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A Beautifull Talk By Martin Lings

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Topic: A Beautifull Talk By Martin Lings
Posted By: rami
Subject: A Beautifull Talk By Martin Lings
Date Posted: 18 October 2005 at 7:49am
Bi ismillahir rahmanir raheem

assalamu alaikum

What is the Spiritual Significance of Civilization?
By Martin Lings

One of the world’s leading Islamic sages, Dr. Martin Lings (Sheikh Abu Bakr Siraj ad-Din), passed away on May 12th, 2005, at his home in Kent, England. He authored and translated several outstanding works including one of the finest biographies of the Prophet Muhammad. As a tribute to his life of devotion to the Islamic tradition, we reprint here an essay from his autobiography, A Return to the Spirit published by Fons Vitae.

My work in the Department of Oriental manuscripts and Printed Books at the British Museum often brought me into contact with Islamic institutions in London, the more so since I was myself the Museum Arabist in charge of the Arabic manuscripts and books. As a result I came to know fairly well the director of The Islamic Cultural Centre, who one day sent me a message telling me that he had just received instructions from Egypt to choose an English Muslim to represent England at an International Islamic Congress which was being planned by the Azhar University in Cairo. He added: “Can you not obtain permission from The British Museum to attend this congress, all expenses paid?” My first impulse was to say no because of my dislike for congresses, that is, dislike of the obligation to sit and listen to talk after talk, many of which are likely to be without interest. Moreover and above all, as will I think be deductible from the previous chapters of this book, I am not the sort of person that is qualified to “represent England”, because I am deliberately “out of touch” with people. I knew that reporters would come and ask me how many Muslims live in England and how many of these are recent converts, and I neither know nor want to know what is the answer. Socially speaking, I want to be left alone to lead a quiet life, and I have always made a point of living, if possible, in an “out of the way” place so that my privacy will be less in danger of being invaded.

On the other hand, as the result of having been for over twelve years a lecturer on English Literature (mainly Shakespeare) at the University of Cairo, I had been accustomed to visit the tombs of the great Saints who are buried in the older parts of the city, and I am always happy to revisit them.

Cairo also has in it perhaps more mosques of exquisite beauty, both large and small, than any other city in the world. I knew also that the National Library of Egypt has an unsurpassed collection of marvellously illuminated manuscripts of the Qur’an, a collection which is as far as I can tell only equalled by one or two collections in Istanbul and in Iran. Moreover the director of my department in the British Museum encouraged me to go, and obtained permission for me to accept the invitation, which I finally did.

The congress was divided into two groups, that is, the representatives of Islamic countries in the Near and Middle East, and the representatives of Islamic communities in other countries which had no specifically Islamic status. There were two sessions each day, and about six speakers were listed, with time for questions and answers after each talk. We all met together for meals except for breakfast which we had in the various hotels that we were lodged in. The congress itself was held in a spacious building on the edge of the East bank of the Nile. Wherever we went, our eyes were met by notices inscribed with the words, in massive Arabic letters, Marhaban bi ’tatawwur, that is, Welcome to Development. Evidently the organizers of the congress were bent on showing that they were “up to date.”

One of the first talks was given by an elderly man from the Sudan, and it was based on a well known saying of the Prophet which, so the speaker claimed, had never been properly understood: “Islam began as a stranger and it will end as a stranger.” The opening words are clearly a reference to the problems experienced by the Prophet in seeking to impose on the then polytheistic inhabitants of Arabia the alien idea of monotheism. But the speaker maintained that the second part of the saying had been misunderstood until this very day, and that he had come to give us its true meaning, which was that Islam would end by spreading over all those parts of the world which had hitherto remained alien to the Quranic message. In other words, that Islam would end as an alien by being adopted by aliens; and there were some implications that most of those present in the lecture hall were not doing enough to help this to come true.

When it was time for question and answer, I ventured to question the legitimacy of interpreting one saying of the Prophet without taking into consideration other sayings of his which were related to a similar theme, in this case the spiritual future of the world. I pointed out that the Prophet had not believed in what the modern world calls “progress”, and I quoted several well known sayings of his, for example “No time will come upon you but will be followed by a worse” and “The best of my people are my generation, then they that come after them, then they that come after those.” When I had finished I heard expressions of agreement with me from all sides, and then one or two came up to me and thanked me warmly for having said what I had said.

Later in the week an afternoon had been set aside for those who might wish to be taken outside Cairo to see certain examples of modern “developments” in some of the neighbouring districts. It did not sound at all interesting, and more than half the members of the congress declined to go. No lectures had been listed for that afternoon, and one of the officials came up to me, greatly to my surprise, and said that he had been told to ask me if I would give a talk. I said I would think it over, and let him know the next morning. I had not prepared anything, but I felt that the words “Welcome to Development” demanded some comment, and that was how I came to give the following talk which is here translated from the Arabic in which it was spoken.

We have heard many times during this conference the words “development” (tatawwur) and “progress” (taqaddum) and “renewal” (tajdid) and “renaissance” (nahdah), and perhaps it will not be a waste of time to pause and consider what they mean. “Development” means moving away from the principles, and although it is necessary to move a certain distance from the principles in order to make applications of them, it is of vital importance to remain near enough for contact with them to be fully effective. Development must therefore never go beyond a certain point. Our ancestors were acutely conscious that this danger point had been reached in Islam hundreds of years ago; and for us, who are so much further removed in time than they were from the ideal community of the Prophet and his companions, the danger is all the greater. How then shall we presume not to be on our guard? How shall we presume not to live in fear of increasing our distance from the principles to the point where development becomes degeneration? And indeed it may well be asked as regards most of what is proudly spoken of today as development: Is it not in fact degeneration?

As for “progress,” every individual should hope to progress, and that is the meaning of our prayer Guide us upon the way of transcendence. The word “development” could also be used of individuals in the same positive sense. But communities do not progress; if they did, what community was better qualified to progress than the first Islamic community in all the impetus of its youth? Yet the Prophet said, “The best of my people are my generation, then they that come after them, then they that come after those.” And we must conclude from the Qur’an that with the passage of the centuries a general hardening of hearts is inevitable, for it says of one community, a long length of time passed over them so that their hearts were hardened (LVII, 16 ); and this same truth is to be understood also from what the Qur’an says of the elect, that they are many in the earlier generations and few in the later generations (LVI, 13-4). The hope of communities must lie, not in “progress” or “development,” but in “renewal,” that is, restoration. The word “renewal” has been used so far throughout this conference mainly as a rather vague synonym of “development,” but in its traditional, apostolic sense, renewal is the opposite of development, for it means a restoration of something of the primordial vigour of Islam. Renewal is thus, for Muslims, a movement of return, that is, a movement in a backward rather than a forward direction.

As to “renaissance,” it might in itself be used in the same sense as “renewal,” but this word “renaissance” has very inauspicious associations, because the movement that is called the European Renaissance was nothing other, if we examine it carefully, than a renewal of the paganism of ancient Greece and Rome; and that same “renaissance” marked the end of the traditional Christian civilization and the beginning of this modern materialistic civilization. Is the “renaissance” that we now hear of as taking place in the Arab states different from that one, or is it of the same kind?

There is not one of us, whether he be Arab or non-Arab, who does not rejoice in the independence of the Arab states and of Islamic countries in general, and it was to be hoped that this independence would bring about a return to the noble civilization of Islam. But what do we see? We see the doors flung wide open to everything that comes from Europe and America without the slightest discrimination. It is not irrelevant to recall here that for us—and the same must be implicitly if not explicitly true of all religions— every earthly possibility falls into one of five categories, being either obligatory (fard), strongly recommended (mandub), allowed (mubah), strongly discouraged (makruh), or forbidden (haram). It is against the second and fourth of these that a subversive movement will direct its efforts, at any rate to begin with, for since they are less absolute than the first and the fifth, it is easier to break through their defences. And it is to be noticed that the terms mandub (strongly recommended) and makruh (strongly discouraged) have changed their significance. Thus, in the eyes of the champions of this “renaissance” that we are now supposed to be enjoying, what is to be “strongly discouraged” is everything that is left of the Islamic civilization in the way of sunnah such as wearing the turban and not shaving off the beard, whereas what is “strongly recommended” is everything that comes from the West. It may well be that only a very few actually go so far as to say that this or that is to be discouraged because it belongs to the civilization of our pious ancestors or that a thing is to be recommended because it comes from the West. But to judge by the facts, one might imagine that such words were on every tongue, such thoughts in every head. And what is the result of this? The result is that the rising generation is more ignorant of the practices of the Messenger of God, and more cut off from those practices, than any generation that has come into existence since the dawn of Islam. How then shall we augur well of the present situation? And how shall we not shrink from the word “renaissance” as from an evil omen?

All this was foreseen by the Prophet. He said, “You will follow the ways of those who were before you span for span and cubit for cubit until if they went down into the hole of a poisonous reptile you would follow them down.” That descent is now taking place; and it is called development and progress.

More than one delegate has mentioned, during this conference, that Islam embraces the whole of life, and no one doubts this. But what is actually happening today in many if not most Islamic countries is that life is embracing Islam—embracing, no, for it is a stranglehold rather than an embrace! Life is crowding religion out, pushing it into a little corner, and stifling it more and more so that it can scarcely breathe.

And what is the remedy?

By way of answering this question, let us recollect certain outer aspects of our civilization—I mean, the Islamic civilization— aspects whose function was, and can be again, to act as a protective shell for the kernel, that is, for the religion itself. The fabric of our civilization is woven out of the example set by our Prophet; and particularly significant in this connection is the fact that his house was a prolongation of his mosque. Thus for twelve hundred years—and more in many Islamic countries—the houses of his people were prolongations of the mosques. The Muslim would take off his shoes when he entered his house just as he would take them off when he entered the mosque; he would sit in his house in the same manner as he sat in the mosque; he would put such ornaments on the walls of his house as he saw on the walls of the mosque; nor would he put in his house any ornaments that would not be suitable for the mosque. Thus he was continually surrounded by reminders of the spiritual dignity and spiritual responsibilities of man, and he dressed himself according to the same principles. His clothes were in keeping with the dignity of man’s function as representative of God on earth, and at the same time they made it easy for him to perform the ablution, and they were in perfect conformity with the movements of the prayer. Moreover they were an ornament to the prayer, unlike modern European clothes which rob the movements of the prayer of all their beauty and impede them, just as they act as a barrier between the body and the ablution.

All that I have mentioned is outward, but the outward acts upon the inward, and a man’s clothes and his home are the nearest of all things to his soul, and their influence on it is perpetual and therefore incalculably powerful. There can be no doubt that these outward things were one of the secrets of the depth of piety among Muslims, for twelve hundred years; and this brings us back to the saying that Islam embraces the whole of life. Thanks to the outer aspects of the Islamic civilization, the whole of life was in fact penetrated by religion, and I see no other remedy for our present religious crisis but a return to that noble civilization whose function it is to create a worthy setting for the spirit of the religion, a setting that makes relatively easy the fulfillment of our ritual obligations. Nor can the community dispense with the help of anything that makes this spiritual life easier, for man was created weak. But this return can be accomplished only by the widespread setting of examples. Arabs, you are in the abode of Islam, where after your independence you are free to do what you will, and we look toward you from outside that abode and place our hopes in you. Do not disappoint us.

All the talks I had attended so far had been politely applauded in varying degrees of enthusiasm. But when I came to the end of mine there was a dead silence, and I saw that some of the audience were weeping. Then the man who had been appointed as the leader of the non-Arab group of invitees to which I belonged, an elderly man from Senegal with a venerable appearance, rose to his feet and came towards me. He took my hand between his two hands, and without saying a word he just beamed into my face for two or three minutes. Then a much younger man—he was from the sub-continent—came up to me and said: Kana lazim an yuqal al-haqq (It was necessary that the truth should be told). Then an Egyptian took me by the hand and said: Ja’a mina’l-qalbi fadakhala ’l-qulub (It came from the Heart, and it has entered the Hearts)

Rasul Allah (sallah llahu alaihi wa sallam) said: "Whoever knows himself, knows his Lord" and whoever knows his Lord has been given His gnosis and nearness.

Posted By: ummziba
Date Posted: 18 October 2005 at 8:41am

Assalaamu alaikum,

Jazak Allah!  Masha'allah!  Thank you for posting a most interesting speech, Brother Rami.  Would that all the Muslimeen here read it, insha'allah.

Peace, ummziba.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but your words...they break my soul ~

Posted By: Community
Date Posted: 18 October 2005 at 3:59pm

“No time will come upon you but will be followed by a worse”

Howabout the words of Allah,"verily the earth is inherrited by the "fit" righteous slaves of Allah, this is an announcement"


Is not all falsehood ending and what remains is The Truth and thus eventually only His Face?

Do you not see in history that time after time the unjust came to an end, Pharao, The Babylonians, The pagans of Mekka, Hitler etc.

Who remained where the righteous slaves of Allah, do you not see the beauty of the truth?

Posted By: rami
Date Posted: 18 October 2005 at 6:22pm
Bi ismillahir rahmanir raheem

Up untill the time of the mahdi and Isa (hs) times will become moraly worse not better. when Isa (hs) his word of truth as allah calls him in the Quran comes what you quote will be a reality but not beffore.

After Isa's time thing will degenerate again to such an extent that people will copulate on the streets like animals and the best people at that time will be those who tell them not to do it in public ie morality will disapear all together until no one on the face of the earth says Allah, Allah.

The Prophet upon him peace - said as narrated from Anas:

"The Hour will not rise until ALLAH, ALLAH is no longer said on the earth."

Through another chain from Anas, Allah be well-pleased with him:

"The Hour will not rise on anyone saying: ALLAH, ALLAH."

Muslim narrated both in his "Sahih," Book of Iman (belief), chapter 66 titled (by al-Nawawi): "The Disappearance of Belief at the End of Times."

The remembrance of Allah is what prevents the hour from coming.

Rasul Allah (sallah llahu alaihi wa sallam) said: "Whoever knows himself, knows his Lord" and whoever knows his Lord has been given His gnosis and nearness.

Posted By: Community
Date Posted: 18 October 2005 at 9:02pm

Look at the middle ages in Europe, was it better then now?

Whoever has faith in Allah, and does a mending work(knows that Allah is The Truth and tries to leave the world in a better shape then when he came into it, because the deeds in this world are what one is rewarded for in the hereafter)

No fear is upon them nor do they grief. [Holy Quran]

To Allah belongs all glory and power, and the messenger and the faithful. (then and now and in the future) [Holy Quran]


Posted By: rami
Date Posted: 19 October 2005 at 12:59am
Bi ismillahir rahmanir raheem

What does the middle ages have to do with the muslims ummah. The muslims Ummah is the best of all nations in terms of morality and the best of the Muslims was in the time of our Prophet.

We are talking in terms of morality so even if your comparison was the context of the hadith no since western scosiety is anti religion ie secular. Your using a verse in the Quran to contradict a hadith this can not stand as a correct argument or understanding.

Allah did not contradict his prophet, The prophet said a sign of the hour is that every year will be worse than the previous one. he said that despite the fact of the mahdi and Isa who will be comming to earth and spreading islam throughout the earth, so then what did he mean both hadith are reliable. You are not comming up with something new which countless scholars have missed Sh. Lings is giving you a traditional understanding of how these ahadiths are understood in light of all the evidence.

The prophets words are clear we dont disprove a hadith which is authenticated becouse we think we see a better meaning simply based on our own interpretation.

Rasul Allah (sallah llahu alaihi wa sallam) said: "Whoever knows himself, knows his Lord" and whoever knows his Lord has been given His gnosis and nearness.

Posted By: Community
Date Posted: 19 October 2005 at 2:29pm

"Your using a verse in the Quran to contradict a hadith this can not stand as a correct argument or understanding."

Your opinion. If the koran contradicts a hadith then the hadith is not true. This has shown itself possible, as in that ahadith are made false and true by the "super scholars"

"Sh. Lings is giving you a traditional understanding of how these ahadiths are understood in light of all the evidence."

Yeah i am sure, except that the evidence in this case is not the koran but secondairy sources, man made sources and you rather trust on those then trust on the words of Allah, it is all the same to you it seems. What a disrespect.



Posted By: rami
Date Posted: 19 October 2005 at 8:54pm
Bi ismillahir rahmanir raheem

Your opinion. If the koran contradicts a hadith then the hadith is not true. This has shown itself possible, as in that ahadith are made false and true by the "super scholars"

Hardly that was your understanding of the Quran, the only interpretation i applied was that of the literal meaning of the hadith. Unqaulified opinion should be taken as just that unqualified, you do not say a hadith is false simply becouse you personaly think it contradicts the Quran. see my Quote below.

What super scholars are you talking about, do you judge other peoples morality and capacity based on your own. The word Genious is still aplicable in todays society despite the delibrate duming down of the masses.( was thinking of editing this due to posible misunderstanding, i will just say it is not a personel comment).

Yeah i am sure, except that the evidence in this case is not the koran but secondairy sources, man made sources and you rather trust on those then trust on the words of Allah, it is all the same to you it seems. What a disrespect.

What evidence your own tafsir of a verse, go ask any local shaykh what this hadith means you will find it is a well known hadith and its meaning is common knowledge.

How often we see new muslims coming to islam and dictating what this religion means with out a shred of respect for its scholarly traditions. If you do not agree that is your right just dont say this is what Islam says unless you are prepared to back it up with something that isnt an unqualified opinion, in islam this practice of quoting scholars is called taqlid which means to follow an expert opinion.

reffering to your prior point,

Sunni Islam, occupying the middle ground between the two extremes of egalitarian Kharijism and hierarchical Shi'ism, had long been preoccupied with disputes over its own concept of authority. For the Sunnis, authority was, by definition, vested in the Quran and Sunnah. But confronted with the enormous body of hadiths, which had been scattered in various forms and narrations throughout the length and breadth of the Islamic world following the migrations of the Companions and Followers, the Sunnah sometimes proved difficult to interpret. Even when the sound hadiths had been sifted out from this great body of material, which totalled several hundred thousand hadith reports, there were some hadiths which appeared to conflict with each other, or even with verses of the Quran. It was obvious that simplistic approaches such as that of the Kharijites, namely, establishing a small corpus of hadiths and deriving doctrines and law from them directly, was not going to work. The internal contradictions were too numerous, and the interpretations placed on them too complex, for the qadis (judges) to be able to dish out judgements simply by opening the Quran and hadith collections to an appropriate page.

The reasons underlying cases of apparent conflict between various revealed texts were scrutinised closely by the early ulama, often amid sustained debate between brilliant minds backed up with the most perfect photographic memories. Much of the science of Islamic jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh) was developed in order to provide consistent mechanisms for resolving such conflicts in a way which ensured fidelity to the basic ethos of Islam. The term taarud al-adilla (mutual contradiction of proof-texts) is familiar to all students of Islamic jurisprudence as one of the most sensitive and complex of all Muslim legal concepts. - [13] Early scholars such as Ibn Qutayba felt obliged to devote whole books to the subject. - [14]

The ulama of usul recognised as their starting assumption that conflicts between the revealed texts were no more than conflicts of interpretation, and could not reflect inconsistencies in the Lawgiver's message as conveyed by the Prophet (pbuh). The message of Islam had been perfectly conveyed before his demise; and the function of subsequent scholars was exclusively one of interpretation, not of amendment.

Armed with this awareness, the Islamic scholar, when examining problematic texts, begins by attempting a series of preliminary academic tests and methods of resolution. The system developed by the early ulama was that if two Quranic or hadith texts appeared to contradict each other, then the scholar must first analyse the texts linguistically, to see if the contradiction arises from an error in interpreting the Arabic. If the contradiction cannot be resolved by this method, then he must attempt to determine, on the basis of a range of textual, legal and historiographic techniques, whether one of them is subject to takhsis, that is, concerns special circumstances only, and hence forms a specific exception to the more general principle enunciated in the other text. - [15] The jurist must also assess the textual status of the reports, recalling the principle that a Quranic verse will overrule a hadith related by only one isnad (the type of hadith known as ahad), as will a hadith supplied by many isnads (mutawatir or mashhur). - [16] If, after applying all these mechanisms, the jurist finds that the conflict remains, he must then investigate the possibility that one of the texts was subject to formal abrogation (naskh) by the other.

This principle of naskh is an example of how, when dealing with the delicate matter of taarud al-adilla, the Sunni ulama founded their approach on textual policies which had already been recognised many times during the lifetime of the Prophet (pbuh). The Companions knew by ijma that over the years of the Prophets ministry, as he taught and nurtured them, and brought them from the wildness of paganism to the sober and compassionate path of monotheism, his teaching had been divinely shaped to keep pace with their development. The best-known instance of this was the progressive prohibition of wine, which had been discouraged by an early Quranic verse, then condemned, and finally prohibited. - [17] Another example, touching an even more basic principle, was the canonical prayer, which the early ummah had been obliged to say only twice daily, but which, following the Miraj, was increased to five times a day. - [18] Mutah (temporary marriage) had been permitted in the early days of Islam, but was subsequently prohibited as social conditions developed, respect for women grew, and morals became firmer. - [19] There are several other instances of this, most being datable to the years immediately following the Hijra, when the circumstances of the young ummah changed in radical ways.

There are two types of naskh: explicit (sarih) or implicit (dimni). - [20] The former is easily identified, for it involves texts which themselves specify that an earlier ruling is being changed. For instance, there is the verse in the Quran (2:142) which commands the Muslims to turn in prayer to the Kaba rather than to Jerusalem. - [21] In the hadith literature this is even more frequently encountered; for example, in a hadith narrated by Imam Muslim we read: "I used to forbid you to visit graves; but you should now visit them." - [22] Commenting on this, the ulama of hadith explain that in early Islam, when idolatrous practices were still fresh in peoples memories, visiting graves had been forbidden because of the fear that some new Muslims might commit shirk. As the Muslims grew stronger in their monotheism, however, this prohibition was discarded as no longer necessary, so that today it is a recommended practice for Muslims to go out to visit graves in order to pray for the dead and to be reminded of the akhira. - [23]

The other type of naskh is more subtle, and often taxed the brilliance of the early ulama to the limit. It involves texts which cancel earlier ones, or modify them substantially, but without actually stating that this has taken place. The ulama have given many examples of this, including the two verses in Surat al-Baqarah which give differing instructions as to the period for which widows should be maintained out of an estate (2:240 and 234). - [24] And in the hadith literature, there is the example of the incident in which the Prophet (pbuh) once told the Companions that when he prayed sitting because he was burdened by some illness, they should sit behind him. This hadith is given by Imam Muslim. And yet we find another hadith, also narrated by Muslim, which records an incident in which the Companions prayed standing while the Prophet (pbuh) was sitting. The apparent contradiction has been resolved by careful chronological analysis, which shows that the latter incident took place after the former, and therefore takes precedence over it. - [25] This has duly been recorded in the fiqh of the great scholars.

The techniques of naskh identification have enabled the ulama to resolve most of the recognised cases of taarud al-adilla. They demand a rigorous and detailed knowledge not just of the hadith disciplines, but of history, sirah, and of the views held by the Companions and other scholars on the circumstances surrounding the genesis and exegesis of the hadith in question. In some cases, hadith scholars would travel throughout the Islamic world to locate the required information pertinent to a single hadith. - [26]

In cases where in spite of all efforts, abrogation cannot be proven, then the ulama of the salaf recognised the need to apply further tests. Important among these is the analysis of the matn (the transmitted text rather than the isnad of the hadith). - [27] Clear (sarih) statements are deemed to take precedence over allusive ones (kinayah), and definite (muhkam) words take precedence over words falling into more ambiguous categories, such as the interpreted (mufassar), the obscure (khafi) and the problematic (mushkil). - [28] It may also be necessary to look at the position of the narrators of the conflicting hadiths, giving precedence to the report issuing from the individual who was more directly involved. A famous example of this is the hadith narrated by Maymunah which states that the Prophet (pbuh) married her when not in a state of consecration (ihram) for the pilgrimage. Because her report was that of an eyewitness, her hadith is given precedence over the conflicting report from Ibn Abbas, related by a similarly sound isnad, which states that the Prophet was in fact in a state of ihram at the time. - [29]

There are many other rules, such as that which states that ‘prohibition takes precedence over permissibility.’ - [30] Similarly, conflicting hadiths may be resolved by utilising the fatwa of a Companion, after taking care that all the relevant fatwa are compared and assessed. - [31] Finally, recourse may be had to qiyas (analogy). - [32] An example of this is the various reports about the solar eclipse prayer (salat al-kusuf), which specify different numbers of bowings and prostrations. The ulama, having investigated the reports meticulously, and having been unable to resolve the contradiction by any of the mechanisms outlined above, have applied analogical reasoning by concluding that since the prayer in question is still called salaat, then the usual form of salaat should be followed, namely, one bowing and two prostrations. The other hadiths are to be abandoned. - [33]

This careful articulation of the methods of resolving conflicting source-texts, so vital to the accurate derivation of the Shariah from the revealed sources, was primarily the work of Imam al-Shafi'i. Confronted by the confusion and disagreement among the jurists of his day, and determined to lay down a consistent methodology which would enable a fiqh to be established in which the possibility of error was excluded as far as was humanly possible, Shafi'i wrote his brilliant Risala (Treatise on Islamic jurisprudence). His ideas were soon taken up, in varying ways, by jurists of the other major traditions of law; and today they are fundamental to the formal application of the Shariah. - [34]

Shafi'i's system of minimising mistakes in the derivation of Islamic rulings from the mass of evidence came to be known as usul al-fiqh (the roots of fiqh). Like most of the other formal academic disciplines of Islam, this was not an innovation in the negative sense, but a working-out of principles already discernible in the time of the earliest Muslims. In time, each of the great interpretative traditions of Sunni Islam codified its own variation on these roots, thereby yielding in some cases divergent branches (i.e. specific rulings on practice). Although the debates generated by these divergences could sometimes be energetic, nonetheless, they were insignificant when compared to the great sectarian and legal disagreements which had arisen during the first two centuries of Islam before the science of usul al-fiqh had put a stop to such chaotic discord.

Rasul Allah (sallah llahu alaihi wa sallam) said: "Whoever knows himself, knows his Lord" and whoever knows his Lord has been given His gnosis and nearness.

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