Media Uproar Following Egyptian Mufti's Fatwa on Companions of the Prophet Muhammad Being Blessed by Drinking His Urine
By: L. Azuri
An uproar in the Egyptian media followed the recent publication of a book by Egyptian Mufti Dr. Ali Gum'a in which he claimed that the companions of the Prophet Muhammad would drink his urine to be blessed.
The fatwa provoked strong objections on the part of the Egyptian religious establishment. Leading Al-Azhar and Religious Endowments Ministry officials stated that Gum'a's conclusions were mistaken even though they were based on Islamic sources. They added that his claims were inappropriate for the modern era and that they only caused embarrassment in the Egyptian street and did damage to the Prophet and to Islam.
There was an outcry against the fatwa from the Egyptian public, and a complaint was filed against Gum'a demanding that he stand trial for harming Islam, the Prophet, and the Companions of the Prophet. Columnists in the Egyptian papers ridiculed the fatwa and protested against it: While some argued that there was no point in raising such issues from the past that had nothing to do with public life today, others stated that the fatwa was for Islamic scholars, not for the masses, and still others said that it was a tool for those who sought to harm Islam. Some also called on Gum'a to resign from his post as the Mufti of Egypt.
While according to some reports Gum'a had apologized for the fatwa, in actuality he clarified that he had not apologized, but had only decided to remove the book from the market and to refrain from appearing in the media until the uproar subsided.
The following are a summary of the fatwa and excerpts from responses to it in the Egyptian press:
Egyptian Mufti: The Companions of the Prophet Blessed Themselves with His Urine, Sweat and Saliva
In his book Religion and Life Modern Everyday Fatwas, Egyptian Mufti Dr. Ali Gum'a wrote that the companions of the Prophet Muhammad would bless themselves by drinking his urine, and described an incident of urine-drinking from a hadith: "Umm Ayman drank the urine of the Prophet, and the prophet told her: 'This stomach will not be dragged through the fire of Hell, because it contains something of our Lord the Messenger of Allah...'(1)
"This blessing," Al-Gum'a added, "[can also] be done with the honorable saliva, sweat, hair, urine or blood of the Prophet. This is because anyone who knows the love of the Messenger of Allah is not repulsed [by these]; just as a mother is not repulsed by the feces of her son, this is even more so [in the case of] our Lord the Messenger of Allah, whom we love more than our fathers, sons, and wives. Anyone who was or is repulsed by the Messenger of Allah must recant his faith."(2)
Following the ensuing uproar, Gum'a came to the defense of his fatwa, saying: "The entire body of the Prophet, whether exposed or hidden, is pure, and there is nothing in it including his secretions that [can] repulse anyone. His sweat smelled better than perfume. Umm Haram would collect this sweat and distribute it to the people of Al-Madina."(3)
Dr. Gum'a added: "The hadith of Suhail bin Omar at Al-Hudaybiya says: 'Oh Lord, I was with Kisra [the ruler of Persia] and with Kaisar [the ruler of Byzantium] and I saw no instance in which the leader was glorified like the Companions of the Prophet glorified Muhammad. The second Muhammad spat, one of them would immediately hasten [to grab his saliva] and smear it upon his face.' Hence, the ulema, including Ibn Hajar Al-Askalani, Al-Baihaqi, Al-Daraqutni and Al-Haythami, determined that the Prophet's entire body was pure."(4)
Several weeks later, the Egyptian press reported that Gum'a had apologized following objections to the fatwa voiced by the Academy of Islamic Research at Al-Azhar, and that he had promised, at the request of Al-Azhar Sheikh Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, to have all copies of the book containing the fatwa taken off the market.(5) Later on, he explained that he had not apologized, but had only decided to refrain from appearing on the satellite television channels until the uproar died down.(6)
Egyptian Religious Endowments Minister: Gum'a's Statements that the Prophet was Not Like Ordinary Humans are Against the Koran
Egyptian Religious Endowments Minister Dr. Muhammad Hamdi Zaqzouq was extremely critical of Gum'a's statements. He said: "Fatwas such as these do damage to Islam, serve its enemies, and push the people towards backwardness and ignorance."(7) Writing in the government daily Al-Ahram, Zaqzouq explained further: "Tragic fatwas such as [Gum'a's] have harmed Islam and the Prophet more than the Danish cartoons did, because this time the harm comes not from Islam's enemies but from some Muslim ulema who present their opinions on Islam to the public...
"The books of the hadiths contain both wheat and chaff. They contain the acceptable and the unacceptable, and it is not for the good of Islam or the Muslims if we repeatedly disseminate the pollution that they contain... Those of us who speak in the name of the religion must understand that... the world has changed, circumstances have changed, and it is no longer acceptable or logical to fill the heads of the Muslim masses with the defiled sayings, sick thoughts, and groundless suppositions whose correctness is completely unproven...
"The publicity about [the Companions of the Prophet] blessing themselves by drinking the urine of the Prophet and spreading [his] saliva upon their faces does grave damage to the Prophet. No one disputes that the Prophet's was the supreme role-model in his traits and in his behavior... but Allah wanted him to be a [mortal] man, and for him to remain a mortal living among humans, to eat and drink like them, to marry and beget sons and daughters...
"Thus, we do great damage to this preeminent figure if we remove him from the class of humans and [say]... that laws applying to everyone else do not apply to [his] corporeal secretions, and that it is possible to bless oneself with them and to make use of them to the point of drinking his urine and smearing his saliva upon the face...
"These hadiths cannot be accepted, either logically or from the point of view of shari'a. They cannot possibly be reliable, even if they were handed down in books and were related by those who handed down the hadiths. This is for the simple reason that [Gum'a's fatwa] goes against logic... The Koran stressed that the Prophet is human like us when it commanded: 'Say: I am only a mortal like you... [Koran 18: 110].'"(8)
Al-Azhar: The Mufti's Analogy Was Mistaken
The Academy for Islamic Research, headed by Al-Azhar Sheikh Dr. Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, expressed vehement objections to the fatwa issued by Gum'a, who is an academy member. According to the academy, the fatwa was not appropriate for today's circumstances. It further determined that the tradition on which the fatwa was based did not actually recommend drinking the Prophet's urine, but was a retroactive acceptance of an instance in which the Prophet's urine was unintentionally imbibed.(9)
In an article in the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram, academy member Dr. Abd Al-Mu'ti Bayoumi protested against Gum'a's fatwa: "[Gum'a's] defective conclusions clearly stem from his reliance on an isolated incident of unintentional [drinking of the Prophet's urine]. Qadhi Ayadh [bin Moussa Al-Yahsabi, editor of a collection of hadiths, d. 1149 CE] said in his book... that Umm Ayman was blessed when she drank [the Prophet's urine by accident] without knowing that it was urine, and that of the Messenger of Allah. She had absolutely no intention of blessing herself [with it].
"Qadhi Ayadh said that Umm Ayman was the Prophet's servant, and that she had said: 'The Prophet had a wooden basin under his bed, for urinating in during the night. One night he urinated in it, and then [in the morning he] examined it and found nothing in it. He asked Baraka [Umm Ayman about] it, and she said, 'I woke up thirsty, and drank it unknowingly.' From this it must be concluded that... she did not intend to drink the urine of the Prophet in order to bless herself with it. It appears that the author of this fatwa [i.e. Gum'a] did not read this source, which he should have read..."(10)
Gum'a Should Be Tried for Harming Islam, the Prophet, and the Companions of the Prophet
Attorney Nabih Al-Wahsh filed a complaint against Gum'a with the prosecutor general, claiming that Gum'a's fatwa threatened social stability and also reviled and defamed the Prophet and his companions.(11) Al-Wahsh added that Gum'a's peculiar fatwa provided Islam's enemies with a golden opportunity to condemn Islam and its Prophet, and called for Gum'a to be tried on charges of reviling Islam and the companions of the Prophet, just as the state hastened to try anyone who defamed the Egyptian president. Al-Wahsh stressed that this fatwa was especially dangerous because it was issued by one of the ulema of Al-Azhar, which is the world's largest Sunni Muslim religious institution, and the public consequently believes every fatwa that comes out of it.(12)
Gum'a Should Resign From His Post
In his regular column in the government daily Al-Masaa, Muhsen Muhammad, former editor of the daily Al-Gumhouriyya, wrote that "the time has come for the honorable Mufti of Egypt Dr. Ali Gum'a to leave his post," either willingly or as a consequence of being discharged by the Egyptian Justice Ministry or by Al-Azhar.(13)
Columnists: The Fatwa is Useless Except to Islam's Enemies
Al-Ahram editor Osama Saraya argued that Gum'a's fatwa was not relevant to Muslim life today, even if it did draw on religious sources: "The books of religious law contain many questions and issues, some of which have descended into oblivion. They have nothing to do with the reality of the lives of Muslims today, and they have become theoretical, philosophical or polemic [issues]. In the past, clerics said that one does not have to reveal everything one knows. The accepted opinion is that that many issues that preoccupied the Muslim clerics in the past are no longer worthy of discussion either because they belong to the ancient period and are too loosely linked to public life, or because they are likely to cause confusion and public pandemonium. This is a fact well-known to students of religious law.
"However, Al-Azhar cleric [Dr. Gum'a] has burrowed into the distant past in order to extract for us a fatwa that he wishes to publicize outside its context, and with a different meaning than [it originally had]..."(14)
Gala Gaballah, columnist for the government daily Al-Gumhouriyya, wrote: "Whether the story of Umm Ayman is true or not, it should not be retold by the mufti. [If asked about it], the mufti should respond: 'What use is it to you to know this? The Prophet, with his honorable past, his honorable blood and his honorable urine, is no longer among us. There is no place at all for talking about such pointless matters, which are likely to harm people and start talk that will damage Islam and the religion...'
"Our honorable [mufti] knows better than we that such fatwas [are meant] for the elite and not the masses because there are those who lie in wait for Islam and try to harm our religion. These peculiar fatwas will... be used as a stick with which to beat Islam, or as a weapon with which to harm it, to try to destroy it, or at the very least to weaken it at a time when the Islamic nation is [already] extremely weak..."(15)
Al-Gumhouriyya deputy editor Adel Al-Maghawiri wrote: "It appears that the honorable [mufti] found no [other] topic relevant to the [current] situation of Islam and the Muslims on which to issue a fatwa, and decided to issue this strange and provocative fatwa. I imagine that even the West which draws vulgar pictures of Jesus and lives in an atmosphere of freedom and openness would never accept this depiction [of the Prophet], which will [only] be exploited as new and fertile material for harming Him. Afterwards we will weep, rise up, and cry out over the rudeness of the Western press and its harm to the religion and the Prophet, when it is we [ourselves] who provide it with material by means of such fatwas..."(16)
Al-Akhbar columnist Ahmad Ragab mocked Gum'a's statements, writing: "[With regard] to the fatwa of the honorable mufti... How is it possible to actually drink urine when this need is always met in a secluded place specially designated for this [purpose]? Did the Companions of the Prophet stand around and wait [there], with containers in their hands? Can any reasonable person imagine that the Prophet [actually] let them collect his urine?"(17)
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