Reflecting on the Fundamentals – The Absence of Red Lines in Religious Knowledge | Sayyid Kamal al-Haydari | Lesson 1

مواقف في الصميم (1) – لا وجود لخطوط حمراء في المعرفة الدينية

In this series of discussions entitled Reflecting on the Fundamentals we plan to respond to a number of questions and clips that have been spread online in relation to our verdict (fatwa) issued regarding the permissibility of worshiping in concordance to all Islamic schools. The feedback as you can imagine has been mixed, some positive and some negative, so through these series we intend to briefly elaborate on the underlying principles on which our verdict was based, be they jurisprudential, ideological or theological, and where necessary we will summarily indicate the underlying evidences for such a position.

From here I would like to request the respected viewer that these clips will not be more than ten minutes and therefore if they would like to comprehend the discussion at hand it is vital they listen to the complete clip and not just bits and pieces of it. Secondly to listen to each clip sequentially as a discussion may require extra time and therefore extend into the next episode.

However before we start these discussions its important I explain a fundamental principle upon which I have established this series as I won’t return to explain these later again. This principle is undoubtedly an essential and core one in our creed, and in particular my own methodology, and that is that I do not believe in the existence of any red lines when it comes to thinking and human understanding. To elaborate further, let it not occur in the minds of anyone that these statements and discussions (which we will engage in) are absolute (truths) with no room for critique or change, or that such and such opinion is an established self-evident indisputable fact, something which frankly does not exist. This is a topic which we have previously discussed in our series “Epistemology, between Islamic and Western Thought” which can be referred to for more information.

Just how you will not find any red lines when it comes to human understanding, similarly there are no red lines in regards to the system of religious understanding, irrespective of whether it is in respect to doctrinal, jurisprudential or ethical matters. Don’t tell me such and such an issue is an essential of the religion, or that it’s an essential of the madhab, or that there is a consensus on this, or that the popular opinion is in favor of this and so forth. If anyone would like to get involved in this discussion and put forward their view then I should make it crystal clear, if you’re unable to add anything of academic value without resorting to claims of consensus and popular opinions then with all due respect please do not get involved. Why? Because in respect to my position it hasn’t been proven yet that the consensus and popular opinions (ijmā’) [1] of the scholars contains any probative force, be they scholars of Islam or scholars of any Abrahamic religion. As for the essentials of religion, are they absolute, or do they change over time from being essential to theoretical? Are they relative as some of our great scholars have mentioned, changing in accordance with time and place, being considered to be essential at one particular time and theoretical at another? [2]

So if you would like to discuss these matters and to critique my knowledge then (do not engage me) with claims heard on numerous satellite channels that I oppose the scholars of our madhab. Who even said that everything the scholar says is binding and from the fundamentals of religion, or even from the branches of religion such that it is not allowed to oppose it. Someone may say (my views) necessitates the construction of a new jurisprudential framework. Who said that this is forbidden and not allowed? Everything that I am going to discuss in this series is based on proofs, “Say: Bring your proof if you are indeed truthful” [3]. Therefore, do not say Shaykh Tūsi has said so and so, Mufīd said so and so, Al-Murtadha said so and so, Al-Majlisī said so and so, Tabataba’ī said so and so, our scholars have gathered in agreement on so and so,  all of this from an academic perspective is unable to be relied upon. Perhaps someone accepts the probative force within consensus, then at most that would merely be binding for him and not for me. Yes if within the words of the respected scholars there exists proof, reasoning and evidence then bring them forward. Say the evidence used by Shaykh Tūsi was such and then we can discuss the evidences. There is no value in names (as we have been instructed to) look at what is being said and not who is saying it.

The first principle we have laid down here is there are no red lines when it comes to human knowledge and by extension religious knowledge. That is why I said candidly that if you have a proof or evidence in contradiction to what I’m saying then bring it forth and I will respond to it in these episodes, but if the proof is merely regurgitating what others have said with no mention of a proof, or to accuse me of leaving the religion merely for discussing this issue, or that I have become an apostate, or to become misguided, then know that this is the language of the ignorant and illiterate. The language of the knowledgeable is to base everything that is said on solid proof.


1 – While ijma’ has been generally accepted as one of the sources of fiqh, there have been a number of scholars who have rejected this idea outright. Some contemporary scholars to hold such views are Āyatollah Sādiqī Tehrānī, Shaykh Mahdi Shams ad-Dīn and Āyatollah Jawādi Gharavī.

2 – An example of this would be the doctrinal tenet of Imāmate which was considered by all the Shi’i scholars pre-Shaykh Tūsī to be an essential of the religion, and those who did not accept it were declared disbelievers (refer to Shaykh Yūsuf Bahrāni, Al-Hadā’iq, v. 5, p 175). Scholars post Shaykh Tūsī then changed this idea and took the doctrine of Imamate to be an essential tenet of the Shi’ī school and not of the religion itself, meaning those who did not accept Imāmate were still to be considered Muslims however a discussion remained on whether their Islam was real or not (refer to Allāmah Majlisī, Bihār al-Anwār, v.8, p. 368).

3 – Qur’ān, 2:111, 27:64

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