While in Konya for the Rihla 2013, your LastProphet editor met with several scholars and interviewed them.
First in a series of transcripted interviews is one with Imam Jamal Zahabi, a scholar who was born in Lebanon and currently lives in Canada, who taught a course on Innovation in Islamic Law:
On the Study of Sirah and Hadith
Definitely, overall, as Muslims we are lacking our teachings a great deal. As we are becoming so far estranged from our root from the point of view of Tradition, we are more or less acting on our own, rather than acting according to our principles. Another unfortunate situation is where individual Muslims might be more or less aware or knowledgeable, but they might not be in control of their emotions, such as anger, and thus despite knowing what should be done, they do not apply the proper effort or the proper response in the proper time. We are thus returning to our period of ignorance, tribalism or you can say our animalistic or monster nature.
Because a human being, when he is disconnected from Allah’s Revelation and from his commands, he is not anymore that gentle and accommodating human being. He becomes more selfish, wanting his desires to be fulfilled, lacking in compassion towards others – thinking of oneself and that’s it. So this is what is taking place around the world at large, and also within our Muslim community. We should be under the limits of our Shari’ah, to live as human beings in obedience to Allah, subhana wa ta’ala.
Now definitely, our beloved Prophet, as Allah described him, he is the best example for all humanity.
“Laqad kana fi RasulAllah uswatul hasana”
There is no better example for us than the blessed Prophet, and examples from the Sirah are so immense, so clear. Even the angel Gabriel was overwhelmed by the Prophet’s response [at Ta’if], when he was hurt by his tribe, by the people of Quraysh and Ta’if, and despite the hardship he went through, he didn’t want any revenge or punishment. Gabriel said that Allah has sent the angel to crush them [tormentors of Ta’if] between two mountains, and the beautiful response of the Prophet was:
“I am hopeful that Allah will bring forth from them offspring who will praise Allah and be faithful.” And this is an indication that we should be in control of our animal self and anger. We all have both this animal self and this angelic self. And when we lose this standard, these religious principles, the demonic or animal element becomes dominant, and human beings become worse than animals, lower than demons.
When the human being is in obedience to his Lord, than he will be “ahsani takwim” (in the best form), then [which is followed in the Qur’an by] “thumma radadnahu fi asfali safilin” (we reduce him to the lowest of the low), whereby he doesn’t recognize any limit or his Lord’s teaching.
Therefore we have to manage our life in accord with our Prophet’s teachings and lifestyle. We say this only in brief, but in reality it has applications to every step of our life. We have to study the Prophet’s life and apply it in every aspect, so hopefully that will elevate ourselves into better conditions, so that we will (n’audhubillah – we take refuge in God from) not find ourselves in such horrible conditions as described.
On the Pursuit of Prophetic Akhlaq
As you know, in our day there are a school of ideas which are spreading around the Muslim world, and these ideas point their fingers at the school of Tasawwuf, considering a source of misguidance or misguiding teaching, and this causes people to keep away from this great principle of our deen, our Islamic teaching. That great principle is essential to our obedience to Allah. Allah mentioned in the Qur’an about Rabbaniya (being Lordly) not rahbaniya (monasticism). There was a small book written by one of the great scholars of India, Maulana Hasan al-Nadwi, Rabbaniya not rahbaniya. Definitely our religion is a practical religion. Our religion does not demand seclusion and monasticism. “We did not command them to monasticism…” (Qur’an)
Rabbaniya has to be followed in our daily life, which is connected with the principle of Ihsan, along with Islam and Iman . This obedience to Allah applies throughout your life, not just through your worship but also through your business and social affairs, so that you don’t have this condition where you are far from the masjid, crooked and disconnected. You are always in the sense that ‘Allah is watching over me,’ or muraqaba. For the reality that if you do not see Allah, verily He sees you.
On Shaykh Ramadan al-Bouti
I reviewed one of the books from Shaykh Ramadan al-Bouti, rahimuLlah and may Allah reward him, and it was one of the best books to learn about the Prophet’s character and life. That book is called Fiqh ul-Sirah (the Jurisprudence of the Prophetic Biography), and that book is an excellent resource for learning about the Prophetic Sirah. What makes it so valuable is that that book includes, along with every incident from the Prophet’s life, the teachings and understandings to be taken from each aspect of the Prophetic Sirah. The English translation of this book is worth reading, and meritable.
On the Rihla being in Konya
We have been blessed by being here. You should ask those who came on the Rihla last year, but as I understand it, there was an invitation to the Rihla to come here by the officials here, as well as the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Ahmet Davutoglu), who is a very accomplished scholar and politician. The stories he told about climbing the mount of Hira’ and Sinai, and staying all night in Masjid al-Aqsa. May Allah bless those with power and guide them with hikmah to be beneficial to the Muslims.
Jamal Zahabi is from Lebanon, and resides in Calgary, Canada.