Random Thoughts and Notes – Nos. 326-350

326.    It should be known: the nurturing of the Sahaabas (RAA) at the hands of the Prophet ﷺ was in itself an amazing miracle, since he ﷺ 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 be ignored or sidelined as an evidence for Islam.

327.    One cannot say that the miracle of the Qur’an was only for the Jahili Qurayshi Arabs, or for the Arabs at the time of the Prophet ﷺ; rather, the challenge and the miracle extend and are applicable to all human beings and the Jinn uniformly. This, even though the most competent people who may have (hypothetically) met the challenge of the Qur’an were the early Qurayshi Arabs.

328.    It is said: If a (supposedly knowledgeable) person 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.

329.    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 (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 His Slaves, but also from the viewpoint of what every person born anywhere in the world is required to know and believe in as his necessary obligation.

330.    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, he will see that Islam is the only religion that conforms to his previous conclusions 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 occur.

331.    A note about the information one receives 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- 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, and thereby wishes to improve the Islamic society and the world at large.

As an indication, what we are seeing is 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 of beneficial knowledge. Rather, we should think more like the university student who simply has no time for following and commenting on news articles 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.

332.    It is mentioned: If we say as an absolute unchanging rule that the direct taking of Ahaadeeth outweighs the actions of the Sahaabah (RAA), we are then in a way saying that we have, today, better access to the Prophet ﷺ than the Companions (RAA) 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.

333.    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.

334.    Many people cannot fully understand what is transpiring, but in truth the Neo-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 through which the texts are codified, 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 have spoken about the Shia case in some length before, but with regards to the Neo-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 to 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.

335.    It is noteworthy how the honor of the Muslim is placed at a very high level in Islam as per the Qur’an and a 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 all out in the public arena.

336.    Even though we Muslims are extremely far away from reaching our goal in modern times, 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 amount 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 effort.

337.    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 Deen 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 rights 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.

338.    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 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 and 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 discuss, 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 and avoided wastage of time, rather than the situation we see many a times in present arguments and discussions.

Also, many of the ‘traditional Sunnis’ 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, whether they be similar or different to our understandings.

339.    I know this has been said 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 or 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 can be believed and expressed? 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 to liberal secular democracy, or “Christian-based democracy”, or Communism, or any other discourse on their terms.

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” 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 other ideological narratives as well.

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 contradictory to the modern sensibilities and modern conceptions of human dignity. From what I know, the answer cannot come from blindly trying to make the Islamic rulings conform to the modern standards of human rights or of liberal secular democracy or even secularism of any stripe. 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 be done according to strictly technical and academic standards, neither trying to purposefully appease nor to purposefully irritate the non-Muslim world, but rather should be what is best for Islam and Muslims first and foremost. (Many if not most politicians declare this principle of the nation-first, yet we Muslims as an Ummah seem to be completely oblivious that such a mindset can ever exist for us Muslims.)

340.    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 and religion in academia.

But even if we were to move to the political sphere with regards to 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 his homeland, that there would somehow be an immediate 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, and religious overlords, since all of these are concepts native to the traditional Tibetan population, and due to which the figurehead of the Dalai Lama has any relevance to begin with.

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 other, 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.

If one makes a hypothetical analogy with countries such as Mongolia or Bhutan, which have strong ties to Tibetan Buddhism, one sees that the practice in these nations is far from “liberal secularist democracies” as understood in modernity. Of course, Islam would not criticize Tibetan Buddhism based on its adherence or lack thereof to the modern conceptions of geo-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 of the liberal West in many cases.

341.    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 until he reaches true proficiency).

It is mentioned, 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).

Thus, an important point for those of us who 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 other persons, but if anything this should be an encouragement for us to develop ourselves in studying the relevant issues.

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, one has to have a comprehensive background in 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 him experiencing this with such immediacy, since he would not have the personal experience and previous memory to be able to relate to this miracle.

(And this is also why I personally feel that we often have a problem in conveying this particular matter across, 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 –this is an issue to look into.)

342.    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.

343.    If we take the discussion on same-sex relationships, it is not correct to say that since one may develop a lustful liking to a person of the same-sex, thus this inclination should lead to laws and a general outlook whereby one can implement these desires at will. Or even forget the same gender, who said that one’s desires towards the opposite gender should lead to permitted premarital or extramarital intercourse? This connection is simply not established.

(Granted that the above is not the most logical way to present the applicability and correctness of Islam, but sometimes things have to be presented in different ways).

344.    Regarding dissimulation in Shiaism, if someone says that the people of faith would have known the statement of the Infallible was dissimulation while the rest would be unaware of it, this is a very strange claim, since it is completely tautological at its core: The claim is, the believers hear and understand the correct thing, while the disbelievers and deviants understand something else – this is totally against the basis of ‘Infallibility for one person on the Earth at any given time’, since when the Hujjah is established indubitably, then the message itself is the same for everyone, so that (as the Qur’an says as translated) ‘that those who perished [through disbelief] would perish upon evidence and those who lived [in faith] would live upon evidence’.

345.    Many of the scholars of Islam are against the aggressive use of the “scientific miracles in the Qur’an” narrative: It severely narrows down the area wherein the Qur’an can be used as a text for guidance, since such a narrative of “science” is very much inaccessible to the vast majority of the world’s population – putting aside the actual value of such research.

346.    With regards to the claimants of Sufism who say that the Shariah is not essential or important, the interesting thing is that they totally forget that Tasawwuf is meant to “erase” your ego and in this case, this means the ego towards thinking that you are some sort of individual absolute entity with the right (or the inalienable right to use Western terms) to dictate what your Shariah, your laws, or your way ought to be; rather, the whole point is to “lose yourself into unquestioned obedience of Allah the Exalted”, and not to lose yourself into obedience of your own invented Shariah or rules. If only the last case prevails, then in fact absolutely no spiritual progress of any kind has been made, but rather, much external and internal harm has been caused to one’s own self.

Or if we look into this matter in a slightly different way, it is the inner struggle to make one’s inner heart be totally content with Allah’s Orders, both the Normative Orders (those related to the Shariah) and the Creative Orders (those related to Allah’s Creating). It is obvious then, that anyone who tries to repackage this into terms of fluffy spiritualism without a foundation in Shariah and Aqeedah is really not that different from the hard-hearted Munaafiq (hypocrite) who does the best of deeds outwardly while not believing anything of Islam in his heart – one is the mirror image of the other, so we should be aware.

347.    People ask as to why do we have such a high proportion of “backward, illiberal village dwellers” within Muslim countries, why can we not try to progress and to become a nation of urbanized, economically sophisticated people?

Allah knows best, but one answer could be that Islam is too kind, and Allah is too Merciful, to tell the poor people, the simple persons from the village, from the jungle, or from the desert, that Allah does not want you to be saved, that the “Islamic body” will not accept you until and unless you make the transition from poor villager to economically-sophisticated urbanite. Yes, perhaps this is the message that those in control of the modern world may wish to give others, but Islam goes way beyond the “dominant conditions” in the early 21st Century, and makes a conscious effort to include people from very many different types of backgrounds, of different social and economic categories, the main principle in their acceptance within the community of Muslims being that they should accept certain tenets of faith.

348.    What there needs to be from our learned people is the ordered and systematic “pulverization”  of the sayings of our opponents, in order to analyze whether what is being said is following a certain logical route, or is more based on emotion and ad hoc rules. We normally tend to think that people are speaking “logical sense”, and while this is true in certain parts of speech, in other cases there is unruly combination between emotions and logic, not only from the non-Muslim opponent, but even from the Muslim answering the objections of the non-Muslim.

349.    We see that the number of core points to be discussed about the “truth of Islam” are in fact comparatively few, and everything else is either a sub-branch of these main topics, or else it is frankly irrelevant.

Just as one example, we Muslims say that what a human is allowed to do is determined by Allah the Exalted (what in modern-day parlance would be called “human rights”). In order to establish a given “human right” then (or to establish its non-existence), we only have to establish (1) The Existence of Allah without a doubt, (2) the truth of Muhammad’s ﷺ Prophethood without a doubt, and (3) The indubitability of the existence or non-existence of the “right” under discussion from the point of view of reliable transmission from the sources of Islam.

Now, if anyone has studied how this is presented in Islam, he would know almost immediately that the presentation is extremely, in fact strictly, logical. Thus, once Point 1 above is proved, then objections to this are “shut down” so as to say while moving on to Point (2) [since there is no real benefit in inserting irrelevant digressions in our discussions, it simply wastes our time and leads to unnecessary confusion as well]. And so on with Point 3 when Point 2 has been shown to be true.

The issue we are facing today is that the attacks on Islam come from any and all sides without following a logical sequence or the sequence of points referred to above, and in fact most of the time the attacks are based on ancillary issues that are brought up, which even if true could not show that Islam is incorrect.

For example, the “heated question” of polygyny in Islam, which has always been around since Westerners began to interact with Muslims. If we wish to show the objection in this case as a logical presentation, it would go something like this: (a) It is known without a doubt that polygyny is evil, since it impugns upon the rights of women (b) Since God cannot impugn upon the rights of women, either i) God is not the legislator of this rule or ii) The God of Islam is weak in his deductive reasoning capabilities (c) Thus, the God of Islam is not the true God, and Islam is not a true religion. (this is how this matter is brought up with those opponents who accept that polygyny is indeed part of Islam – this is not the place to bring up modern-day deformist views about what Islam legislates)

But of course, the Muslim theologians never acceded to the point that avoidance of polygyny is an indubitable right of women; and to go a step further, we did not agree that either men or women have an intrinsic right to anything, including their lives.

(On this second point, the reason is that Allah is not obliged to keep a certain person alive at a certain point of time, but it is His decision as to whether the person lives or dies in the very next moment.)

Concerning the first point, even when the person is alive, the only necessary “rights” one can deduce from this are with regards to those characteristics that keep him/her alive, such as occupying space, time, or whatever other dimensions gross bodies occupy. However, anything else, such as mental happiness, freedom, or liberty is superadded, and there is no reason why it should necessarily be tied to either Allah’s Creative Will or His Normative Will. We can see then that the logical progression simply does not follow in this case due to probabilistic assumptions being presented as indubitable.

Then, there is also the discussion of how Allah’s Normative Will is tied to a future residence of responsible creatures in Paradise or Hellfire. But if the opponent believes there is no Hereafter, then this is another root assertion which figures very greatly in the opponent’s formulation of objections against Islam. [And this is so, because we see the rule concerning polygyny as part of a larger system that is to be followed in order for the Muslim to enter Paradise; yet the opponent believes there is no Hereafter, and is in a way trying to strong-arm his materialist point of view while brushing aside the salvific nature of the Shariah for the Muslim.]

350.    Note always that defects in a being imply that they are acquired; thus, one of the main reasons why it is impossible to attribute defects to Allah is because Allah does not acquire defects, and what is connected to acquisition, such as time, change, increase and decrease in qualities (or “closeness to/farness from perfection”), etc.