Formulations in Muslim Liberation Theology

Universality of Liberation Theology: One is Equal to All and All are Equal to One
Saied R. Ameli

Department of Communications & Institute for North American and European Studies – University of Tehran
Liberation Theology: Theology of movement and resistance.
 LT emerges when theology is isolated form public life and when people are isolated from the products of religion leading to a nostalgia for justice and metaphysical values. Continue reading Formulations in Muslim Liberation Theology

Where is the Murji’ah Movement Today?

Much have been written about the Murji’ah and can be found in the classical texts Muqaalaat al-islaamiyeen, al-Farq baynal Firaq and in Abi Al-Fath al-Shahristaani (d.548AH)’s Al-Milal wan Nihal. Shahristaani explains that the word al-Irjaa has two meanings: one, ‘to defer’ (judgement) and the other to ‘give hope’.  According to the Shahristaani when one speaks about the Muji’ah it is the deferring of judgment that is popularly implied and not that of giving hope. He cites verse 111 of chapter 7 to indicate where that meaning has been derived from in the Arabic language.

Shahristaani explains that the Murji’ah earned the title of those who defered judgment, because they delayed acting on intention and religious obligation. As for the second meaning of Ijraa that too is naturally implied, because they argued that disobedience does not negate belief or Imaan in Allah. Hence, if a Muslim or believer commits acts of disobedience, for instance, Zina and theft, that does not mean that they are faithless. Similarly, being obedient (to God) is of no benefit to Kufr; meaning that for a disbeliever who denies the Oneness of Allah or even His existence in the first instance, acts of obedience, such as prayer are fruitless.

“لا تضر مع الإيمان معصية، كما لا تنفع مع الكفر طاعة”

The essence of this whole contention lies in the meaning of al-Imaan and al-Kufr, two concepts that we continue to take for granted, around which sprung up a lot of civil strife in the early formation of Muslim civil order.

Jahm bin Safwaan who many have attributed to the rise of Mu’tazilism, according the the author of the Maqaalaat al-islaamiyeen, Abil Hasan Al-ash’ari, was the first to define, Imaan or faith as merely ‘Knowing Allah’ or knowing about God (المعرفة بالله) alone, and Kufr or disbelief as being ‘Ignorant’ or not knowing about God (الجهل بالله).

Think about what is implied in holding this position and the wider impact this understanding of faith and disbelief can have upon our understanding of the other and social and religious relations in general. Can you imagine the repercussions these ideas amongst others, which we are not dealing with at the moment, would have had upon the intellectual climate of  around 100AH. Now fast forward and think about the current rise of so called liberal Muslim forces in the wider context of the achievements of Western modernity and calls for the separation of religious beliefs from social spaces and of the public domain of politics. I am referring to post modernist notions of ‘Religious Freedom; Multifaithism; Inclusive Monotheism as understood to encompass that of Christianity, Judaism, Islam and a host of isms under the praxis of ‘anything goes’ so long as one believes in a supreme designer or Creator of the Universe.

Enough imagining. Shahristaani identifies a range of splinter groups that held similar beliefs to the Muji’ah and thus were classified as such. Without mentioning names here is a summary of definitions and ideas of Imaan put forward by various Murji’ah groups:

1. Faith is knowing Allah, and being humble towards Him and loving Him with the heart; so whosoever, has these traits is a Mu’min or a believer. Actions are not considered part of faith, so one will not be punished for non obedience in matters of actions.

What is meant here is that those choosing not to pray will not be punished, if their faith is sincere and their conviction truthful. They cite an example of this when Iblis (May Allah curse him) who believed in Allah, but was characterised as a disbeliever because of his pride and arrogance towards Allah. This they argued is the meaning contained in chapter 2 verse 34 of the Holy Quran.

2. All acts except Shirk are forgiven, so if a person dies on Tawheed, sins committed will not harm him or her.

3. Faith is knowing Allah His messenger, acknowledging what Allah has revealed and what His messenger brought without delving into specifics. So when Allah commands the performance of alHajj, to Mecca, that could be India and not necessarily in Mecca.

4. Faith is knowing Allah and that only implies that the world has a Creator alone and denying that essential understanding is Kufr. So if someone believes in the Trinity that in itself is not Kufr. However it is expressed belief that one is likely to hear from a kafir, they argue.

These are some of the ideas of those who held extreme Murji’ah views. There are those who were accused of being Murji’ah, like Imam Abu Haneefah (May Allah have mercy upon him) for holding the belief that those committing major sins cannot be excommunicated from Islam, nor be declared to be among those that will be assigned to Hell for eternity. He also believed that faith was acknowledgement by statement and belief and did not include action in the meaning of Imaan.

The Ahnaaf position was a semantical one and not one promoting laxity in the practice of Deen, because it is quite clear in the Hanafee Fiqh for instance,that prayer and alms giving is compulsory and if not done such a person will be punished by Allah.

In all fairness, forms of Murji’aism have put forward arguments worth our consideration. Abul Hasan al-‘Ash’ari mentions a whole range of the their approaches, one approach which demonstrates the maturity of the views which is very much the essence of that of Abu Haneefah for instance, is that of Muhammad bin Shabeeb. Al-Imaan, was defined by him and his followers as: Acknowledging the existence of a God, and that there is non-comparable to Him and acknowledging all of His Prophets and Messengers and all that they gave to us from Allah as well as that which has been transmitted to us from the Holy Prophet (pbuh) related to prayer and fasting, those matters of religion about which there is no dispute or disagreement. As for those matters which there has been disagreement, those who rejects an opinion in favour or another cannot be excommunicated from Islam, because the position that such a person holds is a matter of belief …

The Murji’ah Movement like most of  the early social and political movements in Islamic history were made up of protagonists and antagonists seeking a better life for Muslims. It is the case with new ideas that are born in period of crisis and turmoil, that through a process of debate and criticism they usually find a place in human thought and history in a modified and palatable form.

Like the Shia’h, who supported the leadership of the Prophet’s cousin Ali (ra) and his linage’s right to rule over that of Mu’aawiyah (ra), the usurper of power; those who called to sticking to the traditions of the Holy Prophet (Sunnah) and Unity (Jamaa’h) of the early Muslims by conceding power to the house of Ummayyah; the Khawaarij, who took a Takfeeri or excommunication of some Muslims leaders and those that agreed with them – above referring to the Word of Allah’s approach – in the civil war between Mu’aawiyah and the House of ‘Ali; the Murji’ah, who argued for a personalised approach to religious duty and social inclusiveness and the Mutazilah and those coming after them who championed the role of Human Reason and the Muttasawwifah who later consolidated their arguments for the esoteric and humble life that was reminiscent of some companions of the Holy Prophet (pbuh), all of these Movements have endured today and continue to shape voices against various forms of oppression or repression, even though some have modified their theological positions over time in accommodating social stability and power.

This issue of defining who was a Believer and who was not, was born in a climate of instability and conflict what is important to take into consideration when looking at these dismal events and who said and did what, is to imagine the expanding muslim rule outside of the birth place of Islam, largely Medina; the internal strife and the need to make sense of the key issues at the heart of the madness, such as the meaning of Faith and Disbelief. This was the back ground of the politics of the age and it is in context as many matters which make up our ‘Aqeedah or Belief system today that such matters were spurned. I believe given the timeline of the entrance of the Murji’ah on the stage of early Islamic history that their views were forged in the spirit of avoiding bloodshed and fostering some form of social stability.

Where is the Murji’ah Movement today? Obviously as a movement they have been assigned to history, but their thought and aspirations linger on in the subconsciousness of many Muslims today. We hear of calls for the separation of theological arguments from politics or religion from state. This is a catch twenty situation, because both politics in the sense of managing peoples social, economic and many lives are done on the basis of polices and polices are ideas, albeit practical ones and religious doctrine also share the realm of ideas. The question that remains is to what extent can religious ideals be practical, all embracing and deliver prosperity in this world? Or is religion the subject of the Afterlife on not the here and now?

So where are the Murji’ah today? They are all around us in every Muslim city and community stating that it is enough that they and other coreligionists believe in some divine being, that acts of religion are the personal choices of people; and they are resisting in places like Tunisia, Egypt and other parts of the Middle East and fast becoming a reality in the Muslim West. They are called the liberal Muslim lobby, what are you?

Malick Elias

The Ensuing Fitnah (tribulation) surrounding Those Women that Do Not want to Wear the Hijab

Salams my brother. I spent this week refreshing my knowledge on the issues of hijab taking a look at current trends and discussions on various aspects of the Muslim clothing. My conclusions so far are: firstly, that those arguing that the covering of the hair was not mentioned in the Holy Quran are wrong. It is mentioned. It is in the word ‘Khimar’. This khimar is the head covering that women wore even before Islam in Arabia and many other cultures of the past, both in the East and West. Allah(swt) did not need to tell women to cover their heads because they were doing it already. All He (swt) did was to tell them to use the khimar to cover their bosoms or cleavages and any pockets of the clothing which exposed the seductive parts of their bodies.

That is only one aspect of Hijaab, which broadly means putting a barrier of respect between male / female relationships. Included in the concept of Hijab is avoiding staring at the opposite sex, seeking sexual excitement and women walking in a manner which makes their physical parts seductive. This can be said of men too. There is a question of ‘Urf’ or custom, to be considered in this matter, but we can have further discussions later. For the moment look at the following clip:

Hence, the private parts of women and men was already defined by the code of modesty that the Arabs did before the revelation. The revelation only came to modify their customs slightly by telling them not to stare and how not to attract the opposite sex in a sexual manner, through how they spoke to each other, and interacted with each other in each other spaces. Hence, the holy prophet (pbuh) in his practice showed us what parts of body needed to be covered and so did his wives.

Moreover, brother, I am trying to make this issue easy for your comprehension and those that ask you. However, to conclude with the evidences you seek we will have to discuss this issue from scratch. For example, in this following Hadith it clearly states that there are parts of a man and woman’s body other men and women should not see: ‘Abd al-Rahman, the son of Abu Sa’id al-Khudri, reported from his father: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: A man should not see the private parts of another man, and a woman should not see the private parts of another woman, and a man should not lie with another man under one covering, and a woman should not lie with another woman under one covering. Are you okay with this?

The scholars of Islam have referred to this as the major private parts. For men, exposing those parts above the knees, excluding the private parts, there is some flexibility with family members for instance: ‘The Prophet (saw) was reclining in his house with his legs and thighs bared. Abu Bakr (rdn) and Umar (rdn) asked to enter and when they did, the Prophet (saw) remained in that position. They conversed with each other, and then Uthman (rdn) asked to enter. Immediately Allah’s Messenger (saw) sat upright, and covered himself. The Prophet (saw) and Uthman (rdn) conversed. When he left, I (Aisha) asked ‘O Messenger of Allah! When Abu Bakr and Umar entered, you did not sit upright for them. But when Uthman entered, you sat upright and covered yourself??’ The Prophet (saw) answered, ‘Should I not be shy in front of the man even the angels feel shy of?’… (Muslim) Read between the lines of that Hadith and it will reveal to you much wisdom on the matter.

The majority of scholars hold that the thigh is one of the parts of the body that must be covered in public. They cited Hadiths as evidence to that effect. All these Hadiths have some aspects of weakness with regard to their chain of transmitters such as discontinuity in their chains of transmitters or weakness in some of the narrators. However, these Hadiths support each other and therefore, are liable to be cited as proof. Some of them are as follows: Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah reported on the authority of `Aly (may Allah be pleased with him) said that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: Do not uncover your thigh, and do not look at the thigh of the living or the dead. It was also reported by Ahmad and Al-Bukhari in his book called Al-Tarikh on the authority of Muhammad Ibn Jahsh that he said: The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) passed by Ma`mar ibn `Abdullah while his two thighs were uncovered. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: ‘O Ma`mar, cover your thighs as the thigh is `Awrah.’ It was also reported by Malik in his book called Al-Muwata’, Ahmad, Abu Dawud and Al-Tirmidhy in the Hadith reported by Jarhad Al-Aslamy that he said: The Prophet (peace be upon him) passed by me while I was wearing a burdah (garment) and my thigh was uncovered. He (peace be upon him) said: ‘Cover your thigh as the thigh is a private part.’Al-Tirmidhy considered this Hadith to be Hasan.

A group of scholars considered that a man’s thigh is not `Awrah. As evidence they cited the Hadith reported by Anas (may Allah be pleased with him). He said: The Prophet (peace be upon him) uncovered his thigh and I saw the whiteness of his thigh. This Hadith was reported by Ahmad and Al-Bukhari. Al-Bukhari said that the Hadith reported by Anas is more authentic, but the Hadith reported by Jarhad is more precautions. The opinion of the majority of jurists is more cautious because of what was mentioned by Al-Bukhari. The first Hadiths are clear texts on this subject, but the Hadith mentioned by Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) can be interpreted otherwise.

About the private parts of the women:
It has been authentically related on the authority of Ibn `Abbas, Ibn `Umar and `Aa’ishah that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “Allah does not accept the prayer of an adult woman unless she wears a head covering (khimar, hijab).” This is related by “the five,” except for An-Nasa’i, and by Ibn Khuzaimah and Al-Hakim. At-Tirmidhi grades it as Hasan.

Now those who are ranting that women do not have to wear the hijab will say that this only apples to prayer. Won’t they?

Consider, the following also. It is also narrated in Saheeh Muslim (2128) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “There are two types of the people of Hell whom I have not seen (meaning in his time, but is yet to come): people with whips like the tails of cattle, with which they beat the people, and women who are clothed yet naked, misguided and leading others astray, with their heads like the humps of camels, leaning to one side. They will not enter Paradise or even smell its fragrance …”

Consider also, that the very reason why the wearing of outer garments which at that time covered head down to foot in the same fashion many Iranian women wear today is the following hadith showing the historical reasons behind chapter 33 verses58-61: Umar bin Al-Khattab used to say to Allah’s Apostle “Let your wives be veiled” But he did not do so. The wives of the Prophet used to go out to answer the call of nature at night only at Al-Manasi.’ Once Sauda, the daughter of Zam’a went out and she was a tall woman. ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab saw her while he was in a gathering, and said, “I have recognized you, O Sauda!” He (‘Umar) said so as he was anxious for some Divine orders regarding the veil (the veiling of women.) So Allah revealed the Verse of veiling. (See Bukhari- Hadith No. 148, Vol. 1) Volume 8, Book 74, Number 257

That hadith proves that the covering up commanded was not intended for prayer alone, but as a means so that believing women can be distinguishable from others and not harmed.
When this verse was revealed, Um Salamah, may Allah be pleased with her (the wife of the Prophet peace be upon him), said: “ The women of the Ansar came out (of their homes) as if they had (black) crows on their heads from their serenity, and they wore black clothes.” Ibadah as-Salmani and others (who witness and testify) said that the believing women would let their outer garments cover down from the top of their heads such that nothing will show except their eyes for the sake of seeing the way.”

Now if your source above is correct, what I have just explained defines the type of dress worn at the time of the Prophet (pbuh) by women.

Hadith Anas ibn Malik:
The Prophet (ﷺ) brought Fatimah a slave which he donated to her. Fatimah wore a garment which, when she covered her head, did not reach her feet, and when she covered her feet by it, that garment did not reach her head. When the Prophet (ﷺ) saw her struggle, he said: There is no harm to you: Here is only your father and slave.
حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ عِيسَى، حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو جُمَيْعٍ، سَالِمُ بْنُ دِينَارٍ عَنْ ثَابِتٍ، عَنْ أَنَسٍ، أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَتَى فَاطِمَةَ بِعَبْدٍ قَدْ وَهَبَهُ لَهَا قَالَ وَعَلَى فَاطِمَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهَا ثَوْبٌ إِذَا قَنَّعَتْ بِهِ رَأْسَهَا لَمْ يَبْلُغْ رِجْلَيْهَا وَإِذَا غَطَّتْ بِهِ رِجْلَيْهَا لَمْ يَبْلُغْ رَأْسَهَا فَلَمَّا رَأَى النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم مَا تَلْقَى قَالَ ” إِنَّهُ لَيْسَ عَلَيْكِ بَأْسٌ إِنَّمَا هُوَ أَبُوكِ وَغُلاَمُكِ ” .
Grade : Sahih (Al-Albani) صحيح (الألباني) حكم :
Reference : Sunan Abi Dawud 4106
In-book reference : Book 34, Hadith 87
English translation : Book 33, Hadith 4094

To sum up, if those women who contend that they do not have to wear the Hijab do not want to do so, they are free to decide not to. Having said that they cannot claim the title of ‘Believing Women’ as addressed in chapter 33. But I will not judge then until they begin abandoning the prayer and or the fasting in which they will have to cover their heads when performing these rituals. Won’t they? Or are there a fatwas for that too?

Some more comments for reflecting upon: