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


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]

‘Ali ‘Abd al-Raziq’s Secular Heresy and the Orthodox Response

“In 1925, ‘Ali ‘Abd al-Raziq (1888-1966), brother of Mustafa, published a work on Islam and the bases of political authority. Like his brother, he had studied at the Azhar and had then come to Europe, but to Oxford and not Paris…The immediate problem with which ‘Abd al-Raziq is concerned is that of the caliphate. In 1922, after the revolution of Mustafa Kemal, the Turkish National Assembly had abolished the sultanate and set up a shadow-caliphate with spiritual powers only; in 1924 they abolished that as well.” [Hourani, Albert, Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 1798-1939, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1983, p. 183]

‘Ali ‘Abd al-Raziq wrote:

“The truth is that the Muslim religion is innocent of this institution of the caliphate such as it is commonly understood by Muslims. It is innocent of all the apparel of seduction and intimidation, and the pomp of force and power with which they surrounded the institution of the caliphate. This institution has nothing in common with religious functions, no more than the judiciary and the other essential functions and machinery of power and state. All these functions are purely political; they have nothing to do with religion. Religion neither admits nor denies them. It neither orders nor forbids them. It simply leaves them to our free choice so that we will have recourse to rational judgement in their regard and base our judgement on the experience of nations and the rules of politics” [‘Ali ‘Abd al-Raziq, al-Islam wa usul al-hukm (Islam and the Bases of Power), translated in Islam in Transition: Muslim Perspectives, edited by Donohue, John J. and Esposito, John L., New York, Oxford University Press, 1982, p. 36]

Continuing with the excerpts from Albert Hourani’s book:

“ ‘Abd al-Raziq’s book aroused a violent storm, and the consequences for him were serious. It was refuted and denounced by Muslim thinkers of another complexion, and formally condemned by a council of the leading ‘ulama’ of the Azhar. In their judgment they refuted, by quotations from the Quran and hadith, seven propositions contained, or so they claimed, in ‘Abd al-Raziq’s work; and they pronounced the author unfit to hold any public function…”

“Once critic of the book, Rashid Rida, declared it was the latest attempt of the enemies of Islam to weaken and divide it from within, and another, Muhammad Bakhit, maintained that what non-Muslims said of Islam should never be accepted, and above all what they said about the caliphate, ‘the fearful ghost which, if the bravest man in Europe saw it even in his sleep, would cause him to rise in fear and panic’. [72] ‘Abd al-Raziq, he asserted, had accepted the historical thesis of Sir Thomas Arnold in preference to the whole consensus of Islamic thought; and he set himself, in great detail and at enormous length, to refute the author’s interpretation of Muslim history and cast doubt on his knowledge and understanding of the sources. He produced much evidence to refute the idea that there was no organized government in the Prophet’s [] time, and that the Prophet [] never taught his people about political organization [73], and to prove that there was as nearly a complete ijma’ on the necessity of some sort of imamate as there was on any question of doctrine.” [74]

“There was a still graver charge against the book, made by the  ‘ulama’ in their judgment and elaborated by Shaykh Bakhit. By implication, ‘Abd al-Raziq’s thesis attacked the whole system of Islamic doctrine in one of its two bases: the theory of prophecy. Muslim theologians had always taught that, while some prophets were sent into the world to reveal a Book only, that is to say, reveal a truth about God and the world, others were sent also to reveal a law, a system of morality derived from the Book, and to execute it; and that, while Jesus was a prophet of the first type, Muhammad [] was one of the second. [75] To execute the law was an essential part of his mission; [76] but this implies that he had political power, and that from the start the Islamic community was a political community. Moreover, since the Book and the law were not given for one generation only but for all time, there must always be someone who exercises political power in the umma:

[Shaykh Bakhit writes:] ‘The Islamic religion is based on the pursuit of domination and power and strength and might, and the refusal of any law which is contrary to its shari‘a and its divine law, and the rejection of any authority the wielder of which is not charged with the execution of its edicts.’ [77]

“If the Prophet was not a political leader, and if the umma was not a political umma, then either there was no Prophet and no umma, or else the conception of them – that is to say, the very essence of Islam – would have to be changed … The careful method of reasoning by analogy, with Quran  and hadith as its premises, the consensus which was both the product and the guardian of the process: all this had been rejected by ‘Abd al-Raziq, and in its place he had put the reason, fantasy and passion of the individual mind:

‘He has relied … on intellectual sophistry, suppositions and poetical proofs, although these matters which he denies, and of which he denies the proofs, are matters of jurisprudence and law, into which one cannot plunge with the intellect alone, and in regard to which tthere is no alternative but to rely on the Quran, the Sunna, the ijma’, or reasoning by analogy.’ [78]

“…The danger, in Bakhit’s view, was not theoretical only. In the last analysis, what ‘Abd al-Raziq was saying was that there was no such thing as the Shari‘a. But if there was no Shari‘a, no law standing above the government, then there was no political society in the true sense, and the umma would dissolve into anarchy. Men need a regulator and governor who will keep them within their due limits, prevent oppression and do justice, and to manage their worldly affairs by their own reason and knowledge, their interests and desires, for that would simply mean the domination of the strong over the weak and the end of individual security.” [80]

[Hourani, Albert, op. cit., pp. 188-191]

(72) Shaykh Muhammad Bakhit al-Muti‘i, Haqiqat Islam wa usul al-hukm, p. 43

(73) Ibid., pp. 113ff., 298ff

(74) Ibid., p.33

(75) Ibid., p.293

(76) Ibid., p. 238

(77) Ibid., p. 294

(78) Ibid., p. 3

(80) Ibid., p. 352abdelraziq

Post Script: the following is from Ibn Kathir’s tafsir of the Qur’an, volume 3, p. 202:

“Do they then seek the judgement of (the days of) ignorance? And who is better in judgement than Allah for a people who have firm faith?” [Translated Meaning of Al-Qur’an 5:50]

Allah criticizes those who ignore His commandments which include every type of righteous good thing and prohibit every type of evil, but they refer instead to opinions, desires and customs that people themselves invented, all of which have no basis in His religion. During the time of Jahiliyyah, the people used to abide by the misguidance and ignorance that they invented by sheer opinion and lusts. The Tatar (Mongols) abided by the law that they inherited from their king Genghis Khan who wrote Al-Yasiq for them. This book contains some rulings that were derived from various religions, such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Many of these rulings were derived from his own opinion and desires. Later on, these rulings became the followed law among his children, preferring them to the Law of the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Therefore, whoever does this, he is a disbeliever who deserves to be fought against, until he reverts to Allah’s and His Messenger’s decisions, so that no law, minor or major, is referred to except by His Law. Allah said:

“Do they then seek the judgement of (the days of) ignorance?”

Meaning, they desire and want this and ignore Allah’s Judgement.

“And who is better in judgement than Allah for a people who have firm faith?”

Who is more just in decision than Allah for those who comprehend Allah’s Law, believe in Him, who are certain that Allah is the best among those who give decisions and that He is more merciful with His creation than the mother with her own child? Allah has perfect knowledge of everything, is able to do all things, and He is just in all matters.

[End of quote from Ibn Kathir’s commentary of the Qur’an]

A Brilliant Qadi (Judge)


Iyas ibn Mu‘awiyah al-Muzani [d. 121H, 739CE] was a man of consummate eloquence and intelligence, proverbial for his reason and quick wit. It is said that once every hundred years a person is born with a perfect mind, and that Iyas was one such person.

He narrates how, when still a child at a primary school [maktab] in Damascus, a group of Christians gathered around and began to make fun of Muslims who claim that in paradise food leaves behind no excrement. ‘“Teacher,” I said, “would you not agree that most food is taken up and dispersed in the body?” “Yes,” he replied. I said: “Why then do you deny that in paradise the Almighty can make the remainder disappear totally inside the body?” He said: “You are a little devil.”’

Two men once came to plead before him. One of them said: ‘I went down to the river to bathe. I had a brand new green djellaba that I took off and placed by the bank of the river. This other man came wearing an old red djellaba. He took it off and went into the water. When he came out he ran ahead of me and took my green djellaba.’ Iyas asked them: ‘Do either of you have any proof?’ They said no. So he ordered a comb to be brought into the court and had them combed. Some green woollen threads were found in the hair of the owner of the green djellaba so Iyas ordered it restored to him.

A Persian squire [dihqan] came to see him and asked him about intoxicating drink, and whether it is licit [halal] or illicit [haram]. ‘It is illicit,’ said Iyas. ‘How so?’ said the squire. ‘Tell me, are dates licit or illicit?’ ‘Licit,’ said Iyas. ‘What about dodder?’ ‘Licit,’ said Iyas. ‘And water?’ ‘Licit,’ replied Iyas. ‘So what is it that makes these things incompatible? Is not date wine made from dates, dodder and water? What is it that makes date wine illicit and all these other things licit?’

Iyas answered: ‘If I were to take a handful of earth and throw it at you, would you feel pain?’ The squire said: ‘No.’ ‘What if I cupped my fingers and threw some water at you, would that pain you?’ ‘No,’ said the squire. ‘And what if I took a handful of straw and hit you with it, would that cause you pain?’ ‘No,’ said the squire. ‘If I now took the handful of earth, and kneaded it with water and straw making it into lumps, and I left it out to dry and then hit you with it, would this cause you pain?’ ‘Yes,’ replied the squire, ‘it may even kill me.’ Iyas said: ‘So also with dates, water and dodder. If mixed together and then aged they become illicit.’

Iyas once said, “I was reduced to silence by only one man. I was sitting in my court chamber in Basra when a man entered into my presence and testified that a particular orchard – and he specified its borders – was the property of so-and-so. I asked him: ‘How many trees does it have?’ He fell silent then said: ‘May I ask his honour the judge how long he has been judging in this chamber?’ ‘Since such-and-such a time,’ I replied. The man asked: ‘How many beams are there in this ceiling?’ ‘You are quite right,’ I replied, and I allowed his testimony.”

[Ibn ‘Asakir, Tahdhib al-Tarikh al-Kabir, 3:11 and al-Safadi, Al-Wafi bi’l Wafayat, 9:465-467 translated by Khalidi, Tarif ­In An Anthology of Arabic Literature: From the Classical to the Modern, Edinburgh University Press, 2016, pp. 50-51]

The Tyrant’s Assistant is a Tyrant as well

“I saw people who are negligent in paying their debts and who bequeath, ‘When I die, bury me in the tomb of Ahmad.’ Did they not hear the Messenger ﷺ refrained from praying (the funeral) upon those who died without settling their debts and those who unlawfully took from war booty, saying, ‘My prayer will not benefit them.’ [Abu Dawud #2710, Nasa’i #1959]

I have seen scholars who were driven by the love of fame, requesting permission from the Ruler to be buried in the grave of Ahmad ibn Hanbal; not knowing that numerous people are buried there.

None of them is unaware that he is not worthy of that, so where is the self-humility?

Did they not hear that ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz was asked, ‘Would you like to be buried in the Room*?’ He replied, ‘For me to meet Allah with every sin there is, apart from disbelief, is dearer to me than to believe myself worthy of that.’

However, the habits and the love of power dominated these people, such that knowledge was spoken in a manner of habit, and not for application.

We then found some scholars who became associated with Rulers and committed oppression, yet were fighting to be buried in Ahmad’s grave and wrote that in their wills.

If only they asked to be buried in an empty grave, instead they asked to be buried upon the dead bodies of others. When they are resurrected, they will be gathered in the state of oppression in which they were used – even in their death – and they will forget they used to be assistants to tyrants.

Did they not know that the tyrant’s assistant is also a tyrant? It is said, ‘It suffices for treason to be a traitor’s trustee.’ [This is a statement of Malik bin Dinar (r), recorded by Bayhaqi in Shuab al-Iman, 3/53]

The jailor said to Ahmad ibn Hanbal, ‘Am I one of the tyrant’s assistants?’ He said, ‘No. Rather you are one of the tyrants. The tyrant’s assistant is the one who assists you.’ ”

*Referring to the place where the Messenger ﷺ is buried

[Al-Hafiz Jamal al-Din Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Jawzi, صيد الخاطر (Quarry of the Mind), pp. 901-902 of English translation]

Ibn al-Jawzi on Forbidding from Accompanying the Rulers

We have seen many scholars who had a bad ending because of their proximity and mixing with rulers. They were after comfort but did not achieve it properly, because the sadness of the heart never goes away with money or food…

If we compare the difference between Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal’s refraining from rulers, and Ibn Abi Du’ad* and Yahya ibn Aktham**, then we will learn the difference between a good life in this world and safety in the Hereafter.

Ibn Adham said, “If kings and their sons knew the pleasures in which we are living [because of our religious contentment], they would have fought us over it.”

Ibn Adham spoke the truth. When a ruler eats something he fears that someone might have poisoned it, and when he goes to sleep he fears that someone will assassinate him. He remains indoors fearing leaving his residence. If he does so he gets annoyed from the closest people to him.

If he likes a certain food he will eat too much from it and trouble his stomach; if he has too much sexual relations he becomes weak and feels little pleasure. He does not find the same joy that a poor person finds when eating after being hungry or a single man after finding a woman. A poor person might feel secure enough to sleep on the street, something that a prince would not be able to do.  So their pleasure is always reduced, yet they will be held to account more.

By Allah! I do not know of any people who lived honorably while achieving pleasures more than sincere scholars such as Al-Hasan al-Basri, Sufyan al-Thawri and Ahmad ibn Hanbal, and true worshippers such as Ma‘ruf [al-Karkhi].

The pleasure of knowledge exceeds all pleasures and whenever seekers of knowledge feel hunger or harm, this only elevates their status. There is also a sweetness to seclusion and worship.

Ma‘ruf for example, was alone with his Lord, living comfortably with Him and enjoying the sweetness of being with Him.

Although he died about four hundred years ago [edit: he passed away on the 2nd of Muharram, 200 Hijri], he is still gifted (the reward) of reciting many chapters of the Qur’an! The least that is done for him is people stand at his grave, reciting:

قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ
“Say: He is Allah, the One” [112:1]

And gift him its reward. Even rulers stand humble in front of his grave. On the day of resurrection more honours will be distributed.

The same applies to the graves of scholars. Those who have been inflected with visiting leaders, they confessed that they were harmed by doing so.

Sufyan Ibn ‘Uyaynah said, “Since I accepted the gift of such and such prince, I was stripped from the understanding of the Qur’an.”

So refraining from mixing with leaders might cause hardship sometimes, yet it will result in goodness in many other ways. It is best for someone to be firm upon this issue.”


*Considered a leading Mu‘tazilite and one of the chief architects of the mihnah [Inquisition], Ahmad ibn Abi Du’ad’s persecution of orthodox men of knowledge, including the famous scholar Ahmad ibn Hanbal, caused his reputation to suffer after his death – no-one attended his funeral prayer. He was made into an object of vilification by later biographers.

** Yahya ibn Aktham was instrumental in Ahmad ibn Abi Du’ad eventually becoming a close associate of the Mu‘tazilite Abbasid caliph Al-Ma‘mun. Ibn Aktham himself was appointed as chief judge by Al-Ma‘mun. He was eventually dismissed during the caliphate of Al-Mutawakkil when his money and land were seized and he was placed under house arrest.

[Al-Hafiz Jamal al-Din Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Jawzi, صيد الخاطر (Quarry of the Mind), pp. 630-633 of English translation (with some edits)]