The “Study Qur’an”

Question:

To the honourable scholars, al-salam ‘alaykum.

Recently, an English translation and commentary of the Quran entitled ‘the Study Quran’, was published. It was undertaken by a group of western academics. The work includes Shia, Sunni, Sufi tafsir, in addition to several essays as appendices. Unfortunately, in spite of some benefits in the work, the authors have, while commentating on certain verses, presented interpretations that accord with the belief in the universal validity of religions. For instance, during the discussion on the tafsir to the verse: Truly the religion in the sight of God is submission (3:20), it says:

Many Muslims say that this verse shows that the only religion acceptable to God is the one revealed to the Prophet of Islam, but the most universal meaning of it, which been emphasised by many Islamic authorities over the ages, is that Islam in this verse refers to submission to God even if it is not in the context of Islam as the specific religion revealed through the Quran … [p. 135]

The reader is then referred to the essay at the end of the book entitled ‘The Quranic View of Sacred History and of Other Religions’ in which it is argued that previous scriptures and religions are not abrogated by Islam:

The notion that previous scriptures have been abrogated in the sense of being nullified or excessively distorted to such an extent that the message no longer reflects  the particularity of the original teachings, as some Muslims maintain, would seem to be contradicted by verses such as 5:43:And how is it that they come to thee for judgement …  It would be contradictory for the Quran to speak of the efficacy of judging by the Torah and the Gospel if it were to also maintain that these Scriptures have been abrogated or excessively distorted … If the previous religions were abrogated by the revelation of the Quran, it will be implausible to tell the Prophet Muhammad to seek their counsel when it says, Ask the people of the Reminder, if you know not. [p. 1767]

Regarding the verse: Whoever seeks a religion other than submission it shall not be accepted of him… (3:85), it says:

However, the idea that 3:85 abrogates 2:62 is connected to the interpretation expressed by some commentators that this verse denies the “acceptability” of any form of religion other than that brought by the Prophet Muhammad. This opinion is not without its inconsistencies, however, since it does not take into account the more general and universal use of Islam and muslim in the Quran to refer to all true, monotheistic religion… [p. 153]

Moreover, regarding the interpretation of the verse on the Christian trinitarian belief: They certainly disbelieve, those who say, “Truly God is the third of three,”… [5: 73], it says:

However, the verse clearly threatens punishment only for those among them who disbelieved, suggesting that it is not for all Christians. Moreover, an interpretation that considers all Christians to be barred from the garden in the next life would openly contradict both v. 69 and 2:62 where Christians and anyone who believes in God and the Last Day and works righteousness shall have the reward with their Lord. No fear shall, upon them, nor shall they grieve, and is not consistent with the description of Christian virtue in vv. 82-85. [p. 316-17]

The same author says in the above-mentioned essay as he speaks about the concept of trinity criticised in the Quran:

And say not “Three.” Refrain! … (4:171) … They certainly disbelieve, those who say,” Truly God is the third of three…” This, however, is not a direct condemnation of Christian theology, for trinitarian theology does not make God one of three, but rather speaks of the triune God, Who is both one and three in a manner that transcends human understanding. Viewed in this light, 5:73 does not oppose the various forms of orthodox trinitarian doctrine that have prevailed for most of Christian history. Rather, it appears to oppose crude misunderstandings of it that would lead one to believe that there are three gods instead of one. [p. 1779]

Similar notions to the above are frequently found throughout the work.

The author of another essay, also within the work, states the following on the matter of perpetuity of hellfire:

During the early period of Islam, scholars differed about the duration of Hell. The majority of them argued that Hell is perpetual and an actualised state that never ends. But some groups argued otherwise, citing verses that hinted at an end to Hell’s torment and arguing that this was more consistent with God’s saying, ‘My Mercy exceeds My Wrath.’ Thus the scholars fell into three camps. The first believed that although Hell did not end, its punishment and torment did. The proof for this was the verse: Truly Hell lies in ambush, a place unto which the rebellious return, to tarry therein for ages (78:21-23). This was the opinion of Aḥmad ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Qayyim, and Ibn al-ʿArabī; a similar opinion that the majority of Hell’s denizens are ultimately released also appears to have been held by al-Ghazzālī, as is evident in hisFayṣal al-tafriqah (Decisive Criterion). [p. 1849-50]

The work would probably not have gained much popularity were it not for certain popular Muslim preachers in West who promoted and endorsed the work unconditionally without any caution against its absurd interpretations and false beliefs; one of them went to the extent of describing it as ‘A major victory and a gift from god’, and another said, ‘It is probably the best work in English to date’ and called it ‘A mercy from God.’ This latter individual made the matter worse by allowing the hosting of an event in his Islamic institute in America wherein one of the translators of the work was invited to speak about the book. None of the panel attendees refuted or challenged his claims.  Instead, they encouraged the attendees to purchase a copy of the book at the end of the session and get it signed by the translator.  Since the book has gained much popularity and is increasingly bought we fear that it will pollute the minds of readers and therefore seek your guidance and fatwa in regards to the following questions:

(1) What is the status of those who believe in the validity of all religions other than Islam, claiming that it does not abrogate the previous religions: does it take them out of the pale of Islam even if they an interpretation (ta’wil) for such a belief?

(2) What is the ruling on believing that Hellfire or its torment will eventually extinguish? Is there a valid scholarly disagreement over the issue?

(3) What is the ruling on promoting, endorsing, and encouraging people to buy and read such a work, knowing full well its contents, without cautioning readers against the problematic points?

(4) What is the ruling on laymen reading such a work?


Answer: (Imam Muhammad Tawfiq Ramadan Al-Bouti)
In the Name of Allah, the All Merciful, the Most Merciful

Praise be to Allah, the Unique, the One, the Singular, the Everlasting Sustainer, who has not given birth and was not born, and no one is comparable to Him, and blessings and peace be upon our master Muḥammad and upon his family, all of his companions and those who follow them on the path of truth until the Day of Repayment. To proceed:

I have looked at the explanation (tafsīr)[1] of certain verses from the Book of Allah which offends what the people of truth are upon and contradicts the Qurʾānic texts with interpretations that are inconsistent with what is correct. I believe that whoever stated them is upon misguidance in his theology and whoever has followed him is obliged to return to the path of truth. If not, then one becomes one of those whom Allah, may His affair be manifest, described by saying: “Do you, then, believe in one part of the Book and reject the other? What repayment will there be for any of you who do that except disgrace in this world? And on the Day of Standing, they will be returned to the harshest of punishments. Allah is not unaware of what you do.” [Sūrat al-Baqarah 2:85]

Indeed the Book of Allah the Exalted has commanded us to debate kindly with the People of the Book[2] whom we differ with regarding what they believe about our master ʿĪsā (Jesus), peace and blessing be upon him or ʿUzayr (Uzair), peace and blessings be upon him.

The Book of Allah calls on the People of the Book to have faith in our master Muḥammad, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, and it does not consider those who disbelieve in our master Muḥammad to be from the people of salvation nor does it consider those who believe Allah to be the third of three or that the Messiah is the son of Allah to be from the people of salvation.[3] Our theology is not taken from those who are suspect in their theology nor from those who flatter those who contradict the truth, seeking to ingratiate themselves while having certain interests, or something similar, in mind.

Indeed a tafsīr like this aims to ruin the Muslims and to take them away from the true paths of knowing their religion and their theology. Indeed, treating the People of the Book kindly is one thing and presenting relinquishments to them in violation of our theology and our Revealed Law is something else. The obligation to debate with the People of the book in the kindest of ways is one thing and violating what is clear in the Book of Allah, seeking to ingratiate oneself with them, is something else.

Indeed the belief that the People of the Book, with the beliefs that they currently hold, are not disbelievers contradicts what is clear in the Book of Allah, and the circulation of such publications is one of the waves of misguidance that Muslims are exposed to, in addition to their other afflictions.

Likewise, the belief that the people of the Fire are not in there eternally is inconsistent with the Exalted’s statement: “As for those who disbelieve in Our Signs, We will roast them in a Fire. Every time their skins are burned off We will replace them with new skins so that they can taste the punishment. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise.” [Sūrat an-Nisāʾ 4:56] and other verses that clearly show that the people of the Fire are therein eternally and that the people of Paradise are therein eternally, and this is aside from what this tafsīr ignores from the clear, authentic Prophetic ḥadīths on this matter. This shows that the authors of this tafsīr have shunned the Exalted’s statement:“And we have sent down the Reminder to you so that you can make clear to mankind what has been sent down to them so that hopefully they will reflect.” [Sūrat an-Naḥl 16:44]

Al-Bukhārī has related on the authority of Abū Saʿīd Al-Khudrī, may Allah be pleased with him, who said, ‘The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, {Death will come in the form of a black and white ram and then a caller will call out, ‘O people of Paradise’, and at that point they will stretch their necks and look. He will say, ‘Do you know what this is?’ They will respond, ‘Yes. This is death.’ and all of them will have seen it. Then he will call out, ‘O people of the Fire’, at which point they will stretch their necks and look. He will say, ‘Do you know what this is?’ They will respond, ‘Yes. This is death.’ and all of them will have seen it. It will thus be slaughtered and then he will say, ‘O people of Paradise, eternity and thus no death, and O people of the Fire, eternity and thus no death.’} Then he recited,“Warn them of the Day of Bitter Regret when the affair will be resolved. But they take no notice [i.e. the people of this worldly life]. They do not believe.” [Sūrat Maryam 19:39]

Indeed circulating books like this is to take part in misguiding and in serving the plan to disrupt the thinking of the Ummah away from the right path. And Allah knows best.

The servant of knowledge: Muḥammad Tawfīq Ramaḍān

[Translated by Mahdi Lock]

Original document taken from the website of the maraji` in Arabic and also in English

[1] (tn): because it is not actually possible to fully translate the Qurʾān, and thus any so-called translation is in fact only a conveyance of some of the meanings, and therefore it’s an explanation, or tafsīr

[2] (tn): for instance, see Sūrat an-Naḥl 16:125

[3]  (tn): for instance, see Sūrat al-Māʾidah 5:72-73

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Mortgages on Homes

The following question was put to the marja`: 

The European Council for Fatwa and Research has declared it permissible to purchase a house using an interest-based loan in non-Islamic countries based on the juristic principle that necessities permit forbidden matters [1] and based on the statement of the Ḥanafis that it is permissible to deal in interest in Dar ul-Harb, and according to the Ḥanafis Dar ul-Harb is non-Islamic countries, as is mentioned in the fatwa.

It is worth mentioning that many Muslims act upon this fatwa, especially in America and in European countries.  Thus, to what extent is this fatwa, which has been agreed upon by some scholars who are well-known in the Muslim world, valid and who bears the sin: the one who acts upon the fatwa or the scholars from this Ummah who issued it?

The marja`, Imam Muhammad Sa`id Ramadan Al-Bouti, may Allah have mercy upon him, answered with what follows: 

This fatwa that has circulated and been attributed to the Ḥanafi madhab is a lie and an act of oppression against them, for the Ḥanafis do not say that every land of unbelief is Dar ul-Harb.

If that were the case then it would be obligatory upon the Muslims to fight all of them, and may a Muslim be far from saying such a thing. Dar al-Harb refers to a country that the Imam of the Muslims has declared war against, and thus whatever of their wealth that reaches us during that time is war booty for us and whatever reaches them of our wealth is war booty for them.

Therefore, dealing in interest is impermissible for a Muslim in every time and in every place. When you find yourself in Dar al-Ḥarb you fight the combatants who fight you. Every event has a discussion and every problem has a solution.

This was taken from  Al-Hajj Mahdi Lock via the original personal website of the Imam that is no longer active.

[1] (tn): even though buying a house is not necessary for preventing death and destruction

 

 

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Impermissible Names for Children

The following question was put to the marja`: 

What is the ruling on giving a child names like `Abdun-Nabi (Slave of the Prophet) or `Abdur-Rasul (Servant of the Messenger) and is this in accordance with the rulings of the four madhhabs?

Are these types of names minor shirk according to the opinion held by some people?

The marja`, Imam `Abdur-Rahman Ash-Shami, may Allah preserve him, answered with what follows: 

It is not permitted to name a child in this fashion. If someone gave a child a name such as this and intended by that the real meaning of the expression, then this would indeed be minor shirk.

Taken from the website of the maraji`

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Men Wearing their Hair Long or Short

The following question was asked of a marja`:

Which of the following two actions for the man is the sunnah: lengthening the hair on the head or cutting it short?

 

The marja,` Imam `Abdur-Rahman Ash-Shami, may Allah preserve him, answered with what follows:

It is authentically narrated from the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, that he either kept his hair long or cut it so that it was all one length. Thus to lengthen it is permitted but to shorten it is also permitted.

What is impermissible is doing either of these actions in order to imitate rebellious sinners in their conduct or lifestyle.

Taken from the website of the maraji`

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Innovations in Ramadan/Qur’an Completions

The following question was asked of a marja`:

We have a very good custom that we carry out when completing the Qur’an in the month of Ramadan. There are a number of Qur’an completions that are done every night in a masjid.

My question is to do with the prayer of Tarawih in which the imam of the prayer recites from Surat ud-Duha (93) to Surat un-Nas (114). After every surah the imam recites, both he and the congregation say aloud in one voice:

There is no god but Allah. Allah is the Greatest and Allah deserves all praise.

The imam in the prayer then makes the takbir and bows down. Is this permissible?

Likewise there are other specific statements of dhikr that we have that are said aloud after every two raka`ah of Tarawih.

What is said is,

Bounty, Favour, Forgiveness and Mercy are from Allah. Encompasser in Forgiveness! Allah!

After every four raka`ah, they then make that same dhikr and then they make intercession aloud with the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and the four khalifahs by saying:

At Badr, Muhammad. Blessings be upon him and our master Abu Bakr As-Siddiq, may Allah be pleased with him, and may Allah benefit us in this life and the Hereafter. Allah!

 And our master `Umar Al-Faruq, may Allah be pleased with him, and may Allah benefit us in this life and the Hereafter. Allah!

And our master `Uthman ibn `Affan, may Allah be pleased with him, and may Allah benefit us in this life and the Hereafter. Allah!

And our master `Ali Ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, and may Allah benefit us in this life and the Hereafter. Allah!

 

The marja,` Imam `Abdur-Rahman Ash-Shami, may Allah preserve him, answered with what follows:

What you have mentioned of their doings in the prayer has not been narrated and is not to besought.

As for the statements of dhikr that they are making after every two raka`ah and the like, the best thing to do is to leave that and take hold of the Sunnah in that regard.

Taken from the website of the maraji`

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Health Clubs, Bathhouses, Saunas and Swimming Pools

The following question was asked of a marja`:

In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate

Peace and blessings of Allah be upon our Master Muhammad and upon his family and Companions.

We have buildings in our midst named youth centres and bathhouses. This expression refers to large bathhouses and steam rooms that have designated times for women and men to attend separately.

There is much exposure of nakedness without reason especially among the women who disrobe in front of one another. This is in spite of the fact that the bathhouse owner has left out free garments that could be used by them to cover themselves during these times.

The question has to do with the fact that I am an owner of such a bathhouse and I fear that my sustenance might be impermissible due to this issue. Also keep in mind that I am Maliki in madhhab.

What is the ruling in this matter and what is the boundary of what is permitted and what is not in this regard? Please benefit us with what will give us a good end that Allah might seal you and I in the same way that His Purified and Saints were sealed. Amin.

Peace and blessings of Allah be upon our master Muhammad, his family and Companions.

 

The marja,` Imam `Abdur-Rahman Ash-Shami, may Allah preserve him, answered with what follows:

Women specifically don’t need to go to bathhouses and saunas in this current age of ours as it is easy enough for them to use steaming and bathhouse functions in their homes. In this age women’s going out to bathhouses and saunas is a source of manifest corruption.

Take the bathhouse that you own and convert it into a bathhouse exclusively for men and move on from that point.

It is necessary that you warn these men to uphold the standard of the Revealed Law in all their actions while on the premises with regard to covering nakedness.

If you are in a land where the houses have no place where ghusl and the like can be done – and this is very rare indeed – and the women desire to go and make ghusl or bathe, then there is no harm in them doing this insofar as they adhere to the principles of the Revealed Law; namely, there should be a partition or separation between the women’s and men’s quarters.

These bathhouses/saunas should have employees on hand in the women’s areas, assisting and enjoining them to maintain proper decorum and cover their nakedness in the presence of one another.

Taken from the website of the maraji`

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Valid Reasons for Cutting the Beard

The following question was asked of a marja`:

What is the ruling on shaving the beard without a valid reason in the Revealed Law? What would be the ruling on plucking hair away from the cheeks or removing it with a razor in the following circumstances?

  1. There is an upright man with a beard but he wants to remove some of the hair as part of general upkeep and hygiene regarding the beard.
  2. Someone has a beard but wants to beautify it, so he is removing some hair to accomplish the goal.
  3. A man shaves the beard for a valid reason in the Revealed Law
  4. Another man shaves the beard without a valid reason in the Revealed Law

Finally, what is the ruling on shaving some of the beard and leaving a part of it? What I mean by this is that I would like to know the ruling on the goatee?

The marja,` Imam `Abdur-Rahman Ash-Shami, may Allah preserve him, answered with what follows:

It is impermissible to shave the beard according to the vast majority of the scholars of fiqh. If it was shaved on account of some real and dire emergency,[1] then there is no harm in that. What you have referred to as the goatee is not permissible to be done to the beard.

As for men plucking hair from their faces, then this is not permitted either unless it becomes bushy and unkempt. In that case it would be permissible to clip or cut it.

When discussing men cutting hair on the face according to certain customary habits or trends, then this is disliked as has been discussed by the leading figures of the Hanbali School.

Taken from the website of the maraji`

[1] Ar. darurah haqiqiyyah.

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Unequivocal Statement on Shaving the Beard

The following question was asked of a marja`:

What is the ruling on shaving the beard?

 

The marja,` Imam `Abdur-Rahman Ash-Shami, may Allah preserve him, answered with what follows:

Praise be to Allah and peace and blessings be upon our Master, the Messenger of Allah, his family and Companions.

Regarding the question put forward, I will quote the hadith in the collection of Imam Al-Bukhari in which the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said, “Be different to the idol worshippers. Leave the beards be and par the moustaches.”

The scholars of fiqh from the Malikis, Hanafis and Hanbalis have explicitly stated that it is impermissible to shave the beard. They hold that the wording in the hadith…”be different to the idol worshippers…” and …”leave the beard…” is a directive that is compulsory.

The only dispute is that some of the high ranking leaders of the Shafi`ii scholars hold the position that it is merely disliked to shave it but others in their madhhab do not agree with them on that.

This discussion was mentioned by the Shaikh, Muhammad Al-Hamid in his small research on the topic of shaving the beard.

The dominant and most preponderant position is that which the vast majority of the scholars of fiqh have settled upon, namely that it is impermissible to shave it.

And Allah is sufficient for me to give success in tendering this reply.

Taken from the website of the maraji`

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Businesses Avoiding Justified Taxes

The following question was asked of a marja`:

As-Salaamu `Alaikum,

We live in a European country that has value taxes that are very high. Keeping this in mind, what is the ruling on Muslims here that evade paying the complete taxes? By that I mean that they avoid taxes by way of deception and trickery.

So when one of them owns a convenience store and the end of the month comes, he does not record and fill out all the invoices for the state or he changes or makes distortions in the buying in and selling book with regards to incomings and outgoings.

In doing this he pays very little tax as in the estimation of the state he has earned very little profit, knowing good and well that these taxes that are given to the country go towards children, the disabled and others who are unable to work. So what is the ruling in this regard?

 

The marja,` Imam `Abdur-Rahman Ash-Shami, may Allah preserve him, answered with what follows:

You are obliged to adhere to the laws of the country that you are in with regard to that matter and with regard to the generality of the taxes that are to be paid.

Taken from the website of the maraji`

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Carbonated Drinks/Soft Drinks

The following question was asked of a marja`:

As-Salaamu `Alaikum,

When it is established with certainty that drinking carbonated drinks/soft drinks is harmful, at that point does drinking them become impermissible?

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer the question.

 

The marja,` Imam `Abdur-Rahman Ash-Shami, may Allah preserve him, answered with what follows:

When it is established by the statement of a body of trustworthy specialists that carbonated drinks/soft drinks do indeed cause harm, then at that point they do indeed become impermissible to drink.

The same position holds when the ingredients are shown to contain primarily impermissible things, i.e. alcohol and the like.

Taken from the website of the maraji`

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