Interview with Habib Umar by Mark Davis

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

Question: Within brief, what was the purpose of your visit to Australia? Was it to meet your own community or reach out to a broader community here?

Answer: The message that we convey is not specific to the Muslims to the exclusion of others so our coming to Australia was to continue the message that we have inherited to convey good to the extent that we are able to all creatures who are the dependants of God. We visited it the first time and we found it off a furtle land to interact with goodness. We met groups of Muslims as well as non-Muslims of various religious faiths of the Australian people. And, in our gatherings we discussed the correct basic understanding or the correct understanding of the fundamental principles of our religion and also the obligation that a person has to interact well with those around him. And, also continuing this that we’ve learned from the Prophet Muhammad which is our obligation. We’re continuing this effort in this second. And, forgive us for giving such a long answer.

Question: Australia doesn’t take readily to religious messages. What is your experience here?

Answer: An address that relates directly to the human nature, the primordial nature of the human being it will find the reception and there are values that are common among all human beings and all people of wisdom. If we act according to them it will give a general benefit because it relates to the interest of everyone and also their beneficial coexistence. Just as we see conveying a correct understanding of the religion is of benefit to the worshippers, we see conveying or encouraging cooperation based on values of benefit to everyone and to humanity and encouraging good neighbourliness and also good coexistence. And, we believe that there is a receptivity/receptiveness here in Australia to discuss these values and cooperate in them.

Question: Australia is not an easy country to be a Muslim in. There is a divide in this country. What’s your view of the community here? What’s your experience of the community here? It is a difficult place to be a Muslim?

Answer: In what we’ve seen and experienced, we’ve seen that people are able to practise and people have a certain amount of freedom and the situation to the extent that we’ve seen there wasn’t a clear and apparent obstruction from this other than what occurs of propaganda against any religious group and certain minds are affected by this. I don’t think there’s a problem other than with those who have had or understood a misunderstood representation of Islam and then they were not ready to have discussion and come to an understanding or a problem with those who have learned an incorrect understanding of the religion and someone with this understanding is going to cause problems wherever they happen to be. There’s a third problem and that would be someone who himself opposes the religion and adherence to the religion who transgresses and also opposes its fundamentals so this person would cause problems as well. So other than these types of people I don’t see a problem based on what I’ve experienced with the religion existing or practising the religion here in Australia.

Question: There is a tradition of religious tolerance in Australia but underneath the surface there are difficulties. There’s a sensation, there’s a divide within Australia between the Muslim community and the non-Muslim community. I think that is quite apparent. So my question is can that be overcome or even should it be overcome?

Answer: Actually the divisions between all the various groups should be overcome and also some of the details of the present circumstance because you live here and you’ll be more aware of them than us. However, my experiences are based on my visits and those who I’ve met and that’s likely to be a select group of the various groups. However the point that you’ve mentioned is extremely important and that is the possibility of overcoming these differences or barriers between people. Those type of thinking or dispositions that don’t like to know one another and develop a relationship with one another that’s a problem. And also an issue that must be addressed is those two groups of Muslims that are part of the problem. They must understand the biography or the life or conduct of their Prophet so that they can be good neighbours to those with whom they live and also represent His message well. And also the second group. I mentioned two groups, the group that misunderstood the religion and also the group that perhaps understood but was transgressing. And, this latter group is perhaps affected by some of those with whom they keep company or some of the information and news that is circulated about Islam. And, I see as an important obligation that we overcome these barriers through co-operation and interacting with each other, developing a mutual understanding because there are going to be affairs that are of common concern from the point of view that everyone here is living in one nation together.

Question: You’ve been to many western nations which is why I’m interested in talking to you on this. In some countries there’s extreme tension in Europe in particular often against Muslims. There’s suspicion in many of these countries, it’s not so strong in Australia or I’m asking your view. Is it as difficult in Australia as in perhaps Europe and I know you’ve travelled extensively in America?

Answer: There’s always some amount of prejudice particularly in that which occurs in the media. And sometimes there’s a focus on individuals that are taken as an example of the religious group that they represent. However, in fact they are not examples of that because of what is spread in the media they may ignore or focus on certain areas rather than others. And based on what is circulated about some events or some of what is circulated in the media we may say that the situation here in Australia/the conflict is less than it is in some European nations. And a specific example might be being searched in airports. And In some western nations one may find that if one had the appearance of being Muslim, just because of that for that mere fact one would have a relatively intense search at checkpoints and we found that here in Australia to be less. Mark Davis – Have you been searched here in Australia? I just mentioned that because I saw there was a difference so when I go through the device that everyone goes through and they find that there’s nothing on me, they leave me alone. In some countries I go through the device and it shows there is nothing and they still do a very intense search.

Question: This must be a difficult time for you to be outside of Yemen. Do you wish you were there at the moment?

Answer: What’s hard for is to see blood being spilled and also the harm befalling the people there so it’s difficult for us to see this is Yemen and other places. As for where we happen to be at this time, we organised these trips prior to the problems that problem rise in Yemen so the day that we travelled happened to be after these events began but we are on communication with family and friends on a daily basis. So what’s difficult for us again is seeing blood being spilled or the honour of people being transgressed and harmed and difficulty coming to the people.

Question: Well in that situation, what is the role of a religious leader in a political crisis like that? What is the function?

Answer: There was a statement that the Prophet (peace be upon him) be made in a certain circumstance where there is a Jewish man that treated him harshly and one of his companions who was known for being particularly protective whose name was Umar bin al-Khattab. He responded to this behaviour so the Prophet made this statement in this given circumstance. The Prophet Muhammad borrowed something from him and he promised to repay it on a certain date. 3 days before this debt was due, he entered the Prophet’s mosque and insulted him and also pulled his garment so severely that it reddened his neck. And he said, “Give me the money that you owe me O Tribe Bani Hashim.” This was the Prophet’s tribe. He said, “You are untrustworthy.”Umar bin al-Khattab again his protective companion stood up said, “Will you allow me to chop this man’s neck when he behaved this way in your mosque?” Meaning with a sword. So he said a word, made a statement that is the responsibility of people of religious learning in the likes of these problems so that we seek correctly. So he said, “He and I were of greater need of other than this from you.” He said, “Tell him to seek his rights in a good manner and tell me to fulfil his rights in a good way and also you should know that the debt isn’t due for three more days. However give him what I owe him and twenty more because you terrified him.” So he gave him what was due and an increase and the one who threatened him said God’s Messenger told me to do so. He said I only did this to test whether he was a Prophet or not and I knew, I had studied his description in the Torah and he said, “ However there is one quality of his forbearance is clemency and also intense ignorance which only increased him in forbearance and today I tested and found these two qualities in him.” So he went and said, “I’m going to embrace Islam and give half my wealth in charity.” We say that the religious scholars, the responsibility is to command those who are seeking their rights to do so in a good manner and those who are in a position to fulfil their rights to do so also in a good manner. And we also remind them very emphatically of the inviolability of the sacredness of blood as well as honour and also wealth. And there’s no excuse to transgress these even in protest one may not transgress these.

Question: I promised you I wouldn’t get too political but I am very interested in Yemen. The opposition is likely to form a government. It’s largely an Islamic party. What sort of government would it be? What sort of a government would you like it to be?

Answer: What concerns us from the adherence of Islam is that they understand the reality or the truth about Islam. And they don’t behave except in a matter that is in conformity to its values and virtues that it commands. So under circumstances is it permissible for the rights of anyone to be transgressed whether that be in the name of religion or not in the name of religion? So if something is based on justice, equity and giving everyone their rights then this is acceptable. Something that’s based on a desire to vent one’s anger, to take revenge or to transgress anyone’s rights this is not acceptable.

Question:  Well do you see a role for or would you encourage the creation of an Islamic state in Yemen? Islamic Republic.

Answer: If we return and observe the reality of the circumstance we find that the majority of the people or the general population in Yemen are Muslims. So we view this as religion of the entire population. And also we will see the problem would be due to a lack of good application of the religion or misunderstanding. If you were to ask deeply/ask us deep political questions you’ll only find that we’ll go deeper into the religion to bring forth answers because everyone has their speciality/specialisation.

 Question:  But across all of these North-African, Middle-Eastern nations at the moment. There is concern that after these tyrannical governments collapse then possibly equally tyrannical religious orthodox government will take their place.

Answer: Based on our understanding of the religion the issue or problem is either in a misapplication of the religion or would be because the religion cannot condone oppression. So those again who have a connection to the religion in the name of religion might behave in a way which is tyrannical or somehow transgresses rights. However, this cannot be condoned by the religion itself or would not be condoned by the religion itself. And you heard in what we said earlier the example of the type of treatment that the religion encourages even with those who are making war on an individual. So then again the problem cannot be with the religion itself and as we’ve explained earlier and as we’ve understood or inherited literally the understanding of this religion by chains of transmission back to the early sources, the Prophet and those who succeeded him. The religion only instructs one to treat the person who mistreats one well much less than those who do not. So if there were any type of transgression that would be based on a misunderstanding or a misapplication of the religion by some of its adherence.

Question:  One very disturbing image that many of us saw was the women, the opposition women that attacked the anti government rallies and they were attacked by members of the opposition. Did that concern you? There were women marching with men who were attacked physically by the opposition for daring to march with the men in Yemen.

Answer:  My perception of it was that there were women who came out both in the group that were the opposition to the government as well as the pro government demonstrators and each of the two sides was defending itself. Praise be to God it hasn’t reached me or I didn’t hear that any women were killed. However a large number of or seventy men were killed in those protests.

Audience Questions

Question: I’m interest to know from your connections and people that you know and the political realms in the Middle East, what the view is towards the efforts in Palestine to build institutions by our solemn (Missing word) with the eventual goal of getting recognition for Palestine as a state recognised by the United Nations.

Answer: Some of the details of your question, we’re not aware of all of it. However in general all peace that is based on justice and fairness is a peace that must occur. However what’s called is a peace if it’s based on transgression against others and oppression then it should not be accepted or called peace.

Question: In relation to your opinion on the transgression of human rights. What’s your opinion on the Prophet Muhammad marrying Aisha, a girl of aged eight or nine?

Answer: As for that which pertains to human rights or what is called human rights, no-one knew the way to treat or show rights, fulfil the rights of humans like the best of humans did and the best of humans were God’s Messengers. As for that which relates to marriage in the Sacred Law of Islam, it prohibits a man from being married to a woman who her physical makeup does not endure and cannot withstand marriage so for instance his marriage is not permissible for a man to marry a woman who due to her physical stature or her young age cannot endure the marital relationship. And, beyond this ability to handle the marital relationship similarly a man cannot marry a woman except with her satisfaction as well as with the satisfaction of her parents. As for the specific case that you’re referring to it’s rare in human history to find a marriage in which there was there was the complete happiness that existed in the marriage between the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and Lady Aisha (May Allah be well pleased with her). She lived in a high station and was honoured and was of a level that was or the life that she lived was a level of above typically the way humans live. She was extremely happy and also honoured.  “I asked him what he just said was very eloquent and due to the sensitivity of the topic I didn’t want to miss details “(Shaykh AbdulKarim Yahya). I don’t think I could articulate to you the extent of happiness that she had with the marriage as did her father and mother as well as her family. And also she occupied a very lofty station in knowledge and she became one of the primary points of difference in legal question for the general body of the Prophetic Companions as well as the second generation that followed them. The Prophet (peace be upon him) marrying her had a number of points of view and most of the Prophet’s life he was only married to Lady Khadija (May Allah be pleased with her) and all of the women he married after Khadija none of them was a virgin except Lady Aisha. We’ll discuss it. And most of them had children who he maintained (peace be upon him). You should know there are aspects to the question that one can’t discuss without delving into it deeply and also ascertaining the veracity of aspects of the question from those who have deep knowledge in the question. If only one of our ladies of our time found the comfort and happiness and the spiritual tranquillity. If only the women of our time found tenth of these qualities that Aisha found. And also because you’re a lady we discussed this question related to Lady Aisha with you for a long period of time.

Question: My question relates to the madhabs and what I mean is, I meet a lot of people who say to me that I don’t follow any madhab for example Hanafi or Shafi, Maliki. And I was wondering how important is it to stick to one madhab rather than say take ideas from different madhabs where I meet people who are taking different ideas from different madhabs and they are saying that that’s the way I do it. Is it important to stick with one madhab?

Answer:  It’s important to understand that these schools of law that are based on correct understanding of the fundamental text, they are basically a broad interpretation of the revealed message and they present two people an interpretation in which there is a certain amount of latitude. So these are correct understandings of possible meanings in the message that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) conveyed. And so that the affairs of a Muslim are organised they should follow generally one of the Imams however when there is a need they may follow another and there shouldn’t be any fanaticism or disagreement between the schools in that regard. And the reason why the person should adhere to following one Imam is that their mere caprice or their desires don’t affect their religious decisions generally. However, when there is a need or circumstance that dictates one following any ruling that was valid that was understood from the Revelation in that given circumstance that’s fine and there’s no problem in doing so. Any school that encourages its follower to have hatred of others or a fanatical adherence to the opinions of that school then that in the view of those of true learning is not a correct school

Question: Our court houses are filling with a lot of our Muslim brother and a lot of domestic violence cases. I am asking this as a concerned Muslim. What is your understanding of the correct interpretation of the verse in the Qur’an about the so called beating of the wife? This is the yardstick that Islam is being measured by today.

Answer: May Allah bless you and increase you in knowledge and also intelligence. In the verse the word you indicated or the part of this verse that you indicated is part of a complete Qur’anic verse and it was revealed in the context of remedying a specific circumstance. And also in the various phases of remedying this problem the situation is limited by the Prophetic Sunnah and also specific circumstances which must exist. The verse begins ‘And those who you fear that they will transgress marital rights’ so this meant that there was a fear of them transgressing the rights of someone else and acting in a manner which was capricious and was harmful to the rights of another person. And this can only be the case if this is occurring in difficult circumstances or despite the fact that it is the situation was as described. Allah begins this remedy by saying so admonish them or give them a reminder. So what this means is to give religious counsel and this admonish cannot be given from someone who himself has not taken a reminder and behaved correctly. And what this means is that he reminds the wife to fear God if she has transgressed or refused to discharge the rights of another person so if he himself has oppressed her or transgressed her rights then he is not a position to give religious counsel because a person who gives this counsel must have followed the values that he is advising. And so someone couldn’t take this first step except the one who himself was adhering to this principle much less takes steps that follow. So if this did not stir and affect her feelings and impact her fitrah which is the nature of the human being body by this reminder that was given and an internal solution is used which is that the husband separates from the wife or avoids sleeping in company of the wife and then to also again to have an impact on her feelings and her psychology. And then if these two levels or these two phases were not of benefit there is a permissibility or some form of physical discipline is mentioned however it’s stipulated with rules. And this is the same type of physical discipline that a woman would use with her son or her daughter if this was necessary. There are two aspects here that we must be very delicate in our observation of them. First of all that, use of physical discipline is never the beginning. First of all, this must follow after other means not bringing of benefit.  Secondly that this physical discipline it can’t be violent and may not be harsh and may not bring about any physical harm. So the stipulations from the Sacred Law that surround this dictate that you would call this striking however avoiding the term beating that you do call it striking however in fact it’s not something that would in fact be termed that based on the stipulations which relate to it. We’re sure of this based on what’s mentioned in terms of limiting and governing the number of times and also the method and also the place. As for the number they differ as to whether it’s three or less or whether it’s permissible to reach the number of ten. As for the manner or the how it can neither break anything nor cause any wound. And the example that the jurist would use for what is permissible they would say like this. (Slowly hitting the siwak on the palm is what Habib Umar and Shaykh AbdulKarim Yahya did). In that there’s nothing except something that would move someone’s feelings and stir them in a way that might cause them to return to correct conduct. As for something that would break any bones of a person or wound a person that’s not lawful between the spouses, it’s not lawful between parents and their children nor is it lawful between instructors and their pupils in any circumstance in the Sacred Law. And the third point again of the criterion is in the place in which someone could be disciplined and also in this manner and the limited number it’s not permissible that it be in the face and that is out of respect for the face of the human being and it can’t be in a place of the body that is sensitive and very sensitive to pain so however striking for instance and the jurists view of the specific word of the stick that he is holding (siwak) in the hand and so if we’re going to discuss the specific legal question we have to know its depth and also the various aspects that surround it and also its legal ruling in the Sacred Law. As for what you mention that could be called violence or domestic violence that’s not viewed favourably in Islam in any circumstances. Rather the foundation of marital relations in Islam is the statement of the Prophet Muhammad, “The Best of you is the Best of you to his spouse and I am the best to my wife.”  Along with this the perfect example is in Allah’s Messenger. He would never physically discipline a servant nor a child nor a wife unless he was fighting for the cause of God and that was in defence of those who attacked him or confronted him. Once our Lady Aisha herself became angry and due to her young age also because she had become accustomed to being spoilt by her family and also by the Prophet she got angry with the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa salam). So when this conflict occurred he said, “Look for someone that can judge this case between us.” So she chose her father and he accepted this (salallahu alayhi wa salam). And because he knew the wisdom of her father as well as his faith so he called her father to his house and he came. And he said, “Something occurred between Aisha and I want you to look into it and come to a decision.” So he (The Prophet) said to Lady Aisha, “Shall you speak first or shall I?” So she said, “You speak first but only speak the truth.” So when she said this, her father got angry. And he stood up and was going to smack her so the Prophet stood up and grabbed him. So then he was the one who was defending Aisha and that was the end of it.

Question:  I’d like to ask, who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I heading? And what answers does Islam have for these questions?

Answer: First of all, you’re a human being whose been created and a creature. You existed through the omnipotence of a Divine Creator so that He would honour you with the divine vicegerency or being a representative of God if you obeyed Him. You will not go and return except to the One who created you and brought you into existence. And Allah said, the translation of the meaning of His saying is, “As we began the first creation we will bring it back.” And the person’s comprehending from where he came and what is his responsibility and where will he go this is really the purpose of life and a person should reflect on this with patience and tranquillity. And the Power which brought the human being to great existence could not have taken place of idol purpose and it could not leave him in the world to conduct himself however he wished and then not have any repercussions if he was good or if he was bad, if he was just or if he was oppressive. God says, “Indeed to us is there return and upon us taking them to account.” Then we ask the One who originated us to enable us to be good during this life of ours and come back to Him in a good way.

Question: My question touches upon the issue of the divide in the community that Mark Davis touched upon earlier. I mean just to know what the Shaykh thinks of the common grounds that the communities can come together and build bridges. What are there? Is it points of value or activity or what is it that common ground can be established on?

Answer: One of these common grounds is that which relates to their safety and security and also the stability of the lives of all the people of the society and that is through their living together as neighbours and also their coexistence and they can also cooperate in matters such as these when in the places that they meet such as whether the workplace or places of education. And also things that are of profit to everyone. And also thing that relate to the benefits or affairs of the children of the society and the young people. And also thing that are in the general public interest that aren’t specific to any given individual. And also there can be cooperation in areas related to knowledge and thought in arriving at things that are of general interest.

Question: The questioner asked related to the people of Libya about Libya either those people in the country which was currently being surrounded or those who were doing so or even to the leadership of that  country mentioning specifically Gaddafi.

Answer: You heard the bases of the message that we would give which is the command for those seeking the rights to do so in a good manner and what was known from the general population is that they sought their rights through peaceful demonstrations and that is a type of good seeking of the fulfilment of one’s rights. And also none of the things that are in public institutions should be harmed physically. And also those that have taken up arms or those that are armed or have military strength, they must be ware and know that wrongfully spilling the blood of one individual is less significant with God than the whole universe vanishing. And then anyone who is able to give any medical help or humanitarian aid to anyone that is an obligation and there should be no hesitation in that regard. And we must seek aid from God; the Real, Blessed and Exalted is He and return to Him well that He will elevate this great difficulty. We ask Him to preserve the lives of our brothers in Libya as well as Yemen as well as Syria and as well as the remainder of the earth and that He quickly alleviate these hardships and that He correct the entire circumstance that He bring it to a pious end and correct things.

Habib Umar continues from Mark Davis’ answer and says rather we strongly encourage opening up the various places of Muslims and also visiting of homes and so forth. There was a wise military command and he was telling a story of how he solved a problem between two of his soldiers and he had a large window in his office. So he called these two officers of his and told one to clean the window from one side and the other to clean the other. So when they faced each other physically during this period of time that they were cleaning the two sides of this glass this solved their problem and removed the barrier to some degree. And when they were distant from each other, each of them bore a grudge against the person and his dislike increased so when they met each other and sat with each other again these barriers were removed.

Question: What was the first ayah of the Holy Qur’an that you can remember hearing that took your heart and moved it?

Answer:  it was from the Opening of the Book when we first received it and learned it and it opened broad horizons for us, understanding the purpose of our creation and also how to interact with the Creator.

Any mistakes, errors or misinterpretations of words are from me. Please correct me when you spot any mistakes.