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    Default Hasan al-Banna

    Hasan al-Banna was the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood or Society of the Muslim Brothers, the largest and most influential Sunni revivalist organization in the 20th century. Created in Egypt in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood became the first mass-based, overtly political movement to oppose the ascendancy of secular and Western ideas in the Middle East. The brotherhood saw in these ideas the root of the decay of Islamic societies in the modern world, and advocated a return to Islam as a solution to the ills that had befallen Muslim societies. Al-Banna's leadership was critical to the spectacular growth of the brotherhood during the 1930s and 1940s. By the early 1950s, branches had been established in Syria, Sudan, and Jordan. Soon, the movement's influence would be felt in places as far away as the Gulf and non-Arab countries such as Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Driving this expansion was the appeal of the organizational model embodied in the original, Egypt-based section of the brotherhood, and the success of al-Banna's writings. Translated into several languages, these writings have shaped two generations of Sunni religious activists across the Islamic world.

    Like many of the Islamic leaders who followed in his footsteps, Al-Banna enjoyed the benefits of a modern education, but had been raised in a traditional Islamic environment. He was born in 1906 in Mahmudiyya, a small town in the Nile Delta. His father, a watch repairman who also served as prayer leader and Qur'anic teacher in the local mosque, had been educated at Al-Azhar. Author of a few works on Islamic jurisprudence, he instilled strong religious values into Al-Banna. Even as a primary school student, Al-Banna joined several religious societies dedicated to the promotion of Islamic standards of moral behavior. It was also at that young age that he became a member of the Hasafiyya Brothers' Sufi order. His early participation in dhikr circles and avid reading of Sufi literature help explain why he always saw the moral reform of the individual as a precondition to the Islamization of society.

    In 1923, at the age of 16, Al-Banna moved to Cairo to enter the famous Dar al-'Ulum college. The four years that Al-Banna spent in Cairo exposed him to the political ferment of the Egyptian capital in the early 1920s, and enhanced his awareness of the extent to which secular and Western ways had penetrated the very fabric of society. It was then that Al-Banna became particularly preoccupied with what he saw as the young generation's drift away from Islam. He believed that the battle for the hearts and minds of the youth would prove critical to the survival of a religion besieged by a Western onslaught. While studying in Cairo, he immersed himself in the writings of the founders of Islamic reformism (the Salafiyya movement), including the Egyptian Muhammad 'Abduh (1849-1905), under whom his father had studied while at Al-Azhar. But it was 'Abduh's disciple, the Syrian Rashid Rida (1865-1935), who most influenced Al-Banna. Al-Banna was a dedicated reader of Al-Manar, the magazine that Rida published in Cairo from 1898 until his death in 1935. He shared Rida's central concern with the decline of Islamic civilization relative to the West. He too believed that this trend could be reversed only by returning to an unadulterated form of Islam, free from all the accretions that had diluted the strength of its original message. Like Rida at the end of his life — but unlike 'Abduh and other Islamic modernists — Al-Banna felt that the main danger to Islam's survival in the modern age stemmed less from the conservatism of Al-Azhar and the ulama (which he nevertheless criticized) than from the ascendancy of Western secular ideas.

    Al-Banna urged the rejection of all Western notions, emphasizing instead the need to return to the foundations and original purity of Islam. Indeed, through the organizational skills he would soon demonstrate, Al-Banna did more than any other thinker during that time to contribute to the eclipse of Islamic refornism and modernism by Islamic fundamentalism. Upon graduating from Dar al-'Ulum in 1927, at the age of 21, Al-Banna was appointed as a teacher of Arabic in a primary school in Isma'iliyya. At the time, Isma'iliyya served as the capital of the British-occupied Canal Zone and hosted the headquarters of the Suez Canal Company (SCC). British military camps and the homes of the SCC's foreign employees were as much a part of this rapidly expanding new town as the wretched conditions in which the majority of the SCC's Egyptian workers lived. Al-Banna's first assignment thus heightened his resentment of what he saw as Egypt's military occupation, economic exploitation, cultural domination, and loss of dignity. It strengthened his determination to rid Egypt of British and, more generally, Western influences.
    From the moment he arrived in Isma'iliyya, Al-Banna involved himself actively in the life of the community. He made an effort to become acquainted with the town's notables while reaching out to the broadest possible public. He conducted night classes for his students' parents and led informal discussions in the mosque, coffeehouses, clubs, and private homes. His basic message was that Egypt had lost its soul; it had become politically sub-servient and economically dependent because it had strayed from the path that had been laid down by God. The only remedy to the decadence of state and society was to reassert Islamic values and ways of life.

    It was to spread this message that Al-Banna launched the Society of the Muslim Brothers in March 1928. At first, the society was only one of the numerous small Islamic associations that existed at the time. Similar to those that Al-Banna himself had joined since he was 12, these associations aimed to promote personal piety and engaged in charitable activities. By the late 1930s, it had established branches in every Egyptian province. A decade later, it had 500,000 active members and as many sympathizers in Egypt alone, while its appeal was now felt in several other countries as well. The society's growth was particularly pronounced after Al-Banna relocated its headquarters to Cairo in 1932. The single most important factor that made this dramatic expansion possible was the organizational and ideological leadership provided by Al-Banna.

    He endeavored to bring about the changes he hoped for through institution-building, relentless activism at the grassroots level, and a reliance on mass communication. He proceeded to build a complex mass movement that featured sophisticated governance structures; sections in charge of furthering the society's values among peasants, workers, and professionals; units entrusted with key functions, including propagation of the message, liaison with the Islamic world, and press and translation; and specialized committees for finances and legal affairs.

    In anchoring this organization into Egyptian society, Al-Banna skillfully relied on pre-existing social networks, in particular those built around mosques, Islamic welfare associations, and neighborhood groups. This weaving of traditional ties into a distinctively modern structure was at the root of his success. Directly attached to the brotherhood, and feeding its expansion, were numerous businesses, clinics, and schools. In addition, members were affiliated to the movement through a series of cells, revealingly called usar (families). The material, social and psychological support thus provided were instrumental to the movement's ability to generate enormous loyalty among its members and to attract new recruits. The services and organizational structure around which the society was built were intended to enable individuals to reintegrate into a distinctly Islamic setting, shaped by the society's own principles.

    Rooted in Islam, Al-Banna's message tackled issues including colonialism, public health, educational policy, natural resources management, Marxism, social inequalities, Arab nationalism, the weakness of the Islamic world on the international scene, and the growing conflict in Palestine. By emphasizing concerns that appealed to a variety of constituencies, Al-Banna was able to recruit from among a cross-section of Egyptian society — though modern-educated civil servants, office employees, and professionals remained dominant among the organization's activists and decisionmakers.

    As the society expanded during the 1930s, it quickly changed from a movement for spiritual and moral reform into an organization directly active on the Egyptian political scene. Concurrent with that transformation, radical tendencies asserted themselves within the organization. A "secret apparatus" (al-jihaz al-sirri) was formed that engineered a series of assassinations of enemies of the brotherhood.

    Between 1948 and 1949, shortly after the society sent volunteers to fight in the war in Palestine, the conflict between the monarchy and the society reached its climax. Concerned with the increasing assertiveness and popularity of the brotherhood, as well as with rumors that it was plotting a coup, Prime Minister Nuqrashi Pasha disbanded it in December 1948. The organization's assets were impounded and scores of its members sent to jail. Less than three weeks later, the prime minister was assassinated by a member of the brotherhood. This in turn prompted the murder of Al-Banna, presumably by a government agent, in February 1949, when Al-Banna was still only 43 and at the height of his career.

    Though the society never fully recovered from the loss of its charismatic founder, it survived. Since then, the brotherhood has remained a significant force in the politics of several Arab countries, either directly or through the movements it inspired. It appeals most to cultural conservatives who want their government and society to reflect and defend certain basic Islamic values and principles, and who favor a pragmatic and incremental approach to achieve these goals. The legacy of Al-Banna is thus still present, and will continue to shape the destiny of Arab societies in the new millennium.

    Hasan al-Banna was the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood or Society of the Muslim Brothers, the largest and most influential Sunni revivalist organization in the 20th century. Created in Egypt in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood became the first mass-based, overtly political movement to oppose the ascendancy of secular and Western ideas in the Middle East. The brotherhood saw in these ideas the root of the decay of Islamic societies in the modern world, and advocated a return to Islam as a solution to the ills that had befallen Muslim societies. Al-Banna's leadership was critical to the spectacular growth of the brotherhood during the 1930s and 1940s. By the early 1950s, branches had been established in Syria, Sudan, and Jordan. Soon, the movement's influence would be felt in places as far away as the Gulf and non-Arab countries such as Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Driving this expansion was the appeal of the organizational model embodied in the original, Egypt-based section of the brotherhood, and the success of al-Banna's writings. Translated into several languages, these writings have shaped two generations of Sunni religious activists across the Islamic world.
    Like many of the Islamic leaders who followed in his footsteps, Al-Banna enjoyed the benefits of a modern education, but had been raised in a traditional Islamic environment. He was born in 1906 in Mahmudiyya, a small town in the Nile Delta. His father, a watch repairman who also served as prayer leader and Qur'anic teacher in the local mosque, had been educated at Al-Azhar. Author of a few works on Islamic jurisprudence, he instilled strong religious values into Al-Banna. Even as a primary school student, Al-Banna joined several religious societies dedicated to the promotion of Islamic standards of moral behavior. It was also at that young age that he became a member of the Hasafiyya Brothers' Sufi order. His early participation in dhikr circles and avid reading of Sufi literature help explain why he always saw the moral reform of the individual as a precondition to the Islamization of society.
    In 1923, at the age of 16, Al-Banna moved to Cairo to enter the famous Dar al-'Ulum college. The four years that Al-Banna spent in Cairo exposed him to the political ferment of the Egyptian capital in the early 1920s, and enhanced his awareness of the extent to which secular and Western ways had penetrated the very fabric of society. It was then that Al-Banna became particularly preoccupied with what he saw as the young generation's drift away from Islam. He believed that the battle for the hearts and minds of the youth would prove critical to the survival of a religion besieged by a Western onslaught. While studying in Cairo, he immersed himself in the writings of the founders of Islamic reformism (the Salafiyya movement), including the Egyptian Muhammad 'Abduh (1849-1905), under whom his father had studied while at Al-Azhar. But it was 'Abduh's disciple, the Syrian Rashid Rida (1865-1935), who most influenced Al-Banna. Al-Banna was a dedicated reader of Al-Manar, the magazine that Rida published in Cairo from 1898 until his death in 1935. He shared Rida's central concern with the decline of Islamic civilization relative to the West. He too believed that this trend could be reversed only by returning to an unadulterated form of Islam, free from all the accretions that had diluted the strength of its original message. Like Rida at the end of his life — but unlike 'Abduh and other Islamic modernists — Al-Banna felt that the main danger to Islam's survival in the modern age stemmed less from the conservatism of Al-Azhar and the ulama (which he nevertheless criticized) than from the ascendancy of Western secular ideas.
    Al-Banna urged the rejection of all Western notions, emphasizing instead the need to return to the foundations and original purity of Islam. Indeed, through the organizational skills he would soon demonstrate, Al-Banna did more than any other thinker during that time to contribute to the eclipse of Islamic refornism and modernism by Islamic fundamentalism. Upon graduating from Dar al-'Ulum in 1927, at the age of 21, Al-Banna was appointed as a teacher of Arabic in a primary school in Isma'iliyya. At the time, Isma'iliyya served as the capital of the British-occupied Canal Zone and hosted the headquarters of the Suez Canal Company (SCC). British military camps and the homes of the SCC's foreign employees were as much a part of this rapidly expanding new town as the wretched conditions in which the majority of the SCC's Egyptian workers lived. Al-Banna's first assignment thus heightened his resentment of what he saw as Egypt's military occupation, economic exploitation, cultural domination, and loss of dignity. It strengthened his determination to rid Egypt of British and, more generally, Western influences.
    From the moment he arrived in Isma'iliyya, Al-Banna involved himself actively in the life of the community. He made an effort to become acquainted with the town's notables while reaching out to the broadest possible public. He conducted night classes for his students' parents and led informal discussions in the mosque, coffeehouses, clubs, and private homes. His basic message was that Egypt had lost its soul; it had become politically sub-servient and economically dependent because it had strayed from the path that had been laid down by God. The only remedy to the decadence of state and society was to reassert Islamic values and ways of life.
    It was to spread this message that Al-Banna launched the Society of the Muslim Brothers in March 1928. At first, the society was only one of the numerous small Islamic associations that existed at the time. Similar to those that Al-Banna himself had joined since he was 12, these associations aimed to promote personal piety and engaged in charitable activities. By the late 1930s, it had established branches in every Egyptian province. A decade later, it had 500,000 active members and as many sympathizers in Egypt alone, while its appeal was now felt in several other countries as well. The society's growth was particularly pronounced after Al-Banna relocated its headquarters to Cairo in 1932. The single most important factor that made this dramatic expansion possible was the organizational and ideological leadership provided by Al-Banna.
    He endeavored to bring about the changes he hoped for through institution-building, relentless activism at the grassroots level, and a reliance on mass communication. He proceeded to build a complex mass movement that featured sophisticated governance structures; sections in charge of furthering the society's values among peasants, workers, and professionals; units entrusted with key functions, including propagation of the message, liaison with the Islamic world, and press and translation; and specialized committees for finances and legal affairs.
    In anchoring this organization into Egyptian society, Al-Banna skillfully relied on pre-existing social networks, in particular those built around mosques, Islamic welfare associations, and neighborhood groups. This weaving of traditional ties into a distinctively modern structure was at the root of his success. Directly attached to the brotherhood, and feeding its expansion, were numerous businesses, clinics, and schools. In addition, members were affiliated to the movement through a series of cells, revealingly called usar (families). The material, social and psychological support thus provided were instrumental to the movement's ability to generate enormous loyalty among its members and to attract new recruits. The services and organizational structure around which the society was built were intended to enable individuals to reintegrate into a distinctly Islamic setting, shaped by the society's own principles.
    Rooted in Islam, Al-Banna's message tackled issues including colonialism, public health, educational policy, natural resources management, Marxism, social inequalities, Arab nationalism, the weakness of the Islamic world on the international scene, and the growing conflict in Palestine. By emphasizing concerns that appealed to a variety of constituencies, Al-Banna was able to recruit from among a cross-section of Egyptian society — though modern-educated civil servants, office employees, and professionals remained dominant among the organization's activists and decisionmakers.
    As the society expanded during the 1930s, it quickly changed from a movement for spiritual and moral reform into an organization directly active on the Egyptian political scene. Concurrent with that transformation, radical tendencies asserted themselves within the organization. A "secret apparatus" (al-jihaz al-sirri) was formed that engineered a series of assassinations of enemies of the brotherhood.
    Between 1948 and 1949, shortly after the society sent volunteers to fight in the war in Palestine, the conflict between the monarchy and the society reached its climax. Concerned with the increasing assertiveness and popularity of the brotherhood, as well as with rumors that it was plotting a coup, Prime Minister Nuqrashi Pasha disbanded it in December 1948. The organization's assets were impounded and scores of its members sent to jail. Less than three weeks later, the prime minister was assassinated by a member of the brotherhood. This in turn prompted the murder of Al-Banna, presumably by a government agent, in February 1949, when Al-Banna was still only 43 and at the height of his career.
    Though the society never fully recovered from the loss of its charismatic founder, it survived. Since then, the brotherhood has remained a significant force in the politics of several Arab countries, either directly or through the movements it inspired. It appeals most to cultural conservatives who want their government and society to reflect and defend certain basic Islamic values and principles, and who favor a pragmatic and incremental approach to achieve these goals. The legacy of Al-Banna is thus still present, and will continue to shape the destiny of Arab societies in the new millennium.
    At the Occasion of the Martyrdom of
    Hassan al-Banna
    (February 12, 1949)

    Sheikh Fouad Hammouda
    Year 1949 was my first year as English teacher in Zagazig Secondary School in Egypt. On February, a school worker came to me and said "they killed him." I looked at him and said "killed who?" He said "Hassan al-Banna."
    I cannot recall how I received the news. Hassan al-Banna had benn an integral part of my life, to the extent that it was very difficult for me to imagine life without him among us.
    Perhaps our elder brothers expected such a thing to happen because they were more aware of the influence of the enemies of Islam on the governments of the Muslim World and knew how they all feared him and hated him but to me it was a complete shock.
    Yet I recall that in one meeting he was asked by one of those present "what shall we do if we do not find you among us". It seemed as if the questioner was expecting something to happen to him.
    Hassan al-Banna then looked at us and said: choose the weakest among you. If you will but listen and obey for then he will be the strongest. He only cared for the unity and welfare of his organization "Jama'a." As for himself, he had been preparing himself for this martyrdom since he became conscious of the state of the Muslim World and of his role in it.
    He wanted to remind us that our strength lies in being under one banner and that cannot be unless we obey our leader whoever he is. Without this the power of the Jama'a will be dissipated and scattered.
    His life was a short one (42 years) but it was so blessed by Allah (SWT), owing to his sincerity and ardor, that he left behind him a legacy that is still influencing directly and indirectly the lives and behaviors of a large number of people all over the world.
    Dear brothers and sisters, Hassan al-Banna has set an example for us all and if we feel our responsibility as he felt, no enemy will be able to stop our march.
    God help us all.

    Hassan al Banna
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    Hassan al Banna, Founder of the Muslim Brotherhood
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    Hassan al Banna, Founder of the Muslim Brotherhood

    Hassan al Banna (October 14, 1906 - February 12, 1949, Arabic: حسن البنا) was an Egyptian social and political reformer best known as founder of the Muslim Brotherhood.


    Banna was born in 1906 in Mahmudiyya, Egypt (north-west of Cairo). His father, Shaykh Ahmad al-Banna, was a respected local imam (prayer leader) and mosque teacher, educated at Al-Azhar University, who wrote and collaborated on books on Muslim traditions, and also had a shop where he repaired watches and sold gramophones. Though Sheykh Ahmad al-Banna and his wife owned some property, they were not wealthy and struggled to make ends meet, particularly after they moved to Cairo in 1924; like many others, they found that Islamic learning and piety were no longer as highly valued in the capital, and that craftsmanship could not compete with large-scale industry. (Mitchell 1969, 1; Lia 1998, 22-24)

    When Hassan al-Banna was twelve years old, he became involved in a Sufi order, and became a fully initiated member in 1922. (Mitchell 1969, 2; Lia 25-26)

    When he was thirteen, Banna participated in demonstrations during the revolution of 1919 against British rule. (Mitchell 1969, 3; Lia 1998, 26-27)

    In 1923 he entered Dar al 'Ulum, a teacher training school in Cairo. Life in the capital offered him a greater range of activities than the village and the opportunity to meet prominent Islamic scholars (in large measure thanks to his father's acquaintances), but he was deeply disturbed by effects of Westernisation he saw there, particularly the rise of secularism and the breakdown of traditional morals. (Mitchell 1969, 2-4; Lia 1998, 28-30)

    He was equally disappointed with what he saw as the failure of the Islamic scholars of al-Azhar University to voice their opposition to the rise of atheism and to the influence of Christian missionaries. (Mitchell 1969, 5)

    In his last year at Dar al-'Ulum, he wrote that he had decided to dedicate himself to becoming "a counsellor and a teacher" of adults and children, in order to teach them "the objectives of religion and the sources of their well-being and happiness in life". He graduated in 1927 and was given a position as an Arabic language teacher in a state primary school in Isma'iliyya, a provincial town located in the Suez Canal Zone. (Mitchell 1969, 6)

    In Isma'iliyya, in addition to his day classes, he carried out his intention of giving night classes to his pupils' parents. He also preached in the mosque, and even in coffee-houses, which were then a novelty and were generally viewed as morally suspect. At first, some of his views on relatively minor points of Islamic practice led to strong disagreements with the local religious élite, and he adopted the policy of avoiding religious controversies. (Mitchell 1969, 7; Lia 1998, 32-35)

    He was appalled by the many conspicuous signs of foreign military and economic domination in Isma'iliyya: the British military camps, the public utilities owned by foreign interests, and the luxurious residences of the foreign employees of the Suez Canal Company, next to the squalid dwellings of the Egyptian workers. (Mitchell 1969, 7)

    In his book Muthakkiraatud-Da'wah, Al-Banna disclosed his fascination with Sufism, how he would accompany the Hasafiya Sufi order and how he would spend long periods of time at the shrines in Diminhoor.


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    [This document can be downloaded as a Zip file]
    [© Daoud Rosser-Owen 1998. All Rights Reserved. This document may be used for purposes of private researchwithout the prior written permission of the author as long as it is stored unchanged in its entirety with both headers and footers attached. It may be used for other than this as long as due and full credit is given to the author and the text is not changed in any way and the author's written consent is obtained]


    By Daoud Rosser-Owen
    [These well-known words, having the status of an English proverb, are usually attributed to William of Wykeham (sometime bishop of Winchester, Lord Chancellor of England (1389-91), founder of Winchester College (1387) the famous boys' public school, and the New College (1380) of Oxford University). They serve as a suitable headline for this article, extracted from a dars on Futuwwah]

    [STYLE NOTE: Transliterated versions of Quranic Arabic are ugly and can be misleading. There is no substitute for the words properly written in the Arabic script: this is, after all, the definitive and authentic quotation as has been commonly accepted by all throughout the ages. However, as there are no entirely satisfactory translations, it has seemed to me that a combination of English translation and Latin script transliteration provides the least unsatisfactory way of indicating what I feel the quoted statement means.]

    In all societies, at all times and places, there have always been a right way and a wrong way of behaving.

    This code of conduct has always covered dealings with people of the same and of higher and lower stations: nobles, princes, paupers and serfs; ladies, parents, children, elders, leaders and the learned; the sick, the disadvantaged, animals; even the plant kingdom and the very rocks of the land, for did not Allah Almighty refer to an naara-llati waqouduha-n naasu wa-l hijaarah ("the Fire the fuel of which is Mankind and stones" [Q, Al-Baqarah, 2:24]): if the Almighty has seen fit to link stones with the pride of creation we are required to accord them the same respect, for that is their due, and when they give evidence on the Judgment any lack of giving them their Right may be brought against us.

    And one's self. We must always put one's self last, because that is where one's nafs belongs. The famous Nineteenth century British Conservative Prime Minister, the Earl of Beaconsfield (Benjamin Disraeli), also wrote novels. One of his famous ones is Coningsby. In it, though the words of one of its characters, Sidonia, Disraeli makes the perspicacious remark, "Man is made to adore and obey. But if you give him nothing to worship, he will fashion his own divinities, and find a chieftain in his own passions", that is his nafs. We must always be careful to keep it firmly in its place, beneath one's feet, otherwise it will rule one and take one to destruction, like riding a wild and unbroken stallion in wild and broken country.

    In fact, this code of conduct embraces the right behaviour towards the whole of Allah Almighty's creation, and towards the Creator Himself. Islam we believe, having been revealed to all societies everywhere, each in its own time having had the blessing of at least one prophet, on whom be peace, is the probable source of the heart of these codes. We now term it adab.

    The heart of adab, and its proper attitude, is hurmah ("esteem" or "respect"), for as everything belongs to Allah Almighty we may not treat it disrespectfully. In so doing we would show disrespect for the Creator. How much more, therefore, if we are disrespectful towards the highest of His Creations, Man, before whose father Adam, peace be upon him, Allah Almighty ordered all creation to submit? And what if we disrespect the pride of mankind (fukhratu-n naas), the saints, prophets and messengers, may Allah Almighty bless them and theirs and be pleased with them all? And how much more still if we are disrespectful to the Glory of Creation (fakhru-l khaleeqah), Sayyiduna Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him and his family and followers all?

    There is even a proper way of fighting and killing, and a proper conduct in doing so, laid down by Allah Almighty, that we may restrain wrongdoers, and overthrow devils and evil, in a seemly manner that does not show disrespect to His Creation; for even Iblis has rights - he has the right to be fought as Allah Almighty has revealed and as the messengers have taught. He has appointed the limits (hudoud) which must not be transgressed: a transgressor has been given the right to be punished in such a way in this life that he will not have to pay in the next. If we do not offer him the choice of these punishments, and punish him differently whether or not he were given the choice, we do him a grave injustice and transgress in our turn.

    And it is in this same way that He has prescribed fit methods for killing animals and plants for our food and medicine, and for our use of the minerals and natural resources of the heavens and the earth. We may not exceed the bounds He has set. All of us are entrusted with the welfare of creation and, like all trustees, we will be asked about how we discharged our trust.

    The word adab comes from the verb aduba-yadubu-adabun meaning "to be well-bred, well-mannered, refined, cultured, disciplined, educated" all these things being seen as the stuff of good breeding. It is used as a generic term, especially in collections of ahadith, for "Acceptable Behaviour". The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, was described as being husnu-l khulq wa rifq ("fairest nature and gentility"), and the Lady A'isha, may Allah Almighty be pleased with her, described him as being the Quran living. And the Almighty described him as uswatan hasana (the "best example" or "fairest consolation") for us. Furthermore, He has stated to us wa ma atakumu-r rasoulu fa khudhouhu; wa ma nahaakum 'anhu fa-ntahou ("and whatever the Messenger gives you, so take it; and whatever he denies you, so be done with" [Q, Hashr, 59:7]).

    We are therefore to model ourselves on the Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, and conduct ourselves according to what he has enjoined and what he has forbidden. This is the correct adab towards our selves, everything around us, our forebears and descendants in blood, family, and faith, the Holy Book, the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), all of Creation, and Allah Almighty: this is makaarimu-l akhlaaq, the noble traits of character associated with the Code of Knighthood ('ahdu-l futuwwah) in Islam.

    We should behave towards others as though we were in the presence of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and towards our elders and betters as though we were addressing him. Allah Almighty says, "Do not put yourselves forward before Allah and His Messenger" (la tuqaddamou bayna yadayi-Llaahi wa rasoulihi [Q, Al-Hujuraat, 49:1]), and "Do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet, and do not speak aloud to him with words as you voice to each other" (la tarfa'ou aswaatakum fawqa sawtin nabiyi wa la tajharou lahu bi-l qawli ka-jahri ba'dakum [ibid, 49:2]), and "those who lower their voices around the Messenger of Allah, they are those whose hearts Allah has examined for piety" (inna-lladheena yaghuddouna aswaatahum 'inda rasouli-Llahi oulaaika-lladheena amtahana-Llahu quloubahum li-t taqwa [ibid, 49:3]), and further "those who cry out to you from outside the Inner Apartments, most of them have no understanding, if they had been patient until you came out to them that would have been better for them" (inna-lladheena yunaadounaka min waraa'i-l hujuraati aktharuhum la ya'qilouna wa law annahum sabarou hatta takhruja ilayhim lakaana khayral lahum [ibid, 49:4,5]). And did not Luqman advise his son, "be modest in your walk, and reduce your voice; the most repugnant noise is certainly the voice of an ass" (wa-qsid fi masheeka wa-ghdud min sawtika inna ankara-l aswati lasawtu-l hameer [Q, Luqman, 31:19]).

    But how do we do this? In all it took 23 years to deliver the Message, during which time he was under constant observation and everything he "said, did, or agreed to" (qawli, fi'li, taqreeri) was faithfully and meticulously recorded (and some of the later things abrogated the earlier). And this was true also of much of what he did before the Revelation (Wahyu) came. How do we sort through 23 years worth, and more, of this?

    How do we reach back through fifteen centuries to find the model of conduct for the inner and outer worlds ('alamu-l ghaybi wa shahaadah) we inhabit? Well, we follow the amr of Allah Almighty when He says li kullin ja'alnaa minkum shir'ataw wa minhaaja ("to each We have appointed of you a Code and a Way" [Q, Al-Maidah, 5:51]).

    We must take the words of Allah Almighty carefully and precisely. When He says that He "revealed" (wahaa-yahee-wahyun), then He gave it to the Prophets only, peace be upon them. When He says that He "sent down" (nazala-yanazilu-nuzoulun), then it includes others than the Prophets, peace be upon them, such as saints, kings, and scholars. He, Almighty, confirmed in the Book some advice of Sayyiduna 'Umar al Farouq ibnu-l Khattab. And the quality of Sayyiduna Abu Bakr, as "Siddeeq", was such that he is the only Companion mentioned in the Book. Thus, when He cautions us that "those who do not judge (or rule) by what Allah has sent down" belong in various categories of wrong-doing, the matter sent down is not necessarily simply that which is contained in the Quran (unless the context of the verse clearly links its meaning specifically to the revelation vouchsafed to the Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him and his family and followers all), but includes the texts of the other religions in the Tawrah (Torah), Zabour (Psalms of David) and Injeel (Christ's Gospel), and also what He has sent down by ilham, ilqa, imtidad, concensus (ijma'), insight, inspiration, analogy, reasoning, consensual advice (shoura), or any other method to His righteous servants among the kings, saints, scholars, and so on.

    So there is this continuing instruction from On High. The Messenger stated that the ilham ("inspiration") of the saintly learned people was one fortieth part of prophecy, and, in a hadith qudsi, Allah Almighty cautioned that we should beware of the firaasah ("insight") of the believer as he sees with nouri-Llahi Ta'ala ("the light of Allah be He exalted"), and in another He warns against attacking His saints (awliya) as He has become their senses.

    We know that the Messenger taught the deterioration, or metamorphosis, of mankind (taghayyuru-n naas) after his final message, as have all the Messengers and Prophets who preceded him, peace be upon them all. Each generation would be worse than the one that preceded it; the best being, in deteriorating order, the Companions (al as'haabu-l kiraam), the Following Generation of the Companions (at taabi'oun), the Following Generation of the Followers (at taabi'ounu-t taabi'een), and the Last Generation (at the end of time) not because of their knowledge but the quality of their endeavour in the circumstances in which they find themselves.

    He, peace and blessings be upon him, said "my companions are like stars; if you follow any one of them you will be rightly guided". He also described Sayyiduna Ali, may Allah Almighty honour his countenance, as "the Gate of Knowledge". The great Companion Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, stated that he had received two cups of knowledge from the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, "the contents of one you know; if you knew the contents of the other you would kill me". There are thus two levels of wisdom, two corpuses of knowledge that the Messenger brought, and these are the elucidation of the shir'ah and the minhaj.

    These two have been refined and codified by generation after generation of believers stretching back to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, transmitting faithfully to the next what they had learned from the former. This is the famous Chain of Authentication (isnad, silsilah, or shajarah) by which we know that not only has something been properly learnt (because the person is not permitted to pass it on, or even use it for himself, until his teacher is satisfied that he knows it correctly and fully), but that, as a result, it reaches authentically back to the Prophet himself, peace be upon him. Thus, even with the deterioration of men, we have direct and reliable access to the Messenger and his example, and the inspirations of the great ones from the generations close to him, peace be upon him and may Allah be pleased with them all.

    It is thus that the great ones have taught that this ayah from Souratu-l Maidah is to be understood that each Muslim must have a madh'hab (shir'ah) and a tareeqah (minhaj), otherwise he or she will not be able to connect with the reliable and authenticated teachings of the Prophet, peace be upon him, for inner and outer knowledges.

    We must respect the sincere searchings of the saintly learned ones, and the rulings that they have made after istikhaarah, even if they appear to conflict or contradict each other, for the Messenger, peace be upon him, said "divergence between the learned of my ummah is a mercy" (al ikhtilaafu bayna-l 'ulama'i-l ummati rahmah). Where he, peace be upon him, could foretell and tolerate such disagreements, we are required to follow. We must show respect and mercy for the differences of those whose opinions we do not ourselves follow.

    How the system works can be shown most clearly with the transmission of ahadith. Everyone knows that each hadith is composed of two parts; the matn, or text, and the isnad, or chain of transmission. Each has been closely examined for inconsistencies or errors. Detailed biographies were built up of each "Name" who featured in the isnad. By exhaustive means the Six Authentic Compilations (sihahu-s sittah) were arrived at (Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Daud, An Nasa'i, Ibn Majah). These were the comprehensive collections.

    There were others, less wide in scope but nevertheless reliable, such as Malik, Ahmad ibn Hambal, Al Baihaqi, and several hundred more. For example, Imam Malik, a Tabi' and a great saint, was able to verify each of the one thousand ahadith in his Muwatta with the Prophet himself, peace be upon him, in the majlisu-l awliya held each night in the 'alamu-l arwah. All ahadith in the authentic collections were usable in judicial rulings: Tirmidhi first codified them in priorities according to the weight that was to be attached to them. Each ruling had to be based on a nass (authenticating text) from the Quran and one, or more, from the ahadith. A hasan, gharib, da'if, or mawdou' hadith (Tirmidhi's categories) could not be used unsupported by a sahih hadith to establish a line of argument, but could be used to develop one further.

    Imam Al Ghazzali stated that anyone who finds fault with Bukhari is either jealous or there is something wrong with his iman. And yet we now find people doing just that. This movement began with a now discredited "shaykhu-l hadith" who started to cast doubt on the "weak" hadiths in the works of Ibn Majah and An Nasa'i. He and his friends have steadily and with wide publicity - institutionally funded with lavish profligacy to God knows what nefarious end - worked their way through the Six Authentic Compilations; so that now many people will only accept a hadith from Bukhari as an authority, whereas for centuries all the Compilations were accepted. This Albanian's father was so angry with him for the damage that he has done to Islam, that he disowned him.

    And yet we now see ignorant youths aping this Albanian, and the leaders of this movement, and rejecting this hadith as "weak" (da'eef) and that hadith as "unconnected to the Prophet's time" (mawdou'); often this pontification is done on the basis of an inelegant or faulty translation into English without knowledge or access to the Arabic text. And what are they connected to? Certainly not the Messenger, peace be upon him. One cannot acquire a connection to an authentic silsilah simply by studying by 'conventional academic methods' at a western-style university, or even in the local library as the Albanian did, but only from the most recent member of the chain, who will certify his satisfaction with the student. The earlier members of the silsilah have a say, and they may well refuse - by esoteric means - to accept a claimant who is not following acceptable and sound knowledge.

    It is an insanity peculiar to our time that demands that the wheel be reinvented over and over again at each moment anew by a process of continuous revolution. Few people have ever had the requisite knowledge or documents at their finger-tips, let alone the time necessary to return to 'first principles' each time that an answer is needed to a question of religious import. And in any case in our days there is no-one of that highest level of ijtihad mutlaq or ijtihad fi-sh shar'. But why bother? The hard work has already been done exhaustively, over and over, by the great scholars of the past, and the benefit of their activity is contained in the codices of the Schools.

    The Schools of Jurisprudence and Faith (madhahibu-l fiqh and madh'habaanu-l iman) are systems, or user manuals, for following the Shari'ah; the Orders of the Way (taraa'iq) are analogous means for following the Inner knowledge contained in the "other cup", the Way of Purification (tasfiyah) known as tasawwuf. They all derive direct from the Prophet, peace be upon him, through clear and well-known Chains; and thus we can be confident in them. All are correct ways. There is nothing that they teach that is wrong. All of them, inner and outer, teach the means of following the sunnah of the Prophet, peace be upon him.

    We are not to judge them by the behaviour of the ignorant, the common traffic of the market-place, the conduct of hoi polloi. The great Christian bishop Alcuin (a Celtic Briton) warned the dictator Charlemagne in a letter he sent to him in 800 AD, "nec audiendi qui solent dicere, vox populi, Vox Dei, quum tumultuositas vulgi semper insaniae proxima sit" ("and those should not be listened to who keep saying 'the voice of the people is the Voice of God' because the turbulence of the crowd is always close to madness"). A ninth century Roman Catholic fundamentalist could see this; yet this is just what the detractors of the madhahib and taraa'iq have done. This is the behaviour of politicians, whose adab lies in the bazaar anyway, and not the way of scholars and guides.

    The imams were great men, many of them from the generations after the sahabahs (such as the Sage of Medina Imam Malik ibn Anas, or Imam Al Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, or Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq). The others were very learned and had proximity to those great ones, such as Imam Abu Yusuf, or Imam ash-Shafi'i (known as the Sage of Quraysh). These all had the necessary knowledge, of both "cups", such as the science of nasikh and mansoukh, to work out for the benefit of all how best and easiest to follow the way of the Prophet, peace be upon him.

    The members of these generations were better than those of later ones, including our own. Not to accept this is to call the Prophet a liar. Thus, when for very good reasons, the imams of the madhahib declared the gates of ijtihad closed, there is no need to open them. There is plenty of scope for ruling on modern events and inventions without undermining the madhahib.

    The Ottomans, whose legal code - the Majallah - used Hanafi jurisprudence, managed to produce imaginative and up-to-the-minute opinions without abandoning the traditional system of knowledge and methodology. For example, they had very progressive rulings on motor transport and the internal combustion engine; on air travel and air combat when Bl&eacut;riot was still alive; they ruled similarly on radio soon after Marconi had invented it; they had ruled on the telephone, and installed a working exchange between the Foreign Ministry (Bab-i Ala) and the Sultan's Palace (Yildiz Sarayi), while Bell was still experimenting with it - the first working telephone network in the world; and were considering John Logie Baird's television while he developed it. All this within the framework of the Hanafi Madh'hab, and as an integral part of the workings of the Islamic State.

    So why are many people urging us to abandon the madhahib - to "fling wide the gates of ijtihad" - and let each of us follow our own interpretations? He, peace and blessings be upon him, warned us that there would come people at the end of time who "follow a sunnah other than mine" and ordered us to shun them. This is the correct adab towards these followers of the mutashabbih guru and of the shaykh of the Najd, whatever persuasively Sunni names they give themselves.

    The Almighty says, wa ma khalaqtu-l jinna wa-l insa illa li ya'budoun ("and I did not create Jinn and Mankind other than to serve Me" [Q, Al-Dhaariyyaat, 51:56]). So if one refuse to be an 'abd of the Almighty, whom else is one going to serve? Who else of all creation had the rebelliousness to refuse to submit to a command of the Almighty but Iblis, the Prince of This World? So, one either serves Allah Almighty or one serves the Devil, who has been given permission (idhn) to lie in ambush on Allah's Straight Path until the Day of Judgement. As Allah Almighty says, alam a'had ilaykum,Yaa Bani Adama, an laa ta'budu-sh Shaytaan. Innahu lakum 'aduwwum mubeen. Wa ani-'budounee: haadha Siraatum Mustaqeem. Wa laqad adalla minkum jibillan katheera. Afalam takounou ta'qiloun? ("Did I not require of you, Children of Adam, that you do not serve Satan, for surely he is to you an open enemy? And that you should serve Me: this is the Straight Path. And he has certainly led astray from you a great multitude. Have you not yet been able to understand?" [Q,Yaa Seen, 60-62]). The Way of Allah Almighty is what has been brought to us by the Prophets and Messengers, peace be upon them all, and by the saints and inspired leaders. And, in the case of the Message of Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him and his family and followers all, this Way is contained in the shir'ah and minhaaj of madhahib and taraa'iq. What, or who, does anti-madh'habism and anti-tareeqatism follow? Their would-be adherents should consider carefully before answering.

    Their way is from the nafs, which has a hot-line to the Devil, and he is the Prince of Rebellion. Their nafses don't want to be handicapped by the discipline of following somebody else. They want to 'do their own thing', and, as is the culture of this time, expect no consequences from it. No one wants to accept authority; not to follow it, not to be responsible for his or her own actions and behaviour, not to be responsible for those dependent upon them, and not to be responsible for those whom they have taught and influenced. No one wants to accept limits to their spheres of ambition, action, speculation, or indulgence: this is the "Spirit of the Age", the Zeitgeist. However, interestingly, this also can serve as a definition of taghout - "no limitations": wa-lladheena kafarou yuqaatilouna fi sabeeli-t taaghouti fa qaatilou awliyaa'i-sh shaytaan ("and those who reject fight in the way of 'no limits', so fight the supporters of Satan" [Q, Al-Nisa, 4:76]).

    And these same people are trying to claim that tasawwuf is "unIslamic" and a later innovation, when it begins in the Cave of Thawr where Sayyiduna Abu Bakr as-Siddiq and the Prophet, peace be upon him, were hiding during the hijrah and Allah Almighty made a third. They claim that dhikru-Llah is an innovation, when the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, "when you pass by the meadows of the Garden (riyaadu-l Jannah), browse". When they asked him what they were he said, "halaqu-dh dhikr" (circles of dhikr).

    There are many who claim to be "enlivening the Sunnah", but who have no connection to the Prophet, peace be upon him. How can you give life to the Sunnah simply by reading books? To be comprehensive you need an exemplar (just as the Prophet, peace be upon him, is an exemplar) who recalls the Prophet, peace be upon him, whenever you see him. He must be one who lives like the Prophet, peace be upon him, and who takes direct from that source, as he said "whoever has seen me, has seen me". Have these people of the "Society for the Revival of the Way of the Sunnah", or the "Liberation Party", or the "Members of Hadith", seen the Prophet, peace be upon him? Many of the "People of the Way" have.

    And among the first Sunnahs to revive is ta'ah, or "obedience to authority", which is also a Command of Allah Almighty. The Almighty says, "We did not send a Messenger except that he be obeyed by Commission of Allah..." (wa ma arsalna mir rasoulin illa liyutaa'a bi idhni-Llahi... [Q, Al Nisa, 4:64]), and so "whoso obeys the Messenger assuredly he obeys Allah..." (may yuti'i-r rasoula faqad ataa'a-Llaha...[Q, Al Nisa, 4:80]). Allah Almighty has not commanded us to do this without also rewarding for the hardship: "and obey Allah and the Messenger so that you may receive mercy" (wa atee'u-Llaha wa-r rasoula la'allakum turhamoun [Q, Aal 'Imraan, 3:132]), and "Oh you who believe, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those charged with authority from you..." (yaa ayyuha-lladheena aamanou, atee'u-Llaha wa atee'u-r rasoula wa ouli-l amri minkum... [Q, Al Nisa, 4:59]), then "And whoso obeys Allah and the Messenger, so those are with those on whom is the Grace of Allah from the prophets and the trustworthy and the martyrs and the pure; and they befit as a company" (wa may yuti'i-Llaha wa-r rasoula fa oulaa'ika ma'a-lladheena an'ama-Llahu 'alayhim mina-n nabiyyeena wa- siddeeqeena wa-sh shuhadaa'i wa-s saaliheena; wa hasuna oulaa'ika rafeeqa [Q, Al Nisa, 4:69]).

    And with ta'ah comes bay'ah. This homage or fealty (bay'ah) referred to in the ayah Quraniyyah "those who pledge homage to you, certainly pledge homage to Allah" (inna-lladheena yubaayi'ounaka innama yubaayi'ouna-Llah [Q, Fat'h, 48:10]) had two aspects; an "inner" (batin) and an "outer" (zahir) representing the two "cups of knowledge". Sometimes they were represented in the same person; more often through the years they have not been. Thus, in those years one made bay'ah with different persons, representing the different aspects - the sultan, representing the outer aspect of the Caliphate, and a qutb, representing the inner. The pledge could be made through a legate or subordinate representative. In the case of the "inner", this would be through a shaykhu-t tareeqah. But whichever method is operational at the time we live in, we must do it. The Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, said, "'whoever dies and does not have a 'leader of a group' over him, certainly his death is a death of Ignorance" (man mata wa laysa 'alayhi imamun jama'atin fa-inna mawtatahu mawtatun jahiliyyah [al Hakimu-n Naisaburi]), which is alluded to in paraphrase in the traditional Sufi saying, "and whoso does not yet have a master, his master is Satan" (wa man lam laysa 'alayhi shaykhun fa shaykhahu-sh Shaytan).

    Caliphate is the anglicism for khilaafah, which is a noun of state, or condition, deriving from the simple verb khalafa-yakhlufu-khilaafatun "he succeeded", "was the successor of", "replaced", "substituted", "deputed", "came after", and means "the state of being a Depute", or "the concept of having a Depute". The Depute is known as the khaleefah (the "-ah" ending is an intensifier or energiser for the expression), and the plural of the word is khulafa. It is used in four senses. Firstly there is the general usage for any deputy or substitute, or persons left behind (and thus in charge of things, as in the term khaalifah, pl. khawaalif, generally translated as "womenfolk", as being those left behind in time of war). Secondly, there is a convention (with varying meanings depending on the tareeqah) for refering to the deputies of a Sufi shaykh - these may vary from the actual successors (one or many) to a local functionary otherwise called a muqaddam. The other usages can often be heard being bandied around in present-day Muslim circles, with varying degrees of understanding, namely, the khaleefatu-Llahi fi-l ard and the khaleefatu-r Rasoul. Very often these two are conflated by sloppy thinking, whereas they are, in fact, quite distinct; although the incumbent of the latter has sometimes been one of the former.

    The first of these refers to the announcement of the Almighty that He wished to place a Vicegerent on the Earth, and so He created Sayyiduna Adam, peace be upon him. The modernisers, or Islamists, (or mustaghriboun or, even, mustafrinjoun, though as people have ceased to attach much importance to becoming "French" or 'Franks', perhaps in modern terms it would be musta'amreekiyoun, "Americanisers"), have taken this to mean that all mankind are therefore of that degree. Although we may all aspire to it (and may have the capacity to attain it) in fact the spiritual actuality of khilaafatu-Llahi fi-l ard is among the highest levels of wilayah, belonging to the Messengers and the Prophets (peace be upon them all), and to the High Saints whose chief among the living is the Qutbu-z Zaman (the "Pole - or Pivot - of the Age", sometimes called the Ghawth). A person who has attained that degree is obeyed by all Creation as though he or she were the Almighty Himself. Queen Victoria did not send a Viceroy to India but to be obeyed as though he were she herself. He says, "And when your Lord said to the Angels 'I am raising up on the earth a Depute'..." (wa idh qaala Rabbuka li-l malaa'ikati innee jaa'ilun fi-l ardi khaleefatan... [Q, Al-Baqarah, 2:30]). And again, "And He it is who esteemed you Vicegerents of the Earth and raised some of you above others in degrees so that He might test you in what He has given you;..." (wa huwa-lladhee ja'alakum khalaa'ifa-l ardi wa rafa'a ba'dakum fawqa ba'din darajaatil liyabluwakum fi maa aataakum... [Q, Al-An'am, 6: 165]). We may each of us become such; but we have not necessarily got there yet.

    The state office of the Caliphate represents the "Successor of the Prophet peace be upon him" - the khaleefatu-r Rasoul - about which office, and the incumbents of it, are many ahadith. From it derive the operational form of most institutions of the Islamic State, and the "government" or "authorities" (the sultan) derive their imperium. In the absence of a zahir Caliph he is deputised by the batin Caliph, namely the Qutb, for without a Caliph, the ummah would be like an orphan, or a body without a head, and the legitimacy of the shari'ah would suffer, as Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje hoped.

    We were enjoined by the Prophet, peace be upon him, to "obey the Caliph even if he flay the skin off your back". There is no room for manoeuvre: just because the Caliph was an Ottoman of Turkish origin was no reason at all for Arab treason at the behest of the Triple Entente powers in 1916, no matter how unbearable the provocation from militant secularist Turkish nationalists, and it was indeed unbearable. But because of this great betrayal by the Muslims in the 1915 Jihad, the inaptly named "Committee of Union and Progress" (when it stood for disintegration and obscurantism) was enabled to remove the Caliphate by a coup d'etat and it has had to live in obscurity and exile ever since.

    Islam is a universal religion; neither it nor its offices is bound to any one part of the globe. Just because a lieutenant colonel of infantry drove the Incumbent and the imperial family out in 1924 does not mean that the Caliphate was no more, and that the office were abolished just because he said it was. Something that was decreed of the Almighty, and appointed by His Messenger, peace be upon him, cannot be abolished by a man - even if he be a Turkish lieutenant colonel of infantry. Even to select a Caliph by the means of an "electoral college" comprised of the ahalu-l 'aqd wa-l hall of the ummah would be a mammoth logistical task producing a veritable Tower of Babel at the end of it, and an uncertain outcome except for bickering, chaos, and fawdah. And even if "the ummah" could "elect" a Caliph "by democratic means", it is not necessary. The imperial family still exists. So there has never ceased to be an Incumbent, even if his office has been nominal for the last 70-odd years and his incumbency notional. Thus, objectively, the aspects of the shari'ah that Stanley Lane Poole, Samuel Zwemer, Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje, Louis Massignon, and their friends hoped would become abrogated and inoperative have not been, and the Muslims have not been entirely orphaned. It may well be that the man who has stood in the shoes of the late Caliphs is not the one the Muslims would readily consent to and give fealty to; equally, it may be that he is just such a one. At an important level it does not matter. What counts is that there has been an Incumbent since Sultan 'Abdu-l Majid II, and so the legitimacy of the shari'ah and the continuance of the silsilah of the khulafa'u-r Rasoul have been ensured, if only in an academic or legalistic way.

    But, for our own practical lives, in the absence of a publicly-acclaimed Caliph (khaleefatu-r Rasoul) - whether located in Istanbul, Damascus, Baghdad, Cordoba, or Medina - to pledge "outer" fealty to, we must content ourselves with the "inner" fealty, and make bay'ah with the Prophet, peace be upon him, through a shaykhu-t tareeqah. Until the emergence of a publicly acclaimed and accepted khaleefatu-r rasoul, which may not happen until the declaration of Imamu-l Mahdi 'alayhi-s salaam, both the zahir and batin aspects of bay'ah devolve on the Qutb, who, like Imamu-l Mahdi 'alayhi-s salaam for whom he and all of us wait, stands above Shi'ah and Sunniyyah and simply connects us all with the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him. And by making bay'ah with an authentic Shaykh is this amru-Llah fulfilled, as all mashayikh are deputes of the Qutb in this regard.

    But who inaugurated this movement against madhahib and taraa'iq in the first place; and to the benefit of whom? As lawyers used to say, when examining a mischief or a crime, cui bono?: "to whom is the gain?". There was an obscure 'alim in Syria, a Qadiri dervish, at the time of the Mongols' invasion, who made himself notorious by publicly espousing the notion of tashabbuh ("anthropomorphism"), apparently teaching that Allah Almighty's "hand", "face", "descent" were to be taken literally and not metaphorically (sifat ismiyyah). The great Shafi'ite imams Taqiyu-ddin as-Subki and Al-Mawardi, near contemporaries of his, held that "Because of the great extent of his knowledge, Ibn Taymiyyah might just save himself; but anyone who follows him is in danger of the Fire" (as-Subki). His pupil Ibnu-l Qayyim Al Jawziyyah was also a man of great learning and, like him, a follower of tareeqah. Do people think that none of the great ones before the seventh century hijri had not examined these notions and discarded them as being unacceptable? And what was their silsilah in fiqh ("jurisprudence"); there must be one to establish that their teachings can be authentically connected to the Prophet, peace be upon him? And in later days, who could possibly benefit by reviving the fitnah of tashabbuh among the Muslims, and calumniating followers of the madh'habu-l iman of Imam al-Ash'ari?

    And this obscure 'alim's teachings were resurrected in the eleventh century hijri (eighteenth century masihi) by a tafarnuj revolutionist (later known as "the shaykh of the Najd"), who had no authentic silsilah at all, having been denounced as a heretic (zindiq) both by his teachers - in particular the famous Jawi shaykh at Medina, Ahmad Zaini Dahlan - and by his father and brother (who were both qadis), and who also disowned him. During the nineteenth century, at the frenetic crescendo of the move by the Western Powers against the Muslims, this man's teachings were adopted by a notorious adventurer and freemason, who subsequently died in an Ottoman prison of cancer of the jaw, and who had been expelled from his native Iran as a dangerous revolutionary, but who has become a hero of the "Islamic Movement" - Jamaluddin "Afghani". He has no known teachers, other than European socialists such as Giuseppi Mazzini, spawn of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution of the late eighteenth century. Mazzini, who died in 1872, founded of the "Association of Young Italy" to free the Italian states from the rule of France, Austria and the Papacy. He was condidered the "Brain" of the movement with Cavour as its "Body" and Garibaldi its "Sword"; the fourth member of the group was the King of Sardinia, Carlo Alberto. He was succeeded by his gallant son Vittorio Emmanuele II, who became the "front man" of the movement. In 1861, Italy, with the exception of Rome and the Pope's dominions which remained yet to be conquered, proclaimed King Vittorio Emmanuele II of the Two Sicilies as the first King of Italy. Prince Otto von Bismarck, the Prussian Chancellor, in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 forced the French to vacate Rome, and the Italian forces marched in. Pope Pius IX withdrew with ill-grace to the Vatican, reluctantly giving up the papal lands to the Italians, and Italy virtually within its present borders was an independent country for the first time ever.

    Mazzini and his successful movement inspired among others a graduate of Al Azhar and later a freemason and Grand Master of the Cairo Lodge, the famous reformer Muhammad 'Abduh (and there was indeed a great deal that needed reforming). Specious parallels were drawn between Italy and the 'plight' of Egypt and the Arabs under the 'Turks'. The disaffection eventually led to outbreaks such as the Orabi Pasha Revolt. 'Abduh reformed the University of Al Azhar and embraced Afghani's post-French Revolutionary socialism. He invented the spurious "Salafiyyah Movement", claiming to be recreating the first three generations. How they were to do this with no connection to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, is a mystery. Nevertheless his foremost follower, Sayyid Rashid Rida (sadly a member of the Prophet's family, but bloodlines are not a guarantee of sense or right conduct), later became one of the secular influences over a Shadhili-Hasafi shaykh, Imam Hasan al-Banna, ash shaheed, who founded the Jama'atu-l Ikhwani-l Muslimin ("Society of the Muslim Brothers") in Egypt in 1928.

    Through the silsilah of the Shadhiliyyah tareeqah, a genuine and authentic connection, barakah and guidance flowed into the Society, so that a Naqshbandi shaykh in Sudan announced to his dervishes, "A light has been lit in Egypt". This Society has been a glorious legacy of 'Abduh's modernism, perhaps its only one of value, and its barakah might compensate - to 'Abduh's ultimate benefit - for the damage that the rest of his "Salafiyyah Movement" seems to have wrought.

    Years later, disturbed at the deteriorated nature of the political wings of the Society (which may well have been penetrated by British Intelligence during the agitation in the mid-1940s, in which the Society was prominent, against Egypt's joining World War II on the Allied side), and, in particular, the activities of the "Secret Organ" of Sayyid Qutb, Imam Hasan ordered the Ameenu-l 'Amm of the Society, his son-in-law the famed criminal-case lawyer Dr Saïd Ramadan, to wind up and disband the organisation, and handed the tareeqah aspect over to his brother Shaykh 'Abdul Rahman al-Banna as his deputy (khaleefah). Imam Hasan was assassinated by the police in 1948 in retaliation for the murder by the "Secret Organ" of the Egyptian Prime Minister Nuqrashi Pasha, before he could complete the dismantling of the Society. Dr Ramadan used to maintain that there was, however, in the assassinations an undetermined connection - or retribution - with the successful way in which the Society had fought the jihad in Palestine in 1947 and 1948 prior to the assassination, and especially as a result of its defence of the Old City of Jerusalem and its attack on Mount Scopus and the Hebrew University. The Society ignored Imam Hasan's command (mainly because Dr Ramadan was in Jordan and Pakistan, on the run from the Egyptian police with the membership records of the organisation to hamper the rounding up of the Brothers and Sisters of the Society) and went ahead and chose a new "Murshid" in the Sudan in 1952 (the secular judge Hasan al-Hudaybi), whereupon the Naqshbandi shaykh of 25 years previous said, "The light has gone out". Since then the Society has had its 'ups and downs' and less and less barakah, and has become a political movement with the usual break-away and more extreme offshoots.

    Nevertheless, it cannot be gainsaid that something of Imam Hasan Shaheed's barakah is there for those that want to find it; and the Society continually produces people of learning and piety, movements of genuine popular appeal and leadership, and true martyrs, such as may be found with the (Palestinian) Islamic Resistance Movement "Hamas". Were Husni Mubarak to have allowed a democratic election to have taken place in Egypt in November 1995, instead of the rigged farce familiar to watchers of all dictatorial regimes, the Society, and its allies the Labour Party, would have won handsomely. Imam Hasan Shaheed's barakah would have made it the best government Egypt has ever had this century and brought through it many much needed Islamic reforms to the country. And through Egypt's example many other Muslim countries in the area might have been inspired to abandon the useless and sterile obsession with tafarnuj, especially Turkey, Islam's super-power and heir to the Devlet-i 'Aliye-yi 'Osmaniyyah - the Ottoman supranational entity, or "Ottoman Empire" of glorious memory. This is an event to be prayed for by all right-thinking and pious people. As the Holy Prophet said, peace and blessings be upon him and his family, man tashabbaha bi qawmin fa-huwa minhum ("whoever makes himself look like a people is one of them").

    In another of his sayings, the Prophet, peace be upon him, stated that Allah Almighty would take up six things at the end of time: "mercy from the hearts of men" (ar rahmatu min quloubi-n naas), "the blessings on the earth" (al barakaatu fi-l ard), "the demureness from women" (al hayaa'u mina-n nisaa'i), "uprightness of rulers" ('adlu-l umaraa'i), "deference of the learned" (hurmatu-l 'ulamaa'i), and "composure of the poor" (sabru-l fuqaraa'i): Yarfa'a fi-l aakhiri-z zamaani sittati ashyaa'i-r rahmatu min quloubi-n naasi wa-l baraakatu fi-l ardi wa-l hayaa'u mina-n nisaa'i wa-l 'adlu-l umaraa'i wa-l hurmatu-l 'ulamaa'i wa-s sabru-l fuqaraa'.

    And we can see this all around us now in the way that people, young and old, behave coarsely and like savages towards others, using bad language and raised voices in the mosque and religious meetings. But he, peace be upon him, warned "the coarse will not enter the Garden" (la yadkhulu-l jannaata-l jawwazu wa la-l ja'zariy). The ignorant behave as though they were learned and presume to heckle and lecture those who know more. People without nour and shajarah are venerated and followed as religious leaders. So we have arrived at the last times, when the "worst among you will be your leaders": the days of 'amuru-l 'ammah - democracy in all things. Man tashabbaha bi qawmin fa huwa minhum ("whoever makes himself like a people is one of them"). So now we have all become like wild beasts. And still we persist in bragging that we are enlivening the Sunnah.

    Do you think that if we had the Sunnah in our hands and in our hearts, we would have let half-a-million of our brothers and sisters be butchered in Bosnia, Sanjak, and Kosova? Or allowed the European Community, that afterbirth of the Holy Roman Empire, to pay the Russians US$10 Billion to subjugate our Chechen brothers and sisters because they are both greedy for the oil of Azerbaijan that must pass through Chechenia to reach the Black Sea? And, having shamed ourselves, betrayed our muruwwah, and foresworn our tashah'hud, we continue to let our shuhada and shaheedat lie unavenged in mass graves. We allow people to talk offensively and nostalgically about the jihad in Afghanistan, and yet do not ask why the "Salafiyyah" of the Jama'at-e Islami and the Taleban attacked their brothers in flagrant defiance of the hadith al muslimu 'ala-l muslimi haraamun fi-d damihi wa-l maalihi wa-l 'irdihi ("the Muslim is sacrosanct to a Muslim in his blood, his property, and his good name"). There are other questions to be asked of these "Salafiyyah": who is paying them, and just whose game-plan are they serving?

    In the teeth of all this shame, yet with breathtaking braggadocio, we continue to boast in the Face of Allah Almighty of being Muslims, and argue endlessly about who is on the correct path, and clog the Internet with our bickering, while all the time we are liars. We allow our leaders to claim to have sent untold millions of dollars to Bosnia, when they are liars. We allow the "Salafiyyah" to claim unchallenged that they are enlivening the Sunnah, when they are liars. We persist with shameful perversity to allow ourselves to be ruled by fussaaq and mufsidoun, yet at the same time we protest that we are True Believers in democracy. Of course, we are liars. If we truly believed in this tafarnuj democracy, we would not have allowed the Marxist Front de la Libération Nationale (presumably their Libération was from l'Islamisme?), at the behest of their French puppeteers, to cancel genuinely democratic elections in Algeria after the first round in January 1992 simply because the Muslims in the form of the Front Islamique de Salut were going to win by genuinely democratic means. We would not tolerate or be ambivalent about the haram daily being committed by the FLN-operated Groupement Islamique de Salut. We grow fat, idle, and effete: we are des gens fainéants. Yet we continue to argue whether Sayyiduna Abu Bakr, may Allah Almighty be pleased with him, should have been the First Caliph or whether it should have been Sayyiduna Ali, may Allah Almighty ennoble his countenance, when we are not worth the dust that either of them shook off their sandals "in the Way of Allah". And what does it matter to us, when the souls of our martyred Bosnian and Kosovan brothers and sisters stand barring the way across the Bridge, accusing us all and demanding account from each and every one of us: "where is the mark of jihad on you? What did you do for Bosnia? What did you do for Sanjak? What did you do for Kosova?"?

    Who do we believe is meant when the Almighty says of the Mustad'afeen's prayer "and appoint for us from Yourself a guardian; and appoint for us from Yourself a helper" (wa-j'al lana mil ladunka waliyyan; wa-j'al lana mil ladunka naseeran [Q, Al-Nisa 4:75])? An angel with a drawn sword, ...or perhaps two or three of them, ...or even a host? Possibly the Almighty might grant us such a miracle. But why else are there 50 Muslim states, with vast armies, and 1,200 Million Muslims on the earth? For decoration, ...as a sort of global tree-trimming? No. Aqil wa tawakkal ("hobble (the camel) and trust (in Allah)") he said, blessings and peace be upon him and his family. The duty of being Wali and Naseer for the Oppressed of the Earth - not just the Bosnians, Kosovans, and Chechens, not just for Muslims, but non-Muslim Oppressed also - falls squarely on the shoulders of the Muslims of the world, and they will be held accountable by Allah Almighty, now and at the Judgment, for their discharge of this amanah, this trust: wa ma lakum laa tuqaatilouna fi sabeeli-Llahi wa-l mustad'afeen...? ("and why have you not fought in the Way of God and the Wretched...?" [Q, Al-Nisa 4:75])

    The Damnées de la Terre, the "Wretched of the Earth", are not members of Frantz Fanon's sinister Marxist notion of a "Third World" - the "international revolutionary class" of the "international class struggle", the sans culottes of the late twentieth century revolution - inspired by the "uplifting ideology of Revolutionary Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought". They are "the weak (and thus ill-treated and oppressed) men, women, and children who say 'Our Lord, take us out from this community whose people are oppressors...'" (al mustad'afeena mina-r rijaali wa-n nisaa'i wa-l wildaani-lladheena yaqoulouna, 'Rabbana, akhrijna min haadhihi-l qaryati-z zaalimi ahluha ...' [Q, Al-Nisa 4:75]).

    These are the Damnées de la Terre, and it is they who will demand restitution from Allah Almighty for the cupidity and pusillanimity of the Muslims in leaving them in their suffering while they "go a-whoring after false gods"; and Allah Almighty may well grant it to them by taking what they are entitled to from the Muslims who failed in their duty. But perhaps all might be let off because of that group that will always be there until the Last Day, according to a hadith, "calling to the Right and forbidding the Wrong": the Members of the 'ahdi-l futuwwah. As the Almighty says, "And of Mankind are those who sell their lives striving for the Pleasure of Allah, and Allah is Benevolent to the servants" (wa mina-n naasi may yashriy nafsahu-btighaa'a mardaati-Llahi wa-Llahu ra'oufum bi-l 'ibaad [Q, Al-Baqarah 2:207]). And as His Blessed Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "O People, Do not wish for the encounter with the enemy, and ask Allah for healthful vigour, but when you encounter them, be steadfast and know that the Garden is beneath the shadows of the swords" (Ayyuha-n naasu, laa tamannou liqaa'a-l 'aduwwi, wa-s'alu-Llaha-l 'aafiyata, fa-idha laqeetumouhum fa-sbirou wa-a'lamou anna-l jannata tahta zilaal-s suyouf [From Abdullah bin Abu Awfa; recorded by both Al-Bukhari and Muslim]).

    And if Allah Almighty sends angels on horseback with drawn swords then that is an extra blessing placing us on a level with the Blessed Ones of Badr. And yet most Muslims have sat on their hands and watched. They expected the godless United Nations Organisation of shayateen to do their duty for them, with its UNPROFOR, and its IFOR, its SFOR, and its KFOR (even if these latter three were got up under the auspices of NATO). Thus we discharge our adab as pretended khulafa'u-Llahi fi-l ard. And it was the same in Eritrea; and in Afghanistan; and in Somalia; and in Palestine; and in Chechenia; and in 'Iraq. When will the Muslims get up off their faces from their kowtow, from their sujoud to the new Al-Lat, the new Al-'Uzzah, the new Wadd, the Great UN?

    He, blessings and peace be upon him and his family and followers all, said, "The nations are on the verge of tumbling onto you like the food tumbles into its bowl" (yawshuku-l umamu an tadaa'a 'alaykum kama tadaa'a-l aklatu ila qas'atiha). When somebody asked him if that would be because the Muslims would be few at that time, he, blessings and peace be upon him, answered "No, rather you will be at that time many but you will be scum like froth on the spate, and Allah will have snatched awe of you from the breasts of your enemy and will have hurled into your hearts saplessness" (bal antum yawma'idhin katheerun walaakinukum ghuthaa'un ka-ghuthaa'i-s sayl wa layanaza'anna-Llahu min sudouri 'aduwwikumu-l mahabata minkum wa layaqadhafanna fi quloubikumu-l wahn). When he was asked what "saplessness" (wahn) was, he replied, hubbu-d duniya wa karaahiyatu-l mawt ("love of The World and abhorrence of death"). Well, the adab of food is to let itself be eaten without complaining. And the adab of scum is to allow itself to be swept away without objecting.

    But the adab of muruwwah is to stand up like a man - a Rajul or Fata - and face down oppressors of the weak and abusers of women. The Holy Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said that there would never cease to be a group of the Muslims enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong until the Last Day. The adab of such people is that of muruwwah. Their code is that of futuwwah. And their path is fi sabeeli-Llah ("in The Way of Allah"). As he, blessings and peace be upon him and his family and followers all, said "the most excellent of jihad is a word of justice to a tyrannical ruler" (afdalu-l jihadi kalimatan 'adlin 'inda imamu-z zalim) (or, in another version, afdalu-l jihad kalimatan haqqin 'inda ameeru-z zalim; or, in another version, 'inda sultaanu-l jaa'ir).

    So, we must reckon with ourselves before we are reckoned with (haasibou qabla an tuhaasiboun), and pose oneself the important questions, "am I food, am I scum, or am I a Muslim human being?" and "do I want to stay as food, scum, or a Muslim human being?". If one's answer is that of food or scum, and one is content with that state because one refuses to do anything to change it, then one should shut up and stop complaining about how the enemies of Allah and the Believers are treating one. There should be no more bleating about the injustice of the Americans, or the British, or the Israelis, or the "Great Satan", or the "Lesser Satan", or a myriad others; and no more endless conspiracy theories, no more fantasizing about spurious "International Judaeo-Masonic Conspiracies Against Islam", to explain why the Muslims copped out of their duty because you refuse to face up to the stark truth that you are cowards, liars, and prefer the cushy life.

    If you answer that 'I am a Muslim human being', then you must act ; for the required next step after stating "amantu" is amalun saalih. You must take the path of enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong, the path of duty and service. This 'ahdu-l futuwwah, this Code of Knighthood, is a way of action and commitment, not one of sluggardliness and backsliding. The fata or fatah is a Man or a Lady of Action. The first level of this is by the example of one's conduct, and the speech of one's tongue, and the belief of one's heart. This is "enlivening the Sunnah" (ihya'u-s sunnah): to do this one must have an exemplar of one's own, because this is the realm of praxis not theory. And the exemplar must be one who follows the example of the Holy Prophet. How can one show the proper adab to the Holy Prophet if one does not follow one who follows him?

    We are used to asking a doctor about what it is that is making us sick, and what pills or medicine will make us better. We are accustomed to asking an architect how to build a house. Although it is fashionable among many Muslims to abandon madh'habs and become their own fuqaha, we even used to, most of us, ask an 'alim about matters of fiqh. So, in matters of following the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, the proper way is to ask and take example from one who keeps company with him. For our shir'ah we need a faqih as a guide; for our minhaj we need a shaykh. As we need for tasawwuf a genuine shaykhu-t tareeqah, so we need for futuwwah a genuine sayyidu-l fityaan - a sensei, a master. They may be found in the same person, or they may be encountered in the same circles; but it is extremely difficult to conceptualise, if not impossible, that there might be fityan or fatahat other than among the People of the Way because of what is required.

    Thus we come full circle. These are the right ways of doing things in our time. They are shari'ah and tareeqah (and remember the Naqshbandi dictum: laysa-t tareeqatu min douni-sh shari'ah, "there is no tareeqah outside the shari'ah"); and from them (and belonging to them) is the 'ahdu-l futuwwah - the Code of Knighthood - as ordered by the Almighty when He says, "and there must be from you an Exemplary Group calling to the Good, enjoining the Right, and forbidding the Wrong, and they are the successful ones" (wa-ltakum minkum ummatuy yad'ouna ila-l khayri wa ya'murouna bi-l ma'roufi wa yanhawna 'ani-l munkari wa oulaa'ika humu-l muflihoun [Q, Aal 'Imraan, 3:104]).



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    Pluralism | MainMenu | Tolerance

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    [The author is a professional journalist, a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society, . He is a former regular officer in the British Army. He converted to Islam in November 1964. He is Amir of the Association for British Muslims


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