophet as being endowed with fundamental obligatoriness but the Sunnah or the living practice is of same importance to him. His appeals to the practice of the Community or its leaders are to judge from the extinct materials, the most regular feature of his legal argumentation. Malik adduces Ḥadith (not necessarily Prophetic Ḥadith) to vindicate the Medinise Sunnah but regards Sunnah in terms of actual importance, as being superior to the Ḥadith. As for Abu Yusuf and Shaybani, very few of whose legal Ḥadith go back to the Prophet at all, they interpret the Ḥadith with [a] freedom . . . The Iraqi school recognize the supreme importance of Ḥadith but the Ḥadith, according to it, must be situationally interpreted in order that law may be deduced from it.

Sadeghi makes a similar assertion by asserting that “for Abu Ḥanifa and Al-Shaybani not only were the Ḥadith not a primary source of law in practice but that they were also possibly not always binding in theory either.”

The importance given to what can be termed situational interpretation of Ḥadith in the light of the Qurʾān and well-known Sunnah was due to the formulation and projection of many theologico-politically sectarian and moralo-legal Ḥadith to that on to the Prophet himself that were taking place at the time. Many of these reports found their way into the Sahih Ḥadith books such as those complied by Bukhari (d. 256 AD) and Muslim (d. 261 AH). Also it is at this time that Musnād Ḥadith books came into existence. Musnād books contain Ḥadith which have uninterrupted chains of transmission up to the level of the Companions and are ordered according to the Companions’ names. As such, they were not collected with an aim of being used as tools for jurisprudentic purposes, as in the case of Bukhari and Muslim.

As we have seen from the above, this methodology of non-literal interpretation and conceptual differentiation of Sunnah and Ḥadith was still evident throughout most of the second century. Rather than accepting Ḥadith, even ‘authentic Ḥadith’, in an a priori fashion, the concept of assunnah al-maʾrufa was used, as a filter to distinguish between Ḥadith, which could potentially embody Sunnah, and those, which did not.

With regard to the development of isnād, it is during the third decade of the second century that birth of the ‘classical’ sciences of criticism of informants (rijal) started. In additional, it should be pointed out that the bulk of Ḥadith put into wider circulation took place at the level of Successors’ Successors early during the second century and, according to Juynboll, no foolproof method in terms of discerning authentic from inauthentic Ḥadith at the isnād level of Companions can be developed since the majority of Companions died prior to isnād science being systematically used and because of the fact that Companions cannot be considered responsible for their being included in isnāds.

taken from this academic article ( free PDF).

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Ḥadith at the Time of Successors and Early Successors: Successors up until 130 AH

The previous discussion led us to conclude that most of the Companions and early Successors had died before the importance of ‘standardised Ḥadith’ came into being and that ʿamal and oral-based Sunnah still
enjoyed more credence than Ḥadith. The end of the first and beginning of the second century saw a significant growth of Ḥadith as a result of the talab ul-ʿilm/rihla phenomenon so that Ḥadith acquired more currency.
As argued elsewhere, two broad mechanisms were responsible for this development. Firstly, the general perception among some influential and reputable Successors that the expanding Muslim empire would become organically detached from the Qurʾānic and Sunnahic teachings was becoming widespread. Secondly, a change in political fortunes and subsequent rise of the Abbasid dynasty (132 AH), which used the argument of being custodians of the Prophet’s Sunnah through his uncle’s cousin Abbas
to justify and legitimise their political power, along with partisan tensions that emerged within the nascent Muslim community fighting for religious legitimacy, created an ever greater impetus for a more systematic collection of, and searching for, Sunnah in any form. These two trends resulted firstly in the practice-based Sunnah being increasingly clad in the mantle of written-based Sunnah, and secondly in the development of more stringent mechanisms to establish its authenticity of written—especially in terms of the mode of its transmission, i.e. ʿulum-ul-isnād.

At this time, the largely regional character of the Ḥadith body of literature, due to increased inter-regional contact, now became ‘mixed’, that is, it consisted of local/regional and inter-regional Ḥadith. It is at this point
in time that the scattered Ḥadith were now increasingly gathered together and compiled into books. Modes of Ḥadith transmission, apart from those already in operation, included munawalah (handing book to a student without samāʿa or qirāʾa), ijazah (giving permission to teach Ḥadith contained in a book) and wasīyah (entrusting a book for transmission).

Nonetheless, while the importance of Ḥadith was slowly gaining more ground, the transmission, compilation and normalization of Ḥadith was still not widespread at this point in time. For example, the first public
statement containing a prophetic Ḥadith (without an isnād) for governmental purposes was only instituted at the time of Caliph Al-Mahdi in the year 159 AH/776 CE.1 Moreover, Motzki argues in the context of the role and importance of Ḥadith as sources of legal doctrine in Mecca during the period under examination that: “Propheten-aḥādīth spielten als Rechtsquellen nur eine bescheidene Rolle”(The hadith of the prophet played a very modest role as sources of Islamic law)   Furthermore, most of the Ḥadith during this period were still going back to the Companions and Successors rather than to the Prophet himself and had incomplete chains of transmission.

Whilst it is difficult to accurately generalise the usage of isnād in all major centres of learning, the following assertion by Motzki made in the context of the status of isnād usage in the Meccan School of jurisprudence during the first two centuries of Hijrah is likely to be indicative of the level of isnād development in general:

. . . im 1. Jahrhundert [war]die Angabe eines isnād ehe Ausnahme als die Regel [und]
dass sich seit dem Begin des 2. Jahrhunderts aber der Gebrauch des isnād mehr und
mehr durchsetzte. Das ist nur als eine Tendenz zu verstehen.

( During the first century Hijri the use of the isnad was an exception rather than a rule and that since the beginning of the 2nd century Hijri the use of isnad become increasingly prevalent. But this is to be understood as a general trend only)

Mathnee, in the context of critiquing Rahman’s living Sunnah that extended right up to the Shafiʾī period, considers this living Sunnah to have been used in an arbitrary fashion without reference to a particular authority and that it was susceptible to continuous change. He maintains furthermore that the
Sunnah could refer either to a practice or tradition or combination of both and with multiple equivalent authorities.

taken from this article ( free PDF)