Michael Hart: The Most Influential Person in History

muhammad-al-fatih

Above is a depiction of Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih and his army

“My choice of Muhammad [] to lead the list of the world’s most influential persons may surprise readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels.

Of humble origins Muhammad [] founded and promulgated one of the great world religions, and became an immensely effective political leader. Today, thirteen centuries after his death, his influence is still powerful and pervasive.

The majority of persons in this book had the advantage of being born and raised in centres of civilization, highly cultured or politically pivotal nations. Muhammad [], however, was born in the year 570, in the city of Mecca, in southern Arabia, at the time a backward area of the world, far from the centres of trade, art and learning…

The Bedouin tribesman of Arabia had a reputation as fierce warriors. But their number was small; and plagued by disunity and internecine warfare, they had been no match for the larger armies of the kingdoms in the settled agricultural areas to the north. However, unified by Muhammad [] for the first time in history, and inspired by their fervent belief in the one true God, these small Arab armies now embarked upon one of the most astonishing series of conquests in human history. To the northeast of Arabia lay the Neo-Persian Empire of the Sassanids; to the northwest lay the Byzantine, or Eastern Roman Empire, centred in Constantinople [1]. Numerically the Arabs were no match for their opponents. On the field of battle, though, the inspired Arabs rapidly conquered all of Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine. By 642, Egypt had been wrested from the Byzantine Empire, while the Persian armies had been crushed at the key battles of Qadisiyya in 637, and Nehavend in 642.

But even these enormous conquests – which were made under the leadership of Muhammad’s [] close friends and immediate successors, Abu Bakr and ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab – did not mark the end of the Arab advance. By 711, the Arab armies had swept completely across North Africa to the Atlantic Ocean. There they turned north and, crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, overwhelmed the Visigothic Kingdom in Spain.

For a while, it must have seemed that the Moslems would overwhelm all of Christian Europe. However, in 732, at the famous Battle of Tours, a Moslem army, which had advanced in to the centre of France, was at last defeated by the Franks. Nevertheless, in a scant century of fighting, these Bedouin tribesmen, inspired by the word of the Prophet [], had carved out an empire stretching from the borders of India to the Atlantic Ocean – the largest empire the world had yet seen.”

[Michael H. Hart, The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History, 1991, pp. 33-35]

[1] Constantinople was later conquered by Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih in 1453. In a hadith, the Prophet predicted:

“Verily you shall conquer Constantinople. What a wonderful leader will he be, and what a wonderful army will that army be!”

Narrated from Bishr al-Khath’ami or al-Ghanawi by:
Ahmad, al-Musnad 14:331 #18859 [sahih chain according to Hamza al-Zayn] al-Hakim, al-Mustadrak 4:421-422 [sahih according to him and al-Dhahabi concurred] al-Tabarani, al-Mu`jam al-Kabir 2:38 #1216 [sahih chain according to al-Haythami 6:218-219] al-Bukhari, al-Tarikh al-Kabir 2:81 and al-Saghir 1:306 Ibn `Abd al-Barr, al-Isti`ab 8:170 [hasan chain according to him] al-Suyuti, al-Jami` al-Saghir [sahih according to him]

The Black Man

black manWhen Muslims conquered Egypt and advanced to the Fort of Bablion, Muqauqis the ruler of Egypt sent a delegation to speak to Muslims to find out what they wanted. He also expressed a desire to receive a delegation of Muslims. Therefore ‘Amr bin al ‘As [raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him)] sent a delegation comprising ten people. This delegation was led by ‘Ubada ibn Samit [raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him)], and he alone was authorized to talk to Muqauqis.

‘Ubada was tall and very black, and when the delegation approached Muqauqis to speak to him, he was struck by his appearance alone, and said to the members of the delegation, “Keep this black person away from me, and bring forward somebody else to speak to me.” The members of the delegation unanimously said to him, “He is superior to us in intellect, knowledge, opinion, insight and in every other way. He is our leader. We all turn to him for his opinion and advice. Moreover, our governor has given him some particular instructions, and he has ordered us not to go against him in any matter whatsoever.”

At this, Muqauqis said to the delegation, “How could you agree to make him your leader and superior, whereas he ought to have been your subordinate?” To this the delegation replied, “No, despite the fact that you see him as black, he is the best among us in knowledge, in nobility, in intellect and opinion, and we do not look down upon the black man.” Muqauqis said to  ‘Ubada, “Come forward, O black [man] and speak to me gently, for I fear your colour, and if you were to talk to me in a harsh tone, my distress shall be all the greater.” ‘Ubada, noticing Muqauqis’ fear of  black people, said, “ We have in our army a thousand people darker than me.”

[Dr. Mustafa Siba‘i, The Islamic Civilization, Awakening Publications, Swansea,  2002, pp. 67-68]

How al-Awza‘i* Spoke the Truth to a Tyrant Ruler

sword2

After the Banu Umayyah were massacred and banished from Syria by the tyrannical Amir of Syria, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Ali (the first Abbasid caliph’s uncle), he summoned al-Awza‘i. After going missing for three days, the latter appeared before the court of the Amir.

Al-Awza‘i relates:

“I went in to see him and he was reclining on his bed with a staff in his hand and soldiers to his right and left bearing menacing swords and iron rods. So I imparted the Islamic greetings to him but he didn’t reply. He banged the staff in his hand and asked: ‘O, Awza‘i, what’s your view regarding what we have done to the people and this land in removing the oppression of those [Banu Umayyah]? Was it considered Jihad and defending Islam?’

I thought to myself and decided to tell the truth, bracing for certain death [and said]: O Amir! I heard Yahya b. Sa`id al-Ansari say: I heard Muhammad b. Ibrahim al-Taymi say: I heard `Alqama b. Waqqas say: I heard `Umar b. al-Khattab say: I heard the Messenger of Allah say: “Actions are based on intentions and every person will get what he intended…” [Bukhari, Muslim and others]

[The ruler] stamped his staff harder than before and made all those around him seize their swords with their hands saying: ‘O Awza‘i! What do you say regarding the blood of the Banu Umayyah being spilled?’

I said: ‘The Messenger of Allah said: “A Muslim may not spill the blood of another except in three cases: [1] a life for a life, [2] an adulterer and [3] someone who leaves his religion by separating from the community” [Bukhari, Muslim and others]’

The Amir continued: ‘Tell me about the caliphate, is it not our inheritance as stipulated by the Prophet ?’ I replied, ‘Had that been the case, ‘Ali raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) would have never let anyone come before him.’

He stamped his staff even more fiercely than before and said: ‘But what do you say about the treasure of the Banu Umayya?’. I replied: ‘If it were lawful for them, it is unlawful for you, and if it were unlawful for them, it is even more unlawful for you!’

He then banged his staff down even harder than before that and said: ‘Shall we give you a position of authority [in the courts]?’ I replied: ‘Your predecessors were not fond of offering me such a position. I wish to complete the excellence that was begun by them for me’.

He said: ‘So, you desire to leave?’

I was waiting for my head to be severed from my shoulders in front of him. So he ordered me to leave. When I left with his messenger following behind me, he had with him 100 dinars and said I should take it and spend as it was from the Amir.

So I did take it but distributed it to the needy as sadaqa because I took it out of fear…”

* ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Amr ibn Yahmad Abu ‘Amr al-Awza‘i (88 H/707 CE to 158 H/774 CE), Shaykh al-Islam, the saintly, wise Scholar of the People of Sham (Greater Syria), was one of the mujtahid Imams of the Salaf along with the Four Imams, Sufyan al-Thawri, al-Tabari, and others, the first – with Ibn Jurayj and Abu Hanifa – to compile the Sunna of the Prophet and the Companions under fiqh subheadings. Born orphaned and poor in Ba‘balak and raised in al-Kark in the Biqa‘ valley, he came to live in the area known as – and populated by – the Auza‘ or “variegated tribes” in Damascus then moved to Beirut where he remained garrisoned until his death, his fame having spread to the entire Islamic world of his time.

[Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya, vol. 10, pp. 124-126. Cf. The Four Imams and their Schools, Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad, Muslim Academic Trust, 2007, p. 100]

Shaykh Abdalqadir al-Murabit on Government Scholars

Government scholars

Now, what we have at the moment is – we have no fuqaha’! It is as simple as that. What do I mean by that? I mean we have ‘ulama’, but they are castrated, metaphorically speaking. They are impotised, they are unmanned, politically speaking. Why? Because they have assembled a vast body of knowledge – no one will argue it. They can quote you hadith from morning to night. They can make commentary on Qur’an from morning to night. How many will make prayer from night to morning is not our business. But these men cannot impinge on the social process.

I was visited by a man from Qatar, who presented himself as this Islamic authority and an Islamic leader. He said, “Kitab wa Sunna”. I said, “How can you say, ‘Kitab wa Sunna’, if you work for this Amir, when this and this, and more that you know that I do not know is haram and should be punished and is unacceptable?” He said, “Oh, he is a very nice man, he is a very charming man, but he is rather stupid and he does not understand these things so we do not discuss them with him.” He was prepared to accept the complete surrender of that political and legal authority for the tenure and the salary of a silent ‘alim, who would underwrite every haram act of that government.

So what we find is we have ‘ulama’ and no fuqaha’.

[Shaykh Abdalqadir al-Murabit, Root Islamic Education, Madinah Press, Second Edition, London, 1993, pp. 13-14]

Qadi ‘Iyad on the Sahabah, the Shari‘ah and Madinah and the Return of Ruling by Islam

Madinah

Qadi ‘Iyad* says in Tartīb al Madārik:

“The Prophet’s Companions supported him in firmly establishing his Shari‘ah during his lifetime and after his death. They succeeded him in protecting it and keeping it in good custody”.

“In numerous revealed texts Allah has indicated explicitly how He granted them excellence above others, commanding that they also be taken as examples to be emulated. And he gave severe warning against following paths other than theirs. He brought them to make their home in Madinah, the homeland of His Revelation, the ultimate refuge of His deen and the place where His Shari‘ah was instituted and established, the land to which His angels came down, the place of the hijra of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and give him peace, the place in which His book was revealed, the land where the legacy of all His messengers was brought together to live forever, the place where all good was joined together. The cave of iman and wisdom, the golden mine of the Shari‘ah and Sunna, the radiant lamp of guidance by the light of which the regions of the East and West were illuminated. The unending fountainhead of knowledge from which all rivers, valleys and tributaries draw their water.”

“Allah then caused the Companions to be succeeded in each generation by followers of thorough truthfulness and justice.”

And later on in the book, Qadi ‘Iyad mentions this narration:

“From Abu Hurayra, may Allah be pleased with him, “The one upon whom we ask blessings and peace, said, ‘The Hour shall not take place until Iman returns to take refuge in Madinah just like the snake returning to take refuge in her hole.’ ”Abu Musab al-Zuhri** said regarding this hadith, ‘By Allah! It shall not return and take refuge but among its true followers and its people who establish it completely and properly and who institute in their lives its various precepts and laws, and who have knowledge of its proper interpretation, establishing firmly its rulings by which it judges.’ ”

*Qadi ‘Iyad is ‘Iyad ibn Musa ibn ‘Iyad ibn ‘Imran, Abu al-Fadl al-Yahsubi, born in Sabta (present-day Ceuta, on the Strait of Gibraltar) in 476 H (1083 CE). The Imam of western Muslimdom in hadith and Arabic lexicology, he was a gifted Maliki scholar and author who wrote a number of books in the sciences of hadith, Maliki jurisprudence, and history, though he is best remembered for his two-volume al-Shifa bi ta‘rif huquq al-Mustafa [The cure, in outlining the attributes of the Chosen One], universally acknowledged as among the finest works ever written on the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). He was appointed as the judge of Sabta, then Granada, and finally Marrakesh, where he died in 544 H (1149 CE) [Excerpted from Reliance of the Traveller, by Shaykh Nuh Keller, p. 1089]

**He is the learned Scholar and trustworthy hadith Master of Madinah, Abu Musab Ahmad ibn Abi Bakr ibn al-Harith al-Zuhri (152 242 H). He was one of those who narrated the Muwaṭṭa directly from Imam Malik [cf. The Four Imams and their Schools, Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad, Muslim Academic Trust, 2007, p. 145]

[Qadi ‘Iyad, ترتيب المدارك وتقريب المسالك لمعرفة أعلام مذهب مالك (Tartīb al madārik wa taqrīb al masālik li ma‘rifat a‘lām madhhab Mālik), quoted in Root Islamic Education, Shaykh Abdalqadir al-Murabit, Madinah Press, Second Edition, London, 1993, pp. 36-37, 53-54]

Ibn Hajar on Obeying and Disobeying those in Authority

kuranThe following is from the translated meaning of the Qur’an (4:59):

“O Believers, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you; and if you have a dispute concerning any matter, refer it to Allah and the Messenger if you are [in truth] believers in Allah and the Last Day.” [Rendered by Shaykh Gibril Haddad]

The above verse is cited by Imam Bukhārī in his Ṣaḥīḥ as the heading of the first chapter of Kitāb al-Aḥkām (Book of Judgments). Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī says in his commentary of this section of Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī:

‘The subtlety of repeating the verb for the Prophet – upon him blessings and peace – in Obey Allah and obey the Messenger but not for and those in command among you – although the one being obeyed in reality is Allah – is that the sources by which one determines one’s legal responsibility are the Qur’ān and the Sunna. It is as if Allah Most High were saying: “Obey Allah in whatever He textually stipulates for you in the Qur’ān and obey the Messenger in whatever he elucidates from the Qur’ān for you and textually stipulates in the Sunna,” or “Obey Allah in all He commands you in the revelation instituted for worship-through-recitation, and obey the Messenger in all he commands you in the revelation that is other than the Qur’ān.” Al-Ṭībī said (d. 743/1342): “He repeated the verb and obey the Messenger as a sign that the Prophet – upon him blessings and peace – is obeyed independently, but he did not repeat it for and those of you who are in authority as a sign that some of them do not have to be obeyed. Then He expounded this by saying and if you have a dispute concerning any matter, as if saying: if they do not act according to right, then do not obey them, and refer to whatever you differed about to the judgment of Allah and His Messenger.” ’

[Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī, فتح الباري شرح صحيح البخاري (Fatḥ al-Bārī Sharḥ Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī), translated in Integrated Encyclopedia of the Qur’ān (IEQ) by Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad, Sherwood Park and Seattle, Centre for Islamic Sciences, vol. 1 p. 279. For brief biographical details of Ibn Ḥajar, see the previous post on this blog entitled Ibn Hajar on Arab Rulers]

 

Post Script

The meaning of those in authority among you is elaborated by al-Bayḍāwī (d. 684/1286) in his tafsīr (commentary) of 4:59: “it comprises caliphs, judges, and military commanders … as long as they stand for truth” [see IEQ, p. 278].

Also, Ibn Kathīr cites the following in his tafsīr of the verse in question:

“Umm al-Ḥusayn said that she heard the Messenger of Allah giving a speech during the Farewell Ḥajj, in which he said:

‘Even if a slave was appointed over you, and he rules you with Allah’s Book, then listen to him and obey him.’ [related in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim].” (Ibn Kathīr, vol. 2, p. 497)

 

Imam Ghazali’s ‘Definite Proof’ that Appointing a Caliph is Obligatory

iqtisad

Despite the fact that Imam Ghazali’s al-Iqtiṣād fi al-I‘tiqād is a book on beliefs (‘aqīda), he includes a whole chapter on the imamate (caliphate) in this work. At the beginning of this chapter, he includes a discussion of what he describes as ‘definite legal proof’ (al-burhān al-qaṭ‘ī al-shar‘ī) that appointing an imam is an obligation. In this discussion, he also says that ‘religion (dīn) and sultan are twins’:

“We should not think that this obligation derives from the intellect. We have explained that obligations derive from the revelation, except when ‘obligatory’ is interpreted to designate an act, such that there is benefit in performing it or harm in refraining from it. According to this interpretation, it cannot be denied that appointing an imam is obligatory, since it leads to benefit and prevents harm in this worldly life. However, we present a conclusive legal demonstration [البرهان القطعى الشرعى] that it is obligatory. We will not rely solely on the consensus [ijmā‘] of the Muslim community; rather we bring attention to the basis of this consensus.

Hence we say:

Well ordered religious affairs are decidedly a purpose of the man with the revelation [Muhammad] (ﷺ). This is an unquestionable premise about which no dispute is imaginable. We add to it another premise, which is that well-ordered religious affairs can only be achieved through an imam who is obeyed. The correctness of the proposition that the appointment of an imam is obligatory follows from these two premises.

If it is said that the last premise, which is that well-ordered religious affairs can be achieved only through an imam, is not conceded, then we say: “Its demonstration is that well-ordered religious affairs can be achieved only by well-ordered worldly affairs and well-ordered worldly affairs can be achieved only by an imam who is obeyed.” These are two premises: which one is the subject of dispute?

It might be said: “Why do you say that well-ordered religious affairs can be achieved only through well-ordered worldly affairs? On the contrary, it can be achieved only by destruction of worldly affairs, for religious affairs and worldly affairs are opposites, and hence to be occupied with making one of them flourish is the ruin of the other.”

We say:

This is the argument of someone who does not understand what we intend here by ‘worldly affairs’. For it is an ambiguous term that may be used to designate luxury and pleasure and being excessive beyond what is needed and necessary, or it may be used to designate all that is required prior to one’s death. One of the designations is opposed to religion and the other is its very condition. It is this way that the one who does not distinguish between the meaning of ambiguous terms errs.

We thus say:

Well-ordered religious affairs are achieved through knowledge and worship. These cannot be achieve without the health of the body, the maintenance of life, the fulfillment of needs – such as those for clothing, shelter and food – and security from the onset of calamities. How true this is: “When a man wakes up safe among his family, with a healthy body, and in possession of his daily sustenance, it is as if the whole world is made available to him.”[1] A man does not achieve security in his life, body, wealth, home, and sustenance under all circumstances but [only] under some. Religious affairs cannot flourish unless security is achieved in these important and necessary matters. Otherwise, if one spends all his time being occupied with protecting himself against the swords of oppressors, and with winning his sustenance from exploiters, when would he find time for working and seeking knowledge, which are his means for achieving happiness in the hereafter? Therefore well-ordered worldly affairs – I mean the fulfillment of needs – are a condition for well-ordered religious affairs.

As for the second premise, which is that worldly affairs and security in life and wealth can be maintained only through an imam who is obeyed, it is confirmed by observing the periods of social upheavals when the sultans and imams die. If these periods are prolonged and not quickly terminated by the appointment of another sultan who is obeyed, the killing would continue and the sword would dominate, famine would spread, livestock would diminish, and industry would collapse; and whoever wins would plunder; and no one who manages to stay alive would have time to worship or seek knowledge; and the majority would die under the shadows of the swords. For this reason it has been said that religion [dīn] and sultan are twins, and also that religion is a foundation and the sultan is a guard: that which has no foundation collapses and that which has no guard is lost.

In sum, no rational person doubts that if mankind, given their different classes, diverse desires, and disparate opinions, are left to their own devices without decrees that they obey and that unify their factions, they would all end in ruin. This is an epidemic that has no remedy other than a strong sultan who is obeyed and who unifies their disparate opinions. This shows that a sultan is necessary for achieving well-ordered worldly affairs, and well-ordered worldly affairs are necessary for achieving well-ordered religious affairs, and well-ordered religious affairs are necessary for achieving happiness in the hereafter, which is decidedly the purpose of all the prophets. Therefore, the obligation of appointing an imam is among the essential requirements of the law [ضروريات الشرع] – a requirement that by no means can be ignored.”

Later on in the chapter, Imam Ghazali argues that necessity dictates that in some circumstances a caliph who does not fulfill all the conditions (as was the case in his time) should still be recognized and obeyed, because of the dire consequences of not having an imam:

“I wish I knew how someone who does not accept this [principle] could judge that the imamate in our time is invalid insofar as its conditions are not fulfilled, while he is unable to replace the imam with someone who seeks it, for even he cannot find someone who fulfills its conditions. Which of his states is better; to say that the judges are dismissed, appointments are invalid, marriages are annulled, all the decrees of the governors everywhere in the world are unenforceable, and all of mankind are [on the verge of] engaging in what is unlawful [ḥarām]; or to say that, based on the current state and necessity, the imamate is valid and the decrees and appointments are enforceable?”

[1] This is a ḥadīth. It is reported by Ibn Maja, Sunan, XXXVII.9, No. 414; and Tirmidhi, al-Jāmi‘ al-Ṣaḥīḥ, XXXVII.34, No. 2347

[Al-Ghazali’s Moderation in Belief: Al-Iqtiṣād fi al-I‘tiqād, translated by A M Yaqub, Unviersity of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 2013, pp. 229-231 and 234 (some words in square brackets have been added)]