Prof Hashim Kamali’s Religious Pluralism Reconsidered


Muhammad ‘Uthman El-Muhammady (a student of Islamic Thought)

In Hashim Kamali’s essay “Islam’s Religious Pluralism in Context” (NST 8 Feb 2011) a number of points was raised, hence the following response from this student of Islamic thought. Firstly it is stated that “whether Islam accepts religious pluralism as opposed to mere religious plurality…[m]uch depends, it seems, on how one understands religious pluralism and then the three Quranic verses that chatacterise Islam”. The three verses cited by him are: the verse meaning “surely the religion before Allah is Islam (submission to His will) (3:19)”; and the verse “whoever seeks other than Islam as a religion, it will not be accepted from him (3:85)”; and “this day I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour to you, and chose Islam to be your faith (5:3)”. These are often cited as evidence that Islam is the only true religion and only those who follow Islam shall be saved.

As a student of Islamic thought the present writer notices that Prof Hashim Kamali does not note the position of the classical commentators concerning those verses as well as the position of ijma’ or the consensus of the scholars on the matter of the finality of Islam in sacred history; he also does not mention the position of the Prophetic Traditions on the matter.

Secondly, he goes on to state that “Mainstream Quran commentaries consider Islam in these verses to be the exclusive name for the religion revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. But Islam is also the primal religion of submission preached by Adam to all his posterity who accepted God as their Lord, as in the divine invocation: “Am I not your Lord? They said: yes we do testify (7:172).”

Then he states “All humankind then, before time began, professed Islam in its widest sense of submission. Understood in this way, the verses recognize the validity of every religion that requires submission to God’s will. This understanding of Islam also tallies with the essence of universality that Islam manifests in its own messages, values and objectives”.

The question which emerges from such position is: is it valid to conclude (as being done by Prof Kamali) from the primordial situation of “[a]ll mankind then, before time began, professed Islam in its widest sense of submission” that “the verses recognize the validity of every religion that requires submission to God’s will” without qualification? It is necessary for Prof. Kamali to provide support for such a position from Muslim classical scholarship so as to make this in line with the mainstream position of the scholars of sacred scholarship of the umma; otherwise that will be presenting highly personal position resting only on personal credibility of Prof. Kamali as an individual, plus the untold spiritual risks with all that this implies.

Then related to this are a number of issues like:what about the mainstream position of the naskh or abrogation of dispensations with the advent of the Qur’anic revelation, apart from those elements endorsed therein? And are the Qur’anic critiques of those other dispensations count for nothing assuming that all come under that which ‘requires submission to God’s will’? It is a very challenging conclusion indeed coming from Prof. Kamali.

Third, then Prof Kamali goes on to mention the position of Toshiko Izutsu who, to him, “has convincingly demonstrated that in several Quranic verses Islam can be taken to present every previous revelation as a way of submitting, and that such verses present Islam as a universal religion. The first to declare himself a Muslim in the Quran is the Prophet Noah: “I was commanded to be among the submitters (muslimin) (10:72).” Concerning Abraham: “His Lord said to Abraham: submit. He said I submit to the Lord of the worlds” (2:31). The succeeding verse recounts that both Abraham and Jacob advised their sons: “Allah has chosen the religion for you. So do not die except in a state of submission (muslimun).”

The question is: does the mention of the verses about Noah, Abraham, and Jacob being involved in ‘previous revelation as a way of submitting’ (and the relevant verses manifesting Islam ‘as a universal religion’ validate those dispensations after the advent of the Qur’anic revelation? Granted the spiritual validity of the dispensations of those prophets (in mainstream position they are Muslims, bringing Islam in their times) but again, in line with progressive revelation, each prophet with his ummah and time, yet, again, what about the doctrine of the naskh , as stated before this, or abrogation of dispensations after the coming of Islam brought by Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)?

Further, other related issues are: what about the position of the Qur’an as muhaiminan ‘alaihi (5:51) ‘guarding it [the meanings in religions] in safety [so that religions do not swerve away from the correct position]’- and hence its critiques of certain positions among the People of the Book?

And next, related to the above position, what about the Muslims, the people of the Qur’an who are to be witnesses unto mankind just as the Messenger is witness for Muslims? (2:143; 22:78) So Muslims have to stand by their guidance in the Qur’an and ‘give testimony’ in case others swerve from the true path? If Muslims advocate pluralism in Prof Kamali’s sense, they cannot be witnesses anymore; they become the camp-followers of others. Answers to such questions will suggest spiritual and intellectual ‘inadequacy’ of the position of religious pluralism.

The position taken by the Dalai Lama in relation to this issue is sincere and laudable. He says for him the truth is Buddhism for the Muslim it is Islam, for the Christian it is Christianity; but he is on excellent terms with all with respect (and cooperation wherever there are avenues for this as is shown by his activities).

Fourth, Prof Kamali further observes “Every prophet of the Judaeo-Christian tradition has thus taught a different mode of submission to God. If Islam is taken to mean submission in the Quran rather than an institutionalised creed, it would pave the way for “a very eloquent understanding of religious pluralism, one wherein all revelations throughout history are seen as different ways of giving to God that which is most difficult to give — our very selves”.

The question which emerges from the above is if every prophet ‘of the Judaeo-Christian tradition’ (to the Qur’an they are prophets and they are Muslims) ‘taught a different mode of submission to God’, yet they taught tauhid, with no elements of departure therefrom, with only certain differences in the sacred law, and they are spiritually valid in their cycles of prophecy, how can it be concluded that the Islam which they brought ‘would pave the way for ‘a very eloquent understanding of religious pluralism, one wherein all revelations throughout history are seen as different ways of giving to God that which is most difficult to give – our very selves”? Then, again, can we separate that ‘submission’ with the institutionalized creed? Do we separate the ‘submission to God’ from the institutionalized creed of the religion? In Islam, is the ‘institutionalized creed’ wrong? If we apply this to mainstream Islam, is the ‘institutionalized creed’ of Ash’ari wrong or if not wrong at least not in keeping with the submission to God? Is the institutionalized (as happened in history) understanding of the sacred law of the four schools ‘wrong’? It is helpful if Prof.Kamali clarifies these points for the sake of clarity for readers.

Prof Kamali further observes that “ imaan (faith) which rests at the heart of Islam occupies a much larger space in the Quran, occurring hundreds of times, whereas Islam occurs on only eight occasions. Imaan consists of a state of mind, manifested in the testimonial of the faith (kalimah shahadah), whereas Islam consists mainly of conduct — as in the Five Pillars of the faith”.

Fifth, this is followed by Prof Kamali with his observation: “Submission is sometimes said to be the very first step, but perhaps a shallow one if it is not espoused by imaan — as indicated in the following verse: “The Bedouin say: we believe (aamanna); say to them ‘you do not believe’. Rather say ‘we have surrendered (aslamna), for imaan has not permeated your hearts… (49:14).”

To the present writer, it is alright that the issue is although iman ‘occupies a much larger space’ and ‘Islam consists mainly of conduct’ yet both must be in the believer; the iman again must be in conformity with the established creed, not merely vague personal belief about something supernatural, but the belief which has been established in this community, as found expressions in the works of the scholars of sacred scholarship, and also Islam has already been established; history has shown that Islam as the institutionalized religion has been recognized as valid, until the end of time. There has been no accepted view in this religion that pluralism has valid space for it. Personal opinions cannot be a substitute for the position which has been taken by ijma’ after the Qur’an and Sunnah.

Sixth, finally the theological position of Prof Kamali does not reflect authentically the mainstream Sunni discourse. He observes: “In the context of theology, religious pluralism is treated under the three headings of exclusivist, inclusivist and pluralist. The exclusivists believe that only their faith is true and all others are false; the inclusivists hold that their faith is true and others are included in it in some sense. The pluralists maintain that all faiths are true and show different paths to the same reality.” To say with the pluralists that all faiths without qualifications are true is unQur’anic and a highly personal statement. The Islamic position, that of the Qur’an and the Sunnah, is that the religions of the prophets are all true and valid for their cycles of prophecy, and with the advent of the shari’a of Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him they are superseded by his shari’a. That is the Quranic meaning of the statement of him coming as the ‘seal of the prophets’(33:40) acknowledging them and the validity of their dispensations. Other positions are Qur’anically indefensible. To disseminate this would open the floodgates of infidelity. God forbid.

Then seventh, Prof Kamali observes what he states as ‘the Quran is clearly expressive of the inclusivist impulse of Islam: Say, we believe in God and that which has been sent down to us and to Abraham and Ishmael, Isaac and Jacob… to Moses, Jesus and the Prophets from their Lord; we make no distinction whatsoever between them, surrendering as we do unto Him (lahu muslimun) (3:84). But he does not provide the authoritative commentators’ view on the meaning of the verse, and is satisfied with his personal view on the meaning of the verse. If he keeps that to himself, may be there are understandable reasons for such a position; but to express this for the Muslim public, that is something alarming indeed.

Then, eighth, the next observation of Prof. Kamali is laudable. He states “If the essence of religious pluralism is recognition, coexistence and cooperation with people of different religious persuasions within the same society, then Islam is pluralist. Lexicological accuracies apart, no civilisation in history has in fact demonstrated a more resolute commitment to pluralism than Islam.”

So also the following statement from him: ‘For not only the Quran but also the renowned constitution of Madinah are affirmative on religious pluralism. Article 25 of this document proclaimed the “Migrants, the Helpers-Muhajirun, Ansar and the Jews as one ummah”, and left open the possibility for others to join them in the spirit of unity and goodwill.

To him this is: “categorical evidence of Islam’s inclusivity and openness — also illustrating the Prophet’s judicious pragmatism at the expense almost of semantic accuracy. For ummah by definition signifies unity in faith, yet the Prophet went beyond that in the interest evidently of social harmony and cohesion.” Yet, to the present writer, it is necessary to add that ‘the ummah’ in the document, as found in the Sirah of ibn Ishaq, is used to mean the collectivity of people in the city-state of Madinah under the Prophet (peace be upon him) and not the theological meaning of the term. So the Madinah document is not about ‘religious pluralism’ in the sense understanding “of different paths leading to one reality” but about plurality of religions in Madinah.

Then, ninth, concerning the Quran recognizing the existence of other faith systems, including the worship of idols there is the verse in surah al-Kafirun (109:6) meaning: “to you is your religion and to me, my religion”. As for salvation in the Quran it is granted to Muslims, and all those who believe in God and do good deeds when they accept the prophets and finally Muhammad with his advent (2:4; 2:62; 5:69). It is necessary for us to state the authentic position of the religion of Islam and then promote cooperation among people of goodwill and practice the ethics of differences (including linguistic ethics) and not to sweep differences under the carpet. This will avoid spiritual confusion and serve genuine understanding.


Yang benar

Muhammad Uthman El-Muhammady (27 Feb 11)

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

نحمده ونصلى على رسوله الكريم

A Learning Society: Issues and Challenges to Learners, Educators and Planners – an Islamic Perspective

Muhammad `Uthman El-Muhammady

[this article was first published in our previous website at Geocities in September 2004]

This paper- God willing- will argue for the successful implementation of a knowledge and learning society and also life of quality in the holistic sense and not only in certain aspects of both, because Islam as a tauhidic  ‘weltanschauung’ stands for the realization of total human needs, seeing man in terms of, firstly his theomorphism, and then secondly  his social , collective and civilizational needs.

Firstly we should be clear about  our understanding of the notion of knowledge society as it is understood in current cultural discourse. What is “knowledge society”?

As an example concerning one part of the Muslim World, in a recent report about developing ‘a knowledge society’  in the Arab world, it is stated in the Arab Human development report 2003: building knowledge society 2003

[means that] the Arab states should also encourage greater interaction with other nations, cultures and regions of the world, [urging] “[o]penness, interaction, assimilation, absorption, revision, criticism and examination cannot but prompt creative knowledge  production in Arab societies.[this report done ] by a group of distinguished Arab scholars and opinion leaders, is at once descriptive and perspective, with bold recommendations for change and analysis of the current state of education, scientific research, the media, the publishing industry, culture encompassing religion, intellectual heritage and the Arabic language, and other building blocks of a “knowledge society” in the Arab states.

It is observed that The Arab Human Development report 2003 (AHDR2003 ) which is the second of a planned four-part series which will also cover the issues of freedoms and political institutions, and gender imbalance and the empowerment of women in the 22 Arab states. The first Report (AHDR 2002 ), issued a year ago, outlined the most important development challenges facing the Arab states at the beginning of the third Millennium. The Egyptian renowned journalist Muhammad Hassanain Haikal said AHDR 2002 signaled the region’s “last chance to join the trip to the future.”(2)

There are a number of important points in the report touching upon “information society”.

The report is observed as: “Written into every line is the unwavering conviction that reform efforts, which genuinely serve the region’s interests must be initiated and launched from within.” Yet the construction of a viable “knowledge society” requires effective economic, social and political institutions, Khalaf emphasizing “The missing links are.. smothered by ideologies, societal structures and values that inhabit critical thinking, cut Arabs off from their knowledge rich heritage and block the free flow of ideas and learning”

It goes on to describe it: ” The report proposes a strategic vision that could support a creative renaissance buttressed by the “five pillars” of an Arab Knowledge society guaranteeing the key freedoms of opinion, and assembly through good governance bounded by the law.” A climate of freedom is an essential prerequisite of the knowledge society,” affirms the report and argues that “It is also imperative to end an era of administrative control and the grip of security agencies over the production and dissemination of knowledge and the various forms of creative activity that are the foundations for the knowledge society in Arab states.”(3)

In one international; conference last year (2003) dealing with the topic of engineering ‘knowledge society’ the organizers noted that:

«Engineering the Knowledge Society» (EKS)[involve] «Information technology supporting human development» Information Technology (or Information and Communication Technology) cannot be seen as a separate entity. Its application should support human development and this application has to be engineered.

What has to be taken into account when engineering the Knowledge Society? The Conference will address:

Lifelong Learning and education, e-inclusion, ethics and social impact, engineering profession, developing e-society, economy and e-Society.

o       What actions have to be undertaken to realize a human centered Knowledge Society? The presentations in this World Summit parallel event will reflect the active stance towards human development supported by ICT expressed in its title. A Round Table session will provide concrete proposals for action.(4)

In the Forum on «Engineering the Knowledge Society»  the topics covered are:

o       Education

Lifelong Learning in the Knowledge Society

Collective intelligence and Capacity building in the Information Society - Social Engineering of the Knowledge Society

  • The e-Society Repository: An Open Tool to Build a Human Information Society
  • Preserving Information – Orality, Writing and Memory in a Human Society
  • Towards an indigenous Vision for the Information Society
  • Vulnerabilities of Information Technologies and their impact on the Information Society
  • Professional Deontology [i.e.theory on duties], self regulation and Ethics in the Information Society
  • Development in the Field Software Engineering Professionalism, standards and Best Practice
  • The Role of Professional Society in the Information Age
  • Managing ICT Skills Profiles
  • Enabling ICT Adoption in Developing e-Societies
  • Sustainable Development and Information Society (From Rio to Geneva
  • Impact of Future Technology on Society
  • Telemedicine for medical Capacity Building in Developing Countries:Experiences and Lessons Learned in Mali
  • Understanding and interpreting the Drivers of the Knowledge Economy
  • Networked Economy – Effects on organizational Development and the Role of Education
  • Beyond Information Society: the Revolution of non-tangible Assets Social Engineering of the Internet in Developing Areas

Recently it is observed, in relation to the term: “knowledge society” or “information society” or whatever; it is stated that:

“We in Western Europe can probably agree that we have left the industrial society. What, then, have we entered instead? Information society, service society or knowledge society are, I guess, the most commonly used designations for the stage we currently are in. What designation we think is right very likely depends on where we are.”(5)

And, further, it is observed :

“Journalists would say information society; McDonald’s would say service society. “Where you stand depends on where you sit,” as the British are fond of saying. It is a question of what you value the most, for none of them – information, service or knowledge – are anything new. They have always existed and will probably always exist; but other phenomena – agriculture, industry – have tended to dominate the interpretation of reality.”


“Hence it is not so much a matter of objective truth as of what interpretation is the most fulfilling when we have to choose the designation for the current conditions. Knowledge society can be a very suitable designation for most societies in Western Europe. It is naturally a matter of definition when a society has become a knowledge society. The easiest criterion is perhaps the price per pound of a nation’s export. The higher it is, the more knowledge there is in the product.”

It is also stated : “Calling Western Europe a knowledge society the fact that we don’t want to compete with the 3rd world – at least not on the 3rd world’s premises – and it assumes an increasing amount of knowledge in the products. We don’t even have to go very far. If there are to be room for the new EU members, we must necessarily ‘escape’ into a higher knowledge content in our products”. (6)

The we come to the question of what is “a learning society”?  It is seen in a number of perspectives. Among others it is seen as: Notions of the learning society gained considerable currency in policy debates in a number of countries since the appearance of Learning to Be:

If learning involves all of one’s life, in the sense of both time-span and diversity, and all of society, including its social and economic as well as its educational resources, then we must go even further than the necessary overhaul of ‘educational systems’ until we reach the stage of a learning society. (Faure et al 1972: xxxiii)

The notion has subsequently been wrapped up with the emergence of so called ‘post-industrial’ or ‘post-Fordist’ societies and linked to other notions such as lifelong learning and ‘the learning organization’ (see, in particular, the seminal work or Argyris and Schon 1978). It is an extra-ordinarily elastic term that provides politicians and policymakers with something that can seem profound, but on close inspection is largely vacuous. All societies need to be charactized by learning or else they will die!( in ” the theory and rhetoric of the learning society” in )

The writer Donald Schon concerning what is called  the loss of the stable state stated his views in his work  providing an early view on the matter, defining it, giving his contribution  (1963, 1967, 1973). He provided a theoretical framework linking the experience of living in a situation of an increasing change with the need for learning.

“The loss of the stable state means that our society and all of its institutions are in continuous processes of transformation. We cannot expect new stable states that will endure for our own lifetimes.

“We must learn to understand, guide, influence and manage these transformations. We must make the capacity for undertaking them integral to ourselves and to our institutions.

“We must, in other words, become adept at learning. We must become able not only to transform our institutions, in response to changing situations and requirements; we must invent and develop institutions which are ‘learning systems’, that is to say, systems capable of bringing about their own continuing transformation. (Schon 1973: 28)

One of his  innovations was to explore the extent to which companies, social movements and governments were learning systems – and how those systems could be enhanced. He suggests that the movement toward learning systems is, of necessity, ‘a groping and inductive process for which there is no adequate theoretical basis’ (ibid.: 57). The business firm, according to Donald Schon’s argument , was a striking example of a learning system. He charted how firms moved from being organized around products toward integration around ‘business systems’ (ibid.: 64). He made the case that many companies no longer have a stable base in the technologies of particular products or the systems build around them.

Then he  went on with Chris Argyris to develop a number of important concepts with regard to organizational learning. Of particular importance for later developments was their interest in feedback and single- and double-loop learning.

However, as Griffin and Brownhill (2001) have pointed out three other earlier conceptions of the learning society also repay attention.

Another writer to be noted  is Robert M. Hutchins writing on  the learning society. Hutchins, in a book first published in 1968, argued that a ‘learning society’ had become necessary. Education systems were no longer able to respond to the demands made upon them. Instead it was necessary to look toward the idea that learning was at the heart of change. ‘The two essential facts are… the increasing proportion of free time and the rapidity of change. The latter requires continuous education; the former makes it possible (1970: 130). He looked to ancient Athens for a model. There:

education was not a segregated activity, conducted for certain hours, in certain places, at a certain time of life. It was the aim of the society. The city educated the man. The Athenian was educated by culture, by paideia. (Hutchins 1970: 133)

Slavery made this possible – releasing citizens to participate in the life of the city. Hutchins’ argument was that ‘machines can do for modern man what slavery did for the fortunate few in Athens’ (op. cit.).

To the writer of this present paper, in the perspective of the Islamic tradition we can see the madinan prophetic model as representing every  clear example of this module of education not being a segregated activity but rather integrated into the very rhythm of life, and then further making it sacred as struggle in the path of Allah, and those who die in its path they die as martyrs in the path of Allah. (See the Chapter on Book of Knowledge of Ihya of al-Ghazali rd).

Torsten Husén, technology and the learning society. Torsten Husén argued that it would be necessary for states to become ‘learning societies’ – where knowledge and information lay at the heart of their activities.( ibid)

In relation to this concept of the “learning society” there is also the phenomenon of what is called  ‘knowledge explosion’. It is stated that ;”Among all the ‘explosions’ that have come into use as labels to describe rapidly changing Western society, the term ‘knowledge explosion’ is one of the most appropriate. Reference is often made to the ‘knowledge industry’, meaning both the producers of knowledge, such as research institutes, and its distributors, e.g. schools, mass media, book publishers, libraries and so on. What we have been witnessing since the mid-1960s in the field of distribution technology may well have begun to revolutionize the communication of knowledge within another ten years of so. (Husén 1974: 239)(ibid).

We can observe that Husén’s approach was futurological (where Hutchins was essentially based on classical humanism). The organizing principles of Husén’s vision of a relevant educational system have been summarized by Stewart Ranson (1998) and included:

Education as something becoming a lifelong process.

The big issue is that education will not have any fixed points of entry and ‘cut-off’ exits. It will become a more continuous process within formal education and in its role within other functions of human life.

It  will take on a more informal character as it becomes accessible to more and more individuals. In addition to ‘learning centers’, facilities will be provided for learning at home and at the workplace, for example by the provision of computer terminals apart from the conventional media available in the society.

In this new scenario formal education will become more meaningful and relevant in its application in life and work.

It is stated ‘[t]o an ever-increasing extent, the education system will become dependent on large supporting organizations or supporting systems… to produce teaching aids, systems of information processing and multi-media instructional materials’ (Husén 1974: 198-9)

Husén’s vision was based ‘upon projections from current trends in communications technology and the likely consequences of these for knowledge, information and production’ (Griffin and Brownhill 2001: 58. Significantly, these predictions have largely come true.(ibid)

Roger Boshier, adult education and the learning society. Boshier argued for an integrated model of education that allowed for participation throughout a person’s lifetime. Influenced by more radical and democratic writers like Freire, Illich and Goodman, and his appreciation of economic and social change, Boshier looked to the democratic possibilities of a learning society.

When we turn to current explorations of the learning society it is possible to discern the various strands developed by these writers: technological, cultural and democratic. (The philosophical underpinning of these models is discussed by Griffin and Brownhill 2001). However, it is the technological that appears to have become dominant in many policy documents.

There are a number of salient points which can be taken into consideration about the current models of the learning society. Among these points are (ibid):

The learning society can be seen  as an aspiration and as a description It is seen as something that is necessary if states and regions are to remain competitive within an increasingly globalized economy.
It may be sought after as a means of improving individual and communal well-being.-with  three key strands in  discourses around the notion of a learning society in which there is a shift from a focus on the provision of learning opportunities to one on learning.
The first is portrayed as a product of modernism,
the third as exhibiting a typically post-modern orientation.
The second strand, with its emphasis on markets, economic imperatives and individual achievement, has been argued as something which  currently dominates the scenario.
an educated society, committed to active citizenship, liberal democracy and equal opportunities.
supports lifelong learning within the social policy frameworks of post-Second World War social democracies. The aim is to provide learning opportunities to educate adults to meet the challenges of change and citizenship. This has happened in Europe.
A learning society is a learning market, enabling institutions to provide services for individuals as a condition for supporting the competitiveness of the economy.
This supports lifelong learning within the economic policy framework should be adopted by  governments
The aim being a market in learning opportunities to be developed to meet the demands of individuals and employers for the updating of skills and competences.
Support for this conception has to come also from employers’ bodies and modernizing policy think-tanks  in response to economic uncertainty. The usefulness or performativity of education and training becomes a guiding criterion.
learning society is one in which learners adopt a learning approach to life, drawing on a wide range of resources to enable them to support their lifestyle practices. This supports lifelong learning as a condition of individuals in the contemporary period to which policy needs to respond. This conception of a learning society formulates the latter as a series of overlapping learning networks…  and is implicit to much of the writing on post-modernity with its emphasis on the contingent, the ephemeral and heterogeneity.
It can be  argued that the  learning society idea can provide us with a helpful way of making sense of the shifts required in the context of the profound changes associated with globalization and other dynamics of social and economic change of the present scenario in human affairs.(ibid).

The above features concerning a learning society are in harmony with the Islam ideal and tradition, and they provide opportunities as well as challenges –whichever way we look at them- to learners, educators, and polici makers.

In the talk entitled : “Knowledge Work and Knowledge Society The Social Transformations of this Century” Peter F. Drucker, with whose important name  this term ‘knowledge society” is closely linked, on May 4, 1994(7) made a number of important observations.

In talking about the emergence of the “knowledge workers”, and hence from the “the knowledge society”, Peter Drucker observes:

“These are unprecedented developments, profoundly affecting social structure, community, government, economics and politics. What is even more astonishing and even less precedented is the rise of the group which is fast replacing both history’s traditional groups and the groups of industrial society; the group which is fast becoming the center of gravity of the working population; the group, incidentally, which is fast becoming the largest single group (though by no means a majority) in the work force and population of post-industrial society and in every developed country: knowledge workers.

Concerning the emergence of ‘knowledge society’ he says:

“Knowledge workers, even though only a large minority of the work force, already give the emerging knowledge society its character, its leadership, its central challenges and its social profile. They may not be the ruling class of the knowledge society, but they already are its leading class. In their characteristics, their social positions, their values and their expectations, they differ fundamentally from any group in history that has ever occupied the leading, let along the dominant position.

“In the first place, the knowledge worker gains access to  work, job and social position through formal education.

[In stressing the importance of formal education for access to work and social position he states]“A great deal of knowledge work will require high manual skill and substantial work with one’s hands. An extreme example is the neurosurgeon. The neurosurgeon’s performance capacity rests on formal education and theoretical knowledge. Absence of manual skill disqualifies one for work as a neurosurgeon. Manual skill alone, no matter how advanced, will never enable anyone to be a neurosurgeon. The formal education that is required for knowledge work is education that can only be acquired in and through formal schooling. It cannot be acquired through apprenticeship.

He continues speaking in the same vein about the strong points of such a society with the necessary preparations in knowledge and the infrastructure: first implication of this is that education will become the center of the knowledge society and schooling its key institution. What knowledge mix is required for everyone? What is quality in learning and teaching? All these will, of necessity, become central concerns of the knowledge society and central political issues. In fact, it may not be too fanciful to anticipate that the acquisition and distribution of formal knowledge will come to occupy the place in the politics of the knowledge society which acquisition and distribution of property and income have occupied in the two or three centuries which we have come to call the Age of Capitalism.

He goes on giving his observations on this issue:

“Paradoxically, this may not necessarily mean that the school as we know it will become more important. For, in the knowledge society, clearly more and more of knowledge, and especially of advanced knowledge, will be acquired well past the age of formal schooling, and increasingly, perhaps, in and through educational processes which do not center on the traditional school, e.g. systematic continuing education offered at the place of employment. But, at the same time, there is very little doubt that the performance of the schools and the basic values of the schools will increasingly become of concern to society as a whole, rather than be considered professional matters that can be left to the educator.

And then concerning the image and character of the educated person in the “knowledge society” he observes:”We can also predict with high probability that we will redefine what it means to be an educated person. Traditionally and especially during the last two hundred years at least in the West (and since about that time in Japan as well) an educated person was someone who shared a common stock of formal knowledge what the Germans called Allgemeine Bildung and the English ( and following them, the nineteenth- century Americans) called the liberal arts. Increasingly, an educated person, will be someone who has learned how to learn, and throughout his or her lifetime continues to learn, especially in and out of formal education.

And concerning the dangers in the concept of the educated person as previously understood he observes: “There are obvious dangers to this. Society can easily degenerate into one in which the emphasis is on formal degrees rather than on performance capacity. It can easily degenerate into one of totally sterile, Confucian-type Mandarins a danger to which the American university, particularly, is singularly susceptible. It can, on the other hand, also fall prey to overvaluing immediately usable, practical knowledge, and underrate the importance of fundamentals and of wisdom altogether.

And considering the possible danger of new class conflict in the new scenario he states: “This society, in which knowledge workers dominate, is in danger of a new class conflict: the conflict between the large minority of knowledge workers and the majority of people who will make their living through traditional ways, either by manual work, whether skilled or unskilled, or by services work, whether skilled or unskilled. The productivity of knowledge work still abysmally low will predictably become the economic challenge of the knowledge society. On it will depend the competitive position of every country, industry and institution within society. The productivity of the non- knowledge services worker will increasingly become the social challenge to the knowledge society. On it will depend the ability of the knowledge society to give decent incomes and with them dignity and status to non-knowledge people.

He observes that  in the past no earlier society  faced such challenges as mentioned above.

Concerning the new opportunities in the new society open to all , he states:”Equally new are the opportunities of the knowledge society. In the knowledge society, for the first time in history, access to leadership is open to all.

“Equally, access to the acquisition of knowledge will no longer be dependent on obtaining a prescribed education at any given age. Learning will become the tool of the individual available to him or her at any age if only because so much of skill and knowledge can be acquired by means of the new learning technologies.

And further:

“Another implication is that the performance of an individual, an organization, an industry or a country in acquiring and applying knowledge will increasingly become the key competitive factor for career and earnings opportunities of individuals; for the performance, if not the survival of the individual organization; or of an industry, and for a country. The knowledge society will inevitably become far more competitive than any society we have yet known for the simple reason that with knowledge being universally accessible there are no excuses for nonperformance. There will be no poor countries. There will only be ignorant countries.

He continues giving his observations on the new developed society with the challenges and opportunities as follows:

“The same will be true for individual companies, individual industries, and individual organizations of any kind. It will be true for the individual, too. In fact, developed societies have already become infinitely more competitive for the individual than were the societies of the early twentieth century let alone earlier societies, those of the nineteenth or eighteenth centuries. Then most people had no opportunity to rise out of the class into which they were born, with most individuals following their fathers in their work and in their station in life.

He would like too use the term ‘knowledges’ for the new phenomenon in this new development in human culture. He says:“I have been speaking of knowledge. But the proper term is knowledges. For the knowledge of the knowledge society is fundamentally different from what was considered knowledge in earlier societies, and, in fact, from what is still widely considered knowledge. The knowledge of the German Allgemeine Bildung or of the Anglo-American liberal arts had little to do with one s life work. It focused on the person and the person s development, rather than on any application both nineteenth-century Allgemeine Bildung and liberal arts prided themselves on having no utility whatsoever. In the knowledge society, knowledge basically exists only in application.

And arguing for the new form of knowledge in terms of application, he observes:”Knowledge in application is, by definition, highly specialized which was why Plato s Socrates some 2500 years ago, refused to accept it as knowledge and considered it mere techne, that is, mere skill.

And concerning some knowledge requiring a limited amount of knowledge compared to others, he observes:

“Some knowledge work requires a fairly limited amount of knowledge examples are some paramedical technologists, the X-ray technologist, the technologist in the clinical laboratory, or the pulmonary technologist. Other knowledge work requires far more advanced theoretical knowledge, e.g., most of the knowledge work required in business, whether in market research; in product planning; in designing manufacturing systems; in advertising and promotion; in purchasing. In some areas the knowledge base is vast indeed, as in neurosurgery and in a good many areas of management, e.g., managing a major hospital, a big and complex university, or a multinational enterprise.

“Whatever the base, knowledge in application is specialized. It is always specific, and therefore not applicable to anything else. Nothing the X-ray technician needs to know can be applied to market research, for instance, or to teaching medieval history.

Concerning the central work-force in  the knowledge society, he observes:

“The central work force in the knowledge society will, therefore, consist of highly specialized people. In fact, it is a mistake to speak of generalists. What we mean by that term, increasingly, will be people who have learned how to acquire additional specialties, and especially to acquire rapidly the specialized knowledge needed for them to move from one kind of work and job to another, e.g., from being a market researcher into general management, or from being a nurse in a hospital into hospital administration. But generalists in the sense in which we used to talk of them are becoming dilettantes rather than educated people.

“This too is new. Historically, workers were generalists. They did whatever had to be done on the farm, in the household and in the craftsman s shop. This was true of the industrial worker as well. Manufacturing industry only expanded and became dominant when it learned to take the specialized skill out of the work. This was when it converted the skilled craftsmen of preindustrial times into the semiskilled or unskilled machine operator of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Concerning knowledge workers as specialists, he states:

“But knowledge workers, whether their knowledge be primitive or advanced, whether there be a little of it or a great deal, will, by definition, be specialized. Knowledge in application is effective only when it is specialized. Indeed, it is more effective the more highly specialized it is. This goes for the technicians, e.g., the person who services a computer, an X-ray machine or the engine of a fighter plan.1 But it equally applies to work that requires the most advanced knowledge, whether research into genetics or astrophysics or putting on the first performance of a new opera.

“As said before: the shift from knowledge to knowledges offers tremendous opportunities to the individual. It makes possible a career as a knowledge worker. But it equally presents a great many new problems and challenges. It demands for the first time in history that people with knowledge take responsibility for making themselves understood by people who do not have the same knowledge base. It requires that people learn and preferably early how to assimilate into their own work specialized knowledges from other areas and other disciplines.

“This is particularly important as innovation in any one knowledge area tends to originate outside the area itself. This is true in respect to products and processes where, in sharp contrast to the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, innovations now tend to arise outside the industry or process itself. It is true just as much in scientific knowledge and in scholarship. The new approaches to the study of history have, for instance, come out of economics, psychology and archeology all disciplines that historians never considered relevant to their field and to which they had rarely before been exposed.


Concerning this he observes:”That the knowledge in the knowledge society has to be highly specialized to be productive implies two new requirements: 1. knowledge workers work in teams; and 2. knowledge workers have to have access to an organization which, in most cases, means that knowledge workers have to be employees of an organization.

“There is a great deal of talk these days about teams and team work. Most of it starts out with the wrong assumption, namely, that we never before worked in teams. Actually, people have always worked in teams very few people ever could work effectively by themselves. The farmer had to have a wife, and the farm wife had to have a husband. The two worked as a team. Both worked as a team with their employees, the hired hands. The craftsman also had to have a wife, with whom he worked as a team he took care of the craft work, she took care of the customers and the business altogether. Both worked as a team with the journeymen and apprentices. The present discussion also assumes that there is only one kind of team. Actually there are quite a few.2 But until now the emphasis has been on the individual worker and not on the team. With knowledge work being the more effective the more specialized it is, teams become the actual work unit rather than the individual himself.

Concerning the importance of team-work in the new society and the importance of new kinds of teams for various kinds of work he states: “The team that is being touted now as the team I call it the jazz combo team is only one kind of team. It is actually the most difficult kind of team, and the team that requires the longest time to gain performance capacity.

“We will have to learn to use different kinds of teams for different purposes. We will have to learn to understand teams and this is something to which, so far, very little attention has been paid. The understanding of teams, the performance capacities of different kinds of teams; their strengths; their limitations; the trade-offs between various kinds of teams, thus, increasingly, will become central concerns in the performance of people.

And in this new scenario the individual knowledge worker has got to learn the capability to be able to switch over to new kinds of teams :“The individual knowledge worker will also have to learn something that today practically no one has learned: how to switch from one kind of team to another; how to integrate one s self into a team; what to expect of a team; and, in turn, what to contribute to a team.

“The ability to diagnose what kind of team a certain kind of knowledge work requires for full effectiveness, and the ability, then, to organize such a team and integrate oneself into it, will increasingly become a requirement for effectiveness as a knowledge worker. So far, it is not taught or learned anywhere (except in a few research labs). So far, very few executives in any kind of organization even realize that it is their job, to a large extent, to decide what kind of team is needed for a given job, how to organize it and how to make it effective. We are now in the very early stages of work on teams, their characteristics, their specifications, their performance characteristics and their appraisal.

“Equally important is the second implication of the fact that knowledge workers are, of necessity, specialists: the need for them to work as members of an organization. It is only the organization that can provide the basic continuity which knowledge workers need to be effective. It is only the organization that can convert the specialized knowledge of the knowledge worker into performance.

“By itself, specialized knowledge yields no performance. The surgeon is not effective unless there is a diagnosis, which, by and large, is not the surgeon s task and not even within the surgeon s competence. Market researchers, by themselves, produce only data. To convert the data into information, let alone to make them effective in knowledge action, requires marketing people, sales people, production people and service people. As a loner in research and writing, the historian can be very effective. However, to produce the education of students, a great many other specialists have to contribute people whose specialty may be literature, mathematics or other areas of history. This requires the specialist to have access to an organization.

“This access may be as a consultant. It may be as a provider of specialized services. For the overwhelming majority of knowledge workers it will be as employees of an organization full-time or part-time whether it be a government agency, a hospital, a university, a business, a labor union or hundreds of other types of organizations. In the knowledge society, it is not the individual who performs. The individual is a cost center rather than a performance center. It is the organization that performs. The individual physician may have a great deal of knowledge. But the physician is impotent without the knowledge provided by a host of other scientific disciplines, i.e., physics, chemistry, genetics, etc. The physician cannot function without the test results produced by a host of diagnosticians that run the imaging machines whether X-ray or ultrasound, making and interpreting blood tests, administering brain scans, etc. The hospital is the lifeline to the physician. It administers the services to critically ill patients, and provides the physical and/or psychiatric rehabilitation without which there would be no full recovery. To provide any of these services, whether the electrocardiogram, the analysis of the blood samples, the magnetic resonance imaging or the exercises of the physical therapist, physicians need access to the organization of the hospital, that is, to a highly structured enterprise, organized to operate in perpetuity.

Then concerning what he calls the ‘employee society’ he observes:

“The knowledge society is an employee society. Traditional society, or, society before the rise of the manufacturing enterprise and the blue-collar manufacturing worker, was not a society of independents. Thomas Jefferson s society of independent, small farmers each being the owner of his own family farm and farming it without any help except that of his wife and his children, was never much more than a fantasy. Most people in history were dependents. But they did not work for an organization. They were working for an owner, as slaves, as serfs, as hired hands on the farm; as journeymen and apprentices in the craftsmen s shops; as shop assistants and salespeople for a merchant; as domestic servants, free or unfree, and so on. They worked for a master. When blue-collar work in manufacturing first arose they still worked for a master.

“In Dickens s great 1854 novel of a bitter labor conflict in a cotton mill (Hard Times), the workers worked for an owner. They did not work for the factory. Only late in the nineteenth century did the factory rather than the owner become the employer. And only in the twentieth century did the corporation, rather than the factory, then become the employer. Only in this century has the master been replaced by a boss, who, himself, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, is an employee and has a boss himself.

“Knowledge workers will be both employees who have a boss, and bosses who have employees. Organizations were not known to yesterday s social science, and are, by and large, not yet known to today s social science. The great German sociologist, Ferdinand Toennies (1855-1936), in his 1888 book Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft (Community and Society) classified the known forms of human organization as being either community, which is organic, and fate, or society, which is a structure and very largely under social control. He never talked of organization. Nor did any of the other sociologists of the nineteenth or early twentieth century. But organization is neither community nor society, although it partakes of some characteristics of each. It is not fate. Membership in an organization is always freely chosen. One joins a company or a government agency or the teaching staff of a university. One is not born into it. And one can always leave one could only emigrate from traditional communities. It is not society, either, especially as it does not embrace the totality of its members. The director of market research in a company is also a member of half a dozen other organizations. She may belong to a church, to a tennis club, and may well spend especially if an American five hours a week as a volunteer for a local nonprofit organization, e.g., as a leader of a Girl Scout troop. Organizations, in other words, are not true collectives. They are tools, i.e., means to an end.

“There have been earlier organizations. The professional military as it arose after the seventeenth century was an organization; it was neither a society nor a community. The modern university, as it emerged after the foundation of the University of Berlin in 1809, was an organization.

“Faculty members freely joined and could always leave. The same can be said for the Civil Service as it arose in the eighteenth century, first in France, then on the European continent, and finally in late nineteenth century in Great Britain and Meiji, Japan (though not until 1933 or World War II in the United States). But these earlier organizations were still seen as exceptions. The first organization in the modern sense, the first that was seen as being prototypical rather than exceptional, was surely the modern business enterprise as it emerged after 1870 which is the reason why, to this day, most people think of management, that is of the organi-zation s specific organ, as being business management.

With the appearance of the knowledge society and the society becoming a society of organizations he observes:“With the emergence of the knowledge society, society has become a society of organizations. Most of us work in and for an organization, and we are dependent for our effectiveness and equally for our living on access to an organization whether as an organization s employee or as a provider of services to an organization, as a lawyer, for instance, or a freight forwarder. More and more of these supporting services to organizations are, themselves, organized as organizations. The first law firm was organized in the U.S. a little over a century ago until then lawyers practiced as individuals. In Europe there were no law firms to speak of until after World War II. Today, the practice of law is increasingly done in larger and larger partnerships. It is also true, especially in the U.S., of the practice of medicine. The knowledge society is a society of organizations in which practically every single task is being performed in and through an organization.

Concerning the question what is an employee, he  remarks as follows:

“Most knowledge workers will spend most if not all of their working life as employees. The meaning of the term is different from what it has been, traditionally and not only in English but in German, Spanish, or Japanese as well.

“Individually, knowledge workers are dependent on the job. They receive a wage or salary. They are being hired and can be fired. Legally, each is an employee, but, collectively, they are the only capitalists. Increasingly, through their pension funds and through their other savings (e.g., in the U.S. through mutual funds), the employees own the means of production. In traditional economics and by no means only in Marxist economics there is a sharp distinction between the wage fund all of which goes into consumption and the capital fund. Most social theory of industrial society is based, one way or another, on the relationship between the two, whether in conflict or in necessary and beneficial cooperation and balance. In the knowledge society, the two merge. The pension fund is deferred wage and, as such, a wage fund. It is also increasingly the main source of capital, if not the only source of capital, for the knowledge society.

“Equally important, perhaps more important: in the knowledge society the employees, that is knowledge workers, again own the tools of production. Marx s great insight was the realization that the factory worker does not and cannot own the tools of production and therefore has to be alienated. There was no way, Marx pointed out, for the worker to own the steam engine and to be able to take the steam engine with himself when moving from one job to another. The capitalist had to own the steam engine and had to control it. Increasingly, the true investment in the knowledge society is not in machines and tools. It is in the knowledge of the knowledge worker. Without it, the machines, no matter how advanced and sophisticated, are unproductive.

“The market researcher needs a computer. But increasingly this is the researcher s own personal computer, and a cheap tool the market researcher takes along wherever he or she goes. And the true capital equipment of market research is the knowledge of markets, of statistics, and of the application of market research to business strategy, which is lodged between the researchers ears and is their exclusive and inalienable property. The surgeon needs the operating room of the hospital and all of its expensive capital equipment. But the surgeon s true capital investment is the twelve or fifteen years of training and the resulting knowledge which the surgeon takes from one hospital to the next. Without that knowledge, the hospital s expensive operating rooms are so much waste and scrap.

“This is true whether the knowledge worker commands advanced knowledge like the surgeon, or simple and fairly elementary knowledge like the junior accountant. In either case, it is the knowledge investment that determines whether the employee is productive or not, rather than the tools, machines and capital the organization furnishes. The industrial worker needed the capitalist infinitely more than the capitalist needed the industrial worker the basis for Marx s assertion that there would always be a surplus of industrial workers, and an industrial reserve army which would make sure that wages could not possibly rise above the subsistence level (probably Marx s most egregious error). In the knowledge society the most probable assumption and certainly the assumption on which all organizations have to conduct their affairs is that they need the knowledge worker far more than the knowledge worker needs them. It is the organization s job to market its knowledge jobs so as to obtain knowledge workers in adequate quantity and superior quality. The relationship increasingly is one of interdependence, with the knowledge worker having to learn what the organization needs, but with the organization also having to learn what the knowledge workers needs, requires and expects.

“Because its work is based on knowledge, the knowledge organization is altogether not one of superiors and subordinates.

Using the symphony orchestra as the prototype for the new situation, he remarks:“The prototype is the symphony orchestra. The first violin may be the most important in the orchestra. But the first violinist is not the superior of the harp player. He is a colleague. The harp part is the harp player s part and not delegated to her by either the conductor or the first violinist.

“There was endless debate in the Middle Ages about the hierarchy of knowledges, with philosophy claiming to be the queen of knowledges. We long ago gave up that moot argument. There is no higher knowledge and no lower knowledge. When the patient s complaint is an ingrown toenail the podiatrist s knowledge controls, and not that of the brain surgeon even though the brain surgeon represents many more years of training and gets a much larger fee. Conversely, if an executive is posted to a foreign country, the knowledge he or she needs, and in a hurry, is the fairly low skill of acquiring fluency in a foreign language something every native of that country has mastered by age two without any great investment. The knowledge of the knowledge society, precisely because it is knowledge only when applied in action, derives its rank and standing from the situation and not from its knowledge content. What is knowledge, in other words, in one situation, e.g., the knowledge of Korean for the American executive posted to Seoul, is only information, and not very relevant information at that, when the same executive a few years later has to think through his company s market strategy for Korea. This, too, is new. Knowledges were always seen as fixed stars, so to speak, each occupying its own position in the universe of knowledge. In the knowledge society, knowledges are tools and, as such, dependent for their importance and position on the task to be performed.

“One final conclusion: Because the knowledge society perforce has to be a society of organizations, its central and distinctive organ is management.

“When we first began to talk of management, the term meant business management for large-scale business was the first of the new organizations to become visible. But we have learned in this last half-century that management is the distinctive organ of all organizations. All of them require management whether they use the term or not. All managers do the same things whatever the business of their organization. All of them have to bring people each of them possessing a different knowledge together for joint performance. All of them have to make human strengths productive in performance and human weaknesses irrelevant.

“All of them have to think through what are results in the organization and all of them have to define objectives. All of them are responsible to think through what I call the theory of the business, that is, the assumptions on which the organization bases its performance and actions, and equally, the assumptions on which organizations decide what things not to do.

“All of them require an organ that thinks through strategies, that is, the means through which the goals of the organization become performance. All of them have to define the values of the organization, its system of rewards and punishments, and its spirit and its culture. In all of them, managers need both the knowledge of management as work and discipline, and the knowledge and understanding of the organization itself, its purposes, its values, its environment and markets, its core competencies.

“Management as a practice is very old. The most successful executive in all history was surely that Egyptian who, 4,000 years or more ago, first conceived the pyramid without any precedent designed and built it, and did so in record time. Unlike any other work of man, that first pyramid still stands. But as a discipline, management is barely fifty years old. It was first dimly perceived around the time of World War I. It did not emerge until World War II, and then primarily in the United States. Since then, it has been the fastest growing new function, and its study the fastest growing new discipline. No function in history has emerged as fast as management and managers have done so in the last fifty to sixty years, and surely none has had such worldwide sweep in such a short period. Management, in most business schools, is still taught as a bundle of techniques, e.g., budgeting or organization development. To be sure, management, like any other work, has its own tools, and its own techniques. But just as the essence of medicine is not the urine analysis, the essence of management is not technique or procedure. The essence of management is to make knowledges productive. Management, in other words, is a social function. And, in its practice, management is truly a liberal art.

Without going further, we can mention  a number of points about the understanding of this knowledge society. Among these are:

  • the discovery and the intensive use of the new technology, the information and communication technology (ICT)
  • the necessity for greater interaction with other nations, cultures and regions of the world
  • the necessity for an attitude of openness, interaction, assimilation, absorption, revision, criticism and examination which will prompt creative knowledge  production in  societies
  • the attitude of society characterized by being descriptive and perspective, with readiness for positive change and  involving  analysis of the current state of education, scientific research, the media, the publishing industry, culture encompassing religion, intellectual heritage and the use of the national  language, and other building blocks of a “knowledge society”
  • people should be educated to be concerned about construction of a viable “knowledge society” which in turn requires effective economic, social and political institutions, involving solutions for negative attitudes and situations related to ideologies, societal structures and values that inhabit critical thinking, which cut off Muslims and others from their knowledge rich heritage and block the free flow of ideas and learning
  • People should be trained and educated so that they will be involved actively in the production and dissemination of knowledge and the various forms of creative activity that are the foundations for the knowledge society in the country..
  • the discussion about knowledge will involve  “engineering the ‘knowledge society’,  which may involve the issue of   Information technology supporting human development , since,  Information Technology (or Information and Communication Technology) cannot be seen as a separate phenomenon in human culture; it should be seen as a tool for helping human development and has  be taken into account when engineering the Knowledge Society.
  • This will involve  issues of life-long learning,   e-inclusion, ethics and social impact, engineering profession, developing

e-society, economy and e-Society.

And the question: What actions have to be undertaken to realize a human centered Knowledge Society? Is of utmost importance for the realization of the objective.

In relation to quality of life, we can begin to see this issue in relation to concept of knowledge which is of collective obligation (fard kifayah). Imam al-Ghazali  observes in the ‘Ihya’ as follows:((8)


Know, 0 dear readers, that learning about the duties are divided into two categories – those which are connected with religion and those which are not so connected. The religions learning are those which came from the Holy Prophets and in which there is no question of intellect, and the learnings that are not connected with the religion are Mathematics, Medicine etc. They are of three kinds – praiseworthy, blameworthy and permissible. The sciences which are necessary for progress in the world are praiseworthy, such as Medicine, Mathematics etc. These are Farz Kifayah or binding on the community as a whole. Fard Kifayah is such compulsory duty without which no nation can go on in this world. If a man at least acquires such learning or science in a town or locality, all other people in the town or locality get absolved from its sin. If, however nobody learns it, all will be transgressors. The sciences which should be learnt for agriculture, administration, industry, horticulture, weaving etc. are Fard Kifayah. To be expert in such learnings is not Fard Kifayah. The learnings which are blameworthy are sorcery, talismanic science juggling, gambling and the like. The branches of knowledge which are permissible are poetry, history, geography, biology etc.

All learning connected with the religion is praiseworthy, but when any other learning is mixed with any of them, it  becomes sometimes blameworthy. The praiseworthy branches of learning comprise sources and branches helpful and supplementary to those disciplines of learning. They are therefore of four kinds.

1) Sources of religious learning are four in number (a) the Book of God, the Sunnah or usages of the Holy Prophet, the unanimous opinions of Muslim jurists (Ijma) and the sayings of companions. Ijma is the third source of Islam as it shows the path towards the usages of the Prophet. The first source is the Quran and the second is the Sunnah. The fourth source is the sayings of the companions because they saw the Prophet, witnessed the coming down to revelations and they saw what others did not see through their association with the Prophet.

2) Branches of learning of religion are drawn from the sources not according to the literal meaning but according to the meaning adduced by the mind, thereby writing the understanding as indicated by the following Hadith: A judge shall not sit in judgment when angry. This means that he shall not pass judgment when he is pressed by calls of nature, hunger and disease. The last thing is of two kinds. One kind relates to the activities of the world, such as the books of law and is entrusted to the lawyers and jurisprudent; and the other kind relates to the activities of the hereafter. The latter is the science of the conditions of the heart and of its praiseworthy virtues and blameworthy evils.

3) The third is the sciences helpful to the praiseworthy sciences such as the science of language and grammar which are necessary to know the Quran and Sunnah. They are not themselves religious education. They were not necessary for the Holy Prophet as he was illiterate.

4) The fourth kind is the supplementary sciences and is connected with pronunciation of words and different readings and meanings, such as tafsir, knowledge of revocation of verses, books on authoritative transmission, biographies of illustrious companions and narrators of traditions.

These are the religious learning and are praiseworthy and as such Fard Kifayah or binding on the community as a whole.(9)

In discussing the importance of knowledge in relation to human life, al-Ghazali states in the Ihya’ as follows:

“The affairs of this world do not become orderly except through activities, but the human activities are divided into three categories. 1) The first category includes four fundamental activities without which the world can not go on in order. (i) Agriculture for raising food stuffs for maintaining lives, weaving for manufacturing clothes, architecture for building houses and government for regulating human relations for living in peace and harmony. 2) The second category includes such activities as are helpful to the above mentioned activities, such as iron crafts or ploughs for cultivation, instruments for spinning and weaving clothes and other implements. 3) The third category includes such activities as are supplementary to the principal industries previously mentioned, such as eating, drinking, making dresses, sewing clothes.
”These activities are necessary for human habitation just as the various organs of the body are necessary for up-keep of the human body. The organs of the body also are divided into three categories – 1) The fundamental organs, such as heart, liver and brain. 2) What is helpful to these principal organs are stomach, veins, and back-bone without which they can not function. 3) What is supplementary to the above two categories for perfection are nails, fingers, eye brows etc. Out of these three categories, the most noble are the fundamental things, out of which the most noble is government on account of which peaceful habitation becomes possible. For this reason, experienced and expert men are necessary to run the government.

Administration is divided into four classes.

  1. The first class is the highest as it is the government of the prophets and their jurisdiction spread over the public and private matters of the people.
  2. Next is the administration of temporal rulers over the public matters of the people and not their private matters.
  3. Next is the administration of the learned and the wise over the people in the matter of the religion of God as they are the heirs of the prophets. It involves thoughts of the privileged few.
  4. Next is the administration of the preachers which involves the thoughts of the common men. After the administration of the prophets, the most noble is the diffusion of knowledge whereby the people are saved from evil and destructive habits and are led towards fortune and constructive virtues.

This is the goal of knowledge and education.

Intellectual activities are more excellent than the other activities, because the excellence of an activity is known by three things -

  1. by examining the natural qualities of a man by the help of which an activity is recognised. For instance, acquisition of knowledge is better than learning a language as knowledge can be acquired by intellect, while language can be learnt through the sense of hearing. As intellect is better than the sense of hearing, so knowledge is better than language.
  2. By examining the extent of human usefulness, for instance, agriculture is superior to the craft of a goldsmith.
  3. By observing the excellence of a business, for instance, the business of a goldsmith is better than that of tanning hides.

Knowledge also has got the above three qualities.”

The inculcation of the various useful sciences will lead to the preservation of which will be instrumental in the preservation of the fundamentals of human life in the Islamic discourse on philosophy of law or jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh).

In discussing the five necessities in human life which are considered as the five aims preserved by the sacred law are  termed as the al-kulliyat al-khamsah or also termed as the daruriyyat al-Shatibi mentions religion, self,  intellect, progeny, wealth.In the al-Muwafaqat (I.38,II.10, IV.27)  the author mentions the necessities in the following order:  religion, life (nafs), progeny, wealth, and intellect.  In the al-I’tisam (II.179 and al-Muwafaqat II.299)  the mention is in the following order: religion, life, progeny, wealth, and intellect.Al-Zarkashi mentions these in the following order: life, wealth, progeny, religion, and intellect.Al-Ghazali in the al-Mustashfa, I.258 mentions these in the order: religion, life, intellect, progeny, and wealth.Al-Ghazali’s  opinion seems to be more acceptable. Whatever the order is, the issue of progeny and its importance is accepted by scholars of Islamic jurisprudence. Abdullah Darraz in his commentary of the al-Muwafaqat II.153 mentions that the view of al-Ghazali is adopted  by most scholars. Hence, in the matter of these daruriyyat the matter of religion is the first, then life, then the intellect, then progeny, then wealth.

Therefore we can state that these are the necessities of life determined by Islamic discourse in its philosophy of law.

In relation to this, we can find reformulation of such needs in the duties of the caliph in the Sunni  theory of the caliphate.This is clear  the Al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyyah of al-Mawardi.(10)

These duties include: the preservation of the religion according to the original principles;  carrying out justice between parties involved in litigations in the state; the implementation of the laws and regulations of the religion  including punishments for crimes;  preserving the security of life for women in families so that people can carry out their business of looking for livelihood in peace; safeguarding the boundaries of the country so that people are secured; collecting revenue for the state according to the proper rules and regulations; putting proper people in charge of their duties in the state so that proper functioning of the  administration is maintained; paying of salaries in the proper time neither too late nor too early; carrying out the jihad in cases where situations demand; and inspecting the administration so that all run smoothly.

To these can be added the other duties of the state which are for the welfare of the subjects.

Then concerning “human rights” which constitute the essential aspect of human quality of life in Islam, there are several observations which can be made. Among these are as follows:

We can begin with several basic concepts of the Islamic worldview. Since God is the absolute and the sole master of men and the universe, and since He has given each man human dignity and honor, and breathed into him something of His own spirit, it follows that men are essentially the same. In fact, the only differences between them are such artificial ones as nationality, color, or race. Thus, all human beings are equal and form one universal community that is united in its submission and obedience to God.

And we can observe that at the centre of this universal brotherhood is the Islamic confession of the oneness of God and that, by extension, includes the oneness and brotherhood of humanity and hence an Islamic state may be established anywhere. While the state is geographically limited, the human rights and privileges granted to humanity by God are not. The Qur’an states that these are universal and fundamental, and that all individuals are to enjoy and observe them under all circumstances-including war-regardless of whether he is living in the geographical confines of an Islamic state or not:

The Qur’an asserts clearly:

O believers, be you securers of justice, witness for God. Let not detestation for a people move you not to be equitable; be equitable-that is nearer to God-fearing.(11) (5:8)

And then from  the last sermon of the Prophet in the Farewell pilgrimage in the year before his demise we can learn a number of important matters; among these are:human blood is sacred in any case and cannot be spilled without justification. Violating this rule is equivalent to killing all of humanity.

The text of the sermon is as follows:

After praising, and thanking Allah (The One True God) the Prophet began with the words:

“O People! lend me an attentive ear, for I know not whether after this year I shall ever be amongst you again. Therefore, listen carefully to what I am saying and Take These Words to Those Who Could Not Be Present Here Today.

“O People! just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord, and that he will indeed reckon your deeds.

“Allah has forbidden you to take usury (interest), therefore all interest obligations shall henceforth be waived. Your capital is yours to keep. You will neither inflict nor suffer any inequity. Allah has Judged that there shall be no interest and that all the interest due to Abbas ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib (Prophet’s uncle) be waived.

“Every right arising out of homicide in pre-Islamic days is henceforth waived and the first such right that I waive is that arising from the murder of Rabiah ibn al-Harithiah.

“O Men! the unbelievers indulge in tampering with the calender in order to make permissible that which Allah forbade, and to prohibit which Allah has made permissible. With Allah the months are twelve in number. Four of them are holy, three of these are successive and one occurs singly between the months of Jumada and Shaban.

“Beware of Satan, for the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope of that he will be able to lead you astray in big things, so beware of following him in small things.

“O People! it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with anyone of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste.

“O People! listen to me in earnest, worship Allah, say your five daily prayers, fast during month of Ramadan, and give your wealth in Zakat (obligatory charity). Perform Hajj if you can afford to.

“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly.

“Do not therefore do injustice to yourselves. Remember one day you will meet Allah and answer your deeds. So beware, do not astray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.

“O People! No Prophet or Apostle Will Come after Me and No New Faith Will Be Born. Reason well, therefore, O People! and understand words which I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the Qur’an and my Sunnah (i.e., sayings, deeds, and approvals) and if you follow these you will never go astray.

“All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly.

“Be my witness O Allah, that I have conveyed your message to your people.”

As part of this sermon, the Prophet recited them a Revelation from Allah which he had just received and which completed the Qur’an, for it was the last passage to be revealed:

This day the disbelievers despair of prevailing against your religion, so fear them not, but fear Me (Allah)! This day have I perfected for you your religion and fulfilled My favor unto you, and it hath been My good pleasure to choose Islam for you as your religion (Surah 5, Ayah 3).

The sermon was repeated sentence by sentence by Safwan’s brother Rabiah (RA), who had a powerful voice, at the request of the Prophet and he faithfully proclaimed to over ten thousand gathered on the occasion. Toward the end of his sermon, the Prophet asked “O people, have I faithfully delivered unto you my message?” A powerful murmur of assent “O Allah, yes!”, arose from thousands of pilgrims and the vibrant words “Allahumma na’m” rolled like thunder throughout the valley. The Prophet raised his forefinger and said: “Be my witness O Allah, that I have conveyed your message to your people.”(12)

Then again the Qur’an states to the effect:

Whose slays a soul not to retaliate for a soul slain, nor for corruption done in the land, should be as if he had slain mankind altogether.(13)

It is not permissible to oppress women, children, old people, the sick or the wounded. Women’s honor and chastity are to be respected under all circumstances. The hungry must be fed, the naked clothed, and the wounded or diseased given medical treatment regardless of their pro- or anti-Muslim sentiments and activities.

In Islam, human rights are granted by God, not by kings or legislative assemblies, and therefore they can never be taken away or changed, even temporarily, for any reason. They are meant to be put into practice and lived, not to stay on paper or in the realm of unenforceable philosophical concepts or United Nation declarations. Every Muslim is required to accept them and recognize the people’s right to have them enforced and obeyed. The Qur’an states that: Those who do not judge by what God has sent [while denying its validity] down are the disbelievers (14)

Human Rights in an Islamic State

Concerning the security of life and property, we have seen in the Prophet’s address during his final pilgrimage,that  he had proclaimed: “Your lives and properties are forbidden to one another till you meet your Lord on the Day of Resurrection.” He also had stated : “One who kills a man under covenant (i.e., a non Muslim citizen of a Muslim land) will not even smell the fragrance of Paradise.”

Concerning the protection of honour, the Qur’an does not allow one’s personal honor to be abused:; the Qur’an clearly states: “O You who believe, do not let one set of people make fun of another set. Do not defame one another Do not insult by using nicknames. Do not backbite or spear? ill of one another” (15)

And concerning sanctity and security of human privacy, the Qur’an guarantees this right.It says:” Avoid having suspicion, for some suspicion is  a sin.And do not spy on one another  and let not some of you  backbite others…” (16)(49.12)and “do not enter  houses which are not yours’  until you have asked for the permission thereto  and given greetings of peace to the inmates. “(17)

As for personal freedom, Islam guarantees this, and it prohibits the imprisonment of any individual before his guilt has been proven before a public court. This means that the accused has the right to defend himself and to expect fair and impartial treatment from the court.

The Qur’an also prohibits tyranny against people through the spread of their misdeeds to others. This is mentioned clearly in the Qur’an: God does not love evil talk in public unless it is by some one who has been injured thereby. In Islam, as has been stated earlier, an individual’s power and authority is a trust from God. This is an awesome responsibility for a person, for he must use this trust in a way that is acceptable to God or else suffer the consequences.

The heavy responsibility involving power and authority has been  acknowledged by Abu Bakr, who said in his very first address when he was made the first caliph of Islam: “Cooperate with me when I am right, and correct me when I commit error. Obey me so long as I follow the commandments of Allah and His Prophet, but turn away from me when I deviate.”

Concerning freedom of expression , we can observe that Islam allows complete freedom of thought and expression, provided that it does not involve spreading that which is harmful to individuals and the society at large. For example, the use of abusive or offensive language in the name of criticism is not allowed. In the days of the Prophet, the Muslims used to ask him about certain matters. If he had received no revelation on that particular issue, they were free to express their personal opinions.

Freedom of Association:

The formation of associations, parties, and organizations is allowed, on the understanding that they abide by certain general rules.

Freedom of Conscience and Conviction:

The Qur’an states: There should be no coercion in the matter of faith. Totalitarian societies of all ages have tried to deprive individuals of their freedom by subordinating them to state authority This condition is equivalent to slavery, the only difference being that physical slavery has been replaced by mechanisms of control that allow the individual no freedom of choice Islam forbids such a practice.

Protection of Religious Sentiments:

Along with the freedom of conviction and freedom of conscience, Islam guarantees to the individual that his religious sentiments will be given due respect and the nothing will be said or done which may encroach upon his right.

Protection from Arbitrary Imprisonment:

Islam states that each individual is responsible only for his own actions. Therefore, he cannot be arrested and imprisoned for the offenses of someone else. We read in the Qur’an: “No bearer of burdens shall be made to bear the burden of another”.

The Right to Basic Necessities of Life:

Islam recognizes the right of the needy to demand help from those who are more fortunate: And in their wealth there is acknowledge right for the needy and the destitute.

Equality Before the Law:

Islam gives its citizens the right to absolute and complete equality in the eyes of the law.

Rulers Are Not Above the Law:

According to the Islamic concept of justice, absolutely no one is above the law, for all men are equal. This point was made in a very dramatic fashion by the Prophet himself. One day, a woman belonging to a high and noble family was arrested in connection with a theft. The case was brought to the Prophet with the recommendation that she be spared the mandated punishment for theft (amputation of the hand). The Prophet replied: “The nations that lived before you were destroyed by God because they punished the common man for their offenses and let their dignitaries go unpunished for their crimes. I swear by Him Who holds my life in His hand that even if Fatima, the daughter of Muhammad, had committed this crime, I would have amputated her hand.”

The Right to Participate in the Affairs of State:

In the Qur’an, we find the statement And their business is (conducted) through consultation among themselves (18).This procedure is known as shura, which is usually translated as “consultation.” In practice, it means that the executive head of the government and the members of the assembly should be elected by free and independent choice of the people. However, the leader is not bound to follow the decision that results from this deliberation.

Lastly, Islam seeks to achieve the above-mentioned human rights and many others through the provision of certain legal safeguards, but primarily through calling upon individuals to transcend their lower animal-like instincts so that they can go beyond mere ties fostered by the kinship of blood, racial superiority, linguistic arrogance, and economic privilege Islam urges man to move on to a plane of existence where, by reason of his inner excellence, he can realize the ideal of the brotherhood of man(19)

Concerning “ knowledge society” there are a number of observations which can be made. These are:

  • Muslims should understand accurately  the nature, characteristics and objectives of “knowledge society”  in the current cultural discourse.
  • They should take stock of the situation and see where they stand and understand what are their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Muslims should prepare themselves so that they can perform their task in the new “knowledge society” making the best use of the tools available in the new information and communication technology, with the internet, the intra-net, the e-mail, and whatever is available.
  • They should master the secrets of the trade in the new technology so that they are not duped. The Prophet s.a.w. has said that a person who knows the language of another people he cannot be fooled by them. The knowledge of the tongue of a people does not merely mean langiuage of communication in the ordin ary se4nse, but the present writer would like to suggest even the most up-to-date technical  and scientific language and  philosophy,  so that we are not duped in any way.Imam al-Ghazali rd says in the ‘al-Munqid’ that a person who can evaluate one form of knowledge is one who understands that knowledge, and goes beyond that knowledge so that, if he is knowledgable enough, he is capable of giving a    critique of that knowledge or an aspect of it.
  • And the government has prepared infrastructure  for this venture and is encouraging and supporting development in this arena.
  • Of course knowledge society for us is not merely society promoting  skills in commerce, economics, and administration, [including for war for defending the nation and the ummah], but also for understanding about God, his doctrines and rules in human life, as well as understanding and preserving our identity as  Muslims, Malays, Malaysians, in Asean, in the world community , within the matrix of the ummah.
  • Knowledge for us comprises of Divine and Prophetic Wisdom for our guidance, then the knowledge from human experience and the intellect, supported by evidences from the human senses and wisdom from collective history.

Concerning quality of life, we can observe a number of points, among others, as the following:

  • Life quality must relate to the human body, spirit, and intellect. Hence in Islam the basic necessities of life preserved by Islam are; life, religion, intellect, wealth, progeny, wealth, and honour.
  • Hence shelter, food and drink, clothing, family life, communal  and societal life.
  • The state have certain functions relating to: life, intellect, religion, wealth, progeny, wealth and honour, relating to facilities in health, education, law, economic planning, the implementation of law, guaranteeing rights, and cultural milieu, including the media. All these are reflected in the administration of the state with the various ministries and departments, and government related organizations and bodies.
  • In the present cultural setting this is aided by the non-governmental organizations
  • The integrity of the nation should be monitored  by the National Integrity Board.
  • Life quality  includes within its purview, apart from matters relating to education and cultural matters, the provision of good roads, power supply, water supply, and now supply of broadband access to the electronic superhighway for informations, data, systematic knowledge, communication, and we can say,  within the balanced perspective, even   wisdom.
  • Of course, we cannot forget the question of national security and integrity.
  • Finally the quality of life in Islam is determined by the three categories of needs of man: the absolute necessities (al-daruriyyat), the important needs (al-hajjiyyat), and the ones which make life pleasant (al-tahsinat) which has been well explained by Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi.(20) Wallahu a’lam.




(2) ibid.

(3) ibid.


(5) of

(6) ibid.




(10)Al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyyah,chapter on the contract of the imamah and other categories of duties concerning the administeration of the State.Al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyyah, of al-Mawardi, Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, Beirut, Libnan, 1985, p.18.See also in

(11) (5:8)

(12) ( )

(13) (5.32).

(14) (5:44).

(15) ( 49: 1 1-121.)

(16) (49.12)

(17) (24.27).

(18) (42:38).

(19) (

(20) In his Fiqh al-Awwaliyyat.

Concerning the neglect of the fiqh of priorities, Dr Yusuf writes:

The Neglect of the fiqh of Priorities Among many Muslims

The problem with many groups of the Islamic Awakening advocates is that the fiqh of priorities is nonexistent to them, as they often seek the secondary before paying attention to the principal, try to examine the particulars before grasping the generalities, and hold to the controversial before familiarizing themselves with the established. It is a pity that we ask for instance about the blood of a gnat, and do not care about the shedding of Al-Hussein’s blood, or fight for nafila, while the. people have wasted the faridas, or quarrel over a form, regardless of the content.

This is the situation today for Muslims in general. I see millions making the umra [minor pilgrimage] every year in Ramadan and other months and others making hajj for the tenth or even the twentieth time: if they saved the money they spent on these nafilas, they would accumulate thousands of millions of dollars. We have been running around for years trying to collect one thousand million dollars for the Islamic Philanthropic Institution, but have not collected a tenth, or even one- twentieth or one-thirtieth, of that amount. If you ask those performers of supererogatory umra and hajj to give you what they would spend on their voluntary journeys so that you may direct it to resisting Christianization or communism in Asia and Africa, or to combating famine here or there, they will not give you anything. This is a long-time ailment that no heart doctor has ever been able to cure.

The fiqh of priorities requires that we know which issue is more worthy of attention, so that we may give it more effort and time than we give others. The fiqh of priorities also requires us to know which enemy is more deserving of directing our forces and concentrating our attack against him, and which battle is more worthy of waging, for people are divided into several kinds in Islam’s eye, as follows:

There are the Muslims, the unbelievers and the hypocrites.

Unbelievers have in their ranks the pacifists and the militant. They also include those who only did not believe, and those who did not believe and also blocked the path to Allah [before those who believed].

Hypocrites include those of the lesser hypocrisy and those of the greater hypocrisy.

With whom do we start, then? Which area is more worthy of work? Which issue is more deserving of attention?

The fiqh of priorities requires that we know the time-limited duty so that we may treat it properly and not delay it and thus waste a chance that may not present itself again until after a long time, if it ever does.

A poet admonishes us about the value of time by saying: “Avail the chance, for a chance, If unavailable, becomes a grief. Our Arabic adage also says: “Do not put off today’s work till tomorrow”.

When Omar Ibn Abdel-Aziz was once advised to postpone some chore to the next day, he replied, “I am already tasked by a day’s work, how will I feel if I have two days work to do tomorrow? “

A wise saying by Ibn-Ata is “There are certain duties with plenty of time given for their fulfillment, so they could be cautioned within the time-limit, but there are, besides, time-limited duties that, if out of time, are irredeemable, for with every new time there is a new duty and a new task demanded by Allah”!

Imam Al-Ghazali and the fiqh of Priorities

In his book “Al Ihiya”‘, Imam Al-Ghazali criticized those who were content with worship and did not pay attention to the | ranks of deeds. He said: “Another group is keen on nafilas but not as keen on faridas. We see some of them very pleased with the duha [forenoon optional] prayer and tahajjud “nighttime optional prayer] and other nafilas, but they find no pleasure in the farida’s, nor are they as keen on performing the farida prayers early in their time. They forget what the Prophet narrated from the Qudsi hadith [inspired by Allah the Almighty to His Messenger]: “Nothing that my slaves shall do to bring themselves closer to me shall be better than doing what I have ordered them to perform [as faridas]” (Al-Bukhari). Neglecting the order of prominence in good deeds falls under evil conduct. An individual may even find himself obliged to do only one of two compulsory things, or forced to do two things with a very limited time for one and ample time for the other: if he does not preserve their order, then he is deceived. “The similar instances are countless, for obedience and disobedience [of the commands of Allah] are both obvious. What is really ambiguous is giving precedence to some forms of obedience over others, such as giving prominence to faridas over nafilas; to individual duties over collective duties to a collective duty with no one to fulfill it over that fulfilled by other people; to the more important individual duties over those which have a lesser importance, to what cannot be postponed over what can be postponed; and to the needs of one’s mother over those of one’s father. The Prophet was asked, “Who is more entitled to be treated with the best companionship by me?” He replied, “Your mother”. And the man said, “Who is next?”, and the Prophet said, “Your mother”. And the man asked again, “And who is next”? and the Prophet said, “Your mother”. And the man asked for the fourth time, “And who is next?” and the Prophet said, “Your father”. And the man further asked, “And who is next?” and the Prophet replied, “The closest and then the closer of your relatives.”). A person should devote his companionship by the closeness of relationship. If two of his kins are of the same degree of relation, then he should help the one who needs help more, and if they need help equally then he should help the more pious of them.

“Similarly, if someone cannot meet the Costs of spending on his parents and making a pilgrimage at the same time, he should not make the pilgrimage because if he does, he would be acting in ignorance, for he should give the rights of his parents precedence over pilgrimage. In this case, he will be giving prominence to a religious duty over another religious duty that is of a lower rank.

Moreover, if someone has an appointment and the time for jumua [Friday congregational prayer] comes upon him, then he has to go to the prayer. If he goes to his appointment, he will be committing an act of disobedience [to Allah], even though the fulfillment of the appointment is, as such, an act of obedience.

Someone may also find some najasa [impurities] on his garment and speak roughly to his parents on that account. While najasa is unacceptable, hurting the parents is also unacceptable, and caring to avoid hurting the parents is more important than caring to avoid najasa.

“The examples of the combination of tabooed deeds and of compulsory duties are countless. He who neglects the order of Priorities in any of them is certainly deceived”



*Originally a paper, now with additions and modifications, to be tabled in the conference organized by UPM on 30th September, 2004, which was  previously presented in the Seminar organized by Sultan Iskandar Institute of Johor on the 19th of May 2004, Kuala Lumpur (11th Leadership Seminar of the Southeast Asian Centre of Enviromental and Urban Management (SEACEUM), Hotel Istana, Kuala Lumpur.)

The writer is currently Very Distinguished Academic Fellow, ISTAC, IIUM.

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

نحمده ونصلى على رسوله الكريم



To those who love I present Sunni intellectual way

In the Malay World beloved land far away

Embracing all countenance of knowing traditional and rational way

All manner of knowing – divine and human mental sway

Guaranteeing Truth acts honour and man’s worthy way

In globalization values and morals withering away


Knowledge begins as lights from One Most Knowing

Then touching universal reason – manifesting revealing

Descending to human recipient prophetic receptacle receiving

Moving then unto human reason purified being

Crystalizing as pearls treasure in Sunni way of knowing

Combining in totality traditional and rational path perceiving


Within this ocean dive the learned in sacred sciences

From the Companions the blessed to ones like Ash’aris

Continuing with Baqillani to al-Ghazali and al-Razi

Truly including al-Shafi’I and the mujtahids all Sunnies

Therein ibn Khaldun among learned in rational sciences

Also Suyuti up to Waliyullah al-Dihlawi


In Sunni World here there is al-Raniri ‘Abd al-Rauf also al-Fansuri

Also al-Falimbani again al-Banjari  again Yusuf Makasari

Continuing with Daud Ahmad and Zain al-Fatani

Rows of them the learned divines of the Sunnies

Presenters of the creed, sacred laws, morals, rationality, spirituality

In constellation stars in knowing among Sunnies


Sunni frame in knowing total harmonizing

Capable of salvation for morals and heart realizing

Curing the malady of minds confused in fever suffering

So many suffering seriously yet choosing the way of covering

Sunni way giving safety in faith values and morals in behaving

Facing fatal trials while globalizing


Only through these truth in faith be solved

Including about God in servitude devotions involved

Values on good and evil in life resolved

As in the adage ‘life is based on customs followed

Customs based on Sacred Law hallowed

Sacred law based on Scripture obeyed’


Through their intelligence pearls of knowledge more than thousand years

Strength for handhold human intelligence anchored on sustained views

Giving conviction confidence to man in cultures with conflicts

In age of postmodern culture clashing without ends

In age when power of Satan serenading false melodies

Come we take shelter for safety under shades


In culture of dialogues we need certainty

The axis determining truth direction and equity

Without Sunni mode of knowing constituting truth sustainability

We drift away to the coasts of destruction cultural calamity

Sans meanings sans directions sans identity

Bereft of honour enemies victorious we in bankruptcy


Together in this meeting in Bangi we arrive at the decision

Determine Sunni frame of knowing guaranteeing salvation

Combining within it the welfare of the world and eternal salvation

Enhancing philosophy of knowing in religion and worldly life estimation

Combining works of reason the senses with guidance of revelation

That is the path the one only with acts saving civilization


Come we save the Malay World this Sunni region

We choose the frame for way of knowing for saving the religion

Facing the West those against reality of human welfare

Empowering all strength from revelation prophecy and human reason

Combined within it sharpness in intellectual penetration, taqwa and morals in iman

Realizing the life of a servant of the One being His vicegerent


This is the path one only coming from the One Creator

Teaching mankind life of devotion not in disobedience

Providing the way good and evil values stable with power

Way of life civilization complete ready

Combining strength of reason the heart and senses

Bestowing manner of knowing securing life of safety and success


From God we make supplications for blessings and clemency

Our gathering bestowed with guidance and mercy

So that this will recur in the land showered with mercy

In the Nusantara with history promoting learning in plenty

This being continuous guidance for the region for the Community

Guidance in the age when civilization and culture ravaged by infamy


Composed by the Roving Preacher of the Malay World 23rd of August 2001

Composed in English – the Second Conference of Islamic Thought UKM 6th Oct.2009.

To be recited in the Bilik Senat UKM on 6th Oct 2009



Muhammad ‘Uthman El-Muhammady[1]

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

نحمده ونصلى على رسوله الكريم

This paper argues that the Malay-Indonesian World should maintain its adherence to and benefit from the ethical, spiritual, intellectual and cultural guidance of the Islamic mainstream Sunni discourse which has for so long been the core of its culture and civilization apart from its adherence to the local customary practices. This mainstream universal Islamic discourse can be seen as to be represented by the  four universal themes of Islamic intellectuality: the theological, crystallizing in the Ash’ari-Maturidi theological school; the spiritual, ethical and philosophical stance in the school of al-Ghazali and those like him; in the modern world that of Sai’d Nursi; the legal crystallizing in the  legal narratives of the mujtahid imams; for the Malay World that of Imam al-Shafi’i, and finally the cultural and civilizational crystallizing in the Khaldunian discourse; in the modern era that of Malik Bennabi which can be considered as the prolongation of  the Khaldunian discourse. Then there should be the additional relevant input from the best intellectual and cultural experience of the modern world. This is for a number of most pressing reasons: for maintaining the guaranteed eternal saving truths of the Islamic message, for intellectual homogeneity, for ethical, moral and spiritual stability, for performing the stable foundation of the ummatic civilization, and, of course, for facing the onslaught of philosophic and ethical modernity and postmodernity – Allah willing – without losing out. Issues and perspectives involved in these themes will be considered.


What is meant by mainstream intellectual discourse of Islam here is that religious discourse of the great majority of scholars of Islamic sacred scholarship covering various fields of learning: like Qur’anic and its sciences, the traditions and its sciences, the classical theology in kalam, discourse on spirituality in tasawwuf, the legal discourse in classical fiqh, including the new legal rulings made by the jurists and included into this discourse on historical and civilizational issues. This discourse is characterized by the intellectual stance of understanding revelation and prophecy through the mediation of the epistemological construct and its methodology throughout the centuries. This position is fundamentally related to a number of principles determining the nature of this discourse: the Absolute Being,  being al-Haqq,[2] the Absolute Truth, He Being on the Straight Divine Axis,[3] He being the Preserver (al-Muhaimin)[4] [of beings, things, meanings], then the Qur’anic revelation itself as muhaiminan ‘alaihi[5] being guardian over fundamental meanings of Divine Revelation in history, the principle of consensus in the verse on sabil al-mu’minin,[6] the role of the mujtahids,  the existence  and function of consensus (ijma’),  the appearance of the mujaddids at the head of Muslim century.[7] Then the prophetic guarantee about the continuous existence of a group in my community who will be prominently victorious on the truth until the Day of Judgment, those who differ from them will not be able to harm them.[8]

Mainstream theological discourse[9] preeminently  means the accepted theological discourse of figures like al-Ash’ari, al-Maturidi, al-Tahawi, Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Shafi’i, al-Baqillani, al-Baghdadi, Imam al-Haramayn, al-Ghazali, al-Razi and so on until the spread of the theological texts of Umm al-Barahin, Jawharah of al-Laqqani and so on within the mainstream discourse. This covers fundamental discussions of God, Divine Nature, Attributes, Acts, manifestations in sacred history, prophecy, its function reality and nature, the angelic world, its nature, functions, revelation, the prophets and messengers, their reality, nature and functions, the hereafter, its reality, nature and function, the divine governance expressed in Divine Decree and Pre-Measurement. These realities remain, and will not cease to be. The discussions and proofs can come from revealed texts, human reasoning, the realm of nature, science, Quantum Theory, whatever. But they shall continuously be, and will not cease to be; in the nature of things, as has been so well stated, in the nature of things, it is the human who must conform to the Divine and not the Divine to the human, with all the attending intellectual and spiritual consequences.

In the domain of spirituality, the mainstream discourse in this  field is guided by  discourses of figures like Junaid al-Baghdadi, al-Qushairi, al-Ghazali, with his magisterial Ihya,  al-Jilani, al-Shadhili, and others and for those who can appreciate their real position within the ambiance of this discourse, Ibn ‘Arabi and Jalal al-Din Rumi (provided their statements are understood while anchored to the moorings of this mainstream discourse).[10] These works portray not philosophical systems but results of spiritual witnessing and not mere mental speculations of the thinker in the modern provincial sense of those who have lost their sense of the sacred and the transcendent. In modern times the work of Sa’id Nursi does provide guidance in this domain-him being a figure with a masterly grasp of mainstream classical discourse, intimate knowledge and understanding of science and technology, with authentic spiritual vision and realization, and intense educational and social activism.

In the domain of spiritual ethics, again the above figures with their discourses do guide those who are the adherents of the mainstream discourse in their ethical life in the most profound way. The spiritual ethics of al-Qushairi can be seen in his Risalah al-Qushairiyyah that of al-Ghazali of course is in the Ihya’, the Minhaj al-‘Abidin, the al-Munqidh min al-Dadal and at the deepest level, can be found in the al-Madnun (which is being edited by our young scholar al-Akiti, at the University of Oxford). The philosophical views of al-Ghazali can be seen in the Tahafut al-Falasifah and Maqasid al-Falasifah.

In the domain of Islamic sacred law, mainstream discourse is found in the views of the mujtahid imams of the four schools and their adherents. All this is relevant for contemporary times. For the Malay World the Shafi’i school is the dominant legal school which is being loyally adhered to, with a number of minor departures in some details of the law.[11]

In the domain of culture and civilization, mainstream discourse can be found in the works of Ibn Khaldun (the Muqaddimah), and those of Malik Bennabi. The  diverse subjects discoursed in this sacred community[12] is reflected in al-Fihrist of Ibn Nadim,  the  Kitab al-Sa’adah of Tashkopruzade, discussed in al-Muqaddimah of Ibn Khaldun, with the technical terms elucidated in such works, among others as the monumental Kashshat Istilahat al-Funnun of ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Tahanawi.[13]


When we come to the question of the position of Islamic mainstream discourse in the Malay World, we find that this has been discussed in an engaging manner in that important work Modern Trends in Islamic Theological Discourses in Twentieth Century Indonesia: A Critical Survey by Fauzan Saleh[14] We can touch on some of the important issues in the work later. The other work Islam and the Malay-Indonesian World by Peter Riddell[15] gives very summarized situation of the Islamic discourse in the Malay-Indonesian World, of course with no special focus on the notion of mainstream intellectual discourse as such. Nevertheless it is a useful work giving a summary of the intellectual situation. Only that the present writer feels other dimensions from the Malaysia scene should addressed.

We have  seen this mainstream discourse in the Malay-Indonesian World in the theological texts like Matan al-Jawharah of al-Laqqani, the Bidayatul Hidayah of Shamsuddin  of Acheh, the elaborations of texts of Umm al-Barahin and others, the texts ranging from the simple Faridah al-Fara’id of Ahmad al-Fatani to the possibly most   massive theological work Ward al-Zawahir of Shaikh Daud al-Fatani, then ‘Aqidatul-Najin of Shaykh Zayn al-‘Abidin al-Fatani and others. The mainstream position in theological domain is also reflected in the Tuhfah al-Raghibin of Shaykh Arsyad al-Banjari dealing with various deviationist groups which are at variance with the accepted mainstream discourse of the community.[16]

In relation to this discussion on mainstream discourse and its realization in the Malay World there are a number of concerns like the following:

  • Rejection of ta’wil for mutashabihat elements in the Qur’an and Sunnah, whereas the salaf also did use ta’wil[17] whenever necessary; not using ta’wil will make certain expressions not understandable to the  common believer; so the  choice is between tafwid submission and acceptance, leaving the meanings and reality to Allah or ta’wil for the common man of belief to avoid  leading people to heresy of attributing attributes of creation to God.
  • The intellectual attitude of rejection of the use of elements from philosophy in theological discussions considering this as bid’ah; mainstream position permits its use whenever necessity demands; reasoning has to use tools, like logic, terms or  jauhar, arad – like now substance, accidents, atoms, quarks, electrons and etc even though the Prophet saw did not use it for obvious reasons to person of sound reason. Use of logic has been considered as part of the meanings of the hadith which reads wisdom is the lost property of the believer, wherever he finds it he is most entitled to it by al-Munawi in his commentary of the Jami al-Saghir of al-Suyuti.
  • The accusation that there is rejection of philosophy totally, leading to intellectual sterility, something not compatible with the intellectual aspirations of a man like al-Ghazali and others like him.
  • Division of tauhid into various categories such as tawhid rubiyyah, uluhiyyah and asma’ wa al-sifat in total isolation, hence leading to the attribution of  shirk to tawassul and so on; a stance not found in mainstream discourse, with  the practical consequences in history and life. The Qur’anic verses taken as proofs for this stance are not valid (al-‘Ankabut, 65) etc.
  • The claim of some quarters that  secularism has prevailed  in the Malay World  and elsewhere in the Muslim World leading to wholesale apostasy, collective apostasy etc, what are the implications? The  coming of the British to Malaya brought secularism and etc (with the theologico-spiritual  consequence with Turkey as an exception, with her Principles of Kemalism)
  • See the concept of secularism as defined by George J. Holyoake.[18] “Secularism is the study of promoting human welfare by material means; measuring human welfare by the utilitarian rule, and making the service of others a duty of life. Secularism relates to the present existence of man, and to action, the issues of which can be tested by the experience of this life – having for its objects the development of the physical, moral, and intellectual nature of man to the highest perceivable point, as the immediate duty of society: inculcating the practical sufficiency of natural morality apart from Atheism, Theism, or Christianity: engaging its adherents in the promotion of human improvement by material means, and making these agreements the ground of common unity for all who would regulate life by reason and ennoble it by service. The Secular is sacred in its influence on life, for by purity of material conditions the loftiest natures are best sustained, and the lower the most surely elevated. Secularism is a series of principles intended for the guidance of those who find Theology indefinite, or inadequate, or deem it unreliable. It replaces theology, which mainly regards life as a sinful necessity, as a scene of tribulation through which we pass to a better world. Secularism rejoices in this life, and regards it as the sphere of those duties which educate men to fitness for any future and better life, should such transpire.”[19] To the present writer of this paper this has nothing to do with Malaysia and many other Muslim countries, with the exception of Turkey, which has made secularism as her state philosophy.[20]
  • The rejection of classical theology and metaphysics under the influence of postmodernism,  deconstructionism etc, rejection of rigid definitions in theology, of iman-kufr dichotomy, truth-batil  etc considered as ‘irrelevant confrontations’ in intellectual discourse.

In the  domain  of spirituality we have seen the  writings of Shaikh Abd al-Samad al-Falimbani with his Sayr al-Salikin and the Hidayah al-Salikin and others Kan al-Minan Sharah of Hikam Abi Madyan by Shaykh Daud al-Fatani, the translation of Minhaj al-‘Abidin of al-Ghazali by Shaykh Daud al-Fatani and others, then the  writings of Shaikh Yusuf of Maskasar (in Arabic and some already translated into Indonesian  for example by Tudjimah) and other works reflecting mainstream position in spirituality, away from deviationist  leanings.

So with the mainstream epistemological construct in the Malay World, together with its methodology and tools, this remains intellectually and spiritually valid until the present; and all this include matters like revelation, prophecy, human reason and experience, within a system teaching man dimensions of knowing. Other data of knowledge – including contemporary findings and useful interpretations – can be incorporated within it and there is no intellectual necessity for abandoning this intellectual construct in seeking for a better one as alternative for us simply there is no better one. And there is no question of looking for an alternative either, because this is not a matter of looking for something like clothing for the sake of novelty; this is a question touching the substance of the human spirit and intellect.

For example, the epistemological construct of Shafi’i in law and the philosophy of law, has not been intellectually invalidated; new matters should be incorporated into it, new keys can be found for unraveling its discussions, but the framework is valid. The spiritual, ethical and philosophical construct of al-Ghazali is still valid and legitimate; it has never been successfully invalidated intellectually and spiritually; in fact we are indebted to him for such profound discussions on religious matters starting from the philosophical, ethical, spiritual and metaphysical, ranging from al-Munqidh, Tahafut, al-Ihya then Mishkat al-Anwar then al-Madnun.[21]

In fact there is no question of substituting new epistemological constructs to take the place of those narratives, simply because critiques  against them has failed to provide convincing arguments for such substitutions, all the more so those arguments has not been based on authentic understanding  of the previous constructs which are considered as to have been invalidated or intellectually obsolete.

Arguments of being jumud or static and unchanging, stagnant, can be leveled against individuals and certain institutions but not against the authentic expressions of the mainstream discourse itself. So when the issue is seen in the context of the total construct, there is no valid argument against the construct or the discourse itself. Granted there is the necessity for re-understanding the discourse; but there is no argument invalidating it.

The argument about Islamic theology being based on Greek philosophy, or infused with Greek influence, this has to be looked at closely. First Islamic theology in the sense of usul al-din is based on the Qur’an, Hadith, ijma’, and elaborations of those who are knowledgeable in Islamic learning. The theological conclusions are not based on hurried speculations but based on the Qur’an and Sunnah as well as ijma’. Logic was accepted for systematic reasoning and disciplined thinking and writing; that is why al-Munawi the traditionist calls it as one of the meanings of the hadith about the lost property of the believer (dallatul-mu’min).For example the use of such terms as jawhar and ‘arad by Imam Shafi’i for example, this shows the imam’s exposure to the intellectual currents of his day. For us now we should also not be unaware of Quantum Theory in physics etc.

There are other arguments against mainstream theological discourse, arguments against ilm al-kalam quoting the imams as being against this field itself such arguments against kalam are based either on prejudicial interpretations of their statements (Shafi’i’s statements and others against kalam) not in accordance with the context of those statements themselves. For example their statements are not blanket statements covering all of ilm al-kalam, for instance as explained by Imam al-Ghazali, but those which lead people astray  from the correct theological position of mainstream  discourse.

Arguments of bid’ah: arguments against matters seen as reprehensible innovations; yet   when examined in the light of objective mainstream discourse they will be found to be hasty conclusions, immature reasoning, misdirected or not based on thorough understanding of the issues; or just pure fanatical adherence to a certain view closing the mind against other views, coupled with the attitude of rejecting the ethics of differences taught by the imams of the community. Hence the necessity for education in the objective total mainstream discourse legitimized by consensus as well as for education in the etiquette and ethics of handling differences.

Arguments against madhhab: arguments against the emergence of and adherence to the madhhabs in fiqh, usul al-fiqh with their methodologies, if looked deeper into the relevant issues, will speak for their intellectual and positive strength rather than the reverse.

Arguments of backwardness of the community supposedly caused by Islamic sacred sciences: when examined objectively both from the point of view of the authentic expressions of the sciences themselves and the manifestations of such so called impacts will be found to have been half-truths; and many of such matters of such questions are results of half-truths.

Arguments  concerning the negative impact of Sufism on the ummah, apart from the practice and wrongful understanding of that science as explained by the Sufis themselves,  when  scrutinized objectively will be proven to have  been grounded on imperfect or insufficient understanding of that field of discipline, from the authentic original sources, and legitimized in mainstream discourse.

Arguments of Batiniyyah influence in Islamic spirituality: usually are arguments by selected instances, not taking into consideration the total perspective of spirituality; usually they are persuaded by   prejudicial interpretations of data and not objective.

Then arguments against Sufism as pantheism (even by a figure like Iqbal) and others are not based on the authentic understanding of the issues by the recognized Sufis themselves, but rather on prejudicial interpretations of “outsiders” even if these happen to be Muslims, but who have lost real contact with their own tradition and have lost intellectual and cultural confidence vis-à-vis that tradition. So there is the intellectual and spiritual necessity for re-learning this tradition seriously. Of course there is no measure between the spiritual witnessing of the Gnostics (knowers in God) (arifin bi’Llah)   and mere philosophical speculation of the Western pantheists of the 19th century West. But with the loss of real spiritual perspective the arguments carry weight for some writers, including Muslims who have been schooled in that alien intellectual ambiance.

Arguments of extraneous influences on Sufism not from Islamic sources is not based on authentic understanding of the  sources and its intrinsic history, but rather on intellectual fashion influenced by Western scholarship of a certain kind, with the position of always seeing “influences” in things and thoughts, whenever appearances of superficial  similarities are observed,  without considering the inward reality of the ummatic civilization and the dynamics of revelation and the life in the sacred, spiritual illumination, for instance as discussed in Risalah al-Qushairiyyah and even the Muqaddimah of Ibn Khaldun, Qut al-Qulub and Kitab al-Ta’arruf of al-Kalabadhi, among others. Only later some Western scholars have revised some of their views like Arberry and Massignon. This is not to forget also, of course, the works of Martin Lings and others in his group.

Concerning arguments against the authenticity and the history of the text of the Qur’an and the hadith, this has been done by our scholars based on painstaking research into the original sources, including newly found manuscripts, which support the mainstream position of Muslim scholars. Hence the negative position taken by Ignaz Goldziher and Joseph Schacht in such matters has been given the necessary responses by scholars like Hamidullah, Zubayr Siddiqi, Mustafa al-Siba’i, and Mustafa al-A’zami. Yet those   who prefer to choose the path of taqlid in relation to the views of such scholars still   follow those exploded views; among them can be mentioned Mohammed Arkoun of Paris.

In relation to this discussion on mainstream discourse and its realization in the Malay World there are a number of concerns like the following:

  • The claim of some quarters that  secularism has prevailed  in the Malay World  and elsewhere in the Muslim World leading to wholesale apostacy, collective apostacy etc…what are the implications? The  coming of the British to Malaya brought secularism…etc (with the theologico-spiritual  consequences… with Turkey as an exception, with her Principles of Kemalism)
  • See the concept of secularism as defined by George J. Holyoake.[22] “Secularism is the study of promoting human welfare by material means; measuring human welfare by the utilitarian rule, and making the service of others a duty of life. Secularism relates to the present existence of man, and to action, the issues of which can be tested by the experience of this life – having for its objects the development of the physical, moral, and intellectual nature of man to the highest perceivable point, as the immediate duty of society: inculcating the practical sufficiency of natural morality apart from Atheism, Theism, or Christianity: engaging its adherents in the promotion of human improvement by material means, and making these agreements the ground of common unity for all who would regulate life by reason and ennoble it by service. The Secular is sacred in its influence on life, for by purity of material conditions the loftiest natures are best sustained, and the lower the most surely elevated. Secularism is a series of principles intended for the guidance of those who find Theology indefinite, or inadequate, or deem it unreliable. It replaces theology, which mainly regards life as a sinful necessity, as a scene of tribulation through which we pass to a better world. Secularism rejoices in this life, and regards it as the sphere of those duties which educate men to fitness for any future and better life, should such transpire.”[23] This has nothing to do with Malaysia and other Muslim countries, with the exception of Turkey, which has made secularism as her state philosophy.
  • There are matters of spiritual and intellectual concerns which should be addressed effectively and seriously.
  • The rejection of epistemological authority in the classical sense.
  • The position of taking the Qur’an as product of history and culture like other documents in human history.
  • Rejection of hadith, as a product of culture, “projection backwards” theory.
  • The rejection of classical theology and metaphysics under the influence of postmodernism,  deconstructionism etc, rejection of rigid definitions in theology, of iman-kufr dichotomy, truth-batil  etc considered as “irrelevant confrontations” in intellectual discourse.
  • Rejection of traditional notion of  wahy,  nubuwwah.
  • Existence of two parallel system Sharia courts And civil courts now being addressed with various degrees of success and failure in Muslim countries.
  • Rejection of schools of Islamic jurisprudence and the claim of ijtihad, the rejection of taqlid or following qualified scholarship  in Islamic legal discourse by “reformists”, “reformers” as compared to the conservative traditionalists
  • Kaum Tua-Kaum Muda  controversy of the  1950s and 1960s –coming back under the name of Salafi movement
  • The rejection of  classical legal schools of jurisprudence under the influence of thinking along postmodernist lines in Indonesia,  manifested in the intellectual trend of Norcholish Majid, Ulil Abshar Abdalla etc, influence of Arkoun e.g the essay in Liberal Islam A Source Book edited by Charles Kurzman. Thinking that Islamic fiqh is product of culture like other human laws (not infallible , change with the times etc if understood literally, unreservedly then).
  • The notion that Islamic sacred law is a product of culture and history like any other aspects of human discourse being  products  of history and culture, hence  time-bound and space-bound
  • The people-ulil-amri relationship of classical discourse being replaced by neo-Kharijie position of  the position of rebellion against authority etc
  • The interpretation of the verse wa man lam yahkum[24] etc leading to rebellion against authority.


  • Back to mainstream discourse  with education, da’wah, social  work, dissemination of  publications in mainstream discourse.
  • Heal relationship between the ulil-amri and the people.
  • Cooperation of all quarters- the authorities,  the media, educationists, professionals.
  • Enhance  mainstream discourse through writings, seminars, workshops,  blogs, etc
  • Formation of networking for promoting mainstream discourse.
  • Research and translations, publications in relation to works on mainstream discourse. Mention can be made of the Islamic Text Society of United Kingdom which is publishing such texts in English.[25]
  • Mention can be made of conferences by YADMI-YADIM in Indonesia and Malaysia  since around four years ago leading  to the acceptance of the position that : the Malay World must continue  with mainstream discourse of the People of Tradition and the Community, enhancing this position, taking this discourse as creed, epistemology and civilizational framework. Wal-hamdulillah Rabbi al-‘alamin.

In conclusion it can be suggested that there is certitude, clarity, stability, and coherence in this discourse; and traditional sources tell us in such matters traditional sources only do matter- this is the discourse that is guaranteed to be victorious till the end of time and be sustainable in the intellectual and spiritual sense to the end of early time. Hence  there is the absolute necessity for re-understanding of and  adherence to as well as being enhanced by the four intellectual poles of mainstream discourse: Ash’ari-Maturidi theological discourse, with suitable additional  materials; the Ghazalian spiritual, ethical and philosophical discourse,  with suitable additional materials (in modern times with additional materials from the writings of Badiuzzaman Said Nursi); the Shafi’e legal discourse, and that of  other mujtahids etc, with suitable  additional materials;  the Khaldunian discourse with suitable additional materials in cultural and civilizational discourse (in modern times  with additional materials from the  works of Malik Bennabi).

Wallahu a’lam.

[1] This paper is prepared for the Second International Seminar On Islamic Thought, organized by the National University of Malaysia on 6th October 2009. The author is Very Distinguished Academic Fellow, at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Board of Directors at the Integrity Institute of Malaysia.

[2] One of the Beautiful Perfect Divine Names of the Asma’ al-Husna

[3] Reference to the verse to the effect Truly my Lord is on the Straight Path (Sirat al-Mustaqim)

[4] Al-Muhaimin being one of the Asma’ al-Husna. Al-Hashr, 23.

[5] Reference to the Qur’anic verse  to the effect standing as a guardian over it (Scripture) determining what is true therein hence its  statements about the Jewish and Christian traditions, correcting their positions in fundamental matters (al-Ma’idah, 48.Tr Tafsir al-Rahman, English version, JAKIM, 2008).

[6] With reference to the verse al-Nisa’,115.

[7] With reference to the tradition related in Abu Daud, “Truly Allah will raise up at the beginning of every century one (reviver man yujaddidu) who will revive the religion of this community.”

[8] Hadith Muslim: (رواه مسلم في كتاب الإمارة، باب قوله صلى الله عليه وسلم: ”لاتزال طائفة من أمتي ظاهرين على الحق لا يضرهم من خالفهم” حديث .1926). And hadith Muslim (أخرج مسلم عن معاوية قال سمعت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم  يقول :لا تزال طائفة من أمتى قائمة بأمر الله لا  يضرهم من خذلهم أو خالفهم حتى يأتى أمر الله وهم ظاهرون على الناس))

[9] The spiritual and intellectual ‘temper’ of this discourse has been well summariseby by ‘Abd al-Qahir al-Baghdadi in his al-Farq bain al-Firaq, Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah,n Beirut,  n.d. especially pp 239- 286, among others. The positions taken can be gleaned from from previous texts of  Imam Abu Hanifah, al-Shafi’I, al-Tahawi, al-Ash’ari, al-Baqillani, al-Juwaini,   with differences in some details; followed later in texts of al-Ghazali, al-Razi, al-Sanusi, al-Laqqani,  Shah Waliyullah al-Dihlawi and so on.

[10] One example of seeing Ibn ‘Arabi  anchored to the mainstream discourse  can be done for instance as elucidated, among many others,  in easily accessible and  very useful and informative article ‘Shaykh Muhyi al-Din Ibn Arabi in the site with the necessary references.

[11] Like the payment of cash for ‘zakat fitrah’  and other matters especially in relation to economic and financial transactions.

[12] Of course  we are not forgetting the monumental work of Carl Brockelmann the well known GAL with the  supplement volumes.

[13] Kashshaf Istilahat al-Funun A Dictionary of the Technical Terms used in The Sciences of the Musalmans, edited by Mawlawies Mohammad Wajih, Abd al-Haqq and Gholam Kadir under the superentendance  of Dr Aloys Sprenger , M.D., Ph.D. and Captain W.Nassau  Lees, LLD. Published by The Asiatic Society of Bengal, under the series of Bibliotheca Indica, A Collection of Oriental Works, Old Series,   printed at W.N.Lee’s Press, 1862.

[14] Publisher: Brill, Boston, 2001.

[15] Horizon Books, Singapore, 2003 (reprinted from 2001 edition)

[16] Concerning the contents of this work this can be dseen in the paper presented by the present writer entitled Pendidikan dan Da’wah oleh Syaykh Muhammad Arsyad al-Banjari (r.a.) presented in the Regional Seminar On Shaykh Muhammad Arshad Al-Banjari – Seminar Serantau Sheikh Muhammad Arsyah al Banjari – at Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan from 4th October  2003. This conference was organized jointly by ABIM, DBP Malaysia, IAIN Antasari Banjarmasin, Majlis Ulama Propinsi Kalimantan Selatan and Badan Pengelola Masjid Raya Sabil al-Muhtadin with the cooperation of  Fakulti Bahasa Moden dan Komunikasi Universiti Putra Malaysia, Akademi Kajian Ketamadunan dan Persatuan Ulama Kedah. Important data among others are accessed through the good offices of our late Brother  Tuan Haji Wan Mohd Shaghir bin Abdullah, who has managed to gather much materials  with so much labour of love. Kaththara’Llahu amthalah. Amin.

[17] For example the ‘leader of the Salaf generation’ al-Tabari uses ta’wil for a number of mutashabihat verses of the Qur’an in his tafsir.

[18] In the work  Principles of Secularism by George Jacob Holyoake,1870, 3rd edition revised, London, Austin & Co, 17, Johnson’s Court Fleet Street.

[19] Chapter III p.11.

[20] There is even the intellectually indefensible stance stating that Mu’awiyah –Allah be pleased with him- was the one who started secularism in Islamic history, and that the Umayyad dynasty was a ‘secular government’. Subhana’Llah. Where are the thought-categories of our people in the ummah based on the pervasive ‘ahkam khamsah’? We seemed to have borrowed an alien thought-category to the point ofd losing grasp of our own.

[21] Recollecting a private discussion with our brother Dr al-Akiti of Oxford about a month ago in Kuala Lumpur.

[22] In the work  ‘Principles of Secularism’ by George Jacob Holyoake,1870,3RD edition, revised, London:Austin & Co, 17, Johnson’Court, Fleet Street..

[23] Chapter III p.11.

[24] Al-Ma’idah: 47, 48, 50 the understanding of which should be referred to mainstream theological discourse and exegesis, and not personal musings.

[25] The present writer recently presented a paper ‘The Sustainability of the Translation Field: The case of Mainstream Islamic Intellectual Discourse’,(18th August, Hotel Park Royal, Penang, 11.00-12,00 noon) ; it is published  in proceedings of the 12th International Conference On Translation 2009 entitled, The Sustainability of the Translation Field, eds.Hasuria Che Omar Ph.D, Haslina Haroon, Ph.D., Aniswal Abd.Ghani, Ph.D., published by Persatuan Penterjemah Malaysia, 2009 pp.22-27; it is accepted as one of the 5 plenary papers.




  • We can envisage man as being at once endowed with the faculties of the heart and the potentialities of the intellect and the development of both determines the personality of the total man and the quality of the inner and outer life which emerges forth from the educational process involved.
  • The development of the intellect can be seen in the educational process which develops the rational faculty (the ‘aql) seen as the ray from the total Intellect which touches the human subject making him capable of conceiving of the absolute and the relative, the necessary and the contingent, the substance and the form, the kernel and the outer shell, quality and quantity, the beginning and the end of things. This determines the blessedness and the meaning of existence and life and also the final ends for the human subject.
  • The development of the heart (the qalb of the Qur’an and the Islamic Tradition) determines the success of the educational process leading to the emergence of the human spiritual core   characterized by clarity and breadth of spiritual vision, the purity of character and the realization of the virtues, the life of spiritual and devotional collectedness freeing the human subject from the woes of mental feverishness and agitation, and hence leading the development of the total man characterized by serenity of spirit and clarity of perception.
  • This message is clear from the statement of the Qur’an to the effect: “Verily We have apportioned for the Hell Fire many from among the jinn and mankind, they have hearts (qulub, the plural of qalb) but they do not understand, they have ears but they do not hear, they have eyes but they do not see, they are like cattle, (in fact) they are worse in misguidance”.
  • This is envisaged clearly in the Islamic tradition from the saying of the Prophet of Islam – peace and blessings be upon him – “Verily there is in man  a lump of flesh, if it is sound, then the whole person (al-jasad) is sound, if it is unsound, the  whole person is unsound, verily it is the heart”. This heart refers to the spiritual and intellectual core of the human personality the development of which results in the proper and balanced development of the total human personality.
  • The empowerment of the heart in this tradition is seen in the process of imparting the total fundamental truth contained in the Islamic testimony meaning “There is  no deity except Allah (the Absolute), and Muhammad is the envoy of Allah”. The first statement refers to all truths about the Absolute, the second about the Prophet, and also by extension about the whole cosmic manifestation in so far as the prophet symbolizes the total cosmic manifestation
  • From this fundamental and saving truth taught  and hence realized man will be able to see all other relative and contingent truths in the balanced perspective, therefore placing him on the Divine Axis, freeing him from dissipation and spiritual and intellectual rebellion against his own pristine primordial nature in which God has moulded him
  • From this realization, the rational and quantitative sciences and all the branches of arts taught will be placed  in an integrating focus in the epistemology leading to the wholesome development of the deep hearted man of pure faith, and virtues, the intellectual man of action struggling for the salvation of himself and his nation and community – in fact for the whole of mankind, seeing that the fundamental and saving truth is meant for all mankind
  • The combination of knowledge as integral to human right actions is clear from the prayer taught by the Prophet – peace and blessings be upon him – when he says: ”O Lord,  show us the truth as truth and make us put it into practice, and show us the false as false and make us avoid it”. Hence knowledge is not merely known but to be made a part of the practice in the human personality.
  • This  combination of profound faith and purity of morals, masterly grasp and understanding of the sciences and the arts – to the suitable level of the person concerned – together with the expertise of the seasoned worker, will prepare the citizen of the nation and the world for facing life challenges of the millennium – together with globalization, God willing. This is our collective vocation in education – even more in the tertiary level, since error at this level spells far-reaching negative consequences for our national cultural and intellectual development
  • In short, the educational ideal is such that it actualizes in the individual the intellectual, moral, spiritual and physical potentialities in helping to develop our culture and civilization in accordance with our world-view, epistemology and axiology, based on our belief in God, and that we are capable of maintaining this identity and we play our role in determining the directions of the globalization process, God willing.
  • Hence, when we come to the university at the undergraduate level this ideal must be clearly focused in exposing the students  to their subjects of study. They must be trained to be men of faith and strong morality and character, and they must be educated to be committed to the idealism of gaining strong mastery of their subjects, together with the necessary expertise in the subjects concerned.
  • The more advanced levels of education and research in the arts and the sciences prepare the specialists for their various fields necessary for the advancement of civilization, the total welfare of man, and the survival of our cultural and civilizational identity in this age of globalization and borderless world.

Ibn Khaldun (rh) on the functions of  the crafts, writing and thinking:

In relation to the  functions of writing, thinking and experience in the process of moulding the development of the human substance, we find the statements of Ibn Khaldun rh in the “al-Muqaddimah” enlightening; he says:

We have already mentioned in the book that the rational soul (the thinking and rational aspect of the soul) exists in man only potentially. Its transformation from potentiality into actuality is effected first by new sciences and perceptions derived from the sensibilia, and then by the latter acquisition (of knowledge) through the speculative power. Eventually it becomes to be actual perception and pure intellect. Thus it becomes a spiritual essence, and its existence then reaches perfection.

Therefore it is necessary that each kind of learning and speculation should provide (the rational soul) with additional intelligence. Now, the crafts and the habit of (the crafts) always lead to the obtainment of scientific norms, which result from the habit. Therefore any experience provides intelligence. The habits of the crafts provide intelligence.  Perfect sedentary culture provides intelligence because it is a conglomerate of crafts characterized by concern for the (domestic) economy, contact with one’s fellow men, attainment of education through mixing with (one’s fellow men), and also administration of religious matters and understanding the ways and conditions governing them. All these (factors) are norms (of how to do things) which, properly arranged, constitutes scientific disciplines. Thus, an increase in intelligence results from them.

In this respect writing is the most useful craft because, in contrast to the (other) crafts, it deals with matters of theoretical, scientific interest. This is explained through (the circumstance) that writing involves a transition from the forms of the written letters to the verbal expressions in the imagination, and from the verbal expression in the imagination to the concepts (underlying them), which are in the soul. The writer, thus, goes from one indication to another, as long as he is wrapped up in writing, and the soul become used to the constant (repetition of the process).  Thus it acquires the habit of going over from the indications to the things meant by them. This is what is meant by intellectual speculation, by means of which the knowledge (hitherto) unknown sciences is provided. As the result of being accustomed to the process of going (over from the indications to the things indicated by them) people acquire the habit of intellection, which constitutes an increase in intelligence and provides an additional insight into affairs and a shrewd understanding of them …

Concerning the position of man and the importance of his faculty of thought Ibn Khaldun says:

It should be known that God distinguished man from all the other animals by an ability to think which he made the beginning of human perfection and the end of man’s noble superiority over existing things.

This comes about as follows: Perception-that is consciousness, on the part of the person who perceives, in his essence of things that are outside his essence – is something peculiar to living beings to the exclusion of all other being: and existing things. Living beings may obtain consciousness of things  that are outside their essence through the external  senses God has given them, that is, the senses of hearing, vision, smell, taste, and touch. Man has this advantage over the other beings that he may perceive things that he may perceive things outside his essence through his ability to think, which is something beyond his senses. It is the result of (special) powers placed in the cavities in his brain. With the help of these powers man takes the pictures of the sensibilia, applies his mind to them, and thus abstracts from them other pictures. The ability to think is the occupation with pictures that are beyond sense perception, and the application of the mind to them for analysis and synthesis. This is what is meant by the word af’idah “hearts” in the Qur’an. “He gave you hearing and vision and hearts” (Al Qur’an Surah 16: Ayat 78). Af’idah is the plural of fu’ad. It means here the ability to think.

In his view the ability to think has its degrees.  Concerning these degrees he states:

The ability to think has several degrees. The first degree is man’s intellectual understanding of the things that exist in the outside world in a natural or arbitrary order, so that he may try to arrange them with the help of his own power.  This kind of thinking mostly consists of perceptions. It is the discerning intellect, with the help of which man obtains the things that are useful for him and his livelihood, and repels the things that are harmful to him.

The second degree is the ability to think which provides man with the ideas and the behaviour needed in dealing with his fellow men and in leading them. It mostly conveys apperceptions, which are obtained one by one through experience, until they have become really useful. This is called the experimental intellect.

The third degree is the ability to think which provides the knowledge, or hypothetical knowledge, of an object beyond sense perception without any particular activity (going with it).  This is the speculative intellect. It consists of both perceptions and apperceptions. They are arranged according to a special order, following special conditions, and thus provide some other knowledge of the same kind, that is, either perceptive or apperceptive.  Then they are again combined with something else, and again provide some other knowledge.  The end of the process is to be provided with the perception of existence as it is, with its various genera, differences, reasons, and causes. By thinking about these things, (man) achieves perfection in his reality and becomes pure intellect and perceptive soul. This is the meaning of human reality.

Then he goes on to explain that the world of things that come into being as the result of action, materialize through thinking.  He says:

It should be known that the world of existent things comprises pure essences, such as the elements, the things resulting from their influence, and the three things that come into being from the elements, namely minerals, plants, and animals.  All these things are connected with divine power.

It also comprises actions proceeding from living beings that happen through their intentions, and are connected with the that God  has given them. Some of their actions are well arranged and orderly. Such are human actions.  Others are not well arranged and orderly.  They are the actions of living beings other than man.

This is because thinking perceives the order that exists among the things that come into being either by nature or through arbitrary arrangement. When it intends to create something, it must understand the reason or cause of that thing, or the conditions governing it, for the sake of the order that exists among things that come into being. (Reason, cause, conditions) are, in general, the principles of that particular thing, since it is secondary to them, and it is not possible to arrange for something that comes earlier to come later, or for something that comes  earlier to come late or for something that comes later to come earlier.  Such a principle must have another principle to which its own existence is posterior.  This (regression) may go on in an ascending order (from principle to principle), or it may come to an end.

Now, when man, in his thinking, has reached the last principle on two, three, or more levels, and starts the action that will bring the (planned) thing into existence he will start with the last principle that has been reached by his thinking. Thus, (that last principle) will be the beginning of action. He, then, will follow things up to the last element in the causal chain that has been the starting point of his thinking activity.

Then he illustrates this thinking procedure leading to purposive action by giving the example of a person building a shelter for himself.  He says:

For instance, if a man thinks of bringing into existence a roof to shelter him, he will progress in his mind (from the roof) to the wall supporting the roof, and then to the foundation upon which the wall stands. Here, his thinking will end, and he will then start to work on the foundation, then (go on to) the wall, then (to) the roof, with which his action will end. This is what is meant by the saying:

“The beginning of action is the end of thinking, and the beginning of thinking is the end of action.”

Thus, human action in the outside world materializes only through thinking about  the order of things, since things are based upon each other. After (he has finished thinking) he starts doing things. His thinking starts with the last thing that comes last in the causal chain and is done last. His action starts with the first  thing in the causal chain, which thinking reaches last. Once this order is taken into consideration, human actions proceed in a well-arranged manner.

Then he goes on to explain the actions of animals which are not ordered because they have no thinking capacity to perceive the order of things, perceiving only with the senses without the connecting link of thought. Hence they are subordinate to human actions (hence they are aubjugated by mankind). Ibn Khaldun says:

Now the things that come into being that are of consequence in the world of existent things are those that are orderly. Those that are not orderly are secondary to them.  The actions of animals, therefore, are subordinate to (orderly human actions). (Consequently, their services are forcibly utilized by man. Thus, human actions control the (whole) world of things that come into being and all it contains. Everything is subservient to man and works for him. This is what is meant by the “appointing of a representative” mentioned in the Qur’an:” I am appointing a representative on earth”. (Surah AlBaqarah: Ayat 30). (Hence, nations of orderly actions can dominate other nations not so orderly, societies with orderly actions can dominate those which are not so orderly and so on (El-Muhammady).

He then goes on to explain further the eminence of man because of the thinking faculty.  He states:

The ability to think is the quality of man by which human beings are distinguished from other living beings.  The degree to which a human being is able to establish an orderly causal chain determines the degree of humanity. Some people are able to establish a causal nexus for two or three levels. Some are not able to go beyond that. Others may reach five or six. Their humanity, consequently, is higher. For instance, some chess players are able to perceive (in advance) three or five moves the order of which is arbitrary. Others are unable to do that, because their mind is not good enough for it. This example is not quite to the point, because (the knowledge of) chess is a habit, whereas the knowledge of causal chain is something natural.  However, it is an example the student may use to gain an intellectual understanding of the basic facts mentioned here. (Rosenthal tr. II.406, 411 ff).

After this he goes on to explain how experimental intellect is developed in social and civilizational life, followed by the rise of religious and rational sciences in Islam.

This spirit of intellectual inquiry as a part of religious has led to the emergence of the mosque-universities, the madrasas, the nizamiyas, and so on, which became the forerunners of the universities of Europe. By reason of this spirit of inquiry there emerged men of learning in the arts and the sciences like Ibn Sina, al-Biruni, al-Ghazali, Ibn Rushd, Umsar Khayyam, al-Idrisi, ar-Razi, and many others whose works had been studied by Europeans.

It is natural that the impetus to thinking given by the revelation of the Quran and the tradition of the Prophet led to the emergence of the intellectual culture of Islam, which further led to the rise of the Renaissance of Europe.

The influence of Islam on Western intellectual culture:

In connection with the subject of the relationship between Islam and the West -especially with reference to the emergence of intellectual culture of Europe initiated with the profound aid of Islam– the HRH The Prince of Wales has accurately portrayed the situation:

…We have underestimated the importance of 800 years of Islamic Society and Culture in Spain between the 8th and the 15th centuries. The contribution of Muslim Spain to the preservation of classical learning during the Dark Ages, and to the first flowering of the Renaissance, has long been recognized. But Islamic Spain was much more than a mere larder where Hellenic knowledge was kept for later consumption by the emerging modern world. Not only did Muslim Spain gather and preserve the intellectual content of ancient Greek and Roman civilization, and made a vital contribution of its own in so many fields of human endeavour – in science, astronomy, mathematics, algebra (itself an Arabic word), law, history, medicine, pharmacology, optics, agriculture, architecture, theology, music.

Averroes and Avenzoor, like their counterparts Avicenna and Rhazes in the East, contributed to the study and practice of medicine in ways from which Europe benefited for centuries afterwards.

Islam nurtured and preserved the quest of learning. In the words of (Prophet’s) tradition “the ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr”.  Cordoba in the 10th century was by far the most civilized city of Europe.  We know of lending libraries in Spain at the time of King Alfred was making terrible blunders with the culinary arts in this country. It is said that the 400,000 volumes of its ruler’s library amounted to more books than all the rest of Europe put together. That was made possible because the Muslim World acquired from China the  skill of making paper more than four hundred years before the rest of non-Muslim Europe .many of the traits on which Europe prides itself came to it from Muslim Spain. Diplomacy, free trade, open borders, the techniques of academic research, of anthropology, etiquette, fashion, alternative medicine, hospitals, all came from this great city of cities. Medieval Islam was a religion of remarkable tolerance for its time, allowing Jews and Christians to practice their inherited beliefs, and setting an example which was not, unfortunately, copied for many centuries in the West. The surprise, ladies and gentlemen,  is the extent to which Islam has been a part of Europe for so long, first in Spain, then in the Balkans, and the extent to which it has contributed so much towards the civilization which we  all often think of, wrongly,  as entirely Western. Islam is part of our past and present, in all fields of human endeavour. It has helped to create modern Europe.  It is part of our own inheritance, not a thing apart. (

In connection with the contribution of Islam to the Renaissance – and hence to the modern world – it is stated:

It is well to recall that Islam not only caused Islamic civilization to develop but also enabled the European Renaissance to take root and grow. The time when Islam was most strongly established was also the time when art, culture and literature flourished, whether in Spain or, later under the Ottomans, the Safavids, and the Mughals, Christian Europe was enveloped in darkness until Islam came to the Iberian Peninsula. For centuries Islam fed Greek, Sanskrit, and Chinese ideas into Europe. Slowly and steadily Europe began to absorb those ideas. In England, France, Germany, and Italy society began to explore literature and art with a new perspective; thus the seeds of the Renaissance were sown …

(Akbar S. Ahmad, “Living Islam”, p. 15. In

The influence of Islamic intellectual culture on Europe is very much emphasized by Dr Hans Koechler in his paper entitled “Muslim Christian Ties in Europe: Past, Present, and Future” (September, 1996 in Kuala Lumpur). He says eloquently and cogently:

It is a historical fact that the shaping of a genuine European intellectual life in the Middle Ages was the result of the flourishing Islamic civilization in Spain.  During five centuries – from the eighth to the thirteenth century exactly – the history of world civilization was that of Islam. In comparison to the Christian civilization of Europe at that time, Islamic civilization was much more refined and enlightened. Over a crucial period of roughly two hundred years Europe’s encounter with Islamic civilization enabled it to develop its skills in all scholarly and scientific fields, particularly those of philosophy, medicine, astronomy, chemistry and mathematics. It is one of the greatest achievements of Muslim scholars in the Middle Ages to have preserved the treasures of ancient Greek philosophy and science for posterity. Christian scholars only came to know about the concepts of Aristotelian metaphysics through the Arab philosophers in Spain and their translators and commentaries. The Arab philosopher Ibn Rushd (Averroes), born in Cordoba in 1126, exercised the biggest influence through his commentary on Aristotle. The Arab school (Universities) in Cordoba, Seville, Granada, Valencia, Toledo attracted great number of Christian scholars.  Great Christian thinkers of that time, such as Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon, Thomas Aquinas, William of Ockham, Gerbert of Aurillac, later to become Pope Sylvester II , to mention only a few, developed their intellectual skills in those centres of learning”. (

Concerning further intellectual influence of Islam on Europe, especially in studies and research relating to medicine, he writes:

The “Great Library of Europe” in Toledo (in Islamic times) -where in 1130 a school of translation was founded- attracted students and researchers from all over Europe. Arab-Islamic medical science had an enormous impact on the development of the medical discipline in Europe. The first professors of medicine at the newly established European universities in the 12th century were all former students of Arab scholars. The basic work of the most famous medical scholar, Ibn Sina (Avicenna), al-Qanun (Canon medicinae) was taught in all major European faculties of medicine over six centuries. As late as 1587 King Henry III of France established a chair for Arabic language at the College Royal in order to promote medical research in France….

Concerning developments in other fields he writes:

Similar influences on the development of scientific methods can be traced in the fields of mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, architecture, music and industrial techniques. The Arab astronomer al-Battani (Albatenius, 858-929) authoritatively disproved the Ptolemaic dogma of heliocentrism long before Copernicus published his famous treatise De revolutionibus orbium coelestium in the 16th century. The Roman period of European art was deeply indebted to Islamic architecture particularly in Spain. Without going  into further detail one can rightly state that the Islamic civilization – that flourished in the South of Europe until the late 12th century and its universal achievements even surpassed the earlier contribution of the Roman Empire to the development of civilization – awakened Europe from its “dogmatic sleep” in the Middle Ages and thus prepared an early European Renaissance in the sense of an enlightened, rational, non-dogmatic world vision.

Then he goes on to explain the unfortunate prejudiced attitude of Europe towards Islam and Muslims which makes objective intellectual and civilizational dialogue difficult, in spite of what has happened throughout the centuries.

Before concluding this brief talk, as a student of Islam and Islamic thought, I humbly would like to submit the following for our collective consideration as Muslims and as citizens on Malaysia in this Malay World; and this has been mentioned many times on several occasions:

  • One, the primacy of the Islamic Sunni world-view and epistemology which must be kept in mind and understood up to the relevant degree as an intellectual perimeter for structuring of thought
  • Two, among Muslims, the primacy of the Sunni theological framework which should be upheld in the Malay World, for spiritual and theological stability and authenticity, keeping in mind all the relevant developments necessary for contemporary intellectual and theological guidance
  • Three, in matters pertaining to the Islamic Sacred law-the Shari’ah – the Shafi’I Sunni school is upheld, together with the necessary additions of legal decisions made pertaining to contemporary issues
  • Four, in matters pertaining to Islamic spirituality and ethics, the Ghazali corpus should be the source for guidance, together with the necessary additions made by reason of the demands due to changes in culture and thought.
  • Finally, the “Muqaddimah” of Ibn Khaldun should be utilized in matters for cultural and civilizational empowerment, together with additions made whenever necessary because of developments in contemporary culture and thought

From all the above it is clear that intellectual culture must be fostered to the maximum degree at all costs – of course without losing sight of the integral nature of knowledge combining with high degree of spiritual awareness and moral excellence – beginning with the schools and then reaching its zenith in the university.  It is here, if we understand Ibn Khaldun correctly, that humanity reaches the peak of its intellectual and human perfection, for humanity is perfected through the perfection of the intellectual function. This is done not only for extrinsic reasons for survival and development in the conventional sense, but also for the intrinsic reason due to the demands of the nature of man and the prerequisite for his blessedness and meaningful existence. And this can succeed only – Allah willing – with synergistic cooperation of those concerned: the teachers, students, administrators, funders, the government, and in fact the whole nation.

Wallahu a’lam.




The present paper suggests, with caution, that the Khaldunian intellectual discourse is of utmost importance-among other discourses of this category of universality- in helping Muslims in maintaining their civilizational and spiritual-cum-intellectual identity and authenticity while grappling with some of the present issues in the intellectual, cultural and civilizational fields. This is relevant especially in matters pertaining to Islamic tawhidic world-view, epistemology, axiology, education, culture and socio-political exigencies. Hence in in-depth and serious study of this discourse is intellectually and absolutely necessary.

His Life:

Before going to his ideas it may be pertinent for us, at least to refresh our memory with the salient features of his life, educational background, and activities, in the age and the environment in which he lived. He is- Allah has mercy on him- Wali al-Din ‘Abd al-Rahman bin Muhammad bin Muhammad bin Muhammad bin al-Hasan bin Jabir bin Muhammad bin Ibrahim bin ‘Abd al-Rahman bin Khaldun. According to his own account his ancestors originated from Hadramaut, Yemen. And through another line, his ancestor is traced, based on the record of Ibn Hazm, through his grandfather, who was the first to enter Andalusia, back to Wail bin Hajar, one of the oldest Yemeni tribes; he is undoubtedly of Arab origin. (1)

He was born in Tunis on the 27th of May 1332 (Ramadan 1, 732), started his traditional education befitting his family situation and status, first at the hands of his won father, memorising the Qur’an, learning grammar, sacred law, tradition of the Prophet, rhetoric, philology, and poetry; he mentions his teachers in his autobiography. He continued with his education until the time of the great plague which swept over countries from Mauritania to Samarkand, causing him to lose his parents and his professors; then he had occasion to enter public life when ibn Tarafkin, the king of Tunis made him the seal bearer of Sultan Abu Ishaq, who was his captive. He was then a youth under twenty. (2) With this appointment he came to know the inner workings of court politics and the weaknesses of governments. Then he had the opportunity to leave Tunis.

When Tunis was attacked by Abu Zaid the Emir of Constantine in 1352 A.D. (713 A.H.), the city was defeated, and ibn Khaldun escaped to Aba where he lived with the al-Muwahhidin; then he went to live in Biskra. Then in Morocco Sultan Abu Enan who had recently settled on the throne of his father was on his way to conquer Algeria, hence ibn Khaldun went to Tlemcen to meet him, and he noted that was so honoured by ruler; later he was appointed by the Sultan as a member of his Council of the ‘Ulama, and later he was made one of his secretaries and seal bearers. He could resume his studies during his stay at Fez with some of the principal scholars who came to the city from Andalusia and other cities of North Africa. At that time he was twenty-two years old, and his intelligence, force of character, great ambition, determination and sense of honour of belong to a prominent family spurred him to seek success in life; hence he was involved in active political life for about thirty years. He was imprisoned for his intrigues, and then he was released.

The political situation was tense and ibn Khaldun was involved in intrigues, and later he was appointed as Chief Justice and he proved great ability in his duties; unfortunately he lost favour with the Sultan because of rivalry with high officials of state. Ibn Khaldun was involved in a number of intrigues, and finally he requested that he would go to Andalusia.

In Andalusia ibn Khaldun established cordial relationship with Sultan Muhammad of Granada; among Sultan Muhammad’s party was Ibn al-Khatib who developed close friendship with ibn Khaldun, and in his attempt to restore his throne in Granada through an agreement with the Christian King Pedro the Cruel, when the latter delayed the fulfillment of the agreement Sultan Muhammad appealed to ibn Khaldun for assistance from Wazir Omar, and ibn Khaldun assisted him; ibn Khaldun was even entrusted to care for Sultan Muhammad’s family in Fez. The wazir then granted Sultan Muhammad Ronda and the surrounding country, and Sultan Muhammad continued to make efforts to recapture his throne in 1361 A.D. (763 A.H.) and then recalled his wazir ibn al-Khatib.

The mission of ibn Khaldun to Pedro the Cruel was successful, and Pedro offered ibn Khaldun a position for his service, and the return of his family’s former estate at Castile, but the latter refused the offer. (3). Then ibn Khaldun asked the permission of Sultan Muhammad and went to his friend Abu Abdullah when he recaptured his at Bougie. Thus ibn Khaldun became the Hajib of Sultan of Bougie, involving the “management of all the affairs of the state and the exclusive organization of the relations between the Sultan and hius subjects”(4). When the city was defeated by Abul ‘Abbas in 767, ibn Khaldun submitted the city to him; then he went to live in Biskra. Finally he retired to a far outpost south of Constantine, Fort Salama. Here, at the ripe age of forty-five with peaceful life, he started to write his famous masterpiece al-Muqaddimah. Then when Sultan Abul ‘Abbas went to capture Tunis, he took the opportunity to return to his native city looking for reference works. Then when political intrigues were not in his favour, he left North Africa (1382 A.D./784 A.H.) never to return. (5)

After a difficult sea voyage He arrived in Alexandria in October 1382 A.D. (Shaaban 784 A.H.) when he was fifty years old; in Cairo, then the center of Muslim learning of the east and the West, he was welcomed by students and scholars; his fame had already preceded his arrival in the city; he lectured at Al-Azhar and other established institutions. In this period he had the opportunity to meet Sultan Zahir Barquq who appointed him to a teaching post, as a professor, at the Kamhiah school.(6)He was also appointed as a Maliki judge and tried to fight against corruption and favouritism, and then because of conspiracies against him he was relieved from his post, and this coincided with disaster in which his family and his wealth all perished in the storm before reaching the port. Then after his pilgrimage, he was appointed to the teaching post, lecturing on hadith, especially on the Muwatta’ of Imam Malik. During this time ibn Khaldun spent his time lecturing, studying and finishing his book on universal history. Then fourteen years after leaving the post of Maliki judge he was again appointed to the post because of the death of the judge, then again he was relieved of his position because of intrigues.

When ibn Khaldun was in Damascus, while following the company of the Sultan of Egypt, and when the Sultan had to return to Egypt, ibn Khaldun had to meet Tamerlane; Tamerlane was so impressed by him that he asked him to join his court, but ibn Khaldun left him on good terms, after getting favourable terms for the people of Damascus.

According to Walter Fischel there were six topics discussed between ibn Khaldun and the conqueror:

1.                  The Maghrib and ibn Khaldun’s land of origin;

2.                  Heroes in history;

3.                  Predictions about future events;

4.                  The Abbaside Caliphate;

5.                  Amnesty and security ‘for ibn Khaldun and his companions’

6.                  Ibn Khaldun’s intention of staying with Tamerlane. (7)

When Ibn Khaldun returned to Egypt he was restored to his post as the Maliki judge, and because of the stormy situation he was dismissed and reinstalled three times in five years. He died on Wednesday, 17th March 1406 A.D.(25th Ramadan 808 A.H.), and was buried in the sufi cemetery outside bab an-Nasr while he was at the age of seventy-four years.(8)

His Works:

Concerning his works, it is suggested that they can be categorized into the historical and the religious; into the historical category of course is to be included the Kitab al-‘Ibar or universal History which has survived until the present day. Another one is lost, that is history work written specifically for Tamerlane, as mentioned in his autobiography. Then his religious works are Lubab al-Mahsul (Summary of the Result), a commentary on usul al-fiqh poem, and a few which, among others is Shifa’ al-Sa’il (Healing of the Inquirer). (9)

His masterpiece, the Muqaddimah which is the introduction to his universal history can be divided can be divided into six parts; and this division is clear from the division of the work itself. In the translation of F. Rosenthal, in volume one the chapters covered are: introduction, dealing with excellence of historiography, appreciation of various approaches to history, different errors made by previous historians, something about why these errors do occur.

Book One of the Kitab al-’Ibar about the nature of civilization, Bedouin and settled life, the achievements of superiority, gainful occupational, ways of making a living, the sciences, crafts, and all the other things that affect civilization, the causes and reasons thereof.  Then preliminary remarks.

The scope of the discussion of the masterpiece of ibn Khaldun-with the chapter headings dealing with the various subjects – is put as an appendix at the end of this essay.

Relevance of Khaldunian Discourse in the Views of Some Scholars:

James Kalb, is of the view that the seminal work, al-Muqaddimah, was composed by Ibn Khaldun

“…as a thinker who grappled with circumstances similar in important ways to the social and political situation now evolving in the West. He was superbly qualified for his task, with a vigorous and unconventional mind and a knowledge of politics and history that came from descent from an ancient family with distinguished political and scholarly traditions, profound study, and a varied life of public service and a political adventure as a courtier, jurist, and statesman in Islamic centers from Spain to Damascus. He was admired by scholars and by the most ruthlessly practical of men; Pedro the Cruel and Tamerlane wished to make uses of him, while Granada’s greatest writer, ibn al-Khatib, wrote his life and honoured his learning and literary skill”. (10).

The same writer gives an evaluation of ibn Khaldun’s intellectual discourse in the following words:

His work reflects a mind attracted to practical politics, to scholarship, and to mysticism. After failing in efforts to promote public good, he turned to scholarship in an attempt to understand the past and explain the necessity that seemed to govern events. As an intense participation in the affairs of a great civilization irreversibly in decline, he was acutely aware of what was and what should be, and neither confused the two, or attempted to encompass one in the other. (11)

Further, seeing the relevance of Khaldunian intellectual discourse in illuminating the cultural and social changes taking place, he says:

To-day’s mixing of peoples, cultures and ideologies, whether resulting from world trade and immigration or improved communication and social fission, is moving our world closer in important ways to the one Ibn Khaldun knew than the more cohesive one with which we have long been familiar. Such changes will affect our politics profoundly in ways his writings can illuminate for us (12).

Apart from this he adds:

The gifts of the past may not be ours forever. Common loyalties make a people, and the common culture and history that support a people’s identity are needed to make loyalties endure. Success in transplanting a British society to America and absorbing European immigrants into it is no sign that the American civic order will survive abandonment of a common or at least dominant identity; a social setting like the one ibn Khaldun knew will be the more likely consequence. Immigration and the end of national boundaries could bring about similar results within the European Union by replacing ordered diversity with bureaucratically – administered chaos. While such things are not inevitable, powerful tendencies favour them, and a clearer understanding of what the resulting society would be like and how it could come about may be useful. Ibn Khaldun’s thought is an aid to such understanding. (13)

Another recent estimation of Khaldunian intellectual discourse is from an American writer, Jude Wanniski from Supply -Side University; he states in his web-site:

When I learned Arnold Toynbee believed that ibn Khaldun had produced the greatest work on social science to come from the mind of man, I had to assume his was at least in the top five. Toynbee is of course is one of this century’s giants in historiography. After reading through a small piece of Khaldun’s work, I have to admit I awed by the man’s genius. How could I have spent so much of my life in politics without being led to him before? Ronald Reagan like to quote Khaldun on the issue of taxation-that they are low at the beginning of empires and high at their end … Ibn Khaldun is not an Arab neo-Platonist as his world view subsumes theirs and is an original one not previously expressed in the world. This singular breakthrough not only is awesome, but practically evidence of divine inspiration … What we will consider … are selected fragments from the sixth book (of the Muqaddimah-uem) of his philosophy of history. My aim simply is to allow you to be impressed with him and have you appreciate the foundation he presents, on which you can build your won designs of the way the world works. The following passages are presented with what at first seems almost childlike simplicity, until you realize he is building this foundation brick by brick, with seamless logic (followed by the passages dealing on the origins of society) (14)

At the of the several pages containing quotations from the Muqaddimah in the F. Rosenthal translation concerning such topics as “Origins of Society” (Book I Chapter I p.181),  “Origins of State”, “State and Society”, Vol. II p. 264), “Political Sanctions” (vol. I, p. 345), “Social Solidarity is based on Kinship” (vol. I. p. 235, vol. I. p. 236), “Proximity and a Common Life as the Basis of Solidarity” (vol. I. p. 332), “Solidarity in Tribes” (vol. I. p. 223), “Transition From Tribal To Village and City Life and Consequent Weakening of Solidarity” (vol. I. p. 237), “Solidarity in Cities”, (vol. II. p. 267), “Solidarity is the Basis of Sovereignty” (vol. I. p. 252), “Solidarity is the basis of Kingship” (vol. I. p. 278), “Once State is Established Solidarity Becomes Superfluous” (vol. I. p. 279) he states clearly:

In 700 years, nothing has really changed in how societies are continuously being shaped, about the nature of solidarity and sovereignty.

Then straightaway he applies this to the US situation vis-à-vis the rest of the world; he states:

Now that the United States is solely at the top of the global power pyramid, we can almost imagine the dynamics that will flow from this fact into the next century. The US is the global sovereign power .All other heads of state are as chieftains (Ar. “sheikhs” -uem) of their national tribes. It is an intricate maze to organize, though, with many hundreds of languages and myriad religions, sects, ethnicities, national identities. It will take great skill to organize these over the next several centuries. (15)

The same writer (“unofficial adviser to the Bush administration” as mentioned in his web-site) goes on citing passages from the Muqaddimah like passages on “Opposition of Tribes and bands” (vol. I, p.295), “Nature of Kingship”, (vol. I, p.337), “Concentration of Authority” (vol. I. p.299), “Need of the King for A Bureaucracy” (vol.II.p.1), “Changes in the Composition of the Bureaucracy” (vol.vol.II.p.40), “Natural Ages of the State” (vol.I.p.306), “Transition From Nomadic To Sedentary Forms” (vol.I.p.309), “Growth of Luxury” (vol.I.p.300), “Luxury and Power” (vol.I.313), “Growth of Docility” (vol.I.p.301).

In relation to these passages cited, he comments as follows:

(After mentioning the past lectures on sovereignty, kinghip) Think now of the United States as the Global Sovereign, pondering how to manage 180 or more separate nations. Think each (country in the world now-uem) as a tribe or band, some of whom will always be trying to outwit the sovereign, all of whom will resist being stripped off some measure of independence. It becomes clear we have barely begun to think through the architecture of a new world order built around our kingship. Remember, the following was written six centuries ago. (16)

In relation to the passage about “The Need of the King for Bureaucracy” since the King cannot act alone but has to act and govern through a bureaucracy he says:

In this passage think of the United States needing a bureaucracy (to dominate the world-uem) which obviously suggests the United Nations-JW (17)

And in relation to the Khaldunian quotation (vol.II.p.1):

He whom God has chosen as a ruler must protect his community from external aggression, preserve order, and enforce the laws, in order to prevent the encroachment by any one on the rights of others. He must protect property by making the highways secure .He must seek to promote the interest of his subjects and hence, in order to facilitate transactions and make it easier for his subjects to earn their livelihood, inspect foodstuffs, weights, and measures, to prevent adulteration or fraud. He must, too, test the coinage which they use, in order to prevent counterfeiting…

He adds the remarks:

It is the United States which must set the unit of account…JW (18)

Then in relation to the following directive in Khaldunian discourse necessitating bureaucratic and military actions of the sovereign:

Know then, that the ruler requires both a civilian and a military establishment to aid him in carrying on with the affairs of the state. At the beginning of the dynasty, when the rulers are consolidating their power, the need for military  power is greater than that for a civilian bureaucracy ; for the civilians are mere servants, carrying out the orders of the king, whereas the military are his partners and fellow workers .The same is also true of the period of decline of a dynasty , when old age has weakened social solidarity  and caused the population to decrease , as we said before; in such a case too, the need for soldiers , for the purposes of defence, makes itself as urgently  felt as it had been during the period of consolidation of the state. In both those stages, then, the sword plays a more important part than the pen, and the military enjoy more prestige and wealth, and are granted richer fiefs than the civilians..

He notes revealingly:

In the period ahead, perhaps for a decade or two, while the world is getting used to U.S. sovereignty. We must bear the expense of maintaining the military, until it is clear the “tribes” will accept our sovereignty. JW (19)

We can see this at present (2003) happening in the world in the global scene.

In relation to the validity and relevance of Ibn Khaldun’s discourse in theorizing about culture, John W. Bennet states:

“(In citing the impressive development of ‘anthropological’ ideas outside the publicized European channels he states after mentioning ibn Battutah and al-Muguaddisi (al-Maqdisi)) …Ibn Khaldun is probably the best known, due to one complete translation of his major work (Rosenthal 1958) and an excellent contemporary analytical presentation of his theories (Mahdi 1957). Khaldun is the only scholar with a modern view to antedate the 19th century;-there are some intimidations in Vico for the early 18th century (Bergin & Fisch 1960, pp. xxiii, iiii; 47), but they do not approach the clarity and modernity of Khaldun…(20)

And in appreciating the views of ibn Khaldun on theorizing about culture and civilization, and their relevance in discourse he states:

Khaldun had a word for culture; he recognized and theorized about cultural differences; he distinguished culture from society and primitive culture from civilization; and had a clear theory of the roots of culture in human biological needs and engagement with the environment…

Of equal relevance are the circumstances out of which Khaldun’s theory emerged. He lived most of his life as a kind of 14th century Harry Hopkins – an intellectual attached to rulers of various sections of the Western Muslim Empire. He had observed the disparity between Islamic orthodoxy and the social realities of the empire, and became deeply critical of the failure of Islamic history to portray this disparity, and to present reasons for the cultural differences existing between the many peoples of the empire. He developed a theory of what he called, in direct translation, ‘the science of culture’ as the explanatory element in historical scholarship…This objective led him, as already noted, to an exposition of a theory of culture with both historical and functional orientations. (21)

Hamou Amrouche in “Algeria’s Islamic Revolution People Versus Democracy?” (22) mentions the relevance and accuracy of the observations of Ibn Khaldun – mentioning the idea adopted from him by Albert Hourani – concerning the stability of regime depending upon the combination of three factors. He states:

To understand fully “the apparent paradox of stable and enduring regimes in deeply disturbed societies” Albert Hourani adapted an idea from ibn Khaldun and suggested that the stability of a regime depended upon a combination of three factors. It was stable when cohesive ruling group was able to link its interests with those of powerful elements in society, and when that alliance of interests was expressed in a political idea which made the power of the rulers legitimate in the eyes of society or at least a significant part of it.

Then he goes on to show how it materialized during the Boumedienne regime. He says:

These three major ingredients undoubtedly sustained Boumedienne’s regime, since a monolithic army allied itself with the peasants and the workers —the forces vives of the nation— and expressed this alliance with Arabo-Islamism, the ‘national constants’, and socialist ideology…

Then in relation to one proposed Graduate Seminar in 2003, Prof Ronald Judy explains the relevance of Khaldunian discourse in the current political climate in the Muslim World related to the emergence of two types of movements. He says about the Seminar (23):

Our focus will be on how specific moments in the institution of knowledge afford a glance at the dialectic between the state and what might be designated as civil society. This dialectic was most thoroughly theorized by Ibn Khaldun in the fourteenth century.. Its importance for us to-day, however, stems from the fact that the Khaldunian model of agency has come to be a touchstone for two contemporary movements of Islamic resistance to transnational capitalism .On the one hand, Khaldun’s principle on entropy has been utilized by such “integrationist” as Sayyid Qutb, at-Turabi, al-Madani, and a Ghanoushi to explain the failure of Pan-Arab secularism and legitimate their projects of social reforms based on sharia (discourse of jurisprudence). On the other hand, Khaldun’s theory of religion as ideology has enabled thinkers like Muhammad al-Jabarti, Fatima Mernissi, and Ibrahim Shukry to engage in a legitimate reformulation of Islam that retains the project of social justice, in the broadest sense, without relying on a theory of law based on a homogeneous collective identity. Both these applications of Khaldun presuppose a concept of civil society as a space of resistance between domination and subjugation, and that the possibility of successful resistance lies in this difference’s being institutionalized as a revolutionary mode of knowledge production …

In the essay entitled “The Future of the Social Sciences”, Renate Holub writes about Ibn Khaldun’s discourse in history and the science of society and culture, and its relevance, while discussing the role of Vico and others:

No doubt Vico was not the first thinker to reflect on social facts that pattern order and disorder. For one, ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), the fourteenth century historian, statesman, and jurist, in the tradition of the Islamic enlightenment from the Tunisian shore of the Mediterranean, studied the history of dynastic regimes since the inception of Islam.The regions he covered ranged from the Oxus to the Nile, and from the Tigris to the Guadalquivir. He detected patterns of behaviour which either added to social cohesion, or participated in its disintegration .In his Muqaddimah (1377), he concluded trhat ruling groups sustain their power by a sense of solidarity, or ‘asabiyyah, which unites both rulers and ruled. Asabiyyah, both a structure of consciousness and a structure of feeling, which via education and socialization assumes the power of a habitus, or a spontaneous common sense, obtains as long as the ruling groups refrain from attempting to gain exclusive control over all sources of power and wealth. However, as soon as the ruling groups gain such exclusive control, conflict breaks out. The old regime will soon be displaced by a new dynastic regime. Order, followed by disorder, produces new orders in ibn Khaldun’s cyclical understanding of the political histories of regions under Muslim majority control. (24)

Then he mentions Nicolo Machavelli (1469-1527) who appeared about a century after ibn Khaldun who “studied the role of social facts in patterns of order and disorder…”(25).

In relation to the situation in Turkey and the question of facing Western civilization among the intellectuals, the use of certain aspects of the Khaldunian discourse has its relevance in providing certain elements of the intellectual constructs for such an engagement. The situation is portrayed in the following terms:

“(Concerning the intellectual movement in Turkey which sees Islam not only as a religion but also as a civilizational apparatus to be discovered and applied)…Necip Fazil Kisakurck, founder of the Great Oriental Movement and the monthly journal of the same name, is the forerunner of this group. Since 1943, and in more than 80 books, notably Bab-I Ali and the Ideological Web, he has argued that both the scholastic structure of the madrasa education which produced the type of ulama which could not meet the challenge of westernization during the late Ottoman period, and modern secularistic educational establishments set up after the tanzimat reforms and the Young Turk revolution are incapable of meeting the need of a contemporary dynamic Turkey. Only when Islam is seen as a civilization and its parameters rejuvenated in a contemporary form in their totality can Turkey really progress. Cemil Meric taking cue from Kisakurck, analysed the notion of civilization with profound sophistication and dissected the western civilization with the ability of a master surgeon. In From Civilization to Umran he uses ibn Khaldun’s notion of umran to argue for the reconstruction of the physical and intellectual apparatus of Islamic civilization…. (26)

In Turkey also, there is Dr Fahri Kayadibi who appreciates the discourse of education in its various aspects. In the short but important essay he argues that in matters of education the views of Ibn Khaldun are relevant for our age. (27)

He agrees with a number of points in the Muqaddimah about education, namely: the importance of imparting information to students according to their level of comprehension; he says this is done by teaching them the main principles of the information and the sciences involved in a brief manner, taking into consideration the capacity of the students. As time goes on more elaborations are made gradually, so that the students will mature in the subjects taught. According to him the revision should be done three times over. To ibn Khaldun this is the correct method.

Then he stresses the importance of not forcing the students to memorise their lessons; otherwise they will be lazy. Other points mentioned are: that the subjects should not be taught in broken sequence because the integrated nature of the subject will not be understood, and the mastery of the subject will take a longer time than otherwise the case.

Other points touched are: two subjects should not be taught at the same time, because this will lead to confusion; the necessity of not being too strict with students; the usefulness of traveling to meet authoritative scholars for furthering one’s education; the importance of practical education as opposed to mere theorization;  the importance of cultivating high degree of skill in education; ibn Khaldun uses the term ‘malakah’ for this high degree of skill in education, knowledge and crafts.

In his conclusion he states:

Ibn Khaldun has emphasized the importance of science, education and teaching. He foresees science and education as an inseparable part of prosperity. According to him, the real difference between mankind and other beings is the power of thought. Science and art are born from open–minded thought and the intricate learning of the principles of all issues. Ideas emerge from those who have the curiosity and the desire to investigate what is unknown. From this situation, the issues of education and teaching arise.

He advises teachers to teach in a comprehensive manner and to gradually teach subjects in stages, moving from easier to the more difficult. Memorisation should be avoided (except in the relevant cases which are unavoidable – uem). He emphasizes that teaching methods should be simple and not complicated. He states that the teaching of subjects should not be in broken sequences or else the subject  .He states that the teaching of subjects should not be in broken sequence or else the subject will become scattered and forgotten. Also, aggressive behaviour towards children will turn them off from lessons, create laziness, making them unwilling learners as well as negatively affecting their behaviour.

Education should consist of theory and practice. Education should be revised and repeated until a good level is attained. He also declares that learning and teaching sciences require skill and that the teachers of these sciences should be knowledgeable in their fields. These clearly defined issues of ibn Khaldun are still relevant for educational issues of contemporary times. (28).

Addessalam Cheddadi in his important essay “Ibn Khaldun”, originally published in Prospects: the Quarterly Review of Comparative Education, (Paris UNESCO, International Bureau of Education, vol. XXIV, no1/2.1994, p. 7-19 discusses a number of important issues related to education, based on the Muqaddimah. The points mentioned are: the life-long nature of Islamic education; the all-important issue of the reproduction of values in the individual; the concept of the ‘asabiyyah, and its role in social cohesion, and how it relates to education; and then the necessity of man to learn from tradition, otherwise it will take too long a time to learn on one’s own developing the ‘empirical intelligence’ from experience; the inculcation of values through education and socialization; the importance of reputation in doing things so that ‘coloration of the soul’ will take place, engendering ‘habitus’ (‘malakah’) in knowledge, values, attitudes, and acts, including skills in crafts and learning, intellectual and linguistic skills, or even ‘malakah’ in spirituality and faith.

He dwells also on the development of the various ‘intellects’ in the person, the ‘empirical intellect’ developed by experience and experimenting,, the ‘theoretical intellect’ developed by theorization, the ‘discerning intellect’ for discerning the differences in things. (29) In this essay author leaves out the discussion on the importance of ‘added intellect’ (‘al-‘aqlul mazid’) which marks the superiority of a civilization in terms of intellectual worth.

Then in relation to economic life and the relevance of Khaldunian discourse in the issue of taxation, among others, there is a discussion on it in “Rise and Fall: ibn Khaldun and the Ethics of Taxation”, Chapter 15 in: the topic of “Advancing Economic Thought” (See

Reflecting on his later years in Cairo, then the wealthiest city, the writer states:

In his later years ibn Khaldun returned to public life with a move to Cairo. Here, in what was then the Arab world’s largest and wealthiest city, he performed the occasional services for the Egyptian sultan, while also working as a professor and a judge. He died just as a new political power – Ottoman Turkey – was establishing its dominance throughoutt the Arab world in ways that his own historical theory had predicted. (30)

Concerning the sharp observation of human economic life and the resulting “division of labour” and “specialization”, he quotes with approval the statement of ibn Khaldun, which, to him has ‘a surprisingly modern flavour’. This:

…a single individual is incapable of satisfying his needs by himself, but must cooperate with other members of society. The product of such cooperative labour will exceed by far the needs of the group. Thus, in the production of wheat, for example, we do not see each individual providing for his own needs; rather we see six or ten persons cooperating: a blacksmith, a carpenter to repair tools; an ox-tender, a man to plough the soil, and another to reap the grain; and so forth for the different kinds of agricultural work, each man specializing in one operation…. Thus the inhabitants of a more populous city are more prosperous than their counterparts in a less populous one. (Cited from Charles Issawi, An Arab Philosophy of History, (London:John Murray, 1950) p.92-93.)(31).

Then while mentioning the fact that other writers had already touched on the issue of specialization of labour, like the Greek writer Xenophon, yet he states that “…no one before ibn Khaldun had appreciated the central importance of labour specialization in determining living standards. This realization allowed him to make yet another striking insight. A dynasty’s wealth, he noted, cannot be identified solely with money, since gold and silver ‘are only minerals and products having exchange value’. It would take several centuries before Ibn Khaldun’s realization would be fully incorporated in conventional economic thought.”(32)

In relation to taxation he quotes the views of ibn Khaldun with approval. He quotes:

In the early stages of the state, taxes are light in their incidence, but fetch in a large revenue … As time passes and kings succeed each other, they lose their tribal habits in favour of more civilized ones. Their needs and exigencies grow…owing to the luxury in which they have been brought up. Hence they impose fresh taxes on their subjects…[and] sharply raise the rate of old taxes to increase their yield…But the effect on business of this rise in taxation make themselves felt. For business men are soon discouraged by the comparison of their profits with the burden of their taxes…Consequently production falls off, and with it the yield of taxation…(33)

After discussing the mechanism of taxation and describing what he calls as “The Laffer Curve” using the Khaldunian theory, and assessing it, he gives his view about the relevance of the Khaldunian theory. He states:

Ibn Khaldun’s view of taxation offers a useful example of how an economic concept can be reapplied in an entirely different setting. As insightful as this view undoubtedly was for the times he lived in, it might not seem to be applicable to the modern age of democratic governments. After all no elected government would ever raise tax rates beyond the point where tax revenues would fall. Or would they? In fact, this question was part of a recent controversy in economics, which had important practical ramifications. During the 1970s, a group of economists developed a theory known as supply-side economics, which concentrates on the ways in which government actions can affect incentives for private citizens to work, save, and invest…. (34)

In giving his final view defending the Khaldunian theory on taxation, the writer states:

…But the modern version of Ibn Khaldun’s theory is far from fully discredited. All economists recognize its potential validity; with empirical studies suggesting that tax revenues and tax rates begin to move inversely in the range of a 70 percent tax rate. Also, recent debates over tax rates have brought a greater awareness of how public policy can affect private economic incentives. In a world where national borders are becoming less important, governments must keep tax rates relatively low or face loss of investment, jobs, and tax revenues to other countries. Ibn Khaldun’s original insight – made over 600 years ago – therefore continues to act as an important constraint on governments, in a world far different from his own. (35)

Further Aspects of the Relevance of The Khaldunian Discourse:

Without going into the intricate philosophical implications of modernity or post-modernity, the present paper would like to argue for the relevance of the Khaldunian intellectual discourse, in relation to the Muslim world in general and the Malay World in particular, in a brief manner, on a number of accounts:

Firstly, this intellectual discourse is of the utmost importance in relation to the act of maintaining our identity as Muslim civilization, with our world-view, epistemology, and axiology, in relation to education, politico-social order, and civilizational and ummatic identity, all based on the tawhidic paradigm.

Secondly, in building our strength in the spiritual, intellectual, technological and scientific domains so that we are not only on the receiving side, but we are also the creators of all these in our own way in the global scene.

Thirdly, in facing the process of globalization, and maintaining our identity, at the same time we can present the tawhidic image of compassion, the really ‘insani’ image of civilization and culture, with the strong culture in its aspects as a function of ummatic compassion, not divorced from it.

Fourthly, this Khaldunian discourse is of utmost importance in helping us to regain again the solidarity based on the correct understanding of the ‘asabiyyah principle within the ummatic ambiance and its function in the ummatic brotherhood-not a substitute for it- so that we can overcome and solve this ‘asabiyyah crisis as mentioned by Prof. Akbar Ahmed (36). Inadequate understanding of this principle and confusing it with secular nationalism, with the attending consequences in social and political action and conflicts, has brought and is bringing catastrophe in the Muslim Community. The late Said Nursi of Turkey-May Allah shower His mercy on him- has called it “positive nationalism”. (37):

Positive nationalism arises from an inner need of social life and is the cause of mutual assistance and solidarity; it ensures a beneficial strength; it is a means for further strengthening Islamic brotherhood.

This idea of positive nationalism must serve Islam, it must be its citadel and armour; it must not take the place of it. For there is a hundredfold brotherhood within the brotherhood of Islam which persists in the Intermediate Realm and World of Eternity. (38)

In all these-with Allah’s grace- the Khaldunian intellectual discourse can help us abundantly provided we are prepared to let the intellectual flow of the discourse to have an impact on us- giving us “al-tadhakkur” as the Qur’an teaches it.

In the Malay World, apart from the above, the seminal idea and principle of ‘asabiyyah is of paramount importance in dispelling popular rejection of ‘asabiyyah based on inadequate understanding, hence affecting national, even regional unity and strength. In the long run, this understanding is for the relative homogenization of the region, much needed for the intellectual and cultural stability of the area for ummatic development and progress in future. (39)

Now to the evidences of the above positions from the discourse in the Muqaddimah.

First the relevance of the discourse in relation to our world view, epistemology, axiology, education, intellectual development, politico-social order and ummatic identity in the discourse, which are not out of date in the fundamentals.

In relation to the tawhidic word-view and thinking about the causes to the ultimate, of which the human mind is incapable, harming itself, he states:

If this is clear, it is possible that the ascending sequence of causes reaches the point where it transcends the realm of human perception and existence and thus ceases to be perceived. The intellect would here become lost, confused, and cut off in the wilderness of conjectures. Thus, (recognition of the) oneness of God is identical with inability to perceive the causes and ways in which they exercise their influence, and with reliance in this respect upon the Creator of the causes who comprises them. There is no maker but Him. All (causes) lead up to Him and go back to His Power. We know about Him only in as much as we have issued from Him. This is the meaning of the statement on the authority of a certain truthful person (al-siddiq) “The inability to perceive is perception”.

Then talking about tawhidic world-view relating to the “state” of soul, he states in the continuing passage:

Such (declaration of the) oneness of God does not merely refer to faith, which is affirmation based upon judgment. It belongs to the talk of the soul. Its perfection lies in its acquisition in a form that becomes an attribute of the soul. In the same way, the object of (all human) actions and divine worship (‘al-ibadat’) is acquisition of the habit of obedience (‘malakah al-ta’ah’) (note the word: ‘malakah’-uem) and submissiveness and the freeing of the heart from all occupations save the Worshipped Master, until the novice on the path of God becomes a holy person (‘rabbani’) (40)

Then he talks about the difference between “state” of the soul and knowledge; he says:

The difference between ‘state’ and knowledge in question of dogma  (‘al-‘aqa’id’) is the same as that between talking (about attributes) and having them. This may be explained as follows: many people know that mercy to the orphans and the poor brings (a human being) close to God and is recommendable. They say so and acknowledge the fact. They quote the sources for it from the religious law. But if they were to see an orphan or a poor person of the destitute classes they would run away from him and disdain to touch him, let alone show mercy to him, or any of the higher ‘stations’ of sympathy, affection, and charity. Their mercy for the orphan was the result of having reached the station of knowledge. It was not the result of the station of ‘state’ nor of an attribute of theirs. Now, there are people who, in addition to the station of knowledge, and the realization of the fact that mercy to the poor brings (a human being) close to God, having attained another, higher ‘station’, they have attained the attribute and habit of mercy (‘ittisaf bir-rahmah wa malakatiha) (note the wording “malakah of rahmah” – uem). When they see an orphan or a poor person, they approach him and show him (mercy)…(41)

Then concerning divine worship and the question of getting the noble qualities, he states:

It should be known that in the opinion of the Law Giver (Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.) perfection with regards to any of the obligations he has imposed (upon Muslims) requires this (distinction)  (between knowing something as knowledge only and the higher station of possessing the quality involved – uem). Perfection in matters of belief depends on the other knowledge, that which results from the possession of (the se matters) as an attribute. Perfection in matters of divine worship depends on acquisition of (these matters) as an attribute, on real (knowledge) of them.

Divine worship and its continuous practice leads to this noble result. Muhammad says concerning the principal act of divine worship “My consolation lies in prayer…Prayer for Muhammad was an attribute and  ‘state’ in which he found his ultimate pleasure and consolation. How different is the prayer of the people! …

It is clear from all the statements we have made that the object of all (religious) obligations is the acquisition of a habit (‘malakah’) firmly rooted in the soul, from which a necessary knowledge results for the soul. It is the (recognition of the) oneness of God, which is the (principal) article of faith and the thing through which happiness is attained. There is no difference whether the obligations of the heart or those of the body are concerned in this respect. (42)

Then he elucidates the other articles of belief; he says:

It should be known that the Lawgiver (Muhammad s.a.w.) described to us this first degree of faith which is affirmation. He specified particular matters he charged us to affirm with our hearts and to believe in our souls, while at the same time acknowledging them with our tongues. They are the established articles of the Muslim faith. When Muhamnmad was asked about faith he said: “(Faith is) the belief in God, His angels, His scriptures, His messengers, the Last day, and the belief in predestination, be it good or bad”. (43)

Such are the articles of faith in ilm al-kalam, and he endorses this.

Thus, in this way he relates the tawhidic worldview with its impact on human belief, divine worship, character, soul, and actions, as well as values. This discourse is very logical, persuasive and convincing. It is relevant now just as it was relevant before. And from his discourse we know that he defends mainstream tawhidic Islamic world-view with all that it implies, and not the divergent views of the innovators which had appeared in Islamic history. This is a position which is the conviction of the majority of the Muslims throughout history until to-day, and this is the world-view which will be the intellectual defence against the intellectual deformity of modernity and post-modernity, apart from the intellectual innovations within the Community itself.

Concerning matters relating to the concept of knowledge and matters of like nature, including the development of knowledge in human civilization, we can briefly say that he endorses knowledge which are related to religion and that which is of intellectual nature. He begins the 6th Chapter of the Muqaddimah with the discussion on human capability to think. Concerning man’s ability to think and its relationship to perception, he states (44):

It should be known that God distinguished man from all the other animals by an ability to think which He made the beginning of human perfection and the end of man’s noble superiority over existing things.

This comes about as follows: Perception, – that is consciousness, on the part of the person who perceives, in his essence of things that are outside his essence-is something peculiar to living beings to the exclusion of other being and existent things. Living beings may obtain consciousness of things that are outside their essence through the external senses God has given them that is, the sense of hearing, vision, smell, taste, and touch. Man has this advantage over the other beings that he may perceive things outside his essence through his ability to think, which is something beyond his senses. It is the result of (special) powers placed in the cavities of his brain. With the help of these powers, man takes the pictures of the sensibilia, applies his mind to them, and thus abstracts from them other pictures. The ability to think is the occupation with pictures that are beyond sense perception, and the application of the mind to them for analysis and synthesis. This is what is meant by af’idah “hearts” in the Qur’an: ‘he gave you hearing and vision and hearts’ Af’idah ‘hearts’ is the plural of fu’ad .It means here the ability to think (45).

Then he goes on talking about the first degree of thinking of the discerning intellect (al-‘aqlul al-tamyizi), the second done by experimental intellect (‘al-‘aql al-tajribi) learning by experience, the third the speculative intellect (‘al-‘aql al-nazari’) giving out knowledge by thinking without practical application, and so on in the theoretical plain, until man becomes perfect in his reality, becoming pure intellect; this is human reality. (46) Then he goes on talking about the thought process and how that relates to human actions, and how that thinking leads man to perfection and success.

Then he talks about the emergence of the traditional and the rational sciences in an integrated manner, giving the summary of the sciences then available in human civilization in a unified way, giving their strong points, features, and also weak points.

He speaks about the Qur’an ic sciences, the traditions, fiqh, usul al-fiqh, Sufism, and Arabic studies; he speaks of the various intellectual sciences like logic, philosophy, medicine, astronomy, and the rest, as mentioned in the summary above.

All in all he speaks as representing the Islamic intellectual tradition; even while giving his views which appear as original, he is speaking on behalf of tradition and not going against Islamic intellectual tradition.

His views about the appearance of intellectual sciences and the crafts in urban settled civilization, and his concept of ‘added intelligence’ (‘al-‘aqlul mazid’) is indeed interesting and revealing, showing his grasp of the relationship between settled urban civilization and the appearance of intellectual sciences and technical skills, with the attending consequences in the development of culture. He talks of ‘al-‘aqlul-mazid’ as developed in settled civilization making some groups of people being so advanced intellectually and artistically.

His emphasis of ‘malakah’ is another point of importance in relation to intellectual culture and technical and scientific and linguistic skills. The word ‘malakah’ is used by him to mean established habit in the human personality; he applies it to linguistic, intellectual and mechanical skills. That is why he speaks of ‘malakah’ in language, writing, doing things in the physical and mechanical sense, as well as ‘malakah’ in spirituality and spiritual devotions and ethical qualities in the personality and the soul. And this ‘malakah’ is to be obtained by training, repetition, actual act of doing things, thinking, in short by making intellectual, physical, technical, linguistic and spiritual activities, repeating again and again until these become established in the soul; it becomes, as it were, in the expression of the present like “swimming in water for fish and flying in the air for birds”. He even speaks of ‘malakah’ in ‘ibadah and matters of faith.

This discourse about thinking and intellectual culture, with the various modes of thinking, leading to various types of intellectual capabilities, in advanced settled urban centers of civilization, including fostering ‘al-‘aq al-mazid’, is indeed relevant for the present day Muslims in uplifting them to the intellectual awareness so urgently needed in facing the present global situation. This is the text which will help them to develop this awareness leading to the necessary action in remedying their situation in the intellectual and technological fields.

And in relation to the importance of developing strong well established customary practices in civilization which will ensure stability and strength, he says:

Sedentary people observe (a) particular (code of) manners (‘adab’) in everything they undertake and do or do not do, and they thus acquire certain ways of making a living, finding dwellings, building houses, and handling their religious and worldly matters (‘wa umur al-din wa al-dunya’), including their customary affairs, their dealings with others (wa ‘adatihim wa mu’amalatihim’), and all the rest of their activities. Thesse manners (‘adab’) constitute a kind of limitation which may not be transgressed, and at the same time, they are crafts (‘sana’i’) (that) later generations take over from the earlier ones. No doubt, each craft has a proper place within the arrangement of the crafts, influences the soul and causes it to acquire an additional intelligence (‘al ‘aql al-mazid’), which prepares the soul for accepting still other crafts. The intellect is thus conditioned for a quick reception of knowledge. (47)

Next, the present writer would like to comment favourably on his contribution on the concept of ‘asabiyyah or group feeling, which is originally based on blood relationship but later extended to other lasting relationship making people loyal to one another.

Of course this is not within the ‘asabiyyah which is prohibited by the Prophet in the tradition meaning ‘Not among us is he who calls people to ‘asabiyyah’ or ‘who dies in ‘asabiyyah’ (48). The ‘asabiyyah prohibited by the Prophet is defined in the tradition as ‘you help your brother in injustice’ (49). And in Islamic legal discourse, Imam al-Nawawi says that when a person loves his people and his group and family, that is not ‘asabiyyah (prohibited by the Prophet – uem) and hence if he is a witness his testimony for his people and friend is accepted by the court and not rejected. (50) This ‘asabiyyah can be synonym for “positive nationalism” of Said Nursi – may Allah shower His mercy on him – when he says: “Positive nationalism arises from an inner need of social life and is the cause of mutual assistance and solidarity, it ensures a beneficial strength; it means for further strengthening Islamic brotherhood.” (51) Ibn Khaldun himself cites in its support the tradition meaning “Allah has not sent a prophet but he is under the protection of the strength of his people (fi man’atin min qaumihi’)”. And he says when a prophet who is capable of doing things with miracles is still supported by Allah with the ‘asabiyyah of his people then we all the more need this support.

Hence this positive nationalism or ‘asabiyyah should be supported and encouraged so that effective reforms can be done within the Muslim society as a basis for seriolus and planned civilizational efforts.

Negative qualities:

Negative qualities which are likely to cause downfall of civilization should be avoided: loss of ‘asabiyyah by taking the necessary steps to stem the tide, succumbing to excessive luxurious life should be checked by invitation to life of moderation with religious and spiritual education and exhortation, life of ease should be checked by educating people in the life of discipline, intellectual laxity is to be checked by encouraging intellectual activity and excellence, life of immorality is to be checked by education, exhortation, example, law enforcement, and improvement in family values and neighbourly responsibility in the light of Islamic values. And excessive entertainment culture should be checked by providing alternative modules and education in healthy artistic activities.

Wallahu a’lam.


In conclusion this paper argues that the Khaldunian intellectual and civilizational discourse is of paramount importance for the present times –together with other mainstream Islamic discourses of that category-for helping Muslims to regenerate their identity and civilization while coming to grips with the present cultural and intellectual challenges of this age. The Khaldunian discourse giving helpful suggestions in the domains of world-view, epistemology, axiology, and civilizational guidance in the educational, social, and cultural arena plus the all important emphasis on intellectual culture and knowledge in an all-embracing view, nurtured in the tawhidic vision will be most helpful in the efforts towards such a goal of achieving “the most excellent” community.

Wallahu a’lam



*Paper presented at the Conference on Ibn Khaldun organized by the Department of History at the International Islamic University Malaysia, 23rd July 2003.

(1)               Concerning his life and thought, the following are useful: Mohammad Abdullah Enan, Ibn Khaldun His Life and Work, Muhammad Aqshraf, Lahore; Walter J. Fischel, Ibn Khaldun in Egypt, His Public Functions and Historical Research, 1382-1406, in A Study in Islamic Historiography, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967; Charles Issawi, An Arab Philosophy of History: Selections from the prolegomena of Ibn Khaldun 0f Tunis (1332-140-6, Wisdom of the East Series, London, John Murray, 1950; Muhsin Mahdi, Ibn Khaldun’s Philosophy of History; A Study in the philosophic Foundations of the Science of Culture, London, George Allen and Unwin, 1957; Franz Rosenthal, trans. The Muqaddimah, An Introduction to History, By Ibn Khaldun, Bollingen Series, XLIII. Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1958;also see “Ibn Khaldun and Thucydides”, in Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol.92/Number 2/April-June 1972, pp. 250-270 (for which the present writer is grateful to Dr Muhammad Zainy Uthman of ISTAC UIAM); “Abd al-Rahman bin Muhammad ibn Khaldun (1332-1406/732-808) in http://cis-org/voices/k/khaldun_mn.htm; Dr A Zahoor, “Ibn Khaldun”,; also in; Ibrahim M.Oweiss, “Ibn Khaldun the father of Economics”,;”ibn Khaldun” in www.// “home-philosophers-ibn khaldun”,; “Letter from Cairo”,; “Economics of Ibn Khaldun”,;”History of Economic Thought”, .htm; “Political Science”, Prof.R.w.Cox,;”muslim-1;Great Muslim Scientists”, on ibn Khaldun http://www.//;Abd al-rahman ibn Khaldun the historian,; “Lessons from ibn khaldun”,;”ibn Khaldun’s Contribution to Social Thought”,;ibn Khaldun’s observation on history, empires,; “Ibn Khaldun His Life and Work”, by Muhammad Hozien –; Hassan Ali Jamsheer,”Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406). The Muqaddimah – History…”,; ”Rise and Fall Ibn Khaldun and the Effects of Taxation Chapter 15”,

(2)               Mohammad Abdullah Enan, Ibn Khaldun His Liufe and Work, pp.9-10.

(3)               ibid., p.34.

(4)               ibid,p.38.

(5)               “Abd al-Rahman bin Muhammad ibn Khaldun…”, ( )

(6)               Mohammad Abdullah Enan, op. cit., p.67.

(7)               Walter J.Fischel, Ibn Khaldun in Egypt…, pp.46- 49

(8)               ibid., 67-68.

(9)               Abderrahmane Lakhassi, “Ibn Khaldun” in History of Islamic Philosophy, edited by S.H.Nasr,  and O. Leaman (London:Routledge , “Abd al-Rahman bin Muhammad ibn Khaldun, footnote 26.

(10)           James Kalb, “Ibn Khaldun and Our Age”.

(11)           ibid.

(12)           ibid.

(13)           ibid.

(14)           From Jude Wanniski, “Ibn Khaldun and the Origins of Society”, Supply–Side University Economics Lesson #8 (

(15)           Ibid …

(16)           ibid. (11-19-99.html.)


(18)           ibid.

(19)           ibid.

(20)           John W. Bennet “Comments on ‘Renaissance Foundations of Anthropology’, originally appeared in American Anthropology, 68:215-226, 1991, then in

(21)           ibid.

(22)           See in

(23)           “Graduate Seminars in Cultural and Critical Studies Fall 2003” in /Seminars.htm

(24)           In

(25)           ibid.

(26)           In “INQUIRY. Refloating the Intellectual Enterprise of Islam”, in

(27)           in “Ibn Khaldun and Education”, in

(28)           ibid.

(29)           See in

(30)           ibid.

(31)           See

(32)           ibid.

(33)           Cited in Issawi, op.cit, cf.ibid.

(34)           ibid.

(35)           ibid.

(36)           Akbar Ahmed, “Ibn Khaldun’s Understanding of Civilizations and the Dilemmas of Islam and the West To-Day” (


(38)           ibid.

(39)           Incidentally the “Malay” concept in the present understanding is not racist but rather cultural and civilizational, because being “Melayu” is: being a Muslim, speaking Malay and practicing Malay customs. This is very much asking to ‘asabiyyah principle of ibn Khaldun, even though originally concerned with blood relationship then later extended to other relationships of long standing in life.

(40)           Al-Muqaddimah, tr Rosenthal vol. 3, pp. 38-39.

(41)           ibid., p. 40.

(42)           ibid. p. 41.

(43)           ibid.p. 43.

(44)           Muqaddimah, tr. F. Rosenthal, vol. 2, pp. 411ff.

(45)           ibid. vol.2. p. 412.

(46)           ibid.2. p. 413.

(47)           ibid.2. p. 432.

(48)           hadith no. 7657 in the Kanz al-‘Ummal of Muttaqi al-Hindi.

(49)           ibid. hadith no. 7654.

(50)           See Raud al-talibin vol.IV on witnesses and their conditions.



Nahmaduhu wa nusalli ‘ala Rasulihil-Karim




Bi’awnika Ya Latif! Due to certain historical circumstances destiny has made it that Malaysia has been given the tremendous task of forging harmonious collective life among its inhabitants consisting of various religious and cultural groups, especially during the post-merdeka period. The citizens of the country consisting of representatives of such diverse civilizations as Muslims, predominantly Malays, Buddhists, predominantly Chinese, then Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, and others, have to live with each other as neighbours. Compared to many societies with such multi-religious and multi-cultural nature, our country, due to the wisdom, tolerance and the spirit of giving –and take of its leaders, has emerged as a successful one. History has proved it clearly, in spite of comments to the contrary from certain quarters which would like to see it otherwise, for reasons known only to them.

There are challenges, of course, to improve upon the situation, so that that harmony will continue, and will improve, making the situation a better one, especially after September 11 with Islam being made the target of suspicion wherever there are Muslims. It is an unfortunate turn of events that a civilization which has been victimized a number of times in history with such devastations as the destruction of its civilization and “ethnic cleansing” of its adherents for a number of times with events in Spain and then the Crusades and recent events in modern times has now been stigmatized as “terrorist”, whereas others are not so stigmatized, in spite of terrorism having been perpetrated by some of its adherents.

Track record of a high degree tolerance of this civilization has been historically proven in the Muslim period in Spain, with Christians and Jews living in harmony with Muslims, with the Jews achieving their golden period, never achieved again thereafter, and non-Muslims living in harmony during the Ottoman period with the “millet” system, should give some lessons for people of the present times. The recent comments by the Secretary-general of the UN about the world organization and the acts of omission and commission of some countries should lead thoughtful and sincere people committed to ethics, morality and real human rights to reflect and do some introspective thinking before giving adverse comments about other nations. Recent events seem to suggest that humanity has not improved, if not to the contrary, in terms of practicing compassion and human brotherhood, in spite of all the rhetoric and talk about high-sounding noble values and aspirations.

Malaysia is a small country, and it has in its own way tried to put into practice the lesson of living in harmony and tolerance among such diverse cultural and religious groups as mentioned above. Of course there are so much more to be done, and by God’s Grace we hope to achieve much more in future. Those who would like to give adverse comments about our performance, we hope, will first set their own house in order, and then mention constructively, in the spirit of compassion among mankind, things which we should do to improve our situation. If this attitude is put into practice, the world would be a better place to live in. It is also in keeping with Christ’s “love thy neighbour…”, and the Prophet’s teaching about the brotherhood among the children of Adam and the creatures of God being figuratively “the family of God” (“iyal Allah”), and living according to the Tao in far eastern doctrine about the tao, of harmony with the way of heaven and earth, the harmony of the “yang” and “yin”. It is also in harmony with the disinterested action of the “Bhavadgita”.

There is the challenge of cool-headed dialogue among intellectuals and leaders of the cultural and religious groups, coming together, like the present one, with the idea of seeing the intellectual and spiritual contours of the various religions, so that the meeting points can be understood, not with the idea of blurring the real characteristics, the similarities and the differences, but with the idea of understanding where there are real differences, so that we respect the differences, and where there are similarities, so that we encourage the improvement in the similarities, for enhancing harmonious living. And this is done with intellectual seriousness and not with a false sense of superiority and disdain.

Then there is the necessity for respecting what can be called as “spiritual privacy” of the various collectivities; just as we have psychological privacy, privacy, in which we do not let out our secrets to people not relevant to it, the privacy of the body, in which we do not expose certain parts of the body, out of natural sense of modesty-barring aside people who already have lost this sense, for some reasons only known to them, the privacy of the bed-room in which we do not expose ourselves in that situation, barring aside other people who generate income from doing so, so there are spiritual aspects of privacy. The priest in the holy of holies has got to be alone there, cannot be disturbed in that spiritual privacy; the food in the Muslim yearly festival of sacrifice is of such a nature. This has got to be understood and respected, and this should not be construed as exclusive attitude as opposite of the inclusive attitude. Aspects of the Islamic sacred law fall into this category, and people who just have paper qualifications only, or know from personal readings only, should not comment adversely on these. Muslims are duty-bound not to do the same thing. The Qur’an teaches them not to vilify the objects of worship of others deemed not in harmony with the reality of the scheme of things from their perspective, for then they will vilify God worshipped by Muslims, and it becomes like they themselves are vilifying Allah. This serious attitude towards things deemed sacred should be inculcated; this is not about saying that things should be blurred so that people will think that things are all the same creating spiritual and intellectual confusion, creating more harm than good. This is about understanding things as they are and responding to them with spiritual and intellectual propriety.

There is the challenge of all the religions facing the phenomenon of cultural trivialization and gradual loss of cultural identity and values, and how they should unite to face this danger. What is meant here is the gradual loss of interest to understand the deeper implications of the teachings and practices of the religions, and concentrating on the paraphernalia, not attaching them to the inner core of the principles and values. And added to this there is the cultural trivialization and concentration on entertainment culture from foreign sources. The consequences are seen: for instance we see young people dying their hair yellow so that they look like some one who is an icon of the entertainment media; it is if they are ashamed of coming from their culture and looking in that way and with that colour. Then there are cases of elderly people in some cities committing suicide because they are no more cared by the young because the young would like them to abandon their houses and live in old folk’s homes; the world is a stage for the youthful; the elderly should be in old folk’s home. Respect and care for the elderly is disappearing. This is happening in the society. Some people mention that this is the influence of Hollywood culture. Only God knows. But this is a challenge which must be faced by all the religions and cultures, and they must face it together.

The various representatives of Asian cultures of the country have to face cultural domination of foreign cultural elements, and this will be cultural disaster for the rich heritage of diverse cultures of the country.

Then there is the consumerism culture: people are behaving as if they are worshipping the devil of a cult: a cult of buying things more than what they actually need just to be with the times as fashionable consumers. This is against all the teachings and values of the eastern cultures and civilizations. So some people say: the new cult is that the temple is the mega-mall, the rite is the shopping spree, the sacred things are the colour TV, the refrigerator, the air-conditioner, etc. The religions and cultures have to face this challenge together so that the principles and values are relevant and effective in moulding members of the society who are moral, disciplined, serious, respectful of others, hardworking, good, law-abiding citizens and patriotic. Other issues are side-issues when compared to this principal issues. Others from outside our country or culture should be heard in relation to our ultimate interests according to our philosophies, and not otherwise. Exceptions can be made in relation to universal issues agreed upon by all the nations as done by the UN. One example of things done by seeing our ultimate interest was the Malaysian economic step taken after the recent crisis in the region because of international manipulators of the currency.

The other aspects of the challenge are related to globalization; how global trends are making people more stressful; people are no more related to each other directly, hence their relationship is becoming more “faceless”, only communicating through gadgets, hand phones, etc., people are traveling more often, hence there is no more concept of neighbourhood and the traditional association, and stable relationship and respecting people because you “know” them really because you are living in the same neighbourhood, etc. People are becoming more and more rootless, more and more drawn into “the technological intoxicated zone”.

Then there is the challenge of post-modernism thinking which consists of the rejection of the grand narratives- the religions and the fundamental discourses, the rejection of absolute values and criteria about the truth and right and wrong, and the blurring of reality and the images. All these will lead to the withering away of the principles and values in the civilizations. There is the spreading of liberalism of the religions. This is emptying of the religions and civilizations from sacred and fundamental values, including family values. This has got to be faced squarely by all the religious traditions of the country. Other issues will appear as non-issues when seen in this fundamental philosophical perspective. This is the evil dragon which will swallow all and everybody. All have to get united to face this evil dragon.

The representatives of the various eastern civilizations in Malaysia have to be united in facing these challenges. The fundamental values about human relationships in the various traditions have got to be re-learned and their relevance seen in the present global perspective.

Then the country is also facing the global competition. The various religions have to help the leaders of the country to strengthen the survival of the identity and the economy of the country in the face of globalization onslaught, based on free and unbridled play of market forces; otherwise there will be another form of imperialism.

These are some of the challenges which the religious and cultural diversity of Malaysia has to face or is in fact facing now, and they must get united in forums and other ways so that such challenges are met with effectively. What is of utmost importance is the integrity of the various religions and cultures are preserved, the harmonious life continued, and improved upon, the cultural identity of the people is intact, the country is strengthened, its principles and values are realized, and differences are resolved through amicable discussions and consultations, without outside interference. With God’s grace the country and the people will survive well and with success in facing the global challenge.

Wallahu a’lam.

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

نحمده ونصلى على رسوله الكريم




Allah has sent us a messenger as a result of the prayer of Ibrahim –on him be peace- “O our Lord , sent unto them a messenger from among them who will rehearse unto them your signs and instruct them in the Book and Wisdom, and purify them; You are Exalted in Power Infinite in Wisdom” [3]As a result of this prayer answered by Allah, our Prophet was sent and there emerged in history the community of Muslims, called by Allah “You are the best of nation brought forth for mankind, you command to do good and you prohibit evil and you believe in Allah”[4].

Before anything else, we should remind ourselves of the unparalleled excellence of prophecy. Concerning the excellence of and necessity for prophecy in the life of mankind, ibn al-Qayyim has made an important observation. He says (in Miftah al-Sa’adah)[5]:

‘If it has not been for prophecy there would not have been in this world useful knowledge, righteous deeds, and goodness in the life of mankind, and there would not have been any foundation for government, and mankind would have been like animals, and ferocious beasts and harmful dogs, some of them at enmity with some others.

Therefore anything good in this world is a result of prophecy, and everything evil occurring in this world or whatever will happen are all as a result of the veiling of the results of prophecy and studies concerning it. Hence this world is like a body, and its soul is prophecy, without the soul the body will not have its support. Consequently, when there are no results of prophecy and its study in human life), the earth will have convulsions, the creatures therein will be destroyed, and there will be no support of life except with the influences of prophecy (and studies concerning it)”.

After keeping in mind the importance of prophecy, we come to the person of the Prophet himself. –peace and blessings be upon him. Concerning his attitude and position in relation to the believers , the Qur’an puts it clearly , among others in the verse is:

لَقَدْ جَاءكُمْ رَسُولٌ مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ عَزِيزٌ عَلَيْهِ مَا عَنِتُّمْ حَرِيصٌ عَلَيْكُم بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ رَؤُوفٌ رَّحِيمٌ

فَإِن تَوَلَّوْاْ فَقُلْ حَسْبِيَ اللّهُ لا إِلَـهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ وَهُوَ رَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ

Now hath come unto you an Messenger from amongst yourselves: it grieves him that ye should perish: ardently anxious is he over you: to the Believers is he most kind and merciful.[6] But if they turn away, Say: “(Allah) sufficeth me: there is no god but He: On Him is my trust,- He the Lord of the Throne (of Glory) Supreme!”[7]

This is as it were the ‘soul’ of the Prophet; and its impact in human life is such that, as experienced by sincere believers , when recited, the person will be in security and safety for the day unless, of course, if it is fated that he will meet his ‘ajal’.

As stated in ‘Tafsir ibn Kathir’ concerning this verse [8] Ja’far bin Abi Talib told al-Najashi , and Mughirah bin Shu’bah to the Persian Kisra, that Allah has sent unto them a messenger from among them, they knew his lineage, qualities, his activities , truthfulness and trushworthiness.Then in the traditions there are statements about him being born out of true marriage, continuously from the time of Adam until the time he was born to his parents; then him being sent with religion termed as ‘al-hanifiyyah al-samhah’ –true promordial religion characterized by easiness as to its practices and precepts; him being so anxious that good worldly and eternal benefits reach the believers .Such is his concern for humanity that there is nothing which will bring anyone to paradise and nothing which will cause anyone go to hell except he will explain these to them.[9]

Reality of the Prophet –peace and blessings be upon him – as a man is stated in the Qur’an in the verse [10]

قُلْ إِنَّمَا أَنَا بَشَرٌ مِّثْلُكُمْ يُوحَى إِلَيَّ أَنَّمَا إِلَهُكُمْ إِلَهٌ وَاحِدٌ فَمَن كَانَ يَرْجُو لِقَاء رَبِّهِ فَلْيَعْمَلْ عَمَلاً صَالِحاً وَلَا يُشْرِكْ بِعِبَادَةِ رَبِّهِ أَحَداً

“Say , I am but a man (‘bashar’) like yourselves, but the revelation has come down to me , that your God is one God whoever expects to meet his Lord, let him work righteousness, and, in the worship of his Lord, admit no one as partner.”

Concerning this verse we have in the commentary of Fakhr al-Din al-Razi rh that this means[11] :

Know that when Allah explains the perfection of Divine Speech, he asks Prophet Muhammad –peace and blessings be upon him – to follow the way of humility; so He asks him to say :’Say I am a man like you, it has been revealed to me …”, that is there is no distinguished quality separating between me and you all, the only thing is that revelation has been given to me that there is no god except Allah the one , the Self-Sufficient God, Besought by all .He is like a man like every body else ( a ‘bashar’; yet he is being revealed with the eternal truths of the Qur’anic revelation). That makes him stand far above us with his universal and exalted nature, worthy of being emulated. That is why , in the same order of meanings he is ‘the leader of mankind’ (sayyid walad Adam, and this is not self-praise’ (wa la fakhra).

Then concerning the exalted nature of the personality of the Prophet it is explained in the ‘Tafsir ibn Kathir’ (verse 4 of Surah al-Qalam ‘you are in exalted from of character’ ) that ‘you are in a great treligion’, namely Islam, on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas. Atiyyah explains it to me ‘in a great spiritual propriety’ (‘adabin azim’); and then on the authority of Qatadah , that he has asked about the ethical nature of the Prophet s.a.w. and that Aishah replied that ‘his ethical nature is the Qur’an’ itself. The same explanation about the nature of the moral character of the Propeht s.a.w. being the Qur’an is given in the narration of Imam Ahmad.[12]

Concerning his moral and spiritual grandeur Allah has said that “You are (O Muhammad) on an exalted form of character”[13]And because of such a great moral nature worthy of emulation, for human salvation, Allah has mentioned his personality as the most excellent example to be followed. This is mentioned in the verse which means “ You have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for everyone whose hope is in Allah and the last Day, and who engages much in the praise of God”.[14]

Concerning the moral stature of the Messenger s.a.w. there are numerious statements from the traditions of the Prophet s.a.w. Among these are the following:

On the authority of Anas rd he said that “The prophet s.a.w. was the best of man in terms of moral conduct (ahsana’n-nas khuluqan).[15]And on the authority of Safiyyah bint Huyay rd the mother of the believers she is reported to have said: I have not seen a person more excellent thnat the Messenger in terms of moral conduct”.[16] Then, on the authority of Aishah rd when she was askewd about the ethical nature she is reported to have said “His moral nature is the Qur’an”. (kana khuluquhu’l_Qur’an).[17]

There is also a narration on the authority of ‘Ata’ rd that he has said to ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr to describe the Messenger of Allah –peace and blessings be upon him – in the ‘Taurat’ , then he said ‘Yes, by God, he is described in the ‘Taurat’ with the attributes like the ones in the Qur’an (namely) ‘O Prophet, Truly We have sent thee as a witness, a bringer of glad tidings and as a warner , and as a guide or guard (hirzan) for the unlettered people , You are My servant and My Messenger, I name you as the relier (on God) not rude and harsh to people) , nor shouting and yelling in the markets, nor returning evil for evil, but forgets and forgives , and Allah does take him to His Presence (take his life) until he has straightened the millat which has become twisted in nature, by teaching ‘there is no god but Allah’ and has opened with it the eyes which have become blind, and ears which have become deaf, and hearts which have become covered up (with ignorance and negligence).[18]

The Prophet s.a.w. was the most perfect of men in terms of nobility of nature and character, the molst subtle of natures, and the most just of temperament, the most easy in terms of relations with others.He is the seal of prophets and messengers , the leader of those in early and later times.He is reported to have said ( أنا سيد ولد أدم ولا فخر )I am the leader of the children of Adam and that is not a matter of personal pride. He is sent as a mercy to all the worlds as stated in the Qur’an “And We have not sent thee O Muhammad except as a mercy to all the worlds”.[19]

In the hadith he is mentioned as the one who will give the supreme intercesson to all creatures ‘al-shafa’ah al-‘uzama). This is to the effect: “On the authority of Abu Hurairah, the Prophet is reported to have said: ‘People will come to me (on the day of the universal accounting) and theu will say: O Muhammad you are the Messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets, Allah has forgiven you the sins which have been done before and later , please intercede for us in the presence of God, do you not see (the suffering) in which we are in? So I would go and come under the Divine Throne, then I would fall down prostrate to my Lord Full of majesty, then Allah would open up for me words of praise and beautiful outpourings which has not been opened for anyone before me, then Allah would say, O Muhammad raise up your head, You just ask, then I will grant your wish, intercede, you will be granted intercession.[20]

He is also the owner of the Praised station (al-Maqam al-Mahmud). This is stated in the Qur’an ( عسى أن يبعثك ربك مقاما محمودا )[21]

In the tradition narrated by al-Bukhari it is stated on the authority of ibn ‘Umar rd that the Messenger s.a.w. is reported to have said:” On the Day of Judgment, mankind will come following their prophet saying O so and so please intercede, O so and so please intercede, until the matter of intercesson came to Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. , that is the day in which Allah will raise him to the station of praise (al-maqam al-mahmud).[22]

It is stated in traditions that the Messenger would carry the Flag of Praise on the Day of Judgment. He is reported to have said :”On the day of Judgment, the Flag of Praise would be in my hands and that is not a matter of personal pride”.

His spiritual exaltation is indicated by the fact God has forgiven him his past and future ‘sins’.This is clear from the statement in the Qur’an :”Truly We have granted thee a manifest victory, so that God may forgive thee thy past errors and mistakes as well as those to follow and fulfill His favour to thee and guide thee to the Straight path”[23].

His exalted station can be understood from the fact that he will be the first for whom the gates of paradise would be opened. On the authority of Anas bin Malik rd that he said: The Messenger of Allah said: “I will come to the gate of Paradise on the Day of Judgment , then I will request it be opened. The angel guarding it will ask: Who are you? I will respond: I am Muhammad.The angel will reply: I have been ordered not to open this for anyone before you (I have to open it for you now)”.[24]

The traditions gathering all the narratives manifesting his spiritual grandeur and exaltation at the cosmic order can be seen in those covering the stupendous event of the Nocturnal Journey and the Ascension to the Divine Presence in less than one night. The traditions have been recorded in the commentary of ibn Kathir concerning the first verse of the Chapter Bani Isra’il.[25]

From the narrations there will emerge with the utmost clarity his position in relation to God Himself as his ‘beloved one’, in relation to the prophets and messengers of all epochs of history as ‘their leader’, in relation to the believers as his ‘ummah’ or community, giving them, in the day of Judgment intercession, his leading position in the life of the world and life in eternity. His cosmic grandeur will be clear in spite of his relatively ‘human’ image in earthly history. He has appeared , out of Divine Grace, as a mercy to all, giving guidance for their ultimate and earthly salvation.

In relation to his intensity of spiritual contemplation, it is clear that he is the person most devoted to this. On the authority of ‘Abdullah bin al-Shakhir rd that he stated :”I came to the Messenger of God s.a.w. while he was praying, in his breast there is something like droning sound of caldron boiling from (much) weeping”.[26]

Then there is the famous narration by al-Bukhari about him, on the authority of ‘Aishah rd, that the Messenger used to stand up for prayer in the darkness of night, until his feet swelled so much so that Aishah said to him: Why do you exert yourself in this way whereas Allah has forgiven you what is past and what is to happen. He replied “Should I not be a grateful servant?”.[27]

Then there is the famous remark by him in his saying “And the coolness of my eye is being found in prayer”[28] His love of spirituality is so intense that he is reported to have said: “For me to recite ‘Glory be to God’ and ‘all praise be to God”, and “there is no god but Allah” as well as “God is Most Great” is more loveable to me than anything on which the sun shines.[29]

His love of the remembrance is clear from his saying “The analogy of a person who performs the remembrance of his Lord and the one who does not do the remembrance is like one who is alive compared to the one who is dead”.[30]

And there is his saying : “There is no act from the son of Adam which is more effective in guarding him from the punishment of Allah (in Hell) than remembrance of Allah”.[31]

And concerning his habit of always making requests to God, and he is the one most given to this spiritual ‘habitus’ .The request made most by his is the one to the effect “O our Lord, please grant us goodness in this world and goodness in the hereafter and save us from the Fire”.[32]

Then there is the famous narration in relation to the coming down of the verses 190 and 191 of Surah Ali ‘Imran[33].

{ إِنَّ فِي خَلْقِ ٱلسَّمَاوَاتِ وَٱلأَرْضِ وَٱخْتِلاَفِ ٱلْلَّيْلِ وَٱلنَّهَارِ لآيَاتٍ لأُوْلِي ٱلأَلْبَابِ }

Fakhr al-Din al-Razi mentions that Ibn ‘Umar asked Aishah concerning the most amazing thing that she has observed concerning the Messenger of Allah peace and blessings be upon him. She wept and then said: Everything about him is amazing. One night he came close to me then said to me: o Aishah can you allow me to –night to perform my spiritual devotions to my Lord? I said: O Messenger of Allah, truly I desire to be close to you, and I like what you like, so I allow you [to do your devotions]. So he stood up and went to the water bag in the house and performed his ablutions without using the water excessively, then he stood up and prayed, recited from the Qur’an and started to weep, then he raised his hands and began to weep, until his tears fell onto the ground. Then Bilal came to do the call to prayer for the morning prayer; then he saw him weeping. He said; O Messenger of God, God has forgiven what has gone before and what is to come later (of you mistakes and sins) [So how can you weep so much].The Prophet said: Should I not be a servant who is grateful? Then he said (further) How can I not weep since in the night was sent down the verses (truly in the creation of the heavens and the earth there are signs for those who have mature intelligence, they are those who remember their Lord while standing , sitting down and while lying down on their sides, and they contemplate on the creation of the heavens and the earth and then say (out of realization): Truly, our Lord, You have not created all this in vain.[34] Woe to the ones who recite the verse but do not reflect concerning it.[35]

The Prophet –peace and blessings be upon him –has placed so much significance on the development of this aspects of tafakkur and contemplation in man .

And on the authority of Aishah rd his request to Allah mostly, before his demise is “O Lord, truly I seek refuge with You from the evil that I have done and the evil that I have not done”.[36]

Life full of remembrance, prayers, requests from God, contemplation of Him, doing all things and performing all obligations in His Name is the hall mark of the Prophetic life, outwardly and inwardly. It is this nature of the Prophet-with Divine Aid which has been the most decisive factor of his success in his life.

We can refresh our memory with the nature of the success of the Prophet by remembering the formula of real success in the Chapter of the Believers which consists of the following statements from the beginning[37]:

The Believers

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

[23:1]The believers must (eventually) win through,-
[23:2]Those who humble themselves in their prayers;
[23:3]Who avoid vain talk;
[23:4]Who are active in deeds of charity;
[23:5]Who abstain from sex,
[23:6]Except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess,- for (in their case) they are free from blame,
[23:7]But those whose desires exceed those limits are transgressors;-
[23:8]Those who faithfully observe their trusts and their covenants;
[23:9]And who (strictly) guard their prayers;-
[23:10]These will be the heirs,
[23:11]Who will inherit Paradise: they will dwell therein (for ever).

This set of verses mentions the same pattern : (intense faith manifested in) prayer, purity of morals, discipline in accordance with the sacred law, life lived in the vision realized in the intellect and the will.

The verses above indicate to the utmost the decisive importance of strong and pure faith, the manifestation of God-consciousness in the form of contemplative intellect successfully realized with humility in prayers, avoidance of vain things in life – not only the harmful and prohibited things- the payment of the poor-due, the purity of sex life , hence the preservation of family-values. Included into this scheme of values is the discipline in life in accordance with the sacred law, and the performance of governance and fulfillment of trusts and covenants. This spiritual and intellectual geometry is still of utmost importance and relevance until the present day, whatever the cultural and moral relativists would like to claim to the contrary.

The performance of spiritual devotions –out of pure and sincere faith- with the attending moral and collective discipline in life, the very substance of real success can be seen in another set of verses. These are:

[70:19]Truly man was created very impatient;-
[70:20]Fretful when evil touches him;
[70:21]And niggardly when good reaches him;-
[70:22]Not so those devoted to Prayer;-
[70:23]Those who remain steadfast to their prayer;
[70:24]And those in whose wealth is a recognised right.
[70:25]For the (needy) who asks and him who is prevented (for some reason from asking);
[70:26]And those who hold to the truth of the Day of Judgment;
[70:27]And those who fear the displeasure of their Lord,-
[70:28]For their Lord’s displeasure is the opposite of Peace and Tranquillity;-
[70:29]And those who guard their chastity,
[70:30]Except with their wives and the (captives) whom their right hands possess,- for (then) they are not to be blamed,
[70:31]But those who trespass beyond this are transgressors;-
[70:32]And those who respect their trusts and covenants;
[70:33]And those who stand firm in their testimonies;
[70:34]And those who guard (the sacredness) of their worship;-
[70:35]Such will be the honoured ones in the Gardens (of Bliss).

Such life of devotional collectedness must necessarily menifest itself in compassion. That is why he was sent as a mercy to all the worlds.

His compassion to those who make mistakes is to such a degree that there is a narration about a young person requesting his permission to commit adultery and he gave a very persuasive and heart touching response. The narration is as follows: On the authority of Abu Umamah rd that he said: A young person came to the Prophet s.a.w and said: ‘O Messenger of Allah , please grant me permission to commit adultery, then the people cried out against him, saying no no. The Messenger said to him: Come near, and he went near him. The messenger said: Do you like to do that to your mother? He replied: No. By Allah, May Allah make me your ransom, and people do not like to do that to their mothers. Then he asked: Do you like to do that to your daughter? He replied: No by God, people do not like to do that to their daughters. The Messenger said: Do you like to do that to your sister? He replied: No, by God, may Allah make my your ransom, people all of them do not like to do that to their sisters…(finally) the Messenger placed his hand on the young man’s hand and prayed: O Allah, forgive him his sins, purify his heart, and guard his private parts ; and thereafter the youth did not like such acts( again)[38].

His love for the ummah is to such a degree that when God has granted him with the special request which will be granted without fail, he has delayed the request until the time for getting intercession for the members of his community. He is reported to have said:

- ( لكل نبي دعوة مستجابة ، فتعجل كل نبي دعوته ، وإني أختبأت دعوتي شفاعة لأمتي يوم القيامة ، فهي نائلة إن شاء الله من مات لا يشرك بالله شيئا ) [البخاري] ؛ ولذا قال تعالى عنه : {لقد جاءكم رسول من أنفسكم عزيز عليه ما عنتم حريص عليكم بالمؤمنين رؤوف رحيم }

For every prophet there has been granted a request which will be granted without fail, and every prophet has made his request, as for myself I have delayed the request for getting intercession for my community on the last Day. It will, God willing, reach (and be effective) for anyone who has died (in my community) without associating anything with God.[39]

Because of this Allah has said[40] :

{لقد جاءكم رسول من أنفسكم عزيز عليه ما عنتم حريص عليكم بالمؤمنين رؤوف رحيم }

Allah the Exalted has said :

( لقد كان لكم في رسول الله أسوة حسنة لمن كان يرجو الله واليوم الآخر وذكر الله كثيرا)

Truly you have in the Messenger of Allah a most beautiful pattern (of conduct) for the one who has hope in Allah and the Last Day and remember Allah much and often.[41]

Allah has commanded us to obey the Messenger after our obedience to Him.

Allah has obliged the believers to obey the Messenger, follow his example of conduct , follow his life-wont, respect and revere him as well as to love him above loving our fathers, children, spouses, families, our business and wealth and belongings. Whoever does not follow such a path of life, Allah has stated His Warning. This is in the verse[42]:

)قُلْ إِنْ كَانَ ءابَاؤُكُمْ وَأَبْنَاؤُكُمْ وَإِخْوَانُكُمْ وَأَزْوَاجُكُمْ وَعَشِيرَتُكُمْ وَأَمْوَالٌ اقْتَرَفْتُمُوهَا وَتِجَارَةٌ تَخْشَوْنَ كَسَادَهَا وَمَسَاكِنُ تَرْضَوْنَهَا أَحَبَّ إِلَيْكُمْ مِنَ اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَجِهَادٍ فِي سَبِيلِهِ فَتَرَبَّصُوا حَتَّى يَأْتِيَ اللَّهُ بِأَمْرِهِ وَاللَّهُ لا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْفَاسِقِينَ (

Say: If it be that your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your mates, or your kindred; the wealth that ye have gained; the commerce in which ye fear a decline: or the dwellings in which ye delight – are dearer to you than God, or His Apostle, or the striving in His cause;- then wait until God brings about His decision: and God guides not the rebellious.

Allah has said:

)ومن يطع الله والرسول فأولئك مع الذين أنعم الله عليهم من النبيين والصديقين والشهداء والصالحين وحسن أولئك رفيقاً *ذلك الفضل من الله وكفى بالله عليما(ً

Whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger , they are with those on whom Allah has granted them His boons consisting of the Prophets, the Sincere People of Truth, the Martyrs, and the Pious Ones; how beautiful is their fellowship; that is the boon from Allah and sufficient is Allah having Knowledge of this. [43]

He is reported to have said: truly the most beloved to me and the one closest to me in position on the day of judgment is the one who is best in conduct (ahasinuhum akhlaqan).

There are so many remarks by him about good conduct as a result of true faith and God-consciousness (that is the development of the contemplative intellect apart from the rational and analytical one).

The most perfect believer in the matter of faith is the man who id most excellent in conduct.

There is nothing more weighty on the Balance for the believer on the Day of Judgment other than good conduct .Allah hates the one who is shameless, impudent and loathsome in character.

He says : The most perfect believer in terms of faith is the one most excellent in character, and the best among you is the one with the best conduct to the members of his household.

These are some of the facets about the reality of the perfect man, the messenger, the leader of men, the leader of both worlds, the leader of the messengers and the prophets, our beloved prophet peace and blessings be upon him. We are supposed to pray for blessings, honour and peace upon him and his family as well as his companions and those who follow him. Allah says[44]:

(إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ وَمَلاَئِكَـتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى ٱلنَّبِيِّ يٰأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ صَلُّواْ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُواْ تَسْلِيماً)

God and His angels send blessings on the Prophet: O ye that believe! Send ye blessings on him, and salute him with all respect.

When the Messenger of Allah was asked how shall the believers ‘bless’ him, he replied, you say:

اللهم صلِّ على محمد وعلى آل محمد كما صليت على إبراهيم وعلى آل إبراهيم، وبارك على محمد وعلى آل محمد كما باركت على إبراهيم وعلى آل إبراهيم إنك حميد مجيد “.

O Lord bless Prophet Muhammad and the family of Muhammad just as You have blessed Ibrahim and the family of Ibrahim, and bestow grace on Muhammad and the family of Muhammad just as You have bestowed grace on Ibrahim and the family of Ibrahim, truly You are Worthy of all Praise Most Glorious.

Then there is the question why does he need our blessing seeing that Allah and the angles have already blessed him? Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi replies that [45] this is not because the Prophet needs this , otherwise there is no necessity for the blessings of the angels after getting the blessings of Allah. This blessing by us is for manifesting his greatness , just as Allah has obliged us to remember Him whereas He is not in need of it; it is for manifesting His Greatness on our behalf, as a Mercy from Him unto us, so that He will give us the rewards just as he has said: “Whoever bless me once Allah will bless him tenfold”. And Allah has not left the Prophet to be indebted, as it were, to the community , by reason of their blessings, so that He has rewarded them from him, with blessings for the ummah, in the statement (وَصَلّ عَلَيْهِمْ إِنَّ صَلَوٰتَكَ سَكَنٌ لَّهُمْ)

Verily thy prayers are a source of security for them.[46] May Allah make us among those who bless the Prophet much and often together with the efforts we make to make the remembrance of Allah much and often. Amin.

In the ‘Tafsir ibn Kathir’[47] it is stated that ‘salawat from Allah and the angels’ mean:  (وقال أبو عيسى الترمذي: وروي عن سفيان الثوري وغير واحد من أهل العلم، قالوا: صلاة الرب: الرحمة، وصلاة الملائكة: الاستغفار. )

That is according to al-Tirmidhi: narrated from Sufyan al-Thauri and not only one from among the men of knowledge: ‘salawat’ from God is ‘mercy’ (‘al-rahmah)’ from the angels : prayer for forgiveness.

Before concluding we can recollect what others have said about his historical phenomenon unsurpassed even to this day. This is from the observation of Lamartine, the historian . He states:

“If greatness of purpose, smallness of means, and astounding results are the three criteria of human genius, who could dare to compare any great man in modern history with Muhammad? The most famous men created arms, laws and empires only. They founded, if anything at all, no more than material powers which often crumbled away before their eyes. This man moved not only armies, legislations, empires, peoples and dynasties, but millions of men in one-third of the then inhabited world; and more than that, he moved the altars, the gods, the religions, the ideas, the beliefs and souls. . . his forbearance in victory, his ambition, which was entirely devoted to one idea and in no manner striving for an empire; his endless prayers, his mystic conversations with God, his death and his triumph after death; all these attest not to an imposture but to a firm conviction which gave him the power to restore a dogma. This dogma was twofold, the unity of God and the immateriality of God; the former telling what God is, the latter telling what God is not; the one overthrowing false gods with the sword, the other starting an idea with words.

“Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational dogmas, of a cult without images; the founder of twenty terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire, that is Muhammad. As regards all standards by which human greatness may be measured, we may well ask, is there any man greater than he?”[48]

In conclusion the present writer would like to emphasize the importance of understanding the nature of our Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, apart from the usual attributes of truthfulness, trustworthiness, communicating the truth, and sagacity in the usual discourse, which must be understood, but also other all-embracing nature of his- of understanding this most amazing man in the whole of existence, nay, the most significant being in the total cosmic order. We should understand him with his Lord, as far as we are able, him with mankind, human civilization, the human soul, him and life in the world and eternity. There is also that aspect apart from this his primordial existence as the light, as the starting point for all cosmic manifestations, which the writer feels is beyond this short simple paper. Whatever it is, we must understand him, respect him, bless him, respect his name, together with other prophets of mankind, respect his family, the companions, respect the mention of his name by others, follow his normative sunnah as much as we can since it is an aspect of his universal norm, in our inner and outer life. May Allah bless us with this understanding ,wisdom as well as unshakable conviction about his perfection – whatever the moral and cultural relativists among the earthlings of the latter days say about this—and cultivate our life in true and firm faith, performing the spiritual devotions, with our prayers, dhikr, and contemplation, developing our contemplative as well rational intelligence together, with learning and others, in harmony, carrying out our ethical and moral life to the utmost of our ability, disciplining ourselves with the sacred law, and performing our family and professional as well as social duties excellently in our social environment of to-day. Let us go forward in cultivating this unshakable faith, this pure effective and empowering spirituality, developing and synergizing the contemplative and the rational aspects of our intelligence, possessing the moral caliber of the strong, the indomitable will for truth, the effective worker for the pleasure of Allah, showering light and coolness as well as services for the servants of Allah, irrespective of creeds, casts and ethnicities. Come, bretheren, let us be strong for the sake of Allah. Say Allah: then let them go on being drowned in their play and mirth. Amin ya Rabbal-alamin.,Wallahu a’lam.

[1] For presentation in an International Seminar on Spirituality organized by Abdul Aleem Siddiqui Mosque of Singapore, on the 1-3rdSeptember 2006.

[2] Currently the writer is Very Distinguished Academic Fellow of International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization in International Islamic University Malaysia, Commissioner in SUHAKAM, and member of the Board of Directors Integrity Institute Malaysia and Member of Board of Trustees Yayasan Karyawan.

[3] Al-Baqarah.129.

[4] Ali ‘Imrah.110.

[5] Cited in ‘Tafsir ‘Ruh al-Ma’ani’ by al-Alusi’ vol.IX.p.100.

[6] Surah at-Taubah verses 128 Tr Abdullah Yusuf Ali.

[7] At-taubah verse 129.

[9] Related by al-Tabarani on the authority of Abu Dharr the Companion.

[10] Chapter of the Cave (18).110.

[12] ‘Tafsir ibn Kathir’ commentary on verse 4 chapter al-Qalam. See

[13] Surah Nun.4.

[14] Al-Ahzaz.21.

[15] Muttafaq alaihi.

[16] Narrated by al-Tabarani in ‘al-Ausat’ with good isnad (isnad hasan).

[17] Narrated by Muslim in his ‘Sahih’.

[18] Narrated by al-Bukhari.

[19] Surah al-Anbiya’.107.

[20] Muttafaq alaihi (Bukhari and Muslim).

[21] Surah Bani Isra’il.79.

[22] Narrated by al-Bukhari.

[23] Surah al-Fath.1-2.

[24] Narraterd by Muslim.

[25]‘Tafsir ibn Kathir’ vol. 3 verse 1 of Bani Isra’il, recording the traditions about the Isra’ wa al-Mi’raj.

[26] Narrated by Abu Daud.

[27] Narrated by al-Bukhari.

[28] Wa ju’ilat qurrati ‘aini fis-salah.

[29] Narrated by Imam Muslim.

[30] Nartrated by al-Bukhari.

[31] Narrated by al-Tabarani with a hasan isnad.

[32] Muttafaq alaih (al-Bukhari and Muslim).

[33] For the significance of this narration and the meanings of the verses see ‘Tafsir Mafatih al-Ghaib’ by Fakhr al-Din al-Razi. See

[34] Ali Imran verses 190-191.

[35] The present writer would like to observe here the significance of the fact that the two aspects of the human intelligence is combined in their operations in this extremely instructive verses. The dual functions are the contemplative power concerned with contemplating on God and religious verities and the rational and syllogistic power of getting conclusions in thought and knowledge as this increases with systematic experience , controlled observations and thought. Both functions should operate in the human intellect for man’s own salvation. The loss of this contemplative intellect – with prayers, acts of remembrance and others –typified by the famous sentence ‘You worship God as if you see him and if you do not see Him He sees you- has lead to so much disaster in man’s individual and collective life. To add to what has been said: This contemplative intellect is so empowering that the Qur’an states that the believer who has the power of patience, constancy and perseverance with the conditions, can have tenfold strength compared to those who oppose them. And this virtue is the result of the effective functioning of the contemplative intellect, apart from the rational and analytical one. Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi rh has alluded to the importance of this aspect of the intellect in his commentary of the verses and elsewhere.

[36] Narrated by al-Nasa’i.

[37] Chapter the Believers verses 1-11.

[38] Narrated by Imam Ahmad.

[39] Narrated by al-Bukhari.

[40] Al-Taubah.129.

[41] Al-Ahzab.21.

[42] Al-Taubah.24.

[43] Al-Nisa’,69-70.

[44] Al-Ahzab.56.

[45] In ‘Tafsir al-Kabir’ concerning the verse. That is also ‘al-Tafsir al-Kabir’ by Fakhr al-Din al-Razi concerning this verse 33.verse 56. See

[46] At-Taubah.103.

[48]Lamartine, HISTOIRE DE LA TURQUIE, Paris, 1854, Vol. II, pp. 276-277.

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

نحمده ونصلى على رسوله الكريم




God willing, this note will deal with the concept of the Muhammadan Light (“Nur Muhammad”) as explained in a number of Malay-Islamic works of Nur al-Din al-Raniri, Zain al-’Abidin al-Fatani, Nawawi al-Bantani (in Arabic), and a number of others . These explanations will be seen in the context of the Sunni sources like Qur’anic exegesis and the Prophetic traditions. The intention is to locate the sources of the discourse in the Sunni narrative in the light of the intention of the hadith ‘al-din al-nasihah” as explained, among others, by Imam al-Nawawi rh. It is hoped that the inclination to label such a discourse as deviationist or not authentic under the influence of the so-called ‘Salafi’ inclination will be tempered by a sense of moderation in the light of Sunni integrated intellectual narrative. This is also something which is demanded by the Prophetic nature which is not merely “bashar” in the ordinary sense. Positive criticisms are forthcoming and welcomed by the writer who sees himself not as an expert in this field.


*The present writer is grateful to Ence Aman Hj Hassan of the Pustakan Aman Press of Kota Bharu and also Ence ‘Abd al-’Aziz bin Hj Hassan and their staff –jazakumullahu khairan kathira-for giving permission to the writer to avail himself of the works in their library while preparing for this essay. The present writer is also aware of the fact that the data from Qur’anic exegesis, hadith, shama’il and khasa’is al-nubuwwah or dala’il al-nubuwwah , another category of Sunni narrative, must be taken into consideration.Then there is another aspect to the subject, namely the aspect of the narrative in the form of”stories” which may contain some difficulties. However, the ‘adab’ towards the scholars have to be respected. I am grateful to our friend Zaidi Mohd Hassan for his views.

The present writer is currently Very Distinguished Academic Fellow of ISTAC IIUM

The Text of Shaikh Nur al-Din al-Raniri rh

Shaikh Nur al-Din al-Raniri rh has written on this topic of the Muhammadan Light in his work Bad’ Khalq al-Samawat wa al-Ard which is printed in the margin of the work Taj al-Muluk (n.d.) (1)Among the sources mentioned therein is the oft-cited sacred tradition which means ” I was a sacred treasure , and I loved to be known, so I created the world so that I will be known” or “so that they will know Me” (2)Another tradition is cited which is to the effect :“Truly Aallah created the spirit of The Prophet from His essence and He created the whole universe from the Spirit of Muhammad (Ruh Muhammad”.(3). This means that He created the Spirit of the Prophet s.a.w. from non-existence into existence from His Own Presence, not in the sense that the Spirit of the Prophet is created from a part of the essence of God. Another tradition is also cited to the effect “I (the Prophet (s.a.w.) is from Allah , and the believers are from me” (4).This means, as explained by the author himself, that the Prophet is the first creation created by God and the believers are created by Him from him (that is from his light) (5). He also cited another tradition to the effect :“I (Allah) created all things because of you (O Muhammad) and I created you because of Me” (ibid.10). He also cited the tradition to the effect :”Had it not been for you I would not have created the spheres”.(6) Another tradition is also cited to the effect :”I have created the Prophet whereas Adam was between water and clay”. (7)

Other traditions cited by Shakik Nur al-Din rh are the following which are to the effect :”The earliest thing created by Allah is the intellect” (8) ; “The earliest thing created by Allah is the Heavenly Pen (al-Qalam)”(9); “The earliest thing creaqted by Allah are the spirits”(10); then he explains that the intellect, the heavenly Pen, and the spirits are from the Muhammadan Light (Nur Muhammad) as is clear from another tradition cited by him to the effect :”The earliest thing created by Allah is my light” (11) .Also cited is the tradition to the effect :The earliest thing created by Allah is my spirit”(12)

According to Shaikh Nur al-Din, Allah created the Light of Muhammad from the Light of His Ahadiah.He has cited this based on the statement in the text of al-Manzum which is to the effect “The Attributes of Divine Majesty and Divine Beauty have come together, so Divine Beauty has got the upper hand on Divine Majesty, so God created from the two [from His Will-uem] the Spirit of Muhammad, from non-existence into existence.(13).We have to observe that all that which was created are the creations of Allah , not that they are continuous with the Divine Essence, otherwise there will be two eternal entities, and this is polytheism.

Shaikh Nur al-Din says that after Allah has created the Muhammadan Light or the Muhammadan Spirit, He looks at it [with Divine Compassion –uem] , with love , so the Light feels bashful, and it sweats, from its sweat are created the spirits of the prophets , the saints, and the believers who are pious, and from the spirits of the pious believers are created the spirits of the believers who are wrong-doers, and from the spirits of the believers who are wrong-doers are created the spirits of the unbelievers.(14)

He states that from the spirit of mankind is created the spirits of the angels, and from the spirits of the angels are created the spirits of the jinns, from them the spirits of satans, from them the spirit of the animals, amnd from them the spirit of the plant kingdom, some of them having degrees [in the scale of being-uem] above that of the others; and from these plants there emerge elements, namely the atmosphere, fire, water, and the wind (ibid.13). Then he mentions that Allah looks at it with the look of Majesty, then it melts, and becomes water, , some of it becoming fire, then there emerges smoke going into the atmosphere, and from this Allah created the seven heavens.After this there is some remainder, and from it Allah created the sun, the moon, and the stars, and so on.(15)

He cites another famous narration to the effect that Allah created a Tree with four branches, named the Tree of Certainty,then He created the Light of Muhammad in the form of a Peacock, and He placed it on the Tree.The Peacock blessed the Infinite Glory of God for seventy-thousand years.When the Peacock sees that it has so beautiful feathers and other beautiful features, it falls down in prostration five times, that becoming the five daily prayers for the Muhammadan community.

He also cites the narration about God making a lamp from the red ‘aqiq (16) .

The “Kashf al-Ghaibiyyah” oleh Zain al-‘Abidin al-Fatani rh:

Among the popular Jawi texts on this topic is the work b Shaikh Zain al-’Abidin al-Fatani, by the title of “Kashf al-Ghaibiyyah” (lit.”The Unveiling of the Unseen”. .

The Kashf al-Ghaibiyyahis based on the original Arabic of “Daqa’iq al-Akhbar fi Dhikr al-Jannah wa al-Nar” written by Imam ‘Abd al-Rahim bin Ahmad al-Qadhi, and the work “Durar al-Hisan” by Imam al-Suyuti, and the Mashariq al-Anwar” by Shaikh Hasan al-‘Adawi by Shaikh Zain al-‘Abidin al-Fatani rh (Maktabah wa Matba’ah dar al-Ma’arif, Pulau Pinang , t.t.)

This work was composed in the year 130 A.H. On page 3 and the following pages there is the first Chapter about the creation of the greatest Spirit (al-Ruh al-A’zam) , namely the Light of Muhammad salla’Llahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. He states:

Truly there has come the narration that Allah the most High created a Tree

With four branches, and He called it the Tree of the Muttaqin (The Tree

Of the Pious Ones), and in one narration it is The Tree of Certainty (Sha-

Jarah al-Yaqin); then He created the Light of Muhammad in a veil of a very

White Diamond, like the form of a Peacock, and He placed it on that Tree

, and that Light blessed the Infinite Majesty of God for seventy-thousand

years, then He created a Mirror of Bashfulness and placed it in front of the

Light, when the Peacock sees it, and observes its beautiful appearance

full of ornamentation, it becomes bashful in front of the Divine Presence,

and it sweats in six droplets, from the droplets Allah created, the first,

the spirit of Abu Bakar, Allah be pleased with him, from the second

droplet Allah created the spirit of Umar God be pleased with him, and from

the third droplet, He created the spirit of ‘Uthman , and from the fourth

droplet He created the spirit of Ali God be pleased with him, from the

fifth droplet the rose tree and from the sixth droplet the paddy.(17)

Then the narration goes on to mention how the Muhammadan Light prostrated five times, thereby making the five obl,igatory prostrations , hence the obligation of the five daily canonical prayers on Muhammad and his Community. Then the Light becomes bashful and sweats; from the sweat of its nose Allah created the angels, from the sewat of its face, God created the Throne, The Footstool, the Preserved Tablet, the Heavenly Pen, the sun, the moon, the veil, the stars, and things in the heavens.From the sweat of its breast God created the Prophets, the Messengers, the religious scholars, the martyrs, and the pious ones.From the sweat of its back God created the Heavenly Frequented Fane, the Bait al-Maqdis, and all the locations of mosques in the whole world. (18)

There is the mention of other aspects of the creation from the sweat.

From the sweat of its eye-brows are created the believers, men and women from the Muhammadan Community. From the sweat of its ears are created the souls of the Jews and the Christians and the Magians, then the heretics, the unbelievers, those who reject the Truth, and the hypocrites.From the sweat of its feet are created the earth from the east to the West and all that it contains.(19)

Then Allah commands the Light to look in front, in its front there is light, in its right and left there is light. They are Abu Bakar, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman and ‘Ali. Then the light blesses the Infinite Majesty of Allah for seventy-thousand years.

The writer of the work states that : the light of the prophets is created from the Light of Muhammad s.a.w.; it means the souls of the prophets are created from the sweat of the Muhammadan Spirit, and the souls of the Communities of the various prophets are from the sweat of the souls of the respective prophets.

Then there is the narration to the effect that Allah created a lamp from red ‘aqiq , its inside can be seen from the outside, then the Muhammadan Form as is in this world is created by God, and placed in that Lamp, and he stands therein praying, as he can be seen praying in this world.Then the souls of all prophets and others go around the lamp of the Muhammadan light s.a.w. , blessing the Infinite Majesty of God, celebrating His oneness, for one hundred thousand years.Then Allah commands all the souls to see the light.Those who see it at the head will be caliphs among mankind; those who see it at the forehead will become just rulers; those who see it at the eyes will become the memorizers of the sacred Speech of God; those who see it at the eye brows will become painters; those who see at the ears will become those who listen and accept [good teachings and lessons]; those seeing the cheeks will be intelligent doers of good; those seeing the mouth will be the great ones among the kings and rulers. Those seeing the nose will be judges, physicians and perfumers.Those seeing the mouth will be those who fast.And son on; those seeing certain parts of the body will be possessing certain qualities in their earthly existence. For example those seeing the breast will be scholars, noble and those capable of sound disciplined judgment in their life (20). Those not seeing anything will claim divinity like the case of the Pharaoh and those like him (21).

He cites the sacred tradition oft-quoted: ( كنت كنزا مخفيا فأحببت أن أعرف فخلقت الخلق لاعرف ) : I am a sacred treasure and I love to be known so I created the universe aso that I am known [by My creation] (22)..

He also cites the tradition of the Prophet s.a.w.:

( أول ما خلق الله تعالى نورى وفى رواية روحى):

The earliest created by God the most High is my light. In one narration it is mentioned :my spirit (ruhi).

The writer of the work comments: The whole world is created by God the Infinitely Exalted because of (“daripada sebab”) the light of Muhammad s.a.w. as already mentioned .Then he mentions the sacred tradition :

( (خلقت الاشياء لاجلك وخلقتك لاجلى

I created all things because of you (O Muhammad) and I created you for Me.That means The Light of Muhammad is created without intermediary (23).

Through this well known work the concept of the Muhammadan Light is spread among Muslims of this region through the medium of the jawi text.

The following chapter is about the creation of Adam on him be peace. (p. 6 ff).

The ‘ al-Kaukab al-Durri fi al-Nur al-Muhammadi‘ by Shaikh Muhammad bin Isma’il Daud al-Fatani rh:

This text is recently published by the Khazanah al-Faththaniyyah , Kuala Lumpur,2001. This is composed by its author in 1304 A.H. in Makkah. It deals with the Muhammadan Light from page 2 to page 7. The contents are from the narration of Ka’b al-Akhbar , the same data as found in the previous text Kash al-Ghaibiyyah of Shaikh Zain al-’Abidin al-Fatani.

Among the data: Allah takes a Grasp of light from His Light , He commands It to become Muhammad, so it becomes Muhammad; then it becomes a pillar of Light, it prostrates towards Allah.Then that Light is divided into four: the first part becomes the Preserved Tablet, the second becomes Heavenly Pen, command is given to the Pen to write, up to the communities of the prophets, those who are obedient and those who are disobedient, with the consequences. Then there is the mention about those seeing the Light at the various parts possessing various attributes. All creatures are created from this light. This ends with the mention of the creation praying in the image of the letters of the name Ahmad or Muhammad; the standing is the equivalent of alif, the bowing down is equivalent to the letter ha’, the prostration is like the letter mim, and the sitting down is like the letter dal. It is also mentioned that the creation is made in the image of the name Muhammad , the head is like the mim, the two hands like the ha’, the stomach like the mim, the two feet like the dal..

The “Daqa’iq al-Akhbar fi Dhikr al-Jannah wa al-Nar” translated into Malay by Shaikh Ahmad ibn Muhammad Yunus Langka:

This text is translated by him in 1312 A.H. in Makkah ; previously it was published by the Dar Ihya’ al-Kutub al-’Arabiyyah , Egypt.Then it was published by the Maktabah wa Matba’ah al-Ma’arif of Pulau Pinang, undated.

This work deals with the Light of Muhammad s.a.w as the origin of all the creation, as elucidated in the work of Zain al-’Abidin al-Fatani in his Kash al-Ghaibiyyah which has made this text as one of its sources, as mentioned in its introduction.The first chapter has the same contents as what is in the translation of the text.

The Madarij al-Su’ud oleh Nawawi al-Bantani rh

This work Maqdarij al-Su’ud ila ‘ktisa’ al-Burud , in Arabic, is the commentary of the famous text Maulid al-Barzanji .In giving the commentary upon the statement in the al-Barzanji text (24) :

That is: ‘All praise is for Allah Who has opened (the whole of) existence with The Light of Muhammad (al-Nur al-Muhammadi) which flows in everything determined by Divine Pre-Measurement from God the Exalted before creating the heavens and the earth for fifty thousand years…:

Then Shaikh Nawawi al-Bantani rh says, citing the narration of Ka’b al-Akhbar , may Allah be pleased with him: “When Allah wants to create all the creation and to spread out the earth and put up the heavens, He takes a Grasp of the His Light and gives the command : You become Muhammad, and so it becomes as a pillar of light shining brilliantly, until it comes to the veil of darkness; then it falls in prostration, while saying : All praise be for Allah.Then Allah commands: Because of this I created you, and name you Muhammad [the One Praised], from you I begin the creation and [with you] I complete the seal of the messengers; then Allah the Most High divides the light into four parts, from the first part He created the Preserved Tablet, from the second the heavenly Pen, then Allah commands the Pen: You write, then the Pen …for a thousand years because of the awe towards the Divine Command; then the Pen says: What shall I write?God says: You write : ‘There is no deity except Allah and Muhammad is the envoy of Allah’ So the pen writes what is commanded’ then it becomes directed to the Knowledge of God among the creation; then it writes about the children of Adam as to those who are obedient to God and they are brought into Paradise and those who are disobedient and they are brought into Hell.

Then (it writes) about the Community of Nuh , those who are obedient to God who are brought into Paradise, and those who are disobedient and brought into Hell…

The text goes on with the mention of the Communities of Prophet Ibrahim…Musa, …of ‘Isa…, up to the Community of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. Then when the Heavenly Pen wants to write about those who are disobedient among the Community of Muhammad who are to be placed in Hell, Voice is heard from The Most High: ‘ O Pen, be appropriate in your conduct, then the Pen breaks because of the awe towards the Divine…This is followed by the mention of the third part of the light being made into the Throne,and the fourth part being subdivided again into four, from the first part is made the in tellect, from the second is created gnosis, from the third the light of the Throne, and the light of the eye, the light of the daylight, and all these lights are from the Light of Muhammad.

Then the fourth part is placed under the Throne until Allah has created Adam, a.s., then Allah placed the light in his back, and the angels are made to prostrate towards him [as a mark of respect] then he is placed in Paradise, while the angels are in rows behind him looking at the Muhammadan Light. When Adam on him be peace asks why are the angels standing behind him in rows, Allah answers : they are looking at the light of His beloved one Muhammad who is the seal of the messengers and the prophets.Then when Adam requested that the light be placed in front, it is placed on his forehead. So the angels face him in front of him. Then Adam requested that it be placed on his forefinger so that he can look at it; the light becomes all the more resplendent. Then it is mentioned that the light is transferred to Hawwa’ , then to Shith, and so on. Then the light is transferred from one pure womb to another, until it is placed in the loins of ‘Abdullah the father of the Prophet s.a.w., then finally he is brought forth into the world through the womb of his mother Aminah. (25).

The Muhammadan Light in the “Sejarah Melayu”

In the famous work in Malay Classical Literature the Sejarah Melayu or the Sulalatus-Salatin (Shellabear edition, Penerbit fajar Bakti, Kuala Lumpur, 1989 p.1 aqnd the Yayasan Karyawan Edition , Kuala Lumpur, 2001 p. ) it is stated in relation to this Muhammadan Light in the introduction:

Al-hamdulillahi ‘Lladhi la ilaha illah huwa , wa kana fil-azali wa la shai’a ma’ahu. Segala puji-pujian bagi Allah Tuhan yang tiada Tuhan hanya Ia, dan adalah ia pada azal , tiada suatu juapun sertaNya.Wa huwa ‘l-Abadiyyu ‘s-Samadiyyu wa la shay’a ba’daHu.Thumma khalaqa’l-khala’iqa wa la hajata lahu.dan Ialah Tuhan Yang Abadi , laqgi senantiasa adaNya, dan tiada suatu juapun kemudianNya; maka dijadikanNya sekelian makhluk, dan tiada hajat baginya.. Walamma arada izhara RububiyyatiHi fa khalaqa nura habibiHi ; wa min dhalika’l-Nuri khalaqal-anbiya’a wa rafa’a rutbatahu.Maka tatkala ia hendak menyatakan ketahuannya , maka dijadikan Nur kekasihNya , dan daripada nur itulah dijadikan segala anbiya’ , dan diperangkatkan martabatnya. Wa’stafa minhum Adama liyuzhira Nurahu falidhalika sajadal-mala’ikatu kulluhum lahu.Daripada anbiya’ itu nabi Allah Adam supaya menyatakan nur kekasihNya; maka dari kerana itulah sujud sekelian malaikat akan dia…

All praise is for Allah , there is no god but He, and He is pre-Eternal , there is nothig with Him; He is the Eternal, Always Existing, there is nothing after Him, He created all creation, and He has no nedd for them.Then when He He wants to manifest His Divine Lordship , He created the Light of His Beloved, and from it He created all the prophets, and He raised its status. From the prophets He chose Adam to manifest the light of His beloved, and because of it [of the existence of the light in Adam-uem] the angels fell prostrate before him….

In the above quotation there are a number of statements in this important text:

-when Allah wants to manifest His Lordship He creates the light of His beloved one

-the light is then created

-from that light the prophets are created

-that light is raised in its degree of excellence among the created

-from that light is chosen Adam to carry that l.ight within him

-becxause of the existence of the resplendent Muhammadan light in him the angels prostrated to him

Discussion Concerning the Sources of the Concept of The Primordial Muhammadan Light In Sunni Sacred Narrative:

Among the sources of the concept of the Muhammadan Light in Sunni sacred narrative are the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

In the Qur’an there is the mention of the “nur” (light) in the verse which means: “Truly there has come to you :Light and a Book manifest” (5.15).In the tafsir al-Jalalain by al-Suyuti rh it is stated that the “nur” or light is “the Messenger of Allah” s.a.w.. The verse is as follows:

.”قَدْ جَاءَكُمْ مِنْ اللَّه نُور” هُوَ النَّبِيّ صَلَّى اللَّه عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَوَكِتَاب” قُرْآنمُبِين” بَيِّن ظَاهِر

In the “tafsir of al-Qurtubi” it is stated :

قَدْ جَاءَكُمْ مِنْ اللَّه نُور ” أَيْ ضِيَاء ; قِيلَ : الْإِسْلَام , وَقِيلَ : مُحَمَّد عَلَيْهِ السَّلَام ; عَنْ الزَّجَّاج .

There has come to from Allah light , it is said that it is Islam,and it is also said that it is Muhammad s.a.w. , from al-zajjaj. And the book is the Qur’an.

In the “Tafsir al-Tabari” “nur” :there has come to you o the people of trhe Taurat and the Injil Light from Allah, that is the ‘Nur’ or Light is Muhammad s.a.w. through him the truth of Islam is illuminated and througfh him polytheism is abolished. The sentence is :

قَدْ جَاءَكُمْ يَا أَهْل التَّوْرَاة وَالْإِنْجِيل مِنْ اللَّه نُور , يَعْنِي بِالنُّورِ مُحَمَّد صَلَّى اللَّه عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ , الَّذِي أَنَارَ اللَّه بِهِ الْحَقّ , وَأَظْهَرَ بِهِ الْإِسْلَام , وَمَحَقَ بِهِ الشِّرْك

In the “Tafsir ibn Kathir” concerning the verse (5.15) it is stated:

قَدْ جَاءَكُمْ مِنْ اللَّهِ نُورٌ وَكِتَابٌ مُبِينٌيَقُول تَعَالَى مُخْبِرًا عَنْ نَفْسِهِ الْكَرِيمَةِ أَنَّهُ قَدْ أَرْسَلَ رَسُوله مُحَمَّدًا بِالْهُدَى وَدِين الْحَقّ إِلَى جَمِيع أَهْل الْأَرْض

There has come to you from Allah light and a Book manifest, Allah gives news from Himself about Him sending His Messenger Muhammad with guidance and the religion of Truth to all mankind .

Then in the Qur’an in verse 119 of Surah al-Shu’ara’ concerning the statement :

وَتَقَلُّبَكَ فِي السَّاجِدِينَ And about your movement among those who prostrate themselves it is stated:

قَالَ مُجَاهِد وَقَتَادَة : فِي الْمُصَلِّينَ . وَقَالَ اِبْن عَبَّاس : أَيْ فِي أَصْلَاب الْآبَاء , آدَم وَنُوح وَإِبْرَاهِيم حَتَّى أَخْرَجَهُ نَبِيًّا . وَقَالَ عِكْرِمَة : يَرَاك قَائِمًا وَرَاكِعًا وَسَاجِدًا ; وَقَالَهُ اِبْن عَبَّاس أَيْضًا

That is:Mujahid and Qatadah says: among those who perform their prayers. Ibn ‘Abbas rd says: that is in the loins of [his ] ancestors, Adam, Nuh and Ibrahim until God brings him forth as a prophet [through the womb of his mother Aminah ].’Ikrimah says: He sees you standing, bowing down and prostrating. Ibn ‘Abbas also says this.

It is to be noted that in the view of Ibn ‘Abbas there is the interpretation that the Prophet is understood to have been transferred in the generations from Adam in the loins and wombs of pious personalities until his emergence in Arabia in his prophetic history to perform his function as is clear from the Sirah.

In the “Tafsir Ibn Kathir” in relation to the verse above, there is the statement:

وَتَقَلُّبَكَ فِي السَّاجِدِينَ

وَقَوْله تَعَالَى ” وَتَقَلُّبك فِي السَّاجِدِينَ ” قَالَ قَتَادَة ” الَّذِي يَرَاك حِين تَقُوم وَتَقَلُّبك فِي السَّاجِدِينَ ” قَالَ فِي الصَّلَاة يَرَاك وَحْدك وَيَرَاك فِي الْجَمْع وَهَذَا قَوْل عِكْرِمَة وَعَطَاء الْخُرَاسَانِيّ وَالْحَسَن الْبَصْرِيّ وَقَالَ مُجَاهِد كَانَ رَسُول اللَّه صَلَّى اللَّه عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَرَى مِنْ خَلْفه كَمَا يَرَى مِنْ أَمَامه وَيَشْهَد لِهَذَا مَا صَحَّ فِي الْحَدِيث ” سَوُّوا صُفُوفكُمْ فَإِنِّي أَرَاكُمْ مِنْ وَرَاء ظَهْرِي ” وَرَوَى الْبَزَّار وَابْن أَبِي حَاتِم مِنْ طَرِيقَيْنِ عَنْ اِبْن عَبَّاس أَنَّهُ قَالَ فِي هَذِهِ الْآيَة يَعْنِي تَقَلُّبه مِنْ صُلْب نَبِيّ إِلَى صُلْب نَبِيّ حَتَّى أَخْرَجَهُ نَبِيًّا .

The statement of Allah the Most High: “And your movement among those who prostrate themselves” Qatadah says: He Who sees you when you stand and your movement among those who prostrate themselves” in their prayers. He sees you alone and in congregation.This is the view of ‘Ikrimah and ‘Ata’ al-Khurasani and also Hasan al-Basri.

Mujahid says: The messenger of Allah s.a.w. is used to seeing what is behind him just as he sees in front of him.And that which can be witness for this is what is sound in the tradition meaning ‘You straighten tour rows truly I see you behind me’.And al-Bazzar and ibn Abi Hatim narrate from two ways on the authority of ibn ‘Abbas that he is of the opinion that concerning this verse the Prophet moves from the loins of one prophet to that of another until he is brought from [by God] as a prophet [in this world].

In the Tafsir Ruh al-ma’ani of al-Alusi rh,(died. 1170 A.H.)concerning the interpretation of the verse 5.15 it is stated:

{ قَدْ جَاءكُمْ مّنَ ٱللَّهِ نُورٌ } عظيم وهو نور الأنوار والنبـي المختار صلى الله عليه وسلم، وإلى هذا ذهب قتادة واختاره الزجاج، وقال أبو علي الجبائي: عنى بالنور القرآن لكشفه وإظهاره طرق الهدى واليقين واقتصر على ذلك الزمخشري، وعليه فالعطف في قوله تعالى: { وَكِتَـٰبٌ مُّبِينٌ } لتنزيل المغايرة بالعنوان منزلة المغايرة بالذات، وأما على الأول: فهو ظاهر، وقال الطيبـي: إنه أوفق لتكرير قوله سبحانه: { قَدْ جَاءكُمُ } بغير عاطف فعلق به أولاً وصف الرسول والثاني: وصف الكتاب، وأحسن منه ما سلكه الراغب حيث قال: بين في الآية الأولى والثانية النعم الثلاث التي خص بها العباد النبوة والعقل والكتاب، وذكر في الآية الثالثة ثلاثة أحكام يرجع كل واحد إلى نعمة مما تقدم فـ

(26)ندي أن يراد بالنور والكتاب المبين النبـي صلى الله عليه وسلم، والعطف عليه كالعطف على ما قاله الجبائي، ولا شك في صحة إطلاق كل عليه عليه الصلاة والسلام، ولعلك تتوقف في قبوله من باب العبارة فليكن ذلك من باب الإشارة،(27)

[Concerning the explanation of the verse meaning : 'There has come to you from Allah light and an Book' ]… a great light (‘azim) , he is light of all lights (nur al-anwar) , the chosen prophet s.a.w. .And Qatadah is of this view , and also (the well. Known linguist holds this same view) al-zajjaj…And this is not far [from the truth] in my view bcause the clear Book is[also] nabi s.a.w. and the ‘ataf (the conjunction ‘and’) on it said by al-Jubba’I [that is to al-Jubba'I the Mu'tazilite the nur and the book both refer to the Qur'an][hence for Alusi , both refer to the Prophet s.a.w], and there is no doubt in the matter that the mention of each one the two is meant the prophet s.a.w., and if there is hesitation to accept it from the point of view of expression then let that be acceptable to you from the point of view of indication.(28)

In relation with the verse to the effect :”And We have not sent you (O Muhammad) except as a mercy to the worlds”, al-Alusi mentions in his ‘tafsir’(29):

وكونه صلى الله عليه وسلم رحمة للجميع باعتبار أنه عليه الصلاة والسلام واسطة الفيض الإلهي على الممكنات على حسب القوابل، ولذا كان نوره صلى الله عليه وسلم أول المخلوقات، ففي الخبرأول ما خلق الله تعالى نور نبيك با جابر ” وجاء ” الله تعالى المعطي وأنا القاسم ” (30)

(All these are after taking into consideration the reality of the Prophet as a mediator [wasilah] from the overflowing of the Divine Mercy [al-faid al-Ilahi] on all the creatures since the beginning; because of this his light is the first thing creaqted by God ; in the tradition there is the saying ‘The first thing created by God is the light of your Prophet O Jabir’ and the tradition ‘Allah Most High is the Bestower ,and I am the Distributer (Allah ta’ala al-Muti’ wa ana al-Qasim)’

Then al-Alusi cites the opinion of Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jauziyyah in his Miftah al-sa’adah about prophethood and its cosmic function:

وفي مفتاح السعادة لابن القيم أنه لولا النبوات لم يكن في العالم علم نافع البتة ولا عمل صالح ولا صلاح في معيشة ولا قوام لمملكة ولكان الناس بمنزلة البهائم والسباع العادية والكلاب الضارب التي يعدو بعضها على بعض، وكل خير في العالم فمن آثار النبوة وكل شر وقع في العالم أو سيقع فبسبب خفاء آثار النبوة ودروسها فالعالم جسد روحه النبوة ولا قيام للجسد بدون روحه، ولهذا إذا انكسفت شمس النبوة من العالم ولم يبق في الأرض شيء من آثارها البتة انشقت سماؤه وانتشرت كواكبه وكورت شمسه وخسف قمره ونسفت جباله وزلزلت أرضه وأهلك من عليها فلا قيام للعالم إلا بآثار النبوة أهـ؛

“In the ‘Miftah al-Sa’adah’ by ibn al-Qayyim [it is stated]:Had it not been because of prophethood, then there would be nothing at all in this world of useful knowledge, or good act, and real welfare in human life , and there is no foundation for government, and mankind will be in the position like animals and beasts of prey and dogs causing harm, some being at enmity with others.

Every thing which is good in this world is from the effects of prophethood, and every evil thing happening in it or which is to happen are all because of the effects of the overshadowing of the effects of prophecy and its studies.Then the world is like a body and prophecy is like its soul, and there is no body [alive and well] without the soul giving it life. Hence, [when there are no more the effects of prophecy and its studies] when the sun of prophecy is eclipsed in this world, then there will remain no more of its impact, and then the skies will be rent asunder, its stars will be scattered, its sun will be folded up, its moon will be no more, its hills will be flattened, its earth will be convulsed, and the creatures therein will be destroyed, and there is no more support for the universe except through the effects of prophecy. (31)

In the same context, in relation to the meaning of the verse “your movements among those who prostrate” (al-Shu’ara’.217-219) , apart from the explanation that the Prophet moves among the believers who perform their prayers, performing his mission of spreading the faith, and other like duties, the writer of the Ruh al-Ma’ani states(32):

From ibn Jubair : the meaning is that ‘they aqre the prophets’ and ‘seeing your movements just as the movements of those other than you from among the prophets in spreading what is commanded of them, as what you can see, ‘ and ‘those who prostrate themselves’ are the prophets, then there is narrated by one group [of scholars] among them al-Tabanari, al-Bazzar and Abu Nu’aim on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas , that he –God be pleased with him- interpreted ‘your movements among those who prostrate themselves’ as to mean the movements of the Prophet [in the form of the Light of Muhammad] in the loins [of the prophets] until his mother delivered him-on him be blessings and peace. - …’(33)

In the Tafsir al-Wajiz fi Tafsir al-Qur’an al-’Aziz by Imam Abul-Hasan ‘Ali Ahmad al-Wahidi (d.468 A.H.) concerning the verse “There has come to you from Allah light and a Book manifest” , it is stated that ‘light’ (nur) is the Prophet s.a.w. and the Book manifest is the Qur’an.(34).

In the Tafsir al-Munir li Ma’alim al-tanzil al-Musamma Mirah Labid li Kashfi Ma’na Qur’an Majid by Shaikh Nawawi al-Bantani rh , on the margin of which is the Tafsir al-Wahidi , it is stated (35):

The verse to the effect :There has come (…from God to you light)that is the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad s.a.w. and a Book manifest, namely the Qur’an…

In the same tafsir in relation to the explanation of the verse to the effect :and your movements among thoise who prostrate themselves; that is Allah sees your movements in prayer in your standing and your bowing down and sujud and your staying with them who pray and you becoming their imam.It is said that He sees you moving in the loins of the believers men and women,from Adam and Hawwa until Abdullah and Aminah, all the ancestors of the Prophet are not guilty of polytheism as long as the Muhammadan light is in them, and when the Muhammadan light moves out from them, among the men and women, to another person, then it is possible that that person worships that which is other than Allah, and Azar (the father of Ibrahim) did not worship idols except after the Light was transferred to Ibrahim, before its transfer (to Ibrahim) he did not worship iidols…(36)

In the Tafsir Tafsir Al-Durr al-Manthur fi Tafsir al-Ma’thur of Imam al-Suyuti rh volume V page 98 concerning the verse to the effect :Your movements among those who prostrate themselves, there is the mention of the following narration:

(Apart from the mention of the Prophet being with the believers , and he following the rules of the religion in all matters, he praying with them in congregation, and he being able to see them from behind him) there is the narration from ibn Abi Hatim and ibn Marduyah on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas namely :The Prophet s.a.w. continuously moves in the loins of the prophets until his mother gives birth to him .And it is brought out in the narration by ibn Marduyah from ibn ‘Abbas he said :’ I asked the Messenger s.a.w , by my father who will be a ransom to you O Prophet, where were you when Adam was in paradise? The Messenger smiled until his canine teeth become clear.He replied: ‘Truly I was in his loins and when he comes down to the earth I was in his loins, I was in the boat of Nuh, I was thrown in the fire , I was in the loins of my father Ibrahim, and my father and mother are not smeared by the enormity of adultery, and I continuously move in the loins of the chaste into the wombs of the pure (until he is born to his mother Aminah) (37)

In the Tafsir al-Sawi,(38) there is found an explanation about the Muhammadan Light. He says:

There has come to you from Allah light and a Book manifest (namely the Light of the Prophet s.a.w.)- the Prophet is called ‘nur’, light, because he is light which illuminates the heart (basirah) and guides it to the path of truth, and also because he himself is the origin of all and every light, the sensible light and also the light of figurative meaning’

In the Tafsir al-Nasafi-bi Hamish Tafsir al-Khazin(39) there is an explanation:

Nur, is Muhammad ‘alaihis-salam because he brings the light of guidance, just as he is called a lamp bringing forth light.

The same explanation is found in the Tafsir al-Khazin vol. I page 725 concerning the nur in 5:15.

In the tafsir al-Asas fi al-Tafsir by Sa’id Hawwa (40) concerning the ‘nur’ in 5.15 there is the explanation from Allah is nur, nur here is Muhammad salla’Llahu ‘alaihi wa sallam because he affects true guidance and he brings an excellent example to be followed.

In the same tafsir (41) in relation to the verse to the effect “and your movements among those who prostrate themselves” [al-Syu’ara’ 217-219] that is you moving from the loins of one prophet to another until finally he is born as a prophet [born to his mother] (This is apart from the explanation about the Prophet praying together with the believers in congregation and him living in accordance with the rules of the religion in the society together with them)..

Now we can discuss the position of the Muhammadan Light in the Tradition of the Prophet s.a.w.

Traditions Concerning the Nur:

Among the traditions which can be examined are the following:

In the work Kashf al-Khafa’ wa Muzil al-Ilbas ‘Amman Ishtahara min al-Ahadith ‘Ala Alsinatin-Nas’ of al-‘Ajluni (died.1162 A.H.):

(827 – أول ما خلق اللهُ نورُ نبِيكِ يا جابر الحديث

رواه عبد الرزاق بسنده عن جابر بن عبد الله بلفظ قال قلت‏:‏ يا رسول الله، بأبي أنت وأمي، أخبرني عن أول شيء خلقه الله قبل الأشياء‏.‏ قال‏:‏ يا جابر، إن الله تعالى خلق قبل الأشياء نور نبيك من نوره، فجعل ذلك النور يدور بالقُدرة حيث شاء الله، ولم يكن في ذلك الوقت لوح ولا قلم ولا جنة ولا نار ولا ملك ولا سماء ولا أرض ولا شمس ولا قمر ولا جِنِّيٌ ولا إنسي، فلما أراد الله أن يخلق الخلق قسم ذلك النور أربعة أجزاء‏:‏ فخلق من الجزء الأول القلم، ومن الثاني اللوح، ومن الثالث العرش، ثم قسم الجزء الرابع أربعة أجزاء، فخلق من الجزء الأول حَمَلَة العرش، ومن الثاني الكرسي، ومن الثالث باقي الملائكة، ثم قسم الجزء الرابع أربعة أجزاء‏:‏ فخلق من الأول السماوات، ومن الثاني الأرضين، ومن الثالث الجنة والنار، ثم قسم الرابع أربعة أجزاء، فخلق من الأول نور أبصار المؤمنين، ومن الثاني نور قلوبهم وهى المعرفة بالله، ومن الثالث نور إنسهم وهو التوحيد لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الله‏.‏ الحديث‏.‏ كذا في المواهب‏.‏(

Meaning: “The first thing created by Allah is the light of your prophet O Jabir”This is related by ‘Abd al-Razzaq with his sanad being from Juabir bin ‘Abd Allah with the wording: He said: I said, O Messenger of Allah, may my father and mother be ransom for you, tell me about the earliest thing created by Allah before everything else. The Messenger replied: O Jabir, truly Allah created before anything else the Light of your Prophet, from His Light, then he created that light to turn round and round, with the power willed by Him, while at that instant there is no (Preserved) Tablet, no Heavenly Pen, no Paradise, and Hell, no angels, the heavens , the earth, the sun , the moon, the jinns and mankind. Then God divided that Light into four parts, from the first part He created the Heavenly Pen, from the second He created the (Preserved) Tablet, from the third He created the Throne, then He divided the fourth part into four parts .From the first part He created the angels bearing the Throne, from the second the Footstool, from the third the remainder of the angels, then He divided the fourth part into four.From the first He created the heavens, from the second the earths, from the third Paradise and Hell, then He divided the fourth part into four. From the first He created the light of the vision of the believers; from the second he created the light of their hearts, namely the gnosis of God; from the third He created the light of their intimacy, that is tauhid (or the Oneness of God), there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Envoy of Allah. Thus from the ‘Mawahib ‘ of al-Qastallani).

The narration goes on:

وقال فيها أيضا‏:‏ واختُلِف هل القلم أول المخلوقات بعد النور المحمدي أم لا‏؟‏ فقال الحافظ أبو يعلى الهمداني‏:‏ الأصح أن العرش قبل القلم، لِما ثبت في الصحيح عن ابن عمر قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم‏:‏ قدر الله مقادير الخلق قبل أن يخلق السماوات والأرض بخمسين ألف سنة، وكان عرشه على الماء، فهذا صريح في أن التقدير وقع بعد خلق العرش، والتقدير وقع عند أول خلق القلم، …> عبادة بن الصامت مرفوعا ‏”‏أول ما خلق الله القلم، فقال له أكتب، فقال رب وما أكتب‏؟‏ قال أكتب مقادير كل شيء‏”‏ رواه أحمد والترمذي وصححه‏.‏

He explains about the issue: There is difference of views [about the matter] among men of learning.Is the heavenly Pen the first of the creation after the Muhammadan Light or not? Al-hafiz Abu Ya’la al-Hamadani is of the view: The most sound view is that the ‘Arsh is before the Heavenly Pen, because this is established in sound narration on the authority of ibn ‘Umar.He said: The Messenger of Allah said: Allah determined the decrees[ of the] creation before creating the heavens and the earth by fifty thousand years, and His Throne was upon water. It is clear that the decree is after the creation of the Throne. And the determination of the decree is at the first instant of the creation of the Heavenly Pen…Then on the authority of ‘Ubadah bin al-Samit: marfu’, ‘The earliest thing created by God is the Heavenly Pen, and He commanded it ‘Write’ The Pen said: O Lord what shall I write?He replied : Write the decrees of all the creatures.’ Related by Ahmad and al-Tirmidhi, al-Tirmidhi saying it a sound tradition.

The narration goes on with the following:

وروى أحمد والترمذي وصححه أيضا من حديث أبي رزين العقيلي مرفوعا‏:‏ إن الماء خلق قبل العرش

وروى السدي بأسانيد متعددة إن الله لم يخلق شيئا مما خلق قبل الماء، فيجمع بينه وبين ما قبله بأن أولية القلم بالنسبة إلى ما عدا النور النبوي المحمدي والماء والعرش انتهى

And Ahmad and Tirmidhi narrated it, the latter saying it as sound tradition, from the tradition of Abu Razin al-’Uqaili, marfu’, : “Truly water is created before the Throne”.

And al-Sindi related with a number of sanads, that “Allah has not created anything before creating water”; and combining this with the previous one can be done by taking the position that the primacy of the creation of the Pen is in relation to what is other than the Muhammadan Light, water and the Throne.

Concerning the creation of the Heavenly Pen, there is the narration:

824 أول ما خلق الله القلم‏.‏

رواه أحمد والترمذي وصححه عن عبادة بن الصامت مرفوعا بزيادة فقال له أكتب، قال رب وما أكتب‏؟‏ قال أكتب مقادير كل شيء،

The first thing created by Allah is the Heavenly Pen“.Ahmad related it, and Tirmidhi pronounces it as sound, on the authority of ‘Ubadah bin al-Samit, marfu’ with the addition: ‘He said to it, Write! It said: O Lord what shall I write? He replied: Write the decree of all things.

The narration goes on :

قال ابن حجر في الفتاوى الحديثية قد ورد أي هذا الحديث بل صح من طرق، وفي رواية إن الله خلق العرش فاستوى عليه، ثم خلق القلم فأمره أن يجري بإذنه، فقال يا رب بم أجري‏؟‏ قال بما أنا خالق وكائن في خلقي من قطر أو نبات أو نفس أو أثر أو رزق أو أجل، فجرى القلم بما هو كائن إلى يوم القيامة، ورجاله ثقات إلا الضحاك بن مزاحم فوثقه ابن حبان وقال لم يسمع من ابن عباس، وضعفه جماعة، وجاء عن ابن عباس رضي الله عنهما موقوفا عليه‏:‏ إن أول شيء خلقه الله القلم، فأمره أن يكتب كل شيء ورجاله ثقات،

وفي رواية لابن عساكر مرفوعة إن أول شيء خلقه الله القلم، ثم خلق النون، وهي الدواة، ثم قال له اكتب ما يكون أو ما هو كائن الحديث

Ibn Hajar says in his al-Fatawi al-Hadithah: It has come to be narrated [namely this tradition] that it is sound from a number of ways [of transmission].In one narration : Truly Allah has created the Throne, then He is established on it [in Power and authority], then He created the Heavenly Pen, then He commanded it to flow in accordance with His Permission, then it asks: O Lord with what I shall flow? He replied: With all that of which I am the Creator, that which is in my creation, from the rain, vegetation, or soul, or effect, or sustenance, or term of life, then the Pen flows with what is to exist until the Day of Judgment. His narrators are trustworthy except al-Dahhak bin Muzahim, but ibn Hibban says he is trustworthy.And he said: He has not heard from ibn ‘Abbas, and a group of scholars considers him weak. There has come a narration on the authority of ibn ‘Abbas God be pleased with both of them, mauquf on him [to the effect that] The first thing God created is the pen, then He created the ink-pot (nun), it is the ink. Then He said to it: Write what will be in existence or what exists-tradition.:

The narration goes on:

وروى ابن جرير أنه صلى الله عليه وسلم قال ‏{‏ن ‏(‏في الأصل ‏(‏نون‏)‏ مكان ‏(‏ن‏)‏‏)‏ والقلم وما يسطرون‏}‏ قال لوح من نور، وقلم من نور، يجري بما هو كائن إلى يوم القيامة انتهى

It is related by ibn Jarir that the messenger s.a.w. says: Nun. In the origin it is ‘nun’ in place of ‘letter nun’ by the pen and what they write, he said: The Tablet is from nur, the pen is from nur, it flows with what is in existence until the day of Judgment.

And in the narration of ibn ‘Asakir, marfu’, : the earliest thing created by God is the Pen, then “Nun” the Ink –pot, then He says’Write what exists and will exist’.

In the same text there is the narration as follows:.

وفى النجم روى الحكيم الترمذي عن أبي هريرة أن أول شيء خلق الله القلم، ثم خلق النون وهي الدواة، ثم قال له أكتب، قال وما أكتب، قال أكتب ما كان وما هو كائن إلى يوم القيامة وذلك قوله تعالى ‏{‏ن والقلم وما يسطرون‏}‏ ثم ختم على فم القلم فلم ينطق ولا ينطق إلى يوم القيامة، ثم خلق الله العقل، فقال وعزتي وجلالي لأكْمِلَنَّكَ فيمَن أحببتُ، ولأنْقُصَنَّكَ<صفحة 309> فيمن أبغضت، وقال اللقاني ‏(‏في الأصل ‏(‏اللاقاني‏)‏‏)‏ في شرح جوهرته‏:‏ القلم جسم نوراني خلقه الله، وأمره بِكَتْبِ ما كان وما يكون إلى يوم القيامة، وتمسك عن الجزم بتعيين حقيقته، وفي بعض الآثار أول شيء خلقه الله القلم، وأمره أن يكتب كل شيء، وفي بعضها إن الله خلق اليراع، وهو القصب ثم خلق منه القلم، وفي رواية أول شيء كتبه القلم أنا التواب أتوب على من تاب انتهى‏.‏

In the ‘al-Najm’ , al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi has narrated on the authority of Abu Hurairah : that the first thing God created was the pen, then the ink-container, it is the ink, then He commanded: Write, It said : What shall I write? He said: Write what was, what is and will be until the Day of Judgment; that is [in relation to the commentary of] the statement of Allah the Most High: “Nun.By the Pen and what they write. “Then He placed a seal on the mouth of the Pen and the Pen does not utter anything and it shall not utter until the Day of Judgment.Then God created the intellect.He said: By my Majesty and Power, I will truly perfect you in any person whom I love. And I will decrease you in the person with whom I am in anger.Al-Laqqani says (in the original al-Laqani)) in the commentary of his ‘Jauharah’ : ‘The Pen is a body of spiritual light (jism nurani) created by God, and He commanded it to write what has existed, and what exists and will exist until the day of Judgment.And he refrains from determining its reality , and in some narration of hadith about the creation of first thing, created by God is the Pen,and He commanded it to write about everything, and in some narration : Truly God created the Yara’ (like al-Qalam) or ‘al-Qasab, and from it He created the Pen….’ (42)

In the work “Nazm al-Mutanathir min al-Hadith al-Mutawatir” by Imam Muhammad bin Ja’far al-Kattani rh,in the chapter ‘kitab al-iman up to kitab al-manaqib’, no.194 under the caption of the tradition :”awwalu ma khalaqa’Llah”, there is found the explanation as follows:

194-  أول ما خلق اللّه

- ذكر الأمير في مبحث الوجود من حواشيه على جوهرة اللقاني أنها متواترة‏.‏

‏(‏قلت‏)‏ ورد في بعض الأحاديث أن أول ما خلق اللّه ‏(‏1‏)‏ النور المحمدي وفي بعضها ‏(‏2‏)‏ العرش في بعضها ‏(‏3‏)‏ البراع أي القصب وصح حديث أول ما خلق اللّه ‏(‏4‏)‏ القلم وفي غيره أول ما خلق اللّه ‏(‏5‏)‏ اللوح المحفوظ وجاء بأسانيد متعددة ‏(‏6‏)‏ أن الماء لم يخلق قبله شيء وفي بعض الأخبار ‏(‏7‏)‏ أن أول مخلوق الروح وفي بعضها ‏(‏8‏)‏ العقل إلا أن حديث العقل فيه كلام لأئمة الحديث بعضهم يقول هو موضوع وبعضهم ضعيف فقط*

وأجيب عن التعارض الواقع فيها بأن أولية النور المحمدي حقيقية وغيره إضافية نسبية وأن كل واحد خلق قبل ما هو من جنسه فالعرش

Al-Amir in the discussion about existence from his marginal notes on the Jauharah of al-Laqqani states that the narrations are ‘mutawatir’ in nature.

(I said) [says al-'Ajluni]: In some traditions ‘truly the earliest thing created by God (1) is the Muhammadan Light, in some others it is(2) the Throne, in some others it is (3) the Yaqra’ (like the Pen), that is the Qasab (from which Pen is made-uem). It is sound narration that ‘the first thing created by God is (4) The Pen, and in other narration ‘the first thing created by God’ is (5) the Preserved Tablet, and then there are a number of isnads [mentioning] (6) that it is water, and God has not created anything before it, and in some traditions (7) truly the first thing created by God is Spirit (al-Ruh), and in some others it is (8) the intellect, except that in the tradition about the intellect , in connection with it, some of the imams of hadith hold the view that it is fabricated, and some others just say that it is weak only.

I would like to say [in resolving the issue of] the contradiction in the matter:that the primacy of the Muhammadan Light is in reality, and the primacy of the other things [the water, intellect, the Pen, Throne etc] are in relation to others [not in reality] and everything belonging to its kind being created the first is the Throne. So the Throne is created first before gross bodies ; the intellect being the first of the subtle bodies; yara’ is the first from among the vegetable nature (nabatiah), and Allah is Most Knowing. (43).

In the work “Al-Mawahib al-Ladunniyyah bil-Minah al-Muhammadiyyah” (2 volumes), by Shaikh Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Abu Bakr al-Khatib al-Qastallani (died.923 A.H.) , in the first volume page 5 he states:

Know O reader of sound mind and having qualities of perfection and com pleteness – may Allah grant me and you His taufiq -with the guidance to the Path of Truth that truly when there occurs The Divine Will to create the creation and determine their sustenance, He manifested the reality of Muhammad from the lights of Samadiyyah in the Presence of the Ahadiyyah, then He created all the worlds, all of them, the upper and the lower realms, in the form of His Determinations as existing in pre-eternity in His Will and Divine Knowledge, then He makes known about his prophethood and the good tidings of his messengership, while Adam was in non-existence, as stated that Adam was in between soul and body.

Then there poured forth from him- blessings and peace be upon him- all the various spirits, there emerged the Exalted Assembly with the manifestation in the most majestic way, and for them there is the sweetest of way, and he is – peace and blessings be upon him- the most exalted kind, over all the other creation, He is The Greatest father for all that exists and mankind (all together).

Then when the time is complete for him to be in the inner name, in relation to the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him (to) exist in the physical form,and [for the] spirit to combine with the body, then the determination of time is transferred to the external name, then Muhammad –peace and blessings be upon him- is manifested with his total physical body and spirit, even though he is the latest to appear physically , and you know his value, namely, he is the treasure of the secret and the locus of the occurance of the Command; then the command cannot come through except through him; goodness does not come except from him…Narration of the tradition of the Prophet from Imam Muslim in his ‘sahih’, from the narration of ‘Abd Allah bin ‘Umar from the Messenger s.a.w. that he said: ‘Truly Allah has determined the decrees of all the creatures before He created the heavens and the earth for fifty thousand year, and the Throne was upon water.”

…From ‘Irbad bin Sariyah from the Prophet s.a.w. “Truly I was in the Presence of Allah as the seal of the Prophets – whereas Adam was stretched out in his earthly body [not yet alive with the breathing of the spirit in him]‘.narrated by Imam Ahmad and al-Baihaqi, also al-Hakim, to al-Hakim it is sound narration.

Further he states : From Maisarah al-Dabbi, he said: ‘I asked: O Messenger of Allah, when did you become prophet? He replied: ‘When Adam was between soul and body’. This is the wording in the narration of Ahmad and al-Bukhari in his ‘Tarikh’, and Abu Nu’aim in his “al-Hilyah”.Al-Hakim says it is sound (sahih).

After mentioning a number of traditions concerning the topic of the existence of Muhammad before his earthly appearance, Qastallani gives explanations about the meanings of the traditions cited.

He states::

It can be supposed that the tradition (about Muhammad being a prophet while Adam was still in between body and soul) together with the narration of al- Irbad bin Sariyah about the fact of being prophet is obligatory and established for him, then this appears on the physical plain [in history]. Truly writing (‘al-kitabah’) is used in relation to something which obligatory , like the verse ‘ fasting has been made obligatory upon you (lit.’it has been written [as obligatory] upon you) and the usage in ‘Allah has made obligatory (lit.Allah has written) that I will truly be victorious ‘ And in the tradition of Abu Hurairah (it is stated) that they (the Companions) asked: When was prophethood made obligatory on you? The Prophet s.a.w. replied : (At the time when ) Adam was still in between soul and body’.Related by al-Tirmidhi , he says it is hasan sahih.

Then al-Qastallani mentions the tradition in ‘Amali ibn Sahal al-Qattan’ from Sahal ibn Salih al-Hamadhani he said: I asked Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn ‘Ali how Prophet Muhammad became prophet coming before other prophets whereas he is the last to have been sent. He replied: ‘Truly Allah the Most High –when He took the children of Adam from their progeny from their backs, making them witnesses for themselves, Am I not your Lord? ‘ and Prophet Muhammad [then in the realm of spirits] was the first to have replied :’Yes’ because of that he becomes the foremost among the prophets while he is the last [historically] to be sent [in world history]. If you say that ‘prophecy’ is a quality which must be present in a person so qualified, then how come he has that quality only when he was forty years old, then how is that the attribute is there already whereas he is still not yet in existence? Then the explanation which can be given is the one found in Imam al-Ghazali in his ‘Kitab al-Nafkh wa al-Taswiyah’ concerning this matter and concerning the the tradition :’I am the earliest prophet from the point of creation and the last from the point of being sent [in history]‘, [namely], the meaning of creating (al-khalq) here is determining and not bringing into being (‘al-taqdir duna al-ijad); so the messenger before his mother giving birth to him was not in existence as a creation of Allah, but he existed in the form of objective goals and aspects of perfection (‘al-ghayat wa al-kamalat’) which precede in the decree which follows suit in existence [in history later when the time comes-uem].this is meaning of the statement: [of the wise ones]: ‘The first point of thought is the last point in action’and the last point in action is the first point in thought’ (‘awwalu al-fikrah akhir al-’amal, wa akhir al-’amal awwal al-fikrah).

In giving the explanations on this issue the scholar mentions the point of the the engineer who has the concept and the image (surah) of the building to be built in his mind, in perfect form (dar kamilah); that is in existence in the ‘taqdir’ or determination, and that is what will exist subsequently as a result of the action done. The complete building is the earliest in the determination (taqdir) and that is the last in terms of its physical existence. That is the analogy about the Prophet- ‘I am a prophet’ indicating what is expressed , namely the prophet in the determination ( or taqdir) , and that is the last to exist physically. Hence, that is the analogy about the Prophet s.a.w. ‘I am a prophet’ , namely in the determination before the perfecting of the creation of Adam, because Adam is not created except for bringing out from him his progeny, Muhammad s.a.w.

Then he goes on to explain : namely that this reality cannot be understood except by knowing that the house or the building has two modes of existence (lit. two existences), one its existence in the mind of the engineer and his brain, and he sees the shape and form of the house outside of the mind in the essences (a’yan) and the existence in the mind is the cause for the existence outside the mind, which can be seen by the eyes, and that must come first.Hence- you should know, that God has determined the taqdir , then He brings into existence [those determined] in accordance with the decree…(44).

After this he cites traditions about the early creation of the Muhammadan Light and how other things are brought into being from it..(45)

As for the position of ‘Abd al-Razzaq rh as a source for the tradition on the Muhammadan Light being the source of all creation, there seems to be no issue worthy of note.This is , among others, clear from the authority granted by al-Bukhari to his narration.Al-Bukhari has taken from him 120 narrations and Imam Muslim has taken 400 .(46)

Concerning ‘Abd al-Razzaq, there is an observation about him in the work

Al-Risalah al-Mustatrafah li Bayan Mashhur Kutub al-Sunnah al-Musharrafah, by Maulana al-Imam al-Sayyid Muhammad Ja’far al-Kattani (Maktab al-Kulliyat al-Azhariyyah-Qahiran, undated) on page 13 namely that the: Musannaf Abi Bakr ‘Abd al-Razzaq bin Humam bin Nafi’ al-Himyari died in the year 211 of the Hijrah is smaller than the Musannaf ibn Abi Shaibah,arranged in accordance with the books and chapters [on the sub jects concerned]. And the Jami’ ‘Abd al-Razzaq apart from the ‘Musannaf’ is a well. known and large jami’ work and most of his traditions are brought out by the two shaiks (Bukhari dan Muslim) and the four imams of traditions. This author accepts ‘Abd al-Razzaq as a good authority in hadith.

Concerning the position of ‘Abd al-Razzaq bin Humam bin Nafi’ al-Himyari this seems to be clear, among others, from the confidence given by al-Suyuti in his text of the tafsir Al-Durr al-Manthur .In volume one of the work he cites the narration of ‘Abd al-Razzaq in the first fifty pages of the work at least fourteen times. Among these on page 42 :it is related by ‘Abd al-Razzaq, ‘Abd bin Himaid, ibn Jarir, and ibn Abi Hatim and Abu Shaikh in ‘al-’azamah’ from Mujahid about the saying [of Allah]: to the effect:’He created what is in the earth for you all ‘ and ‘He has subjected to you all that is in the earth…

On page 43 : And it is related by ‘Abd al-Razzaq , ibn Abi Hatim from Sufyan al-Thauri , he said: under the earth is rock…

In the same page: And Waki’ , ‘Abd al-Razzaq, ‘Abd bin Humaid , ibn al-Mundhir and ibn ‘Asakir has related from ibn ‘Abbas , he said: Truly Allah has brought Adam out of Paradise…

On page 52 : ‘Abd al-Razzaq,. Ibn al-Mundhir, ibn Marduwah and al-Baihaqi in the ‘al-Asma’ was-Sifat’ has related together with ibn ‘Asakir from ibn ‘Abbas

That he said: ‘Allah has created Adam from from the outer crust of the earth (adim al-ard) on Friday after ‘Asar, and named him Adam, then he had a covenant with him, then he forgot it, hence he is called ‘insan’ (from the verb ‘nasiya’, to forget-uem)…

On page 39:And ‘Abd al-Razzaq, ‘Abd bin Humaid, and ibn Jarir related from Qatadah, concerning the saying of Allah (to the effect):’ And for them there will be wives pure’ he said: ‘Allah has purified them from urine and stool…

And so on all of which indicate the position of ‘Abd al-Razzaq as a source for accepting traditions in a trustworthy manner.

In the text al-Shifa’ of Qadi ‘Iyad rh there is found explanation from ibn ‘Abbas rd that the Prophet s.a.w. was present in the Divine Presence in his spirit before He created Adam for two thousand years, his light blessing the infinite Majesty of God just like the angels, from him [his light] is created Adam a.s.

When Adam was created the [Muhammadan light] was placed in his loins.The Prophet said: Then Allah brought me down to the earth, in Adam’s loins, then I was made to be in the loins of Nuh, Ibrahim, and continuously Allah has made me move in the loins of the noble ones and the wombs of pure women , until He brought me forth through my parents to the world, and they are untouched in the slightest by shameful deeds.The poem of ibn ‘Abbas praising the Prophet and his virtues bears testimony to the soundness of the narrative.(47).

In connection with the explanation of the meaning of the verse :‘And [He] knows about your movements among those who prostrate themselves” , ibn ‘Abbas says that this means : from one prophet to another prophet until I brought you out as a prophet (at the time you were sent)”(48) .

In relation to the explanation of the verse to the effect Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth , Ka’b al-Akhbar and ibn Jubair hold the view that the meaning of the second light , namely, the similitude of his light , is Muhammad s.a.w. . So the similitude of his light is the Light of Muhammad s.a.w..He is placed in the loins of the Prophets just like a niche ( ka mishkat), its attribute is such, and the lamp (al-misbah) is his heart, the glass (al-zujajah) is his breast , namely it is like a star because of what it contains, consisting of faith and wisdom, being lighted from the blessed tree, namely the Light of Ibrahim on him be peace, it is like a blessed tree; its oil almost burns like fire, namely the prophethood of Muhammad …is clear to mankind even before his speech, like oil …(49). :

Concerning the light of the Prophet s.a.w. in the Shifa’ there is a statement (50)

Among these are the emergance of the signs during the birth of the Prophet s.a.w. and what has been told by his mother and what has been seen of the wonders of the moment; how he raised his head during the birth, his face looking at the heavens, and what was seen by the mother of the light coming out during that birth; also what was observed by Umm ‘Uthman ibn al-’As about the coming down of the stars and the emergance of light at birth which made nothing perseptible except that light only, and then the remarks of al-Shafa Umm ‘Abd al-Rahman bin ‘Auf : When the Messenger s.a.w. was born…the Messenger … he heard the voice: ‘Allah gives mercy to thee and the whole of the East and the West was illuminated for me until I could see the palaces of Rum”(51).

Then in the work al-Madkhal of ibn al-Hajj there are a number of narrations concerning the light of the Prophet s.a.w. Among these there is the narration :

It is related by Imam ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Siqilli rahimahullahu ta’ala in the work ‘al-Dalalat’ by him, with the wording: ‘Truly Allah has not created a creation more beloved to Him than this community; and there is nothing more noble than His prophet s.a.w., then other prophets after him, then the truthful ones, then the chosen saints.And (in relation to ) this truly Allah has created the Light of Muhammad s.a.w. before creating Adam by two thousand years, creating it in the form of a pillar in front of the Throne, and it blesses the infinite majesty of God and sanctifies Him.Then He created Adam on him be peace from that Light of Muhammad s.a.w. and He created from that light of Adam the light of the prophets on them blessings and peace.(52).

Further in the al-Madkhal II.29 there is the narration:

Al-Faqih al-Khatib Abu al-Rabi’ gives the indication in his work ‘Shifa’ al-Sudur’ to a number of matters which are of immense importance; among these is the narration , namely, that when Allah the Most Wise wanted to create the essence of the Prophet s.a.w. which is blessed, He ordered Jibril on him be peace to descend to the earth, and bring with him earth which is going to be the heart of the earth, with its glory and light…(until the narration about the creation of the Light of Muhammad and the Light of Muhammad shines at the back of Adam, the angels stand behind Adam to see the light of Muhammad s.a.w….Then Adam asked so that the light is placed where he himself can see it, so God placed it where Adam could see it, with the indication of the ‘la ilaha illa’Llah Muhammadun Rasulullah’ and in the prayer (by looking at his forefinger)…then the light is placed on Adam’s forehead it looks like the sun in its orbit or the moon in the night of its fullness (53).

In the same text is mentioned the narration about the first thing created by God being the Light of Muhammad and from it is created all other things.,

Concerning the Light of Muhammad narrations can also be found in the work entitled Hujjatu’Llah ‘alal-‘Alamin fi Mu’jizati Sayyidil-Mursalin by Syaikh Yusuf al-Nabhani.(54) He says :

Nobility and excellence (‘karamah’ and’ fadilah’) has not been grant ed among them [among the prophets] except the same is granted to him salla’Llahu ‘alaihi wa sallam.Adam on him be peace has been granted a boon from God, namely He is created by the [Creative] Hands of God , and so Allah granted His Boon to Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him by opening for him his breast, and taking him close to His Divine Self, making his breast for Him, placing in it faith and wisdom, and the prophetic morals; so the boon for Adam was the creation of existence (wujud) and for the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. the grant of the prophetic morals, even as the creation of Adam was for the creation of the Prophet in his loins; so our prophet Muhammad s.a.w. is the objective and Adam on him be peace is the means for that, and the objective has precedence over the means.As for the prostration of the angels for Adam on him be peace , says Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, in his commentary of the Qur’an : the angels are commanded to prostrate themselves because of the presence of the Muhammadan light on his forehead.

In the al-Mustadrak of al-Hakim rh there are a number of narrations concerning the light of the Prophet s.a.w.Among these are the following :

(It is related to us) by ‘Ali bin Hamshad al-’Adl by imla’ , Harun bin ‘Abbas al-Hashimi has related to us , Jundul bin Waliq has related to us (and so on reaching up to al-’Abbas rd) that the Prophet said: Allah has revealed to ‘Isa on him be peace , O ‘Isa, have faith in Muhammad and command anybody from among your community who happens to come across him to have faith in him, and had it not been for Muhammad I would not have created Adam, and had it not been for Muhammad I would not have created Paradise, Hell; I created the Throne on water, then it shook, so ‘la ilaha illa’Lllah Muhammadun Rasulullah ‘ was written on it, so it became calm.

(Al-Hakim says this hadith is sound) and it is not related by Bukhari and Muslim)(55)

From Maysarah al-Fakhr, he says that he asked the Messenger of Allah, “O Messenger of Allah, when were you a prophet?” He replied: “While Adam was still in between soul and body”(56)

From Maysarah al-Fakhr also, he says, that he had asked the Messenger of Allah when he was a prophet.He replied : “When Adam was still between soul and body.” (57)

From ‘al-Irbad bin Sariyah he says: I heard the Messenger of Allah s.a.w. saying”Truly I was in the Presence of God in the early part of the Book as the seal of the Prophets, while Adam was stretched in his body , I will inform you abou the interpretation of this, (I am) the prayer of my father Ibrahim , the glad tidings of my brother ‘Isa to his community, and I am the vision of my mother , which she saw light coming out from her body [during my birth] illuminating clearly for her the castles of Syria”(58)

Concerning the matter there is narration from Khalid bin Ma’dan , from a number of the Companions of the Prophet s.a.w. that is they asked him about himself. Tell us about yourself .He replied: I am the prayer of my father Ibrahim , the glad tidings of ‘Isa [to his community about my coming in future], and my mother saw at my birth light coming out from her, illuminatingt clearly for her Busra, and Busra is in Syria. Al-Hakim says that Khalid bin Ma’dan is from among the best of the Tabi’in, and he was the friend of Mu’adh bin Jabal(59).

In the text entitled Jam’ al-Wasa’il fi Sharh al-Shama’il (lit-Tirmidhi) of Mulla ‘Ali bin Sultan Muhammad al-Qari rh (died in1014 H.) there are a number of explanations about the matter.Among them are the following:

Concerning the statement in the Shama’il of Tirmidhi that people seeing the Prophet without having known of him previously feeling so awed by him , to Mulla ‘Ali Qari this is in reference to his majesty and dignity, he says: because there in him the attribute of majesty and with it the the awsomeness of the personality coming from the Divine Presence, and being outpouring from the celestial realm (sifah al-jalal wa ‘alaihi al-haibah al-ilahiyyah wal-fuyud al-samawiyyah)(60).

And in the same text there is the statement concerning ‘shama’il’, namely he is more beautiful than the moon-ahsan minal-qamar-The writer explains this in this way: concerning him emerging on the horizons (in the world of the sensible) and the world of souls (of men) with the additional perfection in the tangible and intellectual form, in fact, in reality every light is created from his light (ma’a ziyadah al-kamalat al-suwariyyah wal-ma’nawiyyah, bal fil-haqiqah kullu nurin khuliqa min nurih).

And in relation to the meaning of the verse to the effect:Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth, and the analogy of his light – that is the Light of Muhammad-the nur of his countenance s.a.w., the real, in essence, is inseparable from him even for a moment day and night, whereas the light of the moon is acquired, borrowed [from the sun] sometimes decreasing and sometimes overshadowed [by something else](61)

In the explanations of al-Munawi rh concerning the Prophet s.a.w. being more beautiful than the moon as clear from the text Shama’il al-Tirmidhi , it is stated: That is his countenance to every person; and in the narration of ibn al-Jauzi and others and also Jabir, ‘in my eyes’ as sunstitute for ‘to me’ (‘indi’) ; in the narration of Abu Nu’aim from Abu Bakr , his countenance is like the circle around the moon (‘daratul-qamar’) and in the narration of Darimi from Rabi’ bint al-Mu’awwidh she says:When I saw him I saw the sun rising in its glory.In the narration of al-Mubarak and ibn al-Jauzi from ibn ‘Abbas[it is mentioned that] he has no shadow (lam yakun lahu zill), and he did not stand in the sun except his light overcomes the light of the sun, as is clear from Baijuri (62)

Also in the explanations of al-Munawi in relation to the statement: just like light coming out from in between his teeth, it is stated: it is unnecessary to add (‘like’) (‘ka’) like that which is done by the commentator (of the Shama’il) , how can that be so, [this is] because (what comes out from in between his teeth) is the light of the sensible (the physical light , not light in the abstract, intellectual sense) and he says if that is not physical light how come the wording is ‘ru’iya”: being seen [so]. This means that the light is not ma’nawi or abstract [but really physical light].(63)

In relation to the statement in the Shama’il : when the Prophet s.a.w. came to Madinah (everything) became illuminated, Mulla ‘Ali Qari says: every part of the city of Madinah became illuminated with the sensible light or physical light discernable with the physical eyes-or it can also mean that light in the abstract because by the entry of the Prophet then the light of guidance in general and through it various kinds of darkness are lifted, with the linguistic indication showing excessiveness of meaning (al-mubalaghah), in which, on that day, everything in this world takes its light from Madinah.Or the illumination is figurative indicating the extreme joy for the inhabitants of the city – together with them not caring (in the situation) for those at enmity with them . The author also mentions the opinion of al-Tibbi who sees it as physical light [emanating from the light of Muhammad in the Prophet s.a.w.-uem]..(64)

In the commentary of al-Munawi on the passage in Shama’il of Tirmidhi it is stated: The most sound view [al-asahh] is that every part of the city of Madinah became illuminated by the light in reality (not as figurative usage only) not tajrid (not in the abstract) , how can it otherwise, when he himself in essence in totality is light (‘wa qad kanat dhatuhu kullaha nuran’) , and Allah the Most High has said: [to the effect] : There has come to from God light and a Book Manifest’ and he is light, illuminating the whole cosmos, and he is a lamp giving light . (65)

In the al-Mawahib al-ladunniyyah –Hashiah Shama’ilal-Tirmidi of Shaikh Ibrahim al-Bajuri (d.1276 A.H.) there are illuminating comments too. In relation to the passage :those who see him badihah (without seeing him before) will feel extremely awed by him- that is seeing him before observing his so exalted morals and his so precious life , will feel extremely awed by him, this is because there is in him the attribute of majesty and awsomeness which emanate from the awsomeness of the Divine Himself (sifat al-Jalal al-rabbaniyyah ) (lima ‘alaihi minal-haibah al-ilahiyyah).

Then he cites the view of ibn al-Qayyim about the matter: namely: The difference between the sense of majesty and conceit (in a person) is this: that majesty is the many effects in the heart of the person because of his sense of the awsomeness of God (bi’azamati al-Rabb) and love for Him, as well as a sense of His Divine Majesty.When the heart of a person is full with such experience, then there will descend into him the feeling of serenity (al-sakinah), and he is invested with the attire of majesty; and (because of this) his speech becomes as it were light,his knowledge is light, and if he is silent, there is that majesty in him, and grandeur (al-waqar) and when he speaks he attracts the hearts of men, and their attention.

As for conceit or arrogance, it is the effect of so many influences in the heart, of ignorance, injustice, conceit, or self-vanity.When the heart of a person is full with such experience, there will depart from him sense of servitude [to God] and there will descend on him darkness, anger, him going about among men with arrogance, his relations with them full of arrogance, not initiating the greeting of peace, … (66)

In the same text (p.19) concerning the statement of the ‘shama’il’ to the effect :The Propeht’s contenance was full of light like the the moon on the night of the full-moon-lailat al-badr- the night of its fullness, because the Prophet obliterated the darkness of disbelief, just as the moon obliterates the darkness of the night; and truly there has come the narration about the Prophet being like the sun by looking at the sun in its glory and light, and the illumination with light is also available in that he is like both [the sun and the moon] seeing the fact that the Prophet s.a.w. combining in himself every aspect of perfection, and that analogy is just to facilitate the understanding, otherwise there is nothing which is analogous which can portray his attributes.

In the same text (p.24) in relation to the statement of Jabir that he saw the Messenger of Allah s.a.w. on the night of the full moon—and I looked at him and to me he is more beautiful than the moon (ahsan minal-qamar).Al-Bajuri says:

That is so for anyone looking at the Messenger s.a.w. Only that the Messenger is more beautiful because his light dominates over the light of the moon (li’anna dau’ahu yaghlibu ‘ala dau’I al-qamar), in fact it dominates over the light of the sun (bal wa ‘ala dau’I al-shamsi); in fact in one narration of ibn Mubarak and ibn al-Jauzi he had no shadow, and when he stood in the light of the sun, his light dominates over that of the sun, and when he stood in the light of the lamp, his light dominates over that of the lamp.

Concerning the light coming out from in between his teeth, al-Baijuri explains that as meaning sensible physical light and not merely in the abstract, because the verb ru’iya refers to actual seeing with the eyes (67)

Concerning the statement of the city of Madinah illuminated by light with the arrival of the Prophet s.a.w. the writer understands this as meaning discernable physical light apart from the figurative implication of it. (ibid. p..196).

In relation to the tradition with strong sanad in Tirmidhi of God bestowing His light on the creation and some being touched by it while some others are not touched by it , the text is as follows:

حَدَّثَنَا ‏ ‏الْحَسَنُ بْنُ عَرَفَةَ ‏ ‏حَدَّثَنَا ‏ ‏إِسْمَعِيلُ بْنُ عَيَّاشٍ ‏ ‏عَنْ ‏ ‏يَحْيَى بْنِ أَبِي عَمْرٍو السَّيْبَانِيِّ ‏ ‏عَنْ ‏ ‏عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ الدَّيْلَمِيِّ ‏ ‏قَال سَمِعْتُ ‏ ‏عَبْدَ اللَّهِ بْنَ عَمْرٍو ‏ ‏يَقُولُ
‏سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ‏ ‏صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ‏ ‏يَقُولُ ‏ ‏إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ خَلَقَ خَلْقَهُ فِي ظُلْمَةٍ

فَأَلْقَى عَلَيْهِمْ مِنْ نُورِهِ فَمَنْ أَصَابَهُ مِنْ ذَلِكَ النُّورِ اهْتَدَى وَمَنْ أَخْطَأَهُ ضَلَّ فَلِذَلِكَ أَقُولُ جَفَّ الْقَلَمُ عَلَى عِلْمِ اللَّهِ
‏قَالَ ‏ ‏أَبُو عِيسَى ‏ ‏هَذَا ‏ ‏حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ

It is related to us by al-Hasan bin ‘Arafah, Isma’il bin ‘Iyash related to us from Yahya bin Abi ‘Amr al-Shaibani, from ‘Abd Allah bin al-Dailami, he said: I heard ‘Abd Allah bin ‘Amru saying: I heard the Messenger of Allah saying: Truly Allah has created all creation in darkness, then He throws on them His Light, whoever is touched by it will get guidance, and whoever is not touched by the Light is misguided.With this I say: The Pen has dried concerning the Knowledge of God. Abu ‘isa (Tirmidhi) says: hadith hasan. (68)

This tradition concerns the Divine decree and the degrees of the creation getting the light from God in their life and religion .With this can be understood that the life of the believer is founded on the reality of His Light, and the Prophet s.a.w. is a believer being the first in getting this light, and he is the most predominant person in the matter of this light, and the more so he himself is being from light.Thus the Prophet is the first of the creation getting this light even more predominant than the angels and others among the creation.

In the nwork entitled Al-Anwar al-Muhammadiyyah min al-Mawahib al-laduniyyah by Shaikh Yusuf bin Ismai’l al-Nabhani (Dar al-Fikr, undated)(69) useful informations are found concerning the Light of Muhammad. Among them are the following:

The first objective (in the work ‘Al-Anwar al-Muhammadiyyah…) : Then know that when the Divine Will has determined the creation of His creation [the universe] He manifested the Muhammadan Reality from His Lights (with His Power and Divine Willing-uem) , then He created from [that light] all the worlds, the upper and the lower realms all together,then He proclaimed the prophethood of the Prophet while Adam was in non-existence,except in the state as said by him s.a.w. [him being] in between soul and body [not yet having physical existence in the world of the sensible], then from him [as the Muhammadan light-uem] there poured forth the spirits, and he is the of the highest being over all other kinds, and he is the greatest father (al-abb al-akbar) for all that exists (li jami’ al-maujudat) ; and when the cycle of time becomes complete with the Name of the Hidden in relation to him s .a.w. (to be transferred) to the existence of the body in combination with the spirit, then the determination of time is transferred to that of the Name of the Manifest, [at that instant-uem] there emerged Muhammad s.a.w. with the totality [of his person and reality] , with the body and spirit altogether.The meaning of [all] this is found ) in the (narration) of Sahih Muslim , that is he said: ‘Truly Allah the Most High has determined the Decree of all creation (maqadir al-khalq) before the creation of the heavens and the earth by fifty thousand years (symbolizing extremely immense span of time beyond the calculation of man-uem) and the Throne was upon water. And included into the total of that which has been determined [in that manner] is the fact that Prophet Muhammad is the seal of all the prophets (khatam al-nabiyyin) .[So in relation to such category of reality there are narrations like the one ] from ‘Irbad bin Sariyah from the Prophet s.a.w. that he said: ‘I was in the Presence of God as the seal of the prophets while Adam was stretched in his body, without the breathing in of the spirit in him.’ And in the narration of Maysarah al-Dabbi (there is the tradition) he said: ‘I asked him: O Messenger of Allah, when were you a prophet?’ He replied: ‘When Adam was in between soul and body’).

In the ‘Sahih of Muslim’ from the Prophet s.a.w. that he said: Truly Allah azzawa jalla has determined the Decree of all creation before the creation of the heavens and earth for fifty thousand years and the Throne was on water, and included into this totality written in the Mother of the Book is that Muhammad is the seal of the prophets.(70)

And from al-’Irbad bin Sariyah from the Prophet s.a.w. that he said; Truly I was in the Presence of Allah as the seal of the prophets while Adam was stretched in his body before the breathing in of the spirit in him.(ibid.pp.9-10).

The traditions cited indicate the position and reality of the Prophet salla’Llahu ‘alaihi wa sallam .And Imam al-Suyuti (d.911 A.H.) deals with such traditions(71) in his Al-Hawi lil-Fatawi (Dar al-Kutub al-’Ilmiyyah, Beirut, 1421/2000 ) in volume 2 pp.136 ff. He writes , among others, as follows:

The traditions from ‘Umar bin al-Khattab , Anas, Jabir, ibn ‘Abbas , ibn ‘Umar, Abid-Darda’, Abu Hurairah and others [narrate] that the Prophet salla’llahu ‘alaihi wa sallam has informed that his [name] is written on the Throne and on every heaven, on every door of paradise, on the leaves in the garden of Paradise, [in the formula] ‘La ilaha illa’Llah Muhammadun Rasulullah’.And such name is not written in the kingdom of the invisible except that it is above the name of all the other prophets [and that is for no other reason than that] so as to make the angels witness it, and [so that they come to know] the position of him being sent to them [apart from the fact that he is sent to humanity].

And ibn ‘Asakir has related the narration from Ka’b al-Akhbar that Adam has given the counsel to his son Shith saying: Every time you mention the name of Allah then you mention also the name of Muhammad; truly I saw his name written on the pillar of the Throne, whereas I was in between soul and body, then I glanced to see tjhat there is no place in the heavens except the name of Muhammad is written therein.And I did not see in Pradise a Palace and Room except the name of Muhammad is written therein, and I saw his name written on the necks of the damsels of paradise…(pp.136-137 of al-Hawi).

Imam al-Suyuti goes on to make the following remarks:

Imam al-Subki has stated in the chapter in his book that the Prophet s.a.w. was sent to all the prophets –Adam and the succeeding prophets , and that the Prophet is prophet and messenger to all of them, and therefore this can be deduced from the tradition that he was prophet while Adam was [still] in between soul and body, and the hadith ‘I was sent to all mankind ‘ (bu’ithtu ilannas kaffatan) ‘ He said [that is Subki] ; Because of this Allah has taken a covenant from all the prophets for Prophet Muhammad , just as in the saying of God ‘And Allah has taken a covenant …will you acknowledge and take covcenant with Me , they said: We acknowledge , He said: Bear witness, I am together with you as Witness’ (Ali ‘Imrah.81). [Imam Suyuti says] :Tradition is related by ibn Abi Hatim from al-Suddi about this verse , saying: No prophet is sent since Adam except Allah has taken a covenant from him so that he will have faith in Muhammad.And ibn ‘Asakir has related a tradition from ibn ‘Abbas saying: Continuously Allah has given primacy and precedence to Muhammad s.a.w. in relation to Adam and the prophets after him…(72)

And al-Hakim has related the tradition from ibn ‘Abbas saying: Allah has revealed to ‘Isa ; ‘You have faith in Muhammad and command whoever meets him of your community to have faith ini him , and had it not been for Muhammad I would not have created Adam,Paradise, and Hell’.

Al-Subki says: We know from sound tradition about his resulting perfection- for our Prophet s.a.w. from the Presence of God ,before Adam was created and God has bestowed on him prophethood from that time [at the time when Adam was non-existent], then Allah took a covenant from all the prophets making them promise that they will have faith in Muhammad, informing that he has precedance over them and he is foremost among them, and that he is a prophet and messenger to all of them, and in them making the covenant there is the meaning of istikhlaf [namely that they all are acting under the name of Muhammad as his khalifah in their times] , because of this there is therein [in the statement of the covenant] the lam al-qasam –the lam of making covenant- ‘latu’minunna bihi’ and wa latansurunnahu’ [meaning that you will really have faith in him and will really help him when the time comes] (73)

Then Imam Suyuti mentions the excellence of the Prophet, how the covenant is taken for him, how the other prophets became his followers in prayer on the night of the Isra’ and Mi’raj, then how in the heavens he had his two wazirs Jibril and Mika’il, and in the earth he had his two wazirs, Abu bakar and ‘Umar, based on the tradition related by ibn al-Mundhir , ibn Abi Hatim, al-Tabarani, ibn Marduyah, and Abu Nu’aim in the ‘al-Dala’il’.

At this stage the present writer would like to mention the important note of Dr GF Haddad in his article “The Light of Muhammad”(74)

Among those scholars mentioned by him who discuss the concept of the Light of Muhammad are:

Qadi ‘Iyad famed for his important kitab al-Shifa,

Imam al-Suyuti in his Tafsir Jalalain

Firuzabadi in Tanwir al-Miqbasnya or Tafsir ibn ‘Abbas

Imam Fakhru’d-Din al-Razi , the reviver of the 6th century of the Hijrah,with his ‘Tafsir Mafatih al-Ghaib’

Qadi al-Baidawi with his Tafsir al-Baidawi

Al-Baghwi with his Ma’alim al-Tanzil

The writer of Tafsir Abi Su’ud with his explanations

Al-Tabari with his Tafsir at-Tabari

The author of Tafsir al-Khazin with his explanations .

Al-Nasafi with his Tafsir al-Madarik

Al-Sawi with his commentary on the al-Jalalain

Al-Alusi with his Ruh al-Ma’ani

Ismail Haqqi with his commentary on the Tafsir Ruh al-Ma’ani

Al-Qari with his Sharah al-Shifa

Suyuti with his al-Riyad al-Aniqa

Ibn Kathir with his Tafsir

Qadi ‘Iyad with his al-Shifa

Al-Nisaburi with his Ghara’ib al-Qur’an

Al-Zarqani with his Sharah al-Mawahib al-Laduniyyah

Ibn Hajar with his al-Isabah

Tirmidhi with his Sunan

Baihaqi with his Dala’il al-Nubuwwah

Ibn Hajar Haitami with his D ala’il al-Nubuwwah

Bukhari, Muslim and Imam Ahmad with compilations of the hadith with descriptions of the Prophet s.a.w..

Al-Hakim with his al-Mustadrak

Ibn Kathir with his Tafsir and Maulid Rasul Allah

Ibn Ishaq with his Sirah

Dhahabi with his Mizan al-I’tidal

Al-Tabari with his al-Riyad al-Nadira

Al-Shahrastani with his al-Milal wan-Nihal

‘Abd al-Haq al-Dihlawi with his Madarij al-Nubuwwahnya ( Persian)

“Abd al-Hayy al-Lucknowi with his al-Athar al-marfu’ fi al-akhbar al-maudu’a

‘Abd al-Razzaq with his Musnad

‘Abidin (Ahmad al-Shami) died.1320 H. with his commentary on the poem by ibn Hajar al-Haitami al-Ni’matul-Kubra ‘alal-‘Alamin

Al-‘Ajluni (Isma’il bin Muhammad, d.1162) with his Kashf al-Khafa

Bakri (Sayyid Abu al-hasan Ahmad ibn ‘Abd Allah 3rd century H) with his al-Anwar fi Maulid al-Nabi Muhammad salla’Llahu ‘alaihi wa sallam.

Diyarbakri (Husain bin Muhammad, died 966 A.H..) who begins his work Tarikh al-Khamis fi Ahwal Anfasi Nafisa with the words : All praise is for Allah Who has created the Light of His Prophet before everything else…”

Fasi (Muhammad ibn Ahmad died.1052 H.) with his work Matali’ al-Masarrat

Shaikh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani died .561 A.H. with his work Sirr al-Asrar fi Ma Yuhtahu ilaihi al-Abrar (hal.12-14 edisi Lahore) who says : Who gives the evidence that the prophet is the source of all that exists, and Allah knows Best..

Haqqi (Ismail , died in.1137 A.H.) citing traditions in his tafsir Ruh al-Bayan

Ibn Hajar al-Haitami (d..974 A.H>) with his Fatawa Hadithiyyah

Shaikh Ismail al-Dihlawi (d.1246 H>) with his tract Yek Rauzah in which he says: As indicated by narration: The first thing created by Allah is my Light.

Sulaiman al-Jamal (died.1204 A.H) who cites traditions concerning the Light of Muhammad as the first thing created by God, in his commentary of the poem of al-Busiri , in the work entitled al-Futuhat al-Ahmadiyyah bi al-Minah al-Muhammadiyyah.

‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jili in the Namus al-A’zam wa al.-Qamus al-Aqdam fi Ma’rifat Qadar al-Bani sallka’lahu ‘alaihi wa sallam mentions traditions about nur Muhammad.

Kharputi (‘Umar bin Ahmad, died .1299 A.H. ) in his commentary on al-Busiri mentions the Light of Muhammad..

Maliki al-Hasani (Muhammad ibn ‘Alawi ) mentions in his commentary of the work by al-Qari Hasyiyah Al-Maurid al-Rawi fi Maulid al-Nabi.On page 40 he says:“Sanad Jabir is sound without controversy, but scholars have different views about the text, because of its speciality; Baihaqi also cites the tradition with a number of variations”.

The above are among the several texts mentioned by him in the article.


From the presentation of the sources of the narrations above based on the writings of the mufasasirin and the traditionists and others who are imams in their field, a number of conclusions can be drawn. Among them: that Prophet Muhammafd s.a.w. has his reality before the creation of the cosmic order, and his light was created before the creation of everything else.His light was the first created by Allah, as His beloved.This is also the source for the creation of everything in the cosmic order with all its levels and hierarchy, with the upper and lower realms, the sensible and that which is immediately above the sensible.He is the first in terms of creation but the last in terms of physical appearance in sacred history, raised with soul and body among the prophets.

His existence as a prophet and messenger is known by all the previous prophets and messengers in the whole of sacred history , among the evidences of which can be mentioned the sound narrations of the Isra’ and Mi’raj, so many of which are cited in the ‘Tafsir ‘ of ibn Kathir in relation to the commentary of the early verses of Surah Bani Isra’il.He

There seems to be no necessity for anyone to have the inclination to suggest that the scholars of tafsir, hadith, sirah and shama’il and others have discussed that reality about the Prophetic light based on their borrowing of the idea from any external sources; there seems to be no evidence that ‘borrowing’ has taken place, unless objective reasearch can prove otherwise, and not just based on the inclination to jump at the idea of borrowing with the slightest seemed similarity between certain things. Established and authoritative Sunni sources are clear about this.This is clear also from the fact that the prophets and messengers have entered into a primordial covenant with God to have faith in him and help him in his struggle, and in fact they perform their various prophetic functions as representing him in their various ‘worlds’, The reality of his existence as light in the generations of prophets in sacred history is accepted by authoritative Sunni scholars in Islamic intellectual tradition.

If this appears unlikely from the rational pointn of view of the modernist mentality, then we can cite many things which are unlikely in that sense, thinking in the ‘ordinary’ way, for instance the quantum theory about the universe not being solid in any way but in reality in the form of waves or particles, indeterminate in nature, but this is acceptable to the authorities in quantum physics.What appears as solid is only sensation of the seeing with the eyes. Then, again, thinking in the ‘ordinary’ way will not make anyone accept e=mc2; but to the authorities in the field this is very clear and evident with the backing of research and scrutiny as well as calculation of the forces involved in the process and the system. Or just look at the human seed in the womb which after nine months and ten days becoming a baby, alive, and later speaking and so on. This is the ‘sunnah’ of God. From here we can go to the reality of the Muhammadan Light mentioned in sacred narrative of our Tradition. The first example relates to the ‘sunnah’ of God in terms of sub-atomic level, the second in relation to the same in Relativity, and the third His ‘sunnah’ in relation to emergance of the cosmic manifestation with its various levels in the scale of being.

If it is suggested that such an idea is contradictory to the reality of the human make-up, from the elements of the earth, even the prophet in terms of the physical body, then in response it can be stated that in the cosmic perspective even the elements of the earth are finally reductable to pure energy or light, as is clear from quantum theory, or pure energy, then to us this is the Muhammadan Light. It is the Muhammadan light manifested at its level in the form of the elements of the earth, transmuted into the elements of the human body, in which is the spiritual substance of the spirit. And this is no contradiction to the reality that is.

In this order of ideas, the light of the Prophet is not only a ,manner of speaking, in the figurative and as analogy, but even more, it is in reality light, going beyond all other lights, from it are created other lights and other things and beings and essences.

If at present people talk about the universe from the point of view of the electron, proton, neutron, quarks, photon, black holes and others, including the discussion on the ultimate nature being in terms of particles or waves, or pure energy, for us, the ultimate ground of all these is the ‘light’ or ‘nur’ of the Prophet s.a.w. As for the other things, if they are sound from the scientific and objective points of view, in accordance with the established principles of knowledge, then they are acceptable. If we say that present-day physicist may speak of the world as ultimately from ‘pure energy’ or whatever that may be, the reality of which is difficulkt to be grasped by the lay-man, say just like what is discussed by Frithjof Capra in The Tao of Physics; for us that may not pose a problem.We can still relate that to the concept of the light of the Prophet as the ground of all existence, either material or the non-material as our Tradition tells us.

If it comes to any one’s mind that this view about the Light of Muhammad smacks of pantheism, then the response to this is that this should not arise at all, because pantheism is a school of philosophy which developed in the West in the 19th century and it has no connection whatsoever with sacred teachings of any order. It teaches the philosophical position that everything is God, whereas this concept of the Muhammadan Light does not take that position. It teaches that before the creation of the cosmic order and its details God first created the Light of Muhammad which becomes the source of creating other things in the cosmic order.It does not teach that everything is God.Neither does it teach that every thing is Muhammad in that literal horizontal sense. It teaches that Muhammad is the light and from that light other things are created.

It is possible that our mind will reflect, that, if the Prophet is really that Light, then why should he pray for light in his night prayer, in the formula “Allahumma’j’al li nuran…” until the end of the famous prayer, so that Allah gives him light in his heart, tongue, on his right, left, front and back, above and below him? Possibly, in this order of ideas we can reflect on what has been said by Imam al-Ghazali rd concerning the Prophet s.a.w. asking for forgiveness from Allah for so many times a day, whereas he is already sinless, and forgiven beforehand what is going to be done in the future apart from being forgiven of his past.

Al-Ghazali rd says that even though he is sinless (ma’sum) he asks for forgiveness; this is because he is continuously ascending on the path of perfection, and because of the ascent he sees the previous state as imperfect compared to the present one, so he asks for forgiveness; and because of that he ascends further on the path of perfection and so on continuously. In the same way, the present writer feels that the Prophet sees his present state in terms of spiritual luminosity (“nuraniyyah”) is less than what it should be in terms of spiritual perfection, so he prays for more light even though he himself is light, because of course, the ultimate light is God, ‘al-Nur”, so he asks for the “nur” from the “al-Nur”.

These are the remarks of this humble writer citing narrations from the sources of the sacred narrative – from this grand narrative of Sunni intellectuality- so as to show that the reality of the Muhammadan Light mentioned in the writings of some traditional scholars in the Malay World have their substance and backing in classical sacred scholarship, and not in anyway a borrowing, it seems, from any outside sources, to make up for any thing missing in their narrative. May Allah make us benefit from this scholarship, amin. Wallahu a’lam.



(1)See the writer’s “Kosmologi para Fuqaha & Ulama Sufiah Dalam pemikiran Melayu” in Kosmologi Melayu, edited by Yaacob Harun, Akademi Pengajian Melayu, Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, 2001, pp 10-22.

(2)in the chapter Khalq al-samawat waq al-ard p.10.

(3) p.10.


(5)ibid. 10

(6) ibid.11


(8) ibid.11

(9) ibid.11

(10) ibid.11

(11) ibid.11

(12) ibid.11.

.(13) Bab bad’ Khalq al-samawat wa al-Ard.12

.(14) ibid.13.

.(15) ibid.13.

(16) ibid. p.15 .

.(17) The Kash al-Ghaibiyyah p.3


.(19) ibid.p.4.

(20)ibid. p.5




(24)Surabaya, undated, and Singapore, undated.

(25) Shaikh Nawawi al-Bantani, Madarij al-Su’ud p.3 .


(27) cf with

.(28) volume III.369.

(29)volume IX.hal.99-100


(31) Ruh al-Ma’anivol.IX, p..100).

(32) vol. X.135


.(34)al-Wahidi al-Nisaburi, Tafsir al-Wajiz vol.II.p.196.

,(35) vol.II.p.196

(36)ibid. II.119

(37)al-Durr al-Manthur, 5,p. 98.

(38) Tafsir al-Sawi, hashiyah al-’Allamah al-Sawi ‘ala al-Jalalain, volume I p.275

(39) Tafsir al-Nasafi-bi Hamish Tafsir al-Khazin volume I page 477

(40) In al-Asas fi al-tafsir by Sa’id Hawwavol. III, page 1349

(41) volume VII page 3970

(42)al-‘Ajluni, in “Kashf al-Khafa’ wa Muzil al-Ilbas…”,

(43). From Nazm al-Mutanathir min al-hadith al-Mutawatir”, from the book of faith until the book of the manaqib, -491 in )

(44)In al-Mawahib al-Laduniyyah, vol.I p.7).

(45)Al-Mawahib al-laduniyyah,juz I ppl 7 ff

(46)See for example GF Haddad, “Light of the Full Moon” in

(47)(Kitab al-Shifa by Qadi ‘Iyad, I, p.83).

48) Qadi ‘Iyad. Al-Shifa’. I.15-16.

(49)al-Shifa. I.p.17-18. :


(51) ibid

(52)(al-Madkhal of Ibn al-Hajj.II.28).

(53)al-madkhal of ibn al-Hajj II.30

(54)Hujjatu’Llah ‘alal-‘Alamin fi Mu’jizati Sayyidil-Mursalin by Syaikh Yusuf al-Nabhani. P.15.

(55)al-Mustadrak al-Hakim II.614-615.

(56) (al-Mustadrak.II.608-609. Sound narration according to al-Hakim..

(57)Sound tradition according to al-Hakim in al-Mustadrak.II.609).

(58)Sound tradition according to al-Hakim in the al-Mustadrak.II.600.

( 59)al-Mustadrak.II.600

(60).Jam’ al-wasa’il.p..28

(61) Jam’a al-wasa’il Sharah al-Shama’il of Tirmidhi, p.47.

(62)Sharah al-Muhaddith al-Shaikh al-Munawi to the Shama’il of Tirmidhi, I.p.47).

(63) ibid. I.55-56.

(64) Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari, Sharah al-Shama’il al-Tirmidhi, II.209.

(65)Sharah al-Munawi on the al-Shama’il of Tirmidhi, on the margin syharah Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari, II.55.

(66)from al-Mawahib al-Laduniyyah –hashiyah al-Shaikh Ibrahim al-Bajuri ‘ala al-Shama’il al-Muhammadiyyah lit-Tirmidhi-p..16).



(69)Al-Anwar al-Muhammadiyyah min al-Mawahib al-laduniyyah by Shaikh Yusuf bin Ismai’l al-Nabhani (Dar al-Fikr, undated).p.9.


(71)Imam al-Suyuti in his Al-Hawi lil-Fatawi (Dar al-Kutub al-’Ilmiyyah, Beirut, 1421/2000 ) in volume 2 pp.136 ff.


(73)ibid.II 137…

(74) Dr Haddad in and in the article “The First Thing that Allah created was my nur” in;



The aim of this notice is to locate and estimate the sources of the Sunni sacred narrative about the position of the Prophet s.a.w. and the concept of his Light as the source for the creation of the cosmic order. In this context, then the discourse about the Light of the Prophet and his metahistorical status in Sunni understanding of the cosmic order and its formation as understood in Malay-Islamic texts in the Malay World would appear to be within the legitimate ambiance of the Sunni narrative, and therefore intellectually and spiritually legitimate. Wallahu a’lam.

-Muhammad ‘Uthman El-Muhammady

Very Distinguished Academic Fellow of ISTAC International Islamic University Malaysia. 28th Ramadan 1425/ 11th November 2004.


Short Bibliography.

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Al-Alusi, Shihab al-Din, Ruh al-ma’ani, Ihya’ al-Turah al-‘Arabi, undated., Beirut, 16 volumes.

Al-Baijuri, Shaikh Ibrahim bin Muhammad, Al-Mawahib al-Ladunikyyah, hashiyah ‘ala Aql-Shama’il al-Muhammadiyyah, Mustafa al-babi al-Halabi, Kahirah, 1375/1956.

Al-Bantani, Shaikh Muhammad Nawawi,Madarij al-Su’ud, Surabaya-Singapura, undated

Al-Fatani, Shaikh Muhammad bin Isma’il Daud, Kitab al-Kaukab al-Durri fi al-Nur al-Muhammadi,

Khazanah Fathaniyah, Kuala Lumpur, 2001.

Al-Fatani, Shaikh Zain al-‘Abidin, Kash al-Ghaibiyyah, Dar al-ma’arif, Pulau Pinang, undated.

Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur’an al-‘Azim, dar al-Fikr, Beirut, undated, 4 volumes.

Al-Kattani, Maulana Ja’far al-Hasani al-Idrisi, Nazm al-Mutanathir min al-hadith al-Mutawatir, dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, Lubnan, Beirut, 1403/1983.

Al-Risalah al-Mustatrafah li Bayan Mashhur Kutub al-Sunnah al-Musharrafah,, Maktab al-Kulliyat al-Azhariyyah-Qahiran, undated

Al-Munawi, Shaikh ‘Abd al-Rauf, di tepi Jam’ al-Wasa’il fi Sharh al-Shama’il oleh al-Qari, Kahiran, undated, 2 volumes.

Al-Nabhani, Yusuf bin Isma’il, al-Anwar al-Muhammadiyyah min al-Mawahib al-Laduniyyah, Dar al-Fikr, undated

—,Hujjatu’Llah ‘alal-‘Alamin fi Mu’jizat Sayyidil-Mursalin, Dar al-Fikr, undated.

Al-Nasafi, Tafsir al-Nasafi, di tepi tafsir al-Khazin, Dar al-Kutub al-‘Arabiyyah al-Kubra, Kahirah, undated, 4 volumes.

Qadi ‘Iyad, al-Shifa bi Ta’rif Huquq al-Mustafa, Dar al-Fikr , Beirut,undated., 2 volumes.

Al-Qari, Mulla ‘Ali, Sharah al-Shifa li Qadi ‘Iyad, Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, Beirut, undated. 2 volumes.

—, Jam’ al-Wasa’il fi Sharh al-Shama’il, Mustafa al-babi al-Halabi, Kahirah, t.t. 2 volumes

Al-Qastallani, Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Khatib, al-Mawahib al-laduniyyah, Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, Beirut, undated, 2 volumes

Al-Raniri. Shaikh Nur al-Din, Bad’ Khalq as-Samawat wa al-Ard, on the margin of Taj al-Muluk, undated.

Said Hawwa, al-Asas fi al-Tafsir, Dar al-Salam, Beirut, 1405/1985, 11 volumes.

Al-Razi, Fakhr al-Din, Al-Tafsir al-Kabir, Dar al-Fikr, Beirut, 1398/1978, 8 volumes.

Al-Sawi, Tafsir al-Sawi, Hashiyah al-Allamah Shaikh Ahmad al-Sawi al-maliki, Dar al-Fikr, Beirut, 1977/1397 , 4 volumes.

Al-Suyuti, al-Imam jalal al-Din, al-Durr al-Manthur, dar al-ma’rifah, Beirut, tanpa tarikh, dalam 6 volumes.

—, al-Hawi lil-Fatawi, Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, Beirut, 1421/2000, 2 volumes.

Al-Tabari, Abu Ja’far Muhammad bin Jarir, Tafsir al-Tabari, dar al-Fikr, Beirut, 1398/1978, Dar al-Fikr, Beirut, 10 volumes

Al-Zarqani, al-‘Allamah, Sharh ‘ala al-Mawahib al-laduniyyah, Dar al-ma’rifah, Beirut, 1393/1973, 4 volumes.


As an Appendix this writer would like to place on record the paper on the “Light of the Prophet” by the ex-Rector of Al-Azhar, Dr Ahmad ‘Umar Hashim of Egypt tabled by him in the conference on Sufism in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, on 12th August 2004, under the auspices of the Negeri Sembilan Mufti Department, containing the same fundamentals and several details on this important topic in Islamic concept of the cosmic order and its relation with the Prophetic Light, hence in agreement with the present paper.

Among the contents are, in short:

-mention of the nur appearing when the Prophet was born to his mother, illuminating the palaces of Busra in Syria, so that his mother could see them on p.4 of theArabic paper

-citing the hadith of Jabir about the first creation of Allah being the Light of the Prophet p.8 of the Arabic version of the paper

-discussion about what is after the creation of the Prophetic light is it the Pen or the Throne on p8 of the paper

-recording the experience of the late Shaikh ‘Abd al-Halim Mahmud rh about the light in relation to the Prophet s.a.w. in relation to recitation of a certain formula of blessing on the Prophet. on p.10.

- the citation of lines from al-Busiri about the Prophetic light on p.12.

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

نحمده ونصلى على رسوله الكريم

Tok Kenali (1870-1933) – His Life and Contributions

This essay proposes to examine the life and contributions of To’ Kenali of Kelantan, whose life coincided with the period when Kelantan was under the Siamese rule and then under the British sphere of influence, after the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909. His studies in Islamic traditional education which started in his hometown and then pursued further at Mecca at the Sacred City, with a brief visit to Cairo, making him a revered intellectual and spiritual figure of the country, with such desire for positive changes among his people, led him to pursue an intensive life of Islamic educational and social reforms, with a number of institutions bearing the stamp of either his direct or indirect influence.

In spite of his intellectual attitude directed towards reform, he is intellectually a man of the traditional intellectual Sunni school, much influenced by Imam al-Ghazali, Shafi’i and Al-Ash’ari, affecting reform by a very cautious attitude, without making an intellectual break with the classical intellectual construct of mainstream Islam. Hence, his ability to gain the respect and following among the traditional scholars apart from him being accepted by those among the administrative elite in the state. The writer has to rely on the writers who had already made a study on him, apart from his perusal of some original sources; the interpretations are his own, guided by the facts observed.

His Life:

To’ Kenali (1), that is Muhammad Yusof (frequently referred simply as “Awang”)-may Allah has mercy on him – was born in kampong (village of) Kenali, Kubang Krian, Kota Bharu, Kelantan, the state in the East of Peninsular Malaysia, in 1870. This coincides with the period towards the end of the reign of Sultan Muhammad II of Kelantan. His father Ahmad was a farmer, a simple villager, nevertheless was a man devoted Islamic values. His mother, Fatimah, was a lady with fine character and strong believer of the values and practice of the faith. In the first number of the Islamic magazine Pengasuh (2) of which he was the first editor, he was named as “al-fadil Tuan Haji Awang Kenali”, and Sultan Muhammad IV named him as “Haji Awang Muhammad Yusof Kenali” in his royal address appointing him as one of the members of the Kelantan Islamic Religious Council. He was born about three years after the building of the Muhammadi Mosque of Kota Bharu, which later was to become a very significant center of Islamic learning, making it famous in South-east Asia. (3)

He was born into a poor farmer’s family making a living by planting paddy, with the mother helping in maintaining the household. This family situation living with little means influenced the future Islamic scholar to be man of asceticism and independent ways. When he was five years old his father passed away and he was taken care of by his maternal grandfather.

His educational Background:

At that time there was a strong awareness among the people to educate their children in the field of Qur’anic learning and the Islamic religious sciences. Hence Muhammad Yusof began his education with his own grandfather Che Salled or To’ Leh, who taught him the Qur’an, reading and writing. His grandfather was a man of sufficient learning and piety to be his guide, living with the philosophy of life seeking for the pleasure of his Lord in whatever he does. From his step-grandmother he was influenced by her views about the necessity of being careful concerning food and drink because taking forbidden meals and drink will impair one’s well being in this world and the hereafter.

Due to his love of learning since the earliest years of his life, soon he became proficient in the Qur’anic learning and in reading and writing. The story is being told that even at the early age of seven or eight the To’ Kweng –the title for the village chief at that time – engaged him as a clerk to help him to keep record of the yields from paddy, coconut and durian at that time from which taxes were taken. After the death of this To’ Kweng Ahmad, his son Ismail succeeded him in that post. This occurred some time after 1908 after To’ Kenali’s return from Mecca. (4)

When he was about eight or nine years old (1878-1879) he continued with his education in Kota Bharu, walking twice daily for four miles each way, for attending his classes in the capital, in the state mosque, Masjid Muhammadi. There were a number of religious scholars teaching at the mosque with several hundred students from every corner of the state. The mosque was surrounded by small huts of the students – called pondoks, which constituted the ‘hostels’ for them during their period of studying there. (5)

Among the famous scholars with whom To’ Kenali learned Islamic religious sciences then were: Encik Ismail or Haji Wan Ismail, the father of Dato’ Nik Mahmud, the Perdana Menteri or the Chief-Minister of Kelantan, Tuan Guru Shaikh Muhammad ‘Ali bin ‘Abd al-Rahman, known by the name of Wan ‘Ali Kutan, Tuan Guru Haji Talib Tuan Padang, and Tuan Guru Haji Ibrahim Sungai Budor. (6)

Apart from teaching at the central mosque of the state the scholars also taught in their own homes; for instance Haji Wan Isma’il, To’ Kenali’s first teacher after his grandfather, taught at kampong Banggul, not far from the central mosque; one of Haji Muhammad Yusuf’s fellow students studying under Haji Wan ismail was Idris bin Haji Hassan who in 1921 was appointed as the state mufti holding the post until his demise six years later.

It appears also that Muhammad Yusof studied in the early 1880s under one Haji Ibrahim at his pondok at Sungai Budor, in Kota Bharu. He also studied with Tuan Padang – that is Tuan Guru Haji Taib, originally from Sumatera, Indonesia. (7)

His Life and Education in Mecca:

Mecca is not only the center for the pilgrimage, the rite constituting the fifth pillar of the religion, but it also is a center for Islamic education. Thus for centuries Mecca became a center for advanced studies for these scholars wherein they spent their life in advancing their knowledge and understanding of Islam and at the same time they composed their writings in the Malay Language (called “Bahasa Jawi”) for enriching Islamic literature in that language. There they gained profiency in Arabic and the Islamic religious sciences of tafsir, traditions of the Prophet, fiqh or the Islamic Sacred Law, usul al-din or Islamic Theology and mysticism. Among these scholars can be mentioned such illustrious names like Shaikh ‘Abd al-Rauf al-Fansuri, Shaikh ‘Abd al-Samad al-Falimbani, Shaikh Daud al-Fatani, Shaikh Muhammad Arshad al-Banjari, Shaikh Nawawi Bantani (known for writing his works in Arabic), Shaikh Ahmad Khatib, Shaikh Ahmad al-Fatani, and many others. (8)

Teaching in the Sacred Mosque or Masjid al-Haram was done in small groups in circles – in halaqah – as was the practice for centuries; apart from this mosque there was the center of learning at Medina, at the Mosque of the Prophet, -peace and blessings be upon him, and then of course, there was the famous University of Al-Azhar, centered around the Mosque at Al-Azhar. Scholars from the Malay World flocked to these centers, to deepen their studies in the Islamic sciences and Arabic. After their return to the Malay World, they devoted themselves to the dissemination of Islam and its practices.

To’ Kenali must have felt such a great longing to advance in his studies at the sacred city of Mecca. Hence he undertook his voyage to Mecca in 1886, at the young age of about eighteen, and after a difficult journey of six months by sailing ship he set foot on the sacred soil of the Holy City of Mecca to perform the pilgrimage and further his studies.

Since he was from a poor family, he could only make the journey with the financial assistance of his friends and well-wishers in Kota Bharu who collected for him $50.00 (fifty Dollars then) to which his mother added another sum of $22.00 (twenty Dollars); for seven months he was without proper lodging there, and he was able to rest in the evening and at night at the mosque. He was in very difficult circumstances in the land of strangers, and he managed to solve some of his difficulties by cooking for his friends and acquaintances in their picnics in the valleys outside the Holy City. (9)

While he was in Kelantan Muhammad Yusof has already mastered such subjects as Arabic grammar and syntax (nahw and saraf) so that he would be able to follow his classical Islamic learning in the Arabic language. He was ready to follow the instructions in his studies in the Holy City. However, unfortunately because he was in difficult circumstances, he could only follow his lessons by listening, without being able to benefit from reading the texts. As a result, so the story goes, he has to go to the bookshops and ask the permission of the owners to see the relevant books with particular care and attention without buying them. Books in the waqf endowment in the sacred Mosque were also utilized by To’ Kenali to help him in his studies. He was also fortunate because he was able to borrow the texts from his teachers. Possibly because of his patience with his difficult circumstances and poverty he was able to advance very well in his studies due to his diligence and focus.

To’ Kenali’s intellectual horizon seems not to be confined to limited subjects of his studies alone. It appears that he frequently read and scrutinized manuscripts written by Muslim scholars and thinkers which were in circulation in the Muslim World at that time. He liked to examine the materials taught to him and ask questions about them, before being repeated by his teachers, in this manner he made more impressions of the materials of his learning on his mind and heart, and in this way also he was able to make comparisons between the materials learnt with his own experience and understanding. Possibly wide reading and positive critical attitude in his studies made him advance very well in his studies.

Teachers in the Sacred Mosque (Masjid al-Haram);

Among his teachers frequently mentioned, in the Masjid al-Haram were – among the most outstanding: Tuan Guru Wan Ahmad, his full name being: Ahmad bin Muhammad Zain bin Mustafa al-Fatani. (10) Apart from being a very famous and respectable teacher Shaikh Ahmad – may Allah has mercy on him – is also an important writer, second only to Shaikh Daud al-Fatani. (11). To’ Kenali became a very close student of this mentor who influenced him in his studies and life too. This towering figure in the Malay World who is to be the determining influence on To’ Kenali’s life, as will be seen from his activities later on, deserves more serious attention from researchers on Muslim Thought in this region. The fame of Shaikh Ahmad is still remembered in the Malay World, in Malaysia, Indonesia (especially Sumatera), and Cambodia, and Brunei. It is stated that Shaikh Ahmad changed the name of “Petani” with “p” –“t”-“n” to “f” (fa’) – ta’ (the ‘big’ ta in Arabic)-“nun” –) giving the name from “f-t-n” meaning “to be clever skilful and wise”(12). This is to avoid the meaning of “fitnah” from the old manner of writing it as if it is from “f-t-n” giving the name of “trials” and “dissentions”.

It is known that several other teachers from Patani and Indonesia attracted the attention of To’ Kenali; apart from that there were a number of Arab teachers who attracted his attention.

Among the Arab teachers whose knowledge were benefited by To’ Kenali were: Shaikh Hasbullah from Egypt, Shaikh ‘Ubaid, the mufti of the Maliki school of law, Shaikh Muhammad Amin, the imam of the Hanafi school of law, Shaikh Sayyid Bakri, Shaikh Muhammad Yusuf al-Khayat, Shaikh Sayyid ‘Abdullah bin as-Sayyid Muhammad Salih al-Zawawi, the mufti of Mecca and a teacher in the Sacred Mosque. (13)

Visit to Egypt:

After a period of about twenty years studying various branches of Islamic sciences and others, under the intimate guidance of that teacher Shaikh Ahmad al-Fatani, To’ Kenali was brought by Shaikh Ahmad al-Fatani to pay a visit to Egypt; this was in 1903; there were four members of the party: Shaikh Ahmad al-Fatani, To’ Kenali, Haji Nik Mahmud bin Haji Wan Ismail (the son of his old teacher in Kota Bharu, later to become the Chief-Minister in the Kelantan government), and one Haji Wan Ismail of Patani.The only brief record available concerning this short visit shows that it is of general interest about sight seeing and at the same time having importance from the point of view of learning and the development of education in Al-Azhar and other institutions of like nature in Egypt. After a short time of meeting with men of learning in Cairo, discussing matters about religion and Islamic education with them, the delegation returned to Mecca. The visit took place in the final decade of the life of Shaikh Muhammad ‘Abduh the reformer of Egypt, the student of Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, the pan-Islamist.

In connection with this visit it can be understood that apart from visiting the ulama of al-Azhar in Cairo, the delegation also met Shaikh Yusuf al-Nabhani in Beirut; this is mentioned by Haji Wan Mohd Shaghir a few times. May be this is influential in the formation of the intellectual attitude of To’ Kenali later in having the respect for traditional Sunni intellectual legacy on one hand and favouring reforms in the Muslim society and their religious education on the other.

Death of Shaikh Ahmad al-Fatani and Return to Kelantan:

After a period of about four years, Shaikh Ahmad al-Fatani –Allah has mercy on him- passed away in Mecca on 11th Dhul-Hijjah, 1325(14th January 1908), and was buried in the famous cemetery of Ma’la, Mecca. Hence due to the loss of that guide, To’ Kenali for the first time felt a great void in his life; hence about two years after his teacher’s death he returned to Kelantan, while he was forty years old.

At that time Kelantan was under the rule of Sultan Muhammad IV who was entitled the Sultan of Kelantan or Raja Kelantan; there were consultations held between the leaders of the Kelantan Government and the representatives of the Siamese Government on the one hand and the representatives of the British on the other. The aim was to reach an agreement to place Kelantan under the British rule. In the following year (1909) Kelantan was under the rule of the British. The transfer of Kelantan from the Siamese to the British rule is stated in the treaty and then the treaty is followed by a letter from the High Commissioner, Sir John Anderson informing Raja Senik (of Kelantan) that:

His Majesty the King of Siam has agreed to transfer all rights over Kelantan, and The King of England will pay to the king of Siam the amount of debt due by my friend the Sultan of Kelantan and the King of England will in future appoint an advisor to assist my friend instead of the advisor appointed by the King of Siam and the King of Siam will no longer have anything to do with the affairs of my friend’s state, and my friend will have to look only to the King of England (14).

Hence the return of To’ Kenali from Mecca can be considered as a point marking a new period of Kelantan being under the British; hence his return is awaited for fulfilling his future role in bringing progress to the society with his knowledge and potentialities.

His Educational and Religious Activities in Kelantan:

Without wasting his time, To’ Kenali established the famous Pondok Kenali; he was lucky because at that time Kelantan was under the leadership of the Chief Minister-Datok Besar-Datok Perdana Haji Nik Mahmud bin Ismail, his companion during their student days under that guide Shaikh Ahmad al-Fatani. In fact their friendship started already when they studied in their childhood days under Ence Ismail, the father of Nik Mahmud; and in Mecca they were together under the guidance of Shaikh Ahmad al-Fatani. Dato’ Yusof Zaky Yacob states in his observation about To’ Kenali:

If To’ Kenali inherited (the intellectual legacy) concerning knowledge of Arabic grammar (and syntax) and the advanced level of Islamic religious sciences (usul-al-din, al-fiqh, al-tasawwuf, knowledge about the Qur’an and Sunnah as clear from the texts of Shaikh Ahmad) from Shaikh Ahmad, then Dato’ Haji Nik Mahmud (the Chief Minister) inherited (from him) advanced knowledge and views about societal and political (issues) from that great and multi-faceted skilled teacher” (15).

The return of To’ Kenali once again made possible the renewal of the close friendship and co-operation of the two luminaries of the state, so that they could work for the progress of the society and the dissemination of the knowledge of the faith at an advanced level.

As stated above at first To’ Kenali returned to teach at the Pondok Kenali at his village. In fact he began to deliver his lessons at his own house at Kampong Paya, which was then occupied by his mother, Hajjah Fatimah. Before long students began to come to him from the surrounding villages and also from further off places; they came and set up their own small pondoks around him in the village so that they could study under him and be with him. By 1910 the first Pondok Kenali was flourishing extremely well under his able leadership, and from there his fame began to spread far and wide.

Later he began to teach once a week at the Muhammadi Mosque in Kota Bharu.In 1915 he was persuaded by Dato’ Nik Mahmud (by this time he was the Dato’ Betara Setia and assistant to the Chief Minister of the state) to move his household to the state capital; and so for the next five years he taught at the state mosque and at the Pondok Kubang Pasu, also in the capital.

At that time the Muhammadi Mosque was not only the center of learning for Kelantan alone, rather it was a center of learning for the region as a whole. It was frequented by many able teachers like Nik Abdullah and Haji Idris bin Haji Hassan. (16) After five years teaching in Kota Bharu in which period he made notable contributions in the religious life of the state as a founder member of the State Religious Council and editor of the fortnightly magazine Pengasuh (The Educator), To’ Kenali again returned to his village, his birthplace, Kampong Kenali.His fame as a revered teacher grew and never leave him; at its highest point, the community in the pondok grew up to a number of no less than three hundred students from all over the Penunsula, Indonesia, (especially Sumatera), Patani and Cambodia.

In carrying out his task as an educator and teacher, To’ Kenali it reported to have prepared graduated text-books in a number of subjects related to Arabic Language and the study of Islamic religious subjects. In the teaching of Arabic he has played considerable role in developing its teaching, and in other subjects he has made his contributions befitting the society which was his milieu. The more outstanding ones among his students were made “group teachers” (“kepala metalaah”)-leading the other students in preparing for their lessons and reading their prescribed texts; apart from such lessons To’ Kenali was also involved in giving lessons in religious subjects to children and adults based on certain religious texts.

Apart from giving his lessons on Arabic texts, To’ Kenali also read Malay texts in Jawi. Among the texts read by him are: Faridatul-Fara’id written by his mentor, Shaikh Ahmad al-Fatani, on Ash’arite theology, the text ‘Aqidatul-Najin written by Shaikh Zain al-‘Abidin al-Fatani, also on Ash’arite theology, Munyatul-Musalli of Shaikh Daud al-Fatani on fiqh concerning prayer, Furu’ al-Masa’il of Shaikh Daud al-Fatani on fiqh concerning advanced fatwas based on Shaikh ibn Hajar and Shaikh Ramli’s views, Bughyatu’t-Tullab of Shaikh Daud, a very detailed fiqh text on Shafi’I school concerning spiritual devotions, Kashf al-Litham a very detailed fiqh work in the Shafi’I school, Hidayatu’s-Salikin of Shaikh ‘Abd al-Samad al-Falimbani, a Sufi text, Sayr al-Salikin of the same author, based on the Bidayatul-Hidayah and Ihya’ ‘Ulumid-Din of al-Ghazali. He also read the Hikam of Ibn ‘Ata’illah (in its Malay version, said to have been authored by To’ Pulau Manis of Trengganu) for advanced level students. (17)

In relation to general religious education to adults, apart from reading texts, he provided moral tales, often humorous ones, to the kampong people so as to draw certain points he was trying to drive home to them. One of the characteristics of his way of instructions was that he did not use text- books. Though students might have texts in front of them, he never did. Besides indicating his amazing memory, this reflected the severe training he had undergone in Mecca during his difficult years in poverty in the Sacred City of Mecca. (18)

His Offices and Services in the State and the Community:

To’ Kenali-Allah has mercy on him- was in the front line of those who undertook the task of furthering the cause of Islamic religious education and the growth of cultural activities in the state.

As a teacher and educator, he taught at the mosque of the capital, the Mashed Muhammadi from about 1910, and more intensively from 1915, and then acted as a kind of head of Islamic education in the state and as assistant to the mufti; it was with his advice that Dato’ Bentara Setia (Haji Nik Mahmud Ismail) proposed the idea of the formation of the Majlis Ugama Islam dan Adat istiadat Melayu Kelantan (Kelantan Council of Islamic Religion and Malay Customs) which really came into being. (To’ Kenali was appointed as one of the twelve foundation members) in December 1915, and it is still active until to-day. Then in January 1918 the majlis convened the Meshuarat ‘Ulama (or the Meeting of the ‘Ulama) as a permanent body; To’ Kenali was one of the first members. Then in July 1981 when the majlis published the fortnightly magazine Pengasoh (The Educator), To’ Kenali was appointed as “principal honourary editor” (“Ketua Pengarang Kehormat”)(19) Later, with the help of the Meshuarat ‘Ulama, the column on “Question and Answer” was launched, dealing with religious issues of that time.

Further, of a more serious and intellectually daunting enterprise, To’ Kenali was entrusted with the duty of carrying out the Malay translation of Tafsir al-Khazin and Tafsir ibn Kathir (20) This exacting intellectual task resulted in the completion of part of the first of these two classical works of Sunni exegesis, however, unfortunately, the manuscript has not been published until to-day. (21).

Then there was at that time the monthly magazine Al-Hedayah which was first published in July 1923, whose chief editor was Ahmad bin Ismail; this literary magazine benefited from his advice and views which was often sought after by the chief editor. He was frequently seen at the chief editor’s office reading newspapers and periodicals of the day. He was a man dedicated to learning as can be clearly observed from the characteristics of his life; and it is interesting to note that in his collection of books can be found the manuscript of Chetera Raja Muda, an important source for the history of Kelantan, later on it was given by him to the writer of the famous work Hikayat Seri Kelantan (22)

In relation to social change and development, he established the Islamic society by the name of al-Jam’iyyah al-‘Asriyyah (The Contemporary Association) which served as a forum in which discussions were often held concerning controversial social and intellectual issues of the day, apart from being a center for the congregational prayer. For furthering its activities and goals the premises for the organization was established at the Jalan Tengku Putera Semerak in the center of Kota Bharu. Now the building is no more there, as a newly erected building is erected there, with the Jam’iyyah occupying one part of the whole complex at the same road in the town. Now it is a musalla for holding congregational prayer and a place for imparting Islamic knowledge from traditional Islamic texts after the evening prayer, apart from being a community center for holding sacred functions like the commemoration of the Prophet’s birthday and the ascension of the Prophet to the heavenly realms (al-isra’ wa al-mi’raj). (23).

His Influence in Islamic Education:

It can be observed that the influence and fame of To’ Kenali was spread widely and speedily throughout the Peninsula and the surrounding areas. Possibly this can be attributed to the many important positions and posts held by him in the state and the dedication and sincerity shown by him in his efforts at promoting Islamic education and learning and the growth of culture in the state in particular and in Malaya in general.

The highest point of his influence and fame manifested itself towards the end of the reign of Sultan Muhammad IV (1900-20) and in the early stage of the reign of Sultan Ismail (1920-44); both rulers of Kelantan were responsible for a lot of development for the state, especially in matters pertaining to the religious sphere. It can be stated that this created a very conducive atmosphere for the spread of To’ Kenali’s influence, facilitating him in his educational efforts and religious activities. This can be easily understood when we remember that both rulers respected To’ Kenali very much due to his learning and extremely pious character. Apart from that To’ Kenali was fortunate because he had a very intimate relationship and close co-operation with Dato’ Haji Nik Mahmud b. Haji Wan Ismail, who as Dato’ Setia and then as Dato’ Perdana Paduka Raja (the Chief minister) exercised much power in the state, and therefore this again facilitated him in his struggle and efforts therein.

In relation to the improvement of Arabic and Islamic education in the traditional pondok system and similar schools throughout the Peninsula, it can be said that this was partly due to the efforts of To’ Kenali. He devised a system of graduated instruction in Arabic grammar and syntax, which helped his students enormously in mastering the language. There is a famous ‘alim in Kelantan by the name of Haji ‘Ali Salahuddin bin Awang (24) who published these lessons of To’ Kenali in 1945 in a work entitled ad-Durus al-Kenaliyyah al-Ibtida’iyyah (To’ Kenali’s Elementary Lessons (in Arabic)). There was another student of To’ Kenali by the name of Shaikh ‘Othman Jalaluddin al-Kelantani (25) who had earlier published a similar collection (2nd edition 1358/1939/40) under the title Tasrif al-‘Arf (a table of Arabic verb declensions); both works were circulated widely throughout the Peninsula.

In his Tasrif al-’Arf Shaikh ‘Othman states (26):

Truly I have borrowed many morphological ideas of great value from my profound and learned teacher, one who has accumulated much valuable knowledge in the service of religion –that is Muhammad Yusof, better known throughout Malaya by his Kelantan title ‘To’ Kenali’

In his article concerning the contribution of To’ Kenali in Arabic studies, Abdul Hayie bin Abd Shukor mentions a number of useful in formations. (27) Among them are when To’ Kenali returned to Malaya in 1908 he was always with two texts on Arabic grammar, namely Hashiyah ‘ala Sharah al-Ashmuni ‘ala-l-Alfiyah, written by Muhammad bin ‘Ali al-Sabban (d.1792) and Mughni’l-Labib ‘an Kitab al-A’arib written by Jamal al-Din ibn Hisham (d.761) both of which were so liked by him.

Further he mentions the love of To’ Kenali for Arabic literature and poetry of high literary merits. And he liked to quote them in his lessons and at certain suitable occasions. Apart from this he also mentions that those who attended the study circles of To’ Kenali (halaqat) were encouraged to memorize the text Al-Ajrumiyah and Alfiyah of ibn Malik which contains a thousand lines concerning rules on Arabic grammar.

Establishment and Growth of Arabic and Religious Schools:

Apart from devoting himself to his teaching at Kota Bharu and his pondok school at Kubang Kerian, To’ Kenali’s influence in the arena of Islamic education has led to the emergence of religious schools, Muslim scholars, teachers and writers. Among the institutions established by his students were as follows:

  1. The Pondok Ahmadiah at Bunut Payong, Kota Bharu, which was opened by Tuan Guru Haji Abdullah Tahir b. Haji Ahmad (28).
  2. The Madrasah Manabi’ al-‘Ulum wa matali’ al-Nujum was established at Bukit Mertajam, Seberang Perai, Province Wellesley, by Tuan Guru Shaikh ‘Othman Jalaluddin al-Kelantani.
  3. Madrasah al-Falah at Pulau Pisang, on the way to Pantai Cinta Berahi, now Pantai Cahaya Bulan, several kilometers to the north of Kota Bharu, was established by Tuan Guru Haji ‘Ali Salahuddin b. Awang.
  4. Pondok of Haji Mat Pauh or Haji Muhammad Jambu. He is Haji Muhammad bin Idris, who first studied with To’ Kenali in Muhammadi Mosque for twelve years. Then he pursued his studies to a very advanced level in Mecca, where he could master classical fiqh texts of the Shafi’I school like al-Mahalli, fath al-Wahhab, and Tuhfah; and in hadith he was known to have mastered the texts of al-Bukhari, Muslim, al-Muwatta’ and others. The present writer can still remember when he was young he could hear people calling him Haji Muhammad Bukhari. The name Bukhari seems to originate from his having memorized the text of al-Bukhari.

Among his teachers in Mecca were Shaikh ‘Umar Hamdan and Shaikh ‘Ali Maliki.

After his return to Kelantan he established his pondok at Pauh, Panji, not very far from Kota Bharu, and then the pondok was established at Jambu, a bit nearer to Kota Bharu. His pondok was so successful that he managed to obtain the help of a number of assistant teachers to aid him.

Later, because of the Japanese occupation, his pondok dwindled, and finally it was closed.

It is reported that he was so proficient in fiqh and other disciplines that the state mufti Ahmad Mahir sought his aid in making difficult decisions in matters of law.

Apart from teaching he was also involved in writing. Among his writings are Tuhfah al-Sibyan li Ma’rifati Sahih al-Lisan and another one Luqtatul-‘Ajlan li Muhtaj al-Bayan, in Arabic; then there is al-Qaul al-Mufid li –Ifadatil-Mustafid, in Malay. Then there is a pamphlet in Jawi Malay entitled Adab Pergaulan (Conduct in Relationship), discussing ‘adab’ in relation to husbands and wives, children and their parents, teachers and their students, rulers and their subjects, and servants of Allah with their Lord. (29)

His other students who established their own pondok schools were Haji Awang Lambor (30), Haji Ghazali Pulai Chondong (31) Haji Yaakub Legur (32), Haji Mat Tubuh (33), Haji Abdullah Langgar (34), Haji Bidin Dungun (35), and Dato’ Haji Ismail (ex-mufti of Kelantan)(36), Shaikh Abdul Rahim Idris (37) and Haji Nor Bot (38).

Apart from these there are other institutions which are being established and administered by ex-students of To’ Kenali.

In more general terms, in relation to the vision of To’ Kenali in the realm of education, it is of extreme interest to note what Ismail Bakar has to say on the subject: (39)

In Kelantan, the situation was different (from what was happening in Penang and other places with the influence of Muhammad ‘Abduh and those of his school-uem) because it is a seat of learning in the field of Islamic education. At the time of the return of To’ Kenali from Mecca (1910) there were already a number of religious institutions of learning (pondok) which had been established by the well known ‘ulama like Haji Abdul Samad bin Muhammad Salleh (Tuan Tabal), Haji Wan ‘Abdullah (Tok Padang Jelapang), and also Haji ‘Abdul Rahman bin ‘Uthman (Tok Selehor Palekbang) .In the central mosque, Masjid Muhammadi, there were already classes held in the pondok system, carried on by a number of well known ‘ulama in Kota Bharu. However all the pondok institutions mentioned focused on religious subjects only like Qur’anic exegesis, Traditions of the Prophet, Islamic Sacred Law, Sufism and Arabic studies (grammar/syntax/balaghah).

He then goes on to state:

Even though To’ Kenali was considerably influenced by the reform concept (islah) of Muhammad ‘Abduh, however in the early stages he himself practiced the old system that is by establishing pondok schools and teaching only Arabic grammar, tauhid, Sufism, and Qur’anic exegesis, just like other pondok schools. However after his departure to Kota Bharu (1915) his vision changed, especially when he was entrusted by the then Chief Minister Dato’ Perdana Menteri Paduka Raja Kelantan, Haji Nik Mahmud, to devise plans for the establishment of Ma’ahad Muhammadi School (previously called Jami’ Merbau al-Isma’ili-uem) and formulate its curriculum suitable for a rather modern institution. It is here that To’ Kenali undertook to reform the religious education system by introducing a number of new subjects like history, geography, English, logic, literature (adab), ways of doing business, and elocution. Whereas the ordinary subjects taught in the pondok institutions like Islamic sacred law (fiqh), usul al-din (theology), fara’id, and subjects related to studies of Arabic still became the primary subjects of the school.

Then the above writer goes on to elucidate the wisdom of To’ Kenali in taking such steps in relation to Islamic education. He states (40)

In actual fact, what is of interest in dealing with the reform approach undertaken by To’ Kenali is that he did not take the radical approach hastily in reforming the thoughts of the Muslim Community in Kelantan, like the one taken by other leaders of reform. On the other hand he attempted to convey his ideas in a simple way full of wisdom. From what he has undertaken, it has become clear that what has been done by To’ Kenali was very gentle compared to has been done by Muhammad ‘Abduh. Because of this To’ Kenali did not have enemies even though he has differences of views with other ‘ulama of Kelantan.

And in seeing him as a reformer in his own right, within his religio-cultural environment, the writer assesses To’ Kenali as follows:

As a reformer To’ Kenali has his very unique vision which is futuristic in nature; he could see the problem especially faced by the Community clearly and the Malays who were involved in the traditional education of that time. This problem began to emerge when the British introduced the secular education which was market-oriented in nature.

Realizing this reality To’ Kenali was prepared to go down the field to affect a reform of the religious system of education by putting forward an alternative modern educational institution using an integrated curriculum consisting of a combination between religious and academic (subjects). This means that from the point of view of the schooling-system, he followed the Western model, however from the point of view of the contents, it is Islam orientated. The first experiment done by To’ Kenali establishing the Ma’ahad Muhammadi (previously called Jami’ Merbau al-Isma’ili) gave a positive impact and succeeded in narrowing down the gap of difference between those education along Western lines and those educated along Islamic religious lines. This is clearly proven when many students from Ma’ahad al-Muhammadi succeeded in continuing with their studies to higher levels in various fields…

And in relation to To’ Kenali’s simple and ascetic life combined with his spirit of high endeavour, this writer states (41):

So as to compete with advanced nations, To’ Kenali has proposed that the Malays change their attitude of laziness and negligence to that of being full of a sense of responsibility to uplift the status of the nation. This can be done by focusing on searching for knowledge in a holistic manner apart from having confidence in one self and possessing clear objective in all matters. To’ Kenali made an attempt to put forward the success achieved by other nations especially the Europeans so as to instill awareness among Muslims so that they will advance forward to bring honour to the nation by changing their attitude and perception which were not in keeping with the development of the times. However the change must take place in a balanced manner keeping in view the welfare of this world and the hereafter. And for those who neglect the welfare of this world only by concentrating on matters relating to the hereafter, he explained that such an attitude is not correct, because wealth is also important for fulfilling the needs of men. Similarly for those who confine themselves to matters of worldly life only, they are regarded as those who are the losers because knowledge, wealth and actions (including religious actions) should be balanced.

Even though in his views he is seen so progressive, in his daily life he carried on the tradition of the Sufis living in a very simple manner, without showing any trace of ostentation and self-importance. It is here that one can see the inner strength of To’ Kenali, because he was successful in manifesting ascetic life as an ‘alim without being influenced by rank and high position in society. This is the usual dilemma of some ‘ulama who are unable to live as they preach. And as a result of this Sufi character in him some of those who have interest in reform (‘islah’) or the new trend (‘pembaharuan’) become confused because there is a conflict between the ideas and character of To’ Kenali.

Generation of Writers Influenced by To’ Kenali:

There is a generation of writers of Islamic works which emerged under the influenced of To’ Kenali. Among those who are esteemed in the society are as follows:

  1. Shaikh ‘Othman Jalaluddin al-Kelantani (1867-1952) the founder of the Madrasah Manabi’ al-‘Ulum at Bukit Mertajam, the writer of tasrif al-‘Arf. (42). Among his other works are :Mir’at al-Iman wa Mirqat al-Ghilman (Mirror of Faith and Steps For Children), concerning Divine Unity, and Sufism, containing arguments for rejecting negative innovations in religious practices and beliefs; Misbah al-Hanan wa Miftah al-Jinan ( Lamp for the Heart and the Key for Paradise), containing discussions about Sufism and the purification of the heart; Siraj al-Islam wa Taj al-Ghulam (The Lamp of Islam and The Crown for The Young). Contains materials about the history of the Prophet. All these are published as one book; Fath al-Mu’in, a concise fiqh work, translated into Malay in three parts only, unfinished; Nujum al-Muhtadin wa rujum al-Mu’tadin ,containing materials about the history of the prophets, and discussions about the “kaum-tua and kaum muda”, that is the conflicts between the followers of the traditional school of fiqh and those who like to free themselves from the disciplined intellectual control of Sunni classical scholarship; Matali’ al-Anwar wa majami’ al-Azhar containing information about history of the ‘ulama, their differences of views, the differences in the Wahhabi , Zahiri, and Ibn Taimiyah schools as compared to the mainstream Ahlis-Sunnah wal-jama’ah; some information about the history of the writer himself; Anwar al-Huda wa Amtar al-Nada , being translation of the famous Tafsir al-Jalalain, first and second parts only; Al-Sharah al-Kabir , in Arabic, explaining the short statements made in the text; then the Tasrif al-‘Arf fi Tasrif al-Sarf on Arabic grammar, in Arabic, in poetry form, and with Malay translation for aiding students in understanding the text; ‘Alamat-‘Alamat Kiamat containing materials about the signs for the coming of the Last day based on materials from the traditions of the Prophet. There are two other works not found by the writer of his short biography. (43)
  2. Haji As’ad bin Haji Daud (1886-1941), co-translator with Haji ‘Ali Salahuddin b. Awang of the legal work of Imam al-Shafi’i, al-Umm; he was influential in the development of religious education in Kelantan.
  3. Haji ‘Ali Salahuddin b. Awang (1888-1968), the founder of the Madrasah al-Falah at Pulau Pisang, author of Al-Durar al-Kenaliyyah al-Ibtida’iyyah and other works, mentioned above.
  4. Haji Ya’acob b. Haji Ahmad, known as Haji Ya’acob Lorong Gajah Mati, after the place where he gave his lessons and had his residence. (44)
  5. Shaikh Muhammad Idris al-Marbawi, (45) an Islamic scholar who has made very important contributions in the development of Islamic education and literary history. He is famed for the popular Arabic –Malay Dictionary, called Qamus al-Marbawi, published in Cairo, in 1927, with several editions, and also published in Malaysia, Penang and Singapore. His other work, may be his monumental contribution to hadith literature in Malay is the famed al-Bahr al-Madhi, with exhaustive commentary of the collection of Imam al-Tirmidhi. It is published in twenty-two volumes, in Jawi, the earliest was published in Cairo.
  6. Haji ‘Abdullah Tahir bin Ahmad, the founder of pondok Ahmadiah of Bunut Payung. (46). He was born during the reign of Sultan Mansor of Kelantan, who was known to have disciplined his Kelantanese subjects to wear proper attire covering their ‘aurat. He had his ‘soldadu’ or keepers of discipline in the state to observe people so that they were properly attired; otherwise they would be marked with blacking. Before furthering his studies in Mecca he studied at Pondok Kenali under To’ Kenali. Haji ‘Abdullah Tahir is the only student of To’ Kenali who established the biggest ‘pondok’ in the state at Bunut Payong. This pondok produced religious leaders of significant positions in the society like ‘ulama, kadis, teachers, and Islamic workers who played their various roles in the State and abroad. He is considered as a student of To’ Kenali who had most number students in the states of Kelantan, Kedah, and Pahang. He is told to have brought the study of Shafi’i fiqh to its heights in the state.(47) After teaching at his Pondok at Bunut Payong, Haji ‘Abdullah Tahir undertook the leadership role together with his brother Haji Mokhtar in establishing the Jabahah al-Diniyah al-Islamiyah (Organization of Islamic Religious Scholars); this was the first organization of Islamic Religious Scholars in Kelantan which carried out Islamic da’wah throughout the state. This organization was officially recognized by the state, so much so that a representative of the organization was appointed by the Sultan to be a member of the Committee for drawing up the constitution of the state. (48)
  7. Haji Ahmad bin Ismail, the chief editor of al-Hedayah (1923-26) and later the founder and editor of Al-Hikmah (1934-41) , a translator and adaptor of a number of works from Arabic.(49)
  8. Haji Hassan bin Haji Yunos (1907- ) from Muar, Johor who studied under To’ Kenali and later graduated with distinction from al-Azhar University, becoming Assistant Mufti of Johore in 1940, and later a Mufti.(50)
  9. Haji Ahmad Mahir bin Haji Ismail (1910-1968), who became the Mufti of Kelantan, until he passed away in 1968.Due to his ability in writing Haji Ahmad Mahir was appointed in 1933 as the chief editor of the magazine Pengasuh to take the place of To’ Kenali. When he became the mufti of Kelantan he authored a book entitled Kitab Suluhan Awam published by the Matbaah al-Ismailiah, Kota Bharu, Kelantan. His other works are Pedoman Kebangsaan dan Perlembagaan Negeri (National Guidance and State Constitution), published in 1949 in Kota Bharu. He also translated the Risalah al-Qawa’id of Sidi Ahmad ibn Idris into Malay, while he was the state mufti, published in 1949. Apart from writing he was interested in politics and this is clear from the fact that he was also involved in opposing the Malayan Union in Malaysian political history.(51)

Apart from above there are others who are not included in the list of his students who were active in this field.

His Demise:

After spending such an active life combining religious educational leadership and reform, Islamic journalism and training of many religious scholars ,writers and leaders, To’ Kenali at the age of 65 passed away on Sunday, 19th November, 1933, after an illness which affected his legs. The Pengasuh magazine in the issue of 11th December 1933 (vol. XIV no.433) published on its front cover the photograph of To’ Kenali and mentioned in the notice about him that no fewer than 2,500 people visited his funeral, and his funeral was attended by more than a thousand believers grieved at his departure. He was buried in what is known as “Kubur To’ Kenali”4 ½ miles on the road to Pasir Puteh from Kota Bharu. His grave is often visited by many people for its spiritual blessings. May his soul rest in peace. Amin.

His Children:

Apart from his students, To’ Kenali has a number of children who carried on his work in the society, though not in the same dimensions and with the same impact affected by him. He had four sons, all by the same wife, Puan Rokiah bte Mahmud, who was the daughter of the imam muda or the assistant imam of Kampong Kenali, whom he married not long after his return to Kelantan from Mecca in 1908. All the four sons had devoted their life to Islamic education and da’wah in their own various ways. The eldest was Haji Ahmad (b.1909) who became a teacher at the Pondok Kenali, much sought after for his public lectures and lessons, teaching in suraus in the state. Then there is Haji Muhammad Salleh (b.1911) who lived in Mecca since 1927 (apart from the return visit to Malaysia in 1962) and once again later; he is a teacher at Madrasah Dar al-‘Arfiah, and he authored a number of pamphlets.(52) There is Haji Muhammad (b.1913) also lived in Mecca for some years, where he is a pilgrim agent (shaikh haji) working with Shaikh Muhammad ‘Ali al-Rashidi. There is Haji ‘Abdullah Zawawi (b.1926), his last son, his youngest child, well-known for his skill as a reciter of the Qur’an (qari’) and famed as an avid reciter of Arabic qasidahs with his melodious voice. After graduating from the Kulliyah Shari’a or the faculty of Islamic Law in 1961, he was employed by the Saudi Ministry of Education. (53)

His Personality Values and Principles (54)


The personality, values and principles of To’ Kenali is described under several topics by Abdullah al-Qari in his work 20 Sikap Dan pandangan Tuk Kenali (Twenty [Indications of the] Attitude and Opinions of To’ Kenali). Of course it goes without saying that To’ Kenali is a Sunni adhering to Sunni theology and the Shafi’i school in matters relating to the sacred law, and this had decisive and determining influence in his thought, values and conduct.

Among the topics mentioned by Abdullah al-Qari in the above work concerning To’ Kenali’s attitude, values and opinions are as follows, namely: his self-reliance, which he practiced to such an extent that he even made his own wooden clogs, he himself went to the purchase his provisions; he cooked his own food while studying in Mecca, and even when he was a teacher at that canter of education in Kelantan, the Muhammadi Mosque, and sometimes he washed his own attire.(55)

His Asceticism:

To’ Kenali practiced the art of simple living and ascetic ways, in serenity and peace, with the attending moral and spiritual courage typical of his personality. He had suggested to the state authorities to bring down the Union Jack fluttering in the breeze in one district in Ulu Kelantan.

He was satisfied with his attire consisting of the “kain sarong”, one shirt, sometimes he goes without the shirt, wearing it only when he had to be in the royal presence of the Sultan; he mixed freely with his students and the common people, he was so self-effacing. His character bears the stamp of the Sufis of the classical period of Islamic spirituality, the impact of the Prophetic spirituality among its recipients.(56) The present writer would like to add that this is a personality who truly manifests the art of simple living and thinking, not otherwise.

Considering his attitude in relation to worldly matters, when he was asked the question as to how much should any one acquire worldly things, he replied that it should be as much as necessary , meaning that what is beyond the necessary is not demanded by the religion; this means that he is not supportive of the consumerist culture like the one promoted by the supporters of liberal capitalism of the present day, or life of excessive luxury. He even went without shoes, and he liked to perform the i’tikaf at the mosque, supporting his head with his arm while resting. A story is recorded how the Sultan of Kedah then asked who he was and he simply replied “ I am To’ Kenali (Patek To’ Kenali)”; the Sultan then said that this is a very famous name, and he was amazed at his simplicity.

Concerning his simple ways and non-attachment to the world, the chief editor of the magazine Al-Hikmah explains (57)

Allahyarham was difficult to be compared (with any one – UEM) in relation to (his) asceticism, piety, and self-effacement (Ar.’khudu’) in his speech and attire. In fact he is an ascetic (zahid) in all matters. I have mixed with him for fifteen years and intimately was associated with him, drinking from the honey of his wisdom with Allahyarham (i.e. may Allah have mercy on him – UEM) (as his student), (in such a long period) I have never heard from him a word which can jar one’s hearing, and he was extremely patient in facing trying situations.

It is indeed illuminating to observe in a man of the twentieth century the classic spiritual quality of asceticism in matters of personal life combined with an amazing degree of activism in educational and intellectual matters, judging from the range of his reading, including magazines, apart from classical Sunni texts and then observing his reforms in the society.

Approachability and Self-Effacing Attitude:

This quality is being observed by one of his ex-students in one article in the magazine Saudara, in 1933 (58):

Throughout his life the deceased did not hurt anyone’s feelings, not any one at all, because it is his nature not to hurt anyone even though he knows that the person is a gambler and a drinker, and he will only seek for ways and means so that advice is given to the person gradually (such a conciliatory and careful attitude with people has been developed to such a degree in him – UEM) because the deceased likes to know and discuss matters concerning politics (“siasah”) and is so fond of Malay and Arabic newspapers.

People could ask him questions and he would answer them promptly and easily at any time and place, and he accepted invitations easily from the rich and the poor without discrimination.(59)

His Attitude Concerning Tariqah or Sufi Spiritual Path:

In his time many sufi tariqahs spread in Kelantan and members of the ulama and the intellectual class practiced it. Among the tariqahs then popularly known were the Naqshabandiyah, Ahmadiyah and Shadhiliyah tariqahs.

When one Sidi Azhari arrived in Kelantan in 1914 and taught the Ahmadiyah tariqah, at Jalan Tok Semian, near the Muhammadi Mosque and also at Kampong Laut, opposite the Kota Bharu town, on the other side of the Kelantan River, some of the members of the ulama’ followed him. To’ Kenali did not practise any tariqah in the sense of tariqah as spiritual paths associated with any established spiritual leader like Ahmadiyah is named after Shaikh Ahmad bin Idris, Naqshabandiyah is named after Shaikh Baha’ al-Din al-Naqshabandi, and al-Shadhiliyah named after Shaikh Abul-Hasan al-Shadhili. But if tariqah is understood as a spiritual path involving the practice of certain invocations, prayers, and discipline of the soul by the cultivation of the spiritual virtues like repentance, patience, reliance on God, nobility of character, intimacy with God, and so on, then To’ Kenali can be considered as a successful practitioner of spiritual path even though he is not associated with any sufi brotherhood. And there is no indication in To’ Kenali’s life and statements that he frowns upon tariqah, as implied in the statements of Abdullah al-Qari, his biographer; To’ Kenali’s personality is the proof that he is a practicing sufi (60).

As a background material concerning this matter we can mention the letter of the Sultan of Kelantan then which was sent to To’ Kenali’s illustrious teacher, Shaikh Ahmad al-Fatani. This is recorded in the Al –Fatawa al-Fataniyyah:(61)

The letter from the Sultan mentioning the arrival of one Haji Ence ‘Id (Sa’id-uem) bin Haji Ence Din Lengger a student of Shaikh Muhammad al-Danderawi and many people becoming “majdhub” (drawn by Divine attraction to God), from among the young and the old, men and women. The letter mentions that such a phenomenon of people becoming “majdhub” in a few days was unheard of among the ulama’ of the state. This is followed by the reply of the Shaikh. Among the points mentioned by him were:

  • Such a question for getting really verified information about such a phenomenon of “majdhub” should be addressed to those scholars who are scholars of Sufism who combine in themselves the knowledge of the Shari’ah and the knowledge of spiritual Reality (“antara Shari’ah dan haqiqah”) and who experienced the sweetness of the cup of Divine spiritual attraction with sound spiritual tasting (“merasa mereka itu akan lazat minuman piala jazbah dengan dhauq yang sahih”) (62).
  • Quoting from Shaikh Ahmad al-Zarruq about the spiritual and intellectual principle that: every knowledge should be taken from those possessing it, hence sufi statements are not to be relied upon in matters of fiqh, unless he is known to be standing in the position of fiqh, and the statement of a faqih is not to be relied upon in issues of tasawwuf, unless he is known to be truly understanding tasawwuf and being in such a position;
  • After mentioning he himself has taken the Ahmadiyah tariqah, and yet not tasting the “jadhbah”, he says that, on the authority of sufi texts, there are many categories of “majdhub”, and so on. And then among the revealing statements are: “(And then I say: people have called majdhub those who cry out the Name of Majesty (the nama Allah – UEM) or other words. If such utterances emanate from real spiritual state (“kedatangan hal yang sebenar atasnya”) and without being in the ordinary conscious state, then he is in one of the three from the (total of) four mentioned before. (And if) such (utterance) happens in the (ordinary) waking state and happening by certain involuntary (action) like someone sneezing, then that is included in the third category (mentioned) (And if) that happens by pretending (“dibuat-buat”) or by a satanic affectation (warid Shaitani) then that is not (true) majdhub”.(63)

From the above we can see the respect of Shaikh Ahmad towards Sufism and tariqah, and his own involvement and understanding of the authentic spiritual tradition of Islam. This trait can be seen in the personality of To’ Kenali even though there is no report about his adoption of any sufi tariqah.

Respect The Situation in Which One is In:

While To’ Kenali was teaching his students the message in Arabic poetry, he tells a story how there were a number of poor children in a pondok; their parents were not able to provide for them even their daily meals. Even though Islam does not encourage begging, the students went out, unabashedly, to beg at the nearby village. The boys told the villagers about the poverty of their parents and their difficult life in the pondok, making the villagers to sympathize with them; consequently the villagers brought to them a lot of rice, and they expressed their gratitude to the charitable people.

Then in the following year when they have memorized many lines of poetry in relation to their study of Arabic and its grammar and syntax, when they were with the villagers they kept on uttering the poems and the materials they have memorized; they forgot their courtesy and proper conduct with people , and when people advised them in a positive manner they ignored such advice, going on with their ways. Then a group of young men chased them from the village and they went back to their pondok hastily. When their teacher asked them about the unfortunate incident, they told him what had happened.

At that point the teacher advised them:

You do not have knowledge and practice of politics (siasah). You should not stay at this pondok only for learning religious knowledge; but this must be added with knowledge of siasah (or proper behaviour and conduct of affairs with people and may be understood as “administration based on wisdom”) – Knowledge of religion and politics (siasah) are inseparable (“tak boleh dipisah-pisahkan”); religious knowledge is for the guidance of your life and siasah is for building up of your life”.

Then To’ Kenali recites the following lines of Arabic poetry(64):

الدهر الى معشر ان ضمك

قد جبل الطبع الى بغضهم

دارهم ما كنت فى دارهم

وارضهم ما دمت فى أرضهم

If Time brings you to a group of people

And your nature is inclined to hate them all

As long as you are in their home (i.e. behave well)

And in their land as long as you are in their land

Then he continues:

“Your customary practice in your pondok is that you memorize the sacred verses of the Qur’an and the texts on grammar. When you do that when you are among your friends while they talk among themselves, they will not look upon you as not going against your adab or proper etiquette. But the customary practice among the villagers is different from the rest. In short, the situation in the pondok cannot just be brought into the village indiscriminately.” (65).

Then he continues: (66):

Whatever good things which we do may be looked upon by others as not good when it is done outside the bounds of the customary practice and norms of a certain area.

To’ Kenali’s Attitude Concerning Seeking Knowledge:

To’ Kenali has composed his own maxims in relation to seeking knowledge, based on his own experience. They are: (67)

العلم شىء بعيد المرام

لا يصاد بالسهام

ولا يورث عن الاباء والاعمام

بل هو شىء لا يدرك الا باافتراش المدار

وارتخاء الحجر

وكثير النظر

وكثرة الفكار

واجتهاد فى كتب البحار

Knowledge is something afar

Cannot be hunted with arrows

Nor inherited from fathers and uncles

Nay, it is not achieved except by making the earth as one’s bed (always being in the mosque)

And (feeling the ) softness of the stone (of the floor of the mosque)

And a lot of seeing (and thinking)(that is reading and observation)

And a lot of thinking

And striving (looking for knowledge) in oceans of books (giving detailed explanations of things)

And in looking for knowledge To’ Kenali has outlined a number of ways for achieving success; they are (68)

1. One must look for knowledge by oneself (apart from studying with teachers);

2. One must study it at its center; at that time religious knowledge was studied in Mecca; now it can be in other places. We can add by mentioning that there is al-Azhar and other suitable centers.

3. Being patient in going to the same center repeatedly in accordance with the situation;

4. By using a lot of observations concerning the sources of knowledge, including the world and the world of human experience (we can relate this to To’ Kenali’s love of reading newspapers);

5. Getting knowledge from major works of the various subjects so that one will get the detailed position of any matter that one is involved in.

To’ Kenali And Qur’anic Exegesis:

Among the subjects taught seriously by To’ Kenali was Qur’anic exegesis, and the tafsir which he used was Tafsir al-Jalalain, this is apart from the fact that he encouraged his students to translate the Tafsir al-Khazin.

In the book Anwar al-Huda , the commentary on Jalalain done by his student Shaikh ‘Uthman Jalaluddin there is the mention of the opinion of To’ Kenali on this matter. He states (69):

My mentor (“guru hamba”) al-‘Alim al-‘Allamah Shaikh Muhammad Yusuf Kenali, Kelantan, who passed away on the 2nd of Sha’ban 1352 of the year Of the Hijrah for several times he was asked in front of me so that he Comment upon the Qur’an without the tafsir, and he refused; he said:

We are not expert in the exegesis of the Qur’an (“kita bukan ahli bagi menafsir Qur’an”) without using the explanations in the tafsir (‘dengan ketiadaan syarah”) because we have not memorized the explanations in the tafsir and the words used in explaining the meanings of the Qur’anic verses (“kerana kita tiada hafaz akan huruf-huruf tafsir dan kalimahnya yang menerangkan maksud ayat Qur’an”).

According to him, anyone who wants to understand the recitation of the Qur’an he must memorize the “gharib” words of the Qur’an or the uncommon words, so that he will not make mistakes in understanding the deeper and wider meanings of the verses involved.

For instance, in relation to the explanation of the verse which means “Truly His Command is that, whenever He wills a thing, He says ‘be’ and it is”. (Ya Sin: 82) , when he was asked by one student of his in the course of learning the meaning of the verse: How is the command brought about with such innumerable creatures in the universe, then To’ Kenali smilingly replied that the meaning is not as literally found in the verse. The meaning is that the event is instantaneous in nature involving the effective operation and concurrence of the Will of God, and His Power, not meaning that literally He has to utter such words. (70) This manifests the profound understanding of To’ Kenali concerning Islamic theology and Qur’anic exegesis, and at the same time his attitude of compassion towards his students.

His meticulous attitude towards learning is so clear in his life; whenever anyone asks him for the meaning of explanations of Qur’anic verses mentioned in certain texts, he would not give the explanations off-hand, rather he would have the book brought to him, and after seeing it, he would give his explanations.

Tok Kenali and His Essays(71):

To’ Kenali has written a number of essays throughout the years. This is studied briefly by Abdullah al-Qari in his work Pusaka To’ Kenali.

Among those essays are as follows. ”Kemanusiaan”, Pengasuh , number 1, first issue, on 11th of July, 1918 with To’ Kenali as “al-fadil Tuan Haji Awang Kenali”, as the editor, pp.2-3; “Kemanusiaan dan bahagianya”, Pengasuh, number 2, 24th July, 1918, pp.5-6; “Me(n)jernih Kekeruhan”, ibid., number 3, pp.2-3; “Soal dab Jawab”, ibid., number 4, p.3; “Seruan (to the Malay Muslims)”, idid, number 5, pp.3-4; “Kenyataan dan Pengharapan Besar”, ibid. number 6, pp.1-2.”Soal dan Jawab” again ibid., number 9, 5th November, 1918, p.1.

Essay on Man:

In his essay concerning human condition, in the first number of the magazine Pengasuh he states:

(After mentioning the honourable position of man mentioned in the Qur’an in the verse meaning ‘Verily We have honoured the children of Adam, and man being created in the best of moulds in the verse ‘We have created men in the best of moulds… he states that) man is a creature who receives so much Divine attention compared to other creatures based on the saying from Allah (meaning): ‘And He it is Who created for you all that is in the earth’ whereas (at the same time) even then you are a weak creature, based on the statement from Allah (meaning) and ‘We have created mankind weak’, not being able to all work by himself, hence some of them need (the cooperation) of the others (both) in relation to work pertaining to spiritual devotions and also customary life usages (“samaada pada pekerjaan ibadat atau pekerjaan adat”), especially the work of getting together (involves) what is commanded upon them which is not sufficient to be performed alone, hence there follows from the work of getting together a number of things which are commanded to be done, and a number of things which are being prohibited.

This is followed by the mention of the responsibility of the congregational prayer, the Jumaat prayer, the pilgrimage, all of which, he says are for the benefits of mankind and not for God. Then after mentioning the creation consisting of the inanimate kingdom, the animate kingdom, humanity and the angelic world, with various characteristics of each, with intellect and will in man, with intellect in the angelic world, with no passion, he states (72):

The second category (that is man having intelligence, will and passion, unlike the angels with no passion) if he obeys Allah he is more noble than the first category (consisting of the angels), and if he is disobedient (to God) he is worse than the third category (that is the animals, with desires only and without the intelligence).

Then he cites the maxim of the sages in relation to social nature of the life of human collectivity; he states (73):

And when getting together of mankind is something which must be done, as stated by the sages ‘al-insan madaniyyun bit-taba’: mankind is by nature living in social organization, then it follows that man needs to know a number appropriate collective behaviour (“mengetahui beberapa adab”); what is the meaning of appropriate behaviour (adab)? Appropriate behaviour comprises all the beautiful and good behaviour and modes of speech, and that is something (of such extreme importance that) it raises all nations, and with the possession of which anyone can obtain whatever he wants, and attain to his objectives, and it raises anyone from a lowly position to that of nobility (“yang rendah ke tempat yang tinggi”).

It appears to the writer of this present paper that To’ Kenali is referring to the importance of social organization and social life, as mentioned by ibn Khaldun in his al-Muqaddimah centuries ago; and he is also using the term “adab” in a wide sense, not only in the restricted sense of ordinary proper way of behaviour in daily life. This seems to be in line with the concept of “adab” in Adab al-Dunya wa al-Din of al-Mawardi.

As for the importance of history and social organization as envisaged by ibn Khaldun, it is interesting to note that the ex-student of To’ Kenali, Haji ‘Abdul Rahman Sungai Budor popularly called as Haji Nik Man Sungai Budor, was the first ‘alim in Kelantan to teach the Muqaddimah of ibn Khaldun to advanced pondok students in Kota Bharu. It is reported that he read the text of the Muqaddimah from page to page until the end. (74)

And for the attainment of success in life he urges people to have the attitude to change for the better and to mix in the society in a civil way. He states(75):

Don’t we observe that nations which do not mix with others (in civilized social organizations) like the Sakais (the tribes in the jungles of the country) living in the jungle, they are in a situation disliked (by others), whereas they have their intelligence just like those who live in the towns (“seperti orang yang hidup di dalam negeri juga”). Hence it is necessary that every person of intellect should change his position (of struggle in life) (“me(ng)edarkan tapaknya”) to an arena leading to heights (of success) in harmony with the proper conduct taught by religion (“bersetuju dengan adab ugama”) and also acceptable to the meritorious customary practices (“berkenaan dengan adab yang terutama”)

This does not sound congruous at all with the mistaken popular belief about him being uncaring for the life of the world at all. He sounds more like his teacher Shaikh Ahmad-may Allah bless him, who states in his Hadiqatul-Azhar (76):

And I, a humble servant (of Allah) cherish the ambition in my heart for so long that Allah the Most High will make me able to listen (to the good news) and will make me see with my eyes in my life-time that the great Malay Kings (then and also other leaders with them later), especially the kings of Petani and Kelantan, Trengganu and Kedah who are so noble and great (together with the other states now), and the King of Johor, so famous with high aspirations, and the famed King of Deli known for generosity and justice, all of them will greatly aspire with great aspiration focusing their attention and efforts (“menghadapkan inayah”) with might and main, towards making all their countries as treasuries of knowledge and the plantations of human skills, the while opening the eyes of (the people of ) their nation (in the Malay World) so that they look with respect upon intellectual prowess and skills (developing them and in that process) there will emerge glory for the Malays (“supaya ada kemegahan bangsa Melayu “) among the nations of the world, and their good name most exalted among mankind, and their ulama (and men of learning in all fields) increase in their excellence, and they will excel among among other ulama, and their religion will be so outstanding, over and above the religions (of the world), so that, those kings, by taking such steps (successfully making the Malay World as treasuries of knowledge and plantations of human skills and ingenuity) will get the pleasure of Allah, and manifold spiritual rewards, because the spiritual rewards of every person who benefited from their work and the spiritual rewards of those who have the ability and skill and imitate the ability, for eternity they will be given the share in the spiritual rewards, and they will further get good reputation and mention among all people, and will be registered in the books of kings and the really great, continuously in their life until the Last Day.

Then in short essay To’ Kenali says:

There is no excellence in a person by himself feeling for his importance alone, (that excellence will not really be manifest) except when that is witnessed by seeing eyes, and heard by human ears, as we witness the deeds of people of the past and the present, from among things which we never imagined in our dreams how they could achieve (such tremendous success) while we are not able to do so; this shows that we are a people who are not doing our work of bringing benefits for our people and nation, whereas if we think and observe those people of the past and the present, who have achieved life of advancement and administration shaking (affairs related to life on) land and sea, these people do not possess extra bones or muscles compared to us, their appearance is similar to ours. But because there is among them high aspirations and ambitions (“cita-cita dan angan-angan yang tinggi”) with continuous good deeds, bringing benefits to their people and nation, then they become fortunate people, achieving all that they desire, advancing in all arena (of life and civilizational fields) (“mara di dalam tiap-tiap medan”), so much that they leave for us things which we cannot compare the degree of their nobility (“tiada dapat kita bandingkan taraf kemuliannya”);

Then he reprimands the readers (77), stating:

Do we (all) not yet realize that we are among the negligent, sleeping, getting entertainment from our ignorance, waking up in getting the pleasures for our own selves? And do we not believe that such situation as ours will bring down all the marks of honour of our ancestors obliterating all the remnants of their excellence, pulling out by the roots the trees of their efforts, in fact that is not hidden from the observation of those with discerning vision (“tidak tersembunyi pada mereka yang mempunyai tilik”)? And is it sufficient that we only mention (these things) and yet t we do not take steps to fulfill those things which we want and avoiding those things which abhor? There is no day for us if we do not move (to improve our lot) to-day …

There is the note of urgency in his message; a wake-up call for the Muslims to advance in the path of religion, knowledge, skills, and the call is indeed extremely “pressing”. It is backed up by a strong sense of history and intimate knowledge about the changes taking place. His language is direct, forceful, having the power to “move” thoughts and souls. May be this is due to his spiritual sincerity and sense of mission. This is in harmony with the vision of Shaikh Ahmad in the Hadiqatul-Azhar above.

In the essay entitled “Sempurna Manusia dan Bahagianya” (The Perfection of Man and His happiness”) (78) he writes about some aspects of the perfection of man which are difficult to be attained, while some are relatively easy. Then this is followed by the lines meaning “You hope for salvation, but you do not follow its proper course; the ship does not sail on dry land.”

Then he divides humanity into three categories: those with angelic nature, doing only good things, bringing benefits only not causing harm; those with the nature of many animals, not bringing benefits and not causing harm; the last those who are like dangerous animals. Then he says “You should run (as if in a race) in the field of the first category so that you will get the flag of victory, and you beware of yourself so that you do not fall into the second category, and take the utmost care so that you do not fall into the vale of the third category”. (79).

Essay on Pro-active attitude in life

In the essay entitled “Me(n)jernih Kekeruhan” (Conciliatory Attitude) (80) he says:

We are bored from listening to the criticisms leveled by the foreign peoples who come to this country, some of them raining down accusations at the Ulama’, whereas (the situation in the society is such that the members of the ulama’ cannot do much), what can the scholars do when those people who listen do not observe their advice and exhortations.

Muslims are supposed to be as what the Prophet –peace and blessings be upon him – said (meaning) ‘The believer with another believer is like a building well erected, some of them strengthening others”.

Therefore we should follow advice which are in accordance with the Sacred Law or which are not against it; and we should do our work which does not indicate that we are an evil nation. It is not hidden to those who visit our country, coming from other countries, seeing our rules and customary practices, which differ from customary practices of other countries, for instance in relation to clothing and the customary practices relating to our association with each other, and other matters, whereas they have their associations with the ulama’; it seems that it is less than what is in our country; therefore if we cannot be better then they (lit. “higher”) then at least we should not be worse off than they, or at least we should be on par with them.

The above reflects his attitude in relation to keeping the image of Muslims in this country so that they do not show lower level of conduct as compared to other nations.

At the end of the short essay he notes the changes taking place in the country and prays to Allah that the changes will bring in improvements in the society, and more in line with the demands of the sacred law (“sampai kepada makam yang dituntuti oleh Syarak”) (81).

Short Reply To A Question on Advancement of Civilization:

In Pengasuh number 4, 22nd August 1918, there was a question asked:

A question from some one who had visited countries near to Europe: Is the Malay people a nation (“umat”) which we can hope that from them there will emerge men on whom we can place our hope (of success) in the field of civilization (“tamadun”) in words and deeds?

To’ Kenali replied concisely:

Reply: from some one who has never gone out from the kitchen of his people in his homeland (“daripada dapur anak putera buminya”) from thoughts which has emerged from shriveled brain (lit. dried brain: “otak yang kering”): that to the opinion of myself who is not very bright, it is so far away, or it is very difficult for us to see our people, the Malays, riding on the horse of high skills (“atas kuda kepandaian”) in the arena of advancement which is attained by people who succeeded in the field.

Then he mentions the reason for his remark:

The proof for such (a situation) is that I have seen the sons of my people (“anak-anak putera bumi sahaya”) are not different at the time when they were getting shade under the ears of the elephant (the Siamese rule) compared to them at the time when they are taking refuge under the chin of the lion (under the British); it seems that they have pushed in a nail like a screw at the planets (indicating that they have stopped having awareness at all at the changes of the times), and it has become immovable; and the world cannot change its ways from what is already known, whereas (in actual fact) we see that the world is changing , not static, so much so that we can write about its fixed ways in books. (82)

Thus we can see that To’ Kenali is emphasizing on the changes taking place then, and urging the Muslims to change so that they regain their honour and position as well as the honour of their religion. The message is the same as the message of his teacher, Shaikh Ahmad. And we can see that To’ Kenali still thinks and acts within the perimeter of the perspective of classical Sunni scholarship, and there is not the slightest trace of disapproval of the classical intellectual attitude.

His Message for Unity of Muslims of this Country:

In sending a very strongly worded message for affecting the unity of Muslims in the country he writes (83)

O people of the Malay Peninsula (“ahli Semenanjung Tanah Melayu”), come, let us agree on one word (that is unity) so that it is easy for us to co-operate with each other, and we have no need for one Malay Dr Sun Yat Sin who can call mus to agreement of unity and have harmonious relations with one another (“kepada ittifaq dan berjinak-jinak”) because I see that there is no one who can be like Dr Sun Yat Sen in the Malay Peninsula. It seems to me that for a person to be like Dr Sun Yat Sen he needs knowledge and wealth, and for this two to be combined in a person, at this time, is very difficult; some have knowledge but no wealth; others have wealth but no knowledge; and those with wealth and those with knowledge are so different in their objectives if the person of knowledge tells the person with wealth: (anything which should be done) he will say this person is going to cheat me.’ So he will wait until he can do that himself; nothing is done; but the path to unity, to me, is closed, because our people, the Malays, have a disease, even European doctors are unable to affect a cure; the disease is: some of them think that they are better than others, and it seems to me that there is no way so that we can get rid of this (disease)

In spite of that, he advises people who are capable of doing work so that they do it carefully and cautiously. He says (84):

Now I hope that those who are capable of doing their work should do so properly with caution, gradually, so that they can make the person who is averse in attitude to be intimate, so that the work is not tiring but fruitless, with the objective unattained.

Then he mentions in humility that he is not the “horse” for this endeavour; if there is anyone going to take up his work, he is prepared to leave. He states:

I admit that I am not a “horse” for this field (of endeavour); if there is anyone who can release me from this work, then I will stop from it, this is because it is not my intention to show off my good deeds looking for the praise of others; (I know this) because a writer is a target for the knuckles; if he does not close his eyes (neglecting what people say about him or do things against him) he will die of grief…

I have courage to plunge into the sea of fire which is always burning as long as the good ambition is there (in me), and I am not satisfied if I breath my last without seeing new changes which are good (for the religion and the people). (85).

Short Essay On Spiritual Guidance About Intention In Prayer:

Apart from writing on topics discussed above, he also gives spiritual guidance in relation questions on spiritual duties. For instance in relation to the question of intention in prayer, in a short essay entitled: “Kenyataan, Ingatan, Nasihat yang berkenaan dengan soal-soal hukum muqaranah” (86) he states:

Among the inhabitants of the State of Kelantan in several districts there those who pray their five daily prayers and they do not formulate the intention (of prayer) as the intention which is generally known, only they remember in their heart (at the time of the takbir): ‘Allah is Most Great’ only.

So since there crops up a question concerning the matter above mentioned, that is there has been quarrels among the people causing the situation to be obligatory on us to provide a reply giving advise and remembrance, so that this benefits the Muslims.

So we say that, those who pray by formulating the intention in that way, that is having in the heart the meaning “Allah is Most Great” only, in the ‘takbiratul-ihram’, without fulfilling at the same time or slightly before (the ‘takbiratul-ihram’) the objective (‘qasad’) (namely: ‘I pray’), ‘ta’arrud’ (that is remembering ‘the obligatory prayer’), and ‘ta’ayyun’ (remembering the stipulated prayer, say ‘zohor’ or ‘asar), that person is clearly in the wrong (“telah teranglah salahnya”); this is because he is contrary (in his opinion) to the consensus of the great scholars like Shafi’i himself and those imams who follow his school of law like Imam Nawawi, Imam Rafi’i, Imam Ghazali, and others in their works, big and small, like al-Umm, Ihya’, Tuhfah, Nihayah, and other works. In short, it is clear that such a position is contrary to consensus of the ulama’. (87)

This shows that To’ Kenali belongs to the Sunni intellectual position in holding to Sunni classical standard sholarship in his views. And this has preserved the attitude in the pondoks until the present day.

Short Stories of To’ Kenali:

Short stories of To’ Kenali has been recorded by Abdullah al-Qari in his works , and this is recorded also in his Pusaka Tuk Kenali,under the heading “Cerpen-Cerpen Tuk Kenali”. He has recorded them from oral sources. There are two books of Abdullah al-Qari concerning this topic, namely 12 Cerpen Tuk Kenali, and the other is Tuk Qadhi dan Tuk Guru. In this paper this topic is not taken into consideration.

Spiritual Devotions of Tuk Kenali;

Abdullah al-Qari has recorded the prayers and invocations of Tuk Kenali in his Pusaka Tuk Kenali (88)

They consist of the following, based on the informations from his students:

1. Called by his students “blessings of Tuk Kenali” (“selawat Tuk Kenali”); this excellence of invoking blessings and peace on the Prophet is universally known in Islam.

On Friday and on Thursday nights To’ Kenali is reported to recite :

اللهم صل وسلم وبارك على سيدنا محمد النبى الامى الحبيب العلى القدر العظيم الجاه وعلى أله وصحبه وسلم

O Lord, shower blessings and peace and give blessings on our leader Muhammad the unlettered Prophet, the beloved one, the one with high position, with greatness of degree, and on his family and companions, and bless them in peace.

2. The prayers and invocations of To’ Kenali in Ramadan. He slept little in Ramadan, spending time reciting verses of the Qur’an and making prayers.

3. He was always reciting the Chapter of al-Ikhlas of the Qur’an, even while he was walking and going about doing his duties. The blessings from this spiritual practice must have strengthened him spiritually, making him the saintly man that he is. (89)

4. He always recites the “do’a Tuk Kenali” as known by the people, after the daily prayers.This prayer is the prayer of Imam al-Ghazali as is found in the end of the text Ayyuhal-Walad.

5. It can be added that even though he was so much influenced by Sufism, including the discourse of al-Ghazali, he was not a practitioner of any tariqah. This influence is clear from him reading such texts as Hidayatu’s-salikin, Sayr al-salikin, both containing discourses of al-Ghazali from the Bidayatul-Hidayah and Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din and other texts. Of course his own life bears testimony to the influence of the spiritual and intellectual discourse of al-Ghazali.

Concluding Remarks:

In conclusion we can observe in To’ Kenali – May God bless his soul – the intellectual and spiritual figure of a traditional ‘alim steeped in Sunni traditional scholarship, with a very strong grasp of Sunni intellectual legacy, combined with an intense spiritual focus, and the simplest way of living, yet acutely aware of the changes taking place around him and in his society, and with a sense of urgency made an attempt to prepare his people through educational and journalistic efforts, so that they strengthen themselves for facing such changes and challenges. Even though he was schooled in the traditional mould, he was aware of the prevailing issues, even on the international scene, from his reading of magazines and newspapers, Malay and Arabic, thus he combined in himself the external appearance of the man of the old school, yet he was “modern” in his intellectual awareness. All this is combined with his concentrated spiritual collectedness, which kept him on the track, unswayed by the external events so challenging in social and cultural life. It is worthy of note that his reform in education and religious thinking does not make him break away from the traditional construct of the Sunni legacy, unlike other figures who stand for “reform” in the Malay-Indonesian World, tainted with rather shallow intellectual awareness compared to him. This is a figure in whom profound spiritual awareness is combined with social and educational activism, and he has left a legacy which is worthy to be reckoned with. He is a worthy student and follower of the great Shaikh Ahmad al-Fatani.

Wallahu a’lam.


* In the preparation of this essay the writer would like to express his heartfelt gratitude-jazakumu’Llahu khairal-jaza’ – to the present Chief Editor of Pengasuh, Ustaz Muhammad bin Mahmud for making available the copies of Pengasuh and other materials; to my esteemed friend Zaidi Mohd Hassan for his ready help with books and other printed materials and also useful discussions; the Chief-Librarian of the Kota Bharu Public Library, and his helpful staff for the generous loan of books and journals.

(1) The epithet ‘To’ in Malay is not to be confused with ‘datuk’ meaning grand father; it connotes a mark of respect indicating seniority in learning, good character, influence, or craft: like To’ Guru, a very respectable religious teacher, to’ ‘alim a very learned man, to’ penggawa, a chief in a district, to’ penghulu, a village chief, to’ fiqh, an alim in Islamic sacred law, to’ tasauf, a man learned in tasawwuf and practicing it, to’ nahu, a man learned in Arabic grammar, and so on; there is even the curious to’ Mesir for a man who is known to dream about going to Egypt, but unfortunately never did . Then there is the famed To’ Khurasan, an ‘alim from Khurasan, Abu ‘Abdullah Sayyid Hasan bin Nur Hasan, who was born in Pakistan, and active in Kota Bharu in giving his lessons on hadith in the 1920s. See Ismail Che Daud, “Tok Khurasan”, in Tokoh ‘Ulama Semenanjung Melayu (1), pp.435-450).

(2) See the magazine Pengasuh (Educator), number 1, 1981.

(3) For his life Yusoff Zaky Yacob “Tok Kenali 1870-1933)’ in Tokoh-Tokoh Ulama Semenanjung I, (edit) Ismail Che Daud, Majlis Ugama Islam dan Adat istiadat Melayu Kelantan, Kota Bharu, 2001, 255-266; and the significant contribution of Abdullah al-Qari Haji Salleh, “To’ Kenali: His Life and Influence”, in Kelantan, Religion, Society and Politics in a Malay State, (ed) William R. Roff, Oxford University Press, Kuala Lumpur, 1974, pp 87-100.The Muhammadi Mosque in which To’ Kenali had his lessons was a wooden mosque ; the mosque which is found at present was built later in the 1920’s, under the British, and with many modifications and additions to the original building.

(4) Abdullah al-Qari, op. cit. 88.

(5) The name “pondok” in Northern Malaya then, and even in Malaysia now, does not mean only the hut in which a student stays, but a generic name for a particular area in which such traditional system of Islamic education is available. The name “pondok” is then qualified either by the name of the locality or the name of the most prominent religious scholar in the institution. For example, there was then in Kota Bharu itself the Pondok Kubang Pasu, named after the locality Kubang Pasu, to the north of the town center. Abdullah al-Qari, ibid. 88.

(6) Yusoff Zaky Yacob, op. cit. p.261. Concerning Wan ‘Ali Kutan (about 1837-1913) see Tokoh-Tokoh ‘Ulama Semenanjung Melayu (1), (ed) Ismail Che Daud, Majlis Ugama Islam dan Adat istiadat Melayu Kelantan, Kota Bharu, Kelantan, 2001, pp.177-188.

(7) (Abdullah, 1967, 21).

(8) For general study on Malay Islamic scholars, see Peter G.Riddell, Islam and the Malay-Indonesian World, Horizon Books, Singapore, 2001; and for tradition of ‘pesantren” (or “pondok” education) and the utilization of the “yellow” books- the “kitab kuning” in Islamic traditional education in the Malay World, see Martin van Bruinessen, Kitab Kuning Pesantren Dan Tarikat Tradisi-Tradisi Islam Indonesia, Mizan Publishers, Bandung, 1995. Concerning scholarly and religious activities in the Malay World (Indonesia) in the 19th Century see Dr Karel A.Steenbrink, Beberapa Aspek Tentang Islam Di Indonesia Abad ke-19, Bulan Bintang, Jakarta, 1984.The present writer has also briefly touched upon some of these writers in “Peranan Intelektuil (Ulama) Islam di Malaysia dalam pembentukan Kebudayaan”, in Peradaban dalam Islam, Pustaka Aman Press, Kota Bharu, Kelantan, 1982, pp.223-245. And for biographies of Muslim scholars active in the Malay Peninsula of Malaysia, see Tokoh-Tokoh ‘Ulama Semenanjung Melayu (1), (ed) Ismail Che Daud, Majlis Ugama Islam dan Adat Istiadat Melayu Kelantan, Kota Bharu, 2001, with additional materials on scholars of Kelantan doing da’wah work in Cambodia (Kemboja), and Kelantan religious scholars who became muftis outside the state of Kelantan.

(9) Among those friends helping him in this manner were To’ Bachok and Tok Jelapang who became weel known as scholars or To’ Guru in Kelantan. For To’ Bachok see “Tok Bachok”, (about 1868-1953) see Tokoh-Tokoh ‘Ulama Semenanjung Melayu (1), pp.521-530), and for To’ Jelapang (or Tok Padang Jelapang) by Ismail Awang, see ibid. pp.325-335. See also Abdullah, 1967a, 26).

(10) For materials on life of Shaikh Ahmad al-Fatani see Wan Mohd Shaghir Abdullah on Syaikh Ahmad al-Fathani, Khazanah Fathaniah, Kuala Lumpur; and Syekh Wan Ahmad Patani (1856-1908) by Ismail Che Daud in Tokoh ‘Ulama Semenanjung Melayu (1), pp.139-163.

(11) On Shaikh Daud al-Fatani see Tokoh ‘Ulama Semenanjung Melayu (1), by Ismail Che Daud, pp.17-66. Also see the present writer’s Pengaruh Shaikh Daud Melalui Kitab-kitabnya (The Influence of Shaikh Daud Through His Texts), a paper presented in a conference in the Prince of Songkhla University, Thailand, three years ago.

(12) Lihat Tokoh ‘Ulama Semenanjung Melayu (1). p.262.

(13) See Abdullah al-Qari, Detik-Detik Sejarah Hidup Tuk Kenali, Al-Hidayah Publishers, 2001, p.37. In connection with the visit of To’ Kenali to Cairo meeting the ulama of al-Azhar and also Shaikh Yusuf al-Nabhani in Beirut, and its significane the writer is indebted to his friend Zaidi bin Hassan of Kota Bharu, Kelantan, in his e-mail 12th of July, 2003.

(14) C.O.273/353:F.O. to C.O. 10th March 1909, minute by R.E.Stubbs, f.132. For the text of the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909 see W.G. Maxwell and W.S.Gibson, Treaties and Engagements affecting the Malay States and Borneo, London, 1924. pp.88-95. See Shahril Talib, History of Kelantan, 1890-1940, Monograph no.21, MRAS, 1995, p.105.

(15) Yusoff Zaky Yacob, “Tok Kenali” in Tokoh ‘Ulama Semenanjung Melayu (1), p.265.

(16) Al-Qari, “Tok Kenali…” in Kelantan Religion, Society and Politics in A Malay State, (ed) Roff, p.92.

(17) Abdullah al-Qari, Detik-Detik Hidup To’ Kenali, Al-Hidayah Publishers, Kuala Lumpur, 127-128.

(18) Ibid.p.92.

(19) See Pengasuh, XVI. 433, 11 Dec.1933). The actual editor during its early years was Haji Muhammad bin Khatib Haji Muhammad Said (Dato’ Bentara Jaya) later entitled Dato’ Laksmana). Cf al-Qari, op.cit., p.93 fn.12.

(20) Tafsir ibn Kathir is the famous tafsir by ‘Imad al-Din Abu al-Fida Isma’il bin Kathir al-Qurashi, (d.774 A.H.). The Tafsir al-Khazin is an authoritative Sunni tafsir too, though less well known. It is by Imam Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali bin Muhammad bin Ibrahim (678-741), popularly known as Tafsir al-Khazin.

(21) Al-Qari, op. cit., p.94.

(22) Muhammad, 1964/65, 63), Cf al-Qari,”To’ Kenali…” in Kelantan Religion, Society and Politics in a Malay State, p.94. In relation to his posts and duties Abdullah al-Qari mentions in his recent publication Detik-Detik Sejarah Hidup Tuk Kenali, Al-Hidayah Publishers, Kuala Lumpur, 2001 the following: member of the Majlis Ulama Islam of Kelantan (member of the Council of Scholars) from 7th December 1915-19th November, 1933; Chief Islamic education officer, responsible for leading the Madrasah Muhammadiyyah and the publication of text-books at that time.He is mentioned as Assistant-Mufti, that is he helped the work of the Mufti Haji Wan Musa and Mufti Hajim Ibrahim bin Yusuf.He was first editor of Pengasuh; then he was a member of the Majlis Agama Islam Dan Adat istiadat Melayu, Kelantan.He established the Jam’iyyah al-‘Asriyyah; translated a part of the tafsir “al-Khazin”, and parts of “al-Umm” of al-Shafi’i; translated “Tafsir ibn Kathir”; wrote a work on Arabic grammar and syntax, later published under the title Al-Durus al-Kenaliyyah al-Ibtida’iyyah by Haji ‘Ali Salahuddin;’ religious teacher at the Muhammadi Mosque.

(23) Until recently the present writer is one of the frequent visitors of this musalla.

(24) Born in 1902, Haji ‘Ali Pulau Pisang (known from his place his residence and his madrasah, taught in Kota Bharu for a number of years; was a long time member of the Meshuarat ‘Ulama of the Majlis Ugama Islam of Kelantan, and author of a number of works on Arabic language. He died in 1968 (Abdullah, 1967a, 113-15. Cf Kelantan Religion, Society and Politics in A Malay State, p.95 fn.14.

(25) For a concise and good biography of this scholar see Ismail Awang, “Syaikh ‘Uthman Jalaluddin”, in Tokoh ‘Ulama Semenanjung Melayu (1), pp.503-519.

(26) In ‘Abdullah al-Qari, “To’ Kenali…” in Kelantan Religion, Society and Politics in a Malay State, p. 95.

(27) in Pengasuh no. 552 (March-April, 1998). pp. 45-49.

(28) Born at kampong Sireh, Kota bharu, in 1897.Later Haji ‘Abdullah taught at the Muhammadi Mosque, and spent some time in Mecca at the end of 1920s, returning to stay at Bunut Payong.He was a member of the Meshuarat ‘Ulama from 1930s; he passed away in 1961. (Abdullah al-Qari, “To’ Kenali…”, in Kelantan Religion, Society and Politics in A Malay State, fn.16, p.95.

(29) Ismail Awang, “Haji Mat Pauh” in Tokoh-Tokoh Ulama’ Semenanjung Melayu (2), 218-223.

(30) See Ismail Awang, “Haji Awang Lambor” in Tokoh-Tokoh Ulama’ Semenanjund (2), 73-81.Haji Awang bin Haji Omar Lambor, dilahirkan di Lambor, Wakaf Baru, Kelantan, pada tahun 1900.Sewaktu remaja ia dihantar oleh bapanya belajar dengan To’ Kenali, kemudian pergi belajar di Meranti Pasir Mas, kemudian pergi ke Selehor, Tumpat, untuk meneruskan pengajiannya. Selepas itu beliau meneruskan pengajiannya di Mekah, kemudian kembali mengajar di Lambor.Murid-muridnya ada yang datang dari Pahang dan Trengganu. Beliau meninggal dunia pada tahun 1963.

(31) Haji Ghazali Pulai Chondong (1961-1969). One of the important scholars of Kelantan, known as a sufi. He was born in Kampong Lati, Pasir Mas, Kelantan, say in 1916.After studying the Qur’an and attending the lessons of his own brother, he went to continue his studies under Haji Yusof Kenali; after the death of To’ Kenali he went to study under Haji Omar bin Ismail Nuruddin of Sungai Keladi, Kota Bharu; then he went to study in Mecca. After his return to Kelantan he taught at Pondok Kampong Sipoi, To Uban, Pasir Mas, Kelantan. Then he went to Pulai Chondong and taught there. Among the texts taught by him were Tafsir Jalalain, Baidawi, Ihya’’Ulumud-Din, Minhaj al-‘Abidin, al-Qastallani and other classical Sunni texts. See Ismail Awang, “Haji Ghazali Pulai Chondong”, in Tokoh-Tokoh Ulama’ Semenanjung Melayu (2), pp.179-186.

(32) Haji Yaakub Legor (1892-1971). He is Haji Yaakub bin Ismail bin Abdul Rahman.He was born in Legor, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand, in 1892.Seeing his excellence in imbibing his lessons, his teacher brought him to Pondok Kenali; To’ Kenali was so pleased with his educational progress that he allowed Haji Yaakub answer questions directed to him;in 1919 Haji Yaakub was entrusted with the task of teaching at Muhammadi Mosque in Kota Bharu; thus he became one of the teachers there apart from To’ Kenali and others. He passed away in Legor in 1971.

(33) Haji Mat Tubuh (1904-1971) who was born without hands. To’ Kenali taught him so much so that he became an ‘alim in his time. He established his pondok in Beris, Bachok, Kelantan and gave his Islamic lessons there, and he became so well known as an educator.

(34) Haji Abdullah Langgar (1907-1976).

(35) Haji Bidin Dungun (1893-1977): his full name is Haji Zainal Abidin bin Mat Ali, a famous and very respected ‘alim of Dungun, Trengganu. Due to his efforts in Islamic traditional education there emerged religious leaders and politicians in the society. After some elementary education in his own village, he went for his further studies to Pondok To’ Kenali. By memorizing Alfiah, the Qur’an, and studying the traditions of the Prophet, finally he became a respected ‘alim and then returned to Trengganu to establish his own pondok. He is known to be a person who was very simple in his ways and his students were developed to be very devoted to their spiritual devotions. See Ismail Awang, “Haji Bidin Dungun”, in Tokoh-Tokoh Ulama’ Semenanjung melayu (2), pp.281-287.

(36) Dato’ Haji Ismail (ex-mufti of Kelantan) (1915-1988); he was born in Kampong Gong Kemuning, Pasir Putih, Kelantan.After studying in Pasir Putih, he went to further his studies at Pondok Kenali in 1929 and in between 1930 until 1937 he studied in the “halaqah” in the Muhammadi Mosque, Kota Bharu.Among his teachers there were To’ Kenali himself, Haji saad Kangkong, Haji Ali Salahuddin, Haji Ahmade Manan, and Haji Ahmad Mahir.After teaching at Maahad Muhammadi for anumber of years, he was appointed as the state mufti until he passed away.He is a co-writer of the Mestika Hadith and Mestika Hadith published by Pusat Islam or Islamic Centre of Malaysia. See Abdul Razak Mahmud, Pengasuh, “Dato’ Haji Ismail Dalam Kenangan”, 493, Julai-August, 1988, pp.5-6, 41.; also in Tokoh-Tokoh Ulama’ Semenanjung Melayu (2), pp.343-351.

(37) Shaikh Abdul Rahim Idris (1912-1990). He was born in Kampong Simpang Lido, Kota Bharu, Kelantan in 1912. His father was the state mufti from 1921-1927.After studying at Madrasah Muhammadiyyah (not to be confused with Maahad Muhammadi later) for six years, he studied in the Muhammadi Mosque, which was then a centre of learning then. Among his teachers there were To’ Kenali, Haji yaakub Legur, Haji Saad Kangkong and others. After two years he waent for further studies in Mecca; after studying for four years he was permitted to teach at the Sacred Mosque, Mecca. He alsao taught at madrasah al-falah there until his retirement from teaching in both institutions. Among his written works are Lunas Perceritaan (Tarikh al-Ka’bah al-Mu’azzamah), published by the Ministry of the Interior, Saudi Kingdom, 1371 of the Hijrah; Panduan Haji dan Umrah Dalam Empat Mazhab Shafi’I, Hanafi, Maliki, Hanbali, and Tarikh Masjid al-Madinah al-Munawwarah, printed in Matbaah al-Anwar, Cairo, 1966.

(38) Haji Nor Bot (1904-1994); his full name is Haji Muhammad Nor bin Haji Abdullah, He started his education by attending the lessons of Haji Othman bin Haji Abu Bakar near Kadok, Kota Bharu, beginning with Arabic grammar in Mutammimah, then in spiritual ethics in Bidayatul-Hidayah, then in aqidah with al-Durr bal-Thamin, then in fiqh with Sullam al-Mubtadi, then in fiqh Matla’ al-Badrain, and Furu’ al-Masa’il (advanced wirk in fiqh in Malay). He was most grateful for this effective education under Haji Othman. He also memorized Alfiyah and Matan Ajrumiyah. Then he went to study in Kota Bharu where he was taught by To’ Kenali and Haji Yaakub Legur. Under To’ Kenali he studied Arabic texts like Mukhtasar, Swhaikh Khalid, Mutammimah (all of which he had studied under Shaikh Othman), Azhari, Qatr al-Nada, Shudhur al-Dhahab (all of which deal with Arabic grammar and syntax). Under Haji Yaakub Legur he studied Jalalain (tafsir), al-Ashmuni (grammar and syntax)i, Fath al-Wahhab (fiqh), Kifayat al-‘Awamm, al-Hudhudi, and al-Dusuqi (the last three being texts in theology). Then he went to further his studies in Mecca. He returned to Kelantan and established his own pondok in which he educated many students who later became ulama on their own right and advanced the cause of Islamic education and da’wah work in the society. Among his students is the present Mufti of Kelantan, Dato’ Haji Hasbullah bin Mohd Hassan. See Abdul Razak Mahmud, “Haji Nor Bot Dalam Kenangan”, Tokoh-Tokoh Ulama’ Semenanjung Melayu (2), pp.373-381.

(39) Ismail Bakar “Tok Kenali Sebagai Ulama dan Tokoh Islam” (Tok Kenali as An ‘Alim and Muslim Personality), Warisan Kelantan, XVI.50-65.

(40) Ibid. p.59.

(41) ibid.

(42) See fn.23.

(43) See Ismail Awang, “Syaikh ‘Uthman Jalaluddin”, in Tokoh ‘Ulama Semenanjung Melayu (1), 511-517.

(44) Born in 1983; studied with To’ Kenali and then went for several years to study in Mecca, from about 1911; then returned to Kelantan and taught in Kota Bharu; wrote a number of tracts or risalah. Two of his children are noted for their literary contributions, especially Dato ‘ Yusoff Zaky Yacob, the founder of the Dian Press in Kota Bharu, and Tuan Haji Hassan, the founder of the Pustaka Aman Press, Kota Bharu. (al-Qari, op. cit. fn.17, p.96.

(45) He was born in Mecca of Perak Malay parents, in 1895, returned to the Peninsula in about 1910, spending some four years in Kelantan, studying under To’ Kenali (during this time he also wrote for the magazine Pengasuh). –Abdullah al-Qari, op. cit., fn 18 p.96. He was awarded honourary Doctor of Letters by the National University of Malaysia and made the Maal Hijrah Personality by the Malaysian government.

(46) Haji ‘Abdullah Tahir bin Haji Ahmad (1897-1961) founder of the Pondok Ahmadiah of Bunut Payong, Kota Bharu.For more materials on Haji ‘Abdullah Tahir see Tokoh-Tokoh Ulama’ Semenanjung Melayu (2)(ed) Ismail Che Daud, Majlis Ugama Islam dan Adat Istiadat Melayu Kelantan,1996, pp.49-64.

(47) Yusoff Zaky Yacob,”Haji ‘Abdullah Tahir”, in Tokoh-Tokoh Ulama’ Semenanjung Melayu (2), (ed) Ismail Che Daud, pp.62-63.

(48) ibid.

(49) Born in 1899, Ahmad Ismail spent his lifetime in the service of periodical journalism and the Islamic religion; after the Second World War became a member of the Majlis Ugama of Kelantan, and later was given the title of Dato’ Lela Negara Kelantan; he passed away in 1969.

(50) Born in 1907, was a prolific writer on religious subjects (Abdullah, 1967a, 121), and later became active politically, serving as the Chief-Minister of Johore until 1967. (al-Qari, in Kelantan Rel.igion, Society and Politics…,fn 20, p.96.)

(51) On Haji Ahmad Mahir, see Ismail Awang, “Haji Ahmad Maher”, in Tokoh-Tokoh Ulama’ Semenanjung Melayu (2), pp.149-166.

(52) al-Qari, ibid., p.97.

(53) Abdullah al-Qari “To’ Kenali, His Life and Inluence” , ibid.See Abdullah (1967a) 100-110.

(54) See Abdullah al-Qari, “To’ Kenali, Life and Influence”, op. cit., 97-99. and other works published like Pusaka Tuk Kenali, Pustaka Asa, Kenali, Kota Kharu, Kelantan 1988; Sumbangan Tuk Kenali Kepada Dunia Ilmu, Pustaka Asa, kenali, Kota Bharu, 1981; 20 Sikap Dan pandangan Tuk Kenali, Pustaka Asa, Kenali, Kota Bharu, Kelantan, 1988; Kelantan Serambi Makkah di Zaman Tuk Kenali, Pustaka Asa, Kenali, Kota Bharu, 1988; Keberkatan Tuk Kenali, Pustaka Asa, kenali, Kota Bharu, 1991; and the most recent Detik-DetikSejarah Tuk Kenali, Al-Hidayah Publishers, Kuala Lumpur, 2001.

(55) in 20 Sikap Dan Pandangan Tuk Kenali, p.3.

(56) cf.ibid.

(57) Cited in ibid. p.11.

(58) Saudara, number 29, November, 1933. See Abdullah alo-Qari, ibid.12-13.

(59) ibid.p.13.

(60) under the caption “Sikap Tuk Kenali Terhadap Tariqah?” ibid.13-18, then citing the views from writers who are associated with a certain school of thought which is anti-sufism, which does not represent mainstream Sunni Islam which is really the doctrine of To’ Kenali

(61) Shaikh Ahmad bin Muhammad Zain bin Mustafa al-Fatani, Kitab al-Fatawa al-Fataniyyah, Matbaah Fatani Press, Fatani, Siam (Thailand), 1377 (about 1957).pp.179-191.Concerning Ence ‘Id in the text, possibly the teacher is Shaikh Said Linggi who came to Kelantan before Shaikh Azhari.

(62) ibid. p.180.

(63) ibid.,p.182.

(64) ibid.p.41

(65) ibid.42.

(66) ibid.42.

(67) Abdullah al-Qari, Pusaka Tuk Kenali, Pustaka Asa, Kenali, Kota Bharu, 1988,pp.3-5.

(68) ibid.p.4.

(69) ibid. p.6

(70) ibid.,p.7

(71) ibid.,pp.9-16

(72) Pengasuh, number 1, 11th July, 1918, p.2.

(73) ibid. p.3.

(74) Tokoh –Tokoh Ulama’ Semenanjung Melayu (2), p27.

(75) Pengasuh, number 1, 11 July, 1918, p.3.

(76) In Hadiqatul-Azhar, edisi Wan Mohd Saghir, edisi Khazanah Fathaniah, Kuala Lumpur, 2001, p.22-23.

(77) Pengasuh,no. 1, 11 July, 1918, p.3.

(78) Pengasuh, no. 2, 24 July, 1918.pp5-6.

(79) Ibid.,p.6.

(80) Pengasuh,no. 3, 8th August, 1918, pp.2 –3.

(81) ibid.,p.3.

(82) Pengasuh, no.4, 22nd August, 1918,p.3.

(83) ibid.,no. 5, 7th September, 1918.p3.

(84) ibid.,p.3-4.

(85) ibid.p.4.

(86) See Abdullah al-Qari, Pusaka Tuk Kenali, p.9

(87) In Pengasuh,number 25, 30th June, 1919.p8.Cf Abdullah al-Qari, in fn (82).

(88) pp.20-32.

(89) There is an interesting remark about To’ Kenali from the famed spiritual leader of Trengganu, ‘Abdul Rahman Limbong. It is stated that “Haji ‘Abdul Rahman considers Tok Kenali from among the Sufis (“bukan dari golongan sufi”) but from among the jurists who are extremely truthful (“yang disifatkan oleh beliau sebagai orang betul”) – in Timah Hamzah, Pemberontakan Tani 1928 di Trengganu, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, 1981, p.40.


Abdullah al-Qari b.Haji Salleh, Detik-Detik Sejarah Hidup Tuk Kenali,Al-Hidayah

Publishers, 2001.

Sumbangan Tuk Kenali Kepada Dunia Ilmu, Pustaka Asa, Kubang Kerian, Kota Bharu, Kelantan, 1981.

20 Sikap Dan Pandangan Tuk Kenali, Pustaka Asa, Kubang Kerian, Kota Bharu, Kelantan, 1988.

Kelantan Serambi Makkah Di Zaman Tuk Kenali, Pustaka Asa, Kubang Kerian, Kota Bharu, Kelantan, 1988.

Pusaka Tuk Kenali, Pustaka Asa, Kubang Kerian, Kota Bharu, Kelantan, 1988.

Keberkatan Tuk Kenali, Pustaka Asa, Kubang Kerian, Kota Bharu, Kelantan, 1991.

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Majlis Ugama Islam Kelantan dan Adat Istiadat Melayu Kelantan, Kota Bharu, 3rd edition, 2001.

Tokoh-Tokoh Ulama’ Semenanjung Melayu(2),Majlis Ugama Islam Dan Adat istiadat Melaytu Kelantan, Kota Bharu,1966.

Pengasuh (Published by the Kelantan Council of Religion and Malay Customs), number 1, 11th July 1918 –number 36 of 7th December 1919.

Shahril Talib, History of Kelantan 1890-1940,Monograph no.12, Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1995.

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William R. Roff (ed) Kelantan Religion, Society and Politics in A Malay State, Oxford University Press, Kuala Lumpur, 1974.


(Writers’ note: This is an updated and final version of the article. The following are to be noted:


Under Haji Mat Pauh (one of the students of To’ Kenali) the al-Qaul al-Mufid is noted to be in Malay.


Under Shaikh Idris al-Marbawi, his al-Bahr al-Madhi is in twenty-two volumes, upon rechecking, not twenty as mentioned earlier.


Under the the topic of To’ Kenali’s visit to Egypt is added the last paragraph concerning the incident and its significance in the intellectual attitude of To’ Kenali.(p.5)


In footnote three –fn.3-the additional information about the Muhammadi Mosque originally of wooden building, only later the permanent building being built under the British.


In footnote 61 additional information about Haji Said Linggi.


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