Sheikh Abdal Hakim Murad tackles the topic of ethics and what it means within the context of Islam. He begins with a fundamental point; that in the foundation of Islam as with other great faiths the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, was no mere theoriser; he laid down no well outlined manifestos or texts titled ‘ethics’. Instead he, foremost amongst the greats of the religion, took history by the horns and changed it for the better in a natural way. It was up to those who followed, up to our day, to discover the spirit of how the Prophet was able to take his people and turn them around in an unprecedented time and manner. Many who followed him tried to find that subtle thing, that charisma, that made people hand over the keys to their hearts to him in a way that unified a land that had never been brought together before. It is revealing to note what his wife A’isha – may Allah be pleased with her – said about him: kana khuluquhu al-Quran, his character was that of the Qur’an. The message of Islam is thus intertextual, in a way the book and the messenger and two facets of the same thing. Thus the Sheikh notes that Akhlaq, ‘character traits’, is the Islamic term for ethics.
The Sheikh outlines the current polarities of the age, where a post-Enlightenment West claiming to have found a Universal basis for ethics that apply to all human beings clashes with an often Muslim world that is seen as puritanical and backward. Sheikh Abdal Hakim goes on to see whether the virtues of the the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, can go some way to bridging this divide that is felt so keenly in contemporary society.
The Khilafa of Sayyidina Ali – The Mortal Choice – Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad
Sayyidina Ali ibn Abi Talib was the fourth Khalifa of Islam. He had the distinction of being both the son-in-law and the cousin of the Holy Prophet, upon him be peace. He is, with Fatima, the ancestor of the Ahl al-Bayt, the People of the Prophetic House.
He was characterised by martial skill, by inward depth, and by an immense erudition in religious knowledge. Of him, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal said: ‘Khilafa was not an ornament for him, he was an ornament for khilafa.’
The Khilafa of Sayyidina Uthman The Wisdom and the Agony – Shaykh Abdal hakim Murad
Sayyidina Uthman ibn Affan was the third Khalifa of Islam. He was known as the ‘Man of the Two Lights’, because he was the only man in history known to have married two daughters of a Prophet.
Uthman was famed for his good looks and immense generosity, and also for his spiritual closeness to the Holy Prophet of Islam, who included him among the ten who were assured of Paradise. He commanded the armies of Islam during an age of miraculous conquest and victory in East and West.
But he remained famously humble, and his sermons brought people to tears. He said: ‘I am astounded at four people: he who knows the world to be temporary, and still chases after it; he who is certain of death and yet makes no plans for it; he who believes in hell, and yet commits sins; and he who believes in Allah, and yet seeks the help of others.’
Sayyidina Umar ibn al-Khattab, known as al-Faruq, ‘the Discerner’, was the second of the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs. One of the greatest rulers in world history, he laid down the institutions of a solid Muslim government. Under his farsighted leadership, armies moved in every direction to liberate neighbouring lands.
Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, was passionate in his devotion to the Din of Islam and establishing Allah’s laws among His servants.
He was also a man of prayer and fasting, who paid little attention to the temporary pleasures of the world. He said: ‘No part of Allah’s wealth is allowed to Umar, save two garments: one for the winter, and the other for summer, and what I need to take me to Umra and the Hajj. My provisions for my family are those of an ordinary man of Quraysh, neither the wealthiest nor the poorest. After that, I am just a man from among the Muslims.’
A far-sighted and deeply religious man, Abu Bakr al-Siddiq was the first adult free convert to Islam, and became a major narrator of Hadith and a fountainhead of spiritual wisdom.
He also became the first Khalifa of the Holy Prophet ﷺ. Facing rebellions by followers of false prophets, he reestablished the unity of Arabia under Islam.
He became a byword for humble rulership. When he assumed the leadership he said: “If I am right, help me. If I am wrong, correct me. I shall strengthen the weak man among you until he enjoys his rights. I shall weaken the strong man among you until I have taken what is due from him. Obey me for as long as I obey Allah and His prophet; but if I disobey them, then disobey me.”
Sheikh Abdal Hakim offers some thoughts on gender in Islam. He begins, with characteristic catholicity, by discussing the career of Valentine de Sainte Point, an early French feminist and Futurist who in later life rejected what she perceived as the dehumanising trajectory of Western culture and converted to Islam, in which she found a more integrated and integrative understanding of human nature.
From that, the sheikh moves on discuss some aspects of the Islamic understanding of gender and sexuality, and how in this respect, as in others, the message of the Qu’ran and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) acted as a rectification to misinterpretations of previous revelation; in this case, the rejection and excoriation of human sexuality often manifested by Christianity. The Prophet, by contrast, as ‘mankind perfected’, embraced this aspect of his humanity as he did every other, according to the Divine Guidance. His role as exemplar was thereby extended to women partly through his marriages, which provided multiple models of exemplary female behaviour. The sheikh finishes by discussing this in relation to the Prophet’s wives (may God be pleased with them) and Qur’anic examples of ideal women.
In this khutba the Sheikh illustrates the high Islamic principle of adab (loosely translated as ‘manners’) with examples drawn from the rich tapestry of prophetic stories woven into the Qur’an. We learn how Ayyub (Job) is exiled from his loved ones, how Ibrahim (Abraham) receives unexpected desert visitors, how Isa (Jesus) is questioned over that which others ascribe to him, how Musa (Moses) was met with unexpected rewards in exile, may Allah be pleased with them all. These ancient examples of profound adab before a breakthrough moment is what we are called on to emulate in this present day and age.
Of course such a khutba would not be complete without mentioning the last of the emissaries of Allah – after the tribulations of Taif, the death of his uncle and patron, his wife, his son and the persecution of his enemies, Prophet Muhammad – may Allah grant him His blessings and peace – was able to say “O Allah, I ask that you do not change your decree, but that you be gentle with it”. This is the maqam an-nubuwwa, the station of prophethood.
In his address during the Imam’s Conference, Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad makes a strong case of what the role of Imam’s is, following the difficult years that have followed 9/11. Here he talks about the need for scholars to be independent of external forces and to act in an impartial and sincere manner without marginalising the young and vulnerable. He also highlights the crises of legitimacy amongst the Ulema being the biggest challenge facing scholars. His address highlights the need for scholars to try and overcome the state of failure by doing more to build communities through the internal discourse of religion.
In his final address to the non-Muslim participants of the New Mexico educational retreat, Abdal Hakim looks at the other aspects of the long-standing historical interaction of the three Abrahamic faiths, such as the transmission of science, technology, and philosophical ideas from the Islamic world to the Western world. Islam in the middle ages was a very successful commercial and material civilization and this fact combined with the Muslim’s strategic geographic positions allowed for such a profound influence and contribution. The speaker looks at the economic/cultural/scientific contributions in the areas of maritine navigation and exploration, agriculture, music, poetry, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, chemistry, and much more. (Recorded at the Dar al Islam Teachers’ Institute seminar).
After thoroughly addressing the first dimension of Islam in his first four lectures of this series, Abdal Hakim uniquely explores the final two dimensions in Islam of iman and ihsan. This talk, which consists of two parts, is another highly intellectual discourse about a vast religious science. The speaker begins by providing a historical background in an effort to identify the processes that brought this science about. This lecture effectively paints a colorful picture of the nature of the spiritual life in Islam and examines its foundation. What does the Qur’an say about these two types of higher knowledges, imam and ihsan? How does the Muslim come to know God if He cannot be seen? And what about the early Islamic controversies of free will vs. predestination and the existence or “problem” of evil? How does Islam answer the age-old philosophical questions of why the world exists and what the purpose of life is? (Recorded at the Dar al Islam Teachers’ Institute seminar). Other topics discussed: Emanuel Kant, the 99 names of God, the film “Barakah”, the volition of God to create the universe, heedlessness, thikr (meditation or contemplation), and the absence of symbols for God in Islam.
In this talk the speaker engages the audience in a discussion of traditional as well as contemporary Christian understandings of Islam and vice-versa. A highly detailed and scholarly look into this very complex subject. Murad’s firm command of the English language, his structured presentation, and his vast knowledge and resources cited make this lecture unparalleled by any of its kind. He concludes this talk by revealing his own observant views of Muslim-Christian relations and the need to move forward in mutual tolerance and respect. (Recorded at the Dar al Islam Teachers’ Institute seminar). Other topics discussed: the black stone, St. Thomas Aquinas’ harsh views of Islam, Ivan The Terrible, William Montgomery Watt, Catholic views, women’s views of a gender-specific God, God as love, and the hajj.
Abdal Hakim Murad looks at Islam as part of a wider family of faiths and analyzes what it shares and what it doesn’t share with its two great predecessors. This comparison is made on several fronts namely salvation history, Islamic law vs. Jewish law, scriptural overlap between the Hebrew Bible and the Qur’an, the figures of Jesus (P) and the Virgin Mary (P), and Muslim-Christian interaction throughout history. This lecture is part of a series which is great for both Muslims and non-Muslims as Abdal Hakim approaches the subject from a highly intellectual perspective. (Recorded at the Dar al Islam Teachers’ Institute seminar). Other topics discussed: God’s covenant, the “chosen” people, prophecy, ancient Christian antisemitism, the Kaaba, and circumcision.
In his second lecture to non-Muslim middle school and high school teachers, Murad moves on to the more outward manifestations of the Islamic tradition. He explains the sunnah as being the “backbone” of a Muslim’s daily life and provides a brief and simple explanation of it’s vital role in Islam. He then focuses the remainder of his time on the Islamic law, its various sources, and its history. And in closing, the speaker looks at a few case studies of the practice of ijtihad in the Muslim world. (Recorded at the Dar al Islam Teachers’ Institute seminar). Other topics discussed: dua (supplication), Salman Rushdie, medhabs (schools of thought), tabacco and smoking, AIDS, abortion, contraception, and artificial insemination.
The first in a series of classroom-style lectures held at the world famous Abiquiu Madressa in New Mexico. The primary objective of this series was to educate non-Muslim teachers about the fundamental Islamic beliefs and practices within the context of an interactive and intensive spiritual retreat. In introducing this ambitious topic, Abdal Hakim Murad, a lecturer in theology at Cambridge University in England, asks two very engaging questions: What happens when you try to grasp the meaning and reality of another faith and why is Islam worth studying? After providing a more than adequate answer, he proceeds on to the much anticipated overview of the five pillars of Islam. Murad provides a highly intellectual perspective that is useful for non-Muslims as well as Muslims. (Recorded at the Dar al Islam Teachers’ Institute seminar). Other topics discussed: Islamic “clergy”, humility in studying another religion, the modern Muslim resurgence, Islamic “fundamentalism”, “Muhammadanism”, the Hadith of Gabriel, the idea of original sin, mosque architecture, and wudu (ablution).