Within the Sunni Muslim tradition, Hanafi is one of four “schools of law” and considered the oldest and most liberal school of law. Hanafi is one of the four schools of thought (madhabs / Maddhab) of religious jurisprudence (fiqh) within Sunni Islam. Named for its founder, the Hanafi school of Imam Abu Hanifa, it is the major school of Iraqi Sunni Arabs. It makes considerable use of reason or opinion in legal decisions. Sunni Hanafi creed is essentially non-hierarchial and decentralized, which has made it difficult for 20th century rulers to incorporate its religious leaders into strong centralized state systems.
The Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence was founded by Abu Hanifa, born in Kufa, Iraq about A.D.700. He was one of the earliest Muslim scholar-interpreters to seek new ways of applying Islamic tenets to everyday life. In his lifetime Abu Hanifa was disgraced, called ignorant, inventor of new beliefs, hypocrite and kafir. He was imprisoned and poisoned. He died in 150 A.H. [circa 767-768 C.E.]. Abu Hanifa’s interpretation of Muslim law was extremely tolerant of differences within Muslim communities. He also separated belief from practice, elevating belief over practice. Hanafi took Shafi as his rival and vice versa.
Most of the Hanafi school follows al-Maturidi in doctrine. Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Mahmud Abu Mansur al-Samarqandi al-Maturidi al-Hanafi (d. 333) of Maturid in Samarqand, Shaykh al-Islam, was one of the two foremost Imams of the mutakallimûn of Ahl al-Sunna. He was known in his time as the Imam of Guidance (Imâm al-Hudâ). The majority of the Taliban are Maturidis.
Broad-minded without being lax, this school appeals to reason (personal judgment) and a quest for the better. It is generally tolerant and the largest movement within Islam. The Hanafi school is known for its liberal religious orientation that elevates belief over practice and is tolerant of differences within Muslim communities.
A sectarian dispute in the United States was transformed into a mass hostage taking by Hanafi Muslims in Washington, DC in 1977. The Hanafi Movement in the United States was founded by Hamas Abdul Khaalis in 1968. Khaalis, formerly Ernest 2X McGee, had been the Nation of Islam’s first National Secretary and a friend of Malcolm X. He had converted to orthodox Islam and founded the Hanafi Movement with money donated by Kareem Abdul-Jabar. On 09 March 1977, Khaalis and about a dozen of his followers armed with shotguns and machetes seized control of seized the District Building [city hall], the B’nai B’rith building, and the Islamic Center, in the District of Columbia. Khaalis said they were seeking revenge for the murders of Khaalis’ family members by Black Muslims in 1973. They held 134 hostages for more than 39 hours, they shot Washington DC city councilman Marion Barry in the chest, and they shot a radio reporter dead. The standoff ended and the hostages were freed after ambassadors from three Islamic nations joined the negotiations. The Hanafis were convicted and sentenced to long terms in prison.
Hanafi scholars refuse to control a human religious or spiritual destiny, and refuse to give that right to any human institution. Among the Hudud crimes, those crimes against God, blasphemy is not listed by the Hanafis. Hanafis concluded that blasphemy could not be punished by the state. The state should not be involved in deciding God-human relationships. Rather, the state should be concerned only with the violation of human rights within the jurisdiction of the human affairs and human relationships.
Notwithstanding their common heritage from Imam Abu Hanifah, the scholars belonging to the Hanafi madhhab are divided in the Barelvi and the Deobandi school, and these two schools have different attitude toward Wahhabism.
The Sunni Hanafi school is dominant in the Arab Middle East, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The followers of Imam Abu Hanifa (d. 767) are found in Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, China, North Africa, Egypt, and in the Malay Archipelago. The school is followed by the majority of the Muslim population of Turkey, Albania, the Balkans, Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, India and Iraq. Most of the Kyrgyz are Sunni Muslims of the Hanafi school. Ethnic Kazakhs, who constitute approximately one half of the national population, historically are Sunni Muslims of the Hanafi School. Ethnic Uzbeks, Uyghurs, and Tatars, comprising less than 10 percent of the population, also largely are Sunni Hanafi. Other Islamic groups, which account for less than 1 percent of the population of Kazakhstan, include Shafit Sunni (traditionally practiced by Chechens), Shiite, Sufi, and Akhmadi.
Sunni are found throughout Afghanistan. An estimated 84% of Afghanistan’s population is Sunni, following the Hanafi school of jurisprudence; the remainder is predominantly Shi’a, mainly Hazara. In March 2003 Ayatollah Mohammad Asef Mohseni, leader of the predominantly Shia Harakat-e Islami-yi Afghanistan, proposed that, along with the Sunni Hanafi school of jurisprudence, the Shia Ja’fari school of jurisprudence be included in the new constitution as an official sect.
In the state of Punjab, some time around 1953, there were disturbances which led to the call by many ulamaks that the Ahmadis movement be declared as deviant and their followers were therefore infidels or kafirs. An inquiry was constituted under the Punjab Act II 1954. It was headed by Justice Munir.
Justice Munir cleverly opined that in order to punish people for alleged apostasy, there must be a standard methodology to ascertain whether a person is a Muslim. Justice Munir put it thus:
“The question, therefore, whether a person is or is not a Muslim will be of fundamental importance, and it was for this reason that we asked most of the leading ulama to give their definition of a Muslim, the point being that if the ulama of the various sects believed the Ahmadis to be kafirs, they must have been quite clear in their minds not only about the grounds of such belief but also about the definition of a Muslim because the claim that a certain person or community is not within the pale of Islam implies on the part of the claimant an exact conception of what a Muslim is.”
He then sets out to ask what, in the opinion of several ulamaks, were the “irreducible minimum conditions which a person must satisfy to be entitled to be called a Muslim.” Here are some of their answers.
Maulana Abul Hasanat Muhammad Ahmad Qadri, President, Jami’at-ul-Ulamai, Pakistan:
Q: What is the definition of a Muslim?
A: (1) He must believe in the Unity of God.
(2) He must believe in the prophet of Islam to be a true prophet as well as in all other prophets who have preceded him,
(3) He must believe in the Holy Prophet of Islam as the last of the prophets (khatam-un-nabiyin).
(4) He must believe in the Quran as it was revealed by God to the Holy Prophet of Islam.
(5) He must believe as binding on him the injunctions of the Prophet of Islam.
(6) He must believe in the qiyamat.
Q: Is a tarik-us-salat a Muslim?
A: Yes, but not a munkir-us-salat”
Maulana Ahmad Ali, President, Jami’at-ul-Ulama-i-Islam, Maghribi Pakistan:
Q: Please define a Muslim?
A: A person is a Muslim if he believes (1) in the Quran and (2) what has been said by the prophet. Any person who possesses these two qualifications is entitled to be called a Muslim without his being required to believe in anything more or to do anything more.
Maulana Abul Ala Maudoodi, Amir Jama’at-i-Islami:
Q: Please define a Muslim?
A: A person is a Muslim if he believes (1) in tauheed, (2) in all the prophets (ambiya), (3) all the books revealed by God, (4) in mala’ika (angels), and (5) yaum-ul-akhira (the Day of Judgment).
Q: Is a mere profession of belief in these articles sufficient to entitle a man to call himself a Musalman and to be treated as a Musalman in an Islamic state?
Q: If a person says that he believes in all these things, does anyone have a right to question the existence of his belief?
A: The five requisites that I have mentioned above are fundamental and any alteration in anyone of these articles will take him out of the pale of Islam.
Ghazi Siraj-ud-Din Munir:
Q: Please define a Muslim?
A: I consider a man to be a Muslim if he professes his belief in the kalima, namely, La Ilaha Illalah-o-Muhammad-ur-Rasulullah, and leads a life in the footsteps of the Holy Prophet.
Mufti Muhammad Idris, Jamia Ashrafia, Nila Gumbad, Lahore:
Q: Please give the definition of a Musalman?
A: The word “Musalman” is a Persian one. There is a distinction between the word “Musalman” which is a Persian word for Muslim and the word “momin”. It is impossible for me to give a complete definition of the word “momin”. I would require pages and pages to describe what a momin is. A person is a Muslim who professes to be obedient to Allah. He should believe in the Unity of God, prophethood of the ambiya and in the Day of Judgment. A person who does not believe in the azan or in the qurbani goes outside the pale of Islam. Similarly, there are a large number of other things which have been received by tavatir from our prophet. In order to be a Muslim, he must believe in all these things. It is almost impossible for me to give a complete list of such things.
Hafiz Kifayat Hussain, Idara-i-Haquq-i-Tahaffuz-i-Shia:
Q: Who is a Musalman?
A: A person is entitled to be called a Musalman if he believes in (1) tauheed, (2) nubuwwat and (3) qiyamat. These are the three fundamental beliefs which a person must profess to be called a Musalman. In regard to these three basic doctrines there is no difference between the Shias and the Sunnis. Besides the belief in these three doctrines, there are other things called “zarooriyat-i-din” which a person must comply with in order to be entitled to be called a Musalman. These will take me two days to define and enumerate. But as an illustration I might state that the respect for the Holy Book, wajoob-i-nimaz, wajoob-i-roza, wajoob-i-hajj-ma’a-sharait, and other things too numerous to mention are among the “zarooriyat-i-din”
Maulana Abdul Hamid Badayuni, president, Jami’at-ul-Ulama-i-Pakistan:
Q: Who is a Musalman according to you?
A: A person who believes in the zarooriyat-i-din is called a momin and every momin is entitled to be called a Musalman.
Q: What are these zarooriyat-i-din?
A: A person who believes in the five pillars of Islam and who believes in the rasalatof our Holy Prophet fulfils the zarooriyat-i-din.
Q: Have other actions, apart from the five arakan, anything to do with a man being a Muslim or being outside the pale of Islam?
(Note — Witness has been explained that by actions are meant those rules of moral conduct which in modern society are accepted as correct.)
Q: Then you will not call a person a Muslim who believes in arakan-ikhamsa and the rasalat of the prophet but who steals other people’s things, embezzles property entrusted to him, has an evil eye on his neighbour’s wife and is guilty of the grossest ingratitude to his benefactor?
A: Such a person, if he has the belief already indicated, will be a Muslim despite all this.
Maulana Muhammad Ali Kandhalvi, Darush-Shahabia, Sialkot:
Q: Please define a Musalman?
A: A person who in obedience to the commands of the prophet performs all the zarooriyat-i-din is a Musalman.
Q: Can you define zarooriyat-i-din?
A: Zarooriyat-i-din are those requirements which are known to every Muslim irrespective of his religious knowledge.
Q: Can you enumerate zarooriyat-i-din?
A: These are too numerous to be mentioned. I myself cannot enumerate these zarooriyat. Some of the zarooriyat-i-din may be mentioned as salat, saum, etc.
Maulana Amin Ahsan Islahi:
Q: Who is a Musalman?
A: There are two kinds of Musalmans, a political (siyasi) Musalman and a real (haqiqi) Musalman. In order to be called a political Musalman, a person must:
(1) believe in the Unity of God,
(2) believe in our Holy Prophet being khatam-un-nabiyin, i.e. “final authority” in all matters relating to the life of that person,
(3) believe that all good and evil comes from Allah,
(4) believe in the Day of Judgment,
(5) believe in the Quran to be the last book revealed by Allah,
(6) perform the annual pilgrimage to Mecca,
(7) pay the zaka’at,
(8) say his prayers like the Musalmans,
(9) observe all apparent rules of Islami mu’ashira, and
(10) observe the fast (saum).
If a person satisfies all these conditions he is entitled to the rights of a full citizen of an Islamic state. If anyone of these conditions is not satisfied, the person concerned will not be a political Musalman.
(Again said) It would be enough for a person to be a Musalman if he merely professes his belief in these 10 matters irrespective of whether he puts them into practice or not. In order to be a real Musalman, a person must believe in and act on all the injunctions by Allah and his prophet in the manner in which they have been enjoined upon him.
Q: Will you say that only the real Musalman is “mard-i-saleh”?
Q: Do we understand you a right that in the case of what you have called a political (siyasi) Musalman, belief alone is necessary, while in the case of a haqiqi Musalman there must not only be belief but also action?
A: No, you have not understood me a right. Even in the case of a political (siyasi) Musalman action is necessary but what I mean to say is that if a person does not act upon the belief that is necessary in the case of such a Musalman, he will not be outside the pale of a political (siyasi) Musalman.
Q: If a political (siyasi) Musalman does not believe in things which you have stated to be necessary, will you call such a person “be-din”?
A: No, I will call him merely “be-amal”.
The definition by the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiya, Rabwah, in its written statement, is that a Muslim is a person who belongs to the ummat of the Holy Prophet and professes belief in kalima-i-tayyaba.” End quote.
In the light of the multitude of answers given to the very basic question of who is a Muslim, which question should be able to be answered with clarity if we are to regard that Islam is a universal religion and faith, Justice Munir unsurprisingly concluded:
“Keeping in view the several definitions given by the ulama, need we make any comment except that no two learned divines are agreed on this fundamental. If we attempt our own definition as each learned divine has done and that definition differs from that given by all others, we unanimously go out of the fold of Islam. And if we adopt the definition given by any one of the ulama, we remain Muslims according to the view of that alim but kafirs according to the definition of every one else.”
What is clear from the above is that no two ulamaks could even agree on the basic question, namely, what constitutes a Muslim. Rationally that is not surprising. Islam is a faith. Being a faith, how could it be reduced to a set of “irreducible minimums”, stereotyped and pigeon-holed? How could faith and the way the faith is arrived at and practised be formulated by a set of people and forced upon the masses of professing that faith?
That is the real question. That is the issue facing Islam and Muslims in Malaysia particularly and in the world generally.
Now, if we could not even agree on what constitutes Islam and a Muslim, how and on what premise do we proceed to declare that a person or a group of persons to be unIslamic, lesser Muslim, deviant or an apostate?
Which takes me to the Amman Message. It says, among others, the following:
“Circa 2004, H.M. King Abdullah II of Jordan sent the following three questions to 24 of the most senior religious scholars from all around the world representing all the branches and schools of Islam: (1) Who is a Muslim? (2) Is it permissible to declare someone an apostate (takfir)? (3) Who has the right to undertake issuing fatwas (legal rulings)?
Based on the fatwas provided by these great scholars (who included the Shaykh Al-Azhar; Ayatollah Sistani and Sheikh Qaradawi), in July 2005, King Abdullah II convened an international Islamic conference of 200 of the world’s leading Islamic scholars (ulama) from 50 countries. In Amman, the scholars unanimously issued a ruling on three fundamental issues (which became known as the “Three Points of the Amman Message”):
They specifically recognised the validity of all eight Mathhabs (legal schools) of Sunni, Shi’a and Ibadhi Islam; of traditional Islamic Theology (Ash’arism); of Islamic Mysticism (Sufism), and of true Salafi thought, and came to a precise definition of who is a Muslim.
Based upon this definition they forbade takfir (declarations of apostasy) between Muslims.
Based upon the Mathahib they set forth the subjective and objective preconditions for the issuing of fatwas, thereby exposing ignorant and illegitimate edicts in the name of Islam.”
(The full message can be viewed here).
“These three points were unanimously adopted by all the members of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference summit at Mecca in December 2005. And over a period of one year from July 2005 to July 2006, the Three Points were also unanimously adopted by six other international Islamic scholarly assemblies, culminating with the International Islamic Fiqh Academy of Jeddah, in July 2006. In total, over 500 leading Muslim scholars worldwide unanimously endorsed the Amman Message and its Three Points.”
Malaysia is of course an OIC member. In fact, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, while being our PM, was the chairman of the OIC. Among the 500 “leading Muslim scholars” who “endorsed the Amman Message” are:
• H.E. Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
• Dr (sic) Anwar Ibrahim
Former Deputy Prime Minister
• Datuk Dr Abdul Hamid Othman
Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister
• Prof Dr Kamal Hasan
President of the Islamic International University, Kuala Lumpur
• Prof Dr Mohammad Hashim Kamali
Dean of the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation
• Mr Shahidan Kasem
First Minister of Perlis State, Malaysia
• Mr. Khayri Jamal Al-Din (sic) — (presumably this means YB Khairy Jamaluddin)
Deputy chairman for the Youth sector, the United Malays National Organisation
• Dr Salih Qadir Karim Al-Zanki
International Islamic University
(See the full list here).
As a country which adopted and endorsed the Amman Message, we should at all time perform such endorsement and not act in any way which would go against our said endorsement. We should not at any rate breach our promise, undertaking and commitment.
After all, Islam is our official religion. Some of our leaders have even declared that Malaysia is an “Islamic country”. As far as I understand, Islam demands that all our promises be performed. Islam also demands honesty.
How then do we reconcile our endorsement of the Amman Message with our various acts, almost on a daily basis, of questioning other people’s faith and the way they practise their faith?
“But for the grace of Allah upon thee (Muhammad), and His mercy, a party of them had resolved to mislead thee, but they will mislead only themselves and they will hurt thee not at all. Allah revealeth unto thee the Scripture and wisdom, and teacheth thee that which thou knewest not. The grace of Allah toward thee hath been infinite.
“There is no good in much of their secret conferences save (in) him who enjoineth almsgiving and kindness and peace-making among the people. Whoso doeth that, seeking the good pleasure of Allah, We shall bestow on him a vast reward.” (An-Nisa, verse 113 and 114 — translation by Pickthal)
The controversy caused by Ustaz Zamihan Mat Zain, a senior officer of Jakim, last week over the visit to Malaysia by Sheikh Dr Abdul Rahman Ibn Abdul Aziz As-Sudais, the Grand Imam of Masjidil Haram, brings to the fore the propensity of some Muslim ulamaks to label their Muslim brothers and sisters as unIslamic, deviants and even non-Muslims or apostates.
Such self-righteous and purely holier-than-thou acts are almost a daily act in the Muslim world in general. Malaysia, as is obvious, is not an exception.
According to a The Malaysian Insider report last week, Zamihan branded the visiting grand imam a “Wahabi”. He added further that the Wahabi’s methodology is often repugnant to and inconsistent with the administration of Islam in Malaysia.
This is not the first time Zamihan had caused a storm over the Wahabi issue. Zamihan’s antagonistic stance against Dr Mohd Asri, the former mufti of Perlis, whom he accuses as a follower and practitioner of the Wahabi school is well known. He even accuses the former Perlis Menteri Besar Tan Sri Shahidan Kassim and Abdul Hadi Awang as being “connected” to Wahabism in a police report which he lodged last year.
The controversy prompted Jakim to issue a statement denying that the visiting grand imam was attempting to spread Wahabism here through his visit.
With all due respect, Jakim misses the point.
The point is not whether so and so is a Wahabi or trying to spread Wahabism in Malaysia. The real point is whether it is right for a Muslim to judge another fellow Muslim in respect of his faith; his belief, his way of practising his faith and generally his “Islam-ness.”
If the grand imam of Masjidil Haram could be judged and insinuated as a person whose Islam-ness is not acceptable, how about people like me and millions others in Malaysia?
It is a fact that in Malaysia we have daily doses of ulamaks going on a religious rampage. This is not correct. That is not Islamic. This person is a lesser Muslim. That person is not a Muslim. This group is kosher. That group is deviant.
The question is, wouldn’t God be the best creature to judge His followers’ faith to Him rather than mere mortals?
Despite the Federal Constitution expressly, by Article 11, granting the right to every person — as opposed to only citizens of Malaysia — to “profess and practise his religion”, our Islamic authority, namely Jakim, issuing a fatwa on May 5, 1996 that “Malaysia must only follow the teachings of Islam based on the doctrine of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah on creed, religious laws and ethics.” It also decided (for all Muslims in Malaysia) that “all Muslims in this country are bound to Islamic Laws and Religious Laws based on the teachings of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah only.”
In so far as the Shiite school is concerned, apparently there was a decision by the Fatwa Committee Muzakarah (Conference) held on September 24-25, 1984 [Paper No. 2/8/84, Article 4.2. (2) that only the Zaidiyyah and Jaafariyyah Shi’ite sects are accepted to be practised in Malaysia.
However, on May 5, 1996, at the 40th Special Muzakarah (Conference) of the Fatwa Committee of the National Council for Islamic Religious Affairs Malaysia, the 1984 decision was overturned. The full 1996 ruling can be viewed here.
That brings us a wholly ridiculous situation. Does that mean that between September 25, 1984 and May 5, 1996, Shi’ism was legal in Malaysia? Does that also mean that the 1984 muzakarah was wrong in its pronouncement? If the 1984 muzakarah was wrong in 1984, what guarantee is there that the 1996 muzakarah was right?
Recently we had another utterly incomprehensible situation. Some of you might have read that on Ashura day last year, namely on December 16, 2010, some 200 Malaysians were detained for practising “Shi’ism”. This brought international concerns that Malaysia is practising some kind of religious apartheid.
However that did not end there. Not long after that, there was a clarification. When it was pointed out that Iranians who visited and in fact are staying in Malaysia are all practising Shi’ism, our authority quickly issued an exemption. Apparently it is all right for them (the Iranians) to do so in Malaysia. This of course is totally inconsistent with the fact that Malaysians are prohibited from doing so.
So, arising from that, we have two type of Islam in Malaysia, in so far as Shi’sm is concerned. We have an “international Islam” where foreigners can practise Shi’ism in Malaysia. Then we have a “localised” and probably even “parochial Islam” where Shi’ism is not allowed. Shi’ism also appeared to be okay from 1984 but deemed not okay from 1996.
(On a different subject, this inconsistency and obviously pragmatic approach towards Islam is also obvious in the “Al-Kitab” ruling where it seems that Christians in Sabah and Sarawak may have the Bahasa Malaysia Bible while in the peninsula, they cannot do so.)
The irrationality of the argument that Dr Abdul Rahman Ibn Abdul Aziz As-Sudais (the Grand Imam of Masjidil Haram) is a Wahabi and therefore he is a lesser Muslim — and probably not even a Muslim, in the eyes of those who belong to Ahli Sunnah wal Jamaah school — arrives at a climactic paradox when we consider that all of us from Malaysia, upon performing our pilgrimage in Mecca, would have to pray at the Masjidil Haram where the prayer sessions will be led by the grand imam himself or some other imams from Saudi Arabia, who obviously will be a Wahabi himself.
In fact, the whole of Saudi Arabia is a Wahabi country. How do we, as Muslims, reconcile that with the decree from our ulamaks that Wahabis are inconsistent with the school which we are supposed to mandatorily follow, namely, the Ahlil Sunnah wal Jamaah?
Don’t get me wrong. I am not promoting Wahabism, Shi’ism or whatever. I am also not saying that group or this group is right or wrong. I am just trying to rationalise our act in judging people with whom we seem to disagree as a lesser Muslim, unIslamic, deviant or even an apostate. Art Harun