Inauthenticity of ‘Ilm Al-Huroof wal-Awfaaq
Fatwa No: 351076

  • Fatwa Date:11-9-2017 - Thul-Hijjah 20, 1438
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Question

Assalaamu alaykum. May Allah reward you for your work. My question is: what is the authencity of ‘Ilm Al-Huroof wal-Awfaaq in Islam? I heard a scholar say that Ibn ‘Abbaas deduced the actual night of Laylat Al-Qadr (the Night of Decree) by calculating the letters of the last verse of Surat Al-Qadr, and he said that we can rely on this narration to prove this knowledge and that that is why some early scholars would recite some supplications or Athkaar (pl. or Thikr [expressions of remembrance of Allaah]) a certain number of times based on their Ijtihaad (independent reasoning) and that it is permissible provided one does not believe it to be part of the prescribed Sunnah.

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His slave and Messenger.

We have clarified in a previous fatwa that what is called ‘Ilm Al-Huroof wal-Awfaaq was not known to the Salaf (the righteous predecessors)  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  them and that none of them was engaged in it, neither the Companions, nor the Taabi’een (generation following that of the Companions), nor their followers; and who is more knowledgeable and more pious than them?

Imaam Ath-Thahabi said in Taareekh Al-Islam about the biography of Shaykh Sharaf-ud-Deen Al-Ikhmeemi, the ascetic scholar, “Engaging in ‘Ilm Al-huroof (the science of letters) contradicts the guidance of the Salaf, as this science is one matter and what the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) brought is a totally different matter. It is something that Allah forbade by saying: {…and to say about Allah what you do not know.} [Quran 2:169]; and the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) said, 'Beware of false assumption, for false assumption is the worst of false tales.' [Al-Bukhaari and Muslim]

I said: The science of letters is similar to fortune-telling and astrology; rather, it is more evil than them. We ask Allah to protect our faith for us…

You should know that deducing that the night of Al-Qadr is the twenty-seventh night from the number of letters does not mean that the predecessors were preoccupied with this practice or that it was a stand-alone science for them by which they interpreted the words of Allah. Ibn ‘Atiyyah called some of these minute interpretations ‘the subtleties of Tafseer (exegesis) and not solid knowledge’.

However, some scholars considered these minute interpretations as good; for instance, Abu Bakr ibn Al-Arabi Al-Maaliki described this type in his book Ahkaam Al-Quran by saying, "Many scholars concluded that it (the Night of Al-Qadr) is the night of the twenty-seventh because they counted the words of the soorah, and when they reached the word: (هِيَ) (it is), they found that the total is twenty-seven word, so they ruled that the Night of Qadr is on the twenty-seventh night. This is clear if one ponders over it and analyses it, but it is only the one who is alert and wise and who is very thoughtful who would find out about this matter.

What you mentioned about some Shaykhs who are of the view that it is permissible to restrict some of the Athkaar and supplications to a given number, "provided that one does not believe that it is a Sunnah", then we do not think that this is correct, because after a long time, and as people continue to do it, then it is likely that the state of people will change and that they will believe that it is a Sunnah, and so they would be doing an innovation in the religion. Indeed, many innovations started by people considering them as good acts at the beginning, and then they became a followed Sunnah, and the one who denies them is considered the one who is an innovator (by them)!

Allah knows best.

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