After a public meeting this last Saturday morning after Salat ul-`Isha,’ I realise that the translation of The Divine Lightning: The Decisive Speech from the Lord of Lords, the Words of the Messenger of the King, the Bestower, the Statements of the People of Wisdom in Answer to Muhammad ibn `Abdul Wahhab is the most significant matter in the last decade or perhaps two. I don’t say this matter lightly either.
We normally see that takfir is an issue that is the hallmark of the cults and their followers; but it is also becoming a recent trend for some Sunnis to pick up the baton of takfir when they dislike someone or when someone will not see their way of thinking…and all without the consent of the Qadis and judges.
In the tiny hub of Nottingham, Salafiyyah, Shi`ah and Ahmadiyyah cults run riot in the local area, founding and funding charitable projects, places of worship and also centres of study of children and adults.
As with every other location when cults appear, it produces extremes within some of the body of the Sunnis that try to repel it. The typical example is to fight fire with fire. “What…? You called me a kafir? No! You’re a kafir!”
All of this behaviour is not unique to Nottingham but rather exists in areas where the tribulation of Salafiyyah or other cults exists. Some elders in the local community, in an attempt to hold on to the youth, have used takfir and hiding behind the Urdu language as tools for securing the trust and continued patronage of their masjids (after all, someone must pay the lightbill, right?).
When the Divine Lightning was published, I felt a wave of relief that the three year odyssey of translation, collation and publishing delays had finally ended. Now the matter was complete and this would be a magnum opus of the theology of Muslim Orthodoxy and a warning to laymen indulging in takfir.
The mammoth of machine gun takfir had already been creeping and lurking in the shadows before the publishing of the book at the hands of a zealous youth in the local area who had as much association with true knowledge of Islam as I do ancient Turkish shamanism.
He had gathered around him a number of fresh faced youths, stumbling and bumbling in their pronunciation of Surat ul-Fatihah; but they were certain in the knowledge that a waiting list of Muslims were now unbelievers based upon the statement of their shaykh or mawlana.
Curiously, I had the opportunity to make hajj the previous year and some of these individuals had come with me. As a testament to their truly surface and often insultingly pathetic knowledge of Islam, they were woefully ignorant of most of the issues pertaining to Hajj and even questioned the knowledge and motives of our Hajj guide.
This blew over after some time, but then they continued in their folly, refusing to pray in Masjid ul-Haram and praying in stairwells; all of this being substantiated by the “knowledge” that all the imams in the Sacred Masjid were cultists (this seems strange as at one point among the senior scholars there – before his removal – was Shaikh Muhammad `Alawi al-Maliki; but I digress).
I stood in disgust as Muslim brothers intentionally avoided being in the most sacred masjid on Earth for the five prayers and preferred to loaf around their hotels like the unemployed. What are these people doing?
Just as the fitnah had come it was over as we had completed Hajj, our visit to Madinah and then travelled back to the UK. I was now safely in a different area and away from the fitnah of the takfir.
This fitnah rose its’ head again recently when I found my name on a list of some perhaps 9 other people who had received takfir. I felt honoured to have been mentioned in the same breathe as some great scholars but angered that it was only in the capacity of takfir.
The deafening sound of animosity, hatred and revenge was growing as brother after brother came to me. When the number hit 10 I knew it was an issue and decided that the individual must be contacted.
Numerous attempts to speak with him failed, two attempts at face to face contact never happened as he ducked meeting me. I wondered what type of man I must be facing who would call someone a kafir behind his back but then not defend his ideas and suppositions in private.
When we realised that the second arranged meeting would not happen, we left from our local masjid to go home. While at the house, I received a riotous phone call with brothers arguing and one of them explaining that now the pint sized “mufti of the mortals” had arrived, in all of his hate filled regalia; but he was still not prepared to meet. Then after some ducking and dodging he came on the phone.
Evasive and his voice quaking, he seemed agitated. My point was simple. We need to meet regarding this takfir on laymen, teachers, scholars and such and if he did not arrange it in one week, I would have to take steps to meet him every day at his lecture until the matter was resolved.
He spoke very wearily and hung up the phone. This had been ten days after meeting with two Salafis who had a rank hatred for what I had translated in the Divine Texts and statements I had made about Salafiyyah.
I heard nothing for four days and then received a call from a colleague close to our Sunni zealot. He had explained over the phone in soft and delicate language that he wanted to speak privately just between a few of us and that they wanted to clarify some issues.
My exact statement over the phone was that I will not be coming for a debate or any discussion, only to clarify the fact that the charges of kufr that were being thrown around are incorrect, that he is not one of the People of Knowledge, in word or deed.
After the call, the date was set. I would have to meet them after sunset, Friday going into Saturday after 9pm. I decided that I would bring some witnesses and record it as I knew that what I was going to say had far reaching consequences and I wanted there to be no misunderstanding in the issue.
The day rolled around and I knew that the believers were gathering. I was now present in the masjid and the people began to file in; unfortunately, as I suspected the individual on the phone did not bring the small amount of people that he said he was going to bring.
Half of the elder leadership in the city (perhaps half of whom were not literate in Arabic) came in and sat down across from me (most of whom without giving salam), thus already these geriatric men were setting the standard that they wanted this to be a battle.
Before I knew it, more of the witnesses arrived with the brothers that had brought me to the masjid. There were now some 25 people present. The organisers did not want to have witnesses for their actions. The brother of takfir or “the mawlana” appeared but was cowering and glowering behind the jalabiyyahs of two other people.
He hid and avoided eye contact consistently and did not want to even look any of the people in the face. I made it clear and told the organisers that I would not allow the crowd of now 30 people to interrupt the discussion and that I wanted them to be present as since the takfir was public, the gathering must be public.
A flurry of Urdu began, which I answered in Arabic, stating that I do not care what anyone had to say in their language and that the language of Islam is Arabic. We will not be hiding behind Urdu tonight. After a 15 minute delay, I was allowed to speak.
I began, translating my statements from Arabic to English as I discussed that apostasy is what happens when a Muslim disbelieves and that takfir is to be given to such a one by a scholar or panel of them and not laymen.
From there I went into the three conditions of takfir, the 6 impediments of takfir and the four types of takfir delivered by the scholars. Once this was done, I finally rounded the matter out that takfir and dispute in it has nothing to do with the foundation of faith
(translation: if there is an individual that has done kufr and then two scholars make their ruling, one saying he is an unbeliever and another saying otherwise, they are not to resort to calling eachother unbelievers).
After I completed my opening statement, there was a barrage of questions brought forward by one of the shaykhs that our companion of takfir had brought with him. It seems that although wearing clerical robes and murmuring pious platitudes with his eyes rolling back in his head, he could not defend himself in English, let alone the Arabic of Islamic thought.
The first question asked of me was whether or not I was Deobandi. My answer was that if someone could find a single Pakistani or Indian in my family I would pay that person as such a thing was far fetched indeed. Asian faces looked rigid and so did mine. I had little time for their games.
I had no interest in the Deoband/Jama`ah Ahle Sunnat issue. My main issue was to cut the takfir issue off at the head. Due to the fact that I was “sometimes seen with Deobandis,” the shaykh brought to speak for the takfir mawlana saw this as a question mark over my head.
I stated that I had not taken an oath of allegiance to any Deobandis (which for some reason was being circulated) nor did I have any Deobandis as a spiritual guide.
However, I continued, there were brothers from the jama`ah that I held in high regard. I went about, referring to my opening statements on takfir, stating that Riyadh ul-Haq and Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari could not be called unbelievers as the conditions, impediments and forms of takfir could not be satisfied.
I further when on to mention that the second of the two Imams had learned the creed from Shaikh Muhammad `Abdul Latif Al-Farfur, so was the Hanafi Grand Mufti of Damascus kafir for associated with someone believed to be a kafir?
The next question that came on the tongue of one of the mouthpieces of the takfir machine brother was why I had written in the Divine Lightning the expression, “may Allah be pleased with him,” after the name of Imam Taqi ud-Din Ibn Taymiyyah.
My reply is that I had not written it, but that the author of the work, Shaikh Sulaiman ibn `Abdul Wahhab, had written it. A few swallows and gasps went around the room so I opened the plastic bag I had brought and pulled out the oldest manuscript of the book. If they even asked for it, they were going to get it. They saw my ready hand and left the matter.
Instead they asked me what my position was on Imam Ibn Taymiyyah. I asked… which Ibn Taymiyyah? Majd ud-Din Ibn Taymiyyah? Shihab ud-Din Ibn Taymiyyah? Fakhr ud-Din Ibn Taymiyyah? `Abdullah ibn Taymiyyah?
Which Ibn Taymiyyah? (the reason I did this was break the audience and the three mouthpieces and their takfir machine out of the funk in some people’s minds that when you hear Ibn Taymiyyah you were meant to have a knee jerk reaction).
He failed to mention Taqi ud-Din Ibn Taymiyyah but instead said that he was referring to the one called astray by Imam Ibn Hajar al-Haitami (with his living some 200 years after the events of the life of Imam Taqi ud-Din Ibn Taymiyyah, it is difficult to understand why someone who is supposed to be a scholar would quote tertiary sources rather than primary and secondary).
The crowd was building as more brothers came into the room from outside. It looked like the room had about 40-45 people in it. It was like another jumu`ah prayer was in session.
My statement was to quote the fact that the scholars did differ about Imam Taqi ud-Din Ibn Taymiyyah and the 11 main masa’il of dispute between them. The chosen shaykh for the night was not happy with the answer and continued to ask what I said about him, to which my reply is that I don’t say anything as I quote the scholars and their positions, not pass rulings.
In a fury, he asked that if he was called astray by Imam Al-Haitami, how could the Imam put a statement of mercy in the book? My statement was that there were even some who did make takfir, but this had nothing to do with the foundation of the religion.
Thus two scholars could hold diametrically opposed positions about one individual without both of them having to be called unbelievers. This was the nature of Takfir bil-Mu`ayyin (Engl. The takfir of the individual).
I translated back into English the questions asked and also the statements but the said shaykh was not happy and hit out again, asking what I say if they say he is deviant. I knew at this point that I was being asked a question that would define my faith.
Based on one individual, it would be decided if I was going to be Muslim or not, a game I refused to play. Instead I asked the group mufti if he would consider making takfir on Imams Ibn Kathir, Adh-Dhahabi and others, as they not only asked for mercy on Imam Taqi ud-Din Ibn Taymiyyah but referred to him as Shaikh ul-Islam.
He would not answer the question (really, who would want to make takfir on these Imams?) and I could see a disturbing picture emerge. The group mufti was the trigger man for the takfir machine cowering behind the group.
It also needs to be mentioned that many of the people in the time of Taqi ud-Din Ibn Taymiyyah that made takfir or called him astray were the very ones who prayed on him along with other Muslims when he died. The shaykh did not accept this point.
He also had no understanding of Takfir bil-Mu`ayyin; this would not be the only frightening issue for that evening. I was further asked regarding my statement that most claimants to Shaikh `Abdul Qadir al-Jilani today are inauthentic to which I held to it and quoted the issue and even the book where it had come through.
It seems someone had shown shaykh sahib my Our Failure is Our Loss on the topic and he was steamed (I have reproduced the text under the same heading that you have read this article under and do so proudly and unapologetically and still defy anyone to come with otherwise).
The Shaikh had three khulafa’, Imams Muwaffaq ud-Din Ibn Qudamah (d. 620 AH), `Abdur-Rahman ibn Al-Jawzi (d. 597 AH) and `Abdul Ghani ibn `Abdul Wahid al-Maqdisi (d. 600 AH) and according to some accounts one more. There were no successors that the Imam gave license and permission to in order to pass on his Tariqah that were not Hanbalis.
We know who these people were and they were the very ones that handed down his books to us. We have a huge amount of information about him, but it is through these men that we received it.
I did not say that there were no murids from other madhhabs, as some historians claim that Imam Mu`in ud-Din Chishti met him; but again, we have no sanad, thabat or chain of transmission in Tariqah to him or any other non-Hanbalis.
So where did they get this knowledge? Well, it is a claim at best until it is proven. The mufti of the group was angered by this but more so when I cross examined him and asked if he drank coffee, tea, slept on the floor or covered his head as a compulsory act at all times during his waking hours.
It had not been my attempt to offend him but one thing was for sure; we are not going to redact our position back on one of the Imams of my madhhab.
Shaikh `Abdul Qadir al-Jilani, may Allah be pleased with him, did not do the dhikr that was attributed to him, celebrate banquets in his own honour or his own birthday and death anniversary throughout the year and such (how could he when he was alive? To celebrate his own death anniversary would be quite bizarre and his three or four successors didn’t do it either).
The dispute in this matter was left and it was brought back around to the topic of Imam Taqi ud-Din Ibn Taymiyyah, with the group mufti saying that the creed of Imam Taqi ud-Din Ibn Taymiyyah is the same as that of Muhammad ibn `Abdul Wahhab.
I realised at that point that he had no knowledge of history, Salafiyyah or the Imams of the School of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal. I had asked before if anyone had a problem with the creed of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, may Allah be pleased with him and if they were upon his creed or not?
They claimed they were upon his creed. I then said that this meant they had to listen to everything that I said and not make takfir and then hold that other people had to do the same thing.
This situation carried on for some length until he asked me if I make takfir on the Salafiyyah cult and the Deobandis who had Salafiyyah within them. At that point, I had to be very clear and careful.
I began with the statement that firstly Deoband is not a cult and that Shaikh Ahmad Rida Khan knew of them and respected them before some of them studied with members of Salafiyyah so their beginning and foundation was not as a cult.
Deoband has two sets within them: those who are connected with the Salafiyyah of Lucknow, which is Salafiyyah and has the sixteen masa’il of Salafiyyah with few distinctions.
Then there are those of Deoband who may have some of the masa’il and do not know that they have borrowed them. Some of the Deoband members that have left their confines and studied in more depth have moved outside of its’ strictures and received much benefit.
As for Salafiyyah, yes it is a cult; but the takfir upon it is general. Thus when the scholars say that, “Salafis are kuffar, they are followers of Musailimah…their teacher and head is a false prophet…” this is a general statement without saying that each and every Salafi is a kafir.
This is the Takfir Ta’ifat ul-Kufr: the takfir of a group. This takfir of a group is without saying each and every one is an unbeliever. Those that have been named by the scholars have takfir ul-mu`ayyin but without saying each and any.
The chosen shaykh was furious with this and began to ask how someone could doubt that their kuffar, that Ahmadiyyah are kuffar and so forth. I stated that the kufr is not the issue but whether each and every single individual was an unbeliever.
He asked me about Muhammad ibn `Abdul Wahhab and I informed him of the statements of the scholars regarding him, his sons and grandsons. He asked me about Salafiyyah of India and I gave the same statement.
Finally, in his anger, he asked me if I made takfir on the individuals that he named. I stated that I accept the statement of the scholars but I do not state that whoever did not make takfir on them is an unbeliever because none of the scholars ever had this attitude with any of the forms of takfir except the one that involves someone mentioned by name in the Qur’an.
I watched as the shaykh pulled out a copy of Imam Ahmad Rida Khan’s Hussam ul-Haramain. He asked if I had heard of the document and I affirmed that I indeed knew of the text. What happened next was most curious indeed.
The shaykh for the takfir mawlana then asked if I agreed with the takfir that had been made by the author (Imam Ahmad Rida Khan) and also the Imams of Makkah, Madinah and other locations that had affirmed the fatwa. When I affirmed the same, the shaykh became elated and asked if I would make takfir by name on the individuals mentioned.
I answered in the negative, stating that I held the takfir of the Imams of the Holy Sanctuaries, in that the actions were kufr and the Takfir bil-Ijtihad was their right and office. As for the Takfir bil-Mu`ayyin, I do not make that ruling or the one of ijtihad, but merely affirm them.
He insisted however that I affirm them and make takfir on the individuals in the book by name. Why would I not myself make takfir on Ghulam Ahmad and other figures, to which my reply was that the Qadis who sentence on others make takfir while we affirm the generalities and what they had mentioned.
The shaykh of the night would not have this and insisted that whoever did not call them kuffar or doubted in the kufr of any one of them was a kafir. When I heard this, I queried about whether every single and all of the masses of Deobandis and Salafis, Ahmadis and the like were unbelievers, which he readily admitted.
When he did this, I informed him that he had just made takfir on the children, women, old men and ignorant people among them. Furthermore, I stated that neither the author of the work nor the scholars that agreed said that anyone who did not agree or doubted in the kufr of those individuals was an unbeliever.
I further stated that in this issue he was actually in agreement with Muhammad ibn `Abdul Wahhab. The shaykh vigorously disagreed and said he was not Salafi in this issue and would show me the proofs. The crowd waited while the pages of Hussam ul-Haramain were flicked back and form.
It must be here somewhere, I could see his raised eyebrows saying. As the minutes clocked by I knew he would not find it. I had read the book cover to cover along with the one against Nadwat ul-`Ulama and no such ruling had been brought into place.
While the shaykh was busy ruminating over his statements, others jumped in to try to catch me out on Imam Taqi ud-Din Ibn Taymiyyah, the Qadiris and other issues, which were revisited again.
The old shaykh did not find the point, but still stick to his guns in spite of the absence of such a ruling in the text. I calmly submitted to him that we are reading the same book but coming to radically different positions.
He again re-iterated that whoever did not call them kafir was himself a kafir and the same for the one who doubted it. I decided to cut to the chase and narrated an incident. Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf ath-Thaqafi was one of the great murderers of the Companions, may Allah be pleased with them, and there were two positions regarding him.
Sayyiduna `Abdullah ibn az-Zubair, may Allah be pleased with him, as a mujtahid, made takfir bil-Mu`ayyin and said he was an unbeliever; but Sayyiduna Ibn `Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, held a position with Takfir bil-Ijtihad and condemned the actions.
Did either of these two make takfir on the other? No they did not, I insisted to the shaykh. The reason for this was the issue of takfir bil-Mu`ayyin has nothing to do with the foundation of faith, so because we differ over this issue of takfir, we do not call one another kuffar.
I saw the shaykh recline back and he was not able to formulate any response in this regard. I translated to the crowd while I heard them speak in very noisy Urdu. A dear brother of mine, Qari `Imran, jumped from the crowd and came over to my side to explain what was going on in Urdu.
I was brought up to date and informed that they were not accurately telling the other Urdu speaking only people there what was going on or translating into English. Unfortunately, this really did nothing but make an argument for an advocate for Darwinism that there is a link between the human race and a reptilian ancestor.
The end result that these three men came to was that I was not from Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jama`ah. The reason for this was that I refused to make takfir on the people mentioned. I asked the shaykh which group I was seeing that I was not from Muslim Orthodoxy and my ticket had been revoked.
But there would be no answer…Urdu would be used and hidden behind…no challenge…be quiet or we’ll make takfir on you…no questions allowed.
I then said to the crowd, “So now you can see that the shaykh here does not believe that interpretation is one of the impediments of takfir, he believes takfir is from the foundation of the faith and does not know the conditions, impediments and forms of takfir.”
I said the same to the shaykh, but he was not interested. I then further stated that I had accomplished what I had come to do. I had advised against the takfir mawlana, I had stated that in this issue he is upon the creed of the Khawarij and that the people around him don’t know proper Islam but they know that other people are unbelievers.
There was a great deal of crowd interaction and things were wrapped up very quickly. People young and old were able to see that they had no impediments of takfir in any systematic context and that they would use it against any perceived enemies.
Many brothers had been shocked at the virulent and wholly unscholarly display by the takfir mawlana’s team. I had been patient, spoken about what I meant to and controlled the direction throughout. I had accomplished my goal, defended people from the unacceptable brush of domino takfir and also kept to the Consensus of the Scholars that not every cultist was a kafir.
I quickly informed his people that the takfir mawlana should be stripped of all speaking posts and should relearn his creed, fiqh and other knowledge (if he had truly acquired any) in its’ entirety. Whether this would happen or not is something in the Knowledge of Allah.
I had felt the weight of Muslim Orthodoxy and thousands of years on my back; my only hope is that I had done those ancient worthies proud and silenced takfir.
I felt that I had basically summarised The Divine Lightning in the whole 2 hrs and 9min discussion that had occurred. The scholars, the inheritors, the lamps of the Ummah and their understanding, had been defended by a miserable slave of Allah, but nonetheless defended.
The takfir mawlana left the same way he had come and how he had been throughout my whole presentation: silent. This is what I had wanted. I desired nothing from him but silence.