Problems must be solved in the light of the Qur’an and Sunna
And hold fast all together, by the rope which God [stretches out for you], and be not divided among yourselves.
Alif. Lam. Mim. * This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear God.
Alif. Lam. Ra. These are the symbols [or verses] of the Perspicuous Book. * We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur’an, in order that you may learn wisdom.
O you who believe! Obey God and His Messenger, and turn not away from him when you hear [him speak]. * Nor be like those who say, “We hear,” but listen not.
Do they not then earnestly seek to understand the Qur’an, or are their hearts locked up by them?
And We have indeed made the Qur’an easy to understand and remember: then is there any that will receive admonition?
For centuries Muslims forgot to tax their minds over the Qur’an and to adhere to it closely. It became a book that was read only to earn merit, and only a few specified verses of it were expounded, for sermons or admonition.
On its being forgotten that Muslims should seek to understand the Qur’an, it became something unattainably sacred; the idea was born that we could not understand it. Those who held this view insisted that the early scholars had solved everything and our duty was to understand what they said.
Bediuzzaman described as follows this regretable situation in a piece called The Absolute Sovereignty of the Qur’an:
“In my opinion, the most important cause of the Islamic community displaying carelessness and negligence in the precepts of religion is this:
“The pillars (fundamentals matters) and essential precepts of Islam form ninety per cent. They are the property of the Qur’an and the Sunna, which is itself the expounder of the Qur’an. Controversial matters which are open to interpretation (ijtihadi) form only ten per cent. Qualitatively there is a vast difference between the controversial matters and the pillars (fundamental matters) and essential precepts of Islam. If the questions open to interpretation are golden, the others are each diamond pillars. Is it permissible to place ninety diamond pillars under the patronage of ten golden [matters], to combine them, and make them subordinate to them?
“It is the sacredness of the source that drives the mass of people to conform [to the precepts of religion]. The books of those qualified to interpret the law (mujtahidin) should be like means and display the Qur’an as though they were glass; they should neither act on its behalf nor obscure it.”
The Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him)
God Almighty draws all attention to the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him).
O mankind! There has come to you a convincing proof from your Susttainer: for We have sent unto you a light [that is] manifest. * Then those who believe in God, and hold fast to Him — soon will He admit them to mercy and grace from Himself, and guide them to Himself by a Straight Way.
The place of scholars
The place in religion of authoritative scholars has been taken from this verse:
O you who believe! Obey God, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you. If you differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to God and His Messenger, if you do believe in God and the Last Day; that is best, and most suitable for final determination.
Muslims do not dispute matters stated clearly in the Qur’an and Sunna. For instance, no Muslim would oppose the prohibition on eating pork and carrion, and on usury and interest, and trampling the rights of others. Dispute occurs over the questions not stated clearly in the Qur’an and Sunna. It means interpretation (ijtihad) based on the Qur’anic verses and Hadiths is made on these subjects, meaning they are referred to God and His Prophet. Such interpretation is carried out by ‘masters or leaders’ (ulu’l-amr), who are qualified to do this.
A second verse related to this is as follows:
And before you also the messengers We sent were but men, to whom We granted inspiration. If you realize this not, ask of those who possess the Message. * [We sent them] with clear signs and scriptures and We have sent down to you [also] the Message; that you may explain clearly to men what is sent for them, and that they may give thought.
It is understood that “those who possess the Message” (ahl al-dhikr) here are primarily the Jews and Christians, who had Divine scriptures. However, it has also been interpreted as referring to scholars who are ‘people of the Qur’an,’ who renew their knowledge of it.
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that “The scholars are heirs of the prophets.” They therefore should carry out the duty of making judgements through the Qur’an, with which the Prophet was charged.
And this [He commands]: judge between them by what God has revealed, and follow not their vain desires, but beware of them lest they beguile you from any of that [teaching] which God has sent down to you. And if they turn away, be assured that for some of their crimes it is God’s purpose to punish them. And truly most men are rebellious. * Do they then seek after a judgement of [the days of] Ignorance? But who, for a people whose faith is assured, can give better judgement than God?
If the scholars who are to be the heirs of the Prophet (PBUH) are annihilated, who will direct people to the Qur’an and Sunna? Who shall be called to account for the Qur’an being thought of as something unattainably sacred, despite its clear verses summoning us to understand it, and for the baseless idea that we cannot understand it?
It never occurs to anyone to weave cloth, or to build houses or travel with the technology of a century ago, but there may be some who think that they should be done according to the understanding and interpretations of one thousand three hundred years ago. Bediuzzaman’s view on this are very meaningful:
“It is established by logic that the mind passes naturally from the necessary consequence to the conditioning precedent, and does not pass naturally to the precedent’s precedent. If it does, it addresses itself to it with a second intention, which is unnatural.
“For example, the books of the Shari‘a, the source of the rulings, are like the necessary consequence, while the Qur’an, the evidence, is the conditioning precedent. Sacredness, the rouser of the conscience, is the precedent’s precedent. Since the view of the mass of the people has been focussed on the books [of the Shari‘a], they have thought of the conditioning precedent only in a hazy sort of way, and they have thought of the precedent’s precedent only rarely. In this way, the conscience has become accustomed to being indifferent, and has become lifeless and unresponsive.”
Since it has been supposed that it is only possible to conform to the Qur’an and Sunna by following one of the correct schools of law, the scholars of these schools have come to be considered to be extraordinary and sacred figures. Bediuzzaman describes this in this way:
“If the Qur’an had been shown directly in the essentials of religion, the mind would naturally have realized its sacredness, which is the rouser of the conscience, the essential precedent, and urges conformity [to the precepts of religion]. In this way, the heart would have become sensitive towards it, and would not have remained deaf to the admonitions of belief.
“That is to say, while the books of the Shari‘a should all have been transparent like glass, in the course of time they became tarnished due to the errors of imitators, obscuring it like a veil. Yes, although these books should have expounded the Qur’an, they became like literary compositions.”
If there is no Qur’an, why should people be Muslims?
Those who reject [Truth], among the People of the Book and among the polytheists, are not going to depart [from their ways] until there should come to them clear evidence— * A messenger from God, rehearsing scriptures kept pure and holy: * Wherein are laws [or decrees] right and straight.
Real responsibility begins after hearing the Qur’an
Thus have We revealed it to be a judgement of authority in Arabic. Were you to follow their [vain] desires after the knowledge which has reached you, then wouldst you find neither protector nor defender against God.
Here is a Message for mankind: let them take warning therefrom, and let them know that He is [no other than] One God: let men of understanding take heed.
The Qur’an must once against be put to the forefront
Here is a plain statement to men, a guidance and instruction to those who fear God!
Here is a message for mankind; let them take warning therefrom, and let them know that He is [no other than] One God: let men of understanding take heed.
Give warning to those in whose [hearts] is the fear that they will be brought [to judgement] before their Sustainer: except for Him they will have no protector nor intercessor; that they may guard [against evil]
So have We made the [Qur’an] easy in you own tongue, that with it you may give glad tidings to the righteous, and warnings to people given to contention. * But how many [countless] generations before them have We destroyed? Can you find a single one of them [now] or hear [so much as] a whisper of them?
Shall We then take away the Message from you and repel [you], for that you are a people transgressing beyond bounds?
The penalty for neglecting the Qur’an is severe
We shall be called to account by God in accordance with the Qur’an. However, for a long time, Muslims shared the idea that they would be answerable to God in accordance with the opinions and interpretations of certain people. This gave rise to the idea that those considered to be leaders could not err. But it is only God who can make no mistakes. Even the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) made mistakes on occasion, and we know that they were corrected by God Almighty.
Taking advantage of this, Satan and his accomplices can insinuate their deviations as the views of such prominent persons, and we cannot prevent this because God Almighty preserves no book other than the Holy Qur’an. It was not possible to prevent a large number of Hadiths being fabricated about the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), so how should fabrications about the leading figures of Islam have been prevented?
Moreover, anyone may make mistakes, however virtuous and knowledgeable he is. So the only thing to do is to engrave on our minds once again the idea that we shall be answerable according to the Qur’an, and examine our lives thoroughly in the light of the Qur’an. We may otherwise be faced with the following situation in the hereafter:
The Day that the wrongdoer will bite at his hands, He will say, “Oh! would that I had taken a [straight] path with the Messenger! * “Ah! woe is me! Would that I had never taken such a one for a friend! * “He did lead me astray from the Message [of God] after it had come to me! Ah! the Evil One is but a traitor to man!” * Then the Messenger will say: “O my Sustainer! Truly my people took this Qur’an for just foolish nonsense.”
What will we do if just when we are expecting intercession, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) complains about us to Almighty God in this way? The great scholars of Islam anyway wanted us to follow the Qur’an and Sunna. Ma‘n ibn ‘Isa al-Qazzaz said: “I heard Imam Malik say: ‘I am only human; I may commit errors or I may find the right way. Consider my views carefully, then take those which are in conformity with the Qur’an and Sunna, and leave aside those which are not.” Similar sayings have been related from Abu Hanifa and other scholars.
Sectarianism is the penalty of neglecting the Qur’an
Verily, this is My way leading straight: follow it; follow not [other] paths: they will scatter you about from His [great] path; thus does He command you, that you may be righteous. * Follow [O men!] the revelation given unto you from your Sustainer, and follow not, as friends or protectors, other than Him. Little it is you remember of admonition.
With religious books coming to obscure the Qur’an rather than expounding it, the differences in views of the great interpreters of the law caused conflict among their followers. Differences within the Umma ceased being a “mercy,” and became the source of trouble. Bediuzzaman’s views on this subject are as follows:
“If the essential religious needs of the Islamic community had been sought from the Qur’an itself, that Perspicuous Book would have been the object of a demand greater than that divided up between millions of book because of need, and in this way would have been dominant and influential over people in the full meaning. It would not have been only something ‘holy’ that was recited for the merit.
“Moreover, there is a great danger in combining the essentials of religion and the controversial, secondary matters, and as though making them subordinate to the latter. For one of the Takhtiyya, who opposed the Musawwiba, said: ‘My school [of law] is right, but there is the possibility of error. Other schools are in error, but there is the possibility of their being correct.’ However, since the mass of people cannot differentiate clearly between the essentials of religion and the theoretical matters open to interpretation, they may, as the result of either error or delusion, extend to everything what the Takhtiyya said. And this is a serious danger. In my opinion, the Takhtiyya are suffering from the malady of exclusivism, which arises from love of self, and is guilty of neglecting the Qur’an’s comprehensiveness and its address which embraces all the classes of mankind. Furthermore, the idea of accusing of error (Takhtiyya) is the source of misinterpretation of others and feelings of partisanship, and has therefore opened up great clefts in the solidarity of spirits, accord of hearts, and love and mutual assistance, which are obligatory in Islam. For we are charged with thinking favourably of things, love, and unity.”
They put an end to the era when Muslims formed a single body in the face of the enemy, so that their attempts to annihilate each other became continuous.
Truly God loves those who fight in His cause in battle array, as if they were a solid cemented structure.
What should be done?
What should be done is a simple change of method. As stated in fiqh, when researching the ruling on any matter, first one should turn to the Qur’an, then the Sunna of the Prophet (PBUH), then consensus, then the views of the mujtahids should be studied. This should be kept in mind when explaining religion to the people. For example, if one wants to study the things that spoil fasting, first the relevant verse should be grasped, then Hadiths, then consensus should be consulted. The views of the great interpreters of the law should be looked at this light. To act in this way will bind us to the Qur’an and Sunna, and any superstitions that the ill-intentioned may have inserted in the books will come to light. Bediuzzaman’s proposal in this question was as follows:
“There are three ways of directing the attention of the mass of people to the Qur’an, which is the exemplification of the Pre-Eternal Address, shimmers with the attraction of miraculousness, has a halo of sacredness, and constrantly stirs the conscience through belief:
“1. Either the deep respect which the authors truly deserve should be destroyed through criticism, and that veil removed. But that is dangerous, unfair, and tyrannical;
“2. Or, by means of a gradual, specialist training, to transform the books of the Shari‘a into transparent Qur’anic commentaries and show the Qur’an within them, like the works of the early interpreters of the law (mujtahids), like the Muwatta and Fiqh al-Akbar. For example, when a person looks at Ibn Hajar, he should do so in order to understand the Qur’an and learn what the Qur’an says, not in order to understand what Ibn Hajar said. This second way needs time;
“3. Or, like the Sufis, to direct the ordinary peoples’ gaze above the veils obscuring it and show the Qur’an; to seek its pure, unmixed property from the Qur’an itself, and only its secondary decrees from the means. The sweetness and attraction of a sufi shaykhs’s sermon in relation to a sermon given by a scholar of the Shari‘a stems from this.”
Has not the time arrived for the believers that their hearts in all humility should engage in the remembrance of God and of the Truth which has been revealed [to them], and that they should not become like those to whom was given the revelation aforetime, but long ages passed over them and their hearts grew hard? For many among them are rebellious transgressors?
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