Zindeeq! From the Qur’aan and Sunnah?

21 11 2007

I’ve never used the term myself, but I’ve seen it used quite often as a slur against others with whom the user of such a term disagreed with.  The article below has an interesting take on such a word, and I’d recommend those who claim to follow the Salaf, who claim to follow the Qur’aan and Sunnah, have a read and then discuss further their knowledge on this topic:

Zandaqah:  Heresy
by Shaykh Hamid al-Hamid

“You heretic!  I swear by God, I will do you in!”

Who shouted these words?  To whom were these words uttered? It was the Abbasid Caliph al-Mahdî who said these words.  He said them to none other then the illustrious and celebrated judge Shurayk b. `Abd Allah al-Nakha`î.This word “heretic” – zindîq – How much grief and misery has been caused by it over the centuries?  How much has it been abused and used for various ignoble ends?

“Heresy” – zandaqah – laws have been enacted about it.  Books have been written on it.  People have sought to describe it.  Theologians have tried to define it.  Nevertheless, Islam never came with it.

The word for it – zandaqah – was alien to the Arabic language during the early years of Islam.  It is a Persian word.  The concept that it communicates derives from Zoroastrian thought.

The ancient Persians had used the term zandaqah to describe those who interpreted their scriptures – the Avesta – contrary to their literal meanings.  More particularly, the term was used to describe Mani and his followers the Manichaeans.

This term and the notion it refers to were initially alien to Islamic thought.  Allah never makes reference to it in the Qur’ân.  The Prophet (peace be upon him) never brought it in the Sunnah.  It is not part of Islamic teachings.

The sacred texts speak of three categories of people.  There are the Muslims, the unbelievers, and finally the hypocrites.  As for the hypocrites, they are to be treated no differently than the Muslims in this world.  Their fate rests with their Lord.

With respect to Islam, there are only believers and unbelievers.  Allah says, “It is He who created you.  Among you are those who disbelieve and those who believe.”

The term “heretic” remained unknown to Islamic discourse during the era of the Rightly Guided Caliphs.  It was also unheard of during the Ummayad Era.  Only when the Abbasid dynasty ascended to power in the Muslim world – a dynasty that was essentially Persian in outlook and culture – did the term gain currency in Muslim society.  This is not surprising, since the Abbasid court and political machinery were dominated by Persian officials and intellectuals.

The popularity of this term during Abbasid times and the role that it played in Abbasid politics – in their staking their claims to power and in negating those of their opponents – indicates to us that the term might in fact be more political in nature than religious.  This makes it a questionable and wasteful practice to try and derive religious teachings and edicts on the basis of this term – that is if we are trying to represent Islamic teachings authentically and accurately.

It is always best to keep our religious discourse upon the terms of Islam and avoid extraneous terms that, even when they turn out to be harmless, fail to make any useful contribution.

When new terminology is introduced into religious discourse, it is rarely adopted in a vacuum.  Often there are political motives behind it – and those motives are often loaded with a variety of vested interests.  In the case of the word zandaqah and the notion of heresy that it introduced, the motives were political.  Sometimes they are sectarian or factional.  They usually stem from one sort of conflict or another.

Therefore, it is often useful to investigate the historical origins of the terminology that people use.  This can often help us get to the root of some deep-seated and long-lasting problems.  When the underlying cause of the conflict is revealed, the problems can be resolved and the terminology of dissention and factionalism – that causes so much grief and misery for society – can be dispensed with.

Why should we let ourselves be divided by terminology we blindly inherited, saying, “This is what we found our forefathers of old upon.”  The guidance that Allah has given us is far greater than the ideological notions of our forefathers. Will we not take heed?

http://www.islamtoday.com/showme2.cfm?cat_id=29&sub_cat_id=1608


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16 responses to “Zindeeq! From the Qur’aan and Sunnah?”

21 11 2007
salam (08:05:15) :

you know, I agree with you Siraj and with the basic outlines of this article, but when I read the article some time ago I thought it begged the question…that question being; what do we do then with the development and proliferation of beliefs that clearly depart from that of the early authorities?

If they are not ‘heretical’, then are they part of legitimate muslim discourse or are they not? moreover, if one asserts that they are not acceptable beliefs, then are these people muslims or are they not? i don’t mean ‘muslim’ in the sense of the hearafter, meaning are they going to hell or not because a human can not possibly know that, but i do mean ‘muslim’ in the sense of a title…do we pray with them or not? they will most likely speak and spread their thought…do we speak out against them and say ‘they do not represent islam’ or do we not?

at best, one might call them ‘deviants’, but what is the term ‘deviant’ except a euphemism for the word ‘heretic’?

al-Ghazali, ironically a persian, wrote a whole book on demarcating legitimate theological belief from the illegitimate, and he did indeed employ the term ‘zanadaqa’ against those whose beliefs did not pass his test of authenticity (they were primarily philosophers who ascribed to Islam yet held contrary positions to the Qur’an, like holding that the world is eternal and the denial of divine inspiration)

al-Ghazali wished to set the issue straight for the people; there were active philosophers in his time who claimed Islam yet spread the aforementioned beliefs as part of ‘islam’ when they clearly were contrary. in order to alleviate this danger, al-Ghazali employed this term against them.

what do we then make of al-Ghazali’s judgment?

and the (i think) bigger question remains…what do we do then with the spread of beliefs that come with the veneer of islam yet are clearly contrary.

if we are not to employ the term ‘heretical’ because it is an unnecessary neologism, as the article implies, then are we not left with the choice of either accepting the existence of these beliefs or referring to them as ‘kufr’? To me, thats what the article seems to imply when it says:

“With respect to Islam, there are only believers and unbelievers. Allah says, “It is He who created you. Among you are those who disbelieve and those who believe.” The term “heretic” remained unknown to Islamic discourse during the era of the Rightly Guided Caliphs.”

I’m not ready to accept that the author of this article would agree with those who hold that four saints, for example, are in control of some aspects of the natural order and it is only they, through the grace of God, who can bring peace to this world, as some well known mystics believe. I am also not ready to accept that the author of this article would agree with the many who say that the angel Jibrael delivered the message to the wrong man, or those who say that divine inspiration did not stop with the Prophet sws. If there is no such thing as heresy, then what do we make of these beliefs? those who hold these beliefs call themselves ‘muslims’ and their beliefs ‘islam’.

I am not arguing for or against the term ‘zindiq’, but I did feel that the article opened the door to a number of questions and did not provide an answer to anything.

21 11 2007
siraaj (13:13:08) :

I think the point the author makes is simply that you either have Believers who are ignorant and come with strange ideas based on their culture and society, or you have disbelievers who think they’re Muslim that have ideas that run counter to the teachings of our basic Aqeedah.

During the rule of Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthmaan, and Ali, there were encounters with new cultures and ideas, and different types of understanding from the Muslim masses. Perhaps what we need to look at is how they dealt with similar situations and extrapolate that to later times, as I’m very sure that the phenomenon of people calling themselves believers and ascribing to strange ideas was not foreign to them.

Siraaj

21 11 2007
Islaam (15:43:27) :

Imam Shafi lived during the era of the Umyyads and Abbasids just like the rest of the 4 Imams and he used the word Zindiq:

“In Baghdad I left behind something that was innovated by the zindeeqs who called it taghbeer (a type of singing) and diverted the people from the Qur’aan thereby.” Majmoo’ al-Fataawa (10/77)

If it was first introduced only during the time of the Abbasids during his education he would never have come across such a word in the Shariah texts of his time. I believe the author’s research and premise is weak to say the least.

21 11 2007
Siraaj Muhammad (17:19:20) :

Salaam alaykum Islaam,

Jazakallaah khayr for your contribution.

Just a quick note - the Abbasids came to power in the year 133 AH / 750 CE, and Imam ash-Shafi’ee was born in the year 150 AH / 767 CE, so I believe the comment made about him studying during the time of the Ummayads seems a bit off (unless you mean the Ummayads who had fled for their lives and were residing in Spain :D).

The capital had shifted from Damascus to Baghdad long before his birth (relatively speaking), and I note that by the time he had grown up, studied, and traveled to Baghdad, the term “Zindeeq” can easily be conceived as having been commonplace.

Siraaj

21 11 2007
Muslim (19:49:18) :

What is the point of this article that the word should not be used? If you look at a lot of the terminology in Ahadith it wasn’t around during the time of the Prophet (saws) or the Khulafah i Rashideen. It is just there for classification purposes so does this mean it has no value? Even in something as important as Aqeedah the scholars of the Salaf classified into Rububiyyah, Uluhiyyah, and Asma wa Sifaat so do we not accept this classification because the Prophet(saws) and the Khulafa i Rashideen did not use it?

21 11 2007
Siraaj Muhammad (20:17:58) :

Salaam alaykum Muslim,

The classification you are using to make your point is simply a demarcation of what already exists. It’s simply a different way of sorting and separating out evidences.

A better counterpoint would be to ask, what about terms like sunni, shi’a, and so forth? And, there is a counterpoint to that as well, but I’ll leave it to others to bring that question up first ;)

Siraaj

21 11 2007
salam (20:29:26) :

Siraaj, JAK.

But I still believe there are questions left unanswered.

You had said:

I think the point the author makes is simply that you either have Believers who are ignorant and come with strange ideas based on their culture and society, or you have disbelievers who think they’re Muslim that have ideas that run counter to the teachings of our basic Aqeedah.

I understand you but don’t you think the simple dichotomy made here between ‘ignorant believers’ and ‘crypto disbelievers’ is kind of reductionist?

There are plenty of ‘ignorant believers’ who do not think they are ignorant nor do they think their beliefs are strange and based on their culture or society. I do not want to mention any names here, but again, you have people who-out of conviction-believe that there was a modern day prophet whose message superseded that of the prophet’s sws. The religious authorities in Pakistan declared this particular group to be non-Muslim; but according to this paradigm..are they ignorant believers or essentially disbelievers?

Also, what about the thousands of Muslims whose worship relies more on intermediaries than Muslims, like those of us on this very website and the author himself, would allow for. They are not always ignorant; in fact, some have even constructed evidence for their actions, thereby creating authoritative precedent. Moreover there are scholars who support this and partake in the activity itself. I am of course talking about tawassul and its many manifestations. Are these people, scholars included, ignorant believers or really disbelievers? I really don’t think they themselves would agree with either label. They have textual evidence for their positions and believe in Islam, the finality of the Prophethood, the day of judgment, and so forth, so you couldn’t really label them as disbelievers. And to call them ‘ignorant’ necessarily implies that their actions are not in accordance with Islam, hence they are ‘ignorant’ of ‘real’ Islam even though they believe that they are practicing ‘real Islam’.

So even by virtue of calling these groups ‘ignorant’, I still think one is implying that they are deviants-which brings us all the way back now to the word ‘heretic’. I think a necessarily corollary of this article’s argument, and of your post, is tacit approval of doctrinal excommunication. In other words, the article dismisses heresy as a concept but yet allows for something similar when he divides people into believers and disbelievers. With your post, and do correct me if I am wrong, labeling a people as ‘ignorant’ necessarily implies that their actions, whether they have proof or not, are not in accordance with Islam. So to me this position still allows for the denouncement of ones doctrine, whether that is implicit or explicit. And if this is true, then what is the difference between this and pronouncing one as a heretic?

nice site btw,

salam

21 11 2007
Muslim (20:39:42) :

Well the demarcations already exist for different types of people Kafir, Zaalim, Fasiq, Muslim, Munafiq but what restricts us from further separating these categories further?

22 11 2007
Siraaj Muhammad (05:21:13) :

Salaam alaykum Salam,

Good questions and points, and I appreciate your the time you took to write it out =)

Regarding your questions, I don’t think the author’s point was necessarily clear enough, so let me try on his behalf, and please respond with your thoughts.

The author’s contention, from what I understand, is that the historical origin of the word was not with scholarly purposes in mind. It came with a specific political agenda, it was wielded a specific way, and became part of the culture of the people.

Today, the word’s use continues as part of an ad hominem name-calling contest when people disagree with one another, even when their aqeedah and manhaj are all very similar (but fiqh differences exist). At least, that’s what I’ve seen. As one local example, take a look on this site, on the “Ramadan Letter to Osama Bin Laden” by Shaykh Salman al-Oadah. A response to that letter was posted on my blog with the following initiating remarks:

“Bismillah Ar-Raham Ar-Raheem

In Reply to Sheikh Salman b. Fahd al-Oadah

All Praise and All Thanks are for Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala to whom we shall all return to be judged on The Last Day.

“And you will see how those in whose hearts is a disease will run toward them saying: “We are afraid we will be defeated.” But it is Allah who will bring them victory - or some punishment - and so, one day, they may awaken from their sleep remorseful about that which they concealed concerning themselves.” (5:52 Interpretation of meaning)”

http://strangersoasis.com/2007/09/18/a-ramadan-letter-to-osama-bin-laden/

What a horrible way to start a letter - implying that Shaykh Salman al-Oadah is a munaafiq. And yet, this is the repulsive level to which many sink, though they could make their point respectfully.

Meanwhile, observe the manners of Shaykh Salman in his letter - he repeatedly calls Osama Bin Laden “brother Osama” and doesn’t use other terms (such as zindeeq, terrorist, murderer, etc) to describe him.

Getting back to the term zindeeq itself, to add to what was mentioned above, because the word has it’s own historical baggage and emotional charge, when it is wielded as a weapon against others, even believers who have strange ideas, bid’ah, and so forth, we may pay lip service to the idea that they are believers, but we treat them like disbelievers.

I once asked a salafi brother who was going on about al-walaa and al-baraa, what do you think of laypeople who have some sufi tendencies, but by and large are Muslims? Do you have that love for them, as they are believers? He gave me a perplexed look because he didn’t know how to answer - he had never thought of the question, and I could tell, he was trying to reconcile his distaste with sufis in general with the idea of loving the believers, and it was a struggle - in the end, he had no answer to give.

In the end, I don’t believe Shaykh Sami’s point was to declare the use of the word a bid’ah necessarily - I think his main point is that we are using a word of a group of kaafirs to denigrate those among ourselves with whom we disagree, regardless of how far or close they are to us, and that it would be better (not required) to use the terminology of the salaf when discussing such matters and issues, as I’m sure the concept of a person with “heretical” beliefs was not unheard of during their time either.

Siraaj

22 11 2007
Siraaj Muhammad (05:27:24) :

Salaam alaykum Muslim,

Jazakallaah khayr for your question. I believe that the answer to your question is already contained in a response you posted regarding Shaykh Salman al-Oadah’s letter:

“(2) Who is “innocent” and who defines this term? According to Sheikh Hammoud Al-Uqlaa Ash-Shuaybi: “What many are babbling about and repeating when they talk about “innocent victims”, is nothing but the effect of the West and its media, to the extent that many an unwary person repeats the words and expressions of our enemies, which are in direct contradiction with the expressions of Shariah.”

As written elsewhere:

Quote:
What needs be understood by both Muslims and the peoples of the West is that terms “innocent” and “civilian” have no meaning in Shariah, and that these are kaffir terms, kaffir concepts, which the kuffar and their apostate allies project onto Islam in order to distort Islam and have Muslims imitate the kuffar… The kaffir concepts of “innocent” and “civilian” have become Taghut - idols, principles, which the kaffir have created and which they make laws about, which laws they seek to impose on Muslims. These concepts are Taghut because they are created without reference to the Quran or Sunnah - created, by fallible humans, without reference to the Will of Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala. In many ways, it is right to think as these things as objects which the kuffar now worship, or which they put their trust in - which they make, as standards, for people to follow and obey.”

Of particular interest is the following statement:

“These concepts are Taghut because they are created without reference to the Quran or Sunnah - created, by fallible humans, without reference to the Will of Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala.”

The specific words used are different, but the principles at play are one and the same.

Siraaj

22 11 2007
sa`ilun (05:35:14) :

What about one who has three wives who are trying to rob him of all his possessions; is it permissible to call them zanadaqa just so they will stop bothering him?

22 11 2007
Siraaj Muhammad (06:32:02) :

LOL!

23 11 2007
salam (10:15:15) :

jak for clarification. i understand.

now that the article’s point is clear, we can digress if you desire and address my issue with the apparent paradox in denying the concept of heresy, affirming one singular truth, and avoid taking recourse to excommunication

to support such a position today, one has to affirm the legitimacy of multiple, sometimes contrary beliefs.

if the concept of heresy is omitted and you are not willing to excommunicate, then there is no such thing is orthodoxy.

in other words, there is a clear inconsistency in affirming that there is only one truth while simultaneously denying the concept of heresy.

either heresy exists or everyone else is necessarily a kafir.

the only other option is to affirm that multiple positions on aqidah issues may be correct and therefore accept a plurality of opinions.

23 11 2007
Siraaj (17:41:44) :

Salaam alaykum Salam,

Yes, I do see the point you’re making about my previous post, and the implications as well. Let me requote one portion of your previous post so that it can be discussed with your previous point:

“So even by virtue of calling these groups ‘ignorant’, I still think one is implying that they are deviants-which brings us all the way back now to the word ‘heretic’. I think a necessarily corollary of this article’s argument, and of your post, is tacit approval of doctrinal excommunication. In other words, the article dismisses heresy as a concept but yet allows for something similar when he divides people into believers and disbelievers. With your post, and do correct me if I am wrong, labeling a people as ‘ignorant’ necessarily implies that their actions, whether they have proof or not, are not in accordance with Islam. So to me this position still allows for the denouncement of ones doctrine, whether that is implicit or explicit. And if this is true, then what is the difference between this and pronouncing one as a heretic?”

What you’ve said in the previous post, I personally do not disagree with that conceptually speaking, the notion of scholars and people taking on “heretical” beliefs, with or without evidences, can exist.

But I do not believe by calling such people believers with mistakes as opposed to plain old “heretics” negates that concept (and I believe this is where you’re coming from - that it doesn’t do so). My point is, how did the Companions deal with heretic beliefs after the death of the Prophet sallallaahu alayhi wa sallim? What labeling scheme did they use?

The idea itself is not foreign to us either - we all love, respect, and take much of our knowledge in Hadeeth from Imam ibn Hajr al Asqalani, but we also acknowledge that he, as well as Imam an-Nawawi, held some Ashari beliefs (and there were positions they took which contradicted Ashari positions as well). So conceptually, we might acknowledge they have some heretical beliefs, but do we call them heretics? The return argument may be, they only held a few, so who defines the saturation point where we should call someone a heretic?

We tend to say about them that they had some mistakes, but that we can take from them. Another example whose name was mentioned was Imam al-Ghazzali - Imam adh-Dhahabi, from what I’ve read, criticized him in many areas, yet he still praised him as well.

So the concept itself is not what we really want to get at - it’s how we deal with people once we establish that people hold a belief that’s contrary to what is established and correct. If you haven’t already done so, you might like to check out the book, “Words that Work” by Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster.

It’s interesting, how recognizing the emotional value of a specific word or set of phrases that has been culturally embedded within us, such that the same question brought with different words or phrasing can change how people react towards such questioning.

Siraaj

23 11 2007
Siraaj (17:47:08) :

Lastly, my feeling is that laypeople are less responsible for taking on the mistakes of such scholars than the scholars themselves - if the scholars who take on such notions are “respectable Imams who have some mistakes”, then I think the laypeople ought to get a pass on this, and given the same excuse, insha’Allah.

Siraaj

24 11 2007
salam (20:02:15) :

jak

i personally feel uneasy about scholars or preachers pointing out ‘mistakes’ in works of other scholars. these are not ‘mistakes’, the author wouldn’t have come to his conclusion if he thought it to be erroneous. these are his beliefs and ijtihad.
if one has a problem with the conclusion because he is of a different school of thought, then the most honest thing to do would be to point out the origin of your own contention rather than impugning the conclusion of the scholar.

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