On praiseworthy and objectionable branches of knowledge,their classifications, and the rules which govern them. including those branches of knowledge whose acquisition is deemed fard’ayn as well as those whose acquisition is deemed fard kifayah: on determining the position of theology and jurisprudence in relation to the science of religion; and finally, on showing the superiority of the science of the hereafter.


The Apostle of Allah said, “Seeking knowledge is an ordinance obligatory on every Muslim,” and again, “Seek ye knowledge even [as far as] China.’’ People, however, disagreed as to what branch of knowledge man is obliged to acquire, and as a result split up into about twenty groups. We shall not go into details but simply summarize the matter by saying that each group insisted on the necessity of acquiring that branch of knowledge which happened to be its speciality. The scholastic theologians insisted on scholastic theology because the unity of Allah, as well as His essence and attributes, is known through it. The jurists held out for jurisprudence because the acts of worship, the lawful and the unlawful as well as the forbidden and the permissible in daily conduct, are determined through it. Or in other words what the ordinary man needs in his everyday life, rather than under unusual conditions, is determined through it. Furthermore, the commentators and traditionists, holding that through it all sciences are attained, stood for the science of the Qur’an and the tradition. The Sufis pointed to Sufism as the branch of knowledge which was intended, some saying that it is the science


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whereby the creature, realizing his position in relation to the divine, has a mystical experience [in communion with his Allah]. Other Sufis said that it comprises knowing what sincerity is and what the afflictions of the soul are, as well as being able to distinguish between the followers of Allah and the followers of Satan. Others again said that it was the esoteric science whose acquisition was required only of the qualified, select few, and accordingly they dismissed the accepted meaning of the word in favour of its esoteric connotation.

According to abu-Talib al-Makki,1 what is meant [by the above-mentioned tradition] is knowledge of the contents of tradition which embodies the foundations of Islam, referred to in the following words of the Prophet: “Islam is built upon five pillars.”2 Since these five pillars are ordinances imposed by Allah, it is necessary to know how to fulfil them. The student, therefore, should be absolutely certain that knowledge, as we have already shown in the introduction to this book, is divided into the science of practical religion and the science of revelations. The scope of this discussion is confined to the science of practical religion.

The [tenets of] practical religion which an adult and sane creature is obliged to observe deal with three things: beliefs, works, and prohibitions (tark, pl. turuk). For example, when a sane individual attains puberty and comes of age, his first obligation is learning the two words of the confession of faith (alshahadah) and understanding their meaning. These two words are: there is no Allah but Allah; Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah. He is not required to fully penetrate their significance through scrutiny, investigation, and research, but only to believe and confess them unequivocally without the least doubt or hesitation. The later is obtained by merely accepting on authority without any investigation or proof, since the Prophet required only mere acceptance and confession from the

1.      Author of the famous Qut al-Qulub (A.H. 386/A.D. 996). See ibn-Khallikan,Vol.II. p.297; al-Sam`ani, Kitabal-Ansab ed. D.S. Margoliouth (Le Den, 1912) fol. 541a.

2.      These are the confessio,.s of faith, prayer, alms giving (zakah), the pilgrimage, and fasting cf. al-Bukhari, Iman, 1. al-Tirmidhi, 2. Iman, 3; Ibn-Hanbal, Iman, 4.


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ruffians among the Arabs without their learning any evidence.1 Thus in accepting and confessing the two words, the person fulfils an obligation which is binding at that time. Accordingly, at that time, the branch of knowledge, whose acquisition is divinely ordained and binding for every Muslim, would consist in the learning and understanding of the two words of the confession of faith. Furthermore, at that stage, it is sufficient for them. This is shown by considering that if a Muslim dies upon accepting and confessing the two words of the confession of faith, he would die obedient to Allah and guilty of no rebellion. With the rise of new developments, however, there would be other obligations, but they would not necessarily be binding on every individual. On the contrary, it would be quite possible [for some] to be free of them.

The new developments may affect obligations regarding works, prohibitions, or beliefs.

Regarding works, for example, if a person’s life were to extend from dawn until noon, he would be required to learn how to perform his ablutions and pray because of the approaching noon hour. In such a case it would be wrong to say that it is obvious that he should persist in his study; [and if he finds that his life will extend beyond noon] and thinks that he might not be able to finish in time. [he should still persist] and perform his ablutions and pray before evening, however long this may be after the appointed hour. In short he should give study primary consideration regardless of the time required. In addition it can be said that the obligation to acquire knowledge, which is the prerequisite for works, is derived from the obligation to perform works, in which case it might not even be obligatory before sunset. This is also true of the other prayers.

Further, should a person live until [the beginning of] Ramadan, he would be obliged to learn all about fasting i.e., that it lasts from morning until sunset, that observing it requires resolve, abstinence from food, drink, and sexual intercourses as well as seeing

1.      Cf. Surah XLIX: 14; al-Tabari, Jami’la-Bayan (Cairo, 1323-30), Vol. XXVI, pp. 89-91 where these are said to have been the Banu-Asad.



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the new moon personally[or accepting the word of two eye-witnesses instead].1 Similarly, should a person come into some wealth, or on coming of age, inherit some, he should learn all about zakah. For although fulfilling the obligation is not immediately incumbent upon him, it would become so at the end of the first year after his acceptance of Islam. Should he possess nothing but camels, he would not need to learn the zakah of sheep, and the same is true of the other varieties [of wealth].

When, however, the months of pilgrimage begin, it will not be necessary for the person to start, at once, to learn how to make the pilgrimage, and since it is performed at leisure, learning how to do it is not immediately obligatory. Rather the learned men of Islam should point out to him that the pilgrimage is a divine ordiance to be observed, at leisure and convenience by every one who, as a man of means, has both the provisions and the means of transportation. This should be done in the hope of inducing the individual himself to resolve upon the pilgrimage. Should he so resolve, it would become necessary for him to learn how the pilgrimage is performed. He would not need, however, to learn anything except its essentials and duties and not the voluntary acts of supererogation connected with it: for it performing the voluntary acts is supererogatory, so would its knowledge also be, and learning it, consequently, would not be a divine ordiance binding on all Muslim. (As to the unlawfulness of neglecting to point out that the pilgrimage is obligatory whenever the individual is able to perform it, there has been considerable speculation worthy of nothing but jurisprudence). The same reasoning applies to the knowledge of the other works which are divinely ordained and binding on all Muslims.

As to prohibitions, the acquisition of the knowledge of which is obligatory, the obligation is conditioned by the rise of new developments and changed circumstances relevant to it, and varies with the conditions of the individual. Thus the mute is not obliged to know what is unlawful in speech nor the blind to know what things

1.      Words between brackets only in C



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are unlawful to see. Similarly the bedouin is not obliged to know the houses in which it is unlawful to sit. All these obligations only apply within the limits of circumstance, and need not be learnt when it is certain that the question [of their applicability] will not arise. But whatever situation resembles these and may, therefore, be confused with them must be distinguished from them - as, for example, the case where an individual who, at the time of his embracing Islam, was in the habit of wearing silk garments, or possessed something illegally, or looked at a woman whom he could not legally marry. In such a case, he should be warned. On the other hand, whatever does not resemble these things and is, therefore, not confusing but to which one may be exposed through contact, - such as food and drink - instruction concerning it is obligatory. Hence if an individual happens to be in a town where it is customary to drink wine and eat pork, it is imperative that he be taught concerning their prohibition and warned against using them. Moreover of all things in which instruction is obligatory, acquiring a knowledge of them is also obligatory.

As to beliefs and actions of the heart, knowledge of them is obligatory according to the state of the mind. Thus if one should feel any passing thought (khatir)1 of doubt as to what the two words of the confession of faith mean, it would be obligatory upon him to acquire the knowledge of whatever would remove that doubt. If, on the other hand, he felt no such passing thought but died before he believed that the word of Allah - the Qur’an -is eternal, visible, and not a substratum for originated properties, as well as other often repeated articles of faith, he would have died a professing Muslim. These feelings of doubt which render the knowledge of the articles of faith obligatory arise in the mind either naturally or as a result of hearing things in one’s own community. Thus in a town where rumours have spread and the people talk heresy, the individual should, in the early years of his maturity, be protected against such influence by being instructed in the [elements of] truth. If, on the other

1.      Pl. Khawatir, signifying the occurrence in the mind of something which is quickly

removed by another thought and which its owner is able to repel from the mind.




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hand, he were exposed to falsehood, it would become necessary to remove it from his heart, a task which might prove difficult. Again if this particular Muslim were a merchant living in the midst of a town where the practice of usury was prevalent it would be obligatory to warn him against usury.

This, then is the truth concerning the knowledge whose acquisition is deemed an ordinance of Allah binding on everyone and no less binding on some because of its observance by others. The gist of it all is knowledge of how to perform works whose discharge is obligatory. Whoever, therefore, knows what works are obligatory together with the time of their discharge, the same possesses the knowledge whose acquisition is fard’ayn. Furthermore, what the Sufis hold relative to the understanding of the thoughts of the enemy and [those] of the company of heaven (lummat al-mulk) is also true, though only to those who apply themselves to it. If, however, man does not for the most part refrain from the impulses of evil, hypocrisy, and envy, he should seek to acquire whatever knowledge he may feel he needs from the Quarter on the Destructive Matters of Life. How can he neglect this obligation when the Apostle of Allah said, “Three things in life are destructive; sordid avarice, vehement passion and self-conceit,” and no man can refrain from these. The rest of what we shall mention of the reprehensible conditions of the heart such as pride, conceit, etc., all follow from these three aforementioned destructive matters of life. Their eradication is a fard’ ayn. It is, however, not possible except through a knowledge of the nature of these destructive matters of life, as well as their causes, symptoms, and cure; as he who knows not evil falls into it. A cure is, in reality, confronting a cause with its opposite. How could such a thing be possible without a knowledge of both cause and effect? Most of the things we have mentioned in the Quarter on the Destructive Matters of Life belong to the fard’ayn class which have been totally neglected by the people in favour of pursuing things which do not matter.

Among the things about which we should proceed to inform the individual, in case they have not yet been transmitted from one


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people to another, are belief in Paradise, hell, the day of resurrection and the day of judgement in order that he may believe and accept them, as they are the continuation of the words of the confession of faith. This is required because after the acceptance of Muhammad’s prophethood, the message which he conveyed, namely that whoever should obey Allah and His Apostle would enter Paradise, and whoever should disobey them would enter hell-fire, should be understood. If, therefore, you would pay attention to this reasoning you would know that this is the true way of life. You would also find out that every servant suffers, in the course of his life, both during the day and the night from enduring thoughts (waqa’i)1 [of doubt] which befall him in the performance of his acts of worship and daily transactions. These thoughts require new obligations and consequently it becomes necessary for him to inquire concerning every unusual occurrence which may happen to him as well as to proceed to learn what may be generally expected to occur in the near future.

Finally, if it should become clear that what the Prophet meant by his words, “Seeking knowledge is an ordiance obligatory upon every Muslim,” is knowledge with the definite article, namely the knowledge of only those works which are well known to be obligatory upon every Muslim, the line of this reasoning would become apparent as would also the time in which these obligations should be discharged. Allah, however, knows best.


Fard Kifayah

It should be known that a necessary duty is not distinguished from other duties except when the different sciences are enumerated. These are divided, in relation to the kind of duties we are now considering, into sacred (shar’iyah) and profane (ghayr shar’iyah) sciences. By sacred sciences I mean those which have been acquired

1.      Sing, waqi’ah. signifying a thought which appears in the mind and remains there. and which unlike Khajir the owner has no means whatever of repelling.


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from the prophets and are not arrived at either by reason, like arithmetic, or by experimentation, like medicine, or by hearing, like language.

Profane sciences are divided into praiseworthy (mahmud), blameworthy (madhmum), and permissible (mubah). Praiseworthy sciences are those on whose knowledge the activities of this life depend such as medicine and arithmetic. They are divided into sciences the acquisition of the knowledge of which is fard kifayah and into sciences the acquisition of the knowledge of which is meritorious though not obligatory. Sciences whose knowledge is deemed fard kifayah comprise every sciences which are indispensable for the welfare of this world such as: medicine which is necessary for the life of the body, arithmetic for daily transactions and the division of legacies and inheritances, as well as others besides. These are the sciences which, because of their absence, a community would be reduced to narrow straits. But should one who can practise them rise in that community, it would suffice and the obligation to acquire their knowledge would cease to be binding upon the rest of the community.

No one should be astonished when we say that medicine as well as arithmetic are of the sciences which are fard kifayah, because the fundamental industries are also the same, such as agriculture, weaving, politics, even cupping and tailoring. For should a town lack a cupper extinction would overtake its people and they would be driven to expose themselves to destruction. Has not He who has sent down the malady also sent down the remedy, given guidance for its use, and prepared the means for administering it? It is not, therefore, permissible to expose oneself to destruction by neglecting the remedy.

To go deep into the details of arithmetic and the nature of medicine a well as such details which, while not indispensable, are helpful in reinforcing the efficacy of whatever is necessary, is, however, considered meritorious, not obligatory.

The blameworthy (Madhmum) sciences are magic, talismanic science, juggling, trickery and the like.


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The sacred sciences which are intended in this study are all praiseworthy. Sometime, however, they may be confused with what may be taken for praiseworthy but, in fact, are blameworthy. For this reason sacred sciences are divided into praiseworthy and blameworthy sciences:

The praiseworthy sciences comprise sources (usul), branches (Furu), auxiliary (muqaddimat), and supplementary (mutammimat). There are, therefore, four kinds:

First come the sources (usul) which are four in number: the Book of Allah (i.e. the Qur’an). The Usage (sunnah) of His Prophet, The Agreement (ijma’) of all Muslims, and the traditions relating to the Companions (athar al-sahabah). Agreement, in so far as it evinces usage, is a source. Like traditions relating to the Companions, however, which is also evince usage, agreement is a secondary source. This is because the Companions have witnessed the revelations and have, through their close association with the Prophet comprehended what others have failed to see. Since, however, it is possible that words will not fully express what has been so comprehended, the learned men have deemed it fit to follow the example of the Companions and hold fast to their tradition though on a certain condition and in a special manner as the one concerned may see. It is, however, not appropriate to discuss it in this section.

Second are the branches (furu ). They are what has been drawn from the sources (usul), not according to the literal meaning but through meanings which are adduced by the mind thereby widening the understanding until a meaning differing from the literal is indicated, as for example, indicated by the words of the Prophet: “The judge should not sit in judgment while angry.”1 namely that he should not sit in judgment while constipated or hungry or suffering from a painful disease. This last thing may be of two kinds: the first pertains to the activities of this world and is contained in the books of law and entrusted to the lawyers, the learned men of this world; the second pertains to the activities of the hereafter. It is the science of

1.      Cf. al-Bukhari, Ahkam,13; ibn-Majah. Ahkam, 4.



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the conditions of the heart, its praiseworthy and blameworthy characteristics, what is acceptable before Allah and what is reprehensible to Him. All these are treated in the last part of this book, i.e., the whole book of The Revival of the Sciences of Religion. It includes the knowledge of what issues from the heart and affects the senses in their acts of worship and usage of life, all of which are treated in the first part of this book.

Third are the auxiliary (muqaddimat). These act as the instrument for the sacred sciences. Thus linguistic science and syntax are but instruments for the knowledge of the Book of Allah and the usage (sunnah) of His Prophet. In themselves linguistic science and syntax are not of the sacred sciences, but it has become necessary to engage in their study because of the law since this law has come in the language of the Arabs. And whereas every law is revealed through the medium of a particular language, the learning of the language becomes an instrument wherewith to learn the law. Among these instruments also is the science of writing. It is, however, not a necessary instrument because the Apostle of Allah was himself unlettered (ummi).1 And if it were conceivable that retention of whatever is heard was at all possible, man might have dispensed with writing. But, because of the impossibility of such a thing, it has become, on the whole, necessary.

Fourth are the supplementary (mutammimat) which, in relation to the science of the Qur’an, are divided into what pertains to pronunciation such as learning the different readings and the enunciation of the different letters, and into what pertains to exposition which also rests on authoritative transmission. This is because language alone cannot treat exposition or its technicalities such as the knowledge of the abrogating (nasikh) and the abrogated (mansukh), the general (‘amm) and the particular (khas), the express laws of the Qur’an as well as its manifest meaning, and finally the manner of their application, i.e. the science which is called the principles of jurisprudence (usul alfiqh), which also includes sunnah.

1.      Also illiterate. Cf Surah VII: 156. The word probably means ignorant of the scriptures, or, more accurately, a layman.


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In connection with tradition and history, the supplementary sciences are biography, dealing mainly with the lives of illustrious men and of the Companions, knowledge of the tmstworthy transmitters of traditions and their peculiarities, in order to distinguish between weak (da‘if) and strong (qawi) traditions, and of their ages in order to differentiate between those traditions whose chain of authorities is incomplete or lacking (mursal) and those whose chain of authorities goes back to the Prophet (musnad), as well as knowledge of whatever is connected with it.

These, then, are the sacred sciences. Not only are they all praiseworthy, but they also belong to the category of the fard kifayah. But should one inquire saying, “Why have you appended jurisprudence to secular sciences and grouped jurisprudents among secular scholars?” Let me tell you that Allah made Adam from earth and his offspring from clay and running water. He brought them out from loins to womb, then to life, and finally to the grave; from the grave He raised them to judgment and from there to Paradise or to hell-fire. Such was therefore their beginning, such their end, and such their abodes. Furthermore, Allah has created this world in preparation for the hereafter in order to gather suitable provisions therefrom. If these provisions were gathered justly, dissensions would have ceased and the jurisprudents would have become idle. But since men have with greed gathered their provisions, dissensions ensued and consequently the need for a magistrate to rule them arose. In turn the magistrate felt the need for a canon with which to govern the people. It is the jurisprudent, though, who has the knowledge of the rules of government and the methods of mediation between the people whenever, because of their greed, they contend. He thus becomes the teacher of the magistrates and their guide in government and control, that through their righteousness the affairs of men in this world may be set in order.

Upon my life I declare that jurisprudence is also connected with religion, not directly but indirectly through the affairs of this world, because this world is the preparation for the hereafter, and there is no religion without it. Furthermore, the state and religion are


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twins. Religion is the foundation whiles the state is the guard. That which has no foundation will certainly crumble and that which has no guard is lost. Without the magistrates there is neither government nor control, and the correct way to settle dissensions is through law. And as government by magistrates does not belong primarily to the science of religion but is an adjunct to that without which there is no religion, so is the knowledge of the manner of government. Thus it is well known that it is not possible to carry out the pilgrimage without the protection of an escort of bedouins along the route. But the pilgrimage itself is one thing, setting out on the road to pilgrimage is another, policing the route without which it is not possible to perform the pilgrimage is still another, and the knowledge of the manner of policing the route with all its rules and regulations is again another. The result of jurisprudence is knowledge of the methods of government and control. This is attested by a tradition whose chain of authorities goes back to the Prophet, namely, “People will not be judged except by three: a governor, a deputy, and an intruder.”1 The governor is the imam [the imams have (always) been the judges]; the deputy is his lieutenant, while anyone else is an intruder who undertakes that responsibility without there being any need for him to do so. As a matter of fact it was the custom of the Companions to avoid giving legal opinions to the extent that each was in the habit of referring [the question] to his colleague, although they did not avoid answering questions relative to the science of the Qur’an and the path of the hereafter. In some recensions the word hypocrite appears instead of the word intruder [and rightly so] because anyone who, without any special need, undertakes the responsibility of giving legal opinions, does so for the sake of acquiring position and wealth.

If you agree to this, the same will hold true in connection with the rules of invalidating testimonies, restrictive ordinances indemnities and settling feuds; but it will not hold true in respect to what falls under the Quarter on the Acts of Worship such as fasting and prayer, nor in respect to what the Usages of Life entail of civil and legal matters such as determining the lawful and the unlawful.

1.      Cf. al-Darimi, Sunan. Raqa’iq, 63.


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You should, therefore, know that what the jurisprudent comes nearest discussing under works which pertain to the hereafter are four.1 Islam, prayer, almsgiving, doing what is lawful and abstaining from what is unlawful. But when you example how far the jurisprudent’s speculation goes into these four you will find that it does not go beyond the limits of this world into the next. If then you realize this limitation in respect to these four it becomes to you more evident in others besides.

Concerning Islam the jurisprudent discourses on what renders it sound or unsound as well as on its conditions, but only pays attention to outward confession. The heart, however, is removed from his domain because the Apostle set apart from the jurisprudent those who wield the sword and those in whose hand the reins of temporal power lie. This the Apostle did when he said to the man who had killed another because the latter had recited the confession of faith giving for a reason his fear of the sword, “Have you examined his heart?”2 The jurisprudent also determines with the aid of the sword the soundness of one’s Islam although he knows that the sword can neither reveal to him the intentions of the individual nor remove from his heart the veil of ignorance and bewilderment. He is, however, counsellor to him who wields the sword. Since the sword can reach the individual’s neck, and the hand his possessions, repeating the confession of faith with the tongue protects his life and possessions as long as he has either in this world. For this reason the Prophet said, “I was ordered to fight people until they say, ‘There is no other Allah but Allah. When they say this they render their lives and possessions immune against my hand.”3 He thus confined the efficacys of verbal confession to life and possessions; but in the hereafter mere words do not avail - only the illumination of the hearts by the divine light, their secret thoughts, and their sincerity do avail. These, however, do not fall within the field of jurisprudence although the jurisprudent may delve into them as he might also delve into theology and medicine, both of which are outside his field.

1.     Text-three.        2.        Muslim, Iman, 39.

1.         Cf. Ibn-Majah, Iman,16; Muslim, Iman, 6; al-Bakhari, Iman 16.




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Concerning prayer, the jurisprudent is entitled to give his opinion as to whether or not it has been correctly performed in accordance with the prescribed regulations, regardless of the fact that the worshipper, from the beginning to the end, might not have paid attention to any part of his prayer except the magnificat (takbir),1 but has instead busied himself in going over his market transactions. Such a prayer is of no use for the hereafter just as verbal confession of Islam is also of no use. Nevertheless, the jurisprudent does pass judgment regarding its soundness, namely whether or not the worshipper has, in what he has performed, fulfilled the requirements of the law and has thereby rendered himself immune to execution and punishment. To the subject of submitting and presenting the heart to Allah, however, both of which are works pertaining to the hereafter and through which works are rendered efficacious, the jurisprudent does not address himself; and in case he does, he oversteps his bounds.

Concerning almsgiving, the jurisprudent examines what satisfies the demand of the magistrate so that in the event that the payment of the alms is withheld and, consequently, the magistrate exacts it by force, the jurisprudent then rules that the responsibility of the magistrate has been fulfilled. It is related that Abu-Yusuf,2 the judge, was in the habit of giving away all his income to his wife at the end of each year and in turn making her give away hers to him in order to avoid the payment of alms. On being informed of it, abu-Hanifah3 declared that that was the result of abu-Yusuf’s versatility in jurisprudence; and abu-Hanifah was right because such a thing is the result of worldly wisdom. Nevertheless, its harm in the hereafter outweighs every benefit it may yield in this world. Moreover, such knowledge is harmful.

1.             The takbir consists of the repetition of the words Allahu-akbar meaning “Allah is great.”

2.             Ya’qub ibn-Ibrahim ibn-Habib (A. H. 182/A.D. 798); author of the Kitab a!-Kharaj. See ibn-Khallikan, Vol. III, pp. 334-42.

3.             Al-Nu’man ibn-Thabit. (A.H. 150 A.D. 767) founder of the Hanafite school of law and teacher of abu-Yusuf. See ibn-Khallikan, Vol. III, pp. 74-80.




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Concerning the lawful and the unlawful, abstinence from the latter is a part of religion. Piety, moreover, has four grades. The first is that piety which is required for just testimony and the relinquishing of which disqualifies man to bear witness before a court, or to be a judge, or to act as a governor. It consists, in other words, in avoiding all that is clearly unlawful.

The second is the piety of honest men which guards against dubiosities which engender ambiguous and misleading interpretations. Thus the Prophet said, “Discard that which is dubious for that which is indubious.”1 He also said, “Sin is heart-alluring.”

The third is the piety of the godly which entails desisting from perfectly lawful deeds for fear they may lead to deeds which are unlawful. In this connection the Prophet said, “No man will be numbered among the godly unless he is wont to avoid what is harmless for fear of what is harmful.”2 Of Such is the reluctance to discuss the affairs of people lest one be drawn into backbiting, and the abstinence from eating or drinking of things which whet the appetite lest that should stimulate passion and lust which lead man to commit that which is forbidden.

The fourth is the piety of the saints which shuns all things but Allah for fear of expending one single hour of life in things which, although it is clear and certain that they lead to nothing unlawful, do not help to bring the individual nearer to Allah.

All these grades of piety, except the first, namely the piety of witnesses and judges as well as what militates against justice, are outside the domain of the jurisprudent. Furthermore, to comply with the requirements of this first grade of piety does not preclude sin being punished in the hereafter. The Prophet said to Wabisah.3 “Consult your own heart although you have been given a dispensation

1.          Al-Tayalisi, No. 1178.

2.          Ibn-Majah, al-Wara’w-al-Taqwa,1.

3.          Abu-Salim Wabisah ibn-Ma’bad al-Asadi, one of the Companions of the

Prophet; he embraced Islam in A.H. 9/AD. 630. See Vol. VII, Pt. 2, p. 176;

Tahdhib al Asma’, p. 611.



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once, twice to thrice.”1 The jurisprudent does not, and should not, express an opinion regarding the things which allure and perplex the heart, or how to deal with them but confines his opinion to those things which militate against justice. Hence the entire scope of the jurisprudent’s domain is limited to the affairs of this world which pave the road to the hereafter. Should he then touch upon the attributes of the heart and the rules of the hereafter, he does so as an intruder just as he would be whenever anything relative to medicine, arithmetic, astronomy and theology confronts him. The same is true of philosophy in relation to syntax or poetry. Sufyan al-Thawri, an authority in exoteric knowledge used to say that the study of this science is not among the provisions for the hereafter. How could it be when it is agreed that the value of knowledge is acting according to its precepts? Is is possible, therefore, to hold as provisions for the hereafter the knowledge of the forms that divorce might take, either zihar2 or by li’an,3 of contracts involving immediate payment of the price and admitting delay in the delivery of the article purchased (salam)4, of hire, rental, and lease (ijarah),5 and of money-changing (sarf)?6 Anyone who acquires the knowledge of these things, hoping thereby to draw nearer to Allah, would certainly be mad. Indeed, nothing but engaging body and soul in the service of Allah and His worship would draw people nearer to Allah; and nobility lies in knowing how to accomplish these deeds.

1.      Al-Darimi, Buyu’,2.

2.      A form of divorce by the formula: anii ‘alayya kazahr ummi (thou art to me as my mother’s back). This is reminiscent of pre-Islamic practice. Cf. Surah LVIII: 2; al-Bukhari, Talaq, 23, ibn-Majah, Talaq, 25.

3.      A form of divorce which takes place under the following circumstances: if a man accuses his wife of adultery and does not prove it by four witnesses,he must swear before Allah that he is telling the truth and then add. “If I am a liar may Allah curse me”. The wife then says, “I swear before Allah that my husband lies;” and then adds, “May Allah’s wrath be upon me if this man be telling the truth.” After this the divorce takes place ipso facto. Cf Surah XXIV: 6; al-Bukhari, Talaq, 4, 25, 27-36: ibn-Majah, Talaq, 27.

4.      See al-Bukhari, Salam; al-Sayyid al-Sharif al-Jurjani, al-Ta’rifat, ed. G. Flugel (Leipzig, 1845), p. 126.

5.      See al-Bukhari, Ijarah.

6.      See al-Bukhari, Shirkah, 10.


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If you should say, “Why have you regarded medicine and jurisprudence in the same way when medicine pertains to the affairs of this world, namely the welfare of the body, while upon jurisprudence depends the welfare of religion; and furthermore does not this equal regard of the two violate the public consensus of opinion among all Muslims?” Then know that such a treatment is not necessary and in fact the two sciences differ. Jurisprudence is superior to medicine on three counts; first because it is sacred knowledge and unlike medicine, which is not sacred knowledge, jurisprudence is derived from prophecy; second, it is superior to medicine because no one of those who are treading the road to the hereafter can do without it, neither the healthy nor the ailing; while on the other hand only the sick, who are a minority, need medicine; thirdly, because jurisprudence is akin to the science of the road of the hereafter, being a study of the works or the senses. The origin of these works as well as their source lies in the attributes of the heart. Thus praiseworthy works are the result of praiseworthy characters endowed with saving grace in hereafter; similarly the blameworthy works are the result of blameworthy characters. The connection between the senses and the heart is thus clear.

Health and disease, however, result from certain qualities in the numours characteristics of the body, not of the heart. No matter how often jurisprudence is compared with medicine, the superiority of the former is evident. Similarly, whenever the science of the road of the hereafter is compared with jurisprudence the superiority of the

former is evident.

If you should say, “Explain to me the science of the road of the hereafter in such a manner as will bring out its outline if the inquiry into its details is not possible,” know, then, that it is divided into two parts: the science of revelation and the science of practical religion.

The science of revelation is the science of esoterics which is the goal of all sciences. One of the Gnostics said, “I fear that whoever should lack a portion of that science would come upon evil end.” The


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 least portion of the science of revelation is believing in it and placing it in the hands of those worthy of it. Another said, “Whoever has these two characteristics, heresy and pride, will never be blessed with any of this science”. It was also said, “Whoever loves Allah succeeds, but whoever loves this world and persists in his desires will not attain the science of revelation, though he might attain the other sciences.” The least punishment which the person who denies revelation will suffer is that he will not be blessed with any of its gifts. Thus a poet said:

“In his absence from the side,

Let his penalty abide.”


Furthermore, the science of revelation is the science concerned with the saints and the favourites of Allah. It stands for a light which shines in the heart when it is cleansed and purified of its blameworthy qualities. Through this light is revealed the truth of several things, whose names have hitherto often been heard, and to which ambiguous and obscure meanings have been attached. Through it, these truths are clarified until the true knowledge of the essence of Allah is attained together with that of His eternal and perfect attributes, His works and wisdom in the creation of this world and the hereafter as well as the reason for His exalting the latter over the former. Through it also is attained the knowledge of the meaning of prophecy and prophet and the import of revelation. Through it is obtained the truth about Satan, the meaning of the words angels and devils, and the cause of the enmity between Satan and man. Through it is known how the Angel appeared to the prophets and how they received the divine revelation. Through it is achieved the knowledge of the kingdom of heaven and earth, as well as the knowledge of the heart and how the angelic hosts have confronted the devils. Through it is gained the knowledge of how to distinguish between the company of heaven and the company of the Devil, a knowledge of the hereafter, Paradise, and hell fire, the punishment of the grave, the bridge (al-sirat)1 across the infernal


1.      See ibn-Majah, bath, 8.



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fire, the balance1 of the judgment-day, and knowledge of the day of reckoning.2 Through it also is comprehended the meaning of the following words of Allah: “Read thy Book; there needeth none but thyself to make out an account against thee this day”3 and, “Truly the hereafter is life indeed!”4 Through this same light is revealed the meaning of meeting Allah and seeing His gracious face; the meaning of being close to Him and of occupying a place in His proximity; the meaning of attaining happiness through communion with the heavenly hosts and association with the angels and the prophets. Through it also the distinction between the ranks of the people in the different heavens is determined until they see one another in the same way as Venus is seen in the heart of heaven. Many other things which would require a great deal of time to explain because people, once they accept them in principle. take different stands with regard to their significations, are also determined through this light. Thus, some would regard all these as mere examples holding that the eye has not seen, nor the ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man that which Allah has prepared for His righteous servants,5 and that man knows nothing of Paradise except its attributes and names: others hold that some are mere patterns and some are identical with the realities which their names signify. Likewise others hold that the limit to which our knowledge of Allah can reach is to admit the inability to know Him. There are some also who claim great things on the subject of knowing Allah while others say that we cannot go beyond what all the common people have reached, namely that Allah is omniscient and omnipotent, that He hears and sees, and that He speaks. We, therefore, mean by the science of revelation that science whereby the cover is removed so that the truth regarding these things becomes as clear as if it were seen by the eye, leaving thereby no room for any doubt. Man would, by himself, be capable of such a thing had not rust resulting from the filth of this world accumulated over the surface of the mirror of his heart. By the science of the road of the hereafter we mean the knowledge of how to remove from the surface


1.       Cf Surah XXI: 47; XLII;16.          2.          Cf. Surah XL: 28.

3.       Surah XVII: 15.                   4.          Surah XXIX: 64.

5.       Cf. Is 64:4; I Cor. 2: 9; also al-Darimi, Raqa’iq, 105.



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of this mirror that filth which bars the knowing of Allah, His attributes, and His works. The mirror is cleansed and purified by desisting from lust and emulating the prophets in all their states. Thus to whatever extent the heart is cleansed and made to face the truth, to that same extent will it reflect His reality. But there is no way to this except through discipline [which will be discussed in its proper place], learning, and instruction.

These sciences are not recorded in books and are not discussed by him whom Allah has blessed with any of them except among his own circle of intimates who partake with him of them through discourses and secret communication. This last method is nothing but the occult science which the Prophet had in mind when he said, “Verily of knowledge is a branch that resembles a hidden thing; no one grasps it except those who know Allah; whenever they declare it no one fails to recognize it except those who know not Allah. Despise not, therefore, a learned man whom Allah has blessed with this knowledge because Allah Himself does not despise that man once He has imparted to him that knowledge.”

The second part, namely the science of practical religion, is the science of the states of the heart, of which the praiseworthy are fortitude, gratitude, fear, hope, resignation, devotion, piety, contentment, generosity, recognition of one’s obligation to Allah under all circumstances, charity, good faith, morality, fellowship, truthfulness, and sincerity. To know the truth concerning these states as well as their definitions and the means whereby they are attained, together with their fruits and signs, and tending whatever states has been weakened until it becomes strong again and whatever has disappeared until it reappears, belongs to the science of the hereafter. On the other hand, the blameworthy, such as the fear of poverty, discontent with one’s lot, bitterness, rancour, envy, deceit, ambition, the desire to be praised, the passion to live long in this life for the sake of indulgence, pride, hypocrisy, anger, scorn, enmity, hatred, greed niggardliness, lust, extravagance, frivolity, insolence, exalting the rich and despising the poor, haughtiness, vanity, vaunting, boasting holding oneself above turn, medling in things not of one’s concern,


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loquacity, obstinacy, currying favour, adulation, conceit, being diverted from attending to one’s own faults by being occupied with other people’s shortcomings, the vanishing of grief from the heart and the departure of fear of Allah from it, extreme self-pity whenever in affliction, lukewarm support for truth, outwardly professing friendship and secretly fostering enmity, taking advantage of Allah’s patience and long suffering and persisting in taking away from men what Allah has given them trusting only in trickery, dishonesty and fraud, vain optimism, cruelty, rudeness, satisfaction in worldly pleasures and dejection at their loss, delight in the company of people and loneliness when they depart, harshness, levity, haste, lack of shame and lack of mercy - these and many similar qualities of the heart are the seed-beds of immoralities and the nursery-gardens of turpitudes. The opposite of these, namely the praiseworthy traits, and the fountain-head of all good works. To know the definitions of these traits the truth concerning each, the means whereby they are attained as well as their fruits and cures comprise the science of the hereafter whose acquisition, according to the legal opinion of the learned men of that science, is fard’ayn. Whoever should turn away from this knowledge, would, in the hereafter be destroyed by the wrath of the King of Kings, just as he who would fail to perform the civil duties would, according to the legal opinion of the jurisprudents of the world, be cut down by the sword of the temporal rulers of this world. The judgement of the jurisprudents concerning obligatory ordinances (fard’ayn) relates to the welfare of life in this world, while the judgment of the learned men of the science of the hereafter relates to the welfare of life in the hereafter. Thus if a jurisprudent were asked concerning the meaning of any of these terms, as for example: sincerity, or dependence, or precaution against hypocrisy, he would hesitate to express an opinion although every one of these is an obligatory ordiance in whose neglect lies his own destruction in the hereafter. But should you inquire from him concerning the li‘an form of divorce or the zihar form, or concerning wager (sabaa)1 and target shooting he would recite to you volumes of minute details which would never be used or needed; and in the event a need might arise

1.      See ibn-Majah, Jihad: 44.


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for some of them the community would not lack someone who could render this service and spare the jurisprudent the trouble and labour of his studies. He thus persists labouring day and night on these details trying to memorize and learn them, but the things which are of real importance in religion, he overlooks. Should he, then, be questioned about it, he would say that he had pursued it because it was the science of religion and also a fard kifayah, confusing thereby himself and others by these excuses. The intelligent person knows that if, in performing the fard kifayah, the aim of the jurisprudent has been to do the right things, he should have given precedence to the fard’ayn and to several others of the fard kifayah. How many a town has no physician except from among the followers of protected religions (dhimmah) whose testimony, according to the laws of jurisprudence, should not be accepted. However, we see no Muslim practising medicine, but on the contrary all rave in jurisprudence, especially in controversy and polemics. Furthermore, the town is crowded with jurisprudent employed in giving legal opinions and defending cases. Would that I knew why the learned men of religion permit work in activities which are fard kifayah and which have been performed by quite a number of people to the neglect of other fard kifayah activities which have not yet been performed. Could there be any other reason for this except that medicine does not lead to management of religious endowments (awqaf), execution of wills, possession of the money of orphans, and appointment to judicial and government positions through which one exalts himself above his fellowmen and fastens his yoke upon his enemies? Indeed the science of religion has been destroyed because the learned men have espoused evil. Allah is, therefore, our help and refuge. May Allah protect us from this delusion, displeasing to Him and pleasing to the Devil. The pious among the learned men in exoteric knowledge used to acknowledge the excellence of the learned men in esoteric knowledge (‘ilm al-batin) and the advocates of the inward knowledge of the heart.

Imam al-Shafi‘i was in the habit of sitting before Shayban


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al-Ra’i,1 just as a boy would sit in the school, and would ask concerning one thing or another, to which Shayban would reply, “Would one like you ask the advice of this bedouin?” Al-shafi’i would say, “This agrees with what we already know.” Ahmad ibn-Hanbal and Yahya ibn-‘Ma ‘in2 used to call upon Ma’ruf al-Karkhi3 who, in exoteric knowledge (‘ilm al-zahar) was not their equal; nevertheless they used to seek his advice. And why should they not have done so? Had not the Prophet, when he was asked, “What shall we do when we are confronted by something which we cannot find in either the Qur’an or the tradition?” said, “Ask the honest men among you and guide your affairs by consultation?”4 For that reason it has been said that the learned men of exoteric knowledge are the ornament of the earth and the state, while the learned men of esoteric knowledge are the ornaments of heaven and its kingdom. Al-Junayd5 said, “Once upon a time my teacher al-Sari6 asked me saying. ‘When you leave my place whose company do you keep?’ I said, ‘Al-Muhasibi’s.’7 To which he replied, ‘Well have you chosen! Follow his learning and culture, but avoid his affectation in speech and his refutation of the theologians.’ Upon leaving I overheard him say, ‘May Allah make thee first a traditionist and then a Sufi rather than a Sufi first and then a traditionist’.” This is a reference to the fact that he who first acquires versatility in tradition and learning and then turns to Sufism comes off well, he who takes to Sufism before learning exposes himself to danger.

Should you say, “Why did you, in your classification of the sciences, make no mention of theology and philosophy and not show

1.          A.H. 158/A.D. 744; see Fihrist p.184,1-2.

2.          A.H. 233/A.D. 847-8; see Fihrist, p.231; Tadhkirat al-Huffaz Vol. II, pp. 16-17.

3.          A.H. 200/A:D. 815-16; see ibn-Khallikan, Vol. II, pp. 551-3.

4.          Cf Surah XLII: 36.

5.          Abu-al-Qasim al-Junayd ibn-Muhammad ibn-al-Junayd al-Khazzaz(A.H. 297/A.D. 909-10; see ibn-Khallikan, Vol. pp. 208-9.

6.          Abu-al-Hasan ibn-al-Mughallis, al-Saqati (A.H. 256/A.D. 870); see ibn-Khallikan, Vol. I, pp. 356-8.

7.          Al-Harith ibn-Asad (A.H.243/A.D.857-8), see Fihrist, p.184. For his life and teaching, see Margaret Smith, An EarIy Mystic of Baghdad (London: 1935).



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whether they are blameworthy or praiseworthy?” then know that all that theology offers in the way of useful evidence is contained in the Qur’an and tradition. Whatever evidence is not contained therein is either reprehensible argumentation [which, as will be seen, is an innovation] or mere wrangling by dwelling on distinctions or amplification through the array of different opinions, most of which are derived and nonsence, despised by the mind and rejected by the ears, while others are ramblings into things unrelated to religion and not customary during the first period of Islam. To enter, into such discussions at all was then regarded heresy, but things have now changed. Innovations which turn people from the dictates of the Qur’an and the tradition have arisen and a group has emerged who made imitations of the Book and the hadith and based upon it false speculation, so that certain dangerous things have necessarily become permissible; they have become as binding as the fard kifayah. To such an extent would an innovator go whenever he purposes to preach a heresay. We shall discuss this briefly in the following chapter.

As to philosophy, it is not itself a single branch of science but comprises four; the first includes geometry and arithmetic, both of which are, as has already been said, permissible and no one is barred from them except the person who might be led by their study to blameworthy sciences, for most of those who practise them have stepped over to innovations. Thus the weakling is barred from the study of geometry and arithmetic just as the boy is barred from the bank of the river lest he should fall into the water, and as the newly converted Muslim is kept away from the company of unbelievers for fear he might be influenced by them. In this last case not even the strong is called upon to mix with the unbelievers.

The second is logic which is a study of the nature of evidence and its conditions as well as the nature of a definition and its conditions. Both of these are included under theology.

The third is divinity which is the science of the being and attributes of Allah. This also is included under theology.


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Furthermore the philosophers have not, in their philosophy, developed another type of sciences, but have branched out into several schools, of which some are systems of unbelief and others of innovation. Thus just as the Mu’tazlite system does not in itself represent a branch of science, but its protagonists, as a group of theologians and specialists in the art of philosophical disputation, have been distinguished by their erroneous views, so are the philosophers.

The fourth is physics of which some parts contradict the law and the true religion, and are, therefore, folly. These are not science that they may be classified under sciences. Others are a study of the qualities of the different substance, their properties, transmutation, and change. This part resembles the researches of physicians, except that the physician studies the human body, particularly the cause of its diseases and cures, while the physicists study all substance from the standpoint of change and motion.

Medicine, however, is superior to physics because the former is needed while for the latter there is no need.

Therefore theology has become one of the disciplines which is deemed a ford kifayah, in order to safeguard and protect the hearts of the common folk against the snares of the innovators. This has come to pass only because of the rise of innovations, just as it became necessary to hire an escort along the pilgrimage route when bedouin excesses and brigandage raised their heads. Had bedouin aggression ceased, the hiring of guards would not have been necessary for the pilgrimage route. Similarly, had the innovator stopped his nonsense, the need for anything besides the familiar practice of the age of the Companions would not have been felt. Let, therefore, the theologian know the limits to the position in the realm of religion and let him know where he stands in relation to it, as does the guard in relation to the pilgrimage route. If the guard would apply himself exclusively to his watch, he would in no way be considered a pilgrim. Similarly, if he theologian would address himself exclusively to debate and

1.      See supra, pp. 44.40.


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contention and would not walk in the way  of the hereafter nor would occupy himself in watching over and reforming the heart, he would not be numbered among the learned men of religion. The theologian, furthermore, has nothing of religion except the creed, which the common folk share with him and which is among the outward practices of the heart and tongue. The theologian is not distinguished from the common folk except through the art of argumentations and safeguarding the law. However, to know Allah, His attributes, and His works as well as well what we referred to under the science of revelation1 does not result from theology - in fact, theology is almost a veil and a barrier against it. Those are not attained except through self-mortification which Allah has made pre-requisite for guidance when He said, “And those who strive hard for Us, in Our way will We guide them: for Allah is assuredly with those who do righteous deeds.”2

You may say, “You have restricted the boundaries of the theologian’s domain to the, safeguarding of the creed of the common folk against the corruption of innovators just as the activities of the escort are confined to the protection of pilgrims’ goods against bedouin loot, and those of the jurisprudent to the maintenance of law wherewith the magistrate restrains the evil-doers. But the protection of the pilgrims’ goods and the maintenance of law, in comparison to the science of religion, hold inferior ranks, while the learned men of Islam who are celebrated for their virtue and, in Allah’s sight, are the most excellent, are the jurisprudents and the theologians. How then do you hold them in such low rank in comparison to the science of religion?” To this I would reply, “Whoever would recognize the truth through men would be lost in the wilderness of confusion. Therefore know the truth and you would know its devotees, especially if you yourself have been following in its path. If, however, you are satisfied with imitating and revering the accepted degrees of excellence among men, do not ignore the Companions or their high station, because those to whom I have alluded have agreed upon their superiority and that in the field of religion they are neither equalled

1.         See supra, pp. 44-49.                   2.              Surah, XXIX: 69.


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nor excelled. Their superiority, however, was achieved not through theology or jurisprudence, but through knowledge of the hereafter and following in its path. Thus Abu-Bakr1 excelled men not by much fasting or prayer, not by prolific recitation of traditions or the stating of legal opinions, and certainly not by theology, but as the Prophet testified, by something which rested in his bosom. Let your desire lie in seeking that secret for it is the precious jewel and the hidden pearl. Avoid also what most people have approved, praised, and exalted for reasons the explanation of which is beyond our present scope.” The Prophet of Allah died leaving behind him thousands of Companions, all of whom knew Allah and were commended by the Prophet himself; none excepting some ten of them were versed in the science of theology or ever appointed themselves dispensers of legal opinions. One of these was ibn ‘Umar2 who, whenever he was asked to give a legal opinion, used to reply, “Go to such and such a governor who has taken the affairs of the people upon himself and lay this responsibility upon his shoulders”; indicating thereby that the right to give an opinion on legal decisions and cases is an adjunct of government and authority.

When ‘Umar3 died, ibn-Mas’ud exclaimed, “Nine-tenths of all knowledge have vanished.” He was then told, “How do you say such a thing when we still have among us most of the Companions?” To which he replied, “I did not mean the science of legal opinions and decisions; rather I mean the science of knowing Allah.” Would you then think that he meant the science of theology and polemics? And why do you not strive to obtain that knowledge of which nine-tenths have vanished with the death of ‘Umar? It was also ‘Umar who closed the door of theological and polemic speculation and lashed Sabigh with a whip when the latter confronted ‘Umar with a question concerning two contradictory verses in the Book of Allah, banished him therefore from his company, and ordered the people to do the same.

1.           The first caliph.

2.           ‘Abdullah, son of the second caliph (A.H. 73/A.D. 692-3); see ibn-Sa ‘d, Vol. IV Pt. 1, pp. 105-38.

3.           The second caliph.


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As to your saying that among the learned men, those who are well known are the jurisprudents and theologians, you should know that what secures excellence before Allah is something and what achieves fame among men is another. Thus Abu-Bakr’s fame was because of the caliphate while his excellence was because of the secret which rested in his bosom. Similarly, ‘Umar’s fame rested on his political acumen while his excellence was the result of the science of knowing Allah, nine-tenths of which science vanished with his death, as well as the result of his efforts to come closer to Allah in the transaction of the affairs of his government and in his justice and mercy in dealing with his subjects. This is a thing hidden in his heart; nevertheless it is not impossible to imagine that the rest of his outward deeds could have been motivated by his desire for power, prestige, and reputation, as well as his ambition for fame. Fame, therefore, is the result of things destructive and excellence the result of things secret, known to no one else.

Consequently, the jurisprudents and the theologians, like the caliphs, the judges, and the learned men, differ. Some of them (for example) have sought Allah through their knowledge, legal opinions, and through their protection of the usage of the Prophet of Allah, and courted thereby neither false appearance nor public attention. Those are they who merit the approval of Allah and who obtain excellence in His sight because they act according to their knowledge and because they seek His face through their legal opinions and speculations; for every knowledge is work, an acquired activity, but

not every work is knowledge.2

The physician can come closer to Allah through his knowledge and would be rewarded for it because he labours for Allah. The

1.      B-Dubay’; ibn-lsl’ ; see Yaqut, Mu ‘jam al-Buldan, ed. F. Wustenfeld (Leipzing,1866-70), Vol. III, p. 677.

2.      Al-Ghazzali seems to mean by this passage that every act of learning is work, i.e. an action whereby something not inherent is acquired, the contrary of which is that by every work that one does, one does not necessarily acquire knowledge. The two phrases however allow for a multitude of interpretations of which this is only one strong possibility.



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magistrate, too, mediates between his subjects for the sake of Allah and would therefore meet His approval and be rewarded, not because he holds people answerable according to the science of religion, but because he is entrusted with a work intended to draw men closer to Allah.

That with which men draw closer to Allah is divided into three parts; pure knowledge which is the science of revelation; pure works such as, for example, the justice of the magistrate and his rule among men; and a mixture of works and knowledge which is the science of the path of the hereafter whose possessor belongs to both the men of knowledge and the men of works. Examine yourself, therefore, and see, whether you will on the day of resurrection be in the company of the learned men of Allah, or in that of the labourers of Allah, or in both investing with each of the two. This is more important to you than imitation for the sole purpose of being popular. Thus it was said:

“‘Take thou the cash and let the credit go,’

Thou hast no need of Saturn when the sun doth rise.”

We shall, however, relate to you from the lives of the early jurisprudents things which will show you that those who have professed to be their followers have in reality done them injustice and are their most virulent enemies on the day of judgment. Those (early jurisprudents) sought nothing with their knowledge except the face of Allah. Several things in their lives were seen as belonging to the signs of the learned men of the hereafter-this we shall clarify under the section which deals with those signs. These men did not devote themselves exclusively to the science of jurisprudence but were employed in the science of the hearts and the observation thereof.

They were kept form teaching and composing by the thing which had kept the Companions from the same persuits in the field of jurisprudence, despite the fact that the latter were jurisprudents devoted to the giving of legal opinions. The reasons which kept them from teaching and composing and the causes which barred them from these pursuits are evident and require no mention. Nevertheless, we


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shall, in this connection, recount a few things from their lives to show that what we have already related is in no way disparaging to them but to those who have feigned to be following their example and their school of thought while, in fact, they were opposed to them in their works and lives.

The jurisprudents who are the spokesmen of the science of jurisprudence and the leaders of men, namely those whose school claims the greatest following, are five: al-Shafi‘i, Malik, abu-Hanifah, Ahmad ibn-Hanbal, and Sufyan al-Thawri, each of whom has been a worshipper of Allah, an ascetic, a learned man versed in the science of the hereafter, a jurisprudent well-informed in the affairs of men in this world, and a devotee to the knowledge of Allah’s face. All of these five characteristics, with the exception of the fourth, the pursuit and thorough research into the details of jurisprudence, have been cultivated by the jurisprudents of the different schools, because the other four characteristics are of no use except for the hereafter, while this particular one is useful for the affairs of this world and the next. Its value for this world, however, diminishes when the hereafter becomes its avowed end. The modern jurisprudents have taken it up and consequently have claimed to be like the early imams. But how far from the truth this is, since angels are not usually compared with blacksmiths.

Since the early imams’ knowledge of jurisprudence is evident, let us relate some aspects of their lives which will reflect the other four characteristics. That al-Shafi‘i was a devout worshipper of Allah is shown by what has been related concerning him, namely that he used to divide his night into three parts: one-third for study, one-third for prayer, and one-third for sleep. Al-Rabi ‘i’ said that it was the custom of al-Shafi‘i during prayer time in the month of Ramadan to read the Qur’an from cover to cover sixty times. Al-Buwayti,2 another friend of al-Shafi‘i, reported that al-Shafi‘i used to go

1.      Abu-Muhammad (al-Rabi‘i ibn-Sulayman al-Muradi, A.H. 270/A.D. 834), the companions of al-Shafi‘i. See ibn-Khallikan, Vol. 1, pp. 326-7.

2.      Abu-Ya’qub, Yusuf ibn-Yahya (A.H. 231/A.D.846); see ibn-Khallikan, Vol. III, pp. 415-17.



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through the Qur’an once a day throughout Ramadan. Al-Husayanal-Karabisi1  related saying, “I spend the night with al-Shafi‘i a number of times. Invariably he used to spend about a third of the night in prayer, yet I have not seen him go beyond the recitation of fifty verses and at most, a hundred. At the end of each verse he would beseech Allah’s mercy upon himself and upon all the Muslims and the believers, and at each verse describing or predicting torture he would call upon Allah for refuge, begging salvation for himself and for the believers.” This indicates that in his heart were combined both hope and fear, and limiting himself to the recitation of fifty verses reveals his profound knowledge and insight into the secrets of the Qur’an.

Furthermore, al-Shafi‘i himself said, “Never have I been satisfied in sixteen years, because a full stomach fattens the body, hardens the heart, dulls the intellect, fosters sleep, and renders man lazy in worship.” See, then, his wisdom in enumerating the evil of a full stomach and how he had deprived himself of its luxury in favour of diligence in worship; truly to cut down on food is the beginning of religion. Al-Shafi‘i also said, “Never have I sworn by Allah, either truthfully or falsely.” Consider, therefore, his reverence and veneration of Allah and how they indicate that he is aware of the majesty of Allah. He was once asked a question but would not reply. On being then asked, “Why dost thou not answer?” he said, “not until I determine which is better, my silence or my reply.” Notice how he watches his tongue, since it is the most unruly bodily member of jurisprudents and the most difficult to control and subdue. Through this incident is also revealed that al-Shafi‘i would neither speak nor remain silent unless his speech or silence promoted virtue and merited heavenly reward.

Ahmad ibn-Yahya ibn-al-Wazir2 related that, one day, he

1.      Al-Husayn ibn-Ali ibn-Yazid abu- ‘Al al-Karabisi (A.H.248/A.D.862), a disciple of al-Shafi‘i ; see ibn-Khallikan, Vol. I, p. 258; a1-Subki, Vol. I, pp. 251-6.

2.      Ibn-Sulayman ibn-Muhajir al-Tujibi (A.H. 251/A.D. 865); see al-Subki, Vol. I, p. 223.



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followed al-Shafi‘i, as the latter emerged from Suq al-Qanadil (the market place of the chandeliers) when they met a person swearing at a certain learned man. Whereupon al-Shafi‘i turned to the group of men following him and said, “Shield your ears against hearing obscene speech as your shield your tongues against speaking it; verily the hearer is the accomplice of the speaker. The obscene man would select the filthiest thing in his vessel and would do his best to empty it into yours. But if his words were ignored, he who would ignore them would triumph just as the obscene man himself would be made miserable.”

Al-Shafi‘i related that a certain wise man wrote to another saying “Thou hast been given knowledge; defile not, therefore, thy knowledge with the darkness of sin, lest thou be caught in the darkness when the people of learning march forward by the light of their knowledge.”

With regard to his asceticism; al-Shafi‘i said: “Whoever should claim that he has in his heart the love of this world as well as the love of its Creator, the same has lied.”

Al-Humaydi1 related that one day al-Shafi‘i set out for al-Yaman in the company of some of the governors. With ten thousand dinars he made his way to Makkah where a tent was pitched for him just outside the city and the people came out to see him. He did not leave his tent until he had distributed all among his visitors. Once on leaving the public bath he gave the bath-keeper a great sum of money. On another occasion his whip dropped from his hand and a certain man picked it up and gave it back to him; whereupon he rewarded the man with fifty dinars. The generosity of al-Shafi‘i, however, is too well known to be described, and the beginning of asceticism is generosity because whatever a person loves, he keeps and does not part with it. Thus no one would part with his wealth except him who has no regard for this world as this is what asceticism really means.

1.       Abu-Bakr ‘Abdullah ibn-al-Zubayr al-Qurashi al-Asadi (A.H. 219/A.D.834); see Tadhkirat al-Huffaz. Vol. II, pp. 2-3; al-Subki, Vol. I, pp. 263-4.




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Furthermore, the strength of al-Shafi‘i asceticism, the intensity of his fear of Allah, and the concentration of his efforts on the hereafter are manifest from a report that Sufyan ibn-Uyaynah1 once related a tradition on mystical sciences (al-raqa‘iq)2 in the presence of al-Shafi‘i, whereupon the imam fainted and those present thought that he had died. Sufyan thereupon said, “If he should die, the, most excellent man of the age would have passed away.”

The same thing is also manifest in another report from the lips of ‘Abdullah ibn-Muhammad al-Balawi3 who said, “Umar ibn-Nubatah4 and I were once sitting discussing the pious men and ascetics when ‘Umar said, ‘Never have I seen a more godly or a more eloquent person than Muhammad ibn-Idris al-Shafi‘i. Once upon a time he and I went out with al-Harith Ibn-Labid5 to al Safa,6 (al-Harith was a disciple of al-Salih al-Murri7 and had a beautiful voice), where al-Harith began to recite from the Qur’an. As he was repeating the verse, ‘On that day they shall not speak, nor shall it be permitted them to allege, excuses,’8 I saw al-Shafi‘i’s colour change and his whole body tremble; in fact, he was so intensely agitated that he fell into a swoon. On coming to consciousness, he started to repeat, ‘I seek refuge in Allah against the den of liars and the scoffing of the thoughtless! O Lord, to Thee the hearts of the gnostics (‘arifin) have submitted themselves and before Thy throne the heads of those who yearn for Thee are bowed low! O Lord, bestow Thy bounty upon me and crown me with Thy intelligence. Through the grace of Thy countenance, forgive my shortcomings, “Thereupon he walked away and we departed.” On entering Baghdad (he was then in al-‘Iraq), as I stopped on the river bank to perform my ablutions

1.           A.H. 198/A.D. 814; see ibn-Khallikan, Vol. 1, pp. 375-6.

2.           See Ta’rifat, p. 117. Cf. al-Bukhari, al-Riqaq; al-Darimi, al-Raqa‘iq.

3.           Cf. al-Fihrist, p. 193.

4.           Unidentified.

5.           Perhaps al-Nafri; see ibn-‘Asakir,al-Ta‘rikh al-Kabir,Vol. VII (Damascus, 1331), p. 456.

6.           Unidentified but evidently a place outside Baghdad.

7.           A.H. 172/A.D. 788-9; see al-Fihrist, p. 183; ibn-Saad, Vol. VII, Pt. 2, p. 39.

8.     Surah LXXVII; 35-6.


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preparatory to prayer, a man passed by and turning to me said, “Young man, perform your ablutions well and Allah will treat you well in both this world and the next.” Looking up I saw the man go by while a crowd followed him. Thereupon I hurried through my ablutions and ran after them. He then turned around to me and asked “What seekest thou?” to which I replied, “Yes (my wish is) that thou shouldst teach me of what Allah hath taught thee.” He answered and said, “Know thou that whoever should believe in Allah would be saved, whoever should be faithful to His religion would be delivered from destruction and whoever should forsake the world would be compensated by Allah in the hereafter. Wouldst thou that I impart more unto thee?” On being answered in the affirmative, he added, “He who doeth three things, namely, to enjoin doing good and himself doeth accordingly, to forbid doing evil and himself doth abstain therefrom and to observe the restrictive ordinances of Allah, the same shall fulfil the faith. Wouldst thou that I should impart more unto thee?” “Yes” was my reply, and he said, “Forsake this world and seek the next and be truthful unto Allah in all thy affairs and thou shall be surely saved.” As he departed I asked who he was and those present replied, “al-Shafi‘i.”

See, therefore, how he had fainted and how he had preached, and see how his asceticism and extreme fear of Allah are thereby revealed. Such fear and asceticism, however, are the result of nothing but knowing Allah, and no one of His servants fear Him except the learned. Nevertheless, al-Shafi‘i acquired this fear and asceticism not through the mastery of the books on the Salam1 and the ijarah2 in the hadith or through grasping the other books of jurisprudence, but through the sciences of the hereafter which are derived from the Qur’an and the tradition wherein ancient and modern wisdom lie.

That al-Shafi‘i was familiar with the secrets of the hearts and learned in the sciences of the hereafter would be made known to you through the wise sayings ascribed to him. It has been reported that once he was asked about hypocrisy, whereupon he answered

1.         See supra, p.45                   2.            See supra, p.45


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offhand. “Hypocrisy is a golden apple which passion has placed before the eyes of the learned who, through the poor judgment of their impulsive hearts, cast covetous eyes upon it, and thereby their works were frustrated.” He also said, “Shouldst thou fear for thy work from vanity then stop and find out whose favour thou dost seek and whose reward thou dost desire, what punishment thou dost fear, for what good fortune thou art grateful and what misfortune thou dost recall! If thou shouldst think on each of these, thy work would cease to seem great in thine eyes.” See, then, how al-Shafi‘i had determined the nature of hypocrisy and set forth a cure for vanity. Both these things, hypocrisy and vanity, are among the great maladies which afflict the heart.

Al-Shafi‘i also said, “Whoever doth not keep himself unspotted from the world, his knowledge availeth him nothing.” And again, “Whoever doth, through his knowledge, obey Allah, his heart becometh illumined.” He also said, “Every one hath some who love him and some who hate him. If it be so, be among those who obey Allah.”

It has been reported that ‘Abd-al-Qahir ibn- ‘Abd-al-‘Aziz1 was a righteous and pious man and that he used to query al-Shafi‘i about points of piety, and because of the man’s own piety, al-Shafi‘i used to receive him kindly. One day he asked the imam saying, “Of these three, patience, trial (mihnah), and steadfastness (tamkin), which is the most excellent?” Al-Shafi‘i replied, “Steadfastness is the grade attained by the prophets and there is no steadfastness except after trial. When a prophet is tried and endures, he manifests the quality of patience; and when he manifests the quality of patience he proves his steadfastness. Hast thou not seen how Allah hath tried Abraham and then established him in steadfastness, and hath done the same with Moses, Job, and Solomon to whom He also hath given a position of dominion and power. Steadfastness is the most excellent grade. Thus Allah hath said, “Thus did We establish Jospeh in the land.’1 Similarly, Job, after his great trial, hath been made steadfast, in which connection Allah hath said, ‘And We gave him back his

l.             Unidentified.

2.      Surah XII: 21 (in part); cf. Gen, XLI: 39.


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family”.1 These words of al-Shafi‘i reveal his profound knowledge of the secrets of the Qur’an and familiarity with the stations of the prophets and saints who are on their way to Allah, all of which belongs to the sciences of the hereafter.

Al-Shafi‘i was once asked, “When will the man become learned?” He replied, “When he concentrates on one science until he masters it and at the same time addresses himself to the other sciences and surveys what he does not know; then he would become learned.” Galen was once reminded that it was his custom to prescribe several compounds for a single disease, to which he replied that the desired result of all is one and that he had mixed the simples to dilute their strength because when administered unmixed they are fatal. These and innumerable like instances indicate the high position which al-Shafi‘i had attained in knowing Allah and in the sciences of the hereafter.

That through jurisprudence in particular, and debates centring around the same subject in general, al-Shafi‘i had sought nothing but the face of Allah is revealed by the following, which it has been reported that he said: “I had hoped that men would benefit by this science and that none of the benefits would be attributed to me.” See, therefore, how he had realized what a curse it was to seek knowledge in order to obtain prestige and how he had been completely above such considerations, having had no other motive than the face of Allah. Said he again, “Never have I debated with anyone and wished that he would fall into error, nor ever talked to any person and did not desire that he would be divinely favoured, guided and helped, and that he would enjoy the care and keeping of Allah. Never have I spoken to anybody and paid the slightest attention to whether Allah would reveal the truth through my words or through his, nor ever met any person to whom I had related the truth and the proof thereof and he had accepted it, without respecting him and believing in his sincerity; on the other hand, no one has ever disputed the truth before me and accepted not its proof, without falling from the place which

1.           Surah XXI; 84 (in part).



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he had held in my regard and without my rejecting him.” These signs indicate what the will of Allah is regarding jurisprudence and debate. See, however, how people have emulated al-Shafi‘i in only one of those five characteristics and how even in this particular one, they have not followed his example fully. For the reason abu-Thawr1 declared, “Neither I nor anyone else have ever seen the like of al-Shafi‘i.” Ahmad ibn-Hanbal said, “I have not offered a single prayer in forty years without mentioning al-Shafi‘i therein.” See therefore the fairness and justice of the suppliant and the high standing of him for whom the prayer is offered. Contrast also with this the rival learned men at the present time and what exists among them of hostility and hatred, and you would know the extent of the failure that results in following the example of those men. It is also reported that because of the repeated prayers of Ahmad ibn-Hanbal for al-Shafi‘i, the former’s son2 asked his father saying. “What sort of a man was al-Shafi‘i that you should pray for him so often?” Thereupon Ahmad replied, “O my son, al-Shafi‘i was like the sun to the world and like health to men; think, then is there anything that could replace either of these two things?” He also used to say, “There is not a single man who has touched a pen with his hand that has not been indebted to al-Shafi‘i.”

Yahya ibn-Sa‘id al-Qattan3 said, “I have not offered a single prayer in forty4 years without mentioning al-Shafi‘i therein because of what Allah has given him of knowledge and the right way into which the Almighty has directed him.”

We shall, however, be satisfied with this portion of al-Shafi‘i life because it is really beyond description. We have copied most of

1.      Ibrahim ibn-Khalid ibn-abi-al-Yaman al-Kalbi al-Baghdadi (A.H. 246/ A.D. 860); see ibn-Khallikan, Vol. I, p. 5.

2.      Either Salih (A.H.226/A.D.880), or ‘Abdullah (A.H. 290/A.D.903); see ibn-Khallikan, Vol I. p. 20.

3.      A.H. 198/A.D. 813. See ibn-Sa‘d, Vol. VII Pt. 2, p. 47.

4.      Four in B margin; cf. Tahdhib-Asma’, p. 75,1. 19.



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these virtues from the book1 on the virtues of al-Shafi‘i, which al-Shaykh Nasr ibn-Ibrahim al-Maqdisi2 composed.

As to Imam Malik, he, too, was adorned with those five characteristics. It is reported that he was once asked, “O Malik, what sayest thou of seeking knowledge?” He replied, “It is fair and beautiful, but find what thou needest from the time thou openest thine eyes in the morning to the time thou closet them in the evening and confine thou thyself to it.” He was so emphatic in exalting the science of religion that whenever he sat down to discourse on tradition, he would first perform his ablutions, sit on his bed, comb his beard, perfume himself, settle down with stateliness and dignity, and then proceed with his discourse. When asked about it, he answered, “I like to exalt the traditions of the Apostle of Allah.” He also said, “Knowledge is a light which Allah places where He wishes; it does not depend on prolific relation of hadith.” This reverence and veneration of the science of religion reveals his firm and profound knowledge of the majesty of Allah.

That through knowledge Malik sought only the face of Allah is evidenced by his words, “Arguing about religion is worth nothing,” as well as by the words of al-Shafi‘i who said, “I have seen Malik being queried about forty-eight problems, to thirty-two of which he replied, ‘I do not know.” On the other hand, he who seeks through his knowledge anything other than the face of Allah would not, because of his pride, admit that he does not know. For this reason al-Shafi‘i said that when the learned men are enumerated Malik would be the most outstanding, and that he was indebted to no one more than he was to Malik..

It has been reported that abu-Ja‘far al-Mansur3 enjoined

1.      The title of the work is Manaqib al-Imam al-Shafi‘i;  see Haji Khalfah, Kashfal-Zunun ‘anAsami al-Kutubw-al-Fnun, ed. G. Flugel (Leipzig and London, 1835-58), Vol. VI, pp. 150-51.

2.      A.H. 490/A.D. 1096. When al-Ghazzali went to Damascus, he attached himself to al-Maqdisi; see Tahdhib al-Asma’, pp. 591-3; al-Subki, Vol. IV, pp. 27-9.

3.      The second ‘Abbasid caliph.



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Malik not to relate any tradition on the subject of divorce pronounced under compulsion (talaq al-nukrah)1 and then secretly instigated someone to question him on the same subject. In the hearing of a crowd of people Malik declared, “Divorce pronounced under compulsion is not binding.”2 Thereupon al-Mansur had him beaten and flogged, but Malik would not desist from relating the hadith. Malik also said, “No man who was truthful in relating the hadith and told no lie did not lose his mental faculty or suffered because of old age any infirmity or dotage.”

With regard to his asceticism, it is attested by the report that al-Mahdi,3 the prince of the believers, had once asked Malik saying, “Hast thou any home of thine own?” Malik replied, “No! But listen and I shall relate to thee. I heard Rabi‘ah ibn-abi-‘Abd-al-Rahman4 say, ‘Man’s home is his ancestry’.” At another time al-Rashid asked him the same question, and on his answering, “No”, the caliph gave him three thousand dinars and said, “Go, buy with these a home.” Malik took the money but did not spend it. When later al-Rashid was preparing to return (to Baghdad) he said to Malik “You should come along with us because we have decided to make the people follow the Muwatta’5 as ‘Uthman6 made them follow them Qur’an.”7 Malik replied, “There is no way to make the people follow the Muwatta’ because after the death of the Apostle of Allah, his Companions were dispersed around different countries and in each place they related the traditions (which they knew), and consequently among the people of each individual country different hadiths prevailed. Furthermore, the Prophet said, ‘Non-conformity among my people is a gift of

1.      Cf. al-Bukhari, Talaq, 11-12; ibn-Majah, Talaq, 15.

2.      Divorce pronounced under compulsion is held valid only by the Hanafiite, while the Shafi ‘ite, Malikite and Hanbalites do not regard it binding.

3.      The third ‘Abbasid caliph.

4.      The teacher of Malik (A.H. 136/A.D. 753-4); see ibn-Khallikan, Vol, 1,pp. 325-6.

5.      Malik’s corpus of tradition which has become as estemmed as any of ‘the six canonical books of traditions’. Printed several times but not critically.

6.      The third Orthodox caliph.

7.      It was Caliph ‘Uthman who gave the Muslim community an authorised text of the Qur’an and ordered all unauthorised copies to be destroyed.



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mercy. It is also not possible to go along with you because the Apostle of Allah said, ‘If they would only understand they would know that al-Madinah is best for them.’1 And again, ‘Al-Madinah does away with its corruption just as the furnace does away with the dross of the iron.’2 Therefore, here are your dinars just as you have given them to me; you may take them and if you wish you may leave them. Does this mean that you require me to leave al-Madinah in return for what you have given me? Know that I prefer nothing to the City of the Apostle of Allah - not even the whole world.”

Of such, then, was the asceticism of Malik, and when, as a result of the dissemination of his knowledge and the dispersion of his friends, great riches were sent to him from the four comers of the earth, he distributed all in charity; Malik’s generosity reveals his asceticism and his meagre love for the world. Asceticism, however, is not the lack of wealth but rather the lack of any desire for wealth in the human heart. Such an ascetic was Solomon, despite his royal glory.

Malik’s asceticism is further attested by a report ascribed to al-Shafi‘i to the effect that he once said, “I have noticed a number of Khurasanian (it is also said Egyptian) mules on Malik’s door, better than which I have not seen. I therefore told Malik how good they were and he replied, “They are a persent from me to thee, O abu-‘Abdullah.’ On telling him that he should keep one of them as a mount for himself, he said, ‘I’ll be ashamed before Allah to tread with the hoof of any beast of burden the soil wherein lies His Prophet’.” Behold therefore his generosity, how he gave away all at one time, and his veneration of the soil of al-Madinah. That through his knowledge he sought the face of Allah and that he despised this world is attested by the following report. He said, “Once upon a time as I entered upon Harun al-Rashid, the Caliph told me, ‘O abu-‘Abdullah! You should frequent our place so that our sons may learn from you the Muwatta.’ To which I replied, ‘May Allah exalt my Lord, the prince! You, my Lord, are he source of this knowledge. If you honour

1.      Al-Bukhari, al-Hajj, 219; al-Muwatta’, al-Jami’, 2.

2.      Al-Bukhari, al-Hajj, 224; al-Muwatta’, al-Jami’, 2.


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it, it will be exalted, and if you dishonour it, it will be despised. Furthermore, knowledge is something you achieve, not something you receive.’ Thereupon Harun al-Rashid said, ‘You are right’, (and turning to his son added), ‘Go out to the mosque and join the audience with the people’.”

As to abu-Hanifah, he too was a worshipper of Allah and an ascetic who knew Allah, had His fear in his heart, and sought through his knowledge Allah’s face. That he was a worshipper to Allah is evidenced by a report transmitted on the authority of ibn-Mubarak who said that two things were characteristic of abu-Hanifah, manliness and much prayer. Hammad-bin-abi-Sulayman1 reported that he was in the habit of spending the whole night in prayer. According to another report it was his custom to spend half the night in prayer until one day, as he was walking through a street, a certain person pointed to him and said to a companion, “This is he who spends the whole night in prayer.” From that day on, he spent the whole of the night in prayer and said, “I’ll be ashamed before my Allah to be described with something I do not possess in connection with my worship of Him.”

As to his asceticism, it hass been reported that al-Rabi ‘ibn-‘Asim2 once said, “I was sent by Yazid ibn-‘Umar ibn-Hubayrah3 to summon abu-Hanifah before him.” On his appearing, Yazid offered him the position of governor of the treasury, but abu-Hanifah declined the offer and consequently, Yazid had him scourged with twenty4 lashes. See then how he had run away from the office of governor of the treasury and bore the torture instead.

Al-Hakam ibn-Hisham al-Thaqafi5 said that he had once, while in Damascus, related a tradition to the effect that abu-Hanifah was one of the most honest men and that the governor had wanted him to take charge of the keys of the treasury or be scourged if he refused,

1.      A.H. 120/A.D. 738; see ibn-Qutaybah, p. 240.

2.      Unidentified.

3.      Governor of al-‘Iraq under the last Umayyad caliph. Killed at the order of al-Mansur in A.H. 132/A.D. 750. See ibn-Khallikan. Vol. III pp. 287-93.

4.      Cf. ibn-Khallikan, Vol. III, p. 75, I, 24.

5.      Was a close friend of abu-Hanifah. See ibn-’Asakir, Vol. IV, (Damascus, 1332), pp. 412-13.



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but abu Hanifah would have nothing of that, preferring torture at the hands of the governor, to torture at the hands of Allah.

It was also reported on the authority of Muhammad ibn-Shuja’.1 on the authority of one of his companions, that abu-Hanifah was once told, “The prince of believers, abu-Ja’far al-Mansur, has ordered that the sum of ten thousand dirhams be paid to you.” Abu-Hanifah, however, would not consent to it and, on the day on which the sum was expected to be delivered, he performed the morning prayer, wrapped himself with his cloak and sat in silence. Presently the messenger of al-Hasan ibn-Qahtabah2 arrived with the money and appeared before abu-Hanifah, but the latter would not speak to him. Then some of those present explained to al-Hasan that it was abu-Hanifah’s custom to act like that. Thereupon al-Hasan ordered that the bag containing the money be placed in one of the corners of the house, and left. Abu Hanifah then willed the contents of his house and told his son that, upon his death, his son should take the bag which contained the money to al-Hasan ibn-Qahtabah and tell him to take back his money which he had deposited with abu-Hanifah. When his son delivered the money to al-Hasan, the latter exclaimed, “May the mercy of Allah be upon thy father. Verily he hath been zealous over his religion.”

It was also related that abu-Hanifah had also been invited to fill the position of chief judge but he declined saying, “I am not qualified for this post.” Asked why he thought so, he replied, “If I were to be honest about it I would know and say that I am not qualified for the job; if on the other hand I were to lie, I might say that I was qualified; but a liar is not fit for the judgeship.”

Abu-Hanifah’s knowledge of the things of the hereafter and his concern with the weighty matters of religion as well as knowing Allah are attested to by his deep fear of Allah and by his asceticism. In

1.      Al-Thalji (A.H. 226/A.D. 879-80). See ibn-abi-al-Wafa’al-Qurashi, al-Jawahir al-Mudiyah fi Tabaqat al-Hanafiyah (Hyderabad, 1332), Vol.II, pp. 60-61.

2.      An ‘Abbasid general (A.H. 181/A.D. 797). See Tabari, Vol.III, p. 646; ibn-Khallikan, Vol. III, p. 293.


The Book of Knowledge

this connection ibn-Jurayj1 had said, “it was reported to me that this Kufian fiend of yours, al-Nu’man ibn-Thabit, fears Allah very much.” Sharik al-Nakha‘i2 had said that abu-Hanifah spent long spells in silence and contemplation and conversed little with men. These are among the clearest signs of inward knowledge and the concern with the weighty matters of religion, because whoever has been blessed with silence and asceticism would receive all knowledge as well.

The virtues of abu-Hanifah are, however, too many to be numbered. Had he not been characterised by perseverance in self-mortification, and had he not dipped into the sea of contemplation? Had he not throughout a period of forty3 years performed his morning prayer (having spent all the night in continual prayer) on the basis of the evening ablutions? Had he not, also, performed the pilgrimage fifty-five times and seen Allah in his sleep a hundred times?

This is but a small part of the lives of these of three imams. As to Ahmad ibn-Hanbal and Sufyan al-Thawri, their followers are not as many as those of the other imams, and of the two, the followers of Sufyan are the less numerous. Nevertheless, of the five, Ahmad and Sufyan were the best known for piety and asceticism. Since this book, however, is full of the account of their works and words, there is no need to take up their lives in detail at this moment. For the present, examine the lives of these three imams and ask yourself whether these states, words, and works, through which they forsook the world and devoted themselves to Allah, were merely the result of the knowledge of the several branches of jurisprudence, such as contracts of the type of salam, hire rental, and lease; and the different forms of divorce, namely, zihar, ila,4 and li‘an; or the result of a higher and nobler knowledge. Scrutinize, too, those who claim to be following the example of these imams and find out for yourself whether their claim is true or false.

1.      ‘Abd-al-Malik ibn-‘Abd-al-‘Aziz (A.H.I50/A.D.767); see ibn-Khallikan, Vol. I, pp. 512-13; Tahdhib al-Asma’, p. 787.

2.      Abu-‘Abdullah (A.H. 177/A.D. 794); see ibn-Khallika, Vol. I, pp. 402-3.

3.      See Tahdib al-Asma’, p. 704, 103.

4.      A form of divorce in which a man vows not to have any intercourse with his wife for a period not less than four months. See Ta‘rifat, . p. 42; Surah II, 226; al-Bukhari, Talaq, 21; ibn-Majah, Talaq, 24.



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