Ithbat al Raj'ah

This is a translated summary of an article written by Hasan Ansari, called Huviyyat-e Waqa’iee-ye Kitab-e Ithbat al-Raj’a Mansub beh Fadhl bin Shadhan (Actual state of the book Ithbat al-Raj’a, as attributed to Fadhl bin Shadhan). The purpose is to merely provide another perspective on the book, and not necessarily for the readers/researchers to reach conclusions.

 

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eid zahra

Update 21st December/2015: There was a minor factual mistake in the section of Mukhtar & ‘Umar ibn Sa’ad which has now been corrected.

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In many Shi’i communities, it is the 9th of Rabi’ al-Awwal that marks the end of the two-month mourning period that begins with the first of Muharram. The day is celebrated in most communities, for different reasons, and is referred to by a few names, such as Eid al-Zahra, Farhat al-Zahra, Eid-e Shuja, Taj Poshi-e Imam, Yawm Raf’ ul-Qalam, Umar Kushshun etc. The significance of the day is due to four different reasons, all of which have been attributed to it:

  • ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (the 2nd caliph) was killed on this day
  • The angels lift their pens up for the Shi’as and they do not record anything (i.e. one can commit sins and not be held accountable for them)
  • The transfer of the Imamate from Imam Hasan al-‘Askari to his son, Imam al-Mahdi
  • Mukhtar killed ‘Umar ibn Sa’d which resulted in the happiness of Imam Sajjad and the women of Bani Hashim

Some communities may celebrate the day for some of the reasons, while some misinformed ones may celebrate the day for all four reasons – particular the first two reasons. In this post, I will simply be looking at the historical validity of all four of these reasons.

 

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book-livesofmuhammad-ali-650

The Lives of Muhammad by Kecia Ali, is essentially a historiography describing how the life of the Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] has been written over the centuries. It was an innovative, yet easy to read book where the author attempts to take the reader on a journey through the various biographies written on the Prophet, often complemented by a thematic approach – whether it be discussing his multiple wives, or his marriage to the young Ayesha. While reading this work, it often reminded me of Jonathon Brown’s Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet’s Legacy.

 

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Necessary and Sufficient Knowledge in Islam

Chapter One | Chapter Two | Chapter Three

Chapter Three: Degree of Knowledge Required by Religion

In his attempt to determine whether True Certainty is expected in areas where it is possible to achieve it and what degree of knowledge is expected by Islam in areas where True Certainty is not attainable, the author jumps straight into the views of different scholars in the third chapter.

Previously, the author already alluded to the fact that attaining True Certainty is a very difficult task, even in matters where it is possible to do so. The author presents his conclusion in the beginning and then brings evidence for it from rational arguments and uses the words of jurists to justify it further. He states that given that attaining True Certainty in matters where it is possible is a complicated and difficult process, Islam cannot have such a difficult task as a default expectation from all Muslims. Furthermore, if we take into consideration the belief in the existence of God for example, while it is completely possible for one to attain True Certainty in such a belief, when one looks at the various verses and narrations that attempt to prove the existence of God, they do not result in such type of certainty. Rather, most of them are only sufficient in bringing Assurance (itminan) or at the very most Customary Certainty.

In more blunt terms, Hussain Zadeh states that the necessary level of knowledge required in religious matters is that which has probative force (hujjiyah), and iterates that what he means by probative force is that which is discussed and defined in Islamic legal theory (Usul al-Fiqh). This means that the knowledge will have an aspect of exculpatoriness and inculpatoriness[1], and encompasses True Certainty, Customary Certainty, Assurance and Speculative Knowledge that God has allowed one to act upon. As it is discussed in Islamic legal theory, a mere probability that does not bring assurance is not reliable in it of itself. Only in a limited number of cases, speculative knowledge – which does not bring assurance – is reliable to the extent that one is allowed to act upon it, such as if it is attained from a solitary report of a trustworthy person, or if it is the prima facie meaning of a word or a statement.

Views of Different Scholars

Majority of the scholars who have alluded to this subject, have not done so in independent works, but rather their views can be found in books of theology, legal theory, jurisprudence etc. Therefore, the author browses through some of the important works in these fields and discusses what the different scholars have said:

1) In ‘Urwah al-Wuthqa of Ayatullah Syed Muhammad Kazim Yazdi, and as well as in the various commentary notes written on the work by later scholars, the topic pertaining to the necessary level of knowledge required in the most fundamental theological beliefs has not been discussed. The very first issue that has been mentioned in ‘Urwah is: “It is incumbent upon every responsible individual to be a mujtahid in all of their worships and transactions…”[2] [3]

2) In other books of practical law, jurists have written along the lines of: It is necessary for a Muslim to believe in the principles of the religion (Usul al-Din) based on evidence, and is not allowed to perform taqlid in them.[4] An example of Taqlid would be if someone says: “I believe in the existence of God, because XYZ scholar believes in His existence.”

3) Many other jurists have pointed out that the necessary amount of knowledge required in the fundamental principles of religion is certainty (yaqeen), however they have not clarified what type of certainty they are referring to. Imam Khomeini responding to a question says: With regards to fundamentals of the religion, the criteria is knowledge and certainty, and if it is attained through the words of another it suffices.[5] Ayatullah Syed Zanjani[6] and Ayatullah Safi Gulpaygani[7] also have similar statements suggesting that while certainty is the requirement, and even if it is attained through the words of someone else, it is sufficient.

What is not generally discussed by these scholars in their books of practical law is the definition of certainty that they are employing. Furthermore, those scholars who have made certainty a condition, but have also permitted certainty attained through the words of someone as sufficient, are they referring to True Certainty or its lower degree? Are the jurists, who do not permit taqlid in the pillars of religion, doing so while defining certainty as True Certainty, while those who permit taqlid (that results in certainty) in these matters, are referring to True – Decadent – Certainty? Hussain Zadeh suggests that it seems from the apparent rulings that what the jurists are referring to could be anything between Assurance and at the very most Customary Certainty.

From the well-known jurists, Ayatullah Husayn Mazahari seems to be one of the few who explicitly states that a Muslim must attain Assurance (itminan) in the fundamental pillars of religion.[8] Hussain Zadeh suggests that a similar understanding can be grasped from the ruling of Ayatullah Makarem Shirazi.[9]

While majority of the jurists have not explained or defined the definition of the term certainty in their works of practical law, Hussain Zadeh says that it can be rightfully understood that they do not mean True Certainty. Furthermore, when it comes to jurisprudence, he says that there is definitely no need for non-jurists to reach any form of certainty – rather Assurance is sufficient (and this can be attained by following the conditions laid out for following a jurist).

The author then discusses a view of Muhammad Baqir Mirdamad (d. 1631 or 1632) which can be misunderstood by some readers as him claiming that Muslims should attain True Certainty even in jurisprudence. The author clarifies that this is not what Mirdamad meant. He then brings a quote from Fakhr al-Razi who refers to a religious group called Sumniyah (before Islam) who believed that reason and deduction in the realm of theology can never result in certainty and can only give you Assurance. He then discusses the comments of Fakhr al-Razi against them.

Halfway through the chapter, Hussain Zadeh quotes Shaykh Ansari who summarizes the different views on this subject as follow:

  1. The necessary degree of knowledge required in the fundamental pillars of religion (Usul al-Din) is certainty that has been attained through research, proof and evidence, not through taqlid. Knowledge that is attained from taqlid in these matters is not reliable or sufficient and thus not permissible. Scholars such as Sheikh Tusi, Muhaqqiq Hilli, Allamah Hilli, Shahid Awwal and Shahih Thani seem to have similar views.
  2. Knowledge that is attained through any method, whether it be through evidence or through taqlid, is reliable. Thus, knowledge that is attained through taqlid with regards to the fundamental beliefs of the religion is also reliable and sufficient.
  3. Speculative Knowledge in matters of beliefs, is sufficient. This opinion has been attributed to Muhaqqiq Tusi, Muhaqqiq Ardibili, Muhaqqiq Karaki, Sheikh Bahai, Allamah Majlisi and Faydh Kashani.
  4. In the fundamental pillars of religion, speculative knowledge attained through evidence is reliable and sufficient, but not if it is attained through taqlid.
  5. With regards to the fundamental pillars of religion, speculative knowledge attained through a solitary report is reliable. This view has been attributed to the Akhbaris.
  6. With regards to the fundamental pillars of religion, knowledge based on evidence is necessary, although speculative knowledge attained through taqlid is also sufficient. If someone does not have evidence for their belief in the pillars of religion, and suffices with speculative knowledge through taqlid, they are to be deemed Muslims, although they have not fulfilled their responsibility. In other words, those who attain knowledge through taqlid in the fundamental pillars of religion are Muslims, but have sinned. This view has been attributed to Aqa Jamal al-Din Khwansari.

Hussain Zadeh reduces these six opinions to two: 1) Those who say that certainty is the required level of knowledge in the pillars of religion, and 2) Those who say that speculative knowledge is sufficient.

Amongst the first opinion, there are those who deem certainty attained only through evidence being sufficient, while others say that if it is attained through taqlid, it also suffices. Whereas amongst the second opinion, there are those who deem speculative knowledge as sufficient irrespective of whether the person has some sort of evidence for it or not, while others only deem it sufficient if it is based on reliable evidence. In any case, Shaykh Ansari himself considers certainty attained through any method to be the required and sufficient sufficient level of knowledge in the theological pillars of religion, and does not consider speculative knowledge sufficient. Hussain Zadeh expounds that by certainty, Shaykh Ansari is referring to Customary Certainty. Ayatullah Muhammad Ridha Muzaffar has the same opinion as well.[10]

Till now, the main concern that the author has is that majority of the jurists merely mention the necessary degree of knowledge required in the main pillars of the religion, but do not clearly define what they mean by terms like “knowledge” or “certainty”. This is particularly confusing when some jurists consider certainty to be necessary with regards to the pillars of religion, yet permit taqlid in it as well.

The author says that there are two scholars who cover this specific subject at hand directly and in detail. The first opinion is that of Shahid Muhammad Ali Qadhi Tabataba’ee[11] and the second of Mirza Qummi.

View of Qadhi Tabataba’ee

Shahid Qadhi Tabataba’ee is one of the rare scholars who explicitly says that with regards to the five pillars of religion (Oneness of God, Justice of God, Prophethood, Imamah, Day of Judgement) one must attain True Certainty. This opinion of Tabataba’ee is taken from his footnotes on the book al-Lawam’i al-Ilahiyah fi al-Mabahith al-Kalamiyah (اللوامع الالهیه فی المباحث الکلامیه) of  the Shi’i theologian Fadhil Miqdad (d. 826).

He writes in one of the footnotese[12] that taqlid in the pillars of religion is like doubt, and a person who doubts in these matters is an unbeliever. Rather, even speculative knowledge (dhann) or certainty (i.e. customary certainty) attained through taqlid in the pillars of religion are in the same status as doubt. This is because taqlid in its essence cannot result in True Certainty which is the only degree where no rational possibility of knowledge being incorrect can be conceptualized. Whereas in other degrees of knowledge, a rational possibility of knowledge being incorrect can always be given (albeit a really trivial percentage).

Tabataba’ee implies that with regards to the pillars of religion, the degree of knowledge that is expected is such where a person does not even give a rational possibility of it being incorrect. He suggests in another footnote[13] that what is meant by knowledge is that which we have defined as True Certainty.

The author, Hussain Zadeh, rebuts this conclusion through four arguments, of which I will summarize two:

1) The faith of people is dependent on their degree (whatever it may be) of knowledge, and this knowledge is attained through some sort of evidence. Most people do not have True Certainty due to the nature of evidence they have used for themselves to believe in these matters. In fact Hussain Zadeh implies that most people would not have the opportunity in their lives to be able to understand matters such as True Certainty to be able to work towards it. He further states that most of the Qur’anic verses and ahadith only bring a level of Assurance or at the very most Customary Certainty. If all people were expected to attain True Certainty in the pillars of the religion, we would have no choice but to label the majority of them as unbelievers, or at the very least sinners which is really uncalled for.

2) If the rational people of the world take Assurance and a higher degree of Speculative Knowledge to be binding proof for themselves in their day to day beliefs and activities, why should there be a double standard when it comes to theological matters?

View of Mirza Qummi

The author spends roughly 6 pages discusses the views of Mirza Qummi as recorded in his most important body of work al-Qawanin al-Muhkamah fi al-Usul. Qummi explicitly rejects the need to attain True Certainty and states that Assurance suffices. Qummi approaches the topic by asking three main questions[14]:

  1. Is obtaining knowledge of God obligatory?
  2. If it is obligatory, is this a rational obligation or an Islamic legal obligation?
  3. Regardless of whether it is rational or a legal obligation, can this obligation be fulfilled by taqlid or is it necessary for a person to research the subject and bring evidence for themselves? If it is the latter, does Speculative Knowledge suffice or is it necessary for one to attain certainty? If certainty is condition, then does Customary Certainty suffice or must it be True Certainty? If it is Customary Certainty, is it necessary for it to be in accordance with reality or not?

Qummi reaches the conclusion that words like ‘ilm and yaqeen in the Qur’an have been used in their customary meaning and not their technical meanings. He states that the true and real meaning of these words is what their customary meaning is, not what is technically intended by it and if one is to understand the technical definition of it, they must bring some sort of contextual evidence for it. Thus, when the Qur’an refers to these terms, it is not referring to True Certainty – which is a very technical definition of certainty – rather knowledge that one holds to be definitely true and due to it a person does not possess any doubt (whether it is in accordance with reality or not) – although this degree of knowledge can be diminished (due to doubt for example).[15]

Muhaqqiq Qummi takes it a step forward and says that even if we were to consider attaining True Certainty in the pillars of religion obligatory, such a degree is not possible to reach in all of the pillars for all the people. This is because, in order to reach higher degrees of knowledge with regards to some of the pillars of religion, one must possess a sufficient amount of relevant information to be able to deduce a solid conclusion. Such a task is generally carried out only by scholars (Qummi says, not even all scholars) who are able to dedicate their time and life to such matters.

In conclusion, Qummi says that the necessary and sufficient degree of knowledge required by Islam is merely Assurance (itminan).

إذا سأل سائل: هل يجب في الدّليل أن يفيد اليقين، أعني الاعتقاد الجازم الثّابت المطابق للواقع أو يكفي مطلق الجزم أو يكفي مطلق الظنّ؟
فنقول: يكفي ما تطمئنّ به النّفس‏

If a person asks: Is it obligatory for the evidence to result in certainty, by which I mean a belief that is definite, fixed and in accordance with reality (i.e. True Certainty), or does it being merely definite or speculative suffice?

We say: That (evidence) which brings assurance to the self (al-nafs) is sufficient.[16]

Conclusion

In areas where True Certainty is attainable, Hussain Zadesh suggests that it is not Islamically obligatory – in normal circumstances – for one to attain such a degree of knowledge. Assurance or a reliable degree of Speculative Knowledge in all matters of religion such as theology, ethics and jurisprudence, suffices for a person. Although, if a person is clouded by doubt or is someone who simply doubts a lot or doubts very easily, the intellect itself dictates that they must strive hard to reach a higher degree of knowledge, even if it means attaining True Certainty.

In the next chapter, the author will address another question: Since Assurance – or at the very most Customary Certainty – are sufficient in matters of religion, how can we prove their truthfulness, given the fact that with these lower degrees of knowledge a person could simply be possessing compound-ignorance (“You don’t know, and you don’t know that you don’t know“)? What is the criteria and standard for measuring their truthfulness?

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[1] For more details on these two aspects of Hujjiyah, see translation of Halaqa al-Ula of Shaheed Sadr by Roy Mottahedeh, titled Lessons in Islamic Jurisprudence, page 58-62

[2] يجب على كل مكلف في عباداته ومعاملاته أن يكون مجتهدا

[3] al-‘Urwah al-Wuthqa, of Syed Muhammad Kazim al-Tabatabaee al-Yazdi, Volume 1, Issue #1

[4] Tawdhee al-Masa’il of Syed Sistani, Syed Khoei, Jawad Tabrizi, Issue #1

[5] Istiftaat, Volume 1, Question #1

[6] Tawdhee al-Mas’ail of Syed Zanjani, Issue #1

[7] Tawdhee al-Mas’ail of Saafi Gulpaygani, Issue #1

[8] Tawdhee al-Mas’ail of Ayatullah Husayn Mazahari, Issue #1

[9] Tawdhee al-Mas’ail of Ayatullah Makarem Shirazi, Issue #1 – the author is specifically referring to the term: به فراخور حال خویش – which means that a person should believe in these matters based on evidence that is suitable for their own personal levels, so an evidence could result in Assurance for someone and it will be sufficient for them, or it can result in True Certainty for someone else and that will suffice

[10] Refer to the introduction in ‘Aqaid al-Imamiyah of Muhammad Ridha Muzaffar

[11] Not to be confused with the famous mystic, Sayyid Ali Qadhi Tabataba’ee [d. 1947], a teacher of many great scholars such as Ayatullah Behjat and Allamah Tabataba’ee

[12] al-lawam’i al-ilahiyah fi al-mabahith al-kalamiyah, page 81 – فالتقلید فی أصول الدین کالشک و الشاك فی أصول الدین کافر، بل الظن فی أصول الدین کذلک، فإنّ الظن لا یغنی من الحقّ شیئا بل العلم الحاصل  عن تقلید أیضا کذلک کما هو المعروف

[13] Ibid, page 85 – المراد بالمعرفة، العلم الخاص و هو الاعتقاد الجازم المطابق الثابت

[14] al-Qawanin al-Muhkama fi al-Usul, Volume 4, Page 368

[15] Ibid, page 375 – ثمّ إنّ هذه الآيات و ما في معناها لا تدلّ على اشتراط العلم بمعنى اليقين المصطلح

[16] Ibid, page 419

Necessary and Sufficient Knowledge in Islam
Division of Knowledge

Division of Knowledge

Chapter One | Chapter Two | Chapter Three

Chapter Two: Possibility of Attaining Certainty In Religious Beliefs

Continuing on with where he (Hussain Zadeh) left off, in the second chapter – a relatively shorter one compared to the other chapters in the book – the author attempts to answer whether it is possible to reach True Certainty in religious beliefs or not. If such a feat is possible, is it possible in all matters of religion or only a part of them?

Secondly, if True Certainty is achievable in certain matters of religion, is it also then necessary for one to work towards achieving it or not? In other words, has the religion of Islam itself made it incumbent upon Muslims to achieve the highest level of certainty (i.e. True Certainty) where it is possible? Finally, if only Customary Certainty or Speculative Knowledge or Assurance is sufficient, what are the premises that permit us to rely on them? The second and third question will be addressed in the forthcoming chapters.

Before beginning the discussion, the author mentions a few general statements. He mentions that in Islam, faith (iman) is dependent upon Knowledge – however Knowledge is not a complete or sufficient cause (al-‘illah al-taamah) for faith, rather it is only one of the necessary causes (al-‘illah al-lazimah) for it. The other necessary cause for faith is man’s own free-will and choice. Therefore in Islam, expecting true faith before knowledge is incorrect, because knowledge is one of the necessary conditions for developing faith. As a matter of fact, without knowledge, one cannot develop faith in some of the most fundamental theological matters of religion. The author’s reference to the term knowledge here implies both knowledge by presence and acquired knowledge.

Degree of Knowledge Possible in Religion

The author has already gone over the degrees of knowledge in the first chapter. In this section, he attempts to answer what degree of knowledge is possible in religious propositions (irrespective of theology, ethics or jurisprudence). Very simply put, for propositions that are a priori, it is possible to attain True Certainty in them. He then lists a number of examples for which True Certainty can be attained, such as: existence of God, oneness of God, some of the traits of God, existence of the soul and it being non-material, general ethical principles, rational rulings that can be understood without the need of revelation etc.

However, given the fact that many other religious beliefs are a posteriori, a discussion with regards to whether it is possible to attain True Certainty in such matters is dependent on determining if one considers attaining True Certainty in a posteriori possible or not. The author states that those a posteriori propositions whose underlying premises are experimentation, hadsiyat or mutawatirat, one cannot attain True Certainty in them. The most one can attain in such propositions is Customary Certainty. The only way an a posteriori proposition can be considered at the degree of True Certainty, is if it is attained through the senses and one is able to reduce the proposition – through certain rational premises – to an axiom.

Most a posteriori knowledge in religious matters comes through traditions and reports. These reports can either be solitary or mutawatir. If the chain of transmission of a report is mutawatir, or if it is solitary report supported by strong contextual proof for it being true, it results in certainty – however this is Customary Certainty. This is because rationally speaking, the possibility of it being incorrect still exists (although we may generally become heedless of such a possibility and not give it any value or attention at all).

Given the above situation, since there is no possibility of reaching True Certainty in various religious matters, religion itself cannot demand such a degree of knowledge in it.

In summary, the author states that it is possible to reach True Certainty in a priori propositions. With regards to a posteriori propositions, only sensory knowledge which can be reduced to an axiom through certain rational principles allow an individual to attain True Certainty in them. Since most of the a posteriori propositions are not of this nature, True Certainty cannot be attained in them and subsequently Islam can also not demand or expect such a degree of knowledge in them. This conclusion itself is based on the rational premise that Allah [swt] does not make an individual responsible for fulfilling a task that is beyond their capacity. Since Islam does not dictate anything against the intellect, it is therefore also not an Islamic responsibility for one to attain such a degree of knowledge in areas where there is no possibility or capacity to do so.

Till now, the discussion attempted to answer what degree of knowledge is possible to attain in religious matters. That being said, two questions still remain unanswered: 1) In areas where True Certainty is not attainable, what degree of knowledge does Islam expect – as being sufficient – from Muslims? and 2) In matters where True Certainty is attainable, does Islam expect one to achieve such a degree of knowledge or not?

The third chapter – a relatively lengthy one – will seek to answer these two questions, and is one of the interesting sections of the book. In it the author brings in quotes from different scholars – particularly jurists – that seem to answer the two questions. He then spends considerable number of pages presenting, discussing and analyzing the views of Shaheed Muhammad Ali Qadhi Tabataba’ee (who he refutes) and Muhaqqiq Mirza Qummi on the subject.

Necessary and Sufficient Knowledge in Islam

Muhammad Hussain Zadeh is a renowned scholar of epistemology (and other subjects) in the city of Qom, Iran. He has written numerous works in the field of epistemology in general, and specifically in Islamic epistemology. In these upcoming posts, I intend to summarize my readings from a series authored by him titled Religious Epistemology, compromised of three books. The first of these books is titled: Ma’rifat-e Lazim wa Kafi dar Deen (Required and Sufficient Knowledge in Religion).

In his preface, he states that one of the most basic questions that needs to be answered with regards to religious knowledge, is that what degree of knowledge is required by the religion and that which suffices for an individual. The first book is divided into two parts, where the author tackles the question from an external perspective, and then an internal perspective. In the first part, three main questions will be addressed: 1) In Islamic theology, ethics, jurisprudence or any other subject, what level of knowledge can actually be attained in them? By “level” or “degree” of knowledge the author is referring to degrees of knowledge such as True Certainty (yaqin bil ma’na al-akhass), Customary Certainty (yaqin bil ma’na al-a’amm), Speculative Knowledge (dhann) etc. 2) In the event that a certain level of knowledge is attainable, is it also then necessary to attain that level? 3) In the event that a certain degree of knowledge is sufficient, what is the standard for measuring its truthfulness?

In the second part of the book, the author will address the aforementioned questions in light of the Qur’an and Hadith.

Chapter One | Chapter Two | Chapter Three

Chapter One: Concepts and Generalities

The author reiterates, that in religious epistemology, one of the most important questions revolves around determining the necessary degree of knowledge required with regards to any given proposition. Before attempting to answer this question, it is necessary to become familiar with the different terms and their definitions and also their implications in the forthcoming discussions.

The first term that needs to be defined is religion (dîn). Religion has been translated in many different ways, however in this series of discussions, the author defines it as that which the Prophets were endowed with by God, and He made them or their successors responsible to reveal and explain to the people. Based on this definition, there are four main areas that religious propositions consist of: 1) Theology, 2) Ethics, 3) Jurisprudence, and 4) Propositions related to history, nature, geography etc. Also in this book, the author is taking for granted that it is Islam which is the true religion and that which fits the definition given above.

The second term that needs to be defined is knowledge (ma’rifat). The author defines it as mere awareness, and thus takes into consideration a) knowledge without a medium (knowledge by presence or al-‘ilm al-ḥuḍûrî) and b) knowledge through a medium (acquired knowledge or al-‘ilm al-ḥusûlî). The entity towards which this degree of knowledge is being measured against is propositional (and thus pertinent to acquired knowledge), which thus the degrees of knowledge are being divided into: 1) True Certainty (yaqin bil ma’na al-akhass), 2) True – diminishable – Certainty (yaqin bil ma’na al-khass), 3) Customary Certainty (yaqin bil ma’na al-a’amm) and 4) Speculative Knowledge (dhann)

1) True Certainty: Also known as Logical Certainty, is defined as knowledge that is definite, true, and non-diminishable. The fact that it is non-decadent points towards the fact that imitative knowledge (taqlid) is not part of it. This type of knowledge is either axiomatic (self-evident: badihi) or speculative (requires proof: nadhari).

2) True – Diminishable – Certainty: This type of knowledge is also definite and true, however what differentiates it from True Certainty is it being diminishable.  Due to it being diminishable and not constantly fixed, imitative knowledge can also fall under its definition, as long as it is definite and true.

3) Customary Certainty: This is the kind of certainty which people are generally familiar with and what they refer to as certainty on a daily basis. At this stage, a person has knowledge towards a proposition, and develops an internal sense of certainty towards it. Thus, only the relationship between the proposition and the state of an individual is taken into consideration, not the relationship of the proposition with reality as it is. Since this type of certainty does not take into consideration the relationship of the proposition with the reality, an individual can develop compound ignorance towards it as well if the proposition is not in accordance with reality. This level of certainty always has the mere rational possibility of being incorrect, however humans live their lives based on it, as the probability of it being incorrect is given an extremely low percentage by them (to the extent where one becomes heedless of it).

4) Speculative Knowledge: This degree of knowledge is defined as probably true when it is in accordance with reality. It is divided into Assuring (itminan) and Non-Assuring. Assuring knowledge is that which results in satisfaction, and is close to Customary Certainty. However, the probability of it being incorrect always exists, even if people may generally become heedless of it.

Ways of Attaining Knowledge

Based on induction, the author goes through a brief explanation of nine ways knowledge can be attained. They are as follow: 1) Senses, 2) Intellect, 3) Revelation (Wahi), 4) Inspiration (Ilham), 5) Mystical Apprehension (Shuhud), 6) Religious Experience, 7) Memory, 8) Testimony, 9) Reference to Authority.

While our senses may have a large role to play in attaining knowledge, it is clearly expressed by the author that the most important way of attaining knowledge is through the intellect. Many of the general principles in ethics, jurisprudence and theology are recognized by the intellect.

Mystical apprehensions are limited to knowledge by presence, and there is no chance of them being incorrect since this knowledge is attained without  a medium. However, explaining those apprehension requires one to present them in propositions and since there is a medium involved there, mistakes can find their way into them.

Reference to authority refers to the concept of referring to an expert in a specific field. For the purpose of this discussion, those who are authority in religious knowledge are the infallible Prophets and their successors. Due to the gap of time that exists between us and the infallibles, we refer to the traditions and narrations that have been transmitted down to us. These traditions need to be verified (through their chains of transmission and through their content) for authenticity, in order for us to rely on them.

Is Religious Knowledge A Priori or A Posteriori?

What the author means by a priori in this section, is that the truthfulness or the falsehood of a religious proposition can be determined solely by using the intellect and without having to refer to one’s senses or any other source. Since these propositions are derived by the intellect alone, and are in no need of any other source, they do not have any exceptions. If an exception is found to the rule, they lose all of their reliability (i.e. they must either be true in all cases, or must be false in all cases).

A religious a posteriori proposition is one whose truthfulness or falsehood can be determined through one’s senses or other ways, besides the intellect. Thus, the author now attempts to address whether Islamic theological, jurisprudential and ethical propositions are a priori or a posteriori.

Theological Propositions: The author states that the most fundamental principles of Islamic theology, such as God Exists, God is One, God is All-Knowing and All-Powerful etc. are a priori and can be deemed truthful by the intellect. That being the case, one therefore has the possibility of reaching True Certainty in them. However, there are numerous other theological propositions that are a posteriori, such as, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, He is the Last Prophet etc.

He asks whether, it is possible to reach True Certainty in theological propositions that are a posteriori. He says that we must divide a posteriori into axiomatic (baidhi) and speculative (nadhari). If an a posteriori proposition is speculative (i.e. requires evidence), and if its premises can be reverted back towards the basis and fundamental premises, one can judge their validity. For example, a priori propositions can be reverted back to first-principles (awwaliyaat) and intuitive cognition (wijdaniyaat) in order to determine their truth or falsehood.

However, what are these fundamental premises when it comes to theological a posteriori propositions? The author suggests that these would be the senses, reports that are Mutawatir[1] which lead to certainty, and Hadsiyat[2].

Ethical Propositions: These propositions are related to man’s actions that are based on his free-will. The author suggests that the most basic statements in ethics, such as Justice is Good, Oppression is Bad, etc. are a priori and one’s intellect can understand these. Furthermore, even if Allah [swt] comes and reiterates these in the Qur’an or in the narrations, it is not to establish them as rules, rather it is merely for emphasis.  The predicates in ethical propositions are generally  good, bad, must, must not, appropriate, not appropriate, etc. If these statements are in accordance with reality, they are true, otherwise they are false.

Actions that are based on free-will are always in accordance to a purpose or goal. It is understood that the goal of life according to Islam is to reach perfection and closeness to Allah [swt]. If these actions help one attain this goal, they are deemed good, otherwise they do not have any value. Of course not all ethical propositions are a priori and therefore our intellect may not be able to determine whether a certain action is good or not. As a matter of fact, in many particular areas, God’s revelation must come and assist us in determining whether a certain action is good or not – or in other words, whether it assists us in moving towards our purpose and goal. The result of this is that knowledge towards general ethical propositions are a priori, whereas the particulars are not. The validity of an a posteriori ethical propositions will therefore be dependent on our reference to religious authority (Prophet or the Imams).

Jurisprudential Propositions: Jurisprudential propositions can be divided into three:

  • Those that were sent down through Revelation, but our intellect can also determine them
  • Those that were sent down through Revelation, but we can determine them through our senses as well
  • Those propositions that we have access to only through Revelation, but neither our intellect nor senses can derive them

Based on this division, the second and third group are a posteriori, whereas the first group of propositions will be a priori. The author explains this section in length, as the issue is not as simple as it appears.  He states that the key to understanding the first type of rulings is dependent on being able to differentiate between:

  • Rational rulings that can be understood through the intellect alone – without the need of revelation
  • Rational rulings that are in need of Revelation regardless

The first is compromised of purely rational premises, and results in a rational outcome, whereas in the latter, one of the premises is through revelation (thus an a posteriori). An example for the latter would be the necessity of fulfilling the preliminaries for an action that is obligatory. For example, if Hajj becomes obligatory on a person, our intellect concludes that it is therefore rationally required for one to purchase the ticket, and travel to Makkah in order to perform the pilgrimage. Since the obligatoriness of Hajj is something that was provided by Revelation, the conclusion suggesting the necessity of purchasing tickets is not considered a priori, although it is deduced through the intellect.

Conclusion

The purpose of this chapter was to prepare the mind of the reader for the forthcoming discussions and to get them familiar with the different terminologies. The definition of the term religion and knowledge being used in this book was addressed. The sources and ways to attaining knowledge were also covered, although the author has written a handful of books that cover this specific subject in a lot more detail.

Then it was explained that propositions can be divided into a priori and a posteriori – which themselves can be divided into self-evident and speculative.  Based on this division, we concluded that:

  • Speculative a priori propositions are those for which the intellect is sufficient in determining their truthfulness and falsehood. In a logical deduction, both premises would need to be purely rational
  • Speculative a posteriori propositions are those where at least one of the premises in a logical deduction is a premise non dependent on one’s intellect

In the next chapter, the author will discuss what level of knowledge is attainable with regards to religious propositions.

——–

[1] Uninterrupted and continuously transmitted reports by people that cause us to reach certainty

[2] Loosely translated as conjectural, it is the capacity of the mind to draw quick inferences from the information it is presented. There is a lengthy discussion and a great number of opinions amongst the scholars of Logic as to what the exact definition of this word is

Relationship-between-Khoei-and-Khomeini

This is a translation from the third volume of the book titled Jurayee az Darya [A Drop from the Sea], page 672-673 – which possesses a collection of small talks given by Ayatullah Sayyid Shubeyri Zanjani on various stories from the lives of scholars. I had previously translated a few stories from volume 1 and 2 of this book that can be read here.

—-

Regarding the relationship between Aqa Khoei and Aqa Khomeini, I (Sayyid Shubeyri Zanjani) will mention a few points:

1) I heard this story from my father, and not from anyone else, who said that when Aqa Khoei came to Qum and visited Aqa Khomeini, we also went to visit him (Aqa Khoei) as he was known as the transcriber of the lessons of Aqa Nāʾīnī. This incident took place before our (Shubeyri Zanjani’s) time, although at our time Aqa Khoei also visited Qum once and we went to visit him.

2) I heard that when Aqa Khomeini was exiled to Iraq, he went to Kadhmayn and either telegraphed or telephoned Aqa Khoei telling him that I have arrived.

3) Another incident that I have heard and it is certain and accepted, is that, in Najaf when Aqa Khoei had already visited Aqa Khomeini once, he (Aqa Khoei) decided to go visit him again. The Najafis criticized Aqa Khoei saying that you are weakening the position of Najaf through these visits, you have seen him before and there is no need to visit him again. Aqa Khoei did not pay any heed to them and went to visit Aqa Khomeini numerous times.

4) When Aqa Mustafa (son of Imam Khomeini) passed away, Aqa Khoei is the one who performed the prayers on his body.

5) Once Aqa Khoei gave Aqa Sayyid Ahmad Fahri an ‘aba (cloak) so that he can give it to Aqa Khomeini as a gift. When Aqa Fahri presented the ‘aba to Aqa Khomeini, Aqa Khomeini said: I am very glad that you have continued to preserve a connection with him (Aqa Khoei). Aqa Khomeini showed his appreciation through this manner. He also said: If the person who gave this gift was not Aqa Khoei, I would have given this same ‘aba to you as a gift. However, since he gifted it to me, I will preserve it for myself. Then he goes inside himself or asks someone to grab an ‘aba from inside, and gifts it to Aqa Fahri.

6) I believe I heard from Husayn Aqa – the son of the deceased Aqa Mustafa – that: Initially when Aqa Khomeini was in Najaf, his residence was really hot and it would cause him hardship. When Aqa Khoei once entered the house of Aqa Khomeini, he looked around the residence and requested a construction worker to – for example – renovate a certain place or change a certain other area of the house so that the air in the house doesn’t remain hot. The construction workers did exactly what Aqa Khoei asked them to do, and the issue of the warm air inside the house was solved. Aqa Khoei was well-versed in architecture.

7) I have heard this incident from numerous people: Someone (whose name I will not mention) came to Aqa Khomeini once and complained about Aqa Haieri Shirazi – the previous Imam of Jum’ah of Shiraz – and said: He is a promoter of Khoei! Aqa Khomieni was really displeased with his words and got angry with the person questioning him why he had disrespected Aqa Khoei. Then he said: He is Ayatullah Khoei and he is from the greats.

10th Rajab, 1432 Hijri

Daggers of Arterial Disease

By Ali Jaffery, B.Sc, Chiropractic Intern

I know we generalize the good health effects of fasting in various settings both inside and outside the mosque. As a student of health and science, I thought I would engage in reading the current peer reviewed literature we have available through journals from around the world. In this post I would like to summarize a few of the findings and some advice from science regarding how to optimize our physical well being in this holy month.

The study was conducted on May-July of 2011 in Iran (Tehran and Mashad). It looked at the effect of fasting vs. Fasting AND exercising on high sensitivity C-reactive protein (HS-CRP) and other markers in the blood.

Daggers of Arterial Disease

What is C-reactive protein?

Recent studies have indicated that levels of HS-CRP along with adinopectin (APN) are important in determining athereosclerosis (plaque deposition in arteries) progression.[1]

This study recruited 18 subjects who were obese but did not have a previous history of heart disease. They were aged 40-50 years old. The key in sampling is, to avoid conflicting variables the subjects served as their own controls. Blood samples were taken 5 and then 1 weeks before the start of Ramadhan. Thereafter, it was drawn at the 1 week, 2nd week and last week mark of Ramadhan. once Ramadhan had started. The waist to hip ratio was also measured at baseline and at the end of Ramadhan as a source of body composition data.

The subjects were then divided into a fasting only group vs. Exercise AND fasting group. The exercise protocol was not published but rather generalized as aerobic exercise.

The results proposed that both groups experienced a decrease in waist to hip ratio, fat mass and BMI. When discussing blood markers however, there was a more significant decrease in HS-CRP in the exercise and fasting group vs. Those who were only fasting. Additionally, exercise along with fasting would prevent progression of athereosceloris in people who seem health (low fat mass and waist to hip ratio). The authors do suggest that this significance would apply more to overweight men than normal or underweight men. Furthermore, as health researches they suggest that findings from this study propose than simply fasting once or twice a week and adding aerobic exercise 3-4 times a week can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease[2].

Conclusions

Based on this study I feel we should take the opportunity of the physical benefits in conjunction with the spiritual ones this month has to offer. Some exercise along with fasting can go a long way in ensuring good cardiovascular health.

Next time: Easy aerobic exercise techniques and the optimal times of the day to exercise in Ramadhan.

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[1] Liao, H., Li, Z., Zheng, D., Liu, J., Liu, Y., Xiao, C., & Wang, H. (2014). Increased Hs-CRP/adiponectin ratio is associated with increase carotid intima-media thickness. Lipids In Health And Disease, 13120. doi:10.1186/1476-511X-13-120

[2] MOAZAMİ, M; et al. THE EFFECT OF AEROBİC EXERCİSE ON HS-CRP AND BODY COMPOSİTİON İNDEXES İN NONACTİVE OBESE MEN WİTH EMPHASİS ON RAMADAN FASTİNG. Journal of Physical Education & Sports Science / Beden Egitimi ve Spor Bilimleri Dergisi. 8, 2, 187-194, Aug. 2014

ramadhan

By Sibtain Ghulam Hussain

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful.

شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ هُدًى لِ لنَّاسِ وَبَي نَاتٍ منَ الْهُدَىٰ وَالْفُرْقَانِ

The Holy month of Ramadhaan comes and passes by every year. Once the Day of Eid arrives, we often regret that we were not able to make the most of this Holy and Blessed month. As there is no use or benefit of ‘crying over spilt milk’, it is essential that we realise the importance of this month before it approaches us, to ensure we gain the maximum benefit. We should not regard this month like the other months; also the Holy Month of Ramadhaan should not be limited to merely fasting and seen as a religious burden. There is a lot more to the philosophy of this month which I will endeavor to convey in the following article.

How Do We Welcome Ramadhaan?

A valuable guest is given a warm reception. Our perception of this month will determine how we welcome and anticipate its arrival. If we perceive this month as a month of fasting alone, we won’t eagerly welcome it. Performing rituals without knowing their philosophy leads to anxiety and repetitiveness of actions which will certainly not pay off!

A famous sermon delivered by the Holy Prophet (SAW) on the last Friday of Sha’ban (Sermon of Sha’baniyyah) discusses the Holy Month of Ramadhaan. The Prophet (SAW) provides us with instructions and directions on how one should prepare for this month and from what perspective this Holy Month should be perceived. The guidelines presented by the Holy Prophet (SAW) were not only aimed at the people of that time, but are certainly applicable to us and for all generations to come. The Prophet (SAW) tried to highlight and emphasize the sacredness of the month which was approaching the people.

Our lives today are based around schedules and ‘places to be’ that we often fail to incorporate and fully prepare for these religious blessings. We are neither physically nor mentally prepared although we have been advised to do so. Both the months of Rajab and Sha’ban have been specifically mentioned as months to be used for the preparation of Ramadhaan. However we tend to waste our time and once we reach Ramadhaan our foremost concern is how we will be able to cope with the physical aspect of fasting. We look into weather conditions and ensure our freezers are stocked before the month arrives, highlighting our limited insight into this Holy Month. Individuals limit this Holy Month to blind recitation of the Holy Quran with no understanding. Although every good action has its thawaab (reward), the full benefit and purpose of the Holy Month of Ramadhaan is not being achieved; one of self-building and gaining close proximity to our Lord.

Ramadhaan, “A Month of Opportunity” ( ضيافۃ اللہ )

Ramadhaan is considered a month in which we are the guests of Allah and Allah Himself is our Host! We need to prepare ourselves in order to benefit greatly from this invitation of Allah. We need to change our thinking as it is often an obstacle and limiting. We have a fixed mindset that observing fast is something difficult. This incorrect perception has been fed into our minds from the environment we live in. Another is that “Ramadhaan is a merely a month of Fasting alone”. There is no doubt that we are supposed to fast in this month, however fasting is just an etiquette (ادب ) of this month and it is certainly not the Reality (حقيقۃ ). Many norms that we observe have no reality in religion and they are just a continuation of our Ancestral values. Ancestral values at times become an obstacle on the path of religion and weaken our grounding to adhere on the right path!

Ramadhaan is a month of Opportunity for those who wish to undertake a journey towards attaining Gods Proximity (سالکين الی اللہ ). We are generally aware of the usual annual calendars such as the Solar year, Lunar Year, Farming year (time to cultivate land and bow the seeds), and Educational year (when schools are open). There is another year which we need to draw our attention to and that is the Year of Servitude which starts from the month of Ramadhaan. We are supposed to assess ourselves at the end of each year, to see how we have spiritually progressed on our journey to ultimate salvation.

Analysing Our Previous Year

1) Have I become closer to God?
2) What distance is left to reach God?
3) How close have I reached to my purpose of creation?
4) If I am far off, what are the consequences and core reasons?

Success Lies In Making The Best Use of Opportunities

If we ever had a business opportunity, we would not sit idle and just be delighted over its prospect. Rather we would work with dedication and invest all our efforts in order to materilise the opportunity. We start making investments, and immediately plan what to do next because we fear that the prospect will be lost. However unfortunately when it comes to religion, we are totally heedless of opportunities and eventually we fall behind.

The enemies of Islam also benefit well from opportunities like the Month of Ramadhaan and Muharram and succeed in expanding their businesses. The Ramadhaan food offers we often see displayed in shops are business tactics used, to gain monetary benefit out of this month. Imam Ali (a.s) has warned the believers that they should not let opportunities slip away as they will result in regret later. He says:

“ الفرصۃ تمرٌ مرٌ السحاب ”
“Opportunities come and fade away like clouds (very quickly)”

If we waste business opportunities we may end up becoming bankrupt, but if we waste the opportunities granted by Allah, we might never be able to reach our purpose of creation which is the real loss!

Allah (SWT) is just and gives everybody equal opportunity. One who wastes the opportunities faces failure in every aspect of life. Today we as Shias have many problems and hindrances. This is because we waste opportunities. The Islamic Revolution of Iran itself was a big opportunity for all Muslim nations to waken and choose the path of salvation. However due to our laziness, we are deprived of Islamic Governance and have to live in the governance of tyrants who are directed by hegemonic powers.

We should still never be disappointed because it is never too late. We should not be ignorant of the chances we obtain, neither be stubborn to uphold our ancestral principles and leave aside the Il’ahic path of prosperity. Imam Ali says: “Make the best use of Opportunities or else they will turn into deep grief and sorrow!”

Amongst the list of opportunities, one opportunity is the Month of Ramadhaan. We need to change our mentality about this month. We have become slaves of traditions and our whole lives have become ritualistic. Traditions have taken the place of religion. Our culture has a greater impact than religion. Just to take an example, when Ramadhaan comes, normally the ladies are busy making different fried items and their maximum time is spent in the kitchen preparing delicious food for Iftar and Suhoor! Even though our expenses should decrease during this month it appears to be vice versa. Our bodyweight and lust for food increases though we only eat twice a day. These all highlight our lack of understanding to the reality of this month and the purpose of its arrival. Imam Ali (AS) says:

“From the month of Ramadhaan, a few will only attain hunger!”

There is pressure which originates from our culture and tradition and until, these ancestral norms are removed, we will never be able to comprehend the pure Ila’hic religion of Mohammad (PBUH). When the Prophet used to invite people to what was descended over him, they preferred to stay on their ancestral religion.

وإذا قيل لهم تعالوا إلى ما أنزل اللہ وإلى الرسول قالوا حسبنا ما وجدنا عليه آباءنا أولو كان آباؤهم لا يعلمون شيئا ولا يهتدون

And when it is said to them, “Come to what Allah has sent down and to the Messenger, “they say, “Enough (Literally: enough reckoning) for us is what we found our fathers (doing).” And even if their fathers did not know anything and were not guided?

Ramadhaan, The Season of Qur’an (ربيع القران)

It is the month of reflecting upon the Holy Quran. The revelation (نزول ) of the Quran in this month does not mean the words of the Quran fell upon the Prophet (pbuh) like rain drops; instead the meaning of revelation (نزول ) is that the Quran was revealed in such a way that even a lay ordinary man is able to understand it. Allah makes our intellect capable to understand the reality of the Quran in this Holy Month.

Imam Ridha Narrates the Sermon of Sha’baniyah Authenticated by all the Infallibles [as]

This sermon was delivered by the Prophet in front of his companions. He tried his level best to build awareness and open the eyes of people so that they would not see the Month of Ramadhaan like an ordinary month.

“Indeed ahead of you is the blessed month of Allah. A month of blessing, mercy and forgiveness. A month which is the best of months. Its days, the best of days, its nights, the best of nights, and its hours, the best of hours. It is the month which invites you to be the guests of Allah and invites you to be one of those near to Him. Each breath you take glorifies him; your sleep is worship, your deeds are accepted and your supplications are answered.”

It is indeed a month of blessings and mercy in which even breathing is considered as Glorifying Allah (تصبيح ). Breathing is not something that we can unwillingly abstain from and Our Glorious Lord even rewards us for this action. This shows that this month is a Month of Opportunity! During rainfall, everyone benefits from the rain – even the dry stems start budding flowers. Unfortunately we don’t value the endless rains of mercy during this time. When Ramadhaan is approaching us and has turned its direction towards us (اقبال ), we should welcome it too. (استقبال )

How Do We Prepare Ourselves

1) We should make our intentions purified and truthful (صدق النيٌۃ )
2) We should clean and purify our hearts (تزکيہ )

It is certainly the pure hearts which have the capacity to reckon Allah (SWT). We do not need to wait in the streets for Iftari and neither do we need to make our homes a store of food in this month. We need to prepare ourselves from within. We need to make our souls the purest of souls and once our intentions are purified, our hearts will become capable of beseeching Allah and benefiting from His Bounties.

Purification (طہارت ) is something very important and has 18 levels in Islam۔ Lady Fatima (SA) mentions the Philosophy of fasting such that Fasting is not just refraining from eating, drinking and feeding the stomach; instead fasting can be elaborated as a means of purifying the 5 senses. We need to fast by all our senses- Our eyes, ears and tongues should be fasting alongside our bellies. This will be regarded as an accepted fast! Fasting should build our level of God Consciousness ( تقویٰ ). Taqwa is not a name given to a condition which is temporary. Basically taqwa is an Ilahic and a Rabbani lifestyle which is based on Islamic values. Today we all have a Hindi or Western lifestyle. Our homes and our environment are a replica of the Western culture and we only attach the label of Islam so that we are recognized as Muslims. Taqwa is a way of life based on Islamic grounds. The biggest purpose of Fasting is to attain God Cognizance and purification of the heart. A person who is deprived of Allah’s Mercy in this Holy month will be regarded from amongst the accursed ones (شقی ).

Fasting should soften our hearts. Today our sense of sympathy towards the oppressed and poor is a concern. We need to revive our feelings, and by observing fasts we can feel the pain of hunger and hence remember those who are underprivileged. “Remember the hunger and thirst of the day of Qiyamah (Judgment) with your hunger and thirst.” There are certain things recommended in this month mentioned in the Sermon:

“Give alms to the needy and poor, honor your old, show kindness to the young ones, maintain relations with your blood relations; guard your tongues, close your eyes to that which is not permissible for your sight, close your ears to that which is forbidden to hear, show compassion to the orphans of people so compassion may be shown to your orphans. Repent to Allah for your sins and raise your hands in dua during these times, for they are the best of times and Allah looks towards his creatures with kindness, replying to them during the hours and granting their needs if He is asked.”

Ramadhaan is the best month to give Sadaqah (Charity). In our ritualistic Religion, Sadaqah is only giving money to the poor but in the Ideology of Islam it has a wider aspect. Every action of man which acts as a witness over the trustworthiness of his heart is known as Sadaqah; be it by feeding the poor, or by making one cross the road, or by even smiling to make a believer happy. It is a proof of one’s sincerity. In this month, one should try his/her level best to respect the elderly. This value (قدر ) of Religion is fading away day by day. Today disrespecting the elderly is considered as Intellectualism whereas it is against Islamic teachings!

In this Holy Month, we should also keep good ties and relations with our relatives. We should not look at each other from the perspective of selfishness and self-regard. We should never break relations on materialistic grounds. In traditions we are ordained to be good with those who are bad to us. We should respond in such a humble manner that the other person realizes his/her mistake indirectly.

The most important part of the sermon comes when the Prophet (SAW) says:

“O People! Indeed your souls are dependent on your deeds, free it with Istighfar (repentance) lighten its loads by long prostrations; and know that Allah swears by his might: That there is no punishment for the one who prays and prostrates and he shall have no fear of the fire on the day when man stands before the Lord of the worlds.”

We have committed so many sins and there is indeed a heavy load on our shoulders. We need to give our souls freedom. The best way we can lighten the burden of sins is by long prostrations. A man came to the Holy Prophet (SAW) and asked for advice on something which would lead him to salvation. The Prophet (SAW) replied: “عليک بطول السٌجود ” which means by long prostrations! He asked for some other advises too but the Prophet (SAW) kept on repeating the same thing. This shows the importance of Prostration. We should remember that Prostration is not only keeping the forehead on the Mohr (sajdagah) – prostration is a symbolic act which represents ones contentment and satisfaction over the will of Allah. It is an element of servitude, sincerity and humbleness in the honor of Allah (SWT). Sajdah (Prostration) is the declaration of one’s disgrace and humility before the Creator. Allah has promised not to send His Wrath on the Day of Judgment over those who perform Ruku (kneeling) and Sajdahs (prostrations). Many of our problems can be solved if our connection with Allah strengthens. The sermon continues:

“O People! One who gives Iftaar to a fasting person during this month will be like one who has freed someone and his past sins will be forgiven. Some of the people who were there then asked the Prophet (s): “Not all of us are able to invite those who are fasting?” The Prophet (s) replied: “Allah gives this reward even if the Iftaar (meal) is a drink of water.” “One who has good morals (Akhlaq) during this month will be able to pass the ‘Siraat’…on the day that feet will slip… “One who covers the faults of others will benefit in that Allah will curb His anger on the Day of Judgment… “As for one who honors an orphan; Allah will honor him on the Day of Judgment, “And for the one who spreads his kindness, Allah will spread His mercy over him on the Day of Judgment. “As for the one who cuts the ties of relation; Allah will cut His mercy from him.”

Imam Ali (AS) was listening to the sermon of the Holy Prophet (SAW). He stood up and asked the Prophet (SAW): “What is the most Afzal (superior) action in this Holy Month?” The Prophet (SAW) replied: “God Consciousness (Taqwa); staying away from what is forbidden by Allah!”

It is important for us to know our limitations and boundaries and by no means should we aggravate the red lines because this will lead us to destruction. We should try and gain the maximum from this month and keep auditing our journey on a regular basis. This can be found in traditions: “Account yourself before you are accounted!” We should seek refuge from our greatest, open enemy “Satan”.

I would like to end with the advice given by the Prophet (SAW) which is the key to achieve the most from this Month. We should be extremely cautious of our actions. He says:

“O People! Indeed during this month the doors of heaven are open, therefore ask Allah not to close them for you; The doors of hell are closed, so ask Allah to keep them closed for you. During this month Shaytan (Satan) is imprisoned so ask your Lord not to let him have power over you.”

May Allah give us the opportunity to make the best use of our time during this Month. May we be able to embark on our journey of years, in days and moments, as it is in this great Month that we have the best and most blessed nights; The Nights of Qadr which are indeed better than a thousand months.

South Side

The contents of this article were published in the magazine Payam-e Baharistan, in spring of the Iranian year 1390, on pages 781-786. The original Farsi written by Ahmed Khamehyar, supplemented by footnotes and references can be seen here. This is a translation of the general contents of that article, but not a complete translation of it.

Stone Inscriptions in the Villages of Adlab

In many villages and historical ruins of the region of Adlab, old stone wall inscriptions and grave-stone inscriptions can be found. These are generally written in very simple Arabic and can be dated back to the early Islamic centuries. Some of these inscriptions also have passages that tend to signify Shi’a presence in the area. One of these can be located on an ancient wall, in the village of Bara (33 km south of Adlab), in Arabic with the date 461 Hijri. In the corner of it, the statement: “محمد وعلی، کلاهما املی” is inscribed – meaning, Muhammad and Ali, both of them are my hope.

Inscriptions on the front of ‘Mashad of Imam Ali’, in the city of Ma’arrah Misrin

Ma’arrah Misrin is a small city located approximately 11 km north of Adlab. Its history can be traced back to before Islam, and it was conquered by the Muslims in 16th Hijri under the command of Abu Ubaydah bin al-Jarrah (d. 18 Hijri). This city was one of the cities where the Shi’a population was significant, however today they do not number more than a few thousand. In areas where the Shi’as would reside, there is a place of visitation that dates back to a thousand years ago, known as ‘Mashad of Imam Ali’ by its residents.

In historical reports, this place has not been mentioned, and no one today – including the residents of the area – seems to know much about its historical past or its relationship to Imam Ali [as]. It is highly probable that this Mashad was a place where someone had seen a dream and subsequently the place was termed as his [as] Mashad. These type of visitation sites were common during the early centuries of the Hijrah, particularly in Syria and Egypt.

The Mashad consists of a very simple building, and consists of a small hall towards its south and a small courtyard to its north. A dome also exists above the hall. The entrance to the building is through the south-side of the courtyard. The building resembles a mosque, and resembles the Maqam of Ibrahim Khalil [as] located in the citadel of Halab – from the remnants of the period of Bani Mardas.

On the front of the building, there is a stone that is a showcase of Islamic geometry, and on top of this design is an inscription of four lines written in Kufan script without any dots. Based on that, the architecture of the Mashad can be understood as Sultan bin Ibrahim bin Ali and its date of construction can be pin-pointed to the year 426 Hijri. This date coincides with the government of Nasr bin Salih bin Mardas (420-429 Hijri) in that same region. The content of the inscription is as follow:

Line 1: In the Name of Allah, The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful, There is no God but Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger
Line 2: Of Allah, Ali is the Friend of Allah, Peace of Allah be upon both of them, This is the Mashad of Amir
Line 3: al-Mu’mineen Ali bin Abi Talib, Constructed by Sultan bin Ibrahim bin Ali
Line 4: In the year 426

On the left side of its entrance, another inscription exists which suggests that the Mashad was renovated in 1378 Hijri by Jameel Rahhal, the head of the Shi’a committee dealing with endowments in M’arrah Misrin.

mashad imam aliPicture by original author [Ahmed Khamehyar]

Inscription on the Minarets of the Congregational Mosque of Halab

The minarets of the congregational mosque of Halab were completely destroyed during the Syrian war on Wednesday, 24th April 2013.

The congregational Umayyad mosque of Halab, is one of the most important mosques from the Umayyad dynasty, which was constructed near the end of the first century Hijri. It has been reported that the Umayyad caliph, Sulayman bin Abd al-Malik (96-99 Hijri), constructed it in order to compete with the Umayyad mosque in Damascus which was constructed under the reign of his brother Walid bin Abd al-Malik (86-96 Hijri). However, based on another report, the Umayyad mosque in Halab was also constructed by Walid bin Abd al-Malik. During the subsequent years, this mosque came under attack at different times or was burnt down, but was always reconstructed again. One of the most notable events was the great fire of the year 564 Hijri, ignited by the Ismailis. After this fire, this mosque was reconstructed by Sultan Nur al-Deen Mahmud bin Zangi (541-569 Hijri), and was expanded, and the style that one sees today is from that era.

The Umayyad mosque of Halab, due to one of the tomb of Prophet Zakariyyah [as] in its hall[1], is also known as the Mosque of Zakariyyah [as] by the people of Halab. On the north-west side of the courtyard exists a minaret with a square base of 4.95 m sq and a height of 45 m. This minaret is considered one of the most beautiful in terms of decoration and its architectural design, and is considered one of its kind in Syria. The frame of the minaret was constructed with five floors with different decorations and inscriptions written in Kufan and Thuluth calligraphy between every connection point between the floors.

The inscription above the third floor in Thuluth calligraphy has a Bismillah with a portion of verse 56 from Surah al-Ahzab, and a Salawat on the 14 infallibles written on it. The complete text of it is as follow:

The East Side: In the Name of Allah, The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful – Surely Allah, and His angels send blessings upon the
The South Side: Messenger, O you who believe, Send your blessings upon him – O Allah, Send your blessings upon Muhammad al-Mustafa and Upon
The West Side: Murtadha, and Fatima al-Zahra, and Hasan and Husayn, and upon Muhammad, and Ja’far, and Musa, and Ali
The North Side: al-Ridha, and Muhammad, and Ali, and Hasan, and al-Hujjah al-Qaim, and raise their lights and have mercy upon their friends

South Side

South Side – picture by original author [Ahmed Khamehyar]

Likewise, an inscription above the fourth floor has a Bismillah and two verses (55 and 56) from Surah al-Maidah, written in Kufan script. These two verses are generally used by the Shi’as to prove the authority of Imam Ali [as]. In historical records pertaining to the city of Halab, there is some information available regarding these minarets:

Ibn Shaddad Halabi (d. 684 Hijri) narrates from Baha al-Deen Abu Muhammad Hasan bin Ibrahim bin Sa’eed bin Yahya (a person from the family of Bani Khashhab), reports that the uncle of his father – Fakhr al-Din Abu al-Hasan Muhammad bin Yahya – completed the construction of the minaret in the year 482 Hijri.

Likewise, Ibn Adeem Halabi (d. 660 Hijri) narrates from Udhaymi (d. 556 Hijri) that in the year 482 Hijri, the minarets of the congregational mosque of Halab were constructed under Qadhi Abu al-Hasan Muhammad bin Yahya bin Muhammad bin Khashhab during the reign of Qaseem al-Dawlah Aq Sunqur – the governor of Halab during the Seljuk dynasty. Based on this, Ibn Khasshab wrote the name of Aq Sunqur on the minaret and then went to him to get his approval for constructing the minaret of Halab. Ibn Adeem says in another place that the minaret of Halab was renovated during the reign of Qaseem al-Dawlah in the year 482 Hijri.

Ibn Abi Tayy (d. 630 Hijri) a Shi’a historian of Halab writes in his work of history that: The minarets were constructed during the time of Sabiq bin Mahmud bin Salih (bin Mardas), by Qadhi Abu al-Hasan bin Khashhab. It’s architect was a person from Sarmin, who finished its base with water and strengthened its stones with iron and lead grapplings. He finished the construction of the minaret during the reign of Qaseem al-Dawlah Aq Sunqur.

Besides the aforementioned inscription, another inscription on another minaret tells the tale of its construction. On the first-floor of the minaret on the south side, there is an inscription of two lines which has the name of the architect written on it, Hasan bin Mufrih al-Surmani, and its date of construction is written as 483 Hijri. Based on an inscription written above this floor, this minaret was renovated during the time of Malik-Shah Seljuki. An inscription at the bottom of this same inscription has the name of Qaseem al-Dawlah Aq Sunqur. Based on an inscription above the fifth floor of the minaret, its construction was completed during the reign of Tatash Seljuk.

After looking at all of these statements and taking into consideration the content of the inscriptions, the following conclusion can be derived:

The construction began during the reign of Sabiq bin Mahmud Mardasi (478 – 482). Then during the reign of Qaseem al-Dawlah Aq Sunqur (487 – 488), the governor of Halab during the Seljuk Dynasty and contemporary to two kings of this time – Malik-Shah and Tatash – the construction ended. From the sources of history, it is apparent that the construction of the minarets was undertaken by Fakhr al-Deen Abu al-Hasan Muhammad bin Yahya bin Muhammad bin Khashhab – famously known as Abu al-Hasan bin Khashhab. He was from a religious Shi’a family of Bani Khashhab of Halab and he was a judge of the city during the Seljuk dynasty. This explains the inscriptions with Shi’i contents on the minarets.

[1] Another report suggests that this tomb actually possesses the head of Yahya bin Zakariyah [as], which was moved from the Citadel of Halab to this mosque