Random Thoughts and Notes – Nos. 76-100

76.  One matter that seems surprising about the modern-day approach to pushing the limits of humanity in what he can ‘progress’ in, and in unhindered accumulation of goods and pleasures, is that the lack of restraint is seen not only in spiritual and religious matters (which, since they are related to the Ghayb, may be dismissed by many), but even in those things related to this very visible material world. This is why developed and now even ‘developing’ countries have their financial institutions underpinned by usury, obesity-related health problems, even the destruction of the planet itself.

All of this goes back to the main problem, which is that the unfettered ego of the human can and will never say enough to the pleasures of life, not to wealth, food, industry, or the abstract notion of ‘continued progress’.

Here is the interesting point to be seen: The modern agnostic, due to his philosophy, cannot see beyond the veils of the Ghayb, so they deny the afterlife and any ideology that espouses this concept. But, they can see the catastrophes and the near-catastrophes that have shaken their financial institutions, their ecosystem, and even their own bodies, yet as a whole, they cannot stop themselves from always wanting more, and from trying to fix their situation while remaining within the confines of a materialistic-driven ‘ego-system’, where material progress and advancement are infinite in the abstract consideration.

So it seems that the problem is not just that many people are ‘agnostic’ or ‘atheists’ (whether as a matter of principle or a matter of ‘doctrine’) simply because they do not hold the proofs for God to be convincing, but because they subconsciously wish to be trapped within a system that promises a sort of ‘eternal paradise of advancement’ on the Earth, even as they see all the problems and calamities around them based on this system.

Or to put it another way, they witness that their bodies are limited (if they just eat as per the bombardment of the ads, they will die very soon, since their bodies cannot keep up), they see that the Earth is limited (it cannot keep up with rampant and unhindered industrialization), so they should take a hint from this, and see that the implementation of their personal desires cannot be unhindered, even if there is no ‘pain’ to any person.

77.  Many of the heretics and deviants say that, if God is the creator of every event, including our deeds, and even our thoughts and intentions, then why is He then not held responsible instead of us?

Some of the responses are as follows: 1. The deeds performed by man are neutral in recompense until the Sharia is revealed and attaches good and evil to them. But Allah Himself is not bound by the Shariah; Allah is above the Shariah and above being judged. 2. We can say that Allah shows Mercy to some of His Creation (i.e. He enters them into Paradise), and His Wrath falls upon some of His Creation (i.e. He enters them into the Hellfire), and this is enveloped within the sheath of responsibility for man, of good versus evil actions bound by the Shariah. In this sense, the man’s adherence or lack thereof to Allah’s Orders is a manifestation of Allah’s Will with respect to that person. Of course, the most important ‘adherence’ being the state of the person when he dies (either in faith or in disbelief), and his eventual Eternal dwelling place in the Hereafter is judged/meted out accordingly.

This realization should make us feel the Majesty and Power of Allah; it is only the inciting ego which asks such types of questions like ‘why isn’t Allah judged instead of us?’, and other baseless questions.

78.  When we talk about the Madhaahib of Islam, we are saying that there are currently four extant methods to get to the answers in Islamic law, each with their own rules; if these rules are forsaken or belittled, the discussions on Islam will become a free for all, with everyone chiming in with their own (most likely baseless) opinions. And it is clear that this is the exact hope of the non-Muslim, that we just lose all of the Islamic tradition while clamoring for ‘reform’.

79.  The intellect is something that distinguishes man from beasts. This is why today’s relentless skepticism about the meaning of life is really very sad, since it would seem to push man back to the level of animals, who eat and do their needs, but have no grander human-like objectives…what is the difference between having no idea about what an objective is, and being continually uncommitted to a basic objective?

80.  The scholars of Islam looked at man’s cognizance once in consideration of the Usool of the religion, and once in consideration of its Furoo’. As far as the Usool is concerned, it was termed by many ‘Ulamaa as the ‘Fiqh al-Akbar’ in the sense that cognizance of the Aqeedah and of Allah the Exalted is the great understanding, the great comprehension. And the knowledge of the practical matters of Islam is known as the ‘Fiqh al-Asghar’. For how can it be that a capable ‘Aalim or Mufti reaches the heights of knowledge about the practicalities of Islam, while being ignorant of Allah the Exalted Himself…this would be a very strange state of affairs.

81.  We must keep a balanced approach with respect to the utilization of reason, not neglecting it fully, but not applying it where it should not be applied (like in trying to derive the rulings of the Shariah only by ‘Aql and nothing else).

82.  We see that Ibrahim (Alayhi Salaam) was a great debater, for this is how he was able to defeat Nimrud in debate. And from this we see that arguing with the disbelievers, when done in the correct manner, is something that is definitely allowed (for how could a Prophet of Allah do something forbidden?).

There is another proof of this in the Qur’an in the context of refuting the total negation of the Jews (when they said that Allah does not reveal anything to humans, in their anger at the Prophet ﷺ) with an instance that refuted their claims (by mentioning that it was Allah who revealed the book to Musa (Alayhi Salaam)).

83.  The Shahadah itself (La Ilaaha Illa Allah) contains many secrets within it, in the sense of pointing to the Oneness of Allah, His Distinction from the Creation, His being the Sole Creator and Regulator of the Universe, and many other secrets. (Many of these discussions are included in the final sections of the commentary of Tuan Guru on the Umm al-Baraahin, for those who are interested in this matter).

84.  Based on the mind, there are two types of knowledge we acquire: ‘Dharuuryy’ (prerequisite, obligatory) knowledge, and ‘Kasbyy’ (acquired) knowledge. The first is what is gained spontaneously, without discursive reasoning and lengthy thinking (like we know that a triangle has three sides and it cannot be other than that).

The ‘Kasbyy’ knowledge is what is gained after thinking and contemplation. And this in turn is of two types, what is termed ‘matters of the mind’, and the second ‘matters of hearing’. The matters of the mind are of two types, that which is known after reasoning as the necessities of the mind, and what is known after reasoning as the ‘evidences’ of the mind.

Among the first category, we have the Oneness of Allah the Exalted [and this is absolutely necessary, even though it takes some time to figure this out through reasoning]. And among the second category, we have the sending of the Prophets of Allah (Alayhim as-Salaam), which is a contingently necessary truth, since its occurrence depends on the existence of a contingent world, of a certain way of the world to manifest itself so that miracles are seen as extraordinary events. This is a truth like the truth of Allah’s Existence (in that we must accept both of them from the Islamic viewpoint), but only the category of its existence is different.

85.  Whatever one might say concerning the strength of rational proofs, the truth is that the rational proofs (both about the Existence of Allah and about the truth of the Qur’an) can make one reach the gate of salvation, but to enter the gate one needs Imaan, which is a light placed in the heart by Allah the Exalted. Without this, there is no hope for the person, even if the mind is fully convinced. Besides, even a moment of anger can make the greatest scholar fall out of Iman and spoil his religion – what do we think is the situation of Iblis, who no doubt is very knowledgeable?

On the other hand being humble and wanting to follow the truth cannot be fully realized without at least a basic knowledge of truth from falsehood and a basic mental consideration of where truth ends and falsehood begins. So we need both knowledge and humility, not merely one of them.

86.  If we contemplate about Hellfire and Paradise, we see that either one or the other is inevitable for man. This is something like what we see with respect to time: Time’s forward movement is inescapable, so it is best to become enlivened and resolve to do something, rather than sit wailing as to why time is moving forward. Likewise, there is no point in questioning why Allah created Paradise and Hellfire, and getting so deeply involved in the philosophical side of this…one should simply realize that they are to stand up and do their job in order to gain rewards in the present world and in the Afterlife. It is a very simple way of looking at things, even though there are so many people who would rather sit down and lament as to why things have been created in a certain way as opposed to another.

87.  The scholars of Islam differed as to whether the knowledge one has of Allah is of the ‘spontaneously-arrived-at’ necessary knowledge, or whether it is that necessary knowledge that comes after consideration of evidences. And it was said by one of the leading scholars that the way to bring both positions together is to say that this knowledge is arrived at spontaneously from the mental point of view, and needs evidences and their consideration from the ‘gross sensory’ viewpoint. [The position of it being implanted within the person is borne out by the Hadeeth about the ‘Fitra’, and also from the Verse that mentions the ‘Alust’ covenant].

It might very well be said that today’s agnosticism and atheism contradicts the above. But from what I see, it is the person’s desire not to have any overriding rules binding him that many times leads him towards a declaration of agnosticism or atheism. Thus, it is a matter of the ego becoming bloated. Had such people been able to do so, they would have also denied the existence of rules and regulations in the nation-state they are living in, and would have tried to cheat their way to the very top of the socio-economic hierarchy.

But as far as their existence on this material Earth is concerned, they can feel with their senses there are many blockages and that they cannot achieve this at all, so they fall into line. But with respect to the results in the Afterlife, these are encompassed by the language of the ‘Ghayb’ (the Unseen), so they simply deny the Unseen. It is not a rationally-based rejection at all, but rather one that is fully directed by the internal desires of their Nafs (their ego).

Just to mention this matter in another way, we see that so many people try to achieve total escape from the world through drugs and alcohol. Here they are, in a world they cannot possibly deny exists before their eyes, and yet they are trying to mentally disengage from the truth. So what about the case of the world that has been veiled from us, can we not see that there will be so many people denying the existence of the Creator of that world and of this world. So this seems to be the main problem, not the ‘evidence’ or the ‘proofs’ in and of themselves.

88.  There are four questions (or investigations) to be answered when considering the Existence of Allah: 1. The Existence of this Being (Is He?) 2. What is His genus (What is He?) 3. What differentiates Him from the rest of the creation (What type of thing is He?) 4. A question about the goal (Why is He so?). From what I understand, these are very general skeleton questions, and by the time we get even to the second question (if we really understood the answer to the first question), we would know that Allah exists, but that He is not of a genus, type, or form.

89.  One important point mentioned is that to get to the full Yaqeen (certainty) through the mind is impossible. And from what I understand, this is because any excuse can be presented as a contradiction, especially by those who have a sickness in their hearts. For example, someone may say that there is no need to hold on to the impossibility of contradictions, that why do we not adopt a ‘paralogical system of reasoning’ when talking about the Existence of Allah, and thus they try to derail all conversations about this matter. It is obvious that not all of the various objections can be listed, much less categorized and refuted, but let us just remember what I had mentioned earlier about the deeper ego problem some people have, and which we must be careful not to fall into.

90.  One interesting point I will mention: there was a comment I read recently by an American scientist who is also a Congressman, where he said that politicians can learn from scientists, in that science as a discipline is not as dogmatic as politics, and that it only makes provisional conclusions that may be modified as the evidence demands.

There are a number of things that strike me about this comment. First of all, politicians are some of the most malleable people in the world, and they will very much change their positions based on what would secure them most votes and more influence in the halls of power. But this is a separate thing. If we were to take this comment of the scientist-politician at face value, it would mean that science can never ‘prove’ anything, since its state of information and its state of conclusions will always be ‘provisional’ ad infinitum. This seems to be a metaphysical position, so how can any Muslim today say that the Qur’an or the Ahaadeeth have been ‘proven’ by modern science. We might say at most that the provisional conclusions of modern research seem to corroborate the Islamic account, but this is at most a curious footnote, rather than a real ‘proof’.

This is one thing, and the second issue is: what would happen if, in the future, the very methods of science itself would show that the types of tools and measurements being applied to collect previous scientific data were in fact incorrect or inadequate? Would science have to be rebuilt from scratch, and would that even be possible?

Finally, there is something to say very generally, which could be tied to the Islamic viewpoint. In connection with the above points, we can see the different potential mindsets driving any given scientific endeavor. We know that the scientific and technological based modern revolution in the world is for the most part dependent on a Euro-American based mindset about what reality is and how the cosmos works. We would have to wonder what would happen if the same ‘raw data’ (at different stages in the line of ‘scientific progress’) were to be placed in the hands of people from vastly differing cultures and mindsets, what the ‘scientific road taken’ would be in each case. We can suppose that it would show that the ‘progress of science’ is not such an objective endeavor (in the culturally disinterested sense of the word ‘objective’), but that a number of plausible narrations may be derived from an initial point of departure. These are some preliminary issues in their infancy that come up in this regard, and need future consideration.

91.  For those who say that Wisdom is established for all the Actions of Allah, this is in the sense of a benefit that goes back to the creation itself, not that Allah gains any benefit with anything He creates. Also, there is no concept of an obligation upon Allah to give benefit to anything He creates, in the sense that this hypothetical obligation would restrain Him, or that His Perfection would be tied to His giving benefit to the creatures.

92.  One thing we see in the case of Fir’awn and even Nimrud (the king at the time of Ibrahim (Alayhi Salaam)) is that, unlike other disbelievers who did not accept that Allah sent Messengers, these kings did not accept the Existence of Allah to begin with; in the case of Fir’awn this was very blunt, when he asks Musa (Alayhi Salaam): ‘What is the Lord of the worlds?’ (the interpretation for this can be seen in Tafseer Ibn Katheer). Allah knows best, but these types of attitudes from the kings of the past seem to have a connection to what we see today of the rise of atheism and agnosticism, and that it is simply the human beings thinking themselves as akin to absolute kings on this Earth, and that there is no one or nothing that can get in the way of their progress projected onto a limitless future.

Thus, the secularist may say that the religious person is wallowing in ignorance about the natural order of things in the world. But if cognizance of the natural world leads to a fallacy such as what we see of agnosticism and atheism, then something is really wrong in the way that information is collected and processed by those who walk towards agnosticism and similar metaphysical stances.

93.  We note there are certain things that are obligatory as per the Shariah, and there are certain prerequisites (such as the application of sound thinking, sound senses, and trusting what is consecutively mass narrated) in order to gain knowledge of these obligatory rulings. So these prerequisites are in fact also obligatory, knowing how they are to be used is essential, and they cannot be dismissed as merely ‘Greek philosophy’.

94.  There are indeed differences between the Ash’ari and the Maturidi doctrines, but some of these are linguistic or at most slight conceptual differences when we consider the issues in depth, such as the definition of ‘success’ and ‘failure’ in the spiritual sphere.

95.  The Twelver Shia talks about the possibility of Taqeeya (dissimulation) being used by the Muslims in situations where their life is in danger. But there is one important point to be considered, which is that the Taqeeya is supposedly applied in their ideology even by the absolute religious leader (the ‘Imaam’) of all humanity in the situations where he feels in danger. It is difficult to see how permission for the general populace for dissimulation will be valid for the absolute religious leader as well. This is especially so when the religious leader is supposedly the only rightful leader in the whole world, which means that people must necessarily know him and follow him, since humanity has been compelled (according to the Twelvers) to follow the Imaam and no one else. This would be very similar to the case of a Messenger hiding the message he must convey to ward off danger, and as we know, this is impossible to be attributed to the Messengers (Alayhim as-Salaam) (since whoever the Messenger hid the message from would have the excuse that the message did not reach him, which would contravene the Qur’an and the very root meaning of what it means to be a Messenger of Allah).

96.  Note that Allah has both the ‘Attributes’ of Jalaal (Majesty) and Jamaal (Beauty). It is through the first set of ‘attributes’ that the servants stand in total awe of Allah, and it is through the second set of ‘attributes’ that the servants are infatuated in love for Him, Exalted be He.

97.  When we say the mind should not overstep the bounds and ‘discard’ the revelation, this is in connection with issues such as saying that Allah is ‘obliged’ to treat people with (what they themselves define as) justice, or if this consideration leads to the totally wrong conclusion that humans themselves are the creators of their deeds, and other such unacceptable points of belief.

Then again, how can anyone think like this, when the Qur’an itself in Verse 2:216 says that we may like something that is bad for us, or dislike something that is good for us; and also Verse 28:68, where Allah declares that only He creates and chooses. Of course, the truly rational and sober mind will not conclude anything like the possibility of injustice on Allah (rather, these wrong conclusions come from the imprint of wrong or lazy thinking, or from the imprint of the ego on the heart – at the end of the day, the sound mind is not contradicted at all by the revelation.)

98.  Note that naturalist positivist thinking had also come face-to-face with the Islamic scholars of the past (i.e. in the relatively early period of Islam), but they were able to refute it within the context of the Islamic milieu. The lamentable thing is that today, the enemies of Islam among the naturalists say that Islam kills and silences those who say anything against it, while in reality, it is difficult to find true scholars of traditional Islamic philosophy responding to the ideologies spouted by the naturalists and positivists – meaning that the ‘free rein in speech’ is in fact for the latter group, not for the first one (at least this is how I view it, and Allah knows best).

99.  The study of Kalaam has certain special characteristics not found in other sciences of Islam, since it is the science dealing with the study of the evidences for Allah’s Existence, the affirmation of His Dhaat and His Sifaat, His Oneness, His Transcendence (being beyond blemishes, etc.), and also the refutation of all deviant sects and non-Muslim religions that have failed to properly distinguish the ‘Creator’ from the ‘Created’.

And the science of Kalaam also seeks to establish the evidences for Prophethood, since this is what gives rise to the obligations, the Halaal and Haraam, etc.

100.        Contrary to what many of us feel about debates, a proper debate about Islamic topics requires knowledge of many things, such as what truly constitutes a definitive proof and what is speculative, what are the linguistic and legal classifications of judgments, and also a lot of knowledge of the Arabic language and its occurrence in the Qur’an and the Ahaadeeth, including why the words appear where they appear, which ones are ‘Aam (general) and which ones are Khaass (specific), which Verses are abrogated and which ones are abrogating, the meanings pointed out by the words and their ‘holistic’ intra- and inter-connections, and many other issues that are studied in Arabic language, Usool, etc. (This is why one hardly ever finds a true scholar of Islam engaging in arguments with random people, except for very brief moments, since the ‘debate’ cannot be between people of such vastly differing knowledge about Islam).