I would like to take this opportunity to say a number of things: As the readers may have noticed, I have for the most part stopped writing new things on this site over the past few months, even leaving the partially finished writings incomplete. It is not that I have forgotten about this site, but rather that I am now drafting questions from my reading of Muslim and non-Muslim works, and I hope that soon I can soon present answers from qualified ‘Ulama who will have answered the questions I pose.
In the meantime, I will do two things: Firstly, I am writing random thoughts as they come from my reading of Islamic books. It is something like the ‘notes on Islamic books’ I was writing before, but more random than that – and not as organized. I hope it will still be of benefit to myself and to others. Even though I am starting at first with the books I have taken notes of before, I still feel it is good for myself (and hopefully for others as well) if I do a sort of revision so that anything I may have forgotten or overlooked may be presented. Secondly, I will try to answer some of the questions that already have been sent to certain Shaykhs and Muftis, and the readers may consider these as ‘placeholder answers’ while they are answered by the Shaykhs and Muftis. Having said this, I start with my random thoughts and notes:
o The book notes are from the work (‘أجوبة سيدي أبي الفداء سعيد فودة عن أسئلة طلاب الرياحين’)
o There are people who say that, in the case of the proof for the Existence of Allah, they see a problem: they say that suppose that the ‘infinite progression’ or ‘infinite regress’ were to be done without time as a parameter, then what would we say? From what I understand, we say that this ‘infinite progression’ is “conceptually successive”, insofar as the exact dimensions are not important, except the fact of acknowledging that they are indeed limited dimensions. Thus, even if we were to say that there is a dimension within the Universe that is even more basic than time or space, then the impossibility of infinite progression/regress will apply to this more basic dimension; there is no contradiction or oversight at all.
o Take benefit from the books of the books of such luminaries as Shaykh Mustafa as-Sabri (RA) and Shaykh Muhammad Zaahid al-Kawthari (RA), their writings are very much relevant to the problems we Muslims are facing in this day and age.
o It seems then, that the Muslim community nowadays is in trouble from two angles with regards to modern science: not only do they fall for the underlying belief system of the non-Muslims’ scientific process, but they also cannot reach the heights of results that the non-Muslims achieve. This is something we have to really think about deeply, since it is a definitely big problem facing us nowadays.
o When those from among the Mu’tazila or Shia say that the Attributes of Meaning [Sifaat al-Ma’aani] are nothing other than the Self of Allah, for otherwise it would be a positing like that of the Christians, this seems to be an incorrect supposition from their side for the very basic reason that the Sifaat are attributes – they are not entities like what the Christians say about the ‘Word of God’, equating it with a ‘person’ and then saying that this ‘person’ incarnated as Jesus (Alayhi Salaam), or so on and so forth. What the Mu’tazilite/Shi’ite position would seem to lead to is a sort of Hindu concept of the ‘Absolute’, where even the existence of the absolute as ‘God’ is negated, since what they say is that the ‘Absolute’ is totally without characteristics whatsoever. Moreover, their objection that we have used a false analogy between our own attributes and those of Allah is negated, since we Sunnis never maintained that our attributes such as sight, hearing, etc., are eternally true of us (and this is easily known, since it is possible for any of us to lose our sight, our hearing, our knowledge, etc., but still be us, while this is impossible to posit for Allah).
o With regards to the Wahdat al-Wujuud theory we see in certain groups of Tassawwuf, it obviously depends on what is meant. If it is taken to mean literal union of the adept with Allah, then this is something totally unacceptable; but if what it means is that Allah is only true Existent, while the contingent, limited, and ephemeral nature of the creation is highlighted, then this is something corresponding to the truths derived from Kalaam sciences itself, and it cannot be a basis for rejecting this presentation. Of course, some terms get a bad reputation due to their misuse (the most obvious example being ‘Jihaad’), but we cannot fully throw out the term itself without studying the different ways in which it has been explained and elucidated (this comes back to the issue of meanings and how they affect our judgment of matters).
o Do not underestimate the importance of sending Salaawaat on the Prophet ﷺevery time before the start and after the conclusion of a work, because the spiritual effect is very important, regardless of what the materialists may say.
o Do not put down the fact that the Shuyuukh may present the study of an apparently simple text as part of their “CV” – the fundamentals and basics of Islam can be elucidated in simple terms, even if their further elucidation and defense is much longer, and it is both that the Shuyuukh are studying.
o If you are wondering why ‘Nahw’ (Arabic grammar) is brought up so much in the context of Usool and Kalaam discussions, it is because one has to have a very clear idea of the meanings behind the words and phrases that are used in any text, in order to be able to properly articulate and convey what one has in mind – otherwise confusion and disaster may ensue.
o Note that Islam consists of proper knowledge of Aqeedah [Ash’ari and Maturidi Aqeedah], Fiqh [the 4 Imams], and Tassawwuf [from the proper Imams of Tassawwuf, such as Imam al-Junayd (RA), Imam al-Qushayri (RA)]. The different facets do not contradict each other, but rather complement one another.
o It is asked that why don’t the ‘Ulama of Kalaam turn their attention to the modern-day intellectual challenges facing Islam. Yes, this should be done, but only by those who have mastered the “original Kalaam” sciences, so that they can know how and where to apply it, and how its rejuvenation should take place. Unfortunately, due to the fact that many deviant ideas and wrong methodologies have sprung up within the Islamic Ummah, we see that a huge amount of effort of the proper scholars of Kalaam is spent in refuting obvious (but in fact comparatively simple) deviations that have gripped large swaths of the Ummah, rather than to turn their attention to the more intellectually challenging matters where the full scope of the Kalaam sciences may become evident.
o We need to remember that the science of Kalaam in fact comprises not only the mental sciences, but also the sciences of Hadeeth and of spirituality as well; this is because people are enlivened by different aspects (some are more rational, others more textual, others more spiritually-oriented), and it is improper to say that Islam only deals with one type of person to the exclusion of the others. But of course, at the end of the consideration, in order to know the usefulness and validity of any thing forwarded in any of these branches, is that it does not contradict the established tenets of its own branch plus that of the other two branches [for example, if a teacher of spirituality says that he has reached literal union with Allah, then this is discarded, since it goes against the principles of Islam in rationality, textuality, and spirituality as well].
o Note that the primacy is given to indubitable evidence [Qat’i], and after that, the probabilistic and speculative evidence is taken into consideration.
o Imam al-Ghazaali (RA) spoke about Kalam sciences being used like medicine. And this is obvious, since medicines are not proper for everyone all the time, but depending on the situation, they may either be obligatory or prohibited. Likewise is the case for the Kalaam sciences, for those who have total certainty on the narrated texts, the use of scholastic reasoning may even be detrimental to them (since they have not thought about matters in this way, and they are happy and certain on the truth without much formal elucidation). But for other types of people, it may be very much necessary. Allah knows best, but it seems that today we are living in such a time, when the sciences of Kalaam, and its renewal is more needed than ever before, may Allah grant us success in this endeavor.
o Thus, we need to remember that the science of Kalaam is in fact a dangerous science, just like some drugs are potent and if used incorrectly may lead to severe side-effects, addiction, and even death, and due to this, one has to be extremely careful what one reads in this field and from whom one takes this knowledge.
o Moreover, given the above case with what is ultimately the writings and deductions of the Muslim scholar, how much more should the lay Muslim be hesitant to delve into the books of the non-Muslims without previous guidance and knowledge?
o It may be that a given traditional scholar reads one book, tract, or author and finds nothing objectionable about it, while another scholar reads the same tract and finds very many mistakes in it. It just means that the understanding of the two scholars diverged with respect to the meanings behind the words used in that tract, not that their beliefs are altogether different or divergent. We also should consider that the scholars will not start making Takfeer or Tabdee’ of others without reading the things first-hand, and it may be that what was available to the second scholar was not available to the first, or vice-versa ; or they may have been a rujoo’ [i.e. change of opinion] in the person under discussion, or a number of other possibilities. So we have to consider all of these things before saying anything from our own accord.
o We see that a number of the (otherwise) very capable people in the Islamic sciences (both rational and textual) deviated at times from the truth, and at times this was not a simple deviation, but a very flagrant one. And the reason behind this is that Allah is the guide, not the people and their reasoning and minds, and this is why we should always pray to Allah to keep on the right path, since it is very much within Allah’s Power to lead any of us astray and into perdition.
o We need to remember that taking benefit from the books written by the scholars is not reprehensible, but rather it depends on the capability of the reader and researcher. So it is not a case that taking from books is absolutely prohibited as some people may assume.
o Connected to the above, the truly big Mashaaykh are those who do not remain contended only with what they hear from their teachers, but rather use what they have learned from their teachers to expand their horizons of cognizance, and to use their past knowledge to build up on further themes that can only be expanded with based on experimentation.
o We need to remember that the sciences of Islam are very vast, and it would be very difficult for one person [especially in this age] to be able to encompass every single thing, and to become a master of every single field. This is of course important to consider when we come to the discussion of Madhaahib, since it is important for the founder of the Madhhaab to be an extremely skillful genius so as to say, and it is clear that such ingenuity is not present in our Ummah whatsoever nowadays.
o Note that we should not say that there is only one book to the exclusion of all others that possesses comprehensive refutations to all of the incorrect beliefs of the innovators and disbelievers; rather, the challenge that the Muslims at every age (i.e. those Muslims that are capable of doing so, which is a number so that the obligatoriness of this matter is removed from the community as a whole) should be able to meet is to take the fundamental rules that we read in the books of Kalaam, and apply them to the current situation we might find ourselves in. Were we to do this, it is known, without a doubt, that we would reach high levels of cognizance in our belief, and we would also reach quite good heights in our scientific achievements as well – there is no use doing science while aping the non-Muslims’ methods and belief systems.