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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Sheikh Saad Al-Attas

Hadith Gibril (upon him peace) part two of two

The soul of the human being is greater that the universe

Whatever the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said was true

Prayer means that you are connected to the divine

Taste the secrets of salat

There are three people on a journey, Muslim says its enough that I know that theres water over there. Muhsin and Mummin say lets climb the mountain then Mummin said it is enough that I can see the water. The Muhsin is the one who goes to water and brings it to others.

The Mushin goes further than the rest

The barrier in understanding the lesson maybe your Taqwa (piety)

Prayer is based on faith

The greatest patience is in worship

We believe in what Allah Subhanu wa ta’ala described in the Quran, but we do not add to them

We affirm Allah Subhanu wa ta’ala with all the attributes of greatness (as he describes himself) and nothing weak

Look at yourself, your knowledge is limited.

Allah Subhanu wa ta’ala knowledge is unlimited

In the hadith of female servant, when she pointed upwards, not that Allah Subhanu wa ta’ala is in the heavens but the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) wanted to see if she was going to point to the idols

Belief in the angels – as they delivered the texts

Every angel has a job

Michel oversees the provision

We should believe in the angels of the grave

There are twenty five messengers mentioned in the Quran

It is possible for Allah Subhanu wa ta’ala to sent Messengers and Prophets to us

The last day – we believe in this as we know that there will be a reckoning

Life begins when we receive our results

We don’t know what people ends will be

Don’t raise yourself above others

We cant wear that cloak, the cloak of pride

Allah Subhanu wa ta’ala will speak on the day of judgement, the people close will hear it as the people far and creation will be silent

“I am The King, where are the kings?”

Then the judgement day will begin

For ill treatment against people, good deeds will be taken from them and if they have none bad deeds will be taken from oppressed people

Some people will be asked to be sent to hell because of the intenseness of the day judgement

Sort yourself out before Allah Subhanu wa ta’ala sorts you out

Divine decree is to believe that the good is coming from Allah Subhanu wa ta’ala and the evil is from yourself

Imam Juwanyni (may Allah show him mercy) said All actions will be sentenced then accepted or rejected

You need to have sincerity

Every family wants happiness

The women in Prophets life (peace and blessings be upon him) are his mother Amina, Umm Ayman, Halima, Fatima (Abu Talibs wife) and Khadija (may Allah be pleased with them). Where are the men?

The first thing is to realise Allah Subhanu wa ta’ala sees you – this is your sincerity

These are people who do actions where nobody can see them, like reading the Quran in the middle of the night

Anis is have tranquillity in nothing else but Allah Subhanu wa ta’ala

There is only one door that allows you to come towards Allah Subhanu wa ta’ala, that is to follow the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)

Man follows the asbab (reasons) in things

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) knew the unseen, “(He is) the Knower of the Unseen, and He revealeth unto none His secret, Save unto every messenger whom He hath chosen.” Sura Jinn 72.26-27

One of the signs of the last day is a servant gives birth to his master

Some said that’s a sign that Islam will spread and people will be taken as slaves

Free men were taught by slaves

At the end of the day, we all slaves

Traditionally no houses where built higher than Mecca

When Martin lings went there, there was this law

We see truth in his message (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)

“That was Gibril who came to teach you, your religion.”

Islam, Imam and Ishan

We ask Allah Subhanu wa ta’ala to make us firm in these

These are the raw substances

All actions of the heart are Iman

All actions of the limbs are Islam

Both are interchangeable and the end product (of both) is Ishan

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sheikh Saad Al-Attas

Hadith Gibril (upon him peace) or the narration Gabriel part one of two

Umar narrated that :
One day while we were sitting with the Messenger of Allah there appeared before us a
man whose clothes were exceedingly white and whose hair was exceedingly black.
No signs of journeying on him and none of us knew him. He walked up and sat down by the Prophet. Resting his knees against his and placing the palms of his hands on his thighs. He said, "O Muhammad, inform me about Islam". The Messenger of Allah said, "Islam is to testify that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, establish prayers, to pay the zakat, to fast in Ramadan and to make pilgrimage to the House, if you are able to do so." He said, "You have spoken truthfully." We were amazed at him asking him and saying that he had spoken truthfully. He said, "Inform me about faith.” He said, "It is to believe in Allah, His angels, His books, His Messengers, the Last Day and to believe in divine decree the good and the evil of it.” He said, "You have spoken truthfully." He said, "Then tell me about ahsan." He said, "To worship Allah as if you see him, yet know you cannot see him but he can see you.” He said, "Inform me about the Hour." He said, "The one questioned about it knows no better than the questioner." He said, "Then tell me about its signs." He said, "That the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress a d that you will see the barefooted, naked, destitute herdsman competing in constructing lofty buildings." Then he went and I stayed for a while. Then he said, "O’ Umar, do you know who the questioner was?" I said, "Allah and His Messenger know best." He said, "He was Gibril who came to you to teach you your religion."(Muslim)

Whoever gives thanks ties his bounties, that he has been given and if he doesn’t he risks losing everything

Whats the greatest blessing? This is Deen is the greatest blessing

Muslims don’t look at achievements like certificates

The sheep was given out by Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her), everything except the hoof. Everything that was given was kept and what was kept wasn’t kept

Hadith Gibril is considered to be like the Fatiha

The Fatiha teaches us to be a slave

We profess that he is the only deity

After he shows his servitude then he asks for guidance

The Quran teaches us to be servants

All of our acts can be acts of worship, eating, drinking etc

If you looking for the entirety of the Sunna, all the points are here

Three levels Islam – Iman – Ahsan

It is a mass transmitted hadith Umar, Anis ibn Malik etc narrated by eight companions

Its near the beginning of Sahih Bukhari

What happened before the hadith

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) stood in front of the companions and encouraged them to ask questions, “Ask me.” The companions where apprehensive to ask

They were sitting and a man came out from nowhere and no one knew who he was, he came in like a bedion and said, “Ya Muhammad.”

They couldn’t tell which tribe he was from

How could a bedion know when the stranger said you are truthful, he affirms the answer

The deeper level is Ishan

If a servant keeps in his heart, that Allah Subhanu wa ta’ala is looking at him all the time – he will see an opening

The bedions will compete in building buildings

In another Sahih Hadith, the stranger went and then the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) sent one of the companions after him, but they couldn’t find it

Umar was not there, he had left

Three nights had passed and then the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) told Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), “That was Gibril who came to teach you, your religion.”

During the caliphate of Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) was when the some people believed that Allah Subhanu wa ta’ala didn’t have pre-existent knowledge. To know the action before it is performed.

Abu Ashari Al-Ansari (may Allah show him mercy) defined the Islamic Aqida (belief)

Mabud Al-Jarr was at the forefront (of the previous group) he went to Hajj and saw Ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), who used to say, “We used to know nothing until the Prophet came, we practiced and did things like he did things.” (peace and blessings be upon him)

They addressed his as “O’ father of Abdulrahim.”

When Ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) heard what they had to say, he said, “I am free from him and Islam is free from him.”

Ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) used the hadith Jibril as proof

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered people to stand up for Mu’ad ibn Jabal (may Allah show him mercy) because he was the leader of a tribe, he said, “Stand up for your leader.”

You can loose the Deen if you don’t belief all of this

From this we can see the manners of seeking knowledge

Gibril had a sweet smell

One of the greatest barriers for the student is his manners

Don’t be disrespectful – even if you know he made a mistake – leave it

If you correct him, he not tolerate it

The teacher doesn’t give to you but its Allah Subhanu wa ta’ala who gives

Allah Subhanu wa ta’ala gives to the students

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) made a supplication for Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) and he didn’t forget anything after that

Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) made a dua for rain through Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him, the uncle of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)

One of the companions was unable to talk to people about Islam, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) taught him to be eloquent in a month

When the companions would sit with the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) they would sit quietly

The companions (may Allah be pleased with them) made a Dukan, a small mound of earth, to sit on. So people could see who he (peace and blessing be upon him) was.

Gibril put his knees below the knees of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)

The student shows respect to the teacher

This is how you get maximum benefit from the teacher


What is Islam? Literally, it means to surrender, to submit, to give in

The pillars are there (prayers, fast etc)

Maintaining the Shahada is the greatest blessings, we don’t judge from the inside

A person could be a Muslim

There are tree types of Muslims
1. True Muslim – a believer in Allah Subhanu wa ta’ala and his Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) – we treat him like a Muslim in the world
2. Shahada on the tongue but no faith in the heart
3. A person is a Muslim with Allah Subhanu wa ta’ala

Every person who says there is no god but God has attained the greatest portion of what he has attained for himself

The Haidth of the Bitaka (card – the hadith about the man who came with a list of sins that went as far as the eye could see. He was a believer and the card on which this was written was put on the scale and this outweighed all the sins)

The card was the same size as the tip of the finger

A person should safeguard his shahada

The reason for the bad Muslims, is that Allah Subhanu wa ta’ala can manifest his name Al-A’fao

If a person does bad things we shouldn’t call them bad names

This doesn’t not give us the right to call them anything

Ibn Rajab (may Allah show him mercy) said, “What can be achieved through kindness cannot be achieved through harshness.”

Salat (prayer) is the hub of all our actions, if it is weak, all of our actions are weak

Do you follow the conditions of prayer? (Hanafi Madhab: 1. cleanliness from impurity (ghusul/ wudu), filth (clothes), Awara covered, Facing Qibla, time and intention. Others say opening Takbir is a condition.)

The salat removes the sins in between, the last one

Stand up to what will clean you

The salat cleans oneself from evil and bad actions

The Jewel of the prayer is the Fatiha

Many of us pronounce it incorrectly

Being present in the prayer – this is a moment of purity

We add the magic potion which is sincerity

Salat separates routine

Where is the intention? is has to be solely for Allah Subhanu wa ta’ala

Are we shooting blanks – we need to reload

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sheikh Hamza Yusuf

How the Quran was compiled

Anything worth doing should begin with Bismillah

Semitic languages have words with have a three letter root

Three is the beginning of multiplicity

The word Quran comes from a root word to mean city, Qaaf, Raa, Ya
And also the word Qa, Ra, Ah which means to recite

Every civilisation is rooted in a book

The Greeks would base theirs on Homer

For the Arabs, there was no book until the Quran

Children are in the oral world for the first five years of their lives. They hear stories and their imagination come to live

Now we have the children being brought up by the television and this link is severed

Arabs are an oral people

The real meaning of the word Quran is the recital

It is know as a book and the word Ka, Ta Ba means to join together

Arabs used to send their children to bedions out side the city areas because they where very eloquent

The Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) was born in this culture, in a tribe called Hashim. Before his fourteenth birthday he would enjoy isolation in the cave of hira

Orientalists changed their stance on Islam when oil was found in the Arab region

An angel come to him (peace and blessings be upon him) during his time in the cave and the first word the angel said was, “Read” He said, I am not a reader

After this event the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him ) went to his wife, she comforted him and then went to her uncle Warwa ibn Nawful who said this is the Namus which means angel and its Greek root means law

This is the beginning of the revelation

The first thirteen years is known as the Meccan period, the dominate themes of the Quran

The Quran is a non-linear book, you have to surrender your desire for linarity

19 Juz revealed in Medina and 11 in Mecca

The Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) saw himself as the first sign of the end of time

There are still people who are people able to memorise the Quran

The Quran is being memorised and written in the Meccan stages

The Meccan suras start with o’ humanity and the medina o’ you who have accepted (believers) these were the people who responded

The focus is one character, building a society

The entire Quran was written down in during his lifetime (peace and blessings be upon him)

In 633, after the battle of Yammam, many Quran reciters had been killed and Umar asked Abu Bakr to collect the Quran

During the caliphate of Uthman, he noticed that some of the Muslims had begun to differ on the recitation of the Quran as it was initially written without dots or vowels

He makes a master copy from the gathered text and copies where sent to every major city in the Muslim world

It was protected by oral recitation

Qurtabi narrates a story about a man who copies the old testament in beautiful calligraphy with mistakes and sends it to a Jewish Rabbi. Who after reading it, sends it back and says it’s a wonderful copy and he does the same with new testament and the Christian doesn’t notice the mistakes and says it’s a wonderful copy. When he does this to the Quran. The Muslim scholar says to burn it as its got mistakes.

It’s a historically correct document

The word “we” in the Quran is used for greatness. This is appropriate for Allah Subhanu wa ta’ala but not for people. This is a plural of magnification and doesn’t not indicate to plural gods as some people refer to

There are seven dialectal ways recitation (another three are unconfirmed) of the Quran, it doesn’t not change the meaning

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Professor George Saliba

Islamic Science and the Making of Renaissance Europe

Please see this lecture on You will have to become a member.

This is a similar lecture but you don't need to be a member to listen to it.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sheikh Hamza Yusuf

Challenges of Co-Existence parts one to seven

Thomas Carlyle in 'Heroes and Hero Worship and the Heroic in History,' 1840
Said, "The lies (Western slander) which well-meaning zeal has heaped round this man (Muhammad) are disgraceful to ourselves only."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sheikh Atabek Shukurov Nasafi

This is a list that Sheikh Atabek gave us at his recent Hajj course; it is a list of fifteen places where the supplication is not refused, inshallah.

The list is;

1. Close the Kaaba - Mataf

2. Multazam - the gap between the door and floor of the Kaaba

3. Mazab - golden water pipe - under this pipe
4. Inside the Kaaba

5. When drinking Zam-zam

6. Maqam (station) Ibrahim (upon him peace)

7. On the mount of Safa

8 During walking between these mounts

9. On the mount of Marwa

10. Arafat

11. Muzdalfah - after fajr 9th dhulhijja

12. Mina - the three days of stoning

13. the first and second stoning of the idols

14. Looking the Kaaba - each time you see it, morning

15. Inside the half circular of Ismail (upon him peace) - hajar Ismail.

Please if anyone knows a detailed map, please post as a comment and I will add it, inshallah.


Map of Mecca

Friday, November 23, 2007

Sheikh Faraz Rabbani

Sabr and Shukr / Patience and gratitude

Notes from a talk by our beloved Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

Jakallah khair to the donator of these notes

-Steadfastness and thankfulness are two keys to iman and yakeen (certainty). A persons faith is not perfected without these two qualities.

-Allah says in the Quran: Allah is with the steadfast- this is a tremendous matter. To be someone who is under the Divine favour or concern is an immense thing.

-Hadith - The Prophet (saw) would stay awake praying at night. 'A'ishah said: Allah's Messenger, you do this (in spite of the fact) that your earlier and later sins have been forgiven for you? Thereupon, he said: 'A'ishah, should I not prove myself to be a thankful servant (of Allah)? The basis of the Prophet (saw) turning to Allah tala was being thankful.

-We don’t reflect on the Quran. What is patience or thankfulness? We don’t actually know. How can we be something if we do not know what it is?

-Allah ta’ala says in the Quran- If you are thankful we will give you an increase-. Increase in what? Everything that is good, in all ways. How much? No limit.

-Anytime that Allah ta’ala praises a matter in the Quran we should find out about that matter and try to bring it into our lives. When Allah ta'ala warns against something, find out what that is. This shows sincerity. What is taqwa? What is tawakkul? Get a tafsr and go to the relevant verse and look what the 'ulema have said about it.

-Matters are by their definitions. We must find out the definition of things so that we can act upon them.

-Sabr - Hadith - And patience is illumination.

-Sabr means holding oneself firm on that which is pleasing to Allah. We say 'OK' but we don't actually know how to exercise it.

-The reason we don't have patience is because we are not going anywhere. If we have a sense of purpose - we know we will get there. But we have no sense of purpose in our lives - we don't know where we're going. We don't have sabr because we don't have an active nearness to Allah.

-Allah says in the Qur'an, to the effect, 'Verily in the Messenger of Allah you have a good example for whoever seeks Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah much.'

- We keep failing at sabr because we don't know why we're doing things.

- e.g. Shaykh Faraz asked a man in the audience to get up, he said start walking. He walked but then he stopped. Then Shaykh asked another man get up and walk to the door. The man began walking towards the door and didn’t stop until Shaykh Faraz told him to. Shaykh Faraz said what was the difference between them two men? The first he had no destination, sense of direction, purpose. The second did. Another e.g. we want to get to a talk or a class, its cold or raining but we are desperate so we take any means necessary to make sure we get there.

- Patience is holding oneself firm on that which pleases Allah ta'ala. We get glimmers, maybe I should do this or that. Patience is an expression of faith. Expression of longing for your Lord. You’ll do anything to seek that pleasure.

- You have to have a goal in life. Decide where you want to go in life then do it. This only happens though by reflecting on the fleetingness of this life.

-The Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said the intelligent person is he who controls themselves - (controls their affairs and takes what benefits their akhirah. )The fool is the one who does what he wants then places high hopes in Allah.

-You have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful example (of conduct) for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the final Day and remembers Allah much." (33:21)

-Different levels of patience
1). Patience with the command of Allah.
2) (even higher than the first) Patience in avoiding prohibitions. - People stick to the same bad habits because they have no sense of why they need to avoid it.
3).Patience with people. This is the most difficult. People do all kinds of things. They test your patience, your ego and bad habits - then your character comes out. You are tested in dealings with people. The Prophet (Peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) said the weightiest matter on our scales on the Day of Judgment is good character.
-Hilm - Forbearance is the best of good character - definition of forbearance - restraining ones negative emotions. Scholars have said anger and other negative emotions should not move you but you act on revelation and reason.

-How do you have forbearance? You will only have it if there is something in it for Allah ta'ala. When you have a motive in it for Allah. When people act in a negative way to you how do you react? Goodness is only possible if your goal is Allah.

-Vengeance is one of the most fleeting emotions.

-the unasked (implicit) question in life is, 'Why?' 'Why should we seek the pleasure of Allah?' 'Why should I do this?'

-This is where Shukr comes in.

-The reality of everything - Lord and Servant

-There are two blessings that nothing is bereft of and no one can repay. They are the blessings of 1) creation and 2) sustaining.

-Allah subhanu wa ta'ala created you - after this debt you have no claim to Allah. Permanently indebted. Life is a gift. If someone gave you a gift you say thank you. Then they keep helping you out and being good to you for nothing and then your thankfulness turns into something else. You want to repay them, SHOW them how thankful you are.

-Allah subhanu wa ta'ala says in Surah tul Asr - By (the Token of) Time (through the ages), "Verily Man is in loss" Sura Asr - we lose because we fail to thank Allah as He deserves and we don’t realise because we don’t reflect.

-A believer who has faith can never be depressed. If you feel depressed say alhamdulilah. Reflect on your blessings, keep repeating it, you will become so happy!

-What have we done to deserve our blessings? Nothing. What is the difference between you and the person next door who is not a believer?

-Gifts require that we give thanks.

-Thankfulness - is to appreciate. Appreciate Allahs blessings. Imam junaid said Thankfulness is that you not disobey Allah with what He gave you- it is the LEAST you can do. Not just by your tongue though but by action. Using those blessings in the way that are most pleasing to Him e.g. time or when we smile, the ability to smile, do it for the sake of Allah subhanu wa ta'ala. Ask yourself of each blessing - how can I use this to please Allah?

-How do you know in which way is pleasing to Allah subhanu wa ta'ala? - sometimes you don’t, so you realise you need guidance. What is way for guidance? To follow the example of the Messenger of Allah subhanu wa ta'ala. - If you follow him you will be guided . To the extent you you follow him and obey him that’s the extent you will be guided.

-Making the sunnah ones standard in life.

-Sunnah of following sunnah = don’t be excessive so you don't get overwhelmed. Hadith - Islam is ease, do your best and be steadfast in that and be of glad tidings.

-Islam is ease because it leads to ease. Do not take on more than you can manage.

-Hadith- Take from good works that which you can sustain. Allah does not tire of rewarding you until you tire of working.

-How to be steadfast? - Have a goal and work towards it.

-Verily you have in the Messenger a beautiful example for those who seek Allah and the last day and make much remembrance of Allah subhanu wa ta'ala.

-Goal is to seek Allah and the last day - key is to take the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) as an example.

-2 principals in life -1).' Don’t ask me I just work here’ - don’t say why is this happening, why that why why why? Just get on with it. 2). Service with a smile.

(Random) -

-Never discipline a child when you angry or upset. Sort yourself out first and then discipline otherwise you will end up doing more harm against yourself.

-The most effective dua is the one that is followed by you taking the means towards the goal and then to have certainty that Allah subhanu wa ta'ala will answer your dua. Don't just make dua and sit around waiting- do something.

-Most important of sunnahs - consultation- every major step in life the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) (consulted- even though he had no need to. Haste is from the devil.

From the question and answer session someone asked how to deal with he death of family member or with long term illness. Shaykh Faraz said one can either be depressed and down about it or just be content with the decree of Allah subhanu wa ta'ala and get on with life.

-The last part of the ayah quoted at the beginning states '...and those who make much remembrance of Allah.' Keep your tongue moist with His Remembrance, and you will be more aware of His presence and less likely to indulge in bad actions.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Sheikh Abdallah Adhami

The right to change one's religion
by Shaykh Abdallah Adhami
23 October 2007

New York, New York - From the Code of Hammurabi to the Code of Maimonides, most major systems of law have affirmed that apostasy must be punished.

In the renowned code of the Roman emperor Justinian (483-565 CE), corpus juris civilis — the basis of all Roman canon law and of modern civil law — apostasy was "to be punished by death" and there was "no toleration of dissent".

The Biblical codes stipulate that the "one who doubts or ridicules one word of the Torah — or of the rabbinical authors — is a 'heretic' in the fullest sense, an infidel ... and there is no hope for him." The laws concerning such an unbeliever are very strict: "he may be killed directly". Or as Maimonides, the 13th century Andalucian rabbi and philosopher, advised regarding the abeyance of apostasy law in his era, "his death may be caused indirectly."

Islamic law, (shari'a), likewise stipulated killing in cases of established public apostasy. Though there is little literature on the emergence and application of apostasy law in the early periods of Muslim history, its actual application usually depended upon whether its declaration was public or private. Within the Islamic state, what minorities — religious and otherwise — did in their private lives was left to their own discretion, even if it may have been technically termed "deviant" or against Islamic teaching.

Shari'a, like all religious law, governs rites of worship and codes of individual and communal conduct and ethics. Contrary to stereotypical notions of religion, the earthly realm within shari'a is in fact pragmatically understood to be essentially secular.

From the point of view of religion, the fundamental nature of the human being is to yearn to worship God unencumbered. The private realm of apostasy had thus always reflected more complex dimensions that make ultimate human judgment impossible. The mysteries of the heart and mind are as beyond theology as they are barely fathomable to neuroscience.

It is our creative encounter with earthly, secular life that reveals our capacity for usefulness to others, and it is the premier instrument by which our own spiritual station is elevated. Authentic, sincere worship ultimately becomes the daily barometer of our spiritual state.

Free, rational debate had always been accommodated within the religious context of shari'a. This was a uniquely Islamic phenomenon, as true in European Cordoba as it was in Arabian Baghdad. Neither the theological abstraction of the Mu'tazilites, a 9th century group of philosophers, nor the unmitigated foreign dialectics by the secretive 10th century group, Brethren of Purity, for example, was ever grounds for removing one from the fold of Islam.

The most salient evidence for not punishing "private" apostasy in Islam is the perennial existence of the so-called hypocrites amidst Medinan society despite grave Qur'anic passages against them. Moreover, private "heretical" thought was neither censured nor censored; as long is it was not publicly preached, it was not condemned as such, nor were there articulations of a need to suppress it.

Outward or visible stability in the earthly domain is what allows the institutions of civil society to continue.

The non-violent resistance of the Prophet Muhammad in Mecca and his diplomacy during the Treaty of Hudaybiyah taught his companions a similar lesson. Under this Treaty, the Prophet allowed people to emigrate without any reprisal, despite the fact that they were abandoning Islam in the process (some having only adopted the new religion for reasons of self-interest).

No prophet was ever given the license to pass judgment over the faith of a human being — as the Qur'an repeatedly reiterates, judgment is ultimately with God alone. Hence, constructive service of our sacred traditions lies in showing their relevance as a vehicle of infinite creativity, not in demoting them to preoccupation with judgment of contemporary culture.

We need to acknowledge and affirm that diversity and difference are part of the divine intent for creation — that we were made as nations and tribes so that we may "learn about and be enriched by the ways of each other" (Qur'an, 49:13). Provincialism and relativism will always challenge diversity — especially when the latter is disguised as tolerance; and not because people are inherently incapable of living together, either.

We need a renewed devotion to the truth, and to seeking it freely through our established non-sectarian, scholarly institutions. Thomas Jefferson exhorted: "Truth is ... the proper and sufficient antagonist to error." It is only through respectful free argument and debate that ideologies can be judged and challenged on their own merits.

The reformation that is direly needed — across the entire globe — is the honest reassessment of the original sources of all our oppressive cultural myths and tyrannical modes of thinking.

As Muslims, we need to establish a higher barometer for what constitutes competence in the service of the scholarly disciplines of shari'a. This would equip us with greater clarity and confidence and prevent us from thoughtlessly demonstrating in passionate protest every time a passing wind seems to challenge our faith.

As religious leaders of all faiths, we need to acknowledge our responsibility for much alienation and estrangement among the faithful around the world. This would begin to re-establish the credibility of our institutions, which would eventually re-ignite the religious imagination of the masses.

Lastly, we need a renewed commitment to focus on an ethos of compassionate, selfless service as a public trust; and this is certainly more becoming of the example of the Blessed Messengers that we claim loyalty to.

* Shaykh Abdallah Adhami is an Arab-American imam and a leading scholar of Islam. He is currently working on an exploration of the linguistic implications of apparently problematic verses in the Qur'an. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) and can be accessed at

Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), 23 October 2007,

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Sheikh Hamza Yusuf

Men and Women
Parts one to seven
If you are having problems viewing parts five to seven; Wait until the menu screen appears on part four and choose the remaining parts.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sayyid Muhammad ibn 'Alawi al Maliki

Sira clip

This is a clip that the Sheikh (may Allah show him mercy) explains that the blessing of the month of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was individual for him. It was a month that wasn’t special to the Arabs and if he was born in months where other events had occurred this would mean he would follow that event.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Monday, October 08, 2007

Sheikh Abdul-Hakim Murad

Islam and the New Millennium

This essay is based on a lecture given at the Belfast Central Mosque in March 1997

Whoever is not thankful for graces

runs the risk of losing them;

and whoever is thankful,

fetters them with their own cords.

(Ibn Ata'illah, Kitab al-Hikam)

'Islam and the New Millennium' - rather a grandiose subject for an essay, and one which, for Muslims, requires at least two caveats before we can even begin.

Firstly, the New Millennium - the Year 2000 - is not our millennium. Regrettably, most Muslim countries nowadays use the Christian calendar devised by Pope Gregory the Great, and not a few are planning celebrations of some kind. Many confused and secularised people in Muslim countries are already expressing a good deal of excitement: in Turkey, there is even a weekly magazine called Iki Bin'e Dogru (Straight to 2000). This semi-hysteria should be of little interest to us: as Muslims we have our own calendar. The year 2000 will in fact begin during the year 1420 of the Hijra. So why notice the occasion at all? Isn't this just another example of annoying and irrelevant Western influence?

This point becomes still sharper when we remember that according to most modern scholars, Jesus (a.s.) was in fact born in the year 4 B.C. Thus 1996, not 2000, marked the second millennium of his advent. The celebrations in two years time will in fact mark an entirely meaningless date: a postmodern festival indeed.

The second, more imponderable reservation, concerns our ability to speak reliably about the future at all. In this paper I propose to speculate about the directions which Islam may take following the great and much-hyped anniversary. But the theological question is a sharp one: can we do this in a halal way? The future is in the ghayb, the Unseen; it is known only to Allah. And it may well be that the human race will not reach the year 2000 at all. Allah is quite capable of winding the whole show up before then. The hadith of Jibril describes how the angel came to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) asking when the Day of Judgement would come, and he only replied, 'The one questioned knows no more of it than the questioner.' But as the Holy Qur'an puts it, 'the very heavens are bursting with it.' It may well be tomorrow.

Apocalyptic expectations are not new in Islamic history: they appeared, for instance, in connection with the Islamic millennium. Imam al-Suyuti, the greatest scholar of medieval Egypt, was concerned about the nervous expectations many Muslims had about the year 1000 of the hijra. Would it herald the end of the world, as many thought?

Imam al-Suyuti allayed these fears by examining all the hadith he could find about the lifetime of this Umma. He wrote a short book which he called al-Kashf an mujawazat hadhihi al-umma al-Alf ('Proof that this Umma will survive the millenium'). He concluded that there was no evidence that the first millenium of Islam would end human history. But rather soberingly for our generation, he speculates that the hadiths at his disposal indicate that the signs which will usher in the return of Isa (a.s.), and the Antichrist (al-Masih al-Dajjal), are most likely to appear in the fifteenth Islamic century; in other words, our own.

But all these speculations were submissive to the Imam's deep Islamic awareness that knowledge of the future is with Allah; and only Prophets can prophesy.

What I shall be doing in the pages that follow, then, is not forecast, but extrapolate. Allah ta'ala is capable of changing the course of history utterly, through some natural disaster, or a series of disastrous wars. He can even end history for good. If that happens in the next three years, then my forecasts will be worthless. All I am doing is, in a sense, to talk about the present, inasmuch as present trends, uninterrupted by catastrophe, seem set to continue in the coming few years and decades.

Why is it useful to reflect on these trends? Because I think we all recognise that the Muslims have responded badly and largely unsuccessfully to the challenges of the twentieth century; in fact, of the last three centuries. Faced with the triumph of the West, we have not been able to work out which changes are inevitable, and which can be resisted.

For instance, in the early nineteenth century the Ottoman empire lost a series of disastrous wars against Russia. The main reason was the superior discipline and equipment maintained by modern European armies. But the ulema, and the janissary troops, resisted any change. They believed that battles were won by faith, and that firearms and parade grounds diminished the virtue of futuwwa, the chivalric, almost Samurai-like code of the individual Muslim warrior. To shoot at an enemy from a distance rather than look him in the eye and fight with a sword was seen as a form of cowardice. Hence the Ottoman army continued to sustain defeat after defeat at the hands of its better-equipped Christian enemies.

Another case in point was the controversy over printing. Until the eighteenth century a majority of ulema believed that printing was haram. A text, particularly one dealing with religion, was something numinous and holy, to be created slowly and lovingly through the traditional calligraphic and bookbinding crafts. A ready availability of identical books, the scholars thought, would cheapen Islamic learning, and also make students lazy about committing ideas and texts to memory. Further, it was thought that the process of stamping and pressing pages was disrespectful to texts which might contain the name of the Source of all being.

It took a Hungarian convert to Islam, Ibrahim Muteferrika, to change all this. Muteferrika obtained the Ottoman Caliph's permission to print secular and scientific books, and in 1720 he opened Islam's first printing press in Istanbul. Muteferrika was a sincere convert, describing his background and religious beliefs in a book which he called Risale-yi Islamiyye. He was also very concerned with the technical and administrative backwardness of the Ottoman empire. Hence he wrote a book entitled Usul al-Hikam fi Nizam al-Umam, and published it himself in 1731. In this book he describes the governments and military systems prevailing in Europe, and told the Ottoman elite that independent Muslim states could only survive if they borrowed not only military technology, but also selectively from European styles of administration and scientific knowledge.

Ibrahim Muteferrika's warnings about the rise of European civilisation were slowly heeded, and the Ottoman state set about the controversial business of modernizing itself, while attempting to preserve what was essential to its Islamic identity.

Muteferrika's story reminds us that unless Muslims are conscious of the global trends of their age, they will continue to be losers. My own experience of Muslims has suggested that we are endlessly fascinated by short-term political issues, but are largely ignorant of the larger tendencies of which these issues are simply the passing manifestations.

This ignorance can sometimes be astonishing. How many leaders in the Islamic world are really familiar with the ideas which underpin modernity? I have met some leaders of activist factions, and have been consistently shocked by their lack of knowledge. How many can even name the principal intellectual systems of our time? Structuralism, post-modernism, realism, analytic philosophy, critical theory, and all the rest are closed books to them. Instead they burble on about the 'International Zionist Masonic Conspiracy', or 'Baha'ism', or the 'New Crusader Invasion', or similar phantasms. If we want to understand why so many Islamic movements fail, we should perhaps begin by acknowledging that their leaders simply do not have the intellectual grasp of the modern world which is the precondition for successfully overcoming the obstacles to Islamic governance. A Muslim activist who does not understand the ideologies of modernism can hardly hope to overcome them.

A no less lamentable ignorance prevails when it comes to non-ideological trends in the late twentieth century, and which are likely to prevail in the new millennium. And hence I make no apologies for discussing them in this paper. Like Ibrahim Mutefarrika three centuries ago, I am concerned to alert Muslims to the realities which are taking shape around them, and which are moulding a world in which their traditional discourse will have no application whatsoever. It is suicidal to assume that we will be insulated from these realities. Increasingly, we live in one world, thanks to a monoculturising process which is accelerating all the time. There is a mosque in Belfast now, and there is also a branch of MacDonalds in Mecca. We may be confident in our faith and assumptions, but what of many of our young people? What happens to the young Muslim student at an American university? He learns about post-modernism and post-structuralism, and that these are the ideologies of profound influence in the modern West. He asks the Islamic activist leaders how to disprove them, and of course they cannot. So he grows confused, and his confidence in Islam as a timeless truth is shaken. Under such conditions, only the less intelligent will remain Muslim: a filtering process which is already painfully evident in some activist circles.

It is, therefore, an obligation, a farida, to understand the processes which are under way around us.

To summarise the leading trends of our age is beyond the ambitions of this short paper. I will focus, therefore, on just a few representative issues, not because I can deal with them fully, but simply to suggest the nature of the challenges for which the Umma should prepare over the next few decades. These three issues are: demography, religious change, and the environment.

Let me deal with the demographic issue first, because in a sense it is the most inexorable. Population trends are easily extrapolated, and the statistics are abundant for the past hundred years at least. Projections are reliable unless catastrophe supervenes: epidemics, for instance, or destructive wars. I will assume that neither of these things will assume sufficient proportions to affect the general picture.

Here are some figures taken from D. Barrett's World Christian Encyclopedia, published by Oxford University Press in 1982. I will set them out in text rather than tabular form, in case the format does not survive Web downloading.

In 1900, 26.9% of the world's population was Western Christian, while Islam accounted for 12.4%. In 1980 the figures were 30% and 16.5% respectively. The projection for 2000 is 29.9% and 19.2%. Percentages for other religions are fairly static, and since 1970 the total of atheists has, surprisingly perhaps, experienced a slow decline.

These figures are of considerable significance. Over the course of this century, the absolute proportion of Muslims in the world has jumped by a quite staggering amount. This has come about partly through conversion, but more significantly through natural increase. And the demographic bulge in the modern Muslim world means that this growth will continue. Here, for instance, is the forecast of Samuel Huntington in his new and resolutely Islamophobic book The Clash of Civilizations (pp.65-6):

"The percentage of Christians in the world peaked at about 30 percent in the 1980s, leveled off, is now declining, and will probably approximate about 25% of the world's population by 2025. As a result of their extremely high rates of population growth, the proportion of Muslims in the world will continue to increase dramatically, amounting to 20 percent of the world's population about the turn of the century, surpassing the number of Christians some years later, and probably accounting for about 30 percent of the world's population by 2025."

It is not hard to see why this is happening. America and Europe have increasingly aging populations. In fact, one of the greatest social arguments of the new millennium will concern the proper means of disposing of the elderly. Medical advances ensure an average lifetime in the high seventies. However active lifetimes have not grown so fast. At the turn of the century, a Westerner could expect to spend an average of the last two years of life as an invalid. Today, the figure is seven years. As Ivan Illich has shown, medicine prolongs life, but does not prolong mobility nearly as well. These ageing populations with their healthcare costs are an increasing socio-economic burden. The UK Department of Health recently announced that a new prescription drug for Alzheimer's Disease is available on the National Health Service - but its cost means that it is only available to a selected minority of patients.

In the West's population is top-heavy, that of Islam is the opposite. Today, more than half the population of Algeria, for example, is under the age of twenty, and the situation is comparable elsewhere. These young populations will reproduce, and perpetuate the percentage increase of Muslims well into the next millennium.

Hence, to take an example, in the Maghrib between 1965 and 1990, the population rose from 29.8 million to 59 million. During the same period, the number of Egyptians increased from 29.4 million to 52.4 million. In Central Asia, between 1970 and 1993, populations grew at annual rates of 2.9 percent in Tajikistan, 2.6 percent in Uzbekistan, 2.5 percent in Turkmenistan, and 1.9 percent in Kyrgyzia. In the 1970s, the demographic balance in the Soviet Union shifted drastically, with Muslims increasing by 24 percent while Russians increased by only 6.5 percent. Almost certainly this is one reason why the Russian empire collapsed: Moscow had to detach its Muslim areas before their numbers encouraged them to dominate the system. Even in Russia itself, Muslims (Tatars, Bashkirs, and Chuvash, as well as immigrants) are very visible, accounting for over 10 percent of the populations of both Moscow and St Petersburg.

This reminds us that the increase in the Muslim heartlands will have a significant impact in Muslim minority areas as well. In some countries, such as Tanzania and Macedonia, the Muslims will become a majority within twenty years. Largely through immigration, the Muslim population of the United States grew sixfold between 1972 and 1990. And even in countries where immigration has been suppressed, the growth continues. Last year, seven percent of babies born in European Union countries were Muslims. In Brussels, the figure was a staggering 57 percent. Islam is already the second religion of almost every European state - the only exceptions being those European countries such as Azerbaijan and Albania where it is the majority religion. If current trends continue, then an overall ten percent of European nationals will be Muslim by the year 2020.

What is the significance of this global change? Does it in fact entail anything at all? After all, there is a famous hadith narrated by Abu Daud on the authority of Thawban, which says that the day will come when the Muslims will be numerous, but will be like froth and flotsam (ghutha') carried along by a flash-flood.

It is true that sheer weight of numbers counts for much less today than it did, say, a couple of hundred years ago, when military victories depended as much on numbers as on technology. Napoleon could say that 'God is on the side of the larger battalions' - but nowadays, when huge numbers of soldiers can be eliminated by push-button weapons, this is no longer the case; a fact demonstrated by Saddam Hussein's hopeless and absurd defiance during the recent conflict over Gulf oil supplies.

The rapid increase in Muslim numbers does, however, have important entailments. But for this, the UN would not have chosen Cairo, the world's largest Muslim city, as the site of its 1994 Population Conference. There is still some safety in numbers. But more significant than mere numbers is the psycho-dynamic of population profiles. Aging populations become introspective and flaccid. Young populations are more likely to be energetic, and encourage national political assertiveness.

The new millennium will dawn over a Muslim world with disproportionately young populations. Moreover, these populations will be increasingly urban. And such situations historically have always bred instability, turmoil, and reform. One explanation for the Protestant reformation in Europe is based on the preponderance of young people in urban sixteenth-century Germany, the result of new agricultural and political arrangements. The growth of fascism in Central Europe in the 1930s is also attributed in part to the growth in the number of young people. And in Islamic history, one thinks of the example of the Jelali rebellions in the sixteenth and seventh century: once the great Ottoman conquests had ceased, the young men who would have been occupied in the army found themselves at a loose end, and launched a variety of sectarian or social protest movements that devastated large areas of Anatolia.

The Islamic revival over the past few years has faithfully reflected this trend. One of the first Muslim countries to reach a peak proportion of youth was Iran, in the late 1970s (around 22% of the population), and the revolution occurred in 1979. In other countries the peak was reached rather later: in Algeria this proportion was reached in 1989, just when the FIS was winning its greatest support.

Following the millennium, this youth bulge will continue in many Muslim societies. The number of people in their early twenties will increase in Egypt, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, and several other countries. As compared to 1990, in the year 2010 entrants to the jobs market will increase by about 50% in most Arab lands. The unemployment problem, already acute, will become intolerable.

This rapid growth is likely to render some states difficult to govern. The bunker regimes in Cairo and Algiers are already confronting rebellions which have clear demographic as well as moral and religious dimensions. So the first probable image we have of the next millenium is: in the West, aging and static populations, with stable, introspective political cultures; and in the Islamic world, a population explosion, and established regimes everywhere under siege by radicals.

The next consideration has to be: will the bunker regimes survive? This is harder to comment upon, although many political scientists with an interest in the Islamic world have tried. Before the modern period, peasant revolts stood a good chance of success, because manpower could carry the day against the ruler's army. Today, however, advances in technology have made it possible for military regimes to survive indefinitely in the face of massive popular discontent. Spend enough money, and you can defeat even the most ingenious infiltrator or the most populous revolt. This technology is becoming cheaper, and is often supplied on a subsidised basis to the West's favoured clients in the Third World. Similarly, techniques of interrogation and torture are becoming far more refined, and have proved an effective weapon against underground movements in a variety of places.

Let me give you an example. Last year's Amnesty International report explains that in January 1995, the US government licenced the export to Saudi Arabia of a range of security equipment including the so-called 'taser' guns. 'These guns shoot darts into a victim over a distance of up to five metres before a 40-50,000 volt shock is administered. These weapons are prohibited in many countries, including the UK.

Another example, also documented by Amnesty, is the export in 1990 of a complete torture chamber by a UK company, which was installed in the police special branch headquarters in Dubai. This is known in the Emirates as the 'House of Fun'. The Amnesty report describes it as 'a specially constructed cell fitted with a terrifyingly loud sound system, a white-noise generator and synchronized strobe lights designed to pulse at a frequency that would cause severe distress.'

These are just two examples of the increasing sophistication of torture equipment now being supplied to the bunker regimes. One could add to this list the improving techniques of telecommunications surveillance.

But what about the Internet? Isn't the Internet the ultimate freedom machine, allowing the pervasion of all types of dissent, from anywhere in the world, to anywhere in the world?

At the moment the Internet is only available in a few Muslim countries. Already there are indications that monitoring of the phone lines which carry the signals is in progress. The centralizing nature of the Internet is in fact tailormade for intrusive regimes. A fairly straightforward programme on a mainframe computer logged on to the telephone net can inform the security forces instantaneously if a forbidden site is being accessed. Once that is established, investigation and arrest are a matter of course.

I believe that as technology improves, including ever more massive surveillance systems, it seems quite likely that the regimes will be able to suppress any amount of dissent, on one condition - that it does not spread to the armed forces. The Shah fell because his army turned against him, not because of the protests on the streets. But in Algeria the revolution has been suppressed, largely because the radicals think they can overwhelm a modern state without support from the armed forces.

The societies governed in this way are now experiencing severe traumas and cultural distortions. They are sometimes called 'pressure-cooker cultures'. The consequences for the human soul of being subjected to this kind of pressure are quite alarming, and already in the Muslim world we see manifestations of extreme behaviour which only a decade ago would have been unthinkable.

This is not the context for providing full details of the problem of 'extremism', or what traditional Islam would call ghuluww. But it is clearly a growing feature of our religious landscape, and I will have to deal with it in passing. In early Islam the movement known as Kharijism fought against the khalifa Ali for the sake of a utopian and purist vision of Muslim society. Today, tragically, the Khawarij are with us once more. I have in mind incidents such as the 1994 shooting in Omdurman, when Wahhabi activists opened fire on Friday worshippers in the Ansar al-Sunna mosque, killing fourteen. Ironically, the mosque was itself Salafi, but followed a form of Wahhabism that the activists did not consider sufficiently extreme.

In Algeria, too, throat-slittings and massacres of villagers, and fighting between rival groups, have transformed large areas of the country into a smoking ruin.

We sometimes like to dismiss these movements as marginal irrelevancies. However, the signs are that until the conditions which have bred them are removed, they will continue to grow. The mainstream Islamic movements are seen to have failed to achieve power, and desperate young people are turning to more radical alternatives. It is fairly clear that a growing polarisation of Muslim society, and of the Muslim conscience, will be a hallmark of the coming century.

What is the defining symptom of Kharijism? In a word, takfir. That is, declaring other Muslims to be beyond the pale, and hence worthy of death. This tendency was attacked vigorously by the ulema of high classical Islam. For instance, Imam al-Ghazali, in his book Faysal al-Tafriqa bayn al-Islam wa'l-Zandaqa explained that it is extremely difficult to declare anyone outside Islam for as long as they say La ilaha illa'Llah, Muhammadun rasulu'Llah. And today, Sunni schoolchildren in many countries still memorise creeds such as the Jawharat al-Tawhid of Imam al-Laqqani, which include lines like:

idh ja'izun ghufranu ghayri'l-kufri

fa-la nukaffir mu'minan bi'l-wizri

since forgiving what is not unbelief is possible,

as we do not declare an unbeliever any believer on account of a sin.

wa-man yamut wa-lam yatub min dhanbihi

fa-amruhu mufawwadun li-rabbihi

Whoever dies and has not repented of his sin,

his matter is turned over to his Lord.

The legitimation of differences in fiqh was rooted in the understanding of ijtihad. And differences in spiritualities were justified by the Sufis in terms of the idea that al-turuq ila'Llah bi'adadi anfas al-khala'iq ('there are as many paths to God as there are human breaths'). As Ibn al-Banna', the great Sufi poet of Saragossa expressed it, ibaraatuna shatta wa-husnuka wahidun, wa-kullun ila dhak al-jamali yushiru ('our expressions differ, but Your beauty is one, and all are pointing towards that Beauty').

Diversity has always been a characteristic of Islamic cultures. It was only medieval Christian cultures which strove to suppress it. However, there is a growing tendency nowadays among Muslims to favour totalitarian forms of Islam. 'Everyone who disagrees with me is a sinner, cries the young activist, 'and is going to hell'.

This mentality recalls the Kharijite takfir, but to understand why it is growing in the modern umma, we have to understand not just the formal history, but the psychohistory of our situation. Religious movements are the expression not just of doctrines and scriptures, but also of the hopes and fears of human collectivities. In times of confidence, theologies tend to be broad and eirenic. But when the community of believers feels itself threatened, exclusivism is the frequent result. And never has the Umma felt more threatened than today.

Even in the UK, the takfir phenomenon is growing steadily. There are factions in our inner cities which believe that they are the only ones going to Heaven. 99% of people who call themselves Muslims are, in this distasteful insult to Allah's moral coherence, not Muslims at all.

We can understand this psychic state more easily when we recognise that it exists universally. Not just in Islam, but in Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism, there is a conspicuous tendency towards factional excluvisism. In Christianity, one has to look no further than the Branch Davidians of David Koresh, 89 of whom died when their ranch in Texas was stormed by US troops three years ago. The Davidians believed that they were the sole true Christians - everyone else would burn in Hell.

In Japan, even the usually peaceful religion of Buddhism has been re-formed by this tendency. In early 1995, the Aum Shinrikyo sect released Sarin nerve gas onto the Tokyo underground system, killing eleven people and sending 5,500 to hospital. Their guru, Shoko Asahara, had for ten years been preaching the need to overthrow the corrupt order in Japan, and transform the country into the true Shambala. As he said, 'Our sphere shall extend throughout the nation, and foster the development of thousands of right-believing people.' In his book From Destruction to Emptiness he explains that only those who believe in authentic, pristine Buddism as taught by Aum can expect to survive the corruption and destruction of the world. Non-Aum Buddhists are not true Buddhists at all.

On the basis of this kind of takfir, he and his 12,000 followers bought a factory complex on the slopes of Mount Fuji, where they successfully manufactured nerve gas and the botulism virus. The sinners of Japan's un-Buddhist culture would be the first to suffer, they thought, but they also laid extensive plans for terrorist actions in North America. It is claimed that had the sect been allowed to operate for another six months, tens of thousands of people might have died from the sect's attacks in the United States, which was seen as the great non-Buddhist source of evil darkening the world.

It is important to note the close parallels between Aum Shinryo-kyo and the modern takfir groups in the Middle East. The diagnosis is the same: the pure religion has been ignored or distorted by an elite, and the process has been masterminded by Americans. Hence the need to retreat and disown society - the idea of Takfir wa'l-Hijra that informed Shukri Mustafa's group in late 1970s Egypt. In secretive inner circles, the saved elect gather to plan military-style actions against the system. They are indifferent to the sufferings of civilians - for they are apostates and deserve death anyway. Such attacks will prefigure, in some rather vague and optimistic fashion, the coming to power of the true believers, and the suppression of all other interpretations of religion.

This idea of takfir wa'l-hijra is thus, in structural terms, a global phenomenon. Its members are usually educated, almost always having science rather than arts backgrounds. Technology is not disowned, but sedulously cultivated. Bomb-making becomes a disciplined form of worship.

I believe that this tendency, which has been fostered rather than eliminated by the repressiveness of the regimes, will grow in relative significance as we traverse the end of the century. It will continue to besmirch the name of Islam, by shooting tourists, or blowing up minor targets in pinprick attacks that strengthen rather than weaken the regimes. It will divide the Islamic movement, perhaps fatally. And it will provide the regimes with an excuse further to repress and marginalise religion in society.

The threat of neo-Khariji heresy is thus a real one. It will exist, however, against the backdrop of an even more worrying transformation. It is time now to look at the last of our three themes: the apparently disconnected subject of the degradation of the natural environment, one of the great neglected Islamic issues of our time - arguably even the most important of all.

There are a whole cluster of questions here. Clearly, as we leave the second millennium, the planet is in abjectly poor physical shape as compared to the year 1000. Materialism, enabled by Reformation notions of the world as fallen, and by protestant capitalistic ethics, has presided over the gang rape of Mother Earth. Everywhere the face of the planet is scarred. Megatons of tons of toxic waste are now circulating in the oceans, or hovering in the stratosphere. Hormone and plastics pollution has resulted in a 50% drop in male fertility in the UK. Every day, another 12 important species become extinct. Every form of life apart from our own, and perhaps domestic animals, has been decimated by the holocaust of modernity. The BSE disaster is a hint of what may be in store: Government analysts have confirmed that as many as 30,000 British people may contract Creuzfeld-Jakob disease as a result of eating contaminated beef. As technology advances, similar scientific blunders may well wipe out large sections of the human race.

But the most urgent and undeniable environmental issue which we carry with us into the new millennium is that of global warming. For a hundred years we have been pumping greenhouse gases into the skies, and are now beginning to realise that a price has to be paid. We need to focus close attention on this issue, not least because it will affect the Islamic countries far more radically than the West. Worryingly few people in the Muslim world seem interested in the question; and it is hence urgently necessary that we remind ourselves of the seriousness of the situation.

For years government scientists mocked the idea of global warming. But the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 revealed to an anxious world that the scientific facts were now so clear as to brook no argument. The world is heating up. The industrial gases in the atmosphere are turning our planet into a greenhouse, reflecting heat back in rather than allowing it to be dissipated into space.

Here in England, global warming is noticed even by the ordinary citizen. Temperature records go back over three hundred years, but the 10 hottest years have all occurred since 1945, and three of the five hottest (1989, 1990 and 1995), have been in the past decade. Water supply is equally erratic. January of 1997 was the driest for 200 years. Storms at sea have become so bad that the North Sea oil industry is now laying pipelines because the seas are too rough for tankers.

What are the exact figures? Surprisingly, they seem tiny. The rise in average temperature between 1990 and 2050 will be 1.5 degrees Centigrade, which appears negligible. But the temperature rise which 4000 years ago ended the last ice age was only 2 degrees Centigrade. Research has proved that the polar ice caps are already beginning to melt, which is why the sea level is now creeping up by five millimetres a year. In places like the North Norfolk coast the EU is spending millions of pounds on new concrete defences to keep the sea out. How long even the most elaborate defences can be maintained is not clear.

However, for the West, the bad news is mixed with good. Rising temperatures would probably be welcomed by most people. It will, in thirty years, be possible to grow oranges in some parts of southern England. Already, the types of seeds bought by farmers reflect the awareness that summers are warmer, and winters are dryer. But no great catastrophe seems to threaten.

What is the situation, however, in the Muslim world? At the Rio summit, many Islamic countries showed themselves indifferent in the issue. In fact, the countries which campaigned most strongly against environmental controls were often Muslim: the Gulf states, Brunei, Kazakhstan and others. The reason was that their economies depend on oil. Cut back emissions on Western roads, or switch electricity generating to sustainable sources like tidal or wind power, and those countries lose out.

There is still inadequate awareness in Muslim circles of the great climatic calamity that is looming in the next millennium. But just consider some precursors of the catastrophe that have already come about. In the Sahel countries of Africa - Chad, Mali and Niger, which have over 90% Muslim populations, rainfall is declining by ten percent every decade. The huge Sahara Desert is becoming ever huger, as it overwhelms marginal pasture and arable land on its southern fringes. The disastrous drought which recently afflicted the Sudan ended with catastrophic floods.

Any climatic map will show that agriculture in many Muslim countries is a marginal business. In Algeria, a further 15% decline in rainfall will eliminate most of the remaining farmland, sending further waves of migrants into the cities. A similar situation prevails in Morocco, where the worst drought in living memory ended only in 1995. The Yemen has suffered from the change in monsoon patterns in the Indian Ocean - another consequence of global warming. In Bangladesh the problem is not a shortage of water - it is too much of it. Floods are now normal every three or four years, largely because of deforestation in the Himalayas which limits soil retention of water.

Dr Norman Myers of Oxford University predicts that by 2050 'the rise in sea level and changes in agriculture will create 150m refugees. This includes 15m from Bangladesh, and 14m from Egypt.'

However, this figure does not include migrants generated by secondary consequences of climatic change. These huge waves of humanity will destabilise governments and produce wars. The modern nation-state does not facilitate migration: Bangladeshis before 1948 could move to other parts of India, but with Partition, they are stuck within their own borders. Epidemics, also, are likely to be widespread. Some island nations, such as the Maldives or the Comoros, will disappear completely beneath the waves, and their populations will have to be accommodated elsewhere.

Again, I repeat that these forecasts are not doomsday scenarios. Those are much worse. I merely cite the predictions of mainstream science, as set forth in European Union and UK Department of the Environment reports. It is true that measures are beginning to be taken to limit greenhouse gas emission. But even if no more gases were to be released into the skies at all, temperatures would continue to rise for at least a hundred years, because of the gases already circulating in the atmosphere.

Let me close with some reflections on the above three themes.

Are these developments on balance cause for optimism, or for disquiet? Well, we know that the Blessed Prophet (s) liked optimism. He also taught tawakkul - reliance upon Allah's good providence. However, he also taught that tying up our camels is a form of relying on Allah. So how should Muslims consider their options over the next few decades?

There are a number of issues here. Perhaps the most important is the cultivation of an informed leadership. I mentioned earlier that most Muslim leaders cannot provide the intellectual guidance needed to help intelligent young people deal with the challenges of today. Ask the average Muslim activist how to prove a post-modernist wrong, and he will not be able to help you very much. Our heads are buried in the ground. However, it is not only intellectual trends which we ignore. The environment, too, is an impending catastrophe which has not grabbed our attention at all. Perhaps our activists will still be choking out their rival rhetoric on the correct way to hold the hands during the Prayer, while they breath in the last mouthful of oxygen available in their countries. They seem wholly oblivious to the problem.

All this has to change. In my travels in the Islamic world, I found tremendous enthusiasm for Islam among young people, and a no less tremendous disappointment with the leadership. The traditional ulema have the courtesy and moderation which we need, but lack a certain dynamism; the radical faction leaders have fallen into the egotistic trap of exclusivism and takfir; while the mainstream revivalist leaders, frankly, are often irrelevant. Both ponderous and slightly insecure, trapped by an 'ideological' vision of Islam, they do not understand the complexity of today's world - and our brighter young people see this soon enough.

Institutions, therefore, urgently need to be established, to train young men and women both in traditional Shari'a disciplines, and in the cultural and intellectual language of today's world. Something like this has been done in the past: one thinks of the Nizamiyya madrasa in Baghdad where Ghazali taught, which encouraged knowledge not only of fiqh, but of philosophical theology in the Greek tradition. We need a new Ghazali today: a moderate, spiritually minded genius who can understand secular thought and refute it, not merely rant and rave about it.

The creation of a relevant leadership is thus the first priority. The second has to be the evolution of styles of da'wa that can operate despite the frankly improbable task of toppling the bunker regimes. The FIS declared war on the Algerian state, and has achieved nothing apart from turning much of the country into a battleground. Unless the military can be suborned, there is no chance of victory in such situations. Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and the rest are similar cases.

An alternative da'wa strategy already exists in a sense. In many of these countries, particularly in Egypt, the mainstream Ikhwan Muslimin operate a largescale welfare system, which serves to remind the masses of the superior ethical status of indigenous Islamic values. That model deserves to be expanded. But there is another option, which does not compete with it, but augments it. That is the model of da'wa activity to the West.

New Muslims like myself are grateful to Allah for the ni'ma of Islam - but we cannot say that we are grateful to the Umma. Islam is in its theology and its historical practice a missionary faith - one of the great missionary faiths, along with Christianity and Buddhism. And yet while Christianity and Buddhism are today brilliantly organised for conversion, Islam has no such operation, at least to my knowledge. Ballighu anni wa-law aya ('Convey my message, even though a single verse') is a Prophetic commandment that binds us all. It is a fard ayn, and a fard kifaya - and we are disobeying it on both counts.

Ten years ago a book appeared in France called D'Une foi l'autre, les conversions a l'Islam en Occident. The authors, both career journalists, carried out extensive interviews with new Muslims in Europe and America. Their conclusions are clear. Almost all educated converts to Islam come in through the door of Islamic spirituality. In the middle ages, the Sufi tariqas were the only effective engine of Islamisation in Muslim minority areas like Central Asia, India, black Africa and Java; and that pattern is maintained today.

Why should this be the case? Well, any new Muslim can tell you the answer. Westerners are in the first instance seeking not a moral path, or a political ideology, or a sense of special identity - these being the three commodities on offer among the established Islamic movements. They lack one thing, and they know it - the spiritual life. Thus, handing the average educated Westerner a book by Sayyid Qutb, for instance, or Mawdudi, is likely to have no effect, and may even provoke a revulsion. But hand him or her a collection of Islamic spiritual poetry, and the reaction will be immediately more positive. It is an extraordinary fact that the best-selling religious poet in modern America is our very own Jalal al-Din Rumi. Despite the immeasurably different time and place of his origin, he outsells every Christian religious poet.

Those who puzzle over the da'wa issue in the West generally refuse to take this on board. All too often they follow limited, ideological versions of Islam that are relevant only to their own cultural situation, and have no relevance to the problems of educated modern Westerners. We need to overcome this. We need to capitalise on the modern Western love of Islamic spirituality - and also of Islamic art and crafts. By doing so, we can reap a rich harvest, in sha' Allah. If the West is like a fortress, then we can approach it from its strongest place, by provoking it politically and militarily, as the absurd Saddam Hussein did; in which case we will bring yet more humiliation and destruction upon our people. Or we can find those areas of its defences which have become tumbledown and weak. Those are, essentially, areas of spirituality and aesthetics. Millions of young Westerners are dissatisfied both with the materialism of their world, and with the doctrines of Christianity, and are seeking refuge in New Age groups and cults. Those people should be natural recruits for Islam - and yet we ignore them.

Similarly, and for the same constituency, we need to emphasise Islam's vibrant theological response to the problem of conservation. The Qur'an is the richest of all the world's scriptures in its emphasis on the beauty of nature as a theophany - a mazhar - of the Divine names.

As a Western Muslim, who understands what moves and influences Westerners, I feel that by stressing these two issues, Islam is well-placed not merely to flourish, but to dominate the religious scene of the next century. Only Allah truly knows the future. But it seems to me that we are at a crossroads, of which the millennium is a useful, if accidental symbol. It will either be the watershed which marks the final collapse of Islam as an intellectually and spiritually rich tradition at ease with itself, as increasingly it presides over an overpopulated and undernourished zone of chaos. Or it will take stock, abandon the dead end of meaningless extremism, and begin to play its natural world role as a moral and spiritual exemplar.

As we look around ourselves today at the chaos and disintegration of the Umma, we may ask whether such a possibility is credible. But we are living through times when the future is genuinely negotiable in an almost unprecedented way. Ideologies which formerly obstructed or persecuted Islam, like extreme Christianity, nationalism and Communism, are withering. Ernest Gellner, the Cambridge anthropologist has described Islam as 'the last religion' - the last in the sense of truly believing its scriptural narratives to be normative.

If we have the confidence to believe that what we have inherited or chosen is indeed absolute truth, then optimism would seem quite reasonable. And I am optimistic. If Islam and the Muslims can keep their nerve, and not follow the secularising course mapped out for them by their rivals, or travel the blind alley of extremism, then they will indeed dominate the world, as once they did. And, we may I think quite reasonably hope, they will once again affirm without the ambiguity of worldly failure, the timeless and challenging words, wa kalimatuLlahi hiya al-ulya - 'and the word of God is supreme'.