Fundamentals of Understanding Islam

Fundamentals of Understanding Islam


In the exercise to form a sound understanding of the din, the Farahi School invokes three fundamentals of central import:

1. The holy Qur'an is the distinguisher between and the sole criterion to define right and wrong in the realm of religious knowledge in Islam. It is the guardian (muhaymin) over all forms of the divine revelation. The primary purpose of its revelation is to judge the religious differences of human beings so that they are able to stand firm on truth. The Qur'an itself claims this status for it. This principle leads to and entails the following fundamentals about the Book:

Firstly, the text of the Qur'an is well defined. It is confined to what an overwhelming majority of Muslims all over world, with the only exception of parts of Africa and some other areas, recites the text recorded in their codices. This text is recited in accordance with the way known as qira'ah al-'ammah (reading of the generality of the believers). Therefore, all other readings are not the Qur'an and cannot be granted the status of the word of God.

Secondly, the Qur'an is qat'i al-dalalah. It means that its words are capable of perfectly expressing the intent of the author with consummate certainty. A reader, who approaches it with the intention to follow its guidance and who tries to understand it on the basis of its language, can, therefore, be led to the intended meanings of the words it uses. It is only the lack of knowledge on the part of the readers and a failure to exert full efforts to understand it that results in his inability to get to the intended meanings of the divine text in some cases. This failure, therefore, cannot be attributed to any flaw in the language of the Qur'an and the styles of expression adopted in it for the Book does not suffer from any inadequacy in this regard.

Thirdly, all the verses of the Qur'an upon which guidance and misguidance of humans depends are muhkam (clear, completely comprehensible). Mutashabihat (singular mutashabih) verses are those which metaphorically express a bounty of the Heaven to be conferred on the successful slaves of God on the Last Day or an infliction to be experienced by the losers in the afterworld couched in the idiom of parables or by way of analogy. These also include the verses which analogously refer to an attribute of God, His acts, or any other transcendent reality. Neither are these verses unidentifiable nor is their signification doubtful. Diction employed in this content of the Book is originally the clear Arabic ('arabi mubin), the meanings and signification of which can be clearly grasped. The only difference between the muhkam and mutashabih verses is that the reality and essence of the referents of the latter category cannot be grasped and comprehended by human understanding in the present world. However, the failure of human mind to grasp the reality of the referents of the mutashabih verses does not impair our understanding of the Book of God, hence the prohibition of hairsplitting discussion on them.

Fourthly, no khafi (indirect) or jali (direct) revelation external to the Qur'an can validly affect or alter the divine injunctions spelled out in the Book. Even the recipient of the Book, the Messenger of God, cannot alter it in any degree. All that we can take as part of the religion has to be defined in the light of its clear and plain verses. Similarly, it serves as the only judge in the exercise of discarding something which is erroneously taken as a religious reality. Every tenet of 'iman (beliefs) and every discussion on 'aqidah (theological principles) is to be gleaned from the text put between its two covers. All types of wahi, ilham, ilqa', conclusions based on a research and viewpoint of individual scholars should be gauged on its basis. Views and works of towering scholars of the past like Abu Hanifah, Shafi'i, Bukhari, Muslim, Ash'ari, Maturidi, Shibli and Junayd are to be judged in the light of its eternal words. No view, no matter however exalted its source, can be entertained in defiance of its verdicts.

2. The Sunnah, in Islam, is identified as the religious tradition instituted by the Prophet Abraham (sws) which the last Prophet of God (sws) revived, restored in its pure form and enriched with additions and instituted afresh among the believers as part of Islam. For the Qur'an directed the Prophet (sws) to follow the millah (the religion) of Abraham (sws). This tradition (i.e. the Sunnah comprising religious practices) was a part of the religion of Abraham (sws). Therefore, the Prophet Muhammad (sws) was obliged, as entailed by the above mentioned verse of the Qur'an, to follow it himself and command the believers to adopt it. The authenticity and historicity of the Sunnah is as compelling as that of the Book of God. The only difference between the two is this. The Book of God was communicated by the Prophet (sws) to the whole body of the Companions who transmitted it to the next generation with consensus as a written and spoken text. Similarly, the Prophet (sws) taught the Sunnah to the entire generation of the Companions who received, adopted and practiced it collectively and transmitted it with consensus to the next generation. During the course of the subsequent history, both of these sources have been transmitted from generality to generality by each layer in the generations of the ummah. Just like the Qur'an, the Sunnah too has always been received and established by the consensus of the believers in a given point of time during the course of Muslim history. Therefore, there is no room for any dispute and contestation regarding its authenticity and epistemological force.

3. Din is confined to the contents of the Qur'an and the Sunnah. Nothing external to these two sources is the part of din in Islam. Nor can one validly introduce any foreign practice or concept as part of the religion. The the Prophetic Hadith, a name given to the reports about the sayings, actions and tacit approvals of the Prophet (sws) transmitted through individual to individual (akhbar-i ahad) do not add to the beliefs and practices in the religion. It does not mean that they do not discuss the contents of the religion at all. However, their purely religious content explains and clarifies the religion housed in the Qur'an and the Sunnah. They can also carry the paradigmatic example set by the Prophet (sws) in the performance of the religious practices and in carrying out the divine commands. The Hadith plays no role beyond this. Thus a report bearing religious knowledge in ways other than this cannot be a valid Hadith. Nor can such a report incorporated into the religion and accepted as its part merely because it has been attributed to the Prophet (sws).

All the Hadiths that explain and clarify the religion and thus play an acceptable role have a binding religious force for a believer who is convinced of the veracity of a Hadith report and believes it to be a valid transmission of a saying, action and tacit approval of the Prophet (sws). He is obliged to follow it and can no more validly contradict it. Rather if the Hadith in question contains a Prophetic command, it becomes necessary for this believer to unquestionably submit and surrender before its verdict.

(Translated by Tariq Mahmood Hashmi)

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