Defence Against Disaster – in accurately determining the positions of the Companions after the death of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, by Qadi Abu Bakr ibn al-‘Arabi is an unparalleled study of the controversies and trials that arose among the first generations of Islam, starting with the sedition at the time of ‘Uthman, may Allah be pleased with him, that led to his murder. It continues right through to the terrible events that brought about the death of al-Husayn ibn ‘Ali, may Allah be pleased with him. In the process the author responds with expert critical analysis of the chains of narration of the hadith and traditions pertaining to these events, and defends all of the Companions from the multiple defamations against many of them.
Fatefully, the tradition of Muslim writing and compilation of books began after the time of the Abbasid coup (dawla) and overthrow of the Umayyads, a coup which necessarily entailed the Umayyads being cast as THE villains of Muslim history. Some Abbasid-era historians and later incautious scholars were to set this in concrete as if it were almost a consensus, which has lasted right until our day.
In this work, Qadi Abu Bakr and his commentator Muhibb ad-Din al-Khatib do not recast the Abbasids as the villains, nor are they anti-Alid or pro-Umayyad, as some of the Qadi’s less discerning critics have alleged, but rather they restore to us the continuity of those early years from the time of the Rightly Guided Caliphs through the epoch of the early Umayyads, in the process doing full justice to the Companions, particularly the Four Caliphs, and al-Hasan, Mu’awiya, al-Husayn, Ibn ‘Umar, and Ibn ‘Abbas, may Allah be pleased with them, and refuting slanderous allegations against them individually and as a body.
In our need during this Great Interregnum, after the collapse of the Ottoman polity, to go right back to the roots, the very beginnings in Madina al-Munawwara, and to retrace our story from there to today, this book stands uniquely well placed for that purpose.
Given that the author assumes a command of the source texts and knowledge of the events and personalities involved that is now much rarer than it was, the commentary by Muhibb ad-Din al-Khatib is extremely valuable for the modern reader. He also gives a biography of Qadi Abu Bakr that helps the reader realise the vastness of his scholarship.
Qadi Abu Bakr (468 – 543 AH/1076 – 1148 CE) was born and grew up in Seville and as a young man travelled with his father in search of knowledge to Egypt, Sham and Iraq, meeting and studying with the greatest scholars alive among whom was Imam al-Ghazali. When he returned to Andalusia, the people of knowledge immediately recognised the immensity of his learning and gathered around him, among them such luminaries as Qadi ‘Iyad, author of the Shifa, and Qadi Abu-l-Walid ibn Rushd the great Maliki and grandfather of the philosopher and author of the Bidayat al-Mujtahid.
Muhibb ad-Din al-Khatib (1303 – 1389 AH/1886 – 1969 CE) was born in Syria. He lived through some of the key events of the late 19th and 20th century including the collapse of the Caliphate, and was active both politically and in terms of knowledge and authorship of books.
Aisha Bewley is the translator of a large number of classical works of Islam and Sufism, often in collaboration with Abdalhaqq Bewley, notably The Noble Qur’an – a New Rendering of Its Meanings in English; Muhammad, Messenger of Allah – the translation of Qāḍī ‘Iyāḍ’s ash-Shifā’; the Muwaṭṭa’ of Imam Mālik ibn Anas; and Imam an-Nawawī’s Riyāḍ aṣ–Ṣāliḥīn. She is also the author of a number of works including Democratic Tyranny and the Islamic Paradigm.