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Shaykh al-Alawî - A kind word in response to those who reject sufism - CHAPTER TWO: THE DEFENSE OF THE SCHOLARS
English - Articles written
Écrit par Ahmad al-Alawî   
Mercredi, 14 Septembre 1921 13:40
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I shall proceed with this advice as a respect for the Divine essence, hoping perhaps that it might restrain you, ‘But God cautions you (to remember) Himself ’ [3:30]. He says in a Divine narration, ‘whoever harms My friends I declare war on him’ 24 . I say, undoubtedly, that whoever is at war with Allāh, his safety diminishes. He (blessings and peace be upon him) said, there are ‘two poisoned forests, whoever tries to penetrate them will never be safe, the people of my household and the saints of my community.'


The sayings of the scholars in this regard are innumerable. Among them is Abū al-Mawāhib al-Tunisī who mentioned that his Shaykh Abū `Uthmān (may Allāh be satisfied with them both), used to say in his public lectures, ‘may the curse of Allāh be upon the one who rejects the people of this group, and whoever believes in Allāh [10] and the last day, let him say Allāh's curse upon him’. Al-Laqqānī 25 (may Allāh be pleased with him) used to say, ‘it is feared that whoever speaks evil of the Sufis will have a bad ending and his retribution will be a severe discipline and a long incarceration’. ‘God doth admonish you, that ye may never repeat such (conduct), if ye are (true) Believers’ [24:17]. This is the wont of every god-fearing religious leader; fearful of speaking about Muslims in general, let alone the Sufis.


Had you been oblivious to the affairs of the Sufis, yet accepting them as being Muslim, then it would have been imperative for you to respect them and unlawful for you to dishonour them. Hence, refrain from pursuing their faults and be wary of a severe admonition from the Lawgiver.


Do not look at your brothers faults

Ibn `Umar (may Allāh be satisfied with him) narrated from the Messenger of Allāh (blessings and peace be upon him), ‘Whoever searches for the faults of a Muslim, disgracing him by it unjustly, Allāh will disgrace him with it in the hell-fire on the day of resurrection’ 26 . If this is in relation to the one who exposes a fault of one Muslim, what then is the ruling for the one who searches for the faults of the Muslims in general and their elect, so as to disgrace them amongst themselves, or among non-Muslims should they come across it, as you have done, O Shaykh. You have searched for the smallest fault and you have been excessive in your disapproval, as if you consider yourself to be the only Sunni in all of existence and that everyone else is either an ignorant innovator or a feeble adversary. This is your judgement upon the sons of your creed.


We do not know what Allāh’s judgement is on you, if you had but searched for the faults in yourself, you would have realised the error of searching for the faults of others. It is similar to his saying (blessings and peace upon him) that, ‘one of you is able to notice a small speck in his brother's eye, whilst oblivious of a tree-trunk in his own eye.’ 27 You, however, have forgotten about many tree-trunks, the news of which will soon be disclosed to you. Perhaps, when it is made evident, you may wish to remove it as best you can. It’s removal, however, is not possible except through a clear confession, and confession is only possible by being just. So if you are a man of justice, then this book is a proof for you and if not, then it is a proof against you.


But in any case, however you accept it; have a clear vision and an open mind and a heart that is far from prejudice. Indeed my correspondence with you is only that I wish that through it, Allāh saves you from the situation that you are in and that He saves those like you and whoever else received your message by looking into your murky mirror, or by sitting in your pathetic gatherings. I shall mention to you some of the forgotten tree-trunks in your eyes, unless Allāh perhaps reveals it through your own ‘Mirror’.


In the introduction of your compilation wherein you dishonour Muslims, you say ‘Praise be to God who hath guided us to this (felicity): never could we have found guidance if it had not been for the guidance of God.’[7:43] I was most certainly unaware of your intention for mentioning this noble verse; was it merely to obtain blessings or were you indicating that Allāh had guided you to dishonour the dhākirūn and those like them, believing this to be guidance? If your intention was the former, then it is good. However, if you intended the latter, then the purpose of this guidance of dishonouring and slandering the people of Allāh is not apparent to us, unless it is guidance belonging to the kind which Allāh mentions when He says, ‘And Lead them to the Way to the Fire!’ [37:23]; but it does not belong to this kind.


Then you proceed to title your compilation ‘The Mirror Revealing All The Errors’, to which I say that surely you have been correct in its title and you are correct in its content, because your ‘Mirror’ has reflected that which is hidden [12] in yourself. If it was not for your ‘Mirror’, who would have known about your errors? A man's book is a sign of his intellect; whatever is in him will appear on his tongue.


On Commanding Of Good And Forbidding Evil And Forbearance With It

Shortly after that you had cited some Qur’ānic text wherein you say in its heading, ‘the introduction to commanding that which is good and forbidding that which is evil’. In this you then mention the reason for dishonouring the believers under the guise of commanding the good and forbidding the evil. However, that will not avail you against Allāh in anything. Slander by any means remains slander.


Should we even suppose that you had no intention other than that of rectifying, then that is proof of your inability to distinguish between right and wrong. It is an excuse, but not acceptable for those who undertake to command and forbid. On both issues therefore, the charge cannot be dropped from you. If you did not know, then that is a calamity and if you did know then the calamity is even greater.


If you are unable to differentiate between good and evil, then how is it possible for you to command this and forbid that? You ought to understand the meaning of something before passing judgement, because judgement is dependent on comprehension. If you do pass judgement, then do not do so except by Allāh’s judgement, and do not command except by Allāh's command and do not prohibit except by Allāh's prohibition. Be careful when speaking about Allāh 's religion using your own opinion and do not reject things as you wish. Allāh most high says, ‘And if any fail to judge by (the light of) what God hath revealed, they are (no better than) wrong-doers.’[5:48].


What is your standpoint in relation to all this, such that you can forbid this and reject that? One party you consider misguided and the other you accuse of innovation, without fearing Allāh with regard to His creation nor respecting Muhammad (blessings and peace be upon him) with respect to his community. You see yourself commanding the good and forbidding the evil, without [13] asking yourself whether you have the competence for it or not.


He (blessings and peace be upon him) said ‘none should command with good and forbid from evil except the one who is gentle in that which he commands, gentle in that which he forbids, forbearing in that which he commands, forbearing in that which he forbids, and possessing knowledge of that which he commands and of that which he forbids. 28 The gentleness with which he commands (blessings and peace be upon him) is because of his desire, and Allāh knows best, not to command except with gentleness and not to forbid except with gentleness. This is in contrast to the method, which you adopted in your ‘Mirror’, O Shaykh. The least obligation upon you was not to present something, until you knew Allāh's judgement with regard to it. You should do things in their proper manner.


Are you not aware that a youth once came to the Prophet (blessings and peace and be upon him) and said in a loud voice, ‘Are you giving me permission to commit fornication, O Messenger of Allāh?’ The people shouted at him vehemently and the Messenger of Allāh (blessings and peace be upon him) said, ‘Let him settle down! Let him settle down!’ The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) instructed him to come closer and then said to him with gentleness, ‘Would you like this to be done to your family?’ He (blessings and peace be upon him) then mentioned to him the womenfolk in his family like his mother, his sister and his wife to which the man replied, ‘No, I would not like that.’ He (blessings and peace be upon him) answered, ‘This is the case with other people who would not like that to be done to their family.’ The Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) then placed his noble hand on the young man's chest and prayed, ‘O Allāh, purify his heart, forgive his sin and protect his private part.’ Thereafter, nothing was more hateful to him than fornication 29 .


Many such happenings occurred during his life (blessings and peace be upon him) and those of his followers. Amongst them is the famous story of the Bedouin who urinated in an area of the mosque for which the companions began to rebuke him sternly. He (blessings and peace be upon him) threw his cloak over him and commanded him not to hurry, this after he had prevented his companions from using their hands on him. Once the Bedouin had relieved himself, he said, ‘O Allāh, have mercy on me and have mercy on Muhammad and do not show mercy to anyone else.’ [14] The Messenger of Allāh (blessings and peace and be upon him) then answered, ‘You have restricted that which is vast, O desert Arab.’ 30


Where are we in relation to such conduct? Gentleness, no matter what the situation, always makes that thing beautiful and harshness no matter what the situation, makes that thing ugly. These are but some aspects, which relate to gentleness in commanding and forbidding.


As for him being forbearing in that which he commands and forbearing in that which he forbids, it is a quality no matter how much of it is found in the one who commands, will in most cases benefit the one commanded, because it necessitates concern for the guidance of the one commanded. Reference is made to this in the revelation, ‘ardently anxious is he over you; to the Believers is he most kind and merciful.’ [9:128]. One of the signs of forbearance, no matter how much of it is found in the person who has it, is that he would not want to defend his ego, if his speech is rejected or if he is harmed, due to the act of commanding and forbidding. Are you not aware that when his premolar tooth (blessings and peace be upon him) was broken, he prayed, saying, ‘O Allāh forgive my people for they know not’. 31


Even if we were to say that you do not possess the least degree of forbearance, it is your obligation to strive towards it in adherence to his saying, blessings and peace be upon him that ‘knowledge is only achieved through learning and forbearance comes through striving’ 32 .


Did the revelation which speaks about `Isā (may Allāh be pleased with him), concerning his people who will come after his passing, not reach you, wherein he said ‘If Thou dost punish them, they are Thy servants: If Thou dost forgive them, Thou art the Exalted in Power, the Wise.’[5:121] See what an excellent speech and what gentleness has come from the heart of the speaker, despite the shirk 33 committed by his people, after his passing. He most certainly did not say what you said about the community of Ahmad , as mentioned in your discussion, that they are the worst of creation because they respected the Sufis, which you considered a sin. This is all due to the hardness of your heart and your lack of compassion towards the believers.


It is narrated by Jābir ibn `Abdullah from the Messenger of Allāh (blessings and peace be upon him) that he said ‘the one who does not [15] show mercy towards people, Allāh will not show mercy towards him’ 34 . These are some examples that relate to commanding with good and forbidding from evil, and in his being forbearing in that which he commands with, and forbearing in that from which he forbids.


Only with knowledge should one command good and forbid evil

Being knowledgeable in that which he commands, and in that which he forbids from, is the basis of the issue and its central support, and it is around this essential factor that the issue of commanding with good and forbidding from evil revolves. A lack of understanding of Allāh’s religion could in most cases cause him to completely distort the issue and it might be that he then commands with evil and forbids from good. This, O Shaykh is the bad and disgusting behaviour contained in your ‘Mirror’ toward the religion of Allāh , with the pretext of commanding with good and forbidding from evil.


You have negated the best of that which is good; hence there is no affliction greater and more harmful than your affliction upon the Muslims. If, at the very least, the reader is not harmed when he looks into your ‘Mirror’, he becomes confused with his religion, and doubt ensues in his affairs. He may find that which he thought to be a good deed, by which Allāh is approached, is now in fact a sin deserving punishment. What damage could be more serious for the devout worshipper than such damage? ‘To God we belong, and to him is our return’[2:156].


Has it not, unanimously been confirmed amongst the general opinion that a sitting in an assembly of dhikr obliterates several assemblies of evil? The generality and the elect of the community concur on this tenet. Yet you have now come O Shaykh, furnishing proofs in your ‘Mirror’, that assemblies of dhikr in its various forms amongst the dhakirūn are a misguided innovation, and that it is contrary to the way of the pious predecessors; without mentioning the recommended way of the assemblies of dhikr, in accordance with Divine Law.


It is obvious that whoever concerns himself with your speech, will only become confused. The affliction you find yourself in is perhaps due to your lack of understanding of Allāh's religion! It is for this reason that the Prophet (blessings and peace and be upon him) prescribed conditions for the person commanding good and forbidding evil. He must have a sound understanding of that which he commands and a sound understanding of that which he forbids from, so that he does not command with evil and forbid from good as mentioned already.


Differences between legal experts on good and evil

Once again I say, it is necessary for the one who wishes to carry out the duty of commanding with good and forbidding from evil, that he is first able to comprehend the meaning of good and evil and to be exact in his definition and to be exact about the Divine Law, so that he does not stumble into the pitfall of doing the opposite. It is for this reason that the great scholars refrained from talking about Allāh's dīn (religion), without a clear text or that which is similar in clarity.


Yes, the mujtahid (legal expert) will express his personal opinion where there is no clear text for him, without imposing his adopted view upon anyone beside himself. He merely expresses his view and nothing else. It is for this reason that legal opinions are numerous in the systematic elaboration of Islamic law and all praise be to Allāh that there is unanimity in the fundamentals ('usūl). All this is due to the ease facilitated in Allāh's religion, as mentioned in his saying (blessings and peace be upon him) that ‘the best of religion is that which is the easiest 35 and the best of worship is sound understanding’. 36 Thus, the one who has no sound understanding should refrain from commenting on Allāh's religion. Ibn `Abdul Barr related that `At ā (may Allāh be pleased with them) said, ‘It is not right for anyone to give a legal judgement unless he has knowledge of the different opinions of the scholars. If he does not know this then he might reject knowledge that is more reliable than his opinion.’


Thereafter, all that we have cited of being cautious [in giving an opinion], relates to where the issue appears to be doubtful. As for the prohibitions and the obligatory of the religion that are known by necessity, this is fiqh (jurisprudence). With regard to it, the commanding with good and prohibiting of that which is evil, is obligatory upon every Muslim who is knowledgeable of the permissibility [17] of that matter or its prohibition, even though he does not abstain or abides by it himself. However, one should be cautious of such an approach like yours, O Shaykh, of declaring [matters] unlawful and permissible with your opinion and your envy, speaking with your instincts and your desires, thinking that good is that which you know as good and the prohibited is that which you prohibit from. This is far from you and those like you, as the matter is but only entrusted to Allāh and His Messenger (blessings and peace be upon him) and those who are thoroughly versed in knowledge.


That which you may rightfully reject, is that which by necessity, is obviously known as unlawful in the religion and you may only command with the good that which is undoubtedly known as lawful in the religion. Therefore be resolute with yourself in the rest of the matters and entrust unto Allāh whatever is beyond that. Also have a good opinion of the views derived through legal reasoning, which have emanated from the legal scholars amongst the religious leaders, Sufis and others. Are you not aware that sometimes in an ambiguous matter, one legal school confirms prohibition while its permissibility is confirmed in another, or in one it is recommended while in another it is disliked?


These examples and their like do not need much clarification, so what is it that the author sees? Does he have the power to force any of the mujtahidūn to follow the interpretation of another, unless he is of those who have reached the heights of blind fanaticism as you have done? You have approached the madhhab of the majority of the masses in a trivial way, by forcing them to comply with your tedious sentiments, thinking that the detailed, prescriptive methods of commanding to good and prohibiting evil has its support on a weak foundation. Nay, by Allāh, in all of this you have not done justice to the Sufis, O Shaykh. What must be said to people like you and those like you is that the most insignificant Sufi is more cautious about his religion than you are.


As for your seeking justification with the verse, ‘You are the best of Peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong,’ [3:110]. [18] I say, there is no dispute in that which you have cited from the text, pertaining to the practice of commanding with good and forbidding from evil, it is obligatory upon everyone who believes in Allāh , His Messenger (blessings and peace be upon him) and the Last Day. The dispute only concerns the ‘evil’ which you have misinterpreted, as demonstrated by your action of including the circles of dhikr and all Sufi practices under the domain of evil, which you necessarily want changed. In my opinion the evil that most requires change, is that which is contained in your 'Mirror'.


Furthermore, I say, the address in His saying, ‘You are the best nation’ could either refer to the believers in general, or it could refer to the distinguished amongst them. If the reference is to the believers in general, then it is an indication of them being preferred over the other nations with regard to the duty of commanding to good and forbidding from evil. For indeed this is the task of the siddīqūn 37 , the Prophets and the Messengers and then their commanding and forbidding would be directed toward the other nations, and the munkar (evil) would be shirk and the like thereof and the good would be Tawhīd (Divine Oneness) and the like thereof. However, if the address refers to the elite group amongst them, then the commanding and forbidding would be for those amongst them. Then munkar (evil) would be every blameworthy character and its opposite would be every praiseworthy character.


However, if we employ the pronoun for the latter, we are then obliged to direct it to those guides 38 who invite to the Truth, as that is the reality. They are those concerning whom the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) said, ‘The earth will never be devoid of forty men like ‘the friend of the Most Gracious’ by them will you be given to drink and by them will you be given sustenance. Anyone of them who passes away will only be substituted by another.’


Thus, in this way the community of Muhammad (blessings and peace be upon him) always had a group whose hearts were like those of the earlier Prophets. [19] No age is ever devoid of these groups. It is to them that the address most precisely relates, as they are most qualified for it through an innate disposition, with which they have been endowed. The distinguishing characteristic of ‘commanding with good and forbidding from evil’ exists naturally in them; and it might be found in others beside them except that then it is an acquired and transitory trait, not naturally found in them.


In my opinion the category of people referred to in the verse are in most cases not to be found except amongst the dhākirūn who are deeply devoted to the remembrance of Allāh, in accordance with the forthcoming Prophetic narration that will be mentioned. The people deeply devoted (al-mustahtarīn) to the remembrance of Allāh, as mentioned in some narrations, or those who are completely immersed (al-muwall`) in the remembrance of Allāh, as mentioned in other narrations, are not found except amongst the Sufis, those whom you have accused of innovation. As for those other than them, they cannot reach their level of dhikr, whomsoever it may be, except when they love them or are of their predecessors or are attached to their spiritual chain. This excludes those of the first three generations who have been testified for 39 . However, this is very clear to the one who understands the meaning of Sufism and knows who the Sufis are.


As for the one who thinks that it refers to a noisy riffraff group who are amongst the most despicable of people, he will not be guided by what we have mentioned. He makes an analogy based on what he knows about them, for that which he has no knowledge of, using the name [Sufism] as a justification, and thinking that it is one and the same. What a big difference between that which you know and that which you do not know. By Allāh! My dear brother, should Allāh reveal to you the meaning of Sufism and its foundations and aim, you would have been contented if Allāh had placed you amongst the Sufis, so that you could take even a morsel from them.


Discord amongst Muslims and breaking down of the Brotherhood

As for your using as proof His saying, the Elevated, 'The Believers, men and women, are protectors, one of another: they enjoin what is just, and what is evil.' [9:71] [20] You have taken the latter part of the verse and omitted the former, even though the former is the basis for the latter, which makes it obligatory for the believers to protect each other, and to do whatever else to ensure the sanctity of their wealth, honour and their safety. Prior to this even, it is necessary that we understand the meaning of imān (faith), which makes incumbent upon us brotherhood, guardianship (wilāyah), and mutual assistance among ourselves. I say, it is easy, and Allāh knows best, according to what the lawmaker has stipulated for us. It is that we believe in Allāh , His Angels, His Books, His Apostles and the Last Day. Hence, whoever truly possesses these qualities, then guardianship (wilāyah) becomes compulsory for him and enmity towards such a person becomes unlawful (harām).


This is found, and Allāh knows best, in every individual of the community, despite the variety of their schools of thought (madhāhib) and their difference in their methods of extrapolating Islamic laws, which is not harmful as long as the principles are sound. For this reason, it is necessary for the one whom Allāh has given the ability to speak [with authority], that he should not unfold his tongue except for that which complies with the safeguarding of the Islamic bond and the religious brotherhood, and that he should not harm the beliefs of the people of the Qiblah. 40 Further, he should not denounce their beliefs as disgraceful nor pass judgement on them as being false innovators, so that it becomes a means for separation, conflict and disharmony amongst the Muslims.


Did it not come to your ears, O Shaykh, as to why the community had previously come into disarray? The cause of all this was the extravagance of the overzealous followers of madhāhib. They defamed one another and would judge each other on their own beliefs, while in actual fact they are all believers. However, the sectarian (madhhabi) fanaticism between them led to the breaking up of the religious bonds of brotherhood which were united by the testimony of faith (shahādatayn), the establishment of prayer, the giving of Zakāh (alms), the performance of the Hajj , the fasting of Ramadan, the recitation of the Qur’ān and other Islamic characteristics [21] which are very important.


To be preoccupied with that which was mentioned [of madhhabi fanaticism] is of no benefit. By Allāh, O Shaykh how could you embark upon destroying the greatest pillar in Islam [brotherhood] and the firm support upon which Muslims depend, by inciting fitna (discord) and by taking their hearts away from loving the Sufis, for whom their hearts have been nurtured to respect. Consequently they naturally have a high regard for them, venerating them, and having a good opinion of Sufism and its people. Yet you said, ‘Sufism is idleness, ignorance, and misguidance’ and whatever else you construe it to be. By Allāh, you have broken many hearts, which would be difficult for you to restore except through sincere repentance and apology.


It behoves you not to denigrate a madhhab until you know who had established it and what its ten fundamentals are, the knowledge of which you as a scholar have made conditional for every science. Thereafter you may say whatever you want to say. In my opinion, either the knowledge you possess is very limited, or your ability to comprehend is weak or it might be both. If such is the case then it is obvious that you cannot find someone who can guide you to the science of Sufism in the introductory texts, which are at your disposal, like al-Zanjāni 41 and Ibn Ājarrūm 42 . On this premise which we mentioned of your very limited exposure to the concise introductory texts then there should be some you could not have missed like al-Murshid al-Mu`īn on `ibādah (worship) and Al-Jawāhir Al-Maknūn on rhetoric (al-balāghah). They were of those concerned with the science of Sufism. The former mentioned it independently and the latter spoke highly of it, making reference to it in order to draw the attention of the students to it, may Allāh reward them well. However, I am not sure, have you rejected the two of them because of your rejection of Sufism essentially or have you no regard for them?


You have most certainly exaggerated in your repudiation for otherwise the reputation of Sufism has no need for presenting testimony in its defence. But nevertheless, [22] should you have a long life and should you desire to compile something on matters of knowledge or on religious instruction, then my advice to you is not to come forward except with the purpose of fostering unity amongst the community of Muhammad (blessings and peace be upon him) meaning that which will confirm the religious bond and the Islamic brotherhood, disregarding the different minor aspects. ‘Say, ‘O People of the Book! come to common terms as between us and you: that we worship none but God; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, lords and patrons other than God.’ [3:64].


By Allāh, if you had examined closely to whom this verse was revealed, and the purpose of its revelation; lo what a beautiful composition! Where are we in relation to what Allāh most high says? You will most probably say that it was revealed about the people of the Book, as is explicit in the verse. At the very least it was your duty then to have accorded to the Sufis the rank of the people of the Book, neither believing them, nor repudiating them 43 . This is the least degree of fairness, but where are the men of fairness? Your seeking justification with that which al-Ghazāli (may Allāh be pleased with him) has said, is not appropriate because of what your rules demand, since he is a Sufi and you do not support Sufism.


Degrees of Faith

As for your seeking of proof with that which Ibn `Abbās (may Allāh be pleased with him) narrated, ‘Verily the one who renounces the duty of commanding good and forbidding evil is not a believer in the Qur’ān 44 ….’; do you think that he (blessings and peace be upon him) meant by it the complete negation of faith? Definitely not! For then the entire nation would have been damned. He merely implied the perfect faith of the rank of the truthful ones (siddiqun), as borne witness to by many Prophetic traditions. Amongst them is the Prophetic tradition, ‘The believer will not be a believer until he loves for his brother that which he loves for himself’ 45 .


As for the more general Imān, it has already been mentioned that it is very simple. [23] The famous Prophetic tradition of the black woman slave adds to that simplicity. It is confirmed that one of the companions (may Allāh be satisfied with them) had imposed upon himself to set free a believing slave woman, so he brought a black slave girl to the Prophet to test her Imān (faith). He (blessings and peace be upon him) asked her, ‘Where is your Lord? And she pointed towards the sky, so the Prophet then said she is a believer’. Then the companion set her free 46 .


That which testifies to the above, that the intention of this is not the negation of general Imān, is that which you have transmitted from Ibn `Arafah 47 as a fard kifāyah 48 . Thus, with the Prophetic traditions you have built a castle, but that which you mentioned from Ibn `Arafah, you then destroyed a city. You will be asked what the purpose of your mentioning the Prophetic traditions were, which imply generalisation, if commanding with good and forbidding from evil is for a specific group. If such is the case, then what is the reason for it being obligatory on you and not on others?


I say to you, the matter is not about gathering texts if you wish to write. The truth of the matter is that you place them in their proper context. It is the kind of wisdom, which He the Exalted says, 'He granteth wisdom to whom He pleaseth; And he to whom wisdom is granted receiveth indeed a benefit overflowing;' [2:269].


With regard to your seeking of proof from his saying (blessing and peace be upon him), ‘He is not of us, the one who does not show mercy to our young ones and does not respect our elders...’, is intended here as was mentioned earlier about [the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) negating perfect faith of those who neglect] commanding to good and forbidding from evil. However, what does relate to this Prophetic narration you mentioned, ‘He who does not show mercy to our young ones’, is that it includes the general community because they are immature, even though they might be old in years. Also, those who are included amongst the elders are the elect of the community, even though they might be young in years because a human is considered a human being by spirit and not by body.


Courtesy towards the believers

Based on this you therefore have no substantiation in the Prophetic narration, because you have not shown mercy [24] to the young ones, who are the generality of the Muslims, since you should have addressed them with gentleness and kindness like the compassion of the grown up father towards the young son. Instead, you have addressed them with harshness and you have attacked them with everything at your disposal.


You have also not respected the elders who are the springs of wisdom, and the pillars of this community's religion. They have been adjudged to be idle and ignorant, and you have considered them as enemies, based on the Prophetic narration you transmitted from Ibn `Abbās, (may Allāh be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allāh (blessings and peace be upon him) said, ‘Come nearer to Allāh through your hatred for sinners…’ You applied it to them. By Allāh! How astonishing. How is it ever possible that you could apply these traditions to those who assemble for the remembrance of Allāh and the like!


On the whole, all the proofs, which you have mentioned in relation to the obligation of commanding good and forbidding evil, are not being disputed. The only dispute is in the meaning of munkar (evil); in order that we do not reject the truth, or that which is closer to truth than untruth. It is better that you err in correcting your brothers in faith, than being accurate in pointing out their faults. Are you not aware that the honour of Muslims, their wealth and blood is protected by their mere utterance of the shahādatayn 49 ?


Levels of commanding good and forbidding evil

You then continued, quoting Ibn Abī Zayd al-Qayrawānī (may Allāh be pleased with him) from his treatise (al-Risālah),


‘The commanding with good and forbidding from evil is obligatory upon the one who has authority and upon the one who is able to change it. If he is unable to do that then he uses his tongue, and if unable, then in his heart.’


I say that this is the meaning of a Prophetic tradition; the text thereof perhaps has not reached you. ‘If one of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand, if he is unable to do so, then with his tongue and if still unable, let him resent it in his heart and that is the weakest form of faith’ 50 . This is one of the beautiful methods of commanding good and forbidding evil. [25]


As for your conveyance of the saying of Ibn `Arafah that 'commanding good and forbidding evil' is a fard kifāyah , there is nothing in this statement that supports your resolution for compiling this treatise. How unfortunate that you did not, in what has preceded, restrict yourself to only mentioning the previous Prophetic traditions.


Certainly, the commanding of good and forbidding of evil is fard `ayn (obligatory upon every individual) who is able to distinguish right from wrong, [since] the lawful is evident and the unlawful is evident? In the case of doubt, suspension [of judgement] is imposed; except that the circumstances for effecting the change [of evil] varies amongst people and places as well as capability and incapability.


The one who has the power to change the evil, like the rulers, for them it is really obligatory. They have no excuse to abandon it if they have the capability, as mentioned previously. It is necessary for those among the Muslim scholars who do not reach this rank to change it with their tongues. The one, who is unable to do so, because of some hindrance, should change it with his heart and that is the weakest form of faith as already mentioned in the Prophetic tradition.


Thereafter you proceeded in poor wording saying,

‘amongst that which is also obligatory, is to follow the truth, the Prophetic Sunnah of Muhammad and follow in the footsteps of the pious salaf, may Allāh be pleased with them. Verily their common practice was to love, trust and venerate the one who adhered to the Sunnah, but they would abandon, disregard and resent whoever was unlike that, until he who desires to be elevated amongst them, those in whom there is no good, would appear to them as if he is following them until they would trust him.’


As for your saying, ‘amongst that which is also obligatory is to follow the truth’, it is the obligation of obligations for those who understand the truth and to whom it [the truth] is clear. However, the one who is in a state of confusion, struck with madness by the devil, how will he know the truth? Even if he knows it he only knows it through the scholars. This does not place him in a position to follow the truth [by himself], except [26] when Allāh opens his inner vision and cleans his heart from the evil opinion he has of the pious people. Imām `Ali (may Allāh bless his face) said, ‘Do not be of those who know the truth through men, but know the truth in itself and you will know its people’.


You then mentioned that the qualities of the pious predecessors were such that they loved those who followed the Sunnah. However, which believer in Allāh and His Messenger (blessings and peace be upon him) does not love the Ahl al-Sunnah? Did the Messenger of Allāh (blessings and peace be upon him) not say, ‘Behold! There is no faith for the one who has no love’. Are you not aware that the Sufis whom you have accused with idleness, ignorance and misguidance, made love the foundation of their path? But perhaps the Ahl al-Sunnah you are referring to, are those who are like you and not the generality of Muslims, and Allāh knows best.


Thereafter you mentioned some of the practices of the pious predecessors [namely] that they rejected, disregarded and resented those who were not on the Sunnah, to the end of your poorly constructed words. Until now it was not clear who you intended by those contradicting the Sunnah, had you not presented a profound allegory as to who the aforementioned and adjacent text referred to when you said ‘like the Sufis of our time’. I can only say that 'now the foetus of the Shaykh has started to cry’. 51 We then knew what the abomination was which you alluded to, and what your reason for compiling this article was. Thus, you regarded ascription to the people of dhikr as the worst abomination.


What you subsequently mentioned and indicated of the grave offences was only a digression since the most important in anything has pre-eminence, except if we say that the writer of the article gave precedence to the mentioning of the Sufis for the purpose of receiving their blessings, which I do not think [is the case]. The essence of the matter is that the abominations, to which you have referred and the innovations to which you have alluded, are contained in the mentioning of your simile, 'like the Sufis of our time’. Thus, now there is not an abomination outside of what the Sufis do that we might be able to avert. All of this never [27] filled us with any agitation until you restricted it to the Sufis of our time, if only you had not proceeded to what al-Tart ūshī 52 mentioned, that the doctrine of Sufism in totality is idleness, ignorance, and misguidance.


How we only wish that the writings of al-Tart ūshī had never reached you, then your heart would have remained clean from slandering those people of guidance who have passed on. However, Allāh will pass judgement between you and those who were your contemporaries amongst His servants.


Then you went on to say, ‘In most cases the situation of the people of this time, those who have immersed themselves in the melting pot of the people of innovation, is that they have an aversion to those who forbid them from their innovation and their blameworthy festivals. These [activities] do not coincide with any statement of approval even from outside the schools of thought of their scholars whom they follow’.


Perhaps the meaning of your statement, 'those who become immersed in the melting pot of the people of innovations,’ are the groups of the fuqarā'. 53 If such is the case, then what a bold jurist and excellent attentive person you are! The thoughtless person thinks that part of boldness is a lack of shyness. He does not know that shyness is a part of faith.


What is even more grievous and bitter is your statement about their innovation 'that it does not coincide with any statement of approval even from outside the schools of thought of their scholars whom they follow'. You have indeed examined and been brief, may Allāh bless you! So tell me, with Allāh as your witness, what is the innovation for which you can find no saying of approval? Is it perhaps the gathering of the fuqarā' for their invocation and instruction and education (al-mudhākarah) or is it their performing of the invocation aloud in a group or their swaying in the invocation and their [expressions of] ecstasy? In all of the schools of thought have you not been able to find any saying of approval in your research of these three matters?


In my opinion you have not found a saying, even that of dislike (al-karāhah 54 ), because the rule is well known. The existence of something disliked (al-karāhah) does not negate permissibility. What stops the wheel and makes a woman laugh who has lost her child (i.e. because of extreme grief) is your reason proposed for their innovation by your statement, because they either think that the effective jurist, perhaps a reference here to yourself, has restrained them or what the instigator of their innovations say is the truth. Thus this is how you have explained their innovation [28] for which you cannot find any saying of permissibility. What an amazing construction and what an unusual style!


Thereafter you said, ‘Perhaps they have reviled and mocked him’ i.e. the one who forbids them from their innovation. To this I say, perhaps that is what happened to you, or something similar to it. It is known that you will meet that which you dislike, since recompense is of the same type as the act? And that did not happen to you except due to your lack of understanding the method of commanding good and forbidding evil and inviting to Allāh. [This is] because you did not follow what Allāh, The Elevated has prescribed to His Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) in the way of inviting His creation according to His saying, ‘Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and a beautiful preaching; And argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious:’ [16:125].


Those commissioned with inviting to good and forbidding from evil

Allāh, the Exalted has taught the people whom He has commissioned for inviting the creation, the method of reminding and as a result the old, young, as well as the honourable and the despicable submitted to them. Their speech is acceptable to the ears, because their admonishment emanates from the heart and not from the books. Speech, if it emanates from the heart, touches the heart. It is for this reason that their admonition produced an effect on the hearts and their counselling pervaded the hearts of the disciples.


They understood from the glorious verse [of the Qur’ān] that people are in three categories and the Messenger (blessings and peace be upon him) says, ‘Deal with people according to their level (i.e. their intellectual and spiritual capacity)’. The first group amongst these groups are those who do not yield to the one who reminds except through the wisdom and they are the people of excellence amongst the servants of Allāh. The second group are those who benefit from good admonition, accompanied by kindness and gentleness, which is exercised between [inciting desire (to do good) and (instilling) fear so that they abandon evil]. The third group are the people of dispute who tire the people of guidance amongst the Messenger s (blessings and peace be upon them) and saints (may Allāh be pleased with them). So Allāh, The Elevated, made it permissible for the Messenger (blessings and peace be upon him) to deliberate with such people, except that Allāh restricted it (deliberation) to that which is best. Thus excellence (for every degree of people). It is for this reason that the sword was considered to be the last step of propagation. Whosoever fails to follow this laid-out plan for conveying the reminder, his endeavour in most cases will be rejected? All this is deduced from his saying (may blessings and peace [29] be upon him) that ‘The one who commands with good, then let his commanding also be with good’, meaning with friendliness and gentleness, so that it might be more conducive for acceptance, and Allāh knows best.


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