By ‘Uthman al-Azhari
Everyone in life loves to follow the sunnah (way) of their role models and heroes. Unfortunately, many of us end up loving and following the sunnah of the hottest rapper in town, most popular athlete, or even a cartoon character like Homer Simpson.
Sometimes in life we run into people who teach us whose sunnah we should follow and more importantly, how we should follow it. Allah blessed some of us here in Cairo the other day with such an occasion when we were able to attend a lecture by Dr. Essam al Basheer, an amazing and brilliant scholar from Sudan.
The sheikh briefly spoke about sincerity in our actions, and then spoke about following the sunnah and its realities. The sheikh spoke from his heart and the vastness of his understanding, his moderation, and balance were immediately apparent.
He reminded us not to fall into extremes on either end of the spectrum, whether by limiting Islam to a small number of external issues or by being engulfed in issues of spirituality whereby neglecting all other aspects of Islam. He narrated what Imam Ibn Jawzi said about how some people have taken the external and literal meaning of things and forgotten about the intended purposes. “You may find someone who shortens his thobe, while in his heart is pride and arrogance. Unfortunately, such a person has completely misunderstood what was intended by the Prophet in regards to shortening one’s clothing.”
He made one statement towards the end of the lecture that summed up his entire approach to understanding and approaching the sunnah when he said (paraphrasing),”Our path is the path of the pious and righteous predecessors (السلف الصالح (. However, we should not believe that the term refers to a specific group of people or party. It is vast and includes the opinions of Abdullah Ibn Abbas and Abdullah Ibn Umar, the ideas of Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal, the fiqh of Imam Abu Hanifa, the maqasid (aims and objectives of Islam) of Imam Al Shatibi, the heart softeners of Imam Junayd, the philosophy of Abu Hamid al Ghazali, and the fiqh of Sheikh Ibn Taymiya. All of them were followers of the Prophet and we can benefit from each of them. “
It is an immense blessing from Allah that we were privileged to attend such an inspiring gathering. It is opportunities and meetings like this that show us how rich and intelligent our scholarship is. In times where every statement made in poor judgement is circulated via the internet, it is the light and knowledge of such people that will insha Allah brighten our hearts and guide us toward the ways of the Prophet and the ways of tolerance, love, and moderation in our actions and beliefs