Random Thoughts and Notes: Days 67-92

o   One strange thing that at least I derived from the loss of Flight MH 370 is that there seems to have developed, within the past decade, a certain type of preprogrammed proclivity within people to receive breaking news minute after minute. And it seems to me that the ubiquitous presence of twitter and Facebook in our lives is due to this very possibility, that there will be something amazingly new and important at each and every single instant of our lives.

o   But I would say that the chances of such things happening in reality are much less now than they were even 10 years ago; for the simple reason that those of us who sit on our computers and other devices simply updating our statuses cannot get very far in doing things in the ‘real world’. Without true events happing in the extra-device world, how can we expect there to be huge breaking news stories at the ‘top of the minute’?

o   And one more thing is that I think this plays right into the secular mindset, in that it presupposes a linear trajectory of progress: Progress in knowledge, progress in science, and progress in mere collection of news items. But I wonder if there is any true progress being made whatsoever, or if people will just become confused and left to wander into uncertainty due to a false progress.

o   I am not an expert in the field, but I will say this: I accept that there has been a pernicious influence of fundamentalist, Protestant-based Christian thinking about science and about the world at large that has infiltrated, or we can say even totally dominated, the Muslim apologetic literature with respect to the Qur’an and science. And I cannot say that this is a good thing, since it is definitely not. But while we are at it, should we also not consider that modern science (or Western modern science) is also based in one way or the other, on the thinking patterns of the European Reformation, with its claim that the distinction between secular and religious was in fact contained in the Bible and that it was elucidated very clearly by Jesus (AS) himself?

o   This is one issue that must be dealt with head-on, and we Muslims should not ignore it. We cannot only attack pseudoscientific Muslim apologetics while neglecting to see why there modern-day science thinks the way it does.

o   And I think that many if not most or even all of the discussions surrounding controversial issues such as evolution versus intelligent design are in fact guided totally by the politics of the Western lands, which see it as ‘blasphemous’ to enter God into the public schools and classrooms. So even if it does pass that some claims of the evolutionists and the ID camp do meet eye-to-eye, yet the ID claim that the biological process points to a higher power guiding this process brings about all sorts of conflicts and dead-ends.

o   But this is obviously an attempt by the ‘formal evolution’ camp to keep ‘God’ out of the public sphere by all means, and is definitely a result of a particular legalistic framework with regards to what is and what is not acceptable to propagate to the citizens of the nation-state. Why should we as Muslims be told to subscribe to this line of argumentation, along with whatever else comes from it, seems like a question that should lead to serious reform. And Allah knows best.

o   An interesting thing we see again is that there were always enemies of the great scholars of Islam, sometimes even amongst people of the Muslim Ummah itself, and later editors and writers have found out when the calumnies that have been written against them have absolutely no basis. Thus, it should not surprise us that there are non-Muslims today going all the way as to say that the Prophet ﷺ did not even exist in reality; this is simply an attempt to reach at a certain conclusion regardless of the utter weakness of the method utilized.

o   We see that the Sunni belief is that Prophets continue in the Hukm of Prophethood and Messengership even after they have departed from this world, since this is a rank bestowed on them by Allah the Exalted, and is not strictly dependent on whether they are ‘performing the duties of Prophethood’ (for otherwise they would not be Prophets during their sleep, while eating and drinking, etc., but this is a false assertion).

o   One very big point that was falsely attributed to al-Baaqilani (RA) by Ibn Hazm was the claim (extended to all Ash’aris apparently by extension) that the decision concerning the order of the Verses within the Suras was not by Divine inspiration, but was rather from the Ijtihaad of the Companions. And this is obviously a very big charge to make against him, as this would fly against all known evidence in this matter, and would also strike at the very root of the Islamic religion – but this is something that no Ash’ari could possibly say.

o   But yes, there have been some opinions mentioning that the arrangements of the Suras themselves were by Ijtihaad of the Companions, and that the Prophet ﷺ basically delegated this matter to them, but this is obviously a matter very different than the saying above with respect to the Verses within the Chapters.

o   There seems to have also been an issue raised by Ibn Hazm concerning the Ash’ari position with regards to the Qur’an, and that we hold the Qur’an not to be the speech of Allah but rather only the ‘indicators’ pointing to the Speech of Allah. But this is an objection arising from (either a genuine or intentional) difficulty in understanding that the letters, words, lines, etc. that we use in articulating the Qur’an is one thing, but they all point to the Unique and Undivided Speech of Allah, which is not divisible, not composed of anything, etc. This is analogous to the case of how my uttering of the word ‘Allah’ is different to some other Muslim’s uttering of the same word ‘Allah’, with all the different modulations, sound frequencies, differences in sound waves, and on and on, while these both are indicating Allah the Exalted, who is One and Indivisible. [This is the way I can explain it for the moment, but I will hopefully ask as to whether there are better analogies in this respect. Besides, this is a rather technical issue, and there is a lot of room for misunderstanding if one does not understand or does not wish to understand the subtle differences in the words used by the scholars].

o   And from what I know, this is a somewhat more unfair to al-Baaqilani (RA) than to others, since as per what we see in a number of places, it is that his position was that the person hears the actual Eternal Word of Allah whenever the Qur’an is recited, and this position is more extensive than what other Ash’aris have concluded, that the actual Eternal Word of Allah was heard only by the likes of Musa (AS), etc.

o   Al-Baaqilani (RA) seems to have said that the Arabic arrangement is the recital (the Qiraa’ah) of the Speech of Allah – (but there is further explanation as to what this entails, and this needs to be asked about).

o   Ibn Hazm spoke immoderately not only about al-Baaqilani (RA) but about many other scholars as well. Of course, we have many other examples of scholars lashing out and even anathematizing one another, but it seems the case of Ibn Hazm was that he gained a huge amount of enemies with the way in which in he addressed his intellectual opponents.

o   Now, it is mentioned by a scholar favorable to him, that al-Baaqilaani (RA) made known and visible the rules and regulations to be used for analytical thinking connected to scholastic theology. And perhaps this is a reason why he had a lot of students, but also a number of detractors (since some may have seen this as an attempt to subvert Islam by using methods of disbelievers, while in fact it was only the awakening of the sciences and processes that were latent in Islam itself even while they may have been abandoned by and large by the Muslim nation, due to the ‘close proximity’ of these sciences with the philosophers, etc.)

o   But I also think we should not overestimate such sorts of statements. Yes, when a great scholar comes onto the scene, he might be seen with suspicion and he may be severely reproached by certain quarters. But it does not signify that those who term themselves as scholars and are reproached are necessarily great geniuses, their only sin being that their contemporaries did not appreciate their worth. Rather, it is also very much possible that the reproach is right and that the critics are in fact correct in their sayings. So at all times, we must go back and do a careful analysis of the basis of Islam, and where the authoritative statements and the probabilistic statements lie.

o   Islam is in fact conceptually very open to accept ideas that may be unpopular at the beginning, but its system is also not accepting of anything and everything, especially when such matters clash directly with the foundations and the unequivocal meaning and significations of the texts.

o   About Imam al-Ghazaali (RA), it is mentioned that his method was at times more towards the Mu’tazili doctrine in certain aspects (This is something for further discussion whenever the matter may come up, but I am just mentioning it in here without any elucidation).

o   Apparently, the impetus for al-Baaqilani (RA) to write his book was the lack of literature in the field of Qur’an studies dealing specifically with the miraculous nature of the Qur’an. Now, I know the editor says that this assumption was in fact somewhat unfair, since there had been a number of previous writers who had done a good amount of research in this field, even if it was from a non-Sunni perspective. Whatever the case may be in reality, it does seem that most good works in this sphere come from a (perceived or real) feeling that not enough has been done on the subject, or that there are certain points that need to be clarified for the benefit of the Muslim masses.

o   The only thing I can wonder about in here is that if such was the case while Islam was, by the grace of Allah, well-established in the Earth, and people were drawn to Islam many a times simply because of its grandeur, then what should be the case today with regards to our intellectual output and our need for proper refutations, when there is a full-scale intellectual invasion of the Muslim lands, and the masses of the Muslims in many cases hardly know the basics of the religion.

o   Not only this, but also unfortunately what I have heard is that in certain Muslim lands, what one needs to become an ‘Imam’ (i.e. a formal leader of the Muslim community) is not going through the traditional texts and the traditional curriculum, but rather that one has to go through certain approved textbooks and when these texts are finished, one is ‘ready to go’ so as to say (that is, he has become an ‘approved Imam’). If this is truly the case, then what can be expected from the Muslim masses, when even their community leaders have a shaky foundation?

o   Of course, I am not saying that this is the case in all the Muslim world or even in the majority of the Muslim world, but rather that this is something I read from the personal experience of a certain brother and his being stupefied at how the process for official elevation to the position of Muslim ‘chaplain’ (if I can use this term) was happening in a certain country. And may Allah help us in this and in every case.

o   There are two aspects to the veracity of the Qur’an as a miracle from Allah. The first has to do with the transmission of the Qur’an, and the fact that what the Prophet ﷺ recited and taught to the people in his time is the same Qur’an we recite today. And the second aspect has to do with the challenge that was given to all the contemporaries of the Prophet ﷺ to come up with something similar to the Qur’an, which is the main topic of discussion in this work.

o   There is one point inferred to in passing, which is that the Oneness of Allah the Exalted is taken by the theologians of Islam to also have been mentioned in the Qur’an as part of the consequences of realizing that the Qur’an is miraculous. So there are different means and methods of showing the Oneness of Allah, and the methods to be employed depend on the person and his inclination. Islam is too vast to say that only one approach is to be utilized for all persons, as the absolute conclusion may remain absolute even as the methodology for reaching this truth may change from person to person or from time to time.

o   We know that the Tawrah and the Injeel share with the Qur’an the quality of being revelations from Allah the Exalted, and of having a miraculous nature insofar as they veraciously report about matters of the Unseen. However, unlike the Qur’an, they were not revealed in idioms whose eloquence could have led to a consideration of a miracle in terms of linguistic composition, and this is an important difference between the Qur’an and earlier revelations.

o   The organization of the Qur’an, (in spite) of its various facets, and the dissimilarity of its types, is outside the range of what was known from the speech of the Arabs, their writings, and their orations as well.

o   We should also consider the length of the Qur’an if we wish to properly appreciate its amazing style – thus, it is not only a consideration of each Chapter of the Qur’an in isolation as a miracle, but also the relationship between the different Chapters that should be considered. And this is of importance, since in a text of such length, one would expect crests and troughs. This is what we see from normal, human writers, even the very famous ones, they went through low periods and high periods, depending on their personal knowledge, condition, moods, and so on.

o   Whenever the Qur’an mentions the same story in different Chapters and locations, it does so in clearly different styles each time, even while each style surpasses the common styles of speech; and this is a very important consideration, since humans as a rule cannot do this without either repeating previously utilized formats, or botching the new style they are trying to formulate. And the same analogous case can be made when the topic of the composition changes, that normal people may not be able at all times to adjust or maintain the style appropriate for the new topic.

o   Even the Jinns are unable to bring something like the Qur’an. I know that many may say that this is not a valid point, since so many people do not believe in the existence of Jinns. But even if we hypothetically go along with this argument, most people do believe in some sort of spirits, devils, or some creatures existing beyond our visible realm. In such a case, we would tell the opponent that any spirit or devil that may work either in symphony with humans or ‘between themselves’, will not be able to bring something like the Qur’an. So any fabrication from among the creations cannot compare with what the Creator has brought forth at the hands of His Messenger ﷺ, and this is the message of the Qur’an when it puts forth the challenge.

o   If one compares how the Qur’an was used as a basis for the formulation of the religion and how the same formulation occurred in other religions (considering the input of their holy books into the process), one will note the very big difference between Islam and other religions. And this is so –according to what I can see – since in the case of other religions, the main sources themselves were either in flux for many centuries (and in some cases are still in flux), and/or the religious community had to go through very big difficulties in surviving at various parts in its history even before any consolidation of the texts or interpretation and codification could be made thereof; in some cases, codification of the religion and of the theology as such is not even a major concern as opposed to the ritualistic aspect of religious observances [and this is something that would be extremely frowned upon from an Islamic standpoint]. So all of these considerations are of note when we see how the Qur’an fits into the formulation of Islamic Aqeedah and the Usool of Deen and of Fiqh, and how the analogous cases are handled in other traditions.

o   Also, the superiority of the Qur’an is known from how it is commonly cited in the midst of other speech, as we see in previous times and even today. Thus, if it is mentioned in the midst of poetry, prose, orations, etc., this is a sign that it is extremely quotable, and that there is a continued and sustained high value placed on it.

o   The totality of ‘Muqata’at’ letters mentioned in the beginning of the Chapters is 14 (in 28 Chapters, from the total of 29 Arabic letters); so these 14 are mentioned, the mentioned ones implicitly pointing to the ones not mentioned, in order to signify that the Qur‘an is composed from the same letters that all other Arabic speech is composed of, even though the Arabs are unable to bring something like the Qur’an.