The Value Of Introductions
Whenever I pick up a new book, the first thing I do
after reading the table of contents is read the author's
introduction. This is advice that one of my first teachers enforced.
Author's use the introduction to define the scope of their work, list
the general topics, and prime the reader with requisite
Contrary to my teacher's advice, sometimes I feel inclined to skip over parts of the introduction, since so much of it seems repetitious. But this is a grand mistake, since these introductions are never devoid of dhikr, almost always contain a reinforcement of basic Islamic doctrine, and in spite of the similar wording – each one usually has benefits lacking in others.
The introduction to Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali's The Rebuttal On Those Who Follow Other Than The Four Schools is a treasure chest.
What follows is a brief explanation of the first few paragraphs of this work. Since the theme of the book is a rebuttal against deviants, my comments tend to follow this theme.
Ibn Rajab (may Allah grant him mercy) begins:
This same introduction is found in many books. Most of the time we
don't realize how magnificent these introductions are and the gems
they contain, especially concerning basic beliefs.
upright - it is the correct path to follow since it is not based on man-made conventions but rather by decree of Allah Most High;
lasting - it will not cease to exist, it is timeless, it will never be outdated, it was valid then and will continue to be valid until the Final Day;
assisted - by none other than Allah, via the scholars;
a protected legislation - so what we have today is what Allah Most High gave to his His Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).
There will always be a group who stick to the above, a group selected by Allah Most High, a group that will never be harmed by those who desert and turn against them.
Ibn Rajab continues:
There is evidence indicating that “someone” here refers to followers of Ibn Taymiyya (may Allah grant him mercy) who did not share their shaykh's knowledge, and so their claims were invalid from the very beginning.
It seems claim is a common one for deviants, “I am entitled to my opinion because I am a mujtahid practicing ijtihad!”, because this is the very claim made by virtually the founder of virtually every deviant sect.
This last line is a bit of a rebuttal against those who believe in extreme forms of predestination and free will.
Establishing that other religions become extinct, decay, become
distorted, and that this was the plan of Allah from the very
beginning. These other religions did not need this same protection
because Allah Most High had Islam coming down the pipeline, a
religion that once He established it would remain intact and
uncorrupted until the Final Day.
The abrogator of all previous religions. Islam is the last boat home.
This serves as a rebuttal against the Shi`i (Twelvers and Batiniya),
the Qadiyanis, Bahais, “Submitters,” and others who claim the
necessity for an Imam to set things right.
Imam al-Ghazali pointed out that since our religion has been perfected, we have no need for someone to come and teach us anything new. And hence, no need for an Imam (as understood by the Shi`i of various sects).
Something that Ibn Taymiyya and Imam al-Dhahabi point out is this: The Shi`i say that Justice requires that there be an Imam at all times. So suppose the 12th Shi`a really exists and has gone into hiding as his followers claim. Now, has anyone seen or heard from him? Has anyone seen someone who has seen or heard from him? No, and no. So even if this Hidden Imam exists, what sort of Justice is this when his existence and absence are the exact same thing?
Imam al-Dhahabi also points out a essential difference between the Shi`i belief in an Imam and the belief that some Sunnis have in a Qutb. Whereas the Shi`is make the Imamate an essential part of `aqida, belief in the Qutb has never been declared part of `aqida. Deny the Imam and the Shi`is say you are hellbound; deny the Qutb and, well, nothing.
The rebuttal against the Shi`i (and others) continues:
Since it is protected from deletions, additions, and corruption, what
need would there be for an Imam to set it right?
Since the religion is perfect, what need is there for an Imam to add to it?
Allah Majestic promised this, and it is just as He said. One plain example of this how the scholars of hadith identified fabricated narrations and removed them.
Another rebuttal against the Shi`i who sometimes claim that verses in
the Quran have been tampered with or completely removed. (Allah
protect us from this!) Lest someone think this is unfair criticism,
the grandfather of Shi`i tafsir Abu al-Hasn `Ali bin Ibrahim al-Qummi
in his introduction to his tafsir lists the various thing tha Quran
includes, including verses that are abrogated, verses that are no
longer as they were revealed (his example indicates distortion in
existing words), and verses that have been corrupted (his example
indicates deletions of words and entire phrases. [Tafsir al-Qummi,
All of this, ma sha Allah, just from the introduction. What follows the introduction is even better, because Ibn Rajab gives a brief summary of how Islam was preserved, from the perspective of sources (Quran and hadith) and meanings (fiqh and aqidah), and then goes into describing how students should be.
And Allah knows best.
Wa al-salamu `alaykum