Book Review: The Inseparability of Sharia & Tariqa

Sharia and Tariqa

Title: The Inseparability of Sharia & Tariqa: Islamic Law and Purification of the Heart
Author: Shaikh al-Hadith Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhelwi
Publisher: Madania Publications (2011); Earlier editions were in 2006 and 2008
Translator: Asim Ahmad

Shaikh al-Hadith’s brief biography excerpted from the back cover of the book:

Shaikh al-Hadith Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhelwi was born in 1897 in Kandhla, U.P [India]. He was privately tutored by his father, Shaikh Yahya, in the Islamic sciences and completed the six books of Hadith with him. He dedicated his life to the teaching and writing of Hadith. He worked under his shaikh, Shaikh Khalil Ahmed Saharanpuri, to complete the eighteen volume commentary of Abu Dawud and later himself wrote a monumental twenty-three volume commentary of Muwatta Imam Malik over a span of thirty years. His other famous books are Fada’il-e-A’mal, Khasa’il-e-Nabawi [commentary of Shama’il al-Tirmidhi], and al-Abwab wa al-Tarajum

. He began teaching the Islamic Sciences at the age of twenty and taught Hadith for 46 years [1923-1969].

He remained in the company of this Shaikh, the Hadith master, Shaikh Khalil Ahmad Saharanpuri, for seventeen years until his Shaikh’s death in 1927. He was granted successor-ship [khalifa] by his shaikh in 1925.

He passed away [as he desired] in the blessed city of Madina in 1982 and is buried in Jannat al-Baqi [the graveyard adjacent to the Masjid of the Blessed Prophet (peace be upon him)].

I found this book to be the most concise book I have found, in relating the perspective of the Islamic scholarly pursuits of the scholars of the Indian subcontinent. I say this because the first half of the book begins with defining what a scholar is, the sciences that are learned before one comments on the Quran and Hadith, then progresses to fiqh, ijtihad, the Four Imams, taqlid and Imam Abu Hanifa. This first half of the book solidifies the perspective of the need to follow a mujtahid, and the limitations of a lay-person deriving their own rulings. It also sheds light on the immense understanding that the scholars of India possessed and their adherence to the Hanafi school of thought.

The second half discusses tasawwuf and its objective of attaining Ihsan. In this half he also discusses issues that some have created controversy over, and brings to light evidences from the Prophetic tradition to demonstrate its limits and concepts. Shaikh al-Hadith ends the book with two chapters, one on arrogance as being the mother of all spiritual diseases and a chapter on the harms of debasing the friends of Allah. This second section on tasawwuf expounds on the perspective of the scholars of the Indian subcontinent in regards to tasawwuf, and although not explicitly spoken of, the Chishti Tariqa is obviously close to the surface.

It is important to note that this book was Shaikh al-Hadith’s last book before he passed from this world. Thus in this book, Shaikh al-Hadith is able to bring his experiences, expertise and knowledge from a life spent in pursuit of both Sharia and Tariqa. Considering it was his last work, its comprehensiveness of his expertise in these fields are apparent.

One of the surprising aspects I found in this book is the frequency in which Shaikh al-Hadith quotes Shaikh al-Islam Ibn Taimiyya. I believe this was done with a purpose in mind. It is well known that some have used the writings of Imam Ibn Taimiyya to present a certain viewpoint and one could argue that some of them have not been fully authentic to the entirety of his writings, thus selecting some favourable passages and leaving others. I believe to counter this selective reading of the works of Imam Ibn Taimiyya, Shaikh al-Hadith brings many of his quotes to show that Imam Ibn Taimiyya isn’t necessarily being portrayed accurately.

In chapter of Taqlid, after covering the definition of and expertise possessed by a mujtahid, Shaikh al-Hadith quotes Shaikh al-Islam Ibn Taimiyya from his fatwa:

The opinion of the majority of the community is that ijtihad and taqlid are both permissible: ijthad for the one who has the ability to do so and taqlid for the one incapable of it.

In regards to Tasawwuf Shaikh al-Hadith writes:

Tasawwuf is another name for Ihsan or, one may say the acquisition of Ihsan. It is also called Tasawwuf or Suluk or whatever else you may call it. These are merely different names of the same thing.

Shaikh al-Hadith also quotes Shaikh Mujaddid:

The Sharia is made up of three integrals: knowledge, deeds and sincerity [ikhlas]. Until these three are not established [in the life of a Muslim] the Sharia is not established….

The sufis excel in tasawwuf and haqiqa; they perform the completion of the third branch of sincerity. The purpose of the completion of this branch is for no other purpose than to achieve completion of the Sharia. It is not for the purpose of temporal spiritual states [ahwal] and gnosis of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) which the sufis often acquire during their journey on this path…

This is because the purpose of covering the different steps of tasawwuf is to achieve total sincerity and nothing else, and attaining the pleasure of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) is intrinsic to sincerity..

Of thousands of seekers, few are actually taken through visions and spiritual manifestations before they reach the wealth of sincerity and the pleasure of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He). Shortsighted people take the temporal spiritual states as objectives and the attainment of spiritual manifestations and clairvoyance as worthy causes…

Though, this much is true that these temporal states, the celestial knowledge and the gnosis of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He), are interwoven with the acquisition of sincerity and the attainment of the pleasure of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He). In this way, they [temporal states, celestial knowledge, and gnosis of Allah] are passages to the attainment of the true objective.

In regards to this practical outlook of Shaikh al-Hadith in regards to Tasawwuf:

This reality and the status which the Sharia is most deserving of became transparent to me [Shaikh al-Hadith Muhammad Zakariyya], by the blessings of the Blessed Prophet (peace be upon him), after ten years in this path.

Though I was never overwhelmed by temporal and ecstatic states [mawajid], and I never thought much of anything besides attainment of Sharia, the truth [of the above reality that clairvoyance and spiritual states are not the objective- the only objective is practicing upon the Sharia] became manifest to me after ten years.

Overall this is a great book for one who is interested in the scholarship of the Indian subcontinent and provides an excellent summary of the depth and breadth of knowledge that exists in their tradition and emphasis that is laid upon both practicing the sharia and treading the tariqa.

May Allah persevere our scholars and friends of Allah, all over the world, past and present, from all places of learning and give us the propensity to benefit from them. Ameen.

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