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Imamology

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Grading Hadiths: An Introduction

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Qa'im

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Biographical evaluation (`ilm ad-diraya, `ilm ar-rijal) exists both in Sunni and Shi`i branches, and it refers to the strengthening and weakening of individual narrators & transmitters, and chains of transmission (isnad, or plural: asaneed). The purpose of the system is to grade hadith reports based on the trustworthiness of its transmitters. To summarize the Sunni system, all companions of the Prophet (pbuh) - ie all of those who have been in his presence at some point in his life - are considered trustworthy (thiqa). These companions then narrated their traditions to their pupils, family members, and associates. They would then pass it down until they reached a compiler of hadiths, usually in oral form, but sometimes written.

The Sunni system excels in its biographical documentation because it covers a vast amount of individuals, giving relevant data about many people. But the system does have its flaws:

1) We don't consider all companions to be trustworthy; and we particularly distrust those who have directly oppressed the Prophet's family.

2) The culture of memorizing, transmitting, and documenting hadiths did not receive widespread popularity until the 2nd century AH. Therefore, the careful preservation of these hadiths are in question. Sunni isnads tend to be long, transmitted orally over centuries.

3) Strengthening (tawtheeq) is based mainly on scholarly opinion, with much disagreement.

Shi`i hadiths take a different approach. The vast majority of Shi`i hadiths come from one of the twelve Imams. The Shi`a hold the belief of a golden chain, which is the chain from one of the Imams that goes through his forefathers back to the Prophet (pbuh). Through the hadith of thaqalayn, the Prophet established that the Qur'an and Ahl al-Bayt are what the Muslims must hold onto, and that the two are one in essence. The Ahl al-Bayt are (at least primarily) the 12 Imams + Fatima (as). In many hadiths, the Prophet aligned himself with `Ali and Fatima, saying the truth is with them, that whoever angers them angers the Prophet, that opposing them is hypocrisy and disbelief, etc. The tying of truth with `Ali, the Mahdi, etc. gives them high authoritative value. The Imams have said in many hadiths that all they say and do comes from the Prophet. Many times, they quoted the Prophet directly, and they have said that all quotations of the Prophet come from their golden chain to him. Likewise, as infallible guides, all that they say and do is from the Qur'an and Sunna, and therefore their words are taken as proof (hujja) for all religious matters.

This means that the relation of hadiths in Shiism took place over a 300+ year period rather than just a 23 year period. Surely, the religion was completed and perfected by the end of the holy Prophet's lifetime. That same religion was relayed by the Imams. As hadith narration became popular in the second century AH, thousands of students studied under the 5th and 6th Imams. Together, al-Baqir and as-Sadiq narrated tens of thousands of hadiths on all topics - `aqeeda, fiqh, tafsir, history, eschatology, and more. The Imams gave their students the explicit instruction to write their words down, memorize their hadiths, and spread the knowledge to the people. Hence, the hadith collection process began in their lifetimes. The earliest available Shi`i notebook (usl) dates back to the time of the 4th Imam. By the occultation of the 12th Imam, over 300 of such usool existed. Unlike Sunni tradition, the hadiths were mostly not transmitted orally between the Prophet and a third century compiler. Rather, the hadiths came mainly from the Imams, and most of them were copied down during the time of the Imams. In some books, the chains of narrators are considerably shorter than in Sunni books. The time between the narration of the hadith and its compilation is also much smaller.

As noted earlier, not all companions of the Prophet - or the Imams - are considered reliable. Their veracity and loyalty to Ahl al-Bayt must be proven. There are many ways that a hadith narrator is given tawtheeq:

1. The Imams directly gave tawtheeq to some people.

2. The Imams gave taraddi (expressing God's satisfaction) and tarahhum (asking God's mercy) to some people.

3. Like in Sunni rijal, the scholars would give tawtheeq to people or weaken them, based on their biographical data, beliefs, actions, who they associate with, etc.

4. The clients, messengers, and tax-collectors of the Imams were largely given tawtheeq.

5. People can be given tawtheeq through other thiqa people.

6. People can be given tawtheeq if they are relied upon by major trustworthy companions of the Imams (as`hab al-ijma`)

And many other means.

There are certain levels that a narrator can embody.

1. A narrator can be considered thiqa. This means the narrator is trustworthy in what he narrates. Non-Shi`is can be considered thiqa, but this will be noted in the grading of the chain. A sahih chain is one where all the rijal are Imami Shi`a. A muwathaq chain is a chain that is all thiqa, but may include trustworthy Sunnis, Zaydis, Fat`his, Waqifis, etc.

2. A narrator can be considered `aadil or faadil or mamdooh which means that he is a just and good person, but his explicit tawtheeq cannot be established. This makes a chain hasan in grading.

3. A narrator can be considered dha`eef, which means he is weak. Either he is known for lying and bad character, or he is associated with the enemies of Ahl al-Bayt (nawasib, or ghulat - Shi`i extremists), or both.

4. A narrator can be considered majhool, which means we may know some biographical details about the person, but not enough to establish trustworthiness or lack thereof.

There is a theory called as`hab al-ijma` that is used by a minority of scholars. The as`hab al-ijma` are a list of 18 companions of five of the Imams who are considered very trustworthy central figures of the sect. This method says: any hadith that is authentic up to one of these 18 can be accepted. Even if one of these 18 individuals narrate from someone without tawtheeq, the idea is that they would not relate a hadith unless it had value - as they were close, accepted, and tested supporters of the Imams. However, to be safe and cautious, many rijal scholars do not use this method.

The hadiths parimarily came from the Imams during their time in Medina. Their Shi`i partisans were mainly Kufan visitors who would go to Medina, stay for a while, gather knowledge and bring it back to Kufa. As mentioned before, Kufa and Baghdad were an Islamic powerhouse during the second century AH, and most of what was written in the early period in both sects was in Iraq and Persia. That is where most Muslim scholars came from and most Islamic books were written. Thus, the tradition survives through this transmission. From Kufa, the hadiths also went to Qum when Ibrahim b. Hashim and others took their traditions there. There were thousands of Shi`as in Iraq during the time of the 6th Imam, and many hundreds of his companions were Kufan transmitters of hadiths.

A hadith or concept that is narrated through multiple chains is mutawater (widely narrated). `Aqeeda must be established on mutawater traditions. Fiqh however can be established throug ahad (single-authority) traditions.

There are some issues with rijal. We should recognize that it is still a man-made system and will have its faults. The main fault in Shi`i rijal is that there are too many majhool narrators, because the Ahl al-Bayt had thousands of students, and the status of many of them was not known to the scholars of rijal. Also, different scholars had different opinions on certain narrators. There are also some manuscript discrepancies in the works of some rijal scholars (most prominently, Ibn al-Ghada'iri's). Sometimes we don't have as many biographical details as we want. Rijal scholars largely lived after the people they had written about were dead. However, the system can weed out contradictions and strengthen established concepts. It is also an insurance that what we believe and practice was what the best of the Muslims believed and practiced.

The gradings of narrators are usually extrapolated from the biographical information provided by major Shi`i classical scholars of rijal. These scholars include Najashi (~ d. 1058), whose gradings are usually preferred, Ibn al-Ghada'iri (11th century), Shaykh al-Tusi (d. 1067), and Kashhi (d. 951). It is recorded that Shaykh al-Kulayni, the compiler of al-Kafi, and Shaykh as-Saduq had their own books of rijal, but those book have not survived. Furthermore, some scholars have accepted all of the narrators who have been included in Tafsir al-Qummi and Kamil az-Ziyarat, under the belief that the authors of these works have only included reliable narrators. Later scholars who have contributed to the science include `Allamah al-Hilli (d. 14th century), `Allamah al-Majlisi (d. 17th century), Shaykh Bahbudi (d. 20th century), Sayyid Burujirdi (d. 20th century), al-Khoei (d. 20th century), Muhammad Taqi al-Tustari (d. 20th century) Shaykh Asif Muhsini, Shaykh ar-Radi, Shaykh as-Sanad, and many others.

It should be noted that the authors of the Four Books - Kulayni, Saduq, and Tusi - took rijal seriously. They believed that their books were filtered enough to represent Twelver Shiism, even for lay use. Kulayni in particular viewed his work as sahih in content. Many attested to the works of these scholars and others. While some later scholars have weakened many narrations in the Four Books based on a strict adherence to classical rijal standards, this standard is seen by some scholars to be too stringent and unnecessary. Still, the study of rijal provides a wealth of information on our sources, and it remains a critical tool for scholars and seminarians.

That is some [very] basic information on rijal in Shiism - inshaAllah it is helpful to some.

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Very beautiful post. One can safely say among Shias "Hadiths are literally brought up in the Ahlae Bayt a.s from one generation to another and transmitted to people outside the family from very first generation of Imam Hassan a.s to last generation of Imam Mahdi a.s"

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How am I to know (or anyone else for the matter) after the 12 Imams, some over zealous person embellished the narrations from these chains.   Only fallible, erring man could preserve the hadith's/records following their death's.  How do we know they've been left un-tampered or unaltered?  The Safaviyya powers most definitely didn't follow a strict/islamic guideline in establishing their power and quite indeed did take liberties with regarding to "honing" literature and other historical articles to fit certain narratives.

Also, your title is captioned "Grading Hadiths:.."  It seems one-sided (perhaps out of unknowing) explained Shia' methodology of grading while completely leaving out Sunni's methodology in grading/classifying hadiths.   Though there are many questionable individuals in Sunni narrations, even Sunni scholars don't take all of their words and narrations to be transmitted accurately nor truthful. 

Sunni hadiths have a grading system based on cross references to check for consistency and etc., and validation along with position, authority, timing, etc.  However though still containing many faults.  Unfortunately I see many similar faults in Shia Hadith, though one example I can provide will be in a lengthy response to another thread I'm getting ready to reply to soon.

I didn't provide a summation as descriptive as yours, but your Sunni description of Hadith grading methodology is extremely lacking.

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The post was not meant to be comprehensive of both sects. Rijal is a very complex science, and the introduction above is meant for Shia readers and Shia books. I did compliment the Sunni rijal system in my post for its rich biographical documentation. But Sunni compilations differ from Shia compilations - books like al-Kafi were based mostly on written sources (the 300 usool), while al-Bukhari relied mostly on oral reports, even though they were written only within a few decades of one another.

As for your skepticism on the authenticity of our narrations: many of the books Kulayni was quoting were famous and widely available during his time. Kulayni has never been accused of tampering his hadiths, and soon after his death, his book was being quoted by other eminent authorities in our school. The Safavids didn't author our classical literature - we have pre-Safavid manuscripts of our major books. Furthermore, we still have several books that were written during the lives of the first 11 Imams, such as Sahifa Sajjadiyya, Kitab Sulaym b. Qays, the 16 Usool, al-Mahasin, Qurb al-Isnad, al-Ja`fariyyat, Tafsir al-`Ayashi, Tafsir Furat al-Kufi, Maqtal al-Husayn by Abu Mikhnaf, etc.

All hadith grading systems are flawed in some way, and I pointed out some of the flaws of our system in my original post. However, this does not make the system useless. Our rijal scholars have provided very ample information on thousands of students of our Imams.

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A hadith or concept that is narrated through multiple chains is mutawater (widely narrated). `Aqeeda must be established on mutawater traditions. Fiqh however can be established throug ahad (single-authority) traditions.

Salaams Qa'im,

Thank you for the informative post (much appreciated).

What are the criteria for establishing a hadith or concept as being mutawater (widely narrated)? What's the cut off point between mutawater and ahad?

It's my understanding that anything established via mutawater traditions is definite knowledge (i.e. text of Quran) and anything established via ahad traditions is probable knowledge.

Is my understanding correct?

If so, is one free (i.e. one's Islam is still intact) to not accept notions like the bodies of Prophets, Imams, saints and martyrs being preserved from decomposing in the grave? I'm guessing this idea is established via single-authority traditions?

Finally, are the traditions relating to the splitting of the Moon of a mutawater or ahad  nature?

Apologies for all the questions brother.

 

Edited by Abdul-Hussein

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1 hour ago, Abdul-Hussein said:

What are the criteria for establishing a hadith or concept as being mutawater (widely narrated)? What's the cut off point between mutawater and ahad?

Wa alaykum as-salaam,

There are different definitions for tawatur, but in general, a mutawatir hadith is one that has more than one chain and the same (or almost the same) words. A hadith or a concept that is mutawatir bil ma`na is one that is supported by multiple traditions with the same general meaning. In general, `aqeeda is built upon tawatur (both mutawatir hadiths and mutawatir bil ma`na concepts). Fiqh can be based on ahad (hadiths or ideas supported by 1 chain only).

It is unlikely for mutawatir hadiths or concepts to be fabricated, so they cannot be easily dismissed.

2 hours ago, Abdul-Hussein said:

If so, is one free (i.e. one's Islam is still intact) to not accept notions like the bodies of Prophets, Imams, saints and martyrs being preserved from decomposing in the grave? I'm guessing this idea is established via single-authority traditions?

I have not researched this specific issue unfortunately.

 

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      The correlation between OCD and being sensitive may apply only to some people. There is no clear evidence that highly sensitive individuals are prone to the disorder, although one of the symptoms indicate sensitivity to be a major factor. For instance, one may begin to obsess over hygiene as they fear being contaminated or infected with bacteria at home, so they start washing their hands repeatedly or attempting to maintain the cleanliness of the house. They are sensitive to any foreign substance present within their surrounding environment.
      In Islam, we must sustain purity before prayer. That means performing ablution or a full body ritual purification that is called 'ghusl'. Nevertheless, one may start developing doubts as to whether they are truly purified. Women may have doubts about discharge whilst men may begin to worry about excreting semen. Perhaps their clothes were impure, or that they passed gas during prayer. It could lead to repeatedly showering, performing ablution or using the bathroom more frequently. For the individual it is undoubtedly stressful and can lead to physical health problems, such as dry skin and hair as well as acne.
      The flashback memories of my past childhood always affects me till this day. I was born as a sensitive and naive child. Sensitivity is that one trait people often despise, even the carriers of it. I was faced with difficulties for self acceptance, because not only did I loathe my self for my overreacting personality, I was a victim of fat shaming. I wanted to feel happy, free of worries by claiming my desires. But unfortunately we do not live in a Utopian world; not everything we wish for can be granted, unless we choose to put the effort. I definitely take it to heart if someone still fat shamed me, even if it was merely a 'joke'. It evokes all my memories of self loathe, where I was rather too young to be feeling insecure followed by wasted effort from dieting and physical activity. We dislike being called sensitive despite us being fully aware. We refuse to admit our behaviours because we choose to not be defined by it. We feel weak, with no self control towards our impulses. When these emotions begin to overwhelm us, our mental health deteriorates. We feel violated if one makes a remark, which leads us being defensive.
      One must also understand that sensitive people can vary. Some are just easily emotional and have deep empathy, whereas others I previously mentioned have the tendency to take everything so personal. Normally these individuals have insecurities followed by low self esteem and hence their weakness is criticism. They are not skilled to ignore varying perceptions because they choose to listen to them and not their own conscious mind. It is the fear of judgement that they may receive.
      You may be wondering about its relevance to scrupulosity, but in some form it plays a role. Again, it is not necessarily the cause of the disorder and this is only an elucidation of my own personal experience. I investigated within myself and realised that one of the triggers towards OCD was my highly sensitive personality. Followed by the altering chemical changes, my overreactions led to repetitive self harm out of guilt and loathe. My personality may have been a stepping stone towards the disorder; the smallest of things I felt was a grave sin and through time it only had gotten worse.
      Do not let others define you, a very important lesson that I wish I had grasped years ago. People like to manipulate and make you feel bad, even though you may be the victim. That does not mean you should play its role, rather you should only believe in what your heart feels right. Sometimes we know that our very own mind controls us too and causes us to react or act in ways we regret later, but do not let the past define you. Every now and then I feel hurt from my own levels of faith, because when you have that love and dedication to the Lord, the judgements you receive will become meaningless.
       
       
    • By 3wliya_maryam in spoken words/poetry/ deep thinking
         1
      I came across a tragic story of a young man who committed suicide as he convinced himself that he was not a true servant of God. He was well known for his piety and devotion in religious obligations. But such dark whispers led him to believe that Allah was still displeased with him. Whether or not he knew that suicide is a grave sin, perhaps he thought that he would never reach God's satisfaction either way. 
      I was baffled and lost with words. Someone who had such high faith and yet found it hard to battle the demons that propelled him to his downfall. But only He knew precisely what he was going through; it may have been his family, or the community's imagery of Islam. He most likely was suffering from depression or anxiety. Part of me wishes to have helped him drive away his misery as we both share similar grievances. May Allah forgive and have mercy upon him.
      It is quite scary to even imagine the consequences of any mental illness and where it could lead to. For something as perplexing as this man's story I have never read that OCD could be this severe. Perhaps he had a secret, where he did not choose to end his life on the basis of these thoughts that are linked to the disorder. It may have been something else that was giving him torment.
      Guilt is an intolerable feeling second to heartbreak. Islamically it is meant to restrain us from sinning and if it were to cease from mankind, we would all turn into vicious and evil beings. However, in some cases guilt can become so vulnerable that it can no longer be tolerated. When this happens individuals may develop a strong fear towards guilt which is termed as "guilt sensitivity" and is shown to be one of the main symptoms of OCD. They feel violated and hence to avoid this unbearable emotion, ritualistic patterns and behaviours are performed to eliminate it. If we relate this to scrupulosity, the individual highly fears God. They will try their hardest to end the guilt by excessively praying or performing other religious obligations, believing that this will please Him. In fact, it only worsens the symptoms and results in pathological guilt that can become distressing.
      Prior to finding treatment within myself, I was the kind to easily feel overwhelmed with heavy guilt, especially towards my family. It tormented me from the inside, where I would choose to withdraw in my confined space and release my emotions. I loathed feeling this way as it was getting out of hand. When I finally found the means to break free from my compulsions, that feeling went away. And even when I still felt guilty for hurting my parents, I intended to drive it away as I did not want to experience the same kind of hurt again.
      Parents have a talented skill in guilt tripping their children as a means of attempting to keep them in line. If there is one aspect within our parents upbringing that has negatively impacted our lives of youth would be in terms of religion by using guilt ineffectively. An example would be forcing a child to pray, or forcing them to wear the headscarf. All that force only does more harm than good, but sadly some parents do not realise that. God does not intend to make our religion difficult to pursue, therefore Islam is a religion of encouragement and not force. Each Muslim is on their own journey, their own pathway into seeking the truth and strengthening their will regardless of what stage they are in. If our parents weren't so compromised towards their communities' vile perceptions and clinging onto idiotic cultural taboos then I doubt majority of us would be in such a position. Now that we have identified the truth, we will be the generation to alter the ways we have been taught by them.
       
    • By Haji 2003 in Contemporania
         0
      A niece living in India wrote a personal statement for British universities, in support of her application and wanted my feedback.
      Here it is:
       
      Salaam. It’s very well written. It has very good references to extra curricular activities.
      The only thing it may be missing are references to academic achievements, such as essay competitions / prizes etc. but if you don’t have anything to say there - there’s not much you can do. 
      Structure-wise it starts in a very abstract way and it may be an idea to begin with something more concrete.
      People who read these may be used to bull$hit and you want to avoid starting off with the wrong impression.
      Let me know if there is anything else.
       
      She did not come back to me with a response, perhaps because of one of the words that I used. But as you guys may remember I used the same for my son when warning his primary school teacher about how to handle him.
      Anyway one of the leading British universities responded that they did not understand her personal statement.
      Not surprised.
    • By Ibn al-Hussain in Just Another Muslim Blogger
         0
      Follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IqraOnlineBlog/
      Original post: https://www.iqraonline.net/dialogue-with-believers/
      An epidemic harming our communities is the general inability, hesitance & fear of engaging in dialogue with one another. In fact, in recent years, it appears there has been a significant increase in our communities engaging and initiating inter-faith dialogue, yet we do not see this phenomenon within our own communities. This is while we need such initiatives perhaps even much more so than inter-faith. We lack the ethics and etiquette of engaging in dialogue with other believers and this naturally weakens, distances and breaks up our communities on various fronts. This is of utmost concern particularly for the diaspora that is already in a vulnerable position – and things do not seem to be getting any better. Dialogue is not simply “speaking” – speaking is not the issue, in fact, many of us speak and have a lot to say, and our pulpits are occupied all year long with trained scholars, untrained lecturers and academics speaking.
      A dialogue will generally have these three elements:
      1) Two or more people
      2) A subject of dispute or a subject that needs clarification
      3) An expectation that the result of dialogue will either be in favour of you and/or the other party, or not (depending on the conclusion).
      When dialogue does not take place, the results we observe are usually the belittlement of others, insults, accusations and rumours, swearing, and in fact, a lack of dialogue can even lead to physical confrontations, wars and bloodshed. These are of course all horrible consequences, particularly when the victims are no other than our selves. These consequences show that the subject of dispute was not resolved or there was no capacity to engage in a dialogue to begin with.
      Why do we not engage in dialogue amongst ourselves? Are those who we disagree with amongst the believers so off the mark that we need to maintain a position against them like we should do with those who are genuine enemies of our belief? This is most often not the case at all and only in extremely exceptional circumstances do we have to encounter such groups of people – at which point it would be difficult to even classify them as believers. In the Treatise of Rights, Imam Sajjad (a) says that people of your creed enjoy the following rights over you:
      The right of the people of your creed is harbouring safety for them, compassion toward them, kindness toward their wrong-doer, treating them with friendliness, seeking their well-being, thanking their good-doer, and keeping harm away from them. You should love for them what you love for yourself and dislike for them what you dislike for yourself. Their old men stand in the place of your father, their youths in the place of your brothers, their old women in the place of your mother, and their young ones in the place of your children.
      Neglecting dialogue over matters of contention, more often than not, results in the trampling of some or all of these rights. So what prevents us from engaging in dialogue? Perhaps one or more of the following preliminaries required for dialogue do not exist:
      1. The need to recognize other believers as noble creations of Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى). Verse [17:70] says Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) has given the children of Adam nobility and honour. In some of our communities, we see believers giving a lot of respect to Sayyids and this is not for any reason except for the fact that they are connected to the Prophet (p) through a chain of many generations. However, it behooves us to realize that we (and creation as a whole) are connected to Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) directly (or as per certain schools of philosophy, we are the very connection itself). Looking at another believer through the lens of dishonour and painting them as ignoble will not lead us anywhere and signifies a much greater spiritual problem.
      2. Acknowledging that humans are different from certain aspects – gender, ethnicities, tribes, physical and spiritual capacities, affinities, tastes etc. We have two types of Sunnah (pl. Sunan) – the Sunnah of the Prophet and the Sunnah of Allah. The Sunan of Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) are divided into two: there are some Sunan that only become applicable when humans bring them upon themselves through their free-will; for example, the increased bestowal of guidance once we have wilfully chosen to come into Islam -
      [47:17] As for those who are [rightly] guided, He enhances their guidance.
      [19:76] Allah enhances in guidance those who are [rightly] guided.
      There are some Sunan of Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) that are absolute, not conditioned to the free-will of man. One of these Sunan is His creating us different. These differences are one of the necessary conditions for trial and tribulation to have any meaning in this world.
      [5:48] …and had Allah wished He would have made you one community, but [His purposes required] that He should test you in respect to what He has given you…
      [6:165] It is He who has made you successors on the Earth, and raised some of you in rank above others so that He may test you in respect to what He has given you.
      As such, it is normal that even within the same worldview, there will be times people reach different conclusions and do things differently. Acknowledging this opens the door to considering certain points of contention worthy of engagement. On the contrary, allowing these contentions to break us apart may very well be a sign that the believers are failing in their trials.
      3. The lack of desire to engage in Ṣulḥ - to reach a conciliation and compromise. Ṣulḥ is often discussed in the context of resolving personal disputes and ironing out details of settlements, or as a treaty for halting warfare. But the general principles of Ṣulḥ can also be used to resolve larger community disputes – as was common in the Muslim world in the past and continues to be the case in many rural places. However, this generic understanding of Ṣulḥ only works if parties involved have a desire to discuss their disputes in a sincere manner (the details and mechanisms of Ṣulḥ have been discussed in detail in their appropriate places). One should not see the mere existence of differences as necessarily going against the command of holding on to the rope of Allah [3:103] - these two are reconcilable on many occasions as the scholars have mentioned. The absence of Ṣulḥ breaks and fragments the communities of the believers.
      4. Reality is too vast and not all of it is in our hands. At any given point we have only understood certain aspects of it and that as well to a certain degree, not absolute reality –
      [17:85] and you have not been given of the knowledge except a little.
      We need to acknowledge that there are other perspectives and there is genuine room for these perspectives to be justified within an Islamic framework. The vastness of reality should alone be enough to humble and soften us to engage in dialogue with another party amongst the believers. The delusion of having uncovered all of the truth regarding a certain matter and behaving as if no one else could possibly say anything that would add anything to our knowledge is a deterrent and barrier for dialogue.
    • By Ibn al-Hussain in Just Another Muslim Blogger
         0
      Follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IqraOnlineBlog/
      Original post: https://www.iqraonline.net/when-apologies-becomes-unethical/
      There is no doubt that apologizing and seeking forgiveness for having done something wrong is an ethical act. It is something we should all do for any of our mistakes and shortcomings that became the cause of harm and nuisance to others. Apologizing shows us that the individual has intuitively realized the flaws of a certain decision they had made and their regret over it, and so, we qualify it as a moral and ethical act originating in their recognition of this fact.
      However, we only qualify the act of apologizing as an ethical act when it is within a certain framework and meets certain conditions. If one’s apology does not meet these conditions, the act of apologizing itself becomes immoral and unethical. This is something Muslims at large need to be wary off, particularly the Muslim diaspora in the West.
      An apology is only ethical when it is offered in response to one’s own mistake or criminal offence. If one apologizes in a situation where they know they have committed no crime nor offence, this is an unethical instance of an apology. Imam ‘Alī (a) has been reported to have said: “One who seeks pardon without having sinned, has imposed that sin upon himself.” This is because by apologizing, one gives the impression of being guilty of something, even though they are not guilty of anything. A very apparent example of this is the initiative taken by some Muslims to apologize for crimes certain other Muslims happen to commit.
      An even more unethical type of apology is one that is done after fulfilling a religious responsibility and duty. This is an apology one offers after doing something they had to in order to fulfill the commands of Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى), yet after doing so, they offer an apology because they realized that the other party was unhappy with them for whatever reason. In another tradition, Imam ‘Alī (a) has said, “Do not seek pardon for obeying the commands of Allah – it being a sign of honour for you should suffice.” A simple example of this would be Muslims who refuse to shake hands with the opposite gender, yet still apologizing for their behaviour.
      Furthermore, one notices that the Islamic tradition is silent on whether one should expect and insist on an apology from someone who causes them harm. On the contrary, what we find are ample traditions on accepting an apology when it is offered. It is not strange then that we do not find any historical reports telling us that Imam ‘Alī (a) demanded an apology during his own caliphate from anyone who caused him trouble. This notion of being expected to apologize is important to note because another instance of an immoral apology is one where one is expected to give an apology by an individual or a community for a wrong ulterior motive – often political.
      For example, when ‘Uthmān exiled Abū Dharr, he ordered Marwān to take Abū Dharr out of the city and not allow anyone else to accompany them. Despite the orders of the caliph, Imam ‘Alī (a) alongside ‘Aqīl and his sons came to accompany Abū Dharr – their presence also signifying a sign of protest against the exile. Marwān saw this as an insult to himself and the caliph was also angered when he came to know about this. The seniors amongst the Muhājirūn and the Anṣār began pressuring the Imam to apologize to Marwān, implying that he expects an apology, but the Imam (a) responds to them, “As for Marwān, I will not go to him and neither will I apologize to him.” In our own day to day life, we see these expectations being put on Muslims – often with ulterior motives behind them – where one is to apologize for certain positions or views they hold or certain decisions they make while being within their right to do so.
      In the same light, another unethical apology is one that is to someone who sees you as worthless, denies you your rights, and sees themselves as the possessor of all rights. In one of the wisdom of Luqmān, narrated by Imam Ṣādiq (a), he is reported to have said, “do not apologize to someone who does not ascertain any rights for you.” This is because apologizing to such an individual does nothing but bring humility and shame to you.
      Finally, one should only apologize if they know they are truly in the wrong. This is the case even if one is found guilty in court after evidence has been established against them. They can be reprimanded according to the law for what they were found guilty of, but despite this, if they themselves know they were not guilty in reality, apologizing in such a situation cannot be considered ethical. We also see that Islamic law is silent on the matter of demanding and insisting the guilty to apologize for their errors.
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