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Answering Dr Akram Nadwi’s Claims Against Fadhā’il-i-A’māl

Introduction

It is not the first time someone is highlighting major discrepancies in the claims of Dr Akram Nadwi, and I can assure you it will not be the last time either. Right across the spectrum of Islamic sciences, Dr Akram, who is strangely hailed as a mujtahid by some of his ardent fans, likes to make a mark with controversial comments and seems to relish in unbridled critique and making recklessly brave claims. The irony in all of it is that Dr Akram says what he admires most about the Prophet ﷺ is that he knew his limits. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the Doctor. And as the saying in Arabic goes, “Whoever says what is inappropriate will hear what he doesn’t like.”

In one of many of his diatribes which have come to light, Dr Akram has once again proved that he is disposed to arbitrary criticism and speaking about matters far beyond his own stature. This time, to his own detriment, he has really shot himself in the foot, boisterously claiming that the teacher of our teachers, the blessing of the era (Barakat al-Asr) Shaykh al-Hadīth Mawlānā Muhammad Zakarīyyah al-Kāndhlawī al-Madanī (may Allāh illuminate his grave) did not take any care when writing his Fadhā’il-i-A’māl treatises and wrote blindly like a Sufi. When questioned about this later, instead of providing a proper explanation, the Doctor decided to add a further claim that the author admitted to being suffering from a mental condition when he wrote them!

Doctor Akram! If only you had invested in a life-size mirror to look at yourself very carefully — from your topi down to your toes — and then engaged in some serious introspection, before embarking on your discursive criticism of not just Shaykh al-Hadīth Mawlānā Muhammad Zakarīyyah (rahimahullah), but rather scores of scholars far more qualified than yourself. Can you be excused, because you yourself do not know what you are talking about? Perhaps it is a case of “oppose and you shall be recognised (khālif tu’raf)” which inspires your ramblings? Or are you compelled to do so by the organisations and platforms which take pride in the fruitful investment they have made in you? Then again, could it be you receive your guidance from the likes of Sanbhalī Sāhib and others of that ilk? If it is none of the above, the only conclusion is that you are suffering from the same mental health issues you spuriously attribute towards others without any sense of accountability. If that is the case, we will consider it an honour to help bring some equilibrium to your mental state and personally pay for you to be treated by a good, qualified herbalist, or whoever else can cure your condition.

Before making any judgment on the tone and direction of this article, focus should be on the points which will be discussed here. There are those who afford Dr Akram the liberty to unjustifiably criticise whomsoever he wishes, but then show symptoms of an allergic reaction when the Doctor is on the receiving end of criticism. My advice to such people is that it will be entirely self-defeating if offence is taken to the tone used here, only to use the same tone in any response. And to be frank, had Dr Akram not ranted the way he did, this response would have been markedly different. “And the retribution for an evil act is an evil one like it” (Qur’ān, 42:40).

Inconsistency of Sufis

Dr Akram Nadwi, in a course entitled “Spirituality in Islam: What is Sufism?” which he delivered in April 2014 at Leeds MET University, said the following (amongst a whole host of unqualified claims):

“And try to understand one thing really. Most of the people who when they write things on Sufism, then they shut down their mind of faqīh and thinking. They just follow this blindly as a Sufi. Then even the hadīth which are fabricated, they don’t care, they don’t check, just keep repeating. Same person when it comes on madhhab, they say no this hadīth is weak, is it mursal and this and that. They are great faqīh and muhaddith. But same person when he writes on Sufism, no mursal, no munqati‘, every hadīth is hadīth sahīh. They don’t care about anything. They shut their mind properly. You can see it. Like for example Shaykh al-Hadīth Mawlānā Zakarīyyah (RA), I respect him. When he writes Sharh Awjaz al-Masālik Muwattā, and this and that, you can see he is a faqīh and a muhaddith and this and that. Same person when writing a book on Fadhā’il-i-A’māl, then you know fabricated hadīth, munkar hadīth and all those things. No discussion, no argument. Every single thing he copies from the book and take it as it is. It is not right, people are not consistent. There are very few people in the world who are always consistent; most people are not consistent.” (sic)

The inconsistency of “most of the people” who write on Sufism is the main point Dr Akram has raised here. His very bold claim is that when writing on topics besides Sufism, people were very meticulous and exercised a rigorous approach when dealing with hadīths. But when they put pen to paper regarding Sufism, they became blind Sufis who cast aside their juridical thinking, shut their minds, and carelessly wrote whatever they felt like, even if that meant recording fabricated hadīths. And out of all the people he chose to highlight as an example of his hyperbole, he decided to pick an old target.

The Fadhā’il-i-A’māl series, in case it has escaped the Doctor’s mind, are not books on Sufism or Tasawwuf, but treatises explaining the virtues of particular acts of worship. Unfortunately, the incoherence of Dr Akram’s arguments, just in this very brief rant, is quite ludicrous. It appears that his own mind goes into sleep mode when he opens his mouth to criticise, and he does not realise how blatantly wrong his assertions are.

Weak Hadiths in the Works of Notable Hadith Scholars

Firstly, it slipped Dr Akram that the inconsistent approach he is bemoaning of “most of the people when they write things on Sufism” – whoever he was referring to – is in fact the “crime” of numerous great hadīth scholars in their non-Sufism works. And as already mentioned, the works of Shaykh al-Hadīth Mawlānā Muhammad Zakarīyyah (rahimahullah) he has criticised are not works on Sufism; they are essentially hadīth compilations followed with brief commentary.

Furthermore, many giants in the science of hadīth consented to using weak narrations in matters related to reward, punishment, virtues of actions, inculcating noble characteristics, safeguarding against evil character traits, and other aspects which motivate people towards good actions and instill fear of bad actions.

A few of these statements are cited below, only by way of example, and not to serve as an exhaustive list.

  1. Abū Hātim (rahimahullah) narrates from ‘Abdah ibn Sulaymān (rahimahullah) that it was said to ‘Abdullah ibn al-Mubārak (d. 181 AH) (rahimahullah) when he narrated a hadīth from a [certain] person: “This is a weak person”. He replied, “This amount” or “Such things can be narrated from him.” Abū Hātim asked, “What sort of thing was it?” ‘Abdah replied, “Regarding etiquette, admonition, abstinence, or such things.”[1]
  2. Imām ‘Abd al-Rahmān ibn al-Mahdī (d.198 AH) (rahimahullah) said, “When we narrate regarding reward, punishment, and virtues of actions, we are lenient with respect to chains of transmission and narrators, and when we narrate regarding the lawful and unlawful, we are strict with respect to narrators.”[2]
  3. Imām Abū Bakr al-Bayhaqī (d. 485 AH) (rahimahullah) said, “The scholars of hadīth adopted lenience in accepting what has come of supplications and virtues of actions, provided they are not from the narration of those known to fabricate hadīths or lie in narrating.”[3]
  4. Imām Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr (d. 463 AH) (rahimahullah) said, “Virtues are narrated from all [narrators]. Proof, from a chain of transmission (isnād) perspective, is only thoroughly verified in rulings, and in the lawful and unlawful.”[4] “The scholars have always been lenient in narrating hadīths on virtues [of actions] from all [narrators]. They were not as critical regarding them as they were with hadīths on rulings.”[5] It is worth noting that both the hadīths under which Imām Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr made these comments are extremely weak, due to the presence of a discarded (matrūk) narrator in their chains.
  5. Imām Abū ‘Amr ibn al-Salāh (d.643 AH) (rahimahullah) said, “According to the scholars of hadīth and others, it is permissible to be lenient regarding chains of transmission (isnāds) and narrating – with the exception of fabrications – the different categories of weak hadīths, without concern for explaining their weakness, in matters other than the attributes (sifāt) of Allāh, and rulings of the sacred law (Sharī’ah) regarding the lawful, unlawful and other things. They are matters such as advices, stories, virtues of actions, all types of encouragement (targhīb) and instilling fear (tarhīb), and everything which is not connected to rulings and beliefs.”[6]

Alongside these explicit statements, which prove that hadīth scholars advocated laxity in narrating hadīths on non-ruling and non-belief based matters, a quick look at some of the published works of notable hadīth scholars throughout the ages shows how they also narrated hadīths of varying levels of weakness.

Hereunder are just a few examples:

  1. Al-Zuhd wa ’l-Raqā’iq of Imām ‘Abdullāh ibn al-Mubārak (d.181 AH) (rahimahullah). Many of the narrations have been graded by the reviewer, Ahmad Farid, as mursal, munqati’, mu’dal (all types of hadīth with a breakage in the chain of transmission), with a weak chain and some with a very weak chain.
  1. Al-Zuhd of Imām Mu’āfā ibn ‘Imrān al-Mawsilī (d. 185 AH) (rahimahullah) contains a substantial number of weak hadīths of varying levels of weakness. There are also three discarded (matruūk) narrators the author has narrated from: Muthannā ibn al-Sabāh, Hishām ibn Ziyād and Hasan ibn Dinār.
  1. Al-Zuhd of Imām Wakī’ ibn al-Jarrāh (d. 197 AH) (rahimahullah). ‘Abdur Rahmān al-Fariwā’i, the reviewer of the Maktabat al-Dār edition writes that out of 539 narrations, 191 narrations are weak!
  1. Hilyat al-Awliyā’ of Imām Abū Nu’aym (d. 430 AH) (rahimahullah). Ibn Taymīyyah (rahimahullah) said that Imām Ahmad’s Al-Zuhd, Ibn al-Mubārak’s Al-Zuhd and similar books are more authentic than Hilyat al-Awliyā’, but that it is inevitable that books like Hilyat al-Awliyā’ and others will contain weak narrations and stories, and even baseless narrations. He says that there are a number of such narrations in Hilyat al-Awliyā’, but they are relatively less compared to other books.[7]
  1. Al-Sharī’ah of Imām Abū Bakr ibn al-Ājurrī (d. 360 AH) (rahimahullah) contains a number of weak and very weak hadīths. Some have also been graded as fabricated.
  1. Al-Zuhd al-Kabīr of Imām Bayhaqī (d. 458 AH) (rahimahullah) contains a substantial amount of weak hadīths.
  1. Al-Targhīb wa ’l-Tarhīb of Abū ’l-Qāsim al-Asbahānī (d. 535 AH) (rahimahullah) contains weak and very weak narrations, without any indication from the author towards their weakness.
  1. Al-Shifā’ of Qādi ‘Iyādh al-Mālikī (d. 544 AH) (rahimahullah) contains a number of weak and very weak hadīths.
  1. Al-Targhīb wa ’l-Tarhīb of Imām ‘Abd al-Azīm al-Mundhirī (d. 656 AH) (rahimahullah) contains weak and very weak narrations.
  1. The numerous beneficial treatises of Imām Ibn Abi ’l-Dunyā’ (d. 681 AH) (rahimahullah), such as Kitāb al-Qubūr, Al-Riqqah wa ’l-Bukā’ and Dhamm al-Dunyā, all contain weak hadīths.
  1. Al-Kalīm al-Tayyib (not the abridged Sahīh al-Kalīm al-Tayyib!) of Hāfiz Ibn Taymīyyah (d. 728 AH) (rahimahullah) contains a number of weak and very weak hadīths, and a few hadīths are also reported to be fabricated.
  1. Uddat al-Sābirīn of Hāfiz Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawzīyyah (d. 751 AH) (rahimahullah), amongst his many books, contains many weak narrations of varying grades. Likewise is the condition of his other books, such as Rawdhāt al-Muhibbīn, Tārīq al-Hijratayn, Hādi al-Arwāh and Ar-Rūh.
  1. Nūr al-Iqtibās of al-Hāfiz Ibn Rajab al-Hanbalī (d. 795 AH) (rahimahullah) contains a number of weak and very weak narrations, with some containing narrators in their chains who were reported to relate fabrications! His other works such as Istinshāq Nasīm al-Uns, Ahwāl al-Qubūr, Al-Takhwīf min al-Nār, and many of his hadīth monographs contain weak hadīths also.
  1. Al-Hisn al-Hasīn of Imām Ibn al-Jazarī (d. 833 AH) (rahimahullah) has a number of weak and very weak narrations.
  1. Al-Qawl al-Badī of al-Hāfiz Shams al-Din al-Sakhāwi (d. 902 AH) (rahimahullah), in which he comments after quoting the hadīth of Salat al-Hājah: “In conclusion, it is a very weak hadīth which is written in [the chapter] of virtues of actions.”[8]

The list above is a minute snapshot of the works of great hadīth scholars, all of whom narrated hadīths varying in weakness in their books that are not related to Sufism. Also, in most cases, the authors have not even indicated the weakness to the readers.

Furthermore, Hazrat Shaykh (rahimahullah) echoed the same stance and clarified this in a number of places in his Fadhā’il treatises. For example, in Fadhā’il-i-Ramadān, he said regarding the first hadīth:

“The hadīth scholars have scrutinised some of the narrators. However, with respect to virtues, this amount of scrutiny is tolerable. Secondly, most of its contents are supported by other narrations.”[9]

In light of the above, we come to some burning questions for Dr Akram: Did all of the aforementioned imams “shut their mind properly” whilst they were writing these works? Did Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr (rahimahullah) lose his “mind of faqīh and thinking” when he said hadīth scholars were always lenient regarding weak hadīths on virtues, only to regain his “mind of faqīh” when writing works like Al-Tamhīd, Al-Istidhkār and Al-Kāfī? Which Sufi tarīqah made them perpetrate this inconsistency you bemoan? Why did they not care about anything? Is it not a howler of a consistency on your part that you identified this as a weakness of Sufi authors, but did not realise you would be hitting the hadīth scholars through collateral damage? Or is it allowed for hadīth experts to narrate weak hadīths but not for Sufis, because of your deep-rooted bias towards the latter group? Which of the abovementioned books are Sufi books?

It is important to note that the objective here is not to stifle any discussion on the validity of using weak hadīths. The point being raised here is the sweeping manner in which Dr Akram demeans the approach adopted by great hadīth scholars throughout the ages.

Shaykh Muhammad Awwāmah (hafizahullah) writes that there is an element of showing oneself superior to these imams [i.e., those who narrated weak hadīths in their books] when criticising them in the forewords to their books, and accusing them of not researching and refraining from narrating weak hadīths in their works.[10]

He also writes (on pg. 117), specifically regarding As-Shifa’ of Qādi ‘Iyādh al-Mālikī (d.544 AH) (rahimahullah), that whoever reads it with a critical eye will consider both the author and his work to be weak, but as for one who views the author through his commentary of Sahīh Muslim, he will see an expert imam with deep insight at work.

In short, the difference between the approach towards hadīths on virtues etc. and towards hadīths on rulings (ahkām) is not an inconsistency of Hazrat Shaykh (rahimahullah) or blind Sufis, but rather the consciously-adopted practice of hadīth scholars from the earlier generations onwards. Unbiased readers will have understood that by now, but things need to be spelled out clearly for Dr Akram!

Adding Insult to Injury

As if Dr Akram’s claim regarding the inconsistency of Hazrat Shaykh (rahimahullah) in his Fadhā’il works was not bad enough, the Doctor decided to further demonstrate his tendency to jabber by throwing in another desultory claim. To lend credibility to, or even detract from his initial outburst, Dr Akram later claimed that Hazrat Shaykh (rahimahullah) himself wrote that he had a mental condition (dimāghī hālat) when writing Fadhā’il-i-A’māl!

Unless Dr Akram’s capacity as a mujtahid gives him an open licence to falsely attribute statements to the author, it is fair to deem this a pitiful attempt to discredit the author and his works. Had the Doctor taken the trouble to do just a bit of research before making his comments, he would not have ended up jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

So where did Hazrat Shaykh (rahimahullah) apparently say he had mental issues when writing Fadhā’il-i-A’māl?

Before answering that, it is important to note that Fadhā’il-i-A’māl is a compilation of treatises, each of which was written at different times. All besides one of these works was written upon the instruction of the author’s elders. The following nine treatises make up the renowned series:

  1. Fadhā’il-i-Qur’ān, written in 1348 AH upon the instruction of Shah Yāsīn Naginwī (rahimahullah);
  2. Fadhā’il-i-Ramadhān, written in 1349 AH;
  3. Fadhā’il-i-Tablīgh, written in 1350 AH;
  4. Fadhā’il-i-Namāz, written in 1358 AH;
  5. Fadhā’il-i-Dhikr, written in 1358 AH, all upon the instruction of Hazrat Mawlānā Muhammad Ilyās (rahimahullah);
  6. Hikāyāt-i-Sahābah, written in 1357 AH upon the request of Shāh ‘Abd al-Qādir Raipūrī (rahimahullah);
  7. Fadhā’il-i-Hajj, completed in 1367 AH upon the request of Hazrat Jī Mawlānā Muhammad Yūsuf (rahimahullah);
  8. Fadhā’il-i-Sadaqāt, completed in 1367 AH and which was written upon the instruction of Hazrat Mawlānā Muhammad Ilyās (rahimahullah);
  9. Fadhā’il-i-Durūd which was written in 1384 AH upon the instruction of Shah Yasīn Naginwī (d. 1380 AH), who had emphasised during his lifetime that this treatise be written.

Dr Akram claimed the author admitted to being mentally unfit when compiling Fadhā’il-i-A’māl, failing to even mention that the Fadhā’il treatises were not written as a single work. But as readers will have already witnessed, it is very easy for the Doctor to say whatever occurs to him. Nonetheless, it was not difficult to ascertain what the Doctor had misconstrued, as people of his ilk prior to him also felt they could pull wool over people’s eyes with the same claim.

We will allow Hazrat Shaykh (rahimahullah) himself to shed light on the issue.

Hikāyāt-i-Sahābah

In his autobiography, Āp Bītī, Hazrat Shaykh (rahimahullah) writes:

“In Safar 1357 AH, whilst on my way to Ajrara, I had a severe nosebleed which started after Maghrib and continued until eight in the morning. Throughout the night, approximately two pots were filled with blood as if from thin air….Nonetheless, instead of going to Ajrara, this worthless one was taken to Saharanpur with Hazrat Nāzim Sāhib (may Allāh illuminate his grave) on a first class ticket, in such a state that I have no recollection of the train journey, nor of Saharanpur or Meerut. I was stopped by doctors and hakīms from mental work (dimāghī kām) for a few months.

My Hazrat, mentor and benefactor, Hazrat Mawlānā Shāh ‘Abd al-Qādir Raipūri Sāhib had been instructing me to write it [i.e., Hikāyāt-i-Sahābah] for approximately four years. However, I was unable to comply due to my many preoccupations. Availing of this period of illness, I fulfilled his instruction by writing here and there whilst resting, and it was completed on 12th Shawwāl 1357 AH. A few days later, I began to teach again and I also started to write I’tidāl, which will be mentioned shortly.”[11]

In the preface to Hikāyāt-i-Sahābah, which is what Doctor Akram alluded to, Hazrat Shaykh (rahimahullah) says:

“For four years, I continued hearing this instruction but felt ashamed of my unworthiness. In Safar 1357 AH, I was stopped from mental work (dimāghī kām) for a few days. I thought I should spend these free days in this blessed task. Even if these few pages are not received with approval, my free moments will have been spent in this excellent and most blessed task.”[12]

Now, anyone who is mentally stable themselves will understand the clear purport of Hazrat Shaykh’s words, and that there is a distinct difference between being advised not to engage in mentally strenuous work due to illness and not being in a right state of mind. There are many cases, old and recent, of dedicated scholars and elders who were advised to take rest, but in their utmost zeal for knowledge and benefiting the creation, they strove relentlessly nonetheless.

Unfortunately, such points are very easily lost upon Dr Akram and it is no longer surprising to hear such bold comments from him. Even a quick glance at the preface to Hikāyāt-i-Sahābah or Aap Beeti, or contacting the senior students and associates of Hazrat Shaykh (rahimahullah) would have saved Dr Akram from such a glaring blunder. However, all means to verify are useless when there is no genuine attempt to understand, and furthermore, present the truth.

And if he is still insisting this is the case, he is requested to bring forth something from Hikāyāt-i-Sahābah which suggests the author was mentally unfit, or otherwise reflect over the hadīth: “Whoever believes in Allāh and the Last Day should say what is good or keep quiet” (Bukhārī, Muslim).

My advice to the Doctor is, as the poet says:

O he who is hitting his head against the high mountain, in an attempt to wound it! Worry about your own head, not the mountain!

Interestingly, Hazrat Mawlānā Abū ‘l-Hasan ‘Ali Nadwi (rahimahullah), whom Dr Akram likes to cite as his shaykh, says:

Hikāyāt-i-Sahābah has a special rank amongst the works of Hazrat Shaykh. It is unique in its effectiveness and benefit. Apart from being an important part of the Tablīghī Jamā’at syllabus, it is a widely-accepted da’wah textbook amongst religious and da’wah circles. The language is fluent and pleasant, its style of explanation is profound, and its effective stories are not only heartrending but revolutionary.”[13]

The fact that Hikāyāt-i-Sahābah was accepted amongst many different circles is evident from a letter which was sent to the author by Mawlānā Muhammad Dawūd Rāz (rahimahullah), an Ahl-i-Hadīth scholar, who said:

“Your renowned, simple-to-understand book Hikāyāt-i-Sahābah is not only widely accepted in North India, but also in South India. Due to it being reliable, it is, alongside being accepted amongst Hanafī friends, also accepted amongst the Ahl-i-Hadīth.”[14]

Regarding the whole Fadhā’il-i-A’māl collection, Dr Akram’s Shaykh says:

“The statement of a renowned contemporary scholar regarding the religious and practical benefit of these books, i.e., that thousands have attained the status of saintliness (wilāyah) through them, does not seem like an exaggeration.”[15]

I would suggest the Doctor actually reads what his shaykh has written in praise of Hazrat Shaykh (rahimahullah) and his works. It will serve as good detox reading.

Awjaz al-Masālik and Other Works

In a very premature attempt to defend Dr Akram’s accusing Hazrat Shaykh (rahimahullah) of mental health issues, some have tried to support the idea by saying that hadīth scholars also pointed out great narrators of hadīth as becoming confused or senile. They have added that this probably explains why problematic hadīth crept into the book. It seems Dr Akram’s illness of speaking authoritatively without basis is contagious and has spread to his admirers too.

Without exhausting the discussion again, even with a minimal amount of research, it is clear that the Fadhā’il works were not written altogether but over a number of years, and the same non-Sufism works which Dr Akram initially praised were written during the same sort of time period as the Fadhā’il works, if not later in life.

Hazrat Shaykh (rahimahullah) writes whilst concluding Awjaz al-Masālik:

“Through the grace and kindness of Allāh, its draft has been completed at the time of ‘Asr adhān on Monday 28th Dhu ’l-Hijjah 1375 after the Prophet’s hijrah – may the choicest blessings and greetings be upon him. Thirty years and a few months were spent in compiling it, as the start of its compilation was in Madinah Munawwarah – may it be increased in nobility – in 1345 AH, as I mentioned in the beginning of the book.

A number of big obstacles, which made me lose hope in completing the book, interrupted the compilation a number of times. For example, in the year 1351 AH, I was preoccupied in writing and publishing the marginal notes to Al-Kawkab al-Durrīyy for two years in which I was not free to write even one sentence of Awjaz.”[16]

Eight of the nine Fadhā’il treatises were written during this period in which Awjaz al-Masālik was compiled. Hence, Dr Akram and those who are eager to defend him need to decide what their stance is: Are the Fadhā’il books of Hazrat Shaykh (rahimahullah) problematic because the author is amongst those who “shut down their mind of faqīh and thinking”, “just follow things blindly as a Sufi”, “don’t care about anything”, “shut their mind properly” or is it because the author was mentally unfit? Were all the hadīth scholars whose books contain “problematic” hadīths, similar to those of Hazrat Shaykh (rahimahullah), also suffering from mental conditions, or was it as Dr Akram first asserted because “they shut down their mind of faqīh and thinking”? Or is being a Sufi synonymous with insanity according to Dr Akram and his admirers?

People in Glasshouses Shouldn’t Throw Stones

A humorous twist to all this is how Dr Akram himself not only uses very weak hadīths – in matters of rulings also – but also out of context! Consider for example his trying to prove covering of the face is not necessary through a hadīth of Ibn Abi Shaybah’s Musannaf (17959) (22792), in which Sayyidah ‘Ā’ishah (radhiallahu anha) is supposed to have paraded young teenage girls in the markets of Madīnah, so that people fall in love with them and marry them. Besides being a weak hadīth, with two unknown narrators in its chain (‘Ammār ibn ‘Imrān and a “woman from them”), the hadīth has been contextualised both by the chapters it has been narrated in and also the hadīths that precede and follow it; the context is selling slave-girls!

So did Dr Akram enter a Sufi tarīqah when he was relating this hadīth? Or did he switch his mind off and not bother to check if it was reliable or not? Or did he have some dimāghī hālāt at the time and can thus be excused for being inconsistent and not caring about what he narrates? Dr Akram is in the best position to answer that.

By the bye, it is not uncommon for the Rawafidh to also quote and misconstrue the above hadith, with a view to disparage Sayyida Ā’isha (radhiallahu anha).

The Sky’s the Limit

Outlandish claims are fast becoming the hallmark of Dr Akram Nadwi. There is nothing he says which comes across as surprising anymore. Disgusting: yes. But not surprising. The books of Islamic law are harsh on women and all the scholars were misogynists because they started studying philosophy; all Indian hadīth commentaries are sectarian, as they did not bother to explain the book, and that is why they did not make any big contribution; Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī (rahimahullah) wanted to rewrite the Qur’ān; Hazrat Shaykh (rahimahullah) was mentally unfit when writing Fadha’il A’maal; all of these pale in front of the picture he has painted of Madīna Munawwarah at the time of Rasūlullah ﷺ.

After a programme he conducted in Lancashire a number of years ago, lamenting the fact that women are not allowed to come to the mosque and disputing the fitna argument which is put forward, Dr Akram said that in the time of the Prophet ﷺ, zinā used to occur openly (khul-i-ām) in the markets of Madīnah, and Asma’ (radhiallahu anha) used to wear extremely tight clothes.

There is not much left to say after statements like that. Once people board the roller-coaster of full throttle criticism, they are sure to be derailed totally. Dr Akram has, whether he realises it or not, already gone far afield of his range, and in his irascible manner, reached the doorstep of the Companions.[17] The Prophet ﷺ and Allāh are only a few steps away.

It was ‘Allamah Sayyid Sulaymān Nadwi (rahimahumullah) who, after reading a famous poet’s derogatory remarks about Allah Most High in a newspaper, could not sleep until he had written an indignant reply to the poet’s audacious prattle. “Allah does not like the public mention of evil except by one who has been wronged” (Qur’an. 4:148).

What Dr Akram needs more than anything else at the moment is a generous serving of humble pie. Hopefully, that will help him retract his half-baked musings and ensure he is careful not to speak out of turn in future.

“Our Lord, do not let our hearts deviate from the right path after You have given us guidance, and bestow upon us mercy from Your own. Surely, You alone are the One who bestows in abundance.” (Qur’an, 3:8)

Javed Iqbal

 

[1] Al-Jarh wa’l-Ta’dīl, Vol 2, pg. 30.

[2] Mustadrak al-Hākim (1801), Bayhaqi’s Al-Madkhal (808)

[3] Shu’ab al-Imān (1914)

[4] Jāmi’ Bayān wa ‘l-‘Ilm (Hadith 158).

[5] Ibid, (hadīth 213).

[6] ‘Ulūm al-Hadīth, pg. 93

[7] Majmū al-Fatāwā, Vol 18, pg. 71-73

[8] Al-Qawl al-Badī’, pg. 497

[9] Fadhā’il-i-Ramadān, pg724 (Maktaba Bushrā edition).  

[10] Hukm al-‘Amal bi’l-Hadīth al-Dha’īf, Pg 64

[11] Āp Bītī, pg 130

[12] Hikāyāt-i-Sahāba, pg 22 (Maktabah Bushrā edition)

[13] Fehrist-i-Ta’lifāt-i-Shaykh, Vol 1, pg. 350

[14] Fehrist-i-Ta’lifāt-i-Shaykh, Vol 1, pg. 370

[15] Husn-i-Tadbīr (Shaykh al-Hadith Number), pg. 361-362

[16] Awjaz al-Masālik, Vol. 17, pg. 643

[17] It is not difficult to understand the difference between Sayyida Asmā bint Abī Bakr (radhiallahu anha) being corrected by the Prophet ﷺ for wearing thin clothes, as mentioned in a hadīth (Sunan Abi Dawud 4104), and giving the impression that this was her normal practice in Madina without objection.

9 comments

  1. Salam
    Jzk khair for this insightful piece. Is it possible to answer the claims of Fadhail Aamal containing within it fabricated ahadith? Your response didn’t cover that and most works in defense of Fadhail Aamal don’t cover this issue.
    Jzk khair

  2. The article clarifies: “It is important to note that the objective here is not to stifle any discussion on the validity of using weak hadīths.” The issue of using weak hadiths is a separate, though perhaps related, matter.

    What is of issue here is that Akram Nadwi has made a false claim, which is that Shaykh Zakariyya Kandhlewi was mentally unwell when writing parts of Fazail Amal, whereas the reality is that doctors merely advised him not to engage in any mentally strenuous activity before he wrote one of the books of the Fazail series. The claim he was mentally unwell when writing parts of Fazail is, thus, false and baseless.

    Akram Nadwi has indirectly addressed this piece, and instead of retracting this falsehood, which if he was sincere he would have put first on his priority list, he merely tells his followers not to respond! This is cowardice and arrogance. What he must do is withdraw the false allegation against the author of Fazail. He will also do well to apologise for making such a blunder, and make a commitment to not make such claims in future without properly ascertaining whether it is accurate or not. When such egregious errors are pointed out to a scholar, especially in such a clear way as in this piece, that is when their sincerity and integrity is tested. If he is a person of integrity and sincerity, why has Akram Nadwi not publicly retracted his false claim?

  3. Asslamalaikum brother Javed Iqbal I was keen to find out about your own expertise to know a bit more about you to find out wether you have done the same mistake as Dr Akram ie going beyond your scope and level to criticize a much more senior scholar or not? I had this forwarded by a friend Ronnie so may need to do a bitmore research to find out about you.

    Now coming to the subject matter under discussion.
    1) As pointed out by a brother you have not addressed the main issue of debate ” does Fadaile Amal contain fabricated Hadith as Dr Nadwi has pointed out or it?” at all. He has not pointed out about weak hadith in length but this seems futile since Dr Nadwi knows quite well the permissibility of weak hadith by some scholars and in his own book Mabadi gives his opinion that it is permissible to use weak Hadith for those ibadah that has been otherwise established by Qati proof by shariah.

    • It’s very irrelevant to ask what Br Javed’s qualifications are. I doubt he is going to carry his credentials on his cuff like others do. Also, Nadwi Sahib just says the first thing that pops into his head and he’s blatantly been shown up for the major flaws in his arguments.

      I’m sure scholars have given answers to the fabricated hadiths question. BUT WHO SAID THAT’S THE MAIN POINT OF THE DISCUSSION IN THE FIRST PLACE? Javed made it very clear that if Nadwi is going to call people blind Sufi and the rest of it he’s going to be gunning down a lot more people than just Shaikh Zakariyya for shutting their brain off and not caring etc etc

  4. Brother no one can be sure of the mental illness theory as the phrases not to use mentally strenuous activity can mean anything that time of medicine was practiced differently than now , however, the point that everyone is missing is Dr Akram despite his criticism of fadaile amaal having fabricated Hadith with the same chains that the Shias use to justify their practices is trying to make an excuse for Sheikh Zakarya rah that he may have done it due to the illness ( otherwise he would have avoided them) and this justification is mainly due to the respect he has for him. Dr Nadwi has no problems with weak Hadith being used for fadail as apparent from his own statement in his book Mabadi usul al Hadith…and it was a useless thing to dwell at length by the author who has failed to answer the main question does the book contain fabricated Hadith as Dr Nadwi claims or not??

    I feel the author has fallen into the same trap he is accusing Dr Nadwi of – trying to criticize and find faults with a much qualified and seniorAlim something that should be left for more senior Ulama to decide. And please note Sheikh Yunus the successor of Sheikh Zakarya rah is full of praises for DrAkram so please don’t spread messages of hate by belittling senior Ulamas. Diffferences of opinions was supposed to. E a rahmat for the Ummah but unfortunately the Ummah is guided by emotions rather than sensibility and is William k to pass judgements.

    • I can’t believe you are even trying to defend the mental illness comment. It is so clear that there was no case of mental illness at all. People. Are so blindly in love with this Nadwi character that they’ll bend over backwards to make excuses for his attacks.

      And it’s no big deal if Shaikh Yunus admires him. He probably doesn’t know all the stuff he says. Having big connections doesn’t mean you can say what you want and get away with it.

      People shouldn’t be throwing these red herrings in.

    • The main question is whether Dr. Akram Nadwi is grossly incompetent (as proven by the author above) and wrong in his assertion that Shaykh Zakariyyah was mentally unfit? That is the real question. Are you willing to accept Dr. Akram Nadwi made an accusation without any basis (in other words, a lie)?

  5. What does that mean? Question isn’t clear.

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