­­Translated by Ismaeel Nakhuda

Translator’s foreword: Written at the height of the Indian Independence Movement in 1938 (Sha‘ban 1357), Al-‘Itidal fi Maratib al-Rijal (Moderation in the Rankings of Men also known as Islamic Siyasat or Islamic Politics) is a lengthy letter that Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhalwi (1898-1982) wrote to one of his students in answer to seven important and challenging questions of the time.

The letter was written at a time of great political upheaval when India was at the cusp of independence from Britain. It was also a time when the Muslim community in the Indian Subcontinent, including their religious leadership, were politically split over the politics of the Muslim League and the National Indian Congress. These differences of opinion also existed within the scholarly Deobandi tradition and was poignantly embodied in the personalities of two illustrious Deobandi Sufi scholars: Hakim al-Ummah Mawlana Ashraf  ‘Ali Thanawi (1863-1943) and Shaykh al-Islam Mawlana Husayn Ahmad Madani (1879-1957).

Taking inspiration from the Quran and Sunnah along with traditional scholarship, Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhalwi sheds light on how people should approach these differences along with other important issues that are in essence timeless and relevant today as they were over eighty years ago. Considering that this letter is important reading and also often read in the khanqahs connected to the Shaykh al-Hadith, Deoband.org has taken the liberty to serialise a new translation to make its benefit further widespread. Below is the translation of the introduction along with the answer to the first question.

Introduction ((In translating Al-I‘tidal I have used a new version of the book recently published by Ittihad Book Depot Deoband that has the takhrij of hadiths by Mawlana Muhammad Jawayd Qasmi Balwi and Mawlana Ashraf ‘Ali Qasmi A‘zami. This version also includes subheadings that were not produced in the original version. Though I have not reproduced the takhrij in this translation, I have translated the subheadings to make reading more manageable. [Translator]))

In the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful

Beloved one of great worth, may Allah Most High protect you.

To proceed after the Sunnah salam: your beloved letter arrived. The sincerity and passion with which you have written provided even more pleasure. Questions of this sort are being asked in writing and also verbally. However, consider it my unworthiness, laziness, many other preoccupations or carelessness, I mostly respond in writing or verbally mention a short answer that is suitable to the questioner. If I were to write a detailed answer then I would be writing a lot. However, your sincerity and other specialities have forced me to write at length. Put aside your passion and read it with some contemplation, and do not just read it once, read it many times. Firstly, I firmly believe that on the basis of my connection to you, you will read it carefully several times. As a precaution I mention that you should read it having cleared your mind from remorse, anger and passion. I shall repeat—read it carefully with a clear mind. If you understand it, then accept it otherwise there is no compulsion. The summary of your lengthy writing as I have understood is as follows:

  1. Why are there such severe differences between Mawlana [Ashraf ‘Ali] Thanawi and Mawlana [Husayn Ahmad] Madani in spite of them both being sincere and men of Allah? Are there and can there be such differences among sincere and religious people?
  2. Who is right (on haqq) according to you? What is your view in regards to these issues?
  3. What should we do? Should we die? Why are you not joining them?
  4. The Muslims are being ruined, what should they ultimately do?
  5. There are motives that are largely being played out. Every individual is following his own motives.
  6. The dignity of the scholars is deliberately being ruined. They are being freely sworn at and vilified.
  7. There is a lot of harm that is being done on account of the differences among the scholars.

The bulk of issues in your letter are these and these questions are mostly being raised in writing and verbally. Because of this, I am writing at some length regarding these worrying thoughts. I am not saying that which I write is the truth but I am definitely saying that these are my deficient thoughts regarding the above issues, and knowledge is with Allah.

Question One

Why are there such severe differences between Mawlana [Ashraf ‘Ali] Thanawi and Mawlana [Husayn Ahmad] Madani in spite of them both being sincere and men of Allah? Are there and can there be such differences among sincere and religious people?

Answer: For there to be differences of view (ikhtilaf) among a group of sincere individuals is not farfetched or impossible. There have always been differences and they shall always remain. It should not be implausible for a layman to be worried by such an occurrence. There is, however, no reason for someone like you who has a familiarity with [sacred] knowledge to be surprised and affected in this way. I am so indifferent in relation to this that I am unable to write about it.

Lessons on hadith begin in Shawwal with bismillah and end in Rajab. Within these ten months not a single teaching day passes in which it is not said at least twenty times that the view (madhhab) of such an imam is this, that of another imam is this, the views of the Companions (Sahabah) were this and these were the differences among the Followers (Tabi‘un).

Differences among the scholars is not contradictory to their sincerity

If it is the case that the existence of mutual differences is contradictory to sincerity then we would have a major difficulty in that we would have to, Allah forbid, remove all of these respected individuals (may Allah be pleased with them and may He have mercy on them) from [the category of] those who are sincere. As to severe differences then I do not consider them to be severe at all. All that they are is that in a temporary issue an individual is of the view that it is beneficial for Muslims to join the Muslim League ((The All-India Muslim League, which was popularly known as the Muslim League, was a political party established in 1906 in British India. Its campaigning eventually led to the establishment of the Muslim majority state of Pakistan in 1947. [Translator])) and harmful to join Congress ((The Indian National Congress, which was simply called the Congress Party or Congress, is a political party in India founded in 1885 that led India to independence from Britain in 1947. [Translator])) while the other individual is of the opposite view.

Who should be followed when scholars differ?

Now, whoever is a person of sound opinion (ahl al-rai), he is aware of and understands the situation, he is versed in the rules of Shari‘ah, and therefore he should choose to follow that individual that he sincerely feels is on the truth. As to the person who does not have that much cognisance, he should spend a few days in the company of the two individuals and if he is aware of the situation from before then there is no need for this as well. Whoever he has affinity faith with then he should follow him. Whichever of them you follow, you shall be guided.

What is the need to fight and dispute? I ask, why are the differences among these seniors so severe in your view? Is it that these differences are greater than the Battle of Jaml ((The Battle of Jaml or the Battle of the Camel occurred at Basra in 656CE (36AH). [Translator])) in which swords were drawn on both sides? You tell me, which one of them will you eject from the sincere ones? When the name of Sayyiduna ‘Ali is mentioned then it is said may Allah be pleased with him, he was the rightful khalifah and the one to whom all of the walis return to (marja‘ al-awliya). When the name of Sayyidatuna ‘Aysha is mentioned then it is said may Allah be pleased with her, she is called the Mother of the Believers (Umm al-Mu’minin), she is described as the Prophet’s (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) most beloved wife. The situation of this difference [among them] is known in that its name, Battle of Jaml, shall perpetuate the memory of this difference until the Day of Judgement. Listen, since I consider myself to have considerable rights over you I will tell you in firm words that do not bear malice regarding any one of these individuals. If, Allah forbid, you were to do that then you will be harming yourself and not harm them in anyway. I feel extremely surprised at some people when they speak disparagingly and disrespectfully regarding these two individuals. I also envy these seniors as they, in addition to their own religious actions the benefit of which they accumulate night and day, are able to acquire the pious actions of others. These helpless individuals are [in effect] saying in anger, “Because I am extremely angry with you, take my lifelong pious deeds.” Look how unjust this person is being with himself in that he is, in anger, giving away his pious deeds that he has earned throughout his life to those with whom he is upset and making himself poor and sinful.

Who is actually poverty stricken?

The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) once asked the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) who do you consider the poverty stricken person to be? The Companions responded that the one without any wealth. The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) replied that this person is not the one who is poverty stricken. Rather, in reality the poverty stricken is that person who shall attend court with lots of deeds. However, he oppressed someone in the world, swore at another and took someone’s wealth. There shall be no money on the Day of Judgement and all accounts shall be met with pious and impious deeds. As a result, these people who were oppressed and sworn at will be given this person’s pious deeds in exchange for his actions. When the person’s pious deeds will finish, and it is the case that rights [of the oppressed] will need to be met, then he shall be given the sins of these other people according to how much he owes them. The actual poverty stricken person is this individual in that he brought a lot having earned it (he offered prayers, fasted and carried out religious work) and the outcome was that he had to carry the sins of others.

I am surprised that backbiting (ghibah) is done of those close to Allah while those who are sinful (fussaq) and disbelievers are praised, whereas it is mentioned in the hadith, “When the sinful person (fasiq) is praised then Allah Most High becomes displeased and the Throne shakes.” It is not my intention that someone should not be praised; that point of fiqh (mas’ala) is at its place regarding the permissibility and impermissibility of the limits of praise and the principles by which that is governed. I ask, if it is accepted that one of the two is mistaken then does that demand that one blankly ignores all of that individual’s religious achievements? The pure Shari‘ah has educated us regarding every minutia and thing. In spite of being claimants of the religion we do not give due regard to it while other people act on these golden principles and advance while we allow our capital to be looted and carry a loss. Listen, I accept that one of the two is in error and that it is such an explicit error that you are unable to accept it—do not accept it, who is forcing you to?

The principle of evaluating what a person says

However, In relation to this bear in mind the advice of Sayyiduna Mu‘adh (may Allah be pleased with him). He explained a principle and, may Allah have mercy on him, he has mentioned something very delicate. He said, “I warn you of the error of the one who is wise for indeed Satan at times says something that is wrong through the tongue of the wise and at times even the hypocrite (munafiq) speaks words of truth.” His student asked, “May Allah have mercy on you, when this is the case how will I know what is the truth and what is falsehood?” He responded, “Remain aloof from those words of the wise person regarding which it is said what is this, how was this said? Ensure that these words of the wise do not cause you to turn away from the wise person; it is very possible that he retracts from it.” Now look closely how several important issues Sayyiduna Mu‘adh (may Allah be pleased with him) has mentioned in this principle and advice.

[1] Every person who speaks the truth is not [necessarily] wise. At times the hypocrite also says the truth and so one should not become a person’s follower by listening to just one of his talks. It is our habit that we hear someone’s speech, or read someone’s article and we suddenly become their follower, we raise them to the seventh sky. Rather, there might be a person regarding whom we know that he is irreligious, an open sinner (fasiq), yet he says that which is in accordance to our point of view, and so we will establish him as such a religious person that we, we seek refuge with Allah, raise him close to being a prophet. The outcome of this is that we will shout the slogan zindabad (long live) to him in the morning and then murdabad (down with him or death to him) in the evening. It would not be inapt to compare this to the hadith in which it is said that a man would be a Muslim in the morning and a disbeliever in the evening.

[2] The other issue that Sayyiduna Mu‘adh (may Allah be pleased with him) has mentioned is that the wise person also at times says something that is wrong. It is because of this that a person should not abandon support for a person due to a single half issue.

Rather, when both of the [above] points are brought together a principle is understood that first one should study a person’s condition in depth. If he is in the majority of issues a follower of the Shari‘ah and someone who has given his heart to following the Prophetic Sunnah, then he is without doubt someone worthy to be followed. Then, if someone were to find something to the contrary having responsibly and personally researched the matter then he should not accept that word. However, he should not opt to separate himself from the wise person on account of this. This is because there is a possibility that he shall recant and you shall forever be separated from him. This is the summary of what Sayyiduna Mu‘adh (may Allah be pleased with him) said; there is much benefit in the detail once looked at closely.

Now examine the present situation, what is our way of working? We firmly understand something in our minds, regardless of how trivial and minor it is. Then we read someone’s article or hear someone’s lecture that is in line with it and so we place them on a pedestal, eulogise them, support them indiscriminately and trivialise any aspects of them that is contrary to the Shari‘ah, which is the severest matter [in all of this]. In other words, what should happen is that that which is correct should be described as being correct and that which is wrong should be called wrong, or silence should be adopted in the least. However, what it is that we do is that in support of this person we show these matters of Shari‘ah that he is opposing to be fundamentally unnecessary, so much so that regarding the most important pillar of Islam which is considered the distinguishing factor between disbelief and Islam in many hadiths, in other words the prayer (Salah), our tongues and pens say such words the repeating of which causes pain. We adopt this position simply because the one we praise does not pray; prayer is treated lightly and it is mocked.

On the contrary, if something trivial was heard or read that is in opposition to one’s opinion, then all of that person’s actions would be held to be faulty. Those positive traits that are actually in the person would also in their entirety be considered worthy of remorse even though, according to the Shari‘ah, reason and intelligence, everything has its appropriate rank from which they should not be lowered or raised. The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “Treat the people according to their status.” (In other words do not lower or raise them from their status.) However, our general behaviour to people nowadays is that there is excessiveness and negligence (ifrat wa tafrit), there is no mention of moderation (i‘tidal).

The different levels of severe differences

Aside from that, if I were to accept that there is a severe difference among these respected personalities, then it should be understood that it is no deficiency nor is it contrary to Shari‘ah for there to be severe differences among the people of truth (ahl-i-haqq). Rather, when there is a difference of view among the people of truth on a topic, then the level of severity will be commensurate to the level at which that matter is and the difference that exists. By way of example understand that there is something that a person considers compulsory (fard), another calls it forbidden (haram) or another person considers it to be compulsory of the lesser form (wajib), while another person considers it to be severely disliked (makruh tahrimi)—so it is necessary that there will be opposition, contentions and refutations. This is what compelled the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) to fight against each other. There is a hadith in Sunan Abu Dawud that a Companion (may Allah be pleased with him) said that the witr prayer is wajib, another Companion (may Allah be pleased with him) whose research was to the contrary said kadhaba (he has lied).

Though the scholars provide a suitable explanation (tawjih) for this as it relates to a Companion, these were the words that were used. Hence, if severe words are used when researching a matter then we should also try and explain them appropriately. There are numerous examples of this in the books of hadith and these individuals (the hadith scholars) are excused in their vigour because they have many of the hadiths such as the following in front of them: “Be attentive, let not the fear of people prevent one from speaking the truth when he knows it.” Sayyiduna Abu Sa‘id (may Allah be pleased with him) began crying after narrating this hadith and said, “We have seen many things and fear prevented us.”

In addition to that there is a famous hadith that whoever from you sees a wrong, then let him change it with his hand, if he is unable to do so, then with his tongue, if he is unable to do so then [in the least] let him condemn it with his heart and this is the lowest level of faith. There are many other texts of this nature, some of which I have mentioned in my booklets on Tabligh. These narrations compel these individuals to persist in explaining and propagating that which they consider to be the truth, at whichever level, and condemn the contrary and to do so with force. However, it is necessary that the one condemning is qualified to do so, not everyone is capable of this. There is no reason for confusion and anxiety in this.

This lowly author’s desire

However, it is my heartfelt wish, desire and prayer that the Muslims, and especially the seniors, all come to a consensus on one point of view, even though there is definitely difficulty in this as this will cause the breadth in differing positions [that can be adopted] to disappear. Yet, we will be free from many other harms. Nevertheless, the way to achieve this is not that each side swears and abuses the seniors of the other side by spreading untrue faults as that causes a person’s pious deeds to be ruined and necessitates sin; instead of benefit there is only harm. Those who are affected by this should pay heed to the saying of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), “A believer is not a defamer, nor a curser, nor coarse, nor obscene.”

It is mentioned in another hadith, “Swearing at a believer is fisq and fighting him is disbelief.” In another hadith it is mentioned, “Oh people! Whoever claims Islam with the tongue while faith has not reached your hearts do not harm the Muslims, do not upbraid them and search for their faults, for indeed the person who follows the fault of his brother Muslim then Allah shall follow his faults and whoever’s faults Allah follows, then He shall disgrace him even though he is in seclusion.”

Rather, the way to do this is that the people who have understanding, are mature, are aware of the situation, are people of knowledge in that they are able to understand the matter according to Shari‘ah and are also tolerant should go and have lengthy conversations. They should provide in depth and authentic detail and also listen to the other side. Insha-Allah the differences will be removed at any time. Those who are unable to do this should consider them (the two pious elders) excused and, like me, have remorse on our shortcomings. However, swearing is not permissible for even general believers. The sahih hadith of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) that has just been mentioned that swearing at a believer is fisq has been narrated by senior and eminent Companions such as Sayyiduna ‘Abdullah bin Mas‘ud, Abu Hurayrah, ‘Abdullah bin Mughaffal, ‘Amr bin al-Nu‘man and Jabir (may Allah be pleased with them) (Al-Jami‘ al-Saghir). (( Al-Jami‘ al-Saghir fi Ahadith al-Bashir al-Nadhir is a collection of over ten thousand hadiths by the famous Egyptian scholar Imam Jalaluddin al-Suyuti (1445-1505). It was named Al-Jami‘ al-Saghir (The Shorter Collection) because it was condensed from his larger collection Al-Jami‘ al-Kabir (The Larger Collection). [Translator])) When swearing and speaking ill of such walis of Allah only causes ruination to one’s self, how can it harm anyone else?

Warnings on having enmity for the walis of Allah

The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said that Allah Most High said, “Whoever harbours enmity for a wali of mine, then I announce war with him.” Understand this yourself, who can gain success in this world by fighting Allah Most High and what can be said regarding the [situation in the] hereafter? This theme has been mentioned in numerous hadiths with different wording from which it can be understood that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) drew attention to this at different times using different words. As a result, the above words have been mentioned in the narration from Sayyiduna Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) in Sahih al-Bukhari. Aside from this, this narration has also been reported by Sayyidatuna ‘Aysha, Sayyidatuna Maymunah, Sayyiduna Mu‘adh, Sayyiduna Anas, Sayyiduna Abu Umamah (may Allah be pleased with them) and Wahb bin Munabbih.

In some hadiths it is mentioned that whoever taunts one of my walis then he has come to fight with me. In another hadith it is mentioned that whoever disgraces a wali of mine then he has come in front of me to fight. (Fath al-Bari) (( Fath al-Bari fi Sharh al-Bukhari is a multi-volume commentary on Imam al-Bukhari’s Sahih by Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani (1372-1449), the renowned Egyptian hadith scholar. [Translator]))

Sayyiduna ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) once arrived at the Prophet’s Mosque where he saw Sayyiduna Mu‘adh bin Jabal (may Allah be pleased with him) crying close to the blessed grave of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). Sayyiduna ‘Umar asked, “Mu‘adh, why do you cry?” He replied, “I have heard one thing from the person of this grave (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), it is because of this that I cry [in fear that I may become involved in this]. I heard him say that even a little bit of ostentation is shirk and that whoever harbours enmity for a wali of Allah, then he has faced Allah to fight.” (Al-Hakim has included this hadith in his Al-Mustadrak ‘ala al-Sahihayn) (( Al-Mustadrak ‘ala al-Sahihayn is a multi-volume hadith collection written by Shaykh Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad al-Hakim al-Nishapuri (933-1014). All of the hadiths in Al-Mustadrak are, according to its compiler, authentic according to the condition of either Sahih al-Bukhari or Sahih Muslim, or both. [Translator]))

It is mentioned in a hadith that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said that Sayyiduna Jibrail (peace be upon him) has narrated from Allah Most High that whoever disgraces a wali of mine, then he has opposed me to fight. In support of my walis I become as unhappy as an angry lion.” (Al-Durr al-Manthur) (( Al-Durr al-Manthur fi Tafsir bi al-Ma’thur is a commentary of the Quran by the famous Egyptian scholar Imam Jalaluddin al-Suyuti (1445-1505). [Translator]))

It has been narrated from Sayyiduna Wahb that he has seen in the book (Psalms) of Sayyiduna Dawud (peace be upon him) the saying of Allah Most High that I swear by my honour and glory, whoever disgraces a wali of mine, then he has come to face me. (Al-Durr al-Manthur)

How severely dangerous is this situation? Where shall the person who is at war with Allah take refuge? If he, in lieu of this, were to break his arm or leg, or lose his nose, ear or eye, then the matter is easy in that the pain of this world will after all come to an end and there is hope for repentance having experienced loss of this type. However, if the person was, Allah forbid, to experience some sort of religious harm, or was to become embroiled in some irreligious activity, then what will happen? The imams have said that among the sins there is none that Allah Most High has described as [a declaration of] war against Himself save this sin and the consumption of interest in that Allah Most High has described them as war with Himself. It can be understood from this that the sin of both of these issues is extremely great and there is a great fear that the ending of these people will be terrible (su-i-khatimah). (Mirqat al-Mafatih Sharh Mishkat al-Masabih) (( Mirqat al-Mafatih is a multi-volume commentary on Mishkat al-Masabih by the Afghan Hanafi hadith scholar Mulla ‘Ali Qari (d.1605-1606) who was a student of the Egyptian hadith scholar Shaykh Ibn Hajar al-Haytami al-Makki (1503-1566). Both of these hadith masters passed away in Makkah. [Translator]))

The author of Mazahir-i-Haqq (( Mazahir-i-Haqq is an Urdu translation and commentary of Mishkat al-Masabih by Nawab Qutbuddin Khan Dehlawi (1803/04-1872/73) a prominent student of Shah Muhammad Ishaq Dehlawi. [Translator])) has also written that a person fighting with Allah indicates that the person will have a terrible ending. To have a good ending for a Muslim is something that is extremely yearned for and an eternal favour; you yourself think how dangerous is that thing due to which there is fear of a terrible ending.

Shaykh Ahmad has written in Jami‘ al-Usul (( Jami‘ al-Usul fi al-Awliya is a book on Tasawwuf written by the Ottoman Naqshbandi Sufi Shaykh Ziauddin Ahmad bin Mustafa al-Kumushkhanawi (1813-1893). Shaykh Ahmad was a khalifah of one of the khalifahs of the Kurdish Naqshbandi Shaykh Khalid al-Baghdadi (1779-1827) who was a khalifah of Shah Ghulam ‘Ali Dehlawi (1743-1824) who was the khalifah of Mirza Mazhar Jan-i-Janan (1700-1781). Kumushkhanawi is attributed to the Anatolian province of Gumushane where the shaykh was born. Later in life he moved to Istanbul where he founded the Gumushanvi tekke or khanqah. [Translator])) that raising objections against the Sufis who follow the Sunnah and go against innovation (bid‘ah), especially those who possess beneficial knowledge (‘ilm-i-nafi‘) and perform pious actions (‘amal-i-salih), and are carriers of knowledge of Allah (ma‘arif and asrar) is a deadly poison and a source of great destruction. Extremely severe warnings have been narrated regarding this and this is very dangerous. This is an indication that one entertains an objection to Allah Most High in the heart and that it is full of spiritual diseases. There is a fear that (may Allah provide protection) this person’s ending will be a terrible one.

He has after this discussed at length such issues that cannot be mentioned here. Nevertheless, I specifically draw the attention of those people who are connected to me and will continue to do so that they should not entertain in the heart even a speck of rancour against the walis of Allah otherwise they should cut ties with me. My father (may Allah enlighten his grave) would always specially emphasise this.

The punishment for treating etiquettes, the Sunnahs and the Fard actions lightly

The remnant of the earlier generations and the proof [of Islam] for the later generations, Shah ‘Abdul ‘Aziz [Muhaddith Dehlawi] ((Shah ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Dehlawi (1746-1824) was a famous hadith scholar, commentator of the Quran, expert on Hanafi fiqh and Naqshbandi Sufi from Delhi. Born during Mughal rule, Shah ‘Abdul ‘Aziz’s father and teacher was the famous Indian hadith scholar Shah Waliullah Dehlawi (1703-1762). Tafsir-i-‘Azizi is Shah ‘Abdul ‘Aziz’s commentary on the Quran in Persian. [Translator])) (may Allah enlighten his grave) mentions a point in his commentary of the Quran [Tafsir-i-‘Azizi] under the verse “That was because they disobeyed and transgressed all limits.” (Surah al-Baqarah: 61) He writes that the Banu Israel were audacious in committing disbelief (kufr) and killing messengers of Allah because they disobeyed the prophets. This disobedient trait gradually became firm in them and they began exceeding the limit in committing sins so much so that they began considering sins to be better and would harbour enmity for those who forbid them from sinning. This slowly continued until matters came to such a pass that they killed the prophets who were eager in forbidding sins and also blatantly rejected the verses of the Quran. This is the negative outcome of sins that they gradually cause weakness in one’s beliefs and then bring about a change. It is because of this that the Allah fearing scholars (‘ulama-i-rabbani) would greatly stress in forbidding persistent sinning in that sins gradually begin to be seen positively while that which prevents them is viewed negatively in the heart. This continues until finally things reach such a pass that one arrives at the border of disbelief (kufr).

It is because of this that it is said, “The person who treats lightly the etiquettes of Shari‘ah shall be given the punishment of being barred (mahrum) from fulfilling the Sunnah acts, while the person who treats lightly the Sunnah acts shall be punished by being barred from the fard acts, and the person who treats lightly the fard acts shall be barred from the knowledge of Allah (ma‘rifah).” This is an extremely perilous issue. Even the smallest etiquette of Shari‘ah should not be abandoned due to it being considered trivial and unnecessary since every link in this chain can be the means of being barred from the treasure above it, not to mention respecting the walis of Allah which is from the important etiquettes. When it is the case that treating lightly etiquettes leads to the treating lightly of fard actions and then at the end this reaches disbelief, then think yourself how dangerous this matter is. People pay little regard to small etiquettes and sins having considered them to be trivial. However, They do not understand that each of the various small aspects of religion are interconnected with each other in that each link is joined to another. The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said Allah Most High removes a Sunnah from the community that adopts an innovation (bid‘ah) that shall not return to them on the Day of Reckoning. (Mishkat al-Masabih) (( Mishkat al-Masabih is an expanded version of al-Baghawi’s Masabih al-Sunan by Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullah Khatib al-Tabrizi (d. c1341). [Translator]))

The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said that when Allah Most High intends to destroy a person then he firstly removes shame and bashfulness from him. When he becomes unashamed then it shall be seen that he will become angry and disliked in the eyes of people. When he reaches this condition then trustworthiness shall be removed from him and he shall become a deceitful person and will openly deceive. When he shall become like this then mercy shall be removed from his heart and he shall not be compassionate to people. Once he reaches this level then he shall be rejected and cursed by people. When he reaches this stage then it shall be seen that the rope of Islam shall be removed from his neck. (Jami‘ al-Saghir) The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said that whoever harms a Muslim then he has harmed me, and whoever harms me then he has harmed Allah Most High. (Jami‘ al-Saghir)

This is such a severe matter; when it is commanded to treat the general Muslims like this, then how severe is it to harm the friends of Allah who are Muslims in the real sense?

Raising objections against the friends of Allah

‘Allamah al-Sha‘rani in his Al-Tabaqat al-Kubra ((Shaykh ‘Abdul Wahhab bin Ahmad al-Sha‘rani (1492/3-1565) was an Egyptian Shafi‘i scholar and Sufi and murid of Shaykh ‘Ali al-Khawwas (d.1542). He was also an accomplished and prolific author. His book Al-Tabaqat al-Kubra (The Supreme Levels) is a compendium of biographical information about famous Islamic personalities, including notable Sufis. [Translator])) writes that Imam Abu Turab Bakhshi who is from the Sufis said that when a person’s heart becomes attached to raising an objection against Allah Most High, then raising objections against the friends of Allah become his companion and friend. In other words when a person becomes unattached to Allah Most High then he becomes accustomed to raising objections against the friends of Allah.

When Allah wishes to disgrace someone,

He creates an inclination to taunt the pious. ((This is a Persian poem, the translation of which was provided by Mawlana Tameem Ahmadi. [Translator]))

Shaykh Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili ((Shaykh Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili (1196-1258) was an influential Moroccan scholar and Sufi who founded the Shadhili order of Sufism. Notable Sufis of this way include the author of the Hikam Shaykh Ibn ‘Ataullah al-Iskandari (1259-1310), Shaykh Ahmad al-Zarruq (1442-1493), the author of Dala’il al-Khayrat Shaykh Muhammad al-Jazuli (1404-1465), and the author of the Qasidah al-Burdah Shaykh Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad al-Busiri (1211-1294). [Translator])) who is from among the senior Sufis and famous imams of Tasawwuf said that the friends of Allah have always been afflicted by argumentative people. Among them are some who express trust in the walis. However, they reject specific walis of Allah by saying, “How could he be a wali?” However, how can the person who has no knowledge of being a wali (wilayah) reject the wilayah of an individual? Further on, Shaykh Abu al-Hasan mentions in detail the causes on account of which a person raises objections against the shaykhs. Among them he mentions that some of the shaykhs remain hidden from people’s sight because they meet people of influence and the wealthy; these people find an opportunity to raise objections by saying that if they were walis of Allah then they would sit in isolation in a corner busy in knowledge and worship. However, if the one objecting were to safeguard his religion then he would also contemplate whether this person is meeting these people of influence for his own gain or for some religious purpose and benefit, or for something that will benefit Muslims and that his meeting them is to remove some harm. In fact, at times meeting such people for a benefit becomes incumbent and to remain aloof from them becomes haram. (Al-Tabaqat al-Kubra)

The friends of Allah sometimes retaliate and the reason behind this

Understand another point at this juncture that the friends of Allah at times take revenge from those who speak ill of them and that this is something that acts as a veil for those who look at matters superficially; they think that the friends of Allah are similar to the lay masses in that they are fired up with passion, though at times this is based on a major wisdom (maslahat). Mirza Mazhar Jan-i-Janan ((Mirza Mazhar Jan-i-Janan (1699-1781) was a prominent Naqshbandi Sufi of Delhi who was renowned for his commitment to following the Sunnah of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). Among his khalifahs was the great Hanafi scholar Qadi Thanaullah Panipati (1730-1810), author of Tafsir-i-Mazhari (named after his shaykh). One of his famous khalifahs was Shah Ghulam ‘Ali Dehlawi who was influential in spreading the tariqah to the whole of India and also into the Middle East. [Translator])) has written in his letters (makatib) that once a lady was disrespectful to [the father of Mujaddid Alf-i-Thani] Shaykh ‘Abdul Ahad ((Shaykh ‘Abdul Ahad Faruqi (d.1599) was the father of the great Naqshbandi master Mujaddid Alf-i-Thani Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi (1564-1624). Shaykh ‘Abdul Ahad himself was an accomplished Sufi of the Chishti tariqah. He was a murid of Shaykh ‘Abdul Quddus Gangohi (1456-1537) and received khilafah from his son after his demise. [Translator])) which he bore with patience and at which he remained silent. At that point he saw Allah’s anger ready to seek revenge, the shaykh immediately told a man who was present to smack the woman. This man hesitated and the woman dropped dead. Many incidents of this sort are found in the stories of the shaykhs and I have previously written that punishment of this type is much easier than being afflicted with some difficulty that is of a religious nature.

Shaykh ‘Ali Khawwas (may Allah have mercy on him) who is from the famous walis used to say that be diligent in protecting yourself from lending an ear to such a person who raises objections against the scholars and the Sufi shaykhs (without a reason in Shari‘ah) as you will, on account of this, lose Allah’s protection and will be deserving of Allah’s displeasure and anger. (Al-Tabaqat al-Kubra)

Love for the friends of Allah and the hadith that a man shall be with he who he loves

Shaykh Abu al-Fuwaris Shah bin Shuja‘ Kirmani (may Allah have mercy on him) says that there is no worship superior to having love for the friends of Allah in that having love for them is a sign of the love for Allah Most High. (Nuzhat al-Basatin) ((Nuzhat al-Basatin is the Urdu translation of Rawd al-Rayyahin fi Hikayat al-Salihin by Shaykh ‘Abdullah al-Yafi‘i al-Yamani (circa 1296-1367). Originally from Yafi in the Yemen, Shaykh al-Yafi‘i took up residence in Makkah where he passed away. He was a renowned Sufi, historian and was known as the shaykh of the Hijaz. Rawd al-Rayyahin is a compilation of hagiographies of notable Sufis and their sayings. [Translator])) It is because of this that I specifically advise you to not show even a minute bit of deficiency in loving the friends of Allah and to build rapport with them. I hope you will accept my advice.

Listen to the admonition, my dear, for they love this admonition more than their own lives,

The fortunate young men who follow the admonitions of the wise elder. ((Persian poem translation provided by Mawlana Tameem Ahmadi. [Translator]))

The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) has mentioned, and this is something that has been included in numerous hadiths, that a person shall be counted among and resurrected with those people whom he loved. A Companion asked the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) that a person has love for a group. However, he was unable to meet them [in terms of actions or an inability to be with them physically]. The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said that a man would be with those who he loved.

It is mentioned in another hadith that a Companion asked, “Oh Prophet of Allah, when will the Day of Judgement be?” The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) asked, “What have you prepared for the Day of Judgement [in that you are awaiting it and are eager for it]?” He replied, “Oh Prophet of Allah, I have not prepared anything for it except that I have love for Allah and His Prophet.” The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “You will be with those who you love.” Sayyiduna Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) said that the noble Companions were more pleased hearing this hadith than anything else. (Mishkat al-Masabih)

It is clear that the Companions (may Allah be pleased with him) were immersed in the love of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) and so it can be imagined how much happiness they must have experienced. I have mentioned by way of example a few stories of their love in my booklet Hikayat-i-Sahabah—do have a look at it as you will understand what annihilation for the religion actually is and how much love for the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) these respected individuals had. It is mentioned in one hadith that a person is on the way and religion of his friend, hence have a look at who one is friends with. (Mishkat al-Masabih)

This theme has been mentioned in the hadiths under different titles in which loving the friends of Allah and remaining aloof from those who are irreligious has been mentioned with care. Building as much of a connection to and having love as much as possible for the friends of Allah is an elixir, it will benefit in the hereafter.

Grab hold of the shirt of Allah’s men and have no fear,

He who is in the Company of Nuh should have no fear of the flood. ((Persian poem translation provided by Mawlana Tameem Ahmadi. [Translator]))

Do not withhold from having as much love for the friends of Allah as possible and avoid and remain aloof as much as possible from those who are irreligious.

Luqman the Wise advised his son, “Oh son, do not be eager to be friends with the ignorant one in that he will begin to think that you think his actions are good. Do not consider light the displeasure of the wise person in that he will turn away from you on account of that.” (Al-Durr al-Manthur)

The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said that the example of the pious and good companion is that of the musk seller, even if he does not receive any musk its fragrance shall reach him. The example of bad company is of that man who blows into a kiln in that [if a spark was to fall on him] then he will be burned or his clothes will be burned, and [if a spark was not to fly at him] its smoke and smell shall reach him. This hadith has been narrated in different wording in [Sahih] al-Bukhari and [Sahih] Muslim.

Luqman the Wise advised, “Oh son, sit in the company of the pious. Goodness shall reach you, mercy shall descend on them and you will have a part in this. Do not ever sit in the company of the wicked as there is no hope for goodness. If a difficulty were to afflict them at any time, then you would also be a participant in this.” (Al-Durr al-Manthur)

It is because of this that one should remain extremely aloof of bad company and one should consider the company of the friends of Allah and sitting by them to be an elixir. Their company is the means of progressing in pious actions.

The type of believer one should remain in the company of

However, in the way that what is authentic and spurious is differentiated in every thing and what is true and false is also scrutinised, there is also a need here as well to safeguard one’s self from what is false and deceitful.

Oh, how many Iblises there are in the form of men,

So one should not give one’s hand to any hand. ((Persian poem translation provided by Mawlana Tameem Ahmadi. [Translator]))

To become entrapped into mistakenly assuming the wicked to be good is more harmful. The yardstick for this is acting on the holy Shari‘ah in that the person whose beliefs (‘aqidah) are correct, he is not involved in polytheism (shirk) and innovation (bid‘ah), he offers his prayers, fasts and is diligent in all of the rulings of Shari‘ah, then he is pious. A person cannot be pious by going against the Shari‘ah. The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: “None of you can be a true believer until his desires are in accordance with that which I have brought.” (Mishkat al-Masabih)

The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “The best of people among you are those whose sight reminds of Allah, whose speech increases one in knowledge, and whose actions cause eagerness for the hereafter.” (Jami‘ al-Saghir)

It is because of this that to love someone and be connected with them, it is a necessary stipulation that the person’s religious condition is understood and it is verified whether the person’s life is according to Shari‘ah. However, one should not build a relationship with the person whose condition is unknown, nor is it known whether his life is according to Shari‘ah or the contrary. At the same time, to pass judgement on him or to speak ill of him just on the basis of what has been heard is improper. Sayyiduna Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) said that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) told me that oh son, if you are capable of not entertaining any malice for anyone in your heart, then choose this. This is my Sunnah and whoever loves my Sunnah loves me, and whoever loves me will be my companion in paradise. (Mishkat al-Masabih)

To be continued…

Islamic Politics – Al-‘Itidal fi Maratib al-Rijal (Part One)