Friday, December 30, 2011

Reliance of the Traveller

Reliance image 3
(Hat tip to Wet Paint)

There is a bit of controversy going around regarding a certain Islamic book entitled, "Reliance of the Traveller and Tools for the Worshipper", a book originally written in the Arabic by a respected Islamic scholar Ahmed Ibn Naqib al-Misri (d., 1368) and edited/translated by American Sheikh Nuh Ha Mim Keller (b. 1954). Written for the Muslim reader, it is a guide to living according to (Shafi'i)Islamic law. It covers a wide range of rules for Islamic living.

One thing that is important to note is that the work produced by Keller has been given a seal of approval, if you will, by Al Ahzar University in Cairo, the oldest and most prestigious center of Islamic teaching in the world. It is reportedly the first such work in a language other than Arabic to be certified by Al-Azhar University.

It is important to note that Keller translated and edited this work since many arguments abound over how a certain work has been translated from the original Arabic (the Koran, for example). In the text, you might note there is a reference to modern religions (founded since this work was written by al-Misri) such as Baha'i and Mormonism, which are not considered in the same vein as Islam, Judaism or Christianity. Clearly, that is added by Keller. Below is a review of the book by an Islamic source, Sunni Path in English:

Below is the actual text of the book itself in pdf format. Near the end, the work (Book O), it deals with issues such as apostacy, its punishments (Book O 8.), jihad (Book O 9.), and treatment of non-Muslims -dhimmitud (Book O 11). As to jihad, the book clarifies the two kinds of jihad, as defined by the Prophet Mohammed, the greater jihad, which is the inner spiritual struggle, and the lesser jihad-fighting against non-believers. (Book O deals with Justice issues.)

If you are wondering where this book may be found in the US, Kamala, writing on the blog Wet Paint, tells us that the Muslim Community Association of the San Francisco Bay area is (MCA) is offering it on its website. The highly critical article also features another book entitled "Man-Made Laws vs. Shariah".

I recommend focusing on Book O and examining the credentials of the original writer (al-Misri) and the editor/translator (Keller). Then I would welcome comments as to how seriously we should take the references mentioned in Book O. Especially, I would welcome comments from my Muslim readers. (I know you are out there.) Let us have a serious and civil discussion. Is this prose something that was only relevant to a period during the time of the Prophet Mohammed (or the time of al-Misri)? Or is it applicable today?


Squid said...

The "Reliance of the Traveller" is a book used by very observant Muslims when questions arise regarding decisions that need to be made in everyday life. The volume is especially handy when one is away from the Mosque, or the guidance from an Imam. If traveling, it is a good piece for them to have. As far as the content in chapter "O", this is fundamental Islam. The "Traveller" points out the two jihads, much to the chagrin of those Imams, religious leaders and Muslim organizations which want you to believe that Islam is the religion of peace and that jihad is singularly an inner struggle. If Islamists point to religion of peace and not having to reform the texts, they participate in deception. It is smart to read the Koran and this piece, to get a good idea of what Islam presents to Muslims.
Those Muslims who want to reform Islam, are criticized or condemned. The Muslim Brotherhood is guilty of this criticism of those Muslims who want moderation.


Miggie said...

Gary, your: "Especially, I would welcome comments from my Muslim readers. (I know you are out there.) Let us have a serious and civil discussion."

Chirp, chirp. That's as close as I can get to the sound of crickets chirping. It's going to be a long wait and an awful amount of work and reading wasted in the hope of engaging in a "serious and civil discussion."

They say that hope springs eternal in the human breast but you've been at this long enough to know what areas there is no hope.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I was waiting for Muslims to comment before offering any thoughts of my own, but it seems the Jewish curmudgeons just couldn't wait. When it comes to the Tanach, I take the word of a rabbi over the word of any Christian theologian as to what the original meaning was. When it comes to the Qu'ran, asking a Jewish man what the true meaning is, makes less sense than asking a Christian what Genesis is really all about.

Ben said...

Gary, Umdat al-Salik is the fiqh of the Shafi'o school, probably the largest of the madhabs. It is a standard reference used in several doctoral programs at major universities. It does carry the Al-Azhar seal of approval on page 16.

Risala, the Malike fiqh, is shorter and better printed, but less detailed and only avalable in pdf format.

Hedaya, the Hanifi fiqh, is poorly printed & scanned, dense and archaic. But it points out differences between the madhabs and clarifies the issue of offensive Jihad and Jizya better than the others. Refer to Volume 2, page 140...

My post about Reliance at Islam Exposed gets more hits than the rest, there is plenty of interest in it from all over the world.