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The Hanafi Space-Time Continuum

January 29, 2009

kr’s note:  The following is the result of class and discussion with Shaykh Amin yesterday, so most of the insights–well, all of them, who am I kidding–are to his credit. We were reading from kitab al-hajj in Hidayah, a section detailing the step-by-step rites of Hajj, when the following discussion took place.

The Hanafis were given the title “ahl ‘l-ra’i”, the people of opinion and conjecture,  and this title was often used with a sense of sarcasm by some of the other schools for they often sought to bring in logic and reason in determining the Law. Abu Hanifah (may Allah have mercy on him) was called “al-Qayyas” (an ism mubalaghah form), meaning “one who constantly and exceedingly uses analogical reasoning.” What these same people overlooked, of course, is that Abu Hanifah and his students were concerned primarily with the nass (text) as foundational evidence, and logic as a secondary and supplemental source at best. The authority of the nass was always paramount, and when rulings deviated from the nass, another nass had to exist along with clear and logical reasoning to allow for such movement away from the hukm (mandated Law).

The above is necessary background in order to understand the Hanafi position–and the subsequent revelation–when it comes to the Day of Arafat, specifically looking at the order and manner in which the prayers are to be performed. It is well known that the pilgrims are to combine the Zuhr and Asr prayers at the time of Zuhr, but the Hanafis say that combining prayers is not allowed (unless of course one makes jama` suwari, which is a discussion for another day, but basically means delaying Zuhr until the end of its time and then praying Asr right as its time comes in).  But, on the Day of Arafat, the Hanafis allow for combining these prayers, yet the nass would indicate that this should not be allowed, specifically due to two verses: 4:103 which explicitly states that prayer has prescribed times, and 2:238 which further says to especially guard the middle prayer (which the dominant opinion says refers to the Asr prayer).  Obviously, one can explain why these prayers are combined because the Prophet (salallahu `alayhi wa sallam) did so when he performed Hajj, and he only did Hajj once in his lifetime, so there is a nass allows for this exception. But reason is necessary to  stipulate how and why the nass can be over-ridden, so the Hanafis say that certain conditions have to be met (such as one being in Ihram, one being in Arafat, etc) in order to move away from the nass.

This is where it gets interesting… because the idea here is that once these conditions are met, the principle of preserving “time” is also maintained because these conditions essentially bring the time of Asr “forward”, relatively, to those who are in Arafat, so they maintain the first nass as well. In other words, their Asr prayer, which the `aql (intellect) may say is before its time and thus not “prescribed” yet (as per the nass), is actually prescribed because the time is brought forward.

Then it gets even juicier… because when sunset happens, one is not allowed to pray Maghrib in Arafat, one has to wait until he reaches Muzdalifah, then he prays Maghrib and Isha together… yet this Maghrib is not considered to be qadah, even if the time for Maghrib has elapsed (even going by the liberal Hanafi 90 minute Maghrib rule) by the time he reaches Muzdalifah. So this presents a conundrum, because in the previous example, we brought the time forward, yet now we are essentially pushing the “time” back, saying that the time for one’s Maghrib–despite one’s `aql observing the sun set–hasn’t started.  To understand this, one looks at the hadith (which is in both Bukhari and Muslim by the way, even Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (may Allah have mercy on him), a card carrying member of Shafi’i madhab, agrees in his Dirayah commentary), wherein the Prophet (salallahu `alayhi wa sallam) says to Jabir (may Allah be pleased with him), when the latter was about to pray Maghrib in the road while en route from Arafat to Muzdalifah, “As-salātu amāmak, ” (The prayer is in front of you), which is interpreted that as-salatu actually stands for “waqtu ‘l-salāti amāmak” (the time of the prayer is in front of you). In other words, the Prophet said that the time for Maghrib, even though outwardly it may have seemed it was dark, would not start for them until they physically reached Muzadalifah.  Even more amazing is that this “start” time is relative for each pilgrim, only occuring when he/she physically enters Muzdalifah.

This hadith is fascinating because it establishes a link between time and space. Einstein became famous for saying that time was so powerful that it could physically curve and alter the very fabric of space. Here, we are saying that the blessed plain of `Arafat is so powerful that it is not only unaltered by time, but instead, this space physically curves and bends time… and it is so powerful that it pushes time in both directions, bringing the time for one prayer forward, and delaying the time for the other. Thus, the famous hadith of “Al-hajju `arafah” (The Hajj is Arafat), no longer remains majazi (allegorical), but takes on a higher degree of haqiqah (outwardly literal) meaning, because of the power contained in this blessed plain. 

For the pilgrim, the paradox is to use his `aql to understand and appreciate this reasoning, and then to simultaneously understand the weakness of his `aql that tells him it is time or not time to pray–to embrace the power of the `aql on one hand, while understanding its shortcomings on the other.  This is the true test of the pilgrim, to appreciate that his Divinely-given `aql is useful for certain things, but completely useless for others, and instead he has to have faith in Divine Providence in such matters. This complete submission is the spirit of Hajj that is started with the chants of labbayk that declares, “Here I am O Lord at Thy service”, wherein the pilgrim realizes that he is nothing, and God is everything.

It is for this reason that the same Hanafis differ with their Maliki brethren; the latter say that the talbiyah (chanting of labbayk) is to be stopped after the day of Arafat, but the Hanafis (and even the Shafi’is here) say that one is to continue this chant until the stoning of the devils.  In the context of the above, wherein one has to abandon one’s notion of time and accept Divine Time, it serves as a perfect reason to continue this chant, because the only way one can appreciate this travel through this space-time continuum that happens on this day is to be in complete submission to the One who is above time itself.

Einstein ain’t got nothin’ on Abu Hanifah.


From → Islam

  1. time traveller permalink

    mashAllah, a very insightful and unique analysis of a topic in a way that I have never heard before.

    Good stuff, KR.

  2. you are a dork KR…and I can’t believe I read all of that…probably cause I knew it came from Shaykh Amin instead of yourself…

    but man mash’Allah the old school shuyookh were a dime a dozen man…true ballers mash’Allah…

  3. maulanaMUSCLES permalink

    Good job kr,

    now if you could only post Shaykh Amin’s dissertation on how khidr is still alive!

  4. asad123 permalink

    In his “Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam” Muhammad Iqbal cites a hadith that says, “Do not vilify time. For verily Allah is time.” It’s a deep hadith but open to misinterpretation. I was wondering if you know anything about that hadith.

  5. wannabe shaikh Amin mureed permalink

    You should also add: ” Einstein ain’t got nothin’ on Shaykh Amin either. ” after I read this post, since you said that this was put into a modern context in a discussion with your Shaykh, mashallah.

  6. Subhanallah, that was amazing.

    It was an important point in regards to Hanafis and the title “Ahl ar-Rai”, b/c it so often happens that laymen get the wrong vibe from this.

    Imam Abu Hanifah (ra), along with all other great scholars, were unbelievable in their intellectual capabilities. We often forget that. Islamic academics is not a walk in the park…. the common Muslim himself should attempt it just to see how deep, vast, and complex it is.
    …and masha’allah, Shaykh Amin (db) himself is at an intellectual level which we could only dream of.

  7. 2pac permalink

    Wow. Incredible mashAllah. MBN!

  8. Assalaamu Alaykum Br. Kamran Riaz,

    Alhumdulillah, Intresting Blog! Is it possible that I can get your email or if you could email?

  9. kr156 permalink

    ^jazakallah khayr for the kind words. my email is kamranmriaz at gmail

  10. saqa permalink



  12. Hassan permalink

    Yet khutbah must be given in arabic. Modern hanafis are least progressive, while original hanafis were far sighted and progressive (good sense)

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