Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah visited the Bay Area in the last week of July 1999. He offered a week long course on Usool al-Fiqh in Fremont, California. He then gave a talk on July 31, 1999 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California. An edited transcription of that talk appears below. As Shakyh Abdullah spoke, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf translated. At times, Shaykh Hamza added some of his own comments and explanations. These appear in brackets in the text.
- Shaykh Hamza Yusuf's Introduction of the Shaykh
- The Shaykh's Insights on the Muslims' Condition and Responsibilities in America
- Relationships of Muslims with Other Muslims
- The Need for Three Institutions
- Relationships Between Muslims and non-Muslims
- Other Matters of Importance
- About Shaykh Abdallah
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf's Introduction of the Shaykh
Shaykh Abdallah bin Bayyah, hafidhu Allah, is an extremely well-known and well-respected scholar amongst scholars. In fact, he is a scholars' scholar since many of his students are actually considered scholars now in the Muslim world. His students study extremely difficult texts with him that even very well qualified scholars are not capable of understanding with any facility.
Shaykh Abdallah bin Bayyah grew up in one of the eastern provinces in West Africa in Mauritania. From a very young age, he showed extreme gifts intellectually and a profound ability to absorb a lot of information and a lot of the text. During his studies, he memorized an extraordinary number of texts. Then, at a very early age, he was appointed with a group of people to study legal judgements in Tunis and went there for a period of time. When he returned to Mauritania, he became a minister of education and later, a minister of justice. He was also one of the vice-presidents of the first president of Mauritania. However, due to the conditions in Mauritania and the military change of governments that took place, he began to teach, and he ended up going to Saudi Arabia and becoming a distinguished professor at The University of Usool al-Fiqh.
The shaykh is presently involved in several organizations in the Muslim world, such as the organization which is known as Al Majma' al-Fiqhi, which is comprised of a body of scholars that come together from all over the Muslim world and from all the different madhhabs and different viewpoints; they analyze and study a lot of the modern issues to come up with Islamic solutions to the issues confronting modern Muslims in the modern world.
Shaykh Abdallah is also involved in writing. He has written several books and has delivered lectures all over the world. This is the first time that he has come to America, so I think we are very fortunate that he has come a long way for us. His books are really interesting, and he has expertise in a lot of areas that have been ignored. One of the areas of expertise that he has is in what is know as fiqh al-aqaliyaat which is the fiqh or juristic rulings related to minority Muslims. Because the Muslims tended to prefer hijra to countries where Muslims were the majority, there are not a lot of scholars that work in the area of dealing with how Muslims in minority areas should actually live their lives and how they should behave when confronted with issues that often are in contradistinction to their deen. So, we asked him if he would talk about this subject tonight, and I'm hoping that we will gain a lot of benefit, and I'm certain we will in sha' Allah. The shaykh is going to speak in Arabic-he is very fluent in French, but he is not fluent in English yet. So, we are going to go section by section, and as he speaks, I'm going to translate in sha' Allah for the people who do not know Arabic.
The Shaykh's Insights on the Muslims' Condition and Responsibilities in America
[Bismillah irahman iraheem. The shaykh began his talk by praising Allah subhaana wa ta'aala and sending prayers on the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam.] I wanted to speak tonight about your conditions, your circumstances here. You are a group that is small in number and yet strong in faith, a group that has diverse ideas and understandings and whose individuals come from many different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, a group that is few amongst a dominant group that is many. The dominant group is strong in many areas; in fact, they are controlling many areas of the world. I would like to speak tonight about what the priorities of such a group would be: What are the obligations of such a group? What are the responsibilities of such a group? I would like to present some ideas to you, and I hopes that Allah subhaana wa ta'aala helps me to present some ideas that relate to a methodology, to approaches, and to things that will be beneficial to this group if they implement them.
I want to speak about the responsibilities that you carry here. In contrast to Muslims living in the dominant Muslim world at large, you are, in many ways, strangers in a strange land. The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, said, "Tuba lil guraba." In other words, the conditions of the stranger are blessed conditions, and it also means, "lahum al-jannah: they have paradise" for bearing the burden of alienation. An Arab proverb is, "ya ghareeb kun adeeba: oh stranger in a strange land, be a man of courtesy and cultivation." There is also a hadith, "Islam began alienated and will return as it began, alienated. So, blessed are the alienated ones." This alienation should not mean that you distance yourselves from the rest of the people. That is not the meaning of this state of estrangement. It does not mean you should not work with others or that you should avoid the dominant society and distance yourselves completely from it even though your state is one of estrangement.
Since we know that Islam has legal injunctions and that Muslims have a code of law, a question that occurs immediately to us in looking at these conditions here is whether or not there are rules in our deen that apply to one land and do not apply to another land. As we know, the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, said that Allah subhaana wa ta'aala has made incumbent upon you to fulfill certain obligations, and Allah has also set boundaries for you, so do not transgress those boundaries. As we know, these rules in Islam relate to every Muslim. In terms of human beings, every one is equal in relation to these rules. You cannot say that one Muslim does not have to pray and another one does. All Muslims who are responsible adults have to pray. So, these rules of prayer and fasting, what are know as the arkan al-Islam-the pillars of Islam, the foundations of Islam-are things that are binding upon all Muslims, no matter where they are or what place they are in.
In addition, there is another type of set of rules in Islam that is known as al-ahkam as-sultania, and these are rules related to governmental authority, to the state. These rules involve certain things, such as the penal code of the Muslims. There is a code related to criminal law: if you do this, then this is the punishment. The implementation of those laws is related to the ahkam as-sultania or the rules related to the legitimate authority of the state. The ahkam as-sultania include the rules related to jihaad-in other words, martial activity in which men fight in war and battles. They also include the rules related to zakaah collecting: the gathering of wealth that Allah has obliged people to pay. In addition, they relate to the establishment of imams, not only the greatest imam, who would be the khalifa, but also the aaimma who will be in the masaajid and the qadaat who are the people who give the khutba on the jumu'a. All these types of things are traditionally related to the authority of the legitimate governing body of the Muslims. Muslims need judges; they need courts; they need police-all of these things relate to these ahkam. These types of rules which are known as the ahkam as-sultania are not the concern of those people who are living in a land in which there is not a legitimate state authority of Muslims.
If we want to look at an analogy, we will find it in the Makkan stage of the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam. If you look at the Makkan period, the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, was not making any claims to government authority. He was calling people to tauheed: the unity of Allah. He was calling people to prayer. He was calling people to the purification of their hearts. He was calling people to leave shirk. All this is known as the jihaad of the tongue: jihaad al-kalima; it is not the jihaad of the sword-or now the gun or the atom bomb or whatever. It was the jihaad of the tongue. Allah subhaana wa ta'aala said, "jaahidhum bihi jihaad al-kabir." "Jaahidhum bihi" means to struggle against them with the Quran. In other words, "speak the Quran to them, and struggle against them with the truth in word;" and this was the jihaad of Makkah. You can say in a modern sense that this is speaking with a strong tongue in the face of wrong, in the face of injustices.
When the Prophet, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, went to Medina, a different stage began, and there was now a jihaad of a physical type, a martial struggle where they went out. However, Allah subhaana wa ta'aala says to fight them until the war comes to an end. This type of jihaad has an end in time, and yet jihaad in its broader understanding in the sharia' never ends. The struggle for the sake of Allah never ends as long as somebody is in this abode. This is why jihaad is the expenditure of one's efforts for the sake of good. It means to do good things. It means to exert one's effort in the society to help people, to expend one's wealth-to give charity-to change the conditions around you: if they are bad, make them better. This can be done without martial effort in many places, and this is still a type of jihaad. This is why it is wrong for people to narrow the understanding of jihaad to some limited definition which only gives the understanding of military struggle because that is not what jihaad means in Islam.
Next, I would like to address the issue of our responsibilities. Given our state of weakness and our minority status here, the governmental aspects of the sharia' do not apply to us. We are not legally responsible for the governmental aspects because of our condition here. Given that, what becomes our responsibility? If Allah has removed from us those governmental responsibilities here, what then are the responsibilities that we have? I want to look at two aspects.
Relationships of Muslims with Other Muslims
The first aspect concerns the relationships that we have with one another. These relationships have to be based on brotherhood. They have to be relationships based on love. Since we are minorities here and are few in number, we have to understand that we need to have solidarity. In order for us to have solidarity, there is something that is very important that we must understand about our legal structure, which is the jurisprudence of difference of opinion: fiqh al-khilaaf. We have to look deeply into this because if we understand this, this is a way in which we can be united and have good feelings towards each other and not negative feelings based on our understandings of valid differences of opinion amongst us. This last week in the classes that many of you have attended, we have been looking at usool al fiqh: the foundations upon which our fiqh is based. We looked at many differences of opinion amongst the scholars and how they were linguistically valid, how they were actually differences of opinion that had foundations; they were not differences based upon empty opinions. They were differences based on real issues that have validity and substance. If we understand that, this will enable us to rise up spiritually to another level of relationship with our fellow Muslims. It will take us to a higher level so that we begin to have differences that are still based on love and mutual respect. We will begin to see that there are different ways of doing things and that there is validity in them all.
We can learn a lesson from the western people who have individuality as one of the foundations of their culture. They respect the rights of people to explore their individuality. There is some good in this understanding, and the Muslims should learn from this even though it is originally from our own tradition. We should see that part of their strength lies in this ability. What this will enable us to do is build bridges. Despite the fact that there are two different opinions which place us in two different positions, this love and mutual respect enables a bridge to be built from one perspective to another perspective, and this creates contact; this creates the ability for us to visit each other, to be together. We should look at these hadiths in which the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, said, "the Muslims are one hand;" "the Muslims are strong;" "a Muslim is strong by his brother;" "the Muslims come together as one hand against those who oppose them;" "the Muslims are like one body: if one part becomes afflicted with some illness, the rest of the body shares in that affliction with insomnia and fever."
Furthermore, the Quran says, "Do not disagree:" do not "tanaasi'u;" that is a strong word in Arabic. It is different from "ikhtilaaf: disagreement." "Tanaasi'u" is saying, do not have conflict with one another-not disagreement-but conflict. Do not have conflict with one another, and if you do that, the wind that gives you strength to move forward will dissipate, and you will fail in your task. You will fail in what you want to achieve. Allah subhaana wa ta'aala said, "Rectify what is of between you." That is, Allah says to rectify the differences that you have. Rectify the hearts, so that you come together. The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam,said, "Al-muslimu akh ul-muslim: The Muslim is a brother of his fellow Muslim." He does not oppress him nor does he give him up to the enemy. Thus, all of these are indications that we should be together in spite of our differences if those differences are based on valid fiqhi differences; and this is why we must look into the jurisprudence related to differences of opinion.
We should look at these differences of opinion like different trains that are carrying different baggage or that are going to different places. These trains could be traveling on the same track at different times. If you do not organize them, the result is a disaster. They will crash. But if you organize them, the trains could be using the same tracks even though they are going to different destinations, have different concerns, and have different purposes. So, the blessing of organizing these differences is that the differences do not cause us to crash into each other so that we do not get anything done in the end.
In a sense, we could look at this like a famous fable. There is a legend about a lion and three bulls who were in the jungle. One of them was white, one was yellow, and one was black. The lion was not able to eat these three bulls because if he came near them, they would all stand up together, and each one of them would face the lion, so he could not eat them. The lion began to think about how he could get them to become divided.
He saw the bulls grazing once, and he approached the black and the yellow ones, and he said, "You know that white one over there" He kind of looks like the people around here. He's different from us. Why don't you let me eat him?"
The two bulls said, "Yeah, go ahead. Get rid of him." So, the lion went and ate the white one.
Then, the next day, the lion came to the yellow bull, and he said, "Haven't you noticed that you and I look the same? We have the same color. We're really cousins! And this black one over here-he's different from you. So, why don't you let me eat him?" The yellow one said, "Yeah, you're right. Go ahead."
So, the lion went and ate him. Then, on the third day, the lion came for the yellow bull and said, "I'm going to eat you." The yellow one replied, "I was eaten the day you ate the white one."
This is what happens when you get separated. You lose your strength; you lose your power to do anything. We have to realize that what unites us as Muslims is so much greater than what divides us as Muslims. Our areas of difference are very small in relation to our areas of agreement. This is why we should recognize the power of being together setting aside our differences. In the western world, you have arbitrators. In the whole world, you have arbitrators. You don't want to bring in a judge. You want to bring in somebody who arbitrates. What an arbitrator tries to do is get both people to be satisfied so that one does not lose while the other wins. An arbitrator will try to get each group to compromise a little bit, to come to some kind of compromised agreement where they are both content; each one has given up a little bit, but in giving up, they have come together, and there is a win-win situation. You go to the qaadi (judge) as a last resort-"aakhiru dawaa' al-kay: surgery is the final remedy." You do not go to a surgeon the first time. The surgeon is always the last one you go to in the line of specialists. Doctors will try to cure you in other ways first and will send you to the surgeon as a last resort.
One of the disasters of the situation that we find ourselves in here is that you have Muslims making hijra to these lands from the Muslim world bringing their baggage along with them. So, they are bringing all of these problems with them that have nothing to do with the new circumstances they find themselves in. Furthermore, the challenges that they have in these new circumstances are so great that these problems that they are opening up are causing all kinds of trouble for them. Thus, the are not able to unite. They are not able to do things to benefit them because they are arguing about all these ridiculous things. There is something that we can learn from in the qawaa'id of the Maliki school. [The shaykh gives legal opinions or fatwas from all the schools even though the primary school that he studied was Maliki.] This particular qaa'ida is one that you find only in the Maliki school. This interesting qaa'ida is "jama'til muslimeen taqumu maqaam al-qaadi: a group of Muslims can stand in lieu of a judge." That is, the group can actually take the place of a judge.
[I told the shaykh the other day that there is an American researcher who says that the twelve jury system that we have here in America is from the Maliki school. It was actually taken by western people from the Maliki school. The principle is that a jury of peers will judge you because in those days they did not have qaadis (judges).] The wisdom behind this principle that Imam Malik was indicating is that when people come together, there is a synergistic power of unity in which they will more likely be right in their judgments than wrong. So, if the group makes a judgment, this is why their judgment has the weight and authority, in the Maliki school, of a legal scholar making a judgment based on his knowledge of the sharia'.
The Need for Three Institutions
In order for us to come to a point where we can work together in spite of our differences, or with our differences, we need three institutions. The first one is the institution of fatwa. Fatwa is a non-binding legal opinion. It is not binding on all the Muslims. It is binding on those who ask for it, but it is a non-binding opinion, and there is room for differences and other opinions. The mufti is somebody who gives legal opinions based on the understanding-on the ijtihaad-of all of the different areas of need in the sharia', such as marriage, the rules of buying and selling, the rules of prayer, and the rules of tahaara (cleanliness and purification). The mufti is involved in all of these different things. So, we need a muassasa that deals with this for the Muslims. They need a sound source for guidance when these issues occur in which there are differences.
The second institution we need is a muassasa of tahkeem, which is an institution that issues rulings. In this culture, it is called people's court. A people's court is where the state does not get involved with the case. The parties that are differing agree to go to somebody who will listen to both sides and then make a judgment, and that judgment becomes binding upon them based on the prior agreement of the two. This has been done already in the United States in Texas, so there are Muslims that are doing this, and we should be competing with them in good.
The third institution we need is the sulih. A musassasa deals with sulih which is reconciliation. It deals with bringing people together. Somebody brings the differing groups together and reconciles between them so that they can work together or work separately in peace; thus, they are not fighting each other, undermining each other's work.
All of these institutions are necessary, but it is impossible to get these without having the least amount of respect and desire to bring this about. There has to be a desire for this, and if the desire is not there, then it is a disaster. Furthermore, setting up these particular institutions is not different from setting up other organizations such as those that are created for social issues, for helping the needy, and for doing all the other different things that organizations do. These three institutions are necessary for us in order for us to move on and to resolve a lot of the things that are causing disruption.
Relationships Between Muslims and non-Muslims
The first thing we looked at was our relationship between Muslims in these lands living together. The second thing we have to look at is the relationship that we have with non-Muslims. Now, an issue that we must look at is that of the abode: the daar. Although there may be some people who are educated in Islam who are aware of this issue of the abode, there are many people who are unaware of this issue. In fact, you will even find some people who are fuqaha, scholars of Islamic law and the legal system, who are unaware of this issue. The issue of the abode is this: most people think that the world is divided into two abodes, the abode of peace and the abode of war. The abode of peace is the land of the Muslims, daar al-Islam, and the abode of war is everywhere else. In Nixon's book that I read a translated version of called Seizing the Moment, Nixon wrote a long chapter on the Islamic phenomenon of the modern world. One of the things Nixon said after praising Islam a great deal and saying many nice things about Islam is that one of the most fundamental problems with the Muslims is that they view the world as a dichotomy of two abodes: the abode of peace and the abode of war. So, the central aspect of international relationships with the Muslims is aggression; it is one of war. This idea is wrong. There are three abodes: there is the abode of peace, the abode of war, and then there is the abode of treaty where there is a contractual agreement between two abodes.
For instance, when I came into this country, they issued me a visa, and I signed something. In the issuance of the visa and my signing of it, a legally binding contract occurred which was a sulih. It was an agreement that when I came into this country, I would obey the laws and would follow the restrictions that this visa demanded that I follow. This was a contractual agreement that is legally binding according even to the divine laws. In looking at this, we have to understand that the relationship between the Muslims living in this land and the dominant authorities in this land is a relationship of peace and contractual agreement-of a treaty. This is a relationship of dialogue and a relationship of giving and taking.
We should remember that when the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, was in Makkah, what he asked for from the Quraish was just that they left him alone to do his da'wa. He said, "Khalu bayni wa baynan naas: Leave me alone to talk to these people. Let me speak to them; let me call them." And they wouldn't let him do that. However, in this country, the ruling people are allowing you to call people to Islam, and this is exactly what the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, was asking that they allow him to do in Makkah. These people here are allowing you to call people to Islam. They are not prohibiting you. If you go out and proselytize, they don't come and arrest you; they don't punish you; they don't torture you. This idea here should be understood, and the verse from the Quran that we should take as the overriding verse in our relationship with this people is where Allah subhaana wa ta'aala says concerning those who neither fight you because of your religion nor remove you from your homes that He does not prohibit you from showing them birr: righteousness. "Birr" in the Arabic language is the highest degree of ihsaan-it is the 'aala daraja of ihsan. Allah does not prevent you from showing them excellence-moral excellence-in your transactions with them nor from sharing with them a portion of your wealth.
Qadi Abu-Bakr, Ibn 'Atiyah, and others have also said that this is what "antuqsitu 'ilayhim" means. You give non-Muslims qistan: a portion of your wealth. In the early period of Islam, this is ta'lif al-quloob: one of the things that they used to do in order to bring people close. They would give monetary gifts to people whom they saw had inclinations towards Islam in order to draw the hearts. The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, said, "give gifts to each other and love one another." So, the act of giving something naturally inclines the one who is receiving the gift to have feelings of love towards the person who is giving them. The reason for doing these things-for treating these people with respect, showing this good character, and having this good courtesy-is that you will get from amongst them those who respond and will actually enter into Islam. This really is how we should see our relationship. The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, not only gave gifts to some of the mushrikeen in Makkah, he also received gifts from them because his goal was that they become Muslim. He did not want to fight them-that was the last resort. The goal was that they become Muslim, that they enter into Islam.
Also, it is necessary for us to show respect to these people. Islam prohibits us from showing aggression towards people who do not show aggression towards us. The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, said, "Do not enter the houses of the Christians nor eat anything of their fruits except with their permission." Islam prohibits theft; it prohibits fraud; it prohibits cheating; and it prohibits these things in relation to the Muslims and in relation to the non-Muslims. The things that you cannot do to a Muslim, you also cannot do to a non-Muslim. The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, also said, "None of you truly believes until he wants for his brother what he wants for himself." Imam Shabrakhiti ibn Rajul al-Hambali and others mentioned that "brother" here not only means your brother Muslim because this is a close brotherhood of Islam that others are not in, but it refers to the greater and broader brotherhood of our Adamic nature. It is a brotherhood in the sense that we are all from Adam, that Adam is the father of all us. Understanding this should cause us to realize that we have distant relations with all of these people out there, and all of them are potential Muslims. We should see them as potential Muslims.
Allah, subhaana wa ta'aala, for that reason says, "Call to your Lord with wisdom and with a beautiful admonition, and dispute them in the most excellent of ways." In other words, debate with them and dialogue with them in the most beautiful of ways. Don't be argumentative; don't be cruel; don't be mean; don't humiliate them. Do it ways in which they can listen to the truth, respect the truth, and come to the truth. For this reason, we have to be du'ahtis salaam: people who are callers to peace.
We also have to be good citizens because an excellent Muslim is also an excellent citizen in the society that he lives in. This does not mean that we lose our distinction, that we become completely immersed in the dominant society to where we no longer have our own identity-that is not what I'm calling to. We have to maintain those things that are particular to us as a community, but we also have to recognize that there are other things that are not particular to us but rather general to the human condition that we can partake in; and these things are not things that we should be ignorant and neglectful of but things that we should be engaged in. We have to maintain our roots. We have deep roots in our faith, but at the same time we have to be open to allow others to come into that deep-rootedness.
In addition, we have to recognize that the creation itself is a creation of diversity. It is a creation in which you see variation of colors. Allah did not make all the trees one, and He did not make all the animals one. He diversified the creation. He diversified even our colors and our languages; and He did all this for a wisdom. Not only that, Allah subhaana wa ta'aala made us on different religions and different paths, and He did that intentionally because He said in the Quran, "They continue to be in differences except those whom your Lord has shown His mercy to, and for that reason He created them." So, Allah subhaana wa ta'aala is saying that He actually created us in order that we differ-that there is a wisdom, a divine wisdom in the differences that we have. He created us to show mercy to us as well. So, we have to rise up to this challenge. This is a high challenge, and we as Muslims have to rise up to this challenge.
Another thing that is very important for us to remember is the moderation of Islam. This is a deen of wasatiyyah: it is a deen of moderation. We are a moderate community. We are between the two extremes of excess and deficiency. We are in the middle. The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, said, "Those people who go into matters too deeply will be destroyed." [The shaykh is an expert in the Arabic language, and he said, "those people" are people involved in "tatarruf" or extremism. That is what "tanatau'" is.] The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, said, "The extremists are destroyed," and he said, "Beware of extremism in the deen." The Prophet, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, warned against extremism, and he did not like it. Notice that one of the things that extremism does is that it causes you to lose your rational component so that you are not able to weigh things rationally. Once you have gone to an extreme, you can no longer see things in any balanced way. You have lost that balance of the middle way. This makes you think that what you are doing is right even though it is clearly wrong to others.
As an example, take note of the Khawaarij when there was a difference of opinion between Sayidana 'Ali and Sayidana Mu'awiyah, radi Allahu 'anhuma. They differed. Sayidana 'Ali was the legitimate khalifa, but Mu'awiyah did not take baya' with him; they had differences. So, they called for arbitration. At that point, there was a group of people who were with Sayidana 'Ali, radi Allahu 'anhu, and they were extremists in the deen. They interpreted the Quran on their own whims. When they heard that Sayidana 'Ali had accepted arbitration, they quoted an ayah which says, "La hukma illa lillah: There's no arbitration except by Allah." Allah is the only one that can make judgment. So, they said, how can you call a hakam into this situation for them to decide when it is Allah who will decide this situation? Sayidana 'Ali, radi Allahu 'anhu, replied that the ayah is a true word but that they were using it for a false purpose. They did not listen to him despite that he said and proved to them in the Quran there are many instances where Allah subhaana wa ta'aala calls for arbitration where people must be brought to decide: between marital disputes; on the on the Haj, when somebody breaks a tree or kills an animal; and there are many other examples of that. Their extremism prevented them from seeing the truth, and this is why things have to be weighed in the balance of the sacred law and of the rational, middle understanding of a human being that is balanced in his nature.
This means that we should not fear, but we also should not be aggressive. In other words, we should not be people who are cowards, and there is cowardice in our nature, but nor should we be people who are extremists, going to the other side and being aggressive. An example is people who blow up innocent people in the name of religion and do things that the sharia' is really completely against. These are means that they are using that are unacceptable to the deen of Islam. What they end up doing is creating a completely distorted picture of Islam so that people who are outside of Islam are completely repelled by it and are not attracted to Islam. This is why Imam Shaatabi, radi Allahu 'anhu, wrote in his Muwaafaqaat, one of the greatest books written on usool al-fiqh, that this sharia' lies between excess and between want. It is the middle way; and the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, said, "Khair ul-umoom ausatuha: the best of affairs are those that lie in the middle."
Other Matters of Importance
Next, I want to go into some more detail in looking at the general aspect of our condition here. I already spoke about the two most important concerns which are the relationships between Muslims amongst each other and the relationship between Muslims and the dominant culture. Now I would like to go into a few important points that relate to more detail. The first thing is that it is absolutely essential that you respect the laws of the land that you are living in. There are a number of reasons for this, but the least of this is the principle "al-muslimu la yudillu nafsa: a Muslim does not place himself in a state where he is humiliated." You are living in a land in which the people are very serious about their laws, and if you break the laws, this can result in you being tried as a criminal and being sent to prison and being completely humiliated as a Muslim where non-Muslims are putting you in a cage and preventing you from your own human dignity of freedom and other things. So, it is essential that we remember that.
The second thing I want you to understand is that your circumstances here are not normal circumstances by any means. You are in very unusual circumstances, and because of that, there are certain things that the sharia' allows that it does not allow in times and places where those circumstances do not exist. One of things that is really important for you all here to really take to heart is that the textual positions which we have concerning women that are more lenient should be applied in these lands. We should open up the situation of the woman, not to where it takes us outside the pail of Islam-that is not what I am saying at all-but where we remain within the pail of Islam, and take it to positions that go to the limits of facilitation for the women. Among those are, for instance, the position of the Hanafis stating that a woman can marry without a wali. That is because the conditions of men and women in this land necessitate that type of a ruling. However, the ideal situation is for her to have a wali, and the wali can be any one of the Muslim community male members if she is new in Islam and does not have anybody to do that for her, but the Hanafi position should be seen as a valid position because it is a valid position, and we should not fault women who take that position.
In addition, we should remember that there are positions in Islam that today to many Muslims are quite shocking, such as the decision of Imam Fadari. He was an imam mujtahid: he had his own madhhab. Although it is no longer being applied, he had his own madhhab, and he was recognized by the other Muslims as a valid imam. He believed that a woman could be a qaadi in all the areas of sharia'. He said that there was nothing in the sharia' that would prevent a woman from being a qaadi if she had the intellectual and educational background to fulfill that role. Also, Imam Abu Hanifa radi Allahu 'anhu stated that a woman could be a qaadi in everything other than penal matters-blood and things that are related to blood-but in the other matters that did not concern blood, she could be a qaadi. So, it is important that we really broaden that area, but we should use that broadening to work for Islam and not against Islam, and we should take this into consideration.
Another matter that is important is zakaah. The Muslim organizations in this country need to play an important role in the collecting of zakaah. Even though it is permissible for people in the absence of a legitimate Islamic authority to give zakaah to whom they please, there is a need for zakaah here, and there are organizations that are working in areas which are beneficial and are working to help people. [The shaykh used the examples of Rahima and Zaytuna who are doing this type of work because he has come here for a short time, and he knows only those two names, but this includes the many, many organizations in this country that are working for Islam, that help people, and that know the needs of their community.] These are organizations people go to when looking for help. Whereas they might not go to you and know that you have zakaah to give, they will go to that organization because it is a name; they know of it; and they will say, "I need zakaah." So, those organizations should be able to facilitate the movements of zakaah money to the people who are worthy of taking the zakaah. That is important, and obviously, these organizations which you give to should be ones that you feel are trustworthy.
[Next, the shaykh gave an example of a situation that he was involved in where there was a need for facilitation that related to the jumu'a prayer.] I am a member of a fiqh counsel in Europe which has an number of scholars including Dr. Yusuf al-Qardawi; it is called The Counsel of Islamic Legal Rulings in Europe. We go to Europe for our meetings, and this year, we met in Germany. One of the issues that was placed in front of us was the issue of laborers who work in factories and are not able to go the jumu'a at the time it is done. The council agreed that in these types of circumstances, we need to look at the easier rulings. For instance, in the madhhab of Ahmed ibn Hambal, radi Allahu 'anhu, the khutba is permitted to be delivered before the actual time of the prayer comes in. We need to take rukhas, which are legal licenses, to facilitate for people because of our conditions here-we are not living in a Muslim country where the ruler is encouraging the practice of the prayer and actually making sure that the prayer is being said in its right time-[and we know that rulers in many countries don't do that even in the Muslim world now any way]. This facilitation also includes the joining of prayer. It is acceptable to join Dhur and 'Asr at the time that they share according to Imam al-Qaraafi in his majestic work, TheKhira. Imam al-Qarafi is a famous Maliki qaadi, and it is understood in the Maliki school that there is a time in which the prayers are shared between Dhur and 'Asr. There is also such a time between Maghrib and 'Isha. There is a valid opinion amongst the recognized fuqaha of the sunni school-not of the shia' school-that enables the delaying of Maghrib until the time of the 'Isha prayer when they meet at that point. So, in circumstances where people really have a difficult time, it is better that they join their prayers rather than lose their prayers altogether because if you do not present those options for them, there are people who say, "I can't pray. It's too hard. I'm working and this and that;" and their iman might be weak. So, in these types of situations, there has to be facilitation for these people.
What is prohibited in Islam is the joining of all five prayers at one time. You cannot do that. You cannot do that. Some people wait until the end of the day and pray them altogether. No. You have to pray in the times that the fuqaha have allowed for in the joining of the times. [This should not be an excuse for people to say, "Oh great! The shaykh just gave me a fatwa, and now I don't need to worry." He is talking about situations that are really difficult for people. He is not just saying go out and do what you want. No. You know your deen is your most important thing that you have; and your prayer is the most important thing in your deen after your tauheed; and whoever does not guard the prayer has not guarded his deen. The prayer has times, and they are prescribed times. But what the shaykh is saying simply is there are situations where people really do have a difficult time, and the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, in a sahih hadith in Bukhari according to Ibn 'Abbas, radi Allahu 'anhu, joined the prayers. They said to Ibn 'Abbas, "Why did he do that?" He replied, "So that his ummah would not have difficulty and feel bad about doing this later," and he said, "the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, was concerned about even the last of his ummah." The Messenger, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, in a hadith, said, "Ikhwaani, ikhwaani: my brothers, my brothers!" at the Kabah, and Abu Dar, radi Allahu 'anhu, said, "Aren't we your brothers?" But he replied, "No, you're my sahaba (companions)." He said, "My brothers come after me. They believe in me and they've never seen me."]
[The shaykh had given me permission to add anything that I had thought was important, so he just reiterated what I had added about the importance of prayer.] You should not make the joining of your prayer a norm, but in certain excruciating circumstances, that is a valid position which is recognized, and it becomes an option for people having difficulty. Another thing to remember is the importance of your neighbors. Your neighbor has rights over you. These rights are inclusive of the Jewish, Christian, and other neighbors you may have. There are many examples of that, but a story that comes to my mind is that of Abu Hanifa, radi Allahu 'anhu, who is called imam al-'aadham: the greatest imam.
It is well known that Abu Hanifa, radi Allahu 'anhu, did tahajjut every night. He would spend his night reciting the Quran. He had a neighbor who was an alcoholic, and he used to drink a lot and sing love poems. This used to bother the imam. But one day, the imam did not hear this man's revelry, so he went and asked about him. They said, "Oh, so-and-so. They took him to jail." So, the very well respected imam went to the jail. He was the most respected imam and qaadi at the time in that place. When the ruler found out the imam went to the jail, he asked for the reason and was told that the imam was concerned about his neighbor who had been arrested. So, the ruler said to release the man, and he was released. The neighbor then asked Abu Hanifa why he did that, and he replied, "Because you have a right upon me as a neighbor, and I have not been neglectful of that." That was the reason that the neighbor made tauba to Allah subhaana wa ta'aala.
Next, there is another subject that may be a little difficult for some people to understand, even for some people of knowledge, but I am not in any way claiming to have more knowledge than those people, and I am certain there are people who have come here who have greater knowledge than me. This subject concerns the difference between ahlu l-dhimma and ahlu l-'aahad. Ahlu l-dhimma are people who are in a minority status in the Muslim lands. Ahlu l-'aahad are Muslim people in minority status in non-Muslim lands. Each of these groups has different rules that apply to it. In relation to the people of 'aahad, there are things that we have to understand. [The shaykh explained that he is giving you his personal opinion, and it is the amaanah (trust) of the translator to relate that.] I feel it is important that people are concerned with political candidates in this country. If we support the candidates who are known to have positive attitudes towards the Muslims and who are supportive of Muslim causes and even those who are just better people than the opposing candidates, in the usooli knowledge, this would be considered taking the lesser of two evils. In a non-Muslim situation, voting and not voting are both not good situations, but as a community that does not engage themselves and yet is affected by the political instruments, the lack of participation can end up being a greater evil than the participation itself. This is something that has to be looked at and balanced. In my opinion, it is probably a greater evil not to be participating at all and to simply be disengaged from the process. So, as Muslims, people should come together as one hand and create blocks to where they can try to have some influence to the best of their ability.
Finally, I ask that Allah subhaana wa ta'aala, in sha' Allah, gives me taufiq in what I have said and that I have not said anything inappropriate. I ask that that it benefits me and also benefits you in sha' Allah. [Then the shaykh made a du'ah that Allah subhaana wa ta'aala, in sha' Allah, accept this from us and give us taufiq. Jazakum Allahu khairan.]
About Shaykh Abdallah
Shaykh Abdallah bin Bayyah, hafidhu Allah, is an extremely well-known and well-respected scholar amongst scholars. In fact, he is a scholars' scholar since many of his students are actually considered scholars now in the Muslim world. His students study extremely difficult texts with him that even very well qualified scholars are not capable of understanding with any facility. Shaykh Abdallah bin Bayyah grew up in one of the eastern provinces in West Africa in Mauritania. From a very young age, he showed extreme gifts intellectually and a profound ability to absorb a lot of information and a lot of the text. During his studies, he memorised an extraordinary number of texts. Then, at a very early age, he was appointed with a group of people to study legal judgements in Tunis and went there for a period of time. When he returned to Mauritania, he became a minister of education and later, a minister of justice. He was also one of the vice-presidents of the first president of Mauritania. However, due to the conditions in Mauritania and the military change of governments that took place, he began to teach, and he ended up going to Saudi Arabia and becoming a distinguished professor at The University of Usul al-Fiqh. The shaykh is presently involved in several organizations in the Muslim world, such as the organization which is known as Al Majma' al-Fiqhi, which is comprised of a body of scholars that come together from all over the Muslim world and from all the different madhhabs and different viewpoints; they analyze and study a lot of the modern issues to come up with Islamic solutions to the issues confronting modern Muslims in the modern world. Shaykh Abdallah is also involved in writing. He has written several books and has delivered lectures all over the world. He has expertise in a lot of areas that have been unfortunately ignored by the vast amount of contemporary scholars. One of the areas of expertise that he has is in what is know as fiqh al-aqaliyaat which is the fiqh or juristic rulings related to Muslims living as a religious minority with a dominant alien territory. Because the Muslims tended to prefer hijra to countries where Muslims were the majority, there are not a lot of scholars that work in the area of dealing with how Muslims in minority areas should actually live their lives and how they should behave when confronted with issues that often are in contradistinction to their din.