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Yahyā), is one of the best biographical works on African Sufis. The said author, in his biographical note numbered 94, deals with Abu’l‐Hasan ‘Alī b. Ahmad b. Yūsuf b. al‐Hasan al‐ Jarāwī:
“(…) ‘Abdullāh b. Mūsā related to me: ‘Abdur‐Rahmān b. Abi’l‐Hasan, i.e. the son of the Sufi we are writing about, related to me the following: My father used to own a feddān (which was a certain square meter measure of land). That plot had been inherited by him from his immediate forefathers and from his more distant ancestors as well. My father studiously avoided ploughing it or letting it out for rental, since he used to say, ‘I do not know the origin of my father’s acquisition of ownership over it (= Was it lawful or not?).’ When my father Abu’l-Hasan, may Allah have mercy on him, passed away, I ploughed it, and a sizeable number of crops sprouted forth and then grew further. In one of my dreams, I later saw an apparition, a figure seated on the wheat, who was lifting the wheat with his hand and casting it away while saying: «People who consume the property of orphans wrongfully, consume nothing in their bellies except fire. They will roast in a Searing Blaze» (Sūrah an‐Nisā’: 10). He kept on doing that time and again, until he caught sight of my person and stood up. I followed him with my eyes until he exited the door of the house. When I woke up from my sleep, I gave out in sadaqah the whole wheat which I had harvested in that plot of land. I neglected that land, exactly as it had been left unutilized during my father’s lifetime. ‘Abdullāh b. Mūsā went on to conclude: When ‘Abdur‐Rahmān b. Abi’l‐Hasan was on his death‐bed, he instructed his children, as part of his testamentary disposition, not to include that feddān of land in the estate to be distributed after his death. They loyally adhered to his said command.
‘Abdullāh b. Mūsā also related to me the following: During Abu’l‐Hasan’s death illness, he dictated his will, which was accordingly reduced to writing. After the will thus written down was shown to him for perusal, he had the following addition appended to it:
«Then if anyone alters it after hearing it, the crime is on the part of those who alter it. Allah is All‐Hearing, All‐Knowing» (Sūrah al‐Baqarah: 181, 180 in the Warsh riwāyah). He then bade adieu to those who were in attendance, covered his face with his dress, and gave up his ghost, may Allah have mercy on him. *** Mufīd al‐‘Ibād Sawā’ al‐‘Ākif fīhi wa al‐Bād, by the Mauritanian savant Ahmad b. al‐Bashīr ash‐Shinqītī, is an incredible tour‐de‐force where the author takes a simple and short text on the fiqh of the five pillars and elemental Sufi teachings, and compacts in it the detailed reference to a multitude of sciences and masā’il. This is part of the text on the issue of lawful earning, which thing links us back to the story of the feddān of the said Sufi. The reader ought to focus his attention, generally, on the punctilious care which our predecessors lavished upon the need to secure a pure livelihood, rather than on certain details which are not realistically applicable to this age where, as per a famous Prophetic saying, no one on the planet (let alone urban‐dwellers) will be saved from, at the very least, inhaling the vapour of ribā:
“The jurist from Fes Mayyārah (d. 1072 AH) said: A divergence of views has been expressed as to whether the halāl factually exists (in this age) or not [It was an age of incipient decadence, but far more salubrious than ours]. On the one hand, it has been said that it does exist, though the number of those who seek it out is scarce. Another standpoint is that it is a lost property (…) [It appears to us that both outlooks are plausibly arguable]. The only way to distinguish the halāl from the harām is through knowledge. It is becoming of man not to go to great lengths in his quest for wealth, out of fear that he might attain some assets which are tainted by the forbidden. It is obligatory on the mukallaf, i.e. the person with legal responsibility and thus saddled with the duty to discharge obligations in the Law, to relinquish the harām altogether, without discriminating between this type or that type, and to partake only of the agreed upon halāl. If he cannot find any agreed upon halāl, i.e. what all the scholars of Ahl
as‐Sunnah consider lawful, he should partake of the agreed upon halāl which is unanimously deemed to be so in his madhhab. In the event that he cannot lay his hands on that either, he should shift to that the lawfulness of which is a subject of juristic controversy in his madhhab, failing which he opts for what is ruled to be halāl according to one of the discordant views in other than his madhhab. When even that is unavailable [which is largely the position in the ribā‐infested world of our times], it is as al‐Qāsim b. Muhammad put it: ‘If the whole of the dunyā was harām, we would not stretch one hand towards any livelihood in it.’ For the one for whom a pleasantly pure (tayyib) earning occurs, and who intends to buy the nourishment sustaining him with the income secured by that source of earning, he should subtly exert himself to his utmost in purchasing with it only what is agreeably pleasant (tayyib) [= so that both acquisition and expenditure are wholesome]. Once he has spent his maximum effort in buying what is pure with the income generated by his lauded form of earning, he must halt at the goodness of whatever licit thing his self leans reposefully on, even though it is impossible for him to ascertain the original source of what he is purchasing in that connection, from the point of view, that is, of its lawfulness or otherwise at source. Bearing that in mind, contenting himself with purchasing some bread the lawful source of which is dubious is better than buying flour of similarly dubious origin with which multiple loafs of bread can be made, just as to buy a meal is to be preferred over the purchase of crops from which gain is sought. In a kindred vein, the option should fall for dry produce over fresh produce if one has to choose between one of the two. Al‐Hattāb said: NB – If a person cannot find in the madhhab of his own Imām an explicit text declaring a particular thing lawful, and is unable to come across someone with knowledge of how to comprehend its textual sources, the outwardly correct position is that he inquires about its permissibility based on the madhhab of a different Imām, and acts by the position he uncovers in that other madhhab. He does not simply act out of his ignorance of the matter.
The strictness of the early savants in the issue of what is prohibited or dubious is well‐known to whoever peruses or carefully reads their books. No wonder that al‐Ghazālī said, as quoted from him by as‐Sanūsī: ‘The (good) actions of the one who partakes of nutriments of dubious lawfulness are discarded and rejected, and are not counted in his favour or accepted. The human being cannot dispense with the need of using a means of livelihood by which he supports himself and his dependents. In securing it, however, he is not excused if he relies on ignorance and whims so as to justify the permissibility of its acquisition, even though he happens, in his lack of knowledge and the pursuit of his appetites, to earn something the permissibility of which is incidentally supported by a ruling of the ‘ulamā’. It is different if he actually leans on the views of the learned people supporting its lawfulness, despite the fact that such particular views might be juristically weak, when compelling necessity and extreme exigency legitimize his conscious adoption of one such juristic position. The virtue of relieving a mu’min from his hardship is indeed a well‐known feature of Islam”.
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