Lecture delivered by Brother Bashier Rahim on Thursday night 19 September 2019 at Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid Complex, Ottery, Cape Town
During this sacred month of Muharram we continue to remember the ultimate sacrifice that Imam Husayn (a.s) made together with his family and companions on the plains of Karbala and the subsequent further tribulations that were endured by the women and children after the day of Ashura which were considered even more difficult than what was endured on the day of Ashura itself.
And all of this ultimately was to bring new life into the Islam that was being superficially practised by the Muslims at the time.
So for us too we need to go away from Ashura with some revival in our own level that we have been practising Islam as our mourning for Imam Husayn (a.s) provides us with the much needed fuel to propel us forward in our journey.
Since the short Thursday night lectures have been dedicated to discussions on Fiq and Akhlaq, tonight very briefly I would like to examine the relationship between these 2 very important sciences and make one or two points that will hopefully at least intellectually take us a few steps forward or in fact giant steps forward if we really appreciate these points.
DEFINITION OF FIQH
First of all what is Fiqh?
The Arabic word, Fiqh essentially means understanding, profound understanding. That can be a profound understanding of any subject in general.
Like a physician has a profound understanding of the human body. We will call him Mutafaqqeh in medicine …. like Dr Ali from our community for example and others.
In the Holy Quran and in Ahadith from the Holy Prophet and the Imams, we have been repeatedly commanded towards profound understanding (tafaqqah) in the religion.
And we are thus familiar with verse 122 of Surah Tawbah in this regard:
فَلَوْلا نَفَرَ مِن كُلِّ فِرْقَةٍ مِنْهُمْ طَآئِفَةٌ لِيَتَفَقَّهُوا فِي الدِّينِ
“why should not then a group from every party of them go forth to become deeply learned in religion”.
Tafaqqah in Deen is to have a profound understanding of the whole of the religion of Islam itself. Such people would be called by the Imams as being a Faqih.
But technically in relation to the specific subject of Fiqh itself, the Masters of jurisprudence (fuqaha) when defining Fiqh or jurisprudence, they use the following definition:
“Fiqh or Jurisprudence is the study of the secondary commands of the Shari’ah of Islam which is gained from the detailed resources and proofs”.
In other words Fiqh is not the study of matters related to our beliefs as that is studied under the subject of Aqeeda, but Fiqh is the study of the commands relating to our actions whether it relates to formal worship or interacting with others.
ULTIMATE END OF ALL ACTIONS
Now having said that, anything we do on a daily basis, all of it is meant to have an ultimate goal or end…. all of our actions is meant to bring us Nearness to Almighty Allah.
Or you can say all our actions is meant to bring us human perfection as Nearness to Allah who is the Absolute Perfect will bring us human perfection.
So our ulama explain that any action that helps us to achieve this ultimate goal is a good action.
But sometimes an action can have mixed outcomes like good and bad outcomes at the same time – so in those cases we have to be very careful.
Any action that is an obstacle to achieve our ultimate goal of Nearness to Almighty Allah is a bad action.
The rules of Fiqh or Islamic jurisprudence is based on a Real and Direct relationship between the action and our ultimate goal of achieving Nearness to Almighty Allah.
This is really important to understand!
There is a real relationship between following ANY and EVERY rule in Fiqh and achieving our ultimate goal of Nearness to Almighty Allah.
The rules in Fiqh are not created arbitrarily or for fun just to see if you will follow it and then Allah will decide how to reward you. Rather the rules in Fiqh are based on real human interest (maslahah) and harm that can come from any action.
If I for example backbite, there is Real harm that immediately comes my way which is not in my interest.
If I for example always keep wudu, there is Real benefit that immediately comes my way which is in my interest.
So the rules in Fiqh are based on the maslahah which is Ultimately Nearness to Almighty Allah.
CATEGORIZATION OF ACTIONS
Now right at the very beginning of basic studies in Fiqh, we are introduced to at least 5 basic terminology that is used (of course there are a number of further terminology)
- wajib (compulsory)
- haraam (forbidden)
- mustahab (recommended)
- makruh (disliked)
- mubah (lawful or permissible)
These terms must be understood with the philosophy that is attached to each.
If an action is fundamental or necessary to secure your interest of achieving Nearness to Almighty Allah and which we cannot achieve without doing it, then that action is wajib – it is obligatory or compulsory. We MUST do it.
Sometimes an action has the ability to produce the interest of achieving Nearness to Almighty Allah, but even without it we can still achieve a basic level of Nearness. Such an action is called Mustahab or recommended meaning it is BETTER to do it.
We can still reach our ultimate end of Nearness to Almighty Allah without it but maybe without it you are slowed down in terms of how much interest you are able to secure for yourself. Like someone can still go to heaven without performing Salatul Layl but maybe not achieve a very high rank in heaven.
BUT if you don’t perform Fajr or any other of the 5 daily salaah, if you purposefully don’t observe Hijab, if you don’t fast in Ramadaan, etc. then by itself you can’t enter heaven to start with because these are FUNDAMENTAL and NECESSARY for securing our interest of Nearness to Almighty Allah.
Now opposite to that is any action which fundamentally brings you harm and completely prevents you from getting Nearness to Almighty Allah or even pushes you away from Almighty Allah, such actions are called Haraam or forbidden and we MUST NOT do it.
On the other hand if an action can cause harm but not to the extent that it completely prevents you from achieving Nearness to Almighty Allah, then such an action is classified as Makruh or disliked and it is BETTER to NOT do it.
Then there is the fifth category of actions which is a catch all for everything else which neither prevents you from Nearness to Almighty Allah nor helps you to achieve Nearness to Almighty Allah.
That category is called Mubah, or permissible or lawful.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FIQ AND AKHLAQ
So what is the relationship between Fiqh and Akhlaq which is discussed here on Thursday nights?
The obligatory rules of Fiqh are concerned with what is the minimum necessary conditions of human perfection. So if we don’t do that, then we completely off track.
Fiqh mainly comprises basic and necessary laws whose obedience is required from all Muslims, and is considered the first but NECESSARY step towards spiritual development.
I must repeat this point. Without practising the details of Fiqh we cannot advance to the next stage.
And this is the dilemma we live with. People believe they can be spiritual but not religiously bound. They think they can develop spiritually without observing the rules of Fiqh. That is the biggest mistake anyone can make!!
To commit oneself to the laws of Fiqh as a first step is not a difficult undertaking, as Islam itself is not a difficult religion.
But for humans aspiring to new heights, higher levels of perfection, there is a second set of rules – rules of Akhlaq – for the development of your inner attributes! And this can be MUCH MORE challenging.
You can learn the rules of how to perform salaah in a few days and do it properly thereafter for the rest of your life in line with the rules.
But what is taught in Akhlaq can take you a lifetime to master to cause the very same salaah to take you on a Miraj through the heavens!
DIFFERENCE IN APPROACH
These individuals who aspire to new heights, they observe the compulsory laws of Fiqh, but don’t feel satisfied – they want much more.
They have a different approach.
They make compulsory upon themselves actions which are otherwise highly recommended, or mustahab.
For Prophet Muhammad (sawa) entering Jannah is a very low level aim because Almighty Allah wanted to give him the highest station in Jannah which is Maqam Mahmudan and this station is not possible for him to achieve without always performing salatul layl.
In other words that which is recommended in Fiqh is made compulsory for such people out of their own freewill.
In addition to performing these recommended actions or Mustahabbaat, they obey other laws of Akhlaq and they make haraam upon themselves that which is NOT forbidden in Fiqh, yet somehow might be an obstacle on the way to the Nearness to Almighty Allah.
Then what about the general things like eating, or drinking or walking which are generally by themselves considered mubah or lawful and permissible.
Our ulama conclude that for people who aim high they don’t really have a concept of Mubah or lawful as understood in Fiqh from an Akhlaq point of view.
They ask themselves Why am I walking. Or Why am I sleeping? Or Why am I talking?
Do I for example walk for the purpose of exercise so that I remain healthy to worship Allah? Or practice walking so I can go for Arba-een and walk between Najaf and Karbala? Well that walking is recommended and brings you closer to Almighty Allah.
Or is walking or running just one big fun event?
And the same goes for sleeping. Do I do it to rejuvenate my body to be able to worship Allah energetically when I am awake? For them that is then considered recommended and not just a permissible or Mubah act of sleeping.
The same goes for talking or eating or any other Mubah act.
But if I do these things just to pass time or for the purposes of idle talk or idling in general, while it may be permissible from the perspective of Fiqh and for the general Muslim who has a very basic goal to get into Jannah, for those who have much higher goals, there appears to be no general concept of Mubah actions from the perspective of Akhlaq as idle time is actually wasting of our most precious asset which is time itself and if we did not use our time every moment to achieve our ultimate purpose of Nearness to Almighty Allah then by idling we are losing our capital and actually moving backward and away from Almighty Allah.
That’s how we understand the beginning of Surah al-Asr:
وَالْعَصْرِ إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ لَفِي خُسْرٍ
“By time! Surely, man is in loss”.
So for people who seriously follow the detailed rules of Akhlaq, so-called Mubah or permissible acts from a Fiqh point of view are always directly related to how something contributes to bringing you Nearness to Almighty Allah so that the act at the very least becomes recommended from their perspective.
So if one understands this distinction – that from an Akhlaq perspective there’s no place in one’s life to just hang around and do nothing even if we do not do anything forbidden during that time – properly comprehending this distinction can ensure we move forward spiritually in leaps and bounds.
May Almighty Allah grant us to have a deeper understanding of this distinction and inspire us to live more purpose driven lives Insha’allah.