[28] ON TASAWWUF Imam Abu Ishaq al-Shatibi al-Maliki (d. 790)

One of the foundational scholars of Usul al-fiqh or methodology of law whose books, like al-Ghazali's, are required reading in that field, he laid great emphasis on the requirement of complete knowledge and erudition in the Arabic language, not merely correct understanding, for those who practice ijtihad. In his book al-Muwafaqat fi usul al-shari`a (The congruences of the sources of the Divine Law) he held that the language of the Qur'an and the Sunna is the key to the comprehension of such scholars, and that the ijtihad of anyone deficient in this respect was unacceptable. Since the opinion of the mujtahid is a hujja or proof for the common person, this degree of authority necessitates direct access to the sources and full competence in Arabic.1

He writes in his book al-I`tisam:

Many of the ignorant think that the Sufis are lax in conforming to Shari`a. Far be it from them to be attributed such a belief! The very first foundation of their path is the Sunna and the avoidance of what contravenes it!

Their chief spokesman and the master of their ways and pillar of their group, Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayri, declared that they acquired the name of tasawwuf in order to dissociate themselves from the People of Innovation. He mentioned that the most honorable of Muslims after the Prophet did not give themselves, in their time, any other title than Companions, as there is no merit above that of being a Companion -- then those who followed them were called the Successors. After that the people differed and the disparity of level among them became more apparent. The elite among whom prudence in belief was seen to be intense were then called zuhhad and `ubbad. Subsequently all kinds of innovations made their appearance, and the elite of Ahl al-Sunna who observed their obligations with Allah, and preserved their hearts from heedlessness became unique in their kind under the name of tasawwuf. Consider this, you will gain thereby. And Allah knows best.2


1 al-Shatibi, al-Muwafaqa fi usul al-shari`a (Cairo:al-maktaba al-tijariyya al-kubra, 1975) 4:60

2 al-Shatibi, al-I`tisam min al-kutub, quoted in al-Muslim: majallat al-`ashira al-muhammadiyya (Dhu al-qi`da 1373).

Reproduced with permission from Shaykh M. Hisham Kabbani's
The Repudiation of "Salafi" Innovations (Kazi, 1996) p. 380-381.

Blessings and Peace on the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions