What is it that enables some leaders to continue to be inspirational and not lose followers even when their decisions may not be to their follower’s liking? This is a very critical dilemma of leadership, of walking the tightrope between populist actions and doing what needs to be done and risk losing popularity. In today’s political environment of playing to the gallery, leaders are often held to ‘ransom’ by their followers who give or withdraw support because they don’t like what the leader’s decision. Or don’t understand his wisdom. In modern times, the example of Al Gore comes to mind, where Americans chose George Bush over him for President of America. One can fantasize about how the world would have been different if the author of ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, had become President. But that is water under the bridge.
So, what is it that sets a leader apart where even when he proposes to do what his followers either don’t understand or don’t like, they still support him and commit to his way and he doesn’t lose trust in their eyes?
The two finest examples of this in Islamic history are the Treaty of Hudaybiyya and the Wars of Riddah. Let us see the challenges that the leaders faced in each of them.
I won’t narrate the history of this very famous treaty as it is well known. I will list the challenges that Rasoolullahﷺ faced. They were perhaps the most severe challenges that any leader could have faced, especially one who was the Messenger of Allahﷻ and so the recipient of Wahi (Revelation). He took the people with him on Umrah, naturally with the intention of performing Umrah but thanks to a series of events which obviously he could not have anticipated, he was now in the process of signing a treaty that was so one-sided as to be humiliating for the Muslims. Two of the most difficult to accept clauses were:
1. They must return to Madina without making Umrah
2. If a Muslim left Islam and went over to the Quraysh of Makkah he/she would be given refuge and need not be returned to Madina. But if a non-Muslim accepted Islam and went from Makkah to Madina, he/she must be returned to Makkah and must not be given refuge.
To add to the difficulty, Abu Jandal bin Suhayl the brother of Abdullah ibn Suhayl and son of Suhayl Ibn Amr, the orator of Quraysh had accepted Islam and consequently had been imprisoned by his father, escaped and came to Hudaybiyya having heard that Rasoolullahﷺ was camped there. His father Suahyl ibn Amr was the representative of Quraysh, negotiating the treaty. The clauses of the treaty had been agreed upon but had not been written down yet. He demanded that his son should be handed over to him to be returned to Makkah in chains and Rasoolullahﷺ agreed. He advised Abu Jandal (R) to be patient when he complained that the Quraysh would punish him for accepting Islam. The Sahaba were horrified because what was happening was directly against the custom of giving refuge to a victim and in this case to a fellow Muslim. Yet Rasoolullahﷺ was honoring the clause of a treaty even though it had not yet been signed. He was honoring his word which had been given, the writing of which was merely detail. The Sahaba were very sad and angry.
Sad about not being able to enter Makkah and make Umrah and angry at what the Quraysh were demanding. Omar ibn Al Khattab (R) even went the extent of questioning Rasoolullahﷺ. Once again, I will not go into the details here as these are well known. However, I would like to say that his questioning was really the unconscious expression of the doubt in the minds of many others, if not most. It was a cry of anguish in the face of the apparently placid and submissive acceptance of injustice. Yet when all was said and done, the Sahaba stood behind Rasoolullahﷺ solidly and followed him and did as he instructed them to do. And that is the bottom-line and the question that I raise here, ‘What was it about Rasoolullahﷺ that inspired them to follow him, even when his decision was not to their liking?’
To better understand the challenge from the perspective of the followers (Sahaba) let me list some of the obvious doubts that this entire incident raises. I am not saying that the Sahaba had these doubts. Allahﷻ knows what was in their minds and hearts and that is not the subject of our discussion here. This is an objective analysis of one of the most severe tests of leadership in history which is important for us to understand. I call this the ‘final exam’, which qualified the Sahaba in the sight of Allahﷻ to lead the world and Heﷻ opened for them not only the doors of Makkah but the whole of their world. Hudaybiyya was the toughest exam because it was not a test of bravery or physical prowess, but a test of faith and trust. The Sahaba passed it with flying colors.
The doubts that the incident raises are:
1. They believed in Muhammadﷺ as the Messenger of Allahﷻ who received Revelation (Wahi). They believed that one of the forms in which Wahi was received was in a dream. Rasoolullahﷺ had seen in his dream that he was making Umrah with his companions and so, had invited them to join him to travel to Makkah to make Umrah. However, now he was agreeing not to make Umrah that year and was going to return to Madina with them without fulfilling the intention of performing Umrah.
2. They had been taught and believed that Islam was the truth. They had been taught and believed that standing up for the truth and fighting against falsehood was a sacred trust and duty. Yet here they were apparently giving in to blatant injustice.
3. They now faced the prospect of returning to Madina to the taunts of the Munafiqeen who would no doubt cast aspersions on the prophethood and veracity of Rasoolullahﷺ.
4. For Rasoolullahﷺ himself were the questions, ‘If Allahﷻ wanted him to make Umrah, why did this barrier come about? Why did Allahﷻ not open the door for him to make Umrah after directing him to do so in his dream? Why was Allahﷻ wanting him to sign such a humiliating treaty with his enemies? What ‘face’ would he have with his followers who believed in his Messengership? What about his personal credibility as the Messenger of Allahﷻ?’
Truly Hudaybiyya was a test, difficult beyond belief. That is why I call it the ‘final’ exam of the Sahaba.
Wars of Riddah
Before we discuss the reasons for the Sahaba remaining steadfast in their support for Rasoolullahﷺ let me mention another similar incident in early Muslim history which was a landmark for the future of Islam. This was the refusal of many tribes to pay Zakat, after the death of Rasoolullahﷺ. They refused on the grounds that they used to pay it to Rasoolullahﷺ who was no longer present and so Zakat was not due any longer. Abu Bakr Siddique (R) the Khalifa reminded them that Zakat was not a personal payment to Rasoolullahﷺ but was a Rukn (Pillar) of Islam about which Rasoolullahﷺ had declared that anyone who separated Salah from Zakat had left Islam. It was on this basis that Rasoolullahﷺ had refused to accept the Islam of the Banu Thaqeef of At-Ta’aif when they came to him and offered to accept Islam on condition that they be made exempt from paying Zakat. Rasoolullahﷺ refused and declared that both Salah and Zakat were Pillars of Islam and equal in importance and that leaving of either would be tantamount to leaving Islam. On this basis, Abu Bakr Siddique (R) declared war on those tribes who refused to pay Zakat.
The Sahaba were very perturbed about this as it appeared that the Khalifa Abu Bakr Siddique (R) was planning to make war on Muslims. Omar ibn Al Khattab (R) asked Abu Bakr (R) how he could consider going to war against Muslims. Abu Bakr (R) said to him, ‘What has happened to you Omar, that you were very tough when you were not a Muslim but have become soft after entering Islam?’ He then reminded him about the ruling of Rasoolullahﷺ about separating Zakat from the rest of Islam and said, ‘Even if they refuse to give a single rope of a camel which is due, I will fight them.’ And that is what he did. In retrospect, it was this single unshakable stance of Abu Bakr Siddique (R) which preserved the integrity of Islam after Rasoolullahﷺ passed away. If he had not taken this firm stand, Islam would perhaps have disintegrated with people deciding to follow whatever suited them. But ask, ‘What is it that made the Sahaba support him even when they disagreed with his decision?’
In the case of Rasoolullahﷺ at Hudaybiyya, one could say that his position as being the Messenger of Allahﷻ was sacrosanct and when you believed that he was receiving Revelation, it was perhaps easier to follow without question. However, Abu Bakr (R) was not receiving Revelation. He was one among them, albeit first among equals, but an equal. Yet they obeyed him even though some or many didn’t agree with his decision, initially. Not only did they obey him, but they put their own lives on the line and enrolled in the conscript army which was the army of the time. Nobody stayed back. Nobody said, ‘I don’t agree and so I am not going to risk my life by joining the army.’ What made them do that?
I believe there were two major factors that operated in both these incidents; i.e. Hudaybiyya and the Wars of Riddah.
1. Trust: An unshakable faith beyond question in the personal credibility of the leader. This faith was based on the character of the leader which his followers had seen throughout his life and which inspired total trust and respect in their hearts. So, while they may have disagreed with the leader in a matter, his personal credibility, his intention that he wished the best for them, his objectivity, truthfulness, commitment to the goal (Islam), impartiality, lack of selfishness, sincerity, desire only to please Allahﷻ were never in question.
2. Respect: The belief that the leader was more knowledgeable, committed and sincere than any one of them. That he understands a situation better than the follower. That his track record shows that even in the past he had been right, when he differed with his followers.
As you can see, these two factors are dynamically linked. One supports the other. And both arise out of one’s conduct. When you live by your principles, you don’t have to keep talking about them. People see them in your life and emulate them in their own. The converse is equally true which we tragically see in our modern-day leadership. Leaders who don’t walk their talk may be obeyed out of fear but are never respected and loved. There is no way that a leader can divorce his personal conduct from his stated principles and expect followers to respect and follow his lead.
Personal credibility which translates to high respect. People trust those they respect. And they don’t trust those who lose respect in their estimation. A leader’s life is public. Every statement, whether made in seriousness or jest, is public. Every action, private or public, personal or involving others, is public. And they all contribute to the overall picture of the leader that people hold in their minds. Image and personal credibility of the leader is built on his walking the talk. People listen with their eyes and don’t care what you say until they see what you do. This is the Brand of the leader. They care less about what is being said, than about who is saying it. ‘How’ also matters, but only after ‘Who’. If people don’t respect the individual, what he/she says doesn’t matter. First the who, then the how and then the what. Seems strange but that is human psychology for you. People must first trust a leader. Then they listen to how he puts across his proposal. Then they think about what he is asking them to do. If the first two, especially the first one (high personal credibility), is strong, people will even go to extraordinary lengths to follow their leaders.
In times of stress, success of the leader depends on the ability of followers to recall and remember the brand. And still obey and follow the leader and commit themselves even when they don’t fully understand why they should commit. And even when they may not agree with some of what the leader is doing. Please note that what I am referring to is not what happens after the leader has explained what he is doing and why he wants their support. I am talking about a time when the leader may not have the time, opportunity or may for reasons of confidentiality, decide on a course of action without consulting his team. Will the team still follow him and commit fully to him and his course or will they hold back, rebel and not support? That is the meaning of faith in the leadership. Like all good things, maybe easier said than done, but like flying, if you want to fly, you must be aerodynamic. There is no alternative.
The Hyderabad Public School where I studied. A symbol of the Nizam of Hyderabad
This is not a history but an attempt to understand what probably happened in those last years that led to the demise of Hyderabad as an independent country and its annexation by the newly independent India. It is speculation; perhaps informed speculation; I hope, intelligent speculation, but speculation nevertheless.
I am not speaking chronologically or relating incidents but attempting to understand why the Nizam of Hyderabad took the decisions he did, which led to the calamity called Police Action (Operation Polo of the Indian Army). Calamity not because it was the end of the Asif Jahi Dynasty because all dynasties end. But calamity because, as is reported, thousands of innocent people died as a result of Police Action. They died in what we would today call, Collateral Damage; killed not by the Indian Army but by their opportunistic neighbors who used the period of transition to grab their land, by making them vanish. Entire families were murdered, entire villages were depopulated in a massive ethnic cleansing before the term was invented. I know that the figures range from 15,000 to ten times that and more. The reality is that exact figures are impossible to get. And the death of even one innocent person is highly deplorable and tragic, so numbers mean nothing. Whether it was 15,000 or 150,000 is immaterial when the truth is that not a single one deserved to die.
I am saying this because I don’t want you to get mired in discussing incidents, numbers of dead, who killed whom but try to look at why all this happened and what if anything can be learnt from this to be applied today. What is clear is that we are a nation which seems to be cursed with internecine conflict, brother killing brother, with or without pretext. I am saying to you that it is time this stopped. Stopped totally and completely. It is not difficult to find examples of how such things were stopped. Until 100 years ago, there was blood in the streets in Europe. Both World War I and II were essentially European wars, with Europeans killing each other. Yet out of that emerged a universal, silent, shared and solid pact, that European blood will not be shed by Europeans ever again. One wishes that this could have been extended to non-Europeans also but be that as it may, the fact remains that today in Europe, even the thought of a mob lynching an individual or attacking a neighborhood in which a certain religious or ethnic group lives, is simply unthinkable. It is high time we in India changed our direction 180 degrees and walked the same path before we reach a point of no return on our present path. We like to talk about India’s potential.
The reality is that if we want that potential to be translated into actual development and economic growth, we must deal with social strife and lay it to rest. If we use religious and ethnic difference to constantly fan the flames of communalism and xenophobia and have our nation embark on periodic bloodletting sprees, then the result can only be one thing; civil war and total collapse. It is amazing how otherwise intelligent people seem to fail to read the writing on the wall.
1. My assessment of the situation at that time leading to the demise of Hyderabad as an independent country was that India had just become independent paying a huge price in human life in the partition of British India into India and Pakistan. That resulted in India having a hostile neighbor on two sides, East and West Pakistan and Kashmir, still in a state of limbo in the North. It simply couldn’t afford another independent state in its center, ruled by a Muslim king, even though he was not hostile and even though the majority population of the state was Hindu. Hyderabad had to become a part of the Indian Union, come what may. Also since Hyderabad was the biggest, wealthiest and most influential of the Princely States, what happened to it would be salutary for the others. If Hyderabad retained independence and sovereignty, then it would open the doors for similar aspirations of many other ruling princes. If Hyderabad joined the Indian Union, then others would also fall in line.
2. So, if Hyderabad didn’t join the Indian Union willingly, it would have to be made to do so, unwillingly. Attempts were made to persuade the Nizam to accede to the Indian Union but when these failed, covert attempts to subvert his government were undoubtedly made by encouraging communal elements to create unrest. Religion is a very easy way to gain mass support and in an atmosphere where the Hindu-Muslim equation was badly vitiated after the formation of Pakistan, this was easy to do. Flames were fanned and new fires were set and in time, they did what all fires do – burn everything they came into contact with. Three hundred years of common Hindu-Muslim history was reduced to ashes. No doubt it helped some people to come to power, but at the cost of a great many. But history is written by victors, while those who die, tell no tales and the world goes on.
The tendency when speaking about any monarchy is to speak in terms of its king alone. Usually this is a mistake because whatever the king may think of himself, he is a man and is influenced by his times and the people around him. Some of this influence is overt but a lot of it is hidden and covert. Included in this are his own feelings, aspirations, anxieties, insecurities. At a time of transition which may result in a fall of the monarchy all these fears are hugely enhanced, because in most cases, a fall of the monarchy usually means death for the king or at least life in enormously reduced circumstances. To be able to still think with a cool head and take decisions that are morally and ethically right while being strategically wise, is no mean task. For this it is not only essential for the king to have the guidance of wise people around him, but even more importantly, for him to listen to them.
In the case of the Nizam of Hyderabad, Nawab Mir Osman Ali Khan Bahadur, I believe we have a case where, to put it mildly, things went awry.
My understanding of the factors at the time, from my reasonably extensive reading of different books on this subject as well as having known some of those who were present at the time of Police Action, and were close to the Nizam, is as follows:
1. The Nizam of Hyderabad was an absolute monarch. A very good one, who never took a single day’s vacation in his life and not given to the playboy lifestyle of his other counterparts in the Princely States of India, but still an absolute monarch. The hierarchy was feudal, which meant that, as in any other feudal system, the only way anyone aspiring to high position could get it was by birth into the right family or by special Royal Dispensation. This in turn would necessitate the attention of and promotion by one of the high Nobles so that one would get noticed. Needless to say, the number of positions at the top are very limited and usually taken.
2. The ‘evils’ of a feudal system, even a very benign and benevolent one like the rule of the Nizam of Hyderabad was, can’t be overemphasized. Its biggest evil being the death of aspiration of youth. This was one of the major reasons for the migration of the youth of Europe to America and the eventual break with Europe altogether. A new nation was born, not because people in the old country were being physically tortured or murdered, but because their hopes and dreams were still born in a system that didn’t permit them to live and grow by their ability. That is the problem with all feudal systems and the reason why democracy, with all its faults, is the best form of government that human kind has created for itself, to date.
3. Any ordinary young person not born into a noble family but aspiring for high office in Hyderabad (the country), especially political power, had little chance of attaining it, except through exceptional circumstances and luck, irrespective of his qualifications. For such people, a time of turmoil and turbulence is a godsend. It shakes the foundations of the structures of society and briefly opens a window of opportunity to change the rules of the game. What added to this was the fact that the State was the biggest employer. Though there were businesses and industry, rather more than in other Princely States or British India, their influence and the opportunities they presented were still very limited, especially at the managerial level. Opportunities of realizing one’s aspirations outside the State’s influence were therefore very limited. This always leads to frustration for which a situation of turmoil which shakes the foundations of the State and official hierarchy is a great opportunity.
4. To give the time its due, this was not due to any backwardness of Hyderabad but because that was the nature of the world at the time. The industrial boom of manufacture and later of IT was still about a century away. Opportunities for careers in the corporate world were limited because the corporate world as we know it, didn’t exist. There were traders, small manufacturers, almost all of them family owned, who followed in effect the same feudal rules of employment and career development. If you were born into the family or related to it in some way, you could never get into top management.
5. With Indian Independence looming on the horizon and in effect inevitable, there was an atmosphere of change in the air. An atmosphere of high political aspirations, of ambitions of power and influence. Feudalism in India was dying, in its formal sense of hereditary rulers and nobles and leadership positions would fall vacant, ready to be occupied with those who had the vision to see the writing on the wall and the grit to work for it. Sad to see that seventy years after this time, feudalism in terms of attitudes, which really deserved to die, remains alive and well, with the new elected leaders having taken the place of hereditary rulers on the throne. But that is an aside. For our story, the world was changing and fast in which like in all times of change, you either change or die. Incumbency is the single biggest crime in a revolution as you become the logical target of attack. If you change your stripes and start running with the hounds, like the British monarchy did very successfully by converting the ruling family into Hollywood stars, then you survive and prosper. If you remain static, like the Nizam did, you become a statistic.
6. The other factor that was in play in these times was the anxiety of the Nizam and his nobility about their own fate in the new world order which was dawning. In this context they had Jinnah’s divisive rhetoric on one hand and the assurance of the British Empire on the other guaranteeing the Nizam that the territorial integrity of his kingdom as well as his sovereignty as a monarch would be defended and maintained. In my opinion, the Nizam and his nobility’s biggest mistake was to believe both these narratives. It raised their anxiety to a level where their minds stopped working and had them grabbing at straws (promises of the British Empire) to save themselves from drowning. Ask anyone if a straw can save a drowning man and you know what happened to the Nizam and Hyderabad State was inevitable.
7. The third factor was Qasim Rizvi and his Razakars. Qasim Rizvi was an opportunist who took advantage of a nebulous situation and tried to play ‘King Maker’. The fact that he ran away when things didn’t go as planned and left those who allowed him his time in the sun to face the music, is proof that he had no commitment either to Hyderabad or the Nizam. He was in it for himself and escaped when things fell apart. What he had going for him was demagoguery that capitalized on the anxieties of the ruling class as well as the Muslims in Hyderabad who were already affected by the demagoguery of Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Add in a heady mixture of fantasy, distorted historical references and people’s own ignorance of history as well as their inability to critically analyze what was being presented to them by QR and you can see how and why his rhetoric was remarkably rabble rousing. Religion as they say is the last resort of the scoundrel, an analogy that fits QR like a glove.
8. Finally, the demise of Hyderabad was also the most colossal collective failure of leadership that one can imagine. If you look at the nobles and notables around the Nizam, you have a list of luminaries that can hardly be bettered. Yet they failed as a group to guide their king and country in a direction leading to safety and progress. Instead they all seem to have collectively become victims of Qasim Rizvi’s crazy rhetoric either actively or passively to a point of no return. The fact that the Nizam was himself in QR’s thrall, would have, I suppose, stopped many from openly disagreeing. All these are the price of a feudal, autocratic system wherein dissent is dangerous and severely restricted. All autocratic systems fall prey to this and so did Hyderabad State.
What should the Nizam have done?
I think that is fairly clear and I don’t really need to write this but am doing so in the interest of closing the loop as it were. Here is what should have happened:
1. The Nizam and his advisors should have realized the reality of Hyderabad and its future in the context of the Indian Union. For details please refer to Point No. 1 above i.e. my assessment of the situation at the time. They should have seen that remaining independent was out of the question and so should have bargained for the best deal and joined the Indian Union. That single action would have avoided all the bloodshed and turmoil.
2. They should have realized that the British have a very famous history of telling lies to those they rule and work only with one interest in mind; their own. The history of the British in India was no secret to anyone with eyes to see. As it was, the British were leaving India in a great hurry and really didn’t care a hoot about what happened to India or Indians. What value can the assurance of such an ally have? Once again, that meant, the joining the Indian Union was the not just the best option but the only one.
3. Qasim Rizvi should have been shown the door. His kind of rhetoric was so alien to the history of the Nizams of Hyderabad and their treatment of their subjects irrespective of religion that it is almost impossible to believe that not only did QR get a foothold but that to all intents and purposes, he became the defacto ruler. Furthermore, especially given the recent formation of Pakistan and the massacres that happened as a result, it was suicidal to allow the very same rhetoric to become dominant in Hyderabad. To allow Hyderabad’s long history of harmonious relationships between the two major communities of Hindus and Muslims to be destroyed was totally tragic and inexplicable. It was like an onset of momentary insanity from which a man awakens to witness the destruction that he had wrought while insane.
4. Hyderabad (Nizam and nobility and the State) should have invested heavily in industry and invited the Tatas and Birlas to set up manufacturing plants. Both were in operation having started in the 1800’s. This would have had three beneficial effects.
a. It would have created massive employment opportunities for youth, the best way to deal with all kinds of social unrest, give them something to lose.
b. It would have increased the personal wealth of the Nizam and his nobility and made them free from dependence on Privy Purses and State charity.
c. It would have acted as a shield against any political adventurism, just as the presence of Trump business interest in Middle Eastern countries has kept them safe from his travel ban on Muslims. The travel ban as you know, applies only to countries where Trump has no business interests.
The purpose of this article is to encourage us to discuss this matter with the sole purpose of looking for lessons about living and working harmoniously together. With that end in mind, all comments are invited and most welcome.
I listened and watched all that has been happening with respect to Nouman Ali Khan with great pain but in silence. Hoping that I would see justice prevail. Even more so because of those involved in this ‘duel’, if I may be allowed to use the term. Naturally the expectations of lay people like myself are higher when it comes to those who are defined as people of knowledge.
But what do I see, days after the breaking news headlines?
Allegations, insinuations, ‘advice’ which pretends to be objective but which is insinuation in disguise with only the name of the alleged offender missing. As a stupid, ignorant old fakir without any big name Islamic universities to my name, I must object. I have seen and listened (forcibly as people send me all kinds of ‘news’ items from FB of which I am not a member) enough.
On the authority of Abu Sa’eed al-Khudree (RA) who said: I heard Rasoolullahﷺ say, “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.” [Muslim]
Rasoolullahﷺ didn’t leave us with an option. It is hand or tongue. Simply sitting by and watching the fun, even if you hate it, is not an option as that is a sign of a fatal spiritual sickness; the weakness of faith which Rasoolullahﷺ called, ‘weakest of faith.’ So, here is my two cents worth – not for you, the reader (you can take it or leave it), but as my witness to my Rabb to show that I didn’t simply sit and watch.
What is happening – my take on it.
A person, a teacher of Qur’an, is being accused of ‘inappropriate’ behavior with female students.
- What is the nature of this inappropriate behavior? Not known.
- What is the proof that it happened? Not known. I say this because whatever I saw is not evidence admissible in law.
- Who raised the complaint? Not the alleged victims. But someone else.
- Why did the one who brought the complaint in public, do so when the alleged victims didn’t? Not known.
- Was the complaint raised with any competent authority to deal with such complaints? Not known.
- What is the purpose of making public statements on FB and other social media? Not known.
I think this list is enough for the present.
What should have happened?
- The victims should have raised their complaint with the competent authority i.e. police, courts of law, Shari’ah courts, council of senior scholars, human rights authorities and so on. There are plenty of them available and the matter should have been raised with them.
- Evidence of wrong doing should have been presented to them.
- Action should have been initiated by them, if the allegations were proved right.’
- Reparations, compensation and punishment should have been awarded.
- Instead what happened and continues, we all know and so I won’t insult your intelligence and waste your time by listing it.
What must you (everyone other than the victims) do?
SHUT UP! And fear the Day when you will meet Allahﷻ.
What must the victims do? Please read what I have written above.
What should absolutely STOP right away?
Facebook posts, social media gossip, WhatsApp forwards and all the mudslinging that is going on, even though some of it is sought to be camouflaged as ‘good advice’.
Please remember that in Islam there is a law. And it is not to condemn and damage a person without proper evidence. In this case, the damage is done already. Whatever happens now can’t undo that damage, especially if it comes out that the accused was innocent. Those who caused this damage may like to contemplate on how they are going to answer Allahﷻ when they meet Him.
Please note that I am not defending anyone. I am talking about the methodology of dealing with complaints. Justice must not only be done but it must appear to have been done. I am sure you will all agree that in the case in point, justice has neither been done, nor is that any appearance of justice in this whole sad and sordid scenario. What is evident is loose talk at best and an evil intention to cause harm at worst. Allahﷻ knows what it is best.
What is also evident is the incalculable harm caused to the image of Islam, Muslim scholars and the whole work of Da’awatul Islam by the way in which this whole matter has been dealt with, by those who should have known better and by their mindless followers in forwarding messages and gossip. Everyone has been harmed, whether they were associated with this matter or not. Suspicion has been cast on the entire brotherhood of Ulama and the whole work of teaching Islam. Everyone has been tarred with the same brush. And the biggest tragedy is that we still have no evidence that the ‘prime accused’ actually committed any crime. Yet, he has been tried and condemned and punished and everyone like him by the actions of those who call themselves his ‘close friends’ and their followers.
Abu Hurairah (RA) said that Rasoolullahﷺ said, “Beware of suspicion, for suspicion is the greatest falsehood. Do not try to find fault with each other, do not spy on one another, do not vie with one another, do not envy one another, do not be angry with one another, do not turn away from one another, and be slaves of Allahﷻ, brothers to one another, as you have been enjoined.”
Hujuraat 49:10. The believers are brothers (in Islam). So, make reconciliation between your brothers, and fear Allah, that you may receive mercy.
I know that I am preaching to the choir here, because there is not one single thing that I have said above that you don’t already know. I am still saying it because I think this reminder is necessary. I ask Allahﷻto be my witness. Ask your heart because Rasoolullahﷺ told us that the heart of the Muttaqi is the best Mufti.
I don’t say that abuse of authority is not happening. It is and that too more widely than we like to admit. The victims of abuse are often shamed into remaining silent. The argument, ‘Allahﷻ will reward you and punish the offender’, is used to prevent them from going to the authorities. Offenders (Ulama) also misquote and misuse the Shariah to justify their wrong doing. I recall a case where a married man (A’alim) who used to teach at a Muslim school married a fifteen-year-old student. When he was confronted, he said, ‘Multiple marriages are permitted in Islam and the girl has attained puberty and is a consenting adult.’ I consider this a gross abuse of privilege and a distortion of Islam and its laws to suit the carnal desires of the man. The fact of the matter is that the girl’s parents didn’t send her to the school for her to be targeted by her teacher in a sexual way and even if he married her, that is not why she was sent there. His behavior violates all rules of decency, safety and privilege even if he can find some law in the Shariah to misquote to support his wrong action.
I totally agree that abuse of authority must be punished and in an exemplary way. But to do it like this, without proper evidence and by rumor mongering, only strengthens the hands of the offenders because when the evidence is not forthcoming or is not admissible, then they will claim that they had been wronged, when in fact they were the predators and not the victims.
Subverting justice can never serve the cause of justice.
Question: Why is it happening? Why are women protesting the abolition of triple Talaq when it is something that they should welcome?
Answer: Emotional knee jerk reactions born out of fear. You see the problem is that Modi and the Government have a very bad image, quite rightfully. So, anything that is seen as coming from them will immediately get rejected. Also, we have always had a high aversion to anyone who we consider an ‘Outsider’ saying anything about our law, more so about trying to change it.
People must distinguish between two facts: Nobody can change a law that someone else made. But they can say that it will not be recognized in the land where they rule. That is essentially what the Supreme Court means when it says that it doesn’t recognize triple Talaq. It is not changing the law because within the Islamic Shari’ah it has no authority to do so. However, it is saying that it, as the Supreme Court of India, doesn’t recognize this law, will not follow it, will not rule in accordance with it, will reject it if a case comes before it and declare the divorce, so given, to be invalid. All this, the Supreme Court, is at full liberty to do. To illustrate, what do you think will happen if an American Muslim gives triple Talaq to his wife in America and she goes to court? The judge will rule that it is invalid. Will you say that American law has banned triple Talaq? They will do the same with Talaq Ahsan. With Nikah, with inheritance, with all Islamic laws as they don’t recognize them as valid in their land.
So also in the case of the Supreme Court; what ‘not recognizing or banning’ means in effect is, that if a man gives his wife Talaq by pronouncing it thrice in the same sitting and she accepts it, there’s nothing more to be said. But if she goes to court, it will be overturned and not recognized. This is already happening. That is what I meant when I mentioned the Shamim Ara vs State of UP case of 2002. The Supreme Court declared the Talaq given in the past invalid. What was that Talaq? Triple Talaq. What the AIMPLB should have done is to implead itself and challenged this judgment. They didn’t do that. That remains to this day, 14 years later. Subsequently the courts have ruled according to this judgment multiple times and there is not a single instance where a court ruled that the triple Talaq given in one sitting was valid.
That is also what is meant when they say that Supreme Court ‘banned’ triple Talaq. Banned means that the court has declared this law to be invalid in its sight – meaning that the court doesn’t accept it as a law. The court can’t go into every house to enforce it. But if a case comes before it, this is what it will rule. As I said, this is already happening and anyone who wants to test it, is welcome to go to court to see if it will protect the triple Talaq in one sitting.
Muslim women are protecting the triple Talaq because in public they don’t want to look like they are criticizing Islam. I am with them in this respect. In public I also say, ‘Hands off’, to everyone else. However, what must happen in private is some education, which is lacking. Education about what marriage is, what Talaq is, about the rights of inheritance of women (brothers swallow their sisters’ rights and their wives – who are also women – support them). Education about treatment of women, about domestic violence and men oppressing women. Education about the Shari’ah itself that there are two parts to it – A Divine part and a Juristic part. Most people don’t understand this and think that everything in the Shari’ah is directly revealed in the Quran. It is not. Ijtihad has always played a very big role in the evolution of the Shari’ah. It is only in the last 150 years of so that the doors of Ijtihad have been shut. Don’t ask me why.
That is incidentally where the so-called Ghair Muqallideen came from. When you shut the doors of Ijtihad, everyone becomes a Mufti. When those who have the knowledge and the responsibility to do Ijtihad refuse to do it (whatever be their reasons) then those who have neither the knowledge nor the authority, start to make rules. Whose fault, is it? When Muslims talk about reforms in the Shari’ah, nobody means that the Quranic or Divine part should be changed. If any Muslim says that, then they have denied the validity of the Qur’an and thereby they have left Islam. But the same sanctity doesn’t apply to the Juristic part. The Imams of Fiqh are not Allahﷻ or His Messengerﷺ. They are Ulama. Their service to the Ummah is unquestioned. And that service is that they did things which were essentially not present at the time of Rasoolullahﷺ to make the application of the Divine law current and easy for people. And they ruled on matters which were new and for which you can’t find answers in the Qur’an and Sunnah. While doing this naturally the basic rule is that the new ruling must not violate the Word of Allahﷻ or the Ruling of His Messengerﷺ.
Imam Shafee codified the Usool of Fiqh and built his Fiqh and legal teachings on the foundations of the principles and methodology he expounded in his book Ar-Risalah. In his book, al Bahr al Muhit, al Zarkashi (d 794 AH) devoted a chapter to this, in which he said: “Al Imam al Shafi’i was the first to write about Usul al Fiqh. He wrote the Risalah, Ahkam al Qur’an (Legal Interpretations of the Qur’an), Ikhtilaf al Hadith (Conflicting Hadith), Ibtal al Istihsan (The Invalidity of Juristic Preference), Jima’ al ‘Ilm (The Congruence of Knowledge), and al Qiyas (Analogical Reasoning)-the book in which he discussed the error of the Mu’tazilah group, and changed his mind about accepting their testimony. Then, other scholars followed him in writing books on al Usul.” This is one of the greatest example of Ijtihad. Another is the classification of the Sunnah into Muakkadah and Ghair Muakkadah.
Imam Abu Hanifa introduced the term ‘Wajib’, differentiating it from Fardh. There are many other examples of Fiqhi terminology that didn’t exist at the time of the Sahaba but which today we accept unquestioningly. All these are examples of the very dynamic and healthy tradition of Ijtihad in Islam.
The Imams of Fiqh introduced terms like Makrooh and further, Makrooh Tahreemi wa Tanzeehi. The Sahaba would have looked at you in amazement if you mentioned Makrooh Tahreemi wa Tanzeehi to them. For them there was only Halal and Haraam. The concept that something can be prohibited yet not punishable in the same way, was foreign to them. Either something was permissible and you did it. Or it was not and you abstained. But that something was not ‘really’ permissible but you could still do it if you liked and you would not be punished in the same way as you would have been if it had been Haraam; would have been totally foreign to the Sahaba. The classic example of this is the difference of opinion about smoking between the Ulama of India and the Middle East. For the latter, it is Makrooh Tahreemi. For the former it is Haraam. However, cigarettes are not mentioned in the Quran or Sunnah.
Interestingly while claiming that the doors of Ijtihad are shut, modern Ulama have chosen to make Ijtihad in some areas. For example, in ruling that women are not allowed in Masaajid. Today this is the standard ‘ruling’ of all Hanafi and Hanbali Ulama. However, Rasoolullahﷺ’s hadith in Bukhari states clearly, ‘Abdullah ibn Umar ® narrated from Rasoolullahﷺ who said, ‘Do not stop the women slaves of Allahﷻ from the Masaajid of Allahﷻ.’
In another narration Salim ibn Abdullah ibn Umar said, I heard Abdullah ibn Umar ® say, ‘I heard Rasoolullahﷺ say, ‘Do not stop your women from the Masaajid when they ask your permission to go there.’ His son (Abdullah ibn Umar®’s son) Bilal said to him, ‘By Allahﷻ we certainly will stop them.’ Abdullah ibn Umar ® turned towards him and cursed him in very bad language, I never heard him abusing anyone like that and then he said, ‘I am informing you of something from Rasoolullahﷺ and you say, ‘By Allahﷻ we certainly will stop them?’ In yet another narration also in Bukhari, Abdullah ibn Umar ® said, ‘Rasoolullahﷺ said, ‘Do not stop the women from going in the night to the Masaajid.’
There is plenty of evidence to show that women and children went to the masjid in the time of Rasoolullahﷺ and the Khulafa Rashida and that it was only much later that the prohibition was brought about. The Imams of the Zahiri school like Ibn Hazm and others have held that the command to establish Salah doesn’t differentiate between men and women and so both are obliged to pray and to pray in the masjid if that is possible. And that to go against the Hadith of Rasoolullahﷺ to allow women to go to the Masaajid, claiming that conditions had changed, was not permissible.
It is later that others ruled based on various reasons they gave and the basis of a Hadith where Rasoolullahﷺ said, ‘It is preferable for women to pray at home’, that it is not permissible for women to pray in Masaajid. They did this despite the many Ahadith where Rasoolullahﷺ commanded that women must not be prevented from going to the Masaajid even though it is well known that a command supercedes a permission or preference. I will not go into the juristic arguments and justifications for these rulings or say anything about what is right or wrong, but I have quoted this to show that there is a difference between Divine command and juristic law. This means that the door of Ijtihad was wide open. So, what happened to that suddenly?
That is the question in the minds of all thinking and reasoning Muslims and on the tongues of those with the courage to verbalize their thoughts. I am quoting this case as one which proves that Ijtihad was and is done to this day when it is seen as necessary. I submit that in the case of triple Talaq it is certainly necessary. The ruling that triple Talaq in one sitting is valid, is itself Ijtihad and it was done to help women and punish men. So, what is the problem with changing it and going back to the ruling in the Qur’an and Sunnah when we see that the very purpose of this ruling (to punish errant men) is no longer being achieved? What is the need to stick to a Bid’a (Talaq-e-Bidat) when we have a Sunnah (Talaq Ahsan) which we can and should follow?
In short if our Fuqaha exercise their authority to make Ijtihad and re-look at the issue of triple Talaq, which is not a Divine ruling but a juristic (Fiqhi) one, the matter can be easily resolved. Imam Ibn Taymiyya did that and ruled against it already. Interestingly, as we speak, Hanafi Ulama send cases of triple Talaq to Ahle Hadith Ulama to be resolved knowing well that they will rule that the three Talaqs are equal to one and so the marriage is not dissolved. Yet they (Hanafi Ulama) will not adopt this ruling publicly. Even more amazingly Ahle Hadith Ulama have sided with the Hanafi Ulama of the AIMPLB in this case, thereby going against their own ruling which they follow. What that does to their credibility is something that only they are impervious to. None so blind as those who choose to blindfold themselves. Truly the ways of the ‘learned’ are wondrously mysterious. May Allahﷻ have mercy on us all.
Triple Talaq as it is used in India is an oppression of women. The arguments which have been used in its favor make no sense at all and have made us the laughing stock of the nation. That the number of women affected by it are few or many makes no difference. A law must be just for everyone. People may ignore the law and be unjust and they will then be culpable. But if the law is itself unjust, then you can’t fault people for what happens. Triple Talaq in one sitting goes against the Ayaat of the Qur’an and the rulings of Rasoolullahﷺ. We need to rule according to the Qur’an and Sunnah. Whatever happened in the past which led to triple Talaq being recognized (we are all aware of the historical issues) was valid then in the circumstances of 7th century Arabia. Its purpose was to help women and punish errant men, as I have mentioned earlier. This is not happening in India any longer so that very purpose (Maqsad) of the Ijtihad is not being fulfilled. To treat triple Talaq as one or to remove it altogether will once again fulfill the purpose of the ruling which was to protect women from being exploited. It is the duty of our Ulama to consider this seriously and act.
Only Divine law is valid for all times and places. Juristic law is changeable and came into being because change is permissible. If juristic law is not working in a place and instead of protecting the very people it was designed to protect, has become the means of their oppression; then it must be changed. It is our Ulama who must change it. Nobody else has that authority. I hope we can persuade our Ulama to do what they also know they must do.
It is shameful for us as Muslims in India that a secular body like the Supreme Court needs to intervene to force us Muslims follow the law of our own religion.
A mistake is one that is made by mistake (sic) and a crime is one that is done deliberately.
A mistake must obviously be forgiven. A crime is culpable but can also be forgiven. This is the peculiarity of Islamic Law that even a crime as serious as murder can simply be forgiven by the family of the deceased. Mercy is the driving force behind all forgiveness and that is because we all need it. We all need mercy of our fellow humans and we all need the mercy of Allahﷻ because we all make mistakes. The best of us makes mistakes and the best of us are those who make mistakes and seek forgiveness.
Anas ibn Malikt reported: Rasoolullahﷺ said, “All of the children of Adam are sinners, and the best of sinners are those who repent.” [Sunan Ibn Majah 4251]
Abu Hurairaht reported: Rasoolullahﷺ said, “By the One in Whose Hand my soul is! If you do not commit sins, Allahﷻ would replace you with a people who would commit sins and seek forgiveness from Allahﷻ; and Allahﷻ will certainly forgive them.” [Muslim].
Allahﷻ applauded those who forgive and advised forgiveness and said:
الَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ فِي السَّرَّاء وَالضَّرَّاء وَالْكَاظِمِينَ الْغَيْظَ وَالْعَافِينَ عَنِ النَّاسِ وَاللّهُ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ
A’al Imraan 3: 134. Those who spend [chairty] in prosperity and in adversity, who suppress anger, and who pardon people; verily, Allah loves Al-Muhsinun (people who seek to please Allahﷻby acting with excellence)
Allahﷻmentioned the Bani Israeel and that they had reneged on the covenant with Him and disobeyed Him, yet He advised Rasoolullahﷺto forgive them and overlook their faults. He said:
فَاعْفُ عَنْهُمْ وَاصْفَحْ إِنَّ اللّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ
Ma’aida 5: 13. ….. But forgive them, and overlook (their misdeeds). Verily, Allah loves Al-Muhsinun.
I decided to write this because recently there have been three cases where a scholar made a mistake in a speech and people attacked him, pronounced Takfeer on him and tried their best to destroy his reputation. All this in my view is a sign of our own ignorance and arrogance and a great loss to all of us. Who gains if one of our scholars is defamed and all his work is destroyed because he made one mistake? So, let us see why this happens and what we should do.
I am very fond of horse riding. Many a time while out riding cross-country over rough terrain, I have had my horse stumble. Once so badly that I was thrown off. However, not once did I shoot the horse because he stumbled. On the contrary I remind myself that the most common causes for a horse to stumble are that it is too exhausted (my fault) or that I was holding the reins too loosely (my fault) or that I was pushing the horse too fast over rough ground (my fault). I therefore pick myself off the ground, thank Allahﷻthat I didn’t break anything, check to see if the horse was alright, then mount up and off we go, now both of us wiser for the stumble.
Scholars, religious or not, are human. They are not infallible and I don’t know of a single one that claimed that he or she was. They make mistakes, like, believe it or not, we Jahiloon (I speak for myself) do. That merely proves the first point, that they are human. The difference is that since they dedicate their lives to studying, digesting, experiencing, understanding and then communicating knowledge to us, they and their mistakes are in the public space. Take the case of an Imam who makes a mistake in recitation or forgets the number of Raka’at. Which one of us has not done the same?
When a scholar makes a mistake while he or she is teaching, it is in the public space. They are vulnerable. Not because they are evil Shayateen who got caught in a trap. But because they took the trouble to study and teach us, while we were busy chasing dollars. Nothing wrong with chasing Halaal dollars but what about those who consciously give up that opportunity to do our work for us and to help us to learn our religion, connect us to Allahﷻ and Rasoolullahﷺand help us to be better human beings? I don’t know a single scholar who is so stupid that he doesn’t know that if he simply stopped teaching, he wouldn’t have to face what he is facing today.
Is that what we want? For all our scholars to retreat into a shell and leave us to learn whatever we can on our own? After all, to study the Deen is our personal responsibility and it is not the scholar’s responsibility to teach any particular group of people. As long as he is communicating his or her knowledge to the people; any people; he is fine before Allahﷻ.
What must we do when a scholar makes a mistake?
1. Remind yourself that the scholar is the horse that is carrying you over rough ground in the wilderness and he stumbled. (All scholars, I beg your forgiveness for giving this example).
2. Remind yourself that without the horse you will probably perish while the horse can run off and live happily ever after without having to carry you on his back.
3. Thank Allahﷻthat you are not standing in his place having to face the reactions of the likes of us for having made a mistake (for God’s sake!!)
4. Remind yourself that one day you and I will have to stand before Allahﷻwith a lot worse than whatever mistake the scholar made and will need, not Allahﷻ’s justice, but His Mercy and Forgiveness.
5. Remind yourself that Rasoolullahﷺtold us that Allahﷻwill show mercy to those who show mercy to the inhabitants of the earth.
6. Seek forgiveness for the scholar with Allahﷻ.
7. And defend the scholar against those who seek to attack him because he made a mistake because we know that the good from that scholar far and away outweighs whatever mistake that he may have made.
8. And because we recognize that we need that scholar and all other scholars like him or her.
9. And finally, remind ourselves, that a mistake is made so that Allahﷻmay test our forgiveness. Otherwise it was in the power of Allahﷻto ensure that the scholar who was speaking about His religion, never made a mistake.
10. Therefore, when we don’t forgive and instead attack the person, it is we who have failed the test. A test based on which perhaps, Allahﷻwill decide to deal with us accordingly. I ask Allahﷻfor His Mercy and Forgiveness and protection from His anger.
Rasoolullahﷺ told us: “Whoever conceals [the faults of] a Muslim, Allahﷻ will conceal [his faults] in this life and the Hereafter.”
The matter of concealing the faults of others is mentioned in numerous Ahadith of Rasoolullahﷺ, like this one: “O gathering who believe with their tongues but faith has yet to enter into their hearts, do not backbite the Muslims. And do not search into their private matters. Whoever searches for their private matters will have Allahﷻ follow up his private matters. And whose private matters Allahﷻ follows, He will expose him even [if his act were done] in his house.” [Musnad Ahmad and Abu Dawood]
What must a scholar do if he or she makes a mistake?
Sadly, I have seen a lack of maturity and patience on the other side as well. Some scholars forget that they are human and that if they made a mistake that was the natural thing to do. So, instead of simply asking forgiveness, admitting unconditionally that they were wrong and moving on, they insist on finding all kinds of ‘proof’ (Daleel) for their mistakes. They waste time and energy in trying to justify the mistake, claim that it was not a mistake at all and the entire fault of misunderstanding lies with the listeners. Egos come in. Shaytaan has a field day and the vicious cycle begins.
1. Imam An-Nawawi advised us and said, ‘Not everything that is known, needs to be communicated. Not everything that is heard needs to be broadcast.’ One of the major reasons why scholars get into trouble is because they say in public what should be said in private to students who are capable of understanding it.
2. In the discussion on the Names and Attributes of Allahﷻ in Kitab ut Tawheed, Chapter 38 in Sahih Bukhari, Ali bin Abi Talibt’s advice is mentioned where he is reported to have said: “Speak to the people in a way that they can understand. Would you like that Allahﷻ and His Messengerﷺ be denied?”
Ali Ibn Abi Talibt advised teachers and scholars to guide people by speaking to them in a manner suited to their intellects in order that they may understand, and not to say things to them which may be above their level of comprehension which may confuse them, causing them to deny something from the Qur’an or Sunnah resulting in their falling into spiritual conflict and perhaps even committing Kufr (denying Allahﷻ or Rasoolullahﷺ) without being aware of it.
3. By implication, this is good advice to follow with respect to anything that we want to say in public. Speak at LCM; I call it. LCM = Lowest Common Denominator. Speak at a level where a secondary school student can understand you. That is the real mark of the scholar. To be able to simplify complex matters and make them understandable for everyone. Not to speak at such a high level of erudition that nobody understands what you say and many misunderstand it. In any case, trying to show off your knowledge is a serious lapse of Ikhlaas un Niyyah (sincerity of intention).
Remember Sayyidina Omar ibn Al-Khattabt when the woman corrected him in public. He accepted the correction and said openly and clearly, “Omar is wrong and the women is right.”
Okay, enough said. For a quick checklist:
1. Scholar makes mistake. Say, “Wow! He is human, just like me. Boy! Am I glad, I am not in his place! May Allahﷻ forgive him and guide him.”
2. Defend the scholar. Tell people, ‘Hey man! Lay off. It could be you or me in his place, if we’d had his knowledge and concern for us. Don’t punish the man for taking the trouble to work for all our welfare.”
On the authority of Abu Hurairat who reported that Rasoolullahﷺ said, “Whoever relieves a believer’s distress of the distressful aspects of this world, Allahﷻ will rescue him from a difficulty of the difficulties of the Hereafter. Whoever alleviates [the situation of] one in dire straits who cannot repay his debt, Allahﷻ will alleviate his lot in both this world and in the Hereafter. Whoever conceals [the faults of] a Muslim, Allahﷻ will conceal [his faults] in this life and the Hereafter. Allahﷻ helps a slave as long as the slave helps his brother. Whoever follows a path in order to seek knowledge thereby, Allahﷻ will make easy for him, due to that, a path to Jannah. No people gather together in a house of the houses of Allahﷻ, reciting the Book of Allahﷻ and studying it among themselves, except that tranquility descends upon them, mercy covers them, the angels surround them and Allahﷻ mentions them to those in His presence. Whoever is slowed by his deeds will not be hastened forward by his lineage.” [Muslim]
I ask Allahﷻ for His mercy.