Author, Sheikh al-Buti, translated by M. Merza, M.A. Absi and S. Abdul Aziz. (Damascus: Sunni Publications, 2007), pp. 180, size 14×21 cm, £9.49. Reviewed by Mansur Ali
There are three types of people with regards to their attitude towards the Quran and Sunna: first of all there is the literalist who does not see beyond the ink, secondly there is the intellectual who believes his rational thinking is not bound by the scriptures and finally there is the aesthetic who is drowned in the inner beauty of the words and is unable to come up to the surface. It is only through a fine fusion of the three that a perfect equilibrium can be maintained. However an imbalance in the first one would lead, in its extreme, towards khawarij type doctrines and, in its moderation, towards a superficial understanding like the literalists. A disproportionate leaning in the second one will lead to the beliefs of peripatetic philosophers in extreme cases or towards I’tizaal (rationalist thinking) in a lesser extreme case. And finally unevenness in the last one will produce heretic sufis and charlatans. Sunni orthodoxy (the epitome of perfection) has fought tooth and nail to maintain this equilibrium and has always been quick to defend it. Sheikh al-Buti’s Al-La Madhhabiyya, written in the 70’s, is yet another brilliant manifestation of this defence.
In recent times, from different quarters of the west, myriads of voices are developing in to a crescendo in their united polemics against sunni orthodoxy. Once again the Ulama are picking up their pens to maintain the equilibrium; therefore this translation is much welcomed and much applauded as it fulfils one of the exigencies of the time (although originally it had been written for the Ulama).
The 3rd edition of the book has been used for the translation. The translation is easy and lucid and makes one believe that Sheikh al-Buti’s original Arabic work must have been so simple. The translators’ have not used any footnotes to elaborate, make observations or pass comments on the text. However, they have employed square parenthesis in the text to keep the flow of thought in motion.
In my opinion, the translation ‘Non-Madhhabism’ would have been a more accurate translation of the title ‘al-La Madhhabiyya.’ The only shortcoming of the book is that it seems that the bibliography has been written in haste. The importance of a proper bibliography is not unknown to the serious scholar. I think had the translator translated the author’s content page in its entirety it would have been easier to manoeuvre through the book. And finally a more accurate translation of the passage ‘This book of Schacht is one of the primary books that are taught…’ (p.56) is ‘This book of Schacht is the primary book taught…’
Overall the translation can boast to be another excellent addendum to the science of polemics (ilm al-munazara) and is a must to have for the serious defenders of truth.