Jarh wa Ta'dil

>> Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bismillahiramanhiraheem

This post will be an original piece by yours truly, The Ghazzali Blogger! I have been meaning to write an article on this topic for a long time but always decided not to because I may get over passionate and offensive. Furthermore I told myself it was not my place to write about this topic. However the more I read the more I kept coming back to this. It did not matter if I read about hadith or fiqh or madhabs or a tafseer this topic just kept creeping back up and haunting me. So I finally decided to speak out and Alhamdulilah I believe Allah willed that I would put off this topic because he wanted me to read more and obtain more sources. InshAllah the Ramadan fasting post will also be posted up today or tomorrow.

Jarh wa ta’dil

"The people shall always be in a good state as long as they take their knowledge from their elders, their trusted ones, and their people of knowledge. When they start taking it from their boys and their reprobates, they shall be destroyed." - Abd Allah ibn Mas'ud
When people listen to a speech or read a book or observe any type of media retain different things. Someone might watch a movie and appreciate the stunts while others may appreciate the story telling or dialogue, the artists may appreciate the rendering and lighting of the movie, others may appreciate that the movie addressed many different philosophies of a certain part of life, while some people may appreciate the fact they can draw parallels from the movie to real life; I have met people who believed the last Lord Of The Rings movie was about the Palestine and Israel conflict. Furthermore something that may seem interesting to one person can be dull to someone else. Sometimes when listening to a speaker, we may misunderstand and our understanding of their talk may be the complete opposite of what they were saying. The same holds true when reading Islamic books or when listening to a Muslim scholar give a talk. Why people appreciate different things or are impacted differently or obtain a different message by the same speech or book maybe because of their values, upbringing, environment, their psyche and their experiences.

One time listening to a talk given by a graduate of the Islamic University of Medinah, I witnessed this first hand. The speaker talked about the history of Muslim communities in the United States and how active and how much we have grown since the 70’s. In my mind this talk was to encourage the up and coming generation to ride the momentum of the previous generation to make bigger and better marks on the world that the previous generations, when they first started off, could not have imagined. I believe we should be grateful for the tedious foundational work the previous generation did so that my generation has an easier time to do more extravagant work. However my colleague sitting right next to me understood the talk as the complete opposite. He believed that our parents came here for money and were not interested in Islam and if they were it was because of culture and not out of sincerity. Furthermore he claimed that our parents did not teach us anything about Islam and that it must be sour for them to see us (their children) not to go after materialistic goals but rather be religious.

To children with that type of attitude I ask; how many Masjids did we build? The hundreds of Masjids in New York City alone, did our generation build them or did our parent generation? The very conference we are attending to listen to the talk we cite as evidence that our parents are materialistic and not good Muslims, did we organize that conference? Did we even start the organization that held that conference or did our parent generation? If our parent generation did not care about Islam and came here for material wealth only then who laid the foundation that allows us to learn Islam in America from people who studied in places such as the Islamic University of Medinah? Furthermore when we claim our parents did not teach us anything about Islam then why did some of us keep our relationship with our girlfriend a secret when we were not practicing? Why did we hide our tattoo from our parents? Why did we hide our piercings from them? How did we learn about the word Muslim and Islam that allowed us to seek out guidance in the first place? And when we claim it must be sour for our parents to see we are religious are we sure it is not because that we do not have the manners that the scholars have told us to have and we talk to our parents as if they were the children and not us?
Point is our parents did teach us. They taught us we were Muslims and we followed a religion called Islam. Otherwise why else did we hide our wrong doings? Some of our parents do not observe all the practices of Islam and we may observe more of the practices. But it is the job of the parent to make their children better Muslim than they were. Our parents did not pray but told us we were Muslims and we followed Islam. We took what our parents taught us and then we pray and do the rest of the five pillars Alhamdulilah. Then InshAllah our children will take what the previous two generations did and become scholars and then their children will inshAllah be greater. The mere fact we are more religious than our parents proves that our parents did their duty when they raised us. So we should give due credit to them and until we can raise a child to be better than us, we should keep quiet because we have not succeeded like our parents have. The child is supposed to be better than his or her parent.
Humility and moderation should come with knowledge but instead arrogance and extremism is implanted into the Muslim youth. The arrogance has become so unbearable that not only do we attack our parents but start to call righteous scholars deviants and throw 1400 years of scholarship out the window. We fall into the false assumption that “stricter is better”. When we hear a scholar give a fatwa which is laxer than something we follow we do not hesitate one second to say that the scholar is ignorant; often forgetting that the scholar studied more years than we have been alive!

Then the arrogance becomes even more! We start to act like we are scholars; we sit and preach without having paid our learning dues at the feet of the Ulema because we cannot wait for others to sit at our own feet. We start to take fatwas from websites and quote them to seem like we have authority and if someone comes with another fatwa we say that the hadiths our dissenter used were weak and fabricated; not only do we believe ourselves to be faqihs but also muhaddiths! We start to rank hadiths and anything we do not think are strict enough we call it fabricated. Not realizing “that as long as the proof of forgery is un-established beyond reasonable doubt and short of compelling assumption regarding a weak report, it becomes a lie to cry forgery and bar people from the benefit of belief in it. This holds true even if the chain of transmission falls short of the rank of “sound” (sahih). God fearing precaution toward the Prophet (pbuh) goes both ways: not only with respect to steering clear from attributing to him what he never said or did, but also with respect to steering clear from belying what he might have said or done.” We start to give our opinions on everything and anything as if we are experts on all Islamic knowledge when two of the greatest scholars, Hujjat al-Islam Imam al-Ghazzaali and Imam Ibn Qudama in their respective books al-Mustasfa and Rawdat al-Nazir said that an Alim may be an Imam in a particular science and an uneducated common person in another. In the end we believe ourselves to be absolute mujtahids like the four great Imams, saying such things as “Abu Hanifa did not have that evidence” implying that we know more than the Mujtahid Imam of the Tabieen.

Then when we are called out on the fact that we are acting as if we are absolute mujtahids we counter by saying, “we are only students of knowledge and only teaching what the righteous Ulema who are on the Quran and Sunnah have said.” (As if the four Mujtahids were not on the Quran and Sunnah and as if people who sacrificed their time and livelihood to learn Islam and spread it to the west and east are not on the Quran and Sunnah) How do we claim to be “students of knowledge” when we never sat at the feet of the Ulema and drank from their knowledge? Are we really teaching what the Ulema have taught or are we only regurgitating what we read on the internet or in some book? When Ishaq ibn Rahuyah sat in Iraq with the likes of Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Yahya ibn Ma’in he would rehearse many transmissions and evidences just like his fellow companions but when he asked what was the intent or explanation or fiqh, all remained mute except for Ahmad ibn Hanbal. They understood anyone can quote and recite hadiths and evidences but only a few can determine and understand what they mean; do we understand what we read? Have any of the Ulema told us to be of ill manners towards non-Muslims let alone our parents who we believe to be deviants just because they do not have a beard like we do? Did the Ulema give us the right to call any scholar who we think is lax in his rulings a deviant?
Real knowledge is a light, not what is memorized and quoted by individuals to look smart in front of his peers. Al-Shafi says, “Knowledge is what benefits. Knowledge is not what one has memorized.” How does knowledge benefit us? Al-Dhahabi says “Knowledge (al- ‘ilm) is not the profusion of narration, but a light which Allah casts into the heart. Its condition is followership (ittiba’ and the flight away from egotism (hawa) and innovation”
Which brings us to the narration that I began with: “Sa'id ibn Wahb narrated that Abd Allah ibn Mas'ud said "The people shall always be in a good state as long as they take their knowledge from their elders, their trusted ones, and their people of knowledge. When they start taking it from their boys and their reprobates, they shall be destroyed." Notice who are the first people Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud (rA) mention; it is the same people that we accuse of only caring about money and do not want us to practice Islam but rather pursue materialistic goals. Either we want to admit it or not our elders are the first people we learned Islam from. Even if your family does not observe all of Islam and in the past you were not religious and now you are you still learned about Islam from them. The second people mentioned are our trusted ones not the most educated. An example of this is when Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (rA), a absolute mujtahid whose school still exists today, and Ihya ibn Mayen could not agree on a certain matter they would go to Maruf Karkhi, a man who was not their equal in the sciences of practical religion. They said to Maruf Karkhi:“The Prophet (pbuh) said, “What will you do when you will not find a matter in the Quran or Sunnah? He said: “Ask the pious men among you and consult them in this matter.” We (Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Ihya ibn Mayen) have come to you for this. The last people who we should take knowledge from are the people of knowledge or the scholars. If someone sacrificed blood, sweat and tears for years and years to learn Islam at any of the prestigious learning centers he should be considered a scholar, specially one who could have lived a materialistic life but chose to study Islam. Then after all that sacrifice he or she came to us, regardless of where we are, to give the knowledge to us. There is this new ideology going around that claims that “there are no scholars in the west”. Someone does not forget what they have learned if they sit on a plane and travel to the west or the east, knowledge stays with you no matter where one is! The first people who we should not follow according to Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud (rA) are the boys. And the truth is we are all still boys who are barely into our mid-twenties and think we are more intelligent than anyone else. We throw hissy fits when someone does not agree with us as if Islam was not a way of life but a philosophy. We treat discussions of fiqh as if it was a prelaw college class where instead of saying something is unconstitutional (which students say when they do not agree with a law when in truth the law is constitutional) we say it is not the sunnah (when it does fall under the sunnah) and just like a prelaw class where three quarter of the people do not know what constitutional means, we do not know what sunnah means.

The truth is we need to be active and stop sitting and talking about those who are active. We are too lazy to do anything so we pick out faults of those who actually help the community. We feel good about picking out faults in people who actual do something and act like we are practicing Jarh wa ta’dil when in reality we are only back biting. We are back biting not only our parents, the people who are either the door to Jannah or have it under their feet, but also people who are fulfilling our Fard-i-Kafiyah. We need to stop attacking our parents and our teachers by quoting obscure sources and do something useful with our time. If we really want to be scholars then we should know of al-Hasan al-Basri’s report that the Prophet (pbuh) said, “The energy of the Ulema is care and help while the energy of fools is to quote” and the statement of the Abbasi Caliph ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Mu’tazz: “The learning of the hypocrite consists in his discourse while the learning of the Believer consists in his deed.”



1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LumwYGp729w A Great talk given by Nouman Ali Khan
entitled Contradicting Community advising Muslim youth and new Muslims on how to deal
with their Families. This talk is very closely related to this article which is also about religious
youngsters and their parents. At 36:00 he makes a point that some speakers will have
different impact on different people. Some speakers are purely entertaining but impact
non-practicing Muslims to pray while the educated practicing Muslim did not learn anything
because he wanted more academics such as more hadith quotations. Similarly an Academic
talk will have less impact on non-practicing Muslims.
2. G.F. Haddad, Sunna Notes Volume 1 Hadith History & Principles, Aqsa publications UK, pg.
53
3. Ibid., 45
4. Narrated from al-Khallal by al-Bayhaqi in Manaqib al-Shafi’i
5. Siyar A’lam al Nubala’
6. Narrated by Abu Ubayd and Ya’qub ibn Shayba as cited by Ibn Hajar in the Fath, Ibn
al-Mubarak in al-Zuhd, Ma’mar ibn Rashid with a sound chain in his Jami, al-Tabarani in
al-Kabir and al-Awsat through narrators that were declared trusthworthy according to
al-Haythami, al-Khatib chainless in al-Faqih wal-Mutafaqqih, Ibn Abd al-Barr in Jami’
Bayan al-‘ilm and Abu Khaythama in al- ‘Ilm.
7. Imam Ghazzali Ihya Ulum-Id-din (trans:Al-Haj Maulana Fazlul Karim) pg.37
8. Narrated mursal from al-Hasan by Ibn ‘Asakir and al-Khatib, al-Jami’ li Akhlaq al-Rawi
(1983 ed. 1:88) cf. al-Jami’ al Saghir and Kanz.
9. Narrated by al-Khatib in Iqtida’ al-Ilm al-‘Amal pg.38

2 comments:

Mensur Gjonbalaj August 15, 2010 at 2:49 PM  

Mashallah! Nice piece Zain. What you wrote is true and very clarfifying. Also, I love that saying you used by Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud (ra). Very true. :)

Anonymous April 6, 2014 at 6:16 PM  

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته
I want to discuss this .. Please