Redefine religion, but do not derefine it.
[Commentary on the Eleventh Contentions by Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad]
‘I was sent only to perfect the noble traits of character’ [Hadith]. The error of the False Salafi lies in his indifference to the methodologies of the classical period, and his failure to notice the the Salaf did not have a method [manhaj]; instead, they followed a vast range of methods, of which the regional schools of Iraq, Syria and Medina are only the best known. The age of the Salaf was an age of diversity.
Instead of rejecting the evolved tradition in favour of the dangerous illusion of a single Salafi Manhaj, which all too often replicates modern writers’ dogged unreason and dislike of mercy, the true scholar seeks to remain faithful to the continuity of the Islamic story, whose deepest instinct is to keep with initiation, authorization, and transmission. The traditional chains do not only link us to the past, they bind our egos. Unbound, we are chaff blown by the winds, and any hope of unity is lost.
Once we are authenticated by a sanad, we may join the scholars’ debate on renewal. That debate only promises a positive future to the Umma. Individuals’ or movements which reject the sanad, and are rejected by it, appear from time to time, but are blown away by the same wind which they have unleashed. False Salafi factions, neo-Mu’tazilites, Islamic socialists, bogus mahdists, and countless others who have chosen to unchain themselves, march on and off the stage of history, but the scholars of the four schools remain.
Senior Mujtahids in the schools know how powerful are the instruments of ijtihad which their methodologies authorize. Each school may move differently, but movement is the nature of the Shari’a. ‘Traditional Islam is not the replication of the positions of the ancients; it is to seek what they sought’ [Contention 13/93].
The unauthorized reformist, whether working solo or in a group, is disconnected from the courtesies which accompany the sanad. Hence his typical abrasiveness, arrogance, or dislike of ordinary Muslims. Writers and intellectuals who are not at home with the masses are not in the valley of the scholars. The violence of the Qadhdhafists, or al-Qaeda, or non-sanad factions indicates the triumph of the ‘burning coal of anger’ in the hearts of such men, and their entire disconnection from the tradition of adab. Unschooled in Ihsan, they bring ugliness to the world.
Look at the doctrine and transmission of the arrogant man. Ask for the names of the teachers of the man of humility and hospitality, for the mere mention of their names will bring a perfume to your gathering. Ijtihad is effort, and the most meaningful effort in a scholar’s life is struggle against his self, his demons, his dunya. The outcome of the juridical process is always an increase in blessing and beauty in the world.
Compiled by Muhammad Allie Khalfe.
Commentary on the eleventh contentions is available at Timbuktu books, Claremont, Main Road, Stadium on Main.