The real Fitan (or trials) have been in the past, and bigger ones are yet to come: the Animal, Yajuj-Majuj and Dajjal. Meanwhile, we need to fight out the greatest of all Fitan, the mother of all trials and tribulations, that strikes almost every individual, viz. ignorance of the Qur’an and Sunnah and excessive love of the world, writes SYED IQBAL ZAHEER.
Ahadith in Bukhari, as also in a few other collections, runs as follows: `Abdullah ibn `Umar reports that the Prophet came out of `A’isha’s quarters and said, “O Allah, grant us barakah (benediction) in our Shaam; O Allah grant us barakah in our Yemen.” People around him interjected saying, “And our Najd also.” (That is, pray for it also). But he repeated, “O Allah, grant us barakah (benediction) in our Shaam; O Allah grant us barakah in our Yemen.” People around him again interjected saying, “And our Najd also.” (That is, pray for it also). But he said in reply to perhaps the third request, “Tremors there. And tribulations. And from there rises Shaytan’s party.”
According to another narration, also by `Abdullah ibn `Umar, who said, “I saw the Prophet signaling towards the East and saying, “Tribulations are there. Tribulations are there – from where Shaytan’s forces arise.”
Yet another narrative reports Ibn `Umar as saying, “The Prophet did the Fajr prayer, terminated the prayer with a Salam, then he turned to the direction from where the sun rises and said, “Lo! Tribulation is there. Lo! Tribulation is there – from where Shaytan’s forces rise.”
In the above narrations Qarn al-Shaytan, rendered by us as “Shaytan’s forces,” has several connotations, but most scholars have homed in on our choice.
What are “Shamina” (our Shaam: Syria) and “Yamanina (our Yemen)?” Putting together the interpretations of the land and field experts, Madinah belongs to the territories at its left up to and including Syria; and Makkah belongs to the territory on its right down until Yemen. Incidentally, the Prophet was born in the Yemen frontier and died in the Syrian frontier. About Yemen he said that wisdom belongs to Yemen, and about Syria he said that Iman will reside in Syria during the final days of the world.
As for Najd, it is the area that falls in between, that is, the wide East. Linguistically, Najd is every plateau. East is, of course, the well-known east where the sun rises from. But we know that the Sun rises from two sides of the horizon, one during summer, another during winter. So, all the lands falling in between such as parts of Iran, India, and the lands in the same direction deep in the east could be alluded to by the words “where the Sun sets.” But the earliest commentators have said, in view of another trustworthy report that the allusion is to Iraq.
Actually, earliest commentators have not said much about the tribulations emerging from the east; about Iraq as the Najd of the hadith; or emerging from where the forces of Shaytan arise. The reason for paucity of comments is obvious. The Prophet himself (saws) did not elaborate. So, how could they? They were far more concerned about their own affairs, with every prospect of what they might be asked about on the Judgment Day to worry themselves about what the Prophet said in uncertain terms, if not in allegoric manner.
But, later generations, as they witnessed many disturbing affairs emerging from Iraq, began to suspect that the hadith about tribulations were alluding to it. For instance, `Ali was murdered there, Hussain lost his life there, the Shi`ee sect arose from there, as did the Khawarij, the Qaraamitah – to name but a few. But as other scholars have pointed out that it is the same Iraq from where the mighty legal experts like Abu Haneefah and Ahmad b. Hanbal arose, heading a list of hundreds of renowned Fuqaha‘, Muhaddithin, language experts, poets, historians, scientists and others. They have, therefore, observed prudence and recommended caution in judging Iraq and its people as causing Fitan.
On the other hand, there are those of recent times, who disturbed by Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait during the closing years of the last century, found it cooling to their hearts that by Najd they should definitely understand as the allusion to Iraq. They have heaped accusations on Iraqis and condemned them as they would condemn the devils.
On another front are those who were, and remain, confused about two groups: one ritual (the Ahl al-Hadith), and the other doctrinal, (Salafi). They assume the two as one, and since there has been some (on-going) disunity in the Ummah on the basis of doctrines (`Aqaa’id), they condemn both groups, assuming that they are two faces of the same coin.
In actual fact, one is not the other.
In ancient times, until almost the modern, when the term Ahl al-Hadith was used, it was in the sense of those who were engaged in the study, development, and dissemination of the Hadith. They were not referring to a Fiqh group. When Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal was asked about who the Firqah Najiyyah (the Succeeding Group) were, he answered, “If it is not Ahl al-Hadith, who else could it be?” He made such a statement at a time when there was no organized Fiqh group among the Muslims who called themselves Ahl al-Hadith. There were the Imamiyyah, the Khawarij, the Mu`tazilah, etc., but not Ahl al-Hadith. Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal himself was the founder of a Fiqh School, because he was of the Ahl al-Hadith, that is, those who studied the Hadith, collected the Hadith, codified the Hadith and spread the discipline of Hadith. Ahl al-Hadith of those times did not have their own Fiqh School. Invariably they followed one of the four schools. There were other Fiqh Schools, but they were not followed. Thawri’s Fiqh, or of Da’ud al-Zahiri, and others were Fiqh Schools on paper, with sparse following.
With the establishment of the four Fiqh schools, people began to give up Taqleed of individual scholars (from the Companions, Tabe`iyyun, Taba` Tae`iyyun, etc.) and gradually shifted to committing themselves to the Taqleed of one of the four schools of Law – mostly depending upon where they lived in the Islamic Empire. This situation remained for about 1200 years after the Prophet (saws).
Thus we see, scanning the later ages, that Ibn Hajr, a great Muhaddith and prominent exponent was a Shafe`ee, so was Ibn Kathir as was Imam Nawawi, while Badruddin `Ayni – another great Muhaddith, was a Hanafiyy; as was Mulla `Ali Qari. Ibn Taymiyyah, although a Mujtahid in his own right, was a Hanbali. You name any and he was a follower of one or the other Fiqh schools. The reasons are many, but simple: The Fiqh schools are well advanced and developed. They offer legal guidance that covers the entire gambit of life. To repeat what they have already accomplished is not simply unwise, but also somewhat fanatical. And, a fresh attempt is bound to fail because a huge team of Mujtahideen to co-operate, is a part of history. Let alone a team, a single Mujtahid of the truest sense, is not available. Finally, you have those centuries that they had. This explains why for a thousand years, one and all, the scholars and the commoners remained following the four schools of Fiqh, until the arrival of a time characterized by the spread of ignorance.
As an organized group, with their own religious leaders, with inter-marriages between themselves (though not strictly), and although remaining within the mainstream of Muslims, the Ahl al-Hadith are a recent group. They are of Indian origin and are not a sect. As a group they appeared some 150 years ago, if not less, during the colonial rule of India. It is alleged that the British promoted this offshoot in order to sow seeds of disunity among the Muslims, who were the only community resisting British occupation of India, while the vociferate claimers to loyalty to India of today, they were actually serving the British then, until Muslim led resistance began to fructify. Then they jumped into the bandwagon.
Initially, this new group was restricted to India, and with partition, to Pakistan. The rest of the Islamic world did not know them as a fifth Fiqh School. If they could not break away completely from the mainstream, it was because they could not develop a complete school of Jurisprudence. They have restricted themselves – perforce – to separating out from the four Fiqh Schools in matters of rituals alone: Salah, Zakah, Fasts and Hajj. Their main points of differences are that they stop with the Qur’an and Hadith. They sideline, although they cannot completely ignore Ijma` (consensus) and Qiyas (analogy). Also, they do not adhere to the Qur’an as strongly as the four Fiqh Schools. The Ahnaf, in particular, will not shy away from any Qur’anic statement, even if implicit, in favor of a Hadith, however explicit. Further, they could not codify their ritual Laws also, because of internal differences and want of highly learned intellectually developed scholars. In some places, they have set up their own mosques, but half-heartedly. If they have set up their own Madrasa, little they differ from others, and in some cases, they teach Hanafiyy books.
Thus, to emphasize: Ahl al-Hadith are an organized group who do not follow any of the four Legal Schools in matters of rituals (`Ibaadaat). In all Islamic countries where they have Shari`ah Courts, following Hanafiyy, Shafe`ee, Hanbali or Maliki Jurisprudence, the Ahl al-Hadith willingly submit to those Courts. Nowhere are there in the Islamic world courts of the Ahl al-Hadith. Actually, setting up an Ahl al-Hadith court is out of the range of possibility because Ahl al-Hadith scholars could not lay down the Principles of Law, like the four Fiqh schools have done, to base their Legal opinions upon. (It appears that there are insurmountable difficulties in working out Principles of Law, ignoring Ijma` and Qiyas).
The Ahl al-Hadith Jama`ah have their strongest presence in the place of their origin, in India, Pakistan, and in scattered groups in other Asian countries. One of the Ahl al Hadith scholar (Mawlana Thana’ullah) lamented in 1933, that when Mawlana Ahmad of Delhi – one of Ahl al-Hadith scholar, reached Madinah (around 1925), “he found no one following the Madh-hab of the Ahl al-Hadith in the town.”
Typically, in modern times, `Allamah Nasiruddin appeared as spearheading the movement, but he himself fell out of grace of his comrades, and has few followers now, although still respected for his Hadith learning.
So, that is one group: the Ahl al-Hadith. And the historical ahl al-Hadith is a different thing: the students, masters and lovers of Hadith: those who prevailed over the centuries, but are now almost extinct. The Jama`ah of Ahl al-Hadith is different. They are a recent formation.
(One might also note that a new class of Ahl al-Hadith is now arising, almost globally. Although they call themselves Ahl al-Hadith, they are actually freelancers. They reject Sahih Ahadith at will, even of Bukhari and Muslim, as they also reject the practices and precepts of the Companions, including the four Caliphs. They do, and can declare anything as allowed or disallowed, depending on what suits them, where it suits them, and when it suits them, arguing with anything from any Islamic source. But about them we shall write later Allah willing).
We spoke of two groups above who the masses treat as one. One is the Ahl al-Hadith, the other is called the Salafis. They are ill-defined both by their adversaries, as well as by themselves. It appears to be the youthful rebels from among the Ummah, who feel humiliated by the onslaught of the West, militarily and culturally, and find that the leaders of Ummah are either inept or impotent. In anger, they rebel against all the leaders, in particular the four Fiqh schools, assuming that the division caused by them is the reason for weakness of the Ummah and that following them has led to the stagnation of the Muslims. Their main contention is that the Ummah should follow the Salaf (the first three generation Muslims) in matters of doctrines, and, understand the Qur’an and Sunnah in the way they understood. Thirdly, they believe that anything done that smacks of innovation must be declared Bid`ah to be avoided like pork. They do not know the difference between innovation and Bid`ah. They have been greatly influenced by Sheikh `Abdullah ibn al-Wahhab.
Now, since Sheikh `Abdullah ibn al-Wahhab is known as a Najdi scholar, the public attributes the problems it is facing with the Salafis to Ahl al-Hadith, via them to the Ahl al-Hadith, via them to Sheikh `Abdullah b. al-Wahhab, via him to Najd, and, finally, believes that the Fitnah of Najd can be attributed him and to them all.
There are several errors. The Fitnah of Najd of the modern times, is not a Fitnah at all. The allusion by the Fitan (trials and tribulations) of Najd, as in the Hadith, are Iman-threatening Fitan, not the disunity people witness where there were no divisions before their arrival. This is a minor problem, and the Ummah will, Allah willing, get over it. The Ummah has remained united despite Salafism, and despite the so-called fifth School of Fiqh, and, Allah willing, will remain united. What has divided it in the past, and will divide it in future, is Jahal (ignorance). Islamic education can deal with it.
Another error is to believe that the Ahl al-Hadith are Salafis. Wrong. Among the Salafis are, mostly young rebels, from Ahl al-Hadith, from the Hanafis, Hanbalis, freelancers and from all sorts of groups. They join and remain within the volatile group for a decade or so, and then get dissolved in the main stream. Newest young men take their place. This group is no Fitnah either, nor or they a sect.
Yet another error is to believe that Sheikh `Abdullah ibn al-Wahhab was of the Ahl al-Hadith. Wrong. He was a Hanbali, declared it openly, in his writings, and was of undivided loyalty.
Thus, for all reasons that some maulawis hold, for declaring the two groups we are talking of as the Fitan of the Hadith, well, they are one hundred and twenty percent wrong.
In fact, ancient scholars have warned against taking the ahadith of this citation as too literally, and refrain from blaming the Iraqis or others that have or might appear. Iraq has had a great contribution to Islamic glory. Further, the Prophet has made the comments he made about those of the East (whoever they are), not to condemn them, but to specifically warn a people who are bold, courageous and fearless. They may hold their cool and be not excited to action that might lead to excesses.
The real Fitan have been in the past, and bigger ones are yet to come: the Animal, Yajuj-Majuj and Dajjal.
Meanwhile we need to fight out the greatest of all Fitan, the mother of all trials and tribulations, that strikes almost every individual, viz. ignorance of the Qur’an and Sunnah and excessive love of the world.