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Spirit of Islam
Response to Salafi Bilal Philips Attacks against Islamic Scholars



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Today we will be discussing some of the claims made by the Salafi, Dr. Bilal Philips, in the series he entitled "Foundations of Islamic Studies".


And while the Salafis point their attacks on the followers of Sufism, or Islamic spirituality, but Sufis are first and foremost, followers of 1 of the 4 Mathaheb (Islamic schools of thought).



The first point of disagreement between the Salafis and the 4 Mathaheb is who Muslims should trust in seeking ilm (knowledge about Sharia).


So let's see what Bilal Philips is complaining about:


DVD4, Shirk, 27:30

Bilal Philips - Hamza Yusuf, who's very popular today. You know, on the lecture circuit etc.. He is a caller to this way (sufism).

DVD4, Shirk, 27:51

Bilal Philips - Among the subtle ways that he does this, he says, everybody has to follow a Mathhab. And you must follow, get your knowledge from a Sheikh, who got it from a Sheikh, who got it from a Sheikh, who got it from Rasul Allah (peace be upon him). And this is his insistence, that you must have a silsilah, a chain of Sheikhs which go right back Rasul Allah (pbuh). What you look is, historically, those who made this claim, are the same Sufis.


Now, contrary to Bilal Philips' claims, this isn't specific to Sufis. Among countless eminent scholars, Imam al Nawawi said:

"Praise to Allah … who singled out this nation … with the science of ISNAD, shared by no other nation."

الحمد لله … المخصص هذه الأمة زادها الله شرفاً بعلم الإسناد، الذي لم يشركها فيه أحد من الأمم على تكرر العصور والآباد

- Sharh Sahih Muslim


And from Tabi' al Tabi'in, the famous Imam al Awza'i said:

"The departure of knowledge (ILM) is but (by) the departure of ISNAD."

قال الإمام الأوزاعي رحمه الله تعالى : ما ذهاب العلم إلا ذهاب الإسناد

- Al Tamhid by Ibn Abdulbir


Also acclaimed by unanimous consensus and among Tabi' al Tabi'in, Abdullah ibn Mubarak said:

"ISNAD is part of religion, and if it wasn't for ISNAD, then anyone could say whatever he pleases."

الْإِسْنَادُ مِنْ الدِّينِ, وَلَوْلَا الْإِسْنَادُ لَقَالَ مَنْ شَاءَ مَا شَاءَ

- Introduction to Sahih Muslim, Al 'Ilal by Tirmithi


Now, this applies to all branches of Islamic Science (hadith, usool, fiqh, inheritence law, spiritual purification, etc).


And do not be hasty in claiming understanding of Islam, because Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:

The most daring to make fatwa are the most daring to hell fire

أجرؤكم على الفتيا أجرؤكم على النار

- Al Darimi... Munawi: "worthy as authentic"


But according to Dr. Philips, the Salafis have found a short cut that enables them to skip over the Chain of Authority:


DVD5, 22:36

Bilal Philips - Yes, Islam is based on the Quran and Sunnah. But, according to whose understanding? The understanding of the best of generations. As the Prophet (pbuh) said

"The best of people are my generation, then those who followed them, then those who followed them."

خيركم قرني، ثم الذين يلونهم، ثم الذين يلونهم

DVD2, 17:23

Bilal Philips - They are referred to by the Arabic term "Al Salaf Al Saleh". The Righteous Predecessors. So when a person says "I am a Salafi", "I follow the way of the Salaf", they are saying "I understand the Quran and Sunnah as it was understood by the Sahaba and those early generations". That is what Salafiyya means.


Wow, that is a very attractive offer. So all I have to do understand Islam is to SAY the incantation that "I am a Salafi". I mean, it's even easier than Christianity. At least there you have to BELIEVE that Jesus died for our sins to be saved, but with the Salafis, all you have to do is say the words "I am a Salafi" and you are instantly blessed with the understanding of the Salaf al Saleh. And be aware of those who do not say they are a Salafi... they surely do not understand the Salaf al Saleh.


So let's see who are the Salaf al Saleh.


You have the companions, followed by the Tabi'in, which includes Imam Abu Hanifa, followed by Tabi' al Tabi'in, which includes Imam Malik, Imam al Shafi'i, and Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal, plus many of their students.


THESE are the 4 Mujtahideen of the 4 Mathaheb, and theirs are the ONLY complete methodologies for understanding the Quran and Sunnah.


And which of their students can we trust? The ones who either had the consensus of the entire Islamic nation, or the ones to whom were given permission, like Imam al Shafi'i was told (by Imam Malik & Muslim bin Khalid al Zinji):

Make fatwa, the time has come for you to make fatwa

أفت، فقد آن لك أن تفتي

- Tareekh Dimashq & al Tahtheeb by ibn Hajar


So the Chain of Authority is Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) giving permission to someone *, who gave permission to someone, etc, etc, who gave permission to my Sheikh.

* (the examples of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) singling out companions for various fields is not in the video, so we have added it here)
"The best judge among you is Ali", "The best reciter among you is Ubay", "The most knowledgeable in inheritance law among you is Zayd", "Omar said 'Zayd (ibn Thabet) made a declaration about the grandfather and I have established it' " - Fath al Bari

"Ibn Sa'd transmitted with a Sahih chain, he said: Zayd ibn Thabit was one of those providing fatwa, and they are six, Omar, Ali, Ibn Masood, Ubay, Abu Moosa, and Zayd ibn Thabit" - Al Isaba by Ibn Hajar

أقضاكم علي ..., أقرؤكم أبي ..., أفرضكم زيد ..., إن زيدا قال في الجد قولا وقد أمضيته - فتح الباري

وروى ابن سعد بإسناد صحيح، قال: كان زيد بن ثابت أحد أصحاب الفتوى، وهم ستة عمر، وعلي، وابن مسعود، وأبَيّ، وأبو موسى، وزيد بن ثابت. (الإصابة لابن حجر)


And how do the Salafis claim to have gained this insightful understanding of the Quran and Sunnah?


DVD4, Shirk, 23:03

Bilal Philips - These types of groups that promote this idea, where you follow your Sheikh blindly. You don't question, because as Moses was not able to understand the workings of Khidr, because he had special understanding...

DVD4, Shirk, 30:13

Bilal Philips - Now of course, scholars in looking at verses may be able to give you deeper understanding, which ...  than you understood. But once you understand the methodology of how they got that deeper understanding, then you can do it also.


So to become a Salafi teacher, all you have to do is understand the methodology. But who said your understanding of the methodology is correct? Your Sheikh? Well who said that his understanding of the methodology is correct? If you don't have that Chain of Authority back to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), then you are not qualified, and all you're left with is a claim.


And patience with the teacher IS the way to get the deeper understanding that is hidden from us. Imam al Shafi'i said:

And whoever does not taste the humility of learning for an hour will drink the humility of ignorance his whole lifetime

وَمَنْ لَمْ يَذُقْ ذُلَّ التَّعَلُّمِ سَاعَةٌ * تَجَرَّعَ ذُلَّ الجَهْلِ طُولَ حَيَاتِهِ

- Diwan Imam al Shafi'i


but Bilal Philips disagrees:


DVD1, 27:19

Bilal Philips - Now some people ... mistakenly have taken from the story of Moses and Khidr, that what we should learn from that, is that we should follow our Sheikhs, our peers, our spiritual guides and leaders, without question. This is what, you have an element that tries to promote this understanding.

DVD1, 28:20

Bilal Philips - But this is a mistaken understanding.

DVD1, 28:41

Bilal Philips - That analogy is totally irrelevant, is totally in error. That's the wrong analysis from it. The correct analysis is, that behind calamities is good.

(Imam al Qurtubi disagrees with Bilal Philips: "...Moses over-objected...")


Oh really, then how come there was NO calamity at all in the 3rd encounter, where Khidr fixed the wall? Prophet Moses asked to accompany Khidr so he would "TEACH" him from Khidr's "KNOWLEDGE" (ilm).

And the word patience (sabr) is mentioned 7 times in the story, Khidr keeps reminding Moses, you're not going to be patient.


Let's settle this once and for all. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:

We wished that Moses remained patient so that Allah would have told us more about their story.

وددنا أن موسى كان صبر حتى يقص الله علينا من خبرهما

- Sahih Bukhari


So who could come up with an analysis that contradicts head on what the Quran says and what Prophet Muhammad said? Somebody who was self taught, who wasn't patient with his teachers, and who follows his own opinions blindly.


This is a very simply issue. Would you let Dr. Philips fix your sink if he wasn't a qualified plumber? I don't think so. How about if Dr. Philips was a qualified dentist, and he memorized every book that exists on brain surgery. I don't think you'd let him operate on you, unless the qualified brain surgeons said that he's qualified to do so.


And no Muslim can argue against religious well-being being much more important than your plumbing or your physical well-being.



The second point of disagreement between the Salafis and the 4 Mathaheb is whether Muslims are still allowed to ask for Prophet Muhammad's intercession (tawassul) after his death (pbuh).


Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) taught intercession (and NEVER restricted tawassul to his lifetime), the companions taught intercession through Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) during AND AFTER the Prophet's life, and the 4 Mathaheb convey these same instructions by consensus (ijma).

Now, the Salafi movement is based on the ideas of Ibn Taymiyyah, who was born 400 years AFTER the time of the Salaf al Saleh.


And in Faid al Qadeer, the hadith where (the companion) Uthman bin Hunayf * taught intercession through Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is explained by Imam al Munawi, who quotes the eminent Imam al Sibki (a contemporary of Ibn Taymiyyah):

Al Sibki said: Intercession is good (YAHSUN) ... through the Prophet ... and none of the predecessors (salaf) objected to it, and neither did any of the successors (khalaf), until Ibn Taymiyyah objected to it, and strayed from the straight path and INNOVATED (WABTADA'A) what no scholar said before him...

ويحسن التوسل والاستعانة والتشفع بالنبي إلى ربه ولم ينكر ذلك أحد من السلف ولا من الخلف حتى جاء ابن تيمية فأنكر ذلك وعدل عن الصراط المستقيم وابتدع ما لم يقله عالم قبله وصار بين أهل الإسلام مثلة

- Faid al Qadeer
* (the hadith of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) teaching tawassul is not in the video, so we have added it here)
"... Allah's Messenger (pbuh) said 'GO TO THE WUDU PLACE, make wudu, then pray 2 rak'as, then say:
'O Allah I ask you, and turn to You by Your Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the Prophet of Mercy, O Muhammad! I have turned to your Lord by you, to return my sight, O Allah make him intercede for me'."

Uthman said: By Allah, we did not disperse and we did not have a long discussion, until the man ENTERED as if he had never been blind.
- Al Baihaqi, &
Al Mustadrak, by Al Hakim, Sahih According to the conditions of both Muslim and Bukari

فقال رسول الله - صلى الله عليه وسلم -: (ائت الميضاة، فتوضأ ثم صل ركعتين ثم قل:
اللهم إني أسألك وأتوجه إليك بنبيك محمد - صلى الله عليه وسلم - نبي الرحمة، يا محمد إني أتوجه بك إلى ربك، فيجلي لي عن بصري، اللهم شفعه في وشفعني في نفسي).
قال عثمان: فوالله ما تفرقنا ولا طال بنا الحديث حتى دخل الرجل وكأنه لم يكن به ضر قط.
المستدرك على الصحيحين، للإمام محمد بن عبد الله الحاكم النيسابوري

Uthman ibn Hunayf teaching this prayer is:

فقال له عثمان بن حنيف ائت الميضأة فتوضأ ثم ائت المسجد فصل فيه ركعتين ثم قل  اللهم إني أسألك وأتوجه إليك بنبينا محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم نبي الرحمة  يا محمد إني أتوجه بك إلى ربي فيقضي حاجتي وتذكر حاجتك ...

- Altargheeb wal Tarheeb, Al Muntheree (SAHIH according to Baihaqi, Mundhiri, and Haythami)


The very objection to this intercession is in and of itself a bad innovation (bid'a).


So for the Salafis who claim this intercession is a bid'a, then clearly they don't know what the word means, because it (tawassul) was taught by the Salaf al Saleh.


And for the Salafis who claim this intercession is a shirk (polytheism), then they're accusing the Mujtahideen, and they're accusing the companions. And worst of all, they're accusing Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) of failing to convey his message (The Prophet, pbuh, NEVER restricted tawassul to his lifetime).


So let's see what Bilal Philips has to say about intercession:


DVD2, Tawheed, 05:03

Bilal Philips - Nuh ha mim Keller proposes in his book, his translation of "The Reliance of the Traveller". Please be aware of this book.

DVD2, Tawheed, 05:33

Bilal Philips - In the appendix he promotes the idea of calling on the Messenger of Allah in prayer.

DVD2, Tawheed, 07:54

Bilal Philips - The fact that you call on him, he's not present, he's not available to help you, that's worship. If he's dead, it's also worship.


It's funny how Bilal Philips presents intercession as if it is a concept invented by Nuh Keller, when the reality is that Ibn Taymiyyah's the one who invented the concept that somehow the rules of Tawheed (Allah's unity) have been changed since the death of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).


And when scholars explain to Salafis the numerous evidence that Prophet Muhammad is still alive, they think that they have won the debate by insisting that Prophet Muhammad * is dead physically, but that actually violates a verse of the Quran:


2:154 { And do NOT call those who are slain in the way of Allah "dead." Nay, they are LIVING, ONLY YOU do not perceive it }

وَلاَ تَقُولُواْ لِمَنْ يُقْتَلُ فِي سَبيلِ اللّهِ أَمْوَاتٌ بَلْ أَحْيَاء وَلَكِن لاَّ تَشْعُرُونَ


* (the proof that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) died a martyr is not in the video, so we have added it here)
"...to add to the rank of Prophecy the level of martyrdom, and not to miss (any) honor, for this reason, Ibn Masood and others say he (ie, Prophet Muhammad) died a martyr from that poison..."
- Faid al Qadeer, Imam al Munawee

...ليجمع إلى منصب النبوة مقام الشهادة ولا يفوته مكرمة ولهذا كان ابن مسعود وغيره يقول مات شهيداً من ذلك السم ...


DVD2, Tawheed, 08:51

Bilal Philips - Again you have a line of argument that people try to raise "But he's living", "he's living".

DVD2, Tawheed, 09:50

Bilal Philips - The point is that Rasul Allah (pbuh) is dead.


Hm... then how come Prophet Moses was able to help the whole Islamic nation when he was speaking with Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the Isra wal Mi'raj even though Prophet Moses was DEAD?




Failing to respect the Chain of Authority leads to bid'a, which is guaranteed to lead to something even worse.


While there are many, many, many grave errors that Bilal Philips makes, now we are going to focus on 2 brief examples, where Bilal Philips says an Islamic rule and then proceeds to violate that same rule a few seconds later.


The first one is from the Quran, which very clearly states:

16:74 { Do not invent similitudes for Allah }

فَلاَ تَضْرِبُواْ لِلّهِ الأَمْثَالَ


You cannot bring Allah in the context of human beings.


DVD4, 39:22

Bilal Philips - If you look in the context of human beings, and of course, this similitude, Allah is beyond this, but at least on a human level...

DVD4, 40:36

Bilal Philips - But I'm just saying that, ultimately, as the painter paints, the Creator Creates.


What? What part of { Do not invent similitudes for Allah } does he not understand?


The Quran also states:

42:11 { there is nothing whatever like unto Him }

لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ شَيْءٌ


Not a painter, not a painting, NOTHING. And that leads us to the second example of Bilal Philips contradicting himself and the Quran.


You cannot use place to describe Allah, because things have place, and having a place is LIKE things, and Allah is not contained by time and place.


DVD4, 02:37

Bilal Philips - Allah is where He was before He Created. He's in the same place. Not bound by time, space, etc, etc.. He's in the same place, He's beyond his creation.


You cannot say "IN the same PLACE". What part of "not bound by time, space, etc" doesn't he understand?


Look, Bilal Philips is unable to understand the very words that he's uttering, and he wants to give us his understanding of the Quran and Sunnah?



The Salafi CLAIM that they can understand Islam best by skipping over generations of the Chain of Authority is rejected.


And since the Salafis often contradict the 4 Mathaheb, that just goes to prove that they have not understood the methodology of ANY of the 4 Mujtahideen among the Salaf al Saleh.


But we're not going to force them... if they don't want to speak to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) because he's dead, that's fine, but they have to 5 times a day in the prayer when we say "Peace be upon YOU, O Prophet".


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