Da’wah in Complex Settings (2) | Ra’d ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz

PART (1) DISCUSSED the first situation—a position of powerlessness—in which ʿîs may find themselves today, according to Shaykh Al-Islâm Ibn Taymiyyah, may Allah have mercy upon him.  Here we discuss his second of three.

(2) Leaving off a Commendable Act for the Sake of Inclining a Person’s Heart to Islam (Ta’lîf)

Many Muslim ʿîs—including those who pride themselves on their faithful emulation of the example of our righteous Salaf—sacrifice huge benefits for the sake of performing a commendable act (mustaab, pl. mustaabbât)—in fact, scrupulously observing it although it is far less important than joining the hearts of Muslims together (ta’lîf) and far less effective than preparing them psychologically to accept the fundamentals of the beautiful Sharîʿah.

One thing that needs to be stressed here is that the ʿî to Allah is not a mere reader or transmitter of religious information; a ʿî, rather, is one who edifies, nurtures, and mentors (murabbi wa muʿallim); he is one who never loses sight of the fundamentals of the Sharîʿah and the ultimate aims of the Dîn when he acts upon legal Texts.

Now some may object saying that the mustaabbât constitute the bulk of the Sharîʿah and that disregarding them means forsaking the majority of the rules of the Sharîʿah, further adding that there is no conceivable good in abandoning the Sunnah of the Prophet and that good and success lies in acting upon the Sunnah.

To such an objection the following answers are presented.

First, People who choose not to act upon a genuinely preponderant mustaab act do not believe that they are neglecting a mustaab act; rather, most of these people believe that the alternative act in which they are engaged is the mustaab act which Allah and His Messenger love. They base this belief of theirs on what they hear from their revered Shaykhs whom they consider better versed in knowledge of legal Texts than themselves. So convincing these people that the reverse is true cannot be achieved by merely adducing a Prophetic adîth or a saying of an authoritative scholar.

Rather, such a task must be done in one of these two ways:

– Through ta’lîf and presentation of acceptable premises that make these people recognize and accept the truth, or

– Through turning to other kinds of mustaab acts that are acceptable to them.

Second, Implementing the Sunnah of the Prophet (if they mean by the term ‘Sunnah’ here a specific, individual act of Sunnah) does not necessarily result in success all the time or with every individual. If, however, they mean by the ‘Sunnah’ the entire body of the normative praxis of the Prophet, it should, then, be understood that the Sunnah places a high estimate on legal balance (muwâzana Sharʿiyyah) in every aspect of it; this fact is attested by innumerable Texts, the following adîth is just one example.

It is reported that the Prophet once said to his wife, ʿÂishah: Were it not that your people (Quraysh) have only just recently broken with their former Jâhili practices and beliefs, I would tear down the Kaʿbah and rebuild it on the original foundations which [prophet] Ibrâhîm had staked out.  (Bukhâri and Muslim)

Speaking about the difference in merit between the various versions of duʿâ’ al-istiftâ (the mustaab duʿâ’ which the praying person recites in the interval between takbîrat al-irâm and recitation of Sûrat Al-Fâtiḥah) and about whether one should recite basmala (saying ‘bismillâh Al-Ramân Al-Raîm’ before reciting Al-Fâtiḥah) silently or out loud, Shaykh Al-Islâm Ibn Taymiyyah had this to say:

The sound position is that Imam Aḥmad [Ibn Ḥanbal] did not command his followers to recite basmala out loud; moreover, the people of Madinah at the time of Imâm Aḥmad [who followed Imam Mâlik’s School of Law] did not recite basmala—neither silently nor out loud. Imam Aḥmad, however, intentionally recited basmala loudly in emulation of those of the Prophet’s Companions who used to recite it loudly—his aim being to promulgate the Sunnah practice of basmala recitation, whether silently or out loud—just as the Prophet would sometimes recite out loud an âyah or two in uhr and ʿAr prayers (two prayers wherein recitation is done silently), or as Ibn ʿAbbâs did when he recited Sûrat Al-Fâtiḥah out loud in a funeral prayer which he was leading and remarked: “[I did that] to let you know that such practice is from the Sunnah,” or as Caliph ʿUmar ibn Al-Khaṭṭâb did when he recited Duʿâ’ Al-Istiftâout  loud on more than one occasion (Muslim).

Imam Aḥmad also advised that whosoever happens to be leading in prayer people who do not recite the duʿâ’ of qunût in witr alâh, should drop the qunût duʿâ’ on that occasion for the purpose of winning over their hearts and minds. So reciting basmala out loud on the part of a prayer-leader (imam) is recommended when doing so corresponds with the legal preferences of the people he leads in alâh, or, when doing so serves to establish a Sunnah practice among people who are receptive to this shift.

These matters and their likes are all governed by a fundamental legal doctrine which states that a mafûl (a less preferred) act can become a il (preferred) act when there is a preponderant, genuine interest (malaa râjia) that justifies such a change; for if some arâm acts, like partaking of the flesh of a carrion, could become religiously mandated in the case when a person’s survival depends on it, then, a fortiori, so can a mafûl act or thing become il if there is malaa in this switch.

The same can be said about other kinds of worshipful acts, like alâh, for instance. Though the status of alâh is more meritorious than the status of Quran recitation and recollection of God, there are, still, some special times wherein alâh is proscribed, and as a result, recitation, dhikr and duʿâ’ become more meritorious than alâh in these occasions. Similarly, it is established by nuṣṣ and ijmâʿ that supplicating to Allah during performance of Ḥajj rituals in ʿArafah, Muzdalifah, Mina, and Al-Ṣafâ wa Al-Marwah is more estimable and spiritually rewarding than reciting the Quran during these occasions, for the Prophet said:

I have been forbidden to recite the Quran when I’m in a state of rukûʿ or sujûd. (Bukhâri and Muslim)

(Ibn Taymiyyah, Al-Fatâwa Al-Kubra, 22:344).

Discoursing on the act of reciting basmala out loud in alâh, Ibn Taymiyyah remarked:

It is recommendable for a ʿî to abandon some mustaabbât in order to incline the hearts and minds of his audience towards Islam (ta’lîf), because the benefit of endearing the Din of Allah to people is weightier than the profit of doing such mustaabbât. One proof for this is the Prophet’s abstention from changing the structure of the Kaʿbah because he reckoned that abandoning his personal preference here would more incline people’s hearts to Islam. Another example is the act of the Companion ʿAbdullâh ibn Masʿûd who, though he objected to Caliph ʿUthmân ibn ʿAffân’s decision not to shorten alâh on a certain trip, nevertheless, performed full (un-shortened) travel alâh behind Caliph ʿUthmân and remarked: “Disagreement is evil!.” (Ibn Taymiyyah, Al-Fatâwa Al-Kubra, 22:407)

On offering supererogatory prayers before Jumuʿah alâh, Imam Ibn Taymiyyah said:

If a person worships with a people who choose to offer these voluntary alâhs and—because he is revered and authoritative over them—he is able to abandon the performance of these alâhs without them objecting to his practice and he is able to explain to them the truth about these alâhs, then well and good. If, however, he fears they will not accept the truth if he elucidates it to them and if he reckons that his performance of these supererogatory alâhs before Jumuʿah alâh would incline his fellow worshippers’ hearts towards better aspects of Dîn and would avert conflict and contention, then he can join them in offering these alâhs.

So the performance of the same act can be mustahab on one occasion and susceptible of being dropped on another—the Sharîʿah-based, preponderant, genuine malaa (interest) being the determinant of when to perform or omit this certain mustaab act. (Ibn Taymiyyah, Al-Fatâwa Al-Kubra, 24:194)

To be concluded, inshâ’ Allah, in Part 3…



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