The Farahi School of Thought
Personalities and Contributions
By Rehan Ahmad Yousufi

Translation- Ammar Bakhsh

 

 

Preface

 

It has always been the need of our mission that people be introduced to the personalities of the Farahi school of thought. “The Farahi School of Thought – Personalities and Contributions” is an effort to meet this need. Our friend Rehan Ahmed Yousufi has introduced the life and works of Imam Hamiduddin Farahi, Maulana Amin Ahsan Islahi and Javed Ahmad Ghamidi in this work. He has given a brief biographical sketch of these personalities and introduced their major works and also has presented a comparative analysis of their scholarly contributions. The objective of the author was to present the contributions of these personalities in the revival and renewal of religious sciences and thought in Islam in the modern age. We hope that this work will play an important role in doing so.

Syed Manzoor ul Hasan
Head of the Center for Research and Education,
Al Mawrid.

 

Introduction  

 

Islam is the only way to understand and know the plan and guidance of God in this world. When a person accepts Islam as his religion he/she accepts that this religion was revealed by the Lord God of the Seen and Unseen. This religion was revealed to and conveyed by Muhammad (sws) as the final Prophet and Messenger of this religion and also the seal of the Prophets. The natural result of this acceptance is to know that Islam is the religion of all times and place. Thus, it implies that just as this message was acceptable and applicable in the ancient times when it was revealed it is also in this age and time.

 

It is a matter of fact that our age has made leaps and bounds in social and technological sciences. These advances have taken a toll on all past knowledge of religion, philosophy, arts, and science. Islam has also been deeply affected by the onslaught of these advancements. On one hand, it is our belief that Islam and its teaching are eternally applicable while on the other hand the narratives of Islam that are being presented to us make Islam practically unacceptable and inapplicable in this age and time.

 

Based on the advancements of our age, questions are being raised on some aspects of Islam and Islamic Sharia (Law). Many people are questioning the various narratives of Islam that are being presented to them. Issues like the status of women in Islam, relations between Muslims and Non-Muslims, the Penal code of Islamic Sharia and the Islamic view on the modern economic system create confusion and anxiety within and without the existing narratives of Islam.

 

Islam is not only the true religion but also the only truly preserved religion. Allah has taken upon Himself to preserve this religion until the Last Day as it has presented by His final Messenger (sws). This perseveration is in the form of the Quran and Sunnah. After the Last Prophet (sws), Allah has raised luminous scholars of His religion over the centuries who have always tried to explain and present the Message of Allah according to needs and challenges of their times. In our era, Allah has raised up Imam Hamiduddin Farahi and his school to serve His religion. Due to the extraordinary works of scholars of this school the correct understanding of Allah’s religion and its Sharia (Law) is becoming clear to the world. Due to their efforts, the undeniable truth of Allah’s religion has illuminated the minds of people once again.

 

In this book, we shall present a brief introduction to the life and groundbreaking works of Imam Hamiduddin Farahi, his student Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi and then his student Javed Ahmad Ghamidi. We will try to point out their individual scholarly contributions and show how these contributions have helped answer many serious doubts raised against the true religion of Allah.

 

 

Chapter 1. Personalities of the Farahi School 

 

1. The First Scholar of Islam’s Modern Era

 

Imam Hamiduddin Farahi was the first scholar of the modern age of Islam. He was a luminary of his age. It is a tragic story that not just ordinary people, but even religious scholars failed to recognize and appreciate his presence. Allama Shibli Noumani remarked on this irony by stating that “it is expected that geniuses in any field cannot remain unknown for long Hamiduddin is a great example of an exception to this fact.” [1] To understand the scholarly stature of Farahi, we quote the words of Syed Sulaiman Nadvi which he wrote in an obituary to Farahi :

 

“The Ibn Taimiyah of this age has passed away on 11th November 1930 (19th Jamada al–Ukhra, 1349 Hijrah). His brilliance is very unlikely to be surpassed now and his comprehensive command of oriental and occidental disciplines is indeed a miracle of this era. A profound scholar of the Qur'an, a unique personality, an embodiment of piety, an unfathomable sea of knowledge, an institution within himself, a literary genius and a researcher of prodigious intellect. It is a matter of great sorrow that such a brilliant personality graced the world and then perished, but the world could not recognize its grandeur.” [2]

 

Hamiduddin Farahi was born in 1862 in the Azamgarh district of India. He memorized the Qur'an at the age of ten. He then went on to study Arabic and Persian and graduated from the studying the religious sciences at the age of twenty. He traveled to the major centers of religious academia in India to specialize in Arabic and other religious sciences. He studied with the major scholars of his time. His teachers included Allama Shibli Noumani, Maulana Abdul Hai Farang Mahali, and Maulana Faizul Hasan Saharanpuri, who was the greatest scholar of Arabic language and literature in India.

 

After completing his studies in the traditional sciences he went on to obtain a B.A from M.A.O College at Aligarh. At Aligarh, he met Thomas Walker Arnold and studied modern philosophy under him. During his stay at Aligarh, Imam Farahi was introduced to the new philosophical enquires of the age. It was a time of new inventions, discoveries, and philosophies. These inquiries had raised some serious questions on the integrity of Islam. The people who shut themselves off from learning the philosophy and sciences of the new age could not answer or counter these allegations effectively due to their lack of knowledge in them. The people who were versed in the arguments and philosophy of the modern world lacked insight into the traditional religious knowledge. The effect of these philosophies on this section was so profound that some tried hard to align their faith to the needs and questions of the modern world. Imam Islahi comments on this phase of Farahi’s life at Aligarh:

 

“… this was the time when the late Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, being deeply influenced by the new thoughts from the western world, was making up interpretations of the Quran to suit and align it to these new thoughts. Those within the Muslim community who were exposed to these emerging philosophies from the west were falling prey to Sir Syed’s conjured up interpretations of the Quran. While Imam Farahi saw these developments as a natural result of British supremacy and rule (in India), he also noticed that the traditional system of study and instruction of the Quran prevalent within the Muslim was not only wrong but also of no value.  This hopeless system of education of the Quran made the Muslim intelligentsia gullible and easily disposed to any foreign influence. Allah inspired unto Imam Farahi’s heart that the only way to solve this issue was to assemble new fundamentals to study and understand the Quran so that the doors of wisdom could open to the natural intellect of the Quran and it could drive away the rebellious intellect brought about by the West. Consequently, the Imam tried to present his framework for the study of the Quran, separating from the traditional approach, through his exegetical work. Gradually Allah guided Imam Farahi to those undiscovered fundamental principles that he has laid out the introduction to his “Nizam ul Quran” (Coherence of the Qur'ān).” [3]

 

Imam Farahi started his professional career as a teacher at the Madrastul Sindh, Karachi. He lived in Karachi form 1897 to 1906. It was during this period that he devoted much of time to rethink the fundamentals of understanding of the Quran. His collection of Tafsir and other works are mostly from this period. The Imam later went on to lecture at M.A.O College at Aligarh, Muir Central College at Allahabad and at the Osmania University in Hyderabad. He later moved back to his ancestral home to take up the position of Principal at the Madrastul Islah Sarai-Mir, Azamgarh. The Imam spent the rest of his life nurturing the Madrasa. Imam Farahi left this temporary abode in November of 1930.

 

Imam Farahi left a huge sum of scholarly work. Some of his work was published during his life but most of them were published after his death. Almost of all of his work were in Arabic except for a few in Urdu and Farsi. Some of his important works have been translated into Urdu, like “Majmua’ Tafaseer e Farahi”, Aqsaam ul Quran” and “Zibah kon hua?” (Who was sacrificed?).  However, Farahi’s real legacy was his two exceptionally able students Akhtar Ahsan Islahi and Amin Ahsan Islahi. In his final years, the Imam singled out and trained these two able students from the Madrastul Islah personally. Akhtar Ahsan Islahi took over the responsibility of administration of Madrastul Islah after Imam Farahi. Amin Ahsan Islahi moved to Pakistan and spent nearly all his life in preserving and developing the works of his illustrious teacher by way of his amazing scholarly and literary skills. It is through the works of Amin Ahsan Islahi that Allah manifested to the world the treasure that was Hamiduddin Farahi.

 

2. The Second Scholar of Islam’s Modern Age

 

If Imam Farahi was the First Scholar of Islam’s Modern Age, then Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi is without a doubt it’s Second. Imam Farahi or his works did not become as renowned as his scholarship deserved due to his scholarly asceticism. As for Imam Islahi, he was a man ahead of his time. He was born in an era where a scholar’s caliber was not measured by the merit of his scholarship but on his ability to garner multitudes of followers. In a time when arriving at conclusions different from that of the majority was stirring one’s ship into the storm, Imam Islahi remained aloof to such biases and set out to discover uncharted territories. Due to this attitude, he was isolated from and neglected by his peers. However, this isolation was a small price compared to the new breakthroughs he achieved which cleared the apparent haze of confusion and accusation surrounding Islam. This breakthrough was “Taddabur al Quran”, to which Imam Farahi laid the foundations to and guided Islahi towards.

 

Amin Ahsan was born in a village in Azamgarh in the year 1904. He belonged to a large landowning family. He stared his initial study in a government school in his village. He studied the Quran and learned Farsi at school before moving on to study at Madrastul Islah. He got his education in the Arabic language and other religious disciplines there. It is due to his association with this school that he is known as “Islahi”. The Madrasa was directed by Allamah Shibli Noumani at the time. MadarIslah was never associated with any particular school of thought. Imam Farahi was not part of the teaching staff during Imam Amin Ahsan’s stay. He was however thought by some of the other great teachers present there, among which Allama Shibli and Maulana Abdurehman Bilgrami are foremost. Imam Amin Ahsan started his carrier as the assistant editor of the newspaper “Madina” in Bijnor. He was responsible for editing a children’s magazine published by the newspaper called “Guncha”. He was also briefly associated with Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi, working as an editor for his newspaper “Sach”.

 

By 1925, Imam Farahi had taken charge of Madrastul Islah. Imam Farahi had opened the doors to a new world through his research. However, in a culture of fixated norms and rote learning, it was going to be difficult to present his work to the common folk of academia. By now, Imam Farahi had entered the final stages of his life. It was not possible for him to present his findings to the world alone. So Imam Farahi sought to build an environment at the Madrasa to nurture skills beyond Fiqh in the Madrasa.  His efforts were surely fruitful. During this period the Madrasa produced some great scholars of their time. Along with this, Imam Farahi sought to find a student who had the intellectual capability of directly inheriting his research. He sought a student who not only had an excellent sense of language and flair for knowledge but had an equally eloquent speech and mastery with the pen. For this purpose, he chose Amin Ahsan as his hire and time proved his choice right.

 

Amin Ahsan would often narrate how he came under Imam Farahi’s tutelage. He narrates that when he went to meet Imam Frahai at his village, the Imam asked the following question, “Would still like to run around editing newspapers or like to study the Quran with us?” Imam Amin Ahsan promptly replied, “I am at your service.” Initially, it was arranged that Amin Ahsan would live and study with Imam Farahi at his home. However, on the insistence of other teachers at the Madrasa, Amin Ahsan studied and lived with the Imam at the Madrasa. Imam Amin Ahsan also taught at the Madrasa while studying with the Imam. Amin Ahsan remained under Imam Farahi’s tutelage for the rest of his days till the Imam died in 1930. Apart from studying the Quran form Imam Farahi, Amin Ahsan also studied some major works on Philosophy and Political Science with him too.

 

After Imam Farahi’s death, Imam Amin Ahsan wanted to study the sciences of Hadith under an equally great scholar. Thus, he presented himself to Maulana Abdurahman Mubarkpuri to study the Principles of Hadith Sciences and also studied the Hadith Collection of Tirmidhi under him. Thus, Imam Amin Ahsan was also trained in the science of Hadith criticism by an established scholar.

 

In the final years of the 1930’s Imam Amin Ahsan involved himself in the admiration of Madrastul Islah. He formed the “Dayirah e Hamidiyah” (The Circle of Hamid) to translate the works of his illustrious teacher. In 1932 he initiated the “Al Islah” journal that was meant to propagate Imam Farahi’s thought to the masses.

 

The Jamat e Islami was formed in 1941. On the insistence of Maulana Manzoor Ahmad Nizami, Imam Amin Ahsan joined it as one of its founding members. For the next 2 decades, Imam Islahi dedicated his energy to the Jamat e Islami.  During this time he even served as its vice chairman and council member. He left his hometown and migrated to Lahore for the sake of the Jamat e Islami. However, God had different plans in store for him. Due to some differences among the leadership of the Jamat e Islami, Imam Amin Ahsan parted ways with the organization. From then on he dedicated all his time to the study and teaching of the Quran.

 

He started work on his famous Tafseer “Tadabbur al Quran” in the year 1958. In 1959 he started publishing a monthly journal called “Mesaaq”. He formed the “Circle for Pondering on the Quran” in 1961. He taught the Quran and Hadith to people in those circles. He was able to finish his Tafseer in 1980. After this, he turned to review Hadith studies.  In his final years, he taught the hadith works of Bukhari and the Muwatta of Imam Malik.

 

Allah gave the Imam a long life and enough time to take his services for His religions. The Imam lived 90 years of his life in good and sound health and kept teaching till that age. For the last 3 years of his life, he was bedridden. The Imam died on the 12th of December, 1997.

 

In his body of works, his Tafseer, “Taddbur al Quran” is the most prominent. “Taddbur al Quran” has made its place as one of the 4 basic works in the complete body of Tafseer literature; the other 3 being the Tafseer of Zamakhshari, Razi, and Tabari. It is “Tadabbur al Quran” that has positioned him as an Imam in the science of Tafseer. Other than the Tafseer, the Imam authored nearly 2 dozen works. The most famous among these were “The Preaching of Deen and its methods”, “Purification of the Soul” and “The reality of Shirk and Tauhid”. He penned various articles on a number of other topics that have been now published as a collection.

 

There are many present today that have directly studied under the Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi. Among his students, Mr. Khalid Masud and Mr. Majid Khawar worked hard to present his works to the common folk. Imam Amin Ahsan had brought the School of Imam Farahi a long way. However, these works were still foundational. There was need to build on the foundations laid by Islahi and Farahi and review the understanding of the whole religion based on it. A new jurisprudence based on these foundations was still to be formulated. Imam Islahi was aware that the work did not end with his efforts but had just begun. In his later years he frequently used to quote these verses of Iqbal :

 

Sar aamad e ruzgaar ein fakir
Digar daana e raz ayad ke nayad

The time has ended now for this lonely rover
Let’s see if another keeper of my secrets comes along or not

 

3. Javed Ahmad Ghamidi

 

When Imam Amin Ahsan went to study with Imam Farahi his was 22 years of age and Imam Farahi was 67. Years later another 22-year-old lad came to Imam Amin Ahsan to learn the Quran from him and to be initiated into the Farahi School. Imam Islahi was 70 years old at the time. This young lad was versed in both the modern sciences and the traditional disciplines. The conditions to enter into the school of Farahi, however, were different. On initiating this young lad Imam Amin Ahsan commanded him, “Pledge that you shall never abandon the truth even if your shadow were to betray you.”  The next day this young lad left his studies at university and presented himself to the Imam. In the coming years, it would be this lad that took the School of Farahi to new heights.

 

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi was born in the year 1951 near Sahiwal, Punjab. He was born into a Sufi household and his father was an elder in the Qadri Silsilah. He was sent to the local school for his education. Along with his regular school studies, he studied Arabic and Persian in the traditional system. He got introduced to the works of Maulana Abul Ala Maududi when he was in high school. The Maulana’s call for Islamic Revolution had moved him as it had moved every conscientious Muslim around the world at the mid of the 20th Century. Ghamidi builds a very close relationship with the Maulana and remained by his side till the latter’s death.

 

After graduating from high school Ghamidi enrolled in the Government College Lahore where he studied Philosophy and English literature. During his time in Lahore kept studying Arabic and Islamic studies under the big scholars of Lahore among which Maulana Ataallah Hanifi is worth mentioning. It was during this time he stumbled upon the works of Imam Farahi. In those works, he found mention of an Amin Ahsan Islahi. Ghamidi inquired and found that Imam Amin Ahsan was resident in Lahore and at once set out to meet him. He kept meeting the Imam for the next two weeks and then decided to leave all ambitions and devote his to learning the Quran form the Imam. This was in the year 1973. Ghamidi kept studying the Quran and Hadith under the Imam for as along he was alive.

 

The era in which Ghamidi was being baptized into the Farahi School was the era of “Islamic Revolutions”. All over the world the call for implementing the “Islamic Way of Life” was on the lips of millions of Muslims. While Ghamidi was being introduced to an understating of Islam that made the illusions of Islamic Revolutions immaterial, Pakistan and other countries seemed to become more “Islamic” than ever. In Pakistan, it was the era of General Zia’s “Islamic government”. “Laws of Prayer”, “Laws of Zakat” and “Islamic Penal Code” were fervently introduced in Pakistan. However, all this “Islamization” only proved that age-old legal injunctions and narratives formed in the agricultural age cannot work in the industrial age.

 

With such intellectual and social commotion around him, Javed Ahmad Ghamidi laid out the roadmap for his work. He was armed with modern as well as traditional knowledge and now he was armed with the Quran, as taught by the School of Farahi. In the School of Farahi, the Quran and Sunnah reigned supreme. All matters of religion start with it and end with it. Ghamidi worked hard to excavate the true form of Islam that had been buried in Fiqh, Philosophy, and Sufism. He dedicated his prime to the study and reviewing of Fiqh, Usul al-Fiqh, Hadith, Usul al-Hadith, Tafseer, Usul al Tafseer, Ilm al-Kalam, Tassawuf and other narratives of religion. After nearly 40 years of devoted study and review, he had positioned himself to present a complete understating of religion that was not only coherent but also consistent in logic and comprehension.

 

These unwearied and dedicated decades of study of the religion of Allah resulted in his magnum opus, “Meezan”. In “Meezan”, Ghamidi has presented his comprehension of the religion of Allah. After the completion of “Meezan”, he turned to present a translation of the Quran in which its coherence could be evidently visible to the common reader. This translation with a brief Tafseer is spread over 5 volumes and is called “Al Bayan”. His other work “Burhan” is a collection of writings on topics in which he has differed from the rest of scholars. “Maqamat” is a collection of short articles that range from issues on Fiqh to some biographical notes. A collection of his Urdu poetry has also been published called “Khayal o Khama”. Currently, he and his team are working on reviewing and evaluating all the collections of Hadith based on the principles of understanding Hadith that he has laid down in his book “Meezan”. This work is has been dived into three categories, namely “Ilm an Nabi” (Knowledge of the Prophet), “Fiqh an Nabi” (Judgments of the Prophet) and “Sirat un Nabi” (Life of the Prophet).

 

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi set up the “Al Mawrid Institute for Islamic Research and Education” in 1983. Al Mawrid publishes a monthly Urdu and English journal called “Ishraq” and “Renaissance”. A host of scholars are associated with the institute who are part of the Farahi School.

 

Remarks

 

The journey that started with the groundbreaking scholarship and discoveries of Imam Hamiduddin Farahi and carried on by Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi has reached us via Javed Ahmad Ghamidi. The Farahi School has made the study of the Quran is its sole objective. It is the touchstone, the scale, the definer, the measure against which anything called religion shall be gauged. The Farahi School is unaffected by the barrage for calls of reform to Islam has presented an understanding of religion as it is presented by Allah and His Final Messenger without the anomalies of Fiqh, Philosophy, and Sufism. Without a doubt The School of Farahi is the vanguard of Islam in the Modern Age. In the following sections, we shall discuss the academic breakthroughs and contributions of this School.

 

 

Chapter 2: Academic Contributions of the Farahi School

 

There are many academic contributions of the scholars of Farahi School. We shall discuss their major contributions one by one here. During these discussions, we shall shed light on how these contributions have solved the many complicated ideas that have arisen in the understating of Islam, especially in the Modern Age.

 

1. Quran and the Farahi School


Quran: The Scale and The Authority

 

The intellectual challenges of this age along with its social upheaval are filled with such jargon that no religious narrative can answer them that has been blemished with human thought. The Quran is the only text on the face of the earth that is free from any human interference. Thus, there can be no doubt that all our energy should be spent to understand it as it has been presented to us by Allah. The Farahi School of Thought revolves around the deep study of the Quran and the study of all other branches of Islamic Science is referred back to the Quran. It is this unwavering centrality given to the Quran that the Farahi School has been able to produce research that is academically and intellectually profound and consistent. Thus, by making the Quran its sole yardstick this school has able to answer any accusations leveled against Islam without any discrepancy. Javed Ahmad Ghamidi explains this fact in the following words:

 

“… All things presented as religion shall be accepted and rejected in light of it (Quran). All arguments on faith and belief must start and end on it. All other claimed revelations, inspirations, research or opinion must be tested against it. It must be accepted that its authority reigns over Abu Hanifa or Shafi’i, Bukhari or Muslim, Ashari or Maturidi and Juaniad or Shibli alike. Anything that goes against it shall not and cannot be accepted.” [4]

 

All those who have a scholarly background know that this statement by Ghamidi is not an easy one to present. Unfortunately, the Islamic scholarly tradition has completely surrendered to these external authorities.  Other literary works are given priority over the Quran in studying and teaching the religion. One can pick up any work of Tafseer to catch a glimpse of this. It is certain that one will find less explanation based on the verses and filled with external and at times irreverent information. This is discrepancy is the source of all conflict and the basis of all sectarian discord. In this context, making the Quran the basis of all religious discourse and prioritizing it over all other literature is the most fundamental contribution of the Farahi School.

The Principles of Understating Quran

 

The next major contribution of the Farahi School is the formation of the principles of understanding the Quran. The Farahi School has developed these principles that have made it possible to determine the actual meanings of the text of the Quran. For over a century the scholars of this School have pondered over how to determine the indented message of the Quran. These scholars have dedicated their lives to understand the language of the Quran, its style of discourse, the coherent relation between its verses, its laws, and their background. Imam Farahi made it his life’s sole mission to decode these principles. In the later years of his life, the Imam cut himself off from the world and absolutely secluded himself with the Quran. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi too dedicated the nearly half of his life to the study of the Quran, especially the last three decades of it. It is this dedication that produced the “Tadabbur al Quran” and made its place in the basic book of Tafseer. Javed Ahmad Ghamidi too has spent all his life in the study of the Quran. He has presented the basic principles needed for pondering over the Quran in his book Meezan.

 

Nizam ul Quran: Coherence of the Quran

 

Imam Farahi and his students have made efforts to present a sound understating of the Quran based on its inherent coherence. Thus, understanding the coherence of the Quran is one of the major principles formulated by the Farahi School. The Farahi School insists that the Quran is not a collection of verses haphazardly placed in the shape of a book. Rather, the Quran is a properly arranged and duly compiled word of God. Allah has arranged His words in the form of Surahs. All the verses in these Surahs are coherent with each other and revolve around a central theme unique to each surah. This coherence is what makes the Quran unmatched in its literary beauty and inimitability. The development of discourse and the nuance of the language of the Quran can only be understood when its coherence is evident. This coherence of the Quran puts each verse in its context. Thus, no verse of the Quran can be taken independently to derive 5 or 10 meanings. Each verse shall put in its context and thus only a single explanation of that verse can be possible.

 

It must be mentioned here that the basic message of the Quran, i.e., understanding true faith and correct morals, has always been clear. The Quran keeps repeating its basic message, again and again, using different styles. However, all these verses are placed in their context and their true appreciation can only be done when placed in their context. However, if the coherence is not taken into account different literary styles creates the possibility to draw meanings contrary to what the Quran wants to convey. Thus, the coherence of the Quran is not just a thing of literary nuance but an integral principle of underrating the Quran.

 

The verses that deal with law in the Quran have been misunderstood the most. The Quran discusses law in a very few verses. If the coherence of the Quran is neglected there is a huge possibility of misunderstanding them and this is what has happened. The scholars of the Farahi School have endeavored to explain these verses based on the principle of coherence. We shall look into the issue of the legal witness of women and show how the scholars of this School apply this principle.

 

Our classical and popular judicial stance on the issue of the legal witness of women is that a witness of a woman is half that of a man. This view is not limited to being a witness in normal circumstances and petty crimes. In the matter of serious crimes especially those which are discussed in the Quran, such as murder and fornication, the witness of a woman is not even considered worthy. (We shall discuss this issue in a letter section). This issue of the witness of a woman is derived from the 282nd verse of Surah Baqarah in the Quran. This the longest of the verses in the Quran :

 

O you who believe! [maters of lending and borrowing shall continue; so] when you acquire a loan for a fixed period, record it in writing, and let a scribe write it down between you with fairness; and he who can write should not refuse to write; in fact, just as Allah has taught him to write, he also should write for others; and the one who has acquired the loan should have [the document] written down and fearing Allah his Lord, he should not make any reduction in it. If he on whom rests the responsibility of writing is indiscreet or feeble or unable to have it written then let his guardian do so with justice. And call in two male witnesses from among your men, but if two men cannot be found, then one man and two women from among your likable people so that if one of them gets confused, the other reminds her. And these witnesses must not refuse when they are summoned. And whether the loan is big or small, be not negligent in documenting the deal up to its period. This is more just in the sight of Allah, it ensures accuracy in testifying and is the most appropriate way for you to safeguard against doubts. But if it is an everyday transaction, it does not matter if you do not write it down. And call in witnesses also if you sell or purchase anything, and let no harm be done to the scribe or the witness. And if you do so, then this will be a transgression which will cling to you.  And fear Allah, and [do understand that] Allah is teaching you. He has knowledge of all things. [Quran 2:282]

 

The part of the verse that we are considering is underlined above. If we take that the part of the verse as separate and break away from the rest of the verse then certainly we would reach the conclusion that the witness of a woman is half that of that a man. However, if put that part back in the verse and read the verse as a single unit in the continuing context of the preceding verses we get a different picture. We come to see that this issue had not been discussed as an issue of a legal witness at all. Then what is the real issue? What is its context?

 

This verse is from the last portion of Surah Baqarah. Allah starts addressing the Muslims to spend generously in charity form verse 261 and continues this discussion till verse 274. After discussing the issues of charity, the discourse moves on to the condemnation of interest on loans. This condemnation is placed after the encouragement for charity because, in contrast to charity, interest on loans is the persecution of people in which money is made off their desperate economic situations. Interest on loans is discussed in verses 275 to 281 and declared as prohibited in them.

 

Once interest on loans was prohibited, a question arose that is any kind of transaction involving loans now prohibited. The verse 282 answers this very question. Whenever the Quran replies to such questions, it is its style that it elaborates the issue further. The Quran explains in the verse that trading that involves simple loans are not prohibited.  The Quran says that all the conditions of any such loan should be clear and must be mutually agreed upon. However, there is a chance that in the future there arises some kind of dispute among the concerned parties. The amount of loan, the period of the loan, the date of return and other conditions of the loan can become reasons for such a dispute. Thus, Allah guides the Muslims to always write these conditions down and that at least 2 men stand witness to this transaction. If for some reason one cannot find even 2 men then one should ask 1 man and at least 2 women to stand as witness to this transaction. The witnesses have been obligated to present themselves without fail in any condition, should a dispute occur.

 

In this context, we get a clearer picture of the issue. We come to see that:

 

  1. This directive deals with a social issue, that is, the borrowing and lending of loans. The Quran obligates at least 2 men to stand witness to it. In such a case these men have to present themselves in court if and when the time comes. Thus, Allah does not put the burden on women in the first instance. This is done clearly to avoid any liability on women to present themselves in court.
  2. We also come to know that the witnesses should be mutually selected by the parties and are trustworthy.  It is possible that the parties don’t find mutually agreeable male witnesses. In such a case the Quran asks the parties to get a male and two female witnesses. The reason that the Quran cites is that if one of the women is intimated or falters in her testimony the other might be able to support her or remind and correct her. The Quran further clarifies this in the verse: “This is more just in the sight of Allah, it ensures accuracy in testifying and is the most appropriate way for you to safeguard against doubts.”.
  3. The most important thing to note is that this is not an issue of the value of testimony based on gender at all. The issue being discussed is the transaction of the loan between two parties. Allah commands Muslims to always have some witness to such a transition and have a written document to support it. The character of these witnesses has also been discussed. The basic reason for appointing witnesses is so that in a case of dispute no one is oppressed. So the witnesses are mutually chosen and they don’t just happen to be present at the moment of the transaction. Allah says that the witnesses should preferably be 2 men. If the parties cannot agree on any male witness they should ask 2 women and a man to stand witness. Moreover, the lending and borrowing parties can involve women themselves. 
  4. One must understand that this directive is not addressed to any court of law but Muslims. Thus, it must be understood that the no court can obligate to have witnesses on transactions. The Quran asks this specifically of Muslims. Thus, if a Muslim does not happen to follow these directives no court or even an Islamic court cannot simply deny justice to him/her on the basis that the said person does not have a written document or witness. So these directives are addressed to any court of law but only to individual Muslims.

 

Thus, we come to know that nothing can be taken from the verse that can force us to deduce that a witness of a woman is legally half of that a man. It is not even the subject of this verse. The verse is discussing the issue of taking a loan and its associated guidelines for Muslims who are involved in this transaction. We come to know this only when we put the verse in its context, consider in style of discourse and placement.

 

2. Hadith and Sunnah: The Farahi School Approach

 

Hadith are the collection of narrations of the life and times of the Last Messenger (sws). The Sunnah is his (sws) sanctioned practice of the religion. In the Islamic tradition, Hadith and Sunnah are used interchangeable and similar meaning terms. They are also considered, after the Quran, a basic source of religion. Advocates of this theory preach the unfailing importance of Hadith for deriving the basic tenants of Islam. One example that they present is the case of the performance of the ritual prayer. They present that the procedure of the prayer has not been mentioned in the Quran and it can only be completely taken from the Hadith collection. However, it is fact that most Muslims from the early ages to this day differ on some very basic issues regarding some procedures in the ritual prayer. One such issue is that of raising of the hands (raf’ al yadain) during the prayer. Some Muslims claim that raising of the hands at any instance during the prayer is not allowed, while others equally claim for it.

 

Most of the proponents of the above theory shrug off such examples as trivial; however, this is not a convincing enough answer. The reality is that in the Islamic tradition hadith are considered as a source of religion, second to the Quran. If we take this stance this to be correct then it is not logical to accept that a large population of Muslims would rather let go of some procedures in if their prayers when a procedure of prayer is mentioned in various authentic and unanimously accepted narrations (Hadith). This is but an issue of Fiqh (jurisprudence). There is whole world of issues relating to beliefs, rituals, intellectual and social doctrines that exist due to this adamant insistence on Hadith. The reason is that most Muslims have not been able to differentiate between Hadith and Sunnah. In light of these issues a group that has taken shape among the Muslims that outrightly rejects the need of Hadith in totality. Another section of the Muslims raises the need of Hadith at par with the Quran itself. It is evident that both these attitudes are merely reactionary. In such chaos, we shall look at the viewpoint of the scholars of the School of Farahi.

Difference between Hadith and Sunnah

 

One of the major contributions of the scholars of this school is to illuminate the difference between Hadith and Sunnah. The scholars explain that the Sunnah is the part of religion not a separate source of it. The Sunnah is that part of the religion that has reached to us through the perpetual practice and perpetual consensus of the Muslims. By perpetual practice, we mean that since the time of the Last Prophet (sws) almost all of the Muslims have been practicing and transferring this religion from generation to generation. By perpetual consensus, we mean that all of the Muslims through the generations have considered these practices as a religion and have not disagreed in them. Thus, the practices that we have received through the Sunnah are equal to the Quran in terms of religion.  The Hadith, on the other hand, are the narrations of the Last Prophet’s (sws) life, teachings, excellent practice and explanation of religion as reported by those around him. Contrary to the Sunnah, the Hadith have not reached us via perpetual consensus of the Muslims. Rather few individuals among the huge Muslim population took it upon themselves to transmit some knowledge that they had about the Last Prophet (sws). These reports were naturally given to others by the companions of the Last Prophet (sws). Not all the companions reported about their interactions with the Prophet (sws) nor did they report about all of their interactions. Gradually these reports were being handed down form few individuals who had who had access to these companions. It was not until the 3rd century After Hijrah (Mulsim Calendar) that these individual narrations were penned down and codified. With this background history, the difference between Hadith and Sunnah can be made clear. However, most Muslims continue to assert that the Sunnah is primarily contained in the Hadith along with most of the essentials of the religion.

 

It was not until recent times, after the long research of Imam Amin Ahsan and Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, were the difference between Hadith and Sunnah made firmly clear. This research was based primarily on the principle of understanding the Quran and religion laid by previous scholars of the Farahi School. We shall explain this difference here with the example of the ritual prayer. The Muslims did not start to perform the ritual prayer after they had collected the required Hadith. The fact is that Muslims have been performing the ritual prayer form the time of the Prophet (sws). The Prophet (sws) taught the Muslims around him how to perform the ritual prayer. During his (sws) lifetime this ritual prayer was taught to and performed by thousands of his (sws) companions and other Muslims. This ritual prayer was performed by the Muslims, generation after generation, in the far reaches of the earth, without any change. The procedures, the necessary uttering, the postures of the prayer and the timing of the prayer have been unanimously practiced all through the centuries and long before Hadith were compiled and codified. This is a perfect example of how our religion has been securely transmitted via the Sunnah.

 

There is, however, the extra information about how the Prophet (sws) himself performed his prayers. Such as how he would recite the Quran in prayer, which Surahs he preferred to read on certain occasion, what were different supplications he made during his prayers, how long did perform, did he perform some extra prayers at home, his explanation about the wisdom and rewards of prayer, his posture during prayer, his actions during prayers, etc . Answers to questions like these were reported to us by some individuals who lived during the time of the Prophet (sws). They observed the Prophet (sws) pray and reported to us about for example how perfect his (sws) posture was. Some asked some questions to the Prophet (sws) about the prayers and then narrated the answers to others. These things constitute the information on the exemplary practice of the Prophet (sws) that a few people transmitted to us. Had this information not reached us we would have been robbed of a huge treasure. However, had this information not reached us, it would not have changed anything essential in our prayer and in fact, it does not. Thus, the Hadith is simply reports of how the Prophet (sws) practiced what he preached and his (sws) practice is certainly the best of practices. Information in the hadith does not change the Sunnah, rather it compliments aspects of it.

 

The tenants of religion cannot be derived from Hadith. It is the Sunnah that is the authority. Now let’s take the issue of raising the hands during ritual prayer. The Hanafi School of law insists that such a practice cannot be accepted due to some intellectual reasoning and injunctions, even though they acknowledge that some authentic Hadith do point to such a practice done by the Prophet (sws) and his companions. The Shafa’i or Ahl al-Hadith School present that they deem it to be an integral part of the prayer because of those authentic Hadiths that point to such a practice. This difference has always existed among scholars and common Muslims. However, there is a raising of the hands at the beginning of all the ritual prayers. This raising is an essential part of the ritual prayer. No common Muslim or scholar can deny or has a disagreement on this issue. The reason is that all Muslims all over the world over all generations have been doing it as an essential part of the prayer.  No school of jurisprudence has a disagreement on this. This is how we have received our religion through the Sunnah.

 

After we have understood this difference between the Quran and Sunnah we can understand how the Messenger of Allah has conveyed the religion to us completely. Moreover, we can rise above differences of opinion and determine with certainty the practices that the Prophet has established for us as religion. These include practices in worship, social interaction, customs and traditions and dietary laws. After understanding this difference it is hard for anyone to reject the importance of Hadith and also exceed to rejecting the Sunnah as well. Once this difference has been made clear the only issue left is in understanding the place and role of Hadith in Islamic studies. This issue can also be easily resolved, which we shall elaborate in the next section. The clear understanding of the difference between the Quran and Sunnah is a major contribution of this School.

 

The Hadith and the Quran

 

The Scholars of the Farahi School have expounded that the Hadith must always be studied in light of the Quran. If this principle is ignored then there is a certain chance of major issues to brew up. Most of the differences between scholars, jurists and sects are because they do not approach the Hadith using the Quran. We shall explain this with an example.

 

Based on an understanding of a Hadith most scholars teach that drawing a picture of any living being is absolutely religiously prohibited in Islam. However, we live in a time where taking a picture is common and at times mandatory. We live in an age where moving pictures can be transmitted live over the internet all over the world. The very same scholars that in principle believe that drawing or taking pictures are prohibited are seen appearing on TV shows from time to time. Such contradicting preaching and practicing creates serious questions. We have explained in the previous section what authority hadith can have in religion. Now the question is, how do we correctly interpret the Hadith.

 

Lets’ take the previous example of drawing pictures further. According to classical scholars, it is prohibited because a Hadith says so. The Farahi School takes the stance that all issues relating to religious permission and prohibition of anything must be based on the Quran. Nowhere in the Quran does it say that drawing pictures is prohibited. Contrary to this it says that Solomon had pictures made for him in his court (Quran 34:13). Yes, the Quran does condemn and prohibit worshiping statues and pictures. Now when we analyze the Hadith in light of this information from the Quran we come to know that the Prophet (sws) prohibited the making or drawing pictures that were made for worship. Thus, we come to know that issue is not about making pictures in any way. The issue was to root out idolatry in every form. We also see today that pictures promote hyper-sexuality and obscenity. Thus, based on the directives of the Quran on modesty and decency such images shall be prohibited for Muslims. So one cannot deduce that pictures are religiously prohibited in principle. It is the use of pictures that shall be scrutinized.

 

Form the above example we saw a simple case were traditionally Hadith were used to prohibit something that was not essentially prohibited in the Quran. There many other serious and far-reaching issues that have been created because classically the Hadith were not studied in the light of the Quran. On the contrary, it has always been preached that Quran cannot be understood without the Hadith. Thus, the contribution of the Farahi School in this issue is very foundational and very important.

3. Sharia and Fiqh: Understanding the Difference

 

Another major aspect of Islamic scholarship is the understanding and application of Divine Law (Sharia). Through the generations, a huge amount of work has been put into understanding the Divine Laws, mentioned in the Quran. Different jurists have understood these Divine laws differently, based on the time and place they lived in. Some of the juristic opinions become popular and widely accepted. The process of understanding the Divine Law is called Fiqh (Jurisprudence). Unfortunately, in the Muslim tradition, the line between the Sharia and Fiqh has become so blurred that the two are used synonymously.

 

When we analyze the Quran and the Sunnah we come to know that religion is actually the propagation of some basic tenets and good moral conducts. The Quran refers to these as “Iman” and “‘Amal al Saleh”. To establish these in a person’s life, Allah has given us a few rituals and certain laws cornering social issues.  The rituals help establish the basic tenets of faith in a person’s daily life. There are some laws that are associated with these rituals such as the laws concerning the daily ritual prayers.  Similarly, the laws concerning social issues are meant to establish basic moral good in our daily practice. For example, Allah has given Muslim men and women some guidelines of how to interact with each other. Allah has also established some punishments for some moral crimes too, such as slandering and murder.

These laws have primarily been recorded in the Quran and Sunnah. The Laws in the Quran do not deal with a verity of issues but only some important ones. They are not too detailed either. The Laws of the Quran only touch on those sensitive issues that humans themselves could not have reached a firm moral conclusion and thus required Divine guidance. In almost all other matters of life, humans have the freedom to legislate according to their needs.

 

The Laws of the Quran are in themselves a miracle. It is astounding that laws that were given in a tribal age could be still applied in this information age without the slightest of change. That being said, humans face many issues in their daily lives mainly due to the change in society. This change required that the Laws of the Quran to be constantly applied in different contexts from time to time. This is a natural process. This is the other reason why Fiqh was necessary. Through the ages, Muslim scholars have compiled various valuable works on jurisprudence. These works contain their methodology, ideology and the conclusions they made after analyzing the Sharia to solve problems in their times. However, most of the times when Muslim scholars of the modern age try to answer issues pertaining to our times they simply refer back to some work Fiqh complied ages ago. They present those references as the Law of the Quran. This is a major issue as it distorts the comprehension of Divine law and religion as a whole and also makes the practice of religion almost impractical in the modern world. We shall see this in an example further in this section.

With that background, the next major contribution of the Farahi School has been to explain and emphasize the difference between Sharia and Fiqh. The scholars of the Farahi School have taken a step further and worked to make the Sharia present in the Quran accessible to everyone. They have taught and explained the Sharia as it is without any blemish of Fiqh, Philosophy or Mysticism. Javed Ahmad Ghamidi has presented his work and the work of his illustrious teachers, in his book “Meezan”. In it, he has presented and explained the Sharia directly for the Quran and Sunnah as it is. This book has 12 chapters out if which 10 deal with explaining the Sharia. The 10 chapters explain the Sharia of worship rituals, social issues, politics, economics, preaching, warfare, penal crimes, diet, social customs and keeping oaths. This contains the Sharia as present in the Quran and the Sunnah and as explained by the Prophet (sws) using the authenticated Hadith. This book does not contain the juristic injunctions of Javed Ahmad Ghamidi or his teacher or any other scholar. Thus, this book stands out in the Islamic tradition as the one place where any student can study the Sharia as it is in the Quraan and explained by the Prophet (sws).

 

The Hudood Ordinance

 

The Hudood Ordinance was introduced in Pakistan during President Zia Ul Haq’s rule. It was brought forth as an implementation of Islamic Law.  This law was highly debated form the day it was implemented. The national and international community questioned the rationale of the law. We shall look into one of the aspects of this law. This law stipulated that in matters of fornication or rape, murder, theft or any such crime the witness of women shall not be entertained.

 

When a law is presented as Islamic, it raises a great number of questions on the religion itself. The absurdities in the Hudood Ordinance are quite evident, along with it’s its severe implications. Imagine if a theft and murder take place in-house by a bunch of goons and the only witness to the crime are women then according to this their testimony shall not be accepted in such a case. To bring these criminals to justice and to accept the testimony of the women the case shall be tried under a separate penal code. The law implies that the law of God is incapable of bringing criminals to justice if a witness of the crime is a woman. It is evident that such a law will create serious questions on the very nature and logic of religion. Accusations on this law cannot be simply deemed as some conspiracy to undermine Islam and Muslims.

 

The reality of the Hudood Ordinance is that it was a Law based on Fiqh and not the Quran. Most people do not know and acknowledge the difference between Fiqh and Sharia, as the scholars of the Farahi School have pointed out. Thus whatever is presented to them as Islamic Law they consider it Divine. Consequently, those who were opposed to this law and called it as misogynistic, blame religion for preaching such doctrines. While those who try to defend these laws, defend it by simply claiming it to be God’s Law. However, the reality is that these laws are anything but divine and based on works of Fiqh of the past. These Fiqhi (jurisprudential) understanding might have worked in those times but the test of time have shown their many flaws. Now, they are next to impossible to implement and comprehend.

 

The real aspects of Islamic law have been made clear to us in the Quran and Sunnah. These laws deal with various crimes but no clause has been established in them about witnesses. The logical reality is that such a clause does not make sense either. We have discussed this very issue of witness in the section on the coherence of the Quran. We can understand that in matters of transactions a person can choose a witness of their own liking. This is not the case in an event of a criminal act. During a theft in a house, loot in a bank or a shooting in a public place, no one chooses to be a witness to the act, they just happen to be present there. In modern times, CCTV cameras and other surveillance devices serve as effective “witnesses”. Thus, it is evident that in such cases one cannot legislate on the gender, age, ethnicity or number of such witnesses. Such a legislation would be foolish and against the spirit of justice. Moreover, the Quran, Sunnah or Hadith does not prescribe any such restriction on witnesses.

 

The only case in which the Quran prescribes a condition on witnesses is the when a person slanders about a chaste man or woman, blaming them of fornication or prostitution. In such a case the claims of one or two people, medical reports or other pieces of evidence shall not be entertained according to the Quran. The Quran makes it a point that at least four people present themselves as witnesses that a person has committed the sin of fornication or taken up prostitution. Allah has placed a severe punishment for those who take up false witness, especially in case of slander.  The Quran thus protects innocent people from the mischievous slander of others. This is the only legislation about witnesses in the Quran.

4. Understanding Prophets and Messengers

 

The scholars of the Farahi School have been instrumental in explaining the differing roles and status of Prophets (Nabi) and Messengers (Rasul) of Allah. Understanding this difference is instrumental in explaining many trivial issues and has a profound effect on the comprehension of religion.

 

The Quran is the fundamental text in the religion of Islam. Imam Farahi and his students have made the Quran central in all their academic endeavors. This topic can also be understood easily from the Quran. According to these scholars, the difference between Messengers and Prophets is in the nature of their mission. A Prophet brings news of reward and punishment from Allah in consequence of accepting or rejecting His prescribed commands. A Messenger also brings news about reward and punishment from Allah about in consequence of accepting or rejecting His prescribed commands. However, a Messenger takes this a step further and establishes judgment from Allah about His reward and punishment in this very world. The Messenger has an extra job to prove that his message is actually from Allah. Thus, a Prophet is restricted to simply conveying warnings about the punishment of Hell and glad tidings about the rewards of Heaven. Those who ridicule and reject a Prophet’s warnings shall face the revulsions of Allah on Day of Judgment while those who accept their appeal, shall be rewarded by Allah. Some of these Prophets are raised to the status of being His Messengers. When Allah sends a Messenger to a certain people He rewards and punishes the addressees of the Messengers in this very world. This worldly reward and punishment happens only after a series of set phases of the mission of that Messenger. When Allah’s Messengers start their mission, they start with simply conveying the Message about their being a Messenger form Allah. They are given certain signs or miracles from Allah that they present to the people to establish that they are truly His Messengers. The Messengers of Allah keep warning and giving glad tidings to their people of Allah’s punishment and reward in the next life if they accept the Message of Tauhid (Oneness of Allah) and act upon His prescribed commands.  The Messengers keep conveying this Message over a period of time. During this time some people may accept his call while other might reject and ridicule it. Allah differentiates and separates the ones who accept this message and those who adamantly reject it during this period. The Messenger keeps using the signs and Miracles given by Allah to support his claims of being His true Messenger. The Messenger conveys the message to an extent that there remains no doubt that he is speaking the truth and that he is truly sent by Allah. Then Allah orders the Messenger to declare that those who still adamantly reject the Messenger even after surely knowing that he is truthful and that his message is actually form Allah, they shall be punished in this very world. Allah gives those who still arrogantly and adamantly reject His Messenger a final grace period to declare their acceptance of His Messenger. If they still are adamant on their rejection they shall be punished. They are then utterly destroyed and cleared from the face of the earth. Those among them, who accept and understand His Messenger to be true, are rewarded in this very world and are saved from that punishment. Their reward in this life authority in the land after Allah destroys those who rejected His Messengers. Thus, just as Allah would judge and then reward and punish people purely based on their deeds on the Day of Judgment; He does so in this very world when He sends a Messenger to a certain people. This worldly punishment and reward severs as a warning to other nations and future generations that Allah is truly the Lord of the Worlds and that one day all people shall have to account for their deeds in front of His. The missions of these Messengers serve as an eternal proof of the existence of God and His promise of a Final Judgment.

 

The Quran narrates the stories of Noah, ‘Aad, Thamud, the Pharaoh, Shoaib, Lot and other Messengers repeatedly to convey the fate of their people. This is because that the Quran was revealed on Muhammad (sws). He (sws) was the final Prophet and Messenger to be ever sent. He (sws) was sent specifically to the Quraysh and the Arabs of the Peninsula. Thus, these stories try to warn them that if they too arrogantly reject his (sws) message then they too shall meet the same fate. They shall be destroyed and rooted out as a punishment for their crimes against Allah’s Messenger. This punishment is brought upon the adamant rejecters in two forms. The first is by natural disasters in which Allah commands the forces of nature to release their wrath upon those people. The flood of Noah is one such example of this form of punishment. Thus, Allah uses the forces of nature to destroy and eliminate the adamant rejecters of His Messengers. The second form is when Allah commands the Messenger and his companions to root out and destroy the adamant disbelievers with their hands (i.e wage war against them). Allah used this form of punishment evidently against the adamant rejecters of the last Prophet Muhammad (sws). This form of punishment is mentioned in Surah Tauba (9) verse 14. It is known history that all most of all Arabia accepted the call of Islam during the Prophets Mission except for a few groups. These groups choose to wage war against the Messenger and his companions, even when it was evident that they are on the truth.  This process of punishment is only part of the mission of Allah’s Messengers. No one can get up and claim that they have the right to carry out this punishment in this day and time.

 

Thus, understanding the difference between the mission of a Prophet and a Messenger is very crucial. We shall discuss in the next section the distorted narrative of religion that has gained popularity due to not appreciating this difference. The scholars of the Farahi School have cleared off many complicated doubts by explaining this concept. Their contribution in this matter has challenged the traditional narrative of Islam and presented a coherent and logical narrative.

The Purpose of Life for a Muslim

 

In the beginning of the book, we discussed the confusion that this modern era has created for common Muslims with regards to their religion. We have disused how the scholars of the Farahi School have effectively developed a coherent perspective on religion thus solving much of the confusions. One such confusion is to understand the purpose of life for a Muslim. What are the obligations a Muslim must fulfill to guarantee the ultimate pleasure of Allah and consequently enter His heaven? This is a serious and foundational question for every sincere Muslim.

 

In the modern era, some major scholars analyzed the life of the Prophet Muhammad (sws) in detail. They observed that the Prophet (sws) started his mission in Arabia as a lone voice calling people to the truth. Gradually he (sws) brought up a huge revolution, the result of which led to the formation of the new well-established state.  These scholars, after their analysis, understood that working towards such an “Islamic” revolution is every Muslim’s obligation. The line of logic the use that since the Prophet (sws) is role model for every Muslim and the Quran commands every Muslims to obey him (sws); every Muslim must follow the life of the Prophet (sws) and try to bring about this revolution. They concluded that once such a revolution will take place, the result shall be the establishment of an “Islamic” state. For this purpose, Muslims should set up a group or join a group that is already working to achieve this “Islamic” revolution. These scholars present various verses of the Quran and hadith in support of their narrative. Thus according to this narrative, if a group of sincere Muslims put an effort to bring about an “Islamic” revolution then Allah will help them in their cause and they will be able to establish an “Islamic” state; just like what the Prophet Muhammad (sws) did. The reality is that this narrative is imposing its preconceived reading of historical events on the Quran and Hadith.

 

We have detailed in the previous section what the mission of a Messenger of Allah really is. It is not a human endeavor that receives divine help. Rather the Messenger of Allah is His representative on earth.  The Messenger’s mission is not to start a revolution, rather it is to convey Allah’s message to his people completely. We also discussed the reality of the worldly punishment and reward associated with this mission. Muhammad (sws) was a Messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets. We know that it is the practice of Allah that His Messenger and his companions shall ultimately prevail over the rebellious and adamant rejecters. What seemed to be a revolution to common eyes, was actually divine providence. Allah says in the Quran:

 

Allah has decreed, "Indeed I will definitely prevail; I and My Messengers." Surely Allah is Ever-Powerful, Ever-Mighty. [Quran 58:21]

 

It is He Who has sent His Messenger with Guidance and the Religion of Truth, that he may proclaim it over all religion, even though these Pagans may detest (it). [Quran 21:9]

 

The result of this divine supervision was that those who accept Islam were given the leadership of Arabia, while those who adamantly rejected were destroyed. The case with Muhammad (sws) was that most of Arabia accepted his message and he was naturally handed over their political authority. This political authority was the reward form Allah to the believers in this world. This is how Allah’s decree came to be, as mentioned the above verses. Thus, this event is a timeless testimony to how God raised a sole man to convey His message and judge them. When the world sees this, they see it as simply one man rising up and in a few decades time him and his small circle of companions establishing a great political entity. This event remains as an eternal testimony of the truth of Muhammad (sws) call. All the other religions of Arabia were cleared away and now only Islam prevailed. It must be noted that had there be no companion of the Messenger (sws) he would still have prevailed and Allah would still have destroyed the adamant disbelievers. Allah would have used the forces of nature to destroy them, as had previously done. Since the Messenger (sws) had enough followers, Allah meted out this worldly punishment through their hands. :

 

Fight them; Allah will punish them by your hands and will disgrace them and give you victory over them and satisfy the breasts of a group among the believing people. [Quran 9:14]

 

In the above verse clear victory is being promised to the believers. This has also been iterated in another place in the Quran :

 

Allah has promised those who have believed among you and done righteous deeds that He will surely grant them succession [of authority] upon the earth just as He had granted it to those before them and that He will surely establish for them their religion which He has preferred for them and that He will surely substitute for them, after their fear, security, [for] they worship Me, not associating anything with Me. But whoever disbelieves after that – then those are the defiantly disobedient. [Quran 24:55]

 

Thus, the life and mission of the Muhammad (sws) is that of Allah’s Messenger and not that of a mere divinely guided political or social leader. We come to see that this phenomenon of “Islamic” revolution has no religious basis. These verses do not even address the common Muslims but to the Messenger (sws) and his companions. Thus, establishing an Islamic State or bringing about an “Islamic” revolution cannot be deemed as the purpose of a Muslims life. Muhammad’s (sws) domination over Arabia was a divine decree that is specific to all Messengers of Allah. The only obligation of the Muslims is to understand and practice the religion that Muhammad (sws) taught and practiced. They must work on purifying their souls. They must try to promote good and interrupt evil in their surroundings. They must help the cause of Allah’s religion if they can in their capacity. These are the simple and only obligations on the Muslims.

 

Chapter 3: Farahi School of Thought: A New sect?

 

The reader might rightfully have some questions at this point. Are these scholars part of a new sect or are they some kind of innovators? Is there is any link between these scholars and the scholars of our classical tradition? Is a new sect being formed named as Farahi School of Thought?

 

Imam Farahi and his students are part of our traditional classical mode of learning. All the three scholars that have been mentioned here have been taught in the classical tradition by reputed scholars. The teachers of Imam Farahi include the great scholars Allama Shibli Noumani, Maulana Abdul Hai Firang Mahali and Maulana Faiz ul Hassan Saharanpuri. Imam Amin Ahsan completed his study at a traditional seminary and then went on to study with great hadith scholar Maulana Abdur Rahaman Mubarakpuri. Javed Ahamd Ghamidi studied the Dars an-Nizami syllabus under various traditional scholars along with his modern school education. He also went on to study some portions of the Hadith work “Sunan Darmi” with Maulana Ataallah Hanif. The work of these scholars shows that the Dars an-Nizami syllabus taught in the Madrasas is only a stepping stone. All these scholars have a foundation in the Dars an-Nizami. However, they are also part of the classical mode studying directly under a scholar specialized and general religious subjects. Thus these scholars have a strong background in the traditional classical mode of learning.

 

One must understand that sects only come in to being only when the works of scholars are believed or deemed to the final truth. Imam Farahi’s School can be credited with breaking the spell of blind faith and riving the classical spirit of inquiry and accepting the difference in opinion yet still maintain utmost respect of the various opinions.  It is this very tradition in which Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Abu Yusuf, Imam Muhammad, Imam Shafi’I, Imam Malik and Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal could differ in their opinions even though they were students of each other at some point of time. Similarly, the scholars of the Farahi School differ immensely with each other. Imam Amin Hasan differs on many points with Imam Farahi and Javed Ahmad Ghamidi differs from his teacher in various issues. The only thing that binds them are the foundational principles of understating the religion. The foundational principles on which they agree on is that the sole source of religion is person of the Final Prophet Muhammad (sws) and the two forms in which he established the religion, the Quran and Sunnah, are the final word on matters of religion. The Farahi School of thought welcomes differences of opinion and allows other to criticize their work. Thus, the Farahi School is rather a revivalist academic tradition and anything but a new sect.

 

It must be pointed out that there is nothing in the works of these scholars about morals, worship or basic beliefs that can be deemed as new in religion. They have only sought to explain these basic concepts with new vigor. The innovations that had crept into the religion were also dealt with based on the works of the traditional scholars in new light. One such example is the notion of “Islamic” revolution. Our traditional scholars did not present such a narrative of religion. We have seen how the works of the scholars of Farahi School cleared up this problem. This was a defense of the traditional point of view with better and stronger arguments to support it. There are only a few points in which the scholars of the Farahi School have a different opinion that the classical scholars. We have discussed some of these issues like that of taking pictures and the witness of women. When comparing the arguments of these scholars with that of the classical ones, it becomes clears that these differences only exist because the latter scholars did not consider some critical points and also they were influenced by the changing political and social climate around.

 

The contributions of the Farahi School are profound. In this age where the message of Islam shall reach and every household, it is paramount that this religion be understood as it is present in the Quran and Sunnah, without any additional lenses. From time to time Allah has raised people who strive to understand and teach His religion. In this age, Allah had taken this service from Imam Farahi and his students.

 

 

 

References

 

[1] Monthly Nadwa, December 1905
[2] Syed Suleiman Nadwi, Yaad e Raftagaan , pp. 124
[3] Majmua’ Tafaseer e Farahi, pp.30