o Some people ask that if there were Verses that were meant to be Mutashaabih (ambiguous, and most of the Muslims would never know the meaning of it), then what was the purpose of revealing them in the first place, if we would not get exact instruction by means of such Verses?
o One answer I have read to this that seems to be on target is that these types of Verses were revealed in order to show the human intellect’s inability to totally grasp the Divine Speech; in that there were certain issues that the Muslim laity just cannot reach a conclusion simply by deliberating over them. So this definitely has wisdom behind it, that of showing that Allah and His Attributes are beyond what comes to the mind of man.
o When we want to discuss the matter of ‘freedom of speech’ and how it is opposed by religious dogma, especially Islamic dogma, I think one matter that is often discarded is the underlying answer to the question: ‘What is the absolute criterion I will be using to judge this matter?’ or the related question: ‘What is the absolute in here, freedom of speech/freedom of action, or the laws of Allah?’. It is quite clear that the first option will deny the existence of God as the ‘Lawgiver’, since it immediately recognizes that a God who reveals laws does so in order for them to be followed, and it is clear that they will include certain restrictions in both the private and public fields; while this is contradictory to public and private freedoms restricted only by what the body-politic may require at any given time. So the discussion about ‘Absoluteness’ is crucial, since it is basically from the result of this consideration that all mores, values, and beliefs will be followed or deduced.
o And I think, personally speaking, that many people do a sort of retroactive answer to this question, thinking that their personal freedoms are natural and absolute, and since this is the case, the existence of God as a Lawgiver must be rejected, as well as any religion that calls for such a description of God. But this is not in fact a rigorous approach, but merely an approach that satisfies the inciting ego or the inciting soul (the Nafsul Ammaarah), and it is clear that the people who conclude what they conclude based on these suppositions and approaches will be held accountable in the Hereafter, even though they thought that they concluded to live their lives in a certain manner after copious rational research and deliberation.
o One issue that I personally think we should think about is that in the ‘academic world’, if one were to doubt the standard narrative concerning evolution, history, etc., he would branded someone who is not following the scientific method at all in reaching his conclusions – that is, he is not following the methods appropriate for evolutionary studies or for history, etc. But in the same vein, when talking about Islam as a religion, the ‘academic world’ has totally discarded the methods appropriate for studying Islam and called them infantile and baseless, and only after doing this do these ‘academics’ begin to conduct their research. It is small wonder then that they have gone so far off the narrative of Islam that many of them consider the whole history of Islam and the main personalities of Islam to be a collective fabrication of the Muslims of later centuries. But it is mostly due to the initial rejection of the Muslims’ own methodology and system that things got to this level.
o And when the believing Muslims tell these ‘academics’ that their methods and results are wrong, they chide us for not ‘thinking outside the box’, and for being too attached to our own outdated methods and systems. But I wonder why then, we Muslims would not be allowed to think in our own way, outside of the box set up by the ‘academics’ when studying biology, history, and so on. There seems to be an inherent point in all of this, that only the ‘academic Western person’ is the one who can think rigorously and properly, and all others either have to learn how to think like the ‘academic’, or be shoved to the side of irrelevance. In an age where prejudiced thinking is supposed to have become a thing of the past, I see this type of presentation of affairs as proof that such prejudices are still very much alive, and that they have a huge impact on the conclusions and policies made in major centers around the world.
o And as a side comment, I think it would be good for us to consider that we as believing Muslims should be willing to build up our knowledge of the natural sciences and of the tools of experimentation within an Islamic framework. Not only do we believe that the ‘modern non-Muslim academicians’ are asking the wrong questions and looking at Islam in an incorrect way, but that even with regards to many of the sciences connected to biology, archeology, history, etc., there is a wide scope for new types of questions to be asked and for new perspectives to be sought after, if only we could train ourselves to handle such sciences with the proper mindset. [I know there is a lot to be said about these two points above, which I cannot think about right, but hopefully in the future I can talk more about this if needed].
o Note that when the scholars (like at-Tirmidhi (RA)) talked about Allah and His Attributes, they denied modality from its roots, and they did not to say that the modality exists and only we do not know what is its exact form, size, etc.
o And from this I want to draw a parallel with how measurement is done in the fields of physics, chemistry, etc. The truth is that in basically every single case of measurement, what we have is an estimate of the actual length, duration, etc., of the measured object. And one could theoretically go to a great number of decimal places in accuracy without getting the exact measurement. So in this sense, one can say that the measurement is approximate. What I am wondering about some of the “neo-Salafis” is whether their concept of modality being known while its specifics are unknown is akin to this naturalistic concept of the possibility of subsequently improved measurements. I know it seems like a stretch, but one should be extremely careful when talking about Allah the Exalted, because the matter is not that “we are not sure about ‘His Measurements’ but we know they are there”, but that measurement (modality) does not apply to Him to begin with.
o Now, there comes an important point, which is that we should consider the writings of any Imam and see to what audience he was writing. Sometimes it was to Mujjasima oriented people, but at other times it was towards the Mu’tazila or the Jahmiyya. And in this case of what Imam at-Tirmidhi (RA) wrote, the argument seems to be directed against the Jahmiyya.
o And to understand this issue better, we must consider what the Jahmiyya actually held as their belief. The truth is that the Jahmiyya rejected altogether the narrations that even mentioned ‘Yad’ or ‘Wajh’, and so forth, and said that (for example) if ‘Yad’ is mentioned in the Qur’an, it must necessarily refer to ‘Power’, without any other possibility (in at-Tirmidhi’s presentation, the Jahmis said this with regards to Allah creating Adam (AS) with His ‘Yad’.)
o So from this we can deduce certain things: First of all, the Jahmis rejected even the text of the Ahaadeeth as they have been handed down to us, because apparently, in their view, one had to only consider the literal meaning, and the literal meaning was tending towards clear Tashbeeh. This is different than the position of the traditional Sunnis, who accept the text if its chain is correct and the meaning may be interpreted in a way that conforms to the fundamentals of the religion (in this case, the necessity of doing Tanzeeh of Allah the Exalted).
o One thing I wanted to mention in here, though I do not know if it will be accepted by all, is that it is precisely this type of religious rigidity which gives rise to the different sects; we see that from one genus of literal reading of the text, two different sects came about, the Mujjasima and the Jahmiyya, both of them at the opposite ends of the ‘extreme rigidity scale’. This is why the path of the traditional Sunnis is always the proper middle way, since it does not swerve from that which combines both the intellect and the texts, in order to gain proper benefit from both facets of human interaction with the world and with the revelations of Allah the Exalted.
o So the Jahmis who accepted these texts went to the extent of saying that ‘Yad’, or ‘Ayn’, etc., where absolutely not intended in these texts, even if there was an acknowledgment that these are not organs, limbs, substances, etc. And this is in fact in opposition to the position of the traditional Sunnis, who do accept ‘Yad’, ‘Wajh’, and so forth whenever they do occur in the authentic texts, while clarifying that what must be denied is that these are limbs, organs, etc.
o It is also mentioned that one of the problematic issues with the Jahmi sect was not only that they interpreted the texts in only one way, but that they claimed that this interpretation was the only correct one, and closed the doors to any other possibilities with respect to how one should handle such types of texts.
o So the Salaf and the Sunni scholars in general said that one could say that a certain text contains ‘Tashbih’ only if it (hypothetically) mentioned something along the lines of ‘Yad like the Yad of humans, or a Wajh like their Wajh, etc.’, but as it truly is, the situation with the texts of the Qur’an and the Ahaadeeth is not like that at all.
o One important rule of the Sunnis is that we should never say that the texts in and of themselves report about Tashbeeh between Allah and the creation; in fact, Tashbeeh is what comes to the minds of certain persons when reading these texts. But since the revelation is always concomitant to the truth, and the truth is that there is no similarity between Allah and His creation, the conclusion is that the text of the Qur’an and of the rigorously authentic Ahaadeeth never ever point towards Tashbeeh. This is the main rule, and we can never discard this rule.
o Again, the root or rule in proper Tanzeeh with respect to Allah is to deny Kayfiyya (modality) outright, not to say there is an unknown but existent Kayfiyya.
o For the Ash’ari ‘Madhab’, one method is of generalized interpretation as more or less outlined above. And, there is also the position of a more detailed interpretation, as is the way of some of the Salaf and a majority of the Khalaf – as this method has its own rules and regulations based on the exigencies of the situations confronting the ‘Aqeedah of the Muslim Ummah.
o And in this vein, we should remember that this great Islamic religion was sent to everyone, to the Salaf and to the Khalaf, and it is not proper Adab (respect and propriety) towards the latter ‘Ulaamaa to discard their work and their sayings simply because they came at a later date, as this kind of thinking would (hypothetically) demolish the binding nature of an Ijma’ (consensus) regardless of the epoch when the Mujtahideen of the Ummah may reach such a consensus.
o The books of Ar-Raazi, at-Taftazaani (RA) and others are up until now, considered the top books in establishing the pillars of the religion and in answering the opponents of the Sunnis. This is so much so that the knowledge of Usool, logic, rhetoric, etc., as explained by these and other luminaries of Islam of the past may not be encompassed by any one individual in this day and age. And, if these books were to be introduced into the curriculum of universities and other educational institutions, it is clear that they would give rise to a great intellectual revolution among the students, but the important thing in here is to proceed methodically, so that the prerequisites for these works are well known by the students before embarking on studying these ‘later texts’, so that the proper benefit may be obtained from these and similar works.
o Another point is with regards to the introductions to the ‘studies of nature’ that we find in many books of Kalaam. Such introductions are not to be totally discarded, but rather many of them are already quite useful, and many can also be improved through considerations of what new information has been discovered in the natural sciences, and this is in fact an important part of the Kalaam sciences. Moreover, we see that there are considerations surrounding what we can call the ‘philosophy of the natural sciences’ in the introductions and main text of such works [it is obvious that this is not a topic for everyone to indulge in, but those who are truly experts in this respect].
o There is one question regarding why the traditional Sunni Mutakallimeen did not expend more efforts in refuting Ibn Taymiyya. The response is that there were some scholars who did specify him by name in the course of their refutations. But for the most part, the reason why he was not mention so much by the scholars was that Ibn Taymiyya obtained most of his ideas from the philosophers and previous thinkers in the Muslim nation, so if the refutation of these earlier peoples was accomplished, there was not an urgent a need to tackle Ibn Taymiyya’s ideas. And another issue was that his ideas were not as widespread as some people take them to have been, but rather, throughout most of Islamic history, he was a fringe figure with comparatively little influence, and even his books (especially the Kalaam-related works) were not so easy to find.
o (As per what I am reading) belief in the Jawhar al-Fard is not an essential part of the Islamic religion, as long as the individual believes in all obligatory parts of Islam (but I will have to ask about this, and what is really meant in here by this statement). The main point of talking about the Jawhar is in order to know what the Universe as a whole is composed off in terms of its basic elements. This is a topic close to the philosophy of science or the philosophy of physics. Other abstract matters, such as the fact that the things in the Universe have length, may be partitioned, etc., are also included in this discussion – thus, it is not a core religious issue (and scholars have differed on this particular term- ‘Jawhar al-Fard’), but rather it is related to the natural studies of the Universe.
o However, we see that some matters cannot be concluded intellectually except if we consider their prerequisites. And it is from the acceptance of the Jawhar that we understand that the Universe and its constituents are subject to change, enlargement, decrease, and that they are in need of other than themselves, so this is one step towards establishing the Existence of Allah the Exalted. From what I understand, this is something like accepting that what one sees and hears is true, for otherwise one would say that the Qur’an or the Ahaadeeth one is hearing could be only hallucinatory sounds and visions one is experiencing, and that on that basis, they do not establish obligations such as prayer, fasting, etc.
o Even if the concept of the Jawhar al-Fard is ‘proven’ to be false (by means of newer theories such as ‘superstring theory’), it does not mean that the whole Ash’ari Aqeedah will collapse, and this is a wrong supposition from those who are ignorant about the matter. So the people who oppose this concept, they should deal with it in an academic manner, and not merely in an unruly way.
o (According to what I am reading) only some from among the Mu’tazilites said that the Jawaahir (i.e. elements) were nothing other than ‘A’raad (i.e. accidents/incidents) put together, and this is not a statement of the Sunnis.
o Some of the Sunni scholars have said that if the conversion of energy to matter were to be proven, it could be that ‘matter’ as we know it is not the highest (abstract) category for the appearance of events, and there may be a more fundamental category that includes both the ‘Jawhar’ and the ‘’Aradh’. Or it may be that our understanding of matter becoming energy and viceversa is incorrect, in that it could be that energy is in fact matter in another form [in which case, the supposition that energy is an ‘’Aradh’ was incorrect], or it could be that energy is a type of ‘Arad visible only in subatomic states, or other possible explanations…the point being that this is a matter for give-and-take in discussions and study, not for ridicule and mindless rejection.
o When we consider the division of Bid’ah, we see that many of the traditional Sunnis accepted the idea of ‘good Bid’ah’. We can say in brief that each type of Bid’ah is acceptable or unacceptable based on the rules of the Usool of the religion. But to say that Bid’ah is divided into two types only (religious-based and worldly-based) and the first is totally prohibited while the latter is allowed is quite against the Shariah, because Islam, unlike other religions, has a say in every single endeavor of the human, be they ‘religious’ or (what is commonly called) ‘secular’.
o One should refute totally and completely only that which has a position to be refuted, but not everything that is written in the form of an exposition is fit for refutation, since many works may not be of a respectable character to begin with. So we should use our resources (time, energies) to the optimum degree, and not waste them in going after trivial matters.
o It is sometimes said that one should stop all of these ‘pointless discussions’ with deviant groups, since it stands in the way of unity of the Muslims. There are two things in here: If the deviance is so great that it takes the deviant out of Islam, the Muslims (i.e. the scholars who can do so) should familiarize ourselves with their position, at the very least for the purpose of keeping the laity away from their positions by refuting them, and if Allah guides these deviants back to the correct path, then that is very well and good. And if the deviance is not serious, then there is no problem in us engaging with them in conversation so that they may come to the right path, but in here there is nothing preventing us from wishing unity with them. Besides, the scholars of Islam normally try to give the most liberal interpretation that is reasonably possible, so that people are not judged to have fallen out of Islam (I know this is a very hard thing to do today, but one looks for softness and excuses with regards to those who utter the ‘Shahaadah’).
o So the scholars are not just waiting to basically condemn this person or that person to death and to Hellfire, and it hurts the real people of Allah when all roads for the salvation of any person seem to be apparently blocked, and the formal outward judgment leads not only to Tabdee’ but also to Takfeer.