The Muslim Woman: Journey into the Light (Volume 1)

Imam Abdessalam Yassine

Justice & Spirituality Publishing

New Britain, PA, USA

 Published in August 2016

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Content

Translator’s Foreword

Editor’s Foreword

Preface

I. Muslim Women and Comprehensive Change

1. Braving the Obstacles

2. The Prophetic Method and the “Religion of Imitating the Victor”

3. The Woman: A Neglected Mass of Flesh or a Fetishized Doll?

4. The Impact of Colonialism

5. The Emancipation of Women

6. Callers at the Gates of Hell

7. The Degree Which Men Hold Over Women

8. Everything’s a Sin!

9. Change between Revelation and Renewal

10. Change between Reality and the Ideal

II. The Believing Woman in a Turbulent World

1. The Crusader Assault

2. The Law of the Jungle

3. Two Worlds

4. The Law of God and the Law of the Market

5. The Industrialized Man

6. The Misery of Modernity for Women

7. The Environment and Pollution

Translator’s Foreword

Translator’s Foreword

At every pivotal moment in the history of the Islamic umma, our merciful Lord (Exalted is He) sends forth pioneering, charismatic reformers who bring the community back to its original grandeur after a period of decline and inconsequence. Such gifted catalysts infuse new life, spur on immense momentum, open new vistas, set lofty goals, and outline the path towards eventual recovery, while at once showing the obstacles to be braved and the challenges ahead.

The fifteenth Islamic century (the twenty-first century of the Christian calendar) is no exception to this rule. Indeed, God has blessed this century with a host of reformers at the forefront of whom stands Imam Abdessalam Yassine who managed to unite within himself high spirituality, multidisciplinary knowledge, and fully-engaged activism. These three qualities, which very few of our umma have ever successfully mastered in combination, are indeed a sine qua non for the success of any reformist who seeks to marshal the efforts and energies of the umma in order to establish the promised second khilāfa, which will run according to the true Prophetic method.

Indeed, Imam Yassine has crafted a revivalist project which promises to usher in a new era for our umma – an era wherein our worldwide community can hope to recover its lost dignity, freedom, self-confidence, power, independence, and unity, and thereby regain its rightful place among the powers that be. Broadly speaking, the Imam’s revivalist project has two complementary goals: first, to reestablish justice; and second, to spiritually revive the hearts of individual Muslims. Through their exemplary behavior both as individuals and as a society, these transformed Muslims shall transmit the last message of God to mankind – a message of love, peace, and sense and sensibility to an ailing, bewildered world.

Joining theory to practice, Imam Yassine founded both the Justice and Spirituality School (JSS) and the Justice and Spirituality Movement (JSM). The JSS seeks to draw out a theoretical framework while the JSM seeks to implement such a framework in an ongoing process of self-evaluation, rectification, and enhancement. In other words, the JSM is a litmus test for the feasibility and viability of the reformist project advocated by the JSS.  The theoretical corpus includes so far over forty books, covering areas as various as history, politics, economics, society, art, culture, morality, spirituality, Islamic Law, international relations, and futurology.

The six pillars of this project are summed up in the titles of the Imam’s foundational works: The Prophetic Method (Al-Minhāj an-Nabawī, 1981), Introduction to the Prophetic Method (Muqaddima fī al-Minhāj, 1989), Notes on Islamic Law and History (Nadharāt fī al-Fiqh wa-t-Tārīkh, 1989), Spiritual Excellence (Iḥsān, 1998), and Justice: Islamists and Governance (Al-‹Adl: Al-Islāmīyyūn wa-l-Ḥukm, 2000). The final foundation is the present book, The Muslim Woman: Journey into the Light (Tanwīr al-Mu›mināt, 1996). Indeed, Imam Abdessalam Yassine always considered the Muslim woman an indispensable protagonist in his revivalist project; accordingly, in his writings, she is portrayed as the Muslim man’s full-fledged partner in all the issues concerning her and her umma.

Yet to show the true worth of the Muslim woman and to properly highlight her crucial role in the success of the revivalist project, Imam Yassine saw fit to devote a special book that discusses at length all the issues related to the Muslim woman from her own perspective. Thus came The Muslim Woman: Journey into the Light, whose original Arabic title literally translates as “The Enlightenment of the Believing Women.”

As the title suggests, the author invites the Muslim woman on a journey that has two dimensions: one that is spiritual in which the author offers to help her ascend the three rungs of the steep pathway leading to God (islām, īmān, and iḥsān); and one that is socio-political in which the author-guide takes the Muslim woman through history back to her roots so that she can fully understand the present condition of her umma and confidently take the necessary steps to make the future better and brighter. Hence, the “light” connotes initiation, discovery, guidance, truth, hope, success, and a happy ending in this life with complete delight in the life to come.

In its English version, the book will be published in five volumes, each comprising twenty sections divided between two chapters.

Before embarking on this journey, the author’s Preface seeks to remind the Muslim woman of the need for pure intention and sublime aspiration. Every enterprise should be undertaken for God’s sake with no less an aspiration than nearness to Him (Exalted is He) and the eternal beholding of His Countenance. It should go without saying that the Muslim woman, just like her partner the Muslim man, is capable of attaining human perfection at all levels, including the spiritual.

Volume I gives a historical analysis and candid criticism of the root causes of the miserable condition which the Muslim woman currently finds herself in. In light of the ḥadīth that prophesies the advent of a second khilāfa which will govern according to the Prophetic method, Volume I discusses how the woman’s deteriorated status is intimately linked to the general decline that has befallen Muslim society as a whole since the Umayyads usurped legitimate power from the last of the rightly-guided caliphs, Imam ‹Alī (God be pleased with him).  Such oppression at the hands of our fellow Muslims was subsequently compounded by the invasion of the Europeans who colonized our lands as well as our minds.

Volume II shows how a Muslim woman can enjoy life and take full advantage of all its lawful pleasures while avoiding the traps of libertinism, bestiality, and consumerism. The rights and privileges of the Muslim woman are reviewed and highlighted according to their priority. The greatest privilege, however, is that the Lord (Exalted is He) has honored the Muslim woman in

this life and prepared for her an eternal reward in the life to come. At this point, the author discusses in detail the articles of faith in order to firmly establish the Muslim woman in her convictions, for they shelter her from the blowing winds of a turbulent, atheistic, and materialistic world.

In the same vein, Volume III focuses on those moral and spiritual values that enable the Muslim woman to perfect her faith, identity, and character. In addition to the basics of faith, these values emphasize that proactive force that enables the Muslim woman to brave the obstacles in front of her, both internally and externally. For any enterprise not built solidly on the ethos of Islam will eventually be doomed to failure and deemed worthless and futile in the sight of God (Exalted is He).

After discussing the moral and spiritual values that nurture the Muslim woman’s personality, Volume IV sheds light on her role and conduct in the household as a young lady, a wife, and a mother. The rules of etiquette, relations with the opposite sex, the symbolism of ḥijāb, the philosophy and ethics of marriage, marital rights and duties, polygamy, and other controversial subjects are discussed from a newer, broader perspective. Volume IV describes the marital relationship as one based on a spirit of cooperation and complementariness, not rivalry. Imbued with love, affection, and respect, this relationship places each partner in the strategic position that befits their respective profile.

Volume V further advances the Muslim woman in her reformist mission. Thanks to her innate sympathy and maternal skills, she is entrusted with the delicate task of raising the younger generations and giving them a balanced education that nourishes their souls, minds, and bodies, a task which is not made easy by a society hostile to traditional spirituality. From here, the path is then open for the Muslim woman to take part in the umma’s general mobilization. Volume V closes with didactic lessons from the stories of the illustrious female Companions whose lives were a series of character-building trials and who, as role models, played a decisive role in the nascent Islamic community.

The Epilogue gives a synopsis of the Prophetic method for change. The author reminds the motivated Muslim women of their mission, the challenges facing them, and the conditions which they must meet to achieve the aspired goals. The path will not be strewn with roses, and westernized, anti-religious feminists will vie with them over the leadership of the umma.

In the end, I would like to express my gratitude to all those kind and generous people who helped make this translation see the light of day. I wish to thank in particular my respected mother Khadija and my lovely sisters, Nadia and Siham, for their prayers and encouragement. Special thanks also to Imad Benjelloun, the translation project manager, and to the distinguished editor and translator, John Halliwell, for his valuable editorial work. The last of our prayers is: Praise be to God, Lord of all creatures.

Farouk Bouasse

Casablanca, Morocco

July 23, 2013

Editor’s Foreword

Editor’s Foreword

What kind of Islam is the true Islam? Muslims all over the world struggle with this very question every day: A Traditional Islam that looks to the legacy of pre-modern scholars? A Sufi Islam that seeks to kindle the ecstatic way of the dervishes? A Salafi Islam that strips away the centuries of fallible human interpretation to recapture the light of the first generation? A Progressive Islam that marries the best of liberalism with the spirituality of the Qur›ān and Sunnah? This is in no wise some dry, theoretical debate, but touches upon the very core of how Muslims see themselves and how they relate to the modern world. And Muslims in the West, as minorities living in the heart of the hegemonic culture of modernity, struggle with this even more so than their co-religionists in the core lands of Islam.

Traditionalism offers the richness of a fourteen-hundred-year-old legacy and the confidence of a once-mighty civilization, but risks straightjacketing twenty-first century Muslims into a set of rules formulated in a social context quite foreign to our own modern world. Sufism gives us access to a living spirituality that overflows with beauty and meaning – but one that can become too otherworldly, too withdrawn from the travails of the human race. Salafism promises the opportunity to critically engage the primary sources and live a pure, “untainted” Prophetic way of life; but this often lends itself to a compulsive fixation that refuses to contextualize individual passages of the Qur›ān and Sunnah and accordingly sees every act as sinful until proven innocent. Progressive Islam acknowledges liberalism’s legitimate critique of how Muslim societies have strayed from their ideals and hence enables Muslims to engage in a more nuanced discussion with Westerners and Westernized Easterners, while perhaps failing to recognize the colonialist ends to which such discourse has been put (indeed, it could be argued that the very word “progressive” itself necessarily rests on a colonialist narrative of modernity).

Imam Abdessalam Yassine’s intention in this book is to recognize the merit in each approach to look at the Sunnah with new eyes – not to create a peculiar “retro”, half-Traditionalist, half-modernist Islam for its own sake, but to appreciate the need for a fresh ijtihād based on a reevaluation of the primary sources while also contextualizing such ijtihād closely within the framework of the overarching objectives of Islamic Law (maqāṣid ash-sharī‹a). He takes up the challenge that one Salafi blogger laid down before the Traditionalists to bring together al-Ghazzālī and Ibn Taymiyya, stressing how Ibn Taymiyya – so unlike the image projected by many of his latter-day followers – was not a grim, joyless figure, but someone who chided his disciples for lacking sufficient “ecstasy” in their worship. In that vein, the Imam seeks to take from the heart-expanding legacy of the Sufis (he gladly points out that he himself benefited from accompanying a Sufi master) while firmly stressing the utter imperative for an Islam that is pro-active and engaged in this world. As such, the believers need to brace themselves for the fact that

a perfect Islamic society cannot be simply declared or promulgated through legislation, but can only be attained through generations of relentless social and spiritual struggle.

This book is by no means an academic treatise, weighing the polemics of Ibn Taymiyya with the discourses of al-Ghazzālī rounded out with an analysis of Kantian ethics and a reformulation of the principles of Islamic law to produce a flawlessly constructed description of how Islam should be manifested in all facets of the modern world. Rather, it is a series of meditations meant to recapture the ethos of that original Islam that not only imbued men with confidence and empowerment, but so too empowered women and assigned them a role as fundamental in striving (spiritually, socially, and politically) for a more beautiful world.

This book is ostensibly addressed to believing women, but make no mistake that these teachings are just as relevant to the men. Liberalism tends to formulate women’s rights precisely as that: the rights of one half of the human race vaguely disconnected from the other, male half. But women’s issues of course are really about how men and women relate to each other. Imam Yassine refers to the occasion that prompted the revelation of the verse: “Verily, for the muslimīn and the muslimāt, for the mu›minīn and the mu›mināt, for truly devout men and truly devout women…” (33:35): the female Companion Umm ‹Imāra Nuṣayba (“who stood firm in the Battle of Uḥud and defended the Messenger with her sword when many men fled”) complained to the Prophet that women were never explicitly addressed in the Qur›ān (although of course the Qur›ān addresses women when the general category of “believers” is mentioned). Similarly, what the author is trying to accomplish here is not to address Muslim women as some sort of separate species, living on some other continent, cut off from any humans carrying a Y chromosome, but to make explicit those issues which should be encompassed within the general discussion of how to revive the Muslim community, but which have been ignored and suppressed.

This truth – that the fate of men and women are inextricably bound together – comes out no more vividly than when the author argues that the pitiable decline in the status of Muslim women over the centuries is but the secondary effect of the general political decline of the Muslim world, whereby the widespread establishment of authoritarian regimes stifled critical discourse and led to the reproduction of the authoritarian model on the micro-level of the household. Hence, empowering women to those roles occupied by the female Companions of the Prophet is but the first step to emancipating Muslim men from their own shackles.

Empowering Muslim women to be leaders while also trying, in the face of a militant Western feminism, to uphold the ideal of a “complementary” relationship between husband and wife: Muslims in the West (both men and women) have struggled mightily to find an exact balance between these two, to be pro-woman but not simply ape the cultural mores of the European bourgeois. This is a fraught question and one that deserves the attention of religious scholars,

historians, and activists with experience working on women’s issues on the ground. Readers will not find a definitive legal answer to this ongoing debate; but the purpose of the author is precisely to pull readers back to make them see the forest and not just the trees, to stress the ethos of the first Muslim community with regards to women’s rights and not fixate on debating isolated ḥadīths that may or may not clash with our modern concept of “women’s rights.” For whatever the interpretation we assign to certain historical reports, there can be no doubt that the Qur›ān and the Sunnah did boldly set out to raise women up to be leaders in scholarship, society, and even the military. And this is exactly the approach needed as a starting point: not a rehash of the academic debates on historical or legal methodology, but a coming together around the indisputable, original values of empowering women we find in early Islam, values that can instill in modern Muslims confidence and enthusiasm to march forward and change their condition with their hands and not just with their hearts.

What the Imam further emphasizes in his wide-ranging reflections over the many facets of modern life, and that is just as essential, is living a faith that is not merely political, not merely social-activist, and not merely spiritual, but a dynamic combination whereby the struggle to attain iḥsān (beauty/perfection/the highest state of God-consciousness) manifests the fundamental connection of all three. To that end, the author seeks not so much to develop an intellectually-compelling vision of what a Prophetic Islam should look like in the modern world, as to inspire the hearts of the believers to manifest the all-encompassing meanings of the Sunnah and strive for beauty in this world.

One final word: the Moroccan translator of this book, Farouk Bouasse, tragically passed away before he could see the publication of this English edition. To have a native speaker of Arabic and a native speaker of English work together in translating and editing an Arabic work often holds the potential for great synergy and, indeed, in every chapter of this work, I came across several instances where Sidi Farouk managed a bon mot that very neatly captured all the nuances of the word in its original Arabic meaning within its new English casing. For such phrases, by myself I would have been able to come up with something that would have conveyed the basic meaning, but not the full connotations of the Arabic. And this despite the fact that he never resided in an English-speaking country (furthermore, most educated Moroccans are fluent in French, not English). But this is a gift with which the Lord sometimes inspires the sincere. I just pray that the final product meets Sidi Farouk’s sincerity and efforts.

John Halliwell

New York, NY

July 20, 2015

Preface

Preface

Praise be to God, the Light of the heavens and the earth, Who has taken neither consort nor child. Exalted is He Who has created us from a single soul, and from him created his wife, and from them both propagated a multitude of men and women.

I bear witness that God – besides Whom there is no other god – is the Sovereign, the Bountiful, the Extensive in His favor and power, and the Severe in punishment. He has issued both warnings and glad tidings to His creation in the Qur›ān: “Whoever does an evil deed will not be recompensed except but by the like thereof. And whoever does a good deed, whether man or woman, while they are a believer, those will enter Paradise in which they will be given provision without account.” (40:40)

To Him I address the praises of a servant whose helplessness and powerlessness are manifest. I implore Him standing at the gate of His generosity and grace. I resort to Him through His beloved Muḥammad, the Master of the children of Adam, who alone will be able to mediate for us on a Day when no other bargaining or friendship will be of any avail. I seek His forgiveness for my bad manners and evil deeds. I worship Him in a state of sorrow for my negligence and inadvertence. I seek His aid so that He may show us the path of those whom He has favored: the people of perfection who are drawn near to Him.

Then, I pray to God to shower His blessings and peace on the Prophet of Mercy who came with the announcement: “And among His signs is that He created for you wives from yourselves that you might find quietude with them, and He has put love and mercy between you.” (30:21)

May God shower His blessings and peace on him, as well as on his pure and noble Family1, his Companions2 from the Emigrants and the Supporters, and his Brothers3 of old times and of later times.

I present my book as a modest gift to every righteous, devout woman who guards in her husband’s absence what God has ordered her to guard, then to every humble person who turns constantly to God, and finally to every frivolous person beguiled by the charms of this world, for I pray that the Lord grant us all wakefulness and repentance.

The Lord (Exalted is He) has proclaimed: “Remain conscious of God in whose name you demand rights (from one another) and be dutiful to (your) ties of kinship!” (4:1)

My hope is that the glorified Lord make this writing a clearing away of the clouds, an illumination of the obstacles to be overcome, and a guide to those men and women whose aspirations are high and whose ambition is not satisfied with grazing among the human livestock on the slopes of defeat and capitulation.

I seek God’s assistance, proper guidance, and strength to expound the issue of the Muslim woman in her ordeal and the ordeal of her umma.4

This book looks to both the vast present and the ample future. Yet from the outset, the book seeks to direct the readers’ minds and focus their sights on the mother of all issues that has otherwise been neglected: the fact that the servant is inevitably heading back to their Lord.

This book is not intended as a mere exercise in consciousness-raising (whether political, cultural, or artistic) about the plight of the Muslim woman: there is already a bevy of such works being dumped into people’s brains and hearts, where these ideas further feed off each other and breed more such ideas. The problem with this discourse is that it has emptied educated minds and activist minds of any concern of the Hereafter. They have muffled that inner voice which is inquisitive about the meaning of our existence, the truth of our presence in this world, and the purpose of our passage through this extraordinary, bizarre life. For indeed, nothing is more extraordinary in this life than the mystery of our existence, and nothing more bizarre than our herd-like submission when we march rambling in the path of the herd which claims that everything in this world is utterly absurd.

I sincerely hope that this book will help to awaken the sleepy and stimulate the inert so that the believing seeker, woman or man, may seize their ego and passions by the neck and force their minds to ask that question which the ego in its wicked idleness furtively evades: What is the quality of our īmān5? How do things stand between us and our Lord? Lost and forgotten amid the racket of activism, is there any way to salvage this spirituality? When we originally set out and eagerly claimed to be answering the call of God, supporting His dīn6, and engaging in jihād for His cause, were we true or were our hearts empty and desolate?

It is my sincere hope that this book’s candid message may satisfy the anguish of the believer, the ambition of the expectant, and the skepticism of the heedless. It is the hope of this book that a flame of regret, a blaze of ardor may light up in the depths of the soul of the reader – that servant of God, man or woman, who does not know who they really are. This book hopes to plant within the innermost part of the reader’s heart concern for their destiny in the Hereafter, ardent grief for their heedlessness, and those questions which, while disquieting, help to prod us to salvation: How confident am I in my Lord? How sincere am I with Him? How honest am I in seeking His goodly-pleasure? Where am I in relation to the sincere servants who worship Him with love and reverence? How much certainty do I have? How satisfied am I with God as my Lord, Islam as my dīn, and Muḥammad (God bless him and grant him peace) as my prophet? How quick and steady is my pace among the servants who race to win the high ranks of Paradise near to Him?

Only after our hearts have been roused and our relationship with our Lord made the central issue will all the other issues of our life fall into their proper ranks of priority. For then, the means will serve the end, the branches will join the root, and the requisites will not eclipse the prerequisite.

This book aspires to awaken not only those who have been sleeping on the bed of indifference and withdrawal, but also those who have been engaged in activism: those who vie with each other for worldly things, those who vie with their despotic rulers for their usurped rights, and those who vie with their co-workers and neighbors over leadership and distinction.

The book’s goal will be achieved if this spiritual awakening leads to self-criticism, self-evaluation, and follow-up.

If we have enough courage in the face of our ego, we will admit that our lives are little more than a series of jumps and starts and missed opportunities; similarly, if our negligence were a house, it would be a veritable fortress which we continually fortify with low-quality materials to please our arrogant selves in front of the crowd.

Seek perfection, O woman! Seek perfection, O man! Yes, but what is perfection? What are the means? What is the end? What have the more lenient jurists considered permissible? What have the more stringent Muslims judged as heretical? Is there any way to make the journey towards the greatest happiness of the Hereafter without complications and ordeals, without a dauntless resolve that braves all obstacles?

If you think so, sleep on, undisturbed!

The author prays to God that He spread the fragrance of His mercy onto those readers whom He wills from among His female and male servants, for these fragrances can help lead them toward their perfection.

Yet be mindful! For the fragrances of the divine Mercy and the inner thoughts that seek to show you the right way may be scattered by the winds of passion and the storms of worldly attractions. The thorns of doubt and skepticism may snag the garments of your natural will. You may be confronted with obstacles set up by your ego and the Devil that aim to disable and confuse you and cause you to wander aimlessly in this life.

So either sleep on undisturbed or come along and follow the pages of this book patiently. My intention – God make it for His sake – is to enlighten the minds of the believing women and believing men with the knowledge about the purification of souls alongside, or ahead of, that activism that seeks to do justice to the woman. The aim is to incorporate into such activism a theoretical knowledge of purification as well as a practical system of purification for our soul and heart. For on the Day when neither wealth nor children will be of any use, only those with a heart free from evil will prosper.

O believing woman free from overt and covert shirk,7 the flame of your īmān will falter and die out if your heart’s inner feelings and your limbs’ outer acts are not arranged in a luminous line that can show you through the darkness and that can raise you from the abyss of bestiality to the purity of the angels. Your īmān is fragmented and broken, for it is at odds with your passions and the devil’s whisperings; sometimes you resist these, and sometimes you succumb. But once you have rolled up the sleeves of your resolve, restrained the evasive impulses of your ego with unfailing sincerity, turned your face toward God, and enjoined upon your ego the observance of the Sunna8 that His Messenger (God bless him and grant him peace) has clearly presented to you as a model – only then will you know what is good for you and what is bad on the pathway to the Hereafter.

But if the waves of this concern have not yet struck your shores, then alright – sleep on undisturbed! Otherwise, let us leaf through the pages of The Muslim Woman: Journey into the Light to discover what kind of jihād9 will be accepted from us, and how to proceed.

O Lord, You are the Companion on our journey! So make our journey a journey of the rightly-guided who in turn guide to Your Way, and show us the Straight Way – the way of those whom You have favored, not the way of those who earn Your wrath, nor of those who go astray. Amen.


1 [Translator’s note:] Āl al-Bayt, literally “the People of the House.” Besides his wives, the Prophet’s Family comprises the descendants of his grandsons, al-Ḥasan and al-Ḥusayn, and those of his uncle al-‹Abbās and his paternal cousins, ‹Alī, Ja‹far, and ‹Aqīl.

2 [Translator’s note:] Aṣ-Ṣaḥāba, the Prophet’s Companions, are: the Emigrants (al-Muhājirūn), those who migrated from Mecca to Medina, leaving their kinsfolk and possessions for the sake of God and His Messenger (God bless him and grant him peace); and the Supporters (al-Anṣār), those who received and supported with their persons and possessions the Prophet (God bless him and grant him peace) and the Emigrants. 

3 [Translator’s note:] The Brothers of the Prophet (God bless him and grant him peace) are, first of all, the Messengers and Prophets before him from Adam to Jesus (peace be upon them all) and, secondly, those who believe in his mission without having seen him or met with him. The latter include the second generation of Islam (at-Tābi‹ūn) and the subsequent generations until the Day of Judgment as demonstrated by the following narration from al-Bukhārī and Muslim (inter alia) on the authority of Abū Hurayra (God be pleased with him): One day, the Prophet (God bless him and grant him peace) entered a cemetery: “Peace be on you, O house of believing men and women! We will soon join you, God willing. Oh, how I wish I had seen my brothers!” The Companions who were present (God be pleased with them) said: “Aren’t we your brothers, O Messenger of God?”, to which he replied, “You are my Companions. My brothers are those who will come after.”

4 [Translator’s note:] The umma refers to the Muslim community worldwide. 5 [Translator’s note:] See following note.

5 [Translator’s note:] See following note.

6 [Translator’s note:] I retain the original Arabic and Qur›ānic term dīn, avoiding as much as possible the word “religion” owing to its ambiguous – and sometimes negative – connotations. Our dīn [that is, Islam] comprises three ascending steps, distinct yet inseparable: islām, īmān, and eventually iḥsān. As for islām (with a lower-case “i”), it is to testify that there is no god beside God and that Muḥammad is His Messenger, to do the prescribed prayer, to give the zakāt (the prescribed alms due each year for the purification of one’s wealth and one’s soul from niggardliness, if that wealth has reached the threshold of liability), to fast the month of Ramadan, and to make the pilgrimage to the holy precincts of Mecca and Medina if one has the means. Īmān is to believe in God, His angels, His Revealed Books, His Messengers, the Day of Judgment, and God’s Predestination of both good and evil. Moral rectitude, achieved progressively through assimilating the branches of īmān, should accompany such beliefs. Iḥsān, the highest degree, is to worship God as if you could see Him, or to be conscious that if you do not see Him, He sees you. Iḥsān carries other significant connotations: to do the assigned duties proficiently and to be magnanimous, kind-hearted, considerate, and courteous to all living beings, not least one’s family and neighbors.

7 [Translator’s note:] Overt (or greater) shirk is to worship other gods or to associate other deities with God, for example claiming that God has begotten children. Covert (or lesser) shirk is to do pious acts not for the sake of God but to be seen and praised by others.

8 [Translator’s note:] The Sunna refers to the teaching and practice of the Prophet (God bless him and grant him peace) and includes his sayings, deeds, and tacit approvals. 9 [Translator’s note:] Throughout the book, the word jihād will not be used in the narrow sense of military effort. Jihād, as Imam Yassine sees it, is above all a striving for the liberation of the Muslim mind and soul from all kinds of moral and material subservience, and for the reconstruction of the shattered edifice of the Islamic umma. In his al-Minhāj an-Nabawī (The Prophetic Method), Imam Yassine lays out 11 pathways for jihād. In none of these pathways of jihād is violence to be used as an instrument of change.