26. Certain people tell us that the proof for the Existence of Allah is weak, in the sense that it may prove the existence of changes occurring to bodies, but it does not show how bodies themselves are created. But, the bodies having changes occurring in them are by definition also in need of a Creator, since we understand from this that their states are not necessary, but only possible in existence. So how can that which is only possible in existence be necessary [or eternally unchanging, as our opponent may say]. It is clear that this body itself would be in need of a Creator not measured in terms of the space-time dimensions, in order to avoid the problems of circularity and infinite regress, and this is the same principle we see in the ‘proof from changes to a body’.
If it is said that the smallest gross body (we would normally call it the ‘atom’, but the term is not important) is eternal, this is again a contradiction, because we accepted that the body has changes occur to it, while the statement that it is ‘eternal’ means that there must be absolutely no change happening to it as a matter of intrinsic necessity, and we know that this is definitely not the case.
We can also see that the atom, whatever its size with each new scientific discovery, could have been either bigger or smaller than the minimum size we know of right now. And as far as its length, width, etc., is concerned, this is a very important consideration, since it again shows that the size of these elemental particles is not an intrinsic necessity – much in the same way that it is not an intrinsic necessity for these elemental particles to be either moving or still, or many other of the changes and specifications we see in such particles, and in the Universe at large.
Also, it is very important to remember that we do not consider time as an ‘independent dimension in which events occur’. The simple rule is that if events do not take place, there is no time, and the analogous case can be made with space.
27. Whenever I see videos of soldiers’ reunions with their family members (especially the unexpected reunions), I have to ask myself, what is the bigger goal that is being promoted: is it the emotion of loved ones seeing each other after a long time apart, or is it a celebration of patriotism (almost a sort of nation-worship) that is being promoted? It seems to me that the ‘nation-worship’ issue is taken for granted by those who promote and publish such videos for the world to see, since one has to believe that the soldiers had set out to do some great good in the world, and now they have come back to their loved ones.
But we should also consider: If the military endeavors of the country in question are incorrect, what is the big deal in the military personnel coming home and reuniting with their families? Why should the family members in the home nation, or at least the observing crowd, feel anything but repugnancy at their relatives going to different parts of the world, and representing something that is totally wrong? Show me some videos of soldiers returning to families or crowds that do not accept the military of that country to begin with, and then we can see whether the true purpose of such videos is about the country or about the soldiers and families seeing each other again.
Of course, such countries would never accept it as noble if the families of those fighting on the opposite side of the divide come back to their homes safe and sound, even though the ‘soldiers’ in this case are no less committed to their cause, and the families may also believe in the cause itself, as well as have a strong emotional connection to their sons, brothers, or fathers who have left their homes to fight for what they believe in. So again we have to see, what the real aim of showing such homecomings.
28. When we consider the skepticism shown with respect to grander objectives of life, I really consider whether the people who harbor such wanton skepticism really have any set goal or objective. This is because it will not be possible to reach very far either in terms of progress or in terms of knowledge if one has unfettered agnosticism and skepticism towards every single thing, and doubts basically everything that is presented in front of him/her.
Allah knows best, but this seems to be one of the characteristics of extreme stubbornness, so much so that the Qur’an makes an allusion to this in Surah Al-Hijr, where it mentions (the translation): ‘And [even] if We opened to them a gate from the heaven and they continued therein to ascend, They would say, “Our eyes have only been dazzled. Rather, we are a people affected by magic.”’ So it is obvious that (hypothetically speaking), such people may have kept going on with their skepticism even if they were in the midst of Paradise or Hellfire itself; because not trusting that one has reached a useful limit in judging realities has its dangers, problems, and leads to very real consequences.
And we have to understand that Islamic scholarship does allow for a healthy amount of skepticism in how we view its texts and the conclusions we make from these texts, but it is improper to be in a state of eternal agnosticism or eternal skepticism, and Islam does not accept this as a valid excuse, since it is a sort of arrogance with respect to the physical and mental faculties that have been granted to one in order to interact with the outside world and to draw conclusions with regards to Allah the Exalted and those whom He has elevated for the purposes of Prophethood and Messengership.
29. When we consider the issue of the Shias’ claims for their ‘Infallible Imaams’, we Sunnis would consider the matter as follows: If all of the issues (and we mean all, from beginning to the end) really go back to the ‘Infallible Imaam’, then this would elicit more investigation. But if at any point the ‘critical path’ is broken, it is clear that the Imaamah theory is not sound to begin with.
One very simple consideration would show the unsoundness of this doctrine: We are told by the Shias that the Holy Qur’an can only be properly understood and explained by recourse to the interpretation of the ‘Infallible Imaam’. We understand the issue up to here. But when the narrations of the Imaams are in conflict with one another, or whenever there seems to be something contradictory to the Qur’an, we are told that the purported narration is to be thrown away due to its contradiction with the Qur’an.
Now, there are many problems with this explanation. The first one is that it leads to circular reasoning. How would we know that the supposed narration from the Imaam, which seems to be in contradiction to the text of the Qur’an, is actually not an interpretation that is coining a linguistic term contrary to what reaches the mind at a first reading. For example, there are some Verses of the Qur’an, where we see that certain particles have been altogether elided, but it is very much understood that they are present in the meaning itself – one well-known example being the phrase (from part of Verse 12:85):
قَالُوا تَاللَّهِ تَفْتَأُ تَذْكُرُ يُوسُفَ حَتَّىٰ تَكُونَ حَرَضًا أَوْ تَكُونَ مِنَ الْهَالِكِينَ
(translation: They said, “By Allah, you will not cease remembering Joseph until you become fatally ill or become of those who perish.”)
here we see that the particle of negation is implicit even though it is not in the text, and this would be something the ‘Ulamaa’ of language would be able to discern, this knowledge not being restricted to an Imaam.
So in an analogous manner, simply saying that whatever goes against the Qur’an is to be rejected is a very simplistic way of handling the matter, and it seems to be a connection that the Twelver Shias had with sections of the Mu’tazila sect with regards to their handling of Ahadeeth, the only issue being that the Twelvers were ill-prepared to graft this Mu’tazilite method onto their own consideration of Hadeeth literature.
30. A number of people say they feel sad and bitter when they notice their children have learnt ways to deceive their parents, and have mastered techniques of lying and cheating. But the way I see it at least, is that there is no reason for sadness and bitterness from the parents at this very late stage of their child’s life, when modern life as a whole is a breeding ground for many evils.
I am not making any definitive comments about specific persons, but it seems many parents are even internally pleased that their children are picking up these habits, for how many times do we notice that the ‘real world’ is characterized by outright lying, various types of deception, backstabbing, lack of concern for others, and other negative personal qualities? So we cannot be so shocked or unpleasantly surprised at this turn of events, when many of us participate in a system that rewards such lying and deception, and (at least subliminally) pass on these qualities to the next generation. So we have to be careful about this, and consider what we really wish for ourselves and our children.
31. The science of Tassawwuf, just like the science of Fiqh or the like, does need occasional recalibration, since it is something connected to the hearts of the people, and the hearts of people today are very different from the hearts of people of earlier generations. We should be careful not to blindly attack the person of Tassawwuf without first seeing what is the method he is using – it would never occur to anyone to blindly attack a Shaykh or Mufti that gives a wrong Fatwa, simply because he gave the wrong Fatwa, but the way of the Muslims is the way of giving good Naseeha and to avoid vituperations as much as possible.
32. When discussing with deviants (and by extension, certain non-Muslims who are open to discussion), one has to have enough knowledge of the texts of Islam plus the texts (or sciences) that are held in esteem by the opponent, so that by his knowledge of all these different texts and nuances within the sciences, he will be able to derive a particular, personal ‘initial method’, plus he will be able to modify it as needed for the particular person he is speaking with. It is very important to mention that this is something not apt for everyone, since not everyone has the time or mentality to engage with texts on various levels, and to deduce that the opponent is using a certain strand of argumentation whenever he brings up a point – but this is the simplest way to explain the matter; in spite of the zeal many of us Da’wah workers have in presenting Islam and trying to bring people into the fold of Islam, the harsh truth is that many of us overstep the boundaries of our expertise at times, or we may not even have any expertise to begin with. So this is a call for all of us to step back, stop arguing so much with this group and that group, with this person and that person, and start being students of the religion first and foremost, and then see where to go from there.
33. A number of things to be seen from the Hadeeth (translated as): ‘The best generation is my generation…’ It does not mean that every single person or statement of the earlier generation is better than every single person or statement of the following generations [i.e. it is not so specific down to the person and down to every single statement]. And more importantly, it does not imply either that everything that has been said in the latter generations is to be summarily dismissed, since the rule in Islam is that truth is something remaining within the Muslim community across the ages and generations, and if someone of the latter times gives the truth a formulation/articulation that is good, proper, and necessary for the times, then benefit may be derived from this, since it is only an enunciation of the truth that is already within the Ummah, not a totally new set of doctrines or practices contradicting what was known in the era of the Salaf.
Thus, this is why even the modern-day ‘Salafis’ say that they have taken their Ahaadeeth from the books of Imaams Bukhari and Muslim (RAA), even though these Imaams came at a time after the first generation of Muslims, and their method for authenticating Ahaadeeth may have been unknown in the first generation of Muslims in that exact shape and form.
And again, we must consider that if there is something that was said in the first generation of Islam [as a ‘Madhhab’ so as to say], but it did not reach the level of an Ijmaa’, then it is not something that must necessarily be adhered to by the later scholars. In such cases, there is some leeway in what may be adhered to by the experts in Islamic fundamentals and law, and it is not detestable to reach another conclusion. However, what is detestable is for one to say that one necessarily has to follow this saying or ruling only because it was said by one of the Salaf, even though there is no consensus upon the necessity of this saying in and of itself.
34. It is very strange that we have certain people in our Ummah who say that since Kalaam is itself not allowed, they will not even consider the obvious fact that two mutually contradicting propositions cannot be simultaneously true. For how can such a person have the temerity to say that this ‘rule’ of his is part of the ‘Islam of the Salaf’, when the joining of contradictions is something that even animals do not accept in their day-to-day lives, let alone human beings – so how far removed is the time and environment of the Prophet ﷺ and the Companions (RAA) from this saying.
And this shows that always, we should step back and not consider that we are arguing with an opponent of ours, but rather see what he is actually saying: We are trying to reach the truth in our discussions, not blindly say something in retaliation to our opponent. To Allah is our plea in this and all cases.
35. There are two roads to take in seeing the correctness of any narration, one of them is with respect to the chain of narrators, and the second one is with respect to the content of the narration itself. Whenever we find that the authenticity of the chain is agreed upon, then there is no way to deny its correctness from this angle, but if there is some scholarly difference of opinion, there is some leeway in this regard, and it is not correct for one side to force or coerce the other side into accepting his own conclusions, since each side (or each true scholar) has his own rules for determining this matter.
And the same goes for the consideration of the text of the Ahadeeth, for when the Mujtahid ‘Ulamaa can give a proper and acceptable meaning to a narration that seems, on the outside, to be against the principles of Islam, then no one can force the person to reject that Hadeeth when understood with that particular interpretation. Again, it is very important to keep in mind that this is something left to the study and conclusion of the scholars, not to any semi-student of the religion.
There is some analogy in here between the Saheeh Ahaadeth that seem on the outside to be conveying an incorrect meaning, and the Verses of the Qur’an that mention ‘Yad’, ‘Wajh’, ‘Maji’’ and so forth, except that the need to interpret the Verses of the Qur’an in a way that is concomitant to the Exalted status of Allah is higher, since the Qur’an is Mutaawaatir in its text, while many of the Saheeh Ahaadeeth under discussion are solitary reports and are not taken as conclusive indubitable proofs in the religion.
Obviously, passing over the text as it appears is the way of the Salaf and a portion of the Khalaf, but we are talking about the case when necessity forces one to move the lay Muslims away from interpretations that attribute to Allah that which does not befit Him. So we must notice the intention and situation in which the scholars say what they say, not just make our own assumptions without any background information. The bigger point in this is that one should put the interpretation above the urge to simply reject the narration, since this latter option is not proper for the rank of the texts under consideration.
And this sometimes goes all the way to the point where some ‘Ulamaa give a probable interpretation to some of the narrations that were less than authentic, and the reason for this was to ward off any possible doubt that might creep into the minds of the Muslims.
36. One issue that seems strange is those who say one must necessarily take the literal meaning of the Verses and Ahaadeeth that seem to be propounding Tajseem (on the ‘Dhaahir’), based on translations of the texts. And this is something strange, since a translation is by default a type of interpretation of what that word means within a context, and especially in Arabic, where one word can easily have tens of meanings, all of them still being ‘truly literal’. Even when they say ‘truly literal’ in Arabic, they are still making an interpretation of this word and making Ta’weel of it, even though they may not be realizing it.
As an example in English of this, we see that one can say that ‘this table is long’ or ‘this night is long’, but the parameters of each length are quite different one from the other. This is why if someone uses hours as the unit for the table and centimeters as the unit for the night, he will be termed a simple fool who does not understand how the world works at all. If this is the case with a simple table and a simple night or day, then how do people talk left and right about what the Qur’an means when it uses certain words about Allah the Exalted? And that too in many cases, only by reading the translation, while those who have a right to say what some of these Verses might signify should have knowledge in the Arabic language, and the principles related to the fundamentals and the ancillaries of the religion.
Also, it seems that this dimwittedness we see from certain people is something our enemies from among the non-Muslims cannot gloat enough about, since they always hope for the Muslim nation to become more downtrodden and more backward; there is nothing more backward than a people holding inappropriate thoughts about Allah the Exalted, and attributing to Him that which is impossible/absurd.
37. In the case of the phrase ‘Ya’tiyahumu Allah’ in the Hadeeth of Sura (literally, ‘Form’) (this phrase translated literally as: ‘Allah will come to them’), it may be a figurative indication of the people seeing Allah; or it could be one of the actions of Allah which He has termed ‘I’tiyaan’; or it could be an indication to the coming of His angels, and this is something preferred by some of the ‘Ulamaa, taking into consideration the mentioning of forms, etc.
So the important thing is that one should not be quick to judge the narration as false, especially when its chain is correct, but rather leave the matter to those who are mindful and aware of the Hadeeth in question and how it relates with the rules and fundamentals of Islam.
Just to note, the reason why we put so much emphasis on interpreting that which is reliably reported from the Prophet ﷺ is due to our total conviction of his inerrancy in what he ﷺ transmitted of the Qur’an and other Wahy– even though solitary reports are in their own selves only probabilistic sources of knowledge.
38. There is the matter of how to interpret sayings of those who are not infallible (i.e. the Muslim community at large, and what we see of the arguments about what certain ‘Ulaamaa or ‘Awliyaa have said); some of the Muhaqeequn said one should stick to the ‘Dhaahir’ (apparent literality) of what is reported from them, since they are not divinely protected from making mistakes, while others said we should have the best assumption concerning scholars and those close to Allah, since they would not wish to utter anything that leads to problems in their Imaan. Whichever of these two roads is taken, they may lead to a different result at times, but this is not an issue, since we are talking about a practical matter.
39. Regarding Imaams Bukhaari and Muslim (RA), we know there were some personalities from among the Muhadetheen who did not agree with them, but this is within a known and closed boundary, so whoever wishes to go against any authentic narration collected by these Imaams has to keep this in mind, for otherwise the issue is not only that the person is going against Bukhari and Muslim, but also against the majority of the scholars who did accept their methods and did accept their conclusions.
40. One important point to be reiterated about the difference between Taqleed in Fiqh, and Taqleed in ‘Aqeedah: There is a well-known phrase which says ‘Every Mujtahid is correct’, but this is connected only to the probabilistic matters in the science of Fiqh, so as to give the laity the peace of mind that they will not be held accountable if the Mujtahid they have followed makes an error in his Fiqhi conclusions. And this is also said because Allah has veiled the absolute conclusion about certain things from us, and He will not call us to account for not having deduced the correct answer [whether directly when referring to the Mujtahid, or indirectly when referring to the follower].
But, those who exercise themselves in concluding matters of Tawheed, or of the Usool of the religion and they do not hit the mark, then they are not excused; and the laity is definitely not allowed to follow them – the Ahl us Sunnah has expressed that such people are guilty of Bid’ah at the very least, if not more [of course, this ‘more’ depends on the level of misguidance, and differs from sect to sect and person to person].
41. Concerning those sayings of the Ahl us Sunnah which are in the minority, the proper approach is to teach the students the majority opinion; but if the teacher has through his own study reached the minority opinion, and is able to independently defend it, then there is no problem in teaching others this minority opinion, and providing evidences as the situation demands.
42. There is an issue surrounding one of the famous books of Imam al-Ash’ari (RA), due to which some say he left his initial position and ‘joined the Madhab of the Salaf’; this has made certain people on the other side say that perhaps the books of al-Ash’ari (RA) have been widely tampered with and this is why we see a number of things in them seemingly in accordance with modern-day ‘neo-Salafi’ beliefs.
Now, keeping in mind that we do not accept their characterization of the Salaf, we need to first say that there are no grounds for saying the books of Imam al-Ash’ari (RA) have been completely tampered, but we also need to make clear that in these very books of the Imam (RA) there are exact quotes that clearly refute the position of anthropomorphism, so there is really nothing for the opponents to truly stand on if the works of al-Ash’ari (RA) are taken as a whole. It is simply that sometimes, a reader may imagine a certain meaning from their own understanding, while this is not the true meaning intended by the original author.
Thus, we have to keep in mind two types of ‘Tahreef’: One which takes place in the books themselves, and another the result of malicious tongues and pens attributing things to the ‘Ulamaa, but which the ‘Ulamaa never said in the first place. And it is from this last group that we have to be even more careful many a times, since there were and are individuals from among the Shias, the Dhaahiris (Ibn Hazm being the famous example), or the so-called ‘Salafis’ who have taken liberties in attributing to al-Ash’ari (RA) and to the Asharites in general that which does not belong to them – such as the claim of sophistry, the rejection of the fundamental principles of knowledge, or the attribution of the severance of Prophethood, and other things.
Another point is that if the opponent of the Ash’aris comes forth and spreads an accusation, it is not that we summarily dismiss him without considering the evidence. Rather, we see how his text or other evidence compares with the well-established works of the Imam in question, and also how it compares with the books written by his students, those who directly learnt this Aqeedah in a formal setting. Of course, it is very much possible that the claim of the opponent has some portion of truth in it after all, but it needs proper investigation for us to reach this conclusion.
43. A related point though on another level, when discussing works of the opponent, is that we should be as certain as we can possibly be that whatever quote or statement brought forth as part of the discussion is something truly said by the opponent, and we also need to be sure as to how this fits within his religious framework.
This is one of the reasons why I am not a big fan of public Daa’es rolling out one biblical Verse after another in presenting their points, since the context of the biblical tracts within the Christian understanding must be considered; only then can we say whether this biblical Verse is actually useful for our purposes or not. And if it is not, then there is no problem in this, as one gains experience in seeing which arguments are more valid and acceptable, and which ones should be put aside or radically modified before being presented.
44. It is a wise saying, that we should never dive headlong into finding the answers to doubts that come before us regarding Islam, but rather we should keep a steady state of reading and learning about Islam, and if we do that, surely enough, our doubts will be cleared in due time. It definitely requires a lot of patience in stopping the initial urge to look for quick answers, but the results are definitely much better, since we would have learned a lot just by taking a rigorous approach, rather than looking for answer after answer for any doubt that comes to our minds. I know that even from my side, I am many a times drawn into looking for quick answers to questions about Islam that may come forth, but this is definitely not the proper way to go about the matter, if I really want to achieve a good and genuine understanding of Islam. May Allah help me and all other Muslims in pursuing this objective. Ameen.
45. At times, our opponents say, how dare we use the rationality of the Greeks (and they mention Aristotle in particular) in building up Islam. They say that Islam needs nothing other than itself in order to be shown true. Now, the intention of saying this is noble from one facet at least, but it must be said that truth is not confined to the direct text of the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (ﷺ). If that had been so, there would have been no way to collect the Qur’an and the Ahadeeth to begin with, since these were collected, codified, and transmitted based on the application of both indubitable and probabilistic rules concerning the level of certainty one can have with regards to the authenticity of recitations, narrations, etc.
It is true that we should not base our religion on Greek, Indian, or Chinese philosophy, but if one closely examines traditional Sunni teaching, they will see that it differs vastly from all of the above; in fact, the one who disparages the efforts of the ‘Ulaama outright is in danger of falling into very wrong beliefs, since the ‘perimeter fence’ around his ‘Aqeedah has been taken down, and he is totally unprotected.
And it seems the modern-day Hadeeth rejecters are a natural outgrowth of this mentality, since from their perspective, the Ahadeeth have been codified based on mostly fallible means; and due to this, they think this is actually a huge detriment with respect to the science of Hadeeth, so such people go on to reject the Ahadeeth literature in totality. Had we not been in an atmosphere where so many people think that the evidences of the religion are merely circular in the strength of their validity, we would not have this problem…which I personally think will unfortunately only get worse and worse if the underlying skepticism concerning the methods to reach knowledge in Islam is not remedied.
46. The foundations of the Madhhab [in jurisprudence or theology] will not be seriously shaken if a person finds some things in the books of certain scholars which go against what has been firmly established as the Madhhab; this has relevance to the issue of Imam al-Ash’ari (RA) and his writings.
For example, one of the big issues is about some of the books of al-Ash’ari (RA); but we see that in one of his works (Risaalah ila Ahl ath-Thughur) he explicitly mentions that the Universe has One creator who brought it into being from non-Existence, created its objects and the incidental characteristics of these objects, and gave both the objects and the incidents their respective differentiations. And this exposition is in contradiction to those who imagine there is some type of eternity to the Universe (e.g. Qidam an-Naw’).
47. Allah is unlike His creation; and His not being like the creation does not nullify His Existence (as some people think), but rather shows that the creation is the one being recreated and regenerated. In any case, the way to know Allah’s Existence is through the consideration of His Actions (Creation of objects, events, etc.), and is not necessarily tied with anyone having a Vision of Allah the Exalted.
And just to mention briefly, those who say that only sensual things (i.e. those that are currently known through the senses) can be said to exist have implicitly taken up the material naturalist religion, since this is the way of such naturalists, to say that they cannot see Allah, or they cannot measure Him, so as far as they are concerned He cannot possibly exist – may Allah save us from this belief.
48. With regards to the Attributes of Allah, we cannot say His Attributes are other than Him, since this would mean they can be [hypothetically speaking] separated from Him; but this then would lead to His being created and originated, and this is impossible. This is unlike the case of humans, animals, etc., where the loss of some of our attributes is quite conceivable and possible, since we shift from state to state.
49. In the works of al-Ash’ari (RA) we see a clear rejection of the possibility of ascribing bodies and limits to Allah the Exalted, and there is no confusion about this matter.
Even if we consider the text of the creed of At-Tahaawi (RA) [which is known and accepted among the modern-day ‘Salafis’ as well] we see the same thing, that the ascription of bodies, limits, locations, sides, etc., to Allah is totally impossible.
50. Concerning the term ‘limbs’, we have to be careful not to say that a ‘limb’ is a comprehensive term applicable to Allah, or a term that should be applied for the sake of not falling into Ta’teel [negation of Allah’s Attributes].
Rather, we are to say that the Qur’an and other Nusoos have come with certain words, and we use these words as per the permission accorded to us in Islam to use them, while also discarding the unacceptable meanings that may crop up in people’s imaginations.
An important sub-point is that the saying that Allah’s ‘Yadaah’ are not to be taken as His ‘Ni’mah’ (favors) is not something outside the traditional Sunni belief, as there are many acceptable interpretations one may hold onto after affirming that there should never be any Tashbeeh at all. Likewise, the Nuzuul mentioned in the Ahadeeth is not connected to movements or stoppages, because Allah is not a body, nor a Jawhar [element], etc.