How To Understand Prophetic Speech

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Jonathan Brown

Channel: Jonathan Brown

Topics: Hadith

Episode Notes

He (Muhammad) does not speak of his own desire. It is no less than an Inspiration sent down to him. (Surah Najm, 53:3-4)

The Quran repeatedly commands every Muslim to follow the Prophetic example. The Traditions (Ahadith) of the Prophet, often more than the Quran, govern Muslim life in their ability to articulate practice of the faith. The Hadith provide the information to follow the example of the Prophet as a spouse, a parent, a neighbour, a leader, and when needed, a warrior. In sum, Muhammad as the paragon of perfection, as enshrined in Islamic doctrine and spirituality, hinges on his words. How are Muslims to understand not only his words but the spirit from which they emanate? More directly, what are the practices in our emulation that lead us to follow his example and not speak from mere desire? How do we infuse our spirits and words with those inspired by the scripture and its revealer?

Episode Transcript

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all

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being

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said I want to come

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out of the dam and shutdown the regime is similar Amanda Rahim al hamdu Lillah wa Salatu was Salam ala Silla, mostly. And while earlier he was so happy, I mean,

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first of all, thanks very much for inviting me. It's always an honor and a privilege to be able to speak to a Muslim community like this.

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And, but I'm still a professor and I have to start with a history story from history because I'm a historian, I find this story to be very interesting and useful. That anyone ever heard of the famous Mughal Emperor Akbar? Yes, a lot of South Asians in the room, I'm sure you've heard of him. So Akbar had this Emperor Akbar had this interfaith salon he would hold. And in one of the discussions he had,

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the issue of marriage came up. And he asked, how many wives can a Muslim man have? And the scholars who presents I do, they can have four. So Akbar had way more than four wives. He had way, way more than four eyes. Apparently, this had escaped his attention until this moment, when he realized that he had way more wives and he was allowed to have so he

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guests scholars, you know what he should do? And one person who wasn't a scholar, but he said, You know, I've called the Quran says,

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if you are afraid that you will not be just to the orphans,

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and komati like I'm in an ISA, so marriage married those mithuna with ratha robot, marry what seems goodly to you from amongst the women. Two and three and four.

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So one, and two and three and four is nine. So this is nine women, so maybe you're okay. And

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Akbar asks other scholars, and no one would actually give him a fatwa to this, but he was the ruler so we just did whatever he wanted. Anyway.

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There are two points I want to make with a story. One is that we read the Quran, not on our own, but we read the Quran through the Sunnah of the Prophet lays lots of them. So the Quran says, marry what seems good to you from amongst the women, two and three and four. Now, that was always understood not as two plus three plus four, but two, or three or four, one or two or three or four. And we know that from the Sunnah of the Prophet lays out Salaam, because we know that the Prophet

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when one of the chiefs of the city of tarrif, after time surrendered to the Muslims, one of the Chiefs name is named Kayla and had been Salama. And he was married to 10 women. And when he became Muslim, he was forced to choose which four he was going to keep us as wives and the rest he had to divorce. So we know that Muslims who had more than four wives were not allowed to keep one for wives, except the Prophet Lisa Lamb who was a special exception.

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So we know that read it, the understanding of this verse, this Quranic verse, from the son of the Prophet through the son of the Prophet and the son of the Prophet is the lens through which we read the Quran and understand his message. The second point is a little bit slightly off topic, but I think it's very important to keep in mind, it's always important Keep in mind, it's especially important to keep in mind these day in these days, namely, that it's very hard to to avoid the political world. It's very hard to avoid the political world, and the forces of power and politics will always try and make use of Islamic ideas and Hadith of the Prophet, especially. So you can see

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here Akhbar was just looking for a way to justify what he wanted to do.

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The Sunnah is the son of the Prophet Alayhi Salaam is as one of one great scholar set it's tough to be called mousumi unlucky tabula, it is an infallible application of the book of God. The Sunnah is the Quran explained by the prophet lays out Salaam. Its meaning clarified its details given and information added to it.

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The Sunnah is not the same as Hadeeth. The Sunnah is the precedence of the Prophet, his example, His teachings.

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And that can take the can be transmitted and understood in numerous ways. It can be understood through certain principles that can be understood through a method of problem solving, that his companions inherited, and that they then bequeathed to the next generation. And they bequeath to the next generation to the next generation, the next generation, and eventually becomes embodied in the schools of law and theology of Muslims. And it's an inherited all the way up into the present time by Muslim scholars.

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But what is the probably the most concrete way in which the Sunnah of the prophet is embodied? is in Hades in actual reports about things that the Prophet said, The Prophet did, were things that were done in his presence to which he did not object, anything done in his presence to which he did not object is understood to be allowed, otherwise, he would say something.

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Now,

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this is kind of a general talk, but I tried my best to really sum up what I think are important points for you. hadiths are just pieces of data. So heads are just pieces of data, it's very important to keep this in mind. Because the Sunnah is the overall teachings of the Prophet, to coherent, consistent teachings of the Prophet. Now, deeds are just reports about things that happen. And sometimes these reports are not representative of the profits, overall teachings, just like for example, if I come to class every day, that's my son, no. But if I miss class one day, because I'm sick, they can be a story, someone can say Professor brown didn't come to class today. But that's

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not my center. That's just that's a true report. But it doesn't represent what I generally do, or what I generally

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advocate. So sometimes these data points can actually be important rules. Some of these data points can be in important rules. So when the Prophet says, in the middle amount of vignette, deeds are returned by intentions, this is a very important principle the Prophet is giving us so they sell to them, when the Prophet says, Let's have malice antic, don't sell what you don't have, don't sell what you don't own. This is extremely important rule. This is a rule, that's the basis for much of Islamic buying and selling Islamic contracts, Islamic Finance, it's an extremely important point that comes from the prophets.

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a rule that he gives us, in his words, that's encapsulated in the Hadith. These data points can also give important exceptions to these rules. So the Prophet says, Don't sell what you don't have. But he gives exceptions to, for example, for farmers, who only get their their income their crop one or two, once or twice a year, they need to have some form of income, the rest of the year. So they can buy seeds and buy tools and feed their animals and their families. So the profit allows people to sell their promise the sale of their crop in advance in return for money beforehand. This is like a sale on credit. But it has to be that you have to know generally what your crop is generally how

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much it yields. So it can't be something totally,

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totally unknown. This is very important. This is how Muslims know that it's okay to buy and sell things on credit. This is an exception to that general rule that you can't sell what you don't have.

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Sometimes the profit these these data points that come in from the profit.

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Sometimes these data points can be extremely important, even though it's just one report. So for many, many years, during the early days of Islam, the Muslims were taught that they would have to do will do after they ate food that was cooked,

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cooked by fire.

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So if you ate let's say, you cooked meat and you ate it, you you couldn't pray without doing will do this was a broker will do. And then one day toward the end of his life, the prophet Dave says lamb ate a lamb shoulder, and they prayed without doing would do.

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And he didn't say Oh, that was a mistake. He didn't say that I forgot to do he didn't do and he ate meat.

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From that we know that at that point is no longer required for Muslims. So do we do after they eat meat is cooked by fire and then that indeed this this rule seems to be something that Muslims even know about today.

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One of the the most important job of Muslim scholars is and has always been to try and make sense of all these data points to take the message of the Quran, which is in and of itself, sometimes General, sometimes specific, sometimes literal, sometimes metaphoric. So they have to make sense of how the Quran relates to itself internally. Then they have to make sense of, of how the Quran should be understood through the Sunnah of the Prophet.

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They have to they have to find out the relationship between the

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Sunnah and the Quran and had to also find out the relationship between the different parts of the Sunnah itself. So which Hadith comes maybe overrules and other Hadith, which had ethers General, which has a specific which had, it gives you a rule, which had it gives you an exception to that rule. So this is the all has always been the job of Muslim scholars. And because it's a process of interpretation,

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there are always and there have always been differences of opinion. That's why always within Islamic thought, there's been a recognition of acceptable disagreement. First, you have the companions disagree with each other, then you have the early Muslim scholars just agreeing with each other at various times, you have even 10 nine or 10 different methods that exist, and then eventually in Sunni Islam, these are basically pared down to 474 methods by the 1200s of the Common Era. And in Shiite Islam, you have the umami or Joffrey School of Law and NZD. Islam, you have the Zaidi School of Law, you have the Abadi School of Law. So these are the these are all all Muslims. And they're

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all looking at the same sources. But they their interpretive conclusions are different, because they're all finding different relationships between parts of the sun, not between the Sun and the Koran.

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The other

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sorry, the other major challenge

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when Muslim scholars have dealt with Hadeeth, has been the question of authenticating the Saudis. Unlike the Quran, which was written down by various companions during the life of the Prophet, which was compiled two years after his death by the order of the Caleb abubaker, which was then recompile, again, under the reign of the killer fourth man, or De La Jolla, and Homer, and promulgated officially in 650. Around 650 is a common error, unlike the CRAN, which is written down very early. And there's only one version of the Quran there's only one text of the Quran, Heidi's are not written down formally.

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They're not written down formally for

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in any lasting way for about 150 years after the death of the Prophet. Muslims have been having their own collections of Huddy small collections, private collections, family collections that are passed down from generation to generation, but it's not written down in lasting form, until the mid 1700s, and even the late 1700s.

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So in that time period,

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there's a tremendous number of studies that are made up that are made up or mistakenly attributed to the Prophet. And one of the major task of Muslim scholars has been to sort out which had deeds are authentic, and which had deeds are unreliable.

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In order to understand this, we have to answer The answer the question of why Muslims would make heads up, and something I think a lot of Muslims find hard to believe, why would somebody how would somebody go in consciously attribute something they know is false to the prophet of God, if they believe in that Prophet? Well, first of all,

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a lot of during the early Islamic period, the number of Muslims who settled in the newly conquered lands was very small percentage of people, very small percentage of people. A lot of times people think that Muslims Go on, they conquer the Middle East, and then suddenly, the whole map is green, everybody's a Muslim. That's not true at all. Actually, Muslim for many, many centuries were minorities in in Iraq, in the year 800.

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Only 18% of Iraq was Muslim, the same year 800, in Andalusia, only 25% of the population was Muslim. Places like Egypt doesn't become majority Muslim, until the 1100s. And even in Egypt, today, you still have 10 15% of the population is Christian. So for many centuries, Muslims are a minority. And so lots of people are converted, you know, Muslims are small number of people, people who are converting are bringing their own ideas. And sometimes they don't know anything about the religion that they're embracing. So sometimes people bring their own cultural ideas, their own religious ideas. And they attribute these to the profit. Sometimes, and this is a major issue. There are

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different political agendas. So during the first 100 years of Islam, you have three different civil wars. Sorry, first 150 years, you have three three civil wars that Muslims fight against each other. And one person says, you know, the prophet said that it should be the case of another person says, oh, the prophet said that Malia was

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second only to Gabriel and being trusted with the words of God. So these

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You know, people making heads right making up heads right left and center to support their different political causes. Sometimes they would make up heads to support their, their theological causes their theological arguments.

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This is important to keep in mind today, because you can see, Heidi's being used for political reasons, all our political purposes all the time. I remember after the the coup against President Morsi, in Egypt in 2013, on Egyptian television, there were all these advertisements saying, you know, for the for the Egyptian Egyptian army, and there was one would cite this hadith that the Prophet lays out saddam said that the soldiers of misp of Egypt are highridge, not the best soldiers in the in the world, saying this is Hadeeth. This is attributed to the Prophet but it's an unreliable Hadith very, very unreliable Hadith. And it's made up by people who are partisans of

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Egypt.

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In fact, it's somewhat accurate Egyptian soldiers are very good at killing their own people, but they're not,

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you know, maybe good at actually fighting wars.

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People another major

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source of, of IDs that are mis attributed to the Prophet are not instances in which someone's intentionally

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intentionally lying about the profit, but rather, it's a mistake. And you can imagine this a lot of times if I said, for example, that

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so to the Model T, our, the woman's voice is louder. Has anyone ever heard this before? Yeah. Is that a hadith?

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Well, you guys are smarter than usual. But most people would say, Yeah, that's it. This is not a hadith. It's just some principle, and especially the Hanafi School of Law.

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But a lot of times it gets attributed to the Prophet. Sometimes, even in early, early texts, you'll see things that are companion opinions attributed to the Prophet, for example, not all Muslim, Luna has enough water and the light has enough. But the Muslim sea is good, is good in God's eyes as well. This is something that is a important principle, but it's not something the Prophet said later on. It's something that the companion Abdullah and Mr. Rude said, or you you'll see a legal principle like a dura to be hauled Mahabharat. necessity, allows the prohibited things and says that he makes prohibited things allowed.

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This is a lot of times you'll see attributed to the Prophet, but it's not a hadith. It's just a legal principle. So sometimes, especially the words of companions, the opinions of early Muslim scholars get pushed back to the Prophet accidentally. Because you can imagine Muslim scholars are sitting around, they're discussing things over and over again, they're throwing out ideas, and somebody mistakes, something that's a companion opinion, for something The Prophet said.

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So oftentimes, a lot of the Hadees that are uncovered as being unreliable by Muslim scholars are not intentional forgeries, they're not even malicious, a lot of them actually have very good meaning. They're just things that have accidentally been attributed to the Prophet.

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Finally, it's important to keep in mind that Muslim scholars

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treated different types of heads with different levels of scrutiny. So for classical Muslim scholars, and this is something we know all going all the way back to the early days of Islam.

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The studies that were most important to them dealt with things like prayer fasting contract as a cat marriage, divorce, clida, what we believe God, God, these were for them the core areas of religion, and these are these they were extremely strict with. That's why most of the time, when you hear people talking about Hadees, that are controversial. They don't involve things like prayer. They don't involve things like contracts, or as a cat. What do they involve? They involve things like what's going to happen at the end of the world? What happened at the beginning of the world? If you do this sin, What punishment will you get in Hellfire, if you do this good deed, what reward were

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you get in heaven? A lot of idiots, that, actually, and I've tried to do a study of this, almost all the deeds that are really controversial today has to do with things happening at the end of the world, things happening the beginning of the world, these are precisely the areas that Muslim scholars did not actually think were important topics. Because for them, something happens at the end of the world. First of all, it's not happening now. Second of all, what's the good about No, no, who cares? If something's gonna happen, and the world is gonna happen? Like the signs of the last of the Day of Judgment, I always get confused. Why is everyone so interested in this? Either the Day of

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Judgment is happening, or it's not, it shouldn't affect our behavior, right? or What happened? How is the world created? This isn't really this doesn't affect how we live as Muslims or what we believe about God. So these were the these were areas of religion that Muslim scholars didn't consider to be as important as the core areas of the Sharia. And this is very ironic.

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Because today, if you went out on the street in America and just ask people, you know, tell me something about religion, they'd say, oh, Adam and Eve, it's the end of the world. But if you ask them well, what about, you know, contracts? What about marriage and divorce. They're like, that's not religion. That's we have Laufer that. So in the modern period, the situation is exactly the opposite, as it was for the early Muslims, and in fact, for Muslims throughout Islamic civilization up until the modern period. Now, the things that were marginal, in terms of religion for Muslim scholars, these are now the things that people actually care about. And this is in at least in the

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United States.

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So you often you've probably heard this hadith that the Prophet supposedly said to Kaduna, who'd had a phobia head home, Roger, way, akula, Roger, young man, how they who they were if to do that, the prophet said, you Muslims will fight the Jews until such a time that Jews will hide behind rocks and trees. And until one rock will say, all Muslim, there's a Jew behind me. So come kill him. So this hadith is about the end of the world.

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And even if you look at the way Muslim scholars talk about this idea, they say, we don't really know what it means. Its meaning is unclear. Because this wasn't their primary concern. They didn't, they didn't. First of all, they didn't treat these idiots very skeptically. So they didn't

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analyze them and try and authenticate them in the same way that they dealt with the deeds on prayer on fasting on the cat.

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And second, they didn't, they weren't even sure what they meant. So a lot of times the Hadees that we come across today that are controversial, like that had teeth I just gave you about, you know, Jews hiding behind rocks at the end of the end of time. These are actually not representative of the Hadith that Muslim scholars really tried very hard to authenticate.

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The lesson that I would like to impart to you, or the, if you can take maybe one idea away from my lecture, is that the Sunnah of the prophet is the communal inheritance of the Muslims, the son of the Prophet is the communal inheritance of the Muslims, no one person, no one group can hijack this another prophet of Islam. And this has always been the case, the sooner the Prophet is always safeguarded by the Muslim community as a whole, as a whole. So when somebody comes and misrepresents us, or none of the Prophet, Muslim scholars will speak out against that,

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when one group claims to be acting in the name of the Prophet, and is lying, or is pursuing their own agenda, or is trying to enrich themselves, or do whatever, Muslim scholars will identify that, and they have always done that. And they continue to do that until this day.

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Part of that, the thing you have to keep in mind is, remember that IDs, individual IDs are just points of data. They're just points of data. And a lot of times I find Muslims, they'll come across Hadith, and they really get concerned because they don't want it, they don't know what it means. It seems to mean something that they don't like, or something that seems morally objectionable, or religiously objectionable to them. And this causes them great concern. What I always tell them is, this is just one piece of information. First of all, it might not be authentic, so don't even don't even consider reacting to this Hadeeth until you at least know whether Muslim scholars have

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authenticated it. Second of all, does this hadith deal with something like what's happening at the end of the world or the beginning of the world, because even if that Hadith has been authenticated, it's not something that Muslim scholars actually tried very hard to authenticate, it's sort of like a second level of seriousness, they didn't spend that much time dealing with those heads. So even if it's something that you find it comes from a reliable source, it might not actually be something that that source considered very seriously. Third,

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remember, even if added is something that the Prophet said, it always fits into a bigger system. It's always one piece of information that fits into a bigger system, and until you understand its relationship to that system, and what that system says, What Muslim scholars as a whole have set on an issue is no point in reacting. There's no point in reacting. So save yourself the emotional trauma, save yourself the anger.

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And, and always try to remember that any headache you come across is always part of a bigger system of law and theology. Finally, if you find people or you hear people you hear about people who are hijacking the son of the Prophet, those people do not represent the prophets teachings. And Muslim scholars are and will prevent that. Hi

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jacking from being successful and those people will not ever represent the religion. And the Jenner generation from now a century from now God willing, they'll just be blips blips on the history on the radar screen of history,

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swallowed up in time and ignored, while the swaddle album, The Great continuity, the Muslim tradition goes on. There's Aquila hair. Thank you very much.