بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيم
From book ‘أجوبة سيدي أبي الفداء سعيد فودة عن أسئلة طلاب الرياحين’ [Original book can be accessed here ]
(I will admit that the notes for this text are relatively scarce with respect to the actual text of the work/book. I have only included the very important points, but it may happen that I expand upon it in the future.)
From the Question: What are the biographical details of Shaykh Sa’eed Foudah?
o Ahl –us-Sunnah has three primary components: Ilm of Tawhid (Asharis and Maturidis); Ilm of Fiqh (4 schools of thought); Tassawuf (led by Imam Junaid, Imam Qushayri, etc.)
o Tasawwuf is the practical application of the Aqeedah and Fiqh knowledges, plus the knowledge gained while engaging in Tasawwuf.
o Tassawuf does not add something new to the already established Aqeedah.
o If it were to do, then we would have to reject that mode of Tassawuf and stick to the established Aqeedah. Of course, in some cases we need to establish new kind of terminologies in order to describe the experiences of those who feel the divine theopanies, but this is a matter of nomenclature, not of fundamental difference.
Question: Benefits of Islamic theological dialectics (Ilm al-Kalam) and the routes taken for its renovation
o In order to get involved in Ilm al-Kalam, one needs to have an almost total knowledge of its necessary sciences, otherwise one will fall into all sorts of deviations. Part of this is to have mastery of the highest in the linguistic, intellectual, and practical sciences related to the formation of Ilm al-Kalam
o The biggest defense of Kalam is in the renewal of this science for the exigencies of each age based on the current intellectual trends. As we can see though, this is unfortunately not happening, since even the normal Muslims themselves do not know the basics of Aqeedah.
o So how can we discuss the deep proofs of Aqeedah, and then move on to lengthy discussions with disbelievers concerning our positions, when even the nominal Muslims themselves have no knowledge of simple matters of Aqeedah which are obligatory on them to know? So first the basics have to be taught to the laymen with sufficient proofs, before moving on to any ‘revolution’ within the structuring of Kalam sciences.
o In any case, we note that some people are attracted to the truth only (or mostly) due to direct textual evidences, others due to rational argumentation, and others due to emotive encouragement. All of these have their place and efficacy when used with the correct types of people. But we also should remember that at times we can use (for example) Naqli evidences with outright disbelievers, or rational reasons with Muslims, etc., since the proper intermixing of such types of proofs usually gives a more favorable result.
o [One thing that is important to note as an aside: Consider the importance in the meticulousness of Islam. What we see is that Islam is exhaustively meticulous in its theology, in the way its Holy Book blends internal meaning with outward message – to the point of it literally being a miracle- in the way its religious doctrines and transmitted knowledge have been handed down across the generations (thanks to its “Isnaad” [chain of narrators] system).
o I would go on to say the “Isnaad” system, even though it is anchored in routine ways of gathering information, is a marvelous feat to accomplish insofar as keeping the purity of the religion intact in terms of Islam’s jurisprudence, its Ahadith corpus, and of course, the entire Qur’an. A small proof of how difficult it is to put this matter to work even in our age, is that articles today that mention important details often leave the person who gave them this information in the vague “anonymous” category, since it is said that “they are not authorized to speak to reporters about this matter”. Of course, this is something that, in the Islamic sciences, would have made such provided details to be thrown aside, since no one can trust anonymous and nameless sources in putting together historical events.
o Thus, the extensiveness and correctness in Islamic theology, coupled with rigorous transmission of its texts is one of the matters that sets Islam apart from other religions and ideologies. It is inevitable that other religions/ideologies will fall all over themselves at some stage either in their “cosmological outlook” and/or in the transmission of their core texts, and this is why such ways of life are to be cast aside in favor of Islam. This is also why Shaykh Foudah says that there are different ways to reach people, and we should not restrict ourselves to one way, even if the person outwardly seems to be more inclined either towards ‘Aql, Naql, or other sciences of Islam – because the intricacy and beauty of the Islamic way and its sciences may have a comprehensive effect on the person we are talking to, and the miracle of Islam as a whole may reach him in different ways.]
o Note that the paramount importance is given to Qat’i Daleel in Kalam, and Dhani (probabilistic evidence) is used as needed.
Question: Concerning the evolution of the methods of Ilm al-Kalam, and the evolution of its usage and of the science itself
o Take note that Kalam is a dangerous science. [Since it is dealing with Islamic metaphysics so as to say, and it is not for everyone to deal with it, especially given the current deprecated state of the Ummah.]
o As much as possible we try to build the proofs from the ground up, in the sense that it should be as airtight as possible, so that very few (or no) speculative proofs are used if possible. This is necessary since ‘Ilm al-Kalam deals with the proofs of the religion. Proofs means those things which are certain in the religion, and in such contexts one cannot go about using weak evidences.
o It is in fact necessary to refute people of other religions and ideologies, but we do not hear about such things except very little.
o Getting involved in advertsing the religion over the TV, etc., is actually a very dangerous thing, but if done in a way that does not distort the message, then it is something which can be pursued.
o Some people (like Shaykh al-Buti (Rahimahulla)) may look at the writings of Ibn Taymiyah and say that they find nothing of anthropomorphism in it. This is the conclusion of their research, but we are not to speak ill of them, even while saying that from our side, our research has shown that Ibn Taymiyah did have anthropomorphist tendencies.
o Ibn Taymiyah mentioned about ‘Events that had no beginning’.
o Just because someone has reached the pinnacle of a science does not mean that he has become immune to deviation. This is because guidance is a light from Allah, not an endeavor from the human being himself.
o Imam adh-Dhahabi is not the one to comment on Ibn Taymiyah’s deviation or lack thereof, since he himself was not well-grounded in rational dialectics. Imam Taj as-Subki is more appropriate in this respect.
Questions: Why does Shaykh Sa’eed take more from books than from the feet of the scholars? Does he have the requisite knowledge in Hadith sciences?
o Taking from books is not evil at all. But if the student of Islam, after the initial stages where he is very dependent on his Shaykh, starts learning more and more, then at some stage he can indeed get great use from the books.
o If one becomes an expert in one field, then automatically he will lag in other fields, and the life of the human is too short to try to gain complete mastery in every field. But one should not think that because a scholar does not talk much about a certain topic, that he is totally ignorant about it. Thus, we see that Imam ar-Razi, Imam al-Asqalaani, or Imam an-Nawawi (Rahimahumulla) are known for certain sciences more than others, but it does not mean that they had no knowledge of these sciences.
o [As an aside, there is also a very big Fitna coming from certain quarters, saying that such-and-such ‘Alim or Imam of the previous centuries did not do thorough authentication of Ahadith, and therefore his opinions should be discarded, and we should follow only those who did the highest authentication of Ahadith. Our response is that Ahadith and its authentication has its position in Islam, but we should not be extremists, to suppose that simply because the Hadith used by a certain ‘Aalim is not corroborated by the well-known Hadith critics, that it is totally impermissible to use it or the meaning behind the Hadith to formulate or strengthen a certain point.
o We tell such people that if your traditional Usool in Aqeedah or Fiqh encourages you to only use the highest-corroboration in Ahadith for each and every single thing, and that a correct Hadith has to be acted upon without consideration for other matters, then we respect this due to the fact of it being developed by the masters in Usool (if such is truly the case, not if it is a new formulation outside of the bounds of traditional scholarship). But you should also have respect for the valid and accepted differences of opinion in this Ummah, and not vilify those whose methodologies are different but valid.]
Question: What is the most important book for refuting deviants and heretics?
o There is really no single book which refutes every single imaginable deviation. We just need to learn the framework of what is right and wrong, and then apply our knowledge to the various wrong sects and ideologies.
Question: What is your position regarding Sufism?
o He has some objection to the doctrine of Wahdat al-Wujud, but he is not alone in this.
o Damaad, Mulla Sadra, al-Amali, Umar Sharawardi are three of the Sufis that we do not follow, since among other things, they follow corrupt Aqaaed, such as Illuminationism
o We disagree with the Shia about their saying concerning ‘Ismah, and their slandering of the Sahabah
o Tassawuf is a type of action, since people are not infallible, then will make mistakes in this type of practical actions.
o Question: What should be the way to discuss with the modern neo-Salafis
o There are many routes in this respect, and these may differ, as the topic and the situation change, and the respective weight that is to be given to the Ahadith, the Qur’an, other primary Islamic sources, and the mind, may vary accordingly. The ‘Ulama of old went for a conglomeration of such methods in debating with the Karramiyya, the anthropomorphists and the crypto-anthropomorphists of old.
o In synthesis, it cannot be said that there is only one way to discuss with the neo-Salafis in the manner that only one “textbook” can be given for this, but rather the person, after studying a number of books and gaining experience in the matter, may be able to establish a system and a route he is comfortable with. The Shaykh mentions that to restrict one’s self to only one method is incorrect in his opinion.
o One thing that was left unsaid in the answer is that there are a number of prerequisites before one can even think to engage in discussions, whether with deviants or with total non-Muslims: and that is that one has to have an extremely solid backing in the beliefs of Islam, for without this solid backing he will lose his footing immediately, and may even start to doubt Islam itself, may Allah save us from this fate.
o This is in addition to the fact that discussions should never be had for the purpose of showing of that one has knowledge and that he is defeating the enemy in debate. The Prophet ﷺ in fact said the one who does this will be in Hell. [Regardless of the authenticity of the Hadith, we can understand that to learn simply to show off that one is knowledgeable is a part of arrogance, and this arrogance should be avoided at all costs].
Question: What to make of the Hadith: “The best generation is my generation”?
o Concerning the Hadith of ‘The best generation is my generation’, it is a general preference. It does not mean that every single last saying and opinion of the first generation is better than every single last saying and opinion of the latter generations. So the narration is ‘specific’ from this point of view, and not so general. [That is, it is not so general that if we were to take the opinion of someone after the time of the first generation, we would be making a big error, since this narration does not compel us to look only for the opinions of the first generation and completely prohibit us from taking the opinions of those after them]
o Also the priority of the Companions was in their enormous deeds they did for Islam, their closeness in following the Sunnah, and in the spiritual influence the presence of the Prophet (S.A.W.) had on them, and so forth (i.e. the next generation gained the spiritual influence from the Companions, and so on).
o Also, we can follow the latter generations as long as they do not go against hat which the first generation has agreed upon. Besides, on many issues there is no one Madhab, so it cannot be said that we have erred because we have taken the saying of someone who came after the first generation. Even those who allowed for the Mujtahids of the first generation to be followed did not turn it into an obligation.
o If a minority opinion was given in the first generation, it is not proper for the ones holding the majority opinion to leave their opinion and follow the former one only because it was said in the first generation.
o Saying that the Taymiyyah and Hashawiyyah have stolen the term Salafi is strange, for no one among the Salaf said that actions reside in Allah, or that Allah is limited by directions, etc.
Question: Why can’t you admit that there are weak Ahadith in the Sahih of Bukhari and Muslim, and those narrations that go against the beliefs of Islam, such as the “Hadith of Sura”?
o First thing we consider in grading a Hadith as Saheeh or otherwise is the method for deduction, not the specific Hadith in question.
o It means there is a method, and we should use this methodology objectively. Think about it in terms of Madhahib also: For example, the Shafi’is say that the Muslims can force the non-Muslims other than the Ahl-ul-Kitab to become Muslims, and fight them until they do so. We say, look at whether the Usool of the Shafi’iyya is being followed, not whether you like this particular ruling, for this last ‘method’ is nothing but following of desires.
o Consider that if there is a difference of opinion as to the Isnad of a Hadith, even if the correctness of it is from Bukhari (but someone other Muhadith does not agree to it), then it is not correct to force the second Muhadith to agree to Bukhari’s view, so long as the proper rules are followed. And again, if there is agreement among the scholars of Ahadith concerning a certain narration’s Isnaad, then no one can come and say that such a narration is weak or fabricated simply because it does not suit his tastes.
o In matters of Matn also, if it is possible to give it a meaning that is acceptable in the Shariah, no one can force another to discard the meaning of the Hadith.
o Hadith an-Nuzul, different interpretations, but all agreed it can be reconciled with the principles of Aqeedah [there is no need to discard the Matn only because it seems to suggest anthropomorphism].
o If the hadith is quite weak and difficult to give it a good interpretation then some would discard it, since it is a solitary narration that does not affect the religious beliefs.
o Abu Bakr ibn Furak (RA) , who interpreted some weak Hadiths, knew their weakness, but did so anyway in order to remove every possible doubt.
o Imam Nawawi said: One option is to do total Tafwidh, and to say that the meaning is only as per the greatness of Allah, and to know Ayah 42:11, that he is not a body, is not subject to moving, is not confined to a direction, etc. Also the Mutakallimin position to do Ta’wil is also accepted, but there has to be thorough knowledge of Arabic, and rules of Usool and Furoo’, etc.
o An example is the Hadith of the coming of Allah, where the coming is an allegory to their seeing Him. Or, it is an act of Allah which He named ‘I’tiyan’. Or, some of the angels of Allah will come. Or that Allah will show them a form and will show them of the forms of His angels and creation.
o The Hadith is actually the ‘Hadith of Sura’, where it is reported that Allah will come to the believers on the Day of Judgment in a ‘Sura’ (literally, form) which they do not know, after which Allah will come to them in a ‘Sura’ they know. So the issue is why is the word ‘Sura’ used here, and is there any way to reconcile it with proper Islamic beliefs.
o In the case of unquestionable proofs such as the Qur’an or a Mutawatir Hadith, this is our method. Ahad hadiths are probabilistic proofs, not unquestionable (but still we try to give them a proper meaning if the Sanad is strong). But with respect to the sayings of Awliya, etc., there are two sayings: One is to take the explicit meaning since they are not Ma’sum, and the other is to try to make Ta’wil as much as possible, since we make Husn ath-Than about them.
o Going against what Bukhari and Muslim recorded in their Sahihs is dangerous since we would be going against all those ‘Ulama who agreed with their work. Yes, some ‘Ulama did not agree with them, but that is bounded and limited criticism, and it is not allowed for anyone to go beyond that, let alone the lay Muslim.
Question: Are the Madhahib in Aqeedah similar to that of Fiqh, in that only the very learned ones can apply a ruling from another Madhab?
o When we talk about Ijtihad and Taqlid, this is only for the practical Furoo’ matters, not for Aqeedah, since the former are probabilistic when it gets down to its finer details, but the latter are certain and mistakes are not forgiven in this.
o With respect to Aqeedah issues, the lay masses should generally be taught by the ‘Ulama that which is the majority (Mash-hur) opinion, but the minority opinion can also be presented so long as it conforms to the principles of the Ahl-us-Sunnah. But if it is outside of such Usool, then we cannot say that someone is right in his deviant opinion, even if he has reached an apparent Mujtahid status.
Question: What can be said about the charge that Imam al-Ash’ari’s book ‘Al-Ibana’ and other works have been tampered with?
o Some say that the books of Imam Al-Ash’ari have been tampered with, and this is possible. It is possible in the wordings of the books themselves, or in that which is attributed to them by others, and there are many examples of this happening to the books and sayings of the Ulama of the Ahl-us-Sunnah.
o In Ibn Furak’s time there was the attribution of ‘Inqita’ of Nubuwwa’ to Imam al-Ash’ari. (Based on what we found in other sources, this was a claim made by Ibn Hazm, who said that al-Ashari (RA) believed that Muhammad ﷺ was a Prophet, but that now he is not a Prophet anymore. Of course, this was intentionally fabricated as a way of making Takfir on the traditional Sunni path. And Allah knows best).
o If there is a problematic saying attributed to any Aalim, it is more appropriate to see what his devoted students and followers said, and only after investigating the matter can we say something certain about such cases.
Question: What do we make of statements in the books of the ‘Ulama that seem to go against well-known Sunni ‘Aqeeda?
o Be it as it may, it is possible to find some strange things in books attributed to important personalities, but not much is made of this if it contradicts more well-established opinions and sayings of that same scholar.
o Ibn Taymiyyah said that there has to be some sort of similarity between Allah and the Creation, otherwise Allah would not exist!!!
o We know that the Attributes of Allah are not accidents (since accidents need a body). Also they are not other than Allah, because that which is other than something is that which can be separated from (that something)- and its separation would mean its being brought into Existence.
o Apparently, Imam al-Ashari made the analogy between this and the fact that our Attributes do not separate from us. Will have to discuss about this later on, whether it is meant to be a formal proof, or otherwise. (Need to ask about this).
o Imam al-Ash’ari is apparently making an analogy to how our own attributes cannot be separated from us. Need to ask about this, since some may say that it is type of Tash-bih (of course it is not, it is only a very imperfect attempt to make the people realize that even mentally we can understand that such things are acceptable when talking about Allah the Exalted.
o Al-Ash’ari said that when we speak of Allah’s Ridha, it means His Iradah to reward the slaves, and likewise with his Ghadhab, it is His Iradah to punish the slaves.
o Al-Ash’ari mentioned that Istiwa is not the same as Istilaa (appropriation, taking over) in the Ayah of Surah Ta-ha. As per Imam al-Ashari, this is because Istiwa is Haadith and came after Istilaa.
o Even though al-Asha’ri mentions that Istiwa is “Tari’”, he does not mean that it is an emergent act located (i.e. having a locus) in Allah. Rather it is act that Allah did ‘Fi’ the Arsh… from this we can surmise that when Al-Ash’ari says that Allah’s actions are emergent, he only means that they have their application onto things that are created. [Need to ask about this quote]
o The word ‘Thumma’ is in relation to that which is being “overcome”, not to the ‘Istawa’ itself. Like the Ayah ‘Then Allah will be a witness to what they do’, means, then they will do it and He will witness it… not that He will literally come to know of something after not having had knowledge of it, or that His witnessing is an emergent action, rather the ‘then’ is for their ‘doing’, not to His Witnessing.
o Al-Ashari says that some scholars say that it is of the Sifat of Dhat, but they do not say: He is always Mustawa over the Arsh. Same with knowledge, His Knowledge that things have come into being is of the Sifat of Dhat, but they do not say: He was always knowing that they had come into being, and after they had come into being.
o It seems that what some of the scholars were saying is that if we take it as Sifat of Dhat, then we cannot say that He has always been Mustawiyan over the Arsh (since it would be denying the fact that the Arsh is created). Same thing with knowledge, we know that Allah’s knowledge is unchanging (And this is of the Sifat of Dhat), but we do not say that Allah was always Knowledgeable that it was emergent, and after it was emergent (again, as the Qur’an says ‘Thumma’ (then) it is related to the thing coming into existence, but it also says ‘Then Allah is a Witness to what you do’… otherwise, we would say that everything in the Universe is eternal and timeless, and this is nonsense and disbelief). In any case, need to ask about this.
o Al-Baqilani said about Allah having Yad and Wajh, this is from confirming what is in the Qur’an, not that Allah has limbs and organs.
o Ibn al-Mubarak and his saying concerning ‘Had’ (lit. limit), it means the ‘Had of Sam’ or as it has been reported in the ‘Sam’’ [appears to mean, this is how it has come in the primary Islamic texts, willneed to ask about this]. And also with al-Bukhari and his saying about Sawt, we take it that the Sawt was created by Allah in some of His Creatures, as is the Maturidi position with respect to (for e.g.) the story of Musa Alayhi Salaam.
o When it is said that we ‘do not believe in these sayings’ it means we do not believe what comes to the simple mind based on customary usage, since such usage is based on Tashbih.
o We reject Kayfiyah from the beginning, not that we admit Kayfiyah and then say we do not know its exact form.
o The Jahmiyyah rejected these Ahadith outright, not like the Sunnis who accepted the Ahadith but rejected the simple-minded interpretation which may come to the minds of some people.
o The Jahmis did not accept that ‘Yad’ could be possible even if it was explicitly said that it was not an organ or limb, unlike the Sunnis.
o Tashbih is what may occur to the minds of some people, but this is not at all the case; since the Wahy is never opposed to the truth, and the truth is that it is not Tashbih.
o Ijma’ of the Ummah is a proof (apparently in belief as well). [Need to ask about this]
Question: Can the salient books of Kalam be introduced into the curriculum?
o The books written by the great personalities of Islam (ar-Razi, at-Taftazani, etc.) are so valuable that even our opponents (like the Shia) make use of them. So if they were to be introduced (or re-introduced) into the academic world today, they would make a huge effect on the minds of Muslims. However, there is a need for certain preliminary subjects to be covered before delving into such books, because the nature of humans is that if someone knows the prerequisites of something, he will imagine that those he is speaking to also know the same things, but this may not be the case. So a total revolution in academics would be needed before such books have the correct effect in the universities and among the academia.
Question: Kalam and science, and the Jawhar al-Fard
o Kalam is of two types. With respect to science and what is discovered today, then this could also be of use in updating some of the introductory words given concerning nature as written in the older Kalam books.
o The Jawhar al-Fard is not really part of the Islamic beliefs, so we should keep this in mind. Also there is a difference in opinion concerning whether it exists or not, so no one should think that if the view of the Jawhar al-Fard is contradicted in the future, then the Ashari-Maturidi view also collapses.
o Note that any theory or hypothesis in Kalam needs to be in conformance with what we witness in the world, since at the end the goal of Kalam is to deduce from the reality of the world and its characteristics that it has been brought into existence by a Creator.
o Ibn Taymiyah surprisingly said that he has no need for the study of Jawahir and Ajsam, since he witnesses these things, and that is that!!!
o If someone says that we are taking from Aristotelean concepts, we respond that even the terms “cause” and “effect” are from Aristotelean metaphysics, so should Muslims stop using it altogether?
o The answer is that if someone starts thinking that material causes really, truly “create” or “originate” or “bring into being” the material effects then the Muslim should not use this terminology since true creation is being attributed to material objects and events. But if the Muslim understands that these are “apparent causes” with only correlations between causes and effects, then there is no trouble in saying that such-and-such event was “apparently caused” by such-and-such previous event, while knowing that it is only a correlation and that Allah in fact brought space-time into being with these specifications. (Will need to ask about this from a scholar, but this is what I have learned up to now.) The issue is that those people who bring up this accusation of “Greek influence” against the traditional Sunni ‘Ulama themselves have no terminology other than what the Greeks used for many of their descriptions.
o As for the saying that Jawahir turn into ‘A’raad and viceversa, this is not said by anyone of the Sunnis.
o Consider what some of the true Mutakallimin have said about the issue of Energy turning into Substance and viceversa: If this is truly established, it means that substances (as currently understood) are not the highest vehicle for emergent things, perhaps there is another ‘vehicle’ of a higher analytical level which contains within it both Jawahir and ‘Arad. Or perhaps our understanding of substances turning into energy is currently incorrect. (This means that Energy is not a non-substance thing, but substance in another form). Or perhaps Energy is another type of ‘Arad that appears only with the disintegration of atoms –and it does not appear in other types of larger-scale disintegration.
Question: What do we make of the conception of Bid’ah?
o Some have divided Bidah not into 5 types but only into two- Deeni and Dunyaawi. This is wrong, since such people say that Bid’ah in Dunyaawi matters is fine, while in reality, it depends on whether such a matter is within the confines of Shariah or not. And with respect to Deeni Bid’ah it also depends on whether it is within the confines of the goals of Shariah or not.
Question: What to say to those who say that refuting neo-Salafis is not useful?
o Refuting the pseudo-Salafis, and by extension others, is not something that everyone can do. And we follow those Ulama who say that this is something which should be done, but we respectfully disagree with those who take another position, and whenever possible we try to show them the benefits of our own position
 Whatever Al-Buti’s (RA) positions may have been concerning the Syrian conflict and the fact that many other traditional scholars disagreed with him on this, we believe the best about Muslims and especially the scholars of the Muslims, and go to great pains to make excuses for them. So when they die, we say that may Allah have mercy on their souls, forgive their sins, and enter them into His Paradise. This was basically the position also taken by the scholars of Syria and around the world who opposed his political viewpoints: they did not condemn him after he was martyred, but rather prayed for the Mercy of Allah to fall on him. So please keep this issue in mind.