Thursday, December 30, 2010

Haqiqat al-Muhammadiyyah

Haqiqat al-Muhammadiyyah
By Nuh Ha Mim Keller

Question 7

Many Pakistanis and people of the Naqshbandi tariqah (and maybe of others) consider the Prophet (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam) to be Nur Allah, the ‘Light of Allah’, and find it offensive that we call the Prophet (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam) bashar, a ‘human being’, even though the Qur’an states him to be so. I have also been made aware of a hadith in Tirmidzi that states that the prophets (upon whom be peace) were created from the Nur of Allah and the first amongst them was the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam). Do you have any knowledge about this matter?

 Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and Thanks are due to Allāh, the Lord of the al-ā’lamīn. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, sallallāhu alayhi wa sallam, is His Messenger.

The Prophet (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam) is the Light of Allāh, something a believer can say because the Qur’an affirms it in the verse 

"There has come to you a Light from Allāh, and a Manifest Book" (Al-Maidah, 5:15). 

in which the word Light has been explained by a number of classic Qur’anic exegetes as follows: 

(Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti :) "It is the Prophet (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam)" (Tafsir al-Jalalayn, 139). 

(Ibn Jarir al-Tabari :) "By Light He means Muhammad (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam), through whom  Allāh has illuminated the truth, manifested Islam, and obliterated polytheism; since he is a light for whoever seeks illumination from him, which makes plain the truth" (Jami‘ al-bayan, 6.161).

(Fakhr al-Razi :) "There are various positions about it, the first being that the Light is Muhammad, and the Book is the Qur’an” (al-Tafsir al-Kabir, 11:194).

(Al-Baghawi :) "It means Muhammad (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam), or, according to a weaker position, Islam" (Ma‘alam al-Tanzil, 2.228). 

And Qurtubi (Ahkam al-Qur’an, 6.118) and Mawardi (al-Nukat wa al-‘uyun, 2.22) mention that interpreting Nur as "Muhammad" (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam) was also the position by [the Imam of Arabic grammar Ibrahim ibn Muhammad] al-Zajjaj (d. 311/923).

All of which shows that the Prophet (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam), is a light from Allāh, according to the Qur’an. This is the interpretation of the earliest exegetes, for al-Tabari was the sheikh of the salaf (early Muslims) in tafsir; while explaining Nur as "Islam" is an interpretation that came later.

As for the Prophet (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam) being a bashar or ‘human being’, there is no doubt of this, because it is Qur’an and ‘aqidah. Yet the Qur’an does not simply state that he is a human being, but rather says,
"Say: I am but a man like you who is divinely inspired that your god is but One God" (Al-Kahf, 18:110) 

The important qualificatory phrase in this verse shows us that the Prophet (Allāh bless him and give him peace) was a completely different sort of human being from anyone else, then or now. For none of us can say he is divinely inspired as the Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam) was. Rather, as is said in a poetic ode to the Prophet (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam) which is often sung at gatherings after singing the Qasidah al-Burdah [Ode of the Prophetic Mantle] by al-Busayri: 

Muhammad is a human being, but not like humankind;
He is a ruby, while people are as stones. 

Though the Prophet (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam) is the Light of Allāh, he is of course a created light. Someone who believes otherwise has made the mistake of the Christians with Jesus (upon whom be peace), or the Hindus with their Avatars. We saw in the discussion at the end of question (5) above that an ascriptive (idafa) construction like Nur Allāh does not show that this Nur or ‘Light’ is an attribute of Allāh. Rather, the ascriptive construction in this case is a kind called idafa tashrif, or an ‘ascription of ennoblement’, like the title Bayt  Allāh ‘The House of  Allāh’ for the Ka’bah in Makkah, named this for its nobility, not that  Allāh lives inside, much less that it is divine attribute. Or like the she-camel that was sent to Thamud, which was called in the Qur’an Naqat  Allāh ‘The She-Camel of  Allāh’ as an ascription of ennoblement; namely, because of its inviolability in the Shari‘ah of that time—not that it was ridden by  Allāh, or was a divine attribute.  

As for the Prophet (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam) being the first of creation, among the Islamic scholars who have compiled works on his characteristics is the hadith master (hafiz) Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti with his two-volume hadith work al-Khasa’is al-kubra [The greater compendium of unique attributes], of which the first chapter is entitled "The Uniqueness of the Prophet (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam) in Being the First of the Prophets to Be Created, the Priority of His Prophethood, and the Taking of the Covenant with Him." The chapter’s first hadith was reported by Ibn Abi Hatim in his Tafsir [Qur’anic exegesis], and by Abu Nu‘aym in Dala’il al-nabuwwah [Proofs of prophethood], from numerous chains of transmission, from Qatada, who related it from Hasan [al-Basri], from Abu Hurayrah (Radiallāhu`anhu), that of the Qur’anic verse 

"And lo, We took from the prophets their covenant, and from you, and Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus son of Mary; and We took from them a momentous covenant" (Al-Ahzab, 33:7)

that the Prophet (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam) said, "I was the first of the Prophets to be created and the last of them to be sent." Suyuti records nine other hadiths indicating that the (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam)  was the first of the prophets to be created; among them the hadith reported by Bukhari in his Tarikh [History], and by Ahmad, Tabarani, Hakim, and Bayhaqi, that Maysara al-Fajr ( Allāh be well pleased with him) said, "I asked, ‘O Messenger of  Allāh (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam), when were you a Prophet?’ and he said, ‘While Adam was between soul and body’" (al-Khasa’is al-kubra, 3-4). 

As for "a hadith in Tirmidzi that states that the prophets (upon whom be peace) were created from the Nur of  Allāh and the first amongst them was the prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam)," I find it hard to imagine that it is in Tirmidzi or elsewhere with an acceptable channel of transmission, for Suyuti would hardly have failed to mention it in his Khasa’is, since this is the sort of thing the book is about, and Suyuti is a hadith master (hafiz), yet it is not there. In any case, the Qur’an is sufficient about the Prophet (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam) being a light from Allāh. 

Finally, in the metaphysic of the Sufis, or at least those whom I have met, the Prophet (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam)  is both the ‘Light of  Allāh’ and ‘a human being’, and the inability to join between the two aspects is a lack of understanding of the greatness of al-Haqiqah al-Muhammadiyyah, the ‘Muhammadan Reality’.  

To gain an idea of their point of departure, we may note that the entire universe has been created by  Allāh in order that His names and attributes might be manifest, that is, in order that He might be known, for He says, 

"Nor did I create jinn and men, except to worship Me" (Al-Dhariyat 51:56). 

(Al-Baghawi :) Mujahid [ibn Jabr al-Makki (d. 104/722)], said this means ‘except to know Me’ which is a sound interpretation, since if He had not created them, they would not have known His existence and His oneness (Ma‘alam al-tanzil, 5.230). 

Now, the divine names, such as, al-Rahmanthe All-merciful’, al-Karim ‘the Most Generous’, al-Rafi‘ ‘He-Who-Raises’, al-Khafid ‘He-Who-Lowers’, al-Sabur ‘the Most Patient’ al-Muntaqim ‘the Avenger’, and the others, entail and comprise the existence of the entire spectrum of human conditions—but particularly, ultimately, eternally, and at their fullest manifestation—the outcomes of paradise and hell.  

These outcomes in their turn entail a logos or determining order that governs them, an illuminatory law that renders them and the states of their inhabitants transparent and intelligible, an ultimate standard. This is what we call the Shari‘iah or ‘Sacred Law’, inseparable in principle from its divine origin, for it is one with  Allāh’s speech, the Qur’an , and the sunnah, His act of inspiration to the Prophet ( Allāh bless him and give him peace). Part of the Law is that "none of you shall enter paradise by his works" (rather through Allāh’s mercy), but the levels within it do correspond to works whose qualities and conditions are given in the revelation. 

From the point of view of manifesting the divine attributes and names—their ultimate outcomes consisting in the destinies of human beings, without which they would remain unmanifest—the appearance of the Islamic Shari‘ah, in its final and perfected form at the end of human history, is the raison d’être, or ‘reason for being’, of the whole created universe; and ontologically prior to it in the timelessly preeternal knowledge of Allāh Most High.  

And the focal point of this light of lights, the head of the whole matter of its appearance, and the site of its manifestation—in a sense the résumé of all created being and occasion for its appearance—is the al-Haqiqah al-Muhammadiyyah, or ‘Muhammadan Reality’ the Holy Prophet (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam), whose consciousness was identical with this Shari‘ah.  

We cannot ever claim to know all of the Prophet’s perfections (Sallallāhu’alaihi wa sallam), only that  Allāh describes him in His book as ‘light’; while at the same time, he had to be a human being, in order that the Sacred Law could be manifest, and the imperative of obeying it be binding on every human being. 

And Allāh knows best. 

The Mas'ud Questions
Ibn Taymiyah and Ibn Kathir
Was Ibn Kathir's aqida influenced by Ibn Taymiyah?
Reforming Classical Texts
How widespread is tampering of texts by the Salafis.
Haqiqat al-Muhammadiyyah

[Via Nuh Ha Mim Keller on The Re-Formers of Islam Excerpts, The Mas'ud Questions series, 1995]

1 comment:

Chudexs said...

JazakAllah for information.