Random Thoughts and Notes – Nos. 1- 25

1.     There are people who say that, in the case of the proof for the Existence of Allah, they see a problem: they say suppose the ‘infinite regress’ were to be done without time as a parameter, then what would we say? From what I understand, we say this ‘infinite regress’ is “conceptually successive”, insofar as the exact dimensions are not important, except the fact of acknowledging that they are indeed limited dimensions. Thus, even if we say there is a dimension within the Universe even more basic than time or space, then the impossibility of infinite regress will apply to this more basic dimension; there is no contradiction or oversight at all.

2.     Take benefit from the books of such luminaries as Shaykh Mustafa as-Sabri (RA) and Shaykh Muhammad Zaahid al-Kawthari (RA), their writings are very much relevant to the problems we Muslims are facing in this day and age, both in terms of the ‘Aqli challenges and distortions of Naqli knowledge.

3.     It seems that the Muslim community nowadays is in trouble from two angles with regards to modern science: not only do many fall for the underlying belief system of the non-Muslims’ scientific process, but they also cannot reach the heights of results and data generation that the non-Muslims achieve. This is something we have to really think about deeply, since it is definitely a big problem facing us nowadays.

4.     When those from among the Mu’tazila or Shia say that the Attributes of Meaning [Sifaat al-Ma’aani] are nothing other than the Self of Allah, for otherwise it would be a positing like that of the Christians, this seems to be an incorrect supposition from their side for the very basic reason that the Sifaat are attributes – they are not entities [or Dhawat or Hissiyaat one could say] like what the Christians say about the ‘Word of God’, equating it with a ‘person’ and then saying that this ‘person’ incarnated as Jesus (Alayhi Salaam), or so on and so forth. What the Mu’tazilite/Shi’ite position would seem to lead to is a sort of Hindu concept of the ‘Absolute’, where even the existence of the absolute as ‘God’ is negated, since they allude to an ‘Absolute’ without characteristics whatsoever. Moreover, their objection that we have used a false analogy between our own attributes and those of Allah is negated, since we Sunnis never maintained that our attributes such as sight, hearing, etc., are eternally true of us (and this is easily known, it is possible for anyone of us to lose our sight, our hearing, our knowledge, but still be us, while this is impossible for Allah).

5.     With regards to the Wahdat al-Wujuud theory we see in certain groups of Tassawwuf, it depends on what is meant. If it is taken to mean literal union of the adept with Allah, then this is something totally unacceptable; but if what it means is that Allah is the only true Existent, while the contingent, limited, and ephemeral nature of the creation is highlighted, then this is something corresponding to the truths derived from Kalaam sciences itself, and it cannot be a basis for rejecting this presentation. Of course, some terms get a bad reputation due to their misuse (like ‘Jihaad’), but we cannot fully throw out the term itself without studying the different ways in which it has been explained and elucidated (this comes back to the issue of relationships between words and meanings and how they affect our judgment of matters).

6.     Do not underestimate the importance of sending Salaawaat on the Prophet ﷺ every time before the start and after the conclusion of a work, because the spiritual effect is very important, regardless of what the materialists may say (and this includes even the quasi-materialists in our midst who don’t outwardly deny the reality of spiritual efficacy, but may allude to this one way or the other).

7.     Do not underestimate the Shuyukh’s presentation of having studied an apparently simple text as part of their “CV” – the fundamentals and basics of Islam can be elucidated in simple terms, even if their further elucidation and defense is much longer, and it is both that the Shuyukh are studying.

8.     If one is wondering why ‘Nahw’ (Arabic grammar) is brought up so much in the context of Usool and Kalaam discussions, it is because one must have a very clear idea of the meanings behind the words and phrases used in any text, in order to be able to properly articulate and convey what one has in mind – otherwise confusion and disaster may ensue.

9.     Note that Islam consists of proper knowledge of Aqeedah [Ash’ari and Maturidi Aqeedah], Fiqh [the 4 Imams], and Tassawwuf [from the proper Imams of Tassawwuf, such as Imam al-Junayd (RA), Imam al-Qushayri (RA)]. The different facets do not contradict each other, but rather complement one another.

10.  It is asked why don’t the ‘Ulama of Kalaam turn their attention to the modern-day intellectual challenges facing Islam. Yes, this should be done, but only by those who have mastered the “original Kalaam” sciences, so that they can know how and where to apply it, and how its rejuvenation should take place. Unfortunately, due to the fact that many deviant ideas and wrong methodologies have sprung up within the Muslim Ummah, a huge amount of effort of the proper scholars of Kalaam is spent in refuting obvious (but methodologically uninteresting) deviations that have gripped large swaths of the Ummah, rather than turn their attention to the more intellectually challenging matters where the full scope of the Kalaam sciences becomes evident.

11.  The science of Kalaam comprises not only the rational sciences, but also the sciences of Hadeeth and spirituality; this is because people are enlivened by different aspects (some people are more rational-oriented, others more textual, others more spiritually-oriented), and it is improper to say that Islam only deals with one type of person to the exclusion of others. In order to know the usefulness and validity of anything brought forward, we must know it does not contradict the established tenets of its own branch plus that of the other two branches [for example, if a ‘teacher of spirituality’ says he has reached literal union with Allah, this is discarded, since it goes against the principles of Islam in rationality, textuality, and spirituality as well].

12.  The primacy is given to indubitable evidence [Qat’i], and after that, the probabilistic evidence is taken into consideration.

13.  Imam al-Ghazaali (RA) spoke about Kalam sciences being used like medicine. And this is obvious, since medicines are not proper for everyone all the time, but depending on the situation, they may either be obligatory or prohibited. Likewise is the case for the Kalam sciences, for those who have total certainty in the narrated texts, the use of scholastic reasoning may be detrimental to them (since they have not thought about matters in this way, and are happy and certain on the truth of the texts without much formal elucidation). But for other types of people, it may be very much necessary. Allah knows best, but it seems today we are living in such a time, when the sciences of Kalaam, and its renewal is needed more than ever before, may Allah grant us success in this endeavor.

Thus, we need to remember that the science of Kalaam is in fact a dangerous science, just like some drugs are potent and if used incorrectly may lead to severe side-effects, addiction, and even death, and due to this, one has to be extremely careful what one reads in this field and from whom one takes this knowledge.

Moreover, given the above case in the writings and deductions of the Muslim scholars, how much more should the lay Muslim be hesitant to delve into the books of the non-Muslims without previous guidance and knowledge?

14.  It may be that a traditional scholar reads one book, tract, or author and finds nothing objectionable about it, while another scholar reads the same tract and finds very many mistakes in it. It could signify that the understanding of the two scholars diverged with respect to the meanings of the words used in that tract, not that their beliefs are altogether different.  Also, the scholars will not start making Takfeer or Tabdee’ of others without reading the works first-hand, and it may be that what was available to the second scholar was not available to the first, or vice-versa; or there may have been a rujoo’ [i.e. retraction, change of opinion] in the person under discussion, or a number of other possibilities. So we have to consider all of these things before saying anything from our accord.

15.  A number of (otherwise) very capable people in the Islamic sciences (both rational and textual) deviated at times from the truth, and at times this was not a simple deviation, but a very flagrant one. And the reason behind this is that Allah is the guide, not the people and their reasoning and minds, it reminds us we should always pray to Allah to keep us on the right path, since it is very much within Allah’s Power to lead any one of us astray and into perdition.

16.  Taking benefit from the books written by the scholars is not reprehensible, but rather it depends on the capability of the reader and researcher. So it is not a case that taking from books is absolutely prohibited as some people assume.

Connected to the above, the truly big Mashaaykh are those who do not remain contented only with what they hear from their teachers, but rather use what they have learned from their teachers to expand their horizons of cognizance, and to use their past knowledge to build up on themes that can only be expanded with experimentation (in reading, discussing, research, etc.)

17.  The sciences of Islam are very vast, and it would be very difficult for one person [especially in this age] to be able to encompass every single thing, and to become a master of every single field. This is to be considered when we come to the discussion of Madhaahib, since it is important for the founder of the Madhhaab to be an extremely skillful genius so as to say, and it is clear that such ingenuity is not present in our Ummah whatsoever nowadays.

18.  It is improper to say that there is only one book to the exclusion of all others possessing comprehensive refutations to all the incorrect beliefs of the innovators and disbelievers; rather, the challenge for Muslims in every age is being able to take the fundamental Nusoos and the rules we read in the books of Kalaam, and apply them to the current situation. Were we to do this, we would reach high levels of cognizance in our belief, and we would also reach quite good heights in our scientific achievements– there is no use doing science while aping the non-Muslims’ methods and belief systems.

19.  We must understand the final goal and purpose, without excessive philosophizing on it; the goal of the creation is to be subservient to the master, to Allah the Exalted, based on the method He wishes for us to undertake. For certain angels, perhaps their lot is to be in Sujood for eternity. For jinns and humans, it is to be obedient to Allah out of a decision of their free-will. But we cannot or should not say that due to us having a created free-will, now we should do whatever we desire, without consideration of what Allah wills.

Most people in fact fall at this stage, where they consider things too deeply, and philosophize and use their reason in places where it does not belong. The faculty of reason is to be used [in this case] only for knowing the truth of the Existence of Allah, that He has revealed the message to his Prophet ﷺ, and after this stage, as far as legislation is concerned, all else consists in following the revealed message.

Again, it is indeed correct to use the intellect to discriminate between various propositions, but we need to know where to discriminate, and where to maintain silence and keep an ‘agnostic’ attitude, so as to say – insofar as passing a definitive judgment concerning the obligation or forbiddance connected to the acts of the limbs. This is perhaps one of the paradoxes of this age that the big question about the Existence of Allah is relegated to agnosticism and skepticism, while that of other issues, such as the legalization of recreational drugs or same-sex marriage, is judged to be absolutely correct in only one direction.

It also seems correct to say that the main job of the intellect is to know the Creator, Allah the Exalted, to deduce His Existence, and after that search for the true message that He has sent to mankind. All material progress should be secondary, since these are merely the embellishments of the mind, additions to this first task. Alas, the world today thinks in the opposite way.

20.  If people were to consider themselves akin to angels, in the sense of the duties they have to perform, the vast majority of their worries would end right then and there. This is because angels praise Allah based on what has been accorded to them, based on their station, without complaining about who is higher or lower in rank; for them, it is all about Allah, and only Allah. Humans should take heed of this, it should not be that the one for whom Allah has legislated a “lower position” on this Earth with respect to certain laws complains, questioning why Allah has legislated so-and-so when in his or her view all other things are equal. Perhaps they are equal in the eye of pure materialism, but Allah has differentiated between things to test the people in their love and resolve towards Him; this is all, and it is a lesson that I myself and everyone else should heed to, whenever we forget.

21.  It is said that Kalaam is not part of Islam at all. If what is meant is the philosophy of the Greeks, Indian Hindus or Chinese Taoists [and so on] then of course, Islam does not agree with this. But there is also a reason why Muslims have shunned the explanations provided by the Indians, Greeks, Chinese and others, and this is the job of the formal scholastic theologian to handle. Yes, for most Muslims, this is not an issue that should concern them too much, especially if their worship is going well and they generally do not have doubts. But the scope has to be there for the person to take recourse to some field if and when there is a need for clarifications in matters of religion.

This is one part of the Kalaam science, but it also includes everything under the fields of Usool of Fiqh, the ways of differentiating and grading Ahaadeeth, and all other formal endeavors in codifying the Islamic religion. Whatever one wishes to call it (if they do not like the term ‘Kalaam’), it is without a doubt that the primary texts and resources of Islam cannot all be taken at the same time to be of the same worth and value in terms of establishing the religion. This is why grading is made not only with respect to the authenticity of the texts, but also with respect to the words and phrases contained within such texts, why certain Qur’anic Verses and Ahadeeth are to be believed, followed and applied to our lives right now, and some are to be believed in, but their application is not relevant to the lives of the Muslim right now. Without a system for distilling all of the texts and grading them properly, chaos would ensue without a doubt.

One very simple and direct example in this field can be seen from the consideration of the part of the Verse which talks about the purification of women after their menstrual cycle (in translation): ‘…And when they have purified themselves, then come to them from where Allah has ordained for you.’ If there really were no gradations in the primary texts in the form of commands (i.e. if everything that looks like an ‘Amr’ were to be taken literally with no other considerations at all), then the above would command sexual intercourse between spouses as soon as the wife is pure from her menses. And even for those who say they do not follow Kalaam, they will probably not take this Verse with the meaning of an unrestricted command for sexual intercourse – and in such a case, it means they have understood the different gradations there can be in texts.

Thus, the formulation of many things may seem exceedingly simple for you and me, but there have been “schools of information-gathering” throughout history that could not possibly have been accepted in Islam – for example, among the ancient philosophers, those who accepted only that which was in front of their eyes and could be directly perceived by senses, and they discarded narrational information as a whole. Showing why such people are wrong is something that seems superfluous to some, but its importance will come out in certain circumstances either for the promotion and propagation of Islam, or the defense of Islam against deviants, heretics, hypocrites, etc.

And I do not think that anyone says that such a work (of formally codifying the religion in its Aqeedah, its Fiqh, its primary texts, etc.) is not necessary for Islam –at least not among the Muslims. Among certain types of non-Muslims, it is obvious they would have a big incentive for trying to push for the theory of the superfluity of the endeavors of Muslim scholars, since they never believed in Islam to begin with. So whoever among the Muslims states that the sciences of Kalaam in its different manifestations is unimportant or even forbidden, is in fact unwarily doing the bidding for the non-Muslim propagandists, since he is reducing Islam to an unsophisticated hodge-podge of data that needs no further study or reflection.

22.  Those who are married from among the Muslims (myself included) need to remember that their spouse needs them for all sorts of things, emotionally as well as physically. From the physical side, one issue often unnoticed is that one’s spouse must be the total focus of one’s lustful glances and desires. This is why – as one small example – there is the opening of the possibility of polygyny, whereas in other cultures, the males can satisfy their lusts in many different ways (physically, visually, etc.)

Now, I can speak for the males when I say that the issue of lust is there at every moment for the male, and it can somehow be compared to eating: If one is a practicing Muslim but a bachelor, it is like being in a state of perpetual fasting, which has its advantages, but I doubt most people can keep on going like this for a very long time (even if they were supernaturally satiated). Then if a man is married to one lady, it is like being able to eat once a day; it is enough for some people, but for certain others, they may wish to look for more through the legal means, in the same way that it is allowed to eat two or three meals a day, if one can afford it and properly follow the Shar’i rulings.

But the difficulty comes up when one’s legal spouse does not pay proper attention or does not stay alongside one, as it is like being outside the state of ritual fasting while unable to eat – it is obvious that such hunger will take on its ramifications if the hunger goes on for a very long time. So everyone who is married or hopes to get married has to keep this in mind, there are rights and responsibilities for everyone in this relationship.

23.  One thing we hear from non-Muslims is that we should learn from all the wisdom of the ancients and not be stingy in this respect. We wonder though, whether what is said is something they really take at heart, since the ancient systems had their own worldviews, their own system of considering things, and their mentality was quite different from what we may term the “modern mindset”. Since the modern mindset seems averse to wars of conquest, slavery, and other aspects of life common and even necessary in ancient times, one has to see whether the claim for us Muslims to look into the “wisdom of the ancients” in an unimpeded form is not just an attack against Islam without any real basis.

So it is clear that many of the non-Muslims would, if they were honest with themselves, say that the ancient world and its rules are not appropriate for today’s life. We wonder even whether what we have today is acceptable to many non-Muslims: How is it that – as was reported recently – 46% of the world’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of the top 1% elite – is this what ‘human evolution’ (as they call it) is supposed to lead to? It seems yet again, that the non-Muslim is targeting Islam and its rules simply for the sake of targeting it, and that its own worldview has many serious problems.

We must also notice that the wealth gap is increasing year after year, not decreasing…so it is very interesting to say that humanity is moving towards a stage of perfection in all its important affairs, while in the materialistic sphere [what is most important in the secular liberal narrative], the equality gap is so huge, and getting bigger than ever before. How is it that, as recently reported, the 85 richest people in the world own as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population? This is really something we have to ponder about, how can the rules made up by man himself be said to work, when the purported goal becomes more distant than ever before?

24.  The Twelver Shia says that we have disrespected the words of the Prophet ﷺ by going to someone other than ‘Ali (RAA) and his progeny [they mean here their ‘Infallible Imams’] for our temporal and spiritual affairs. This charge of disrespect towards the Prophet ﷺ and what he said could very well be turned against the Shias themselves; for one cannot dismiss anything the Prophet ﷺ said that has reached us through authentic means. And by authentic in here we do not mean only the category of ‘Saheeh’, but that which reached us through many different routes and ways, so that its truthfulness cannot be called into question, whether this came from the “Infallible Imams” or from other than them.

The challenge then is very obvious, which is that one has to take the objective routes for collecting information and apply it to whatever the Prophet ﷺ brought of the Qur’an and of the Sunnah, and then we can see where matters stand. The Sunni side is not shy to say that certain of the illustrious Companions may have erred in their opinions, sayings, or dealings, but when the matter is put under such contrast, as being that of ‘complete infallibility or else’, then it is obvious that anything going against this a priori assumption of infallibility will be brushed aside by the Twelver Shia opponent.

From another angle, if the Shia says there is only one person in all of humanity that should be followed since he protects the message of Allah, this should have precluded any possibility of this person ever resorting to stratagems in order to ‘present’ the message to different types of people (what is generally termed as ‘Taqiyya’). Why do we see it mentioned as part of the characteristics of Prophethood that Prophets cannot at all conceal any part of the message? Because their mission is to be the guide for people at large (not only for those who believe in them to begin with) and to establish the proof on all of humanity.

I know the Twelvers will say that the Imam is actually the guide, not the Prophet per se, but that would only strengthen our objection, for if the supposed non-Imam Prophet cannot conceal anything of the message while he is not even a guide, then what about the one who must guide people? In another way, this particular matter shows the disassembled character of the Imamate doctrine, since it is surrounded by ‘anachronistic’ principles that have no connection with the Qur’anic passages relating to Prophets (Alayhim as-Salaam).

All in all, these principles are totally against what the Shias have conceived themselves, that on the one hand the ‘Imam’ is divinely protected from committing any error whatsoever, yet he is capable (and does) engage in dissimulation with the people concerning matters of the religion.

25.  And we can now to discuss the issue of ‘Imaam-related miracles’, seeing what the Twelvers are mentioning about their religion. What happens is the Shia says that one person is to be infallibly believed in every single thing he says, does, and approves of. But this is not the purview of a Nass only (explicit saying that gives Imamate from one Imam to the other), but it also would need a ‘miracle’ akin to what Prophets and Messengers (Alayhim as-Salaam) receive from Allah. And the reason for that is simple, since such ‘Imams’ are supposedly the exclusive guardians and perpetuators of truth, to the exclusion of everyone else. From what I can see, this is one of the very big reasons why the Sunnis would never accept the Imamate doctrine as presented by the Twelvers and other sects of the Shias, since it is a not-so-indirect claim towards the continuation of Prophethood, and this is totally unacceptable to us.

Besides, we Sunnis say that the spiritual efficacy of the Prophet ﷺ, when considering the Hukm of his Prophethood, is still very much with us; and we believe that the Prophet ﷺ is right now, alive in his grave, as are all the other Prophets (Alayhim as-Salaam) – the only difference being that Muhammad’s ﷺ Shariah is valid until the Day of Resurrection. So there is no real need for an “Imaam” to infallibly guard or protect the religion, as opposed to the guardianship being with the community as a whole.

Indeed, it is very strange to think, why there would be a total rejection of the community as a whole in favor of the single Imaam, especially since the Muslim Ummah has taken great pains to pass on the message [in terms of the Qur’an, the Ahadeeth, and their interpretations] from generation to generation. When considered in the abstract, it seems that this Imamah doctrine is antithetical to the concept of the Ummah from its very roots, regardless of who occupies the post of Imaam.

Another strange thing is how, in the Twelver Shia narrative, the one Imaam is made to agree to the wishes of the “evil Ummah” by means of coercion and force, in order to safeguard the Ummah (or Islam) itself. And this seems to make very little sense, since the safeguarding of the religion is up to Allah, not up to the life or death of the Imaam. Besides, no one would argue that a mass of people should not be believed in their capacity of conveying information from one time-frame to another. Yes, there may be many arguments about how this is done, and whether the information has truly been conveyed properly, but no one can deny that the method itself is proper, allowed, and even necessary, in order for us to have any information concerning the extra-mental world and its associations in terms of words, phrases, and intelligible meanings and concepts.

And lastly, the Twelver Shias need their own chain of narrators, their own grading of the narrations that purportedly came from their Imaams, and so on and so forth – all of this shows that even they cannot run away from the established fact that the common people (i.e. fallible people) are very much needed in conveying what the “Infallible” said across generations. If their rules had been correct, all of this would have been unnecessary, since the seeker would have only needed to go to the Imaam directly to verify whatever he needed to know, or would have otherwise received a supernatural conveyance of the truth (for example, in his heart) whenever he required it.