The Practice and Faith of Islam
General Remarks About Islamic Faith and Practice
Introduction to Islamic Practice
Prayer (salat, namaz)
Fasting (in Ramadan)
Introduction to Faith and Doctine
Mu'tazili School of Theology
Ash'ari School of Theology
Maturidi School of Theology
Miscellaneous Theology Links
Introduction to Islamic Law and Madh'habs (Schools
Ithna 'Ashari (Twelver)
General Introduction to Islamic Faith and Practice
Muslims believe that God has many qualities and names, one of the most significant of
Allah, a word in Arabic signifying God for both Muslim and Christian Arabs. For
Muslim thinkers, the name Allah signifies God's comprehensiveness, God's
all-inclusiveness. Another name of God, one that is more particular, is al-Khaliq
(the creator). Thus Muslims believe that God is the
ultimate creator of existence. After creating existence, Muslims believe that God does
leave the creation without guidance. Hence there are signs of God and guidance from God
in existence. In addition to these signs that are embedded in existence,
God periodically revealed wisdom to prophets, wisdom which in some cases was in verbal
form and which has become known as sacred scripture. Muslims believe that the last of
the prophets was Muhammad. The revealed wisdom, or revelation, given to him is the
Qur'an. The purpose of revelation is to enable humans both to devote themselves to God
lead lives and construct societies that will increase their closeness to God in this
world and for all eternity. For Muslims, revelation, God's grace, the human
intellect, and the human
capacity to choose to
follow devotedly God's revelation are sufficient to enable people to become close to God,
eternally. Hence in Islam, like traditional Judaism, Islamic practice in harmony with
God's revelation is emphasized as being the key to salvation. Unlike in Judaism, however,
Muslims believe that the
Qur'an is the form of revelation that can be relied on today, in contrast to the Bible,
which Muslims believe has been subject to human influence. Western scholars of Islam
have noted that Muslims, like Christians, emphasize the significance of correct belief.
unlike Christians, Muslims believe that God's revelation, God's grace, and human
intelligence and effort
is what saves, although Muslims do revere Jesus as a prophet.
See my webpage: Summary of the Similarities and Differences
Christianity Concerning Jesus. Needless to say, to the degree that Muslims do not
use their intelligence, devotion, and will to correctly understand and follow God's
guidance, they believe that their
closeness to God will be endangered.
The bare minimum that a Muslim must do and believe in order to rest assured
of his or her salvation is quite simple, although the faith and practice
of many Muslims may often be complex and elaborate, reminding students
of the detailed and scrupulous observance of Rabbinic law in Orthodox Judaism
and the precise doctrinal formulations of Catholicism.
Basic, rudimentary Islam is clearly stated in the following "sound"
A Bedouin came to the Prophet and said, "Tell me of a deed such that
if I were to do it, I would enter Paradise (as a result)." The Prophet
said, "Worship God (Allah) without worshiping anything along with Him,
offer the (five daily) prescribed prayers, pay the compulsory alms(zakat),
and fast the month of Ramadan." The Bedouin said, "(I swear) by Him in
whose hands my life is, I will not do more than this." When he (the Bedouin)
left, the Prophet said, "Whoever would like to see a man of Paradise should
look at this man." Narrated by Abu Hurayrah in the
Sahih of Bukhari,
Volume 2, p. 272-73, book 23, #480.
Although the hadith noted above indicates four practices (worship of
God alone, prayer, almsgiving, and fasting), the core of Islamic practice
(which is the concrete or outward manifestation of the inward attitude
of surrender to God) is expressed in the well-attested hadith, "Islam is
based upon five [practices]..." which are also called the "five pillars."
(This is also confirmed in the well-attested and well-known hadith
involving Gabriel.) These five practices are as follows:
shahada, bearing witness that there is nothing worthy of worship
but God and that Muhammad is God's messenger;
salat, performing the prescribed Islamic prayer;
zakat, almsgiving of a 2 1/2 % tax on one's asests;
sawm, fasting from sunrise to sunset during the month of Ramadan;
hajj, performing the pilgrimage to Mecca.
These are discussed below:
Articles of Faith" and the "Pillars of Islam" The "Articles of Faith"
consist of the primary beliefs of Muslims and the "Pillars of Islam" consist
of the essential actions of a Muslim.
Adhan and Salat
This link includes a number of examples of the call to prayer, the adhan
(the "dh" is pronounced like the "th" in "this") as well as each of the
five daily prayers (salat) recited outloud.
A Beginner's Guide to Performing
Islamic Prayers is a thorough explanation of the various components
of the daily prayers of Muslims. (Back on-line 4/28/98)
Fajr prayer consists
of two rak'ahs (sequences) and is performed from the beginning of
the daily change from darkness to light until the sun begins to appear
above the horizon. Here you can listen to the entire Fajr prayer,
including the parts that should be done silently.
CyberSalat is a free
downloadable multimedia software package for Windows designed to teach
the Islamic prayer.
Times Wherever you are in the world, you can use this online utility
to find the prayer times for whatever month you want. If you are in the
U.S., when you are asked to select a city, if you do not find your city
listed, scroll down to the bottom of the city list and choose "somewhere
else" and OK. Then, to find your latitude and longitude, click on the Geographical
Name Server at MIT or here, and put your city and state in the box
as indicated and hit "enter" on your keyboard. And then, click here to
find the difference between your time zone and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT),
which is what is meant on the Prayer Time site by hours
difference from GMT.
Daily Prayer Schedule Find
out the times of the daily prayers by putting your zip code in the appropriate
box on this link and selecting your time zone. (Offline as of Nov. 26,
is a well-organized and detailed explanation of certain aspects of Salat
from the perspective of the Hanafi madh'hab. Evidence for various
Hanafi practices in Salat are provided by hadith and reports of
sahabah (companions of the Prophet). The author is Muhammad
Ilyas Faisal, a Hanafi shaykh in Madinah.
Prophet's Salat (Ritual Prayer) This link is an on-line book
written by Shaykh Albani, who brings numerous references from the hadith
to describe how the Prophet prayed and who argues for a greater reliance
upon Qur'an and "sound" hadith as opposed to the opinions of the various
"schools of law" (madh'ahib).
Unveiled: Important Issues of Fiqh critiques Al-Albani's The Prophet's
Salat,refuting a few of al-Albani's contentions in the previous article,
contentions that negate various aspects of the accepted practice of prayer
as performed according to some of the madh'habs. This is a specialized
article not intended for novices.
The Purification Tax (Zakat)
Each year Muslims who have assets over and above their outstanding debts,
assets of roughly $1400 in cash or commercial goods and commodities, must
voluntary pay two and one-half percent of such assets to the poor. See
the following links:
A Brief Introduction
to Zakat, written by the Zakat Society.
written by the UNN Islamic Society, contains an especially useful section
on how zakat is calculated. (Link fixed, December 2, 2000.)
Fasting (Sawm) during
the Month of Ramadan
The month of Ramadan, during which Muslims must fast, is expected to
begin in the US on Wednesday, November 6, 2002, since the new moon (hilal) will
not be visible until Tuesday evening. See data from Khalid Shaukat of ISNA for the
citing of the new moon indicating
the Eid (with maps using MoonCalc 6 by Dr. Monzur Ahmed and criteria developed
Yallop, criteria similar to that of Shaukat) and
Mohib Durrani's Data for the
Sighting of the New Moon (hilal) (offline Dec. 4, 2002). Most probably,
end on Thursday, December 5, 2002 (when the hilal should be sited in the US).
'Eid al-Fitr (the festival of
breaking of the fast)
will probably occur in the US on
Friday, December 6. (Corrected on November 1, 2002.)
In 2001, Ramadan began in the United States on
Friday, November 16, 2001, since the crescent moon (hilal) was sighted in Tucson,
Arizona on the evening of Thursday, November 15. It was predicted by astronomical
data that it might begin in the year 2001 on Friday, November 16 in the United States.
The reason for the
uncertainty is that the Islamic calendar is lunar, and hence the new moon must be sighted
on the evening before the month and the fasting begins.
This year in North and South America, according to the available astronomical data, there
was only a very slight probability of sighting the moon on the evening of
Thursday, November 15,
even with the help of optical
aids and clear skies on West Coast. Data from Dr. Mohib Durrani,
North American coordinator for astronomical information of
Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), indicated that if the southwestern states of
USA were clouded (where the hilal--crescent moon-- sighting was expected) the date of the
could have been
delayed by one day. Nevertheless, Durrani asserted, if aided by clear skies and optical
moon might indeed be sighted in the U.S. on Thursday, November 15, which would mean
in the US would begin on Friday, November 16. And this is in fact what happened. On the
other hand, it was predicted that in
most of the world
the moon would be sighted
on Friday, November 16 and that in those regions, Ramadan (and fasting) would begin on
Saturday, November 17.
In Ramadan, Muslims
(with certain exceptions)
during the daylight hours from eating, drinking, smoking, and sexual intercourse. See Why Do Muslims
by Prof. Seyyed Hossein Nasr (link fixed June 9, 2003)
. The "outer" aspects of fasting mentioned above are relatively easy to accomplish,
since they involve clear actions. There are, however, "inner" aspects of fasting, which
discussed by one of the foremost Muslim thinkers, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d. 1111), in the
excerpt from his book found at the link Inner
Dimensions of Fasting.
More details can be found at the following links:
Ramadan Resources for Teachers
Compiled by the Council for Islamic Education, a national American educational resource.
of Ramadan, The Fasting Month a detailed and well-organized on-line
book written by the respected Muslim scholar Tajuddin B. Shu'aib.
International Journal of Ramadan Fasting
Research See especially the article Dietary fat, blood cholesterol and uric
acid levels during
Ramadan fasting by Dr. Muhammad Zafar Nomani(Professor Emeritus of Nutrition, West
Virginia University), in which he reviews the scientific
studies to date on fasting during Ramadan (vol. 1, number 1, 1997).
Ramadan by Dr. Muhammad Zafar Nomani, who in this article (originally published in the International
Ramadan Fasting Research, 3:1-6, 1999) and in a number of scientific studies has
shown the physiological benefits of fasting during Ramadan.
Ramadan and Eid ul-Fitr is
a comprehensive page of articles related to Ramadan. In order for Ramadan
to begin and end, the crescent moon must be seen. Dr. Monzur Ahmed's program
MoonCalc can be used
to generate maps indicating the locations from where the moon may possibly
seen. See the large-scale
moon-sighting map which contains a color-coded key as to when and where
the moon will most likely be seen. UNFORTUNATELY, this website has not been
updated for Ramadan of 1422 AH/ 2001 CE.
The colors indicate the age of the moon at the time of the local
sunset. The area in red is where it will easily visible; the purple area
is where it may be seen if conditions are perfect. In the the yellow area,
an optical aid will be needed to find the moon; and the the area of yellow
and black cross-hatching, it will only be able to be seen with an optical
The key in the bottom right hand corner of the map tells you how many
hours old the moon will be at sunset relative to viewers located in the
colored areas. Hence for viewers in the purple area, the moon will be 20-25
hrs. old at the time of their sunset. But for viewers in the reddish-pink
area, the moon will be 25-30 hours old at the time of their sunset. Since
an older moon can be seen more easily, viewers in the reddish-pink area
will be more likely to see the moon than viewers in the purple area.
The Pilgrimage (Hajj)
At least once in their lifetime, Muslims who are financially able must
travel to Mecca and perform the rituals of the Hajj, most of which reenact
certain spiritually significant events related to the life of the Prophet
Abraham (Ibrahim). For details see the following links:
Hajj Resources for Teachers compiled
by the Council on Islamic Education and including discussion questions.
Hajj Information Center
is a comprehensive site on the Hajj. It includes, among other things, descriptions
of the various rituals, graphics, images, notes for teachers, and first
A Handbook of Umra and Hajj
compiled by the Muslim scholars at Sound
a nicely formatted exposition of the types of Hajj and the rituals that
comprise the Hajj. This page is part of a larger site
and 'Umrah, which includes additional pages on 'Umrah rituals, the
Prophet's "Farewell Hajj," a vitual tour through the history of the Ka'ba
(lit. "cube," the cube-shaped shrine at the center of the sacred mosque
in Mecca), a tour of the history of the Prophet's mosque in Madina, and
a tour of places of significance in Madina.
This site deals with all of the aspects of the Hajj and includes useful
graphics. (Off-line 4/27/98)
An American's Pilgrimage
to Mecca is an excerpt from a recent book by the Anglo-American convert
God, in one place in the Qur'an commands Muhammad in the following
manner: "Say [to people], 'If you love God, then follow me [the Prophet];
[then] love you [people] and forgive your sins' " (Qur'an, 3:31). Hence
only do pious Muslims follow the previously discussed "five pillars of
Islam," but they generally
have attempted to follow the words of Muhammad and to model their
actions after his customary practice.
The Arabic term that stands for the Prophet Muhammad's customary practice,
is the sunnah. See the Encyclopedia Britannica's pithy
Those Muslims who also have attempted to emulate not only the prophet's
also the quality of his heart and mind, namely his consciousness,
have generally but not solely been Sufis. While
popular contemporary criticism of Sufism condemns it as something alien to acceptable Islamic practice, a non-Islamic
"innovation" (bid'a), traditional critics such as Ibn
Qayyim al-Jawziya generally criticized
later developments in Sufism, not those Sufis whose Sufism consisted of
follow the whole of the Prophet's being.
Faith and Doctrine in Islam
The basis of Islamic doctrine is rooted in the Qur'an. See Doctrines
of the Qur'an written in the Encyclopaedia Britannica by the
esteemed Muslim scholar Fazlur
Rahman, formerly a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of
Chicago. This articles covers
Qur'anic statements on God, the universe, man, Satan (along with sin and
repentance), prophecy, and eschatology.
Just as Muhammad delineated the five main components of Islamic practice,
"the five pillars of Islam," in the well-known hadith
involving Gabriel, in which Gabriel asked the Prophet (and thereby
indirectly taught the Muslims) about the various dimensions of religion
(din), in the same hadith Muhammad clarifed six primary objects
of faith: God (Allah), angels, sacred scriptures, prophets, the
Day of Judgement, and [the divine origin of] the "measuring out" [which
results in created existence, irrespective of whether or not that which
comes into existence is good or evil]. Each of these is elaborated under
the heading "Articles of Faith" on the web page Introduction
to the Articles [of Faith] and Pillars of Islam.
in Islam is a particularly useful
compilation of excerpts from Professor Sachiko Murata's chapter
"Angels" in the volume Islamic Spirituality, edited by Seyyed
Muslim scholars have gone far beyond the rudiments of faith sketched
out above. They developed an entire discipline of study called
(faith, belief), which consists of the study of the orthodox beliefs that
Muslims should have. Prior to (and during) the development of the three
most important Sunni theological schools (the Mu'tazili, Ash'ari, and Maturidi
schools), individual scholars developed various credal statement. Two such
statements of 'aqidah are those of Abu Hanifa and Tahawi.
Fiqh al-Akbar of
Imam Abu Hanifa (d. 150/767) Although he is usually known as the founder
of one of the four Sunni schools of jurisprudence (Hanafi madh'hab), Abu
Hanifa is the source for this link, which is an early expression of Sunni
theology and emphasizes the following ideas: 1) the community of the Muslims,
2) the sunna (the path of the majority who avoid extremes) as the
unifying principle of the community, and 3) reliance upon proofs from scripture
instead of reason.
al-Tahawi's Creed consists of the beliefs that al-Tahawi (d. 321 AH/
933 CE), a follower of the madh'hab (school of jurisprudence) of
Imam Abu Hanifa, considered to be orthodox. Another site that used to have
this text was Islamic
Belief (al-'Aqidah) of al-Tahawi. As of 28 October 1998, however, it
has been down.
Schools of Dogmatic Theology
The first major school of "dogmatic theology" to crystallize was called
the Mu'tazili school. Arising as a theological school in the early part
of the eighth century CE, the Mu'tazilah stood primarly for three principles:
absolute unity of God (tawhid)(hence anything besides God, including
the Qur'an, could not be co-eternal with God and was therefore considered
to be temporal or created), God's justice ('adl) (allowing for human
free will), and Divine reward and punishment (al-w'ad wa-al-wa'id)
(in the Hereafter). See the articles Mu'tazilah
Thought: Mu'tazilah in the Encyclopedia Britannica.
In the tenth century CE, reacting against the Mu'tazilah, the Sunni movement
arose, representing the majority of Muslims. Its major figure was Abu al-Hasan
al-Hasan al-Ash'ari (d. 324 AH/ 935 CE) is the Muslim scholar whose
school of "dogmatic theology" (kalam), the Ash'ari school of 'aqida
(doctrine), came to dominate the orthodox position in the Sunni Muslim
world. This link is to a short biographical notice on al-Ash'ari.
al-Ash'ari on the Prophet
and his Sunnah This link consists of a small part of Walter C. Klein's
translation of al-Ash'ari's a al-Ibanah 'an usul al-diyanat which
is a major theological treatise. This particular text consists of a theologically
and scripturally based justification for following the sunna of the Prophet.
Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari This article, by the Muslim scholar, Dr. Gibril
Fouad Haddad, asserts (among other points) that what we now know as the
al-Ibanah of al-Ash'ari is a corruption of the original text, a
corruption that involves a number of significant ideological differences
from the actual perspective of al-Ash'ari.
The Foundations of the Articles
of Faith, a revised translation of al-Ghazali's (d. 505 AH /1111 CE)
Kitab Qawa'id al-'aqa'id, which is a section from his masterpiece,
Ihya 'ulum al-din (The Revival of the Religious Sciences). Al-Ghazali
has traditionally been regarded as one of Islam's most important thinkers.
This work, originally translated by Nabih Amin Faris in 135 pages in 1962,
is a complete on-line version and has been retranslated and somewhat adapted
for the internet by Shaykh Ahmad Darwish of the "Mosque of the Internet."
Deliverance from Error is a complete translation of al-Ghazali's (d.
1111 CE) Munqidh min al-dalal, his spiritual autobiography. In one
of its most important sections, he explains his transition from a scholar
and theologian who merely teaches and writes about religion into someone
who experiences religious truths.
Miscellaneous Theological Links
On the Harmony of Religion and Philosophy This is a translation
of a substantial part of Ibn Rushd's (known in the West as Averroes)(1126-1198
CE) Kitab fasl al-maqal. In it the following problems are discussed:
the creation of the universe, the advent of prophets, fate and predestination,
divine justice and injustice, and the Day of Judgment.
names and attributes in the Qur'an were collected in this list by the
important medieval scholar of Islam, Ibn Taymiyah.
The 99 Divine
Names Although Muslims have said that God's Names and Attributes are
infinite, the names of God are usually spoken of as being ninety-nine in
number. This derives from the hadith noted at this link.
A Muslim Perspective an article by 'Abd al-Hakim Murad, a
British Muslim who is a lecturer in Islamic Studies at Cambridge.
Method in Mufid's
Kalam and in Christian Theology Written by the Catholic scholar and
specialist in Islamic theology, Martin McDermott, this article compares
the "dogmatic theology" (kalam) of the well-known medieval Shi'i
scholar, Shaykh al-Mufid, to Christian theology.
Islamic Law: Sunnis, Shi'is, and Ibadis
Islamic law contains guidelines and rules for all aspects of a Muslim's
life, such as how to pray, the proper way to conduct a business transaction,
how to bury the dead, as well as crimes and punishments. Traditionally,
these laws were based largely upon the Qur'an and the sunnah, which
is the practice of the Prophet. These clear principles were applied to
new circumstances that later Muslims encountered. Over the course of a
few centuries the ways in which these principles should be interpreted
crystallized in the form of the four major Sunni "schools of law or jurisprudence"
(madh'hab) in addition to the Shi'i schools, the most dominant of
which is the Ithna 'Ashari (12 Imam) or Ja'fari madhhab.
The issue and importance of the Sunni schools is clarified in the article
the Four Madh'habs, by 'Abd al-Hakim Murad, a British Muslim and Professor
of Islamic Studies at Cambridge. (Link fixed, Nov. 27, 2000.) A little known but
nevertheless significant third Islamic sect is the Ibadi school.
Although both anti-Islamic polemicists and many Muslim legalists emphasize
the fact that Islam prescribes clear punishments for breaking certain laws,
it is often overlooked that the application of a punishment is not necessarily
absolute. The following well-attested hadith narrated by Anas ibn
Malik and included in the Sahih of Bukhari illustrates the principle
for not demanding the application of punishment for a legally punishable
While I was with the Prophet a man came and said, "O Allah's Apostle!
I have committed a legally punishable sin; please inflict the legal punishment
on me." The Prophet did not ask him what he had done. Then the time for
the prayer became due and the man offered prayer along with the Prophet
, and when the Prophet had finished his prayer, the man again got up and
said, "O Allah's Apostle! I have committed a legally punishable sin; please
inflict the punishment on me according to Allah's Laws." The Prophet said,
"Haven't you prayed with us?" He said, "Yes." The Prophet said, "Allah
has forgiven your sin." Or he said, "....your legally punishable sin."
(From Sahih of Bukhari, vol. 8, book 82, #812)
The four Sunni madh'habs are the Maliki, Hanafi, Sha'fi'i, and Hanbali
Malikiyyah is a
brief overview of the Maliki madh'hab written by Bulend Shanay of Lancaster
University (UK) as part of the Philtar online encyclopedia of the world's religions.
The Maliki school of law is named after its leading figure (imam)
Malik ibn Anas (d. 179 AH/ 795 CE). See this Biography
of Imam Malik written by the highly regarded Muslim scholar Muhammad
Abu Zahra and translated by A'isha Bewley.
of Imam Malik (d. 179/795) is a hadith collection that is at the foundation
of the Maliki "school of jurisprudence" (madh'hab).
of 'Abdullah ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani (922-996 CE), translated here
by the scholar 'Ayesha Bewley, represents a further crystallization of
the understanding of law according to the Maliki school of Jurisprudence.
The People of Knowledge;
and Fatwas is a section of the newly translated book, A Madinan
View, also by the Maliki scholar, 'Abdullah ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani.
The passages linked here consist largely of the views of Imam Malik himself.
The book is available from TaHa Press. Its US distributor is Arshad Khan,
The Bestsellers; 61-38 168th Street; Fresh Meadows; NY 11365; 718-359-4446.
Fundamental Principles of Imam Malik's Fiqh by the well-known
contemporary Muslim scholar Muhammad Abu Zahrah and translated by A'isha
Bewley. This is a detailed and lucidly translated on-line book that will
make the foundation of the Maliki madh'hab accessible to English
a brief summary of Hanafi school of jurisprudence written by Bulend Shanay of Lancaster
Named after its leader (imam) Abu Hanifa, whose full name was al-Nu'man
ibn Thabit ibn Zuta (d. 150 AH/ 767 CE), today the Hanafi
is prominent in former Ottoman countries (especially Turkey), Central Asia,
Hanafi Madh'hab: My Love and My Choice is a lengthy article about the
principles of the Hanafi madh'hab written by the well-known scholar
Allamah Shibli Nu'mani and edited by Syed Mumtaz Ali.
(Link fixed, Nov. 27, 2000.)
Imam Abu Hanifah: His
Life and Work is an excerpt from the English translation of the
Nu'man by the well-known scholar Allamah Shibli Nu'mani.
Abu Hanifa is a detailed biography of Imam Abu Hanifa based on traditional
biographical sources and published by Waqf Ikhlas, which is based in Turkey.
It contains a number of untranslated transliterated Arabic words and hence
will be difficult reading for novices.
brief overview of the Shafi'i school, written by Bulend Shanay of Lancaster University as
part of the Philtar online encyclopedia of world religions.
Named after its
leader (imam) Muhammad ibn Idris
al-Shafi'i (d. 204 AH / 820 CE), the Shafi'i school today is dominant in Egypt, Syria,
Southeast Asia, and East Africa, as well as a few other regions.
al-Shafi'i and His Method of Jurisprudence, written by the contemporary
Muslim scholar Taha Jabir al-'Alwani as part of his book on Islamic Jurisprudence
al-islami, discusses al-Shafi'i's life and his method of reaching legal
decisions based on Islamic priniciples.
al-Shafi'i's Risala: Treatise
on the Foundations of Islamic Jurisprudence Imam Muhammad ibn Idris
al-Shafi'i (d. 204/820) was the founder of the Shafi'i school of law and
one of the most important figures in the entire history of Islamic jurisprudence.
Here are two links to Shafi'i's Risalah (translated by Prof. Majid
Khadduri). In both of them Shafi'i justifies the necessity for taking the
Sunna as an essential supplement to the Qur'an for the formulation
of Islamic law. The first link, al-Bayan
IV (The Fourth Declaration), is from the Risalah, ch. 2 (pp.
75-76). The second link to theRisalah comprises four sections of
ch. 5, titled
the Obligation of Man to Accept the Authority of the Prophet (pp. 109-122)
In addition to their respect for his establishing much of the foundation
of Islamic law, many Muslims revere Shafi'i as a saint and may also make
a pilgrimage to the shrine
of Imam Shafi'i in Cairo, seen here.
Reliance of the
Traveller (Umdat al-salik) by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri,
English translation, commentary, and appendices by
Nuh Ha Mim Keller. This is a web-based edition of the carefully translated manual of
the proper practice of
Islam (shari'a) according to
the Shafi'i madh'hab. It has been an essential book in the library of any
English speaking Muslim or scholar of Islam since its publication in 1991.
Al-Maqasid of Imam
al-Nawawi is a concise book of the essentials of Islam according to
the Shafi'i madh'hab. The author, Yahya ibn Sharaf al-Nawawi (d.
676/1277), was one of the most prominent Sunni scholars of the Middle Ages.
This on-line English translation of his work includes the first three chapters,
but unfortunately excludes four other chapters, one of which is on the
practice of Sufism--which for al-Nawawi was an important component of Islam.
is a brief article on the Hanbali school, written by Bulend Shanay of Lancaster
This school of Islamic jurisprudence was named after Ahmad
ibn Muhammad ibn Hanbal, or as he is often known, Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 241 AH/ 855 CE).
A biography of his that also contains a discussion of the conflict he had
with Muslim theologians can be found in the article Ahmad
ibn Muhammad ibn Hanbal, written by the scholars of the al-Sunnah Foundation.
an excerpt from a work of the Hanbali Sufi shaykh 'Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani,
briefly discusses the Hanbali perspective on what is required of someone
who wishes to enter the religion of Islam and then states the Hanbali perspective
on the components of the ritual prayer (salat).
Taymiyya (d. 728 AH/ 1328 CE) is undoubtedly the medieval Hanbali scholar
who is most well-known, since many of his ideas are at the basis of the
Salafi/ Wahabi movement that has been so influential among Muslims today,
especially in the West. This favorable biography, written by the Muslim
scholar Assad Nimer Busool, is part of an introduction to Prof. Busool's
on-line translation of Ibn Taymiyah's Principles
of Islamic Faith (al-'Aqidah al-wasitiyah).
Taymiyya: a brief biographical sketch and critique by the American
Muslim scholar Nuh Keller points out Ibn Taymiyah's deficiencies in the
realm of the "tenets of faith" ('aqida).
sometimes called the Salafi school, is an early
modern, 18th century
offshoot of the Hanbali madh'hab. Although defeated and deprived of
influence in 1818, new life was breathed into the Wahhabi movement in the early
20th century by the ascendancy to power in the Arabian peninsula on the part of the
See the brief but useful summary of the Wahhabiyyah by
Bulend Shanay of Lancaster University.
Regarded by non-Wahhabis as an extreme fundamentalist version
of Islam, the Wahhabi school--which is anti-Sufi and anti-Shi'i-- is dominant in Saudi
Arabia and very influential throughout
the rest of the world. While a small minority of Wahhabis are militant,
be characterized as militant, even though historically it was militant. Certainly, for
example, most Saudis are not militant today.
Hence readers should be careful to distinguish fundamentalist extremist Islam
from militant Islam. The confusion is compounded in Central Asia, particularly in
Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, where fundamentalist extremist Muslims are generally
Today, in Uzbekistan, the term "Wahhabi" is in fact synonymous with a fundamentalist
extremist Muslim militant.
Islamic Law: Miscellaneous
Articles and Links
as-Sunnah (Fiqh al-Sunnah) by Sayyid Sabiq is a very popular 20th
century manual of
fiqh dealing, for the most part, with the acts of worship and the conduct
of daily life. While it sometimes gives the positions of the
madh'habs on the issues discussed, often only a ruling without
reference to madh'hab is given. Hence even though this manual is
very useful for obtaining answers to questions about the practice of
Islam, in no way can this
be considered the final word on these matters.
Myths and Realities is an excellent basic article from the on-line
Criminal Justice International and does not presuppose prior
knowledge of Islam.
The article entitled Shari'a
and Fiqhis a brief discussion of these two essential terms in the field
of Islamic law.
Alcohol and Muslims One
practice that is common in the West but that is prohibited in Islamic law
is the drinking of alcoholic beverages. This article explains the prohibition
in clear terms. (Link fixed, 3 December 2000.)
of Islamic Jurisprudence is an on-line book written by a Muslim scholar
of Islamic law.
of Ijtihad and Islamic Reform, 1750-1850 This recent article,
by Knut Vikor of the University of Bergen, discusses the capacity of Muslim
scholars to develop and make changes in Islamic law.
"Law and Justice" is an overview of Islamic law written by the chief
non-Muslim scholar of Islamic law among the past generation of scholars.
Islamic Law, by Professor John Strawson of the University of East London,
critiques orientalist and neo-orientalist approaches to Islamic Law and
Human Rights. (Link fixed October 24, 2002.)
Islamic Law Bibliography, consisting of secondary sources in English
on Islamic law, has been compiled by scholars at CIMEL (Center for Islamic
and Middle Eastern Law), which is a division of SOAS (School of Oriental
and African Studies) of the University of London. (Fixed, Nov. 27, 2000 and
October 31, 2001)
The Spirit of Islamic Law published in 1998 by
G. Weiss of the University of Utah, covers the principles of Islamic jurisprudence, which are at the foundation of the
Islamic legal system and Islamic life in general. A substantial description and table of contents of the work are on
online, and the book itself can be purchased from the University of Georgia press, which is the publisher.
Links for Islamic Law Scholars at CIMEL have organized at this site
links in areas such as pre-Islamic Middle Eastern law, Islamic primary
sources, classical legal rulings and commentary, miscellaneous on-line
articles from scholarly journals and books, human rights, Constitutional
Law of various Muslim countries, International Law with reference to Muslim
countries, Business Law (from various commercial sites), and legal texts
from the official sites of various countries, such as Israel, Jordan, Malaysia,
Turkey, and the U.S. (Link fixed, Nov. 27, 2000 and October 31, 2001)
Law: Social/Cultural Information by Region Part of the
Islamic Family Law website
--one of the many components of the Islamic
Family Law Project directed by Professor Abdullahi A. An-Na'im of Emory
University and sponsored by a
grant from the Ford Foundation--
this website, although not
complete, is a well-done and comprehensive survey of the history and
current practices of Muslim family law throughout the Muslim world.
Norms and Values in Islam an address by
by Prof. Dr. Ahmet Akgunduz, Rector of the Islamic University of Rotterdam
(Netherlands). Prof. Akgunduz discusses this topic in a clear and organized fashion
from the perspective of the Islamic
science of usul al-fiqh (principles of jurisprudence).
Request a Fatwa
fatwa, which is a ruling on an aspect of practice, law, or
doctrine, can be attained here from the Egyptian Fatwa Council.
The name "Shi'ism" is derived from the Arabic phrase "shi'at 'Ali," which literally means
partisans or party of 'Ali (d. 661). The cousin and son-in-law of the
Prophet, 'Ali was believed by most Muslim historians (but not all) to be the first
male to embrace
the Prophet's message of Islam. His partisans were
those who believed that 'Ali was the rightful successor of the Prophet and that 'Ali had
chosen by the Prophet to succeed him in his role as the
political and spiritual leader of the Muslims. This was in contrast to the belief
of the Sunnis, who did not believe the Prophet had selected 'Ali to serve in that
role. The vast majority of Shi'ites are the twelve imam or twelver shi'ites
(ithna 'ashari) and live today primarily in Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon.
Shanay of Lancaster University briefly surveys some of the beliefs and history of the
Ithna 'Ashari (twelve imam) Shi'ites.
of Differences between Shi'is and Sunnis from the viewpoint of Shi'ism.
This was written by the scholars who have compiled the Shi'ite Encyclopedia,
This is an on-line book by the famous Shi'ite scholar Tabataba'i and translated
by Prof. Seyyed Hossein Nasr.
Encyclopedia Developed by Shi'ites, this encyclopedia covers the main
lines of Shi'i thought. It can be browsed by topic or searched with its
own search engine.
Al-Islam: Subject Index This
is the topical index to the Al-Islam
website, a massive site on Islam as viewed from a Shi'ite perspective.
It contains many articles useful to students of Islam. This site was developed
by Ahlul Bayt Digital Islamic Library Project.
On the Beliefs of the
Shi'a Imamiya is a translation of a primary text by one of the most important
medieval Twelver Shi'ite scholars, Ibn Babawayh, also known as Shaykh al-Saduq.
Sermons, Letters, and Sayings
of Ali ibn Abi Talib, the first Shi'i Imam and the fourth of the "Rightly-Guided
by al-Kulayni is a scholarly article concerning the first of the four
major works of Shi'i hadith. The article, written by Dr. I.K.A. Howard,
discusses al-Kafi and its author, Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni
(d. 328 or 329 / 939 or 940). Unlike hadith in Sunni Islam, hadith collections
in Shi'i Islam include the sayings of the Shi'i imams.
Man La Yahduruh
al-Faqih by al-Saduq is a scholarly article concerning the second
of the four major collections of Shi'i hadith. Written by Dr. I.K.A. Howard,
this article also includes a discussion of al-Shaykh al-Saduq, Ibn Babawaih
al-Qummi (d. 381).
and Al-Istibsar by al-Tusi is the title of an article by Dr.
I.K.A. Howard concerning the third and fourth of the four major works of
Shi'i hadith. Both of these works were written by Abu Ja'far Muhammad b.
al-Hasan, known as al-Shaykh al-Tusi (d. 460).
Origin and Growth of the Shia (link fixed October 24, 2002). This useful summary
is presented at the
website of the World Federation of the Khoja
Shia Ithna-Asheri (sic) Muslim
Communities (KSIMC). See their list of
Islamic Resources. Currently the best description of this organization is to
be found in the Constitution
of the World Federation.
Website of Ayatullah Muhammad
Shirazi, who is one of the more important Shi'ite religious leaders
alive today. Based in Qum,
Ayatullah Shirazi is a marja'-i taqlid (model whose guidance is to
be follwed). His website includes a variety of materials, among them
being some of his articles and a short biography of him.
and the Imam Husayn in Persian and Indo-Muslim literature This article,
by Annemarie Schimmel, emeritus professor at Harvard, surveys the literary
use of the image of the martyed Imam Husayn (the third Shi'i Imam).
The Shrine of the
Hidden Imam "Twelver" (Ithna 'ashari) Shi'ites believe that including
'Ali there were twelve rightful descendants of the Prophet in his role
as political and spiritual leader of the Muslims. They believe that the
twelfth of these, the Hidden Imam, never died but rather "occulted," which
is to say that he left this material plane of being and went to a metaphysical
plane of being, from where he will return to the material plane near the
end of time in order to inaugurate a new era for humankind. Through this
link you can view a good quality image of the shrine of the Hidden Imam
in Samarra, Iraq.
The Silencing of Professor
Abdulaziz Sachedina Ayatollah Sistani, the chief Shi'ite religious
authority (marja' al-taqlid) of the majority of the 12 Imam Khoja
Shi'ites, recently recommended the silencing of Professor Sachedina, a
12ver Shi'ite, who is also a professor of Islamic Studies at the University
of Virginia. Among the issues for which he was criticized are his views
on religious pluralism.
on Shaykhism, also known as the Shaykhi school of Shi'ism, written
by Juan R. I. Cole, a professor at the University of Michigan. These papers
all concern Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa'i, the central figure of the Shaykhi school,
which developed in 19th century Iran.
The Isma'ili Shi'ites (or 7-Imam Shi'ites), diverged from the majority Ja'fari or 12-Imam
since they regarded the seventh and last Imam to be Isma'il, the
eldest son of Ja'far al-Sadiq. In contrast, the 12-Imam Shi'ites do not accept Isma'il,
who predeceased his father, as their seventh imam. Instead, after the death
of Ja'far al-Sadiq (d. 765 CE), they followed his still living son, Musa
al-Kazim (d. 799 CE) and, after him, his descendants.
Not following Musa al-Kazim and his descendants, the Isma'ilis followed Muhammad the son of
Imam Ismail and his descendants up to the present day. An important Isma'ili movement was the
9th century Qarmati movement in 'Iraq, comprised of followers of Hamdan Qarmat. See the
brief summary of the movement, Qarmatiyyah,
written by Bulend Shanay of Lancaster University (UK).
significant was the Ismaili Fatimid dynasty, which ruled in North Africa from the 10th to the
12th centuries. Another significant Ismaili movement was that of the Assassins of 12th
century Iran. The Ismailis underwent the following sub-divisions:
Druze-- A minority of Ismailis who, after the death of the Fatimid, Imam Al-Hakim
al-Hakim was divine and did not in fact die. Today this group is found in Lebanon, Syria,
See a brief summary of this sect, titled Druzes, written
by Bulend Shanay of Lancaster University.
The majority, however, followed Imam al-Hakim's son, al-Zahir and his descendants until
Billah. At his death, another split occured:
Buhras or Bohras (originally known as Musta'lians)-- Ismailis who followed Imam Musta'li, a
son of Imam
billah, instead of Imam Nizar, who was another son of Imam Mustansir. The Bohras
primarily in Yemen, India, and East Africa. See the scholarly article Bohras by Mustafa
Abdulhussein, from the Oxford
Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, and the Dawoodi Bohra website.
Nizaris, Khoja Ismailis, or Agakhanis-- followed Imam Nizar, the other son of Imam Mustansir,
from prison (after being deposed by the supporters of Imam Musta'li) and made his way from
Cairo to Syria and from there to Iran. Today the Nizaris are
Imam Karim Agha Khan.
A Brief History of the Ismaili
Community based on material from Prof. Farhad Daftary, the leading scholarly authority
on Ismaili history.
Introduction to Ismailism by Dr.
Sheikh Khodr Hamawi
Ismaili Web, constructed by Ismailis, is a
useful resource containing among other things a number of scholarly articles.
The Importance of Studying
a short essay
by the famous "White Russian" scholar of Ismaili history and thought, Professor W. Ivanov.
Nasir Khusraw (d. 481 AH) was an
poet, philosopher, traveller, and Ismaili propagandist (da'i).
and Authority in Medieval Ismailism by Prof. Simonetta Calderini, lecturer
at the Roehampton Institute in London, is a scholarly article on the web
addition of Diskus, but it was originally published there in Vol.4,
No.1 (1996) pp.11-22. (Linked fixed, October 13, 2001.)
The Institute of Ismaili Studies
The Zaydi or five imam Shi'ites are those who follow Zayd ibn 'Ali, the grandson of the
imam, Imam Husayn, who was in turn a grandson of the Prophet. Zayd's father was 'Ali,
the fourth Shi'ite imam. Yemen became a Zaydi country toward the end of the ninth
century CE and has
continued to be Zaydi until today. See the brief article
Bulend Shanay of Lancaster University (UK).
Ibadi Islam: An Introduction by Valerie J. Hoffman, professor
Islamic Studies at the University of Illinois (Urbana). The Ibadis, today most known for
their presence in Oman, have their origin in the Kharijites, a seventh century (AD) sect of
who are generally regarded by Muslims as
being outside the limits of Islam, regard themselves as originating with the eleventh
Shi'a Imam al-Hasan al-Askari (d.873) and
his student Ibn Nusayr (d.868). They are particularly important in Syria even though
they are only about 11% of the population. The reason for their importance in
Syria is because Hafez al-Asad, the former Syrian president, was a Nusayri.