Submission, Faith, and Beauty – 1.1



Faith in God is what draws an individual to a religion and submission is the manner in which one then follows it. Although submission is the first concept mentioned in the Hadith of Gabriel, another narration of the hadith begins with a discussion of faith,[1] and so this where we begin. Many would first think of fasting (sawm), praying (salah), or pilgrimage (hajj) when Islam is mentioned, but such practices were not fully instituted until later in the life of the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم. The pilgrimage was not fully reinstated until a year before his passing. The first message God gave to the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم was one of truth, the human response to which is faith. This is why the first revelations of the Qur’an speak of God, death, and the Last Day rather than fasting, pilgrimage, and zakat (alms tax). First the revelation reestablished the proper relationship between the divine and the human through faith. Then it taught the way of observing and maintaining the relationship through submission.

Iman is usually translated as either “faith” or “belief”. Although both terms are employed in this book, neither captures its true meaning. The Christian tradition speaks of “faith seeking understanding”, and these days one often hears of “blind faith”. But according to the Qur’an and Hadith, faith is an objective understanding of reality as such. It is the proper human response to truth when one lives in alignment with his or her true nature. To respond with faith to the revelation sent by God through one of His messengers is to begin the journey back towards what we truly are. All other human states of being are deviations wherein one lives below his or her God-given nature. From a Qur’anic perspective, there are only two types of deviation: disbelief (kufr) and hypocrisy (nifaq), though both have varying degrees. To recognize the truth of revelation is to awaken from the heedlessness of these lower states to the reality of God and our true selves. To live in accord with this recognition is true faith, and should be manifest on all planes of our being. As the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم said, “Faith is knowledge in the heart, voicing it with the tongue, and acting on it with the limbs.”[2] As knowledge must precede the voicing of it with the tongue and action with the limbs, in order for them to be efficacious, we will first discuss the nature of the heart, which is the locus of faith.

The heart is not simply a source of emotions; rather, it is the locus of consciousness, intelligence, and perception whereby the human being sees things as they truly are. This heart knowledge is what makes us human and distinguishes us from the rest of God’s creation. Right thinking thus begins with the submission of the heart to the truth. When the heart does not submit, it is blind, ignorant, sick, locked, sealed, hardened, and rusted over, as several Qur’anic verses attest:

It is not the eyes that are blind,
but blind are the hearts within the breast.
(22 : 46)

They have hearts but do not understand with them. (7 : 179)

In their hearts is an illness, so God increases them in illness. (2 : 10)

What, do they not reflect upon the Qur’an? Or are there locks upon their hearts? (47 : 24)

God has sealed their hearts. (2 : 7)

Then your hearts were hardened after that.
They are like rocks or harder.
(2 : 74)

No indeed, but what they were earning
has rusted upon their hearts.
(83 : 13)

Rather than delving into the illnesses of the heart and their many manifestations, let us look to the healthy heart; for one cannot diagnose a diseased organ without knowing its healthy state, and it is only to heal hearts and return them to this original state that any religion is revealed. As stated so clearly in the Qur’an, the Day of Judgment will only benefit those who come to God with sound hearts. In addition to faith, there are three other attributes of those with sound hearts: knowledge (‘ilm), tranquility (sakinah), and remembrance of God (dhikr). They are interconnected and present with and through each other, such that God often mentions them together:

The people of faith whose hearts are tranquil
in the remembrance of God.
Are not hearts tranquil
through the remembrance of God? 
(13 : 28)

He is the one who causes tranquility to descend
into the hearts of those with faith,
to increase their faith with faith.
(43 : 3)

Those who have faith are those whose hearts quiver
when God is remembered. 
(39 : 22)

Regarding knowledge, God states that those whose hearts He has sealed do not understand:

So He sealed their hearts
such that they do not understand. 
(9 : 87)

God also asks rhetorically,

Do they not travel in the earth?
And do they not have hearts
with which they know? 
(22 : 46)

The deepest level of faith is remembrance of God. One can have faith and still waver between remembrance and heedlessness, but if one truly remembers God, faith is ever present. As one deepens in faith and learns to reside more fully in perpetual remembrance, the heart becomes more conscious of God and more tranquil; hence God asks,

Has not the time come for the people of faith
to soften their hearts to the remembrance of God?
(57 : 13)

Those whose hearts soften allow nothing to distract them from the remembrance of God and remember Him while sitting, standing, and reclining on their sides. Indeed, those who remember are alive and aware, while those who forget are dead and ignorant. In the words of the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم, “The difference between the one who remembers God and the one who does not is like the difference between the living and the dead.”[3]

The sound heart is a heart that contemplates, perceives, remembers, and is at peace. This is faith, the true measure of the human being. From this perspective, there are only three types of human beings: the faithful (al-mu’minun), the disbelievers (al-kafirun) who cover their true nature, and the hypocrites (al-munafiqun) who dissimulate, feigning faith while not following its dictates. As stated in the introduction, the primary article of faith for Muslims is the profession of God’s oneness. But this has many implications. All that exists is ultimately connected to God, for God is described in the Qur’an as,

The first and the last, the outer and the inner. (57 : 1)

Therefore, all things must be understood in relation to Him. The most important of these things are those mentioned in the Hadith of Gabriel عليه السلام: angels, books, messengers, the Last Day, and the measuring out. They are the realities one must know and with which the heart must be at peace. By understanding them, one comes to understand the way in which all of creation is connected to and dependent upon God -the true origin of all existence. Scholars of Islam have categorized these realities as follows:

  • The oneness of God (tawhid): God, the angels, and the measuring out
  • Prophecy (nubuwwah): God’s books and messengers
  • The Return (ma’ad): The Last Day and the return of the soul to God

These are three dimensions of a single message and, therefore, can only be understood in conjunction with each other. The oneness of God is the basic knowledge of divine unity that corresponds to the true nature of humans. Prophecy is the means whereby we are reminded of God’s oneness and taught to live in accord with it. The Return tells us that, though we are mortal, we have an immortal destiny and only find joy by living in accord with our true nature that existed before this world and will continue in the world to come.

The Oneness of God
The question “What is Islam?” could simply be answered by saying “the recognition of the oneness of God”. This recognition is of such importance that the only sin considered unforgivable in Islam is attributing partners to God, or associating others with God (shirk). As the Qur’an states,

Surely God does not forgive
that others be associated with Him,
but He forgives what is less than that
for whomsoever He wills.
(4 : 48)

For one who associates others with God,
God has prohibited paradise to him.
(5 : 72)

On the most outward level, recognizing the oneness of God means reciting the first testimony of faith (shahadah): “There is no deity but God”. In this vein, associating others with God is simply denying the oneness of God or worshipping false idols. The idols humans worship are many and diverse, but it is in fact our own “inner idols” that pose the greatest obstacles. In the Qur’an, God warns of those who take the passions arising from the illnesses of the heart as deities to be worshipped. Such passions arise from a wind in the breast that blows contrary to our true nature. The Arabic word for these whisperings is ahwa’ (singular form: hawa). They are whims of the moment that blow one way and another like arbitrary, illogical impulses and are best translated as “conceits” or “caprices”. In the Qur’an, God asks rhetorically,

Have you seen one who has taken
his own conceit to be his deity?
(25 : 43)

Who is more misguided
than one who follows his own conceit
without guidance from God?
(28 : 50)

It is this very tendency in the soul that causes humans to reject God’s message and messengers. Thus God asks,

So whenever there came to you a messenger
with what was not the conceit of your souls,
did you become arrogant,
repudiating some and killing others? 
(2 : 87)

Later God states,

Whenever there came to them a messenger
with what was not the conceit of their souls,
some they repudiated, others they killed.
(5 : 70)

Of the nineteen times conceit appears in the Qur’an, eighteen employ the verb “to follow”. When not following God and His messengers, we are thus following a momentary and arbitrary conceit and far from His oneness. Avoiding conceits is of such importance that God promises,

As for one who fears the station of his Lord
and restrains his soul from conceit,
surely paradise is the refuge.
(79 : 40)

Unfortunately, many who profess God’s oneness outwardly may be as guilty of following their conceits as those who do not. In this vein, the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم said, “The most frightening thing that I fear for my community is associating others with God. I do not mean that they will worship the sun, the moon or idols. I mean that they will perform works for other than God with a hidden desire.”[4] This issue is of such importance that the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم alluded to it in his final public address, a few days before his passing: “I fear not for you that you will associate other gods with God; but I fear for you this world, lest you seek to rival one another in worldly gains.”[5] Manifest association of others with God is thus the source of unbelief, but hidden instances of such associations are the source of hypocrisy, and until one has turned all of his or her aspirations toward God, a touch of these associations remains within the breast. To guard against this condition, one must understand not only the oneness of God Himself, but also the manner in which all things are related to God and utterly dependent upon Him; for, in the Islamic context, everything that exists is a sign of God. Failure to perceive this is a deficiency in faith and an indication of false associations:

How many a sign is there in the heavens and the earth
that they pass by, turning away from it?
Most of them have no faith in God,
and associate others with Him.
(12 : 105)

In order to understand the signs, we must first understand the overall context in which they appear. Simply put, to avoid associating others with God, one must have a correct understanding of the relationship between God and creation, between the Absolute and the relative; otherwise one may mistake the relative signs for the Absolute that they signify.


[1] al-Bukhari, p. 27, no. 50
[2] Imam Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad b. Yazid b. Majah, Sunan Ibn Majah (Riyadh: Dar al-Salam, 1999 CE / 1420 AH), p. 11, no. 65
[3] al-Bukhari, p. 1145, no. 6407
[4] See al-Bukhari, p. 1173, no. 6590 for a version of this tradition
[5] Ibid.


Submission, Faith, and Beauty – Introduction

The Religion of Islam

Joseph E. Lumbard

Zaytuna Institute

Dedicated to the hearts in search of the divine truth.
May God guide you with grace along the path.


An invocation of God’s blessings and peace for the Prophet Muhammad:
“Peace and blessings of God be upon him.”

An invocation of God’s peace upon a prophet:
“Peace be upon him.”

An invocation of God’s peace upon two prophets:
“Peace be upon them.”

An invocation of God’s peace upon more than two prophets:
“Peace be upon them.”

An invocation of God’s peace upon a female companion of the Prophet:
“May God be pleased with her.”

An invocation of God’s peace upon a male companion of the Prophet:
“May God be pleased with him.”


Islam is nothing new. It is a reaffirmation of the one truth that has always been and will never cease to be -there is no deity but God- la ilaha illa llah. This is the axis for not only the religion, but for the whole existence. To know and live this reality is the birthright of every human being. It brings peace, contentment, and nobility. Passionate predilections, conceits, and ignorance can, however, blind us to the truth, such that we become forgetful and heedless, putting vanity and falsity in its place. Despite the transgressions of human beings, reminders of this truth were periodically sent to humankind through the infinite mercy of God. These reminders were sent in the form of messengers or prophets who brought the revelations through which we are again reminded that truth is one, that all is created through this truth, and that our joy, contentment, and salvation lie in living in accord with this truth. This truth is encapsulated in the first half of the testimony of faith spoken by Muslims: “I testify that there is no deity but God” (ash-hadu an la ilaha illa llah).

In many English-speaking societies, this truth is often misunderstood and mistaken for a type of paganism, largely due to a simple linguistic barrier. Muslims most often refer to God using the Arabic name Allah, which is a proper noun that designates the incomparable creator of the heavens and earth. Many non-Arabic speaking people mistakenly assume that Allah is the name of a deity who is distinct from the Abrahamic traditions of Judaism and Christianity, simply because they hear the word “Allah” used instead of the word “God”. This false assumption is refuted by the fact that both Arab Jews and Arab Christians also refer to God as Allah. The name Allah is the Arabic equivalent for God, and both terms can be interchanged synonymously. Because this book was prepared for readers versed in the English language, the word “God” will be used throughout except where Arabic terminology is specifically required.

The word Islam can be translated into English as “submission”. Contrary to the negative connotations of the word in common English usage, the meaning of submission as it pertains to Islam is “the act of recognizing the oneness of God” (tawhid). This submission is most often thought of as an act of bearing witness that there is no deity but God, although this is only its most elementary manifestation. To bear witness with one’s tongue and mind to God’s oneness is but the first step toward inner unification, wherein the dispersed elements of the soul are unified in the drive to realize the immutable truth and live in accord with it.

People who practice the religion of Islam are known as Muslims. The word Muslim can be translated into English as “one who submits”. Muslims believe that the last of God’s revelations to humanity is the Qur’an, which was revealed by God through the Angel Gabriel عليه السلام to the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم over a twenty-three year period (610 – 632 CE). Belief in the Prophet Muhammad’s status as a prophet (and by extension, the soundness of the revelation of the Qur’an) is affirmed in the second half of the testimony of faith: “and I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of God” (wa ash-hadu anna Muhammadan rasulullah). For Muslims, the text of the Qur’an is the eternal and immutable word of God that has been preserved in its original form and language for over fourteen hundred years.

One Message, Many Messengers
The Qur’an was sent by God to remind humanity of the unifying truth of God’s oneness, and Muslims believe that this same truth was conveyed to every Prophet that came before the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. God tells us in the Qur’an,

And We never sent a messenger before you,
save that We revealed to him, saying,
“There is no deity but I, so worship Me.” (21 : 25)

God specifically addresses Moses عليه السلام: I am God! There is no deity but I. So worship Me (20 : 14). The Prophets Noah, Hud, Salih, and Shu’ayb عليه السلام said to their people in different lands and different ages,

O my people! Worship God!
You have no other deity but Him. (7 : 59, 7 : 65, 7 : 73, 7 : 85)

It is a fundamental principle of the Qur’an that every human collectivity has been sent a prophet. This principle is reinforced by the following verses:

And We have sent to every people a messenger,
that they may worship God.
(16 : 32)

And for every people there is a messenger.
When their messenger comes,
they are judged with equity and are not wronged
. (10 : 48)

Every human collectivity throughout history has thus been sent a reminder of God’s oneness. In this vein, every previous revelation is seen as a path of submission to the will of God. For God presents Islam as a way of life, not as a particular creed. Regarding Abraham عليه السلام, the patriarch of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, God tells us,

Abraham was not a Jew or a Christian,
rather he was one who submitted. 
(3 : 95)

In another passage, Abraham and his son Ishmael عليه السلام, pray that they themselves submit and that those who follow them be a submitting nation (2 : 127 – 128). A few verses later, the Prophet Jacob عليه السلام, addresses his sons as follows:

O my sons, God has chosen the way for you.
So do not die but that you are those who submitted
. (2 : 132)

In the next chapter, the apostles say to Jesus عليه السلام,

We are the helpers of God! We believe!
Bear witness that we are those who submitted
. (3 : 52)

The whole of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition is thus seen as different ways in which human beings have submitted to God throughout history. Thus the Qur’an tells us of Jews and Christians,

And when the Qur’an is recited to them, they say,
“We believe in it. Truly it is the truth from our Lord.
Truly before it 
[was revealed] we were those who submitted” (28 : 52)

The Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم said, “The prophets are half brothers: their mothers differ, and their way (deen) is one.”[1] The word deen, translated here as “way”, is usually translated as “religion”, but it actually conveys much more. It is an entire way of life with all the rules and regulations pertaining thereto, as in the words of Jacob عليه السلام cited in the previous paragraph, and in what is believed by some scholars to be the very last verse of the Qur’an to be revealed:

Today I have perfected your way for you
and have completed My blessings upon you,
and I have approved for you submitting as a way.
(5 : 3)

The Arabic root for deen is closely related to dayn, which means “debt” or “the repayment of a debt”. In this sense, deen indicates the manner in which human beings repay their debt to God, to whom they owe their entire existence. The most important verse for understanding the universal nature of this term states,

God has laid down for you as a way
that with which He charged Noah,
and what We have revealed to you,
and that with which We charged
Abraham, Moses and Jesus:
“Establish the way, and scatter not regarding it”.
(42 : 13)

In Qur’anic language, “the way” refers to both the recognition of the oneness of God and the submission to God and His messengers. This is considered the “right way” to live. As the Prophet Joseph عليه السلام says in the Qur’an,

Judgment belongs only to God.
He has commanded that you worship none but Him.
That is the right way, but most people do not know.
(12 : 40)

The Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم and the Message of Islam
While the reality of the way that each messenger has taught is one, the forms differ. The way of submission revealed through the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم is contained in the Qur’an and in his Sunnah (prophetic tradition). The Qur’an states,

You have an excellent example in the Messenger of God. (33 : 21)

When asked about the Prophet Muhammad’s character, his wife ‘A’isha رضي الله عنها said: “His character was the Qur’an.” The Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم is thus seen as the living embodiment of the message he delivered. From the beginning of his prophetic mission in the year 610 CE until today, all who follow the message he brought have seen in his words and actions the archetype of a life lived in full submission to the one God. The Prophet Muhammad’s function as God’s Messenger is inimitable, but in his daily life he confronted the opportunities, challenges, joys and hardships that befall any human being. He was an orphan, shepherd, merchant, husband,father, grandfather, warrior, general, politician, and more. He suffered great poverty and experienced great wealth. In the year 622, he was forced to emigrate because of persecution, and in the year 630, he returned as a triumphant hero. But in all of these modes he remained submissive to and mindful of the one God. The well-preserved record of his actions, sayings, and even tacit approvals provides a model for how we can too conduct ourselves with submission and mindfulness at every turn. To live in accord with the prophetic model is thus to live with continuous recognition of the oneness of God, wherein all the diverse elements of one’s life and being rotate around the eternal truth, unified in perpetual submission.

The effort to record and preserve the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم is among the most remarkable achievements of human history. Scholars of many lands developed extensive sciences to safeguard the authenticity of this record and the manner of implementing it in the lives of Muslims from Arabia to Spain, India, China, and beyond. Altogether these accounts are known as the Hadith, and each individual account is a hadith. They contain information regarding everything from faith and the afterlife to family relations and rules of taxation and inheritance. Although the Hadith are second to the Qur’an in authority, they are far greater in quantity. The Qur’an is contained in a single book, but the hadith fill many volumes. Very often it is through the Hadith that one is able to understand the Qur’an. For example, the Qur’an instructs us to pray, but the Hadith tell us when to pray and how to pray. The Qur’an enjoins Muslims to make the pilgrimage to Mecca, but it is the specific teachings of the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم that tell us how to perform the pilgrimage in a manner that is acceptable to God. Together, the Qur’an and Hadith are the cornerstones upon which the whole of Islam is built.

A few hadith are considered succinct summaries of the entire religion, touching upon every aspect of belief and practice. One that is commonly cited in this regard is known as the Hadith of Gabriel عليه السلام. It is transmitted by one of the Prophet Muhammad’s closest companions, the second caliph (Muslim leader) after him, Umar ibn al-Khattab رضي الله عنه. This hadith came from a time towards the end of the Prophet’s life:

One day when we were sitting with the Messenger of God صلى الله عليه وسلم, a man with very white clothing and jet black hair came up to us. No mark of travel was visible upon him, and none of us recognized him. Sitting down before the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, leaning his knees against his, and placing his hands upon his thighs, he said, “Tell me, Muhammad, about submitting.” He replied, “Submitting is that you bear witness that there is no deity but God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God, that you perform the ritual prayer, pay the alms tax, fast during Ramadan, and make pilgrimage to the House if you are able.” The man said, “You are right.” We were surprised at his questioning him and then declaring that he was right. The man said, “Now tell us about faith.” He replied, “Faith is that you have faith in God, His angels, His books, His messengers, and the Last Day, and that you have faith in the measuring out, both its good and its evil.” Remarking that he was right, he then said, “Now tell me about beautifying.” He replied, “To beautify is to worship God as if you see Him, for if you do not see Him, He nonetheless sees you.” The the man said, “Tell me about the Hour.” The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم replied, “Regarding that, the one questioned knows no more than the questioner.” The man said, “Then tell me about its marks.” He said, “The slave will give birth to her mistress, and you will see the barefoot, naked, destitute shepherds vying in erecting tall buildings.” Then the man went away. After I had waited for a long time, the Prophet said to me, “Do you know who the questioner was Umar?” I replied, “God and His Messenger know best.” He said, “He was Gabriel. He came to teach you your religion.”[2]

The remainder of this book is based upon this hadith. It is divided into four sections dealing with each of the elements mentioned: submitting or submission (islam), faith or belief (iman), beautification (ihsan), and the End of Time (also known as the Hour). From one perspective, submission, faith, and beautification are the three fundamental dimensions of the submitting way; they complement and complete each other. They are envisioned as three partially overlapping circles, and the place where all three circles overlap is the ideal that all Muslims strive to attain. One who embodies all three in their fullest depth and breadth is closer to living as a true human being in what the Qur’an refers to as the true nature (fitrah). This true nature is our original state before God and the innate disposition of all human beings.

The fitrah referred to above is the innate disposition of all human beings. People hold the full awareness of the oneness of God in their innermost core, but the darkness of the world veils them from its light. As the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم said, “Every child is born in the true nature. Then its parents make it a Christian, a Jew, or a Zoroastrian.”[3] This does not mean that all the previous religions are invalid, but rather that insofar as they have been corrupted, they no longer serve to bring about the state of submission that all prophets have practiced and taught.[4] The practice of Islam is susceptible to the same corruptions as previous dispensations, but it is up to the community of scholars to address and resolve these corruptions, renewing the religion for each generation. When not corrupt, all the various ways revealed by God are the means by which we can return to our true nature:

Set your face to the religion as one with primordial faith,
the true nature established by God,
according to which He brought people forth.
There is no changing the creation of God.
That is the right way, but most people do not know.
Turn to Him and revere Him,
perform the prayer, and be not of those
who associate others with Him.
(30 : 30)

From this perspective, the human being is not a fallen being in need of redemption but rather a forgetful being who must be reminded of God and of his own nature. It is said, “Who knows himself, knows his Lord.”[5] The Hadith of Gabriel عليه السلام proposes that we return to the knowledge of God and ourselves by living in faith and submission and doing things beautifully.

All of the difficulties that confront humanity arise from an imbalance between the three dimensions of submission, faith, and beautification; for example, trying to beautify things without submitting is the height of vanity. trying to submit without beauty gives rise to the dry legalism of strident puritanical movements. Without submission, faith becomes blind ideology. And without beauty, faith becomes a corpus of vague ideologies, and the earnest teachings of all scriptures are reduced to empty slogans. Unfortunately, the forgetful, obstinate, and passionate human soul allows these dimensions to gradually grow apart on both the individual and societal levels. As this process reaches its nadir, the signs of the final hour alluded to at the end of the Hadith of Gabriel عليه السلام appear. Such times are referred to as trials (fitan, plural of fitna) in the Hadith literature. These trials will take many forms but will have a common root cause -forgetfulness and heedlessness. From an Islamic perspective, the only way to withstand such trials is to live a life that integrates submission, faith, and beauty. For even if the world is moving away from the fullness of the divine message, each individual can live it in his or her own life to the extent that he or she is able; this we should never fail to do.


[1] Imam Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad b. Isma’il al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari (Beirut: al-Maktabah al-‘Asriyyah, 2005 CE / 1426 AH), p. 610, no. 3443
[2] Imam Abu al-Husayn Muslim b. al-Hajjaj al-Qushayri al-Nisaburi, Sahih Muslim (Beirut: Dar Ihya’ al-Turath al’Arabi, 2000 CE / 1420 AH), p. 65, no. 8
[3] al-Bukhari, p. 240, no. 1385
[4] Editors’ note: According to some scholars, the position that all aspects of previous religions are not invalid is affirmed by the Qur’an and Sunnah. God mentions in the Qur’an, concerning judgments on the basis of the Jewish and Christians scriptures, Let the People of the Gospel judge by what God has revealed therein. If any do fail to judge by what God has revealed, they are rebellious profligate (5 : 50). In this and related verses (5 : 47 – 49) God affirms the validity of judgments issued on the basis of the scriptures present with the Jewish and Christian communities during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم. Scholars who hold that the law of the communities who preceded the community of the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم is a valid source of law for the Muslim community, usher these verses as proof for that position. In the Sunnah, the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم accepted the judgment of the Torah (Deuteronomy 20 : 12, as issued by Sa’d b. Mu’adh, against the Jewish tribe Bani Qurayzah. The Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم described that judgment as “the judgment of God from above the seven heavens.” See Ibn Hisham, al-Sirah al-Nabawiyyah (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1994 / 1415), 3 : 181. These and similar narrations support the idea that there is validity in the previous religions. Surely God knows best.
[5] This expression is often attributed to the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم with the wording “One who knows himself will know his Lord.” There is, however, no firm evidence to justify such attribution. Al-Sama’ni attributes it to Yahya b. Mu’adh al-Razi. For a discussion of this expression, see Isma’il b. Muhammad al-‘Ajluni, Kashf al-khafa’ (Beirut: Dar Ihya’ al-Turath al-‘Arabi, 1933 CE / 1302 AH), 2 : 262, no. 2532.

Cauterization and Cupping

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Medieval Cupping

Medieval Cupping

It is narrated in sahih Bukhari that Ibn ‘Abbas, God be pleased with him, quoted God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم as saying: “If the final cure lies between using a syrup of honey, scarification by cupping or cauterization by fire, I utterly forbid my followers to use cauterization.”

On this subject, hakim Abu ‘Abdullah al-Maziri said: “Congestive diseases are due to blood, yellow bile, phlegm, or black bile. When blood is the cause, then bloodletting is the remedy. Moreover, if the other three humors are the cause, then their remedies consist of using the respective cleansing purgatives.” In the above prophetic saying, it appears as though God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم favors the use of honey as an important abluent and a mild prurient over acerbic laxatives, and he gave precedence to the use of scarification by cupping over cauterization. Some commentators interpreted venesection (phlebotomy) as a branch of scarification by cupping, and when medication is ineffectual, then cauterization by fire is the last resort.

In another prophetic tradition, God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم said: “I personally do not like to use cauterization.” Here, God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم suggested cauterization as a curative only when other decongestive medications fail, and that expelling minor pain may not require resorting to sustaining extreme pain due to branding by fire. Sa’id al-Khattabi narrated that God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم cauterized Sa’ad bin Mu’az to prevent a hemorrhage which would have been fatal if not treated immediately.

Some physicians (hakims) contend that humoral diseases are caused by either interaction with body fluids or without them. As we earlier stated, the four humors can be either hot, cold, moist, or dry, or they manifest as compounded and are known in Arabic as akhlat. The temperaments of hot and cold are effective, while the moist and dry ones are passive. Ordinarily, an effective temperament occurs with a passive one. As such humors exist in a kinetic state, interspersing with the elements of the body, they constantly adjust to any imbalance of body fluids. Therefore, the substance of the prophetic saying concerning the basic nature of treating a hot or cold diseases is in the cleansing of the blood with bloodletting by either cupping or venesection. Such procedures involve purgation and consequently prove cooling to the humor. On the other hand, treating a cold temperament requires heating of the elements, and such property exists in honey and therefore does not require purgation, because honey is an aperient, a refurbisher, a solvent, and an abluent. Such humoral imbalance will be cured gently and safely in contrast to the discomfort associated with using a strong purgative.

As for administering cauterization by a hot element, God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم approved of its use only as a last resort because a humoral disease can either be: (1) acute and therefore will expire expeditiously without the need for cauterization; or (2) chronic, whereby cauterization is best performed on the affected limb after administering blood purgation. Moreover, such disease will become chronic once a cold and dense element burrows under the skin to develop a cold and thick crust that will obstruct the balanced function of the humor and that will spread and convert the cells next to it to its own kind. Such contagious disease can be cured by cauterization as a last resort in order to extricate the causative agent. Thus, from such prophetic traditions we learned about the treatment of obstinate diseases when the constitution defeats the strongest of medicines, as we learned the basic treatment of simple diseases from his saying: “The intensity of fever is a scorching torridity that is vented from the boiling of hell-fire, so cool it down with water.”

As for the treatment of diseases by bloodletting through cupping as a therapeutic measure, several prophetic sayings are related in sahih Bukhari and in the collection of traditions narrated by Ibn Maja among others. Ibn ‘Abbass also narrated that God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم said: “Blessed is a servant who practices cupping. It cleanses the blood, dries out internal inflammations, and brightens one’s vision.” He also said: “Cupping (hijama) is one of the best medicines.”

Abu Huraira narrated that God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم said: “The seventeenth, nineteenth, and the twenty-first days of the (lunar) months are the best days for administering bloodletting through cupping.” Ibn Maja also narrated that God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم said: “Some of your best treatments lie in taking medicinal snuff (of natural herbs), in venesection, in cupping, and in purgation.” This particular saying is more applicable for the dwellers of the Arabian peninsula and countries of hot climate.

Benefits of Cupping



Cupping is a treatment for a variety of skin diseases. Cupping draws out blood through the skin pores, cleanses the skin of affected parts and draws the natural healing forces to the area. Sometimes, cupping is more effective for skin diseases than venesection, though bloodletting through venesection is a better treatment for abysmal diseases. Deciding to administer one of the two operations depends on several conditions including time, place, age, humors in hot climates, hot seasons and the individual’s hot temperaments if his blood is agitated. Cupping is also helpful for a woman in provoking her menstrual flow. In such case, cupping brings out what venesection cannot. Cupping is better for younger people and for those who cannot brave venesection. Hakims also agree that cupping is a better treatment in hot countries and venesection in cold ones. Cupping should be performed in the middle of the lunar month and when the moon is waning, and particularly during the third quarter of the month. This is because during the first half of the month, blood humor is cooler, uncongested, and is in a state of passive hyperemia. Though each humor ripens at varying intervals, they all reach the peak of their coction in the middle of the month and during the third quarter of it. The same opinion is stated by Avicenna, adding that “cupping should not be administered during the waxing of the moon because the humors and their compounds (akhlat) are not congested or coctant then, and during the last quarter of the month, the intensity of such coction will be inadequate to draw the full benefits of cupping.”

Cuppping Cups

Cupping Cups

The particular emphasis of this prophetic tradition on cupping is made for those who live in hot climates, and because their blood is thinner and is drawn closer to the surface of the skin. In hot climates, such attraction of the blood by the heat of the sun’s rays may congest in various areas beneath the skin. Although dwellers of hot climates have larger pores, nevertheless sometimes during such heat they may feel exhausted and debilitated. For such prognosis, venesection is dangerous, while cupping causes a natural break up of any formation of blood congestion beneath the skin. This natural treatment accelerates a chain of metabolic processes in the blood humor which is followed by natural purgation and cleansing or flushing of the arteries, and particularly those arteries and veins that cannot be easily venesected. The flushing that occurs in each artery provides dedicated benefits. For example the blood flushing of the basilic vein abates the congestion and inflammations of the liver and the spleen. It also benefits in reducing pulmonary infections, pleurisy and most of the ephemeral blood diseases affecting circulation from the area under the knees and up to the hip joint. As for the median vein of the arm, flushing of its blood will prove beneficial in eliminating transient general bloating of the body if it is caused by the blood humor as well as general blood infection or toxemia. Flushing of the cephalic vein helps balancing ephemeral tremor of head, neck pain and blood congestion or symptoms of cyanosis caused by lack of oxygen or abnormal hemoglobinic condition in the blood. As for the blood flushing of the jugular veins, it helps in cardiac spleen, asthmatic disorder, chronic headache, herpetic eruption and heaviness of eyelids.

Imam Bukhari narrated in his sahih that Anas, God be pleased with him, said: “God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم was cupped between the shoulder blades and the two posterior neck veins.” ‘Ali, God bless his countenance, narrated that it was the archangel Gabriel that prescribed such cupping to God’s Prophet, upon whom be peace. Also in the _sahih_ it is narrated that God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم used cupping for a headache he endured during the pilgrimage while wearing _ihram_. Also in the traditions of Abu Dawoud, Jabir related that God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم applied cupping to his hip because of some strains he sustained.

Administering cupping between the shoulder blades (kahil) helps cure shoulder pain, pains in the upper arms and pain of the throat. Cupping over the two posterior neck veins (akhda’ain) helps treat tremor of head and other conditions of the head (i.e., face, teeth, ears, eyes, nose, and throat) whether such conditions originate from blood infection or from bloating caused by the blood humor.

Points of Application
Tibb medicine holds different opinions concerning cupping the vertex of the skull (jawzat al-qamhouda). On this subject, Abu Na’im al-Asfahani in his book, also called “Medicine of the Prophet”, narrated that God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم said: “Apply cupping to the vertex of the skull, for it cures five diseases,” among which he cited leprosy. In another correct tradition (sahih) he also recommendedwounds_july2014_yu_f1-2 the same treatment, adding: “…for it cures seventy-two diseases.” Hakims who researched this prophetic tradition have mentioned some of its benefits, such as: abnormal protrusion of the eyeball (exophthalmic goiter), swelling out of the frontal bone of the skull (frontospheniodal process), besides other indications, including heaviness of eyelids and eyebrows. Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal required about the prophetic tradition of cupping of the vertex of the skull, though when he himself needed such treatment, he applied the treatment to the two sides of the vertex. As for Avicenna, he disliked its use, and said: “When administered often, it begets forgetfulness.” The same opinion is stated in another prophetic tradition which says: “The vertex of the skull is the point of memorization; cupping it begets forgetfulness.” Hakims who argue the authenticity of this prophetic saying contend that such cupping will only enfeeble the back of the brain (occipital) when unnecessarily performed, otherwise, when used to overcome blood congestion of the brain or an apoplectic stroke it will certainly be of benefit according to both medical and religious code.

Applying cupping under the chin helps reduce toothache, face pain, cleanses the head and reduces throat pain when used at the proper time. Cupping on the top of the foot and over the ankle bone is a preferred substitute for venesection (phlebotomy) of the saphena (Arb. al-safin) which is a large vein of the leg and ends over the ankle bone (malleolus). Such cupping helps against inflammation of testicles, leg ulcers, and suppressed menses, while cupping behind the knee (popliteal space) helps in the treatment of aneurysm, chronic abscesses, hemorrhoids, and septic ulcer of leg and foot, and cupping on inner thighs is a good treatment for irritation of the back, gout, and piles.

Prophetic Guidance on The Best Time to Apply Cupping

Chinese Cupping

Chinese Cupping

Imam al-Tirmithi also reported the earlier-mentioned prophetic saying which is narrated by Ibn ‘Abbass that God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم said: “The seventeenth, nineteenth, and the twenty-first days of the (lunar) months are the best days for administering bloodletting through cupping.” In another tradition, he also said: “Treat yourselves with cupping and do not let high blood pressure (hyperemia; Arb. tabayyugh) kill you.” However, hakims agree that bloodletting through cupping is a beneficial treatment at any other time during an illness. In the traditions of Abu Dawoud, a similar saying is narrated by Abu Huraira, That God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم once added: “It is a cure for every disease,” meaning every disease that is caused by increase of the blood flow in an organ or tissue or by blood congestion (hyperemia). Al-Khallal narrated that Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal treated himself with cupping to quell blood agitation without regard to date or time. As for Avicenna, he recommended “cupping to be administered around two or three o’clock in the afternoon immediately after taking a hot bath except where there is increase in the viscosity of the blood, whereby one should take a bath and allow himself to sweat for an hour before applying cupping glasses.”

Cupping should not be administered after a meal, for it may cause indigestion, and particularly after eating a coarse meal where it may endanger discharge of drops of humors, and/or swelling with gout. God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم said: “Cupping on an empty stomach is a medicine and on a full stomach is a disease.”

In essence, giving preference to date and time for administering cupping is mostly a matter of precaution against unnecessary application for a healthy person. Otherwise, in case of illness, and if the physician finds it indispensable, then one must apply the cupping procedure when and where needed. As for the prophetic saying: “Treat yourselves with cupping and do not let high blood pressure (tabayyugh) kill you,” this tradition relates mostly to those who actually suffer from high blood pressure, wherein the cupping procedure alleviates such tension, and we pointed out earlier the practice of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal who treated himself with cupping without regard to date or time.

The Best Days to Apply Cupping
In his book al-Afrad, al-Darqotni related that ‘Abdullah bin Omar quoted God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم as saying: “Cupping increases one’s memory and wisdom. Apply cupping in the name of Allah, but do not apply it on Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday, while Monday is the best.” Al-Khallal in his collection of prophetic traditions asked Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal: “Which days of the week do you dislike to apply cupping?” He replied: “In this matter, I know that Saturday and Wednesday are reported in the traditions, and some say Friday.” Abu Bakr, God be pleased with him, used to dislike cupping on Tuesday, and referred to the prophetic saying: “On Tuesday blood does not readily clot” (Reported by Abu Dawoud). As for cupping on Wednesday, Abu Huraira, God be pleased with him, narrated another prophetic saying: “Let one who uses cupping on Saturday or on Wednesday and then suffers from leukemia or leprosy blame only himself.”

Conclusions on the Benefits of Cupping
From the above explanations, we conclude that according to prophetic traditions, medical treatment is necessary, and cupping is recommended and must be applied to the needed part of the body. Cupping can be performed during the pilgrimage even if it requires shaving of one’s hair for medical reasons without the need for ceremonial redemption or fidya (Islamic Law). Cupping may not break one’s fast except under one of the following three conditions: (1) when fasting is prescribed; (2) when one is not on a journey; and (3) when no illness requires its application. However, Imam Bukhari did report in his sahih that “God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم applied cups during fasting,” and this is perhaps the case of voluntary fasting (nafl). Allah knows best.



Ottoman Surgical Practice

Ottoman Surgical Practice

Jabir bin ‘Abdullah narrated that “God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم sent a physician to Abye ibn Ka’ab who bled him from a vein then cauterized it” (sahih Bukhari). It also quoted in the correct traditions (sahih) that “when an arrow wounded Sa’ad bin Mu’az in his forearm (akhal), God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم cauterized it with a heated thin arrow (mishkhas). Later on, the wound became swollen and infected and he bled it, then cauterized it again.” Abu ‘Ubaid narrated that a wounded person was brought before God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم who said: “Cauterize his wound, then compress it with a (washed and) heated rock.” Although God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم used cauterization as a last resource, nevertheless he affirmed: “If there is a choice in treatment between venesection and cauterization, I personally do not like cauterization” (Bukhari and Muslim). In another prophetic saying, we quoted earlier, God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم forbad cauterization, but he did also say: “…We were faced with trials, but we did not succeed at overcoming them, nor did we take heed (to God’s guidance).” [fabtulina fama aflahna wa la anj’ana] (Tirmithi).

Al-Khattabi commented that “the wound of Sa’ad bin Mu’az was cauterized to help his blood clot, and God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم was concerned that if it were not treated immediately, Sa’ad would have bled to death.”

Cauterization should be used only as a medical treatment, and is permitted only under dire need just as it is vital in the case of amputation. As for its prohibition, it is intended to counter a social belief that it is manly and that one may die unless he braves such treatment even for a minor cut. That is why God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم forbade its use as a social custom and because of such declared intention. This attitude became clearer in the case of Omran bin Hasin, who strongly believed in cauterization and branding as cure for every disease. God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم recognized, in the case of Omran, that cauterization of his particular wound would be dangerous, and he forbade its application. In this instance, it appears that the prohibition applied to critical areas in the body, God knows best. On this subject, Ibn Qutaiba indicated that “there are two kinds of cauterizations: (1) By ‘social customs’, as in the case of a healthy person, which is the one meant by God’s Messenger’s saying: “One who utilizes branding does not trust in God;” and (2) medical, as in the case of a festered wound, or after amputation, and this is what is meant by “as a cure.” When cauterization is recommended as a potential cure, but without certainty, then it is not favored.

It is narrated in the sahih that God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم said: “Seventy-thousand people among my followers will enter paradise without reckoning –those who do not secretly listen to people’s private conversations, those who do not cauterize, and those who are not pessimistic, and those who place their entire trust in their Lord.” Thus, the prophetic traditions spoke of cauterization and branding in four distinct ways: (1) to use it; (2) not to use it; (3) to praise one who forgoes such therapy; and (4) to prohibit it. All praises be to God Almighty –there is no contradiction between these four opinions, for one may use such treatment when medically needed, making it permissible though disliked. As for its prohibition, it is a matter of choice and personal disposition, and particularly when used as a ‘social custom’– God knows best.

Hadith Guidance: Women Are Created from The Rib, Guidance for Husbands

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

New article from Hadith Guidance: “Women Are Created from The Rib, Guidance for Husbands” by Ustadh Abdus Shakur Brooks.

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Click picture to enlarge

Hadith Guidance: Knowledge, The Iron Walking Stick and Sandals of Steel

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

This is truly an inspiring statement of Prophet Musa, may peace and blessings be upon him, concerning knowledge.

By Ustadh Abdus Shakur Brooks

Knowledge, The Iron Walking Stick & Sandals of Steel-By Ustadh Abdus Shakur Brooks

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Balancing One’s Diet

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Balancing One’s Diet as A Primary Preventive Medicine

It is related in the two correct prophetic traditions (Bukhari and Muslim) that ‘Abdullah bin Ja’afar said: “I saw God’s Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم eating fresh ripe dates with cucumber.”

The Benefits of Eating Fresh Dates and Cucumbers


Ripe dates

It is essential to maintain good health by controlling one’s diet and balancing one’s intake of food and fruits. Creating equilibrium of food will dispel any harm they may contain, and optimize their benefits. Fresh ripe dates (Arb. ratib) are hot and moist in the second degree. They relieve symptoms of bad temperament of the stomach caused by low caloric value in one’s diet, and relieve the condition of cold-natured substances in the stomach. They also agree with the stomach, relieve intestinal malabsorption and correct weakness of digestion, as well as they rectify hot constitution of the body when combined with an oxymel* or with bitter pomegranate. However, ripe dates deteriorate rapidly. Fresh ripe dates also increase male’s seminal fluid and sexual power, though eating excessive ripe dates will agitate the blood, develop headache, obstruct blood vessels, develop ache of the bladder, increase thirst, and damage one’s teeth. On the other hand, cucumbers are cold and moist in the second degree. They quench the thirst and stimulate one’s energies even by their fragrant smell. They cool bad temperament of the stomach, balance gastrointestinal functions, and abate fever. When cucumber seeds are dried, ground, sifted and then emulsified, drinking such emulsion will quench the thirst, act as a diuretic, and relieve ache of the bladder, while brushing one’s teeth with ground dried cucumber seeds whitens the teeth, among other benefits.

Fresh cucumber

Fresh cucumber

Altogether, fresh ripe dates are hot and cucumbers are cold. Each one of them will compensate for the other, balance the body’s natural defenses, and smooth the digestive process. The bad effects of dates can also be neutralized by eating almond and poppy seeds. In fact, countering each bellicose substance with its opposite will balance it, nullify its malignancy, and bring forth its benefits. This is in essence the basis of the natural law of opposites, and this is the basis of medical treatment, the foundation of preserving a healthy and strong body, and moreover, it is the core of medical science. It is narrated in the traditions that ‘Aisha, God be pleased with her, said: “They nourished me with every type of food to gain weight, yet I did not put on any. They then added cucumber and fresh dates to my diet and that did it.” Thus, cold is treated with hot, hot with cold, moist with dry, and dry with moist. This will expel their harm and balance their effects. Similar to this theory is the prophetic guidance of mixing senna together with ghee and honey (sanüt) as a natural mild laxative, for the sanüt** balances the effects of senna leaves. All praises be to Allah, and may He shower His utmost blessings upon His Messenger, صلى الله عليه و سلم, who was sent to help rectify the conditions of the hearts, give guidance on maintaining good health, and to benefit everyone concerning their welfare in this world and in the hereafter.

*Oxymel: an Eastern preparation made of five parts of honey to one part vinegar.

**Cf. X Dryness of Temperaments, which should be posted soon inshaAllah.

Classical Arabic Grammar: Matn Al-Ajurrumiyyah Online

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم


Ustadh Abdus Shakur Brooks is starting a class in classical Arabic covering the famous text Al-Ajurrumiyyah written by an 8th century scholar, by the name of Ibn Ajurrum. This text is pretty much used universally as a primary study of Arabic grammar. It covers the necessary elements of the language one needs to know in order to understand Arabic sentence structures which is the key to sound comprehension for other religious sciences.

In this class, only the Arabic text will be used along with a verbal translation and explanation in English with some Arabic. Focus will be given to understanding technical terms as they are understood in Arabic, rather than using English terms as equivalents, which hinders the student from comprehending the full spectrum of the terms exactly how the Arabic Grammarians did.

All of the live classes will be recorded and downloadable for students. As well, students will have access to an e-studentroom which will consist of a Q&A blog and other features which allow them direct contact with the teacher.Also a pdf. file of the text will be provided for all students.

To benefit from this class a person should at least be able to read Arabic language and have some exposure to the basic elements of Arabic grammar, such as recognizing the difference between a basic verb “f’il” and a noun “ism” for example. Also one should have some ability in writing Arabic as well.

The aim of the class is to provide the students with the tools to help them understand classical Arabic texts comprehensively.

Each session will consist of two 30-40 minute lessons with a 10 minute break in between.

Registration open until : Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Starting Date                       : Saturday, January 29th, 2011

Duration                                : 3 months (approx.)

Class timings                       : 1:00 PM (US/Canada EST), 10:00 AM (US/Canada PST), 6:00 PM (UK time)

Fee                                             : $120 US $95 US (until January 17th )

Spots are limited.

Click on the picture below to register or for more info [or here if you’re having difficulty in clicking the picture which is unlikely].

Matn al-Ajjurumiyyah Online