Random thoughts and Notes: Days 261-394

  • If we consider the matter properly, we would know that the nurturing of the Sahaabas at the hands of the Prophet ﷺ was in itself an amazing miracle, since he took those who were either very simple or very rough people and made them into conquerors of the world and universities in their own persons, only in the span of one generation; while this is something never before seen in the history of mankind – This I would say is one of the additional miracles of the Qur’an and of the Prophet ﷺ, and this cannot at all be ignored.

  • It is said: If an ‘Aalim tells you that he is knowledgeable in only Tafseer or only Fiqh or only Usool, then this is a sign that he is in fact not knowledgeable either in his own field or in other fields of Islam; the reason being that all the specialties of Islam grow together within a person as he is formally learning the religion, and they cannot be disassociated from one another.
  • Normally, if someone asks about the reason as to why Person A (who is from a Muslim household) goes to Heaven while Person B (from a non-Muslim household) goes to Hellfire, the answer might be that Allah shows Mercy to the first and Executes His Justice upon the second. While this is indeed correct, yet we also need to realize another answer, which is that every Person (whether A, B, C, …) must intellectually be convinced of Islam as his religion, and only then will his faith be considered as proper (and this is an opinion of a large segment of the Muslim scholarship). So we should look at it from different angles, not only from the point of view of what Allah bestows upon any of His Slaves, but also from the viewpoint of what every person born anywhere in the world is required to know and believe as his necessary obligation.
  • We see that if a person who is totally cut off from the world comes to the independent conclusion that Allah exists and that He is the only Deity to be worshipped, we Muslims would consider him as a believer (a Mu’min) and part of the body of Muslims.
  • But it might be asked that if he eventually does come into contact with civilization and specifically with Muslims, how would we be sure that he would pick our religion of Islam as opposed to other religions out there? From what I understand, the answer is quite simple: He will see that Islam is the only religion that conforms to his previous conclusion in terms of theology/cosmology, while other ideologies, philosophies and religions fail in this regard. So the transition from “lone believer” to “Muslim within the larger community” would in fact be quite seamless and smooth.
  • One note about the information that one is supposed to be receiving in the “24-hour news cycle”: We all know the value of knowledge for the Muslim, yet it seems that the type of news we are receiving is in fact detrimental to the Muslim student of knowledge – in here I am specifically referring to that Muslim who wishes to improve himself by means of his study of sacred knowledge [and other types of knowledge as well, but beginning with what is obligatory for him and later on building upon that, both in Islamic and “secular” fields] and thereby wishes to improve the Islamic society and the world at large.
  • Because now what we are seeing almost non-stop attacks on Islam from every angle of the traditional media and the new types of media, and even though some of the news-worthy stories may give us reason for pause and reflection, yet the great majority are trivial, and were we to step into the maze of commenting and counter-commenting on them (especially among our online social circle), we would be deeply distracted from our goal of acquiring and later sharing the beneficial knowledge that we have embarked to acquire. Rather, we should think more like the university student who simply has no time for following and commenting on news no matter how serious they may seem to be at the beginning, given the many commitments he needs to fulfill.
  • Or at the most, we should limit and control our interactions with the “unbridled outside world” for our own benefit – as we know, the current situation in terms of news of the world or news of the Muslim world leads one to lose concentration about any serious goal one may have set himself. We could potentially turn the more serious news stories into formal objects of study and comment, but this would have to be pursued in a manner very different to the way the average person receives and processes news and information.
  • If we say that the direct taking of Ahaadeeth outweighs the actions of the Sahaabah, we are then in a way, saying that we have, today, better access to the Prophet ﷺ than the Companions did – in here we are putting a special spotlight on the Mujtahid Companions, those who could derive and interpret Islam due to their knowledge and proximity to the Prophet ﷺ.
  • On a related matter, we see that mass transmission with regards to a certain question (a certain Mas’alah) is given preference to solitary transmissions or solitary narrations – and this is extremely crucial with regards to ‘Aqeedah related questions.
  • Many people cannot fully understand what is transpiring, but in truth the Salafi-inspired persons and the Shia-minded ones have similar approaches to the Islamic texts, which is to shear the texts of Islam from the methodology and assumptions through which the texts are (so as to say) “produced”, considered and evaluated. It is in fact a thoroughly polemicist technique of argumentation for both groups, developed in order to fight their sectarian opponents. I believe that I have spoken about the Shia case in some length, but with regards to the Salafi situation, one finds that many a times, they have taken the apparent signification from a given text, narration or sentence to be the absolute conclusion that one has to adhere by in order to remain within Islam.
  • Of course, no one is denying that texts have significations, but there may also be other texts counterbalancing the first ones, or certain Verses that serve as the conceptual locus for any discussion concerning the matter at hand, and it is improper to neglect such realities and to consider all texts as equal in rank, signification, and weight.
  • It is noteworthy how the honor of the Muslim is placed at a very high level in Islam as per a good number of Ahaadeeth from the Prophet ﷺ, when contrasted with the modern drive towards publicizing all good and bad things that one may do, and leaving them out in the public arena.
  • Even though we Muslims are extremely far away from reaching anything like our goal in this respect in modern times, or even smelling the fragrance of success, the truth is that in order to properly refute the non-Islamic religions, we need to study said ideologies and religions until we find the “point of bifurcation”, or the “cosmological difference”, which is at the end of the day the root cause of why we Muslims and the non-Muslim group disagree with one another. And I have to say that this requires in addition to a good amount of knowledge, a good mount of insight, and a good overall vision of what Islam is and how Islam itself builds up its knowledge and foundations.
  • Additionally, what we Muslims need to do is to look at the “Aqeedah”, the “Usool al-Aqeedah”, and the “Usool al-Fiqh” categories of our ideological opponents, if we are to truly understand how to tackle their Shubuhaat (i.e., the doubts that Muslims may have due to objections and questions raised by such groups). It may seem like a very big task and in a sense it certainly is, but I know that if our scholars can come to know of these aspects of our opponent’s religions and ideologies (or the best approximations thereof), then in 5-7 years’ time we could at least begin to see some good refutations and works coming out of this arena.
  • In Shia-Sunni discussions, there are times when a certain Hadeeth is brought up, wherein the Prophet ﷺ treated a hypocrite who had come to his house very kindly, and this is used to apparently “prove” that Taqeeyah is somehow allowed in Islam. Well, from what I heard one of the Mashaaykh saying, this is in fact related to dealing with people who have extremely bad characteristics in their hearts with extra kindness and gentleness, so that one may avert the evils that would otherwise accrue to one’s self. It is not that one is dissimulating the true teachings of the religion in order to fool them in the matters of religion for the purpose of ‘Taqeeyah’.
  • In this respect, the true Sunni scholars say that we should deal with the people based on the circumstances. Just as it is inappropriate to deal with kind and gentle people harshly, it is also improper to let one’s right be trampled over when one is dealing with greedy or jealous people, or those who know how to take advantage of a person whenever the opportunity presents itself – No, in these cases, the Muslims should know not to let himself be bitten twice from the same hole, as the meaning of the famous Hadeeth testifies.
  • From my experience in discussions with Shias, most of the Sunni debaters are in fact Salafi-minded people: And while they have carried out some good research with respect to the problems found in Shia books and beliefs, there is still a lot to be left in regards to understanding the abstract points of contention; and the reason is that the Salafi-minded debaters very rarely consider the base assumptions ad postulates that the Shias make when presenting their beliefs – of course, the truth is that neither do the Shia concern themselves with presenting such assumptions and postulates, and in many cases I suppose that they do not know these assumptions, and cannot articulate them properly if pressed to express them. And this is a reason why these types of discussions normally go around in circles. I do not say that either side would convert if people had found out about the abstract principles they disagree on, but they would have known where and how to discus, or would have at least known that they can only talk at irredeemable crossroads to one another, and that thus any discussion is more or less fruitless. But they would have found out much sooner, rather than the situation we see many a times in present arguments and discussions.
  • (On second thought, many of the ‘traditional Sunnis’ also seem to have fallen into the same trap of making assumptions and considering our realities to be the realities and assumptions that the Shias are dealing with as well, while this is not necessarily the case at all. So in here also there is a need to identify what constitutes a technical series of terms for the Shias that may be different from our terms and definitions, and all the other matters related to the ‘Usool’ of Shia thoughts and assumptions which may be both similar and different to our understandings).
  • I know I may have repeated this a number of times, but the truth is that the issue keeps coming up: The Islamic religion and the Muslims in general get lambasted and lampooned from left to right, from up to down, not because we are an imminent threat to the world, but precisely because the non-Muslim world knows that, with a few exceptions here and there, we absolutely cannot stand up for ourselves and do anything that will really shake the world and change the status quo.
  • And while I am talking about this, we Muslims should really take a hard look into how the narrative is moving along: Why are we letting the non-Muslims tell us under what ‘archetypes’ Islam and Muslims should conform to? It really does not matter whether the critique is coming from non-Muslim religious conservatives, non-Muslim “liberals”, or non-Muslim communists, but the truth is and has always been that criticism of Islam has been present. We cannot be so intellectually weak so as to rush to try to make Islam conform with liberal secular democracy, or “Christian-based democracy”, or any other discourse.
  • In any case, it is improper to suppose that only Islam is absolutist in its vision and what it hopes to achieve in the world, while “other cosmological interpretations” (if they can be called as such) simply look at the world without wishing to change it according to their vision. No, this has never been the case with a great number of ideological formulations, and we Muslims should not be so apologetic that we do not understand this important facet not only of the Islamic narrative, but of ideological narratives as a whole.
  • Talking very generally, anyone who knows something about religions will know that there does reach a point when the categories the given religion itself puts forth cannot be substituted or replaced with other categories or terminologies without there being significant loss in the fidelity of the message of the religion. If we as Muslims simply allow this to happen in the discourse concerning Islam, then we have done a very big disservice to Islam.
  • Of course, the question will come as to why then, are there so many rules and regulations in Islam which seem to be out of touch with the modern sensibilities and modern conceptions of human dignity. From what I know, the answer cannot come from blindly trying to make the Islamic ruling conform to the modern standard of human rights or of liberal secular democracy. Rather, the discussion about this should be strictly technical and academic: If there is a discovery of those Muslim scholars who endorsed certain views closer to “modern views” so be it, and if something else is discovered, so be it. Also, the decision as to what can be adopted by the Muslims of today should also be done according to strictly technical and academic standards, neither trying to purposefully appease nor to purposefully irritate the non-Muslim world.
  • I think it is proper for us Muslims to start looking into why certain ideologies that are much farther away from the Western discourse than Islam is have managed to be criticized less severely by the mainstream Western media. By that I mean as an example, that we have the Buddhist philosophy and religion, many of its leaders being the darlings of the liberal discourse. This, even though normative Buddhism does not accept the concept of an independent self in any form or manner – while the conception of an individual person with fundamental rights is a cornerstone of European and Western thinking. Of course, Islam does accept that the individual exists, but it does not accept that he is ‘entitled’ to any unalienable rights that a polity should protect and defend, but even so, the Islamic metaphysical conception in this regard seems to be closer to the Judeo-Christian or even the secular conception of reality than that of the Buddhists.
  • And Allah knows best, but perhaps the rank and file of commentators and policy makers around the liberal secular world cannot be bothered to study the differences between different ideologies in so much detail, and have left this issue to the ‘obscure’ departments of comparative philosophy in academia.
  • But even if we were to move to the political sphere with regards to a religions such as “Tibetan Buddhism”, does anyone believe that if somehow the Dalai Lama, currently the towering voice in liberal circles concerning Tibet, were to oversee the “liberation of Tibet”, that there would somehow be a transition to a “liberal secularist utopia” in a place like Tibet? Of course not, since the very foundation of the discourse regarding Tibet must assume the “pre-modern” concepts of absolute kings, spiritual kingship, religious overlords, and the like, since all of these are the concepts native to the traditional Tibetan population.
  • From what I can tell, there is absolutely no reason to believe that the same problems one finds in “nation-building” projects that have taken place the world over would not apply to a “liberated Tibet”. And this brings us to another question, which is that the actual closeness or farness of religious/political conglomerates from one another is not what decides their practical way of working with each another, but rather, there are usually many other factors involved in who can be taken as a “practical friend” in a given situation, some of which have very little to do with true ideological proximity.
  • I do not wish to get very deeply into the specifics of the matter, but if one makes a hypothetical analogy with countries such as Mongolia or Bhutan, which have strong ties to Tibetan Buddhism, one sees that the issue in these nations is far from being one of “liberal secularist democracies” as understood in Western nomenclature. Of course, Islam would not criticize Tibetan Buddhism based on its adherence or lack thereof for the modern conceptions of human rights or political superstructures, and would take a different approach in this regard; but here I am only briefly mentioning the many differences one finds even among groups that might be seen as allies in many cases.
  • In the sphere of Qur’anic eloquence, the one who has deficiency in this field or due to any other reason has not reached the highest level is just like the beginner, and he must make Taqleed of the true experts (i.e. he has to submit to the decisions and pronouncements of the experts in this field).
  • And here is something that I believe is of consequence for those of us who Alhamdullilah have the zeal to propagate the religion: We may want to argue with a non-Muslim concerning this point of the Qur’anic eloquence and how it is a pointer towards the Prophethood of Muhammad ﷺ, but it is clear that over 99% of those who are arguing on either side cannot at all defend their positions independently (in the sense of being able to look at the different arguments and have a somewhat good command of what separates a good argument from a bad one, or from a non-argument). It is of course true that most of us are Muqalledeen and are only following either this person or that one, but if anything this should be an encouragement for us to develop ourselves more than what we have currently done.
  • And the truth, as mentioned in books concerning Arabic Balaaghah and Balaaghah of the Qur’an, is that in order to have an immediate, personal knowledge about the miracle of the Qur’an with regards to its language, one has to have a comprehensive background with regards to Arabic literature, in order to have this immediate cognition that the Qur’an is unlike the other forms of composition or poetry.
  • As an analogy, it is like when one sees a dead man being brought back to life, or the sea being parted, the immediacy of the miracle is known to those who have eyes and have had enough experience knowing the stages of life and death, or of how dry land and bodies of water are normally distinguished.
  • But if we had someone just starting to learn things in the world (imagine someone with total amnesia) and we were trying to show him this miracle as a miracle, there would definitely be some barriers in getting this matter known with such immediacy, since such a person would not have the personal experience and storehouse memory to be able to relate to this miracle.
  • And this is also why I personally feel that we have a problem in conveying this particular matter across many a times, since we cannot make those who are “non-existent” or “totally detached” with regards to this topic suddenly become enthralled by this miracle of the Qur’an in a personal manner. Solutions up to now I cannot provide, but at least we can say that this is an issue to look into for future considerations.
  • Another issue that we must pay attention to is the “conflict of interest” between the conclusion that the miraculousness of the Qur’an would have on the one accepting this statement, and the previously held beliefs of those who are talking about this matter. We normally hear of the alleged ‘bias’ that we Muslims have when talking about the Qur’an as the revelation from Allah, but we should also pay attention to those from the non-Muslim side who while assessing the Qur’an, would not utter the full impact that the Qur’an had on them. Of course, in a sense this is mostly a non-issue nowadays, since it is very difficult if not impossible to find proper experts in the Arabic language on either side of the debate conducting an academic debate or discussion concerning the eloquence and other linguistic features of the Qur’an.
  • What is mentioned by the author is that, if one has even a median level of independent knowledge concerning proper classical Arabic and compositions written therein, then it is possible for him to start to understand the difference between the order and organization of the Qur’an and that of other works or speeches in the Arabic language. However, if this is not his level, then the issue is that he belongs to the generality of the masses, who does not have even this median knowledge, and whose only option is Taqleed (following the authorities in the matters of expertise).
  • With regards to the language of the Qur’an, we need to understand that there are many instances of elision in the Qur’an which may be hidden from the opponent of Islam, and even from the Muslim seeking to propagate Islam – I may even say there is a whole “level” of elision regarding certain Qur’anic messages and passages, and these would have been known and can be known to the Arabs, but they would be totally neglected or unknown to the hasty opponent of the Qur’an – so in here lies the importance of learning Arabic and going “all-out” in gaining knowledge of Qur’anic sciences.

3 thoughts on “Random thoughts and Notes: Days 261-394

  1. What are your thoughts on liberal lefts fascination with Buddhism/Hinduism/Taoism etc. while they have utter disdain for Abrahamic religions, I have seen it is very common for liberals to say something very ignorant about Islam, and yet treat the eastern religions with the utmost respect and honor to the point were you think they would convert to them (if they haven’t already). Do you speculate that this is just a phase due to the good relations the west currently has with China/India/Japan etc.? Do you think that it is because western philosophy has begun to take note of eastern philosophy and “borrow” from it so to speak?


    • One of the things I can think of right now is that it seems the Buddhist/Hindu clergy that has had contact with the West was able to separate their “culture” from the “philosophy” – Buddhism has its demons and ghosts and the rituals that seek to propitiate such creatures and which the common Western agnostic finds silly, but they have been more successful in saying “This is not Buddhism, our philosophy does not teach this”.

      But of course with the Muslim, the “West” has had centuries of animosity combined with familiarity beginning almost from the time of the Prophet (Salla Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam), so they know that our culture and our beliefs are intertwined.m

      One more thing is that the same “Modernist” tendencies one is beginning to see among certain “Muslim organizations” in liberal settings had been adopted by Buddhists, Taoists, and Hindus long before it ever occurred to anyone of Islamic backgrounds – that is why one has a number of “Buddhist” organizations in the West, for example, which try to downplay the importance of rebirth, because they know that the general liberal agnostic Westerner may not be very interested in this unscientific aspect of Buddhist cosmology, so the presentation of that Buddhist organization will be done accordingly, even though it originally is extremely important to Buddhist cosmology.

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