Random thoughts and notes: Days 108-120

o   People say that “if only” we could have more proper scientists in the Muslim Ummah, we could start mounting a serious challenge against the Western-led worldview that is now dominant. I do not know everything about this issue, but to me at least, the matter seem to be more complex that this: From one side, it is true that a large proportion of Muslims seek to turn to a profession that gives them the best immediate economic return, even if their contribution to society is minimal or even negative; and interestingly this is how many people are brought up from childhood. This will undoubtedly have an impact, since the demanding work of trying to build up an intellectual and material defense for the Ummah will leave most of its proponents in somewhat difficult material conditions for large swathes of their lives (or at least it will leave them in less than optimal conditions). Thus, a dislike towards personal sacrifice for the sake of the community and for a larger vision that may not be actualized within one’s own lifetimes definitely does play a role.

o   But also, given the large Muslim population, we do have a good number of formal scientists, formal scholars in the ‘secular’ fields, all who could definitely be of use in the endeavor described. And there are also a sizable number of formal scholars in the Islamic tradition, so numbers are not really the problem as I see it (I know it may be said that “true ‘Ulamaa” are lacking nowadays, but even if we take this to be true, there are many people who have reached some higher stage in their studies and knowledge, and we cannot desecrate or trivialize those who have reached a certain level).

o   Rather, what happens is that each side is many a times unrestrictedly talking down to the other side, as in a condescending manner – the scholars and ‘Ulamaa being suspicious of the secular-educated Muslims, and the secular-educated Muslims feeling that the ‘Ulamaa know absolutely nothing, that the opinions of traditional scholars are not worth anything at all in the “real world”.

o   To be honest, it is difficult for me as an individual to give a solution to this conundrum, but I think all reasonable people can see that while this divide remains, the Muslim Ummah, as an Ummah, cannot really rise to any notable level, and that this is exactly how the current Western-inspired worldview prefers to the matters to remain- since secularism is the dominant force, then ‘religion’ and ‘religious scholars’ are pushed to one side as ‘signs of an anomaly’ rather than true parts of the Ummah and part of the effort to reignite the honor of the Islamic nation.

o   Some people may say that my statement in a previous post concerning free but hateful speech and how it compares to the selling of rotten goods or the establishment of a fraudulent business really have no correlation with one another.  I suppose the objection is that no one would actually wish to sell defective goods or services, as people’s minds have gone way beyond the possibility of considering such things – the secular moral way has apparently shown the correct way to action.

o   However, I disagree. People still seem to be extremely lax in their ‘moral compass’, regardless of how this is defined, and many people refrain from committing acts that they would have otherwise engaged in simply because they do not know how to circumvent the laws.

o   And one important question becomes that, if there were no laws prohibiting the selling of fraudulent commodities and services but rather ‘freedom’ in this regard, would there not be a section from among the people who would purposefully advertise and try to sell defective goods and services, simply to show that they have the “freedom” to do so? It seems that the answer is in the affirmative, and that there is no stopping human nature in and of itself from trying to push the boundaries of what they can do.

o   Just as an anecdotal piece of evidence in this respect, I happened to come across the following article, which mentions the results of a poll wherein one in four Wall Street traders, bankers, etc., confided that they would engage in insider trading if they could get away with it. Even though the poll was unscientific, one cannot negate the effects that such thinking can have on the wider material and non-material culture of a land.

o   And in Islam we would say that the reason for this is that the ego and whatever is connected to the ego does not have an “off” switch, it simply wants more and more, until and unless it is ruthlessly made to fall into line.

o   I normally do not say much about what happens in my Masjid, but one really annoying thing I have noticed is how relatively older children are simply running around and distracting every single person who wishes to concentrate in his prayer, not only in the courtyard of the Masjid, but even in the main prayer hall itself. How can it be that ‘children’ of about 10 years of age can come to blows in the Masjid itself, sometimes even during the main Jama’ah?

o   I do not know for sure, but this just seems like the manifestation of a communal heedlessness. Because these are not little boys and girls of 2, 3, or 4 years old who do not understand what a Masjid is and what people should do there. Rather they are quite grown-up kids – sometimes even clearly above the age of discernment- and they are acting much worse than what would be expected from 3 or 4 year-old children.

o   I mean, if we want to even fantasize about defeating our enemies, how do we think this will occur when the already grown-up future of this Ummah takes the main area Masjid as a playground, as a place to talk about Messi and Ronaldo, as a place to curse, or talk about their video games? Seriously, if any of us sees something like this in our own Masaajids, at least we can talk about it.I know the prevailing wisdom is that a 10, 12, or 14 year old boy is quite grown up, and he is indeed grown up, but something has gone wrong at home, or at school, or in the streets, by means of which these boys are really in a state of mind quite different from what Islam envisages for such boys close to or past the stage of puberty.

o   This is perhaps one reason why in this day and age, you see certain people joining the prayers, and they have no idea how they should pray in congregation, what they are to do if they are late, and other simple rules. And these are people who are living in a Muslim country, and have reached even 25 or 30 years of age. And, they are not women either, where one could make an excuse that perhaps they just followed a ruling by means of which they could not go to the Masjid, so now they are weak in this aspect of their Fiqh. Anyway, let us hope, pray, and take certain practical steps so that this situation is improved, because otherwise we are going to be in extremely serious problems within a generation or two.

o   Sometimes we lose sight of the enormous importance that studying the Qur’an, in terms of its miraculousness, really has for the establishment of the truth of Islam, since most of us who are born Muslims take it for granted, or do not think about it much. But it is a foundational matter that has to be unearthed as much as we possibly can. This is the implied point made by Al-Baaqilani (RA), and it was valid then as it is now. Of course, books have been written about this before his time and after his time, but if we delve into the issue generation after generation, we are bound to find new things, and it is not a topic that will be exhausted, from what I can see and from what is obvious.

o   And one implication in here is that if the people from among the Muslim Ummah turn complacent in their treatment of the fundamentals of the religion (that is, they do not study it, try to understand it and also try to understand how it relates to their contemporary settings), then obviously what will happen is that the non-Muslims will take the leadership in studying Islam, and we cannot expect good things to come out of this.

o   Yes, there may be a few non-Muslims who come into the fold of Islam after they may have been against it, but obviously these are the exceptions to the rule. And yes, there were many new people being born in different places throughout the Islamic world who would go on to become authorities in the different branches of Islam, but this was at the time when Islam had lots of power in the land, and the Islamic polity was either respected, its ideology followed, or at least it gave rise to apprehensions in the hearts of anyone who may have hoped to do something against Islam.

o   Allah knows best, but nowadays we cannot sit back and just hope that ‘legends will be born’ for each and every Islamic discipline, especially when so many people within the Islamic nations implicitly at least do not pay respect to the disciplines and feel upset or even angry with the conclusions of such Islamic disciplines. Anyway, this is another topic, but I thought it important to mention it here briefly, since it does have a relationship to why we do not have a profusion of Muslim scholars and a profusion of respectable and vibrant debate among the best minds of the Ummah as to how we should present and practice Islam in this age of trouble.

o   So one lesson that perhaps I am repeating but which is mentioned or at least implied in this portion of the book is that those who have the ability to compose some book should set their priorities straight. Yes, it is good for people to know intricate details about grammar and morphology in certain cases if and when necessary, but for people to know the great linguistic miracle of the Qur’an is obviously a much higher aim and goal than the former aim. And based on this, our resources (time, money, etc.) should be allocated.

o   Most people, including myself, have a lot of distractions in our lives, and many a times we digress from the main topic that we should be considering and which is of prime importance, perhaps because it is difficult, or ibecause something has caught our attention and we think that we should address it immediately.

o   Al-Baaqilaani (RA) mentions something that was occurring in his time, which was that the people saw that there were very few helpers or let us say people who were involved in the subject matter of the miraculousness of the Qur’an [and those who were involved gave relatively weak “products” in this respect], to the point that some of them basically converted to other ideologies (he mentions the ‘Baraahima’, that is the Hindus, and perhaps he is mentioning the Hindus specifically since they do not have the concept of Prophethood to begin with. And it can be seen how such a situation would take place, because if one is unsure about the Prophethood of Allah’s chosen Prophets and Messengers, he will most likely gravitate towards positions that are very much in contradiction to the very essence of revelation-based religions such as Islam; not that conversion to Judaism or Christianity is good since that is not the case, but it seems that not even the Abrahamic faiths would seem to be ‘sufficient’ for such people).

o   Of course, if that was truly the case at that time, then we can imagine what the situation is today, when the very concept of God is being ridiculed left and right, and the weak ones from amongst the humans see the very existence of Allah as a hindrance to their supposed ‘freedoms’ and ‘liberties’. Only Allah can save us from the catastrophes facing us in this day and age.

o   There is one criticism as well, that certain people who may have been at a rank to write about this topic gave certain excuses to avoid getting involved in this matter, such as saying that the prerequisite arts required to speak about this matter could not be mastered by them. But Al-Baaqilani (RA) seems to imply that even if such was the case, then still there should be some introductory work at least that may serve as a springboard for future research. And of course, whenever there is a deficiency in any endeavor, it is best to at least start doing something concerning the topic at hand, even if it requires some serious research; because at the end, the path towards giving better responses or making the decisive proofs known to all may not be completed by the precursor or ‘father’ of the revitalization of the given science, but it still would serve, at the very least, as a path that may be used for those who come at a later time.

o   The context of this objection was that there were actually people who were knowledgeable but did not wish to get involved in the matter; it does not mean that any lay person can delve into these issues and extract the intricate points. Today it seems that in certain cases, the pendulum had definitely swung the other way, with many of us lay Muslims having copious amounts of zeal, but very little formal instruction in the Islamic sciences; and this is another way that we are hurting the cause of Islam.

o   There are certain prerequisites in order for the one who is contemplating the topic of the miracle of the Qur’an to be able to obtain benefits from it. Of course, one of these is the knowledge of the Arabic language, but the knowledge of the Usool of Islam is also important, as is the knowledge of the methods used by the theologian scholars.

o   As I have mentioned a number of times and is repeated here in the work, the Qur’an is the main miracle given to the Prophet ﷺ, even as we acknowledge the existence of a good number of ‘visual’ miracles that occurred during his ﷺ time – but all of these visual miracles were like “assistant miracles” to the miracle of the Qur’an.

o   We can easily perceive that the visual miracles were manifested at specific times to specific people and for specific purposes. Some of these incidents have been mass transmitted down to our time. There are other incidents that have been narrated on a less prominent scale (originally, that is, the narrations in and of themselves), yet it was divulged among the masses, and no one amongst the masses has disavowed it or refused to acknowledge its occurrence, and thus, it takes the signification of a mass-transmitted report, even if the narrations themselves do not reach that level. And there are other incidents whose reports have only reached the status of solitary narrations.

o   However, the evidence of the Qur’an is a universal miracle for all the responsible creatures, and its time ‘limit’ is until the Day of Judgment. Also it efficacy is up until the end of Earthly time, and this is also a big difference between the Qur’anic evidence and the evidence derived from the visual-only miracles.

o   One important point again that is brought up is that the facet of knowing the linguistic miracle of the Qur’an is tied to the incapacitation of the first people who heard the Qur’an from bringing something similar to it, and that this is enough for subsequent time periods. What is implicit in this is that there was a decline in the level of Arabic proficiency even amongst the Arabs themselves, and this has continued up to our present time. I know that many people may object to this conceptualization of matters, saying that such is not a given, especially since languages evolve, and computers can come up either now or in the future and put together something amazing.

o   But from what I know, this last argument is quite weak, and a very big reason for its weakness is that it totally ignores the human factor in bringing about changes to any given language. One can obviously bring a computer of any type, but for it to actually give a result in book format that can motivate people (whether due to linguistic traits or any other thing) to follow a “new religion”, and that this “new religion” will take over large swathes of the Earth within a couple of generations seems out of reach [even if someone is not knowing the exact challenge of the Qur’an, and/or does not even know that the Qur’an challenges people on this level as well].

o   With regards to the first possible objection, we say that it is hypothetically possible in the abstract for a (large) number of people to come up with a highly eloquent language, or for the well-known languages of today to take up highly eloquent forms in the future.

o   But from the trends that we see nowadays, if anything, more and more languages are dying out, and the speakers of many other tongues are basically migrating to the well-known languages (at least in a formal setting), since these latter group are the avenues for incorporating their fluent speakers into the larger world economy (among other factors). Again, this would not negate the hypothetical possibility mentioned above, but we are simply pointing out its implausibility and how the situation today is the complete opposite of what some of our opponents may say.

o   There is one objection to this from the editor, in the sense that one cannot say that the miracle of the Qur’an was only for the Jahiliyya Qurayshi Arabs, or for the Arabs at the time of the Prophet ﷺ; rather, the challenge and the miracle extend and are applicable to all human beings and jinns uniformly. This, even though the most competent people who may have (hypothetically) met the challenge of the Qur’an were the early Qurayshi Arabs.

o   Now, there is mention of a number of Verses giving credence to the position that the Qur’an is the main miracle in Islam, such as Verse 14:1: In here Allah mentions that He has sent this Book to take people out of darkness and into light, and such would not be possible unless the Book were an indubitable proof [that is, a miracle]. Or in Verse 9:6, where Allah has commanded for those disbelievers who request protection to be protected until they hear the Qur’an – and here also, the main message of Islam is conveyed by their hearing the Qur’an; their hearing of the Qur’an would not have been considered as a ‘standalone’ proof except if it were a miracle, an indubitable proof.

o   We also have the Verses in the last section of Surah Ash-Shu’araa (Verses 26: 192-195); in here Allah mentions the Qur’an as the revelation in the Arabic idiom given to the Prophet ﷺ so that he may become one of the warners – and obviously this is very clear in that his becoming a warner is dependent on the revelation he has received from Allah the Exalted.

o   Another example is from the first few Verses of Surah Ghaafir (Chapter 40), where Allah informs us that arguing about His Revealed Verses is disbelief. This would not be disbelief unless the proof is such that it cannot be denied intellectually.

o   And there are actually more Verses that are presented, in just showing that the disbelievers of previous nations argued with their Messengers concerning the indubitable signs presented to them, and what the consequence of all this was for them. So the point al-Baaqilaani (RA) is making here is that the Qur’an is the absolute Hujjah (proof) for the Arabs and for all humanity, and we are definitely not to argue against it.

o   And the next discussion is about the next Chapter [Surah Fussilat, Chapter #41], which also begins with the Muqata’at letters, and it mentions at the very beginning that the Qur’an has been revealed in the Arabic language for a people who know… had the decisive proof not been included in the Qur’an itself, it would not have made any difference whether the Book was detailed or not, or whether it was in Arabic or in some other language. Also, when Allah mentions their turning away, it also shows the decisiveness of the Qur’an, for if the proof was not in the Qur’an, their turning away would not have harmed them to the degree mentioned in the Qur’an. In this chapter, towards the latter Verses, we also see again the declaration about the relevance of the Qur’an having been revealed in Arabic, and that had it been in another language, the message would have been completely unclear to the Arabs.

o   Of course, someone may come along and say that this is not a very strong rational point at all, as it is obvious that an Arab people need a revelation in the Arabic language. But one thing that seems to be implicit in this (and Allah knows best) is the importance of the Arabic language and idiom to the miraculousness of the Qur’an and of it being a proof for the Messengership of Muhammad ﷺ. So this issue cannot at all be belittled or ignored in any way.

o   And in Surah Al-‘Ankabuut Verses 50-51 this is reinforced, as the Qur’an is mentioned in such a manner as it becomes clear that it is the sufficient sign so that people will believe if they are indeed inclined towards the truth; and that the Qur’an takes the place (in terms of decisiveness) of the miracles of the previous Prophets.

o   We see that the Qur’an is the message plus the miracle confirming the message (as we have noted before). In this sense (of its decisiveness as a proof), it is as if the person were hearing the Eternal Speech of Allah; and we know that when Musa (AS) heard the Speech of Allah, he knew that it was indeed the Speech of Allah, and there was no doubt for him in this case [There are some theological subtleties that may need to be addressed, but yes, as far as the story of Musa (AS) and what occurred to him in the Mount Tur with the first encounter he had with Allah the Exalted, we can learn many lessons concerning the decisiveness of that as a proof for Musa (AS), and how it relates to the Qur’an as an undeniable proof for all of humanity].

o   The establishment of the Qur’an’s miracle is preceded by confirming that the Qur’an we have with us at present is the same Qur’an that was revealed to and recited by the Prophet ﷺ in his time; and this is known through the Mutawaatir (mass-transmitted) recitation [details have been skipped since it is not the topic of discussion at present].