Imam Suhaib, Recently, I saw a lecture on YouTube with a man claiming that saying, “Jumu’a mubārak (Eng. A blessed Friday)” on Fridays is an innovation? Is that true?
Scholars of fatwā divided acts into worship and customs. Both are central to our faith, and scholars gave each a tremendous amount of attention. For that reason, the first Ph.D. granted at al-Azhar in the 20’s was on Islam and Custom.
Custom is so important that it forms one of the five major axioms of Islamic law. Al-Qādi al-Hussein al-Shāf’i wrote, “Utilization of custom is one of the five principles that Islamic Law rests on.”
Imām al-Suyūtti mentioned these axioms writing,
“Certainty does not remove doubt, and Islam removes every harm.
Hardship brings ease and custom (for fiqh) is a reference point
A few added a fifth: that every act of a person is based on intention.”
Kawākib al-Sāti’ pg. 72
Custom in the Tradition
‘Abdullah bin Masūd used to say, “What the Muslims deem as good is good.”
In Imām al-Bukhāri’s collection of authentic hadith, under the chapter on commerce, we find an interesting title for the 95th section:
بَابُ مَنْ أَجْرَى أَمْرَ الأَمْصَارِ عَلَى مَا يَتَعَارَفُونَ بَيْنَهُمْ فِي الْبُيُوعِ وَالإِجَارَةِ وَالْمِكْيَالِ، وَالْوَزْنِ، وَسُنَنِهِمْ عَلَى نِيَّاتِهِمْ وَمَذَاهِبِهِمِ الْمَشْهُورَةِ
Chapter: Where there is no fixed judgement, the traditions and conventions of a community are referred to – Customs and Norms is an Important Part of our Faith
Commenting on this, Imām bin Hajar wrote, “The purpose of this title is to establish the reliance on custom in Islamic law.”
The Ruling on Customs and Day to Day Affairs is Permissibility
Imām ibn Taymiyyah wrote, The foundations of Imām Ahmed’s school are two:
1. Customs are permissible unless there is a clear text that forbids them
2. Acts of worship are forbidden (to invent) unless there is a clear text that allows them
Then, he defines customs saying,
“Customs are habits of people pertaining to food, drink, clothing, transportation, speech and other such normal day to day activities. Thus, they should not be forbidden unless by Allah or his Messenger (sa) through an explicit text, a general one or a proper analogy. If not, then the general ruling for them is permissibility.”
We understood from Ibn Taymiyyah’s definition that scholars divide acceptable custom into two parts: words and deeds.
Ibn Hajar said, “Custom plays a role in determining the explicit meaning of words.” Implying that if a person uses a word that is exclusive to his culture, the known custom is used to determine its implications. For that reason, Imam al-Dardīr noted that the Māliki’s coined an axiom, “Customs are like conditions.” One of the most common forms of customs related to speech is greetings.
Scholars agree that greetings fall under mu’amalāt (Day to day activities), and they are part of customs that are related to speech. Since the general ruling on customs in permissibility, then greetings that are free of evil are considered permissible. For that reason, when Talha [a great companion of the Prophet (sa) greeted Ka’b with the good news of the latter’s forgiveness, the former was not censured by the Prophet (sa), Ka’b or the other companions (Allah be pleased with them all).
Based on this important principle and the large number of general texts that encourage us to speak well and be gentle to others, it is a stretch to say that such a greeting in an innovation. Imām al-Sakhāwi noted this in al-Tahina bi al-Shūr wa al-‘Ayād (Greetings upon months and holidays) in greater detail.
May Allah bless us with tawfīq
What is your opinion on Hajj Selfies?
It seems every week there is a new internet conflict. Over the last few days, people criticized me for posting my Hajj selifes. What is your opinion about this?
That is a sad question, and I find it strange that people have the time to look at other people’s pictures and criticize them. That being said; I will address this issue from four perspectives:
1. Are pictures forbidden?
2. Principles for understanding texts
3. The Importance of Collective Good
4. Intentions should be left to Allah alone
Are Pictures Forbidden
Some may censure others from taking pictures because they hold taking pictures forbidden, invoking the consensus of the scholars. While its is an opinion held by some scholars, there is certainly no consensus that taking pictures is forbidden. Al-Azār and other religious bodies, as well as the bulk of scholars, consider pictures allowable, as long as the picture does not present something evil.
Misuse of a Famous Text
Folks may mention the prophetic tradition in which he (sa) curses those who “mold idols.” That is understandable because the word for idol making and the word for photography are the same in Arabic, taswīr. However, their meanings are different. During the time of the Prophet taswīr meant to mold idols. Today, it means photography. Sadly, this reflects a person’s ignorance of the principles for iftā (the craft of issuing fatwa), the rules for interpreting texts and their knowledge of Arabic.
An Important Axiom and Its Application
One of the most important axioms that guide the craft of issuing a ruling is,
“Concern is given to the meaning, not the name.”
This axiom has four applications:
1. Something declared harām in the Prophet’s lifetime stays forbidden, even if someone changes its name. For that reason, the Prophet (sa) said, “Towards the end of time, a group from my community will seek to make alcohol permissible, calling it by a different name.” Thus, even though later generations changed the name, it is still forbidden because of its substance. The name is a non-factor!
2. Something that was permissible during the time of the Prophet (sa) then later generations gave it a name of something forbidden. That stays permissible, because concern is for the substance, not the name.
3. Something unknown during the life of the Prophet (sa); If it is understood to be forbidden by the scholars, stays forbidden, even if it later generations named it after something permissible.
4. Something that was not known during the time of the Prophet (sa) that is permissible remains as such, even if later generations named it after something forbidden. An example would be coffee (Ar. Qahwā – originally the name for an ancient intoxicant).
Photography falls under the fourth category because it did not exist during the time of the Prophet (sa). Using statements of the Prophet (sa), stating that its meaning is what is understand today is equivalent to putting meanings in the mouth of the Prophet (sa)!
An Example That Illustrates this Error
In the twelfth chapter of the Qur’an the word “Sayyārah” is found. Today, the word siyyārah means a car. At the time of revelation, it meant travelers.
“And there came a company of travelers; then they sent their water drawer, and he let down his bucket. He said, “Good news! Here is a boy.” And they concealed him, [taking him] as merchandise, and Allah knew of what they did.” Qur’ãn 12/19
Based on the logic of those who take the word of the Prophet (sa) used for idol making, understanding it to imply its contemporary meaning, photography, the above verse would be interpreted as,
“And there came a “Lexus, BMW, Mercedes (any car); then..”
Sheikh Muhammad al-Shanqiti wrote,
“Photography did not exist during the era of the Prophet (sa) or the great scholars of Islamic Jurisprudence. It became an issue afterwards. Thus, the sacred texts that the word taswīr appears do not imply what we know today as photography. That, because the word taswīr used during the Prophet’s time implied what it meant in that context: idols made of stone, clay, wood or drawn by hand. Thus, whoever explains the word used by the Prophet to mean photography has interpreted the sacred texts without their correct meanings, contexts and has spoken about Allah without knowledge.”
Another Axiom: A Conflicting Purposes Renders Analogy Problematic
One of the major sources of Islamic Law is Qiyās. Qiyās was defined by al-Qādi al-Baydāwi as, “Connecting an act that has no ruling, to an act from the scared sources that has a ruling, because of a shared purpose.” What is important to us is the last part of his definition, “a shared purpose.” Meaning: that if the traits are different, then the ruling from the sacred sources cannot be matched to the act that has no ruling. In the case of taswīr (idol making), we find that the reasoning for its forbiddance during the time of the Prophet (sa) was “emulating (Ar. Mudāha) creation.” And in other narratives, for explicit forms of worship. When we think of photography today, that is not its purpose. In fact, the general purpose of photography is to remember and recall things. Thus, this is an illogical analogy for which a ruling is not applied.
The Name is Debatable
Sheikh ‘Abdūl Halīm Mahmūd stated that photography should not be called taswīr but “capturing an image,” because photography is “capturing light, not molding an image from clay or drawing one.”
As for Hajj selfies, then there is nothing wrong because they are a form of remembrance of good: worshiping Allah alone, visiting scared places, love and fraternity and acts of worship.
An axiom states,
“Anything that does not contradict the sacred law and helps a person remember God is commendable.”
“And we certainly sent Moses with our signs, [saying], ‘bring your people from the darkness to the light and remind them of the days of God.” Qur’an 14:5
A cursory glance at the reliable works of Qur’anic tafsīr shows that scholars from the earliest days consider this verse an encouragement to recall God’s grace and his blessing. That was the opinion of Ibn ‘Abbās, Sufyān Imām Mālik and others.
Do Not Judge People’s Intentions
In that vein, taking pictures of sacred moments is commendable as long as a person’s intention is correct. The job of the rest of the community is to assume the best and encourage good. While pictures are a debatable act, questioning a person’s intention, or having an evil assumption about a person doing good is highly repugnant.
Finally, these images are important tools for dawa to be shared with neighbors, co-workers and friends. In an age where there are so many bad images of Islam everywhere, I find it astounding that folks would blame positive efforts that humanize our community and our acts of worship.
Allah knows best,
Setting the Record Straight Part 2: Addressing the 10 Accusations Against Imam Suhaib Webb: Sheikah, Hafidhah, al-Azhariyah Maryam Amirebrahimi
I am extremely disappointed and personally offended that an article like this would be shared or that others encourage sharing it. This isn’t just a harsh article or one with horrifically poor adab when it comes to disagreement.
We should be writing about why and the method of how these anonymous trolls are writing is against the Quran and sunnah. Allah alMust`aan.
Instead of focusing on my own studies and responding to people who have reached out to me because they are struggling with their faith and are seeking guidance in how to re-connect to Allah, I’m unfortunately going to spend the next two hours giving a brief response to each of these points inshaAllah.
Imam Suhaib should not have to respond to an article as low as this, written as trashily as this because people of knowledge and those who care for the community should be concerned enough about the rhetoric in it to not allow for something like this to be spread.
With regards to the intro:
His birth name is William. Is there anything that should be mocked by being called the name your parents named you? The Prophet sal Allahu alayhe wa sallam never changed a person’s name unless it had a bad meaning or needed to be changed, such as Abd-alShams [slave of the sun]. If anything, being called by his birth name is going back to the sunnah of keeping the name your parents have named you. And if nothing else, he is rarely known as Imam William and still goes by Imam Suhaib. And if he didn’t, no one has right to claim blame on doing what the Prophet sal Allahu alayhe wa sallam himself did for the vast majority of the Sahabah, radi Allahu anhum!
-Anyone who is familiar with his work would reject him attempting to ‘americanize’ British Muslims BECAUSE ‘urf plays a role in some usool and in fatawah and as a scholar, he is the first who taught me how and when custom plays a role and the critical importance of understanding the urf specific to the area of its inhabitants.
- Confused between Sunnipath, Almaghrib, etc? How about seeking to bring unity amongst the Muslims? How about working with different groups to bring closeness amongst a constantly fighting population? How about putting his neck on the line when other groups would disagree with him so that he could help bring together different groups of the ummah?
As he taught me, when Musa alayhis salam left his brother Haroon in charge as mentioned in Surah Taha, and he came back and saw Banu Israel worshipping the calf and asked him “O Aaron, what prevented you, when you saw them going astray, From following me? Then have you disobeyed my order?”
The response of Haroon alayhis salam was: “O son of my mother, do not seize [me] by my beard or by my head. Indeed, I feared that you would say, ‘You caused division among the Children of Israel, and you did not observe [or await] my word.’ “
Haroon alayhis salam did not physically prevent Banu Israel from worshipping the calf because he was afraid of causing division!
And this is how we treat an Imam who is seeking to bring unity?!
- You know what has changed over the last decade? His level of knowledge and his understanding of the depth of ilm, its application and the reality of what our greater community needs. When he came back for the summer after one year at Azhar, he had a particular opinion that I was surprised to hear since it was so different from what he had taught the year before. Someone in the community said, “He went to Azhar and he got liberal.” I asked him about that specific issue and asked why he had changed. He was surprised and said, “Because I studied! That’s not my personal opinion. That’s the opinion of Imam Malik, rahimahullah!”
If we do not have comprehensive understanding of different mathahib and the different masa’il and the intricacies of those opinions, then we need to fear Allah and stay silent. What we may have been taught by one specific methodology or mathab is not the same in every perspective. All are within the schools of fiqh, and the 4 mathaib are not the only ones. We need to stop freaking out when something seems “liberal” and “innovative” and realize that all of this has a place in classical texts that we simply are not educated enough to know exists.
1- They made up their own definition for what American Islam is, and it can be summarized as: Muslims who sell out, likely paid by the government, to make Islam conform to American culture without concern for halal and haram.
Their proof is Imam Suhaib’s tweet about Obama and a clip on making dawah to his mom.
First, look around the world. Is not Islam the same religion, but manifested differently through clothing, through architecture, through art, in different cultures? Do Muslims in Malaysia look the same as Muslims in Pakistan? Do Muslims in Eritrea look the same as Muslims in Mexico?
In US Muslim communities, we make our members feel like we have to wear cultural clothing in order to truly look like Muslims. I went through this phase for many years. I felt the most pious dress I could possibly wear was anything Arab. I am not Arab. Why did I feel I have to take on aspects of another culture in order to be more legitimately Muslim?
As a Muslim American, I feel it is my duty to help others in our society be able to look at me, in hijab, but feel they can relate to me. Part of that is through dress, part through lingo, part through cultural references. Was not the Quran revealed in the language of the Arabs because it was the language they understood best? When Jibraeel alayhis salam, as Imam Suhaib taught me, came to the Prophet sal Allahu alayhe wa sallam in the famous hadith, was he not wearing clothing similar to the Arabs? Angels do not act without being commanded by Allah. Allah ordered Jibraeel alayhis salam to dress like those he would be seen, in similar clothing to what they themselves wore. Did that not make Jibraeel alayhis salam more relatable to them?
Does not Allah say that the Messengers walked in the markets and spoke the language of the people and were from their people? Does it not simply make sense that Muslims in America should help other Muslim Americans and the greater non Muslim society see that Islam is relatable, that it’s relevant, that they can see themselves as Muslims because we are able to speak to them, the way the Messengers spoke to their people? Allahu Akbar. This concept is nothing but following the Sunnah of the dawah of Allah.
And yet we’re okay with taking a definition made up by anonymous bloggers who have NO foundation to their claim other than the two points they chose to cite as proof?!
The video, for any advanced student of knowledge, Imam Suhaib’s reflection is the actualization of a depth in understanding, application and an awareness of when to apply the qawaidh al-shariah. If someone watches that video and takes issue with his stance, then I can say nothing other than they must be an extreme layperson who has not either studied or been mentored to understand when there are times that within clearly agreed upon differences within scholarship, it is permissible to take what is still clearly raajih for that situation for the sake of the maslahah. You cannot do that as a layperson. It takes scholarship to understand how and when to make that type of decision. And also, it takes scholarship to appreciate the depth of that understanding.
2- Where is the contention with him in this point? He did not say Islam allows homosexuality. He pointed out that the American constitution does.
I know Muslims who are struggling with homosexuality. They have been to Makkah and wept for Allah to take this test away from them. They have considered suicide because they feel so guilty that they have these feelings and they feel they can do nothing to change them.
What is our solution? Tell Muslims who are struggling with same-sex desires that they should leave Islam? That they do not belong in the community? That they should go ahead and commit suicide because there is no hope?
God forbid! God forbid! These are Muslims who are dealing with an enormous struggle. Having homosexual feelings does not take a person outside of Islam. The article that was posted on suhaibwebb.com about homosexuality outlined a Muslim’s struggle with staying within the boundaries of Islam despite this struggle. How is that in any way something to be bashed? We should appreciate that Imam Suhaib was willing to allow the post of an issue that most of our community remains completely silent on. There is a real segment in our community who are leaving Islam and attempting suicide because they have no idea who to turn.
The people of Prophet Lot (peace be upon him) are often invoked as the example of why someone who has homosexual feelings is doomed to destruction and therefore, many in our community conclude, queer individuals must be treated as such.
But Prophet Lot cared about his society; he tried to mentor them, tried to preach to them and tried to give them alternatives. This is so vastly different from our community approach.
The issue with Prophet Lot’s (alayhis salam) community was that they openly, intentionally and continually engaged in blatant homosexual acts publicly and they insisted on doing so while they had a Prophet calling them back to God and asking them to stop. That is very different from a Muslim struggling with homosexuality and who recognizes the action is something they have to struggle to stay away from.
Imam Suhaib’s quote on not asking or telling is the most Islamically possible route in giving people space to feel a part of the community without revealing their struggles. The ACTION of homosexuality in Islam is considered a sin, it does not take you out of Islam. Just as drinking is a sin. Or adultery is. Would we ask someone who drinks not to come to the masjid? A more precise comparison- would we ask someone who WANTS to drink but DOESN’T not to come into the masjid? And yet we block the house of God from those who seek Him and cause them to feel they need to leave Islam entirely.
Do not think we will not be held accountable on the Day of Judgment. Imam Suhaib is providing a space where Muslims who are struggling can finally come and try to reconcile what Allah is asking of them and what they’re being tested with. We, as a community who are not mature enough to handle that, should be grateful to and appreciate him for his efforts. What if someone in your family is struggling and has no where to go? What if, God forbid, they make the decision to leave Islam completely because no one will help them? What if, God forbid, you’ve gotten a call that they’ve tried to commit suicide and it was not successful? What would your response on Imam Suhaib’s position then be? May Allah protect everyone and protect your families. This might not be that much of an issue for any of you readers personally.
Wait until someone in your family is struggling and has no where to go. Wait until their decision is leaving Islam completely because no one will help them. Wait until you’ve gotten a call that they’ve tried to commit suicide and it was not successful. Then see what your stance is on Imam Suhaib’s position. May Allah protect everyone and protect your families.
Finally, the Prophet sal Allahu alayhe wa sallam said about Half alFodool, which took place before the bu3thah: «لقد شهدت مع عمومتي حلفا في دار عبد الله بن جدعان ما أحب أن لي به حمر النعم ، ولو دعيت به في الإسلام لأجبت»
He sal Allahu alayhe wa sallam would have worked with the Quraysh after Prophethood. The same people who killed Muslims and tortured them. The same ones who kicked them out of their homes and hurt them. The same people he later forgave and came to Islam. He would have worked with pagans who worshipped idols and caused physical harm to those he loved sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam if it was for the sake of justice. Are not all of those actions religious considered greater transgressions than the sin of acting- not simply feeling- but acting on feelings of homosexuality?
4- The Shaykh has just posted about this specific point:
5- The way this was presented with the monkeys and all was just so offensive. How can any person of knowledge share this article knowing the personally offensive, demeaning and un-scholarly way these people have pitched their issues?
The beard and wearing a thobe is an issue that has differences amongst the scholars, even ranging in differences of understanding between those whose focus is kuliyat alshariah and kuliyat alhadith. However, at the end of the day, can’t we just say that sometimes a person does one thing with their appearance and then changes it later, perhaps for reasons unrelated to religion and perhaps sometimes for it? Imam Suhaib has a beard. And if you can’t see it, it’s probably because it’s light. A problem with your eyes doesn’t mean a problem with his appearance. And if he didn’t, I would hope we would understand that there is a reasoning behind his decision that goes beyond wanting to please CNN.
6- Read this: http://www.suhaibwebb.
You’re welcome to disagree. But take your beef too then with the classical scholars who have come to those opinions. It should be added, however, that Sheikh Ibn Tayymiya as well as al-Tahawi noted that no one should be declared out of Islam, an innovator or a rebellious person, if their positions rest on sound scholarship.
- Why is that picture considered one of him in a bar?! It looks like a restaurant. How sad is the state of our affairs that an Imam can pose in a picture with two elderly men, help them feel the warmth of Islam, as the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallama did, and then publicly be labeled as standing in a bar and have other Muslims use this as a point of shame. Allah al-Must`aan. Actually, he has stated on more than one occasion, that it was not a bar.
7- I am a nobody, and I get people who make things up about me and are incredibly rude, demeaning and manipulative in what they suggest [sounds a lot like this article!]. You know what I do? I block them. Why? Because I do not have time to deal with people who hide behind a screen and instead of sincerely trying to understand my position or advise me while being willing to see where I’m coming from, choose to hide behind a screen and continue to fill my time and mental space with vileness. If you’re going to be an internet troll, why should I give you the time of my day to waste? I have bigger issues to be held accountable to Allah for in the ways that I spend my time.
I’m a nobody. Amplify that by a million for Imam Suhaib.
If you sincerely ask Imam Suhaib, if you advise him with sincerity and listen to his perspective, he listens. He makes time to listen. Finally, arrogance is something known to Allah. Ruling on the heart of a person is problematic at best.
8- You know another person who used to teach groups of all women? THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD sal Allahu alayhe wa sallam. You know who else would speak together with purpose, for the sake of knowledge and strategy? The Companions of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhe wa sallam! May Allah be pleased with them all.
Pictures of him teaching and facilitating learning are used as proof that he encourages “free mixing”?
If you look at the Prophetic biography, male and female companions worked together, sought counsel from one another, prayed in the same masjid without a wall and addressed each other. Why is reviving that sunnah a reason for contention?!
And okay, in one picture, it seems he’s sitting close to another female and it looks like they could be touching. That pic came out of the blue and the photographer was her husband. Often times, it happens that a person will be walking and someone will ask for a picture.
Think about: What if they were just asked to pose for a picture and they wouldn’t fit without sitting on the same bench? Anyone who has issues with this, here’s my question: Have you never been in a situation where you’ve been on stage or in a gathering and they are going to take a picture and you don’t even realize how close you are because your clothes are so loose you physically do not feel the other person’s clothing touching yours?
Oh wait, you haven’t? Then don’t judge and do not make assumptions.
And if you haven’t because you believe that pictures are haram, then respect the difference of opinions of scholars who allow it.
And if you haven’t because you wouldn’t speak with a non mahram man or woman, then that’s your personal decision, based on your understanding, but appreciate that the Prophet sal Allahu alayhe wa sallam did, the companions radi Allahu anhum did, and that when there is purpose- as clearly there is in this picture as signified by the woman’s badge in showing they’re in some sort of educational or professional conference- this should not be an issue.
9- I am not going to address this point. I will simply say that unless you were in his shoes, do not make conclusions.
10- I don’t personally know anything about this to speak. But with regards to the picture of Ali Jomma, I will simply say that sometimes, we take from someone’s scholarship but not their politics, especially before we are more than aware of their positions. Sometimes, we make decisions based on what we know in that moment and change our positions as time goes on. I am not speaking on behalf of Imam Suhaib by any means on this picture or his personal position. I’m simply saying that we do not always know the entire story and our perspectives of those we once highly respected may change with new information we learn.
I say this and ask Allah to accept this from me, in these days of Dhul Hijjah, as defending the reputation of a scholar who has brought incredible good to me, to my family, to my community and to many around the world.
What I say are my perspectives alone and should not directly be attributed to Imam Suhaib.
For all of you who have shared this or feel it should be shared, please know that my above response is only a *minor* summary of general points I am addressing.
This article is slander. If you choose to continue to share it now knowing that someone who knows him personally attests to this, then know that is an incredibly grave offense to be held accountable for in front of God.