On the Statement “Acquire Knowledge from the Cradle to the Grave”
By Shaykh ʿAbd al-Fattāḥ Abū Ghuddah
[Translator’s note: The purpose of translating this short excerpt is not only to highlight the status of the report in question. Shaykh ʿAbd al-Fattāḥ’s treatment of this report can be extended to other reports that may have a sound meaning but are not correctly transmitted from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).]
The phrase “The acquisition of knowledge is from the cradle to the grave” also quoted as “Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave” is not a Prophetic ḥadīth. It is, therefore, not permissible to attribute it to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as many people are accustomed to doing. Only the action, statement, or tacit approval of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) may be attributed to him as a ḥadīth.
That the meaning of the quoted phrase is correct and its message is true does not legitimize its attribution to the Prophet. Ḥāfiẓ Abū al-Ḥajjāj al-Mizzī (d. 742 AH) said, “A person is not allowed to falsely attribute to the Prophet a single letter from a phrase he finds beautiful even if its meaning is sound; although everything the Prophet said is sound, he did not say everything that is sound (kull mā qālahū al-rasūl ḥaqq wa laysa kull ḥaqq qālahū al-rasūl).” See Ḥāfiẓ al-Suyūṭī, Dhayl al-Mawḍūʿāt, p.202.
The fabricated ḥadīth “Acquire knowledge from the cradle to the grave” is widespread. Strangely enough, books on widespread ḥadīths have not mentioned this report.
[ʿAbd al-Fattāḥ Abū Ghuddah, Qīmat al-Zaman ʿind al-ʿUlamā, p.30]
A Historical Overview of Islāmic Legal Maxims
By Shaykh Muṣṭafā al-Zarqā
Translated by Muntasir Zaman
Unlike conventional legal texts, Islamic legal maxims were not formulated at once. The conceptual underpinnings of these maxims and their definitions developed gradually when jurisprudence blossomed at the hands of leading jurists from the rank of derivative opinion-making (takhrīj) and rule-determination (tarjīḥ) as deduced from the indications of general legislative scriptural texts, the fundamentals of legal theory, the ratio legis of laws, and established rational premises.
Not every legal maxim was given a specific form by classical jurists except for those that were based on prophetic ḥadīths, e.g. lā ḍarar wa lā ḍirār (no harm shall be inflicted or reciprocated), or statements related from scholars of the legal schools and their senior acolytes that later functioned as legal maxims, e.g. the statement of Abū Yūsuf in al-Kharāj, “The ruler is not entitled to remove ownership of a thing from an individual unless it is due to an established, recognized right.” The majority of legal maxims, however, have taken their final form through scholarly usage, refinement, and modification in the areas of explication (taʿlīl) and deduction (istidlāl). The explication of ijtihād-based legal injunctions and the modes of analogical deduction have served as major resources in shaping these maxims after the establishment of the major schools of law and the efforts of their leading partisans in refining and organizing their principles and evidence. Read the rest of this entry »
By Muntasir Zaman
The example of the intellect is sight free of defects and illnesses, and the example of the Qurʾān is the sun with rays spread out. Hence, the seeker of guidance that dispenses with one of them in lieu of the other is most fit to be included among fools. The one who turns away from the intellect, sufficing himself with the light of the Qurʾān is like one exposed to the light of the sun while closing his eyelids; there is no difference between him and the blind. Thus, the intellect with revelation is light upon light. The onlooker with an eye blind to one of them specifically is drawn in by a deceptive rope.
– Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī (d. 505 AH)
The surge of criticisms in recent times towards supposedly problematic ḥadīths generally rest on the claim that such ḥadīths are absurd, unscientific, impossible, or contradictory. Every ḥadīth whose content is seen as problematic will have a specific explanation, for which relevant literature can be consulted. This article will highlight broad guidelines that are to be kept in mind when dealing with narrations of this nature. After some preliminary thoughts, four points will be proffered for consideration: (1) the limits of human reason and experience; (2) the importance of contextualization; (3) the usage of figurative speech; and (4) the need to distinguish between impossibility and unlikelihood. In no way are these guidelines meant to be exhaustive. As a first response, they can help to assuage the concerns of a Muslim whose conscience is constantly agitated by reading apparently problematic ḥadīths. Detailed discussions on specific ḥadīths can be offered on a case by case basis.
In numerous places in the Qurʾān, Allah calls upon humankind to use their intellect and to contemplate the perfection of His creation. He says, “And now We have sent down to you [people] a Scripture to remind you. Will you not use your reason?” In other verses, He reprimands those who do not use their intellect; “But the disbelievers invent lies about Allah. Most of them do not use reason” is a striking case in point. That the Qurʾān transcends a mere exposition of raw assertion by engaging in a process of argumentation and dialogue—it is the “evincive proof” (burhān) and “conclusive argument” (al-ḥujjah al-bālighah)—is indicative of its appeal to the human mind. Therefore, there exists no incongruity between reason and revelation; the former in fact leads one to appreciate the latter while the latter enjoins and exemplifies the former. There is, however, an important caveat that should not escape our attention: the reasoning has to be sound and the revelation authentic.
From the formative period of Islamic history, scholars have written books to address apparently contradictory ḥadīths, a field known as mukhtalif al-ḥadīth, and ḥadīths that apparently conflict with other evidences or external reality, a field known as mushkil al-ḥadīth. In this vein, Imām al-Shāfiʿī (d. 204 AH) authored Ikhtilāf al-Ḥadīth, regarded as one of the earliest works on the subject. Analogous works include Ibn Qutaybah al-Dīnawarī’s (d. 276 AH) pioneering monograph, Taʾwīl Mukhtalif al-Ḥadīth, Abū Jaʿfar al-Ṭaḥāwī’s (d. 321 AH) peerless compendium, Sharḥ Mushkil al-Āthār, and Abū Bakr Ibn Fūrak’s (d. 406 AH) masterpiece, Mushkil al-Ḥadīth wa Bayānuhū. Scholars also dealt with such narrations in their general Ḥadīth commentaries when the occasion arose. Abū Bakr Ibn Khuzaymah (d. 311 AH) confidently proclaims, “I am unaware of any two authentic narrations of the Prophet that are contradictory. If anyone comes across such narrations, let him bring them to me so that I can reconcile them.” Read the rest of this entry »
On the Retention of the Companions
By Muntasir Zaman
To evaluate the reliability of a narrator, Ḥadīth scholars examined two integral characteristics: probity (ʿadālah) and retention (ḍabṭ). After studying the probity of the Companions (Allah be pleased with them), a person is left with the following question: companionship with the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) does not enhance one’s memory, so even if it is accepted that the Companions were upright, how sure are we that they adequately retained ḥadīths before transmitting them? In other words, did they meet the required standards of memory to transmit ḥadīths? The following explanation does not preclude the fact that they occasionally forgot or erred. It aims to shed light on factors that allowed them to satisfactorily retain the ḥadīths they heard and then transmit them to their students.
It may be difficult to recognize a relationship between a narrator’s probity and his retention, but functionally they are definitely intertwined. This is because an upright transmitter will only narrate material the authenticity of which he is certain. Towards the end of his life when Anas ibn Mālik was asked a question, he replied, “Go and ask our master al-Ḥasan [al-Baṣrī]. Indeed, we heard and he heard, but he remembers and we forgot.” A narrator exercises caution when narrating ḥadīths proportionate to his probity; since the Companions possessed the highest level of uprightness, their caution was correspondingly firm. This is more so given their familiarity with the Prophet’s warning, “Whoever lies about me should prepare his abode in the Fire.” Companions like ʿAbd Allah ibn Masʿūd (d. 32 AH) and Abū al-Dardāʾ (d. 32 AH) are on record for following their narrations with phrases such as “similar to this” and “more or less” which they expressed out of caution, not out of doubt. Their cautious attitude even influenced Successors like Ibrāhīm al-Nakhaʿī (d. 96 AH) and ʿĀmir al-Shaʿbī (d. c.103 AH). From this angle, there is a relationship between one’s probity and retention. Read the rest of this entry »
The Life and Works of al-Kamāl Ibn al-Humām
By Shaykh Muḥammad ʿAwwāmah
Translated by Muntasir Zaman
[The following excerpt is an abridged translation of the biography of Ibn al-Humām, the 9th century Ḥanafī legal theorist and jurist, whose erudition was acknowledged in countless fields like language, law, and Ḥadīth. For the entire piece, see Shaykh ʿAwwāmah, Dirāsah Ḥadīthiyyah Muqāranah, pp.221-37]
His name was Kamāl al-Dīn Muḥammad ibn Humām al-Dīn ʿAbd al-Wāḥid, better known as al-Kamāl ibn al-Humām. His ancestry was from [the Turkish province of] Sivas, but he was born in Alexandria and grew up and passed away in Cairo. His student al-Sakhāwī writes, “He was possibly born in the year 790 AH, as I have read from his own writing.” He hailed from a family of knowledge and repute. His father was a judge in Sivas who later became a judge in Alexandria and married the daughter of the Maliki judge of Alexandria; she gave birth to al-Kamāl [lit. perfection]. Read the rest of this entry »
The Life and Works of the Hanafī Jurist and Hadīth Scholar Qāsim ibn Qutlūbughā
By Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwāmah
Translated by Muntasir Zaman
His name is Zayn al-Dīn Abū al-‘Adl Qāsim ibn Qutlūbughā al-Jamālī al-Hanafī, better known as ‘Allāmah Qāsim. He was born in Cairo in 802 AH where he lived until his demise in Rabī‘ al-Ākhir 879 AH. Growing up as an orphan, he began his studies at a tender age and would occupy himself with tailoring, but eventually focused on acquiring knowledge – after exerting himself therein, he shone and showed brilliance. He began his literary career early, authoring his first book at the age of 18 on inheritance. From a galaxy of teachers, his most prominent teacher in Hadīth was Hāfiẓ Ibn Hajar and in Fiqh and legal theory Sirāj al-Dīn Qāri’ al-Hidāyah and al-Kamāl Ibn al-Humām. His student Hāfiẓ al-Sakhāwī said:
His dedication increased by frequenting the company of Ibn al-Humām. From 825 AH to Ibn al-Humām’s demise in 861 AH, he studied every book that was taught in his circle and learnt the most from him. The books he studied include the first quarter of his commentary on al-Hidāyah, part of Tawdīh of Sadr al-Sharī‘ah, and the entire al-Musāyarah (of Ibn al-Humām). […] He also studied books of Arabic literature and poetry, memorizing a significant portion thereof.
His teachers respected him due to his academic excellence. For instance, Hāfiẓ Ibn Hajar authored al-Īthār bi Ma‘rifat Rijāl al-Āthār upon his request to compile a book on the transmitters in Imām Muhammad’s Kitāb al-Āthār. He then – at the age of 33 – studied it under Ibn Hajar, who authorized and described him as, “The eminent Shaykh, the qualified and unique Hadīth scholar. He contributed [to the class] and shared his observations on several places that were noted down and further illuminated the book.” Later on in another occasion, he described him as “The authority, the learned, the Hadīth scholar, the jurist, and the prolific memorizer.” Bear in mind that the one conferring these accolades is Hāfiẓ Ibn Hajar, who requires no introduction. Al-Sakhāwī said: Read the rest of this entry »
On the Study of Comparative Fiqh (al-Fiqh al-Muqāran)
By Dr. Salāh Abū al-Hājj
Translated by Muntasir Zaman
[The following is an abridged translation of Dr. Salāh Abū al-Hājj’s discussion on comparative Fiqh. The author describes three methods of studying the differences of the jurists. The third method, better known as comparative Fiqh, is a modern concept that traces its origins to the 20th century Egyptian scholar Ahmad Ibrāhīm. Although the study of scholarly differences is integral to comprehension of Fiqh, the author concludes, its study should be undertaken only after developing proficiency in knowledge; a premature exposure to scholarly differences can leave a novice confused. For the purpose of brevity, only relevant parts were translated. For the entire discussion, see Abū al-Hājj, al-Madkhal al-Mufassal ilā al-Fiqh al-Hanafī, pp.435-42]
There are three distinct disciplines: (1) Fiqh al-Ikhtilāf; (2) ‘Ilm al-Khilāf; and (3) al-Fiqh al-Muqāran.
Fiqh al-Ikhtilāf is a study of the opinions of the jurists with or without an expose of their respective evidences and answers to opposing views. The primary objective here is the differences of the jurists. General Fiqh texts only tangentially mention opposing views to underpin the strength of the preferred view whereas books of Ikhtilāf are written with the purpose of presenting the differences of the jurists whether the author only mentions their opinions or supports the evidence of the preferred view of his madhhab. This discipline traces its origins to the beginning of Fiqh itself; it is part of the study of Fiqh and without it Fiqh is not firmly established. In the 2nd century, scholars compiled Hadīth collections on the reports and differences of the Companions and Successors on legal issues; the discipline further evolved during the era of the mujtahid scholars where they began citing legal issues alongside the disagreements therein. Read the rest of this entry »