The Famous Five


Islamic Studies

Al-Nawawi (631-676) mentioned, in Tahdhib al-Asma’ wa al-Lughat, that the five most important texts in the Shafi’i school up to his time were (chronologically):

  • Mukhtasar al-Muzani (175-264)
  • Al-Tanbih by al-Shirazi (393-476)
  • Al-Muhadhab by al-Shirazi
  • Al-Wajiz by al-Ghazali (450-505)
  • Al-Wasit by al-Ghazali

He adds that they were widely known and available accross all the domains of the Middle East, being popular with both students and scholars, especially in the absence of a comprehensive compliation that could replace all these aforementioned books.

Some thoughts: Mukhtasar al-Muzani played a central role in the early transmission of the school. Indeed, for a long time researchers believed that it was the very first mukhtasar written in any madhab. Recent research now indicates that honour belongs to Abd Allah b. Abd al-Hakam of the Malikis a couple of decades earlier. Nevertheless, the mukhtasar was commented upon by many prominent Ashab al-Wujuh, climaxing in the magnificent Nihayat al-Matlab

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Para Ulama Ahlul Hadits

Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri adalah orang ke tujuh yang banyak meriwayatkan hadist dari Rasulullah Shallallahu alaihi wassalam. Telah meriwayatkan 1.170 hadits. Orang orang pernah memintanya agar mengizinkan mereka menulis hadits hadits yang mereka dengar darinya. Ia menjawab “ Jangan sekali kali kalian menulisnya dan jangan kalian menjadikan sebagai bacaan, tetapi hapalkan sebagaimana aku menghapalnya”.

Abi Sa’id lebih dikenal dengan nama aslinya adalah Sa’ad bin Malik bin Sinan. Ayahnya Malik bin Sinan syahid dalam peperangan Uhud, Ia seorang Khudri nasabnya bersambung dengan Khudrah bin Auf al-Harits bin al-Khazraj yang terkenal dengan julukan “Abjar”.

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Hari Jumaat 21.9.2011 yang lalu adalah antara hari bersejarah buat saya apabila dapat bertemu dengan Prof Dr Zaghlul Najjar diprogram kuliahnya di Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM).

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In the Book of Affliction (Musibat-nama) ‘Attar described forty stages in spiritual progression as a wayfarer asks different creatures how to find God until the ultimate truth is given by the prophet of Islam himself in the ocean of one’s own soul. These stories reflect outwardly the mystical experiences of disciples during forty days of meditation.

Rumi suggested that God uses prophets and saints as mirrors to instruct people while the divine remains hidden behind the mirrors. People hear the words from the mirrors but are ignorant that they are spoken by universal reason or the word of God. Ultimately God will place in people’s hands their books of greed and generosity, of sin and piety, whatever they have practiced. When they awake on that morning, all the good and evil they have done will recur to them. After enumerating their faults, God in the end will grant them pardon as a free gift. To tell an angry person of faults, one must have a face as hard as a mirror to reflect the ugliness without fear or favor. Like ‘Attar, Rumi wrote of the mystic’s attaining annihilation, but he explained that the end and object of negation is to attain the subsequent affirmation just as the cardinal principle of Islam “There is no God” concludes with the affirmation “but God,” and to the mystic this really means “There is nothing but God.” Negation of the individual self clears the way for apprehending the existence of the One. The intoxication of life in pleasures and occupations which veil the truth should pass into the spiritual intoxication that lifts people to the beatific vision of eternal truth.

Moses Maimonides was born into a distinguished family of Jews at Cordoba on March 30, 1135 and was well educated by his father Maimon. In 1148 the fanatical Berber Almohads led by the Mahdi ibn-Tumart conquered Cordoba and gave the Jews and Christians the choice between converting to Islam, exile, or death. The Maimon family continued to practice Judaism privately but hid by outwardly appearing as Muslims. About 1159 they went to Fez in Morocco. Moses studied rabbinical Judaism, philosophy, and medicine. After his teacher Rabbi Judah ibn Shoshan was arrested for his religion and was executed in 1165, the Maimon family moved to Palestine for a few months before settling in Egypt near Cairo. There Jews could practice their religion unless they had previously submitted to Islam, in which case they were put to death. After his father died, and his brother David, a jewelry merchant, lost his life and the family fortune in a shipwreck, Moses took up the profession of a physician. He became quite successful and even treated the famous Sultan Saladin and his son al-Afdal, to whom he dedicated a popular collection of health rules. Maimonides also taught and became the leader of the Cairo Jewish community in 1177. Ten years later he was accused of being a renegade but was acquitted because he had never really adopted Islam. Maimonides argued that the Torah revokes all obligations made under compulsion. When Saladin conquered Palestine, Maimonides persuaded him to let Jews settle there.



Tusi described six stages in the path of purifying the soul. The first starts the movement and requires faith, persistence, intention, honesty, trust in God, and purification of all thoughts, words, and deeds. The second stage of overcoming barriers is achieved by repentance, asceticism, poverty, hardship, introspection, and abstinence from sin. In the third stage of progress in the spiritual quest one must master solitude, thinking, fear, hope, patience, and gratitude. In the fourth stage success depends on will, ecstasy, love, knowledge, conviction, and serenity. In the fifth stage of completing the quest the virtues are faith, contentment, surrender, monotheism, unity, and oneness. The sixth and final stage assimilates all the preceding stages and annihilates the individual in God so that there is no longer a seeker or seeking. Tusi believed that on the day of judgment all concealments would disappear, and reality will shine as good and bad acts are accurately measured. By drawing on the philosophy of the Greeks, Indians, and Persians in addition to the teachings of the Qur’an and the traditions Tusi provided a more comprehensive ethics than the theologians who depend only on the Islamic law.



Averroes criticized the philosophic criticisms of al-Ghazali in his Incoherence of the Incoherent. Averroes blamed democracy for emphasizing private life and for its lack of control of people’s desires, and in his commentary on Plato’s Republic he concurred with the government deceiving people in order to maintain its class system. Believing that truth was not always persuasive, Averroes advised compelling people also as though they were children. Yet he regretted that women were not treated equally in Islamic society. He wrote that one of the causes of poverty in their cities is that women are not allowed to do anything except procreate and raise children. He agreed with Plato that women could be philosophical governors.

Averroes wrote The Decisive Treatise Determining the Nature of the Connection between Religion and Philosophy about 1180. He believed that everyone should follow Islamic law but that only the elite could understand philosophy. Averroes argued that the law commands the study of philosophy and that this is best done by demonstrative reasoning. Thus the religious thinker as well as the lawyer must study logic. He believed that the demonstrative and dialectical methods are superior to the rhetoric used for the common people. For Averroes demonstrative truth and scripture could not conflict. If the apparent meaning is different, then the scripture must be interpreted allegorically. This stimulates the learned to greater study, but metaphorical interpretations must never violate the Islamic consensus that is certain.

Averroes argued that al-Ghazali’s criticisms of al-Farabi and Avicenna were only tentative, and he contended that the Aristotelians do believe God has an omniscient awareness that does include particulars. Averroes warned against the learned setting down allegorical interpretations in popular writings, as al-Ghazali did, because they can confuse the common people, who rely on the apparent meaning. Thus he warned that the philosophical view of scripture should not be taught to the majority. Everyone must attempt to understand the symbols by their own ability because to tell someone the inner meaning without helping them to understand it destroys their simpler belief without replacing it with something better. Even worse is to give people allegorical interpretations that are false. He argued that hostile sects arose in Islam because of the wrong use of allegory by the Mu’tazilis and the Ash’aris. Averroes believed that these harms could be cured by teaching people the apparent meanings, but he supported the Muwahhid policy of censoring any deviation from the consensus of Islamic law.