Thursday, November 29, 2007


"Let the beauty of what you love be what you do"

... Mevlana Jalalludin Rumi

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


The Surah is so designated after the word wal-fajr with which it opens.

Its contents show that it was revealed at the stage when persecution of the new converts to Islam had begun in Makkah. On that very basis the people of Makkah have been warned of the endings of the tribes of Ad and Thamud and of Pharaoh.

Its theme is to affirm the meting out of rewards and punishments in the Hereafter, which the people of Makkah were not prepared to acknowledge. Let us consider the reasoning in the order in which it has been presented.

First of all, swearing oaths by the dawn, the ten nights, the even and the odd, and the departing night, the listeners have been asked: "Are these things not enough to testify to the truth of that which you are refusing to acknowledge?" From the explanation that we have given of these four things in the corresponding notes, it will become clear that these things are a symbol of the regularity that exists in the night and day, and swearing oaths by these the question has been asked in the sense: Even after witnessing this wise system established by God, do you still need any other evidence to show that it is not beyond the power of that God Who has brought about this system to establish the Hereafter, and that it is the very requirement of his wisdom that He should call man to account for his deeds?

Then, reasoning from man's own history, the evil end of the Ad and the Thamud and Pharaoh has been cited as an example to show that when they transgressed all limits and multiplied corruption in the earth, Allah laid upon them the scourge of His chastisement. This is a proof of the fact that the system of the universe is not being run by deaf and blind forces, nor is the world a lawless kingdom of a corrupt ruler, but a Wise Ruler is ruling over it, the demand of Whose wisdom and justice is continuously visible in the world itself in man's own history that He should call to account, and reward and punish accordingly, the being whom He has blessed with reason and moral sense and given the right of appropriation in the world.

After this, an appraisal has been made of the general moral state of human society of which Arab paganism was a conspicuous example; two aspects of it in particular, have been criticized: first the materialistic attitude of the people on account of which overlooking the moral good and evil, they regarded only the achievement of worldly wealth, rank and position, or the absence of it, as the criterion of honor or disgrace, and had forgotten that neither riches was a reward nor poverty a punishment, but that Allah is trying man in both conditions to see what attitude he adopts when blessed with wealth and how he behaves when afflicted by poverty. Second, the people's attitude under which the orphan child in their society was left destitute on the death of the father. Nobody asked after the poor; whoever could, usurped the whole heritage left by the deceased parent, and drove away the weak heirs fraudulently. The people were so afflicted with an insatiable greed for wealth that they were never satisfied however much they might hoard and amass. This criticism is meant to make them realize as to why the people with such an attitude and conduct in the life of the world should not be called to account for their misdeeds.

The discourse has been concluded with the assertion that accountability shall certainly be held and it will be held on the Day when the Divine Court will be established. At that time the deniers of the judgment will understand that which they are not understanding now in spite of instruction and admonition, but understanding then will be of no avail. The denier will regret and say, "Would that I had provided for this Day beforehand while I lived in the world." But his regrets will not save him from Allah's punishment. However, as for the people who would have accepted the Truth, which the heavenly books and the Prophets of God were presenting, with full satisfaction of the heart in the world, Allah will be pleased with them and they will be well pleased with the rewards bestowed by Allah. They will be called upon to join the righteous and enter Paradise.

By the Dawn
And the ten nights,
And the even and the odd,
And by the Night when it passeth away;-

Is there (not) in these an adjuration (or evidence) for those who understand?
Dost thou not consider how thy Lord dealt with (the tribe of) A'ad,
Of the (city of) Iram, with lofty pillars,
The like of which were not produced in (all) the land?
And with (the tribe of) Thamud who cut out (huge) rocks in the valley?-
And with Pharaoh, firm of might?

(All) these transgressed beyond bounds in the lands,
And heaped therein mischief (upon mischief).
Therefore did thy Lord pour on them a scourge of diverse chastisements:
Verily! thy Lord is ever watchful.

Now, as for man, when his Lord trieth him, giving him honour and gifts, then saith he, (puffed up), "My Lord hath honoured me."
But when He trieth him, restricting his subsistence for him, then saith he (in despair), "My Lord hath humiliated me!"

Nay, nay! but ye honour not the orphans!
Nor do ye encourage one another to feed the poor!-
And ye devour inheritance - all with greed,
And ye love wealth with inordinate love!

Nay! When the earth is pounded to powder,
And thy Lord cometh, and His angels, rank upon rank,
And Hell, that Day, is brought (face to face),- on that Day will man remember, but how will that remembrance profit him?
He will say: "Ah! Would that I had sent forth (good deeds) for (this) my (Future) Life!"
For, that Day, His Chastisement will be such as none (else) can inflict,
And His bonds will be such as none (other) can bind.

(To the righteous soul will be said:) "O (thou) soul, in (complete) rest and satisfaction!
"Come back thou to thy Lord,- well pleased (thyself), and well-pleasing unto Him!
"Enter thou, then, among My bondmen!
Enter thou My Garden!

Understanding Islam

What constitutes the originality of Islam is not the discovery of the saving function of intelligence, will and speech - that function is clear enough and is known to every religion - but that it has made of this, within the framework of Semitic monotheism, the point of departure in a perspective of salvation and deliverance. Intelligence is identified with its content which brings salvation; it is nothing other than knowledge of Unity, or of the Absolute, and of the dependence of all things on it; in the same way the will is al-islam, in other words conformity to what is willed by God, or by the Absolute, on the one hand in respect of our earthly existence and our spiritual possibility, and on the other in respect both of man as such and of man in a collective sense; speech is communication with God and is essentially prayer and invocation. When seen from this angle, Islam recalls to man not so much what he should know, do and say, as what intelligence, will and speech are, by definition. The Revelation does not superadd new elements but unveils the fundamental nature of the receptacle.

This could also be expressed as follows: if man, being made in the image of God, is distinguished from the other creatures by having transcendent intelligence, free will and the gift of speech, then Islam is the religion of certainty, equilibrium and prayer, to take in their order the three deiform faculties. And thus we meet the triad traditional in Islam, that of al-Iman (the "Faith"), al-Islam (the "Law", literally "submission") and al-Ihsan ( the "Path", literally "virtue").

... Understanding Islam, Frithjof Schuon

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Its In The Beyond

Once while Jalalludin Rumi was teaching his pupils in the open courtyard, next to a fountain, an externally-shabbily dressed but internally-perfectly adorned Sufi, Shams Tabrez came to their assembly and watched them. He saw Rumi referring to numerous handwritten books in the course of his teaching. Shams asked Jalalludin Rumi as to what was in the books.

Jalalludin Rumi replied, "O! Sufi. This contains knowledge that is beyond your understanding so you continue to read your rosary." Unnoticed by Rumi, Shams Tabrez threw all the books into the pond of water. When Rumi’s students saw what occurred they began beating Shams Tabrez. This and the screams of Shams Tabrez alerted Rumi as to what occurred. He complained that all his valuable knowledge had been destroyed. Shams Tabrez said; "Tell your pupils to leave me alone and I will give back your books."

A visibly dejected Rumi conceded to the request thinking that this was impossible. He was surprised to see Shams Tabrez, recite Bismillah (in the name of God), lift the drenched books from the pond, blew dust of them and returned them to him intact.

He asked Shams Tabrez as to how he did this. Shams Tabrez replied, "This knowledge is beyond your understanding so you continue to teach your pupils." Jalalludin Rumi fell at his feet and was swept into the currents of love. The presence of this ragged Sufi, Shams Tabrez, changed Jallaluddin Rumi from a respected professor of theology into a lover of God, one who summed up his whole life with the phrase, "I burnt, and I burnt, and I burnt." Shams Tabrez, targeted Rumi since he knew that Rumi was ready for receiving Spiritual Training but the veil of conceit, regarding his knowledge, had to be lifted.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


In Enchanted, the movie also ended with 'and they lived happily ever after' again and again... In fact, the whole movie was obsessed with finding that ending.

For those wondering what this post is about, please read my entry on Stardust. Enjoy the holidays!


The name of this Chapter is derived from the word kuwwirat in the first verse. Kuwwirat is passive voice from takwir in the past tense, and means "that which is folded up", thereby implying that it is a Surah in which the "folding up" has been mentioned.

The subject matter and the style clearly show that it is one of the earliest Surahs to be revealed at Makkah.

It has two themes: the Hereafter and the institution of Apostleship.

In the first six verses, the first stage of the Resurrection has been mentioned when the sun will lose its light, the stars will scatter, the mountains will be uprooted and will disperse, the people will become heedless of their dearest possessions, the beasts of the jungle will be stupefied and will gather together, and the seas will boil up. Then in the next seven verses, the second stage has been described when the souls will be reunited with the bodies, the records will be laid open, the people will be called to account for their crimes, the heavens will be unveiled, and Hell and Heaven will be brought into full view. After depicting the Hereafter thus, man has been left to ponder his own self and deeds, saying: "Then each man shall himself know what he has brought with him."

After this, the theme of Apostleship has been taken up. In this the people of Makkah have been addressed, as if to say "Whatever Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings) is presenting before you, is not the bragging of a madman, nor an evil suggestion inspired by Satan, but the word of a noble, exalted and trustworthy messenger sent by God, whom Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings) has seen with his own eyes in the bright horizon of the clear sky in broad day light. Whither then are you going having turned away from this teaching?"

When the sun is overthrown,
And when the stars fall,
And when the mountains are made to pass away,
When the she-camels, ten months with young, are left untended;
And when the wild beasts are herded together,
When the oceans boil over with a swell;
When the souls are sorted out;
And when the female infant buried alive is asked
For what sin was she slain,
When the scrolls are laid open;
When the world on High is unveiled;
When the Blazing Fire is kindled to fierce heat;
And when the Garden is brought near;-
(Then) shall each soul know what it has put forward.
So verily I call to witness the planets - that recede,
Go straight, or hide;
And the Night as it dissipates;
And the Dawn as it breathes away the darkness;-
Verily this is the word of a most honourable Messenger,
Endued with Power, with rank before the Lord of the Throne,
(One) to be obeyed, and trustworthy;
And (O people!) your companion is not one possessed;
Surely he beheld Him on the clear horizon.
Neither doth he withhold grudgingly a knowledge of the Unseen.
Nor is it the word of an evil spirit accursed.
Whither then will you go?
Verily this is no less than a Message to (all) the Worlds:
(With profit) to whoever among you wills to go straight:
But ye shall not will except as Allah wills,- the Cherisher of the Worlds.

Batman Begins

"It's not what's inside you,
It's what you do that defines you."

Of Reward

He made the Hereafter an abode to reward His believing servants only because this world cannot contain what He wishes to bestow upon them; and because He deemed their worth too high to reward them in a world without permanence.
- Ibn Ata’llah

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Through The Looking Glass

`Now, Kitty, let's consider who it was that dreamed it all. This is a serious question, my dear, and you should not go on licking your paw like that -- as if Dinah hadn't washed you this morning! You see, Kitty, it must have been either me or the Red King. He was part of my dream, of course -- but then I was part of his dream, too! Was it the Red King, Kitty? You were his wife, my dear, so you ought to know -- Oh, Kitty, do help to settle it! I'm sure your paw can wait!' But the provoking kitten only began on the other paw, and pretended it hadn't heard the question.

Which do you think it was?

A boat beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July --

Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear --

Long had paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die.
Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream --
Lingering in the golden gleam --
Life, what is it but a dream?

... Through The Looking Glass, Lewis Caroll

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Lost In Cyberspace

An excerpt from today's Sunday Times' Editorial read as follows:

"It is reasonable to surmise that many parents of teenage children who are deep into cyberspace gaming haven't a clue what the social pathology is about. Is it another of those 'computer things' that young people grow up on? Can it become so obsessive an activity it turns well-adjusted kids into one-person universes to which parents are barred?..."

That last question threw me back into my own history. I was introduced into cyber-conversation world ("chatting" as we then knew it) back during my years in university. It started off innocently as an instrument to 'make new friends'. At first, it was done only during my breaks - but by a few months down the road, it took the whole of me! There were many days when I walked to campus only to stay in the computer lab (in those days, laptops were not a student's staple) the whole day - missing all my lectures and tutorials - right from 8am till the library closed. I had my fair-share of meeting various people in campus: some as how they described themselves to be, whilst most are just the direct opposite, even right down to their gender.

This went on for a while until one day, while looking around that same familiar computer lab, "wisdom" struck me: everyone in the room was "chatting" with someone else in cyberspace from people within campus. For all we know, we could be chatting to the person sitting right beside us, but we did it through the computer. We have indeed, created our own "one-man universes" within the confines of our own computer. But, a rush of thought came to my mind: why do it through the computer when there were so many people out there that you can speak to direct; see and touch in a normal way?

In a way, I felt the situation pathetic - and myself, of couse. That sudden realisation made me realised how "addicted" I was to be "lost in cyberspace". It was tough to resist, but I finally withdrew from that habit - only to do so occassionally until that fad fades away - or perhaps I grew out of it.

On hindsight, it was not as pathetic as I saw it, then. We cannot totally escape from cyberworld in this generation. At times, I see that habit of "chatting" transferred to other things like ... this blogging, for example :)

But the important thing for me now is: I am better able to manage between allowing that cyberworld grab the whole of me and using it to keep in touch with the world and using it to benefit me, and maybe others along the way, to a certain degree, insya-Allah. There is so much out there at the press of the keyboard, but we need to sieve through some of the information to make good sense of them. That is important. Too much unconstructed information will churn out rubbish in our minds.

Finally, that "one-man universes" that we inadvertendly tend to build is certainly not healthy to our mind, body and soul. And this applies to all things in life. This is consistent with the beautiful teachings of Islam - to do things in moderation, to have a good balance - both in the secular and the theological context.

This concept is borne from the following verse and hadith. Although the context may be different, but the principle and application of them are the same:

"Thus, have We made of you a community justly balanced, that you might be witnesses over the nations, and the Messenger a witness over yourselves..." (al-Baqarah 2:143)

"A'isha, the wife of Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him), reported that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) used to say: Observe moderation (in doing deeds), and if you fail to observe it perfectly, try to do as much as you can do (to live up to this ideal of moderation) and be happy for none would be able to get into Paradise because of his deeds alone. They (the Companions of the Holy Prophet) said: Allah's Messenger, not even thou? Thereupon he said: Not even I, but that Allah wraps me in His Mercy, and bear this in mind, that the deed loved most by Allah is one which is done constantly even though it is insignificant." (Muslim)


Friday, November 9, 2007


"A philosopher once asked, "Are we human because we gaze at the stars,
or do we gaze at them because we are human?"
Pointless, really...
"Do the stars gaze back?" Now *that's* a question."

That was how this movie "Stardust" began. This entry will be a short departure from my current Islamic scholars series. I watched this movie today and was inspired - well, kinda fell in love with the opening lines above - which set me thinking throughout the movie. I had no prior expectations nor an inkling of an idea what this movie was about, but I definitely came out of the theatre smiling deeply - having learnt more of myself.

For one, the stellar cast was truly astounding. Imagine: Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Claire Danes, Claire Danes, Claire Danes (oops!) Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert de Niro, Robert de Niro, Robert de Niro (oops again!), Peter O'Toole, Sir Ian McKellen (narrating), Sienna Miller... (repetition intended :)

Secondly, it has everything a fantasy movie should have: fantasy, romance, witticism, great beautiful scenes, funny and endearing moments, wonderful acting and a fair dose of magic.

It is also a feel-good movie which is self-contained and does not leave open-endings for a possible sequel - which is irritating.

Stardust follows Tristan, a young man on a quest to find a fallen star and bring it back to the woman he loves (or, he thinks he loves, until he finds his true love in the form of Claire Danes) in order to prove his love for her. The only catch is that the star has fallen on the other side of the Wall, a doorway between England and a magical kingdom known as Stormhold. And, the star came in the form of the talented Claire Danes. Apart from loving her for her wonderful talents, in one scene she asked Tristan: "The little I know about love is that it's unconditional. It's not something you can buy... You did this (finding a fallen star) to prove your love for her. What is she doing to prove her love for you?" The innocent Tristan was speechless. Now, who wouldn't fall in love with that :)

Personally, I have always loved fantasy movies/books. I grew up reading Lord of the Rings (ok, my friends found me weird cos they don't understand what Tolkien was talking about and we were still in junior school then - and it did not help that I even memorised the book inside out), Narnia (I always dreamt of going through that magical cupboard and escape to another world beyond) and many other fantasy/magical movies/books. But deep down, I reckoned, most people share the same interest too.

Why do we have that weakness for the fantasy genre? Undoubtedly, it provides us momentary escapism from the reality of the world in which we live. It gives us the escape we secretly need, even though we know it will be just for a momentary pleasure. Such fantasy are what we dream of in the private recesses of our minds (picture this: who would not want to be able to fly, or to have a magical wand, or to be the just king of a large kingdom loved by all its people, or to be the hero which we sometimes will never be in our real lifes). It allows us to lapse without the serious repercussions which we have to face in the reality of our waking moments. Fantasy world enables us to control our destiny. Fantasy world always have beautiful, fairy-tale endings. Fantasy world always favour us, no matter what. Fantasy world is simply ... surreal and magical.

But mostly, all fantasy always ends with "and they lived happily ever after". Go back to all our fairy tales which we read when we were young: they always commence with: "In a place far, far away..." and the last page will almost always read "and they lived happily ever after". Even Star Wars began that way :)

Perhaps secretly, we all desire for that magic of immortality which we will never be. But if we look carefully at those books/tales/movies, their immortality transcends beyond the physical. Their stories still reaches us - long after Snow White ate that poisoned apple, long after Rapunzel's hair was cut short, long after Jack climbed the bean-stalk, long after Hansel and Gretel were kidnapped - and they will still last way beyond our grandchildren's generation.

It is natural for men to dream and desire for what he cannot have or cannot be - hence the obsession, albeit openly or secretly.

But, as these tales tells us, our immortality goes beyond our living - it is through our deaths that they linger on. For those men of good faith, they understand what this means. For us, there is an open window to be "immortal" in the human sense. Clearly, we deteriorate physically every day. But, as I have mentioned before: it is what we do that shapes us; it is the legacy we leave behind for our family, society, community, country or even the world, that immortalises us in this transient world. It is not to say that we need to do great things in our lifes: small things have their place in the greatness of our hearts. It is also not saying that we do things with the hope of being acknowledged and rewarded in this world: but the sincerity of our actions and His acceptance of those actions will ride its own blessed path. To this end, there is a Malay saying which loosely translates: "A tiger dies leaving behind its stripes. A man dies leaving behind his good name."

And this "name" or legacy that we leave behind are the accumulation of our contributions we make in this world - making it a better place than before. So, as the opening quotation above meant to say: it does not matter whether we are defined by our human-ness or whether our human-ness in fact makes us human. What matters is what we do when the "stars" are gazing down at us. The problem is: we do not know when, where nor how. So, every of our actions must be the best that we do - and in this spirit, it will eventually lead us to act sincerely. To be our best at every moment - is in line with having the spirit of excellence enjoined in Islam as I have tried to illustrate through my Islamic Scholars series.

“Allah looks not at you nor at your outward appearance but He looks at your hearts and your deeds.”(Muslim)

Allah’s Messenger said that Allah the Glorious said, “Verily, Allah has ordered that the good and the bad deeds be written down. Then He explained it clearly how (to write): He who intends to do a good deed and he does not do it, then Allah records it for him as a full good deed, but if he carries out his intention, the Glorious and the Great Allah writes it down for him with Him as from ten to seven hundred times, and even many times more. But if he intends to do an evil act and has not done it, then Allah writes it down with Him as a full good deed, but if he intends it and has done it, Allah writes it down as one bad deed. (Al-Bukhâri and Muslim)

“Cleanliness is half of Faith; the utterance of Allah (Al-hamdu lillah – all praise belongs to Allah) fills the scales of good actions; the utterance of Allah (Glory be to Allah and all praise belongs to Allah) fills the space between the heavens and the earth, and Salât (prayer) is light; and charity is the proof of Faith; and endurance is a light, and the Qur’ân is a plea in your favour or against you. Every person begins the morning ready to strike a deal with his soul as a stake; he either ransoms it or puts it into perdition.” (Muslim)

“Be prompt in doing good deeds (before you are overtaken) by turbulence which would be like a part of the dark night. During (that stormy period) a man would be a believer in the morning and turn to disbelief in the evening, or he would be a believer in the evening and turn disbeliever in the morning, and would sell his Faith for worldly goods.” (Muslim)

“Hasten to do good deeds before you are overtaken by one of the seven afflictions.” Then (giving a warning) he said, “Are you waiting for such penury as will make you unmindful of devotion; or such prosperity as will make you corrupt, or such disease as will disable you, or such senility as will make you mentally unstable, or sudden death, or Ad-Dajjal who is the worst apprehended of the Hour, and the Hour will be most bitter.” (At-Tirmidhi )

“Every good deed is charity.” (Al-Bukhari)

“Whoever guides someone to virtue will be rewarded equivalent to him who practices that good action.” (Muslim)

“A Muslim is one from whose tongue and hands the Muslims are secure; and a Muhajir (Emirgrant) is one who leaves (abandons) what Allah has forbidden.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

“Allah will cover up on the Day of Judgement the defect (faults) of the one who covers up the faults of the others in this world.” (Muslim)

“On every joint of man, there is charity. Everyday when the sun rises, doing justice between two men is charity; and assisting a man to ride an animal or to load his luggage on it is charity; and a good word is charity; every step which one takes towards (the mosque for) As-Salat (the prayer) is charity, and removing harmful things from the way is charity.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

“Three (things) follow a dead person: Members of his family, his possessions and his deeds. Two of them return; and one remains with him. The people and his wealth return; his deeds will remain with him.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

“Be in the world as if you were a stranger or a wayfarer.” Ibn ‘Umar used to say: “When you survive till the evening, do not expect to be alive till the morning; and when you survive till the morning do not except to be alive till the evening; (Do good deeds) when your are in good health before you fall sick, and (do good deeds) as long as you are alive before death strikes.” (Al-Bukhari)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Imam Bukhari

Imam Abu `Abdullah Muhammad ibn Isma`il Al-Bukhari was born on Shawwal 13, AH 194, in the famous city of Bukhara, present day Uzbekistan. The father of Al-Bukhari, Isma`il ibn Ibrahim ibn Al-Mughirah Al-Ja`fi, was a great scholar of Hadith and ascetics, from whom the son inherited the characteristics of literary zeal and excellence.

His father died while he was still in his infancy and his upbringing was left entirely to his mother, who looked after his health and education very carefully and spared nothing in order to provide him with the best education.

Quite early in life, Imam Bukhari's intellectual qualities became noticeable. He had great piety and an extremely good memory and devotion to learning. It is said that while he was still in his teens he knew by heart 70,000 ahadeeth of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw).

At the age of 16, he went to Mecca with his mother and enjoyed his stay in the Holy City so much that he decided to prolong his visit in order to benefit from the company of the great Muslim scholars who were always to be found there. At the age of eighteen, he wrote his first book on the subject of the Prophet's Companions and their immediate successors, and later a book on history called "Al-Tarikh-al-Kabir".

Imam Bukhari was very interested in history and the Ahadeeth (sayings of the Prophet). He sought the company of great scholars in order to learn and discuss the Ahadeeth of the Holy Prophet. He visited various countries, travelling to Damascus, Cairo, Baghdad, Basra. Mecca, Medina etc. During his stay in Baghdad, he frequently held discussions with the Imam Ahmad Hanbal, the founder of the Hanbali school of law.

During all these travels, Imam Bukhari had one aim: to gather as much knowledge as possible and to make the greatest possible collection of the Traditions of the Holy Prophet. He wrote profusely all the time. He once said that, “l have written about 1800 persons, each of whom had a Saying of the Prophet, and I have written only about those who have passed my test of truthfulness."

The Imam possessed one of the most amazing memories, and his contribution to the science of the Ahadeeth remains unequalled. He wrote several books on Ahadeeth but in his book: "Al-Jami-al-Sahih': the Imam had recorded all the Sayings of the Prophet which he found to be genuine after thorough examination and scrutiny. He spent sixteen years in research and examined more than sixty thousand Sayings from which he selected some 7,275 Sayings whose genuineness and accuracy he established beyond the slightest doubt. Deducting duplicates, the Imam's collection contain about four thousand distinct Sayings.

Imam Bukhari was extremely charitable in his remarks and opinions about men and scholars. Seldom did he brand the reporter of a false or inaccurate Hadith as a liar or forger, but simply called him "untrustworthy".

His popularity inspired jealousy in the hearts of reactionary Ulama' of his time and he was banished from the land of his birth by the Governor of Bukhara as a result of intrigues against him.

Writings and Other Compilations:
Imam Bukhari wrote many kitaabs besides Bukhari Shareef (Al Jamius Sahih). Here are some books written by Imam Bukhari:

Al Aadaabul Mufrad
Juz - Raf-e-Yadain
Juz - Qiraat-Kalful-Imam
At-Taareekh-Al Kabeer - Al Awsat-As Sageer
Kitabul Ashribah
Kitabul Hibah
Kitabul Ilal
Kitabul Wuhdaan
Af’aalul Ibaad

Imam Bukhari died on 1 Syawwal 256 AH on the eve of 'Eid Fitr at the age of 62 years in a small town near Samarkand, Tadzhikistan.

May Allah Have Mercy on his Soul and reward him abundantly for his great service to Islam. Amin.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Ibn Khaldun

Ibn Khaldun is universally recognized as the founder and father of Sociology and Sciences of History. He is best known for his famous 'Muqaddimah,' (Prolegomena). Abd al-Rahman Ibn Mohammad, generally known as Ibn Khaldun after a remote ancestor, was born in Tunis in 732 A.H. (1332 C.E.) to an upper class family that had migrated from Seville in Muslim Spain. His ancestors were Yemenite Arabs who settled in Spain in the very beginning of Muslim rule in the eighth century.

During his formative years, Ibn Khaldun experienced his family's active participation in the intellectual life of the city, and to a lesser degree, its political life. He was used to frequent visits to his family by the political and intellectual leaders of western Islamic states (i.e., North Africa and Spain), many of whom took refuge there. Ibn Khaldun was educated at Tunis and Fez, and studied the Qur'an, Prophet Muhammad's Traditions and other branches of Islamic studies such as Dialectical theology and shari'a (Islamic Law of Jurisprudence, according to the Maliki School). He also studied Arabic literature, philosophy, mathematics and astronomy. While still in his teens, he entered the service of the Egyptian ruler Sultan Barquq.

Ibn Khaldun led a very active political life before he finally settled down to write his well-known masterpiece on history. He worked for rulers in Tunis and Fez (in Morocco), Granada (in Muslim Spain) and Biaja (in North Africa). In 1375, Ibn Khaldun crossed over to Muslim Spain (Granada) as a tired and embittered man solely for the reasons of escaping the turmoil in North Africa. Unfortunately, because of his political past, the ruler of Granada expelled him. He then went back to Algeria to spend four years in seclusion in Qalat Ibn Salama, a small village. It was in Qalat he wrote Muqaddimah, the first volume of his world history that won him an immortal place among historians, sociologists and philosophers. The uncertainty of his career continued because of unrest in North Africa. Finally, he settled in Egypt where he spent his last twenty-four years. Here, he lived a life of fame and respect, marked by his appointment as the Chief Maliki Judge. He also lectured at the Al-Azhar University.

Ibn Khaldun had to move from one court to another, sometimes at his own will, but often forced to do so by plotting rivals or despotic rulers. He learnt much from his encounters with rulers, ambassadors, politicians and scholars from North Africa, Muslim Spain, Egypt and other parts of the Muslim world.

Ibn Khaldun is most famous for his book 'Muqaddimah' (Introduction). It is a masterpiece in literature on philosophy of history and sociology. The main theme of this monumental work was to identify psychological, economic, environmental and social facts that contribute to the advancement of human civilization and the currents of history. He analyzed the dynamics of group relationships and showed how group feelings, al-'Asabiyya, produce the ascent of a new civilization and political power. He identified an almost rhythmic repetition of the rise and fall in human civilization, and analyzed factors contributing to it.

Ibn Khaldun's revolutionary views have attracted the attention of Muslim scholars as well as many Western thinkers. In his study of history, Ibn Khaldun was a pioneer in subjecting historical reports to the two basic criteria of reason and social and physical laws. He pointed out the following four essential points in the study and analysis of historical reports:
(1) relating events to each other through cause and effect,
(2) drawing analogy between past and present,
(3) taking into consideration the effect of the environment, and
(4) taking into consideration the effect of inherited and economic conditions.

Ibn Khaldun's pioneered the critical study of history. He provided an analytical study of human civilization, its beginning, factors contributing to its development and the causes of decline. Thus, he founded a new science: the science of social development or sociology, as we call it today. Ibn Khaldun writes, "I have written on history a book in which I discussed the causes and effects of the development of states and civilizations, and I followed in arranging the material of the book an unfamiliar method, and I followed in writing it a strange and innovative way." By selecting his particular method of analysis, he created two new sciences: Historiology and Sociology simultaneously.

Ibn Khaldun argued that history is subject to universal laws and states the criterion for historical truth: 'The rule for distinguishing what is true from what is false in history is based on its possibility or impossibility: That is to say, we must examine human society and discriminate between the characteristics which are essential and inherent in its nature and those which are accidental and need not be taken into account, recognizing further those which cannot possibly belong to it. If we do this, we have a rule for separating historical truth from error by means of demonstrative methods that admits of no doubt. It is a genuine touchstone by which historians may verify whatever they relate.'

Because of his emphasis on reason and its necessity in judging history and social events, some scholars have claimed that Ibn Khaldun tried to refute conventional religious knowledge and substitute for it reason and rational philosophy. This claim is unfounded. It is known that some schools teach things which are irrational in nature. But this is not true of Islam which has always encouraged observation and thinking, and reminded the nonbelievers for not using their reason and thinking. An example is the Verse 164, Chapter 2 of the Qur'an: "Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the night and the day; in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the benefit of mankind; in the rain which God sends down from the skies; and the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead; in the beasts of all kinds that he scatters through the earth; in the change of winds and the clouds which they trail like slaves between the sky and the earth; - (here) indeed are signs for people that are wise and think."

Qur'an 2:170: "When it is said to them: "Follow what God hath revealed. They say, 'Nay: We shall follow the ways of our fathers.' What! even though their fathers were devoid of wisdom or reason and guidance?"

Ibn Khaldun remarked that the role of religion is in unifying the Arabs and bringing progress and development to their society. He pointed out that injustice, despotism, and tyranny are clear signs of the downfall of the state. Ibn Khaldun points out that metaphysical philosophy has one advantage only, which is to sharpen one's wits. He states that the knowledge of the metaphysical world particularly in matters of belief can only be derived from revelation.

He was a pioneer in education. He remarked that suppression and use of force are enemies to learning, and that they lead to laziness, lying and hypocrisy. He also pointed out to the necessity of good models and practice for the command of good linguistic habits. Ibn Khaldun lived in the beginning period of the decline of Muslim civilization. This experience prompted him to spend most of his efforts on collecting, summarizing and memorization of the body of knowledge left by the ancestors. He vehemently attacked those unhealthy practices that created stagnation and stifling of creativity by Muslim scholars.

Ibn Khaldun emphasized the necessity of subjecting both social and historical phenomena to scientific and objective analysis. He noted that those phenomena were not the outcome of chance, but were controlled by laws of their own, laws that had to be discovered and applied in the study of society, civilization and history. He remarked that historians have committed errors in their study of historical events, due to three major factors:
(1) their ignorance of the natures of civilization and people,
(2) their bias and prejudice, and
(3) their blind acceptance of reports given by others.

Ibn Khaldun pointed out that true progress and development comes through correct understanding of history, and correct understanding can only be achieved by observing the following three main points. First, a historian should not be in any way prejudiced for or against any one or any idea. Second, he needs to conform and scrutinize the reported information. One should learn all one could about the historians whose reports one hears or reads, and one should check their morals and trustworthiness before accepting their reports. Finally, one should not limit history to the study of political and military news or to news about rulers and states. For history should include the study of all social, religious, and economic conditions.

The Muqaddimah was already recognized as an important work during the lifetime of Ibn Khaldun. His other volumes on world history Kitab al-I'bar deal with the history of Arabs, contemporary Muslim rulers, contemporary European rulers, ancient history of Arabs, Jews, Greeks, Romans, Persians, Islamic History, Egyptian history and North-African history, especially that of Berbers and tribes living in the adjoining areas. The last volume deals largely with the events of his own life and is known as Al-Tasrif. As with his other books, it was also written from an analytical perspective and initiated a new tradition in the art of writing autobiography. He also wrote a book on mathematics which is not extant.

Prof. Gum Ploughs and Kolosio consider Muqaddimah as superior in scholarship to Machiavelli's The Prince written a century later, as the former bases the diagnosis more on cultural, sociological, economic and psychological factors.

Ibn Khaldun's influence on the subject of history, philosophy of history, sociology, political science and education has remained paramount down to our times. He is also recognized as the leader in the art of autobiography, a renovator in the fields of education and educational psychology and in Arabic writing stylistics. His books have been translated into many languages, both in the East and the West, and have inspired subsequent development of these sciences.


Abu Raihan Mohammad Ibn Ahmad al-Biruni was one of the well-known figures associated with the court of King Mahmood Ghaznawi, who was one of the famous Muslim kings of the 11th century A.D. Al-Biruni was a versatile scholar and scientist who had equal facility in physics, metaphysics, mathematics, geography and history. Born in the city of Kheva near "Ural" in 973 A.D., he was a contemporary of the well-known physician Ibn Sina. At an early age, the fame of his scholarship went around and when Sultan Mahmood Ghaznawi conquered his homeland, he took al-Biruni along with him in his journeys to India several times and thus he had the opportunity to travel all over India during a period of 20 years. He learnt Hindu philosophy, mathematics, geography and religion from thre Pandits to whom he taught Greek and Arabic science and philosophy. He died in 1048 A.D. at the age of 75, after having spent 40 years in gathering knowledge and making his own original contributions to it.

He recorded observations of his travels through India in his well-known book Kitab al-Hind which gives a graphic account of the historical and social conditions of the sub-continent. At the end of this book he makes a mention of having translated two Sanskrit books into Arabic, one called Sakaya, which deals with the creation of things and their types, and the second, Patanjal dealing with what happens after the spirit leaves the body. His descriptions of India were so complete that even the A'in-i-Akbari written by Abu-al-Fadal during the reign of Akbar, 600 years later, owes a great deal to al-Biruni's book. He observed that the Indus valley must be considered as an ancient sea basin filled up with alluvials.

On his return from India, al-Biruni wrote his famous book Qanun-i Masoodi (al-Qanun al-Masudi, fi al-Hai'a wa al-Nujum), which he dedicated to Sultan Masood. The book discusses several theorems of astronomy, trigonometry, solar, lunar, and planetary motions and relative topics. In another well-known book al-Athar al-Baqia, he attempted a connected account of ancient history of nations and the related geographical knowledge. In this book, he has discussed the rotation of the earth and has given correct values of latitudes and longitudes of various places. He has also made considerable contribution to several aspects of physical and economic geography in this book.

His other scientific contributions include the accurate determination of the densities of 18 different stones. He also wrote the Kitab-al-Saidana, which is an extensive materia medica that combines the then existing Arabic knowledge on the subject with the Indian medicine. His book, the Kitab-al-Jamahir, deals with the properties of various precious stones. He was also an astrologer and is reputed to have astonished people by the accuracy of his predictions. He gave a clear account of Hindu numerals, elaborating the principle of position. Summation of a geometric progression appropos of the chess game led to the number:

1616° - 1 = 18,446,744,073,709,551,619.

He developed a method for trisection of angle and other problems which cannot be solved with a ruler and a compass alone. Al-Biruni discussed, centuries before the rest of the world, the question whether the earth rotates around its axis or not. He was the first to undertake experiments related to astronomical phenomena. His scientific method, taken together with that of other Muslim scientists, such as Ibn al-Haytham, laid down the early foundation of modern science. He ascertained that as compared with the speed of sound the speed of light is immense. He explained the working of natural springs and artesian wells by the hydrostatic principle of communicating vessels. His investigations included description of various monstrosities, including that known as "Siamese" twins. He observed that flowers have 3,4,5,6, or 18 petals, but never 7 or 9.

He wrote a number of books and treatises. Apart from Kitab-al-Hind (History and Geography of India), al-Qanun al-Masudi (Astronomy, Trigonometry), al-Athar al-Baqia (Ancient History and Geography), Kitab al-Saidana (Materia Medica) and Kitab al-Jawahir (Precious Stones) as mentioned above, his book al-Tafhim-li-Awail Sina'at al-Tanjim gives a summary of mathematics and astronomy.

He has been considered as one of the very greatest scientists of Islam, and, all considered, one of the greatest of all times. His critical spirit, love of truth, and scientific approach were combined with a sense of toleration. His enthusiasm for knowledge may be judged from his claim that the phrase Allah is Omniscient does not justify ignorance.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Ibn Sina

Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sīnā (c. 980 born in Balkh, Khorasan), commonly known in English by his Latinized name Avicenna, was a Persian Muslim polymath: an astronomer, chemist, logician and mathematician, physicist and scientist, poet, soldier and statesman, theologian, and foremost physician and philosopher of his time.

He wrote almost 450 works on a wide range of subjects, of which around 240 have survived. In particular, 150 of the surviving works concentrated on philosophy and 40 of them concentrated on medicine. His most famous works are The Book of Healing, a vast philosophical and scientific encyclopaedia, and The Canon of Medicine, which was a standard medical text at many Islamic and European universities up until the 18th century. Ibn Sīnā developed a medical system that combined his own personal experience with that of Islamic medicine, the medical system of Galen, Aristotelian metaphysics, and ancient Persian, Mesopotamian and Indian medicine. Ibn Sīnā is regarded as the father of modern medicine, particularly for his introduction of systematic experimentation and quantification into the study of physiology, his discovery of the contagious nature of infectious diseases, the introduction of quarantine to limit the spread of contagious diseases, the introduction of experimental medicine and clinical trials, and the first descriptions on bacteria and viral organisms. He is also considered the father of the fundamental concept of momentum in physics.

Ibn Sīnā also wrote extensively on the subjects of philosophy, logic, ethics, metaphysics and other disciplines. Most of his works were written in Arabic - which was the de facto scientific language of that time, and some were written in the Persian language. Of linguistic significance even to this day are a few books that he wrote in nearly pure Persian language (particularly the Danishnamah-yi 'Ala', Philosophy for Ala' ad-Dawla'). Ibn Sīnā's commentaries on Aristotle often corrected the philosopher, encouraging a lively debate in the spirit of ijtihad.

Ibn Sīnā's philosophical tenets have become of great interest to critical Western scholarship and to those engaged in the field of Muslim philosophy, in both the West and the East. However, it is still the case that the West only pays attention to a portion of his philosophy known as the Latin Avicennian School. Ibn Sīnā's philosophical contributions have been overshadowed by Orientalist scholarship (for example that of Henri Corbin), which has sought to define him as a mystic rather than an Aristotelian philosopher. The so-called hikmat-al-mashriqqiyya remains a source of huge irritation to contemporary Arabic scholars, in particular Reisman, Gutas, Street, and Bertolacci.

The original work, entitled "The Easterners" (al-mashriqiyun), was probably lost during Ibn Sīnā's lifetime; Ibn Tufail (Abubacer) appended it to a romantic philosophical work of his own in the twelfth century, the Hayy ibn Yaqzan, in order to validate his philosophical system, and, by the time that the work was transmitted into the West, appended as it was to a set of "mystical" opusculae and sundry essays, it was firmly accepted as a demonstration of Ibn Sīnā's "esoteric" orientation, which he concealed out of necessity from his peers.

Ibn al-Haytham

Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥasan ibn al-Ḥasan ibn al-Haytham (Alhacen or Alhazen) (965 – 1039), was an Arab-Iranian Muslim polymath who made significant contributions to the principles of optics, as well as to anatomy, astronomy, engineering, mathematics, medicine, ophthalmology, philosophy, physics, psychology, theology, visual perception, and to science in general with his introduction of the scientific method. He is sometimes called al-Basri after his birthplace in the city of Basra in Iraq (Mesopotamia), then ruled by the Buyid dynasty of Persia.

Ibn al-Haytham is regarded as the father of optics for his influential Book of Optics, which correctly explained and proved the modern intromission theory of vision, and for his experiments on optics, including experiments on lenses, mirrors, refraction, reflection, and the dispersion of light into its constituent colours. He studied binocular vision and the moon illusion, speculated on the finite speed, rectilinear propagation and electromagnetic aspects of light, and argued that rays of light are streams of energy particles travelling in straight lines. Due to his quantitative, empirical and experimental approach to physics and science, he is considered the pioneer of the modern scientific method and of experimental physics, and some have described him as the "first scientist" for this reason. He is also considered by some to be the founder of psychophysics and experimental psychology for his experimental approach to the psychology of visual perception, and a pioneer of the philosophical field of phenomenology. His Book of Optics has been ranked alongside Isaac Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica as one of the most influential books ever written in the history of physics.

Among his other achievements, Ibn al-Haytham described the pinhole camera and invented the camera obscura (a precursor to the modern camera), discovered Fermat's principle of least time and the law of inertia (known as Newton's first law of motion), discovered the concept of momentum (part of Newton's second law of motion), described the attraction between masses and was aware of the magnitude of acceleration due to gravity at a distance, discovered that the heavenly bodies were accountable to the laws of physics, presented the earliest critique and reform of the Ptolemaic model, first stated Wilson's theorem in number theory, pioneered analytic geometry and the first theorems on non-Euclidean geometry, formulated and solved Alhazen's problem geometrically, developed and proved the earliest general formula for infinitesimal and integral calculus using mathematical induction, and in his optical research laid the foundations for the later development of telescopic astronomy, as well as for the microscope and the use of optical aids in Renaissance art.

One account of his career had him summoned to Egypt by the mercurial caliph Hakim to regulate the flooding of the Nile. After his field work made him aware of the impracticality of this scheme, and fearing the caliph's anger, he feigned madness. He was kept under house arrest until Hakim's death in 1021. It was guring this time that he wrote his influential Book of Optics and scores of other important treatises on physics and mathematics. He later traveled to Spain and, during this period, he had ample time for his scientific pursuits, which included optics, mathematics, physics, medicine, and the development of scientific methods — on all of which he has left several outstanding books.

A reader of this Blog, who is the first author in the English language of this scholar, posted an entry. This is a link to that website.

Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawy

Abu al-Qasim Khalaf ibn al-Abbas Al-Zahrawi (936 - 1013) also known in the West as Abulcasis, was an Andalusian-Arab physician, surgeon, and scientist. He is considered the father of modern surgery and as Islam's greatest medieval surgeon, whose comprehensive medical texts, Islamic medicine teachings, shaped both Islamic and European surgical procedures up until the Renaissance. His greatest contribution to history is the Kitab al-Tasrif ("The Method of Medicine"), a thirty-volume encyclopedia of medical practices.

Abu al-Qasim was a court physician to the Andalusian caliph Al-Hakam II. He devoted his entire life and genius to the advancement of medicine as a whole, and surgery in particular. His best work was the Kitab al-Tasrif. It is a medical encyclopaedia spanning 30 volumes which included sections on surgery, medicine, orthopaedics, ophthalmology, pharmacology, nutrition etc.

In the 14th century, French surgeon Guy de Chauliac quoted al-Tasrif over 200 times. Pietro Argallata (d. 1453) described Abu al-Qasim as "without doubt the chief of all surgeons". In an earlier work, he is credited to be the first to describe ectopic pregnancy in 963, in those days a fatal affliction. Abu Al-Qasim's influence continued for at least five centuries, extending into the Renaissance, evidenced by al-Tasrif's frequent reference by French surgeon Jaques Delechamps (1513-1588).

Kitab al-Tasrif, published in 1000, covered a broad range of medical topics, including dentistry and childbirth, which contained data that had accumulated during a career that spanned almost 50 years of training, teaching and practice. In it, he also wrote of the importance of a positive doctor-patient relationship and wrote affectionately of his students, whom he referred to as "my children". He also emphasised the importance of treating patients irrespective of their social status. He encouraged the close observation of individual cases in order to make the most accurate diagnosis and the best possible treatment.

Al-Tasrif was later translated into Latin by Gerard of Cremona in the 12th century, and illustrated. For perhaps five centuries during the European Middle Ages, it was the primary source for European medical knowledge, and served as a reference for doctors and surgeons.

Not always properly credited, Abu Al-Qasim's al-Tasrif described both what would later became known as "Kocher's method" for treating a dislocated shoulder and "Walcher position" in obstetrics. Al-Tasrif described how to ligature blood vessels before Ambroise Paré, and was the first recorded book to document several dental devices and explain the hereditary nature of haemophilia.

Al-Qasim was a surgeon and specialized in curing disease by cauterization. He also invented several devices used during surgery, for the purpose of inspection of the interior of the urethra, applying and removing foreign bodies from the throat and for the inspection of the ear.

In his Al-Tasrif, he introduced his famous collection of over 200 surgical instruments. Many of these instruments were never used before by any previous surgeons. Hamidan, for example, listed at least twenty six innovative surgical instruments that Al-Qasim introduced, for example: the catgut, the forceps, the ligature and the surgical needles.


Abu Abdullah Mohammad Ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi was born at Khwarizm (Kheva), south of Aral sea, near modern day Uzbekistan. Very little is known about his early life, except for the fact that his parents had migrated to a place south of Baghdad. The exact dates of his birth and death are also not known, but it is established that he flourished under Al- Mamun at Baghdad through 813-833 and probably died around 840 C.E.

Al-Khwarizmi flourished while working as a member of the House of Wisdom in Baghdad under the leadership of Caliph al-Mamun, the son of the Caliph al-Harun al-Rashid, who was made famous in the Arabian Nights. The House of Wisdom was a scientific research and teaching center.

It was Al-Khwarizmi's most famous book called al-Kitab al-mukhtasar fi Hisab al-jabr w'al mugabalah ("The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing") that we derive the name "algebra", the European version for the word al-jabr. These words refer to the systematic study of the solution of linear and quadratic equations. His major contributions to mathematics, astronomy, astrology, geography and cartography provided foundations for later and even more widespread innovation in algebra, trigonometry, and his other areas of interest. His systematic and logical approach to solving linear and quadratic equations gave shape to that discipline of algebra. The book was first translated into Latin in the twelfth century.

Al-Khwarizmi's most recognized work, Algoritmi de numero Indorum, and one that is so named after him, is the mathematical concept Algorithm. The modern meaning of the word relates to a specific routine for solving a particular problem. Today, people use algorithms to do addition and long division, principles that are found in Al-Khwarizmi's text written over 2000 years ago. Al-Khwarizmi was also responsible for introducing the Arabic numbers to the West, setting in motion a process that led to the use of the nine Arabic numerals, together with the zero sign.

Al-Khwarizmi further systematized and corrected Ptolemy's data in geography as regards to Africa and the Middle east. Another major book was his Kitab surat al-ard ("The Image of the Earth"; translated now as Geography), which presented the coordinates of localities in the known world as based, ultimately, on those in the Geography of Ptolemy but with improved values for the length of the Mediterranean Sea and the location of cities in Asia and Africa.

He also assisted in the construction of the first globe of the known world for the caliph al-Ma'mun and participated in a project to determine the circumference of the Earth, supervising the work of 70 geographers to create the map of the then "known world".

When his work was copied and transferred to Europe through Latin translations, it had a profound impact on the advancement of basic mathematics in Europe. He also wrote on mechanical devices like the astrolabe and sundial.

Al-Khwarizmi's Zīj al-sindhind ("astronomical tables") is a work consisting of approximately 37 chapters on calendrical and astronomical calculations and 116 tables with calendrical, astronomical and astrological data, as well as a table of sine values. This is one of many Arabic zijes based on the Indian astronomical methods known as the sindhind.

Al-Khwārizmī wrote several other works including a treatise on the Hebrew calendar (Risāla fi istikhrāj taʾrīkh al-yahūd "Extraction of the Jewish Era"). It describes the 19-year intercalation cycle, the rules for determining on what day of the week the first day of the month Tishrī shall fall; calculates the interval between the Jewish era (creation of Adam) and the Seleucid era; and gives rules for determining the mean longitude of the sun and the moon using the Jewish calendar. Similar material is found in the works of al-Bīrūnī and Maimonides.

The influence of Khawarizmi on the growth of science, in general, and mathematics, astronomy and geography in particular, is well established in history. Several of his books were readily translated into a number of other languages, and, in fact, constituted the university textbooks till the 16th century. His approach was systematic and logical, and not only did he bring together the then prevailing knowledge on various branches of science, particularly mathematics, but also enriched it through his original contribution. No doubt he has been held in high repute throughout the centuries since then.

Hasan al-Basri

He was one of the most renowned tabi`een (the generation after the death of the Prophet ) and prominent figures of his time. He was a jurist and a scholar. He was a pious and devout person. He was famous for his eloquence, inspiring speeches, wisdom, asceticism, and deep knowledge. He is the revered tabi`ee and the scholar of the people of Basrah, and his full name is: Abu Sa`eed Al-Hasan Ibn Abi Al-Hasan Ibn Yasaar Al-Basri.

Birth and early years:
Al-Hasan Al-Basri, as he was more popularly known, was born in Al-Madinah in 21 A.H. during the caliphate of the leader of the Believers, Sayyidina `Umar ibn Al-Khattaab . Both his parents were slaves. His father became a prisoner of war when the Muslims conquered Misaan, an area between Basrah and Waasit in Iraq. His father embraced Islam and lived in Madinah where he married a bondwoman called Khayyirah who was the maid-slave of Umm Salamah, the wife of the Prophet . The Mother of the Believers, Umm Salamah freed Khayyirah after she gave birth to her son Al-Hasan.

Al-Hasan spent his early years with his family in Waadi Al-Qura near Madinah. Before he was fourteen years old, he managed to memorize the Glorious Quran. He also learnt reading, writing, and some mathematics. He heard many sayings of the Companions of the Prophet and he used to listen to the leader of the Believers, Sayyidina `Uthmaan ibn `Affan whenever he delivered the Friday sermon. Al-Hasan was fourteen years old at that time.

Moving to Basrah and seeking knowledge:
When he was fifteen years old, Al-Hasan moved to Basrah, Iraq in 36 A.H. He began learning jurisprudence, Hadeeth, and the Arabic language at the hands of a large number of the companions of the Prophet who were living in Basrah at that time. His tutor for the recitation of the Glorious Quran was Hattaan Ibn `Abdullaah Ar-Riqashi while his tutor for the methodology of delivering sermons, religious speeches, and recounting religious tales, was Ibn Surayyi` At-Tameemi, the poet.

Delivering sermons and recounting religious tales appealed to Al-Hasan and he took a place in the mosque of Al-Basrah to teach people. Many story-tellers back then tended to exaggerate. They were all banned from telling religious tales in the mosque of Al-Basrah except for Al-Hasan who adopted a different methodology. He used to talk about the life after death, reminding people of death, drawing their attention to the religious and moral defects they may have, and how they could overcome them according to what he had learnt from the Book of Allaah, the Sunnah of the Prophet , and the revered companions .

His classes:
Al-Hasan Al-Basri had a large class in the mosque of Al-Basrah in which he taught people the Prophetic Hadeeth, jurisprudence, the Glorious Quran, the Arabic language, and rhetoric. He also conducted a special class in his house to teach people about asceticism and deliver touching speeches.

Al-Hasan was one of the most knowledgeable people on jurisprudence and the lawful and unlawful acts. He loved the religion of Allah and he was a pious man who used to refrain from committing any illegal acts. He adhered to the straight path in all his affairs. He shouldered the responsibility of guiding and advising people to save his society from the deviations and aberrations that were beginning to prevail. Al-Hasan Al-Basri adopted the doctrine of the companions. He was their student and he had the pleasure of accompanying them. He was influenced by their methodology and he steered their course.

The judge of Al-Basrah:
Al-Hasan Al-Basri used to frequently advise the rulers and governors and he never feared anybody except Allah. He was especially well-known in the last years of the reign of the Umayyad caliph, Mu`aawyah Ibn Abi Sufyaan . Al-Hasan lived in Iraq when Al-Hajjaaj Ibn Yoosuf Ath-Thaqafi was the ruler and Al-Hasan used to severely criticize Al-Hajjaaj's harsh policies.

Al-Hasan Al-Basri was a close friend of the Rightly-Guided Umayyad Caliph, `Umar Ibn `Abdul-`Azeez who loved him very much and used to consult him in some affairs related to administering the Muslim State. Al-Hasan became the judge of Al-Basrah in 102 A.H. and performed this role on a voluntary basis.

The character of the Imam:
Imam Al-Hasan Al-Basri was a peerless scholar with vast knowledge. He was eloquent and an ascetic and pious worshipper who used to fast many voluntary days. When he recited the Glorious Quran, he would weep until his tears flowed down his cheeks reflecting the extent to which he was deeply influenced by the Holy Book. He was also a courageous fighter who loved to perform Jihaad in the way of Allaah. Whenever Al-Muhallab Ibn Abi Sufrah fought the polytheists, he used to put him in the front line. Al-Hasan was greatly admired and esteemed by his contemporary scholars.

Abu Burdah said: "I have never seen a man who did not accompany the companions of the Prophet yet resembled them, like this scholar (meaning Al-Hasan)."

Abu Qataadah Al-`Adawi said: "Follow this scholar, for I have never seen a man who had similar opinions to `Umar Ibn Al-Khattaab except him."

Abu Qataadah also said: "Al-Hasan Al-Basri was one of the most knowledgeable people on the lawful and unlawful acts."

Humayd and Yoonus Ibn `Ubayd said: "We have never seen a man more decent and courteous than Al-Hasan Al-Basri."

They also said: "We have seen many jurists, but none was more knowledgeable than Al-Hasan Al-Basri."

`Awf said: "I have never seen a man who knows more about the way leading to Paradise, except Al-Hasan."

Some of Al-Hasan's sayings:
Al-Hasan Al-Basri was a wise, eloquent man whose words were just like pearls. For example, he said: "Son of Adam, you are no more than a few days. Whenever a day passes, a part of you has gone."

He also said: "Son of Adam, never please anybody if this entails the Wrath of Allah. Never obey anybody if this entails disobedience to Allah. Never thank anybody for something which Allah granted you. Never blame anybody for something which Allah did not grant you. Allah created people and they steer the course pre-determined for them. Whoever thinks that extra care and interest will increase his provisions, let him try such extra care and interest in increasing his life span, changing his color, or increasing the size of his limbs and build!"

His Sermons:
The sermons delivered by Hasan Basri are stipulating memories of the simplicity and moral courage of the Sahãbah (ra) comparing the moral condition of his own times with that of the Sahãbah (ra), he observes: “Dignified in the company of their friends, praising Allah when they were left alone, content with the lawful gains, grateful when ease of means, resigned when in distress, remembering Almighty Allah among the idle and craving the grace of Allah. When among the pious, such were the companions of the Prophet (saw) their associates and their friends. No matter what position they occupied in life, they were held in high esteem by their companions and when they passed away, their spirit took flight to the blessed companionship on high as the most celebrated souls. O Muslims! Those were your righteous ancestors, but when you deviated from the right path, Almighty Allah too withheld His Blessings from you.”

His death:
Al-Hasan Al-Basri died on the first of Rajab, which was a Thursday night, 110 A.H. His funeral the next day was attended by the entire population of Basra to the extent that for the first time in the history of Basra, the Juma mosque remained empty at 'Asr prayers. The immaculate sincerity, outstanding piety, moral and spiritual excellence of Al-Hasan Al-Basri had earned the affection of everyone in Basra.

His Will:
Before his death, he stated that the following should be written down in his will:
"This is what Al-Hasan Ibn Abi Al-Hasan believes: He testifies that none is worthy of being worshiped but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. Whoever sincerely believes in this upon his death will enter Paradise."

Monday, November 5, 2007

Imam Hambal

The grand Durbar of the greatest of the Abbasid Caliph, Mamoon-ar-Rashid, at Tarsus, was packed to its capacity. A frail bodied person, with a resolute look and a calm countenance, was carried forward by the guards through a long row of distinguished courtiers, officials and religious scholars. The person was Ahmad ibn Hambal who had been summoned by the Caliph, who, supported by several religious scholars tried to argue with Ahmad bin Hambal but the Imam was adamant and refused to change his views. He was therefore put behind the bars.

Imam Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Hambal, the founder of the Hambali School of Muslim jurisprudence, is one of the greatest personalities of Islam.

Born at Baghdad on the Ist of Rabi-ul-Awwal, 164 A.H. Ahmad ibn Hambal was an Arab, belonging to Bani Shayban of Rabia, who had played an important role in the Muslim conquest of Iraq and Khorasan. His family first resided at Basra. His grandfather Hambal ibn Hilal, Governor of Sarakhs under the Omayyads had the headquarters at Merv. Ahmad’s father Muhammad ibn Hambal, who was employed in the Imperial Army in Khorasan, later moved to Baghdad, where he died three years later.

Ahmad, who had become an orphan at a very early age, inherited a family estate of modest income. He studied jurisprudence, tradition and lexicography in Baghdad. There he attended the lectures of Qadi Abu Yusuf. His principal teacher was Sufyan ibn Uyayna, an authority on the School of Hejaz. Later, he was much influenced by Imam Shafi'i and became his disciple. From 795 A.D., he devoted himself to the study of Tradition and made frequent visits to Iran, Khorasan, Hejaz, Yemen, Syria, Iraq and even to Maghrib in quest of authentic Traditions of the Prophet (saw). He made five pilgrimages to the holy cities.

According to Imam Shafi'i, who taught Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) to Ahmad ibn Hambal, the latter was the most learned man he had come across in Baghdad.

The way Imam Ahmad ibn Hambal withstood the trials and tribulations of the Abbasid Caliphs for fifteen years immortalised him as one of the greatest men of the times. The Abbasid Caliph, Mamoon-ar-Rashid, was much influenced in his last days by the doctrines of Mutazillites, including that of the creation of Quran, and gave an official support to it. The distinguish religious leaders and divines, one after another, accepted the views of the Caliph. Imam Ahmad bin Hambal opposed this doctrine vigorously and suffered as a result.

The Abbasid Caliph, Mamoon-ar-Rashid died shortly after the imprisonment of Imam Ahmad. He was succeeded by Al-Mutasim, who summoned the Imam and asked the same question about the creation of Qur'an. Still he refused to accept the Mutazillite doctrine. So he was severely flogged and thrown into the prison. He was however allowed to return home after two years. During the reign of the succeeding Abbasid Caliph, Wasiq, he was not permitted to preach his faith and was compelled to live in retirement. All these hardships failed to detract him from the path of righteous.

The sufferings of the Imam ended when Al Mutawakkil became the Caliph. The Imam was invited and enthusiastically welcomed by the Caliph, who requested him to give lessons on Traditions to the young Abbasid Prince, Al-Mutazz. But the Imam declined this offer on account of his old age and failing health. He returned to Baghdad without seeing the Caliph and died at the age of 75 in Rabi-ul-Awwal of 241 A.H. He was buried in the Martyrs cemetery, near the Harb gate of Baghdad. His funeral was attended by millions of mourners and his tomb was the scene of demonstrations of such ardent devotion that the cemetery had to be guarded by the civil authorities and his tomb became the most frequented place of pilgrimage in Baghdad.

Imam Ahmad laid greater emphasis on Traditions. His monumental work is Musnad, an encyclopaedia containing 50,000 to 70,000 Traditions of the Prophet (saw) in which the Traditions are not classified according to the subject as in the Sahihs of Muslim and Bukhari, but under the name of the first reporter. His other notable works are: Kitab-us-Salaat (Book of Prayer); Ar-radd alal-Zindika (a treatise in refutation of Mutazillites, which he wrote in prison); and Kitab-us-Sunnah ( in which he expounds his views).

Though the fundamental purpose of the Imam’s teaching may be seen as a reaction against the codification of Fiqh, his disciples collected and systematised his replies to questions, which gave birth to the Hambali Fiqh, the fourth School of Muslim jurisprudence.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Imam as-Syafi'i

Abū ‘Abdu’llah Muhammad ibn Idrīs ash-Shāfiī was born in Gaza in the year 767 AD / 150 AH. At an early age, he left Gaza and moved to Mecca. By the age of seven, he memorized the entire Qur'an and afterwards began studying the Arabic language in Mecca. He developed full command in Arabic language with all of its various styles used by the major tribes. Later, he moved to Medina where he studied under Imam Malik and learned from him the Al-Muwatta' by the age of ten.

He eventually went to Iraq and came in close contact with Imam al-Hasan al-Shaybani and Qadi Abu Yusuf, the student of Abu Hanifa. There he refined his legal thinking in constant debates with Hanafi jurists where he took Malik's position in defence of tradition. This experience had a tremendous impact in moulding his own legal thinking since it brought to light the "weaknesses" in the Maliki school of thought. After moving back to Makkah for a short time and then returning to Baghdad, he finally decided to leave for Egypt where he could finally settle down to do more work in Fiqh and its methodology.

It is here where he produced a final version of Al-Risala and eventually died on the last day of Rajab 204 A.H. (820 CE). The original version of Al-Risala was produced in Baghdad and was probably less complete than the new version produced in Egypt. The progress of the Risala shows how Imam Shafii himself progressed from a strict follower of the Maliki school to becoming the founder of the Shafii school of thinking. His thoughts and method were tested by scholars of both the Hanafi school and the Maliki school through many debates where he not only excelled but refined his own thinking.

In summary Shafii went through three stages:
1. The first stage in Medina where he encountered with Malik.
2. The second stage in Baghdad where he was exposed to the Hanafi school. In this stage he wrote the first version of Risala.
3. The final stage in Cairo where redefined his own method and wrote the final version of Al-Risala.

The Arrangement of the Risala:
The Risala is arranged into a series of sections with general titles. The complexities of each subject are then explored either directly or by way of a third-party questioner who asks questions about various aspects of an issue such as abrogation. The chapters are, in order: Al-Bayan (explicit declaration), Legal Knowledge, The Book of Allah (Qur'an), Obligation of Man to accept the authority of the Prophet, Abrogation of Hukm Sharii, Duties, Nature of Allah's Orders of Prohibition and the Nature of Messenger's Orders of Prohibition, Traditions (Sunnah), Khabar Ahad (single individual traditions), Ijma (consensus), Qiyas (Analogy), Ijtihad, Istihsan (juristic preference), and finally Ikhtilaf (disagreement). Some, like the chapter on the Book of Allah, have many different subtopics, like the Arabic nature of the Qur'an, while others, such as Qiyas, are small and discussed more thoroughly in Imam Shafii's other books, such as Kitab-ul-Umm or Ikthilaf Al-Hadith.

Two schools of legal thought or madhahib are actually attributed to Imam Shafi`i, englobing his writings and legal opinions (fatâwa). These two schools are known in the terminology of jurists as "The Old" (al-qadîm) and "The New" (al-jadîd), corresponding respectively to his stays in Iraq and Egypt. The most prominent transmitters of the New among Shafi`i’s students are al-Buwayti, al-Muzani, al-Rabi` al-Muradi, and al-Bulqini, in Kitab al-Umm ("The Motherbook"). The most prominent transmitters of the Old are Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al-Karabisi, al-Za`farani, and Abu Thawr, in Kitab al-Hujja ("Book of the Proof"). What is presently known as the Shafi`i position refers to the New except in approximately twenty-two questions, in which Shafi`i scholars and muftis have retained the positions of the Old.

Abu Mansur al-Baghdadi in Manaqib al-Shafi`i and Naqd Abi `Abd Allah al-Jurjani fi Tarjih Madhhab Abi Hanifa relates the following example of the Imam's perspicuity at an early age:

Shafi`i was sitting at Malik's feet one day when a man came in and said: "I sell turtle-doves, and one of my customers returned one of them to me today, saying that it does not coo, so I swore to him on pain of divorce that my turtle-dove coos all the time!" Malik said: "You have divorced your wife and are not to approach her." Shafi`i was fourteen at the time. He said to the man: "Which is more, your turtle-dove's cooing or its silence?" The man said: "Its cooing."

Shafi`i said: "Consider your marriage valid, and there is no penalty on you." Whereupon Malik frowned at him saying: "Boy! How do you know this?" Shafi`i replied: "Because you narrated to me from al-Zuhri, from Abu Salama ibn `Abd al-Rahman, from Umm Salama, that Fatima bint Qays said: 'O Messenger of Allah! Abu Jahm and Mu`awiya have both proposed to me.'

The Prophet replied: 'As for Mu`awiya he is penniless, and as for Abu Jahm he does not put down his staff from his shoulder [from travel].' (Bukhari, Muslim) Meaning: in most of his states; for the Arabs declare the more frequent of two actions [exclusively of the other] because of its constancy. And since the cooing of this man's turtledove is more than its silence, I declared it constant in its cooing." Malik was pleased at his reasoning.

In the introduction of his compendium of Shafi`i fiqh entitled al-Majmu` al-Nawawi mentions that Shafi`i used a walking stick for which he was asked: "Why do you carry a stick when you are neither old nor ailing?" He replied: "To remember I am only a traveller in this world."