It was around the end of Rabi’ul awwal 1427, corresponding to April 2006, when I received a personal letter from His Highness Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, the personal envoy and special advisor to His Highness, the King of the Jordanian Hashemite Kingdom, in which he had asked me some questions regarding Takfeer (rendering a person a disbeliever).I provided the answers to these questions in some detail which His Highness has published in a book as well as on the Internet. The questions and answers are now being published hoping to extend its benefit.
Letter of Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad
السلام علیکم و رحمة الله و برکاته
We pray to Allah that this letter reaches you in a state of good health and prosperity. I wish to address three questions to your eminence in this correspondence hoping that your eminence will provide conclusive answers to them:
1) We have received many questions from both Muslims and non-Muslims regarding the Islamic (theological and social) sphere and the relationships between the Islamic schools of thought. We would like to refer these questions to you for explanation and rectification: Is it correct to regard those schools of thought that are not part of the ‘Sunni Islam’ as part of the ‘actual Islam’? In other words, is it correct to regard every person who follows and adheres to one of the four Sunni schools of thought, or the Zahiri school of thought or the Ja’fari or Zaidi schools of thought or the Ibadhi school of thought as a Muslim?
2) The second question which is related to the first is: what are the perimeters in rendering a person a ‘kaafir’ in this day and age? Is it permissible for a Muslim to render those who adhere to any of the conventional Islamic schools of thought, or any person who follows the Ash’ri theology as a ‘kaafir’? Moreover, is it permissible to render those who tread the path of the true Sufism or those who follow the correct ‘Salafi’ view as ‘Kaffirs’?
3) Who may be regarded as true ‘Mufti’ in Islam? What are responsibility of issuing ‘fatawa’ and guiding people to its correct understanding and towards following the Islamic Shari’ah?
We greatly appreciate your giving us this opportunity to benefit from your vest knowledge and expertise.
(Prince) Ghazi bin Muhammad
Reply of Hazrat Maulana Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani
السلام علیکم و رحمة الله و برکاته
Please accept the purest of greetings together with the highest appreciation for the endeavors you are undertaking in the path of uniting and bringing back together the message and ranks of the Muslims. I received your noble letter requesting me to answer the three questions contained therein. In response to your noble desire, hereunder are the answers to the questions:
(Answer to) Question One
Before answering this question in some detail, I would like to allude to a very remorseful phenomenon that we witness in various circles of our Muslim Homelands. It is that many people have gone to extremes regarding this issue in that they either cross the bounds or they fall short (of the correct opinion). This is because on the one hand, some ore very quick to render any person who does not follow their opinion in Far’ee(1) issues as Kaafir whereas such issues are not part of the fundamental beliefs of Deen. Rather there is room for Ijtihad in the and academic difference of opinion has existed in the from the early eras of Islam. This portrays Islam as if it is a cramped courtyard and if a person steps out if it even to the extent of a fingertip he comes out of the fold of Islam. On the person who proclaims Islam. They do not allow rendering such a person as a Kaafir under any circumstance, even though such person denies the fundamental beliefs of Deen which distinguish Islam from other religions. This portrays Islam as if it does not possess an established reality and is merely a tattered piece in clothing which may be adorned by every false and destructive belief so long as a person claims to be a Muslim. Both these points of view are baseless and have provoked turmoil and dissention amongst the Muslims. The truth of the matter is that Islam or Imam is an established and defined reality which needs to be proven in order to render a person Muslim. This established reality accommodates many differences in Far’ee differences. Similarly this reality is not lost merely by a person committing certain Far’ee errors in his action or belief, so long as he believes in the fundamentals around which Islam and Kufr revolve. Thus, is we desire to unite the ranks of the Muslims then it is necessary to distance both types of extremes. Therefore, just as we will need to disassociate ourselves from those who render people as Kaffir merely on the basis of Far’ee differences, so too will we need to absolve ourselves from those who wish to introduce into Islam every such false belief that contradicts the centuries-old established fundamentals of Deen.
It follows that we need to define this reality that is termed ‘Islam’, so that we may be able to hold onto the moderate opinion that distances us from both types of extermes. The definition of Islam in the light of the Qur’an and Sunnah upon which there is consensus of the Muslim Ummah is: “Believing in that regarding which it is known with absolute certainty that Messenger of Allah has come with it.” (شرح العقائد للتفتازاني: ص 119 و روح المعاني 1:110)
Thus, whoever is included in this definition is a Muslim whom it is not permissible to render a Kaafir. Based on this, the schools of thought that claim Islam are of three types:
The first type: is of those who claim to be Muslim, but deny some aspect whose being part of Deen is known with absolute certainty. For example, if they believe that prophet hood continued after the Noble Prophet and they believe in one of those great liars who claimed prophet hood after the Seal of the Prophets like the Quadiyanis; or they believe that the Qur’an that is before us today has been interpolated, Allah Forbid, and is not the actual Qur’an, like some of the extremist Shias have falsely alleged; or they believe that Divinity or some of its peculiar characteristics are found in a person like that which is attributed to the ‘Always and others. All these people are not Muslim and it is necessary to render them Kaafirs.
The second type are those schools of thought that believe in everything whose being part of Deen is known with absolute certainty whose being part in jurisprudential issues, or in the finer details for some aspects of ‘Aqidah (belief) in which there is room of Ijtihad. Despite these Far’ee differences, every one of these schools of thought is on the right part as per its own Ijtihad, and none of them are false, let alone being out of the fold of Islam. In this differences existed between the Sahabah and Tabi;een, like the Hanafi, Shafi’ee, Maliki and Hanbali schools of thought. Similarly all that has been narrated from the other Mujtahideen whether there are well-known as being of the Ahlul Hadith, Ahlur Ra’y or Ahlul Zahir, like Sha’bi, Hasan al Basri, Ja’far as-Saadiq, al-Awza’ee and al-Layth bin sa’d is included in this type. Also included in this category are the Ash’aris and Maturidees رحمهم الله تعالی جمیعا. It is a precondition of being included in this category that they should not render the other schools of thought as Kaafir or Faasiq (transgressors), and should not revile or be disrespectful to any of the Imams.
The truth of the matter is that the arguments that have taken place between these schools of thought have been academic and Ijtihadi ones, that have led the way to evolving thought and opening up opportunities in finding solutions to the problems of life. This is why it has been said that these academic differences are a mercy for the Ummah. The correct stance regarding each one of these schools of thought is that each follower should regarding the other school of thought as being of scholars of these schools of thought have explicitly stated in their books. For example, ‘Allamah Haskafi رحمه الله تعالی states in the introduction of al-Durr al-Mukhtar 1:48:
“When we are asked regarding our school of thought as opposed to the school of thought of those differ with us, we must answer thus: ‘Our school of thought is correct having possibility of error, whilst the school of thought of those who differ with us is on error having the possibility of being correct.”’
This stance is actually based on this saying of the Noble Prophet (SAW):
”When a Hakim passes a verdict and makes (the proper) effort subsequently passing a correct verdict, he deserves two rewards; and if he passes a verdict and makes (the proper) effort and then errs, he deserves one reward.”
In the third category are included those schools of thought whose beliefs are not tantamount to disbelief as they do not deny any aspect whose being a part of Deen is known with absolute certainty. However, their disagreement is not restricted of Ijtihadi and Far’ee issues. Rather, their disagreement also involves important aspects of belief.
Every one of these schools of thought believes that it is on the right whilst those who disagree with it are in error, although its disagreement is not tantamount to disbelief. This is like the disagreement between the Ahlus Sunnah and the moderate Shi’as who do not believe in the interpolation of the Noble Qur’an, and who do not deny any other aspect whose being part of Deen in known with absolute certainty. Similar is the case of the disagreement between the Ahlus Sunnah and the Zaidi school of thought or the Ibbadhi school of thought, so long as they do not deny anything whose being part of Deen is known with absolute certainty.
It is thus apparent that all these schools of thought are not on equal footing when it comes to representing the actual Islam. However, the verdict of disbelief and coming out of the fold of Islam will not be passed except against the first category that denies an aspect whose being part of the Deen is known with absolute certainty.
(Answer to) Question Two
We have mentioned in the answer to the first question that it is impermissible to render any person who does not deny any aspect whose being a part of the Deen is known with absolute certainty, as Kaffir. Thus, it is not permissible to render those conventional Muslim schools of thought who are included in the second and third categories. We have also made mention of which present well-known schools of thought are included in these two categories.
As far as the Sufis are concerned, different schools of thought exist in the. Among them are those who restrict themselves to self-reformation in order to be able to follow the Shari’ah in accordance with one of the accepted jurisprudential schools of thought. They do not ascribe to any belief that disagrees with the Zaahir (outward rulings) of Shari’ah, nor do they have any practice that contradicts the nurturing the character of a person using methods that are permissible in the Shari’ah. The likes of this type are included in the schools of thought of the second category.
Then there are some groups that call themselves “Sufi” but ascribe to beliefs by which they negate something whose being part of the Deen is known with absolute certainty. For example, they deny the outward laws of Shari’ah, and they have any basis from the Qur’an and Sunnah. They are included in the first type. Among them are also those who do not deny the outward Shari’ah, nor do they deny any aspect whose being part of Deen is known with absolute certainty, yet they have invented certain innovations in their action or belief that disagrees with the majority of the Ummah. Such people are included in the third category and it is not permissible to render them Kaafir.
As far as the Salafis are concerned, so among them are those who follow the Ahl al-Hadith whilst not being disrespectful to the Mujtahid Imams nor to those who follow their schools of thought. Such people are included in the second category. However, among the Salafis are also those who believe that the accepted jurisprudential schools of thought are false and they revile every person who disagrees with them, even though such disagreement be in Far’ee issues. They are included in the third category. Anyhow, it is not permissible to render them as Kaafir in both instances.
(Answer to) Question three
Islam does not recognize the Hierarchy of priesthood that is present in Christianity and other religions. Sovereignty belongs entirely to Allah and his Messenger. The ‘Ulama do not invent laws. They merely explain that which is established from the Noble Quran and Pure Sunnah.
However, despite negating the Hierarchy of Priesthood, in order to explain the laws of Shari’ah it is necessary that the person explaining possesses some qualifications that enable him to correctly understand the texts of the Qur’an and Sunnah.
Thus, in Islam a Mufti is not one who makes the laws. Rather he is merely one who explains what Allah has made as law in His book or in the Sunnah of His prophet and he explains what is established in the Shari’ah over the centuries. In the words of ‘Allamah ibn Qayeeim al Jawziyyah رحمه الله: He is one who signs on behalf of Allah.
Thus, it is not permissible for every Tom, Dick and Harry to issue Fatwa, as it is a great responsibility which can only be fulfilled by a person who has gained in-depth knowledge of the Islamic Sciences of Tafseer, Hadith, Fiqh (Jurisprudence), and ‘Aqaid (Beliefs) and the principles of these sciences at the hands of expert teachers who have inherited such knowledge generation after generation. Similarly, it is necessary for one who adopts the responsibility of Ifta to have a full understanding of the circumstances of the people of his time as well as of their norms and practices.
The method that has been passed down and upon which the Ummah has practiced over the centuries is that until a person is not trained by a Mufti upon whom the Ulama of the time have placed reliance, then merely studying the Islam Sciences does not render him qualified for Issuing Fatwa. This is because Iftaa requires such religious insight and an instinctive mastery of Jurisprudence that can never be attained by merely studying books; rather for this, practical experience is necessary. Similar to a medical doctor who is not permitted to begin treating patients by merely not studying the science of medicine. What is necessary if that he attains practical training at the hands of an expert doctor who has broad experience in this field. The scholars who have written books on the principles of fatwa have really emphasized this point. (See for example آداب الفتوی للنوی 1:647 and رسائل ابن عابدین in شرح عقود رسم المفتی 1:15)
Sadly, nowadays many people have ignored this point. Every person whose name gains popularity as a political leader or leader of some movement, has no qualms in issuing fatawa, despite not possessing the required competence in the Shar’ee sciences. People are deceived by his popularity and then begin regarding his fatwa as a Shar’ee ruling, even though it may be contrary to what the Ummah has settled upon over the centuries. It is necessary to cast out such anomalous fatawa which only increase dissention and disunity amongst the Muslims and which tear apart the unity of the Muslims and break their strength and strengthen the plots of their enemies (against them).
This is what I have understood in the light of the Qur’an and Sunnah and the consensus of the possessors of correct knowledge from the Muslim Ummah. Allah knows best and it is only He we ask to straighten our steps and to take responsibility of our thought and action, and to guide us towards that in which His pleasure lies. I ask Allah to continue granting you pious ability and success, and that He benefits the people and places through you.
والسلام علیکم و رحمة الله و برکاته
(Mufti) Muhammad Taqi Usmani
By Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani
Source: The Monthly Albalagh International – Darululoom Karachi, Pakistan
Republished by SunniOnline English