Archive for November, 2010

The word salafi or “early Muslim” in traditional Islamic scholarship means someone who died within the first four hundred years after the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), including scholars such as Abu Hanifa, Malik, Shafi’i, and Ahmad ibn Hanbal. Anyone who died after this is one of the khalaf or “latter-day Muslims”.

The term “Salafi” was revived as a slogan and movement, among latter-day Muslims, by the followers of Muhammad Abduh (the student of Jamal al-Din al-Afghani) some thirteen centuries after the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), approximately a hundred years ago. Like similar movements that have historically appeared in Islam, its basic claim was that the religion had not been properly understood by anyone since the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and the early Muslims–and themselves.

In terms of ideals, the movement advocated a return to a shari’a-minded orthodoxy that would purify Islam from unwarranted accretions, the criteria for judging which would be the Qur’an and hadith. Now, these ideals are noble, and I don’t think anyone would disagree with their importance. The only points of disagreement are how these objectives are to be defined, and how the program is to be carried out. It is difficult in a few words to properly deal with all the aspects of the movement and the issues involved, but I hope to publish a fuller treatment later this year, insha’Allah, in a collection of essays called “The Re-Formers of Islam“.

As for its validity, one may note that the Salafi approach is an interpretation of the texts of the Qur’an and sunna, or rather a body of interpretation, and as such, those who advance its claims are subject to the same rigorous criteria of the Islamic sciences as anyone else who makes interpretive claims about the Qur’an and sunna; namely, they must show:

1. that their interpretations are acceptable in terms of Arabic language;

2. that they have exhaustive mastery of all the primary texts that relate to each question, and

3. that they have full familiarity of the methodology of usul al-fiqh or “fundamentals of jurisprudence” needed to comprehensively join between all the primary texts.

Only when one has these qualifications can one legitimately produce a valid interpretive claim about the texts, which is called ijtihad or “deduction of shari’a” from the primary sources. Without these qualifications, the most one can legitimately claim is to reproduce such an interpretive claim from someone who definitely has these qualifications; namely, one of those unanimously recognized by the Umma as such since the times of the true salaf, at their forefront the mujtahid Imams of the four madhhabs or “schools of jurisprudence”.

As for scholars today who do not have the qualifications of a mujtahid, it is not clear to me why they should be considered mujtahids by default, such as when it is said that someone is “the greatest living scholar of the sunna” any more than we could qualify a school-child on the playground as a physicist by saying, “He is the greatest physicist on the playground”. Claims to Islamic knowledge do not come about by default. Slogans about “following the Qur’an and sunna” sound good in theory, but in practice it comes down to a question of scholarship, and who will sort out for the Muslim the thousands of shari’a questions that arise in his life. One eventually realizes that one has to choose between following the ijtihad of a real mujtahid, or the ijtihad of some or another “movement leader”, whose qualifications may simply be a matter of reputation, something which is often made and circulated among people without a grasp of the issues.

What comes to many peoples minds these days when one says “Salafis” is bearded young men arguing about din. The basic hope of these youthful reformers seems to be that argument and conflict will eventually wear down any resistance or disagreement to their positions, which will thus result in purifying Islam. Here, I think education, on all sides, could do much to improve the situation.

The reality of the case is that the mujtahid Imams, those whose task it was to deduce the Islamic shari’a from the Qur’an and hadith, were in agreement about most rulings; while those they disagreed about, they had good reason to, whether because the Arabic could be understood in more than one way, or because the particular Qur’an or hadith text admitted of qualifications given in other texts (some of them acceptable for reasons of legal methodology to one mujtahid but not another), and so forth.

Because of the lack of hard information in English, the legitimacy of scholarly difference on shari’a rulings is often lost sight of among Muslims in the West. For example, the work Fiqh al-sunna by the author Sayyid Sabiq, recently translated into English, presents hadith evidences for rulings corresponding to about 95 percent of those of the Shafi’i school. Which is a welcome contribution, but by no means a “final word” about these rulings, for each of the four schools has a large literature of hadith evidences, and not just the Shafi’i school reflected by Sabiq’s work. The Maliki school has the Mudawwana of Imam Malik, for example, and the Hanafi school has the Sharh ma’ani al-athar [Explanation of meanings of hadith] and Sharh mushkil al-athar [Explanation of problematic hadiths], both by the great hadith Imam Abu Jafar al-Tahawi, the latter work of which has recently been published in sixteen volumes by Mu’assasa al-Risala in Beirut. Whoever has not read these and does not know what is in them is condemned to be ignorant of the hadith evidence for a great many Hanafi positions.

What I am trying to say is that there is a large fictional element involved when someone comes to the Muslims and says, “No one has understood Islam properly except the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and early Muslims, and our sheikh”. This is not valid, for the enduring works of first-rank Imams of hadith, jurisprudence, Qur’anic exegesis, and other shari’a disciplines impose upon Muslims the obligation to know and understand their work, in the same way that serious comprehension of any other scholarly field obliges one to have studied the works of its major scholars who have dealt with its issues and solved its questions. Without such study, one is doomed to repeat mistakes already made and rebutted in the past.

Most of us have acquaintances among this Umma who hardly acknowledge another scholar on the face of the earth besides the Imam of their madhhab, the Sheikh of their Islam, or some contemporary scholar or other. And this sort of enthusiasm is understandable, even acceptable (at a human level) in a non-scholar. But only to the degree that it does not become ta’assub or bigotry, meaning that one believes one may put down Muslims who follow other qualified scholars. At that point it is haram, because it is part of the sectarianism (tafarruq) among Muslims that Islam condemns.

When one gains Islamic knowledge and puts fiction aside, one sees that superlatives about particular scholars such as “the greatest” are untenable; that each of the four schools of classical Islamic jurisprudence has had many many luminaries. To imagine that all preceding scholarship should be evaluated in terms of this or that “Great Reformer” is to ready oneself for a big letdown, because intellectually it cannot be supported. I remember once hearing a law student at the University of Chicago say: “I’m not saying that Chicago has everything. Its just that no place else has anything.” Nothing justifies transposing this kind of attitude onto our scholarly resources in Islam, whether it is called “Islamic Movement”, “Salafism”, or something else, and the sooner we leave it behind, the better it will be for our Islamic scholarship, our sense of reality, and for our din.


Shaykh Nuh Keller

The South African Law Reform Commission makes available the aforementioned document on their website.

Download it here:

2003: Project 59: Islamic Marriages And Related Matters (July 2003

Please bear in mind that this Bill has not been passed. It is only a proposed draft of the Bill, the contents of which, have been and should continue to be placed under severe scrutiny from the Muslim public at large as it is in no way completely conducive to Shari’ah.

The Bill is severely flawed in many ways and will continue to remain flawed as there exists no future in which any true, believing Muslim will voluntarily allow the laws of Shari’ah to be manipulated, governed or dictated by a disbeliever.


Questions to the Jamiat Kwa-Zulu Natal

1. Are the Jamiat KZN and Jamiat Fordsburg in agreement on issues of Fiqh or are their major disagreements? If so, what are the various issues?

2. Who are the Muftis of Jamiat KZN? Does the Jamiat KZN have a fatawa council? If so, what is the link between the fatawa council and other branches of the Jamiat KZN?

3. Official response on ILM SA,  Tariq Ramadan and other individuals instrumental in the promotion of salafi, modernist and feminist ideologies?

4. Official response to the Family Eid Gah which takes place around the Durban area.

5. Is the Jamiat KZN in any way affiliated to the UUCSA? If so, what does this position entail?

6. What is the stance of the Jamiat KZN on the MPL and MMB? Is there any official response to the fatawa regarding those who subscribe to the MPL penned by Mufti Salejee and which was discussed out of context on CII?

7. Is Jamiat aware of salafi/modernist madressahs for children? What is the Jamiat doing to counteract this?

Just a note: I am in no way affiliated with The Majlis organisation or anybody else. Please leave the inferiority complexes out of this and merely provide simple, academic responses to the questions outlined.

“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” or “Who will guard the guards?” asked the Roman poet Juvenal.

This question is quite apt in relation to the South African Muslim society and the governance thereof by the various Ulama bodies which exist in this country. These bodies have been set up with the primary aim of guarding the Deen of Islam. Whilst every religious endeavour often starts out with a noble aim, it is the few, fortunate ones who manage to live and die by the principles they initially lay out, serving the religion they claim to guard.

I will be focusing on theological bodies and/or those Ulama bodies whose primary activities are governed by or related to Fiqh (Islamic Law). I will therefore obviously be excluding aid organisations etc. from my discussion.

These bodies of Ulama are referred to as “Jamiat” organisations. The two Jamiat bodies I will be referring to are the Jamiat KZN in Kwa-Zulu Natal and Jamiat Fordsburg situated in Gauteng. Recently, I have noticed a growing number of people who find it difficult to gather any sort of official response from the Jamiat bodies on pertinent issues regarding the Muslims in these two provinces. As a self-confessed “Council of Theologians”, these upstanding members of our communities should be made accountable for their silence. It is not a wise decision from such large organisations, who are rumoured to have hundreds of Muftis and Moulanas affiliated to them, prefer silence as an answer to uncomfortable questions arising from the public. A public body is accountable to the public.

As members of the public, as laymen and laywomen and purely as Muslims, we have a right to be informed and educated about current issues causing controversy around us and they have the responsibility as the guardians of Deen, the upholders of truth, as a council or body of Theologians to convey this information, to educate and to inform the rest of the Muslims they claim to oversee. The Muslims of South Africa cannot be expected to fend for themselves when it comes to seeking rulings on controversial Islamic topics from social media websites, blogs, articles on the internet, word of mouth, the radio stations all giving us conflicting views etc. We require a clear, academic and well-researched Shar’i response from the Jamiat bodies on these issues. We are not interested in “off-the-record” rulings given to appease those who ask uncomfortable questions with another ruling given to the public in order not to upset the apple cart, so to speak.

All that is required from the Jamiat bodies are official answers to the questions posed below:

Questions to the Jamiat Fordsburg:

Firstly, despite my not having an official mandate to speak on behalf of all the Muslims in South Africa, it is imperative that the following issues regarding Muslims who live in the Gauteng area be addressed. They are:

1. Women attending the Masjid

The official response from the Jamiat Fordsburg regarding women attending the Masjid would be appreciated by the public at large. What is the view of the Jamiat Fordsburg? An academic proof is sorely needed as I find that there are many ladies out there who claim that it is a woman’s right to attend the Masjid. Is the Jamiat Fordsburg in agreement with this? If so, why? If not, why not?

2. Sheikh Qaradawi

On the topic of women attending the Masjid, I would like to bring up the issues of Sheikh Qaradawi’s attendance at the Newtown Masjid which is under the control of the Jamiat Fordsburg and his statements regarding women in the Masjid. Firstly, I would like to know who approved Sheikh Qaradawi’s visit and lecture to and at the Newtown Masjid? Secondly, is the Jamiat in agreement with what was said by Qaradawi? If not, why was there no official response made public? What are the Jamiat’s views on Sheikh Qaradawi’s book, “Halaal and Haraam in Islam”?

3.Women at the Eid Gah

The issue of women attending the Eid Gah has erupted in the Johannesburg area with many Muslim women intent on claiming a space they believe has been divinely afforded to them. I request the official Jamiat position on this issue as well as the fatawa of the Jamiat Muftis on the various mixed Eid Gahs taking place in Johannesburg.

4. Muslim Personal Law/ Muslim Marriages Bill

Please clearly state whether the Jamiat Fordsburg and the Jamiat Muftis are for or against the passing of the MPL Bill. Does the Jamiat accept the stance of the UUCSA? Or does the Jamiat have conditions in place in order to make the bill Shari’ah complaint? If so, please provide a fully detailed explanation of the requirements, training of judges, conformance to Madhaaib etc.

5.Masjidul Islam in Brixton

What is the Jamiat’s position with regard to this Masjid and its activities? If the Jamiat does not know of this Masjid or is unaware of the activities taking place here, then the Jamiat is really out of touch with the community it is supposed to be serving.

6.Adult Islamic Education

What are the Jamiat bodies doing to educate adults regarding salafism, shiasm, liberal Muslim feminists, modernists, ahlul Hadith, ahlul Qur’aan etc.? The public has certainly noticed the influx of the above-mentioned movements within South African society and the momentum they’re gaining. Is there a Jamiat alternative? Or is there any other alternative which the Jamiat or any other organisation affiliated to the Jamiat being offered of which the Jamiat is aware?

7. Fatawa Council of the Jamiat

Which persons make up the aforementioned council? What is the link between the Fatawa Council, executive committee of the Jamiat, public relations, media relations etc.? Are the rulings of the fatawa council members always in agreement? If not, why is the public not made aware of those whose statements differ?

8. Fatawa on Islamic Banking specifically the Al Barakah Bank

What is the ruling on the current state of Islamic Banking in South Africa? Is any bank totally and 100% Shari’ah compliant? What is the Jamiat’s Fatawa Council’s ruling regarding Islamic Banking, in particular, Al Baraka Bank?

9. Fatawa of women on Radio Islam

Who are the senior Ulama who approved women being represented on Radio Islam? Where are their fatawa?

10. Where is the Jamiat’s response to an Ulama bashing session which took place on CII with host, Inayat Wadee and guest Mohammed Wadee?

Just a note: I am in no way affiliated with The Majlis organisation or anybody else. Please leave the inferiority complexes out of this and merely provide simple, academic responses to the questions outlined.

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن زَكَّاهَا

He who purifies the soul, he is successful.

[Surah al Shams 91:9]

Just as the body falls ill, the ruh (soul) also falls ill.The illnesses of the ruh include pride, jealousy, malice, hatred, love of dunya (worldly life) and suspicion. However, we are not concerned with these spiritual diseases although the health of the ruh should be the prime concern for every Muslim. The sicknesses of the ruh can  be eradicated under the supervision and instruction of those who are masters of the diseases of the heart (Ulama-e-Rabba’niyyeen).

Purification of the heart under these ulama (scholars) requires sacrifice, devotion, steadfastness and years of struggling and depriving the nafs. Only after years of mujahadah (striving) against the nafs can the heart reach the rank of purification and attain the true love of Allah and His Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم

Sayyiduna Abu Huraira رضى الله عنه narrated that Allah’s Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم said ‘Verily Allah does not look at your  appearances and your wealth but He looks  at your heart and  your deeds.’ [reported by Imam Muslim]


A collection of words of wisdom and excerpts from the spiritual gatherings of Shaykh Abu Yusuf Riyadh ul Haq

A few months ago I experienced an unveiling. It is the sort of unveiling which rocks your soul to its core and you wait until your body, mind and soul sway back into balance only to be catapulted into another whirling frenzy. Such is the life of a believing Muslim…

To call it an epiphany would do it a gross injustice. My “Eureka!” moment happened upon me whilst engaging with individuals of around the same age and with some sort of vastly different, yet similar goal. Islam is a religion so complex that when the truth and understanding of such a beautiful religion hits you, it hits you with an awakening that is powerful and profound. I found my darkened heart being pulled back from the innermost recesses into a light which can be rivaled by no other. I had found my purpose, this was my calling.

The search for the truth in religion has now encapsulated all that is my inner and outer being. Whenever somebody seeks to bend the truth as they see it results in an altercation of truth. As you can imagine, this occurs quite often in religion. Therefore, it has now become as important as ever for individuals to concern themselves with the search for the truth of Islam.

The path of truth has never been an easy one. History bears testimony to the fact that this is a path beset with trials, tribulations, insult, harm, malice, jealousy, abuse and various other forms of malicious behaviour. The hadith bears testimony to the fact that Prophets (alaihis salaam) are the ones most exposed to tribulations. The correlation between truth and tribulation is quite clear. The greater the purity of heart and word, the greater the trials.

On the path to spiritual perfection, the seeker must first understand that perfection will only be achieved after enduring rigorous and often, testing circumstances. Should his aim be clear and his goal correct, he is advised to stand firm holding on to the rope of Allah Ta’ala as entire legions of corruption and evil try to waver his aim day after day, night after night. As it has been said by the Akabireen, “He who looks at our end will be destroyed. The one who wishes to become like us should look at our beginning.”

This means that when you look at a pious person or one who has traversed the path of Sulook, you should not look at the end result i.e. their current level of acceptance amongst people, their fame, the honour they have, the weight their words carry etc. Instead, you should look at their experiences before they had gained their fame and honour. The sacrifices they had to make and the valuable life-lessons they had learned in their search for the truth made valuable contributions to the development of their character and soul.

The endurance level required from one who decides to traverse the path of truth is immeasurable. This may also be the reason why it is “the path less travelled”. Very few people have the courage, the will and the zeal to endure the sacrifices, the hardships, the strain and many other factors which hinder their journey towards Islamic enlightenment. Some may begin their journey extremely enthusiastic only to fall off the wagon somewhere down their path, others become deeply engaged in the material benefits of a temporary world and their path to truth is hampered in the lust for the wealth they may amass from it.

And then there is another group of individuals, albeit a very small group, who have endured and continue to endure in their search for the truth of Islam. There are always forces which persist in ridiculing, vilifying and tormenting those who wish to uphold the true, pure and authentic Islam. There are always trials and tribulations continuously testing the seekers and upholders of truth and the criterion by which success is measured in the field of true Da’wah is acceptance in the court of Allah Ta’ala.


Note: I will be discussing the meaning of true Da’wah Insha Allah in a later post. Stay Tuned!


Mother in law- Three little words that have the ability to make a grown woman cringe. A
title that conjures the image of a stern, stony-faced matriarch who is of course perfection
itself in all fields of domesticity. She is the mistress of her home, and prides herself on
her exceptional homemaking skills, secure in the knowledge that all is well in her domain.

That is, all is well until her darling son grows up and gets married. Then the fun begins. A
different side to her nature begins to emerge, and it seldom paints a pretty picture. She
becomes possessive, domineering, critical and sometimes downright insulting.

She believes that since she is the self-appointed expert in every field, it is her right to correct
and ‘advise’ her daughter in law on everything she feels is not done according to her
sublime standards- be it disjointing a chicken or changing a dirty nappy. The poor
daughter in law becomes frustrated, annoyed and then totally fed-up. Her previously
polite replies to her mother in law’s constant nagging slowly become terse, eventually
leading to a spectacular loss of temper, which, in turn leads to an all-out war between
herself and her mother in law.

Does that sound familiar? It certainly is the case with most
extended families today. However, as in every case, there are always two sides to a story,
and this is no different. Looking beyond the fact that you are not related by blood, this
woman is linked to you on the next level, i.e the bond of nikah. You are married to her
son, that man who was once a tiny baby that she gave birth to. She nurtured that baby
within her for nine long months, during a pregnancy which, as the Quran states
is ‘weakness upon weakness’. She fed this child from her own body, nursed him when he
was ill, and most importantly, had the honour of answering to the title of ‘mother’. Now,
when this little boy grows up and finds a wife, who is, obviously younger, prettier and a
novelty in his life, she is definitely going to feel the pain. She will feel threatened,
insecure, old, unwanted and rejected. Due to this, even the most well-meaning of
comments and remarks manage to sound annoying. All these negative emotions compete
with the fact that she genuinely wants her son to be happy. Even the most mild-mannered
daughter in law will occasionally lose patience by what is perceived to be interference.

So is the perfect mother in law somewhere out there? She certainly is. Believe it or not,
there are women who treat their son’s wives like gold. Perhaps they don’t have daughters
of their own, or maybe they remember very clearly how it feels to be a stranger in a new
home, but they strike the perfect balance between ‘mother’ and ‘in law’, thus creating a
pleasant and cordial relationship. These women deserve to be praised and recognized for
their efforts in maintaining stable and secure family ties.

If you are reading this and are fortunate enough to have a wonderful mother in law, go ahead and give her a big hug.(or
at least a big jazakAllah!) However, all five fingers are not the same, all mothers in law
cannot be wonderful, nor can all be evil. A relationship takes effort, and determination to
make it work is up to both parties involved. It requires plenty of patience, goodwill and
broadminded thinking, as well as the ability to forgive and forget. It requires us to be the
bigger of the two, to think of it as maintaining kinship which has been emphasized time
and again in the hadeeth of Nabi (sallAllahu alaihi wa sallam). After all, every good action is sadaqah and the
reward for sadaqah is eventually Jannah.


A sister in Islam

It is easy to be fooled in to thinking that happiness lies in wealth and successful education, employment and careers. Although none of these things should be overlooked and belittled altogether, we should question ourselves as to what lies in the heart and mind as opposed to the hand. There were sahabah رضى الله عنهم (companions) who were rich and wealthy – wealth was in their hands and at times it may have showed on their bodies (in their clothing) but their hearts and minds were totally free from that wealth. Their hearts and minds lingered not in the dunya (worldly life) but rested in the hereafter even though they were walking the earth. One example is Sayyiduna Khabbab ibn al-Arat رضى الله عنه who was a blacksmith and was brutally persecuted by the pagans in Makkah. He survived to see the wealth of the Persian and Roman civilisations opened up to the Muslims and had plenty of wealth but had no love for his wealth in his heart. In fact, Khabbab ibn al-Arat رضى الله عنه lamented his wealth and said ‘What are we doing with this wealth? We are depositing it in the dust of the earth (i.e. constructing walls and buildings)’. When Khabbab Ibn Al-Arat رضى الله عنه died at the age of 73 in Kufa, Ameer-ul-Mumineen Sayyiduna Ali رضى الله عنه prayed janazah over him and said ‘May Allah have mercy on Khabbab for he embraced  Islam willingly as a devotee, he did Hijrah with Rasulullah صلى الله عليه وسلم as an obedient servant of Allah, and he lived his life as a Mujahid’.

Today we find even those who are poor, who have no wealth in their hands, but their hearts still lie in wealth and their minds are still devoted and attached to wealth and the glitter of the world. Thus, what is in the heart and mind is what really matters. Unfortunately, most Muslims are in that state where the dunya has caught them; its glitter has deceived them – the worldly life has attracted them in such a manner and in such a way that they have fallen for the promise of shaitaan, which is that success lies in the wealth of the dunya and related things and hence one should work only for the dunya and not the hereafter.



A collection of words of wisdom and excerpts from the spiritual gatherings of Shaykh Abu Yusuf Riyadh ul Haq