Bismillahi Al-Rahmani Al-Rahim

The Value Of Introductions

al-salamu `alaykum

Whenever I pick up a new book, the first thing I do after reading the table of contents is read the author's introduction. This is advice that one of my first teachers enforced. Author's use the introduction to define the scope of their work, list the general topics, and prime the reader with requisite knowledge.

Contrary to my teacher's advice, sometimes I feel inclined to skip over parts of the introduction, since so much of it seems repetitious. But this is a grand mistake, since these introductions are never devoid of dhikr, almost always contain a reinforcement of basic Islamic doctrine, and in spite of the similar wording – each one usually has benefits lacking in others.

The introduction to Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali's The Rebuttal On Those Who Follow Other Than The Four Schools is a treasure chest.

What follows is a brief explanation of the first few paragraphs of this work. Since the theme of the book is a rebuttal against deviants, my comments tend to follow this theme.

Ibn Rajab (may Allah grant him mercy) begins:

Praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds; a frequent, wholesome praise, blessing Him, as our Lord loves and is pleased by. Allah bless Muhammad, His slave and messenger, the unlettered prophet, the seal of the Prophets, and Imam of the godfearing; the one delegated with the upright religion, and the lasting, assisted, protected legislation. [A protected legislation] which a group of his umma will never cease being manifest upon the truth, unharmed by those who desert them, until the Final Hour comes.

This same introduction is found in many books. Most of the time we don't realize how magnificent these introductions are and the gems they contain, especially concerning basic beliefs.

Islam is:

And finally:

Ibn Rajab continues:

To commence:
Someone’s rebuke has reached me: a rebuke for my censuring people today who affiliate with the school of Imam Ahmad or another famous Imam, but depart from their school in issues.

There is evidence indicating that “someone” here refers to followers of Ibn Taymiyya (may Allah grant him mercy) who did not share their shaykh's knowledge, and so their claims were invalid from the very beginning.

He claimed that someone who does this is not to be reprimanded since he might be a mujtahid following what appeared to him to be the truth or emulating another mujtahid, and this is not held against him.

It seems claim is a common one for deviants, “I am entitled to my opinion because I am a mujtahid practicing ijtihad!”, because this is the very claim made by virtually the founder of virtually every deviant sect.

So I say, and success is only with Allah; He is the One sought for help, reliance is upon Him, and there is no strength nor power except through Allah:

This last line is a bit of a rebuttal against those who believe in extreme forms of predestination and free will.

There is no doubt that Allah Most High has protected for this umma its religion, a protection He has given none other.

Establishing that other religions become extinct, decay, become distorted, and that this was the plan of Allah from the very beginning. These other religions did not need this same protection because Allah Most High had Islam coming down the pipeline, a religion that once He established it would remain intact and uncorrupted until the Final Day.

The abrogator of all previous religions. Islam is the last boat home.

There is no prophet after this umma to renew what has vanished from its religion, as it was for the religions of the prophets before us: whenever one vanished, another prophet would come after him to renew it.

This serves as a rebuttal against the Shi`i (Twelvers and Batiniya), the Qadiyanis, Bahais, “Submitters,” and others who claim the necessity for an Imam to set things right.

Imam al-Ghazali pointed out that since our religion has been perfected, we have no need for someone to come and teach us anything new. And hence, no need for an Imam (as understood by the Shi`i of various sects).

Something that Ibn Taymiyya and Imam al-Dhahabi point out is this: The Shi`i say that Justice requires that there be an Imam at all times. So suppose the 12th Shi`a really exists and has gone into hiding as his followers claim. Now, has anyone seen or heard from him? Has anyone seen someone who has seen or heard from him? No, and no. So even if this Hidden Imam exists, what sort of Justice is this when his existence and absence are the exact same thing?

Imam al-Dhahabi also points out a essential difference between the Shi`i belief in an Imam and the belief that some Sunnis have in a Qutb. Whereas the Shi`is make the Imamate an essential part of `aqida, belief in the Qutb has never been declared part of `aqida. Deny the Imam and the Shi`is say you are hellbound; deny the Qutb and, well, nothing.

The rebuttal against the Shi`i (and others) continues:

Allah Majestic guaranteed protection for this religion

Since it is protected from deletions, additions, and corruption, what need would there be for an Imam to set it right?

Since the religion is perfect, what need is there for an Imam to add to it?

and affirmed that in every age there would be an offensive to expel from it the corruption of the extremists, tricks of the nullifiers, and interpretation of the ignorant.

Allah Majestic promised this, and it is just as He said. One plain example of this how the scholars of hadith identified fabricated narrations and removed them.

Allah Most High said, Indeed We sent down the Remembrance and indeed We are protective of it (Al-Hajr, 9) guaranteeing protection for His book. Thus, no one has been able to add to or remove a phrase from it.

Another rebuttal against the Shi`i who sometimes claim that verses in the Quran have been tampered with or completely removed. (Allah protect us from this!) Lest someone think this is unfair criticism, the grandfather of Shi`i tafsir Abu al-Hasn `Ali bin Ibrahim al-Qummi in his introduction to his tafsir lists the various thing tha Quran includes, including verses that are abrogated, verses that are no longer as they were revealed (his example indicates distortion in existing words), and verses that have been corrupted (his example indicates deletions of words and entire phrases. [Tafsir al-Qummi, 1:17, 22-23]

All of this, ma sha Allah, just from the introduction. What follows the introduction is even better, because Ibn Rajab gives a brief summary of how Islam was preserved, from the perspective of sources (Quran and hadith) and meanings (fiqh and aqidah), and then goes into describing how students should be.

And Allah knows best.

Wa al-salamu `alaykum