- Is beer battered fish halal? Quick I am in a line and about to order!
- Irfaan [her husband] says its makruh [disliked but allowed]. But I think its halal as the shaykh said if you can’t get drunk on it no matter how much you eat, then its fine. Even if Naima eats 50 of them (which she is capable of doing) she still would not be drunk! So just eat it fatty!
- I’m googling fatwas online—they are saying no.
- I ate it!
1.1. Fragmentation of Religious Authority
In short, authority is more diffuse now than it was two hundred, or even ten, years ago. Ijtihad used to be the purview of the ulama. The complex language of their religious discourse had blocked access to the amateur. However, the migrant engineer theologians changed all that by distributing authority among Muslim cybernaughts.(p. 23)
1.2. Individualisation of Belief
1.3. Rising Religious Trends and the Persistence of the Ulama
3. Islam21C and Attractive Hijabs
The article attracted a wide variety of commentators. This is a website where anyone can easily comment without any form of membership or signing up. Comments are not structured as a linear conversation between members, but as a list of people’s comments on the article and people reacting to other’s remarks. Judging on the nicknames used in the comments, 78 women and 49 men commented and there were also 25 people where ascertaining the gender was either unclear or not possible. Generally speaking, women wanted to make clear that they were in fact women and thus speaking from a specific vantage point and so most used clear female names to indicate this. Yet even if we do not assume the unknowns are male, there still seems to be a good mix of male and female commentators, which indicates that this debate went beyond issues simply relating to women and struck a chord amongst both genders.main aim of hijab is to stop fitnah [temptation or civil unrest]; females who are attractive by nature attract the gaze of males which then leads to other greater sins such as fornication and adultery. Allah commanded women neither to display their adornment nor to display any form of behaviour that might attract the attention of men.(ibid.)
Umm salsabeel added:I find nothing wrong in what the Shaykh said, all of his points are backed up with Al Quran and Hadith.(ibid.)
Umm Khadijah responded to comments insinuating that people were supporting Al-Haddad as they are his ‘minions’ or ‘fans’, referring to the ‘celebrity shaykh’ culture discussed above:I completely agree with the shaykh. Hijab has become such a fashion statement! Sisters should realise that wearing the hijab is an act of worship. Wearing skinny jeans and a headscarf is completely contradictory. The prophet (SAW)’s wives and the female companions did not wear a headscarf and tight fitting attractive clothing did they? Why are the sisters attacking the Shaykh? He is stating the facts through the Quran and Sunnah!(ibid. emphasis added)
By claiming the article only represents the sacred texts, not the scholar, what is obscured is how the scholar is implicated in interpreting the text. By making the scholar invisible, these commentators have also erased his subjectivity. Other people, however, were quick to point this out and underscored his foreign upbringing and gender. Umm Yahya wrote:Erm just to clarify these comments in favour of the article is not because its an article by shaykh haitham, rather if any shaykh states something to be done in accordance to the Quran and Sunnah and people come out opposing that, and not only opposing but trying to justify their opposition then yeh you are going to get comments which try and uphold the statement.(ibid.)
In a somewhat lighter tone, Yvonne Ridley—a prominent British journalist and convert to Islam (Ridley n.d.)—wrote:I don’t blame Sh Haddad for his views, I guess we would all have them if we came from Saudi Arabia, but that’s the point, we’re not in S.Arabia… Wearing a colourful hijab there may be temptation for the many perverted Saudi men, but here in the west a colourful hijab does not have a sexual connotation which I believe to be the reasoning behind the shaykh’s statement. As I have experienced many times, many Saudi scholars are unfit to talk about feminine issues outside of THEIR country as the rest of the world is quite different. … His views on colourful hijabs are ridiculous, and there are many Hadith that talk about the colour of sahabiyaat’s [female companions of the Prophet] outer garments and khimars [long cloaks]. He also assumes many insulting stereotypes for which I’m sure he’ll have no fans. Maybe he should should [sic] hang around some iNtelligent [sic] BRITISH people who can maybe give him some cultural learnings [sic].(ibid.)
Therefore, here we see how some are focusing on the scholar and his background, as opposed to his evidence or training. For many commentators, the issue was not his nationality but his gender. Another participant oscillating between respect for Al-Haddad and criticism, wrote:A Western female perspective—Any sister choosing to cover while living in the West is immediately propelled into the spotlight and attracts attention. That is the reality. In some cases, sisters choosing to wear traditional Arab dress acceptable in Saudi, will draw even more attention to themselves in downtown Luton! … This is not a case of ‘one size fits all’—what works for sisters in Saudi might not work for those living in Malaysia, Pakistan, France, UK or America.
Muslimah 1978, while not questioning his subjectivity and, in her comment, also being careful to be respectful, nevertheless felt that she must provide ‘feedback’ to Al-Haddad:I take the point being made and agree …. I thank you also for being so bold…However the limitation to being a male scholar is of course not having a female mind … I think it important god fearing women also respond in order to get across another perspective.In essence I think it needs to be recognised that part of why women like to wear attractive hijabs is a love for pretty things and creativity. In much the same way that some men enjoy looking at the angles of cars and football … I believe if we are to be effective in channelling sisters towards the Halal we must at the same time advocate halal alternatives for self expression…(ibid.)
Feedback—Jazakumullah khair [thank you] to the Shaykh … This is a very common problem regarding hijab and it is important to clarify.
Here we see that there are those who do not believe Al-Haddad can represent them or understand the Western cultural context. However, even those who do recognise and respect Al-Haddad as a scholar still feel they can criticise, correct, offer their own opinions and give him ‘feedback’. This illustrates how religious authority is not simply being accepted or rejected but Muslims are adding their opinions, their experiences and judging the scholar based on his background, upbringing and gender regardless of whether or not they respect the individual as a scholar.However, I would like to give a couple of points of feedback regarding what has been written. I feel that though the majority of points made are correct, there are a few opinions here that I feel should be omitted. …(ibid.)
Samy pointed out the Muslims at the time of the Prophet and pagans dressed in the same attire. Therefore, he extrapolates that Al-Haddad, living in Britain, should also wear British clothes and not Arab clothes. He is attempting to use scholarly arguments against him in a stinging personal attack.Colorful Hijabs? Perfectly Islamic. Allah is Beautiful and loves beauty. Dr. Haitham, what are YOU wearing? What is that white thingee you have on? Is that the dress of the people you live with? Prophet Muhammad (May Allah bless him and grant him peace) used to wear the dress of the pagans he lived with (Abu Jahal and Abu Lahab.) YOU are being unIslamic by sticking out and putting our lives in danger! Dr. Haitham and the British Salafi…TAKE OFF that thowb [male Arab dress] or Shalwar khamis [generic Pakistani dress] NOW.
This remark about showing ‘clear proof’ was common in the discussion and prompted others to list numerous Hadith. Some messages listed ‘evidence’ that supported the claim that women at the time of the Prophet wore colours, and, in response, other posts sought to show that women only wore black. What these responses show is that the scholar’s verdict is no longer sufficient; there is a need to rationalise and see the clear texts for oneself.Being a strong advocate for colourful hijabs, I must say that I feel insulted by your apparant [sic] lack of knowledge in this. Wearing a colourful hjiab is not to entice ‘brothers’ in some hidden way. … Until somebody shows me a clear and undisputed Hadith from the Prophet (SAW), CLEARLY stating that hijabs have to be black, I think Sh., you are COMPLETELY out of order for making such a ridiculous statement! …Anyways, I agree with the skinny jeans and that being completely wrong. But colourful hijabs ENCTICING [sic]? You couldn’t have been more wrong Sh.(ibid., emphasis added)
In a similar vein, Abu Abdurrahman wrote:Subhanallah [glory be to God]—I thought that by having worked towards and having earned the deserving title of Shaykh would ensure some credibility and room for benefit of doubt (lots of dubious scholars out there) amongst the readers of this article. The Shaykh is a man of knowledge, part of the trusted ulama, keepers and guardians of the deen [faith]. If we cannot accept advice from our scholars we are in a very troubled place. The ethnicity or nationality of the Shaykh and whether this entitles him to speak about European Muslims etc. is absurd. Islam was revealed for all nations for all times. Any form of compromise is just that. We are no less mocked and ridiculed than the early Muslims, so fitting in, not standing out—making excuses for workplace etc. are irrelevant.(ibid.)
It is absurd to imply that only a female is entitled to express her opinion on what hijab should constitute. …
The people with most knowledge should speak, for they speak from the texts of revelation: the Quran and Sunnah with the understandingf [sic] of the ulama.
Throughout these comments, one can see that there is a constant tension between following the scholar as he is a scholar, rationalising, and participating in the verdict by drawing on one’s own experience. For the majority of commentators, it was not a simple case of wholeheartedly following the scholar or simply choosing what they want without reference to Islam. These lay Muslims are interacting with this verdict by also quoting other verses of the Quran and Hadith, demanding specific proof and challenging the logic of the scholar’s argument. For most of the commentators, it is a process of careful engagement and participation.The fact that we speak so easily from personal opinion in opposition to those speaking with knowledge of Quran and Sunnah, should be something quite alarming for each and everyone of us, and is the biggest social ill amongst our muslim community, as demonstrated by some of the acrimonious comments.(ibid.)
4. Ahl Al Hadith Forum
In this post, Basam sees no need to engage directly with Qaradawi’s fatwas. Rather, he argues on the basis of the fact that the leading Salafi scholars, whom he lists, do not see Qaradawi as a ‘reliable scholar’. Basam is clearly not performing his own ijtihad (individual reasoning), as he is not researching or studying the issue by himself. Instead, he arrived at his position because he is, in his own opinion, a Salafi and thus following the verdict of Salafi scholars.The Salafi position (from respected scholars like Albani, Bin Baz, Fawzaan bin Fawzaan and others) on Qaradawee is that he is not a reliable scholar. That is the Salafi verdict rather you agree with it or not. Brother Hanbali [another member of the forum] and others are free to disagree, but remember that the Salafi scholars have spoken. So if you want to respect Qaradawee just bear in mind and drill it into your head that you are not following Salafi manhaj [path] at this point.(ibid.)
I consider Shaykh Salman Al-Oudah to be Salafi, and my favourite one at that. And he is on good terms with Shaykh Yusuf Qaradhawi. …
Here, Hanbali swiftly responded by challenging Basam’s definition of ‘Salafi’. He says that he does not agree with all of Qaradawi’s positions, but he considers him nonetheless to be a reputable scholar since Salman al-Oudah—a popular yet controversial Salaif scholar—is ‘on good terms’ with Qaradawi, and he respects al-Oudah and considers him to be within the bounds of Salafism.If I am not on the Salafi ‘manhaj’ [path] with regards to that, then good. Al-hamdulillah [praise be to God].(ibid.)
In another message, he expounded on his own concept of what was ‘valid’:Thanks for making that clear. I was worried that you would confuse people into making them think that there was a valid difference of opinion amongst Salafis on this issue. Rather, you made it clear that you are just following your own.(ibid.)
Basam, I suggest, here is seeking to police the boundaries of Salafism. He argued that Hanbali was in fact following his own opinion, which had no validity. Just like the ‘Shaykh Google’ concept discussed above, there appears to be an underlying consensus on the forum that ‘following your own ideas’ is a serious error that must be carefully guarded against; the ‘correct’ method is to follow ‘reliable’ Salafi scholars. Even Qaradawi is accused by another member of the forum, Abd al-Musin, of not following the ‘correct’ methodology for seeking knowledge as he ‘just follows his whims and desires’, as opposed to sound scholarly tradition (ibid.).I seriously hope you don’t consider every difference of opinion a valid difference of opinion? Something is only a valid difference of opinion when there is [sic] actually good arguments from Quran and Sunnah or qiyas [analogical reasoning] to back up the person’s position.(ibid.)
I do not know the arguments…Contrary to your constant accusations, I actually do taqlid [blind following], not just ‘speak out of my own whim.’ I always keep myself within certain parameters, taking positions on all issues that fall under acceptable views within the Al-Maghrib/Muslim-Matters3 circle that I have access to. I don’t have access to Saudi scholars, and if I did, I would do taqlid of someone like Shaykh Salman Al-Oudah…
In this rebuttal, Hanbali revealed how he usually navigates between ‘following the scholars’ and forming his own opinion. He was at pains to stress that that he does not follow his ‘own whim’ but remains firmly within the boundaries set by scholars he respects and to whom he has access. He also added that he researches certain topics to improve his own understanding but again quickly reiterated his previous point about restricting himself within a certain circle of scholars and staying within his limits and the ‘realm of acceptable beliefs’ as understood by the Salafis he follows. In a previous post about differences between the scholars he wrote, ‘I like reading both of the two sides, since it gives perspective, and is a blessing’ (ibid.). Thus, he explains how he walks a tightrope between abiding by the carefully-selected Salafi scholars on the one hand and forming his own ideas through research on the other. Scholarly opinion coupled with their own personal conviction forms the basis of his understanding of Islam.I use the term ‘taqlid’ loosely here, since I do try to understand the issues, but I keep in the general realm of acceptable beliefs as understood by the Al-Maghrib/Muslim-Matters type of people. But on issues that I have not studied up myself, I of course do taqlid in a more strict sense of the word.(ibid.)
In response, Muhammad asked a rhetorical but pointed question:funny thing is that we all go to mixed universities..., but suddenly when it comes to a scholar just being practical about things and living in the real world, then we blast him.(ibid.)
The debate raged on, with a female member, Um Abdullah describing her story of attending a mixed university only to quit a few months later after she was forced to work closely with men. The conversation hinged on the difference between a woman’s needs, which were permissible, and wants, which were not. Basam, the same member in the above discussion also enters this debate. ‘Islam’, he asserted in no uncertain terms, ‘excuses needs and not wants’. It is not a necessity for women, he argued, to attend mixed-gender universities while there are alternatives, such as online courses and women-only options available (ibid.).When did our actions become hujjah [proof] for shariah rulings? There is a difference between saying that something incorrect is correct and doing something which is incorrect.(ibid.)
5. Ali and the Blogger
In response to this blog post, Ali at first wrote that he wanted to meet in person and explain his position clearly, an invitation that the blogger refused, as he wanted the ‘confusion’ Ali had created to be publicly resolved on his blog, as his initial speech was a public event. Ali agreed and then attempted to explain his position via the comments section; however, the conversation remained stuck on what comprised the basic methodology of Usul-ul-fiqh. Ali tried to show he was indeed following the principles he had learnt in his intensive study and that the blogger was not following the standard procedures by including the opinions of scholars.Had Ali delved into the technicalities of the types of emulation of a particular act of the Messenger (peace be upon), whether it was adah (habitual) or not, and clarifying that the culture of the locality is merely mubah (permissible), as opposed to emulation of actions of the Prophet (peace be upon), which are desirable and rewardable, then the statement could have had some credibility.
…you do not only think you are in the calibre of an Usuli but also a Mufti issuing rulings. Who else has the authority to DERIVE RULINGS and pick and dismiss from the great classical commentators on tafseer [exegesis of Quran] without any justifying explanations?
After these allegations, Ali stopped responding and the online debate ended abruptly.Oh, I forget the reformation project requires every Amr and Zaid4 to perform his or her own heart surgery on their imaan [belief] and then formulate their own personal fiqh [law]! So, of course, in the world of ISB [Islamic Society of Britain] reformation, fervour for this kind of freelance fatwa issuing is acceptable but not in mainstream Islam.(ibid.)
6. Concluding Remarks
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In 2017, it was the second-most commented on, yet they have since removed ranking based on comments; however, browsing through, it is still clearly in the top five most-commented articles.
Salafism represents a wide variety of groups, some of which are on the opposite ends of the spectrum and fiercely oppose each other. In the UK, there are some Salafi groups that strictly refer to certain Middle-Eastern Salafi scholars, particularly from Saudi Arabia. Other Salafi groups, while they still show respect to these scholars, due to many reasons, are more lenient and prefer to contextualise Islam to the British context. The latter groups are led by some of the Western-born graduates of the University of Medina, who have adapted their Salafi teachings (see Farquhar 2016; Hamid 2016).
This is a popular Salafi institute based in America but also popular in the UK. Many of their scholars used to write on the blog www.MuslimMatters.org.
This is an expression that has the same meaning as ‘any Tom, Dick and Harry’, but using Muslim names.
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