Introductory notes on the post ‘Wahhabi Contention: Asharis consider proving the existence of God their utmost priority’

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By a member of the Team

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيم

These are a few notes I am making on the post entitled ‘Wahhabi Contention: Asharis consider proving the existence of God their utmost priority’ on the sunnianswers blog. In fact, this is an excerpt from the Shaykh’s previous response to Yasir Qadhi’s article (on which I had made some notes on this link), but it was re-posted by the Shaykh later on, probably in order to highlight this matter and to respond to any comments specific to this subtopic. And I will also make some notes on a couple of comments that appeared on this specific post, since they are of importance.

o    First, to recap, the objection is that the Ash’aris were most concerned about proving the existence of Allah above all other considerations. In response, the Shaykh seems to be mostly upset that the contention seems to merely imply culpability without attaching a specific legal verdict to this scholastic activity of the Ash’ari and Maturidi scholars. That is why the Shaykh asks a rhetoric question that if it is not seen as Haraam (unlawful) by the jurists of Islam, then on what basis is this objection raised?

o    Some personal thoughts: If it is something that the objector is unfamiliar with, this is not a basis for disliking it. And even if it is a matter of disliking a certain scholastic endeavor, we should understand that Islam has many different sub-disciplines, and it is not necessary that one Shaykh or Mufti will have mastered the intricacies of all subfields. And sometimes, this unfamiliarity with the intricacies of a subfield may give rise to certain negative assumptions. Of course, this is not a good description of the case with Yasir Qadhi, since he is distancing himself from the Ash’ari scholars and their efforts in this field due to ideological reasons, but I just wanted to mention this possibility in case it ever comes up.

o    Now, very importantly, the Shaykh says that the matter of proving the Existence of Allah is very much connected to knowing Allah, and in fact is the very basis for knowing Him – for in order to know Allah and in order for us to have the prerequisites for worshipping Him, it is essential to know that His Existence is a must, that He does not change, that His Attributes are unlike those of the Creation, and so on and so forth.

o    Indeed, if someone makes a Takbeer for prayer truly thinking in his  heart that Allah is like the Creation, then the prayer and any other act of worship done in this state of mind are useless and invalid, since the acts of idolaters are of no worth. So this is not a side matter with no or very little relevance to the Muslims, that people may rightfully say: “Oh, why are you obsessed about this issue to the exclusion of others?” – all other issues in fact derive from this only.

o    Or if someone is still unclear about the matter, one can consider as an analogy, that most of us simply use a certain mathematical theorem in our lives, whether directly or indirectly. But we must know that there are proofs for these theorems, and that even though most people will not bother with such proofs, yet for those who wish to delve further into the matters, they may very well study such formal proofs. Most importantly, such formalized proofs should not be degraded, since they serve as the “defense” and the “intellectual foundation” of the field itself.

o     And the situation in most cases is that these formalized proofs and theorems came centuries after their application was already well-known, but there was a need to formalize the field with rigorous proofs. If we as Muslims accept that this was a correct path to take with respect to mathematics, then how can we say it is a blameworthy matter in something so much greater, the fundamental basis of Islam itself? Such a situation does not seem to make much sense, and would lead to grave errors and doubts in the minds of Muslims. [Note that in here I was referring to mathematical theorems, but I do not wish to get involved in general “scientific areas” in this context, since such analogies do not fit this discussion well.]

o    Now on to the comments. One well-known Muslim (username of loveprophet) asks if there are any refutations to atheists, since this is important in the West. In fact, there are some on the sunnianswers site as pointed out by the administrator, but what I (personally) think is of more relevance is that basically all forms of idolatry are subtypes of atheism, so the rigorous study of Aqeedah is sufficient in understanding where the atheists are coming from and what they will say.

o    [I believe I have mentioned this elsewhere, but when one holds that (what that person calls) ‘Allah’ is in one way or another like the delimited created beings, then he is basically saying that all delimited events and objects owe their existence to other delimited events and objects, and there is no doubt that this is the exact definition of atheism, even if the person holding the belief denies that it is such.]

o     The same commentator also hints at the importance of the work the Ash’ari scholars have done, not only historically, but through its relevance in our modern era, where the existence of God Himself is doubted by many. The comment that Muslims would mostly be heretics or apostates if only ‘Wahaabis’ were the ones carrying the banner of Islam is relevant, and here is why: If someone denigrates the formal scholasticism needed in order to build up the foundations of the religion, this is the opening that Satan and his friends from among the Jinns and the humans need in order to totally cover up the heart of the Muslims with all sorts of doubts that would have no systematic answer (due to the avoidance of a rigorous approach towards Islam.)

o    This does not necessarily have to manifest itself within the narrow confines of the question of the existence of God, but may come up in another matter, such as say for example, the matter of biological evolution. If one does not understand the basis of knowledge and the type of knowledge that is being referred to by the biologists advocating evolution and how it collates with what Islam says, one will definitely be an intellectual mess, and there is no doubt that such a situation is ripe for many people to turn towards hereticism or even disbelief.

o     And I bring up this matter precisely because it was Yasir Qadhi who some time back was part of a discussion panel on evolution and Islam.  To be honest I have not seen the entire discussion but rather very small pieces of it, but it seems that Qadhi could not articulate the position of the Usool of knowledge in Islam vis-à-vis evolution, precisely due to this denigration of traditional Kalaam sciences. I know that it may be difficult to explain the Islamic position to certain people due to their preconceived notions of what religion should and should not be, but we need to be careful about such matters and be truly rigorous in our approach.

o     And also, coming back to the central matter of Allah’s Existence, again, being loose in definitions, being loose in understanding what “proving Allah’s Existence” entails or denigrating this effort altogether, will definitely open up routes for direct hereticism, since what we are left with is a basically Christian-centered view of God and the atheist rebuttal (and both of these positions are totally wrong and off the mark.)

o    Lastly, we need to remember that this issue of atheism has been around for many centuries, perhaps not as a majority view, but it has been around; and the Ash’ari/Maturidi scholars of old answered the atheist objections that were around in their lifetimes, plus provided the tools for future scholars to refute anything that may have come up later. It is this issue that is important, that of identifying the kernel of modern atheism and its philosophical superstructure and then refuting that with the tools and methods that Islam already possesses. But if we take matters very lightly, then most Muslims will eventually simply be engulfed by whatever comes their way – this may sometimes be atheism, and sometimes be another invalid ideology that will ruin their belief all the same. May Allah protect us and save us from all potential problems and trials. Ameen.