The Islamic Sciences

Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani

We will take some time to answer the questions of Shaykh Adly. But we say again to our brothers and sisters:

“please go and find books that are available in many libraries and read about Sufism from the Islamic point of view, not from a superstitious point of view. Don’t take what the charlatans do and apply that to us, but take what Ibn Taymiyya said about Tasawwuf and apply it to us.”

There are 3-4 pages in Qur’an on ‘Ilm al-‘Irth (the Science of Inheritance). Yet from these verses, thousands of volumes have been written on that subject. On the subject of the Science of the Unity of Allah, (‘Ilm at-Tawhid), which is mentioned here and there in ayats of Qur’an and in the hadith, thousands of volumes have been written by many different authors expressing many different opinions. Take for example the Science of Beliefs, (‘Ilm al-‘Aqida). Regarding the one verse “al-Rahman ‘ala al-‘arsh istiwa” (The Merciful was established on the Throne). It is about Allah’s Istiwa on the Throne. Thousands of books have been written on that one verse, by scholars that came after the Sahaba and the Tabi’een up to the time of Ibn Taymiyya, among them as-Subki, as-Suyuti and Ibn Hajar al-Haythami. Even Ibn Taymiyya, who wrote many volumes on that topic, was in disagreement with many eminent scholars who preceded him, as well as with many in his time, on the explanation of that verse. That one verse resulted in thousands of books coming into existence. What about the subject of Tazkiyyat un-Nafs (Purification of the Self) and the ways to reach the state of Ihsan–one of the main things emphasized by the Prophet (s)? Will it not need many thousands of books and intensive explanations by the greatest scholars of Islam?

The Meaning of the Term “Hadith”

This science is known as Tasawwuf in linguistic terminology. For example, if we look up in the dictionary the meaning of the word “hadith,” we find “opposite of ancient (qadeem), new (jadeed)” or altenatively, “something spoken.” Yet if we examine the common understanding of the termhadith,” we find it means “Tradition of the Prophet (s)” or “the Science of the Traditions of the Prophet (s).” And if we look up the word “Sunnah” we find its linguistic definition is “tariqat, i.e. a way.” So when we say “a way,” (i.e. tariqat), scholars immediately understand that it means Sunnah. When we say “hadith,” scholars know that it means “new.” But the meaning given to that word, after the time of the Prophet (s) is anything that has been done by the Prophet (s) such as behavior, manners, speech or actions. In the time of the Prophet (s), the term “hadith” was rarely used as it is commonly used now. It began to be take on that meaning in the time of the Sahaba, after the passing of the Prophet (s), when it became a technical term to describe what the Prophet (s) used to say to them, how he used to act with them, stories about himself and them, and descriptions of what existed in the time of the Prophet (s). The Prophet said, “alaykum bi sunnati wa sunnati khulafa’i min ba’adi.” (follow my Sunnah and the Sunnah of my caliphs after me). He did not say “alaykum bi-hadithi wa hadithi khulafa’i min ba’adi.” He did not say, “follow my hadith and the hadiths of my caliphs after me.”

Linguistically what he said means “follow my ‘tariqat’ and the ‘tariqat’ of my caliphs after me.” The word the Prophet used is “sunnah.” This shows how the term “hadith” as it is commonly understood today, came to take on that meaning after the Prophet, which is “the complete Science of the transmissions of knowledge about and from the Prophet (s)”. You can say here that the development of ‘Ilm ul-Hadith defined a science which did not exist in the time of the Prophet (s), but which Islamic scholars found necessary to develop in order to preserve the knowledge of the words, saying, practices and deeds of the Prophet (s) and his Companions and which has become integral to Islam.