Umdat al-Salik or the Reliance of the Traveller is the classical manual of Islamic Law (also referred to as Sacred Law or Sharia Law) of the Shafi’i school of Islamic Jurisprudence (fiqh). It was compiled in the mid 14th century by Ahmad ibn an-Naqib al-Misri. The 1991 translation by the American convert Nuh Ha Mim Keller has been certified by al-Azhar University in Cairo as “conforming to the faith and practice of the orthodox Sunni Community”.
(See HERE for details of online availability)
It is worth noting, to avoid confusion, that although Keller’s translation is called the “Reliance of the Traveller” the mediaeval text by al-Misri only constitutes books E to O and even then section o25, The Caliphate, was added by Keller. The other books consist of various other material including texts of fiqh by other authors and commentary by Keller.
Sections of the text are précised below but direct quotes are marked as such. The translater’s and other commentators’ additions are mostly left unidentified in order to avoid confusing clutter. [My comments look like this].
Here is a selection of items likely to be of particular interest to non-Muslims (and women, children, apostates, thieves, drinkers, prisoners of war, dog lovers, artists, musicians, singers, dancers, comedians, scientists, transvestites, homosexuals and fornicators).
Book E – Purification
e.4.3 “Circumcision is obligatory for both men and women. For men it consists of removing the prepuce from the penis, and for women, removing the prepuce (bazr) of the clitoris (not the clitoris itself, as some mistakenly assert). (Hanbalis hold that circumcision of women is not obligatory but sunna [ie exemplary], while Hanafis consider it a mere courtesy to the husband).”
[however, the linguist and Anglican pastor Mark Durie claims that “bazr” does indeed mean the clitoris]
Going to the lavatory
e9.1 “It is recommended when one intends to use the lavatory:”
(6) “to enter with the left foot first and depart with the right foot first”
e14.0 FILTH (NAJASA)
e14.7 Something that becomes impure by contact with something from dogs or swine does not become pure except by being washed seven times, one of which (recommended not to be the last) must be with purifying earth mixed with purifying water,
Book F – The Prayer (Salat)
f1.3 Someone raised among Muslims who denies the obligatoriness of the prayer, zakat, fasting Ramadan, the pilgrimage, or the unlawfulness of wine and adultery, or denies something else upon which there is scholarly consensus thereby becomes an unbeliever (kafir) and is executed for his unbelief.
f1.4 A Muslim who holds the prayer to be obligatory but through lack of concern neglects to perform it until its proper time is over has not committed unbelief. Rather, he is executed, washed, prayed over, and buried in the Muslims’ Cemetery.
Book G – The Funeral Prayer
g4.20 “It is unlawful to wash the body of a martyr or perform the funeral prayer over him. A martyr (shahid) means someone who died in battle with non-Muslims. It is recommended that war gear be removed from the body and it is best to bury the martyr in the rest of his bloodstained clothes since it is the effect of worship.”
[thus allowing the Imams who refused to pray over the London Bridge jihadis’ bodies to fool the kuffar, details HERE].
Book H – Zakat
h8.7 “It is obligatory to distribute one’s zakat [mandatory charitable giving] among eight categories of recipients”:
h8.8-18 The poor, people short of money, those who collect and distribute zakat, “those whose hearts are to be reconciled” [ie of wavering faith], slaves purchasing their freedom, those in debt, “those fighting for Allah” and “the traveller in need of money”.
h8.24 “It is not permissible to give zakat to a non-Muslim”.
Book K – Trade
k32.0 Manumission [ie the freeing of slaves]
[The translater leaves this section about slavery untranslated because “the issue is no longer current”. That strongly implies then that he considers the rest of the contents of the book to be still current.]
Book M – Marriage
Guardians Who May Marry A Virgin To A Man Without Her Consent
m3.13 (2) Whenever the bride is a virgin, the father or father’s father may marry her to someone without her permission, though it is recommended to ask her permission if she has reached puberty. A virgin’s silence is considered as permission.
Book N – Divorce
n9.2 A waiting period [to determine pregnancy or otherwise] is obligatory for a woman divorced after intercourse, whether the husband and wife are prepubescent, have reached puberty, or one has and the other has not.
[therefore intercourse with prepubescent girls is quite lawful]
Book O – Justice
Who Is Subject To Retaliation For Injurious Crimes
o1.2 The following are not subject to retaliation:
(2) “a Muslim for killing a non-Muslim”
(3) a dhimmi for killing an apostate
(4) a parent for killing their child or grandchild
[thereby excusing honour killings of girls who have become too westernised]
o4.9 The indemnity for an accidental death of a woman is half that for a man. For a Jew or Christian it is one third, and for a Zoroastrian one fifteenth, of that for a Muslim.
Apostasy From Islam (Ridda)
o8.1 “When a person who has reached puberty and is sane voluntarily apostatizes from Islam, he deserves to be killed”.
Acts That Entail Leaving Islam:
o8.7 (1) “to prostrate to an idol”
(2) “to intend to commit unbelief, even if in the future”
(4) “to revile Allah or his Messenger”.
(6) “to be sarcastic about Allah’s name”
(7) to deny any verse of the Koran or to add any to it
(11) to accuse a Muslim of unbelief [ie takfir] incorrectly
[a serious matter because one of the parties will necessarily be considered an apostate]
(14) “to deny the obligatory character of something which by the consensus of Muslims is part of Islam”
(17) “to believe that things in themselves or their own nature have any causal influence independent of the will of Allah”
[perhaps explaining the dearth of great Muslim scientists, despite the myth of the Golden Age]
(18) “to deny the existence of angels or jinn, or the heavens”
(19) “to be sarcastic about any ruling of the Sacred Law”
[ie anything in the Reliance]
(20) “to deny that Allah intended the Prophet’s message to be the religion followed by the entire world”
[thereby mandating Islamic supremacism].
o9.0 “Jihad means to war against non-Muslims, and is etymologically derived from the word mujahada, signifying warfare to establish the religion. And it is the lesser jihad. As for the greater jihad, it is spiritual warfare against the lower self (nafs).”
[NB section o9.0 was not in the original Reliance but comes from a 19th century commentary by Umar Barakat added by the translater. The idea of “the greater jihad” comes solely from a particular hadith which is considered weak or fabricated.]
The Obligatory Character Of Jihad
o9.1 “Jihad is a communal obligation. When enough people perform it to successfully accomplish it, it is no longer obligatory upon others.”
“He who provides the equipment for a soldier in jihad has himself performed jihad.”
The Objectives Of Jihad
o9.8 “The caliph makes war upon Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians until they become Muslim or else pay the non Muslim poll tax [ie jizya].”
o9.9 “The caliph fights all other peoples until they become Muslim.”
[ie they have no escape by paying the jizya since they are not “people of the book”]
The Rules Of Warfare
o9.13 “When a child or a woman is taken captive, they become slaves by the fact of capture, and the woman’s previous marriage is immediately annulled.”
o9.14 When an adult male is taken captive the caliph decides between the prisoner’s death, slavery, release or ransoming.
o9.16 Umar Barakat explains that truces are only ever temporary, for the benefit of the Muslim war effort, since it is “a matter of the gravest consequence because it entails the non-performance of jihad”.
Non-Muslim Subjects Of The Islamic State (Ahl Al Dhimma)
o11.1 An agreement of protection is made with People of the Book.
o11.2 The 20th century commentator, Abd al-Wakil Durubi, tells us that idol worshippers and followers of “cults which have appeared since Islam” such as Sikhs, Baha’is, Mormons, Qadiani [ie Ahmadis] do not qualify as People of the Book.
o11.3 Dhimmis [ie protected people (in a state of dhimmitude)] must follow the rules of Islam and pay a poll tax (jizya).
o11.5 The rules include:
(2) wearing distinctive dress
(4) keeping to the side of the street
(5) not building as high as Muslim buildings
(6) not openly displaying signs of their religions
(7) not building new churches.
o11.10 The agreement is also violated (if the state has stipulated any of the following conditions) when a non-Muslim:
(1) commits adultery with or marries a Muslim woman
(3) leads a Muslim away from Islam
(5) mentions something impermissible about Allah, the Prophet or Islam
[ie what is apostasy for a Muslim is blasphemy for a Non-Muslim]
o11.11 When a dhimmi violates the agreement the caliph chooses between the same four options for prisoners of war detailed in o9.14, death, slavery, release or ransoming.
The Penalty For Fornication Or Sodomy
o12.2 The penalty for a person considered able to remain chaste (ie validly married) is stoning to death. The penalty for a person not considered able to remain chaste (including someone who is prepubescent at the time of marital intercourse) is scourging with 100 stripes and banishment for a year.
[again we see that intercourse with a pre-pubescent girl is lawful]
o12.6 “A pregnant woman is not stoned until she gives birth and the child can suffice with the milk of another”.
The Penalty For Theft
o14.1 A person’s right hand is amputated. If a person steals again his left foot is amputated, a third time the left hand is amputated, a fourth time the right foot is amputated.
The Penalty For Highway Robbery
o15.0 The caliph is obliged to summon whoever uses a weapon and makes people afraid to use the road…If he steals the equivalent of 1.058 grams of gold [ie a quarter of a dinar] both his right hand and left foot are amputated.
[this is pretty rich considering Mohammed began his career in Medina as a caravan raider]
The Penalty For Drinking
o16.3 “The penalty for drinking is to be scourged forty stripes with hands, sandals, and ends of clothes. It may be administered with a whip, but if the offender dies, an indemnity is due for his death”.
Witnessing And Testifying
o24.9 “If testimony concerns fornication or sodomy then it requires four male witnesses (who testify, in the case of fornication, that they have seen the offender insert the head of his penis into her vagina)”.
o24.10 “If testimony concerns things which men do not typically see (but women do), such as childbirth, then it is sufficient to have two male witnesses, a man and two women, or four women”.
o25.4 The Caliphate may be legally effected by three means:
(1) “by an oath of fealty”
(2) “by the caliph appointing a successor”
(3) “through seizure of power by an individual possessing the qualities of a caliph”.
o25.5 It is obligatory to obey the commands of the caliph even if he is unjust because of the hadith “Hear and obey, even if the ruler placed over you is an Ethiopian slave with amputated extremities”.
[NB The following sections are not from the original Reliance but taken from elsewhere in the Islamic tradition and added by the translater].
Book P – Enormities
Masculine Women And Effeminate Men
p28.1 “The Prophet said”:
(1) “Men are already destroyed when they obey women”
[didn’t Mohammed get his first break working for a woman, Khadija his future wife?]
(2) “The Prophet cursed effeminate men and masculine women”
(3) “The Prophet cursed men who wear women’s clothing and women who wear men’s”.
p44.1 “The Prophet said”:
(1) “Every maker of pictures will go to the fire, where a being will be set upon him for every picture he made, to torment him in hell”.
Book Q – Commanding The Right And Forbidding The Wrong
q0.2 “Commanding the right and forbidding the wrong is the most important fundamental of the religion…If it were folded up and put away, religion itself would vanish, dissolution appear, and whole lands come to ruin”.
q2.3 “Some scholars stipulate that the person delivering the censure must have permission to do so from the caliph…This is untrue, for the Koranic verses and hadiths all indicate that whoever sees something wrong and does nothing has sinned”.
[thereby sanctioning vigilantism]
q5.0 The Act Of Censuring
q5.1 The censure has various degrees of severity:
q5.3 Explaining That Something Is Wrong
q5.4 Forbidding The Act Verbally
q5.5 Censuring With Harsh Words
q5.6 Righting The Wrong By Hand “such as by breaking musical instruments”
q5.7 Intimidation by making realistic threats
q5.8 Assault “to directly hit or kick the person”
q5.9 Force of arms “when one is unable to censure the act by oneself and requires the armed assistance of others”.
Book R – Holding One’s Tongue
r2.2 “Slander means to mention anything concerning a person that he would dislike”.
[ie truth is no defence]
r8.2 “Speaking is a means to achieve objectives. If a praiseworthy aim is attainable through both telling the truth and lying, it is unlawful to accomplish through lying because there is no need for it. When it is possible to achieve such an aim by lying but not by telling the truth, it is permissible to lie if attaining the goal is permissible and obligatory to lie if the goal is obligatory”.
[What would be an example of an obligatory goal? See “The Obligatory Character Of Jihad”, section o9.1 above.]
r19.2 “Excessive joking is blameworthy and forbidden, since it eliminates one’s dignity and reserve…It also causes immoderate laughter, which kills the heart”.
Music, Song and Dance
r40.1 “The Prophet said”:
(2) “On the Day of Resurrection, Allah will pour molten lead into the ears of whoever sits listening to a songstress”
r40.2 “It is unlawful to use musical instruments – such as those which drinkers are known for, like the mandolin, lute, cymbals, and flute – or to listen to them”
r40.4 “It is not prohibited to dance…unless it is languid, like the movements of the effeminate”.
Book W – Notes And Appendices
Women’s Obligatory Clothing
w23.1 “The nakedness of a woman that she is forbidden to reveal differs in the Shafi’i school according to different circumstances. In the privacy of the home, her nakedness is that which is between the navel and knees. In the prayer it means everything besides the face and hands. And when outside the home on the street, it refers to the entire body”.
Things That Are Not Inconsistent With The Acceptance Of Fate
w59.2 “And this clarifies the Koranic verses and hadiths about hatred for the sake of Allah and love for the sake of Allah, being unyielding towards the unbelievers, hard against them, and detesting them, while accepting the destiny of Allah Most High insofar as it is the decree of Allah Mighty and Majestic”.
[hence the doctrine of Al Wala’ Wal Bara’ (Love and Hate for Allah’s Sake)]
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Suppose you found this book in the street, never having heard of Islam. I suggest you would likely be repulsed by the cruelty and viciousness displayed toward so many categories of people, including yourself as a non-Muslim.
What kind of book mandates controlling female sexuality by mutilating girls’ genitals or death for anyone criticising the religion the book represents, of which it is in fact a distillation? Obviously a morally sick one, you might think, with the same going for those who wrote it, the man who inspired it and the people who revere it.
But you would be wrong, or at least taking it out of context which is just as bad.
That context is that the religion it represents is actually a “religion of peace” and “a great historic faith which has brought spiritual nourishment to millions”. We know because our political leaders, versed in theology as they are, tell us so.
Not only that but if you went around telling people what you thought, or put it on Facebook, you would likely get a visit from the boys in blue, if not the boys with bushy beards who don’t take kindly to the kafir mentioning “something impermissible about Allah, the Prophet or Islam” (see section o11.10 (5) above).
Best just put the thought away. No one wants trouble, do they?
Apart form the obvious cruelty, bigotry and hatred on display, what do the contents of the Reliance tell us about Islam itself? Surely the main response a cursory reading must evoke is incredulity at the minute interest taken in Mohammed’s every word and deed, however slight. Why would clever men spend so much time and effort working out the often arbitrary ramifications of what one man said and did as opposed to what is self-evidently reasonable, decent and fair? I know Mohammed was meant to be an example to all men but then so was Jesus and the gospels don’t go into excruciating detail about his toilet habits (see section e9 if you have a strong stomach).
Rational minds like yours and mine struggle to comprehend the downright obsessive loopiness at the heart of the Religion of Peace. Perhaps it should rather be called the “OCD Religion” or the “Religion of Control”. Yes, that’s more like it, control runs through Islam like “Brighton” through a stick of rock. After all, Allah refers to his followers not as his children or his followers but as his slaves and demands from them not reasoned acceptance but unquestioning submission.
We have a word for religions which seek to control every last detail of the believers’ lives with threats of violence for non-compliance, that word being “cult”. Islam is indeed surely a cult, just the biggest in history. HERE Ali Sina details the characteristics which show beyond doubt what Islam really is. Once seen, it is impossible to view Islam in the same light again. Pity the poor cult members unable to escape Mohammed’s malignant mind control, and their victims over 1400 years.
Some general and historical background
We are often told that Sharia Law varies greatly from place to place and that ISIS or Saudi Arabia practice extreme versions. This is not true. Muslim legal codes vary not in the kind but only in the amount of Sharia Law they include, with most countries managing to avoid the worst of the barbaric punishments which authentically come from the practices of Mohammed.
In his introduction the translater writes “The four Sunni schools of Islamic law, Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, and Hanbali, are identical in approximately 75 percent of their legal conclusions”. Differences are mostly procedural or a matter of degree. As a comparison here is the 18th century translation of the Hanafi equivalent of the Reliance, the Hedaya, showing a similarly unambiguous attitude to the infidel (p 154):
“War must be carried on against the infidels, at all times, by some party of the Mussulmans. The sacred injunction concerning war is sufficiently observed when it is carried on by any one party or tribe of the Mussulmans; and it is then no longer of any force with respect to the rest. It is established as a divine ordinance, by the word of God, who has said, in the Koran ‘SLAY THE INFIDELS’; and also by a saying of the prophet, ‘war is permanently established until the day of judgment”.
What happened between the time when the manuals of the four schools of Sunni jurisprudence, and the Shia equivalent, provided the bedrock of the law for all Muslims, and the situation today in which Islamic Law is applied patchily throughout the Muslim world? The answer, of course, is not an Islamic Reformation or Enlightenment but only European colonisation. For instance, the translation of the Hedaya was commissioned by the East India Company, not out of scholarly curiosity but as part of their campaign to wrest legal control from the local qadis (religious judges).
The Hedaya fed into the creation of the hybrid system of Anglo-Muhammadan Law in which Sharia family law was left largely untouched as a sop to native sensibilities, not being an area of critical interest to the colonising power.
Sharia Law in Britain today
Curiously enough, a similar situation pertains in Britain today with Sharia councils offering adjudication only in domestic matters of marriage, divorce and inheritance. In theory this is voluntary but of course this is hardly the reality considering the cultural pressures on Muslim women often newly arrived from Pakistan with no clue about their rights under British Law.
As Home Secretary, Theresa May set up an inquiry into the running of these councils but, scandalously, it explicitly starts from the assumption that it is only the misapplication of Sharia Law which might be a problem. Since it is headed by a Muslim theologian rather than a representative of British Law, with two Islamic scholars on the board, we can presumably rest assured that the profoundly discriminatory roots of Sharia Law will remain undisturbed.
It goes further than that though. Non-Muslims in Britain also live under elements of Sharia Law which various governments have obligingly imposed on everyone. For a start there is the halal meat which is served in schools, prisons, hospitals etc and sold unmarked in supermarkets. Imagine the reaction if the reverse happened.
There is also the de facto blasphemy law enshrined in the 2006 Racial and Religious Hatred Act, set up to protect Muslim sensibilities only a few years after the Christian blasphemy law was scrapped. In theory the act is even-handed but everyone knows you can burn a Bible with not a flicker of interest whereas burning a Koran will get your collar felt. In extreme cases such as draping bacon over a mosque door handle (imagine the horror!) you can expect a year inside like poor Kevin Crehan who failed to come out again. Five months later the cause of death has still not been identified. Perhaps Islamophobia has turned lethal.
How can the Islamic Law of the Reliance and similar manuals be reconciled with the modern world? A reader of this blog asked just that question of a Muslim scholar and received this reply:
“It should be remembered that a madhhab [ie school of Islamic Jurisprudence] is a tradition of interpretation, not a body of fixed rulings; hence the normative content of each school often varies from century to century. In the contemporary context, jurists continue to evolve their madhhab-based positions using the characteristic methodologies of their schools. Hence nobody would claim that, say, a law manual from the Mamluk period should be put into practice today.”
Well actually, if the law manual in question is the result of intensive investigation to ascertain the will of Allah to the best of humans’ ability then I would in fact expect the bulk of its rulings to remain valid indefinitely. Why would it go out of date? If Islam’s greatest scholars came to the conclusion that Allah and Mohammed thought that adulterers should be stoned to death, how could changing circumstances negate that? In fact it appears that the rulings in the Reliance have not been negated at all, only avoided. What we find is that when states move away from their colonial legal systems and toward Sharia Law, as for instance Brunei has done, their legal codes look increasingly like what we see in the Reliance.
Today there are only a handful of states which approach a full implementation of Sharia Law. In Pakistan we see lynchings of Christians, as a result of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. In Iran we see the execution of homosexuals and in Saudi Arabia we see beheadings for apostasy and hear reports of crucifixions and stonings kept out of sight. But no jizya or sex slavery anywhere you say. Well, for those we have to go to the state which really applies Sharia Law to the full, the Islamic State. Mad, bad and dangerous to know, but at least they are in no danger of being called hypocrites when they meet up with Mohammed in paradise since there is very little that they do which he didn’t do, and very little that he did which they don’t do.
It does not reassure me one bit to learn that this vile book is widely read and revered by Muslims but to be told “Don’t worry, no one would expect it to be put into practice today”. Remember al-Azhar University, the highest authority in Sunni religious thought, has certified it as “conforming to the faith and practice of the orthodox Sunni Community”. That is “conforming”, ie present tense.
If Islamic Law has moved on from the Middle Ages where is the modern equivalent of the Reliance, let’s call it the Anti-Reliance, which makes clear that the appalling rulings which make non-Muslims shudder have been repudiated, abrogated, consigned to the dustbin of history? Perhaps it exists somewhere in the untranslated Shafi’i literature but if so it is being kept very quiet, and reform-minded Muslims are missing a trick by not broadcasting its existence. Tell you what, let’s just assume that it doesn’t exist until notified otherwise.
And where is the book written by an authoritative Sharia scholar addressed to non-Muslims titled “Sharia – Why You Have No Need To Fear”? It would put our minds at rest no end. But I suggest it will never be written because repudiating Islamic supremacism, jihad, discrimination against women and unbelievers, and all the vicious punishments as opposed to just avoiding them, would mean repudiating Mohammed and therefore Allah.
Dear ECAW, I have missed your articles. Are you still writing?
Ha ha! Glad to be missed! I must admit I have found less and less to write about for the last year or so. Nevertheless I do intend to write something about Sharia if I can just get my finger out.
Hi, I have been debating Islam with Muslims for a couple of years and have done quite a lot of research into it, truly mind boggling.
I have had a copy of Reliance of the Traveller for a while but was always looking for a PDF copy so as to copy and past info.
Just came across your web site and found it very very useful for quick access to the info I need, so I just wanted to say thanks, well done.
Yes, it’s mind boggling isn’t it? Good luck to you in spreading the word.
A few more years down the track and still going.
I do most of my discussions with Muslims on Youtube, but it is becoming harder and harder.
In the past year, Youtube is taking its censorship to another level of invasive stupidity.
I have been suspended three times. I hear many similar comments from others.
It is impossible to discuss Islam without using terms like liar, murder, pedophile, sex, rape, terrorist, etc. when you do, your comment is erased, and eventually, you are suspended.
Hence Youtube has stopped most criticism of Islam.
Until a year ago, I would spend several hrs a day commenting with Muslims, now with this new censorship, it’s down to a few minutes, shame.
That’s interesting. I’ve always felt it was time well spent debating with Muslims, not that they improved my impression of Islam – just the opposite in fact. Where could I find your discussions on Youtube? Sorry to hear your activities are being hemmed in, but not surprised.
Hi, thanks for replying.
Yes, I, too enjoy debating with Muslims.
Occasionally you can get through to them, but the most common response is “you don’t understand Islam, just open your heart and Allah will guide you,” and this coming from Muslims who have never studied Islam.
I have spoken to many (1000s) and have an extensive e-file on every aspect of Muslims their behaviour and beliefs, as you know, mindboggling.
The most common reply when you expose Islam using their own sources is, “you will regret your actions in the afterlife, I would like to kill you,” I have also had on two occasions elaborate spells cast on me that foretold a most painful death, but I’m still here. Hehe.
As for my discussions on Youtube, they have been totally removed; when you are suspended, Youtube totally, 100% removes all trace of your former life.
My most notorious account was called “rd of discipline.”
You must set up a new account with ID, password, and e-mail.
But they will eventually track you down.
Nice chatting, all the best, hears to keeping ahead of the censorship
Thanks. All the best with your efforts.
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Thanks for this article, but! There are four schools of islamic jurisprudence and The Reliance of the Traveller is only one book of Shafii school. Wikipedia provides a list of the other schools and its books. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Sunni_books#Islamic_jurisprudence
Could you review it all (or, at least, a few of them) as well?
You must be joking!
I know of only three such books which are both translated into English and available online: the Shafi’i Umdat al-Salik (Reliance of the Traveller), the Hanafi Hedaya and the Maliki Risala. My purpose was not to provide a comprehensive guide to Sunni Fiqh but an insight into its horrors via the one clearest example.
1. The Hedaya and the Risala are far less clear and comprehensive than the Reliance.
2. In his introduction to his Reliance Keller tells us that 75% of Sunni legal rulings are identical, differing only in degree or on procedural matters.
3. Only sections E to O of Keller’s translation comprise the original mediaeval Reliance. The rest is made up of his commentaries and a selection of excerpts from other Shafi’i books of fiqh, which are equally horrendous.
How can I learn more and interact with your work? I think you have something helpful to say.
Thanks…glad you think so. You are very welcome to post anything you find here on your blog as this blogger in Australia has:
Lately I’ve tried to concentrate on simply informative stuff such as this about the Sira:
or this about the Covenants of Mohammed con being perpetrated by John Andrew Morrow:
or this which I think is the most helpful presentation of the Koran out there:
This may also be of interest to you:
The Declaration of Peaceful intent may well turn out to be important. If you watch the interview between Harry Richardson and the Muslim community leader it is surprising to see how much he squirms to avoid affirming that all that jihad stuff is past its sell by date. If you sign up for Elsa’s emails then the next one is scheduled to announce a non-Facebook network for people like us to keep in contact. Hopefully that will be useful for us all to swap ideas.
Apart from that I’m not sure what to suggest. Perhaps you had something else in mind?
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The Reliance of the Traveller was popular amongst a particular subset of Traditionalist Muslims around 15 years ago, notably those associated with Nuh Keller’s tariqa, and perhaps amongst a certain segment of converts, simply because it was what was available in the English language at the time.
The overwhelming majority of Traditionalist Sunni Muslims in Britain follow the Hanafi school, making this Shafi manual of jurisprudence merely an academic curiosity. Most members of this group in Britain, who largely hail from the Indian subcontinent, belong to one of two factions: the Deobandis and Barelvis. While these two factions approach the study of Hanafi fiqh quite differently, the vast majority of the constituents of both groups nevertheless only ever study fiqh relating to prayer, purification, fasting, pilgrimage, food and dealing with births and deaths, if at all.
Muslims of the Salafi faction, meanwhile, who generally reject following the four main Sunni schools of jurisprudence anyway, have frequently published “refutations” of the Reliance of the Traveller, both because they take issue with its contents and its translator, who they consider a deviant. The Salafis, by and large, tend to restrict themselves to modern works such as Fiqh us-Sunnah, which they allege represents a truer conception of Islamic teachings.
I can’t pinpoint exactly how other factions, such as groups inspired by Mawdudi and Ikhwaan, view the Reliance of the Traveller in particular, but if we take their criticism of the medieval schools of jurisprudence, we can imagine that they would similarly consign this work to the bin.
Compared to Maliki and Hanafi fiqh (the two most dominant schools), Shafi and Hanbali fiqh is widely viewed as very tough, complicated and excessively detailed. That is not to say that it doesn’t have its followings, as it is widely adopted in east Asia and east Africa, at least officially.
But you have to understand, in any case, that approaches to Islamic jurisprudence are not necessarily static. For example there are many scholars today who teach traditional fiqh in relation to personal acts of worship, who nevertheless teach that rulings regarding human relationships need revision. And this has been the case for centuries: consider Muhammad al-Tahir ibn Ashur’s “Treatise on Maqasid al-Shariah”, for example (now available in English).
Similarly, it is necessary to acknowledge diversity in Islamic thought, both today and historically. How many people know, for example, that the Hanafi and Shafi schools have adopted fundamentally different methodologies in handling hadith, resulting in divergent theology and jurisprudence?
With a little patience and a lot of perseverance, you may begin to discover some of those other works and schools of thought that you say you hope exist. Of course it necessitates acknowledging the heterodoxy of Islam that both proponents and opponents insist on denying. It might mean looking into other than Ummayid and Abbasid representations of Islam. It might mean consulting non-Muslim scholars that at the moment you reject as ignoramuses. It might mean leaving your comfort zone. But if you really care, so be it.
I have a copy of the Reliance of the Traveller on my bookshelf. I’ve also had the works of Ibn Warraq. But I’ve moved beyond both.
That’s more like it. Thanks. I’ll look into them.
But who are these non-Muslim scholars I reject as ignoramuses?
By the way, I might mention that I asked the Muslim scholar referenced above directly to answer the questions I posed in the last two paragraphs. I was not surprised to receive no reply.
Thank you for this schema of the various Islamic groups and their religious/legal positions. I found an online copy of Ibn Ashur’s book and cannot say it puts my mind at rest.
1. I notice that it doesn’t have an endorsement by al-Azhar (which I believe is the highest authority in Sunni thinking) as the Reliance does so I am wondering how established in Sunni orthodoxy it is. I can find nothing on the subject elsewhere so for all I know perhaps Ibn Ashur just represents another small, not particularly influential strain of thought like say al-Bouti on one side or Taha on the other.
On the other hand the book is endorsed, and published, by the Muslim Brotherhood think tank the International Institute of Islamic Thought which also endorsed the Reliance. So I have to wonder about the company he keeps, or those who keep company with him.
In the IIIT’s endorsement it says the following:
“In this book, Ibn Ashur proposed Maqasid as a methodology for the renewal of the theory of the Islamic Law which has not undergone any serious development since the era of the great imams starting with al-Shafi’i in the second/eighth century and ending with al-Shatibi in the eighth/fourteenth century”.
Just as I thought – “Gates of Ijtihad” and all that. It appears then that attempts to modernise Islamic Law only began in the middle of the 20th century, and progress since then has not been startling. By 1991 al-Azhar clearly preferred al-Shafi’i to Ibn Ashur. I certainly wouldn’t bet the farm (or Western Civilisation) on the coming success of reformers. Even Daniel Pipes who thinks we have no other choice admits that a significant reform movement does not yet exist. I don’t think we have time to wait to find out.
2. The book is obviously written for other Muslim jurists. I would struggle to take anything definite away from it just as I would struggle to be sure I had fully understood a British legal textbook. At least the Reliance is clear and impossible to misunderstand!
3. Looking for a sample I turned to the chapter on Equality, a matter that concerns me directly as a non-Muslim. There we find no problem with inequality between Muslims and non-Muslims. It’s just that “Some obstacles to equality are not obstacles in the real sense. They rather consist of situations where the grounds for equality do not exist.” Of course.
Looking through the index for other items of interest, I find nothing about, for instance, jihad, apostasy or circumcision. Where is the book of fiqh which makes it clear that these are consigned to history? Why haven’t you or someone like you written it? If you could convince both Muslims and non-Muslims that that was the case there would be only sweetness and light between us. As it is we heard just a couple of days ago that a Muslim was charged with plotting to assassinate the Prime Minister and, separately, another was charged with encouraging others to kill Prince George. Not long before that the Government announced that they had miscounted, there are not 3,000 potential jihadis in the country to be worried about but 23,000. I’m sure you can see why I do not put any faith in the glacial movement of orthodox Islam towards a position of common humanity as a realistic solution to our problem. That is of course, my problem not yours, unless at some point you find yourself regarded as the wrong kind of Muslim.
On other points:
1. Yes I am aware that there is diversity in Muslim thought. I am not one of those who say “All Muslims….” But the thing is I have no intrinsic interest in the nuances of Muslim thought, only in whether the beliefs of this or that particular Muslim make him a danger to me and my family and my country…and there is currently no way to tell.
2. I am one of those people who know “that the Hanafi and Shafi schools have adopted fundamentally different methodologies in handling hadith, resulting in divergent theology and jurisprudence”
But in the only area of Islamic thought that really concerns me, they appear indistinguishable…or they did. Here is a quote from the Hanafi Hedaya which I find every bit as concerning as the contents of the Reliance:
“War must be carried on against the infidels, at all times, by some party of the Mussulmans. The sacred injunction concerning war is sufficiently observed when it is carried on by any one party or tribe of the Mussulmans; and it is then no longer of any force with respect to the rest. It is established as a divine ordinance, by the word of God, who has said, in the Koran ‘SLAY THE INFIDELS’; and also by a saying of the prophet, ‘war is permanently established until the day of judgment’.”
I am afraid you will find that I am “the wrong kind of Muslim”. My blog is filled with sentiments such as these: https://folio.me.uk/2015/11/11/the-pursuit-of-truth/ Therefore you will not find me much help in answering your questions.
You may (or may not) find the likes of Sheikh Hassan Farhan al-Maliki or Dr. Adnan Ibrahim more to your liking. I don’t know that they have anything published in English yet, but there are a few translations of their lectures available on YouTube, e.g. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCu4AdsljkcfdGYm8kqi3Bzw/videos
Another name just sprang to mind… Sheikh Atabek Shukurov, who is a Traditionalist Hanafi scholar who has been addressing various contentious issues for some time. His English isn’t great though.
Thanks but you just confirm my existing view. My question wasn’t whether there are obscure outliers who approach something like the basic humanity to be found in most religions other than Islam but whether current Islamic orthodoxy does, and it doesn’t as far as I can see. Mahmoud Taha was executed. Usama Hasan and Zuhdi Jasser were both run out of their mosques with death threats. Polls regularly tell us what a substantial proportion of the Ummah in the West think about jihad and sharia.
The mystery is how people like you can see the car crash that is Islam and maintain that Mohammed is a kidnapped passenger rather than the driver. But that is beside the point to me. I am more concerned with the Muslim community leader in this video who is asked to agree to the seemingly unobjectionable proposition that all that jihad stuff in Medina has no relevance today. See how he squirms to avoid agreeing to it, and this is someone taking Australian tax dollars to de-radicalise jihadist prisoners. What do we imagine he is telling them?
I imagine you would have no reservations about agreeing to it….or am I wrong about that? What about the people you go to Friday prayers with? Do they pray for “victory over the kuffar”?
By the way, I see we are neighbours in the left lower quadrant:
How did you manage to display the certificate on your blog post? I couldn’t manage it.
I notice that our conversation came to an end when I asked whether you would agree with Harry Richardson’s Declaration of Peaceful Intent.
Quite telling, methinks…