Rulings that Appear Islamic But Actually Serve the West

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

 

By Imam Muḥammad Saʿīd Ramaḍān al-Būṭī[1] 

Translated by Mahdi Lock

 

I don’t know of any matter in the religion that provokes more awe in the soul when it is approached and is more conducive to biding one’s time and being wary of it than the matter of fatwā, for the scholar finds himself in front of something that he must take up the cause of…

and I don’t know of any matter in the religion in this current age of ours that is more attainable, easier to practice and has more people crowded around it and competing for it than the matter of fatwā.

I reflect on the stances that the Imams of the Islamic Revealed Law, those whose vast knowledge, accurate understanding and high rank in derivation has been testified to by generations, along with their upright conduct, abstinence in the life of this world and carefulness in dealing with others.

I see them looking at the job of fatwā as something undertaken on behalf of Allah, Mighty and Majestic, so where does this insolence when approaching it come from and how is it that they have come to treat it lightly and hasten to make a decision therein?

Abū ʿAmr ibn al-Ṣalāḥ narrates on the authority of ʿAbdur Raḥmān ibn Abī Laylā that he said, ‘I met one hundred and twenty of the Helpers[2] from the Companions of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.

One of them was asked about an issue and he passed it on to someone else, and he in turn passed it on to someone else until it eventually came back to the first person.’[3]

Ibn Masʿūd said, ‘Whoever gives a fatwā regarding everything he is asked about is mad.’

Al-Ḥāfiẓ Abū ʿUmar ibn ʿAbdul Barr mentioned on the authority of al-Qāsim ibn Muḥammad ibn Abī Bakr al-Ṣiddīq, may Allah be pleased with him, that a man came to him and asked him about something and al-Qāsim replied, ‘I don’t know the answer.’ The man then started saying, ‘I was pushed to go to you. I don’t know anyone else.’

Al-Qāsim said, ‘Don’t look at the length of my beard and the multitude of people around me. By Allah, I don’t know the answer.’ Then he said, ‘By Allah, that my tongue be cut off is more beloved to me than talking about something that I have no knowledge of.’ Sufyān ibn ʿUyaynah said, ‘The most impudent of people when it comes to giving fatwā are the least of them in knowledge.’[4]

I don’t know of any difference of opinion regarding the jurists’[5] affirmation that the independent muftī must be an absolute mujtahid.[6] If he is a mujtahid within the madhhab that he belongs to then he is not independent, and he has rules and restrictions that he should not step outside of.

If he is below the rank of ijtihād[7] in the madhhab then he is an imitator[8] or follower.[9] If he is asked for a fatwā in a matter then he must relate to the questioner the ruling that has been given in the madhhab of his Imam. It is not permissible for him to go beyond that and refer to another

Imam, just as it is not permissible for him to give a fatwā based on a weak position in the madhhab or that which counters the correct position in the madhhab, unless he is a mujtahid in a certain topic of fiqh, and no one else, in which case he can give a fatwā therein relying on his own ijtihād, and this is based on the correct position that ijtihād can be separated. [10]

***

            I reflect on these rules, which are agreed upon with regards to practising fatwā, as far as I know, and I look at the awe and fear that would be overflowing in the hearts of the early generations and those who followed their path from this Ummah in undertaking the task of fatwā, and their severe warning against embarking boldly upon it.

Then I look at what the state of many imams and scholars of the Muslims has been reduced to, with regards to this massive responsibility, for in illustrations of the opposite I see something frightful bearing warning of a calamitous tribulation.

It is possible that many readers are thinking that I’m referring to the matter of fatwā being approached without knowledge, and hastening to answer people’s questions without long and thorough consideration and reflection, and this is something that happens and is witnessed, no doubt about it, and it is of the utmost seriousness, as the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, has informed us. However, I am talking about something more dangerous than this and far more wicked.

Indeed, what is happening today in many of our Islamic societies, and in Western societies where there are Islamic minorities, is that certain people are working towards changing the established rulings of the Revealed Law and replacing them, under the banner of renewing[11] Islamic jurisprudence[12]…and this is only being done at the hands of people who wear the garments of Islam and present themselves as calling to it and defending it.

The major portion of the incentive that calls to following this path is represented in the capitulation of most Islamic activities, in their various forms, to the pressure that is applied by the callers and promoters of the stream of modernity, and in the submission of those carrying out these activities to the unjust accusations that are directed at the Islamic Revealed Law,

such as the claim that it is scripturally rigid, or the lack of judging by what is called the ‘spirit’ of the Islamic Revealed Law when taking hold of it…and both politics and melting into party life play a large role in supporting this stream, and boldly delving into the rules of ijtihād and into the foundations of dealing with the rulings of the Islamic Revealed Law.

Achieving this objective can only be done by way of a series of fatāwā that appear to be of the Revealed Law in their titles and appearance but whose innermost ideas and contents serve the destructive plans of others.

Indeed, playing around with the rulings of the Revealed Law cannot be arrived at today by openly declaring the sought-after objective and manifesting the secrets of what is being intended.

Rather, the matter therein is that it would unleash reactions from people who feel strongly about the Faith (and they are many), feelings which make them cling more stringently to Allah’s rulings, Mighty and Majestic is He, and they would jump up and attack anyone who declares that they are playing around with them and they would move towards tearing up whatever caused it by any and every means possible.

Rather, today, the only way to fool around with them[13] is to put an end to them, to send in fraudulent and counterfeit novelties by way of fatwā channels that have religious inviolability.

This is what is happening today in the public square in our Islamic societies. You look at the building of the Islamic Revealed Law and you can see that it is gradually being emptied of its contents and in its place are put ready made and available rulings and decisions, which have no connection to Islam,

that wait for the team that is responsible for transferring them, via the tunnel of fatwā, and inserting them into the building of the Islamic Revealed Law. This is how these these rulings that bear a counterfeit Islamic identity become settled within the structure of Islam, woven from baseless, delusive fatāwā.

Furthermore, this transferring mainly takes place by way of one of two factors:

The first of them is the official political factor…and it manifests itself in the hidden contract that normally takes place between the authorities of a certain state and whoever they choose to be a muftī therein. Indeed, part of what is required of him is to be in harmony and agreement with whatever the current policy dictates by working towards diminishing the authority of the Islamic Revealed Law over that society, especially in matters connected to the economic system and rulings regarding the family and relations between men and women, and that which is connected to moral restrictions in general.

The affair of whoever comes to choose the post of giving fatwā is that he prefers his worldly life over his Hereafter and the pleasure of his earthly rulers over the pleasure of his Lord. He is sacrificing his religion in order to remain in his post, desiring to achieve the higher post that follows it.

Thus, the secret contract is confirmed with the authorities that chose him so that they can use him as religious cover in order to do irreligious things! He continues to surprise the Muslims with fatāwā that have been emptied of what is clearly stated in Allah’s Book and authentically related from the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.

Indeed I know notable jurists in Islamic lands who, before they took up the post of fatwā, were examples of uprightness upon true guidance and undertaking this trust on behalf of Allah. They did not declare the unlawful lawful. They were not negligent with regards to obligations. They did not alter or change.

Then, when one of them was granted this post the people were surprised to see the opposite of what he was known for coming from him…the usury that he used to go to great lengths to warn against became a permissible commercial action, zakāh came to no longer be obligatory on money accumulated in banks and funds, only the profits that arose from it.

He is the same person who used to give fatwā according to what was known and agreed upon, i.e. zakāt being obligatory on both capital and its profit. A young lady adhering to covering[14] the head became a matter dependent on benefit[15] and could be left aside if it was incompatible with her high school or university studies.

He is the same person who used to constantly draw attention to the obligation women have to veil anything that can be a source of temptation and beauty. Striving to die as a martyr and desiring Allah’s pleasure according to its rules and restrictions in the Revealed Law became, in his ijtihād, an act of suicide that hurls a person into blasphemy and strips him of his faith.

Before sitting on this chair, he was the one who envied these mujāhidīn and encouraged them and had no doubt that, if their intentions were pure, they would go back to Allah, Mighty and Majestic, as martyrs.[16]

What is it that would make one of these people remove the job of adhering to Allah’s Revealed Law from their lives in order to take on, entirely of their own choice, the task of altering and changing Allah’s rulings?

Indeed it is the secret job that is entrusted to him: the policy of the state stipulates (as is imagined by those in charge of it) that it comply with the demands of great powers,[17] those who have declared war against Islam. Their demands are embodied in trimming away at the edges of the religion, diluting its rules and replacing its rulings.

But what is the path by which this objective of theirs is to be achieved, leaving aside the fear of the Ummah’s restlessness and that the flames of revolution will be stoked therein? Indeed it is the path of fatāwā that are outwardly Islamic but inwardly plot against Islam. Indeed they are the readymade fatāwā that are manufactured on demand, waiting to be declared!

***

            This is the first motive: the official motive of the muftī and the political motive of the state that appointed him!

As for the second factor, or motive, it is the party motive. What I mean here is Islamic parties, i.e. those which openly declare their effort to impose the Revealed Law of Islam on their society…so what would push them to change Allah’s rulings?

The short answer is that those in charge of the party…any Islamic party…strive just like all other parties to get into power by all possible means, in view of the fact that, according to their conviction, it is the only way to administer the helm of authority and impose the desired law, and thereupon impose the Revealed Law of Islam and the Islamic system of governance upon society.

Regardless of the validity or invalidity of this opinion, what always happens in the course of striving for this objective, the objective of getting into power, is that those in charge of the party spare no effort in exhausting the various political means in order to arrive at this objective, and what they always fall back on is that this holy objective justifies these means for which there is no alternative.

However, on many occasions, these means demand the flattering of others, namely influential people, and to agree with them in realizing what they are seeking, and to a large extent it is foreign powers that secretly control the helm of global policy. It is from the habit of these people to choose for themselves notable Muslims who will act as agents on their behalf, implementing their plans and following the path that has been laid out for them.

In view of the fact that Islamic parties are included, just like other parties, within the political spectrum, subject to its enticements and governed within its stream, then it is inevitable that their leaders will look to extend political bridges between themselves and many of the traditional politicians in the Islamic world, as well as many foreign powers in the west, using favours from them whenever the situation demands it…and what is demanded of them is to demonstrate that there is no terrorism in Islam and that its rulings are based on magnanimity and adaptation and that they are subject to the requirements of modernisation and development.

The unavoidable outcome for anyone who capitulates to the stream of this policy and falls into its enticements is to comply with these demands and those like them. It is the only ladder that leads to power, and to pave the way to it…and it is known that Islamic intellectuals who apply themselves in this fashion are able to justify going into a series of these adaptations and compliances,

arguing that it is a means for which there is no alternative in order to pave the way to power. In view of the fact that this is the only means of arriving at this objective, which is to unfold the Islamic system and Allah’s Revealed Law upon society, then that without which the obligatory cannot be carried out is itself obligatory![18]

Indeed they are justifications that have false premises and absurd conclusions. However, the current situation is not sufficient for opening up another discussion about this issue, which has been researched exhaustively, and which bears the slogan of ‘repeated experiments’.[19]

Moving forward from these justifications, these other groups, groups affiliated to the Islamic parties, concoct baseless fatāwā according to need and fabricated rulings in the Revealed Law that actually don’t exist.

To a large extent, the manufacturing of these fatāwā takes place in the west, where there are Islamic minorities and these minorities and the ruling authorities have problems of incompatibility between the ruling systems and Islamic obligations.

In order to demonstrate to these ruling authorities that Islam is easy and pliant like a reed, that it twists and turns according to what is sought and is harmonious with whatever environment it is in, that it is absorbed into the established system, and in order for those in charge of Islamic party activity to garner support and to be assisted in their political efforts, either in those western societies or in Islamic countries, those in charge of these activities continue to colour the Islamic system and Islamic rulings with the dye of permanent subordinateness.

In western societies, to make manifest this phenomenon, they have set up something called the European Council for Fatwa and Research. What one notices is that many of its members have no knowledge of fiqh and have no connection to it whatsoever. Its administration and activity go back to its party leadership, which makes the Council’s fatāwā and rulings subservient to the requirements of the policy that I have spoken about.

The short-term goal is to present Islam as a religion whose minority merges into the system of the ever-differing majority, and it is does not agree to differ with it or separate from it at all.

As for the long-term goal, it is for those who hold this Islamic political view to gain the trust of influential westerners, who will then make it possible for them to achieve power in their societies and their Islamic countries, and the opportunity to be in power therein is according to what this adapting, lenient, capitulating Islam requires based on the various streams of modernity and modernisation.

Following this path, this fatwa council has issued a series of rulings and fatāwā in the Revealed Law and those who are in charge of it and administering it know that they are baseless fatāwā demanded by the policy, such as giving a fatwā that it is permissible to procure usurious loans for unforeseen needs, that it is permissible to be involved in usurious transactions,

that it is permissible for a Muslim woman to remain married to her disbelieving husband, that it is permissible to work in businesses that deal in intoxicants and unlawful foods, that it is permissible for a Muslim woman to comply with a judicial system that prohibits the ijāb, and so forth.

What is strange is that those who make use of the European Fatwa Council for the sake of rulings like these justify their undertaking of fatwā in the Revealed Law by using the argument that they are mujtahid scholars who possess all the rules and conditions of fatwā. Thus, when they follow a baseless fatwā that is rejected by the majority of Imams,

they forget or pretend to forget their own ranks in ijtihād, which rejects imitating and following, and go back to being followers or indeed imitators of people who deviate from Allah’s path and deviate from the principles of knowledge and the rules of the Book and the Sunnah, and thus they issue deviant, baseless rulings.

***

            O brethren, indeed the actions of demolishing the building of the Islamic Revealed Law are done by two tools of destruction:

The first is the tool of the war declared against it, and the entire Islamic world is feeling the pressure of this war, and the moral and material methods of pressure that are applied to it in order to change its cultural and educational ways are only from the coat tails of this declared war.

The second is the tool of readymade fatāwā that are fashioned and provided on demand, and what is desired from them is the acquisition of worldly benefits and gains, or to garner favours from people in power in other countries, those who give many of us the impression that in their hand is the capacity to loose and bind,[20] to accept and refuse and to push forward and put back.

So where is the way out? Where could we possibly find someone who will protect the building of the Islamic Revealed Law from these two tools of destruction that never slacken in their efforts to wreck and destroy?

It is assumed that I will say that we can find refuge in the individuals who are the leaders of the Islamic world, or those who speak on their behalf and act in their name, and it is the Organisation of the Islamic Conference[21]…but we all know that most of these leaders have forgotten Allah, His counsels and His rulings in the ups and downs of their profound concern for their immediate interests and their fleeting thrones.

They don’t hesitate, and they would be the last to do so, to subjugate religious fatāwā to that which guarantees the facilitation of their interests and their remaining on their thrones. As for the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, in reality it is nothing but a tall building for a most wretched grave!  If the people crouching therein happen to move it is only for ceremonial functions or to promote protocols that are required for the sake of flattery or deemed necessary in order to guarantee worldly gains!

Where, then, will we find refuge?

Perhaps refuge can be found in the remaining remnant of rightly-guided scholars who know Allah and have placed the fear of Him in their hearts, and they are certain that He alone harms and benefits, exalts and humiliates, gives and withholds.  They rely on Him in truth and they entrust their affairs to Him. They come together to renew their allegiance to Allah and to give Him sincere pledges that they will be trustees over His Revealed Law and guardians of His religion.

Then, from their meetings and cooperation, they have formed knowledge-based, religious authority[22] which comes out openly with the truth and corrects false notions. It cancels baseless religious fatāwā and answers the questions of those seeking a fatwā, wherever they may be, in accordance with the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and in accordance with what the majority of the First Three Generations have agreed upon, without excess and without going beyond the bounds, with facilitation but without dilution, with prudence but without making things difficult.

I am absolutely certain that this remnant of righteous scholars exists, and how can I not be absolutely certain about what the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, has promised? Likewise, I am absolutely certain that our Islamic Ummah still has much goodness in it. Indeed, it contains both old and young who re-establish themselves upon the truth and their fear of changing, their carefulness[23] in conduct and following the way of the righteous First Three Generations.

Indeed what is sought from these excellent members of this Ummah of ours is that they gather around these righteous scholars who act upon their knowledge, and that they not accept answers to their questions except from them. It is certainly within their capacity to tell the difference between the state of someone who is truthful with Allah and someone who is truthful with his nafs and his desires and passions.

If the difference is not clear to them then let them refer to the scales that that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, called to when he said, {The lawful is clear and the unlawful is clear and between them are doubtful matters which many people do not know. Whoever guards himself against doubtful matters has secured his Religion and his honour…}[24] and he said, {Ask your heart for a fatwā, even if the muftīs have given you a fatwā}.[25]

And however much some of them may use the excuse that they are ignorant of the difference between authentic fatāwā in the Revealed Law and counterfeit, baseless fatāwā, or ignorant of the difference between scholars who are truthful with Allah and those who are truthful with their desires and passions, they will never be more ignorant than the American lady who became Muslim without her husband.

When she asked about the ruling in the Islamic Revealed Law regarding remaining married to her disbelieving husband, the answer from the Council of Fatwa and Research was there was no objection to her remaining married to him!

Without thinking about it a great deal or asking other scholars, the lady asked her heart for a fatwā and then said, ‘Indeed acting upon this answer does not satisfy my feelings of faith in Allah’, and it did not evoke in her heart the desired tranquillity. She thus apologised to her husband for not being able to remain married to him and has bid him farewell until they meet again in the magnanimity of Islam.

[1] Translated from the Imam’s book al-Islam wa al-Gharb (Damascus: Dār al-Fikr, 2007), p.143-156

[2] (tn): Ar. al-Anṣār

[3] Adab al-Fatwā by Ibn al-Ṣalāḥ, ed. Rifʿat Fawzī ʿAbdul Muṭṭalib, p.28

[4] ibid. p.59 onwards

[5] Ar. fuqahāʾ

[6] Ar. mujtahid muṭlaq

[7] (tn): i.e. personal reasoning

[8] Ar. muqallid

[9] Ar. tābiʿ

[10] See the introduction to Imam al-Nawawī’s al-Majmūʿ, al-Munīriyyah edition, p.40 onwards, and see al-Mustaṣfā by a-Ghazālī (2/392), Būlāq edition.

[11] Ar. tajdīd

[12] Ar. fiqh

[13] (tn): i.e. the rulings of the Revealed Law

[14] Ar. ḥijāb

[15] Ar. maṣlaḥah

[16] It is known that what we hear of car bomb attacks against Muslims on the pretext that they are assisting oppressive rulers and the like, such as what is happening in Iraq now, is not consistent with the rules and restrictions of the Revealed Law. Thus, they are not considered acts of martyrdom but rather unlawful crimes.

[17] (tn): i.e. those sovereign states that are recognised as having the ability to exert their influence on a global scale

[18] Ar. fama la yatimmu al-wājibu illa bihi fa huwa wājib, for example, the obligation al-alāh cannot be completed without wuḍūʾ, and therefore wuḍūʾ is also an obligation

[19] (tn): or trial and error

[20] Ar. al-ḥall wa al-ʿaqd

[21] (tn): Now known as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, since 2011

[22] Ar. marjaʿiyah

[23] Ar. warʿa

[24] Agreed upon from the ḥadīth of al-Nuʿmān ibn Bashīr (tn): Please see the sixth ḥadīth in Al-Arbaʿīn Al-Nawawiyyah.

[25] Narrated by al-Bukhārī in al-ārīkh from the ḥadīth of Wābiṣah

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