Random Thoughts and Notes: Days 58-66

o    This is a message I want to give to the ‘kids’ (i.e. young Muslim people who are considering marriage in an abstract shape or form, whether they are thinking romantically or otherwise): When young people consider marriage, they think of the sacrifices that have to be done, or at least have heard of this from some of their relatives, older friends, etc. Maybe they have heard song after song about how the love will remain and the couple always wishes to stay together, and so on and so forth.

o    What many of us married people did not understand at that time and something I personally think should be made known to all people (married or unmarried, hoping to get married) is that this principle of ‘sacrifice in marriage’ is above and beyond what any love song may tell you and make you feel happy about, and applies to absolutely everything the couple share in: that is, it encompasses their lives in and out. I am speaking from the male perspective of course, but it seems to me to be applicable throughout: It is not only that one has to do many routine, boring, and annoying tasks just to keep the house running and to keep the relationship humming along, but even at times of leisure, even of intimate closeness, one has to sacrifice one’s conception of ‘absolute’ or ‘maximum’ joy in order to satisfy the other side, or just to keep the marriage going forward – even if it is a lackluster ‘going forward’. (Even if I go to a more female-related issue, we see the rule in Islam, that the wife should be ready for the husband whenever he calls her; this is a sacrifice, no doubt, but is an intrinsic part of the marriage, and the marriage needs such sorts of sacrifices and efforts just to stay stable. If it is said that the husband should consider the wife’s situation and not call on her in every occasion he wants, then this is also a sacrifice. So it is sacrifice from one or both sides all the time – and this is surrounding the most intimate and the closest portion of the marriage relationship, so think about how any other matter would be).

o    Perhaps this is one of the reasons within the Muslim world as well as outside of it, the institution of marriage itself is under such strain nowadays: If one wants to simply keep himself or herself happy to the maximum, and has ‘hard-headed’ ambitious goals that must be accomplished, there will be many difficulties if the person wishes to literally share (or let us say ‘cut off a part of’) his/her ambitions, pleasures, final goals, etc. But that one has to really sacrifice every single conception of ‘maximum personal joy/satisfaction’ that one may have, and basically defer it indefinitely or even make a conscious effort to root it out their minds, is really something that people have to consider before and during their marriage.

o    However, this is not to go against the well-known general Islamic rule that one should get married if possible. It seems then, that this is one of the ways of showing how the person is to sacrifice his or her most coveted yet personal goals, joys and pleasures for the sake of the community, and also why this is the basis of family life and of the society as a whole – since society consists of many individual sacrifices in order to achieve a certain goal, and one cannot extirpate the conception of society simply because one wishes to have certain personal joys and satisfactions.

o    By the way, I am still in the ‘pre-kids’ phase of marriage, and what I am told is that this ‘pre-children’ phase is where the couple are in fact the happiest. So consider this as well, and also consider that a big purpose of marriage is not really happiness, but literally the controlling of one’s ego.

o    When we see the proportion of our existence to that of the entire human history, we will inevitably understand that our slice within the entire conglomeration of nations and epochs is indeed very small. We must really wonder why, at every point and at every place, men think that the laws they have devised with their own hands are the best that could have possibly been drafted; even the idea that there is an invisible march towards the perfection of laws seems to be quite artificial and without basis, yet it is repeated again and again, especially in our times.

o    From this angle then, on what basis do the opponents of Islam decry the Shariah, when they have not had and cannot have the chance to know the whole spectrum of human proclivities across all times and all places? Of course, this is a probabilistic argument and really does not have much bearing on the authoritativeness of the Shariah per se, but it is important to keep these sorts of ideas in mind, since most non-Muslim people today (no matter where they are from) think that the Islamic laws must be false simply because they contradict the laws and mores of their own place – while this is quite a weak argument that does not hold but emotional weight within the ‘larger picture’.

o    This is a really personal observation, it stems more from ‘emotionality’ and the ‘heart’, and I have yet to check with anyone, but: People ask that how can a small amount and a small duration of good deeds lead one to an Eternal Heavenly Abode. However, we see that those who go to Paradise, their main pleasure and joy is in ‘seeing Allah the Exalted’, and of praising Him in an ‘automatic’ manner. So when the people enter into Paradise and have this enormous ecstasy of being so ‘close’ to Allah the Exalted, how can it be except that they remain therein forever? For if it was a temporal stay in Paradise, then this pleasure, the true pleasure would be cut at some point, and Allah the Exalted, out of His Mercy for us, has decreed that such will not be the case.

o    With respect to the criticisms or doubts that people have regarding the linguistic miracle of the Qur’an, I believe many a times this comes as a consequence of their not understanding that not all languages are the same, and that not all similes and metaphors work in every language. But this disparity across languages, places, and times is obviously true, and it can be very easily seen even in how news reporters relate their stories. Like let us take a sports team named the ‘Lions’, one in an English-speaking land and another in a Spanish-speaking land. In the latter, it would be totally fine to say ‘the feline team’ and if one is based in a Spanish-speaking country, they can check how the newspapers sometimes refer to such teams. But in the English press, this phrase seems totally out of place.

o    The reason for this is that the languages have diverged on this point, on the number and range of synonyms which can be acceptably used to refer to certain terms within certain contexts. This obviously requires some hands-on experience in the language itself.

o    When we come to the Qur’an, we also need to keep this point in mind; that the suitability of the language used within the Qur’an would be best known to those who have a natural knowledge of how the language ebbs and flows for different situations. There is obviously no barrier to latter-day people learning the language and learning the different techniques in rhetoric and grammar that are acceptable and pleasing versus those that are inferior and displeasing, but this requires a lot of patience, dedication, and trust in those who have derived the rules of the language, and not a quick dismissal of the value of language in moving the hearts and minds of people.

o    I had mentioned that the discussion surrounding the ‘splitting of the moon’ was finished, but actually, there is one more point to be considered, which I thought was obvious, but it is better for it to be mentioned: Even eclipses have their area of visibility, so it is not that the sun or the moon will be seen by everyone in the time of the eclipse. This is an obvious point even as it cannot be taken as decisive evidence.

o    One thing that we see Christians mentioning is that it was only ‘Isa (AS) who cured the leper and the one born blind, and that this shows the alleged divinity of ‘Isa (AS). However, we see that in Islam, we say that the miracles shown at the hands of the Prophets (AS) cannot possibly be said to have come into existence due to the Prophets’ own independent volition, but because Allah willed to show this sign to the people at the hands of the Prophet in question in order to prove his Prophethood to all who may witness it.

o    Now, one counterargument to this is: The previous Prophets from Adam to Musa (AS) all prayed to ‘Isa (AS) to get their miracles shown to all, while ‘Isa (AS), by virtue of ‘being God’ did not need to do any of these things. But this is fallacious, since every one of the Prophets including ‘Isa (AS) occupied a body and had all the characteristics of bodies. So what would refrain another person from saying that ‘Isa (AS) actually prayed to Musa (AS) [and says that no, actually Musa (AS) was in fact God] to get his prayers answered and the miracles shown to everyone? There is no basis for this, except if one wishes to use baseless favoritism in this situation. [Of course, this can get much more complicated, with the added issues relating to the nature of Allah, the nature of humans, the distinction of Allah from His Creation, etc., but here I am leaving it in a simple form].

o    There is the interesting story about al-Baaqilani (RA) and the archbishop, and his point that the archbishop can be free from familial relations, while the Christians do not disassociate themselves from the idea of Allah having a ‘Son’. I know there might be criticism that this is only a caricature of the Christian idea that is being mocked, but the truth is that any sort of ‘relationship of multiplicities’ is considered as blasphemous and impossible to attribute to Allah in Islamic thought. All the talk about ‘Love’ and the rest cannot obscure the fact that the Christians believe that there is a genus or class named ‘God’ and occupied by three members, ‘Father’, ‘Son’, and ‘Holy Ghost’ – this is the main point of the problem really, the rest being a sort of ‘filler’.

o    And also the argument that was brought forward about ‘Aayesha (RAA) and what the hypocrites claimed about her. Note that trying to make the Muslims lose their cool is a very common polemic strategy and it might work with many people. But in this case, al-Baaqilani (RA) basically answered that her case was somewhat like that of Maryam (AS), except that Aayesha (RAA) did not give birth to any child, but Maryam (AS) came to the people with a child. Of course, this is not meant in a disrespectful way at all, but sometimes one has to take what is considered as true by both ourselves and our opponents as the basis for proceeding forward in the argument, or of showing why the initial argument of the opponent is actually wrong.

o    There is also the famous story about how al-Baaqilani (RA) averted bowing to the Emperor by turning his back and entering the door backwards. I know most people may think this is not something worth mentioning, but we see the protocol that was expected at that time, and how the Christian emperor tried to ‘force’ the man of Muslim learning into bowing down to him, and how this plan backfired. (The editor mentions that this is almost certainly just a legend, but Allah knows best).

o    Some people may make a big deal out of the story of ‘Umar (RAA) and what he said when he read the Verse: ‘وفاكهة وأبا’ (Verse 80:31), and that his brief wondering as to what ‘Abba’ means in here is indicative of the Qur’an not being clear whatsoever. But this is not a correct assumption, since as mentioned by Ibn Kathir (RA) in his Tafseer, the generality of this word was known to indicate one of the plants that grows from the Earth, but the question was only with respect to its exact specifications, and ‘Umar (RAA) himself immediately said that this was something beyond what is necessary to know.

o    So no issue can be made about this matter, and especially so since every single word of every Verse of the Qur’an has an interpretation and explanation behind it, even if it is not apparent to everyone at the very beginning of their recitation (and of course, it cannot be, since the job of writing a Tafseer requires different types of specializations to be employed, and this will not give a result right away in the case of every single Verse).

o    Relying on what al-Baaqilani (RA) says in the introduction to another one of his books (mentioned by the editor), many of the charges against the Qur’an from the side of the disbelievers have been around for an extremely long time, such as those tied to the narrations about goats and chickens eating the parchments of which the Qur’an was written down, or about the story of the Gharaaniq (i.e. the ‘Satanic Verses’), or that the Verses of the Qur’an would be written down based only and solely on the testimony of two people, or even whoever happened to pass by the street or by the Masjid, etc. For me, this is an indication that perhaps we lay Muslims of today have to really persevere to learn Islam properly and then start looking for the answers in a methodical and systematic manner. If we simply lazy around, or despair and give up hope, then everything will collapse around us, and will totally be our fault and no one else’s.

o    There have been within our history, certain Batini, Shia-inspired sects, who said that there is absolutely nothing of the Qur’an that can be known from its apparent wording, but that the inner meaning is the only operative one, and that this is only the domain of the Prophet and the ‘Infallible Imam’ [whoever that ‘Imam’ may be, as the different Batini groups had much historical disagreement with each other on this question].

o    It is also mentioned, that it is incorrect to hold that one merely has to believe in the Qur’an and its correctness, without any delving whatsoever into its meaning and its interpretation.

o    We need to remember how, in the case of most scholars of the Muslims, many of their books if not most of them have been lost, or only partially passed down to us, and their existence is known only through citations found in existing books; of course, this is lamentable in a sense, but it  is also important to consider, since if one were to rely only on the books, one would get only a partial picture of the entire collection of the scholar’s viewpoints and reasoning process. This is also why in Islam the accent is so much on the teachers as human beings who pass down the tradition, and not merely on books that one might find in some library, etc.

o    (As per what is quoted from one of al-Baaqilaani’s works) The judgments of the religion are of three types: That which is known only through pure reason, such as the emergence of the world and those attributes that are necessarily true of the One who brought the world into existence (i.e. Allah’s Life, Power, Knowledge, and Will). Then, the second type is of those things that are known purely through the revelation; the obligations and prohibitions, the Halaal and Haraam, correspond to this type of judgment. And there is also a third type, that is known through a combination of reason and revelation, such as Allah’s Attributes of Speech, Hearing, and Seeing, the reality of the Beatific Vision, the fact that He may forgive the sinners, and other similar matters. Apparently, the sending of the Messengers was included in the first type of knowledge, though I need to ask about this. And it was also apparently written that the Prophets may commit minor sins, not only lapses due to forgetfulness – again I will need to ask about this as well.

o    As per the editor, among the things that the Dhaahiri scholar Ibn Hazm mentioned against al-Baaqilaani (RA) and against the Ash’aris in general was his alleged belief in reincarnation (Tanaasukh). But this is something like a character assassination, as the traditional Sunnis never held such a view, and this view in fact goes against the message of the Qur’an and the other Islamic texts.

o    We know the narration of the Mujaddids that come every century for revitalizing the religion. Al-Baaqilani (RA) was such a huge figure that he was said to be the reviver of the religion for the fourth Hijri century (after ‘Umar bin Abdul Aziz (RA), Imaam ash-Shaafi’i (RA), and Imaam al-‘Ash’ari (RA) respectively). Of course, this is a matter that can become a subject for a lot of debate, a lot of give and take, but that he would be considered in such a way by those who came after him is a very big sign of his influence and rank in the Islamic milieu.