Random Thoughts and Notes – Nos. 251-275

251.        We need to remember how, in the case of most scholars of the Muslims, many of their books if not most of them have been lost, or only partially passed down to us, and their existence is known only through citations found in existing books; of course, this is lamentable in a sense, but it  is also important to consider, since if one were to rely only on the books, one would get only a partial picture of the entire collection of the scholars’ viewpoints and reasoning process. This is also why in Islam the insistence is so much on the teachers as human beings who pass down the tradition, and not merely on books that one buys or finds in a library.

252.        (As per what is quoted from one of al-Baaqilaani’s (RA) works): The judgments of the religion are of three types: That which is known only through pure reason, such as the emergence of the world and those attributes that are necessarily true of the One who brought the world into existence (i.e. Allah’s Life, Power, Knowledge, and Will). Then, the second type is of those things that are known purely through the revelation; the obligations and prohibitions, the Halaal and Haraam, correspond to this type of judgment. And there is also a third type, that is known through a combination of reason and revelation, such as Allah’s Attributes of Speech, Hearing, and Seeing, the reality of the Beatific Vision, the fact that He may forgive the sinners, and other similar matters. Apparently, the sending of the Messengers was included in the first type of knowledge– this is something to be investigated further, as it seems there is further elaboration on this from the scholars of Islam.

253.        We know the narration of the Mujaddids that come every century for revitalizing the religion. Al-Baaqilani (RA) was such a huge figure that he was said to be the reviver of the religion for the fourth Hijri century (after ‘Umar bin Abdul Aziz (RA), Imaam ash-Shaafi’i (RA), and Imaam al-‘Ash’ari (RA) respectively). Of course, this is a matter for much debate, a lot of give and take, but that he would be considered in such a way by those who came after him is a very big sign of his influence and rank in the Islamic milieu.

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

But I would say that the chances of such things happening in reality are much less now than they were even 10-15 years ago, for the simple reason that those of us who sit on our computers and other devices simply updating our statuses cannot get very far in doing things in the ‘real world’. Without true events happing in the extra-device world, how can we expect there to be huge breaking news stories at the ‘top of the minute’?

And one more thing is that this plays right into the secular mindset, in that it presupposes a linear trajectory of progress: Progress in knowledge, progress in science, and progress in mere collection of news items. But the issue becomes, is any true progress being made whatsoever, or do people just become confused and are left to wander into uncertainty due to a false sense of progress?

255.        I am not an expert in the field, but it should be said: There has been a pernicious influence of fundamentalist, Protestant-based Christian thinking about science and about the world at large that has infiltrated the Muslim apologetic literature with respect to the Qur’an and science. I cannot say this is a good thing, but while we are discussing this issue, should we also not consider that modern science (or Western modern science) is based in one way or the other on the thinking patterns of the European Reformation, with its claim that the distinction between secular and religious was in fact contained in the Bible and that it was mentioned even by Jesus (Alayhi Salaam) himself?

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

And I think that most or even all of the discussions surrounding controversial issues such as Neo-Darwinism versus intelligent design are in fact guided totally by the politics of the Western lands, which see it as ‘blasphemous’ to enter God into the public schools and classrooms. So even if it does pass that some claims of the Neo-Darwinists and the ID camp do meet eye-to-eye, yet the ID claim that the biological process points to a higher power guiding this process brings about all sorts of conflicts and dead-ends in arguments.

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

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

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

258.        One issue concerning evolution/natural selection: So we are told that the order we see today in our body parts is not due to an intelligent design but rather due to the correction of mistakes over a very long time… however this is still a type of intelligent design (at least it shows progress and systematic progress cannot be had without preplanned design of some sort) – also if the very basis for recognizing order is based on the random evolutionary process we are told, it seems to be a problem of categorization as well (that is, our ability to know what order is to begin with is due to natural selection, so it is a circular argument).

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

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

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

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

Of course, the message isn’t that this is the case in all the Muslim world or even in the majority of the Muslim world, but rather this is something we read from personal experience of certain Muslims and their being stupefied at how the process for official elevation to the position of Muslim ‘chaplain’ or ‘Imam’ happens in certain countries. May Allah help us in this and every case.

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

262.        There is one point inferred to in passing, which is that the Oneness of Allah the Exalted is taken by the theologians of Islam to also have been mentioned in the Qur’an as part of the consequences of realizing that the Qur’an is miraculous – since for the one who can really appreciate and evaluate the Qur’an, he knows the distinction between it and normal speech alludes to the distinction between Allah and the creation. So there are different means and methods of showing the Oneness of Allah, and the methods to be employed depend on the person and his inclination. Islam is too vast to say that only one approach is to be utilized for all persons, as the absolute conclusion may remain absolute even as the methodology for reaching this truth may change from person to person or from time to time.

263.        We know that the Tawrah and the Injeel share with the Qur’an the quality of being revelations from Allah the Exalted, and of having a miraculous nature insofar as they veraciously report about matters of the Unseen. However, unlike the Qur’an, they were not revealed in idioms and compositions whose eloquence was miraculous, and this is an important difference between the Qur’an and earlier revelations.

264.        The organization of the Qur’an, in all of its various facets and “types” of arrangement, is outside the range of what was known from the speech of the Arabs, their writings, and their orations as well.

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

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

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

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

268.        One must accept the explanation given by the Arab linguists concerning the structures of the Arabic words, the meanings the words point to, and so forth, in order to have a basis from which to start judging the eloquence and beauty of the Qur’an (we are alluding here to the skeptic who is yet willing to consider the narrative of Islam on its own grounds).

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

270.        The idea of complete ‘freedom of speech’, to the point of explicitly going out of one’s way in order to deliberately lie against a religious group [such as Muslims] or to deliberately denigrate the personalities and places held sacred by the religion, is said to be a cornerstone of modern civilization and the very reason why so much progress has been made by the proponents of such a philosophy.

To begin with, I doubt that progress in the real sense has been made in say, the past 100 years, especially in terms of economic inequality and other similar important indexes of collective human well-being. But this is not the subject under discussion in here. What I see is that this ‘freedom’ is applied particularly to ‘speech’ only (or perhaps to ‘thought’ as well, but I am taking in here the articulation of private thoughts onto a public arena).

We see that one does not have the ‘freedom’ to intentionally or carelessly sell rotten goods in the marketplace, and a responsible government will step in and halt such a situation. One does not have the freedom to deliberately misguide people in business and to steal their money in (admittedly) covert ways. This, while the domain of ‘speech’, of ‘consumable items’, and of ‘business practices’ is always the public sphere.

Thus, the past and present architects of ‘modern civilization’ seem to think that humanity’s better sense will prevail and will naturally drown out the voices of useless and senseless speech, for example ‘hate speech’ and the like, before it has any detrimental effects on society. This, while it sees that visible material goods, items, and currency [or whatever is related to currency such as business schemes] deemed to be detrimental to the society’s well-being in a marked way should be policed and even forcibly removed from the public sphere by the people or their representatives.

This would thus seem to suggest that such societies consider ‘speech’ itself to be at a lower rung in terms of its materiality and in terms of its efficacy upon society at large, no matter how untrue, hurtful, or misleading such speech might be, while the analogous detrimental qualities cannot be tolerated at all with more “materially substantial items” such as harmful merchandise, business schemes, etc.

I am of course talking in general terms in here, since many of the “liberal” countries themselves have legislation against hate speech. And also in many cases while a person saying something very distasteful and hurtful to the society may not be materially eliminated from society [that is, he will not be executed or imprisoned by the government], yet there are other forms of punishment that have been developed in this case, such as expulsion from one’s career circle and one’s means of livelihood, and this is in itself a very strong (capital-based) signal towards those who wish to go against generally accepted norms and standards in society. But in here I am only talking about the abstract conception of ‘freedom of expression’, and how it is treated differently from other potential types of ‘public disturbances’ by the systems in place.

271.        As I understand it: The issue of the possibility of seeing Allah in the Hereafter revolves around our (i.e. Sunni) understanding that processes like seeing, hearing, thinking, for human beings may or may not be connected to the senses. What happens is that generally in this world, we get certain gross sensory data and this is used by our sense organs to give rise to ‘seeing’ or ‘hearing’. But our contention is that this is not absolutely necessary in every case of seeing or hearing, which is why we accept the possibility of seeing Allah in the Hereafter.

272.        The arrangement of the Qur’an avoids the different extremes one finds many a times in composition: What drives people away due either to its baseness/roughness, or due to its rarity (i.e. using rare words unknown by most people), or what is easily detected as artificially put together, and thus loses authenticity.

273.        The literary miracle of the Qur’an is very clear to the one who has reached knowledge of the sciences of the Arabic language, and it is not hidden from such people. But with respect to those who have not reached this stage – which is a very common thing today, even among the Arabic speakers, let alone the non-Arab Muslims and non-Muslims – then they can come to know of this either through studying and reaching this stage themselves, or they have to trust the words of the experts in this regard, and know that those who reached the highest levels of cognizance in Arabic could not produce something like the Qur’an, so those who are lower than them will be even less likely to come up with something like it. This is a rational consequence of knowing how human beings learn and apply their knowledge, and it is not at all a degradation of those who may not have reached a high level of eloquence, whether they are native Arabs or have come to learn Arabic later on during their lives.

274.        It is mentioned in brief, but al-Baaqilaani (RA) suggests how even the biggest names in Arabic poetry stumbled in certain places in their poems, and how the meanings they were attempting to convey were either overextended with the words they used, or otherwise the required limit was left unreached.

275.        An interesting point made is that the challenge of the Qur’an, since it came to those who were well-versed in Arabic, was in fact a way to tell them to be bashful in front of Allah and in front of what He had given the Prophet ﷺ of this wonderful sign pointing to his Prophethood, not that they would start judging the character of the Prophet ﷺ, or that they would actually try to come up with something like the Qur’an.

It might be a little bit difficult for many people to understand this, but if we were to make an analogy with the ‘visual’ miracles, we would see that the potency of such miracles is meant to humble those who ask for a proof of Prophethood, and to be an indubitable sign that Allah has chosen the person for Prophethood. After that, the response from the people should be mere obedience and nothing else. Of course, people are usually quite stubborn upon such issues, which is why they take the challenge inherent in the miracle in another way, but we are talking about how it should be taken, not how it is actually taken by the disbelievers.