بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرحْمَنِ الرحِيْمِ
As salam mu alaikum wa rahmat Ullah
Further to my recent response to the fatwa of Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa of Egypt in which he stated that it was permissible to celebrate Christmas, I have received many messages requesting me to dispel the confusion caused by the famous American Imam, Suhaib Webb al-Azhari on his official facebook page.
After a brief analysis, it is clear that the esteemed Imam Suhaib al-Azhari has misrepresented certain facts that I will look to clarify in this article.
Owing to the urgency of this matter and the lack of a single scholar to openly and academically assess these statements, I have decided to fulfill this obligation in what may appear to some as a haphazard way, but I ask to be forgiven owing to commitments to more pressing issues such as familial suffering in Damascus as many of you are already aware.
First of all, Imam Webb's initial post on the subject that forms his basis of all future arguments on the subject. He writes:
“The European Fatwa Council; made up of 20 of the worlds greatest Muslim Jurists, stated that it is permissible to greet people on these days (exchange gifts even) as long as it does not involve approving any creedal differences between us, or open evil (drinking and so on).
In other words, a simple happy holidays is not a sin or going to take that person out of Islam. It is reported with authentic chains that Ali (ra) celebrated the Persian New Year, even eating ice cream with Imam Abu Hanifa's relative.
Many of the fatwa quoted by sincere folks are rooted in an age of empire and war (the crusades) or a social reality that does not fit ours in the West. Most importantly, a person should ask those who use words like "haram" "kufur" "Halal" and "encouraged" about their religious training. Yelling and over blown emotionalism does not equal training and scholarship. Allah knows best.”
Now, it would not be challenging to write a short book on the observations that I have regarding this short paragraph, but I doubt many would find the time to read it. For the purposes of brevity, I will not discuss his comments on the 'age of empire and war[i] nor steep to the depths of questioning the Imams 'training and scholarship', but my focus will remain on the statements that he has made or supported regarding the issue of celebrating non-Muslim festivals.
Let us start by discussing his flagrant misrepresentation of the narration surrounding Sayyiduna Ali (may Allah be pleased with him). He writes:
"It is reported with authentic chains that Ali (ra) celebrated the Persian New Year, even eating ice cream with Imam Abu Hanifa's relative."
When asked for the reference of this narration that he has used to base his own fatwa (not the EFC fatwa) in numerous places he states the work of Imam al-Dhahabi (RA) and these are some examples of those posts:
Suhaib Webb: “It is mentioned by the muhaddith al-thahabi in his Siyar al'alam al-nubala. I guess question arises: Do we understand the faith better than Ali (ra), or is there something wrong in our understanding? Between me and Ali (ra), I'm going with Ali (ra).”
Suhaib Webb: "Shukran for your posts. Imam al-Dhahabi mentions the ice cream (more like kul fi)."
Suhaib Webb: "Are you saying that Imam al-Dhahabi's was a Rafidi? The quote has been referenced above and I mentioned it myself…"
Investigating the narration of Imam al-Dhahabi from his Siyaar.
Now, let us look at this narration that has caused so much controversy. Is it possible that Imam Webb has made a ground-breaking discovery in the science of hadith that gives proof to all those Muslims who criticize others for not following a madhab, because they are following a madhab -not one of the four famous madhahib-, but the madhab of their own desires?
مُكْرَمُ بنُ أَحْمَدَ القَاضِي: حَدَّثَنَا أَحْمَدُ بنُ عَبْدِ اللهِ بنِ شَاذَانَ المَرْوَزِيُّ، عَنْ أَبِيْهِ، عَنْ جَدِّهِ، سَمِعْتُ إِسْمَاعِيْلَ يَقُوْلُ: أَنْبَأَنَا إِسْمَاعِيْلُ بنُ حَمَّادِ بنِ أَبِي حَنِيْفَةَ النُّعْمَانِ بنِ ثَابِتِ بنِ المَرْزُبَانِ مِنْ أَبْنَاءِ فَارِسٍ الأَحرَارِ، وَاللهِ مَا وَقَعَ عَلَيْنَا رِقٌّ قَطُّ. وُلدَ جَدِّي فِي سَنَةِ ثَمَانِيْنَ، وَذَهَبَ ثَابِتٌ إِلَى عَلِيٍّ وَهُوَ صَغِيْرٌ، فَدَعَا لَهُ بِالبَرَكَةِ فِيْهِ وَفِي ذُرِّيَتِه، وَنَحْنُ نَرْجُو مِنَ اللهِ أَنْ يَكُوْنَ اسْتَجَابَ ذَلِكَ لِعَلِيٍّ -رَضِيَ اللهُ عَنْهُ- فِيْنَا. قَالَ: وَالنُّعْمَانُ بنُ المَرْزُبَانِ وَالِدُ ثَابِتٍ هُوَ الَّذِي أَهْدَى لِعَلِيٍّ الفَالُوْذَجَ فِي يَوْمِ النَّيْرُوْزِ. فَقَالَ عَلِيٌّ: نَوْرِزُوْنَا كُلَّ يَوْمٍ. وَقِيْلَ: كَانَ ذَلِكَ فِي المَهرجَانِ، فَقَالَ: مَهْرِجُوْنَا كُلَّ يَوْمٍ[ii].
With the Isnaad to Ismail ibn Hamad ibn Abu Hanifah who narrated that “Nu'man ibn Marzooban, the father of Thabit, the one that gifted Ali (RA) al-Faluwzaj on the day of Nowruz[iii]. Then Ali (RA) said, ‘Our Nowruz is everyday' It was also said to him, ‘This is also observed on Mihrajaan[iv] to which he replied ‘May Mihrajaan be every day!”
Analysis of the Sanad (chain of transmission)
Every novice student of Usool al-Hadith (Principles of Hadith) learns that there are two main reasons that cause a narration to be rejected and they are:
The Saqt (break/gap) in the Sanad (chain of narration)
The Tayn (aspersion) regarding the narrator of the hadith.
With that in mind, if we look at this narration we find that it contains numerous defects that encompasses both of the criteria above.
Saqt (break in the sanad)
The clearest defect is the clear break in the Sanad[v] between Imam al-Dhahabi and Mukaram al-Qadi who passed away at least 325 years before Imam al-Dhahabi was born.
The person who narrated this report is Ismail ibn Hamad ibn Abu Hanifah (RA). He narrates that his great-grandfather Thabit (RA) was young and that his great-great-grandfather Numan (RA) was the one who gave Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) the Iranian desert al-Faluwzaj. Again it is clear that there is a gap of well over 100 years between the narrator and the incident that occurred with Sayyiduna Ali (may Allah be pleased with him)
Tayn (aspersion) regarding the narrator of the hadith.
From the beginning of this Sanad we find that the narrator is Ismail ibn Hamad ibn Abu Hanifah (RA)[vi] and he is regarded as 'weak' and 'someone who cannot be trusted' owing to some of his actions and statements around the time, especially in relation to the dispute regarding the creation of the Quran. A few of the greatest muhaditheen that regarded him as such in their famous works are : Salih Jazara, Ibn Adi, Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani, al-Dhahabi and al-Khateeb al-Baghdadi, the last two of which brought this narration in their works and were fully aware of the reliability of the narrator.[vii]
It is therefore clear that with such huge gaps in the sanad of this narration and the weakness in the main narrator, that contrary to what Imam Webb would have us believe in his posts, this narration is very weak if not fabricated and by no stretch can it be regarded as 'authentic'.
Imam Webb states:
Suhaib Webb“… Secondly, there is no dispute about the soundness of the narration. As a student of knowledge, you should know that there is no jarh without tafsil. Secondly, your assumption that I did not do a proper jarh is in itself, as you well know, not the proper way to do research (adab al-bath wa al-munadhra) as assumptions of mistakes are not an evidence."
May we ask: according to whom is there no dispute regarding this narration? Did any of the Muhaditheen state this in the past? How did he come to this conclusion and could it have been his Ijtihad? For orthodox scholars of hadith, it is apparent that this statement is inaccurate and that is no 'assumption of mistake'.
Analysis of the Matn (text)
Allow us to assume that the sanad of the narration is in fact correct. Do we stop there and declare the hadith authentic? Well, for a narration that has such prestigious people in the sanad as the grandson of Imam Abu Hanifah (RA) but yet does not make it into any of the famous books of Hadith, rather being included many hundreds of years later in works that are not related to rulings (As Imam Webb is trying to use it) but biographies of famous Muslims for which it is well known that the conditions of authenticity are relaxed. This to a student of Hadith raises a red flag and causes one to ponder.
Now, pondering over the hadith we have to ask ourselves: does it have any 'illa (hidden defect) in the matn? The answer is yes. How could we consider for a moment that Imam Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) would be happy to engage in this celebration that has its origins in Zoroastrianism[viii] when he knew fully well that such an action would be tantamount to disobeying our beloved Prophet Mohammed (salahu alayhi wasalam) in the numerous narrations that have come forbidding Muslims to resemble non-Muslims which one may read in my other article on the subject.
Now, let us move on to the posts that he made to support this premise of his.
Suhaib Webb Abu Pakora, Allah continue to bless you and raise your status. Please read these comments form Sh. Shibli (who speak Persian), Do you realize that "Nawruz Fayruz" is how Persians greet each other on Nawruz even today?! It was pronounced "Piruz" or "Payruz" in early Persian. `Ali (may God be pleased with him) wasn't twisting the name! He was greeting the Persians with THEIR greeting VERY SPECIFICALLY. He said "May every day be as Nawruz" and this is what Persians say even today on Nawruz. They say:
نوروز پیروز هر روز نوروز
"Nawruz Piruz, Har ruz Nawruz!"
meaning: "Nawruz Piruz. May every day be as Nawruz!"
The scholars of Hadith did not know this. Their job is grading narrators and conditions of Hadith. They are not cultural sociologists!
If one were to say that these were not the words of Imam Webb, this does not detract from the fact that he actually relies on this and uses it as a defense against the criticism that he receives from several people who posted.
He further advises us to accept the statement of Shaikh Shibli (posted on his facebook page) that Sayyidna Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) was greeting them with their greeting. How can one even entertain the thought that Sayyiduna Ali (RA) would say 'May every day be as Nayrouz' when this is in clear contradiction with the numerous hadith on the subject as mentioned earlier.
Furthermore, the statement criticising the muhaditheen is somewhat rudimentary, many of the greatest Muhaditheen including Imam al-Bayhaqi (RA) who compiled this narration were from Persia and they would fully understand these words. Furthermore, Imam al-Bayhaqi (RA) was not just a 'Hadith scholar whose job was grading hadith', (which is no small task) but he was one of the greatest Fuqaha of the Shafi'ee madhab. This is stated by Imam al-Dhahabi in the same work that Imam Webb uses to prove this ice-cream narration. Imam al-Dhahabi (RA) states that the famous Shafi scholar Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwayni said
ما من فقيه شافعي إلا وللشافعي عليه منة إلا أبا بكر البيهقي ، فإن المنة له على الشافعي لتصانيفه في نصرة مذهبه
"There is no follower of the Shafi'ee madhab except that they are indebted to Imam al-Shafi'ee (RA) except Abu Bakr al-Bayhaqi, for indeed al-Shafi'ee is indebted to him for the works he contributed to support his madhab." Imam al-Dhahabi (RA) then adds: "This is correct. And if al-Bayhaqi desired to have his own madhab with which he would make ijtihad then he would have been capable of that because of the wide ranging understanding of sciences that he had as well as his knowledge of the differences…"
Now, Imam al-Bayhaqi (RA) also quoted Abu Usama (RA) as saying: He (Imam Ali) hated to say Nayrouz." This Abu Usama (RA) is none other than Hamad ibn Usuma ibn Zaid whose narrations appear in many of the famous hadith collections including the six canonical collections. He was very familiar with Persians and their customs as he was from Kufa and Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal (RA) said about him:
"He was the most knowledgeable of all people regarding the affairs of the people and the happenings of the people of Kufa."
I think the above clearly demonstrates that both of these great scholars should be given more credit for their knowledge of the Persian customs and language and that their judgment on the narration does carry weight contrary to what others may have us believe. I am also quite certain from classical Arabic dictionaries, that they knew that the Persian dish Faluwzaj is not ice-cream or ‘Kul fi’ as has been mentioned by Imam Webb.[ix]
Another comment cementing the ‘authenticity’ of this narration.
Suhaib Webb: “It would appear that you failed to read what was written above? While I appreciate this scholarly effort. It is an opinion rooted in a problematic approach and understanding to the reality.” Furthermore, as I recall, the IslamQA site was censured by the scholars of the Kingdom. I'm sure you would not say Allhumust'an to 'Ali when he celebrated Naruz with the Persians as is authentically narrated by Imam al-Dhahabi in his Siyar.
Imam Webb is presented with an opinion from the well known Islamic website ************.[x] He criticises the ruling which is acceptable using his scholarly prerogative, but he then states that the site was 'censured by the scholars of the Kingdom', giving the reader the impression that the credibility of the site was in question, when in reality it was a decree that affected all fatwa websites that were not part of the official apparatus of fatwa in Saudi Arabia.[xi]
Why did Imam Webb make these comments?
If we look back we find that that the context of these comments is a fatwa that was presented by the European Fatwa Council which is rather lengthy and deals with the importance of good character with non-Muslims.
"There is no issue then for a Muslim individual or organization to send them greetings verbally or through cards providing they do not include religious slogans or statements that would contradict the principles of Islam…"[xii]
Immediately after the Fatwa Council mentioned the above, they stated:
‘We do not forget to mention some of the Fuqaha such as Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn al-Qayyim who were strict in regards to the festivals of the mushrikeen and we support them in their resistance against Muslims celebrating the religious festivals of the Mushrikeen and Ahl al-Kitab as we see some heedless Muslims celebrating Christmas as they celebrate Eid al-Fitr or Eid al-Adha and sometimes even more and this is not permissible as we have our festivals and they have their festivals...’
In closing, I would like to advise all scholars to be more attentive in matters of the deen as their statements and actions carry a huge bearing with those that take from them. One of the main problems that I find nowadays very much prevalent in the West, is that scholars 'cut and paste' parts of a text or ruling, many a time taking it out of context and not only is this inaccurate -as we have seen in this article- but it is also irresponsible. Scholars have a responsibility of presenting the complete truth to the laity and just because they are inundated with tools such as social networking sites this does not mean that they should be lackadaisical in their approach spreading nebulous statements and rulings that allow for people to come along and interpret things in line with their desires. It would be more wholesome, if scholars who claim to adhere to classical scholarship and the following of a madhab do just that, so that Allah forbid, they become astray and lead others astray as has been prophesised in authentic narrations.
This and what I have had taufeeq in saying is from Allah alone, and what is from mistakes, oversights and forgetfulness is from me and Shaytaan the accursed; Allah and his Rasul are free from them. I seek refuge in Allah in being a bridge utilised by others to enter Jannah, and then being thrown into the fire; thereafter I seek refuge in Allah from reminding others of this and forgetting myself.
Servant of Allah
Note: This article and everything that has been written by Shaykh Mohammed Daniel on this forum or anywhere else may be copied and used anywhere for educational and non commercial purposes only. Rather we encourage you to use all halaal means to spread the truth to everyone you can.
[i] Was the word crusade not used in the last decade or so by an American president which precipitated wars in many Muslim lands? Should we not feel emotion towards all those who suffered?
[ii] سير أعلام النبلاء ط الرسالة (6 / 395
[iii]Nowruz spelt in its many forms literall means 'new day' and it is the first day of the Persian calendar traced back to the Zorastrain religion. For more information see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nowruz
[iv] This word is made up of two words. 'Mihr' literally means the sun or love and 'jaan' which means life or soul as mentioned in the famous Arabic dictionaries such as Muheet. It is a another Persian festival
[v] Known as al-Saqt al Jalee al-Wadih
[vi] When assessing the authenticity of a narration we were taught to start with the beginning of the Isnad as this is where the reports usually revolves around the same person and then spread out in a pyramid model with more and more people narrating lower down in the isnaad. If the narrators at the beginning of the Isnad are found to have aspersions we do not have to consume excess amounts of time with all the tens of other paths that the narration may have later. Chains of narration are graded by their weakest link; therefore even if we have five narrators that are all trustworthy and one narrator who the narration revolves around that is weak, the individual hadith will be graded as such.
[vii] Those who would like to read more detailed information on the narrator Qadhi Ismail ibn Hamaad may consult the following works: Tahzeeb and Lisaan al-Meezan of Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani, Meezan al-I'tidal of Imam al-Dhahabi, al-Kamil of Ibn Adi, Tareekh of Ibn Tabari and al-Khateeb al-Baghdadi, al-Jarh wa Ta'deel of Ibn Abi Hatim, Akhbar al-Qudaat of Abu Bakr al-Wakee, al-Wafi of al-Safadi, al-Tarajim of al-Arbali
[viii]For more information see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoroastrian
[ix] The base ingredient of ice-cream is milk or cream, the base ingredient for faloodeh as it is known is rose syrup and vermicelli. For more on this see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faloodeh
[x] This website has many beneficial posts, however it is not the best site for people living in the West.
[xi] See this article for the reason http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/20...03/118350.html
[xii] See here for the Arabic source of the article http://www.e-cfr.org/ar/index.php?ArticleID=541