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In the Name of God بسم الله
Inner Peace reacted to Qa'im for a blog entry, Identity Politics
Activists today talk much of identity politics. Identity politics, also called identitarian politics, refers to political positions based on the interests and perspectives of social groups with which people identify.
You may have heard people "identify as a gay person", or "identify as a black nationalist", or "identify as a vegetarian", or identify themselves with a certain race, nationality, creed, economic class, or ideology. They are then expected to behave and dress according to the mores of that identity. Discovering oneself is indeed a necessary process in the journey of life. It is common for Westerners to travel around Europe, flirt with Indian mysticism, or teach in east Asia in an effort to "find" themselves.
So what is our true Islamic identity? One may say Shia, but to be a Shia of `Ali (a) means much more than to belong to a certain minority community. The Shia are an elite nucleus of believers. One may say Muslim, but even prophets Ibrahim (a) and Isma`il (a) had to pray for Allah to make them into Muslims - submitters to the will of Allah.
The answer to this question may be in the famous saying, “Whoso knows his self, assuredly knows his Lord.”
There are differences of opinion on the true meaning of this quote, but the commentary of this saying that this servant finds most consistent with the tradition is that of Shaykh al-Awhad Ahmad al-Ahsai. He says that the statement expresses conditionality (ta`leeq) to gnosis. The prophets, messengers, and deputies had a self-awareness, believing that their selves were a part of a grander creation, whose origin is Allah. He cites 41:53, 18:51, and a du`a’ of the 12th Imam that put the nafs alongside the rest of creation as temporal signs of an eternal God.
Ahsai brings forward a similar hadith attributed to the Prophet Dawud, in which he says “Whoso knows the ignorance of his self, assuredly knows the strength of his Lord. And, whoso knows the incapacity of his self, assuredly knows the power of his Lord.” This is an expression of the weak, limitedness of man, which thus highlights the strength and capacity of Allah.
This means that one must acknowledge the fact that he was created, and therefore, he is a finite and limited being in need of a Creator and Sustainer. One must realize the limits of his own power and his intelligence to understand He who is All-Powerful and All-Knowing. That is the beginning of the process of ma`rifa - cognizance of the Divine - where one surrenders himself in faith and in action to Absolute Perfection.
So the true identity that a person must recognize is that they are a created servant who is in total need of God. We say "ashhadu anna Muhammadan `abduhu wa rasuluh" in the tashahhud, which acknowledges the servitude of Muhammad (s) to his Lord. This servitude is the key to true greatness, because one who is a slave to God cannot be a slave to worldliness. All people surrender, whether to their own desires or to an outside force, but if one's reliance is completely on Allah, he will be free from obeying others. One who fears only Allah does not fear anything else, which elevates his status in the creation. It is out of Prophet Muhammad's sincere service to Allah that made him the best of creation.
Returning to postmodern identity politics: identifying yourself with what you eat or who you have sex with is very shallow. Food and sex are functions of the lower self. Identifying with a race is identifying with an accidental characteristic of yourself rather than your essential nature. As much as these "groups" may be relevant in today's world, we should not be fixated on `asabiyya (tribalism, group mentality), which was the underlining feature of jahiliyya. Identity politics can blind us from ethics, which is rooted more in verbs and adverbs than in nouns and pronouns. It can cause irreparable division and segregation. And finally, it can cause us to lose focus of our purpose and goal: ma`rifa.
"And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me." (51:56)
Inner Peace reacted to Ibn Al-Ja'abi for a blog entry, Christianity in Pre-Islamic Arabia
I've intended for this post to be a placeholder until I publish my next entry on the linguistic history of the Arabic language until the early Islamic period. I've adapted it from a post I made elsewhere. It represents an early phase in my research on the religions in pre-Islamic Arabia, it's rather informal but so is the nature of my research right now. InshaAllah it'll be added to, corrected, and fixed as time progresses.
The presence of Christianity in Arabia was already centuries old by the time the Prophet was born. Historical Arabia was identified as a region spanning from the Eastern banks of the Nile to the Euphrates and as far north as the Syrian desert. According the Socrates Scholasticus, the Byzantine ecclesiastical historian, not the Athenian philosopher, a Queen Mavia (ماوية) of the Ishmaelites, who reigned from the late fourth century to the early fifth century, converted to Christianity. She went on to appoint a Bishop named Moses, another "Saracen" (Arab) who led a monastic life and was reputed to preform miracles. Eusebius writes about an Arab Monarchian named Beryllus, Bishop of Bostra. He believed that Christ was a distinct divinity but only possessed the Divine nature of God the Father after the incarnation. Origen of Alexandria converted him back to "orthodoxy" (in the lower-case sense of the word, not upper-case sense referring to the Orthodox Churches).
It seems that by the birth of Prophet Muhammad there was a major presence of various "heretical" Christian groups. A misattributed dictum of St. Theodoret of Cyrrhus states that "Arabia hæresium ferax", "Arabia is the bearer of heresies". Scholars have attempt to identify the groups present in Arabia using antique and mediaeval sources and the Qur'anic description of their doctrines.
Theophilos Indus, an Arian Bishop sent by Emperor Constantius II to Asia via Arabia as a missionary. He is reported to have converted the people of Himyar to Arianism. He was Heteroousian, a follower of the theologian Aetius, who denied that Christ and God the Father were of the same substance. It's possible that Arianism survived in the region.
There was also a presence of Severan Monophysites, followers of Severus of Antioch who believed in the "natural union" of Christ's two natures, concentrated on the Red Sea coast (Hijaz and Yemen). The Julianists, a group closely related to the Docetists, are of particular interest due to their rejection of Christ having died on the cross -- a view also found in the Gnostic Apocalypse of Peter (where Christ is in a tree and laughing at whoever is being crucified). Irfan Shahid states Ashab al-Ukhdud (People of the Ditch) that the Qur'an mentions were Monophysites. Their account is also mentioned in text called "The Book of the Himyarites", a Syriac work which was translated into English by Axel Moberg. Their leader was St. Arethas (Harith) was written about in the 7th century text Acta Sancti Arethæ/Martyrium Sancti Arethæ.
There was also a Nestorian presence in Arabia. The Prophet was aware of this and the Qur'an even employs the Nestorian idea of "Isa b. Maryam" to deny that Christ is the Son of God. The aforementioned Book of the Himyarites also has a passage were Dhu-Nuwas employs Nestorian terms to refer to the Christology of the "majority of Christians" (in his realm).
Though Monophysitism did become dominate after the fall of Dhu-Nuwas, Nesotrianism returned with the conquest of South Arabia by the Sassanids. In the lifetime of the Prophet, Nestorian missionaries from Najran would go to Ukadh to preach, and Prophet Muhammad encountered one who left an impression on him, Quss b. Sa'idah al-Iyyadi. He was possibly a bishop of Najran. Irfan Shahid mentions this as a matter of fact in "Islam and Oriens Christianus". However, he's also argued against this position in his entry on Quss b. Sa'idah in the Brill Encyclopaedia of Islam, saying that it was just a conflation of several facts about him and the Episcopate of Najran.
Shahid believes there also might have been an Ethiopic Christian presence. This is based on what seems to be Ge'ez terms being used by the Qur'an, such as Nasara rather than Masihiyyun, Isa rather than Yasu'. Though in the case of the latter Arthur Jeffery demonstrates how this could have also happened as a result of natural linguistic corruption when the word transferred from Syriac to Arabic.
References and Further reading:
Irfan Shahid's article "ISLAM AND ORIENS CHRISTIANUS: MAKKA 610-622 AD" represents a bulk of the research here, I would highly recommend it. You might also want to check out Irfan Shahid's series on Byzantium and Arabia. Gabriel Said Reynold's The Qur'an in its Historical Context (both parts one and two) might also prove useful. And Darren M. Slade's article "ARABIA HAERESIUM FERAX (ARABIA BEARER OF HERESIES): Schismatic Christianity’s Potential Influence on Muhammad and the Qur’an ".
Inner Peace reacted to Qa'im for a blog entry, Grading Hadiths: An Introduction
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.