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Hanbali Essentials: Purification

tumblr_meg13ts3Yi1r9l00ro1_1280What follows is a presentation of the basic essentials of Hanbali fiqh. Rather than use any one text, I have distilled these rulings from four relied-upon (mu’tamad) primers in the school: Ibn Qudamah’s ‘Umdat al-Fiqh; Ibn Balban’s Akhsar al-Mukhtasarat; al-Qudumi’s al-Ajwibat al-Jaliyyah and al-Hajjawi’s Zad al-Mustaqni‘.

The plan, God-willing, is to serialise these fiqh essentials over the coming weeks and months; commencing with purification.

OUTLINE: Purification is the “key to prayer” and a precondition for its performance. Though it is not itself one of the pillars (arkan) of the religion, purification as a juristic matter occupies a significant position, attested to by the fact that its treatment in the fiqh literature occupies space roughly equal to that of each of the four pillars: namely prayer, zakat, fasting and pilgrimage. The topic of purification not only discusses the body and bodily secretions, it also extends to clothing, the place intended for prayer, the water used for washing, utensils and containers, as well as the types of impurities.

PURIFICATION (taharah): Lexically, it means: cleanliness from filth. Legally it means: lifting the state of ritual impurity (hadath) or whatever is similar to it, and the removal of physical impurities (najasat).

PUBERTY (bulugh): The signs of puberty are three: (i) The completion of fifteen lunar years for a male or female. (ii) Nocturnal emission (or ‘wet dream’) for both males or females from the age of nine. (iii) Menstruation for a female starting from the age of nine. Puberty commences with any one of the three signs.

TYPES OF WATER (aqsam al-miya): Water is of three types: (i) tahur – both pure and purifying; which is water that remains upon its natural state; (ii) tahir – pure, but not purifying; water whose colour, taste or smell has been altered by being mixed with a pure substance, (iii) najas – impure; water that has had any one of its three properties (colour, taste or odour) altered by an impure substance.

IMPURITIES (najasat): Impurities refer to impure substances which one must avoid or wash-off if they should happen to contaminate one’s clothes, body, etc. They are:

(i) Carrion (flesh of the dead) – except for humans; locusts; the dead from the sea; and creatures with no running blood like bees, ants, etc. (ii) Blood that flows forth, such as from a slaughtered animal or menstral bleeding; though a tiny amount is overlooked. (iii) Pigs. (iv) Dogs. (v) Human urine; excrement; vomit; puss; and blood – except that a tiny amount of vomit, puss or blood is overlooked in prayer. (vi) Prostatic fluid (madhi) discharged when one is sexually aroused; and wadi – a thick white liquid secreted by some after urination; but not mani: sperm. (vii) Intoxicants (khamr) – liquid and solid like alcohol or cocane. (viii) Animals or birds that cannot be legally eaten and that are larger in size than a cat; as are their leftovers. (ix) Animals that are lawful to consume but the majority of whose feed is impure – their urine, dung and milk are considered impure. (x) Flesh, or bones, cut-off from a living creature, such as a foreleg of a living, unslaughtered sheep. (xi) Hides of unlawfully slaughtered animals, as well as those of dead animals that have not been slaughtered, even if they have been tanned.

REMOVING IMPURITIES (izalat al-najasat): Impurities can be removed by washing, wiping, sprinkling or scrubbing with water. Any vessel or utensil a dog licks must be washed seven times, the first time with earth.

LAVATORY MANNERS (adab al-khala’): It is recommended (mustahabb) to enter the toilet with one’s left foot and exit with one’s right foot; and before entering, to say: “In the name of Allah. I seek refuge in Allah from the male and female devils;” and after leaving, to utter: “I seek Your forgiveness. All praise be to Allah who has removed what is harmful from me and kept me healthy;” and be out of sight of others as is practically or reasonably possible.

It is offensive (makruh) to: enter it with something containing Allah’s name except if there is a pressing need (hajah); to talk without a pressing need; to touch one’s private part with the right hand or cleanse oneself with it. If one sneezes or hears the call to prayer, he responds silently in his heart.

It is prohibited (haram) to enter it with the Qur’an, or any portion of it, even if it is in a covering; unless there is a pressing need to do so. It is prohibitted to face the direction of prayer (qiblah) or turn one’s back to it while relieving oneself – if in an open space; or to relieve oneself on pathways or anywhere else that may offend people’s sense of civic sensibility. There is no problem urinating while standing, even when there is no pressing need; provided one can guard against urine splashes and that one’s private part not be exposed to others.

It is obligatory (wajib) to clean whatever exits from the front and rear private parts. To clean oneself with stones or another solid substance (istijmar) and to then use water (istinja), is recommended. It is permissible (ja’iz) to use only one of the two, in which case water is preferable. It is an obligation to use as many stones or the like as needed, but no fewer than three stones, when cleansing oneself from urine or faeces – if one is not using water afterwards.

Step-By-Step Study Guide to Hanbali Fiqh

ChinguettiIn terms of studying any discipline so as to gain some degree of proficiency, two things must be born in mind: the need to learn step-by-step, as well as the need for a qualified teacher.

Learning in stages/step-by-step (bi tadarruj) can be gleaned from the following words of the Prophet, peace be on him: inna hadha’l-dina matin fa awghilu fihi bi rifq – ‘Verily this religion is strong, so go through it gently.’ [Ahmad, Musnad, 3:199]

Received wisdom here comes in the form of this remark: man rama al-‘ilma jumlatan dhahaba ‘anhu jumlatan – ‘Whoever acquires knowledge all at once, shall lose it all at once.’ Also: izdihamu’l-‘ilm fi’l-sami‘ madallatu’l-fahm – ‘Cramming knowledge into the hearing, causes understanding to be lost.’

For the serious mutafaqqih or “student of fiqh,” Ibn Qudamah (d.620H/1223CE), one of the most highly celebrated jurists in the Hanbali madhhab, penned a series of fiqh texts which would take the seeker from a beginner level, to an intermediate one, and finally to becoming an accomplished jurist or faqih.

The first text is a primer in Hanbali law, and is aptly called al-‘Umdah: “The Reliance”. It gives the relied upon (mu‘tamad) rulings of the school, containing minimum proofs.

Next is al-Muqni‘: “The Satisfier” which introduces two or more views of the school on any one given issue or mas’alah.

The third manual is al-Kafi: “The Sufficer”. It is just above an intermediate level, again relating only the relied upon position, but this time with copious proofs for each issue in preperation for the task of ijtihad and how each ruling relates to the proof-texts. In some issues, more than one opinion is related.

The last work is the highly-advanced, magesterial al-Mughni: “The Enricher”. It builds on the previous texts by relating the positions of the mujtahid imams of other schools: discussing their differences and proof-texts; their juristic merits, rationales, strengths and weaknesses; and then concluding with his own preferred view. In most issues, his conclusions agree with the Hanbali madhhab; in some instances they do not.

The above is an example of the gradual, step-by-step method orthodox scholarship has always adhered to; a method which produced as its fair fruits the great jurists of Sunni Islam. As for gaining fiqh by way of fiqh al-maqarin, “comparative law,” without first being grounded in any one madhhab, this would be laughable if it were not so reckless and dangerous.

Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi wrote the above books in the seventh century. The Hanbali madhhab, like other law schools, continued to develop since then. Texts and manuals penned by later jurist-authors have tended to be the ones taught, studied and used for fatwas in centuries after. Ibn Badran (d.1346H/1927CE), one of the last great Hanbali scholars of the previous century, advises the following course of study for learning the madhhab:

Commence with Ibn Balban’s primer, Akhsar al-Mukhtasarat, or al-Buhuti’s ‘Umdat al-Talib. Then progress to Ibn Qudamah’s al-‘Umdah; if unavailable, then Mar‘i b. Yusuf al-Karmi’s Dalil al-Talib. Following this intermediary level, al-Buhuti’s Rawd al-Murbi should be studied. The final level of progression, al-Bahuti’s Sharh Muntaha al-Iradat is engaged with.

He further writes that, upon completion of the first two levels, one studies a primer in Islamic legal theory (usul al-fiqh). The text he recommends is al-Juwayni’s Waraqat. And that while studying Sharh al-Muntaha at the final level, Ibn Qudamah’s Rawdat al-Nazir in legal theory is also studied.1

Of course, this is not the only Hanbali curriculum that can or should be followed. Instead, what is important is that one is guided by a qualified teacher in this matter, and that a step-by-step curriculum is actually adhered too (man dakhala fi talab al-‘ilm bila shaykh kharaja bila ‘ilm – ‘Whoever seeks knowledge without a teacher, will leave without knowledge’). This has been the tried, tested and fruitful way down through the centuries. In stark contrast, the do-it-yourself method has resulted in little more than religious anarchy, mayhem and chaos. Things, in this sense, need not be fixed if they aren’t broken.

1. Ibn Badran, al-Madkhal ila Madhhab al-Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-Risalah, 1981), 487-89.

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