Revival, Reform, The Heart And Shar’iah: Sifting Lessons From The Teachings Of The Revivalist, The Muhaddith, The Sufi Imam Ashraf Thanwi (r)
Maulana Ashraf Thanwi (r), the well known scholar of hadith, and sufi from the Deobandi school of learning highlighted some root-causes in his treatise Adab al Muasharaat that serve to characterize why our communities have been overcome with disfunctionality i.e., why inter-personal relations have been infected by the quality of personal and social disintegration. He mentioned a principle in his treatise, which originally was written in Urdu and reached me by way of second grade English translation published by the Majlis al Ulama of South Africa but the communication was clear enough to comprehend and contextual in light of traditional tazkiyyah literature. It is my hope that some day soon this work is re-translated from its original Urdumanuscripts and then critically edited, referenced and commented on so that it is presented in a form suitable for clarifying its contents and lessons to today’s English speaking audience.
For the most part this terse treatise outlines a series of etiquette that are guidelines in various scenarios of human interaction. On page 2 of the treatise we find two interesting, rich introductory paragraphs which serve and the basis for the tenor of the work. In a simple but revolutionary manner Maulana Thanwi (r) initiates the work aiming to make clear that there is a necessity to revive an aspect of the Shar’iah which has fallen into neglect because it is neglected the Ummah is suffering hardship and division. In fact, he says (r):
“no mention is made of this fifth branch of [Shar’iah]. …this branch has been suspended relegated to limbo and oblivion in that [we find no mention made of it] in theory [and we fail to see it] in practice.”
Maulana Thanwi (r) teaches us that a proper comprehension (theoretical understanding) and implementation (practical translation) of the Shar’iah entails a proper delineation of its branches -theoretically. So a practical revival of Deen implies a pedagological-reform, one in the way we conceptualize Shar’iah. A transformation of the conceptualizing of Shar’iah demands bringing to light the primitve scheme of the Shar’iah as -”5 branches of knowledge and practice“ Maulana Thanwi (r) teaches us that Shar’iah properly conceptualized results in theShar’iah being schematized into five branches.
The Five Branches of Shar’iah
1.) Aqaa’id (Creed)
2.) Ibadah (Carrying out the prayers, fasting, zakah and hajj)
3.) Muamalaah (Social and economic transactions)
4.) Tazkiyah (Purification of the heart and intention)
5.) Adab al Muasharaah (Refined Social Etiquette)
The fifth branch of Shar’iah, Maulana Thanwi (r) argues, has been neglected, untreated directly in Islamic scholarly discourse and absent from the scope and field of action. In this sense, implicit in Maulana Thanwi’s (r) teaching is the notion of reviving what has fallen into neglect and enjoining what has been left unpracticed. The neglected branch of Shar’iah is crucial to the architecture of Shar’iah and proper practice. The absence of refined social etiquette (Adab al Muasharaah) is directly related to the diseases of the hearts and the condition of the heart is directly affected by corrupt social etiquette. So Maulana Thanwi (r) is teaching us that bad social etiquette leaves an imprint on the hearts of others affecting inter-personal relationships this in turn incites bitterness and animosity and other negative qualities. Social and family life can not function optimally and wholly in the absence of refined social etiquette.
Maulana Thanwi (r) says:
” The primary cause for the dissipation of mutual love and affection [between the Muslims] rests with corrupt attitudes and corrupt social manners. As a result of such corruption, mutual resentment, and dislike for others has engulfed social relations, society. This state of affairs impedes tranquility from settling in the heart and eliminates it from the heart. A prerequisite of mutual love and a condition of its existence between members of a society is the presence of tranquility in the heart.”
Maulana Thanwi (r) teaches us essentially that the unity of the Muslims can only take place with a transformation of the comportment of the Muslims reform then is a matter of reforming the way we interact with each other. A more simple lesson is that in order for us to co-exist sanely and rightly there is a need for a change of heart and behavior. Here he educates us profoundly in a fundamental of “tazkiyyah” and that is that etiquette is intertwined with the states of the heart. There is no real transformation of the heart if we treat others without dignity, if we speak to others without looking to the consequence of our words, if we put our ego before principles of Islam. False consciousness and the false self prevent us coming completely into Islam and more exactly into the brotherhood of Islam. Herein, Maulana Thanwi (r) is showing us the deceptions embedded in learning where it is an obstacle to practice and revival and unity. His discourse on Shar’iah, its branches and the relation of social etiquette to the heart and revival of the Ummah illustrate why many held him to be a reviver of Islam (Mujadid). Social etiquette is part and parcel of the Shar’iah its cultivation is reviving the Shar’iah and the inner life and the path to exit the ills of the Ummah and enter into the brotherhood of Islam for unity is an obligation and not a super-rogatory act!
-La Ilaha Illa Allah Huwa al-Haqq Tabaraka Wa Ta’alla
Adapted and Commenting on by: Abul-Hussein
Produced by: www.altranslators.com
Date: 1430 Rabi al-Awaal 18th
2009 March 15
Location: Dearborn, Michigan (North America)