Abstract: “Fire today is burning at the stem of the tree, so let’s focus our efforts on the stem and let’s leave the branches and the leaves for now”.


Calling to the Foundations [of Islam] before its Branches

الدعوة إلى الأصول قبل الفروع

Broadcasted in 1972 [1]

By: Shaykh Ali Tantawi

الشيخ علي طنطاوي

(may Allah shower him with Mercy)

Translated by: Al-Sirat Al-Mustaqeem Translation Team



Sh. Ahmad Deedat in a visit to Sh. Ali Tantawi (around 1994) [2]


Islam today is in need for us to call to it all over again!

I do not mean by that calling the opposing disbelievers [to Islam], since that is mandatory, however [what I mean] and what we are facing [today] is [something] more obligatory and closer to us [than that], and that is: Calling [our] young Muslim men and women to Islam!

Do not be surprised [by that], for indeed most of the young Muslims do not [in reality] know what is Islam!

Even those who pray among them and those who fast, [you will find that] many of them pray and fast as a matter of habit, but do not know the secrets of praying and fasting, and do not know from the rulings [of prayers and the rulings of fasting], except very little.

So, how are we to call those young Muslims to Islam?

I know from among the righteous callers to Allah, those who whenever a young [Muslim] comes to him eager to learn [about Islam] and [hoping to seek the path of] righteousness, they do not start them with that which the Messenger of Allah (Peace and Blessings upon him) started with, namely correcting the Aqeedah (i.e. the beliefs and creed), then teaching them about the major sins and transgressions that are agreed upon so that they may avoid it, and [teaching them] the principle obligations [of the Religion] … [namely the obligations] that are agreed upon, so that they may act upon them.


[What we see however is that this caller to Allah] does not start with any of that, rather starts them with: Growing the beard!?

Now, I am not in any way objecting to growing the beard, neither am I making shaving it acceptable, rather [what I am doing here is] giving an example of those who leave calling to the major principles and pillars of Islam and start with what is supposed to come later.

They exert [great] efforts in convincing the young Muslim man [coming to them] to let his beard grow, and had they exerted that effort in correcting his Belief instead and establishing in him the pillars of this Religion they would have achieved what they intended.

[The reason for this] is that one of the most difficult things on a young man is to grow his beard. However, had you started by introducing him to Allah (the Exalted) so that the reverence and glorification of Allah is established within him, he would have grown his beard from himself without any objections.

[On the other hand], if [the first thing] you start him with [is ordering him to grow his beard] and so he does it while despising it, he may reach a point where he finds it difficult on him to continue with it and has to leave it, and may leave with it the Religion altogether.

This is something we have witnessed time and time again.

Now, this is just an example, so let no one from among the listeners say that Tantawi is calling to shave their beards and is opposing the Sunnah. We are indeed in a critical time, and Islam is being attacked in its own Land, and Faith itself is being threatened. We are now facing a real danger and an explicit disbelief. So let us delay [spending time investigating and] researching the Sunan (i.e. the non-obligatory recommended actions) and the Makrouhat (i.e. the non-prohibited disliked actions), rather let’s even delay researching the things which are a matter of difference [of opinion] between the scholars of the four Mazahib (i.e. Schools of Islamic Fiqh), and spending time investigating whether these actions are prohibited or only disliked!

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Sh. Ali Tantawi on Mount Qasioun, Syria [2]

The Imam of the Haram (i.e. the Grand Mosque of Mecca) during the last Friday Sermon said a very precise word: he said that the Messenger of Allah (Peace and Blessings upon him) remained in Mecca for 13 years, not calling [the people] to anything except to correcting their Beliefs and establishing Tawheed (Monotheism) within them.

After Tawheed was [firmly] established within their souls and their Aqeedah was corrected, the specifics of the Islamic legislation were revealed after that, along with the verses that spoke about the [various] rulings of Islam.

Why don’t the Scholars, the Muslim leaders, and the callers to Allah do as the Messenger of Allah (Peace and Blessings upon him) had done before?

Tawheed is the main principle and foundation [of Islam], so why then do we see [many] who are starting with the branches that are growing out of the branches before even having established the roots and the foundations?

A man from Germany once came to Damascus after Allah had guided him to Islam. He wished to know more about his Religion, and learn its rulings so that he becomes strongly grounded in it. The people guided him to a Shaykh, [so that he can learn from him].

[Now what was the first thing that that Shaykh started him with?]

The first thing [the Shaykh] started with was: telling him about growing the beard and getting circumcised!!

He then started teaching him about the rulings pertaining to cleansing yourself [after using the washroom], and the difference of opinion regarding the boundaries of the face!

[Does the northern limits of the face] start from the forehead or [does it start from] the first location of growth of the hair?!

He then starting explaining to him about how not to hit the water during ablution as this is a disliked action. He then spent with him a whole year, in which he learned nothing more than the different categories of water, and how it is divided into seven categories: pure and purifying that is not disliked [to use], pure and purifying but disliked [to use], pure but not purifying, and so on … Also what is the ruling of ghee/butter if a mouse were to fall into it, and what is the ruling of the well in which a cat dies!

Trust that I am telling you exactly what happened …

What happened after that was that this man went back to Germany and returned back to his old religion!

I am not here to talk about the [situation of] non-Muslims; rather my main concern here is the Muslim youth [of today] who are in [a dire] need to being called to Islam all over again.

The enemies of Islam [today] are setting up their nets to catch those Muslims. These nets are unfortunately as soft as silk.

They place in these nets everything a young Muslims may desire, from the various shades of beauty and the different adornments. They try to attract them with women, pictures, and amusements.

They speak to them in a language they understand, and capture them in the name of [Freedom].

Freedom of thought, freedom of mixing, and freedom from all and every restrain. With [these traps], and its likes, they have managed to capture many of the young Muslims and have managed to take them into their lines.

Now when Allah inspires one of those young Muslims to return back to his Religion, and he gets in contact with one of the scholars [of the Religion], what does he find?

I am merely describing the illness and establishing facts, so let no of you blame me.

He either gets in contact with a Shaykh from among the Sufi Tariqas (i.e. Sufi orders). That Shaykh would teach him about that Sufi order and make him from its followers. He would oblige him to perform matters that were never performed by the Messenger of Allah (Peace and Blessings upon him), or his companions, or [anyone from] the earlier generation, and would say to him that this is the Religion!

Or that young Muslim may instead get in contact with a Shaykh who has busied himself with Fiqh, [Fiqh] as it was studied from 50 or 60 years ago, namely that the student would read to his teacher some books of Fiqh until he understands it, then he starts reading it to others and explaining it to them, not searching for the basis or the evidence [behind these rulings he is learning], and not distinguishing between what has been established through the [Book of Allah or the Sunnah of His Messenger], or that which is derived from customs or from an Ijtihad, which can err or be correct. He would receive the statements of those later scholars of Fiqh as if they were the Religion that should not be altered or changed.

Or that Shaykh can be from among those who only concerns themselves with the outer appearances, or concern themselves with the structure rather than the higher purpose. The Shaykh would enrol him in his meetings [or in his] group/organization, until he gets accustomed to delving only into specific topics which he does not surpass. He would focus on the present day politics, more than he would focus on [attaining a] proper upbringing and [gaining an] internal purification …

Now, I am not saying that all the Scholars and callers of Allah are like this, No, rather among them are scholars and teachers who are acting upon this religion [as one should]. However, these are very few, while the majority are focusing on the branches and the leaves rather than focusing on the foundations. The majority has established for themselves a narrow space which they dwell in, [a space] which they do not even look passed or realize what lies behind it. They do not realize the dangers which are surrounding Islam, nor do they know what the enemies of Islam are up to.

These [scholars] do not realize that Islam has become a stranger once again, just as it was when it started. It became a stranger in its Lands, [a stranger] among its people. The Masjids are filled with worshippers, the people are fasting Ramadan, and the pilgrims are in increasing in number year after year, but the Prayers, Fasting, and Pilgrimage has lost, among many [of the Muslims] its soul and essence, and what remains is only its form.

The poisons of the enemies of Islam has entered [our] communities, [has even spread among] those who observe prayers and fast, and has entered their homes. It entered the [minds and] thoughts of their men, [it reached] the dresses of their women, the curriculums of their schools, and the laws of their courts!

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Islam today is being threatened from its [very core and] foundation, thus it becomes prudent upon us to prepare new plans … plans with which we can push back the plots of our enemies. Let’s start with the [most basic of] principles, which is Tawheed, then let’s move onto [calling the people to] abandoning that which is prohibited, then performing the obligations, and after that we can discuss the growing of the beard, the shortening of the garments, and the mentioning of the name of Allah before eating, and [all the] other branches.

If a thorn was to enter the finger of a child, enter between his nail and his skin, and gets stuck there. The father would be concerned about what happened and would rush his child to the doctor [to remove that thorn].

However, if the child was suffering from a tumor and was going to undergo surgery, if he was facing death at any moment, and the doctor sees that thorn in the child’s hand, [the doctor] will not even give it a second look, since he is more concerned about what is more critical, namely saving the child’s life from that imminent death.

The matter is, by Allah, very serious, and Islam is being threatened.

Many of the young Muslims, from among our sons [and daughters], have already been drawn to the enemies of Islam. Therefore, we ought to make our major concern to protect the foundations of this Religion, and to focus on the beliefs, obligations, and prohibitions.

Fire [today] is burning at the stem of the tree, so let’s focus our efforts on the stem and let’s leave the branches and the leaves for now.



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[1] Fusul fi al-Da’wah wa al-Islah (فصول في الدعوة والإصلاح) p. 123 – 127

[2] Reference for pictures: http://www.tntawy.com/