bn Tumart said in his Kanz’l-`Uluum:
AN AFRICAN ISLAMIC APPROACH TO PHYSICS & THE SCIENCE OF THE STARS (¬`ilm t’-tabaa`iyy wa `ilm ‘n-nujuum) PART 2
by Shaykh Muhammad Shareef bin Farid
Ibn Tumart said in his Kanz’l-`Uluum:
“Realize, and may Allah ta`ala guide you, that `ilm’n-nujuum is a sound science from the most noble of the sciences of nature because knowing it inclludes knowledge of the exoteric shari`a. This is because Allah transcribed it with the Hand of His omnipotence, and placed in it what He willed from His knowledge and wisdom.
The only reason that this science is disliked is due to those who believe that affairs of existence with all of their dynamics, power, strength and decrees are attributed only to themselves. This is pure disbelief without doubt.
As for those who believe that Allah is the One who creates all the affairs of existence, fashions, manages, subjugates them, and causes them to flow in accordance with what He wills from His volition; and that all these cosmic affairs with their created dynamics have good and harmful influence, is indistinguishable from the belief that the actions of the soul such as obedience and disobedience have their subsequent influence.
This is because Allah `azza wa jalla is the Creator of everything by means of His omnipotence. He will not be questioned regarding what He does, but they will be questioned. It is thus necessary that what is in preexistence from His knowledge must come into being and there is no end to His affair.
He has no partner in the management of His kingdom and nothing decided can be averted except what has been annulled or establish.
This is the knowledge of the people of verification in this path. Whoever believes other than that has made partners with Him in the affair…
It is incumbent for the intelligent person not to ever neglect the estimation of the sun and moon, knowledge of their interactions in their zodiacal constellations and mansions, knowledge of the four seasons, knowledge of the times of the religious rites, as well as knowledge of the hours of the night and day.
All of this is what is associated with the noble shari`a and are required by necessity for humans to know. Rather, the necessities of life itself impresses upon him to know this.
Allah ta`ala says:
‘He it is who made the sun as an illumination and the moon as a light, and has decreed for them stations, so that you can know the computation of the years and calculation. Allah does not create that except by means of the Truth. He details the signs for a people who know.’
Allah ta`ala says: ‘And We have made the night and the day as signs. Then We make the sign of night dark, and We make the sign of the day as a means of giving sight, so that you may seek after the bounty of your Lord, and that you may know the computation of the years, and calculation. For everything We have detailed with a clear exposition.’
This is what is incumbent to know from the science of the stars (`ilm’n-nujuum), so learn it and achieve understanding, if Allah ta`ala wills it.”
Among the leading texts composed by Muslims on the ‘`ilm’n-nujuum’ (the science of the stars) were: the al-Baari` Fee Ahkaam’n-Nujuum of Ali ibn Abu’r-Rihaal as-Shaybaani; the at-Tabsira Fee `Ilm ‘n-Nujuum of Umar ibn al-Madhfar Yusef; the al-Madhkhal Fee `Ilm’n-Nujuum of Abu’l-Abass Ahmad ibn Muhammad as-Sarkhisi; the Masaa’il ‘l-Qasraani of Abu Yusef Ya`qub ibn Ali al-Qasraani; the Kitaab Tasteeh as-Suwar wa Tabteeh ‘l-Kuwar of Abu’r-Rayhan Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Biruni; the Ajaa`ib’l-Makhluuqaat of Zakariyya ibn Muhammad al-Qazwini and many others.
Among the texts which were widely used by the Fudiawa, the school of the SHEHU, was the famous poem called Qaseedat Fee’l-Buruuj wa’l-Manaazil of Shaykh Husayn ibn Ahmad ibn Ali al-Hashimi al-Baghdadi; the al-Jawhara Fee Dhamm `Ilm ‘n-Nujuum of Shaykh Hamadaan ibn Ahmad as well as the above mentioned Hausa poem of Shaykh Abdullahi Dan Fodio called Faati Buurji Ghaghida (Elucidating All the Constellations and Their Mansions).
Among the works which severely censored the unrestricted usage of the science of astronomy and especially astrology was the Tanbeeh Ahl’l-Fuhuum `Ala Wujuub Ijtinaab Ahl as-Sha`adhaba wa’n-Nujuum of Muhammad Bello ibn Shehu.
This predisposition towards the study of the negative aspects of this science is what induced Shaykh Dan Tafa to say in his Kashif’l-Ghitta:
“Realize that this key to accessing the unseen is utilized by the people of the observation of the celestial orbits (‘arsaad’l-falakiyya). This methodology is not the concern of the People of Allah who rely completely upon Him, due to its inherent remoteness from the place of ascent of gnosis of Allah. However, what we mean by it being one of the keys to accessing the unseen is what its people acquire by means of it.
And it is that in this realm of knowledge Allah has made the celestial orbits from among the links to earthly events, the occurrence of insignificant phenomena and momentous events as a result of the various conditions that the dynamics of the celestial orbits have upon them, as well as the impact these have upon nature and the advantage that can be extracted from the rays of its study.
Although, these issues which are connected to this science are well established since Allah ta`ala is the One who made them so; yet the ignorant when they become attached to it will be diverted by its data from the station of Divine Unity and the true way of life (deen).
It is then that the shari`a demands the rejection of it and forbids them looking into the stars; since it is feared that they, due to their ignorance, will become preoccupied with it and become engulfed in the dubious philosophies associated with it, and fall headlong into its deviant beliefs by perusing the ideas of its philosophers.
For some go as far to placing the science of the constellation in the place of an intermediary and barrier to the Absolute Being. While some of them assert that the constellations have tangible and independent affect in and of itself. All of this is error, disbelief and a clear divergence from the realm of Divine Unity.
The proof of the establishment of this science is what has been transmitted regarding its prohibition, and this is abundant in the Sunnan and the historical sources.”
Shaykh Dan Tafa, may Allah be merciful restricted the study of this science to the scholars who were firm in the Book, the Sunna and the principles of the shari`a and clearly prohibited the ignorant from delving into the sciences, especially as a means of accessing the unseen or the unknown.
He corroborated this view by taking an oath and covenant to avoid using astrology and other occult sciences to access the unseen world (`aalam’l-ghayb); while maintaining that there is a lawful means of knowing the unseen confirmed by the shari`a.
He said in his al-`Uhuud wa’l-Mawaathiq:
“I have taken and oath and covenant not to search into the unseen by means of divination, soothsaying, astrology, or any of the baseless occult sciences. Yet, independent of these sciences, I have procured knowledge of the unseen by means of the true dream (ru’ya saadiq). For nothing has occurred in these times except that I have seen it effortlessly in my dream before it actually occurred.”
The sixth of the elemental sciences that Shaykh Dan Tafa mastered was the science connected to the study of medicine, as he said: “…and physics…”
The expression ‘tabaa’i`iy’ (natural constituents) is plural for ‘tabee`u’, which signifies innate temperament (mizaaj). It is a synonym of ‘khaleeqa’ (that which is naturally appropriate), ‘jibilla’ (the composition), and ‘sajeeya’ (the natural constitution).
Ibn Sina designated the ‘tabaa’i`iy’ (natural constituents) as the combined constituents which make up the harmony of the material world. The basic elements of material existence are four: fire (naar), air (hawaa), water (maa’) and earth (turaab). These four elements are the components of the ‘tabaa’i`iy’ (natural constituents) which make up the whole of material existence. The balance and harmony of these elements in creatures is what enables health and physical well being.
Allah ta`ala says: “And the heavens He elevated and established the Balance; so that you do not exceed the balance, but establish the scale with equity and do not fall short of the Balance.”
Shaykh Dan Tafa, thus, asserted that the preservation of the harmony and balance among the ‘tabaa’i`iy’ (natural constituents) is that “…which is the assistant to medicine by the prevailing judgment.”
That is to say that maintaining the equilibrium between the four natural elements:
fire (naar) and
preserving the balance between the four natural temperaments (tabee`at arba`a):
dry (yabuusa) and
wet (ratuuba); and
…to sustaining the harmony between the four humors (akhlaat arba`a): the yellow bile (safra’), the red bile (damm) or blood, the white bile (balgham) which comprises the mucous and phlegmatic fluids, and the black bile (sawdaa’); are the fundamental principles underlying the science of medicine.
By preserving the soundness and balance of these four elements, four temperaments and four humors, psychic and physiognomic well being is protected in the human being. Adversely, with the corruption and imbalance of these, it leads to physiognomic and psychic illness.
In traditional Chinese medicine this concept of harmony (和血 - he` xie) and balance (平衡 - ping heng) between man and nature and between the physiognomy and the spirit is of primary importance in health and well being. For this reason the knowledge of the nature of things (tabee`a) is an essential element in the study of medicine.
The leading studies by Muslims on the science of natures (`ilm ‘t-tabee`a) were normally included in the books on medicine, cosmology, and philosophy; such as the al-Ikleel Fee Ansaab Humayr Wa Ayaam Muluukihaa of Abu Muhammad al-Hassan ibn Ahmad ibn Ya`qub al-Yemeni; the ar-Rahma Fee ‘t-Tibb wa’l-Hikma of Mahdi ibn Ali ibn Ibrahim as-Sabiri al-Yemeni; and the Kanz’l-`Uluum wa ‘d-Durr’l-Mandhuum Fee Haqaa’iq `Ilm as-Shari`a wa Daqaa’iq `Ilm’t-Tabee`a of spiritual master Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Turmart al-Andalusi.
The leading proponents of this science among the Fudiawa were the great grandfather of the poet, Shaykh Fodio Muhammad ibn Uthman, Shaykh Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Fulaati al-Katsinawi, Shaykh Muhammad al-Farabri ibn Muhammad, Shaykh Muhammad Yero ibn Fodio` Muhammad and others.
Shaykh Dan Tafa, may Allah be merciful to him learned the science of constituent natures from his father-n-law Sultan Muhammad Bello with whom he studied the science of medicine as well.
Thus, the mastery of the elemental sciences among African Muslim sages was the basis for their approach to science, nature and governance.
The great African intellectual, Cheikh Anta Diop informs us in his Pre-colonial Black Africa that among the reasons that Islamic metaphysics prevailed over traditional African beliefs was because both civilizations embraced a metaphysical belief in the concept of two parallel worlds.
That is to say, both civilizations held the belief that in the world around us there is a world which can be seen and there is an unseen parallel metaphysical world which cannot be seen or sensed but which impacts us continuously.
Diop emphasized that the African sages (awliyya) of Islam possessed a far more technically advanced means of accessing and manipulating the world of the unseen, than did the shamans among the traditional African religions.
In other words the African Muslim sages developed what would today be called ‘a killer software’ regarding access to and manipulation of the metaphysical world.
“It goes without saying that this conception of a dual world is to be found, in various forms, in the beliefs of Africans to such a point that they feel completely comfortable in Islam. Some of them do not even feel they have changed their metaphysical horizon.
That is what led Dan Fodio to criticize severely all those who, though calling themselves Muslims, continue such practices as libations, offerings, divination, the Kabbala, etc., and even writes verses from the Koran in the blood of sacrificial animals. Dan Fodio’s text, although rather recent, (nineteenth century) reflects a tendency already imperative in the days of the Askias (fifteenth-seventeenth centuries).
African religions, more or less forgotten, were in the process of atrophying and being emptied of their spiritual content, their former deep metaphysics. The jumble of empty forms they had left behind could not compete with Islam on the moral and rational level. And it was on that latter level of rationality that the victory of Islam was most striking.”
This is clear and can be corroborated by anthropological evidence. It was for this reason that many African pagan spiritualist, oral historians, traditional medicine practitioners, and astronomers converted to Islam bringing with them tens of thousands of years of cumulative knowledge of the elemental sciences.
We know the case in Mali around 1050 C.E. during a major drought that engulfed the kingdom. The ruler at the time, Baramendana Keita summoned all of his Mande`, Soninke`, Peul, Sosso, Bambara, and Dogon oral historians, shamans and astronomers, and demanded that they utilize the sciences granted them to cause it to rain, to no avail.
Then a learned Muslim merchant residing in his kingdom performed the ‘salaat’l-istisqaa’ (the prayer of rain) and within minutes of completing the prayer, the skies darkened and it rained for months, according to al-Bakri’s account.
This was indicative of the advanced metaphysical sciences which Islam introduced into Africa. When these were combined with the indigenous elemental sciences of Africa, a profound synthesis occurred particularly among the shaman caste, astronomers, and oral historians who accepted Islam among the Soninke`, Mande`, Dogon, Habe`, Zaberma, Bambara, Wolof, Kanuri and Peul ethnicities.
When we add this store of knowledge with the elemental sciences bequeathed inter-generationally among those African ethnicities, particularly in Tinbuktu in the Sankore` quarter; who trace their origin back to the Banu Isra’il and the Banu Ishma’il a picture emerges of an overwhelming metaphysical and philosophical epistemology which gave birth to the Fudiawa store of knowledge.
However, I will add, that there was a far more transcendent reason that African priests and initiates willfully abandoned their traditions for the Islamic African traditions, and it had to do with the profound crystalline gnosis of the Absolute Being and gnosis of the emergence of existence from the ocean of non-existence; which Islam clarified and systematized in a unified system which brought back together and unlocked the mysteries of the scattered initiative traditions of Africa once unified on the banks of the Nile.
Ilaawat al-Muttaalib fee Shukr ‘l-Waahib al-Mufeedat al-Mawaahib by Shaykh Muhammad Shareef bin Farid:
Shukr al-Waahib al-Mufeeda al-Mawaahib by Shaykh Abdalqaadir Dan Tafa:
The Life & Times of Shaykh Abd’l-Qaadir Dan Tafa: