“The forunners, the first of the Muhajirun and the Ansar,
and those who have followed them in doing good,
Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him.
He has made ready for them gardens with rivers flowing under them,
timelessly forever without end.
That is the great victory.”
(Surat at-Tawba: ayat 101)
A’udhu billahi min ash-shaytanir-rajim.
We are unwinding a thread, or we are following traces, and we have looked from here back, and then we want to be able to look from back, to here, but we want to go from there to here by the Sirat al-Mustaqim of the taqlid of the community of Sahaba and of The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and give him peace, in their location of Madinah al-Munawwara as that proof, manifestation and evidential reality of the Islamic ethos not being a dream or an ideal to work for, but a demonstration to the human race lasting through from this first glorious company of Sahaba, through the Tabi’in and the Tabi’in of Tabi’in, in this pattern of harmonious and effective examination of the orders of Allah, the injunctions of The Messenger, may Allah bless him and give him peace, to arrive at correct decisions in all matters governing every aspect of life within the social nexus of the Muslims.
Now we have had to decode, to break up concepts that have accreted, that have gathered over these years, that have veiled us, that have blocked us from understanding the salafi situation, the salafi conditions and the salafi intellectual discipline. The word that we had been examining and circling around and breaking up was this word, madh-hab, and we had seen how it had crystallised into a concept of academic schools, of this idea that it was simply a matter of legal judgements, and parameters of legal judgements, and differences of legal judgement, and that, in fact, was really all there was to it, so that we have these four madh-habs.
And then we saw that in these historical and political changes that took place in the umma, people have been told all the madh-habs are really the same, and we must not make any difference, must not pretend that there is any disharmony, and at the same time, having said that, we found another voice saying, ‘there should not be any madh-habs, we must be salafi and we must get rid of the madh-habs.’ And so you have one lot saying, ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’ and the other lot saying, ‘there are four babies in the bath but they are really one,’ so that every way there is a muddle. This is what has gathered through these historical processes.
You have to de-mythologise and de-structure the given picture that you have formed that allows these concepts and measurements to come between your understanding of the Islamic ethos, to recover how it was understood by these first people in that situation of Madinah al-Munawwara in these early generations. Let us now look at other aspects of madh-hab that we have taken as given, that we have inherited without thinking about, and again, we find they are contradictory.
Another myth about madh-hab is that they are geographical, the Shafi’is are there, the Hanafis are there, the Malikis are there and the people of Ahmad ibn Hanbal are there, as if it was some kind of dispensation based on four people being in four points of the umma at a certain time to fulfil this function – the idea that it is geographical, based on someone being there and that one leader is there, another is there, and that they are all working harmoniously. But then alongside that myth there is another myth which is the most pernicious and remarkably deep-rooted, which is the family inheritance aspect of it – as if you inherited it along with the parental house and a piece of land so that you have someone say ‘I am Maliki’ or ‘I am Hanafi, because my father was! And my grandfather was!’ I know someone who went home to his family in Malaysia and said, “I am now following such and such a teacher.” They said, “That is excellent!” He said, “And as a result I am now following Imam Malik,” and there was immediately a family crisis. They said, “Get out of this house! Your father was Shafi’i, your grandfather was Shafi’i, and also you must be Shafi’i!” So suddenly the condition for following the unfortunate Imam was that your grandfather did – because even supposing that you arrived at the decision that he was the man to follow, it could not be done on the basis of your grandfather. It would have to be done on the basis of your own conviction that this was the best path.
Now you will find, worse than that, there is almost a ‘football club’ view of the madh-habs, and this was encouraged not by ‘ulama but by political leaders in order to keep them under control and to, in fact, subvert their power over them. So that it was eventually decreed, and another bid’a arrived in Makka by which they said that if you face that wall of Ka’ba you are Hanafi, if you face that wall of Ka’ba you are Maliki, and so on. We say we have four madh-habs and each one has a wall, as if suddenly that was some divine seal of approval on their being four madh-habs, when in fact earlier as you know, there were five very strong madh-habs and there were other smaller ones around them like that of Sufyan ath-Thawri and so on. So the whole thing has a mythic aspect which introduces a meta-history not acceptable in Islamic teaching. All this we have to get rid of!
I do not want you to think that the point I am taking you to is that the Maliki madh-hab is the only one and the others are no good! I am taking you to a point, insha’Allah, by proofs, which is that there is a salafi way, that is Sirat al-Mustaqim, which Malik indicated and which his madh-hab, while it follows certain inexorable laws, is on, but is not on if it does not follow them, and the other three madh-habs are not, and have not been on, ever! That is not the same thing! So it is a very far-reaching concept. It is a renewal. It is zero point we want to reach. To do this we must be firmly established in the assessment and the significance of Madinah. Having established the importance of Madinah we must then recognise the importance of what went on in Madinah, who was in Madinah, and why they are preferred over everybody else. We will go from Madinah, to realising what is important about Madinah, and within Madinah. We will now make this next step, insha’Allah. We are going to take you into a realm of what seems like legal argument but its end result is of a political nature that you will be astonished at, and at a later point, insha’Allah, we will demonstrate to you exactly what the political implications have been in the past, and what they are now for da’wa and for the re-establishment and re-vitalisation of the Islamic ethos in the world today.
Now we come to those transmissions by Qadi ‘Iyad, may Allah be pleased with him, regarding this special excellence given Madinah by virtue of the superiority of its knowledge, iman, the sunna and the Qur’an. He says that ‘A’isha, may Allah be pleased with her, transmitted that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said:
“Other cities were conquered by the sword but Madinah was conquered by the Qur’an.”
It is transmitted from Abu Sa’id al Maqburi from Abu Hurayra that The Messenger of Allah said:
“Madinah is the home of Islam, the abode of Iman, the land of hijra, and the place where the halal and the haram were initially set out.”
That is a very powerful statement.
“Kathir ibn ‘Abdullah transmitted from his father who transmitted from Kathir’s grandfather that the one upon whom we ask blessings and peace said, ‘Truly the deen shall retreat and take refuge in Madinah’, and in another transmission, ‘in the Hijaz, just like the snake returns to take refuge in its hole. In truth, the deen shall indeed find refuge in the Hijaz in the same manner that mountain-goats find refuge on the tops of mountains. Indeed, the deen began as something uncommon and strange and it shall certainly return again to be something uncommon and strange. Therefore, Tuba awaits the strangers, those who have set aright, after I am gone, that of my sunna which the people have corrupted.’”
So we see the indication of what is considered Sirat al-Mustaqim and who are those people who have held to this pure teaching. And this process outlined in this hadith by the one upon whom we ask blessings and peace is that process which Malik insists must be performed again and again and again by every generation, following that initial pattern, unless the whole thing is to go off the rails. And we will see how one move away from Madinah destroys that path completely.
“From Abu Hurayra, may Allah be pleased with him: ‘The one upon whom we ask blessings and peace, said, “The Hour shall not take place until Iman returns to take refuge in Madinah just like the snake returning to take refuge in her hole.” Abu Mus’ab az-Zuhri said regarding this hadith, ‘By Allah! It shall not return and take refuge but among its true followers and its people who establish it completely and properly and who institute in their lives its various precepts and laws, and who have knowledge of its proper interpretation, establishing firmly its rulings by which it judges.’
So that the duty of the Muslims is the living within, and governance by, what has been sent down and what has been ordained by Muhammad, may Allah bless him and give him peace, and following it by that ‘amal, that practice of those people who were in harmony with it. “If it stopped with the one upon whom we ask blessings and peace, then it had not been handed over!”
It would mean he had not delivered the message! And the last thing in the last Hajj he said was “Have I delivered the message?” And they said, “Yes!” Because what had happened was that he had made it come alive among his Companions. So that it is not finished with him until it is a proof among his Sahaba and the generations that followed. That is the proof that it has gone from the Prophetic zone into the ordinary human situation, gone from his excellence and glory to the ordinary human beings who follow, desiring Allah and the pleasure of Allah.
Qadi ‘Iyad says:
“What The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, has said about Madinah does not constitute mere praise for a piece of land or a group of houses,” – he is not talking about the baraka of Madinah as a place, in other words – “On the contrary, it is but praise for the people of that land and these houses, calling attention to the fact that these attributes shall endure in them but shall vanish from other than them, at the time when knowledge will be taken back up to the Heavens and removed, such that the people shall take as their heads ignorant men of whom questions shall be asked and who will answer without means of knowledge. So they will go astray and lead the others astray. Ibn Abi Uways said, ‘I heard Malik say regarding the meaning of the hadith, “Islam began as something uncommon and strange and shall return to be again like it began,” namely it will return to Madinah, just as in Madinah it first began.’”
So Qadi ‘Iyad is saying, therefore, that these people are the living continuance in its total pristine freshness of that transmission. It did not stop with the Messenger! It is the victory of Islam and the fountainhead of a world religion.
This reference to Madinah is not some simple appreciation of the tremendous baraka of the place, but the political spiritual reality of the transformed people in it. We are beginning to go into this domain of legality by which you will understand that you have to be as an Islamic elite – fuqaha! You must take your rahma that has come to you by your Islam and embody it in the social nexus. There is no rahma in a home that stops at the door of the house. This is the message of Madinah – you are not a Muslim until your society is safe! You cannot preserve anything of ruhani lights or intellectual appreciation of intelligent worship as an individual in the deen of Islam, if that blessing stops at the door of your house. There is no Muslim who is a private Muslim. There is no manhood without governance, and being governed in a way acceptable to you, having accepted the deen of Islam. It is the definition of ‘rijal’, and without it you are as incomplete as if you were biologically incomplete.
Now, we come to the chapter “On the Superiority of the Knowledge of the People of Madinah and Granting of it Priority over the Knowledge of Other than Them, and the Emulation of the People of Madinah by the Muslims of the First Generations.” In other words, what they did in relation to Madinah, for they did do it, and we too must do it. And this is the path that Malik defended and declared the only possible way, because the difference between what he is claiming and what everybody else claimed is that the foundation is practice, is ‘amal, is behaviour and an acceptable behaviour, from this primal source. And where that is you have the Islamic phenomenon, and where it is not you have news of it and nothing more.
“Zayd ibn Thabit, may Allah be pleased with him, said: ‘If you see the people of Madinah adhering to a matter then know that it is sunna.’”
Do you see what that means? This also means, deeper than you see, that the whole of this Islamic phenomenon is based on a warm-hearted, confident trust in your fellow Muslims. It is based on the confident awareness that if they were in Madinah, it was right! So that already puts the Islamic reality as one with genuine, broad, confident trust in the true Muslims – political safety is assured. If you remove this Madinan politique of trust, then you will have what you see again and again, which is Muslims murdering Muslims. And the thing you will find later, insha’Allah, when we come to see the record of these men following this command beyond the Tabi’in of Tabi’in is that it becomes so politically dangerous, that people are sent after them to kill them, because they cannot rule unjustly while this claim to justice exists, and it is a phenomenon belonging to those people who follow this Madinan way.
“Ibn ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, said – and look how near we are to the whole process – the son of ‘Umar – ‘If only the people at the time of the occurrence of civil strife would refer the decision regarding it to the people of Madinah, and when they reach consensus on a matter of importance, they would do it, the affair of the Muslims would be sound.’” – That is a categoric statement by Ibn ‘Umar. “But whenever someone criticises and complains, the people follow them instead.”
“Malik, may Allah be pleased with him, said, ‘Ibn Mas’ud used to be asked while in Iraq about certain matters and he would speak his opinions regarding them, but later when he would come to Madinah he would ask about these same questions and find them to be contrary to the opinion he had expressed. So when he returned to Iraq he would not take the saddle off his camel or enter his house until he had gone to the man who had asked him such a question and informed him about the judgement of the people of Madinah.’
“He said also: “Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, may Allah be pleased with him, would send out ten dispatches to the principal Islamic cities teaching them the different aspects of the sunna and fiqh and he would write to Madinah asking them about practices which had been instituted and come down from the past, because perhaps they might have some particular ‘amal, some practice, among the legacy which was theirs. And he wrote to Abu Bakr ibn Hazm directing him to gather together, on his behalf, all the various aspects of the sunna and to send them to him in writing. But then he died.” It says, ‘Ibn Hazm had already written him a number of documents before he was even asked.’”
So this was the viewpoint. And remember that it is commonly considered that Ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz was the one who returned justice to rule after it had been lost. And his practice was this. So the reason he is highly esteemed by everybody is precisely for his Madinan connection.
“Malik, may Allah be pleased with him, said, ‘By Allah! Neither Sa’id ibn al-Musayyab nor any other of the people of Madinah were ever taken aback or outdone by an opinion expressed by anyone expressing opinions among the non-Madinans.’” – They were never taken short by it – “‘And were it not for the fact that ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz acquired this knowledge in Madinah many of the people would have had great doubts about its validity.’”
If he had not got it from Madinah, it was so different from what they were hearing outside Madinah that if it had not been in evidence that it was from Madinah, they could not have taken it. This is a complete eye-opener about the early community.
“‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab said, ‘Abdullah wrote to me,’ meaning by that ‘Abdullah ibn Zubair, ‘and ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, each of them calling me to take part in the counsel between them’. And I wrote back to them, ‘If the two of you really desire counsel then you must come to the abode of the hijra and the sunna.’”
If you want counsel then you must come to us. So we are building up an incontrovertible proof, an inescapable conclusion, about how we will arrive at all matters governing the Islamic people. And now more evidence so that there is no doubt.
“A man once said to Abu Bakr ibn ‘Amr ibn Hazm about a certain matter, ‘By Allah! I have no way of knowing what I am to do regarding such and such.’ Abu Bakr replied, ‘Son of my brother! If you find the people of this city, Madinah, have concurred on a matter then have absolutely no doubt that it is the truth.’”
So this gives us a permission and an authority that we can take from Madinah.
“And ash-Shafi’i said: ‘If you find among the people of Madinah a matter concerning anything upon which they concur, and to which they adhere, then let there not be in your heart the least doubt about its validity.’ And Imam Shafi’i said, ‘As for the basic precepts, there is no stratagem for getting round their validity.’”
Imam Shafi’i himself said there is no way round this issue, although later you will see that people were to take what he did, and turn it into something that was to deny the whole point, by intellectual juggling, and removal from political responsibility. Because you will find, and this is the point we keep coming back to, that this Madinan ‘amal and this governing by it, is lashed into and bound in a dynamic, dialectical relationship with amirate. And it opposes amirate in its wrong actions, it challenges amirate in its deviation, it governs amirate every time it gives and makes happen a legal action, and when it is opposed beyond bearable limits of the conscience of the men concerned, and they are persecuted by their refusal to budge from it, they withdraw in hijra, as the thing began by withdrawal from an intolerable place to a tolerable place, in hijra. They repeat the prophetic pattern. They go to that safe place, and there they establish what is legal. And not content with that, the next part of that dialectic is, there they re-intensify their forces and they are re-intensified by the fact that they are able to live in harmony with the sunna. That makes them powerful and that new power drives them out in a new Jihad to clean up, and to re-establish law in its proper Madinan condition.
I am repeating what I said at the beginning but now you can begin to see it fleshed out by this knowledge of Madinah. We have to do this step by step. And the end result is that it produces men of a calibre and nature not the same as where there is something called Islam that does not have this binding link with the ‘amal of Madinah. So we will take a little more evidence on this matter, and then we will make another jump.
“Ibn Nafi’ said, ‘Malik was of the firm opinion that when the people of the two harams, Makka and Madinah, gave allegiance, their oath of allegiance became binding on all the people of Islam.’”
“Abu Nu’aym said, ‘I asked Malik about a certain thing and he said to me, “If you want knowledge then take up residence.”’”
What did this mean? It meant that you could not have it unless you took it from the source, it had to feed back to the source. It is a very far-reaching thing and we will remember it, and remember it, as we go further on. So the traffic with Madinah is never finished either.
“Abu Nu’aym said, ‘I asked Malik about a certain thing and he said to me, “If you want knowledge, then take up residence,” – meaning here in Madinah, and he went on – “for the Qur’an was not revealed on the Euphrates River,”’” – meaning it was not revealed in Iraq!
“Imam Shafi’i said, ‘I travelled to Madinah and even wrote down in it their differences of opinion.’ He stated further, in another transmission, ‘…their differences of opinion regarding the portion of inheritance allotted to the grandfather.’”
There was not one detail that he would let escape him when he was in Madinah.
“Mis’ar said, ‘I asked of Habib ibn Abi Thabit, “Who are the more knowledgeable of the sunna or of fiqh – the people of the people of the Hijaz or the people of Iraq?” And he answered, “The people of the Hijaz.”’”
“Imam Shafi’i said, ‘Each hadith for which there is not a standard narration in Madinah, even if it be one with a complete isnad, is a hadith in which there is a serious weakness.’”
Malik, may Allah be pleased with him, said, right after mentioning the repetition of the shahada after giving a bequest, in a will:
‘This is what I found the people of this city adhering to, therefore have no doubt that it is the truth.’
‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar said, “Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz sent Nafi’ to Egypt from Madinah to teach them the different parts of the sunna.”
“Mujahid, ‘Amr ibn Dinar and other than them from the people of Makka said, ‘Our scholars in Makka were all similar and on the same path at the time when ‘Ata ibn Abi Rabah left for Madinah. When he returned to us, his superiority over us became manifest to everybody.’”
I think at this point we have now got the evidence for this significance of Madinah in this political sense of laying down what is the foundation of the shari’ah of Islam. We have come now to something that is like a seal on what we have been talking about, because this is from Imam Malik himself. Insha’Allah later we will look at the Muwatta itself – at what it is, what its significance is and how it relates to our view on all matters, and also we will have to look at the relationship between laws and the hadith. We have to take all this knowledge and apply it to our orientation of study, how we study, and what we arrive at, and what our goal is and therefore how we establish Islamic governance without which we are not complete. We have got to establish this Islamic governance! It is not a matter of overthrowing presidents and taking palaces – that will not change anything. It has to be that people take this on and make themselves lawful, and by their making themselves lawful nothing unlawful can get in. It is from the people. We are not trying to scrabble up helplessly to reach the Prophetic ideal. He has reached down and given us a means by which we can emulate him according to the limits of our own capacities and characters. Do you see the psychological difference? There is no despair in this. There is no persecution. There is no lament. There is no loss. You are khalifs. You can do it, you must do it, that is the Islamic way. It is a very big difference.
Here is a short letter from Malik ibn Anas to al-Layth ibn Sa’d. This is of great importance, because here he says in summary what we have been looking at in detail and making commentary on. He said:
“I praise before you, Allah, other than whom there is no god. After this, may Allah grant us and you protection by means of obedience to Him secretly and in the open.” – In other words, by your character and by your ‘ibada and by your support of shari’ah in the social realm.
“May He grant us and you full pardon from every unacceptable thing. Know, may Allah have mercy on you, that it has reached me that you, al-Layth ibn Sa’d are giving fatwas to the people by matters contrary to what is adhered to by the community of the people here among us in this our city in which we reside. By virtue of your status as Imam, your great excellence, your standing among the people of your land, the dependency of those around them on you and their reliance on whatever comes down to them from you, you ought by right to fear for yourself and to follow that which by following it, you hope to be safe.”
“For Allah, may He be exalted, says in His Noble Book, ‘The forunners, the first of the Muhajirun and the Ansar, and those who have followed them in doing good, Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him. He has made ready for them gardens with rivers flowing under them, timelessly forever without end. That is the great victory.'”
“And He says, ‘So give joyous news to My slaves, who listen to the word and follow that of it which is best. Those are they that Allah has guided and those are they who are the possessors of cores.’“ (39:18)
So he gives as his summary of these ayats:
“The non-Madinans are, therefore, subordinate to the people of Madinah. The hijra was made to it. The Qur’an was revealed in it, the lawful was declared lawful and the unlawful was declared unlawful, while the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and give him peace, was in the middle of them, and they were in the very presence of the revelation of the Message, and the act of revelation. He gave them commands and they obeyed him. He established for them the sunna and they followed him until Allah brought his life to its completion and chose for him the reward of what is in His Presence, may Allah bless him and give him peace.
“Then after he was gone, those people from his umma who were closest in following him, rose up and assumed authority after him. Whatever matters occurred in their midst for which they had explicit knowledge, they activated that knowledge into practice. And regarding whatever matters they did not have explicit knowledge about, they questioned. They then followed that position of those whom they found, by the light of their ijtihad and the proximity of their time to the Prophet, to be the strongest. And when there were those who held contrary positions to them in such matters or expressed positions with regard to these opinions which were stronger or more worthy to be followed they would set their own opinions aside, and follow and practice the others’ opinions.”
“It was this same path which the Tabi’in then followed after, and they followed closely these various parts of the sunna.”
So he is saying what was safe with the Messenger was safe with those Sahaba in Madinah and was safe with those Tabi’in in Madinah.
“Therefore, if a matter is prominent in Madinah and put into practice, I am not of the opinion that anyone has the right to go contrary to it on the basis of that limited legacy which they possess in their own hands. This is impossible for anyone to ascribe to themselves or to lay claim to. And if all the peoples of all the cities should say, ‘This is the ‘amal which is in our city, or this is what those of the generations before us have executed and put into practice, they would not have certainty or authenticity in this regard, nor would they, in this regard, be doing what it is legitimate for them to do.’” Uncompromising!
“Therefore regard yourself carefully. May Allah have mercy upon you in this matter that I have written to you about, and know that it is my hope that I have not been called to write this to you except out of the desire to give sincere counsel for the sake of Allah, glory be to Him. I continue to hold you in the highest regard and to have the best thoughts about you. Therefore give this letter of mine to you, the closeness to your heart which it deserves, for if you do this you will know that I have spared no efforts in giving you sincere advice. May Allah give us and you the success to be able to obey Him and to obey His Prophet in every single thing and in every type of circumstance, and peace be upon you and the mercy of Allah and His blessings.” – Written on Ahad, 9th of Safar, and Qadi ‘Iyad has included – “I have written the whole letter because there is no more important matter than this.”
And we finish by looking at the reply of al-Layth to that letter. He wrote to Imam Malik, and from that letter, he says:
“…and that word has reached you that I am giving fatwas regarding things that are contrary to what the community of the people among you in Madinah are adhering to, that I ought by right to fear for myself because of reliance upon me of those around me regarding the fatwas I give them, and that the non-Madinans are subordinate to the people of Madinah since to it the hijra was made and in it the Qur’an was revealed.”
By repeating these things he is not only making clear that he has understood, he is given confirmation of the message.
“You have indeed spoken correctly in what you wrote to me about these things, insha’Allah, and what you wrote was received by me in a manner I do not dislike. For there is no-one more strongly given than I to acknowledging the excellence of the knowledge of the people of Madinah in the generations that have passed, over that of others, and there is none more given to following their fatwas than I, alhamdulillah! And for what you mentioned regarding having taken Madinah as his permanent residence, May Allah bless him and give him peace, the fact that the Qur’an was revealed to him there in the middle of his Companions, the knowledge that Allah imparted to them through him and that other people consequently became subordinate to them, these things are exactly as you have said.”
That was his reply, total confirmation of the reprimand of Imam Malik.
That seals the proof about the primacy of these people. The next stage we will come to, will be to see what happened and how this was viewed by the Tabi’in, and Tabi’in of Tabi’in, and then we will look at this beginning of the splitting of the rope – the splitting of the fibre this way, that way, and that way, into groups, sects, conflict and confusion, so that everything became the issue except how you behave! You have two things: you have belief in Allah, may He be exalted, with whom nothing can be associated, neither Prophet nor wali nor angel nor any person, and ‘ibada to Him and obedience to Him according to the rites decreed; and then behaviour according to these rules which are the shari’ah of Islam. There is no other added element, whether it is batini or association of heart or connection to people. Nothing! Nothing but ‘amal that makes the Muslim safe from your hand and your tongue and you safe with him, and safety for all within your borders. And the hudud observed in all matters and governance in justice – this is not an ideal, it was the matter from which it all came. The next step is to see how the strands were split and how we go back simply following this line to the stages that follow it, and then to see how we apply it ourselves, practically, in our work here.