Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura
27 September 2013 / 21 Zulkaedah 1434
Imam Ibnu Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah: Balance and breadth in understanding religion
Dear Friday Jemaah,
The concept of Iqra in the Quran, does not simply encourage us to seek knowledge. Beyond that, it calls upon us to reflect, contemplate and explore the bountiful creations of Allah s.w.t. in this universe. We should observe the two processes of accumulating and gaining experience and also the application of the knowledge, as these two processes can help to strengthen our taqwa towards Allah s.w.t., help us in carrying out Allah’s commands and reinforce our conviction to avoid what Allah has prohibited upon us. The scholars, with their strength of knowledge and ability to think deeply, have contributed tremendously towards the advancement of the various sciences that we have today, and have helped to shape changes for the benefit of mankind.
My dear brothers,
Today’s sermon will centre around yet another eminent scholar, Abu Abdullah Syamsuddin Muhammad bin Abu Bakar Az-Zar’i Ad-Dimasyqi, or better known as Ibnu Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah. Born on 7 Safar 691 Hijrah, he passed away on 13 Rajab 751 Hijrah. He was an expert in many fields of Shariah such as Fiqh, Fatwa, Usul Fiqh, Al-Faraidh, At-Tafsir, Al-Hadith, Theology, Philosophy, History, Arabic language and more.
He published hundreds of books in the various fields of study mentioned above. His immense contribution led to the expansion and advancement of knowledge in Islamic Shari’ah, and it is in accordance with the Prophet’s mission, as his contribution continues to bring blessings to all.
Ibnu Qayyim was raised in a family that was religious and had a deep love for knowledge. His academic journey started while he was still very young. He would travel just to seek knowledge from several scholars who were known for their expertise in a particular field. He did not limit himself to only the scholars from the Syafi’i or Hanbali mazhab, even though his approach in Fiqh leaned towards the mazhab of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal.
His extensive education from various scholars helped to shape his thinking and his ability to present arguments in a very sharp and precise manner. In fact, there are times when his opinion regarding several issues in fiqh and fatwa differed from those of his own teachers.
My dear brothers,
An outstanding trait of Imam Ibnu Qayyim is his ability to form opinions in fiqh and fatwa beyond naqli evidences (which are evidences found in the Quran and Sunnah), but also to take into account the culture of a particular community, their needs and the context of the environment and situation they are in. In his well-known publication I’lam al Muwaqqi’in he discussed the topic of Changes in fatwa and its differences with the change in place and time.
There are several matters in the religion that remain constant and can never be changed, such as solat (prayer), fasting, zakat, haj and so on. However, there are matters that are deal more with humankind’s transactions or mu’amalat, such as buying and selling, rental agreements, interactions and so on. Opinions and views regarding these matters will change as our muamalah continue to develop and evolve.
Although Ibnu Qayyim started his academic journey majoring in the study of fiqh, he was also an expert in the field of spirituality. Among his well-known books that discuss on the spiritual journey of a slave hoping to attain Allah’s pleasure, is the book Madarij As-Saalikin. This serves as a good example for all of us. We need to know that in order to appreciate Islam in a more holistic and thorough manner, we have to understand both the legal and the spiritual aspects of Islam.
Let us reflect upon verses 2-4 in surah Al-Anfal, where Allah s.w.t. highlights the importance of these two wings of knowledge:
Which means: “The believers are only those who, when Allah is mentioned, their hearts become fearful, and when His verses are recited to them, it increases them in faith; and upon their Lord they rely – The ones who establish prayer, and from what We have provided them, they spend. Those are the believers, truly. For them are degrees [of high position] with their Lord and forgiveness and noble provision.”
From this verse, we can see how Allah s.w.t. connects one’s ritual practices with the need for spirituality.
My dear blessed brothers,
There are several lessons from Ibnu Qayyim’s personality that we can all emulate. Among them:
First: The need to have a more holistic understanding of religion and a comprehensive approach; taking into account the situation and living environment, the needs of the community, and the peculiarities of the different places and time. In our attempt of understanding the religion better, we should prevent ourselves from carrying out any hukum in a rigid manner to the extent that it might lead to difficulties in carrying it out.
If we were to understand in a more holistic manner, we would be able prevent a difficult and restrictive application of our beautiful religion. Please bear in mind that the Shariah continues to be relevant for every time and place. Allah says in surah al-Maidah, verse 48:
Which means: “To each of you We prescribed a law and a method.”
Second: In understanding any religious opinion, we must first seek to understand the background, the situation and objective of the religious opinion that was issued. Perhaps, a scholar gave the opinion based on the culture and challenges of the community he was from, which may be different from that of ours. We must remember that any fatwa issued locally takes into account the maslahat, needs, interests and context of the Singapore Muslim community. Accepting any fatwa issued in another country in totality, without studying the country’s situation and environment, may lead to misunderstanding, conflicts and division within our community. The younger generation may be particularly more exposed to all sorts of information about the religion from the Internet. They may be driven to seek information from the Internet because they want faster access to information, or would like to read about a fatwa quickly. Hence, we need to be very careful in assessing and adopting religious opinions, especially if they are sourced solely from the Internet.
The third lesson: In every individual’s journey to deepen his or her understanding and appreciation of Islam, there is a need for balance in the development of both mind and soul. For those who are keen on the study of jurisprudence, and from an intellectual perspective of the religion, they must also ensure that they develop their spirituality, and at the same time maintain purity of the soul and good akhlak. This is because knowledge without akhlak is a betrayal to the Islamic tradition of knowledge. And for those who are keen toward spiritual activities, they must also develop their academic understanding and religious thought with knowledge of hadith, tafsir and so on. This is to ensure that while they develop themselves spiritually, they will also continue to remain within the guidelines of traditional scholars of Islam.
Let us increase our knowledge, especially about the Shariah. A more extensive knowledge and deeper understanding of it will strengthen our relationship with Allah. The more we love Islam, the more we will be able to contribute toward the betterment of humankind. May Allah guide us in our efforts to continue the passionate work of our scholars in shining the lives of the ummah with knowledge, to seek Allah’s pleasure in this world and the hereafter. Amin. Ya Rabbal ’Alamin.