Islamic Studies

Anchors of Shariah and Functionality in the West Part One

The First Anchor:

“There is no obligation in Sharı’ah in the face of weakness.”

Sheikh al-Islām ibn Taymiyyah wrote:

“Allāh the Most High, informs us in many places that He does not burden a person more than he/she can bear.

 Allah says,

“Allāh does not burden a soul more than it can handle.”

Allah ordered people to be dutiful to Him according to their ability:

“And Fear Allāh as best you can.”

The Case of the Mujtahid

These verses illustrate that Allah does not burden any person with what he/she is unable to bear. Thus, the mujtahid………if he struggles to derive a ruling-seeking evidences- then (in doing so) he should fear Allah as much as he can as this is what Allah has obligated upon him. He is (considered) obedient to Allah and deserving of His reward if  he observes this condition.

The New Muslim Unable to Migrate

The same holds true for a disbeliever who received the message of the Prophet in the land of the non-Muslims; learns what the Prophet brought, believes in it and in what was revealed to him [صلى الله عليه وسلم]  and fears Allah as best he can similar to Najāshi and others. This recent convert is unable to hold onto the totality of Islamic rulings since he is unable to migrate, profess his religion in its entirety and there is no one there to teach him the faith.

This person is a believer from the people of paradise just like the believing man who hid his faith during the time of Pharaoh and Pharaoh’s wife who hid her faith as well. In fact, this person is like the Prophet Yusuf with the Egyptians! They were disbelievers and it was impossible for him to implement all of his religious knowledge with them. He called them to the oneness of Allah and faith, but they did not respond.

Allāh, the Most High, says:

 ”And Joseph had already come to you before with clear proofs, but you remained in doubt of that which he brought to you, until when he died, you said, ‘Never will Allah send a messenger after him.’ Thus does Allah leave astray he who is a transgressor and skeptic.” al-Qur’an [al-Ghafir]: 34

Simillar is the case of  Najāshi, although he was the ruler of the Christians, they did not obey him and enter into Islam. Only a small group did so, and because of that, when he died, there was no one there to pray [the funeral prayer] for him. Thus the Prophet [sa] prayed upon him in Medina with the Muslim community; aligning them in rows, informing them of Najāshi’s death saying, “Indeed, one of your righteous brothers from Ethiopia has died.” There were a large number of Islamic rites, or most of them, that Najāshi was unable to observe because of this weakness. Therefore, he did not migrate, fight in the cause of Allah nor observe pilgrimage.

In summary: there is no difference amongst the scholars regarding a person who resides in the lands of the disbelievers; accepts Islam finding that he/she is unable to migrate, that there is no obligation upon him/her regarding things he/she is unable to fulfill. The obligatory acts are conditioned upon ability.” 

Majmū al-Fatāwa vol. 10 pg. 216-220

Translated by Suhaib D. Webb

Cairo 2009

About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship. Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010.

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  • Assalamualaikum Shiekh,

    I shudder at what some brothers would have called the writer of this fatwa if it wasn't Shaykh al-islam.

  • Asalaamu Alaykum

    Nice post masha Allah –

    A question –

    So the first anchor is “There is no obligation in Sharı’ah in the face of weakness” and applies to all Muslims.

    In the sharh provided, the case of the Mujtahid and convert are discussed, and for the convert “The obligatory acts are conditioned upon ability”

    Can the principle of “The obligatory acts are conditioned upon ability” be extended to someone born into a Muslim family in the west and east? This principle does seem to go hand-in-hand with “There is no obligation in Sharı’ah in the face of weakness.”

    Are there basic, normative principles to this rule, or are we to not advise brothers or sisters to do such and such as we would not want to overburden them?

    Jazak Allah khayr

  • AS

    Shaikh Akhi Suhaib, barakAllah Fikum, if you permit me to build on this trajectory of thought you opened up hadratik then there are some comments to be made, embellishing comments that may widen the discussion above. As you might recall in our studies with one of our teacher's we came across the notion of Dar al Kufr and Dar al Islam are important categories in the science of fiqh that have no clear evidence to maintain that these are definitive (qati) categories in the classification of the world.

    We often hear this classification tossed around and given a sacrosanct status and many feel obliged by it but few have understood the evidence for its position nor the implications such classification of the world has upon Muslims today. As a conceptualization of the world we need to understand whether it is grounded in the post-caliphate period where the concept of nation-state has gained in practice and there has appeared the idea of citizen and borders and passports.

    We rarely hear from our brothers who studied overseas and who now reside in the West that it Imam Muhammad Hasan ash Shaibani (r) was the father of the classification of the world into dar al kufr and dar al islam and the exhortation to hijra much of the time is based upon this idea and not much more. Neither do we hear that this notion was related to the political realities of the Caliphate in his time, it was a socio-political analysis that crept into fiqh and with talqeed was made sacrosanct and not something that is definitive (qati). Why do you think this is the case? The question here is how ought the Imams of the West to deal with this reality in light of fataawa coming from the East holding hijra to be obligatory?

    One of the premises of hijra is to take safety and refuge with the Muslims who are in a stronger position to aid one in one's practice this was the reality of the Madinan period. Another premise of hijra is to gain security for life and freedom to practice this was the case of the Ethiopian hijra. Another premise of hijra is to find an environment that support the practice of Deen, virtue and iman this was is exemplified in the hijra of the man who killed 99 men. Another premise of hijra is to flee to the command of Allah by leaving the haram and doubtful in deeds and thought and this is the hijra of the people of taqwa as Imam Ibn al Qayyim (r) teaches us in al-Hijratayn.

    Hijra as a notion in the Qur'an and Sunnah, and Islamic tradition is little understood and misunderstood as a practice. In other terms, we have yet to see the aim of hijra implemented in our community that being to establish the Deen practice, in self, family life and community. If we expand further that would be to create the conditions which are virtuous and just on spiritual, familial and communal levels at least this seems to be what is gained in lesson by way of the prophetic biography (seerah nabawiyyah).

    Aside from these reflections on hijra from an Islamic understanding let us be clear that in the battle for definition of right and wrong we find that the classification of the world into Dar al Kufr and Dar al Islam is employed against the Muslims to support a thesis that we cultivate hatred and intolerance toward others. In the case of the term Dar al Harb we are accused of being a people of perpetual war. Henry Kissinger, claimed war if the father of all things has been accused of holding that the Muslims have been struck with cultural retardation because of the way in which they approach the world. Now this despite the fact that he was a warmonger. Patricia Crone and Michael Cook from Princeton University use this sort of classification to argue that we can not be integrated into the West as Muslims despite the fact that many Muslims would have no problem with dispensing with dual citizenship on the condition that they have their rights secured. The way in which we read tradition at times harms us in the tussle of ideas and it does so when the tradition is not read in light of the aims of the Shariah or not understood conceptually and systematically and historically and in light of prevailing socio-political realities.

    We are charged with building a community and we need a fiqh of empowerment for that and we have that type of fiqh when we read tradition in light of the aims of shariah (maqasid ash shariah) and consciously understanding the way the scholars thought. So with that said is it not better we move toward using the understanding of Imam Fakhr Din ar Razi (r)? He held the world to be divided into nations and nations to be of two categories:

    1.) The people of Da'wah
    2.) The people of Islam

    In any event, we are charged with doing what we can but we must act wisely and in light of the aims and purposes and objective of the Shar'iah regardless of where we abide and in what abode. So regardless of physically migrating from place to place we are charged with migrating to Allah, from disobedience to obedience, from lack of love to being a lover and hopefully a beloved.

    Wa Allahu Al'am Wa'l Hakeem wa alahi nasta-een

    Abul- Hussein

  • Intersting comments as always
    I think the issue of Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Islam as well as the classification of Imam ar-Razi are not mutually exclusive just a matter of were we place stress and perspective. That is to say that these concepts will always have their use, for example a state at war may be labelled as “Dar al-Harb”. However what remains is how we view the world by default, since both classification signify a focus, the former signifying a military approach whilst the latter stressing a “diplomatic” approach. With the fall of the Khilafah, the general state of the Muslim countries, i agree it may be in our favour to use Imam Razi's classification.

    Just some thoughts…

  • As salamu `alaykum,

    “We rarely hear from our brothers who studied overseas and who now reside in the West that it Imam Muhammad Hasan ash Shaibani (r) was the father of the classification of the world into dar al kufr and dar al islam and the exhortation to hijra much of the time is based upon this idea and not much more. Neither do we hear that this notion was related to the political realities of the Caliphate in his time, it was a socio-political analysis that crept into fiqh and with talqeed was made sacrosanct and not something that is definitive (qati). Why do you think this is the case? The question here is how ought the Imams of the West to deal with this reality in light of fataawa coming from the East holding hijra to be obligatory?”

    This was a major part of Imam Zaid Shakir's argument in “Looking Back to Look Ahead” and after mentioning these issues and the fact that the whole notion of dar al-islam/dar al-kufr may have come from the Khawarij, was a political contingency and given the rise of the nation-state, those categories may not be relevant and do not come from either the Qur'an or the Sunna, and therefore, are not permanent. This is in addition to the Hanafis who have made it clear that dar al-islam has conditions and those conditions can be filled in a land ruled by non-Muslims. Maybe we rarely hear things because we are not listening…

  • AS

    Lumumba, hope your well. The postulate that the Khawarij are the origin of the Dar al Islam and Dar al Kufr dichotomy is a tall stretch. As far as, sources in English on this matter one could refer to Shaikh Ibn Bayyah's album on Fiqh of minorities, Dr. Taha Jabir's Fiqh of minorities for a start but without Arabic sources the doors to further in depth research on this topic are closed.

    The point here is to consciously read tradition and understand what is to be considered definitive and what is probable based on evidence. A conscious rigorous reading of tradition entails “listening” carefully to how we are being called to apply it but it does not stop there it goes further to unlock the underpinning positions of arguments and how evidence is employed in the context of scholarly discourses and in light of social demands. Paulo Freire, the pedagogy specialist gave us a good rule, if you want to see the soundness of a system look at the people that are formed by it. When we apply this to the discourses on Islam in the West it is telling of the exact nature of what is being said it is dysfunctional as are our communities.

    Wa Billahi at Tawfiq

  • As salamu `alaykum ustadh,

    The point on the Khawarij was a passing comment, something he he said that a few historians suggested, but then he elaborated further on the early authorities who were known to have introduced such categories into the legal philosophy. But that is not the reason for my commenting. My point was that the point being made here was the same one being made by Imam Zaid in recorded lecture series and it is indeed an excellent point that both of you have made. There are people who have come back home and are attempting to raise the level of discourse. Seeing a little of the frustrations that public speakers go through in the topics that they choose and the way in which they have to be presented in order to attract a large enough audience, do not be too critical of the imams when we do not want to show up. And I was not intending to refer to you at all in my previous comment.

    Furthermore, and no offense intended, but the fatwas about hijra being obligatory are not coming out of Syria, Egypt or Morocco. They are only coming out of a couple of known places , which returns back to my point that perhaps we (i.e. the masses in the West) do not hear such things because we do not want to listen to the people who articulate such a Western-oriented discourse.

  • AS

    Akh Lumumba I hope your well. After reading your latest post it brought a matter of importance to mind which seems to be implicit in your statement or related to say the least. We Muslims in the West and in specific the US have an issue with cash and we have an issue with a united front and an issue with a message that is relevant and grounded.

    At the end of the day we are not working with the Market we are engulfed by free market values. So in order to get the bills paid and live and do da'wah we have been sucked into name brands and catering to what makes money. I am not saying you are saying this but I find that what you said brings this point to mind. We need to move the people to understand the importance of supporting leadership emotionally and financially. In addition, the leadership needs to be relevant and understand the notion of working unity and accountability to the people. If a Umar (r) could be corrected by the people and threatened with the “sword” if he “fell off track” then what of us who live in an age of democracy where buzz words like “transparency,” “accountability,” “power-sharing,” etc. are notions embedded in the culture. This is where I feel we American surrendered the lessons to be learned from Malcolm (r) and the need for sound politics for the people.

    The call for Hijra has been called for from Syria and Egypt and this is the perogative of some scholars they feel they are justified. Here it is beneficial to recall what a scholar and teacher of hadith from the UK told me while he blessed me to stay with me he said: “that is their opinion, the West is home” Our leadership needs to command authority without being authoritarian and it is possible that that will not happen until we can at least learn to talk and have a common agenda. We have to unite, unity is “wajib” not a super-rogatory act and the net is the best place to create the culture necessary for cultivating unity and the night is the best time to beg Allah to put unity in our hearts and make us brothers.

    Peace in the East -especially Philly, my hometown for surely it is a far cry from the city of brotherly love.

    your little brother

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