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The Bida'a of Ijra'a and Murji'ah

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  • The Bida'a of Ijra'a and Murji'ah

    Dr. Tariq AbdelHaleem, Translated by : Hani Abid

    Hastiness is a common characteristic in humans. How would it not be when The Creator SWT said: “for man was ever hasty”[1]. Then Allah SWT bestowed His favor onto the believers by directing their rash nature to a meaning, though rooted in hastiness; that spurs goodness and fortune: that is “hastening” to good deeds.

    I started with this introduction in order to ask the reader to excuse my hastiness in writing this article about “Irja’a and Murji’ah”[2], as it falls among a group of books that I intend (with another brother) to publish successively (with Allah’s assistance) about sects in Islam. The introduction to this group is “Introduction in reasons behind Muslims’ separation and division”.

    I didn’t do this except after I deemed it necessary to expose the ill-affects of this fitna[3]. This virus at times is hidden, and at times it is visible among Muslims and, strangely, among active Muslims. It strikes the Muslim existence with weakness, powerlessness and loss of ability to distinguish the wicked from good, to know the corrupter from the reformer, and severely influencing the Islamic presence negatively both politically and socially.

    We do not intend to engage this discussion quickly in our explanation of the details of Al-Irja’a’s creed and its inventors. Nor do we intend hasten the account of all its segments, except that we will summarize what it generally called for in its bida’a[4].

    Then, we will proceed to nullify such claims and clarify the truth as laid out by Ahl As-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah[5].

    Lastly, we will take a final look at the present Muslim situation to see the degree of influence by “Al-Irja’a” virus, which continues to migrate through the Islamic body till this day. The result of which is a weakened body that is prone to division and collapse; after it corrupts the governed, allows the governor to oppress, and pave the way for both to go away from the straight-path.


    The root word of the Arabic verb “أرجأ” means: “to defer”. “أرجأ الأمر” means to defer the matter.

    This name was given to the “Murji’ah” sect when they deferred actions “العمل” to belief “الإيمان ”. In other words, they separated between belief and actions. They made actions subsequent to and less significant than belief in order to defer judgment of fasiq[6] and kafir[7] based on their actions. They claimed that any judgment should be deferred to the Day of Judgment.

    The doctrine of “Al-Murji’ah” is centered on Iman (belief). Most of its followers define Iman as: affirmation by the heart and confession by the tongue (with the exception of a few who claim that it is only affirmation by the heart and do not require confession of Shahada even while having the ability to do so). In either case, both do not include actions in the definition of Iman. Thus, Iman of Al-Murji’ah is absolutely complete to whoever believes in the message and utters the Shahada; even without committing a single good deed!

    This bida’a started in Al-Murji’ah due to their fundamental [flawed] understanding of Iman and that Iman is whole and can not be portioned or partitioned (i.e. Iman does not increase nor decrease). Al-Murji’ah then stuck to its definition by claiming that the meaning of Iman in the Arabic language is belief, as Allah says {ومَا أَنتَ بِمُؤْمِنٍ لَّنَا} “and thou believest not our sayings”[8].

    Similarly, they took the apparent meaning of hadiths, as in what Muslim narrated about Abu-Huraira that the Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “I was ordered to fight the people until they bear-witness that there’s no god but Allah”. Also, what Muslim narrated about Abu-Huraira that the Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “so whoever you met behind this wall bearing-witness that there’s no God but Allah, who’s heart is steadfast on it, give him glad-tidings with Jannah”.

    They said that these hadiths point out that Iman is affirmation of the heart and declaration of Shahada. Hence, they are sufficient as proof of Iman and enough to enter one into Jannah without [doing] any good deeds!

    However, some of those who were stricken by the affliction of Al-Irja’a went even further. They did not stop at casting acts of obedience (both obligatory and recommended) outside of Iman, but they even excluded those actions that are essential to the meaning of Shahada and vital to Tawheed of Worship (توحيد ألوهية الله) (such as ruling by Allah’s Shariat)[9]. And why would it?! Since Iman is only in the heart and belief is absolute?! What would harm in abandoning the rule of Shariat since it is equivalent to any other sin?! In other words, one who abandons Shariat law is similar to one who steals an orange or harms his neighbor?!

    So this last group ascribed to claim that their predecessors did not dare to say. Thus, they laid the foundation to what we shall promptly reveal in our current Islamic society.

    Refuting Irja’a’s creed will follow a two-step process:

    The first process is general. It involves refuting their fundamentals in examining Shariat. This a common approach to refuting and of sects of bida’a and hawa[10].

    The later process is specific to Al-Murji’ah, which involves refuting their claims one by one by and establishing their corruption using proofs from Shariat.

    We will present each process in a brief but concise manner befitting of this article and in order to keep it reasonably short.

    First, General Rebuttal:

    The people of bida’a and hawa sought specific ways in studying Shariat, which led them to their [erroneous] conclusions.

    We summarize their methodologies as follows:

    1. Nonexistence of methods to embrace and substantiate all cogent evidences (عدم الجمع بين أطراف الأدلة). Instead, they choose the first evidence that proves (in some manner) what they desire. If they encounter other evidence, they do not compile it with the first. Rather, they twist its meaning or hide it all together.
    Whereas the practice of the immutable scholars is to embrace Shariat as comprehensive and complete; with its universals and ensuing constituents; its general that depends on the particular; its absolute that is attributed to the constrained; its abstract that is interpreted in light of the obvious; and so on.

    2. Use of weak and fabricated hadiths while ignoring and/or hiding Sahih[11] hadiths. Whereas, Ahl As-Sunnah follow Sahih hadiths and whatever Shariat rules that can be correctly substantiated (whether Sahih or Hassan[12] depending on their fundamentals).

    3. Dependence on branches of Shariat without relating them back to the core principles that govern and organize such branches.

    4. Changing evidence from its original context. This is a type of changing words from their context that Allah condemned in the Quran. They do this by taking evidence for a specific context or occasion and applying it to a completely different context or situation. This is called “inquisition of context” (تحقيق المناط) by Usooliyoon[13].

    There’s no doubt that any Muslim condemns changing words from their contexts and does not resort to such an approach unless he’s confused or ignorant of the truth. Combine that with a desire [to reach a forgone conclusion] that blinds him/her from using evidence correctly and the result is a man of bida’a.

    “Thus, generalizing evidences under the illusion that they cover all circumstances without control is partially changing words from their contexts which leads to bida’a instead of following [the Sunnah].” [الاعتصام 1/223]

    Second, Specific Rebuttal:

    Murji’ah ’s deduction that Iman is “affirmation” is incorrect. The truth is that Iman is a noun that Allah SWT used to denote specific meanings in Shariat. Iman in Shariat is “the combination of sayings and subsequent actions” (i.e. the linguistic meaning is too restrictive). For “what is important to know is that: terms found in Quran and Hadith once interpreted by the Prophet (peace be upon him) and their meanings are known, there’s no need for the input of Language scholars or others” [245: الإيمان لابن تيمية].

    “In addition, Iman does not only mean affirmation in the Arabic language from a number of ways. For example, it said to a speaker if one believes him: I believe you (صدقه); but it’s not said: I affirm by you (آمن به) or I affirm you (آمنه). Rather, it is said: I believe in you (آمن له).

    Allah SWT says in the Quran {فَآمَنَ لَهُ لُوط} “And Lot believed him”[14] and He said {فَمَا آمَنَ لِمُوسَى إلاَّ ذُرِّيَّةٌ مِّن قَوْمِهِ} “but none believed Moses, save some scions of his people”[15]. Hence, when the adjective is preceded with “ل” as in “آمن له”, it implies the linguistic belief (i.e. affirmation). But, when the adjective is preceded with “ب ”, then Iman implies the Shariat definition which included actions”. [248: الإيمان]

    Likewise, the opposite of Iman is not denial, but rather kufr. It is said to one who is not believable: you lie, and to the one who has no Iman: he has kufr.[16]

    Another shadow to the meaning of affirmation and denial is that they’re applied to the seen and unseen, whereas Iman is only used within context of unseen. [249: الإيمان]

    Islam and Iman are nouns that denote a single meaning when used exclusively: the complete submission to Allah SWT and obedience to him both externally and internally. However, when the two words are used in the same context, they denote different meanings. At which time, Islam denotes external actions such as prayers, fasting and pilgrimage. While Iman denotes internal actions such as love and fear of Allah (which are actions of the heart).

    Many ayas and hadiths demonstrate that actions are integral to Iman. The companions, the successors and our predecessors all agreed that actions are integral to the definition of Iman. Thus, Iman is saying and action, it increases and decreases (it increases with good deeds and decreases with sins). Allah SWT said {لِيَزْدَادُوا إيمَاناً مَّع إيمَانِهِمْ} “that they might add faith unto their faith”[17].

    Muslim narrated in his Sahih that Abu-Huraira said: the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “Iman is seventy odd branches (or sixty odd branches). The most superior of them is to say there’s no God but Allah (لا إله إلا الله ), and the lowest of them is removing harm from the road. And modesty is a branch of Iman.”

    Also, Muslim narrated about Ibn-Abbas in the hadith of delegation of Abd-Qays that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “[Iman is] establishing prayers, giving alms, fasting Ramadan, and to give one fifth of the spoils of war.”[18]

    Therefore, we can conclude that Iman is:

    • Proclamation of the heart: affirmation of the message of Islam.

    • Action of the heart: recognition and complete surrender that is based on love and obedience.

    • Proclamation of the tongue: declaring Shahada.

    • Action with the tongue and limbs: performing good deeds, avoiding bad deeds which increases and decreases.

    Next, we will look at Al-Murji’ah’s (past and current) deduction from the hadiths of intercession in which they claim that the declaration of Shahada by a person affirms his Islam and Iman even if this person commits an act of kufr (such as ignoring the rule of Shariat law). We will demonstrate the methods of people of bida’a are not embracing and substantiating all cogent evidences Shariat and their [improper] use of hadiths.

    Al-Murji’ah said: Muslim narrated in his Sahih that Omar ibn Al-Khatab in hadith of Jibreel said: the Messenger of Allah (peace by upon him) said: “that you declare that there’s no God but Allah and that Mohammad is the massager of Allah, establish prayers, give alms, fast Ramadan, and make pilgrimage to the house if you are able to”.

    But they disregarded the narration that directly follows [the previous one] in Sahih Muslim that Abu-Huraira said: the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “Islam is to worship Allah and do not associate anything with Him, establish the mandatory prayers, give the obligatory alms, and fast Ramadan”

    Similarly, the hadith about the Pillars of Islam that Muslim narrated about Ibn Umar about his father. Abdul-Allah [ibn Ummar] said: the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “Islam is built on five [pillars]: declaration that there’s no god but Allah and that Mohammad is his servant and messenger, establishing prayers, paying alms, pilgrimage to the house, and fasting Ramadan”.

    Also, they overlooked the other narration in Muslim in the same chapter about Ibn Omar that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Islam is built on five [pillars]: that you make Tawheed of Allah, establish payers, give alms, fast Ramadan, and perform pilgrimage”.

    There are other hadiths like the examples provided where Al-Murji’ah acknowledges one narration and disregard another. All of which show that the proclamation of Shahada that is acceptable by Shariat is: Tawheed of Allah, worshipping Him and leaving shirk. That is: proclaiming Shahada is a sign of establishing this meaning of Tawheed in the soul and the body both verbally and through actions. As long as there’s no apparent action of kufr, there is no significance to the mere utterance of Shahada.

    This is what Ibn Al-Qayim noted in “إعلام الموقعين” that words are interpreted by what is intended of them, not by the mere linguistic meaning and what he elaborated on in considering intentions and the objectives behind words [مسلم بشرح النووي 1/157].

    Therefore the following questions must be made:

    What are the causes that led to the emergence of Al-Irja’a in history?

    And what are the elements that lead to its survival and persistence?

    The answer is detailed and needs more space than this article allows for. Nonetheless, it is important to mention some points in this regard.

    Some traced the roots Al-Irja’a to the companions during the time of fitna when the Ummayids dynasty emerged. Those companions who did not participate in the fitna were seen as the first of Murji’ah. However, it is our opinion that this theory is far-reaching and putting more burden on this period than it can tolerate. Some like to make this period out to be the seed of every corruption that emerged in Islamic history. In fact, the companions who abstained from fitna did not do it out of Irja’a. Rather, some recognized who were correct and followed them, while others were ambiguous so they preferred to be on the safe side.

    This is a typical reaction to such circumstances; some participate while others sequestered (some thinkers may conclude that this is the seed of Mu’tazila[19] as well, because they chose sequestration) [105/3 انظر إعلام الموقعين].

    What we are content with in this regard (in brief) is that the creed of Irja’a is suited for those who give up their position and prefer safety to danger even if it is false. Since whoever utters Shahada is a believer with equal belief to that of Jibreel! Moreover, actions do not denote Iman, fisq, or even kufr. Meantime, it is not up to us to falsify falsehood and reveal the evils of the corrupter and point to their wickedness (by following the Seerah of the Messenger of Allah peace be upon him in assessing the fasiq, muthnib, or kafir).

    The preceding behavior is suited for an unjust governor, or a kafir governor for that matter. Thus, this creed will not incite any disagreement with the governor no matter what actions he commits, since he is perpetually a believer. doesn’t he always utter Shahada?! We have no business in looking at people’s hidden [intentions] and claim that we know what’s in their hearts, as long as their external actions appear have no influence on Iman.
    • Doesn’t affirmation of the heart suffice us?

    • Isn’t the governor’s utterance [of Shahada] enough to stand with him in one line and one march?

    • [Isn’t it enough] for us to make a pact with him and make excuses for him time after time?

    • [Isn’t it enough] for us to live under his misguided rule, even with the occasional (or even constant) a friendly reproach or objection [of his misguidance]?

    • Is this then a reproach with affirmation [of the rule] and advice of one believing brother to another?

    • Or is it an objection of the submissive and grumble of the marcher under the banner?

    Another element that could have an affect on the emergence of Irja’a (in fact to the persistence of it to be more accurate) is the emergence of sects that are inspired by the creed of Khawarij[20] in concept and doctrine, but not necessarily in name. This scenario deceived whoever did not deepen their study of doctrines and disseminate valid views from foul ones (the majority of whom are youth across history - taking away the heads of fitna who are conscious to their bida’a; some of whom intend their bida’a). This led those who were deceived to associate themselves to Irja’a in speech and action without calling themselves Murji’ah and without being conscious to the fact or realizing the creed of the righteous predecessors. This led to actions without understanding mindsets leading to extremism and exaggeration in understanding the creed of the other side. For both wings of negligence and extremism are both negative reactions to illegitimate rule which darkens any Islamic societies in any period in its history.

    Therefore, Irja’a is a political creed, or more accurately, a political view. It took the study of early creeds with the wave of aggravation at the beginning of Ummayids period and emergence of philosophical studies (as we presented in “Introduction in Reasons Behind Muslims’ Separation and Division”). It was a political view in the face of unjust governors, at a time when they still ruled by Shariat law, even if they infringed its limits and exaggerated in injustice. Then it continued as the ideology of the weak among those who want to enjoy a pact with the oppressive while justifying their position of weakness and lowliness, even when oppression turns to kufr. From here, we see that Al-Murji’ah were not a target of the oppressive and tyrannical authorities in any period of history. But among them were poets and laborers of governors, the likes of Thabit Qutna who was an administrator of Yazid ibn Al-Mulhab. Moreover, this is a creed befitting of a governor to reassure to himself that he can be peaceful with all sects of bida’a.

    Hence, Al-Murji’ah is in a secret pact and unwritten truce with the governor both of which enjoy freedom of movement and speech. Meanwhile, the heavy-hand falls on Ahl As-Sunnah wa Al-Jama’ah as in what happened to the Imams of fiqh and hadith such as Malik, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Ibn Taymiyah, and lots others from those who followed the course of the righteous predecessors in understanding of book [of Allah] and Sunnah [of the prophet].

    This will not be the last word about Al-Irja’a and Al-Murji’ah as I mentioned in the introduction of this article. Rather it is a vent from my anger that had to be released.

    I followed in [this article] a style that will assist any investigator of similar topics. It is the psychological analysis to understand the causes behind these misguided sects. This is the same style that I followed in my book “Introduction in Reasons Behind Muslims’ Separation and Division”. I shall continue with this style (with Allah’s assistance) in studying similar sects that carry destruction and ruin that leads to destroying Islam’s structure from the inside, knowingly or unknowingly.

    “Allah hath full power and control over His affairs”

    [1] Al-Isra, 17:11

    [2] Al-Irja’a is the name of the doctrine, while Al-Murji’ah is the name give to the sect

    [3] Calamity

    [4] Innovation

    [5] The people who follow the sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and consensus of the scholars

    [6] One who commits major sins

    [7] Unbeliever

    [8] Yusuf, 12:17

    [9] Tawheed has three parts: Tawheed of Lordship, Tawheed of Worship, and Tawheed of Names and Attributes. Tawheed of Worship is further subdivided to three parts: governorship, allegiance to Allah and Muslims, and rituals. If any of these parts are nullified, then one is outside of Islam even if he/she declares Shahada, prays, fasts, etc.

    [10] Desires

    [11] Correct

    [12] Sound

    [13] People who study principle of fiqh

    [14] Ankabut, 29:26

    [15] Yunus, 10:83

    [16] Negating Iman (kufr) in this regard means negation of Tawheed; not those actions, which the Sunnah acknowledged that whoever commits them is a kafir by his action only [but still has Tawheed].

    [17] Fath, 48:4

    [18] The full text of the hadith is as follows: the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “I command you to have Iman in Allah alone. Do you know what is Iman in Allah alone is?” They answered: “Allah and His messenger know best”. He said: “Bear-witnessing that there’s no god but Allah, establishing prayers, giving alms, fasting Ramadan, and to give one fifth of the spoils of war.” So the Messenger of Allah interpreted Iman in the hadith with examples of good deeds.

    [19] A sect that started when its founder “isolated” from al-Hasan al-Basri when al-Basri refused to deny Allah’s attributes. Mu’tazila considered the grave sinner neither a believer nor an unbeliever but was in an intermediate position: a reprobate. However, the reprobate is ultimately the same as the unbeliever since they both receive endless punishment is in Hell-fire.

    [20] The earliest Islamic sect, which traces its beginning to the controversy over the Caliphate between Ali and Ummayah, its doctrine was to render anyone who commits a major sin as kafir
    Last edited by abdulwakil; 01-02-11, 12:16 PM.
    Worship Allah alone

    "....Verily, Allaah guides not those people who are the Zalimun."
    [EMQ 5:51]