Points of Benefit:
1) The statement of Ṭaḥāwi: ‘He who seeks knowledge that has been barred from him, and whose intellect is not prepared to surrender…’ was meant to further explain the previous point about the Beatific Vision. Point number 32 clarified the belief of Ahl al-Sunnah and pointed out some of the other misguided views. Point number 33 then sought to explain how such misguided views were formulated. The following point now adds further detail to this and broadens it out into a timeless principle, and so the author concluded his point by stating that such deviants will always: ‘find that endeavour preventing him from acquiring a pure understanding of Allāh’s unity, clear knowledge and correct faith’.
2) This statement of the author is a warning to every believer not to transgress or contravene the pure teachings of the Sacred Texts: the Qur’ān and the Sunnah. Whoever does so, or prefers external sources over and above the Qur’ān and the Sunnah to formulate his doctrines, ideas, and worldview: ‘will be prevented by them from acquiring a pure understanding of Allāh’s unity, clear knowledge and correct faith’. How could a believer prefer sources of knowledge over the Sacred Texts when they are a source of infallible knowledge regarding the entire religion; encompassing belief (aqīdah), jurisprudence (fiqh), conduct (ḥusn al-khuluq), and life in general. All other sources of knowledge could never reach this level of truth, nor could they deliver any degree of certainty to the soul.
3) The mindset of progressive Muslims can be illustrated in the form of a story:
Imagine a land called the United Lands of Veganopolis, where the people are vegans. They don’t eat any meat or meat derived products because they feel it is cruel, primitive, and uncivilised. They felt above the rest of society since they did not eat meat. They considered themselves so advanced that they divided the entire world based upon the people’s convictions regarding eating meat. The countries who agreed with them were called the ‘Primary World’ those who rejected it were the ‘Tertiary World’, and those in the middle were called the ‘Secondary World’.
Imagine three brothers, Salmaan, Khalid, and Ali. They were raised in Veganopolis, and their parents were Muslim but they did not really fully teach the deen to their kids. So the kids were Muslim but did not really understand the religion. When they grew up, their parents passed away and so for the first time in their lives they began thinking critically about these things. They went through a spiritual awakening. They decided to study the religion and discuss their findings.
They studied Qurʾān, Ḥadīth, Fiqh, and met again after 6 months and discussed what they found. Salmaan was the oldest and said, our parents were great and loved us, but with respect to them and their beliefs, I have concluded that Islam is a false religion and I can no longer be a Muslim. He said he knew his parents ate meat sometimes, and they ate it too, thinking it was a custom from their tertiary country homeland. But after reading the Islamic texts, Islām openly allows eating meat, and calls it a blessing in the Qurʾān. In Bukhāri, it says one of the Prophet’s (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) favourite dishes was a juicy sheep’s leg, and that he ate meat whenever it was presented to him. They also slaughtered animals on festivals like ‘Īd and when a baby was born. In the books of Fiqh, some of the madhabs, like the Hanbalis and Shafi’ees, even allowed the eating of hyena and coyotes. Most scholars of ḥadīth even allowed desert lizards. The Maliki madhab even says it’s not sinful to eat cats, dogs, scorpions, and snakes. Some scholars even allowed vermin and other insects. Salmaan said he therefore cannot believe in a book that allows such backward and barbaric practices, and therefore is his duty to convince Muslims this religion is not correct, and they need to live up with the times. Eating meat is uncivilised and barbaric.
Then Khalid spoke up. He said he also studied the texts and read the Qurʾān, and that it has led him to reaffirm his commitment to Islam. He is still Muslim and proud of it. He conceded a lot of what Salmaan said may be correct from a historical point of view, but is incorrect and lacking analysis. The Qurʾān is from God, but revealed in a specific time and place. Scholars understanding from before cannot be extrapolated now. The Qurʾān was sent to a backward people immersed in eating meat. Islam could not completely eradicate it, it would be too radical, and so it refined it for the people of those times. Now that we have evolved to a higher level, the verses must be given a fresh look. The ḥadīth were compiled after the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) so we don’t even know if they are authentic, and the Prophet(Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) himself was a human and not divine. Even that same ḥadīth book Bukhāri Salmaan quoted says that for 3 months no fire was made in his (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) house, and he turned down meat. So he was on a vegetarian diet for some time. There is also a ḥadīth that he rebuked a person for mistreating an animal. Is it possible that such a person, the Prophet of Mercy, would then command everyone to go slaughter an animal on ‘Īd? Is he that bloodthirsty? Those scholars had weird opinions but they are just scholars. The Hanafi madhab for example, didn’t allow anything from the sea except certain fish. So we have parallels from scholars in the past. We have to look at the spirit of the law and not the letter. Islam came with the intent of eradicating meat even though it didn’t do so in the beginning, so I am a Muslim and do not think Islam allows eating of meat.
Ali then spoke up. He was the youngest and most contemplative. He said to his older brothers that although the outcome of both of their searches ended up in diametrically opposed opinions, they are both still operating out of the same paradigm, principles, and usūl. This has led both of them to err. Their premise was to take the validity of what their culture gave them, i.e., that eating animals is barbaric. Taking this premise unconditionally caused one to reject his faith, and the other to change it in an unprecedented manner. Neither one asked what if my civilisation is incorrect on this issue? Does being vegan make them the pinnacle of society and everyone else is barbaric? The validity of a religion cannot be decided on subsidiary issues like eating meat. A religion’s primary claims of legitimacy stems from its primary dispositions like God and Afterlife. We look at the theology of a faith. Look at the concept of God and worship of God, then decided its validity. Then once it is valid, it is taken as a complete and total package. If we look at each and every ruling in light of our personal views, we are not submitting to the religion, but causing the religion to submit to us. If we apply this criterion to Islām, we see no religion as simple and correct as Islām. No other religion comes close. So after reaching this conclusion, Ali said, he realised he had to submit to the rulings that came with that theology.
Therefore, Ali continued, I agree with Salmaan, eating meat is called for Islām and is a blessing. This realisation caused me to challenge the premise on which our society lays its claim to fame. For the first time in my life I had to look at it and question it because of what the Qurʾān and Sunnah say. How do we judge if something is moral and unethical? Some things like taking a life we know from our fiṭrah. But not everything can be based on that. So I cannot use my opinion to prove eating meat is unethical. It is impossible to categorically claim eating meat is unethical, there is no proof. Also, the majority of mankind ate meat, and they were no less happy than us. In fact, our relatives in the Tertiary world are happier and they eat meat.
We claim to have reached the pinnacle of civilisation and look down on others due to this issue, but we ignore a million other things. We ignore that our society is the most violent of other societies, the most promiscuous, the most infested with crime and drugs, and the highest in the world in terms of percentages of its inhabitants in jail. How can we ignore all that and say just because we are a vegan society we are the best of all mankind. How can we claim moral and spiritual superiority when statistically our lives are worse and inferior to those in tertiary world countries? It is not just the quantity, but the heinousness and monstrosity. Last week a woman put a baby in a microwave and cooked it until it died, and some parents killed their kids and vice versa. You do not hear of these crimes in other countries. It is not just the quantity, but the monstrosity, and the way it is blatantly advertised in the news. How can this be ignored and how can we say that by not eating meat we are the pinnacle of civilisation?
Ali says that he concluded that he was wrong. The moral and ethical views of the United Lands of Veganopolis are not those that are divine in and of themselves. It was this premise that made his brothers fall into mistakes. They may be on opposite sides of the fence but they are not really that far apart. A strange fact must be pointed out. Salmaan is no longer Muslim, and most would be appalled by this, but logically speaking, his arguments make more sense than Khalid’s. Khalid claims to be a believer but comes forth with opinions that have no precedent whatsoever, how can he be a believer and reject every second statement in the Book and Sunnah. His claims are much more illogical and harder to defend. Ali said, I am a Muslim and I submit to the laws of Islam, and do not make the laws of Islam submit to me. 
In our times it is not really the issue of meat, but the issue of freedoms of choice, punishments, the role of women, morality. Salmaan represents those people who say Islam cannot be divine because it asks women to cover up, or to chop off the hand of the thief. They openly say Islām is backward. But they have judged the deen on subsidiary issues.
Khalid represents the progressives. They take the values of their land and say this is the paradigm of Islām – “Islām came with vegan ethics.” Basically they say Allāh could only do so much, and now that I, Khalid, have come, I can bring Islām up to par with the United Lands of Veganopolis. For 14 centuries, everyone had it wrong until he came along. And this is really the conclusion progressives are forced to make.
Ali is the rare breed in our times, combining historical reality and ethical dimensions of Veganopolis with a deep and profound understanding of Islām.
Sheikh Haitham al-Haddad’s explanation of al-‘Aqīdah al-Ṭaḥāwiyyah, edited by Asim Khan, will soon be published as a hardback book. Islam21c have exclusive rights to share extracts from the book for its readers, and will be posting certain sections of the book on a weekly basis. The book: al-‘Aqīdah al-Ṭaḥāwiyyah, is a short text outlining the ‘aqīdah of Ahl al-Sunnah in short statements. Each extract posted is a complete explanation of any one of those statements.
1] Example taken from Making Progress with the Progressives — Sh. Yasir Qadhi
I humbly ask, do you support the right of a Muslim in the modern day to have “sexual relations” with a woman they “acquire through war”, including if “they already had husbands” as long as they are “not pregnant”? If it is permissible today please explain why, and if not what approach should we take to these verses? Please forgive the forwardness of my question. Jzk
(As made permissible in Quran 4:24 and clarified in the tafsir, Ibn Kathir ‘Forbidding Women Already Married, Except for Female Slaves’)
“Also (forbidden are) women already married, except those (captives and slaves) whom your right hands possess.” – Quran 4:24
“We captured some women from the area of Awtas who were already married, and we disliked having sexual relations with them because they already had husbands. So, we asked the Prophet about this matter, and this Ayah was revealed,
(Also (forbidden are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess)except those whom you acquire through war. Consequently, we had sexual relations with these women.”
‘Forbidding Women Already Married, Except for Female Slaves’
A fine example of what I mentioned in reply to the earlier comment.
One way to proceed is to be bewildered by the stark contrast between the strict prohibition of sex outside marriage, with the rulings pertaining to prisoners of war, when taken OUT of that context, and then reject or reinterpret completely.
Another way, however, is to realise both in their contexts, especially in light of today’s standards of how prisoners of war are treated, and actually realise the eminence of the Islamic guidance on the matter, compared to alternatives which are far less favourable within the same context. Even if you don’t believe in the theological aspects at all, just from a purely secular angle.
It is a given that these people will have (understandably) the least rights compared to all other humans, as is a universal product of war and conflict. However, Islam provides frameworks for every context, including war and dealing with prisoners – Islam is for real life, not some kind of utopian fantasy.
The alternatives which you see in history and today – is that female prisoners in particular are abused and raped by entire army battalions (see the Iraq and Afghanistan war crimes for example that slip through the cracks). The Islamic method of dealing with POW’s are to assign them to individuals to take care of like they are their own wives – as such no other man is allowed to have sexual relations with them.
Of course that still leaves them vulnerable to abuse (obviously), but if they are being abused then at least there is a guardian to blame and take responsibility and be held accountable, in front of a judge that they can go to.
This is not to mention that once they have been captured, they are entitled into entering a kitabah contract – a contract which they are legally entitled to earn their own freedom, which the ‘master’ is legally obligated to agree to. Not only that, those prisoners who are in such contracts that would like to be ‘freed’ are one of the seven types of recipient of the zakah (the obligatory charity taken from each muslim).
So, on one hand you have the current systems of humiliation and mass abuse of prisoners in conflict, especially women, that is unspoken of and ignored by the rest of society because it is such a huge embarrassment; and on the other hand you have the Islamic system of firstly protecting these vulnerable people who are victims of circumstance (i.e. war), but allowing them a pathway to proceed to progress up through society and regain their independence. IF they want it – and that’s another story, since they are legally entitled to enjoy so many luxuries of their ‘masters’ that most in today’s era probably wouldn’t even want to! But that’s another story completely. The moral of the story is, just because two completely opposite concepts share the same name (“slaves” or “prisoners”), we should be able to see past that.
Thank you very much for your thoughtful answer. I will research this area more thoroughly to get full understanding.
To clarify, is it permissible to have intercourse with the captive married women even if their husbands are still alive and they would rather stay with the husband?
(This is not very clear in the tafsir)
‘Forbidding Women Already Married, Except for Female Slaves’
As salaamu alaykum wa rahmatullah
JazakAllah khair for such a thought provoking article. I’m not sure if this is the place to ask but I was just wondering, with regards to the analogy, what would the position then be on slavery?
Generally Muslims nowadays are opposed to slavery and think it is an unworthy thing for a Muslim to partake in although we know at the time of the Prophet (SAW) it took place. As far as I know, the Prophet (SAW) didn’t condone it nor did he condemn it but encouraged the freeing slaves whilst not condemning the practice as a whole. So, would you say this contemporary distaste of slavery amongst Muslims is a movement with the norms of society (post Slave Trade) rather than a textual understanding?
Apologies if I have totally missed the point or completely misunderstood something.
Wa’alaykumussalaam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.
In principle, that which was legislated regarding is still something honoured by us and a clear signpost to the eminence of Divine Guidance. It is unfortunate that that institution—of dealing with ‘slaves’/prisoners of war—when referred to today as ‘slavery’ is plagued with historical and cultural baggage from the shameful western tradition of ‘slavery’, when it is clearly 180° the opposite upon examination.
As a result—and here is where it is relevant to the article—the reaction from some Muslims in the west might be: (I) realise this fundamental difference (between western slavery and the Islamic riqaq “slavery”) and be able to articulate it in a competent way; or (II) fail to do so and as a result deny the entire institution completely, along with a re-interpretation of the accompanying rulings.
This example is repeated with a plethora of things from Islam that are subject to criticism by non-Muslims due to either ignorance or malicious intent, such as the roles of women and men, sexuality, war and peace, capital/corporal punishment, inheritance, etc. Some Muslims will be able to understand these deeply and articulate them competently, whilst others might not be able to and as a result a small minority of them will become active opponents of these aspects of Shari’ah or Islam in general.