Kennedy school of missions


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In It there is an exposition of what constitutes a personal obligation and a general obligation and an. exposition of the limits of the place of theology and jurisprudence in the science of religion, and the superiority of the knowledge of the next abode.

A. An Exposition of that Knowledge Which Is
a=.Personal Obligation

The prophet of Allah said, "The search of knowledge is an obligation on every male Muslim." He also said, "Seek knowledge, even if it be in China."

People have differed about the question of what knowledge it is that is obligatory for every male Muslim, and concerning it they have become divided into more than twenty groups. We will not take much time to repeat details, but the short of the matter is that each group tried to make
the obligation apply to the knowledge in which it was engaged. 52

(For example) the theologians said, "It is scholastic the




ology (al-kalam), for by it the doctrine of Allah's unity

(al-tawhid) and the essence and attributes of Allah are known."


The people who specialized in jurisprudence said, "It

is the science of Jurisprudence, for by it are known the various kinds of worship, things permitted and forbidden, and what kind of actions are forbidden and what are allowed", by which they meant what individual_ Muslims need_ to know, apart from:apecial rare happenings.

The commentators and the relators of traditions said


respectively, "It is knowledge of the Book and usage: for by

these two, one reaches to all sciences." 56

The Sifis said, "What is meant by it is this knowledge",. (.i.e. the ~ufl teachings. Then they disagreed and) some of them. said, "It is the worshipper's knowledge of his own


state (hal) and station (ma am) in respect to Allah", while

others said, "It is the knowledge of pure devotion (ikhlas) and the defects of souls and the ability to distinguish be


tween the visitation of the angel (lammat al-malak) and the

visitation of the evil one (lammat al-Shaitan). Even others of them said, "It is esoteric knowledge ('ilm al-batin) which is encumbent on special people who are the people of that (knowledge)." And they withheld from making it common.


Abu Talib (al-Makki) said, "It is to know what the tradi-

tion which has the foundations of Islam contains. This is the Prophet's saying, 'Islam is built on five (pillars): the testimony (shah&dat) 'There is no god but Allah' and the

rest of the saying."


For what is obligatory are these five, and knowledge

of the method of performing them is obligatory as well as
the quality of the obligation. There-is no doubt that the stopping place should be the summary which we shall mention. It is that knowledge, as we have already proved in the introduction of the book, is divided into practical and mystical knowledge ('i1m mu'-amalah wa 'ilm mukashafah) ; and what is meant by6"knowledge" (in this book) is only "practical knowledge'.'.

The practice which is imposed on the intelligent adult worshipper is in three parts: belief, performance, and abstention.

When a man who is rational attains, by experiencing the signs of puberty of age, the forenoon of his life, let us say, his first duty is to learn the two words of the testimony and to understand their meaning. It is the saying, "There is no god but Allah (7:158): Muhammad is the messenger of Allah" (48:29).
It is not necessary for him to discover that by himself by means of logic, investigation, and organizing the evidence;

but it is sufficient for him to believe it and trust in it without any doubt or hesitation. That can be obtained by means of imitation and listening without investigation and proof; for from the unlearned Arabs the Messenger of Allah was satisfied with their belief and confession without the learning of proofs. If one does that, he fulfils his immediate obligation. The knowledge which was a personal obligation ath that time was-to learn and understand these two words.

At that time he did not need anything beyond this, the proof of which is, had he died after that, he would have died obedient to Allah, not disobedient. Anything more than that becomes obligatory (for the believer) only through some other contingency that may present itself. That may not happen necessarily for every individual. On the contrary it is quite possible to conceive (that some people) will be quite free from them. Those contingent circumstances may involve performance of the required duties or omission of some actions or may pertain to articles of faith.

Let us first consider active duties. A man will survive from the time of his performance of tree early morning worship until the time when the noon worship becomes obligatory. Then, because he has entered upon the period when the noon worship has become obligatory, the requirement that he know howto


perform the ablution and the worship is renewed. Even though he is in a valid state, and would be were he to wait until the sun declines, still he would not be able to know and do

completely all he should within the prescribed time limits. Rather the time limit would pass by, if he were to engage himself in learning (what was required of him). For that reason it would not be far fetched, if we should say, "Apparently it (i.e. to know this much) is (not a contingent but) a permanent (obligation). So it is obligatory for him to know what is required before the time limit begins, and it is permissible to say, "The necessity of knowledge, which is a condition of action, comes after the necessity for the act and not to consider it as obligatory (merely) before the sun declines."

The same holds true in the case of the other perform

ances of the worship. If he should survive until the month 62

of RamadSn, that would obligate him to know the duties of the


fast. T$is means that he should know that the period of fasting extends from the first appearance of dawn until the sun has set. Also he should know that he must express his intention to fast, that he must refrain from eating, drinking, and marital relations; and further, that ail that ends when the cresent of the next month of Shawwal Is observed.

Likewise, if any wealth comes to him, when he has reached

the age of responsibility, he must learn his obligations in connection with the religious tax. But the tax is not obligatory for him immediately. It becomes a requirement at the end of the year according to the 2usiim calendar. Further, if he possesses only camels, he need not learn about the religious tax on sheep. Similarly with other things.

Then, when the pilgrimage months come, he need not hasten to learn all about the pilgrimage; since the time for doing it is extensive. So it need not be learned immediately. Nevertheless the learned Muslims should remind him that the pilgrimage is an individual obligation, even though delayed, on everyone who possesses food or a beast of burden, if he is a proprietor, so that he might possibly think it to be prudent for himself to hasten. Then, when he determines to do it, he needs to learn how to perform the pilgrimage; but it Is not necessary to learn more than its prescribed elements (arkan) and duties without the supererogatory actions (nawafilah). If he does that (the nafilah), it is a supererogatory deed, and his learning also is supererogatory. Learning it is not a personal obligation. With regard to the absolute prohibition (that applies to the learned) against refraining from drawing attention to the obligation to perform the duty of the pilgrimage at once, that is a matter which deserves consideration; and it is proper to discuss the sub-


ject in books of jurisprudence.

There is a similar gradation in the obligation to learn about the other acts which are individual requirements. One must learn the things from which the Muslim must abstain, as new conditions arise; and these vary with each individual. For it is not necessary for a dumb person to learn what is forbidden of speech, nor for a blind person to learn what is forbidden to see, nor Is it necessary for a desert-dwelling Badawi to learn what kind of dwellings are unlawful. All that is necessary as circumstances indicate.
To learn what does not concern him is not obligatory, and what concerns him should be pointed out to him by the learned Muslims just as if on entering Islam he were wearing

silk or sitting unlawfully or looking at one whom he is not 65

forbidden to marry. It is obligatory to make him acquainted
with all that. It is obligatory to teach him whatever else is not familiar to him now, but to which he is going to be exposed in the near future such as food and drink; so that, if he were in a country where wine is drunk or pig's meat is eaten, he must be taught and warned against it. And what is obligatory to be taught, he is obliged to learn.
As for the beliefs and acts of the heart, he must have knowledge of them insofar as they occur to his mind. For If a doubt enters his mind concerning the ideas which the two


words of the testimony teach, then he must learn what will enable him to clear up that doubt. But if that fails to enter his mind and he dies before he believes, for instance, that the speech of God is eternal and that He will be visible (to believers in the next abode) and that lie is not a locus for temporal attributes or accidents, and so on, as will be mentioned In the (section on) beliefs in (Book4Two), then he certainly dies a Muslim according to agreement (i ma')

But as to those thoughts which make certain beliefs obligatory, some of them come to the mind naturally; some

of them come to the mind through hearing them from the people of the country (in which one resides). If he is in a country in which scholastic theology is wide-spread and the people converse about new doctrines and practices, then it is necessary for him to be kept from It in his early puberty by causing him to hear the truth; and, if they have caused falsehood to reach him, then it is necessary to remove it from his heart. That is often difficult, just as if this Muslim were a merchant and the practice of charging interest were widespread in the business transactions of that country; yet it would be incumbent on him to learn to avoid taking interest. This Is what is right in regard to knowledge which is a personal obligation.

It means knowing how to do the necessary things. Whoever


learns the necessary knowledge and the time of its obligation has learned that knowledge which is a personal obligation. That which the Sufis mention about understanding the

disturbing thoughts caused by the enemy (i.e. Shaitan)


(khawAtir al-'aduw) and the visitation of the angel messen

ger (lammat al-malak,) is right also, but it is (only) right for the one to whom those things occur. Since, for the most part, no man keeps free from the urge to evil, hypocrisy,
and covetousness; he must therefore learn, from Part Four
(of the Thya') on the Perils of the Soul, that which he finds himself to be in need of.
Why is this not necessary, since the Apostle of Allah
has said, "There are three harmful things: l)) avarice which
is obeyed, 2) an evil desire which is followed, and 3) self
conceit. No man is clear of them. The rest of the blame
worthy things of the heart which we shall mention later such
as pride, vanity, and their like follow these three. To re
move them is a personal obligation.
It is impossible to remove them without knowledge of their definitions, cause, signs, and remedies; for the one who does not know evil will fall into it. The remedy Is to oppose the cause by its opposite, but how is this possible without knowing the cause and the effect?
Now most of what we mentioned about personal obligations


is in the Quarter of the I]iya' on the Perils of the Heart. Man has forsaken them entirely, being engaged in that.which has no benefit. What should be taught him without delay, if

he has not come over from one religious group to another, is faith in the Garden, the Fire, the Judgment Day, and the Resurrection so that he may have faith in them and believe. This is complementary to the two words of the testimony (alshahAdah). For after believing that an apostle, one should understand the message which he brings. This is that whoever obeys Allah and His messenger is entitled to

the Garden; and whoever disobeys. Him (Allah) receives the Fire. If you pay attention to this gradual process (of

learning), you learn that the Religion of Allah is this (and none other). You become certain that both day and night every worshipper in his ordinary every-day life is not free from incidents, in his worship and practice, which have new consequences. Then he should ask about every unusual incident that happens to him. Ordinarilly he should hasten to learn what he expects to happen in the near future.

So then it is apparent that what Muhammad meant by

"the knowledge" which was made definite by the Alif and the Lam in his dictum, "The search for 'the knowledge' (al-'ilm) is an obligation on every Muslim", is knowledge of how to


perform the religious works which are well. known to be obligatory upon Muslims. So the aspect of the gradual process and the time in which something is obligatory have become clear, and Allah knows best.

B. An Exposition of the Knowledge Which Is a General Obligation

You should know that one obligation is distinguished from another only by reference to the divisions of the sciences. The sciences related to the obligation which is under consideration are divided into: 1) those related to divine law (i.e. religious), and 2) those not related to the divinely revealed law (i.e secular).

By those "related to the divine law" I mean those which are learned from the prophets, i.e. not something to which reason acts as a guide such as arithmetic, (for example);

nor (something arrived at by) experiment, such as the science of medicine; nor (something reached) by hearing, as the science of language, (for example).

As for the sciences which are not related to the divine law, they are divided into a) what is praiseworthy, b) what is blameworthy, and c) that which is permissible.

The praiseworthy are those which are bound up with benefit to the present world such as the science of medicine and


arithmetic; and they (the praiseworthy) are divided into what is a general obligation and into what is a virtuous but not a prescribed act.

As for the general obligation, it is every science which we cannot dispense with in the set up of the present world such as the art of medicine, for (knowledge of) it Is necessary in our need to preserve our bodies; and such as the science of arithmetic, for it is necessary (also in) practical affairs and in settling wills, inheritances, and other things. These are the sciences which, a lack of someone in the country to carry them on, cause the people of the country to become distracted with fear. If one should carry them on, it Is sufficient; and the obligation falls away from all others.

You should not be surprised at our saying that the arts of medicine and arithmetic are part of the general obligations; for the fundamentals of the arts also, such as agriculture, weaving, and political science are part of the general obligations; and even the art of cupping and tailoring. Indeed, if the country were void of cuppers, destruction would speedily fail on the people; and they would be distracted with fear of exposing themselves to destruction. Truly the One who sent down disease sent down the remedy, directed (man how) to use it, and prepared the means to ob-


tain it. Therefore it is not permissible to expose one's self to destruction by neglecting it.

As for that which is counted a virtue (fadllah), not

an obligation (farldah), it is thorough investigation into the details of arithmetic and the real nature of medicine and other things which we can do without; but which provide ability additional to the amount which is absolutely needed.

As for the blameworthy pursuits, they are the knowledge of magic and the making of talismans, and the knowledge of legerdemain and mystifications.

As for the permissible, it is the science of poetry which has nothing unsound in it, history of traditions, and the like.

As for the religious sciences which we intend to expound, they are all praiseworthy; but those which are thought to be legitimate, though really blameworthy, are sometimes confused with them. Therefore they are divided into praiseworthy and blameworthy. As for the praiseworthy, they have fundamentals and subsidiary; introductory and supplementary which make four divisions.

l. The first division is the science of fundamental sources which has four parts: a) the Qur'An, b) usage of His Messenger, 6) agreement (i ma') of His people, and d) traditions of the Companions (athAr al-sahabah).


Agreement is a fundamental principle from the point of view that it proves usage. It is a principle of the third grade; likewise the traditions (athar), (form a fundamental.

of the second rank), for they also prove usage; because the 67 companions witnessed the divine inspiration (wwahj) (which
came to Muhammad) and the sending down of the Qur'an) and were able to apprehend, by means of the circumstances that accompanied the revelation, the things which were absent from the eye-witness of others.
Oftentimes the terms that are used do not include all that may be apprehended by means of (a knowledge of) the accompanying circumstances. And from this point of view the learned thought it best to emulate them and to hold to their traditions. That is with a special condition for one who considers it so, but its exposition is not suitable for this branch (of knowledge).

2. The second division is about the subsidiary principles. They are those that are understood from these fundamental principles, not necessarily by what they say literallyfbut by what they mean which the mind is made to perceive and the understanding is enabled to reach so that something else is understood from the literal expression. For example, from Muhammad's dictum, "A judge should not give judgment while he is angry", one understands that he should not judge


while he is retaining his urine or while he is hungry or suffering from pain of illness.

This (division) is of two kinds: one of which is concerned with what is conducive to good in the present world (ma~alih al-dunya) and which books of jurisprudence contain. Those responsible for it are the canon lawyers who are the worldly divines ('ulama' al-dunya). The second (of the two) is what is connected with what is conducive to good in the next abode (masalih al-akhirah), which is knowledge of the state of the heart, its praiseworthy and blameworthy characteristics, and what pleases and displeases Allah.
This is what the latter half of this book contains. I mean the whole of the book Ihya' 'Ulum al-Din. A part of it is the knowledge of what proceeds from the heart and effects the limbs in their worship and religious customs. This is what the first part of this book contains.

3. The third division concerns the preliminary sciences,

which act as instrumental sciences such as knowledge of phi68

lology ('ilm al-lughah) and grammar (al-nahu), for these two

are means of knowledge of the book of Allah (the Qur'an) and the usage of His prophet.
In themselves philo pgy and grammar are not sciences pertaining to divine law, but study of them is necessary be-


cause of the law; for this law came in the language of the Arabs. Every system of divine lasw was revealed in some

language, and the learning of that language becomes an instrument(for one to understand the law).

Another of these preliminary sciences is the art of writing or penmanship; but that is not absolutely necessary, for the Messenger of Allah was illiterate. If we suppose that one is able to memorize everything he hears; then he could do without writing; but it becomes necessary under the rule that most people are unable to do that (i.e. to memorize everything).

4. The fourth division concerns the Supplementary Sci

ences which come under the science of the Qur'an. They are divided into those connected with a) the words, as the science of the variant readings and the places of the pronunciation of the letters (i.e. phonetics), and b) what is related to the meaning, as the Science of the Exposition of the

language alone is not adequate, and c) what is related to the
regulations of the Qur'an, such as 1) knowledge of the verses 69 that abrogate and those that are abrogated, 2) those that
have general or universal application and those that are special and particular, and 3) knowledge of verses which are

Qur'An. It also depends on tradition, for the

science of


definite proof texts and verses whose meanings are merely

probable. One needs to know also how to use one rather than another of these sciences. This science is called the Fundamental Principles of Jurisprudence (Uaul al-Filth) . It is also related to the Science of Usage (Sunnah).
As for the sciences supplementary to the traditions from the Companions (al-Athar) and those from Muhammad (alakhbRr) , these are the knowledge about the traditionists including their pedigrees together with the names and other characteristics of the Companions. It includes knowledge of rectitude in the narrators of traditions. It includes their qualifications in order to distinguish those that are of weak authority from those that are strong. It includes knowledge of their life periods (i.e. when they lived) in
order to distinguish the tradition lacking the authority of 71 72

a Companion (mursal) from a supported tradition (musnad) and,

likewise, what is connected with it. All these are praiseworthy sciences pertaining to divine law, but all of them are classed as general obligations.
If you should say, "Why did you connect jurisprudence (filth) with,, knowledge ('ilm) of the present world -( l-dunya) and the canon lawyers with the worldly divines (_'ulama' aldunya)?" you should know that Allah caused Adam to come forth from the ground. He caused his descendants to come forth


"from a most excellent sort of clay's (23:12) and "from sperma genitale" (86:6). He brought them forth from the loins to the womb; from them to the present world, then to the grave, then to the Judgment Day, then to either the Garden or to the Fire. The first is their beginning, the last is their end, and these are their stopping places.

He created the present world as food for the journey

to the future life so that from it people may obtain provisions for the next life. If they were to obtain them by justice, contentions would cease and canon lawyers would have no work; but they obtain them by their passions (shahawat) from which contentions are born. So they are in great need of a sultan to rule them, and he requires a law to govern them.

A canon lawyer knows the laws of governing; and he knows how to mediate between mankind, when they quarrel because of their appetites. A canon lawyer, then is (in the position of) one who teaches a sultan and guides him how to govern and order mankind so that their affairs might be regulated in this present world by their uprightness. By my life: it (jurisprudence) is also connected with religion though not by itself, but by means of the present world. For the present world is a seed-bed (nursery) of the next abode, and religion is only brought to completion in the present

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