Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Doctrine of Ahl Al-Sunnah

The Doctrine of Ahl Al-Sunnah

Versus The "Salafi" Movement

بســـم الله الرحمن الرحيــــم
وصلى الله على سيدنا محمـد وآلـه وصحبه وسلَّم

"And Say: Truth Has Come and Falsehood Has vanished away. Lo! Falsehood is ever bound to vanish."
[Al-Isra’, 17:81]

All the Praise belongs to Allah, Who has made the truth prevail over falsehood of innovation and innovators, and raises high the Sunnah of the Prophet, s.a.w, and the people who follow it. The Praise belongs to Allah, Who in every century inspires the emerging of scholarly people to defend the Way of the Prophet, s.a.w, from the distortions of the ignorant -- those who call the majority of Muslims mushrik (idolaters) and mubtadi` (innovators) and kafir (disbelievers), falsely claiming that they alone are saved. Peace and Blessing of Allah be upon the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions who are the exemplars and guardians of the Sunnah.

The reason for this book

This brief but excellent book by the Iraqi scholar Al-Zahawi (1863-1936) is published in English for the first time, by Allah's grace, to give our Muslim brother in the West the necessary historical background on important questions of belief and methodology which are currently under attack from certain quarters of our Community. It is a companion volume to our two books entitled Islamic Doctrine and Beliefs According to Ahl al-Sunnah. [1]

Islam, in our understanding and that of the majority of Muslims, both scholars and non-scholars, is the Islam of Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama`ah -- The People of the Way of the Prophet and the Community of Muslims. Chief and foremost among them are the true Salaf of Islam: the Companions, the Successors, and their Successors according to the Prophet's sound hadith in Muslim: "The best century is my century, then the one following it, then the one following that." All the scholars understood by that hadith that the true Salaf were the models of human behavior and correct belief for us Muslims and for all mankind, that to follow them was to follow the Prophet, and that to follow the Prophet was to achieve salvation according to Allah's order: "Whoever obeys the Prophet obeys Allah" [An-Nisaa’, 4:80].

In our time, however, the name Salaf has been usurped by a movement which seeks to impose its own narrow interpretation of Religion towards a re-fashioning of the teachings of Islam. The adherents of this movement call themselves "Salafi." Such an appellation is baseless since the true Salaf knew no such school as the "Salafi" school nor even called them by that name; the only general name they recognized for themselves was that of Muslim. As an eminent scholar has stated, the Salafiyyah is not a recognized school of thought in Islam, rather, it refers to a blessed historical period of our glorious past.

In reality, today's so-called "Salafi" movement, now about thirty years old, is the modern outgrowth of a two-century old heresy spawned by a scholar of the Najad area in the Eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula by the name of Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792). This scholar has been refuted by a long line of scholars both in his time and ours. Their names and the titles of some of their excellent refutations are found in the bibliography given at the end of this introduction.

In essence, Salafism and Wahhabism are the same, but the latter is identified by its founder while the former takes the name of the Salaf and makes it its own. Yet both the Salafism and Wahhabism depart from the belief and practice of the Salaf, as the present book abundantly makes clear.

About the book

Al-Zahawi displays a profound mastery of the proofs of Ahl al-Sunnah which he presents in a clear and systematic style. The book is divided into concise sections tracing the origins of the Wahhabi/Salafi movement and the teachings that this movement promotes in isolation of the doctrine of the majority of Muslims. After a brief historical overview of the bloody origins of Wahhabism and the "Salafi" creed, the author turns to investigate the foundations of the Shari`ah which have been targeted by the Wahhabi/Salafi movement for revision, namely:

· The Wahhabi/Salafi tampering of the doctrine of the pious Salaf concerning Allah's essence and attributes, and his freedom from body, size, or direction;
· The rejection of ijma` (scholarly consensus) and qiyas (analogy);
· The rejection of the sources and methodological foundations of ijtihad (deriving qualified judgment) and taqlid (following qualified judgment).

The author then narrows down on the Wahhabi/Salafi practice of takfir, which is their declaring Muslims unbelievers, according to criteria not followed by the pious Salaf but devised by modern-day "Salafis." The author shows that the "Salafis" went out of bounds in condemning the Ummah (Muslim Community) on the question of taqlid, declaring unbelievers all those who practice taqlid, that is, the majority of Muslims. Finally, the author turns to the linchpin of "Salafi" philosophy: leaving the ijma` of the true Salaf in declaring unbelievers all Muslims who use the Prophet Muhammad's intercession, Peace be upon him, as a wasilah or means of blessing.

About the author

Al-Shaikh Jamil Effendi Al-Siqdi Al-Zahawi was the son of the Mufti of Iraq and a descendant of Khalid Ibn Al-Walid. He was educated in the Islamic sciences chiefly by his father and, besides going on to become the greatest Arabic and Persian poet of modern Iraq, was also a literary master in the other two Islamic languages of the time: Turkish and Kurdish.

Al-Zahawi gave early proofs of his scholarly talents. By the age of forty he had served on the board of education in Baghdad, as the director of the state printing office, as editor of the chief state publication, Al-Zawra', and as a member of the Baghdad court of appeal. The second half of his life was devoted to writing, journalism, and teaching. He taught philosophy and Arabic literature in Istanbul and law in Baghdad. A prolific writer, at one point he declined the office of court poet and historian of Iraq offered him by King Faisal. In addition to the above he was scientifically inclined and wrote papers on various scientific topics such as electricity and the power of repulsion, all this despite a chronic disease of the spine which had crippled him from his twenty-fifth year.

At the turn of the century Arabia had witnessed the return of the Wahhabis to power and the open rebellion of their forces against the Caliph of the Islamic community. What was worse, the Wahhabi heresy was knocking at the gates of Baghdad, and the scholars of Ahl al-Sunnah spoke out in order to stem its rising tide. In 1905 at the age of 42 and upon the request of his father al-Zahawi published this eloquent indictment of the sect's innovations in doctrine and jurisprudence, refuting its tenets one by one. He named the book, of which the present work forms the major part, Al-Fajr al-sadiq fi al-radd `ala munkiri al-tawassul wa al-khawariq ("The True Dawn: A Refutation of Those Who Deny The Validity of Using Means to Allah and the Miracles of Saints"). The title indicates Zahawi's opinion, reminiscent of that of other scholars who wrote similar refutations, that the Wahhabi position on tawassul represents the essence of their deviation from the beliefs of Ahl al-Sunnah, although it is but one of their many divergences with Sunni Muslims.

Zahawi's brilliant style, his acute sense of balance and moderation, and his luminous logic and concision gave this brief book an undisputed place of honor among modern works of heresiology. May Allah reward him with His generosity, as well as those who collaborated on this timely and all-beneficial translation for the edification of English-speaking Muslims. We warmly recommend this book to all the sincere students and teachers who are interested in the growth and dissemination of sound Islamic belief in the West. As Sayyidina `Umar Al-Khattab said, "This Religion is our flesh and our blood, so watch from whom you take it": in our time it is a duty to inform ourselves as to the soundness of the religious teaching which we are receiving and passing on to our children. For our own sake and theirs, we must discern the sources of such teaching with extreme caution, sifting the sound from the unsound, correcting what is wrong with our hand, our tongue, and our heart.

Muslims of the twenty-first century should beware of the renewed onslaught on their beliefs being conducted today from within our Communities East and West. In the name of Qur'an and Sunnah, but actually supported by certain regimes pursuing specific ideologies, "Salafis" are taking over the mosques built by Ahl al-Sunnah in Europe and North America -- mostly Indian and Pakistani immigrants -- by means of elections and fundings. It is the duty of all Muslims to ascertain that the mosques of Allah continue as centers of sound Islamic practice, not "Salafi" practice. This can only be done if one first apprises oneself of the reality of "Salafi" beliefs which are different from those of the main body of Muslims.

The Prophet, Peace be upon him said: "My Community will split into seventy-three sects. All of them will be in the fire except one group." They asked: "Who are they, O Messenger of Allah?" He said: "Those that follow my way and that of my companions." [2] This is a rallying-cry to the Firm Rope of 1,418 years of mainstream Islam and an invitation to reject the absurd claim of the "Salafi" movement that it is they, and not Ahl al-Sunnah, who are the Saved Group. As Zahawi asks -- may Allah have mercy on him: If the saved group is those who came after Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Wahhab, then what is the status of all those who came before him, and that of the majority of those who came after him -- that is, Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama`ah?

This warning is not meant as an attack on Islamic unity. On the contrary, our cry of alarm must be understood as a reaffirmation that the Saved Group which the Prophet mentioned in his hadith are the People of the Way of the Prophet and their scholars. Those scholars have spoken in no uncertain terms in condemnation of the innovations of Wahhabis and "Salafis" in our time, as the present book and the bibliography below, al-hamdu lillah, prove beyond doubt.

May Allah give victory to those who stand truly for the way of His Prophet, Blessings and Peace be upon him. O Believers read this book and take heed of its message. We conclude this brief introduction with a selective list of authors and works of Ahl al-Sunna scholars in whose pages the deviations of Wahhabis and Salafis are exposed time after time and conclusively refuted. We look forward to their translations and recommend every one of them.

And all the praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of al-‘alameen.

Shaikh Hisham Muhammad Kabbani
Los Altos, California
1 Muharram 1418
19 May 1996