Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
I am going to follow this book which is written by Murata and Chittick called the Vision of Islam quite closely. I would appreciate if people read the sections for this week. Preface, Introduction up through Islam so that will be 34 pages. I have taught this book once before to a group of non Muslim teachers and I personally think it is the best thing in English that I have seen as a basic introduction. It is actually not that basic because it is actually quite a deep exploration of the tradition of Islam. In just re-reading this section, I have read it a few times, I was remembering why I liked the book so much. It is useful for Muslims not just non Muslims. What I appreciate about the book is that there are two ways religion is looked at in the West. They call them in vocabulary a religious tradition, in universities narrative approach and descriptive approach. A descriptive approach is the most common approach, it is the anthropological approach, it is the approach that looks at how a religion manifests itself in a society, how people behave, how they express their religion, their practices. This will include folk practices as well as practices instituted by the religion. It will also bring up some very bizarre things because human beings do some very strange things and they will often do them in the name of religion and so that will be seen as part of the religion.
From the perspective of a scholar of the religion and I mean devotional scholar because in the West they differentiate between devotional scholars, between scholars, what Dr Cleary calls “scholars for dollars”. Those are people who earn their living in institutions so they will study something as a way of making their living whether they believe in it or not. So many people will teach religion that do not believe in religion. That perspective of religion will taint the way they teach their religion.
I went through a religious studies program at
One of the things that they explain they are attempting to
do is to explain Islam to Muslims who as a general rule know nothing about
their religion but are defensive and that is very true. Most Muslims do not
know anything about their religion in any deep sense of the word. If you
actually ask them to tell you about things you would be surprised at how
ignorant many Muslims are. Then to Westerners who know nothing but are
instinctively hostile so you are dealing in an environment. One of the things
that Dr Cleary says in his book “Zen Cohens”. “An American who believes in
himself or herself to be liberal, open minded, unprejudiced will display the
most extreme prejudices if asked about Islam a religion that he probably knows
absolutely nothing about”. But immediately will begin to voice options about
which if he voiced them about something else he would feel he was prejudiced,
that it would be unfair to do that. So it is very interesting the hostility
that a lot of people have. There are many reasons for that hostility. There are
historical reasons for that hostility. Islam for centuries was the most
powerful force in a large part of the world. For that reason, other peoples
either lived reasonably harmoniously with the Muslims or instance the Chinese.
The Chinese traditionally had very good trading routes with the Muslims. You
The West generally has had an antagonistic relationship with
Islam. Initially that is not always the case and there are extraordinary cases
of cultural flourishings that occurred certainly during periods of the time in
So there is hostility, it is historical but generally most Western people are ahistorcial like most Eastern people, they do not know much about history but if you grew up in this country you probably grew up with cartoons such as Crusader Rabbit with ideas of the crusades that Moors in all those films such as El CID were always portrayed as dark, swarthy and violent. In some of the earliest films in this country like the Sheek with Rudolph Valentino the Muslim is portrayed as quite romantic but in the end it turns out that he really is not an Arab, he was European so it was alright for him to take the European girl. The idea that there is antagonism is serious and it is one that Muslims have to look at very seriously but it is also something that Western people need to challenge themselves in trying to look at Islam with less hostility. It is difficult. This book is an attempt at presenting Islam to Muslims in a way that is going to satisfy them in a sense and I think they do a reasonably good job of that and I am going to point out the things in the book that are problematic, I think it is very useful for understanding Islam. The reason that I am interested and why I am teaching this class is because one of the things that we forget about Islam is holistic tradition. It is a totality. The Quran says “do you believe in one portion of the book disbelieve in other parts?”. When you take Islam, you submit to it. That is what it is, it is submission to a total world view. It is a way of looking at the world with eyes of Muslims, they look at the world with eyes of people who have been trained in Western universities or in Western world views and they do not realise how tainted their views are. There are many Muslims who are so disconnected from Allah that they really do not experience anything of the divine in their daily lives and so they live lives that are very divorced from a deep rich spiritual tradition. The beauty of the book I think is an attempt to look at Islam in a holistic way and it is based on the hadeeth of Jibril.
One of the things also that is very interesting I know that William Chittick studied in a traditional madrassah at least for some period of time so he knows the tradition is very adept at translating text because I have read his translations and I know the Arabic word he is translating and I think he is very adept at what he does. One of the things that they say is classical texts ask too much of the beginning readers. They were not written for people coming from another cultural milieu rather they were written for people who thought more or less the same way the authors did and shared the same world view. It is very dangerous to read a book by Imam al Ghazali and not understand that Imam Ghazali is working in 6th century Eastern Islam and if you attempt to apply your standards or your criterion to the imam, you are doing him a grave misservice because it is simply not fair. On the other hand, the Imam’s tradition definitely says something to use today; Imam Ghazali is as relevant today for us as he was when he was writing because he is writing about universals. On the other hand, there are going to be things in Imam Ghazali’s book that are not relevant today because they relate to his time and place.
Another thing that he says as a general rule they were written for those with advanced intellectual training. A type of training that is seldom offered in our graduate schools much less on the undergraduate level. Now anybody who has worked in traditional Islamic texts, for instance Imam Ghazali, he assumes in most of his works, not in all of them because he write some as popular works, he is assuming that you have been trained in grammar, rhetoric, logic, dialectic, he is assuming that you have been trained in poetry and prosaity. He is assuming you have been trained in mathematics. He is making these assumptions when he writes his book and so you will find things even if you know Arabic, if you do not know logic you do not realise that he is actually using terms that doesn’t mean what they mean to the average Arabic reader. They actually mean something, it is a technical word, it is a technical term. To study in classical texts one has to go through classical training. If you do not, you are just not able to do it and that is why you will see gross mistranslations of classical texts because people do not know the requisite knowledges that are needed to examine the text.
One of the things they mention also is that the texts were basically outlines of an argument. Anybody who has studied any of our classes with any of those traditional texts, that is what you will know, you are dealing with an outline. Texts tended to be pegs upon which the teacher hung the meanings or the commentaries. That is how the traditional Muslim world transmitted knowledge. When you have learned the alfeia it was not enough just to know those lines of poetry, you had to know the commentary, you had to know all of the examples in order for the rules to become meaningful. Another thing is that the students did not know borrow the books from the library and then return them the following week, they did not buy them, they had to copy them out by hand and spend several months or years studying word by word with a master. I personally did copy out some of the texts that I wrote because they are not published and were not available. There is a great benefit in doing that and I am glad I had that opportunity. I would sit down and word for word the Shaykh would comment on the text. Having studied dozens of books like that with teachers has been immense. Shaykh Muhammad has studied hundreds of books. He has studied 400 books with his father. A lot of them were reading them but many of them were word for word commentaries on these texts. Generally, if you had good training, you would have studied at least 30-40 books well before a teacher would let you move on your own and be able to study from the text.
Now this also I think is very interesting. We are perfectly aware that many contemporary Muslims are tired of what they consider outdated material. They would like to discard their intellectual heritage and replace it with scientific endeavours such as sociology. By claiming that Islamic heritage is superfluous and that the Quran is sufficient, such people have surrendered to the spirit of the times. Those who ignore the interpretations of the past are forced to interpret their text in the light of the prevailing world view of the present. This is a far different enterprise than that pursued by the great authorities who interpreted their present in the light of grand tradition and who never felt preyed to update the most obsolescent of all obstractions. So one of the beauties of the ancient tradition, a writer writing in the 12th century is writing from the same world view as a writer in the 3rd century or the 4th century really and that is where there is a continuity of interpretation. They did not succumb to the temptations of the time. One of the things that the moderns do is that they interpret everything in light of their time and then people will look back later and see how ridiculous much of what they come up with sounds. That is why if you look at the 19th century, phrenology was considered to be the most uptodate way of understanding personality and that was feeling bumps on people’s heads to determine their character types. This was considered deeply scientific in the 19th century and likewise there will be things today that 50 or 100 years from now, people will wonder and marvel at how people could fall for that type of nonsense. This is one of the dangers of that.
Then he says another thing that we find often in short
histories of Islamic thought, intellectuals appear a bit foolish for apparently
spending a great amount of time discussing irrelevant details. Muslim scholars
would go into great detail about certain things and there is a kind of idea
that they were really irrelevant issues. What he says in fact much of what they
were discussing is being discussed in the contemporary world but just in
different terms so we have semantic analyses going on now. We have people that are
deeply involved in the analyses of language. You will find that amongst Muslims
historically. Some of the most extraordinary scholars of grammar emerged out of
the 3rd, 4th and 5th century of
Finally he says as authors we have our own lenses. Some people may criticise us for trying to find Islam’s vision of itself within the Islamic intellectual tradition and the Sufi tradition in particular but it is precisely these perspectives within Islam that provide the most self conscious reflection of the nature of the tradition. So they are definitely working from an intellectual tradition and it is a classical tradition. The Sufi tradition is not the Sufi tradition that many people now speak ill of but rather most of the scholars of the past, our greatest scholars, did have a perspective which was rooted in their own spirituality and in an interpretation and explanation of Islam based on that, that was in fact the science of tassawuf. So that is not an innovation, in fact it is part of the tradition and that is what they show.
Now in the introduction basically they say the religion was established by the Quran through the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam). A Muslim is one who submitted to God’s will, one who follows the religion of Islam. The Quran is a book that got revealed to the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) by means of the angel Jibril and this is the basic story. Now to flesh that out. Over 1400 years ago on a mount outside of Makkah in which a man was meditating and an angel came to him and told him Iqra (read) and this was the beginning of the revelation which is called wahy. From that, everything comes. That is the foundation. So the Quran sets this whole thing in motion and now we are on a planet in which one out of every five people believes in the Quran as a revelation from God. So this began with one man given a revelation from an angel. Now the Quran, they say that the Muslim view unlike the Christian view, the Quran is only in Arabic. A Christian will generally say when they speak about the Bible, they will say “well it says in the bible”. A Muslim would never say that about Yusuf Ali’s commentary if they understand Islam. They will say “well the translation says”. They will never say the Quran says. You should not say that because a translation is ultimately an interpretation and therefore no Muslim accepts any translation of the Quran as definitive. There is no definite translation of the Quran because of the nature of the Arabic language and the nature of language in general. Every language has the possibility of multiple interpretations.
I recently finished translating after two years a poem by Imam al Busiri which is 160 lines. I re-translated it three times, literally I translated it first time and sent it to somebody who edited it for me, it came back with a lot of changes, it forced me to go back to it a second time and I went through it again and then the last time I completely just re-translated it. At a certain point I realised that if anybody read Borehey Horeheads who was a surrealistic Argentinian writer and one of the motifs that he often explores is the eternal recurrence of events and I realised that I could be in a Borehesion story where I would just keep translating this thing for infinity because there was always a new possible meaning. There was always a word that could be something else. If you look in a book of synonyms you will find for the same word several different possibilities. Trying to understand exactly what that poet meant when he said this and then the possible syntactical changes. Quran is Arabic, We have given this in Arabic. It is an Arabic Quran. That is why the Quran is Arabiyyah and you do call a translation Quran. It is not even called Quran. The meaning of Quran is it was uttered, revealed, incapacities anybody from imitating it. It was sent to worship Allah, that is the Quran and it is Arabic.
So that is very important and this is why there are many different interpretations of the Bible. If you look at the new American version and then look at King James, they are completely different, sometimes the meaning is completely different. So what do you follow and who determines what it means. There are obviously multiple interpretations of the Quran but if you have completed the 15 different sciences or the 12 according to Ibn Juzai needed to master the Quran before you can interpret it, once you have completed those sciences and your interpretation is congruous with the Arabic language and does not stop to contradict anything that the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said, it is an acceptable translation so the Quran is open to multiple interpretations, always has been and always will be. He mentions that the Quran was translated into Persian early on which is true but they were more intralinear in notes, they were actually not done for the masses, they were done for the rules so the original interpretation of the Quran was not given to the mass of people. It was the same idea that the Catholic Church held. They kept the Bible in Latin and did not translate it into vernaculars until Lutherhism and Protestantism began that process because they felt that you should master certain sciences before you read the Bible because you will misinterpret it so the idea was do not put it out there for the common people and traditionally that idea was understood in Islam that you can read the Quran for worship but you should not attempt to interpret it until you have mastered certain sciences and then also that the Quran has, he mentions 7 meanings. He is referring to the hadith that says “Quran was revealed in seven different letters” and there is a lot of debate about what they exactly means but there is a hadith in which the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “every ayah has an inward, outward and an overseer” so the idea is that there are meanings. You become an esoterist when you only accept the outward meaning. Sunni Muslims have always believed that the Quran has both inward and outward meanings and neither should be rejected. It is also mentioned that this Quran which created an incredible civilisation addresses simple people and sophisticated people, philosophers and kings as well peasants and shepherds. That is one of the attractions and the powers of the Quran, it literally speaks to the highest and the lowest and there is a common ground that it finds because it is speaking about the most important things that we deal with and also mentioning the Quran spread within 100 years from China all the way to Spain and all of those various people spoke different languages and yet dispute the fact that the Quran was in Arabic, the Quran was able to speak to all of them because it was speaking to their hearts and minds not just their ears, to their tongue. It was speaking about meanings that human beings share and that is why the Quran is a universal book.
One of the things, if you read some other traditions you will notice that in their scriptures there is a great deal of geographical things that really relate to living in the jungle for instance where Islam, if you look at the Quran, it is speaking to people who travel on the ocean despite the fact that Arabs did not travel on the ocean so it speaks to sailors in the middle of the ocean dealing with massive waves. It also speaks to people traveling in the desert. It speaks to people traveling in the mountains, people who live, agriculturalists, pasturalists. It speaks to merchants, it speaks to people who have trades, people who make things by hand so everybody will find themselves in the Quran and the Quran does speak to everyone.
One of the powerful unifying factors of Islam is the fact that it invites all of us with Arabic so Christians for instance have liturgical services in Korean, Japanese, Polish, Sanskrit all these various languages whereas Muslims, their worship is one language so we all share that. So whatever mosque you went to, you will hear the same Quran recited, you will not hear a different Quran and that is a unifying factor for us as one people. Also the Quran is about the same size as the New Testament in terms of actual link although it differs from the Old Testament and the New Testament by consensus. Both of those books were compiled by several different people where the Quran was given by one person and that is in agreement. Even though there are people like Patrician Crone and other scholars who have attempted to say the Quran was put together by a committee of people after the Prophet’s (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) death and they added what they wanted and took out what they wanted. This was in Atlantic Monthly, it has come up a few times. Those are rejected even by the Orientalist people that work within the Orientalist tradition do not accept those theories and Patricia Crone has backtracked quite a bit. She is not saying things like she was three or four years ago. She is teaching in the East Coast now, she was originally at SOAS. She is no longer saying the same things because she was given so much flak by the Orientalist community. When you read those things, you have to understand that those things are not even accepted by the non Muslim scholars of Islam.
Nicholson who taught Arberry in his book on the history of Arabic literature says that we have to admit that the Quran is definitely the word of the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam). It is what he taught his people and anybody who knows the prolific memories of the Muslims and the Arabs in particular know that this book has been transmitted orally and I will give you an example. Muhammad Hasan Al Dudu who came here and gave a talk here who has probably close to a photographic memory and has memorised several books of hadith. He memorises al Bukhari by heart and I had a handwritten copy of Bukhari that he took a look at and found two mistakes on the first page he was looking at and he pointed them out. That is why traditionally the Muslims depended on people not books themselves and people do not understand that. People are actually more when they have powerful memories and they devote their memories to preserving knowledge. They are actually more trustworthy than the text itself. Scribes make mistakes, whereas a Hafidh does not. He might make a mistake but he will catch himself if he is a true Hafidh. That is why no true Hafidh who masters the Quran needs anybody to interrupt him. He can work it out, if you leave him alone, he will work it out for himself. All of us have seen that, who have prayed behind a really strong Hafidh in taraweeh prayer. A hafidh is someone who memorises the Quran by heart.
The shortest surah has 10 words and the longest one over 6000. Each of the verses is called ayah which means a sign. They go into quite a bit of detail about that. Now one of the interesting differences between the Quran and the Bible is that the Quran is about God. Now that might surprise somebody to hear that the Quran differs from those traditions but if you read the bible you will find a great deal of the Bible does not really talk about God. It talks about history, tribes, people’s problems, families, a lot of things but you will not actually find God mentioned for several pages in sections of the bible. In the Quran on the other hand, no matter what God is talking about, He will always bring it back to Allah and one of the ways He does that is by using His divine names, He will end the ayah by saying He is the Merciful, Giving, He is over all things Capable, so the Quran always bring us back to that most important subject which is Allah and that is why if you look at a red lettered Quran you will notice that every single page in the entire Quran is filled with the name of God. If you look at a red lettered Bible you will be quite surprised to find that a good deal of the Bible does not make mention of God. That is not to say anything wrong about the Bible but it is an interesting difference between the two books.
One of the things that he mentions here is that people who are native speakers feel a propriety relationship to the Quran in other words it is mine alone and nobody else’s particularly Arabs. Arabs definitely have that feeling that if you do not understand Arabic, you cannot really understand the Quran. I personally do not believe that is true. I think there are ajamy people who do not know Arabic but are actually more moved by the Quran than many many Arabs and I know some people especially South Asians who have seen their mothers or fathers weep profusely reading the Quran and they don’t even know the meanings of the Quran but they know it is God’s words and that is what is impacting them than the fact that they are reading God’s revelation and that is why there is a famous story of one of the ajam who heard the Quran and began to weep and one of the Arabs said to him you are an ajamy and “how can you weep by hearing the Quran”. He said “my tongue is ajamy but my heart is Arabi”. The heart can understand things that the mind does not necessarily understand. This is important also. A general rule is that a person with no grounding in the Islamic world view, if they pick up a translation of the Quran will have their prejudices confirmed and I think that unfortunately that is very true. If you go to the Quran already with prejudices you will find exactly what you are looking for, I knew it, they do it and it is right there. They are looking for that so they found it and when you are looking for something you are often blinded to the other things so prejudices can be confirmed by the Quran. If you don’t allow the Quran to speak to you that is why the Quran begins “this is guidance for people who already have plenty” and it says “this is a book, there is no doubt in it”. It already declares its position right from the start. If you have doubt about this book, it is not going to benefit you. If you believe automatically that it is not a revelation from God then you are going to read it with that perspective. If however you go to it and I say I want to find out “is this a revelation from God?”. It is not that you have doubt, you don’t know anything about it and you simply want to see for yourself so going sceptically and going objectively are very different and you have very different experiences in taking these routes.
Another thing is that the Quran and the world view of the Quran is definitely connected to the Arabic language. The Arabic language is a Semitic language, it is the language that Moses and Jesus spoke. They spoke Semitic languages. The route structures of Aramaic and Hebrew are very similar in Arabic. Hebrew scholars are forced to use Arabic dictionaries by their own admittance to interpret the Hebrew language. The reason for that is that the Rabbi’s prohibited putting down a great deal the midrash. They have an oral tradition that was not permitted to be put down and they never bothered to do any dictionaries. The Arabs began to write dictionaries immediately and literally in the 8th century the first Arabic dictionary, which is already a sophisticated dictionary unlike the English dictionary, we find our first dictionary is in the 16th century and it is a bad dictionary. It is a lousy dictionary whereas the Arabs were already writing extremely sophisticated dictionaries by 100 years of Islam. Another thing about Arabic is that it was preserved by poetry. Aishah memorised 12,000 lines of poetry from just one poet. That is not an exaggeration because I know people who have memorised far more than 12,000 lines personally so I know that is not an exaggeration.
On page 19, there is one expression there that I thought inappropriate and you can see it for yourself but I crossed it out in mine and I do not want to repeat it. They were using an English idiom and I do not think they intended anything by it but I don’t believe it is appropriate to say in conjunction with the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam). Let me put it this way. The Quran is a miracle of the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam). The Quran is his miracle, in other words the Quran is part of the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) because he is the first and greatest Muslim.
Now next is the Quran. It has 114 chapters, it is a non linear book and that becomes problematic for Western people that are used to a book like Genesis that begins in the beginning and goes by history. You read the Quran and it does not begin in the beginning. It begins exactly where Allah wants to begin it. It begins Alif Laam Meem and nobody knows what that means which I think is one of the greatest proofs of the Quran because I don’t think that anybody can think of it, to start a book with letters that nobody knows what they mean. To show you that over everybody who knows something there is somebody who knows more. You have to do to the book humbly because it is already telling you that you do not know everything. You know very little so that is important to remember.
The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) on the bottom of page 20, it mentions that is some traditions that the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) contemplated suicide. That is not true, he did not contemplate suicide. He was deeply troubled which is another proof of his prophecy because one of the things about false prophets is that they want to convince you that they are sent from God whereas the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) his first response was what is happening to me. When it was confirmed by his wife and by Waraqah, the cousin of his wife, at that point it hit home what was happening but initially he was very troubled and it was a deep shock. He was not reluctant at first to submit, they mention that also reluctance at first, he was not reluctant in the true sense of that word. He was troubled and he was worried about the responsibility. You can see that in the Quran where it says “don’t try to keep up with the revelation” because he used to try, because he was so worried that he would forget something or that he would not get the whole thing so he had a deep sense of debt and burden of bearing this message.
The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa
sallam) was born in the
The Jewish position of some of the greatest Rabbis is that Islam is a vehicle of providence and that it was a way of preparing the world for the coming of the Messiah. Now obviously we believe the messiah was Isa (Jesus) and so do the Christians but it is interesting to note that is a position. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) who is a son of Ishmael when he was given this message at the age of 40 initially he just spread it secretly and then at a certain point Allah commanded him to go out and teach it to the people and he did. The response that the Arabs gave “those who disbelieve say these are fables of old” in other words these are fairy tales which is very interesting because this is a very modern thing to say about revelation so it is interesting that the Quran dealt with that type of response.
One of the things also that they mention which is in Surah Naml “we have already been promised this before us and those who went before us” (27:68) meaning the Jews and Christians, these are just fables. Some of the Arabs did not believe this. The turning point for the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) comes when he makes the hijrah. This is a major turning point for his teaching because after 13 years of oppression he makes the hijrah, goes to Yathrib, this resulted from a delegation that was sent to him. The Aws and Khazraj were two Yemeni tribes who had migrated many generations before to this city called Yathrib. It was an agricultural city largely date palms and they had battles with each other, they were constantly fighting. It was inter-tribal warfare and they were getting really tired of it and they wanted an end to this violence. There was a Jewish community living there and they tended to be traders although some of them had date palms also. They controlled the market place in Madinah and they used to tell the Arabs about the final Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam), how he would show up and he was going to show up in this city and that he would remove all their idols and that he would purify their land and bring the true teaching. Now these Jews believed that it would be a Jewish Prophet so when the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) emerged they said to each other “maybe this is the man that the Jews were talking about” so they wanted to go and see for themselves and when they did they ended up becoming Muslim and submitting to the Prophet’s (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) dream and then the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) migrated to them and these incredible bonds of brotherhood occurred between those who migrated and the people of Madinah. The hijrah marks the first date, it begins year 1 for the Muslims so in a sense this is the beginning of real time for us when Islam becomes successful, established in the earth. That is year 1 for the Muslims.
In terms of tradition, we have three types of traditions:
- Quran which we believe is wahy, revelation from God spoken through the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) from Jibril
- Revelation that is spoken through the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam). This is called hadith. This means that the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) is speaking inspired. He is inspired by God. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) does not speak from his own passion, this is revelation coming to him. Even his hadeeth is revelation. We believe that, that is why you will not find any table talk, you will not find any trite conversation. You will not find any vigilantes in the hadith. All of the hadith have meanings and implications for the lives of Muslims. The hadith are divided into three basic essential types:
- Ahad which are narrated by solitary transmitters, 1,2, 3 or 4. Those have less strength.
- Mutawatir which is multiply narrated transmitters. There are only a few hundred of them. Those have the same status of the Quran in terms of absolute belief that they come from the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and you should not reject them. An example of that is the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) prohibited the killing of children and women in war. That is multiply transmitted. There are so many narrations for that it is impossible for that to be a mistake. That is why that is agreed upon by scholars.
- Hadith Qudsi which is revelation from God but the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) transmits it as a hadith. It does not have the same status as the Quran in that we cannot recite it in the prayer but we believe also that it is directly from God. An example of that is God says according to the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) “every action is for the son of Adam except fasting. It is Mine alone”. Because Allah is the only One who does not eat or drink in reality. So when you fast you are doing an action, in a sense it is the closest thing we do that has a divine quality because only God does not eat or drink, we all need to eat and drink. That is one interpretation, there are many others.
We also believe that the Quran is eternal and uncreated. That means the meanings of the Quran in other words it is not the literal words in the book but we only say that when we teach. We still say that the Quran is uncreated. We believe that the Quran, what is between these two covers, is the uncreated word of God. We can say that but when we say that we have an understanding that it does not literally mean the letters and the ink. It is the meaning that those words convey.
On page 24 they mentioned about Sayyidina Ali not giving up his claim. They are giving a Shia perspective. That is not a Sunni perspective. We believe that Imam Ali in fact took bayah with Abu Bakr which he says there and the Shia admit that but we believe he took it believing that Abu Bakr was the rightly guided caliph and that Abu Bakr was better than Ali. There is a hadith in Sahih Bukhari in which Ali clearly says that Abu Bakr was better than him and so was Umar.
Another important thing that they mention here is that
generally the Muslims lived with many different religions. They did not
persecute religions. There are four instances, it does occur, but they are
always rejected by the scholars and they were also clearly done by rulers that
were manipulating situations for their own political advantage, short
sightedness that lead to a lot of problems but Muslims generally treated other
religions very well, kept their Churches, Synagogues and Temples intact
including Zoroastrians, Hindus and Buddhists.
Another thing which is important is that generally Muslim
rulers did not want people to become Muslim. The reason they did not want them
to become Muslim is because they lost revenue and they also had to deal with
the egalitarian nature of Islam so that is a fact. If you do not believe that,
if you have some kind of romantic utopian version of Islam, it is a fantasy.
All you have to do is read history. The Muslims were very honest in their
history. You actually had to join an Arab tribe to become a Muslim and the
person who ended that was Umar bin Abdul Aziz during Bani Ummayah. Before that
you literally had to join an Arab tribe. You were a maula which was an inferior
position. There is a movement in
We are not supposed to interpret the Quran but we are supposed to reflect on its meanings. Please clarify.
A great deal about the Quran is reflection. Haven’t they looked at the camel, how it was created? Haven’t they looked at the heavens, how they were raised up? Haven’t they looked at the mountains, how they have been placed standing firm? Haven’t they looked at the earth, how We have stretched it out, so remind them. Those are things to think about. You do not need to interpret those verses, they are very clear. Much of the Quran is very clear. However, when the Quran says if you fear disobedience or incalcutrance from your spouse then warn her, abandon the bed and then strike her, you are not allowed to interpret that, it is haram for you to interpret that, nor can you apply that ruling in your house because it is in the Quran. It is haram for you to do that. Muslims have always believed that. You need to ask scholars the interpretation of that verse and then you are surprised to find out that it does not mean what you probably thought it meant. That is what I mean by not interpreting the Quran. Those are the verses that deal with actual behaviour. In those verses, you must go to scholars because you might completely misunderstand it. For instance, gheebah it says “don’t let some of you backbite against others”. You have to understand there is a ruling. There are seven situations in which that law does not apply. Then you have to know the definition of backbiting. You might think it means speaking about things that are not true. On the contrary it means things that are true. So you have to understand and that comes from scholars. It comes from people who understand the Quran so that is what I mean. Verses in the Quran that Allah says “in the creation of the heavens and the earth alternating in the night and day are signs for people who have deep reflection, innermost core” you can reflect on that. The Quran is filled with things. You can read it for that. Do not try and derive rulings from it, that is all.
What is normative?
Normative is what the religion says about itself. It is not
telling you how Muslims behave, it is telling you how they are supposed to
behave and that is a much fairer way of looking at a religion. It is to look at
the idea and not the reality. Saeed Hussain Nasr wrote a book “Islam: Ideas and
In some Christian texts, it says descendents of Issac were great people and the descendents of Ishmael caused great havoc on the earth.
Not true, there is good in both the sons. There is some bad offspring that came out of there but you cannot blame the parents. You can sometimes blame them for what their children do if they were neglectful but you cannot blame them for what their grandchildren do. That is not their fault.
Could you explain what you meant the “Quran was his miracle”?
In other words to say that the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) is not central to the Islamic teaching is wrong. To say he was a messenger and gave his message and that is the end of it, that is not true. Ibn Taymiyyah was once asked “can you say hadith not been for the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) the world would not have been created” in his book on Tasawuf. Ibn Taymiyyah said that statement has truth in it. The reason is that every thing that is less virtuous serves the more virtuous. So the example he gives is that you kill animals for the benefit of humans because humans are higher. We are higher, we do not believe like Helen Caldicott, she thinks all animals are equal. A dog has as much right to be here as a human being. A dog does have the right to be here and does have rules in Islam legislated for protecting animals and things like that but if an animal has more right to be here and that is why if a dog threatened the life of a human, you kill the dog. Whereas if a human threatened the life of a dog, you do not kill the human. I mean he is doing something wrong, but you don’t kill him. Even this society accepts that as a principle so the idea that all animals are equal is not true. The same is true about human beings. Not all humans are equal. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) is the highest human being and the Prophets, all of them are higher than human beings. For that reason we have less importance than a Prophet.
Now the reason Allah created human beings, there are three reasons given in the Quran:
- He created us to cultivate the earth
- He created us to inherit the earth and to leave it as a legacy to those who come after us so we inherit it from our fathers and mothers and we leave it as a legacy for our children.
- The most important and primary reason is that we were created to know God. No one knows God better than the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and for that reason he is the most important human being ever created because he has fulfilled more perfectly the purpose for which we were created which is to know God. So from that perspective, he is central and the centrality of the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) will be shown on the day of judgment when all human beings will recognise the station he was given and Muslims believe that. To say somehow he is secondary I do not accept that. I do not because that is not what I was taught.
Can you give a Quran to a non Muslim in Arabic?
I would not give the Quran to a non Muslim in Arabic. It is not permitted to give the Quran to a child if it has Arabic in it because a child does not have wudu and it is an obligation to have wudu if you touch the Arabic Quran so I would not give the Quran to any non Muslim unless it was something like Thomas Cleary “The Essential Quran” because what Thomas Clealry did in that book, he did not put any of what could be called the hard verses, the verses that really do need interpretation.
You said the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) was the first and best Muslim but the Quran describes Musa and others as saying “I am Muslim”.
Yes they were but the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “I was a Prophet and Adam was still uncreated” and that is a sound narration before any of the other Prophets. He has a relationship to Isa which is very interesting. Isa is destined as being like Adam and the Prophet is a Prophet after Adam and yet he was created before Adam and Isa is like Adam and Isa was a Prophet before the Prophet and the Prophet is the last Prophet yet Isa comes before the Prophet. So it is a very interesting relationship with Isa. It says in the Quran the likeness of Isa is like Adam so Isa is like Adam in relationship to the Prophet as well as in relation to the creation because he comes after the Prophet yet he is not a Prophet after the Prophet. He is a Prophet before the Prophet and Adam was a Prophet before the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) yet the Prophet was before Adam. So it is a very interesting relationship. That is something called “daughter of my idea” so I have never seen that written but it is something that occurred to me once.
Last grains of sand: You always have to ask yourself where you are in relation to that because your life is somewhere. If you look at those grains of sand like your breaths. You have a certain amount that are decreed for you and every breath you take is close to the last one and then one day that last breath comes and you never know. A baby is right there if they live a normal life. So it is a nice thought to think about if you watch a sand clock. Sand clocks are so amazing because they are true than these other clocks that give you an illusion of things returning. You can turn them back upside down.
The hadith of Jibril is really considered probably one of the most important hadith in all of the hadith literature and the reason for that is it is a summation of the entire Islamic teaching. It sums up Islam. It was also a hadith in which the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) was told 80 days before he died so it is very close to the last period that he was with us in physical flesh. The hadith is related by Umar ibnul Khattab. Umar is the second caliph, he is also the second closest person to the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) in terms of companionship, Abu Bakr being the first. He begins by telling us that they were sitting with the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and then he said a man in white clothes, stark black hair, very striking person emerges and he says we could not see any traces of travelling on him.
Now what is interesting about that remark is that this is a desert town, Madinah, there are only really a few thousand people living in this town. It is a village more than a city. It is considered a city by Arabian standards but it is certainly not a place in which people did not know each other. People knew everybody there. Now when this man comes in white robes very clean, very fresh, so signs of travelling, they thought that was strange, this is why he mentions it because where did he come from. He would have had to have showered, changed his clothes. Nobody knew where this man came from and nobody had ever seen him before. He sits down and places his knees against the knees of the Prophet which is very intimate, then he places his hands on the Prophet’s (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) thighs. Now in this hadith which is the one that is the famous it does not mention it, it just says he put his two palms on his thighs. But there is another hadith that says on the Prophet’s (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) thighs. Now there are some reasons for doing that. It would have been a very intimate thing to do as if he would have known the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam), he would not have done that. The way he sat was an eastern way of sitting. Traditionally that was a way a student sat, in madrassah it would have been considered rude not to sit like that. Obviously if you have noticed Persian people that can sit like that for long periods of time. It is very commonplace in some Muslim countries where they still sit on the floor.
So then he says “tell me O Muhammad about Islam”. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) says Islam is shahada. That is the first thing he says. That you testify that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger which is an act. It is not a belief, shahada is not a belief, it is an act. It is an act done with the tongue. People forget that in Islam words are considered actions. Imam Malik said when you realise your words are actions, if you have intelligence your words diminish because you are taken to account for your actions. The more words you have, the more accountability you have. He said it is to say the shahada. That is the first pillar, rukun, a rukun is something that you depend on. It is something that holds other things up. Then he said you pray, that you pray five times a day. Then he said you pay zakat, alms tax, you fast during Ramadhan and then you make the pilgrimmage to the House if you are able to. At that point the man says “you spoke the truth”. Umar said” we were really dumbstruck at that point”. He is asking him and then he is confirming what he is saying. This is very strange because he is asking him a question so now one of the things that we learn is, a question is a teaching device. A teacher will ask a question not because he does not know the answer but because he wants something else to happen so he asks him. This question and they still do not know who this person is. Then he says “now tell me about faith”. So we are moving to another dimension of Islam. The first is Islam then he says now tell me about imaan. So here is a distinction between Islam and imaan which is going to be very important. Then he tells him faith is that you believe in Allah so now he is not telling him what imaan is, he is telling him what the objects of imaan are because imaan in itself is a mystery. You cannot explain in words what imaan is. The next best thing you can tell is you can explain the objects of belief. Belief itself the ulema say is tasdeeq. It is to verify or affirm or have a conviction in one’s heart about something. This is what belief is but he gives the objects of faith. He tells him it is a belief in Allah, His Angels, His books, his Messengers, the last day and that you have faith in this measuring out of the world that everything is determined and proportioned and that you believe in both good and evil which is very interesting because this is a problem in religion. It is called the odyssey which is the problem of evil. For Christians it has probably been the bugbear of Christianity of trying to explain the presence of evil in the world. It has never been a problem for the Muslims. The Muslims are not maniciest, they do not believe in duality. Muslims have never believed in this idea of two forces antagonistically working in this world. Muslims believe that good and evil are creations of Allah. Allah is above good and evil in terms of the scales by which we judge them because we do to have the ability to judge good and evil in reality. That is why we have been given standards, killing is bad. We do not kill. Stealing is bad, we do not steal. But there are other instances where stealing becomes acceptable so there are situational ethics. These are instances where killing is acceptable, is it murder or retribution? What is going on? So the act in itself is not evil. What is evil is the reason and intention which is if it is wrong or oppressive. So it is very interesting, that is part of the creed that Muslims believe in and we are going to get into that in a lot of detail when we get to the section on imaan because it is very important.
The he said again he’d spoken the truth. He says now tell me about doing what is beautiful and ihsan is a very difficult word to translate in Arabic. If you look at the root word ihsanah it means to be beautiful. That is what it means. Ihsan if you look at the word ahsanah it means to make something beautiful. It is called the transitive form of the intransitive world. If you know English grammar, an intransitive very does not take an object. A transitive word takes an object so hasunah takes no object. You say hasanah zaydun. Zaydun is good. If you said ahsahnah zaydun, you need an object. What did Zayd do that was good? Ahsanah zaydun illan amr. Zayd did good to Amr so there the idea then in ihsan is that it is doing virtuous deeds. It is an act of bringing virtue into the world, it is the highest thing in Islam. By doing virtuous deeds you make the world more beautiful.
Now there is also an interesting ethical theory that comes from a man Chisholm who said that ethics is actually a branch of aesthetics which is interesting. In philosophy, that is studying beauty, what makes things beautiful. Like I was driving on the way here this morning and I looked up on the hill and there were all these poppies. It is the state flower. Poppies are very beautiful and the way the golden poppy is mixed in with the green right now is stunning. What is it that in us that recognises and sometimes fails to recognise, but what is in us that sees the world as beautiful and what is in us that sees things as ugly because had there been a bunch of garbage on the side of the hill as opposed to flowers, I would have had a different experience. Something is incongruous. It does not fit in and that is the essence of aesthetics. It is about fitting in. The essence of virtuous actions is that they are actions that fit properly into the world. That is why at the essence of Islamic teaching is the concept of adab. Adab is comportment. It is appropriate behaviour. Appropriate behaviour is behaviour done in proper proportions. That is why adab also means literature because what literature is, is the use of words appropriately. You are putting words into their proper place and that is what an adeeb is.
When an adeeb uses words in a way, you see if you take a poem in Arabic, Persian or English. If you take a poem like death not be proud, thou some have called thee mighty and dreadful for thou art not so. If you begin to look at the movement of those words, the power is in the placing of the words because if I said death be mighty not, it loses all of its meaning and so language becomes meaningful when words are put into their proper places and the more appropriate the words are in those places the more powerful the impact those words have on the human heart. The same is true for the world itself. The more things are in a natural state the more powerful the experience. That is why everybody and Robert Frost has a beautiful poem about people. Looking at the ocean ever thought what is behind them is land is much more varied and interesting. Why do they keep staring out at the ocean and not turn round and look at the land? There is a lot more to look at. It is the mystery and majesty of it, it is the power of creation itself and the ocean is one of the most powerful things in the world. That is why the Arabs when they want to talk about something vast, they say “it is an ocean”. The Arabs say the “Quran is an ocean, there are no shores to that ocean”, a shoreless ocean, you cannot even imagine that.
So doing good in the world is beautifying the world so he asks him what you are doing and that is what it is about so he asks him “doing beautiful means you should worship God as if you see him”. If you think about what that means, what that means is if you can imagine that you are actually seeing God, how would you behave in the world. How would you treat other people? Other creatures of God? How would you treat God’s creation. If you go to somebody’s house you don’t spit on their carpet, you do not urinate in the corner of the room. Why? Because it is not your house and you have to behave with proper comportment in the house. The better behaviour that you have, the more likely that he will invite you back so the idea of being in the world as if you see God is the idea that you are a guest in a dominion that belongs to God and that if you actually behave in the world as if you see Him you will behave appropriately. You will behave with excellent manners, you will behave beautifully and that is the essence of ihsan.
Then he says and even if you do not see Him at least you know that He sees you. So the highest stage of ihsan is really to be as if you see God but if you do not at least you know He sees you so that your behaviour is still appropriate. Then he said “tell me about the hour” and the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “the one being questioned does not know more than the one asking the question”. In other words the moment that the world ends is a secret and so then he says “tell me about it signs, marks”. So this is the signs of the latter days. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “the slavegirl gives birth to her mistress” The ulema have always considered this a very unusual statement. The ulema have gone to three dominant interpretations. One of them is that it is the turning upside down of social order, that right becomes wrong. Wrong becomes right. High people become low. Low people become high. The idea of a mistress giving birth to a slave, if you invert that, it is the servant who gives birth to her master. It is an inversion to reality. You see the slave girl give birth to her mistress.
One of the interpretations also is that children will become completely rebellious against their parents which in Confucian understanding is the worst possible sign in a human society, when filial piety no longer exists because the whole social order is based on the authority of the family. The thing about families is that families are not just. Children are in a despotic situation, parents are tyrants basically but what the ethesis say is that justice is only necessary in the absence of love so the reason that we tolerate family situations is because of that other element that exists which is love in other words we know that the parent is doing what they do out of love for the child. So a parent does not allow a child to eat what is harmful candy of whatever or does not allow the child to watch television. These are apparently arbitrary moves on behalf of the parents to the child so the child experiences a type of tyranny. I always loved the one where the child is crawling and the parent comes and just picks it up and goes another direction. If you just look at that total act of despotism, that is a real act of arbitrary despotic behaviour. But obviously there is a reason and that is why it is not tyrannical. It is on the contrary, it is benevolent.
Then the man went away. After we had waited a time, some say it was three days, it was a period of time at which point the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “do you know who the questioner was Umar?”. It is interesting that he waited a few days. This is also a sign that the sahaba did not ask the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) unneccesary questions because you would think Umar would have said “who was that Ya Rasulullah?” but they were not like that. They were people that asked what was absolutely necessary to ask.
The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “this was Jibril who has come to teach you your religion”. The meaning of that is that this hadith teaches us the religion. That is the whole religion right there. Iman, islaam, ihsan and signs of the last day. I think it is a really interesting way of looking at it, the way Dr Chittick and Dr Murata are looking at it as these are dimensions. You have four dimensional reality which is what we are in, you have the three dimensions with breadth, depth and that is what we experience here if you have binocular vision, one eyed people do not have that depth and perception but we have depth and perception. If you add time which is the fourth dimension that what this hadith deals with is these four dimensions. The dimension that is the horizontal dimension is Islam. That is the most basic, that is the foundation. The vertical dimension is imaan or faith because that is the focus towards the heavens so your behaviour is Islam, the reason you do the behaviour is imaan, and then ihsan gives it depth. It is what gives it depth. It adds that dimension to it and then it plays out in time so we are in time creatures and one of the things we experience about time is signs. The world is signs. Ali said “all of time is two days, a day for you and a day against you. Have thankfulness or gratitude towards Allah for what was for you and be patient about what is against you”. The basic experience of the movement of time is a recognition that there are signs that come into the world that indicate the type of nature of the age we are in. Certainly our age is in many ways a very dark age because people are so distant from scared truths and also have an arrogance that this is the best time ever.
The next idea here is deen because he said “he came to teach you your deen”. What does deen mean? The Arabic word comes from a root word dana which means to discipline. It has the meaning to consider guilty. Idana is when somebody is guilty of something. It also has the idea of debt, indebtedness. Dain is debt, madeen is somebody who is in debt. Da’in is the one who you owe debt to. It also has the meaning of gentle rain that keeps coming back. The religion, at the essence of religion is an idea that it is a life giving rain to the spirit that keeps coming back. It is something that keeps coming back and is reintroduced to humanity again and again. At the essence of the human experience has been these rains that have come, revelations have come, heavenly rains that nurture hearts, that bring people back to life, that bring their lives to a spiritual fruition. The idea also of debt which is also interesting because there is an idea that if somebody loans you money, you feel indebted to them. The idea here is that God has loaned you your life. It is a loan and the beauty of a loan is that it is not yours but while you have it you can do with it what you want. Now obviously if someone loans you money with a stipulation, if you go to the bank and you tell them “I want 100,000 dollars to buy a house” and then you go and score a kilo of cocaine with the money, obviously you have broken the contract. They would not just give it to you like that. They do not do it like that anymore but generally the idea of taking a loan as a trust. There is a reason why that person has given you a loan, generally people want to know what the loan is for. They ask you “what you do need it for?” The more honourable the reason, the more likely for the loan so the idea of God giving you a loan, a goodly loan, it is the loan of your life and then the beauty of it is on one hand it is a loan, on the other hand, He offers the chance to sell this thing that He is giving you back to Him. That is an honour according to the Quran “Allah bought from the believers” so the idea of God buying from you something is meaning that He is putting you, there is parity in the relationship. It is not that you are an equal to God but in this relationship, He is making you an equal. He is making you someone that has gone into a transaction with Him and the sale is your soul and that is a high thing. So the idea of giving the soul back to God and He pays you for it and that is why when that verse was revealed, everybody was happy except Abu Bakr. He began to weep and the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) looked at him and said “why are you weeping?”. He said “How can we sell back to God what already belongs to God?” So he understood it at a deeper level than everybody else which is why he is Abu Bakr. He understood that, this is an honour from God, that is all it is and so this idea of this debt, that you are morally obliged to pay this debt back and that is what deen is. It is the payback, it is what you do as a way of paying back this immense loan of consciousness, of a heart, that He gave you human consciousness and this is how you pay it back.
Now in the Quran the word “deen” is used a lot. He uses it also when he describes the deen of the King of Egypt in Surah Yusuf “deen of Malik” in the deen of Malik which means the law so it has the idea of law as well. Also when Musa, Firoun says to Musa “let me kill Musa, I am afraid he is going to change your deen” so Firoun says he is worried that Musa is going to attempt to change your deen and then he says “or he will sow corruption on the earth” so this is how “you have your deen, we have our deen” so there is an idea of different deens. That has to do with transaction or how you live your life. Now there is an idea that the deen with God is the same. It has always been the same that is why deen is different to Shariah. Shariah is law, the law changes. So the law of Moses Is not the law of Jesus. The law of Jesus is not the law of Muhammad (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam). Each one of the Prophets has a different law but their deen is the same. That is why the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “Prophets are of one father but their mothers different”. There are two meanings to that:
- That they come from Ibrahim (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam). Abraham is the father of the Prophets.
- Their deen is one but their laws differ.
So the deen is tawheed. That is really the father of us all. We are united in this idea of the unity of God. Then the Shariah which are the laws differ and Allah says “We never sent a Messenger before thee save we revealed to him saying there is no God but I so worship Me”. So that is the essence of all of these religious traditions and even according to Dr Cleary. He says that the Buddha was also teaching tawheed as well. One of the things that he says is that the Buddha did not give a word for it because what he said was that his society was so inundated with idolatry the only way he could describe reality was without any attributes at all because these people were so immersed. So he described it in a non descript way of speaking about ultimate reality. The source of all things and we find the same in Daoism. We find these teachings even if they do not have the theistic concept that you find in Western traditions. In the Eastern traditions you do find this idea of an ultimate underlying reality that is the course of all things and that is why even in the Dao it says in the beginning “there was one”. There was the external Dao and then there came two which is the aswaj, creation of pairs which Allah said “we created everything in pairs” and then from the pairs came myriad forms. Two becomes three. All of these religions are teaching this unity so he goes then into three dimensions. What he says is if you can look at the three dimensions or domains of selfhood, the most external dimension is connected to what appears so the outward form, the zahir.
People do things in the world and actions can be analysed and discussed without reference to the people so you can look at an action and you can actually talk about an action without any reference to the person. That is the most outward form. So if somebody hates somebody else, we can talk about “I saw a person hit another person” you do not have to talk about why they hit them, we do not have to talk about who they were. We can talk about a physical act that occured in the world between two people first the subject and second the object. So then you move to the next dimension which is knowledge. It has to do with looking at the thing that is happening an understanding something about the thing so what does it mean when somebody hits another person. You begin to look at understanding the action itself and then you move into what is the intention behind the action. What is the reason why somebody is doing something. All of these relate to the dimensions of imaan, Islam and ihsaan. So you have dimension of human experience that has to do with knowledge, understanding of a world view so that is about faith, it is how you view the world and then given that you view the world in a certain way, what are the motives? You can have a person that believes in Allah and they are doing the outward forms of Islam but they still have riyaa which is hidden shirk which is doing something for the sake of somebody else and there are two types of riyaa. One is riyaa al mukhlis which is where you do something only for other people and the other is called riyaa al mushrik. The first one is worse than the second. The second one is when you do it for God but you are also thinking about what other people are thinking. So you can have faith in God but your motives are still problematic and we all know in ourselves and we all know in other people do actions in this world and then you find out there was an ulterior motive behind it. So what you are looking at here then is these three dimensions. You can have an understanding of how we should behave which has to do with imaan and Islam. I should pray five times a day. We should understand why we should do that because God has commanded me to and there comes the element of faith but then the actual movement of my own inner heart to doing that action solely for the sake of God is the realm of ihsan. So these are dimensions he is talking about and she is talking about. It is very interesting because that is part of the eight fold noble path in Buddhism as well, the right understanding, having the correct understanding of the world and then the right action and right reason.
Now he talks about Islamic learning here and one of the things I really like what he and she says is that the Quran says “over everyone who has knowledge there is somebody who ultimately has more knowledge” so he and she mentions the idea of a person in a village in Egypt that goes down to Cairo, memorises the Quran and learns a bit of fiqh and hadith. When he goes back to his village, he is like a big alim. But it is relative, when his Shaykh comes to the village suddenly he is back to being an insignificant student. He might not have even been that good at the madrassah but in the eyes of other people because knowledge has that relative aspect to it that some people have immense amounts of knowledge, some people have less amounts and some people have a little bit. Each degree one is moving up and that is why Allah elevates people in degrees according to their knowledge and according to their right actions. “Allah raises people who believe and were given knowledge in degrees” so that is very important which is why Muslims traditionally have always respected teachers. He mentions that there were no degrees offered. I liked what he and she said about ijaza, the permission to teach. They really felt that degrees and things like that would corrupt the intentions. That is one of the things that Shaykh Muhammad Amin who is one of my teachers in fiqh said “do not give degrees because it corrupts the intention of the students when they come to study”. That is why if you look at universities today, if suddenly all the universities said “O by the way, we are not giving any degrees anymore” how many people would show up to class so learning becomes a means to achieve something else.
In Islam leaning first and foremost is a command from God to learn and learning is based not on earning as livelihood and one of the signs of the end of time, the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said people would study to earn money. It is a sign of the end of time. What happens learning in Islam is to learn how to understand correctly, how to act correctly and how to have the right reasons. So it is about these three dimensions. It is about being an ethical and spiritual human being which does not obviate the necessity of learning trade and things like that, certainly not but at the essence of real knowledge is an understanding that it is for moral and spiritual reasons not for livelihood. So he and she says on page 36 “no degrees were offered so he motivation was learning itself”. One of the things in Al Azhar in 1882 when they first introduced tests, the great Maliki scholar Shaykh Muhammad Aleesh was completely opposed to it, the idea of testing students was anathema to him and I find that really interesting because it creates another reason why people study to pass the test not to know the thing. That is why people cannot ever remember anything after a test.
Now one of the things that is also mentioned is that memorisation, the importance of memorisation, the reason why memorisation is so important is the idea of young people understanding anything was seen as a waste of other quality which children have which is the massive ability to absorb information. So the idea was to put as much knowledge in them in those early years because it is a divine gift that should not be wasted by teaching them trivia and much of what is put in the children’s heads is a complete waste of time. That is why SAT test are ultimately testing vocabulary acquisition, comprehension, analogical reasoning skills and mathematical skills, arithmetic, geometry and basic algebra. They want to see if you learned how to basically think, they are not interested in asking you how high Mount Everest is, what happened in 1066 because you can always look that up in a book and Einstein said “anything I can look up in a book I would not waste my time memorising” which is interesting but you need skills to reason and he certainly had all those formulas in his head.
So now we move to Islam and this is the first chapter. Now Islam in Arabic, aslama is a very interesting word, it comes from a root word selama which means to be whole which is the same meaning of the root word in Hebrew of shalom which is peace. Peace is a wholeness and the idea that peace occurs when things are whole. If you look at sickness in the body, what ultimately sickness is a loss of holism in the body. Some part of the body is no longer working with the other parts of the body so there is a disruption of peace because of a lack of wholeness and so the idea in Islam that wholeness or peace comes through submission to God and it is the exact same thing in Hebrew. The Jews believe the exact same thing that shalom can only come when a human being is in a state of submission to God, that is real peace and if you are not, then you are suffering. Submission is not passive surrender even though the words are related and some of the ulema say Islam means submission. Submission is not a passive event, it is an active event and that is where you get the idea of mujihidah of the struggle to surrender. Surrendering is an active and not a passive state.
Now in the Quran they gave four different types of Islam that are mentioned. One of them. One of them is the idea that all of existence is in a state of submission so Islam in the Quran means, the Quran says “everything in the heavens and earth is in a state of submission to God” willingly or unwillingly. If you look at the world al Qahur which is one of the names of God. Al Qahar is the Overpowering One and Allah says He is Overpowering His servants transcending above them. Now one of those things that you see in the world, if I throw that, there are several things that just happened. One is gravity, I did not throw it, it moved up. Even if I want it to, it is going to come down. So there are laws working in the world that by necessity we submit to. One of them is gravity. One of them is our physical bodies, the way they grew, the way our noses grew, the way our eyes came about, all these types of things and manipulating them which is starting to occur now from an Islamic perspective is attempting to rebel against a type of submission or order which is why the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) was very opposed to manipulation of nature because it is a type of rebellion. So this idea of submitting willingly or unwillingly is very important in the Quran. This is why the very important verse “do they require other than the deen of Allah and everything in reality is submission”. So there is an idea here that Islam is the order of nature and this is very interesting because this is the exact way that ancient Chinese looked at the world, that there was a natural order and that the Sage was the one who aligned him or herself with the natural order, eating when you are hungry. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “we are a people who only eat when we are hungry”. That is natural, it is natural to eat, you do not see animals that overeat. In nature you do not see fat lions, you see them at zoos because they are no longer in a natural state but you do not see animals that are not behaving according to their natural state. Animals drink when they are thirsty. Human beings will keep drinking, drinking and drinking. If animals want to eat, they will just kill. Humans will slaughter. The native Americans when they hunted, they just killed what they needed because they understood. There are people who go trophy hunting, they kill to put heads on their walls and that is out of natural order. This is why a human being who is not in a natural state is in a state of rebellion. It is seen as they are outside of a fitrah state, the inherent aboriginal nature which does not mean that people are meant to remain primitive but there is an understanding that the primitive state is an expression of something.
There are generally three views of history. One of them is that history went from fall and it has been downhill ever since. This tends to be generally the way Muslims look at the world that we have gone from good to worse. There is another which is cyclicial. Ibn Khaldun introduced this. I think it is the danger of all theories that categories are very dangerous because you get locked in categories and you forget that there can be inter penetration. The idea of cyclical things is that history is constantly repeating itself. Ibn Khaldun saw that and that definitely occurs. The third is the idea of progress, we are going from worse to better which is modernity, the fallacy of modernity. Most moderns are pretty much giving that up as an idea. Certainly the 20th century, 19th century particularly enthralled by that idea but the 20th century was so devastating for human beings that a lot of people are giving that up.
From a Muslim perspective it is a little bit of all three. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “I do not know if the first of ummah is better than the last. My ummah is like rain it will not be able to determine whether the first part of it was the best or the last part”. So there is an idea that towards the end of time there is this immense renaissance that occurs of spirituality and that is part of Muslim belief. In some things we get better and in other things we get worse. Certainly in some ideas we are better than in others that existed in the past. In slavery, the fact that most people recognise now to hold people in slavery is just problematic morally. Christianity never abolished slavery it was Gestinian in the 4th century that abolished slavery. Paul talks about treating slaves well and things like that. Christians do not like to talk about that. Then they say Islam says slavery is OK, well so does your book. If you live in glass houses, do not throw stones. Slavery exists in the Old Testament, New Testament and the Quran. But unlike Paul saying treat your slaves well, the Quran says the best way to get to God is to free your slaves so already within the Quranic tradition is that there is an evolution happening here that slavery is not a healthy state because any time a human being is in an indignant state it is bad because there is anger and resentment and all these things. That is why the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “do not say my slave my slave, all of you are slaves to God” so the idea of slavery was abolished in that hadith and what it becomes is a type of indentured servitude that needs to be worked out.
So that is the first type of Islam and it is the Islam of natural order, the Islam of the laws of the universe. There are laws in the universe and they work and they are understandable and certainly the earth all these things happening on the planet, blossom coming out, this is Islam. Those trees are in a state of submission. Hibernation, the act that animals know when to hibernate. The fact that squirrels know when to start collecting nuts and things for the winter. Who taught them that? That is Islam, he is in a state of submission to his nature. So the idea of human beings, we submit, it is painful, we do not do it willingly. See the squirrel does it willingly. Human beings do it with difficulty. It is a difficult thing and amongst them are those who do it completely out of desire and love. The second type of Islam is the Islam of the Prophetic tradition. The idea that all Prophets have been Muslims. This is Old Testament, they talk about submitting to God. New Testament, submitting to Islam. Ibrahim said that “I am a Muslim, I am the first of those who are Muslim in submission”. Yaqoub said to his sons “what are you going to do after me?”. They said “we are going to worship one God and we will be Muslim. So Jacob and all these Jewish Prophets, they were all Muslims. Isa said “we are Muslim”. So there is that type of Islam and then the third type of Islam is the historical phenomena that we call Islam which emerges in the 7th century. That is Islam. The fourth type are the rules and regulations that were given to us, those things that we are told to do and those things we are told not to do. These are all mentioned in the Quran, these various types of Islam.
Now one of the things that the bedoiun say, they mention in that hadith “amana” we believe and the bedouin were people who looked at the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and they watched him very closely and at a certain point they said “it looks like he is going to succeed in taking over the Arabian peninsula”. At that point they started joining because they wanted to be on the right side. So they came and said “amana”. The Quran said “do not say we believe, rather say we submit because imaan has not yet entered your hearts” so there can be an outward submission without an inward resignation and that is a danger. So now we move to the five pillars. The idea that we have to embody the book which means that we do what the book says, that is Islam. We believe the world view that the book presents which is imaan and then we intend our actions accordingly to the highest ideals of the religion which is ihsan. So it is described here by Dr Murata and Chittick as becoming flesh and blood. This is what really the five pillars are. It is beginning to live this reality.
The first pillar is called shahada. This is actually one of my favourite words in Islam because the word shahada in Arabic means to testify, to witness. It has the idea of seeing but it also has the idea of the material world. Shahada, the Quran says “He is the knower of the seen and unseen worlds”. This whole world is called shahada which is very beautiful because essentially what the world is saying is “la ilaha illal Allah”. The world is the shahada because the world is telling humanity that there is no God but Allah, that everything you see in creation is testifying to this ultimate truth that behind all of this is a unified reality. It is the intelligence, the power and the will behind the entire universe and so the other interesting thing about this is the Quran says “we will continue to reveal to them our signs in the self and on the horizon until it becomes clears to them that this is true” and then Allah says a really interesting thing “isn’t it enough that your Lord is witnessing everything?”. This is interesting because there are many many philosophers and only recently the physicist like Neil Bores was the first physicist to say this that “Material and substantial reality is only real because it is witnessed” in other words the universe only has reality because of consciousness. Without consciousness there is no world so this idea of Allah being the One who witnesses all things. The fact that God is aware that the world exists and that is His Qaumiyah and the moment that He removes that and that is why to turn away from it “there is no nodding with Allah and no sleep” because to do that there is no world, to turn away from one instant, it disappears. So that is the idea of shahada that the world is being witnessed by Allah and therefore when we partake in that witnessed this is what we are doing. We are giving the world its true reality. We are saying “la ilaha ill Allah” that we are witnessing too and this is what Allah says “Allah witnesses that He is One” so we are sharing in the experience of consciousness and that is something really extraordinary. That is the gift that humans have been given. That is why we are taken to account so ruthlessly. It has to be that way I mean thank God it is not that ruthless, there is a lot of mercy there, that is why we are told “My reckoning is going to be great because what I have given you is so immense. I have given you all the tools, look in your own selves, do you not see what I have given you, sight, hearing, speech, will”. Those are attributes of God. These are what you learn in tawheed. Look at what I have given you. The problem is then people start thinking they are God and that is where man goes crazy. It is because they really believed it, that I can do without God, I don’t need God. It is the promethion in rebellion, the Titans, that is what happened in Greek mythology. Originally there was dahar (time). The original god was time and was time was overthrown by the Titans. It is interesting because it is very similar to the jinn story. The jinn go into rebellion and overthrow the authority of God and then it was given to Adam. It is very interesting that the ancient Greek mythology has a similar idea there that originally there was the real god which was time, space which is dahar. Allah says “do not curse time space because I am time space” which does not mean that this is God but it is very interesting that this hadith exists. Dahar in Arabic means time stretched out. That is the shahada and obviously when you say “there is no God but Allah” the means by which you arrived at that through certainty must be recognised because we are in a world of means and that is why saying “Muhammadur Rasulullah” is gratitude to that means. That is why filial piety is the second greatest way of displaying gratitude to God, is gratitude to your parents. “That you should show gratitude to Me and then your parents”. This is the same as tawheed. First you witness that there is no God but Allah or the One God but then you witness that this man taught me this with certainty and that is why you say “wa ashadu anna Muhammadur Rasulullah” or “Isa Rasulullah” if you were in his time or “Moses Rasulullah” whoever the Prophet was but for us it is the Prophet and we should be gtrateful for that. Our time is the time which the Prophet which includes all of the previous Prophets. When we say “Muhammadar Rasulullah” we are saying Jesus Rasul, Moses Rasulullah, Abraham was a messenger of God, Noah, Yahya, they are all in that statement. So that is the shahada and obviously there is a lot to go but they deal a lot with it in imaan so I will finish there.
The second pillar after the shahada is called prayer or salah and again there are different types of prayer. It is interesting that in the Quran and this is brought out here, the thing that is commanded more than other human activity in the Quran is prayer, salah. Also the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said ”the prayer is the imad of this religion”. It is the central pole or pillar that holds the tent up. The traditional bedoium tents had four pegs on each side and then they had a central peg so the idea here is that the four other pillars, the shahada, zakah, fasting, hajj are these other pillars but the prayer is really what is giving this tent its real reality so prayer is at the essence.
The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “prayer is the bone marrow of worship” and it is really interesting from a physiological point of view to describe it as the bone marrow because the bone marrow is the core and that is what it means. The Arabs say the core of something but the bone marrow is really what gives birth to the blood, it generates blood. It also generates the defense system or the immune system. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) in another hadith said “prayer is the weapon of the believer” so the idea that the prayer is like the immune system of the body and that is why the Quran says that God does not punish a people that pray, that are calling on God so one prayer is the salatullah, that He prays on you so Allah and His prayer is mercy. His mercy is called salah. It is the same word that is used but it has a different meaning but it is still considered salah.
Then there is everything that is in the heaven and earth that is praying so there is this prayer of creation. The Quran says “everything is in a state of glorification”. In verse 24:41, “have you not see that everyone in the heavens and earth glorifies God, the birds spreading their wings, each one knows its prayer and its glorification” so each one of the things in creation has a prayer, a salah and it has a tasbih. When we pray, what do we do immediately after the prayer? SubhanAllah, Alhamdulillah and that is tasbih. So we have salah and in the prayer you are doing your tasbih as well “Subhanna Rabbi Ala”. So salah and tasbih, the idea of having a means to glorify God and that is what essentially the prayer is. It is the means by which we have been given.
The third type is the prayer that all Prophets have been given. Every Prophet was given a prayer, it might not look the same. That is why different religions have different outward forms of praying because just like different animals have different forms in which they do worship different communities have been given different forms. Allah says” We gave every ummah its own form, its own law and the way it which it goes”. Obviously things are similar which is one of the reasons why in most traditions there is some form of praying with the hands and these type of things, you will see similarities but they do not have to be the same to be a prayer.
Finally there is a specific prayer which is the ritual that the Muslims do and it is the second pillar of Islam. So those are the different types of prayer. That prayer is divided into two. Now that prayer is done five times a day which is interesting also because 5 is an interesting number obviously. We have 5 finger and 5 toes on each side of our hands. You can say why 5 and ultimately those type of things are irrational not that they are crazy but they are not something that our rational minds can arrive at. I am somebody that does not like to go into numerology, it is not because I think numbers do not have a reality but numerology is a kind of path to insanity and that is traditionally the way that Muslim have looked at it. So numbers do have a reality, do not think they are not significant, they are very significant but generally we do not like to go there but I will make a few remarks about 5.
There are five pillars in Islam. There are five prayers in Islam. There are five rulings in every action. Every action falls into one of five categories. Five is a very interesting number. It is the first number that occurs as a sum of an even and an odd. So you have after one which is the divine number and belongs to Allah alone. Allah’s number is One. That is why Wahid is the first number and Ahad is not. One is God’s number but if you look at two and three, it is the even and the odd. “By the even and the odd”, Allah swears by the even and the odd. The even and the odd is also represented in the male and female. So the coming together of these two numbers produces five. It is an interesting number and we do pray five times a day.
The quintessence is the fifth nature which is the spirit, the ruh, because you have the four elements which we are composed of which is earth, water, fire and air. Then you have the quintessence which was the fifth essence, which is the spiritual essence which permeates the world. So we pray five times a day, three of those prayers are in when the sun is not visible and two of them are when the sun is visible. So they are divided by night and day. They are also done according to the movements of the sun which again is harmonising with the world so the idea of watching the sun. If you get up before dawn, Muslim should do that. You should have been up this morning if you pray, you should have been up before the sun went up just to see that every morning is something spectacular, just to go out and look at that phenomenon of the breaking of dawn, and what that means and then watching that sun move across and becoming aware of this movement that is occurring every day because one of the things about modern human beings is that they are so out of sync with reality just with nature I mean people are completely isolated. Food comes in packages. They do not experience the earth anymore. People live in cities that are all just cement and skyscrapers block out the sky. There a lot of people that do not even know that the sun traverses the sky everyday. They are not even aware of that fact. These astronomical centres get called all the time where people are horrified that they saw the moon during the daytime and they want to know why the moon is out in the daytime. I read that in an astronomy book where people just see the moon for the first time in the daytime and “what is it doing up there in the sky? That is only supposed to come out at night”. So this is the type of detachment that people have and I remember being in New Mexico with a group of inner city youth who had never been outside of new York or New Jersey and that night when the stars came out, they were in shock. They were literally in shock. One of the things that Emmerson said was “if the stars only came out every thousand years how would we even know how to adore God”. That is part of what the stars are about. That is why Ibrahim who is the father of the anbiya, what is the first thing that he does? He was kept according to one tradition in a sirdab for 12 years, he never saw the light of the day. When he was 12, he came out and it was his first experience of the world and he saw the stars and he said “this is my Lord” then he saw the moon and said “no this is my Lord”. They kept setting and then he saw the sun “this must be it” and then it set and he said “I do not love things that set”. In other words he knew that God was the One who did not set. So the ulema say it is using the starts to prove the existence of God that the order of the heavens is one of the ways of understanding that God is real. That is something guarantee you that studying the stars will increase your imaan. Just going out looking at them, watching them, just thinking about them.
So during those prayers and obviously we have a rakah. I am going to show you something and this is not mine, it is one of the Eqyptian scholars Imam Sawhi points it out in one of his aqeedah books. Scholars call this milah. One of the things that he said is the word Ahmad is the form of prayer, that you have a standing position and then a bowing position and then a prostrating position, sitting position. He said also it is in Adam’s name which is the standing, bending, sitting and sajdah. So the letters, the human being has been designed to pray.
One of the things you can notice when you do wudu is that you are designed, the wudu works perfectly. I mean if you watch, if you do wudu, you will realise that all of your limbs are made to do this. Each one of these positions of prayer and that is why you do not go down, you stop where it is natural to stop, as you go further down it begins to hurt, if you try to go any further you will feel the pain of that. Then the sajdah, the going down on all seven limbs. This is very interesting as well of putting, everything goes down. Sitting as well, sitting position so each one of these positions, the prayer confirms with the body perfectly and these are natural positions to do. Part of the reason why in Islam you pray is because your body should be sharing in the worship of God so the body itself is participating. You do not just sit and meditate, it is not in your head. Your body is actually worshipping with you and this removes this dualistic mind-body separation. It is very profound and really if you are on a strong path you will spend your life perfecting it and mastering it. You will never reach the ultimate prayer, and that is why the prayer is something that must be done every day five times a day until you die because one of the things about kadas, when you do a kada, the reason why they have to do them everyday is not just to keep on remembering the but to perfect them. Mastery in a martial art is a lifetime experience and every martial art, I don’t care if he has reached, he will admit to you, I am not as good as my teacher, I still have not perfected this. They are always working on that perfection. That is the thing about the prayer. It is a lifetime commitment. So that is why if you are doing it the same way every day. You are missing the point. You have fallen into a perfunctory routine. You have gone to sleep. That the prayer should be a commitment, it is a lifetime commitment to the mastery of the art of communicating with God.
Now obviously you have in Islam you purify your self before you do it and that is preparation for entering into this state like the ihram before Hajj. You are going into a scared space and you want to prepare for that space. The wudu is a way and wudua comes from brightness because the face will be luminous on the day of judgment and the arms and limbs from wudu. Wudua means to be luminous and bright. They said to the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) how will you know your followers? He said “they will be like the piebald horse”. You know how these horses have white, they are brown but they have white on their face and then the front and hind are all white, this is how he describes his followers. He said “from the effects of wudu”. Again what you are doing is preparing yourself for something that occurs in the next world which is the luminosity of practice. This is why if you have ever met anybody that has mastered anything, it has affected their being. I do not care if they are a master pianist, a master ballerina, whatever it is, you will see that they will have qualities that you do not find in ordinary human beings. I guarantee you, it does not matter what the mastery is. You will find that a committed practice to something in which a person has done it religiously every day, it has an effect on their character. That is why the highest thing that you can do is to work on perfecting your soul, on your heart, on your experience of the world as a theatre of divine manifestation. So that is what prayer is about and water is a purifying element. It is an outward element but it is the purest thing that we know of in the world. We talk about it in our language in metaphors “it was crystal clear, it was clear as water”.
Then the adhan which is another amazing thing because it is so extraordinary that other religions have these calls. The Jews call with the ram’s horn, the Christians have the bell. How did the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) through a dream, different people saw it, Bilal was one of them, they saw to call with the human voice, people to pray. Not to use anything artificial but to use the voice itself to call people to the prayer. Then saying Allah is Greater, I bear witness that there is no God but Allah, I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God and then hurry to prayer, hasten to prayer, hasten to falah, falah is harvest, that is what falah is. So what you are coming to is a harvest. That is what prayer is. You are reaping the benefit of the day because the day was made for prayer. If you miss the harvest you have missed the point of the day. It is just like somebody who has planted seeds all spring and then when the summer comes, it is time to harvest, they don’t go and they don’t harvest what they planted. So what was the point? The same as being in the world, the point of being in the world is this practice and that is why never belittle the reality of the prayer, the prayer is the most important thing you will do in your life as a constant practice. You should be committed to perfecting your prayer and it is a struggle. It is a struggle to be committed to wakefulness, to be committed to doing your wudu correctly all these things. Some people can see it as tedious but the beauty of practice and every master knows this is that the proof is in the pudding like the English say. The better you get, the more important the prayer becomes.
That is why the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said to Bilal “give our soul repose by calling is to the prayer O Bilal”. He said his repose was in his prayer and he said “the coolness of my eye is in prayer”. The Arabs use the coolness of the eye as cold tears are tears of joy. Hot tears are painful tears. Cool tears are the joyful tears so what he was saying was that the joy of my life is in my prayer. Prayer was not something that was dreadful to him. Adeeb al Hatim said “from the time I became Muslim I never heard the adhan except I was yearning for the time. From the time he became Muslim, he never heard the adhan and thought “O I gotta pray now”. Anybody who does prayer seriously you thank God for that, just that stopping. So the prayer is a gift and people that really practice it, you cannot imagine it. Even though I went for 18 years without doing the Muslim prayer, since I became Muslim I have never missed a prayer. I could not imaging not praying. I could not imagine it. I couldn’t, it is just something I could not imagine being deprived of prayer would be like deprived of breathing. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) in his beautiful description points out the prayers effect. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “tell me, if one of you had a river at his door and he washed in it five time a day, would any of his filthiness remain?”. They said ”nothing of his filthiness would remain”. He said ”that is the likeness of the prayer of five times a day, God obliterates wrongs with it”. So that is the part of going back to prayer. So that is the prayer, there is a lot of verses in the Quran to use the prayer as a way of taking succor and help from Allah.
The third pillar is zakat and zakah is purifying the wealth. So just as you need to purify your body with wudu, you purify your soul with prayer, you have property in the world and that property needs to be purified and zakah comes from a root word which means to purify. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “zakah is the faeces of wealth”, that is what he called it. He said that is why Bani Hashim does not take zakat because zakat is the impurities, it is fertiliser. What faeces is, is fertiliser and the animal has to get rid of faeces in order to stay healthy and pure so zakah is a way of keeping your wealth healthily. The miser and the one constipated is the same word in Arabic, mumsik. So a person who is a miser is constipated and they get sick spiritually. Their wealth is actually causing their soul to get sick and in giving out it is letting go and that is why it is not a Freudian insight, this idea that he called anally retentive personality which one of the symptoms of that person was to be a miser and that was Freud. It is not a Freudian insight that is the Arabic language. The word for pure gold and muconian stool is the same. So his insight about gold and facers being the same, the ancient Arabs knew that because it is in their language. That is what it is and the Prophet said in Imam Ahmad’s musnad “Allah has made that which comes out of the Son of Adam a metaphor for the world” and the meaning of that is the reason that you eat is not necessarily because you need to eat, part of it is the enjoyment of eating but everything you eat ends up in the toilet and that is the nature of the world. The world has all these beautiful aspects but at the end of the day it is a world that is in annihilation. It is going to rot and we will leave it just as the people before us left it and ultimately everybody has to leave it. So do not get too caught up in it, see it for what it is.
Now this is a really important point on page 16 which just this idea of zakah that you do not pay zakah unless you are healthy financially and the insight that they derive from that is that it is a typical example of how Islam sets up priorities. In other words you do not give zakat until you are able to do that so in those things that pertain between you and God, everybody has to do that but when it is you and society you only do what you are able to do and the reason for that is you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of the world and there is a beautiful metaphor in that because we have all these social activists that want to save the world and their own personal lives are a mess. So the idea of trying to save the world and your own soul is in jeopardy. It means your priorities are wrong and so the idea of zakah, it means you start taking care of others when you have taken care of yourself. That is when you need to start thinking about other people but if you are still in a mess do not try to help other people. Religious well being demands that they accept some measure of social responsibility so zakah has this idea of social responsibility. One of the reasons that the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “a person who marries has completed half of his religion” so then to look to the other half because if the family is healthy the society is healthy. When the society is well, it is as a result of the family being well. The same is true for wealth. If your own house is intact then you can help other houses.
The fourth pillar is fasting. It is fasting the month of Ramadhan. Obviously the lunar calendar has about 355 days, each month lasts 29 or 30 days and you can do it according to the crescent moon sighting. Now I want to just look a moment at the idea of looking for a crescent moon and refer you to what you could call a phenomenological astronomer. Someone who is interested in astronomy for the phenomena and not for the theoretical aspect of it. I would just like to read something. This is a Scottish man who is not a Muslim. He says something very interesting and it just strikes me that so many Muslims do not seem to see this. When I read this, it just articulated exactly how I have always felt about the point of looking at the moon and what significance that has for us.
He said “of prime importance is the determination of the start of the holy month of Ramadhan a time of fasting and devotion but Muslim communities have a habit of starting their celebrations on different days in any one year due to the varying locations and sky conditions for sighting the crescent moon. Places lying westwards of where the crescent moon can first be seen from the earth have a better chance of seeing it, the movement of the sun and moon is westwards and more time elapses before they arrive at the horizons of these places. For the moon to move out of the sun’s light at the start of its monthly journey, also some latitudes will have the zodiac standing at a deeper more visible angle to the horizon than others. That is the belt in which the moon travels. Then there are delays caused by weather, under good conditions it is possible to sight a first crescent less than 24 hours after a new moon. 15 hours is the least. There is a record of 13 hours but it would be very rare. But it is a common sight to see it 30 hours after. To increase the Islamic observers chances, two independent witnesses are required. The Ottomans decreed that the first sighting can be made with the naked eye or a telescope”. Now listen to this. “there are efforts to standardise the Islamic calendar so that Ramadhan is started on the same day in various communities but the relationship of celestial bodies to the earth is a living thing and every location has its own sky so why shouldn’t religious festivals begin on dates peculiar to particular places? The modern mind wishes to generalise and abstract the situation so the phenomena are by passed. As with the length of the day the average is calculated and becomes the accepted truth to accommodate the limits of circular wheels and clocks yet none of the celestial bodies move in circles”.
So what he is saying is you put all your averages in and you
will get this average and it will all work out, you can make your little
calendar and it all works perfectly but that is not nature. People forget that
a 24 hour day period, that is not real time, that is our standard time. Real
time is 23 hours and 56 minutes that is what a day is. So the idea of going out
and looking at the moon is connecting the earth with nature. I think it is
really interesting that before you pray you use water and if you don’t have
water you use earth. It is like touch the world. Touch these things, feel them.
You know how children, one of the things
they love to touch mud and get in there. They love to do that, why do they like
to do that? Because they are still connected with that. The word is very real
to them. We become so abstracted, so these things are bringing us back to these
basic elements of which we are composed, earth and water, prayer, movement. Get
in your body, people behind a desk all day never stopping. Watch a cat. A cat
could not sit behind a desk all day long. They are not insane. They have to
move, they have to experience, they have to feel that, that is what they have to
do. That is why cats do that. Then they do their wudu. They have to do all
those things. They even do the wiping over the head. Have you ever watched them
do that? That is what they are doing, they are in there. All these animals,
watch them, watch animals. People forget that the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) had goats in his yard,
we knew that he used to go out and milk them. He drank milk that came out of an
udder. Have you ever had milk directly out an udder? Really I mean that is what
Hakim is always asking people about that stuff. Have you experienced nature?
That is what going out and looking at the moon. Look at the moon. Have you ever
seen a new moon born? It is called wilada. It just comes into existence. It is
an incredible thing to witness and when you see it there is this thing that
happens within you SubhanAllah that is what happens and that is why Allah is
saying go out and look at that because I made that and that is a sign of My
existence. Go out and look at it and say SubhanAllah. Feel that because that is
reality. That is you as a conscious creature with this gift of consciousness
experiencing the Creator’s world that He made for your consciousness. He has
put it all together so that you could experience it because nobody else can. We
are unique. That is the gift He gave us and that is what it is about. That is
what Fasting, Ramadhan is – lunar. Why do we have lunar calendars? Here they
have caesarean sections, they do not want natural birth. It makes it so easy
because I have my golfing appointment and then at 11am and I just go and do the
op but children do not come out at . They come out whenever they want,
they come out when they are ready, they come out when Allah decrees for them to
come out but modern mind wants to fix it all. That is if you look at arial
cities of the Islamic world they look like cells. They literally look like
living cells. Look at
Now one of the things about fasting is that things that are normally permitted are suddenly prohibited. What does that do to things that are prohibited? They become extra prohibited and suddenly you aware of backbiting in a way that you are not aware of it during the rest of the year. Suddenly you are aware of looking at somebody lustfully in a way that you were not aware of it because you think “O my God I am fasting”. In other words, what is normally permissible is now prohibited and it makes the normally prohibited seem very very real and so it is a discipline of your soul. It is teaching you how to have taqwa. It is about purification of the body and soul. The body is here and it is real, do not ignore your body. Bodies are real, they are real. Allah made them it is such a great gift to be in the body and we should take care of the body. Be good to the body because the body is good to us.
That is why the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “your body has a right over you”. Non-Muslims look at fasting as this incredibly difficult thing, for Muslims it is the best time of the year because it is the time when they are closest to Allah. That is why, they are in a state of worship despite themselves. Just by sitting there, sleeping, they are worshipping because they are fasting. That is why even the sleep of a faster is worship and that is why you feel good in Ramadhan. You might not feel physically good but you feel spiritually good. So it is this beautiful proof every year. Another thing that he points out is that is beautiful is the justice of God. If you live in the UK, half the year you are going to be fasting really short periods and the other half really long periods but over a 33 year period which is the total cycle it will work out to the same amount of fasting that the people in the middle part of the world so everybody ends up fasting the same amount of time all throughout the world.
Every religion has this idea of pilgrimage and it is the
setting out on that journey and here it is a physical journey with a metaphysical
destination. It is a physical journey but the destiny is the House of God and
God does not have a house in which He dwells. So He put a house there as a
symbol of visiting God and you are a guest of God and that is why you are
called the guest of the Merciful. He put a rock there which He called the right
hand of God that you can go kiss in the same way that if you visit a king you
would kiss the right hand of the king so the rock there is symbolic of paying
homage to the benevolent monarch, benevolent king of whom you are subject.
Obviously it is also a recognition. One of the things about going to
Then also the gift of visiting the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam). That he is there, he is amongst us, you can go visit him. There is no other Prophet in the planet that anybody can go visit with any certainty. The Jews cannot go and visit Moses. No one can go and visit Isa. They can’t visit. This is a great gift that Muslims have been given, that their Prophet is there physically in Madinah. He according to the hadith actually returns greeting so this a real visit with a response and for people who have been there and been in the right state, they know what they tasted there, they know. You can go in with different states. There are people who go in there and do not see anything. There are other people who go in there and they are wading in light. Some people are not wading they are engulfed in it. Other people that is all they can see. There are many different visits to Madinah.
Now he talks about the sixth pillar. This is a Shia concept.
He studied in
One of the most important ways to keep in our bodies is to learn the outward rules of salah very well and to adhere to them in the same way you would when you first learn to drive. When you first learn to drive, it is very troublesome because you are so conscious of the rules especially if you have the teacher next to you but at a certain point it all becomes “it is just what you do”. So initially being obsessed with the rules is problematic because you are so focused on the rules you cannot focus on the spirit of the prayer but that is a necessary stage of the prayer so learning the rules really well until they become second nature and then you begin to work on your spiritual presence of the prayer. Part of that has to do with the amount of dhikr that you do during the day and that is why the more dhikr you do, the better your prayer. Also wudu is very important. Sidi Ahmad Zarruq said “your presence in your wudu determines your presence in your prayer”. One of the things that people do is that they do wudu very hastily and very ritualistically so their wudu is no longer an act of worship.
One of the best things that I was ever exposed to was watching Muratul Hajj do wudu because it really hit home the first time I saw it. It is a deep act of worship and we tend to forget that. Wudu is part of prayer. It is a very deep act of worship. Not doing wudu in a bathroom, no doing it where the toilet is very important. One of the things that Sidi Ahmad Zarruq was saying before you start your prayer recite Surah Naas just to remove the waswasa.
It is one of the proofs of Iblis because like when you do takbir sometimes, it is the weirdest thing, why did that suddenly come into my mind? That is that component that is working. It is very interesting. Literally you do takbir and waswasa comes. Tasawuf is on the words that is used to describe the science of ihsan. It is the inner fiqh. So that is all it is, it is an inner fiqh. Just like you have fuqaha that are wrong in their outward rules you have people of tasawuf that are wrong in their inward. That is part of the problem. People throw the baby out with the bathwater because there are people of tasawuf that went way out there. Then you have extremist fuqaha.
What I was going to say was in the West one of the reasons
that you have so much perversion in sexuality is because people are so removed
form their bodies. Sex becomes a very mental thing. Their experiences of sex is
all mental. It is a disease, they want perverse sex because they cannot just
experience a natural experience of being in the body. Very strange. You do not
have that in traditional cultures where people are very much in their body. You
do not have perverted sex. I guarantee you, in
In the hadith, why are the pillars described before faith?
Obviously the first rukun of Islam is shahada and that comes out of faith. So faith in a sense precedes Islam but you can enter into Islam and your faith is very immature and undeveloped. Faith is something that comes out of practice. It is developed through practice if the practice is done properly. There are some Muslim countries, I do not want to mention names but there are some Muslim countries where hypocrisy is the norm. Where people do these outward ritual which have no impact on their spiritual reality at all. You see the most horrendous examples of hypocrisy in people that pray, fast and do everything so it is no guarantee any of it.
During the Mamluke period, slaves actually became rulers so they saw that as a fulfillment of that prophecy.
Riyaa which is spiritual showing off. It is doing an act of devotion in other words to God hoping that people see it for whatever reason. Riyaa is definitely more significant in a spiritual society. We have showing off, if somebody is a good horseman and they se people, they do a fancy jump, that is not riyaa. That is just showing off. Riyaa is when you do an act that should be done for God that you are doing for other people to say “what a generous person”. That is riyaa. There are two types of riyaa. That which is only for the people which is the worst type. In other words, you do not even care about God, you give charity so people will say “he is a generous man”. The other is when you genuinely want to do something for God but you find this desire. That is something that people have to struggle with. Imam Malik was asked about a man who was on his way to the mosque who when he set out solely for the sake of God but on the way he is hoping somebody might see him. Imam Malik said it is human nature that that element exists.
There is the famous story of a man who used to go to prayer and he was in the first line every single day for 40 years. One day he went and he missed the opening takbir and he did not want people to see him. He realised he had had that riyaa for 40 years. I do not know if that is true or not but the meaning is nice. It is just letting you know that there is a lot of subtle levels there that we are not even aware of. That is part of spiritual development. That is why they say “the good actions of righteous people are wrong actions for the people in divine presence”. That is why each maqam that you move to you start saying astagfirullah for the previous maqam because you realise how many things you were doing wrong, how many things that you thought you were doing were right. You get to a higher level of awareness, you realise “I was doing it for the wrong reason”. It is a journey, that is why it is called a path. It is a journey. May Allah help us to realise the right one.
I wanted to go over some concepts for people to understand about jihad because probably of all the topics related to Islam the two most common misconceptions I would say are probably those concerning jihad and those concerning women. Most of the attacks on Islam generally tend to focus on those two elements so I would like to talk about this first from what he mentions in this book. He mentions the idea of holy war as misleading and it is inaccurate translation. Holy war in Arabic if you did have a word for it, the Arabs actually do not, would be Harb Muqasada. The Arabs do not have a concept of holy war in that way, in fact it is actually a Christian concept and coming out of the just war concept and crusades. So the word in Arabic that is used and has in fact become an English word sometimes with a negative connotation and other times with a positive, it has been used both ways by journalists and other people.
Jihad comes from a root word which is juhud which has the idea of exerting energy. “He exerted his utmost ability” so the idea behind the word jihad and juhud is known as a verbal noun from jahada wa jahidu. The Quran says “Struggle against them with it, with the Quran a great jihad, a great struggle” which means argue with the polytheists using the Quran as the weapon of argumentation against polytheism because the Quran although it never proves the existence of God it is constantly focusing on the unity of God. So the idea was to use the arguments that the Quran presents for the oneness of God in order to explain to the people who believed in more than one god that there was one God so that is a type of jihad in the Quran. That is a great jihad, that is why the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and the Quran says “struggle with them, with your wealth, with yourselves” and also it says to the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) “to fight with them with your tongues” in other words argumentation. In fact argumentation not being disputation but rather civil debate, civil discourse because the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) if a conversation became heated he would withdraw. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) did not engage in disputation but rather in civil debate or discourse where we sit down and try to look at a problem from both sides and so you put your proofs forward, the other person puts his proofs forward and you attempt to convince somebody of a superior way. That is a civil discourse and that is jihad bil lisaan. The Quran says “and dispute with them in an excellent way” which is civil discourse using intelligence and using reason. Now the interesting thing is that war is actually when that breaks down in other words coercive force is what is used when people are not able to speak to each other in any civil way so war is actually a collapse of intelligent discourse. That is why in essence it is a very stupid thing. War is an incredibly stupid thing and that is why the Quran tells us not to be aggressors because the nature of the aggressor is he is somebody who is unable to obtain what he wants so he resorts to other ways, violent means to getting what he wants. Those type of people usually want wrong things, things that are not theirs and that is why the essence of conflict generally has to do with one person or one group of people aggressing on another group of people. So what happens is one side if is aggressed on and the other side is the aggressors. The people who are aggressed upon are the people in the Quran that are permitted to fight and this is why at the essence of physical or martial conflict and that is why when we look at jihad, there are three Quranic concepts.
The first is struggling against the self. The idea that there is an internal conflict going on so actually have to struggle with your self and part of struggling with yourself is struggling with the passions and the passion are your bestial nature. So your struggle with that is your reason and that is why when somebody is attempting not to do something that is wrong and struggle against those impulses, what he is using a higher power and the higher power, is the aql. That is why the essence of intellect in Arabic means that which constrains you or that which prevents you from doing some thing that will lead you astray. Aql yaquli means to stop, to prevent and other Arabic word that they use for intellect is nuha which comes from that which refuses or that which prevents yanha. So the essence of the intellect is that it prevents a human being from going astray. Now those people that do not listen to intellect, Allah says about them “they are like animals” but then He says “they are even more astray”. The reason for that is that animal do not do things that harm them. If an animal knows there is harm in something, it will avoid it. If an animal sees fire, it will flee from the fire. If an animal seems something that threatens it, it will either defend itself if it does not see any other venue or if by its nature the threat that it deems within its power like a lion if it is threatened by a lesser animal, the lion will tend to fight because it knows it can overpower.
So the idea of human beings resorting to the bestial element in itself is a capitulation, it is the idea of surrendering the self to something that is low and that is why if you look at the human body itself the higher organs, the heart and the intellect are an upper body and the lower organs the stomach and the genitals are upon the lower body. So the idea is that this is the way that the human being should be. He should be the ruling force, in the human being should be the heart and intellect and the subjugated force should be the bestial nature. What happens with human beings is that they become overcome by their bestial nature and so hunger and craving which is the essence of desire overwhelms the intellect so they begin to want things that are harmful for them. This is why they are worse than animals because an animal will only take what it needs. Lions do not go out and slaughter, they take what they need and they leave the rest maybe for another day but if they are not hungry they are not going to kill 10 zebras. They will kill what they need to kill and that is the difference between a human, the predations of humans are not needs. So when a predator animals attacks another animal it attacks out of need not out of want or desire. So this is very different. There is only a few animals that appear to be unprovoked. Sharks will attack unprovoked and so will certain snakes as well. There are a few snakes and there is a baboon that will attack unprovoked but it is very rare in the animal kingdom for an animal to attack unprovoked.
All creatures that have emotion and intellect, humans beings, have a self defence mechanism. It is part of human nature to defend yourself. If you fall your reaction is to put your arm out, you do not fall on your face. Human beings will not do that. In fact one of the first things they teach you in martial arts is to fall properly because you tend to want to put your hand out and break your wrist. So they teach you to learn how to fall in a way that is not actually going to harm you but the impulse is to brace yourself, is to defend yourself. The same if somebody begins to attack the thing to do is to cover your face, to protect your face. If somebody throws a blow at you, if you just stand there and o not defend yourself something is wrong with your nervous system. It is not functioning so self defence is a human, it is actually ingrained in us to defend ourselves and that is why every civil law on the planet recognises the right to self defence. There is no law that does not whether it is a Muslim or non Muslim every law recognises that a human has the right to defend himself from bodily harm, from harm to property all of these things. The first jihad is that struggle against the self and this is what makes a human being human. Bahani says that a human being…there are two words in the Quran used for human, one is bashar and the other is insaan. A bashar, it is that quality that distinguishes us from other animals so for instance birds are distinguishable from their feathers. Birds have feathers. Mammals have fur. If you look at mammals, they have fur. Human beings have skin. That is why we are called bashar. Bashar is from bashara which means skin. So the human is when you say he is a bashar you say he is a man. That is when the Prophets, what do they say about the Prophets, that say “you are just a human like us” but they are not saying insaan, they are saying bashar.
All of us share basharia but we do not all share insaaniyah in truth just as an act of generosity from God that He calls us insaan. What Ragab says if you can imagine a dog standing on its two legs as opposed to four and talking in a language then you can imagine the state that many humans beings are in. That they only share their humanity in the form not in reality and there is a verse in the Quran “We have enobled the children of Adam” and that enoblement is that we have been placed in this incredible noble form, we are not like animals, we do not walk on all fours, we do not have to go down to a plate, we take things up to our mouths. I do not have to go down and lick and lap up my water like a dog that I actually have this ability to feed myself. All these qualities that the human being has been given so acquiring virtuous qualities or noble qualities is actually a difficult thing. It takes time, it is not something that human beings are born with. Compassion is something that needs to be nurtured now some people you will have this naturally. It is something that Imam Ghazali mentions and other great scholars that there are some people who have virtuous qualities by nature. There are other people who do not. You will see in children, some children want to share things, other children refuse completely to share things and will become belligerent if they are made to share things. They have to learn. There are children that beat other children. There are other children that could not do that and would feel terrible about that. Now these qualities tend to be the more aggressive qualities in human beings are much more marked in men than they are in women and there is a reason for that as well. There is a reason why that even in their form they are less bestial than men. Women have certain qualities that are related to their biology and it has to do with the fact that they produce children. So there are certain qualities that are inherent just because they have the hormones. Some it is purely chemical and also it has to do with the fact that there is a womb raham and the essence of the womb is mercy. The word in Arabic raham, rahma are the same root words – the womb and mercy because the essence of mercy is in the womb. That is why Allah has derived the womb, He actually derived the womb from His name the Merciful. So the womb is derived from an attribute of God. That is what women have that men do not have. That is why the humanising factor in societies are women. The mother is the humanising factor and without that if the mother is destroyed then it is a disaster for the rest of society.
So this idea of acquiring virtue to become a human being to achieve one’s insaaniyah to achieve one’s insaaniyah to achieve one’s humanness is very difficult. That is a struggle.
At the root are four virtues. Courage,
temperance, wisdom and then justice. These are the root virtues that human
beings are meant to develop in their lives. All virtues come out of one of
these four virtues. So courage which is the first and most important virtue
because upon it the other ones are based. Generosity is actually the daughter
of the mother virtue which is courage because generosity is courage with one’s
wealth. Patience is also a type of courage because it is a lack of anxiety when
a calamity afflicts you and that is from a type of courage. So being patient is
rooted in courage so courage in English, courage the root word is core which is
heart. The essence of courage is the heart and so somebody who has courage has
a lot of heart and that is why the Arabs when they say in
From that it gives birth to contentment and from contentment, what comes from contentment is trustworthiness because somebody who has chastity and chaste used to mean not just with sexual mores, it has to do with everything now it is pretty much limited to the idea of temperance had to do with moderation in all things and that moderation lead to this chastity or chaste nature – a pure, virtuous nature. Then obviously from wisdom comes understanding. The virtues of the mind and intellect and then finally justice. At the essence of justice is a desire for fairness. The essence of justice is insaaf is fairness and it is very difficult. Very few people are fair in this world. Even people who are oppressors or who are oppressed will always look at the other with total lack of fairness, always. So an oppressor will always look at the one he is aggressing upon with a total lack of fairness. That is why true justice is very difficult to come about in the world because of human nature, it is so difficult for human beings to be fair to be truly fair.
The beauty of justice comes mercy. In the traditional understanding mercy came out of justice and the reason for that is an emotion that emerges when one sees somebody who is suffering or who is in a situation that he is not and from it arises this sense that this person does not deserve that. In other words, that fact that I am not in that condition, I do not want that condition for that person and that is justice. That is why mercy emerges out of justice. It is an extraordinary concept because we usually tend to see mercy and justice as mutually exclusive. You are either just or you are merciful but true mercy is actually emerging out of real sense of justice. That you do not observe that. That is why when God shows mercy to His creatures, that is coming from His justice. That is why the Quran says “my mercy outstrips my justice”. In other words, justice if the two race mercy always wins and from this idea of mercy emerging then the idea of forebearance.
Forebearance is the ability to despite somebody
aggressing upon you, to actually have this forebearance, this ability not to
desire retribution. From that virtue emerges, the virtue of forgiveness or
pardoning, that is why that is the highest virtue. The amazing thing about
forgiving, there was a really interesting study that was done in Stanford I
think, they worked with these people that were in
This is ancient tradition. Now the second type of mujahidah is the mujahidah of shaytan. Shaytan in the Islamic tradition is a force that exists in the world. There is an obersive element within the soul, a whispering that comes into the soul and also outside of oneself. It has two forms: human shayateen and jinn shayateen. Shayateen al jinn are the demons that work within another realm. Just as we are here and can see each other. There are other creatures that love along side of us that have impact on our life and we have an impact on their life but we cannot see them, they can see us. Every culture in every civilisation has reference to them. There is no culture in that you can find, I don’t care where, whether it is Japanese, if it is Indian, Russian, Irish no culture except that it has reference to this realm. German the poltergeist, mischievous spirits and things like this. Japanese culture is filled with it. They are real and they do have an impact. The way that one struggles against them is by cleanliness, by maintaining vigilance and cleanliness – urine and faeces, wudu, ritual washing, things like this. This is why most culltures have some traditions that they ward of these elements. Some of the native American tribes would burn sage in south western parts of the country to remove these elements. Incense traditionally was one of the things because the idea was they do not like good smells. That is why incense is almost a universal phenomenon. You find incense in the Christian traditions, in the Shinto, Buddhist, the Islamic tradition. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “fumigate your mosques with incense”. That is part of why this is there and also wearing perfume is also a good thing. Not listening to these impulses in the self, everybody has them whether you call them obsessive compulsive thoughts, whatever people want to call them. Psychiatrists have words for them when they get out of hand, people start having auditory hallucinations. This is what they are called, auditory hallucinations. Muslims believe that they are real. You cannot deny their reality because there are people that experience and hear them. To say it is all in your head, well it might all be in your head but it is still there. So these guys walking around, you can see them. You go to some place and they are talking and shouting. They are having these battles going on and that is called majnun, somebody who is majnun.
Now the third type of jihad is the jihad which demands that you defend what is right. That is the jihad of the sword. There are many verses in the Quran that indicate this. It did not come down all at once. It came down for 13 years. The Muslims were not allowed to fight in Makkah. They were given no permission whatsoever. That is why they simply suffered silently. They did not fight, they did not oppose what was happening to them. That was very difficult for these Arab men, people like Abu Bakr, these were men who were raised in a tradition of murooha, shaj’ah, shahama, these virtues of the Arabs of strength bravery and magnimity. So for them to watch people being persecuted in the way that they were watching and not able to do anything about it was incredible difficult. So that in itself was a test, not being able to fight was a big test. It is not the other way round but when the verse came down after 13 years the sahaba migrated to Madinah. Now at that point the difference now is that there is a state of authority and I am using the word state loosely. In other words I don’t want to use state like it is understood in the modern concept of a state because that is not really what Madinah was but they did have power that was centralised and it was a city state in that way. So at that point they were permitted to fight. This was the first verse that came down permitting them to fight “permission has been granted for those who have been fought to fight because they were oppressed”. Now remember this is 13 years later, they were persecuted from the start but permission came when the circumstances changed. The idea of fighting when you do not have legitimate state authority is not permissible. It never has been. The Muslims have never viewed that. Permission to fight comes when you have state authority. That does not mean an individual does not have the right to defend himself from being killed but if you look at the sahaba and the situations that they were in: some of them were tortured, some of them were killed. Sumayyah was stabbed with a spear, the first shahida, the first martyr in Islam. This was the first verse that came down and Allah said “those who were chased out of their homes without right for no other reason than saying my Lord is Allah”. Now this is really important because these are the two reasons that permission is granted to fight.
- People who oppose your religion
- People who steal your land
This is why Allah says in the Quran “Allah does not prevent you from showing kindness to people who have not opposed you in your religion or chased you out of your homes, to show them kindness, righteousness, to share your wealth with them and Allah loves those who are upright and just and fair”. Allah does not prevent Muslims from being kind to non Muslims but if they are fighting you in your right to worship your Lord and stealing your land and chasing you out of your homes then you have the right to fight them. That is the permission that is granted by Allah in the Quran. The second period is to fight the mushrikeen “fight those fisabilillah who fight you and do not be aggressive for Allah does not love the aggressors”. The ulema say that the fact that Allah does not love aggressors, you cannot change that. In other words the muhaba of Allah, the love of Allah is not fickle love. If Allah does not love aggressors, He does not love aggression in any time or place and so aggression is always wrong. That is why when Allay says that “fight those who fight you and do not show aggression”.
The next level Allah said “fight the polytheists completely just like they fight you completely”. Now this time because these people broke treaties with the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam), this is something very important to remember about the nature of war, that war occurs generally between two states. This is the nature of war. You can have what is called a civil war but in Islam that is called fitnah. What occurred between the Muslims and the mushrikeen was in a type of sense a fitnah and the reason for that is that they were one tribe. They were related by a shared father. Quraysh was the father of all the people in Makkah and for that reason Allah when they fought in the sacred month “they ask you about the sacred month” because the Arabs had four months that they never fought in. They asked about the sacred months, fighting in it because they had never heard of this. So Allah says “fighting in the sacred month is an enormity, it is a grave thing”. Preventing people from following their religion, disbelieving in what was given to them, rejecting it completely, preventing them from the sacred sanctuary, Makkah and then chasing people out is worse than that. This type of social division and dissention is worse than killing itself.
In other words, that there are times that the actual
engaging in martial conflict is better than allowing certain situations to
emerge. That is why when Allah says in the Quran “you will have see churches,
temples, synagogues and mosques wherein Allah’s name is recited often destroyed”
because of predations of aggressive and velacose people fighting each other so
Allah says “if Allah had not used one group of people to stop another group of
people” and in another verse it says “there would be nothing but corruption on
the earth”. This is an admittance or rather a teaching in the Quran that the
root of human nature is aggressive. The founding fathers when they were arguing
whether you had a confederation, this was the first big debate when they were
ratifying the articles of federation. Hamilton wrote a piece saying “we did not
want confederation because if you have a group of confederate states, each one
of them an individual state, you are setting yourselves up for war and that is
why he said there should be a centralised government and this is what monarchy
means “ one source of authority”. It is what it means in Greek. War occurs when
people do not accept the same sources of authority. This is at the root of war
and that is why the idea of international law is only valid in an international
community that accepts the laws. If you have vogue states that do not accept
the law, now part of the trickery of modern state theory is that the
international community itself, they are vogue states. This is part of the problem.
So far instance the real calamity right now, people do not know this, it is not
So if you look at the Muslim world now the fact that there are not mass revolutions and revolts is a testimony to the incredible patience on behalf of the Muslims. I mean I really believe that. It is a testimony to the fact that because they believe in God, because they believe in a sense that they know in essence that this about their own states not their governmental states but their spiritual states. In other words the conditions that we find ourselves in a society are reflections of the overall health of that society which at root is a spiritual health. A society is either well spiritually or sick spiritually and unfortunately the vast majority of people are very sick so this idea of jihad it is a noble concept. It is the idea of fighting for what is right, it is as simple as that and people have a right to do that. They have a right to defend their homes, to defend their religion, to defend their lands against the predations of aggressors. The Quran says “always be in preparation”. Why? Because the best way of maintaining peace is to always be prepared for war and that is unfortunately a truth of the world that we are living in until human beings can sit down and have a civil discourse and work out their problems like human beings. As long as you have people out there that are living to get and take what they want by hook or by crook by force and by power then you need to have people prepared to stand up against that.
Pacifism, the pacifist at the end of the day is
somebody that becomes landless and a victim and that is why Aboriginal people
traditionally the reasons they survived is that they lived in places that nobody
wanted. Now they want the
Now unfortunately in the modern Muslim world and
are signs of the end of time and I will say about jihad if you look at the rules
of enagagement, who determines the rules of engagement? Islamic rules of engagement
in the Mukhtasir of Sidi Khalil, it is prohibited to use poisoned arrows which
is basically biological warfare. I mean Muslims developed rules of engagement. The
Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “do not poison the wells
of your enemies” This is biological warfare or chemical warfare basically. “Do
not use fire in fighting your enemy because only Allah punishes with fire”.
Nuclear holocaust. We use incendiary
bombs all the time in this country. We use incendiary bombs. People are
incinerated literally and you can see in Nagaski,
One of the worse crimes in Islam and one of the greatest wrong actions is predating during war, to actually take property from people. No, the imam has to collect the property and then it is distributed. There are rules of engagement to make people civil in their behaviour. Abu Bakr when he sent his troops out said “do not poison wells, do not cut fruit trees, do not kill old people, do not kill women and children”. He would actually walk about and remind them of these principles and these were completely alien to the jahili Arabs. These were deeply revolutionary ideas. Jihad is grossly misunderstood, it is an unfortunately reality. I just want to finish this section in saying one thing. Last century, almost 200 million people were killed in war. 200 million people, the majority of whom were civilians. Unprecedented by far more than all of the human wars prior to that in one centuary because of modern technology. Now those people were not killed in the name of religion. They were killed in the name of communism, socialism, facism, democracy, whatever. Everything but religion. So this idea that religion causes wars is simply not true. Humans cause war, it is as simple as that. Humans are belligerent and Aristophiles the Greek playwright indicated that is really the men who are belligerent and the only war is going to stop this is if women go on strike and stop producing sons for these old men to send out to die.
There is a beautiful scene in a film that was
done, I think it was 1929 or 1930 “All Quiet on the Western Front” it is
an-anti war film that was prohibited. They did not allow it be shown in this
country. There is a scene where these German soldiers are all sitting around.
It is World War One. One of them says “how did the war start?”. The other
German says “Well France offended
The next section he goes is the shariah which is the sacred law and I want to say about that when people think about the shariah you have to be careful because there is no concept whatsoever in Islam of a theocracy. This is one of the modern myths that have been perpetrated by modernist types of Muslims. The idea that Islam is a theocracy. If you look up theocracy in the dictionary it says “the rule of God or those who stand in the place of God”. Isn’t it interesting that the word for Abu Bakr when he was called the Khalifah, he was called Khalifah ta Rasulullah. He was not called Khalifatullah. He was called the Khalifah of the Messenger of God not of God because the only one that can truly rule with God’s judgment is the Prophet of God. No one else. If Prophets are not walking the earth then nobody has that authority to say that this is the rule of God. It is as simple as that. What the Muslim shariah is in essence, understanding any circumstance you find yourself in. Each circumstance will have a ruling. One of the five rulings:
1. An obligation or a requirement which is wajib, you have to do it, paying charity
2. Something which is recommended highly encouraged to do. Zakat is wajib, sadaqah is mandoub. If someone is in need even though you have paid your 2.5% of zakat, if you see somebody in need, it is encouraged, you do not have to do it. It is highly encouraged to do it.
3. The permissible which is the majority of things in this world are simply permissible.
4. Mubah. Nobody can tell you have to do it, nobody can tell you, you cannot do it. It is just a permitted act. The majority of acts in this world are permitted. Then you have disliked actions like talking too much without benefit is disliked. To talk as in just chew the fat or something like that in this culture that type of talk is permissable unless it becomes excessive because there are things that are prohibited to say. You cannot backbite against people.
5. Prohibited: the things that are prohibited in this world are very few. If you take Imam Malik’s position all that is prohibited “what is prohibited is from eating is carrion (dead flesh), blood, pig, meat and anything that is sacrificed for other than God”. That is it and even that if he is forced to do it not out of transgression then there is no sin in that you can even eat pig if you have to eat pig if you are starving. So those are the only things that are prohibited. That intoxicants are prohibited, that is it “Do not go near fornication” it is a foul thing and has a bad end effect on society”. One you allow fornication, just look at the end results, venereal diseases, illegitimate children, breakdown of family. That is all the Quran says, it is a bad road to take. Do not go down that road. Do not slander people. Do not steal. Pretty basic things that is what is prohibited. If you want to understand the essence of shariah is that it is a logical set of understandings that enables you to live your life without harming yourself or others, that is the essence of shariah. I will give you the essence as the usoolis understand it. There are five things or six, some break the dignity into lineage, honour and name.
Every single ruling in the shariah in the sacred law of Islam is designed to preserve one of these five things:
- Religion because that is why you were created to worship God so preservation of religion and the beauty of Islam even though it is the preservation of Islam it also demands that Muslims preserve the right for other people to worship in their land. That is why the Hanafi and Maliki fiqh have even supported the Hindus, Buddhists and every religion to worship as they see their God or whatever they worship. Therefore commanding us to pray is to preserve religion. Commanding us to fast to preserve our religion. All these things hajj to preserve the religion.
- Protection of life: That is why the prohibition of killing to preserve life. So all the laws that related to transactions and treating people correctly in things have to do with the preservation of life and property. You can create wars and things like that if you treat people wrongly. You can end up fighting and things like that. “Do not kill a soul that Allah has made sacred”, “whoever kills a soul without just do or as a result of brigands or highway robbers and things like that in the earth (people that sow corruption on the earth) it is as if he has killed all humanity” so the soul is sacred, every human soul whether they are Jew, Christian, Buddhist, Hindi whatever. The soul is sacred and you have no right to take the soul without permission so those laws that related in shariah to preservation of life.
of property, of intellect. The prohibition of intoxicants is to preserve
the intellect. That is why they are prohibited because the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “intoxicants are
the roots that the matrix of so many foul things” and he said “that a man
will become so drunk and end up sleeping with his child or his relative or
kill somebody and not even know it”. Manslaughter, 50,000 people die every
year in US because of drink drivers and people intoxicated. Most of the
deaths on the road in accidents in
are related to drugs and alcohol. The prohibition of drugs and alcohol, people said we tried that in this country. We tried the temperance movement. The truth is that Muslims because they believe in it that it is from God, I mean if you think it is not God that has told you not to drink but it is just the government “well why should I do that if it is just the government, it is an absolute arbitrary law” whereas if you really believe it is from God for your protection and preservation then that is a different matter. That is why the Muslims generally have lived in societies, if you go to America , it is almost impossible to find drug taking and alcohol people, because people believe in that. They do not drink for that reason. I became Muslim when I was 18 and before that I had not touched anything. Before that I was just like teenagers in this country exposed to those things. You give it up for the sake of God. So I lived my entire adult life without every touching any intoxicant. I have not missed it, I am glad that I did not, I am glad I was protected from all that sorrow and suffering and things related to that. Then also the preservation of property. Prohibition of gambling, prohibition of usury, Prohibition of stealing, of theft, of embezzlement all these types of things to preserve property. Mauritania
- Preservation of lineage. Prohibits fornication to preserve lineage and also honour, dignity. That is why it is prohibited to slander and backbite, to speak ill of people because they have their name, their name is sacred and also you honour people’s names by not speaking ill of them. Unless you have a just reason to do that like in a court of law where you have to testify against somebody and then that rule is set aside for the greater good so there is a situational type of ethics here. There are things that override other things. That is why it is permitted to kill somebody who has taken life.
So that is the shariah. Shariah is a logical set of
principles and precepts. There are a few things that the Quran has legislated
clearly. One of them is inheritance and the reason for that is because one of
the things that breaks families apart is the distribution of wealth after death
of a wealthy relative so what shariah does it apportions that. Now out of nine
categories, six of them are women. The things about Islam is that women did not
inherit even in 19th century
The Quran and Sunnah and the historical embodiments talks about the madhabs and I want to go over that very quickly. The basic four Sunni madhabs came out of a recognition that there are many ways to interpret a verse for instance the Quran says about divorce that you should wait, the word it uses is “quru” and qur in Arabic means it is from the opposite words. It means the time in which a woman is menstruating but it also means the time she is free from menstruating. There was no clarification from the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) about which one it was and so it became an ijtihadi issue. Some of the scholars said it means the time between periods. Other said it means the time of the period. The reason that we believe that God left it like that is that it forces people to think that part of the reason that the Quran was revealed was to force people to use their intellect “We sent down this Quran in order to force you to think”. That is one of the meanings of that verse, in order for you to use your intellect. Ijtihad means it comes from jihad to exert one’s utmost intellectual endeavour, to understand the intentions behind a verse of hadith. That is what ijtihad is. For that reason there are multiple interpretations and therefore the shariah is open to interpretation as long as it is not crazy or something that is off the wall. Generally there are many different opinions. Abu Hanuifah for instance believes that Muslim and non Muslims are equated in murder so if a Muslim kills a non Muslim the the Muslim dies. Imam Malik did not. He said that they had to pay the blood money. That is a difference of opinion. You get those types of differences of opinion in the shariah and those are all open to discussion and debate.
I think a very interesting section here which is jurisprudence and politics. One of the things that modern Muslims have really come to believe is Islam is a political philosophy which is very interesting because that at its essence is the claim of Zionism. Zionism turned Judaism into a political philosophy. One of the signs of the end of time is that the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said that “you will follow Bani Israil”, you will become like Bani Israil and just as Bani Israil wanted a Zionist state there are now modern Muslims that want this thing called an Islamic state. An Islamic state is the idea that you can force people to be good Muslims which is a completely instance idea. It has never existed and it will never exist. If you think religion can be legislated by a government you are completely deluded. It is a delusional state and I have no other word for it and Allah says in the Quran “do you think that you can force people to be believers?”. Do you think that you can force people to believe? It does not work. Islam is an internal mechanism. The best thing a government can do is to provide as close as possible a court system that is not open to bribery. Even the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “out of three judges, 2 go to hell” which is bad odds. That is why traditionally Muslims scholars never wanted to be judges and that is why all four of the imams were completely apolitical. They were not involved in politics. The only political stand that Ahmad bin Hanbal took was actually not a political stand. It was related to aqeedah because he declared openly that the Quran was uncreated because the mutazalite had convinced the ruling party that the Quran was created. It was a stupid period, people did stupid things. Abu Hanifah refused to enter into politics and was imprisoned for it. Imam Malik, if you read the entire mu’aduna does not have one political statement . He was once accused of sympathizing with Muhammad Nafz Zakia who was on the family for the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) that led a rebellion in the Hijaz. He did not have political positions. All he was doing was teaching shariah. If you want to learn and apply it, murhaban, if you do not then good luck in the akhirah. That is the way that religion has to be. It has to be free of politics. Once the scholar becomes engaged in the political process he is corrupted by it because that is the nature of the world. It is a corrupting element and you do not want religion to be tainted by the temporal. You always want religion to have that atemporal quality to it. That is why Islam did not create a priesthood an ecclestical society. The idea is that every believer should try and be as close to God as he or she can. So you do not want a group of priests dictating for you. Anybody can become a scholar. There is no ordainment. Scholars if they are really routed and trained can have differences of opinion. There is no official church theory. The Pope says “no you all have to agree with me”, no the ulema differ one of them says this and another says that and people are deemed intelligent enough with common sense to be able to discern right and wrong in a healthy society.
This modern concept is really unfortunate. It
has just had a really bad effect on the Muslims because what happens is that if
these guys get into power they will be just as bad as the previous governments
if not worse. They will create the same intelligence mechanisms and they will
do the torture, the same thing. If you do not think that this country has it,
we have it. It just does not happen in the same way. The school of the Americas
they trained people to do torture and do all that stuff but they do it in South
America, they do it in the Middle East that is why some of the Qaida guys, they
want to interrogate them in other countries. So they can put the electrodes on
and do all that stuff and feel good about it because it did not happen inside
That is why Muslims always saw that scholars that were aligned with government rulers or leaders that were in their pay and things like that to visit them, to speak the truth that is encouraged. An alim should go and if he is able to tell the truth to an oppressor or a ruler. Most rulers are oppressors in one way or another, that is encouraged but to become a court mullah, the real scholars fled from that like they would flee from a lion because they knew what it meant and then in our view of things politics was never a very important issue for the vast majority of Muslims throughout history like most people. Many Muslim thinkers were intensely interested in establishing social harmony and equilibrium on the basis of shariah but they did not see this as something that should or could be instituted from above and that is the truth. I mean you look at all these ulema and read their books, they never saw the idea that you could institute ethics and morality in a society. Ethics and morality comes from families, comes from how you were raised, how your parents taught you and whether you are going to live upto those morals that they gave you. In bad societies, parents do not have ethics and morals to transmit to their children. A lot of the world now it is just very little real ethical and moral behaviour because people are not raised with those ideals anymore. They see their parents cheating and doing all those things and that is what they end up doing. So it is as simple as that.
It is mentioned that the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) considered suicide……
That was wrong. Those narrations have never been considered sound by scholars. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) would never have contemplated suicide but he was troubled by that.
As we as American taxpayers accountable for our states decision to sell weapons?
There is some accountability if you are paying taxes. There is some accountability. Theroux went to jail because he would not pay taxes. Read “Civil Disobedience”, when I was growing up they taught that in high school. I am not sure if they still teach it anymore probably not pay taxes because he thought the government was supporting slavery. He thought that was wrong. When his friend Emmerson went to get him out he looked up and said “Henry what are you doing in there?”. He looked at Ralph and said “what are you doing out there?”. He said “in an unjust society the only place for a just man is in jail”.
The global war picture, is it a war of religion?
I think it is a very strange thing but I think
right now what it seems to me that is going on is there is a lot of money to be
made now in war. The one great detriment historically for war was commerce
which is why Muslims are always commercial states and Muslims actually
preferred peace to war because they liked to do business, they liked to trade
with people and when you have a society whose number one industry is war, you
have a problem and Israel is the biggest arms producer outside of America and
France. It is just massive arms production. I do like fairness, you know the
Arabs have been saying for years they are going to chase every Jew into the
ocean and Europeans were stuck in the middle of the
Unfortunnately the Jews were treated like dirt
for centuries in
One thing that I wanted to say about jihad that I did not mention in the session was that and this leads into the madhabs. There is a difference of opinion about the reason for jihad. Out of the four Sunni imams and they are Abu Hanifah, Imam Malik, Imam Shafi and Imam Ahmad and before I go into explaining that I’ll just…..and that is the section here. When the initial Islamic event occurs which begins in 610 with the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) the beginning of the revelation and ends in approximately 632 in which the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) passes. During this time the Quran was being revealed and initially the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) prohibited them from writing down his words because he did not want the Quran to be mixed with the hadith. Just to explain the difference for the people who do not know. The Quran is Muslims believe that this is directly from God to the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) through Jibril. There is no other means of transmission. The Quran came, everything that the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) uttered that as from the Quran according to the Muslims came through Gabriel.
There is a second source of revelation which is called hadith and hadith is anything that the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said or was said of him or was done in his presence or said in his presence and he agreed with it. Then some add to that a fourth category which is descriptions of the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam). So generally that is what hadith is, obviously the strongest one would be the one he himself said.
Now the Quran is over 6000 verses and it comes in 114 chapters or surah which means enclosure. It is made of ayah which are roughly translated as verses and of over 6000 verses of the Quran there are approximately 500 that directly related to legislative matters. The vast majority of the Quran does not relate to legislation. It actually relates to what we understand about God and then the historical process, history, its purpose, what human beings are here for, a lot of it is calling human beings to reflect on the creation, some of it tells us of the stories of those who went before us, this conflict between the prophetic tradition and the pharonic tradition. The Quran in a sense sets up a dialect in the world between a pharonic impulse to control and a prophetic impulse or prophetic truth to liberate people from control models and to enter into a type of submission in which they are no longer subjugated to these control models that tyrannise them and keep them basically trapped in delusional ways of viewing the world and what the world is here for. So the pharaoh, his symbol is the pyramid. It is a very interesting symbol because the pyramid is moving to a human apax which is the Pharaoh and his inner circle and the rest of that society is supporting that structure. So human beings are really seen as servants of those in power or those in charge and those in charge then have magicians.
They have four components that the pharonic model has. Firoun which is the political component, Haman which is the economic component, it is the economic power base. Then there is the military component which empowers both the political and the economic to do what they want. Allah says that all of them are wrongdoers. So being a soldier for this system is also participating for the crime of the system. There is a fourth component and these are the magicians. These are the ones that keep people in awe, that bewitch people, that put veils over them to make them think something is real when it is not real so that is the Pharonic system. Those are the fourth components of the pharonic system that are mentioned in the Quran.
One of the things about the pharaoh is that he is very sensitive, he sends spies out so he uses a spy network. He wants to know everything that is happening in society. He is very forceful because what he is afraid of, what Allah says in the Quran “Allah is going to show Firoun his economic power, his military power, the very thing that he was fearing” so Pharaoh focuses the Prophetic element in the society because a Prophetic element is exposing the lie of the pharonic culture and so the Pharonic culture has a deep seated fear of the element because it is an element that is telling people you were not created to create pyramids, you were not created to serve pharaoh, you were not created just to make money, you were not created to exploit, you were created to worship Allah.
Now the Pharonic model uses manipulation of nature and that is why when then threw down their sticks they looked like snakes whereas with the Prophetic model, it is truth. It is not illusion. When it shows its hand, it gobbles up the falsehood. That is why they do not like the two to be together. They like to make sure that element is not allowed any type of mass audience because if it is it becomes very dangerous so that is one of the most important elements in the Quran is this model and that is why the Pharoah and Musa is the most important story in the Quran, it is repeated more than any other story. Each time it comes in the Quran it has nuances because ultimately that is the human conflict. It is between a control model which is about getting the creature to submit to higher creatures and the Islamic model is that you do not submit to creatures, you submit to the Creator. So these are in opposition. So that is one element of the Quran.
There are many different aspects of the Quran but the legislative aspect is really, it is not the major portion of the Quran. From the hadith now which are the sayings of the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam), one of the really interesting things for me as somebody that learned Arabic and can read both the Quran and the hadith is that are completely different.
Anybody who is well trained in Arabic will immediately recognise the Quran even if he does not memorise the Quran because it has a unique quality to it that is different from other Arabic speech even great poets, great orators when you read their speeches you know it is not the Quran even if you do not memorise the Quranm, the Quran has a mysterious component. It is very different to other speech and that is what the Quran says “it is not like other speech”. The Quranic challenge is to imitate the Quran and in 1400 years nobody has ever done it and there have been people who have attempted it. There is no doubt, there were attempts. Now what happens with language is because language is such a strange phenomena in the world for instance if I say “John came yesterday”. If you read that would not see intonation. I could say “John came yesterday”
The corpus of hadith is not the proof for everything in Islam and that gives you the next category of proof which is called qiyas, analogical reasoning. A large portion of shariah and a lot of Muslims do not know this, a large portion of shariah or sacred law is actually not directly from Quran or hadith. It actually comes out of human understanding. Now who do we trust? We trust people that first of all the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said that the best generation are my generation in the understanding of Islam and behaviour according to it. Then the next generation and the next generation. That third generation ends with these groups of imams. They are the last group. So they are called the people who wrote everything down. The people before them were people who heard it from the sahaba and the sahaba were people who lived it. So each generation is less adherent to the tradition then the one who preceded it. That is why the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “no time will come except the time that follows it is worse that it until you meet your Lord”. What that means is that each generation, they are less understanding, less practising and less aware of God. The ulema say that in each generation there is always exceptions so you will have somebody in a generation that might actually be better than some of the scholars that preceded him, more knowledgeable, things like that but they will still not be from a generation. The best generation were the first three, that does not negate the possibility of individuals coming later that are great like the people who went before but as large numbers of people, that disappears and it increasingly does so until the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “till people will have sex in open public places and the best people in those days will say “would you go do that somewhere else?”. There is a hadith that says that. So things get morally worse and all of these things.
The madhab is when you have a hadith that is open to several interpretations and most words by their nature can have more than one interpretation. If the imams differed on it then because they have reached a level which is called ijtihad mutlkaq where you reach a level of absolute ability to determine or derive legal rulings. That does not mean that you cannot be wrong but it means you are so knowledgeable that you have the authority to be wrong. Somebody who is a fool, even if he is right, he is wrong whereas somebody who is very brilliant and very humble and capable of his limitations which these men were then even when he is wrong, he is still right because he is basing it on deep deliberation. He is basing it on thought, he is not basing it on thoughts, opinions or foolishness, no his judgment has arrived out of serious effort. It is a very different when you meet somebody who holds an opinion because he read it in Newsweek or someone who holds an opinion because he has thoroughly examined the issue, he has weight and authority. If somebody just reads the headlines and then he is just going to spout his opinion then he is a fool and it is a fool that takes his opinion seriously. I mean that is the reality of it. That is when the Quran says “are they the same those who know and those who do not know?”. They are not the same even when they are wrong, they are not the same. Somebody who is wrong, who is speaking out of knowledge is not the same as someone who is right and speaking out of ignorance. You are still safer with the one who is wrong with deep knowledge and understanding. The thing about these people is that they will never be way off because they know the principles.
One of the things that the ancients, particularly the Greeks, they had this understanding that if you understood the universals, the particulars would take care of themselves. One of the things about modern men and women is that they are obsessed with particulars and they know nothing of universals and so when you know the general principle you are not going to make big mistakes in the particulars. You just will not make big mistakes. If you know it is a general rule “there is no harming and there is no reciprocation of harm”. That is a principle of Islam. If you know that principle that is going to save you from a lot of problems. If you know the principle “that matters are based on intentions behind them”. That is going to affect how you view people’s actions. If you understand the principle “duress necessitates facilitation or ease”. That when people are under stressful conditions you need to help them by making things easier in order to remove that stress because people in stressful situations will begin to break down mentally so that is why rulings will change in times of great difficulty. So a scholar who knows that like Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah he has opinions what other scholars they do not see it because he knows the universal so when he moves into particulars he knows how to work with them in a different way whereas there are people who lean the particulars of shariah, they memorise all the rules for a do b, for c do d and when they see c then that is what you do. Well is that always in every situation? So there is a very big difference between people who have this and this is what these imams are famous for. There were famous for this vast understanding of this philosophy behind the shariah is for human benefit and therefore if they found things that were harmful to people even thought the law said do it they would change the law and that is hard for a lot of Muslims to understand because they have lost their flexibility. Intolerance generally comes from ignorance. That is a root of intolerance.
You want to remove intolerance first you have to remove ignorance. So the madhab are based on those differences of understanding. So what I want to say about the jihad. There is a difference about what is the reason for jihad. Out of the four imams: Imam Malik, Abu Hanifah, Imam Ahmad believed that the reason that fighting was legislated was to remove aggression or belligerence. Imam Shafi said no it was to remove kufr, it was to get rid of kufr. Now that is a big difference in understanding. Generally in the history of Islam the ruling governments favoured the Hanafi and Maliki madhab which created an incredible tolerance for other peoples, non Muslims. But even with the Shafi when they had authority they basically applied the principle of the other imam. So even thought that is the principle of Imam Shafi it was not the practice of the scholars of this madhab.
As we move into Islam and iman. What is the difference between Islam and iman? Islam in the Arabic language comes from the root word “salimah” and salimah means to be whole. It is the same root of the Jewish Hebrew ward they get Shalom from shalama, The idea that salaam is wholeness, when we speak of God as as-Salaam, that is a name of God, what it means is that God has no parts. Now when you have wholeness you have peace. War comes about when you have divisiveness. Do you see how the understanding of peace comes out of this understanding of wholeness?. If people are whole, if there is an integrity in a people then you will not have wars. But when a people become divisive, you get belligerence. In Islam generally when they ruled they believed that Jews and Christians and other religions had a right to live and practice amongst them. They were certain conditions but they had that belief. It is in their religion whereas there are other religions that have ruled that did not believe that. They actually believed that they had no right at all so that creates a very different type of society. It creates a divisiveness that leads to a war. So the Muslims have always seen that.
If you look at the human body there are things on the body that do not serve a purpose for the body as a whole but they are part of the body. You can have scars on your body. They are part of the body, you do not dig further to get rid of the scar, you just leave it the way it is. There is still a wholeness even thought it might not be something you necessarily like or want there but you tolerate it because it is part of the body.
So traditionally Muslims saw other religions not as co-religions but as co-human beings. They are human beings we would rather they be Muslim but they are part of the social body and so we should tolerate them. The Quran says that they can be part of families, they can be married into families, they should be treated with dignity but even with kindness and friendship and these things.
The difference between Islam and iman is the word salimah which means whole relates to the outward of Islam. When we say Islam what we mean is an outward practice. That is why a Muslim is anyone who basically says I am a Muslim. The way they say that is “la ilaha ilal Allah”. Anyone who says “there is no God but one God and Muhammad is His messenger” is considered a Muslim whether he practises or not. That is enough to come into Islam and then they are treated as a Muslim. They are buried as a Muslim as long as they never reject that.
According to Islamic teaching the more you practice with good intention the stronger the iman gets. So the iman is the inward component. It is not something you can see. Islam you can see basically. Iman is something only God can see. That is the secret of bani Adam. The unseen element of faith. That is why in the Quran when the Arabs say…. These desert Arabs came to the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and said “we believe”. Allah said “don’t say we believe but say we have submitted because iman has not yet come into your hearts”. So the Quran clearly distinguishes between Islam and iman. Now we can also see Islam as a greater rubric that includes iman and ihsan. So it is looked at as a specific but also looked at as an inclusive word.
He takes the mutazalite approach here a little bit. Generally the Sunni scholars believe that iman was merely tasdeeq which means to verify something in your heart, to believe it in your heart, that is all it was. Then there was a difference of opinion whether you actually had to say it with your tongue. Obviously if you were mute and could not speak it, you didn’t. But if you could they said it was an obligation and then action according to this.
This is a classic debate between the Protestants and Catholics, also, is it faith and deeds that one is saved or is if faith alone? Obviously the Protestant tradition says it is faith alone, deeds do not come into it. In a sense that is closer to the Islamic tradition in that particular aspect the Muslims believe that faith alone in God is enough although there is an idea that there might be some purification in the next world for those people so it is a very dangerous and precarious type condition to be in where you have faith in your heart but no deeds. Malik bin Dinar tells a story that he saw a funeral and he decided to go help them bury this person. He helped put him down into the grave and it had a very powerful effect on him which it often does if you go to funerals. Muslim funerals are particularly powerful because the body is just in cloth. It is not in a coffin so you are putting the person right into the earth and throwing dirt on them.
So he went to his home and fell asleep and he had a dream that he was in the grave with the man. He saw the angel of mercy and the angel of punishment. They look at the man and one of them says, the one of punishment says “this man is mine”. He said “look at his eyes, they are filled with the prohibitions of Allah things that Allah prohibited. Look at his ears, they are filled with things he never should have listened to”. Look at that tongue, it is filled with a life spent in speaking ill of others, deception and lying. Then he said “look at that stomach, filled with haram, look at those genitals, going where they should not have gone”. Then the angel of mercy says “but look at his heart, it is filled with faith and he is mine”. That is at the essence of the idea of no matter what a person’s actions are, only God knows the heart and ultimately it is the heart by which people are judged. If we were judged by our actions we would all be like Hamlet says “if you give people what they deserve, who would escape a whipping?”. Don’t give them what they deserve, give them out of your magnamity. That is what Allah shows people on yaum al qiyaamah because the hadith in which it says that Allah has 100 parts of mercy and one part He sent down to the earth and that part is the part that every mother that shows mercy to her child is from that part. Every foal that will not step on its mare from that part. Every good kind act in the world is from that part so all mercy in the earth comes from that one portion that Allah allowed to come down from the celestial sphere and then the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “and He has saved the other 99 for the day of judgment”.
So the idea of just being Muslim on the tongue is part of Islam. People as long as they say that, that is why the man simply recites shahada with two Muslim witnesses, like two people who marry, they use the example of a man who wants to marry a Muslim woman. This happens quite a bit. He just officially goes and does the shahada. Muslims are generally a little wary when they see that but they accept it nonetheless because that is what Islam tells them to do.
There is a man in our history known as Muhajir um Qays the man who emigrated for this woman who he said “I want to marry you” and she said “emigrate to Madinah with the Muslims and I will marry you”. So he did for her. He is called Muhajir um Quys. So even if someone does something outwardly and he has a different inward intention, we are commanded to judge by the outward.
Now about the location of faith in the heart. The Quran says that Allah knows what is in the breast and what is in the heart. Then the idea of actions according to Islam, actions confirm your faith, the action itself is what confirms the faith. That is why charity is called sadaqah which comes from the root word to be truthful because charity is a sign of truthfulness of your faith. When you are charitable, you are showing that your faith is true.
That is why when somebody sees someone do a lot of good actions, the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “if you see somebody who frequents the masjid a lot, testify to his faith” because those actions are indications of his faith. So an action is always an indication of somebody’s faith but not necessarily. There can be hypocrites, there can be people who can be ostentatious, all of these types of things.
He talks about kufr. We go into the idea of opposite of faith which is kufr. Now kufr is generally translated as infidelity or disbelief. If you look up the root word of kufr it comes from kaffarah which means to cover. In fact, cover might actually be a cognate. It means to cover over something. Kefir which is a yoghurt you do by covering over with a cloth. It is called kefir. The kafir is also a farmer in Arabic because he covers the seed with earth.
The Quran uses the word kafir to mean farmers. Someone once saw Imam Ali who was planting something and somebody asked him “how are you doing today?”. He said “I am a kafir” in other words “I am a farmer today”.
Now the idea is very interesting because at the root of this idea is that people know the truth but what they are doing is covering it over. The idea that God is so outwardly manifest that to reject God is to reject what is so blatantly apparently in the world. Only a kafir could do that, someone who is covering over. That is why the word literally can also mean in gratitude. Ingratitude is another meaning of kufr. Kufran means ingratitude. So a kafir is actually an ingrate. It is somebody who is not showing God gratitude by repaying the debt of consciousness and the debt is the deen. It is the deen that you owe to God.
He likes the word truth concealing for kufr. She
says someone might object to the use of truth concealing by saying “I do not
know these truths” nor do I accept that these are truths so how can I be a
truth concealer”. Traditional Muslims would typically reply that such people
have simply not understood what the Quran is saying. In other words if they
really understood it they would not reject it but it is because they do not
understand it. If they would pay more attention to the message they would
actually say, this is an interesting exercise to do with anything. Let me look
at this unbiasedly. Le me look at this without judging it because if you ask
most people about Islam they assume it is just wrong. They have not studied it
“that religion, they are just this or that”. It is no basis or foundation for
that remark. So if I am a Christian, I say no, Christianity is right. Why?
Because my mother told me and my mother does not lie. Well that is the same
thing that the Sri Lankan Buddhist mothers said that Buddha was the one he
should call on and mother does not lie. The Muslim in
So who is right? Most people have inherited their beliefs. They have never thought about them, they have never examined them. That is why people or fanatics or extremists tend to be people whose belief is very shaky because they are actually so afraid if having a challenge that they are willing to kill anyone that challenges it which means they do not really have a challenge for their beliefs because someone who is deeply rooted in faith would never be afraid of sitting like Abu Hanifah who sat in huge auditoriums and debates with atheists because he was not afraid. He really believe that I can, my faith and my understanding of it can stand up against anything that falsehood has in its arsenal but if I don’t have a strong faith, I am very afraid of the arsenal of disbelief that it might overwhelm me so that is the way that traditional Muslims would say that.
This is a more personal belief, not an Islamic belief. My personal belief that the variables involved in judging anyone are so overwhelming and it is so complicated that it is best not to judge people. Just leave it to God, because you have not walked in their shoes, you did not have their childhood, you do not know what was done to them. We do not know enough and this is why people their filters are often as a result of the families they had, the society they grew up in and delusional states are types of madness. Delusion is a sign and symptom of madness, to be in a deluded state, junoon.
So even with the outward we are commanded to judge certain things by the outward. We should always do that in this world. The best thing to do is to reserve judgment for the next world in those ultimate things because Allah says in many verses in the Quran “you will return to Him and He will explain to you all these things about you which were different”. He will tell you, He will inform you so people should have some patience. Things will be made clear and you do not know where people are in their evolution.
An example is Michael Wolf, Michael Wolf is a person who told me, he said the reason I am telling you because he said it on a television programme, he thought about becoming a Muslim for 20 years so was he a kafir for those 20 years? The thing is he ultimately became Muslim. So where does he lie on the spectrum? It is a fuzzy logic question. At which point do you go into kufr from iman and vice versa. It is a fuzzy logic there, because only a life in its totality can be judged, You cannot judge anyone at any specific point in their life because you do not know what the total life is. At the end of the day if he dies saying tawbah and Allah accepts that tawbah, he could be the worst human being that ever lived and that is success according to the Muslims. So you cannot judge people at any particular point in their lives. You have to have the whole life. Only God can do that. So do not judge people unless somebody stole, you have to deal with that problem, that is a problem and there is a judgment that goes with it. Even in that case you can forgive them. If I own a store and someone steals and I can say it is yours. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “have mercy on anyone in the earth, on those in the earth”. It doesn’t just mean specific people. Have mercy or compassion with those on the earth and the One in the heavens will have compassion on you. This is what Thomas Jefferson said “when I looked at people I demanded divine justice. Then I started looking at myself and I began to beg for mercy”. That is a powerful statement.
You look outside and you want justice. You start looking inside and you want mercy. I will tell you another thing and people do not realise this, every fault that you see out there and this is from misbahaani every fault you see out there is a fault on you. It is a fault in you either manifest or like fire in flint. In other words had you lived that person’s life you might be doing that exact thing that that person is doing.
So because you are human and humans are susceptible to all things human, anyone you see out there with a fault is a fault in you either manifest or hidden in you like fire in flint. In other words the right cause can start the spark and that is a way of looking at the world with compassion. You actually begin to look at human beings in a different light because you do not know what they have been through, you do not know the suffering they have had.
The three principles: this deals with tawheed because we are going into tawheed. The foundation of tawheed falls into three broad categories. The first is called the divinities, the second is called the things related to prophethood and the third eschatological matters. Those things that are related to eschatology or what comes after we die. So we have theology, then you have revelation and then you have eschatology. Those are the three branches of tawheed.
Now one of the things that is important here is God is the foundation the beginning of everything Islamic according to our belief. The angels are creatures nearest to God in cosmic hierarchy and they play a central role in God’s interrelationship with human beings so they are intermediaries. The measuring out which is the qadr both its good and evil refers to how God interacts with creation. To each thing God measured out a certain limited amount of good and as the negative consequences of exactly the same act a certain amount of evil.
Everything is created in pairs because only Allah is without pair. This world is a mixture of good and evil, light and darkness. The whole world is shade, there is no pure light in the world. The only reason you can see right now is a mixture of light and the absence of light. If it was pure light you would be blind. If it was pure darkness you would be blind. So the whole world is a mixture of light and darkness. Now what Allah is telling is that He created this world to take you from darknesses into light so the process of being in the world is a process of moving through shades. It is a process of coming from darkness into the light but that is a process. He is taking you out of darkness so there are different degrees of darknesses to the one light which is the light of guidance. This is an evolution so human beings if they are on a spiritual are evolving, things are becoming cleaer because more light is coming in. More light is being introduced into the darkness of the material world. So this is the penetration of the spiritual realm into the material realm. This is what revelation in essence is. It is the movement from the unseen into the seen from that pure light, it is light moving into the darkness of the material world. Because the material world in a sense not pure otherness but because it is other than God because it is corruptible because it has elements that are suscepitble to corruption. The degree to which these elements exist in the world is the degree of darknesses in the world because it is other than God.
The elements in the world of light relate to the fact that the creation is an act of God. So tawheed, the first is the shahada. The first shahada expresses tawheed while the second speaks of prophecy. Now this I think is very important insight for all of us to understand here. If you look at the shahada la ilaha ilal Allah. Now the way that is said is significant. There are three letters here in the whole shahada that is all, there is just three letters. The alif, hamza, laam and ha which means ilah, God and this is the definition of ilah. Another thing about shahada is if you actually say it la ilaha ilal Allah. It is the same thing. It is just moving the tongue up and down. Now what that is is contraction and expansion. Contraction la, expansion la ilaha ilal Allah. Contraction, expansion. That is related to the two aspects of shahada which is negation and affirmation. You have negation which precedes affirmation. In other words you have to negate before you can affirm.
So when you say in Arabic, when you negate you say la. In Arabic when you affirm you say ajal. La is the negation, a is the affirmation. That is the Arabs say awai, awaillahi, that is how you affirm something. When you negate you say la. That is why the first thing a child learns in most cultures is negation, la because it hears it obviously “don’t do that”, no no. So it learns quick that it is a powerful thing. They realise it is powerful because negation is very powerful but more powerful than negation is affirmation.
Affirmation wipes out negation. So what happens is you begin by negating and you end up by affirming. You begin by saying la ilaha ilal Allah. That is the beginning of tawheed, negation la ilaha, there is no God. What does that mean? There is no God worthy of worship. In other words there is nothing worthy of worship. In reality, this is why the Arabs say “there is nothing worshipped in truth other than God”. That is what it means. There is nothing worshipped in truth other than God, that is what it means. There is nothing worshipped in truth other than God. That is why when you say la ilaha ilal Allah, you are saying there is no God in reality except the one true God. You are also saying that there is nothing that I should devote myself to except God. There is nothing I should be devoted to in truth except God. Not money, money is not God, fame is not God, fortune is not God, beauty is not God, material world is not God, nothing is worthy of worship except God. There is your affirmation except the true God, Allah. That is the essence of tawheed and then because that is not self evident in reality. You need to understand it through a medium because self evident truths are not truths that are simply obvious. They are truths that are simply not obvious on reflection and that is why, if you look at the declaration of independence, it says we hold the truths to be self evident that all men are created equal. That is not something that is obvious to everybody but if you begin to reflect upon it, it is a self evident truth. It does not need to be proved from outside of itself.
So what we mean by God’s existence is self evident, it does
not mean necessarily everyone is going to get that, that there is only one God.
In fact most cultures fall very quickly into polytheism because it is very easy
to think there is more than one God and that is why the Brahmin actually
believe that most people are too stupid to understand divine unity even though
Some psychiatrists that were doing that study about just the
soothing effects of people just saying the divine name and it is true. I once
met somebody, she was given the name, she didn’t know it, she didn’t know what
it was, she was told repeat la ilaha ilal Allah over and over for depression as
a treatment. She got cured of her depression and she ended up becoming a Muslim
but she didn’t even know. She told somebody that her psychiatrist gave her this
amazing formula to say. He told her do it in the morning preferably before the
sun comes up and in the evening before she went to sleep for about half an
hour. She would do that and she said she started to feeling better. She said
what was it? He said that is the Muslim creed. That is a true story, she died
rahimullah but I met her in
So when we go into tawheed, understanding God. One of the things they point out that I think is very important is that there some Muslims that believe that God is something else and there is also non Muslims that think Allah is something else. I saw a Christian and a Muslim having a dialogue. The Christian said “I just have to say that I don’t believe in the God you believe in”. If you read certain Christian literature about Islam they will say that Muslims believe in another God like the moon God or whatever God. There are Muslims that think the Christians because they believe in the trinity that they believe in another God. Now the point that that Quran makes when it says let us look upon what we agree upon before we discuss anything else that we worship only one God. The understanding there is are we talking about the Creator of the heavens and the earth? Yes then we are talking about the same God. What we are differing on is the particulars, the universal we agree on. But we begin to differ when we look at what is our concept is of that God.
Christians believe God is One, they do not believe God is three. They really do not. They do believe God is three, He is One but He is tripart in this mystical mysterious way and they will never explain it and they believe in One God. They are not idolaters like that, they believe in one God and the Jews definitely believe in one God. In Judaism there is some anthropomorphism where you begin to describe God as human having hands and feet and limbs and things like that which is haraam to do that. You cannot do that. One thing that Ghazali says that the word in Arabic for hands has 17 meanings yet which one are you going to choose that God meant? In other words do not interpret that. Leave it the way it is but we know it does not mean this with absolute certainty. We now that when God says hand of Allah, He is not talking about something like this (holds up hand). We know that. There is a universal, there is nothing like God and therefore it is not like this because if I said that I am saying that God is like His creation which is impossible.
So when we look at the word God in the Quran, Allah is used.
Now the Orientalists say it is obvious this is from ilah. Well that is not
obvious to the Muslims. Muslim theologians do not think Allah is from ilah.
People say it is from the same letters. It is like saying
Now before we can understand really, how we understand God, the important thing is how we do not understand God. That is why he goes into this idea of shirk. One of things that he and she point out before that which is important is the idea of ilah. In the Quran ilah which can have a plural is called alihat, gods and gods as well as goddesses and things. The word ilah is used sometimes positive, sometimes negative. It basically means the objective of devotion or worship. In the Quran it says that there are those that take their own desires as gods beside Allah. In fact, the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) in a hadith that Imam Qurtabi relates says “the thing Allah hates, the idol that Allah hates more on the earth that is worshipped is man’s own desire” which is very interesting because most people do not think of idolatory as being something inside of you, they see it as something outside. You have to have a stone or a wooden form or something, a cow, an object of worship but the Quran says “have you not considered the one who has taken as his God his own desires”. His own caprice, his own whims.
That is very interesting because that is the thing that is the most difficult to remove. That is the real shirk that becomes difficult. Worshipping our opinions because we become absolutely devoted to them. We are not willing to give them up for anything. We will even die for them. That is a God beside Allah. There are many idolaters amongst Muslims from that category, may Allah protect us from that. Many Muslims do not realise that they fall into that category. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “somebody who is addicted to drugs is like the worshipper of an idol” because you will do anything for your God. There are people who will kill for drugs literally kill for drugs. Money, people will kill for money. Desires, it is just for desires not the object of desire. What is forcing someone to steal? It is inside, it is not outside. The object is called cause occasionalis, a good latin word in logic, it is the occasional cause, it is not the deep cause. The deep cause is desire because another person sees the object, they do not have any money, they might even want it but they do not steal it. Why? Because they are in control of their desire. So when the object outside, it is only seen, the delusional state is “I had to have it”. That is what made me do it. No, it was inside from the beginning, that desire was there and that was only the exciting cause, it was not the deep cause. The deep cause is covetousness for the things of the world.
So shirk in the Arabic language means to share, to be a partner, to make someone share, to give someone a partner, to associate someone with someone else. Shareeq, literally, this my partner in commerce. You are sharing. Musharqa, if we share things, food, conversation, whatever. So the idea of associating or sharing with God something which is God’s alone. This is why the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said that Allah said in a hadith qudsi “whoever associates, I have no need of those partners”. So if you associate with Allah partners, you have associated with Allah what He does not need. Why do you go into partnerships? Because you need them. In commerce why do you have partners? Because you need them. So Allah is saying you are associating with Me something I have no need of and therefore it is batil because there is no purpose.
So shirk is the reverse side of tawheed. Now the literal sense of the term shirk may suggest that one has to be conscious of associating other than God in order to be guilty of it. How can I give a partner to someone if I do not know the someone? Well that is actually true and that is why the Quran says “do not associate with God once you know”. That is why a person whose in that state without knowledge is forgiven. But once it has been explained to you, then after that you are taken to account for your knowledge and that is why the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) in hidden shirk taught us to say “O Allah I seek refuge in You from associating with You and I am aware of it, I ask forgiveness for that which I am not aware of”.
There are subtle things that modern psychology called the subconscious mind. The Muslims understood this. The Quran says “they are not conscious of it, they attempt to deceive God and those who believe but they only succeed in deceiving themselves, but they are unaware. The modern Arabic word for the subconscious la shuhur which is exactly the way Allah describe the state of hypocrite except he is not aware.
Now the thing about la shuhur the subconscious is there is an understanding in the Islamic tradition that in a truly deep sense you are aware. It is not an excuse. That is why the Quran says in the next world people will say “would we have only listened and comprehended what was being said to us we would not have ended up in this wretched place?”. Then Allah says “they finally admit they are wrong”.
These defence mechanisms of projection and denial and all these things that human being do are essentially according to Islamic understanding, they are still responsible for it. The reason for that is this power that Allah has given us it is just too vast and too enormous. If you do not make use of it, then only you have yourself to blame. All the tools were given to you so it is like someone is given a plot of land. They have the cow, they have the plough and they just sit there and watch it. Then when the harvest comes and everyone else is harvesting and they are saying “Nothing grew”. Well you had the seed, you had the plough, you had the cow, why didn’t you do anything? “O you mean I should have done something?”.
Rumi has a poem about the day of judgment. He says on that day you will come with your head bowed and you will look at the Prophets and say get me out of this mess, the mud of my life because I am mired in the mud of my life. He says “you left the plough in the middle of the field and now you want us to harvest for you”. You had all that time, you had all that energy.
So there is a belief in Islam that tawheed is from the fitrah of human. It is something we deeply know. It is in our inherent nature to know. That is why children will completely accept the understanding. They will just completely accept it. They will accept tawheed. It makes perfect sense to them.
Now the idea of hidden shirk. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) came out, this is a hadith that Ibn Majah relates, the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) came out and they were talking about the anti-Christ and he said “shall I tell you about something that is more frightening to me than the anti-Christ?”. They said what. He said “hidden shirk, riyaa that a man should perform prayer and do it beautifully for the sake of someone who is watching”. Sahdi tells the story about the man in the mosque praying and he hears the door open and he decides that I am going to pray a long time because that person will think…and when he finishes his prayer, he looks to see if the person saw him and it was a dog that came into the mosque. You see it is all in your head. It is not about what is out there, it is all your perception.
Now this is my favourite section here which is the signs of God. The Quran is called qalamullah which is God’s speech directed at human beings so whatever is said in the Quran we believe is an expression of God Himself. In the same way when we speak we express ourselves. So I speak I am expressing myself.
We may be playing a role and no one else will play the role in the same way. Every role we play we express something about ourselves. Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet is not Laurence Olivier’s. Same text but they have different interpretations. So even an actor reciting the same line, he is still expressing himself. So the idea of words being an expression of the nafs according to the Quran when Allah speaks we believe it is an expression of Himself in the Quran. The Quran expresses Allah. It is not the only thing that expresses Him. Other scriptures also express him and so do His creatures.
So now we get into something very interesting which is this idea of the expression. What is an expression? It is when I speak what I am doing, I am articulating symbols. If you speak my language, you are familiar with. So when I say “look at that tree” I do not have to look at the tree. You will begin to look around at the tree. You can ask me which tree but when I say tree an image emerges in your mind of something which has a trunk, branches and leaves. If it doesn’t have a trunk, branches or leaves it is something else. It might be a bush but when I say tree that is what comes to your mind. If I say in Arabic to an Arab tree he will say what are you talking about it? I will say shajarah.
Now shajarah to an English speaker does not mean anything but to an Arab speaker he has the image in his mind that you had when I said tree. So what is shared? It is the tree but what else is there? What is the nature of language is that it is a symbol, it is a sign that signifies something else. This is called in Arabic an ayah. So an ayah is something that signifies something else. Now when we say that God has signs what we are saying is there are things that signify a God. There are the prophetic signs, the revelatory signs but then there are the natural signs so ayah in the Quran means in a general sense anything that means something else. Anything that indicates something else. This is what ayah means. So that is a general sense. In the Quran it means everything in the heavens and earth, everything is a sign and this is why We appointed the night and day as two signs. The day and night are two signs, of what? Of God. A sign for them is the dead earth, from amongst those signs the dead earth and then it is brought back to life. That is a sign of God, you are seeing a sign, it is indicating something else.
Amongst His signs are ships that run on the sea like landmarks that is on the ocean like a landmark, like mountains, these are all signs. In the earth are signs for those who have certainty and in yourself. In the earth are signs and in yourself are signs. Do you not see? In other words, do you not make the connection in the same way when I said tree you connected that with this thing that has trunk, branches, leaves. This is what Allah is saying, do you not see the connection between all the signs out there and all these signs in here, what they are indicating? What they mean.
The second narrower sense is the miracles and scriptures given to the Prophets so Prophets are given two types of signs:
- Scripture which is an ayah
- Things that break the normal chain of events so with Moses, it was his staff. It was his sign and the magicians recognised. That is why when they saw it they said “We believe in His God” not in you because they knew. Firoun said “this is a conspiracy” this is what he said. “You planned this, this is a conspiracy you did somewhere else”. He cannot believe because he is not seeing the same thing.
The other is the wahy itself, the revelation is a sign. They said to Prophet Salih (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) “you are merely one of us who are bewitched, you are a mortal like us. Produce a sign if you are truthful” so they want a sign. People, they want signs. This is what they said to Jesus (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam). He said “wicked is a generation that want signs”. In other words, it is so clear like Lut, someone asked him “what is a proof for the existence of God?”. He said “you are asking for a lamp to see the sun”. That is what the Arabs say “nothing will make sense to you if you need a proof for daylight”.
This idea of signs which is very interesting because the essence of 20th century philosophy is semiotics. They have become obsessed with signs. This is what philosophy has been reduced to which is very interesting that the question, that is what it is talking about, it is talking about signs.
That is why one of the brilliant philosophers of the 20th century was Izuzu a Japanese philosopher. He spent his life studying the Quran and wrote this amazing book on the signs, the semiotics of the Quran because he was just so engrossed in this idea.
So now the most specific sense of the word is the Quran, the actual sentences of the Quran which is called ayat the actual syntactical components. They are meaning statements that are called ayat. Now use of the really interesting things about signs and I just want you to think about this and everybody has had the experience when you do not know a word and suddenly you look it up in the dictionary and now you know it and then suddenly it starts appearing everywhere. You are like that is amazing, what a coincidence. Why dos it suddenly start appearing everywhere? Because now you know what it means. Suddenly it becomes meaningful and before you were just knowing it from your field of vision. Now you are allowing it in because you have accommodated it into your frame of reference.
Now one of the things about human beings. If you
are traveling on a trip and I love road signs. I just got a traffic ticket
Ignorance is not an excuse in the eyes of the law. Your have a drivers licence, you are driving a car. There are signs, you are supposed to know what they mean. You took a test to prove that you know what they mean. Then you are going to plead ignorance. I did not see it. Well you should be more attentive. This is what he is saying so he wants to write you a ticket and then you have to pay a fine. When I said hey, he said this is my job to write tickets. That is what the angels say, I am just doing my job. My job is to punish you. That is what he was saying to me. My job is to punish you not to sit here and debate. You broke the law. It is an infraction and that is my job and I am sorry. It is a painful thing to do if I really think about it but it is my job. There you go, so what can I do? Rip it up, the police take your car away. If you ignore the warnings, that is just a warning, if you ignore that there are more repercussions. It just gets worse and worse and worse.
So imagine humanity on this highway. You are
driving along. The first sign they see Lustville, 100 miles. Suddenly speeds
up, only 100 miles, if I do 100 miles an hour, I will get there in an hour. On
the way there is a sign
Now if you were given a job and this is Vanity Fair. I think it is Thackeray or whoever wrote it. The story of vanity fair where the man was given a job by the King but on the way to fulfill his job there is a fair on the side of the road and he thinks I have all the way to sunset so I am just going to stop and just enjoy the show and there are some distractions and I will have a little fun then I will go and do what the King told me to do. So he goes in and Vanity Fair filled with distractions. He is having a great time and he gets too engrossed in all of these distractions that suddenly it is sunset and Vanity Fair is closing up and he has not done what he was supposed to do. Now he has to go back to the palace and tell the King. The King says “I sent you in the morning, you had all day to do it”. Is the King going to accept the excuse that I saw this beautiful fair on the side of the road. On my time? You were playing on my time?
Somebody works for Fedex but he has a gambling problem so he goes out in the morning with all these packages and then he passes by a gambling casino. I will just go in and do one time on the slot machine. He goes in one time and then suddenly one time leads to another and then suddenly the day is over, he goes out and he has all these packages he has not delivered that he has to take back, is he going to keep his job. No. So that is the nature of the world. The task is very clear but the signs are ignored. It is not as if they are not there. They are just ignored and that is why how many a clear sign there is in the heavens and earth that they pass by, turning away from it. It is all there. It is very obvious. That is what the Quran is saying. The people ignore these signs because they do not have time for them. They are too occupied with their worldly things, making more money, getting that bigger house, enhancing my portfolio, building up my CV.
The beauty of Islam is it does not turn away from the world. It says be in the world like a stranger, just know that you are not going to be here forever and then act accordingly because a stranger does not behave like other people. You come into a village and you are passing through it, you do not set up shop, marry and have a family in the village when you know that you are going to leave. I am not saying that it means that you do not do that in the world but you do it with that understanding that there are things I am going to leave behind so that you do not become totally obsessed and attached to them.
Questions & Answers
Words have an intrinsic value in themselves but their purpose is to signify something else definitely and there is a correlation. He goes into a little bit, but he is taking it from a 13th century Andalusian scholar philosopher who thought that the world was composed of letters. Like DNA you have four nucleic acids and these four nucleic acids combine into 64 possible combinations. Those 64 possible combinations then translate out into certain structures and that is what gives things their uniqueness but it is all based on the same basic building blocks of life. Basically it is the same thing, everything has the same DNA. So his idea was everything in the world is a manifestation of speech and the letters they were like DNA so liver is a certain combination and in every body it will be the same combination. Any creature that has a liver, the liver is composed of the same archetypical letters. It is a philosophy. I don’t know what his proofs were from the Quran or anything like that. I am sure he had them. It is an idea but the world alam in Arabic means sign. Alam is ism f’al. F’al is the thing that you do something with like tabih is the thing you seal with so alam is the thing that you know something by. The world is that by which you know, the alim, the knower who is Allah. The difference is between fathah and kasrah between God and the world. So if you have that faith from the world then you get opened up to see the truth of the world which is that it is an ayah of God.
What kind of desires are halal? What kind of desires are haram?
I mean the desires are not bad things. Desires generally unless it is things that are haraam in shar’iah, the desire for food is a good desire. If you do not have the desire for food, you will die but if you have desire for pork then you have a problem or if you have a desire for excessive food that is going to harm you, you have a problem. It is not haraam to overeat but it is makruh. But if you do it until it damages your health and the doctors tell you, you have to cut down your food consumption then it becomes haraam because “don’t kill yourselves”. They say most people dig their graves with their teeth.
Can you divorce a person who has haraam desires? Is this a good reason for divorce?
If it is things that are prohibited and they want that person to partake in that, it is haraam to do that, that would be grounds for divorce if the person was forcing them to do something or demanding them to do something like rectal intercourse.
What are the natural signs of God beside nature?
The natural signs of God are other than Prophets and revelation so everything other than Prophets and revelation is a sign. Our own souls are signs of God, ourselves. The fact that we are hearing, seeing and living, all these things. These are signs of God. Sight, speech, understanding, comprehension.
Question about the Japanese philosopher Isuzu
He has a book the Quranic Veleter Chalen. He spoke like 32 languages or something, phenomenal intellect. The book is called Quran veleter Chalen which is German word for world view and he has another book on the ethical……..If you are interested in his books you can get them through Fons Vitae on the web.
Can someone say shahada on the phone?
You need witnesses, you can say the shahada wherever you want to but to make it sound you need witnesses, two witnesses so it would be better to do it in person. If you are living on a desert island with a cellphone and there was nobody there, and you want to say shahada so you called a Muslim country and asked for a second operator to come on or something like that then you could do that. It is a good question.
Cannot hear question clearly
Lichtenstein at the end of his life did not speak because he did not believe you could say anything true in a language and he was a philosopher of language. The whole world is running or not running, it is actually probably not running because of language as well as it is running because of language. The problem is language, communication. Rumi one of my favourite stories of Rumi is one of the three, there is an Arab, a Persian and a Roman. They are traveling together on a road and they come across this dirham. They all grab at it at the same time. The Arab says we have to buy enab with it. The Persian says no we buy angoor, the Roman says no we are going to buy venatas. They are all words for grape so they start fighting each other and Rumi’s comment is all that was needed was a good translator.
Part of the problem is language, one of the things they point out here that I really believe in is that when people say I don’t believe in God, Muslims should say what is your definition of God because I do not believe in that God either. A lot of people do not believe in an unbelievable God. That is true but in dealing with somebody who is trapped in that rejection of language….you have to establish first that language can….if I tell him to stand up and he stands up, that my language has been meaningful enough to make him do and act and therefore something that has meaning can be conveyed in language and can be demonstrated very easily and that language is meaningful. If he means that we cannot use language to speak about transcendent truth which is the idea of logical positivism which is another modern aberration, the idea that any metaphysical language is meaningless that we can only speak about material and concrete things. That is also very problematic because the human mind has universals and yet you will never see a universal but when I point to a particular tree that is not the universal tree. That is one particular tree so there are even within language abstract things that we recognise to be true that indicate a shared or common thing that particular all share.
I have gone out and watched trees. Trees are very interesting things. I have gone just walking and looking at all these different trees realising each one of them is completely unique and feeling whoever invented this idea of a universal tree, it is not true, because every human being on this planet is unique yet we share the fact that we are human beings although I cannot point to your particular example as a human being.
We have a concept in our mind of what is human that is not to be seen in the world and universals you cannot find them and yet the mind recognises them. That is a metaphysical concept because it is beyond the material world, the universal concept. The idea of God, the brain is wired for it, simple as that.
There is a book “Why God will not go away” and it is the neurobiology of belief. People are wired to believe and there is truth in that, simple as that and people do have belief. Unfortunately you get caught in these mind games. I think ultimately for me it was a car accident. Sometimes it takes real powerful shocks to wake people up put of that type of slumber. Shaykh Saeed Ramadan says for the Muslims the atheists are signs of God just the fact that somebody can deny God in this world it is a proof not only of God but that He is merciful and compassionate. That he can walk around and say it with impunity “I don’t believe in God”. Some of them will do that “I don’t believe in You”. What is that? Then they will say “no lightning bolt came down”. People say that “there is no God, strike me down now strike me down. God if You are really there do it”.
God is Merciful. Sidi Ahmed Zarruq said for him one of the biggest proofs of God was sailors because he said they are some of the worst people on the planet and he said yet that can safely cross an ocean. No offence to any sailors. In English, they say his language is so bad that he could make a sailor blush and port cities are famous.
How do we know we are forgiven after tawbah?
We should assume that because the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said Allah says “I am in the opinion of My servant” which means if you made a sincere tawbah and you don’t believe God forgave you, He will not forgive You. But if you believe He did, He will if it is a sincere tawbah.
Some of the words that the Quran uses for those who can discern signs or who can understand signs and one of the fundamental points that the Quran makes, is that there are two types of people. There are people who reflect on the signs and then there are people who ignore the signs. They ignore the signs to their own detriment. The Quran also gives us a clear picture of the results that happen from people that ignore the signs and those signs to both effects in this world and also effects in the next world. So for instance the Quran gives a lot of signs of what happens to societies when they are irreligious and begin to deviate from the path that Allah has given them. Consistently the Quran is saying “travel in the land and look at the people who went before you, look at how they built buildings that you built and yet they came to nought because ultimately they began to disbelieve in the signs of Allah”. The analogy that the Quran strikes is of the city “Allah strikes the similitude of the city or the likeness of a city, it was safe, content and then its provision would come from all over and this was really to the Meccan people, reminding the Meccan people and then the Quran says that “they began to deny the bounties of Allah”, In other words they forget that Allah was the Provider. That is what happens when you ignore the source of the blessing and begin to see yourself or your society as being the providers of whatever you have done. There are people who see their work as being the reason they are getting something out.
So the Quran uses certain words in relation to these two signs. The signs being out there and in ourselves. Those are the natural signs and then the signs of the revelation. The Quran uses the world akala which means “don’t you use your intellects” so the aql which is the component that Allah has given man is there to be able to comprehend. So the idea of using your aql and Allah says He gave you hearing, sight and a heart. The ulema say the reason that these three are mentioned together is because the ways in which knowledge comes into you are though your sight and sound. They are signs in themselves but it is through the sight and the sound. That is why Allah says that are signs “don’t you see them?” in Surah Mulk when Allah says that the people in hell say “had we only listened” and you will see these two attributes. Allah says “We gave them sight in order that they show gratitude” so the idea of showing gratitude through these capacities so the idea of showing gratitude through these capacities that Allah has given you to perceive these.
So the aql is rooted in the fu’ad, that is the Quranic view “they have hearts but they cannot perceive with their hearts”.
The second, the idea of understanding. Allah gives the human being the ability to use the intellect to understand meanings and so you have faham, and also you have the fiqh in the Quran which is the faqih in old Arabic was the one who could discern a pregnant animal in the midst of a herd. It was the one who could see what was not apparent to others and the faqih has a perception that the other people do not have.
When the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “whoever Allah wants good for He gives him the understanding of the deen”. Even though it has come to mean jurisprudence it really does not mean it in that hadith. In that hadith, it means they are able to comprehend the purpose of the deen and obviously the usooli the real faqih not the one who knows the ahqaam but the one who knows how to apply Islam in the world irrespective of the circumstances. That is the real faqih. Then also tufakara, fakaara is a negative word in the Quran, it is only used once with Al Waleed. Tafakara which has to do with struggling with thought in other words attempting to understand, fakara is to produce thought whereas tafakara is to attempt to understand. Waleed al Mughirah was someone who was thinking what could he say about the Quran. Is it magic? Is it this, is it that? And so the takafar is reflection, it is the idea of something enters into you and then you being to attempt to understand what that means, that is what tafakar is whereas fakara is coming out of you projecting onto something else. It actually has the opposite meaning, it is you projecting into something else whereas takafar is you allowing something to stimulate in you a desire to understand it at its real level and then also you have tadakarah which is recollection which is very important concept in the Quran because there is an idea in the Quran that human beings really do have an understanding of what this is all about in the innermost and there is a type of forgetfulness that has come over human beings because they have come into the world and so the Quran gives this idea that this is a dhikr, it is actually a reminder of something you already know “remind them because reminders benefits believers”.
You can only be reminded of something you already know and so there is this understanding that all of these things and so there is this understanding that all of these things we are being taught, we actually already know them and so it becomes a recollection that we are really recollecting something that the human being has already perceived.
Then tawasama is another, wasama is a sign as well and tawasama is to perceive the meaning of a sign and again the mutawasim was somebody who could see from the face of a person whether they were good or bad. That was the jahil understanding of a mutawasim, it was someone who could see what was hidden behind the apparent.
If you look at all these words and these ideas they are all revolving around the same idea, that the world is signs and what human beings are is interpreters of signs and Allah has given human beings what is in the Quran lubb, qalb, fu’ad, aql – there are all these different words that are nuances of the same meaning.
Lubb: the people that have lubb, the word lubb, if you look at the root meaning, it is a seed and again the idea it is a pith, it is something obviously, when you say pithy, it is deep because the seed is buried deep in the centre of something that contains the whole thing in other words the lubb is like the seed of a tree, the entire tree is contained in the seed, in the same way in the human being, there is something at the essence of the human that contains this knowledge of Allah and of the universe. Then in terms of ayahs, there are different types of ayahs. There are ayays of naimah, so there are signs of Allah’s blessing. Good health, al afiyah is a sign of Allah’s blessing, it is a ni’mah, all these types of things are signs that Allah has given you blessings.
The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “true wealth is contentment” so somebody who does not desire is really the wealthy person. If someone has a great deal of wealth and yet they are still filled with desire and trying to acquire more and more then they are not wealthy according to our understanding.
Then rahma is mercy and there is a belief that at the root of this entire universe is mercy. Ar Rahman is really the essential attribute that Allah is giving to His creation and at the essence of the Prophet’s (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) being is rahmah. “We only sent you as a mercy to all of the worlds”.
So there are all of these signs in the world that are signs of His mercy. Ibn Abbas said when you real a level of perception everything becomes mercy in other words you do not see anything other than mercy because even in the punishments that Allah inflicts on human beings they are much less than we deserve. In that is a mercy so you begin to actually see that Allah is a Merciful Lord that at the root of His tribulations in the world is actually mercy more than anything else.
Then also there is tabshir which is the idea of Allah giving bushra. If you do this then this happens. If they believe then Allah will given them reign, He will increase their crops, all of these things. There is tabshir in the Quran so there are signs of tabshir.
On the other hand there are signs of intiqam which is that Allah takes vengeance. So Allah will avenge His people so if they are righteous people that are persecuted for their righteousness then there is a belief that Allah is a personal God in that He will actually take vengeance upon those who oppress and persecute so that it is a warning.
So these become warnings and again these are signs as well even though it is very difficult for you to discern. It is not really permissible in shariah to look at something in that sense and that is because he did this and this. It is something according to the Quran is a possibility that should be considered.
So whenever anything happens to people that is terrible they should always consider the possibility that this is from their own hands, it is what their own hands have wrought and it is a very important idea in the Quran.
Iqab comes form a word aqaba which is what comes after so iqab is a punishment is a result of prior actions. So you do not see the punishment as arbitrary tyranny that there is something cruel here no, you see the punishment as a direct result and therefore what Allah says in the Quran again and again is that He does not oppress His servants.
Then also you have adhab and adhab is a direct result of also of those who transgress and then indhar which is very important because just as you have tabshir you have indhar. Just as you have glad tidings you have a warning. The Prophets are unique in that they have tabshir and indhar – in other words they warn and they give good news. You will also see in the Quran whenever there is a verse that deals with punishments it will also be followed by a verse that deals with mercy. You will never see verses in the Quran separate like that that you will always see that there us a promise. So ths is called wa’ad and wa’eed. You have the promise of if you do right then you get the promise of the righteous which is that Allah accepts you and blesses you. If you do wrong then you have this indhar this warning that there is a retribution, there is requital.
Then the human response to all of these because this is all happening out there, I mean this is the world. There are wonderful things happening and there are terrible things happening. So the human response to these events in the world is one of two. There is only two possibilities. It is either tasdiq or taqdeeb. Either you believe these signs or you deny them. So those who deny them will turn signs into arbitrary meaningless events which is what nihilism does. We reduce events to chance and accident, that we do not live in a moral universe, that our actions do not have repercussions in the world. If they do, those repercussions are arbitrary repercussions. They are not repercussions that have any significance in a cause and effect type of relationship with any moral component there but rather cause and effect as a certain aggregate of certain variables that come together and then something happens that so crime does pay, it does not always pay but it can pay if it is organised, it usually pays very well,
So that type of attitude that they have, the people that deny these signs. The people that accept the signs are people that believe the universe is meaningful that we are living in a world where everything that happens has both existential import so me as in individual my life is meaningful. The events that happen in my life are meaningful, they are not arbitrary events. Then we see this is a collective group in other words groups as collective groups of people have courses. The courses that they take will determine outcomes as a collective group and this is when you get into the idea of clans, cities, countries or states. An actual country can bring upon the wrath of God and because they bring this upon them they are taken to account as an aggregate not as individuals and that is why the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “that when the punishment of Allah comes it afflicts the good and bad”. It afflicts everybody. The Quran says “you should fear and guard yourselves from calamities that do not just affect the oppressors among you”. The reason for that verses that if only the oppressors were ever harmed by wrong in the world then no one would have nay cause to stop wrong in the world. They would simply wait until the oppressor got what was coming to him but once you begin to understand that wrong in the world affects everybody and therefore the kind of modern concept “well as long as I do not hurt anybody then it is alright” but from the Islamic cosmology that any wrong that is done openly and in public that is not rejected by society will actually affect the society even if it is not harming anybody per se.
There is no apparent harm but the reality of it is that it does take its toll and eventually it begins to corrode the society until all those signs that come in civilisations in the past begin to happen and then the civilisation will disappear, be overrun by the hordes. If you want to go into Ibn Khaldun’s philosophy that societies decay and then they are invaded by hordes and then the hordes will tend to reinvigorate the society so America gets invaded by the hordes of the south or something if you want to look at Pat Buchanan’s type of scenario of what is coming that south America and Mexico overrun in America but then from that comes a reinvigoration. That is projection. In the past it would be things like Moghal hordes coming down and completely decimating the Muslim societies but from the Moghal sprung this entirely invigorated Muslim culture and civilization so they ended up being a blessing whereas you cannot see the blessing when it is happening. All you can see is the massacre and the slaughter and this is the part of the thing the Quran reminds us “do not judge things because you cannot see the whole picture” so you might think something is terrible when it is happening. That is why the Quran says “sometimes you detest things and yet they are very good for you” so you can see something in the short term. The short vision of something you see it happening and you think it is terrible but then in the end it actually becomes something that there is a lot of blessing in it. That is why it is always important to wait and to withhold judgment because ultimately it is only understanding the things in its entirety, can you judge it. That is why the people of bayan which is one of the sciences of rhetoric in Islam they say “before you can judge something you have to conceptualise that thing in its entirety” that you cannot make a judgment about a thing if you only understand one facet of it. You really have to be able to comprehend it. That is why ultimately it is God alone that can judge humanity see we can only judge by what is apparent. That is a limited type of judgment but it is only God alone who can judge human beings because He is the only One that can encompass all of the facets and variables involved in judging.
So the immediate consequence of the human response which is one of two things is either gratitude or ingratitude. That is the human response. You are either grateful which is called as-shakir or a mumin or you are an ingrate which is called a kafir. This is the only two outcomes of interpreting the signs that are in the world. For the one who has gratitude because he wants to maintain this state this causes this person to enter into what is called a state of taqwa. Taqwa is protecting yourself from losing what you have and the way that you do that is by maintaining gratitude because the Quran says “if you show gratitude I will continue to bless you” but when you stop showing gratitude then those blessings stop. That is why Ibn At’illah said that “the hobbling cord of blessings is gratitude”.
If you have an animal and you want to make sure it does not go astray you hobble its legs. He said “hobbling cord of blessing is gratitude”. Therefore if you are not showing gratitude you allow your blessings to wander off. You are not protecting them and the final result of this is iman or kufr. The results of iman or kufr are jannah or jahanaam.
Before we go back to the book, I just want to look at because I think this is very interesting presentation of guidance that Raghab il Hisbahani gives. What he says is the highest thing in the Quran really the highest thing is called tawfique. This is the highest state a human being can be in the state of what is called tawfique.
The word in Arabic tawfique comes from a root word which means to correspond with. Muwafaqa means a correspondence. The definition of tawfique is that the will of the human being corresponds with the will of God and that comes about by following the guidance and guidance according to the Quran has three degrees in this world. There are three degrees of guidance.
The first is knowing good and evil. So that is a level of guidance even if you do not act upon it. The Quran says we have guided the human being to the two paths of good and evil. So every human being has been guided to this understanding of right and wrong and that is the nature of the soul and the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) was once asked that “what is a wrong action?”. A wrong action was that which you did that caused trouble in the breast in other words your heart was troubled by it. That is the nature, the fitrah this natural state of a human being is when they do wrong and are troubled by it.
Human beings have different strategies of dealing with that trouble and obviously alcohol is one of them, drugs, being immersed in the world, looking for affirmation. There are people that are doing really wrong things and they tend to hang out with people who do really wrong things because that confirms that they are alright.
In Operation Candyman which is the operation of trying to find all these paedophiles. In the interview they had with one of these FBI agents they said these guys know what they are doing is wrong and the reason they need to be connected to the internet is to try and fee a little better about it. That is a very Islamic insight into the nature of wrongdoing, you want to be in bad company….he is doing it as well so it cannot be that bad. That is why one of the worst things in the Islamic tradition is to wrong publicly because what it does is it causes people to think that the wrong is not that significance. That is why it is so dangerous and one of the French ethicists said “hypocrisy is a homage that vice pays to virtue”. That is very similar to an Islamic understanding.
In this culture there is this idea that it is better to let it all hang out, let it all out, don’t feel bad. The Catholic Church, they used to absolve sins by making you do hail Mary’s and all these things. In this culture sins are absolved by telling you they are not sins. This is what happens is we say no it is okay nothing is wrong with you. But he is feeling there is something that is wrong that is why he is at the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist is saying “don’t feel bad about yourself, you have low self esteem”. Well why does he have low self esteem? Because the society is telling him this. Where does all this come from? You see because you get into this chicken/egg thing.
Where does this idea of virtue come from? In
other words I mentioned this before, this book of ethics that I took in the University
You have to ask the question where did sin come from? Where did this idea come from that human beings knew something was wrong? Why? Because it is in the first story of Cain and Abel. He feels bad after he kills his brother. Why did he feel bad? If we were in a nihilistic world where there is no wrong and right what was in him that made him feel bad? He did something wrong and that is what the soul knows, the soul knows what is wrong and that is why the soul is troubled by it.
So the first is a knowledge of right and wrong. Now there are two ways that that comes about. There is a natural law, which is called fitrah which is the inherent nature that human beings generally know what is right and wrong inherently in the same way that a cat, if you give it food it will eat it in front of you but if it sneaks it, it will grab it and run away. You could say it is because it got hit the last time but even dogs and cats know when they are taking something legitimately and when they are not. So that is the idea that human beings have this understanding.
Now the other is that revelation introduces this understanding so the Prophets bring this understanding of good and evil of khayr and sharh. It is an old problem, the old philosophers talk about the idea – are things good because God says so or did God tell us to do those things because they are good? They idea is something good in of itself or is it good because God says so. The dominant opinion amongst Muslim scholars because they split on this issue, the dominant opinion is that things are good because God says they are. In other words, the intellect cannot always arrive at what is good that you need this revelation to come in and tell you so there are things that we cannot know and there are things we know. So that is the first one and this is why in the Quran about Thamud which is a people that rejected the signs of God and went astray. It said about them “as for Thamud We guided them but they preferred blindness over their guidance” so they preferred to continue in their error and then it becomes a choice which is very interesting.
One of my boys saw this person smoking and he looked up at that person like perplexed. The person said to him “don’t ever do this”. Then he asked us “why are they doing it?”. In other words if they know it is wrong why are they doing that? This is where human beings become very complicated because despite the fact that they know something they will often go against their best knowledge and this is because of an imbalance in the soul. When rational soul is paramount then these lesser souls, the bestial souls, the irascible and the concupiscent soul, the appetitive soul the lower soul are in a harmony so this rational soul is the controlling factor and this is what Allah calls the aql and tells us to use it. If people capitulate to that then they surrender to the worst qualities of their self and they end up digging themselves down into the worst depths of despair. I mean worst case scenario is terrible but a lot of people kind of survive in this middle ground. There are some that just have completely surrendered and they end up crack, cocaine addicts or whatever just completely devastated by their appetites, alcoholics these types things addicted to all of these attempts at getting them in a state of distraction from questions of ultimate concern.
The second type of guidance is that which the servant is given this maddad or this help, this divine help in stages based on his knowledge or her knowledge and action, right actions and this is what it meant in the Quran when it says “those who took this guidance were increased in the guidance and He gave them this piety, this taqwa”. This comes from a hadith articulated very clearly in which the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “if you move towards God a hand span God moves towards you an arms length, and if you moved to God an arms length, God moves towards you like hands outspread and if you moved towards God walking, God moves towards you running” which is not meant to be understood anthropomorphically that God runs but the idea is that if you do a little bit all of this help comes to increase you. This is the second stage of guidance.
The third stage is noor al wilayah. This is the guidance of a person who has achieved a level of obedience and a state of submission with God that they are in an illuminated state and so their actions are actions that radiate the light of prophecy and this is why the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said that “pious scholars are the inheritors of Prophets” what they inherit is the light of nubuwah.
So these are these three levels and this is found in the Quran ”if you have piety God will give you true discrimination”. So you will be able to discriminate in your lives. So that is an example of this huda that emerges out of a recognition of these signs and then the appropriate response that the signs are given.
On page 55, they give an interesting analogy of the natural world and how Muslims and also Christians and Jews would have looked at it traditionally like this as well and probably the Eastern traditions but this idea of how the modern world is looked at. The way the ancients looked at the world was that it was indicating an implicate order, everything that you saw on the surface indicated something underneath so they saw it as indeed signs indicating something else. Just as you see a tree, if you understand anything about trees you realise the only reason that a tree exists is because it has this massive root structure underneath the ground that you cannot see. Now once that root structure becomes seen the tree dies.
You see the tree dies so the unseen world is really the source of the seen world. The unseen world cannot come into the seen because if it did the seen world has to disappear and so when you look at the seen world what you are really supposed to be recognising is what are the roots of the seen world. The roots of the seen world are the unseen world. That is the real meaning of the seen world and the thing about trees people do not realise this but the root structure is actually more important that the tree because what trees do is they keep the earth, actually hold down soil like mountains, the Quran says the mountains are like pegs and actually prevent the world from shaking and this is something that is known in modern geology so what you see of the mountain, what is more important is not the seen part of the mountain the fact that it is a weighted deep into the earth but you are only seeing the outward, you think that is amazing well you have not even seen the root. That is why the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said the tree that was the most like the believer is the palm tree because it did not have any roots. In other words it was not deeply planted in the material world and yet it is this extraordinary tree that does all this wonderful……while it is here it does all this wonderful things.
So the two of them say the modern world see what they say is if you went to a museum and saw a painting by Michaelangelo, the question that most people go in there will ask themselves “what is the painter trying to tell me? What is the meaning of this painting?” Or if you heard a poem you could say the same thing. What is the poet trying to tell me? He didn’t just make up this stuff. There is something he is trying to convey, a message well what the modern analyses is, is not meaning, what is the painting made of? It is made of canvas. What is the material? Well it is made out of fibres. What is that material? Well it is made of these molecules. What are the actual colours from? Well those are the light reflections and this one is a certain frequency and this why the yellow is showing up and the blue is a certain frequency and so they analyse the painting not for its meaning but just to explain what it is made out up of. That is the same way that they look at the modern world. They look out there and they want to just analyse everything but they never tell you what it means. They break it down, it is to reduce things to their components and then we feel like we have achieved an understanding of the thing. Well if you take a human being and take out their eyes, take off their ears, take off their ears, take off their hair, dissect them, open up their interior, examine their kidneys and liver and all these things do you understand what a human being is?
Has that given you the knowledge of what a human being is? Well it has given you a certain knowledge about something about human beings that they are composed of flesh and knowledge, that they have hair, liver, kidneys and the kidney does this and the liver does that. That is a certain type of knowledge but does that tell you about a human being that can think, that can speak, that can write poetry, that can paint pictures, that can play an instrument that can do all these extraordinary things, it does not tell you anything about that human being. Why does he need to do those things? Why do human beings even pursue such pursuits?
So that is the idea of trying to understand signs, it is to look beyond this superficial realm and then he gives this hadith of the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam). Walking through a town with some companions and he met an old and decrepit woman from one of the tribes who was making wool into thread with a spinning wheel. He greeted her and started speaking to her. He asked her if she had faith in God and she replied that she did. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) asked her why. She said the spinning wheel does not turn unless there is a hand to turn it and the heavens cannot turn unless someone is turning them. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) looked at his companions and said you should have the religion of old women. That is faith and there is another story of Fakhr al Din ar Razi who was walking with some of his students and an old woman saw him and she was amazed at how all these students were fluttering around him and she said who is that? They student said “you don’t know who that is? He has a thousand proofs for the existence of God”. She laughed and said “If he did not have a thousand doubts for His non existence then he would not need a thousand proofs for His existence”. When Fakhr al Din ar Razi heard that he said “you should have the faith of old women”.
You know it is interesting because the whole….the ancients looked at all of the world and said this all indicates God and what the moderns have done what they have said is that we have invented God. God is an invention of man which is an amazing feat I mean that human beings created God in their own image instead of seeing that this whole thing was created to celebrate these attributes of God, it is seen as an illusion that needs to be given up.
Now the next section goes into the divine names. This is actually somewhat a difficult section in that if you look at Hinduism which has this concept of all of these deities. What they do they have Kali and Vishnu they have a deity that represents the creative force of this universe and then they have a deity that represents the destructive force in the universe. The reason for that is people have a difficult time holding opposites in their mind at the same time. So the idea that God is bringing to life and He is taking away life. That the same God is doing these two acts giving life and taking it away and that there is no type of contradiction in that. So the idea of the divine names is to understand all of these attributes of God as being and I do not want to use any analogies but if I was forced to it would be like seeing a diamond that has all these facets to it and whatever facet you happen to be looking at that is the attribute that you are looking at.
There are times when you witness the mercy of God, there are times when you witness the wrath of God and there are other times when you are witnessing the overpowering nature of God. There are other times when you are witnessing the fact that God is the One who abases people and He is also the One who dignifies people so God has all of these attributes and that is what the 99 names are. They are ways of understanding different facets of how the divine is working in the world. That is at the essence of this.
So he and she talks about that when we say God is Merciful that what we are saying is like la ilaha illal Allah, there is no God but the Merciful and also that there is no mercy but God’s mercy. There is none more merciful but the Merciful, so God’s mercy overshadows all mercy in the universe and the best way to understand any of these ideas that when we say there is no mercy but God’s mercy….in mathematics if you have any number over infinity that number is zero. So the idea is that anything in the world that resembles an attribute of God in any way is in reality null and void when it is compared to God and that is the meaning of “there is no thing like God” but then immediately after that “He is the hearing and seeing” so the verse gives you there is no thing comparable to God and then immediately after that it gives you two attributes that you can only know because you have them but if you compare your hearing to God’s hearing, it does not exist. If you compare your seeing to God’s seeing it does not exist.
This is the whole section that they try to explain about the idea of the transcendental nature of God and also the imminent nature of God that God is utterly beyond the creation and at the same time God is imminent in creation in other words we can see the works of God in the world but we cannot associate those works with God in reality because the world does not have that of substantial type of existence in relation to God to God’s existence so the being of God and Shaykh Muhammad talked about this last night, the being of our being in relation to the being of God’s being is that we are non existent in relation we exist in relation to the world. In relation to God we do not have substantial existence and that again is a difficult thing for people to grasp because we are not like the Hindus who say this is illusion, it has no existence whatsoever, Muslims do not say that. Muslims say the world has existence but the existence is contingent, it is not absolute. In other words it is contingent upon God’s existence, had God not existed, the world would not exist and as long as God sustains the world and this is the idea of God being Al Qayyum the Sustainer, Al Hayy Al Qayyum. As long as God sustains the world the world exists. The instant that God removes His glance of being onto the world, the world no longer exists.
Then they go into the mercy and the wrath and this is actually very important because the Quran and hadith clearly state that God’s mercy outstrips God’s wrath. The reason for that is mercy is an essential attribute of God whereas wrath is something that occurs as a result of the actions of God’s creation. It is something that is directly related to God’s creation whereas rahma is God’s reality. Again to use an analogy and the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) used this analogy he said he once saw a woman who was suckling her child and he said to his companions “do you think that this woman would throw her child into the fire?”. They all said “no absolutely not”. He said “God is more Compassionate and Merciful with His creatures than this woman with her child”. That is at the essence of God’s nature, is the rahma or the mercy.
What can happen with people, and the reason it is so important to keep mercy and wrath in balance is that if you remove wrath in a balance is that if you remove wrath which is what modern religion has done particularly in the West it has removed the idea of God’s wrath, people do not even believe in the idea of punishment into the next life anymore. Priests will not talk about it in a lot of parishes because they will lose their parishioners. I have actually been told that a Methodist priest, he was a bishop in the Methodist church and he told me that he can’t even talk about things and mention verses anymore because people will not come to church anymore and so God becomes like how we like God as opposed to us being as God would like us to be, we make God the way we want God. We do not reform ourselves to make ourselves like God would like us to be, we reform God so He conforms to our desires and whims. It is amazing what has happened to religion.
Then you have another problem you go to other side of the wrath, and this is the idea of people that want to eliminate everybody who does not agree with their religion because it becomes a hateful thing. You begin to see the wrath of God and you do not see anything else so that is another problem too. Both are one eyes, both are looking with one eye and you are given two eyes. You have to see the wrath and mercy. If you do not, you are in trouble and that is one of the things about Iblees is that Iblees could only see the material nature of Adam, he could not see the spiritual nature.
When in the Quran it says that God said to him why did you not bow down, he said “You created me from fire but You created him from clay. In other words I am a higher element, why should I bow down to him. What Iblees was missing was that the spirit had been blown into Adam but the nature of clay is that it is opaque you cannot see the spirit in the clay. If you have a clay container you cannot see what is in the container. You cannot tell whether it is full or empty like you have a clay jar, you cannot see it whereas if you have a glass jar you could see if there was something in it or not. So when he looked at the human being he could not see the spirit because the spirit was hidden in the material form.
So this idea of the transcendental nature of God and the imminent nature of God and distance you have to have a transcendent understanding of God but at the same time you have to have an imminent understanding because there is a personal relationship that you have but there is also an understanding that God is so beyond the human being. This is the most difficult balance in the Islamic understanding is to keep these two in a balance that one the one hand you cannot in anyway associate God with His creation but on the other hand God is known through His creation so it is keeping those two in balance, it is called fear and hope, mercy and wrath, beauty and majesty. There are many different ways that the scholars looked at it. That is why the attributes of God if you look at the 99 names you have what are called sifat al jamalia and sifat al jallalia. Dhul Jalaali wal Ikraam. He is Majestic and He is also Beneficent. He is also giving us and this is why He has those two attributes of Majesty and Beauty. If you miss one because you have been blinded by the other you are missing the whole picture and it becomes dangerous theologically and spiritually and in a lot of other ways.
One page 22, he gives a diagram of this idea of these concentric circles and then these lines moving out from the centre. Both of them are not enough, you need the two of them together, you cannot have them separately and that is why on that figure 3 it is a figurative representation. Tawheed and then knowing….Imam Ali said “He is near in His distance and He is far in His nearness”. That is a difficult concept of people to Hold but you have to understand it in that way and then another thing in the Quran, the Quran says “I punish whoever I please” but then it says “but My mercy has encompassed all things” and the point that they make from that is that the Quran never suggests that God’s wrath is toward all things. It is only towards specific things whereas the universal is mercy but that is permeating the universe is God’s mercy. Mercy pertains to the very nature of the real whereas wrath is a secondary attribute that rises up because of specific situations of certain creatures.
So Islam begins with the perception of difference: we are different from God and fear from Him. God is utterly other and created things are totally helpless because of their lack of any positive qualities but the purpose of Islamic teaching is not to leave people in wrath in distance from God but rather take them to mercy or nearness. So people are supposed to do something about their distance and if they do they will move toward nearness so this is drawing near. My servant continues to draw near to Me and then what happens when He finally loves him, He becomes the hand with which he grasps, the eyes with which he sees, the tongue with which he speaks, the ear with which he hears in other words it is total, he is in a state when he is only seeing the actions of God. He is not God but he is perceiving the actions of God in creation in such a profound and deep way that the world becomes a theatre of these divine manifestations.
It is not God, it is not other than God in that if you want to use an analogy. The sun radiates now the rays of the sun we can see them if you are in a certain spot, you can see the sun coming through, that is not the sun but it radiates from the sun and in the same way this creation is not Allah but it is radiating, it is emanating from Allah. It is not Allah but a creation of Allah therefore it is emanating from Allah so it is the ability to see the source behind the light of the world and that is why Allah says “Allah is the light of heavens and the earth”. In other words He is the illuminator of the havens and earth so it is the light of Allah that is illuminating the world and then you get into this idea here of light and darkness and they talk about the angels which are the creatures of light. Human beings are creatures of mud but have this light in them which is the light of intellect. It is the aql. They are not strong but there are traditions that talk about that God created the intellect from light. The aql was made from light. So this is the light that human beings has despite this material nature that there is the light that this human being has.
If you look under section 87 which is that we normally think of light as visible but in fact it is invisible, we can only see light when it is mixed with darkness which is very important. What that means is the creation in that it is other than God is darkness but in that it is radiating attributes of God it is light and this is the mixture of light and darkness in creation which is one of the most extraordinary things about creation that it is this mixture of light and darkness.
At this point I want to look at a verse, to me it is one of the most extraordinary verses in the Quran because it deals with something which would never occur, it is really hard to believe that this would just simply occur to someone in this way. It is a verse from Surah Furqan which means the discrimination. It says have you not considered how your Lord moves shade and had God wanted He would have made it still in one place but shade is moving constantly. If you watch throughout the day and that is one of the beauties of watching your prayer, measuring your prayer by the shadows. You see the movement of the shade. A lot of people do not even notice that, they do not even realise that their shadow is short at midday and as the day progresses it gets long. It begins long, becomes short and then begins to expand again.
Then he says “We made the sun a proof of shade”. Now this is really extraordinary because when I first read that, I said what does that mean? Shade comes from the sun. That is where shade comes from, the sun, so why does it say “We made the sun a proof for it. Then We begin to contrast this little by little. And He is the One who made for you night as a garment in other words you sleep in the night. The darkness of the night is like a garment that envelopes you. We made sleep as a type of hibernation, a time of renewal of recreation. Then We spread the light of the day out so We made the day this spreading of light”.
Now if you look at what Fakhr ad Din says about this. He says:
“Haven’t you considered? He said one of this is the sight of the eye and the other is the side of the heart. The eyes see but again that is a sign that the eye is perceiving and the heart is meant to interpret the sign so it is important to see that. Real seeing the Quran says “it is not the eyes that go blind but it is the hearts and breasts that go blind” so the real seeing is the sight of the heart.
Then “have you not looked at the shade, how God is moving this shade?”. Now he says this meaning of this ayah and there have been many attempts at understanding this ayah goes back to two meanings. One is that shade is a middle state between pure light and pure darkness. Then he says this is the best of states.
Pure darkness, the nature is averse to it, nobody likes pure darkness and pure light is so powerful that we would be overwhelmed by it and unable to stay in it.
You cannot look at the sun but here you can look at it for a moment and turn away and you will see black dots. But if you go outside of our atmosphere for one moment it would completely destroy your eyesight to even gland towards that direction.
So what he says is because it is the best of all states, paradise is described as being shade everywhere. This perfect state of shade. Then he says if you look at anything in the world you can only see it because of shade so the fact that we perceive the world, we only perceive it because it is an admixture of darkness and light. Had it been pure light we could not have perceived it and had it been pure darkness we would not have perceived therefore God put the sun as an indication of this state that the entire world is in. Had He not done that you would not have considered shade as a phenomenon because we are in shade right now. When you go outside you are in shade. Outside here you are in shade, even when the sun is shining directly on you, you are still in shade. It is an admixture of lightness and darkness because pure light would completely blind you, you would not be able to see anything. So the fact that the entire cosmos is an admixture of these lights and darknesses is a phenomenon that is extraordinary to reflect on that.
That is why as it begins to be taken from us, it goes slowly and so this movement is a way of understanding this blessing and he said this is one of the most hidden blessings of God, most people do not even contemplate the blessing of shade, the fact that they are in shade constantly even they are in the sun.
It is only that they see the shade that they actually can realise that so the Quran is actually telling is to reflect on the fact that the sun is a proof of shade, it is not the cause of shade.
So light is a metaphor in that we understand that darkness is the absence of light and therefore what is other than God is pure absence because God is light. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) was asked “did you see God?”. He said “He is light, how can I see God when He is light”. So that the metaphor in the world that we have for God is light. The light of God is not like the light of the world because ….but it is the same way the mercy of the mother is the way we know the mercy of God. The light of the sun is the way we understand the idea that God is light.
And so the absence of light is darkness, it is nothing and that is why other than God is nothing. This is what the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “the truest thing that a poet ever said what the poet Labib said “everything other than God is unreal” and so what is unreal in the world is the light of God. That is the only thing that gives the world any substance at all and that is why the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “this world is cursed and everything in it is cursed except what reminds you of God and the remembrance of God”. So the world if it is not fulfilling its function which is to remind you of God then it becomes a curse for you. It is not benefiting you it is actually harming you to be in it because the whole purpose of the world is to remind you of God so if when you look out there you are seeing God in other words the light of God in the world which are these ayats, these signs, then you have responded to the world appropriately and you will be requited appropriately.
But if you do not see God and are not reminded of God in the world then you become an ingrate and that is why the verses here about light…are the blind and the seeing man equal or are the darknesses and light equal? And always darknesses when it is related to light, is in plural and light is in singular. “It is He who sends down upon this servant signs, clear expectations that He may bring you forth from darkness into light. Why is he who is dead and We gave him light and appointed for him a light to walk amongst people as one who is from darkness and comes not forth from them. It is he who performs his prayer over you and His angels that He may bring you forth from the darkness into light”.
So angelic luminosity is a light that is in the world which is the light of the angels and angels according to the Islamic tradition are creatures made of light. Now the difference between demons which are made of fire and demons are very interesting because according to the Islamic cosmology they are made of fire. If you look at fire its nature is chaotic. Fire is not like light. If you want a light beam even the sun or laser we can control light in that it follows very exact laws where fire is chaos theory. That is why in chaos theory they study smoke and light because fire by its nature is chaos, it is unpredictable you do not know what it is going to do and it can spread very easily. You can have a controlled fire but it can get out of hand whereas light is not like that, it does not do that.
So the angels are in a state of total obedience to Allah and then the other thing about fire is that it exists by consuming others. Fire exists by consuming wood. Demons exist by consuming men. This is what they thrive on, this is the hadith about the skinny devil and fat devil. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said there were two devils that met. One of them was about ready to die and the other one was looking really good. The fat one said to the skinny one “what is the matter with you?”. He said “I have a terrible assignment. Every time he eats he says in the name of God. He gets up in the morning and prays. He is also remembering God. I am not getting any nourishment. You see like fire burning wood he is dying. Then the other one says “I have a great assignment. He never remembers God. When he eats he never says in the name of God and I eat with him. Then when he goes to sleep he does not say in the name of God and I get a great nights rest” so the point there is the nature of demonic realm that is thrives. That is why consumer in old English means the devil. That is what it means. You can look it up in the old dictionary. Consumer means the devil because the devil consumes souls. Modern consumers are devils, the Quran says “profligate people are the brethren of the devious” so all this gratuitous consumption, all of this empty…that is what it is, consumption is a disease, I think I might have it.
Then he and she talks about spirits, the nature of the spirits and the jinn. The jinn are important in that they exist alongside human beings. They are created of fire, their father is Iblees. That is the dominant opinion like Adam is our father. Iblees is their father. Some of them are good, some of them are mischievous. They do not disbelieve in Allah. Their disobedience is different from the creatures of Bani Adam, the children of Adam, they do not disbelieve in Allah, they know that Allah exists, their disbelief is a disbelief of disobedience which for the children of Adam is not a disbelief but it is partly because they are in the unseen realm and they have a lot more information than we do so their reckoning is…they know too much in that way because Iblees knows a lot. Think about shade today.
What is thahir?
Thahir means apparent or outwardly manifest. In the Quran it says “He is the first with no beginning, the last with no end, the outwardly manifest and the outwardly concealed”.
So the meaning is He is apparent to those who can see. If you have this inner eye then you can see this apparency of God that is why for the Gnostics somebody that knows God to deny the existence of God it is like….I think it is the H G Wells story where the man goes into the valley and it is a valley filled with blind people. They say the world is just darkness, he said not it is incredible, there is a light and there are all these colours and there are flowers and look at the mountains and the sky and you people do not have any eyes and they say this man is insane. So they go and start feeling him and they say O that is why, he has got pressure in his brain because of these bulging….so they poke his eyes out. This is the idea for the Gnostic, he is like that man who can see in the midst of blind people that are denying sight because they cannot see and that is the way the Prophets are when they come into this world. Everything is perfectly clear to them and that is why the way they speak is with such intensity, I mean Prophets are intense. If you look at their messages, they are intense because it is so clear to them and they want other people to see what they are, they are healers because they can remove the cataract, they can remove that veiling that is on the eyes. They will not remove it, they will only remove what is necessary because you do not want to have a total unveiling, you cannot handle it, you will go insane and that is why some people end up seeing too much and then they go mad. There is all this religious psychosis, the world is filled with religious psychotics, people that have seen too much. That is why it is dangerous, that is why Islam is a middle way, you do not want to go to this extreme of a religious psychoses.
There are two possibilities to blessings. One of them is for people that show gratitude and they are increased in their blessings and the other are people that are ingrate and they are increased in what the Quran calls istidraj. Istidraj is according to the Quran that “I continue to give them blessings despite their disobedience and I take them by degrees and my strategy or my plan is vast” The same is true when calamities befall. Calamities befall for different reasons. There are different possibilities, with Prophets when calamities befall, there are two reasons, one is called tasliyah which is that other people that follow them the fact that their Prophets have been through so much, they are willing to endure much more. If the Prophets never endured any hardship then the people that follow them when they endure hardship they will lose hope. They will think I am so terrible, I am so horrible, this is why God is doing it to me and so they will go into a wrath only seeing wrath whereas when the Prophets suffer immensely they suffer for us, it is not for them, they do not need it, so their suffering is actually for the people that believe in them in order for them to be able to get through the world in one piece so the Prophet lost all of his children, he buried all of them except Fatimah so if you have 5 children and you lose one and you remember “my God, my Prophet buried 6 of his 7 children” I mean that certainly makes it easier for you to bear that hardship and then you also do not fall into the trap of saying God hates me, that is why He took away my child because we know that God loved the Prophet Muhammad and yet He took all 6 of his 7 children in his lifetime.
So it makes you bear the hardships of this world and also it is what is called taqfir dunboob when hardships befall people that believe in God it is a way of purifying previous wrongs but you can also remove them by taubah. That is why it is good to make taubah. Somebody said when grace meets karma, you don’t want to just have all this stuff of the past that you have to deal with, it is better to try and atone for that and give sadaqah, give charity and things to remove those wrongs but it can remove wrongs and then also you get raised in degrees because one of the things about calamities is you always come out enriched by them, it is always hard to see that at the beginning. But there is never a calamity that happens in your life that when it is over you have a whole different perspective on the world that had you not have had that perspective on the world.
There are people that walk though life sleepwalking never appreciating anything they have and then they lose everything and the first time in their entire life they feel grateful for what they had. So the fact that they lost it all if that is what it took to put them into a state of realising that they were in blessings, it is a blessing. There are many possibilities there when things happen and it is always best to see the good in it because the Prophet in Sahih Muslim said “how wonderous is the affair of the one who believes in God because the affair of that one is all good, if God gives him calamities he is patient and is rewarded for his patience and If He gives him blessings he is grateful and is reminded for his gratitude” so it is all good.
This is an amazing book, there is a lot in there. It is a good book, I mean these people have thought a lot about it. They are drawing from a tradition I mean a lot of the insights in this book are from our tradition. What they are doing is they are pulling it out and they are presenting it to us in a very palatable way.
Once you get into the old books this is what they talk about, they are just in another world you know and now you get these modern books you know “Islam made simple”. What a tragedy because it is deep, you just have to watch out for what they call the bends, you know the bends when you deep sea diving. You have to come up slow because you will get these bend things. That is when you have to go with the Islamic tradition when you go deep sea diving you have to resurface slowly, you need to go into the decompression chamber.
We arrived to the section on the qadr. The qadr is probably the most difficult concepts not just in Islam but in any religious tradition because the qadr is dealing with the idea of pre-determination and if you look at the word pre-determine. Determine is to put limits on something de-teriminus. Terminate is to end. De is from ending our putting endings or limits on something do the idea of pre-determining means that something, the limits were already set before the thing actually came about and so there is a misconception in the minds of not just non Muslims but Muslims as well about the nature of the qadr, that the idea that things are pre-determined. One of the thoughts that the authors bring out which is very important is that if that was the case then the Quran would actually not make any sense because the Quran is commanding you to do things and if you have the ability to do anything and I command you to do something then my command is meaningless so it would then be saying the Quran is meaningless and that is impossible for a revelation to be meaningless. Everything in a revelation is meaningful so the idea that divine decree or the qadr is pre-determination is a dangerous one.
One the other hand you have to look at hadiths that indicate certain things about the world that are also important to understand and this is where you get into what some religious scholars in the West have called an antinomy which is not really a paradox but ….a paradox is when you have two things that are in a sense mutually exclusive but they are both apparently real and the idea of human beings are free and predetermined at the same time seems like a paradox. An antinomy on the other hand is that something is true at one level but at a higher level, a higher truth emerges. And so there is an idea that there can be a resolution of what is apparently paradoxical by moving to a higher level of understanding.
So the idea that human beings…I think a good analogy of it in the modern world is the idea of light being both a wave and a photon because in modern physics they have this idea that the quanta are particles of light and there is an idea that on the one hand it behaves like a wave and they can watch its movement and on the other hand it appears to have the qualities of quanta or intermittent particles of light as opposed to being something that is unified. So that is I think is an interesting analogy for the understanding of free will and determination.
There is no doubt that human beings certain things are determined with human beings, Your parents were determined for you. You did not choose your parents and now we have no recorded history of anyone replacing their biological parents. In other words we do not have any testimony or proof that anybody has been able to become somebody else so that certainty was not determined.
The country that you were born in, the time in which you find yourself, all of these circumstances that we found ourselves in whether we were from rich families, whether we were from poor families also intellectual abilities and gifts, artistical qualities and gifts, there are many many qualities, athletic abilities.
There are people that are more lithe than other people, there are people that are more balanced, that are more flexible, that are quicker. When you were in school, there were those people that in the math classes that just would get the answers seemingly effortlessly and other people would grapple with it. There are people that word problems were as clear as instructions on a coke machine or something like that where they would just see very clearly what type of problem it was and how to arrive at an answer and then there are other people that would not see it for the life of them. They would struggle, and struggle and struggle and still it would not get through so all of those type of things that we find in the world, the discrepancies are very interesting and Islam has a very interesting reason in why it presents that.
The first thing just to look at this idea of qadr. If we look at the root word it comes from qaddara. It has the idea of power. Quddura – means power. The qadr is the one who is capable of doing something. They have the capacity to do something. It is one of the names of Allah.
There is a book by
And so the idea that Allah has determined everything is the idea that Allah has power over everything because He created it and determined it in that way so in human beings we are determined in our bodies in other words if you are 5”10” or 5”, there was a point at which your cells stopped growing, it was a point that your skeletal structure stopped, now that point that did not occur for someone who is taller than you it went up so there is a determination in the size of people as well. There is a determination in the size of the world that we are in. The universe itself has limits. The Quran says “if you were able to penetrate the limits of the universe then do it”. The universe itself has limits. The One who put limits on something has power over it because He was able to put those limits and that is why a King is powerful because he is able to constrain his populous, his kingdom. If he loses that capacity he loses his power therefore he is not a real King and that is the difference between a government that has power and a government that does not. The government that has power has the ability to suppress and squelch resistance inside that government so the idea of Allah being all powerful is that He has absolute power in His creation.
Now in the Quran one of the things that Allah says they did not measure God which is very interesting because it gives the idea that human beings are obsessed with measuring and that is what geometry came out of an attempt to measure and in fact we have Greeks and Egyptians over 2500 years ago that were already measuring the circumference of the earth and coming within 500 miles of doing that and they did that using some very simple geometrical calculations with shadows and measuring the pyramids at different times, looking at the distance between Alexandria and what is now Cairo and the basically a simple calculation. They basically measure the earth being close to 25,000 miles in its circumference so humans have been interested in measuring.
Now if you look in the enlightenment period they began to measure air, gas, they began to measure Boyles Law all these things came out of a desire to measure. The more they come to understand the measurements of things the more power they had over them so if you look at the jet flight. A jet flight, they have to understand what liquid fuel. This is the basis of engineering that you need to measure fully everything so humans have this obsession with wanting to measure and one of things with the signs of the end of time, the Quran says “that the humans would actually think they are completely powerful in relation to creation”. They have qadara over it. This is part of the idea that really knowing everything that is there so this idea that we can….I mean now they have sonar waves that they beam into the earth from space and when sonar waves come back they are like the sonogram that they do in a foetus. They can actually tell where oil is, where gold is and the HARP stuff what they are doing in Alaska is similar to that, measuring everything so Allah puts the interesting ayah in there, they have not measured God, that this is the one thing. They want to measure the universe I mean they can actually extrapolate out to try to understand how big the universe is. I mean this is one of their goals so the idea is yes you can measure everything. God has given you this qudra and that is part of a divine attribute that manifests in the human being, it is the human beings have this extraordinary ability to reflect these qualities of God and one of them is knowing the limits of everything but God has no limits and therefore God cannot be measured.
So the Quran uses the qadr in ten verses and from this merges a doctrine in Islam of the belief in the qadr although it is in the hadith. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said the six objects of faith in the hadith of Jibril, one of them is we believe in the divine decree or the measuring out its good and its bad or its good and its evil and we are going to talk about that. He and she go into that in a lot of detail and it is important.
There is khayr and sharh and it is sweet and bitter. Life is sweet and bitter and it is important I think the riwayah that mentions sweet and bitter because there is a way to look at khayr and sharh, the believer, a believer sees it as bitter that there are things in life that are bitter but they are not things for him and her that are evil and sharh, because the believer everything that happens to somebody who believes in God and believes that God is ultimately the One who is creating these circumstances that we find ourselves in and these tribulations then we begin to see it as a test as something we need to bear. That has to do with the idea of swallowing a bitter pill I mean we say that in colloquial English “I had to swallow a bitter pill” or “it has a bad taste”. Medicines are often bitter in Chinese, the heart herbs, the herbs that are good for the heart one of the qualities in Chinese medicine is that they are always bitter which is very interesting.
The next thing in this section that he brings out about is the idea of the servant, an abd. The word abd has many meanings. At one level it means a creative in other words it is something that is subservient to God by its very nature so if you make something it is automatically in a subordinate position by the fact that you have made it. It is subordinated to you and it cannot free itself from that condition so the idea of an abd is the verse in the Quran 19:93 everything in the heavens and earth comes to Allah Ar Rahman as an abd. It comes as a servant and so that is the general sense that everybody is an abd of Allah. Now there are conscious servants that are aware of their uboodiyah and there are servants that are not aware of this servanthood to Allah. This is the difference so the servant in its narrow sense is someone who consciously sees God by following a Prophet and in a still narrower sense it is a human being that serves God perfectly with full awareness and total freedom of choice.
So this is the idea of the servant in its most narrow sense is the abd in fact and is somebody who freely gives up his state to his Lord and this is the gift that Muslims believe that God gave His creation because in the Quran in Tawbah the verses “that God has purchased from the believers their wealth and their lives and against that purchase is paradise”. If God owns you in the first place then how did you engage yourself in a transaction? How do you sell what is not yours? This is the gift, it is the gift of somebody who if you come into a shop and he gives you something and then buys it back from you because he knows you are in need so it is the idea of the fadl, it is a bounty from Allah that He on the one hand already possesses you but on the other hand has engaged you in a commercial transaction in which you become a partner in other words you become a free agent and this is what the idea of taqrim, human beings have been honoured in that way because everything else in creation can only be what it is. If you look out at creation, there is nothing that can be other than what it is and this is something very interesting. A tree can only be a tree, it cannot be anything else, the dog can only be a dog, the pig, the horse, the donkey everything is determined in its attributes and its qualities except the human being. The human being can actually take on qualities that are strange to its nature. You have people that will actually bark like dogs. You have people that behave like animals or worse than animals and the Quran indicates that they are actually worse than animals because animals do not do things that harm them with knowledge.
An animal would never purposely harm itself, it will only do what it thinks is beneficial for itself so if an animal sees fire, it flees from fire whereas a human being will actually do things knowingly that harm itself and this is where the rational soul is overwhelmed by the irascible the concupiscent soul, those lower energies in the self.
One of the things that this idea in the Quran that God measures out carefully what He gives to His creatures and part of the reason for that is Allah did not do that they would overstep greatly, they would transgress. Now you can already see that there is transgression out there but if everybody got what they wanted then what would it be like? In other words the fact that not everybody gets what they want, there are only certain people that have enough power to sow corruption but if everybody had that power then what type of world would it be and so the point that there is a balance of power and this is the idea in the Quran that Allah says “had not Allah used some people to constrain other people” the entire world would be filled with corruption so there is a balance of power in the world. There is not one dictator that can simply do whatever he wants because if one emerges here, somebody else emerges over where to counterbalance them.
One of the major problems that have emerged in our lifetimes
is the fact that America does not have any counterbalance, most of our
lifetimes and certainly for the older people in the here during the 50’s, 60’s
and 70’s and even the 80’s the Russians acted as a counterbalance to the
Americans so the Americans could not do everything that they wanted because
they only had to take into consideration what is going to be the reaction of
Russia and vice versa and whereas now that has been removed that there becomes
this vacuum and this is a very unusual scenario. It is not historical
precedence, the Romans at one time were probably similar in a large portion of
the world but the Romans did not control
When Alexander the Great who was in Macedonia when he went to India, he wanted to conquer India, he got sick, all his troops got sick, they had to leave. That is another thing Horatious mentions that nobody has ever moved towards the Arabian peninsula except they were stopped so there have been people…there have been people…in fact Alexander the Great died of a fever in Egypt, he was on his way to invade Arabia.
When we look at the world, what has to be understood is that there is a balance in the world that is not always discernable, not that it is not there because of short-sightedness and one of the things that Imam Raghab says is that all things are “everything is equal and they are not different in that everything was created with a wisdom” so at the essence of every thing, the rock is equal to the human that the rock was created for a purpose just as the human was created for a purpose so that at the level when you look at the world everything that is in the world is in the world for a reason and this is what he meant when Allah says you will not see disparity in the creation of the Merciful in other words we look at the creation you will not see that one thing is different from another and then Allah says keep looking if you think there is keep looking and your eye will come back to you exhausted and fatigued in trying to find something that has no purpose in creation, everything has purpose, the least atom has purpose.
Then it says that humans are different in that everything that is existent is specific to a benefit and if you look nothing has more difference in all of this but human beings and Allah says they were created in stages. We raised some humans over others in other words that this is according to the Quran from God that there are these differences in the creation.
Look at how we have preferred some over others in the world, you are told in the Quran to look in the world and see how some have been preferred over others in the world and then immediately after that and in the next world are even greater differences and more preference. So do not become deluded by things in other words these are infinite, limited. A person might have wealth, fame, have beauty, have lineage, have all these things for 50, 60 70 years and then it is over but the next world is infinite and therefore you cannot compare the two in that way. Had God wanted He could made you one ummah, one people all the same but He desired to try you in what He has given you. In other words, the differences “had your Lord wanted, He could have made you one people and He is the One who made you replace others in the earth” just as we are here know there were people before us. There were people in Hereward and those people mostly were Hispanic people who worked in the fields here, before them there were Indians here, they were native Californians. They were here, they were living here. They had a whole cosmology, they had religious festivals on Mount Diablo and they have gone now and now we here and replacing them and then it says “We raised some of you over others in order to test you to try you in what He has given you” and then also “Had God wanted He would have made you one people and look you continue to be different” which means you are different but also you differ except those who specific mercy has been given them.
After that it says “for that reason He created them” in other words to differ and to be sharh mercy so that is part of the intention of the creation. That in the earth, you see all of these different types of earth out there that are different. Earth are different, soil is different. There is rich soil, there is poor soil, there is soil that if you plant nothing grows, there is salt marshes, nothing will grow there or only certain specific vegetation. There are areas where fruit trees flourish, there are other areas where they cannot grow because of air.
One of the meanings of Tur (Surah Zaytoun) is a mountain that trees grow on because there are mountains that no trees grown on. It gets too high and it cannot sustain vegetable life. So even in creation there is all this diversity and that is going to have an effect on people living there and then he says these are signs and we go back to the idea a few weeks ago talking about signs that human beings are here to perceive signs. These are signs for people who have intellect that can actually reflect that can actually think and then he says wisdom necessitates all of this because the human being cannot sustain himself alone and therefore had a human being been forced to sustain everything that he needed alone, most human beings would not survive for very long and so because human beings need other human beings there needs to be this tafawit. Had everybody been given wealth then how would some people serve other people? If all of us had equal wealth how would some people serve other people?
There is another important point here which is had God not created with free will these human beings to feel impoverished then who would need God? If everybody felt independent they would feel no need and this is what the Quran says, human beings become aggressive and oppressive and they transgress when they deem themselves independent of God and so the state of impoverishment which the human being whether his is wealthy materially or impoverished materially is the same. Every human being is in reality impoverished before God, is in need of God for that sustenance and this is why animals have been subjugated to human beings. They are subordinated, human beings benefit from animals. We eat, we have leather products, we have all these things.
Everything if you look around here, a lot of the stuff that is coming from animals and we do not even think about it, all these carpets you are on they are Afghani wool carpets. They are coming from animals. We benefited from those animals. If there was a human being they are not going to let you shave their hair so you can make a carpet with it or something like that but what can the animal do? It is subjugated to you.
Now the same is true for most people you cannot ask your neighbour to take out your garbage for you right, really you cannot do that. So who is going to take the garbage because somebody has to do that. That is a function because human beings create garbage and it would be very difficult for people to have to get rid of their own garbage.
There are people that Allah has subjugated to other people. Now the beauty of the Arabic language is the word in the Quran that is used for this suqriah and siqriyah, uses the same word. The word for using and the word for exploiting, the difference between them is a vowel, it is literally a kasrah and a dhammah.
So what happens is you can start having contempt for other people because you are in this position where you can subordinate others to you and this is the danger. Human beings always become contemptuous of other people and that is a disease and that is why the Quran warns about that, that it is God who did this. It is not you and what then is supposed to happen is if you are a servant of God you begin to see it as a bounty that God has given you not for any specific reason but that He gives to whom He pleases.
Just as He gave you He can take it away and He can give that
person what He has given you and then in the Quran Allah says that their
affairs between them were all different and every group was happy with what
they were doing. Now one of the things about the modern world which is
different because it is important to note this in fact
So this is a very nice poem by an American poet. It is called the fear of God:
If you should rise from nowhere upto somewhere
From being no one upto someone
Be sure to keep to repeating to yourself
You owe it to an arbitrary God
He means by arbitrary and arbitrary it is somebody that does things according to their own discretion, nothing is imposed upon them by the outside to do it, that is what the Quran emphasizes that “He gives to whom He pleases”. That is an arbitrary decision from God. An arbiter in English is somebody who has the authority to dictate a judgment.
You owe it to an arbitrary God whose mercy to you rather
than to others won’t bear too critical examination
If you really start looking at yourself you start seeing that you do not really deserve this more than this person so you begin to analyse that, you see that.
Stay unassuming if for lack of licence to near the uniform of
who you are you should be tempted to make up for it
in an insubordinating look or tone, beware of coming too much to the surface and using for apparel what was mean to be the curtain of the inmost soul
In other words if you start realizing and this is the sense of inferiority that you do not really deserve to be…..you do not have a right to what you have. That can make you feel inferior and so you make up for that by looking at people with a subordinating look, in other words you place them in a class lower than yourselves so if for lack of license to wear the uniform of who you are you should be tempted to make up for in an insubordinating look or tone, because that reality is an inward reality, that is what he is saying it is not outward because if you have been given all these gifts and you are just an arrogant monster with the gifts, they have not benefited you so anything that you have been given you have to see it as a bounty of God. That is a beautiful expression of what this is about of recognising that these differences that we see in the creation are differences that God has placed and if He has placed you in a position over others, it is not because of some inherent betterness, it is because that is the nature of the world that you are in and then it becomes a responsibility. That is why the highest quality of the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) is his servitude to Allah and His creation because He was a servant before anything. If you look at his entire life was in service to others even before He was given the revelation, he was a trustworthy merchant in the service of another and in the service of a woman which for many Arabs would have been seen as humiliating whereas the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) did not have that same view of the world that a lot of people have, he did not see things the way other people saw it that if something is honourable, it is honourable and it does not matter what it might appear to others.
One of the things that is brought out which is really important is that it may happen that you will hate a thing that is good for you and it may happen that you love a thing and it is evil for you and God knows and you do not know. God knows and you do not know. If you are given something someone else was given it might destroy you so you want something people want to win the lottery, there are all these people that have won the lottery and it has ruined their lives completely destroyed their lives, they ended up losing all their friends, they got divorced and this is the reality of the world. You do not know what is good for you and what is not good for you and that is why you do not ask for specific things in Islam, the sunnah is not to ask for specific things because you do not know if it is good for you or not and Talibah is the great example of that, the man who came to the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and said “make prayer that God gives me wealth” and he said no. He kept coming back to him “Ya Rasulullah please make dua that I get some wealth and I promise I will use it for good and this and that”. The Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) would not do it, it is called ilhah, the man did not get the message and the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) out of his generosity, will not turn away somebody who questions him or asks for something. So he made a dua and this man who always used to be in the front of the prayer line he suddenly started getting all this wealth, animal, livestock and he would get further and further away from the mosque as he would have to go out and graze his animals, he would end up not praying in the community and when the time came for zakah and he said “this is like jizyah”. So it actually had a terrible effect on him and that is what the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) knew but he became a lesson for others. I mean that is even why I am mentioning him today as a lesson, he became a lesson for the rest of the believers so you do not know what is good for you.
Now one of the things is that good comes to us through the qadr, one of the things that is measured out is the degree of freedom that Allah created everything and guided it to its purpose and because the human being was created by Allah, the human being has a purpose and he and she was guided to that purpose which is servitude and servitude means that one knows that one is in a subordinate position with one’s Creator and not with anybody else and therefore what happens is you begin to look at things differently. This does not mean that you do not recognise hierarchy in the creation but you do not have this value statement on the hierarchy that the people of the outward have. In other words, if you look at creation you do not know if the street sweeper is closer to God than the physician. The physician might be more beneficial in worldly terms, the street sweeper might be more beneficial in worldly terms, the street sweeper might be closer to God in piety and in awareness of God and have answered prayers and actually be more beneficial without even knowing.
The inward eye is different than the outward eye. When you look with the inward eye, it has a different vision than the outward eye has but the inward eye is in most people, it is veiled. It is like when children are born they cannot see, they can only see very very closely, they cannot see anything and some of them have this gunk in their eyes that prevents them from seeing so part of growing up is being able to open your eyes and also sleepers do not see because their eyes are close when they sleep.
We have different awakenings. There are three basic human awakenings. You have the bestial awakening which is the awakening of the senses and this obviously begins with touch, this is why children put things in their mouths. They want to experience everything in their senses and that culminates in intimacy between husband and wife, I mean that is the height of that culmination of the sensual awakening.
You also have the emotional awakening and this is the feelings that one has of love and hate and these type things so that is a type of awakening that you begin to awaken to feelings that you have and why you have them and why he makes you angry or she makes you angry or why you love this person and why love that person.
Then there is an intellectual awakening that people have and many people unfortunately do not have that in school and things like that. The school actually do the opposite because the teachers are often incompetent and do not respect the awareness and understanding of the students that they have, that they sometimes end up making people actually hate learning which is a real crime. I once met a guy in Marilyn who was a bricklayer. He said he had never really thought about anything. He was interested in sports. A brick fell on his head, they were building a house, it fell on his head and he ended up, he was in the hospital for a long time and somebody gave him a book “how to read a book” and he had never read books before and what he told me was it is in the first or second chapter, the chapter begins with you have a mind, he said it was the first time he even considered that and what happened from this point because no one ever told him that, he was always told that he was stupid and he had been told that in school, he was a stupid person and he ended up becoming a bricklayer, it does not mean that bricklayers are stupid but it was a job of labour but he had this intellectual awakening. He began to read and got interested in literature, he got interested in history and actually his wife because his wife married someone who did not have that and so they actually began to grow apart because she was not growing with him, she was not having the same awakening.
Now the final awakening, the fourth awakening, the great awakening is the spiritual awakening and many many people never wake up to this or it is too late like Firoun. It happened as he was being drowned, his spiritual awakening. So the idea of realizing at a certain point that just as you realised you are a sensual being though the bestial awakening you realise you are an emotional being and at a certain point you can realise that you are an intellectual being, that you have an intellect.
Every human being has an intellect. People that are called average in this culture or even below average have immense intellectual capacity but it has not been tapped, it has not seen exploited. So human beings have immense…people say “I have a terrible memory” you have an immense memory. If you start thinking about all the things that you remember, where your bank is, what it is called, what type of dishwashing soap you buy, I mean you have a massive amount of data stored there. It is phenomenal. That is part of the problem, you are memorizing the wrong things so the spiritual awakening is something that will often occur with some trauma, it is very common for people, people have a heart attack, people will have a sickness, people will lose a parent, people will lose a child and suddenly these questions come into focus, they had not been in there before and that is the greatest awakening because ultimately we are spiritual beings you know the bestial that goes, the emotional one goes, the intellectual one according to the Muslims everything that you learn you lose when you die except what you learned that was beneficial for your next life ultimately even the intellectual, the true intellectual awakening is a spiritual awakening as well.
So the baseera is that inward sight. It is the ability to perceive something with the inward eye and one of the things about the world is that when you look at the world and this is where the good and evil are very interesting, when you look at the world most people look at the world in terms of good and evil by what they think is good and evil in other words when I look out at the world this is good, why? Because I like it and that is evil, why? Because I do not like it and so things that I do not like happening are evil and things that I like happening are good. This is the criteria of the human being.
Now one of the things about the Arabs is they say in a proverb “the calamities of one people are the benefits of another people” so one people’s good is another people’s evil. So for instance if you look at this country the fact that you can go to the store and but really cheap clothes, that might be something that is good that you like about this country but if you really understand the reasons why those clothes are cheap it is because of suffering that is going on in South America or in Indonesia where people have to work in sweatshops that make those cheap shirts that end up in mass produced malls in America where these people go in and they buy the thing because somebody was working for $1.50 an hour and in some places they have to use these children because their hands are small, they do not want big people because they are cheaper. So what is good and what is evil and that is a really difficult question.
Now if you look at the Islamic definition, khayr and sharh do not really correlate to good and evil, they are really not good translations for khayr and sharh because of this idea “maybe you hate a thing and think it is evil and it is good” and therefore to determine it with any type of moral certainty is very very difficult thing to do. Now obviously the shariah or the scared law of Islam gives the criteria for determining. Killing is bad. Is it always bad? No. It is not always bad. Sometimes it is a benefit. If somebody is about to kill you unjustly, you have a right to defend yourself and if you kill them you did something that was sanctioned by scared law. On the other hand the other person who was doing it was evil and if the other got his way it was khayr. Do you see that? Same act but two different. Now the person who was killed maybe that causes a complete spiritual transformation in several people who knew that person or maybe some law comes into being because of that person’s death that changes and has an effect on the whole society so then what was evil as a singular act actually produces much good again, this is something, the whole point of the Quran is you do not know and then there is a really interesting…I think this is so fascinating the way that this was articulated which is from the …… and apology if people who know this story which is from Socrates, he was condemned to death for blasphemy because they said that he did not believe in the official gods of the state and also for corrupting the youth and he says in there the real reason he was condemned was that he said that “I spent all my time going about trying to persuade, young and old, to make first your chief concern not for your bodies nor for your possessions but for the highest welfare of your soul’s proclaiming as I go. Wealth does not bring goodness but goodness does bring wealth and every other blessing both to the individual and to the state now if I corrupt the young by this message, the message would seem to be harmful but if anyone says my message is different from this he is talking nonsense”. So his corrupting of youth was that he was making them lose their materialism and parents always get upset when their children became less materialistic because they start worrying about who is going to take care of me when I get old if he does not make any money? So they have this idea of no you have to do this, go out and make a lot of money so anybody that will change that gameplan becomes a corrupter of youth so that is the real reason.
The other reason he said is “because somebody
went to the oracle and asked who was the wisest person in
And so he says I will tell you in killing a good man I want to tell you my executioners that as soon as I am dead then vengeance shall upon with a punishment far more painful than your killing of me. You have brought about my death in belief that though it you may be delivered from submitting your conduct to criticism but I say that the result will be just the opposite. Not only will you be condemned historically by people that come after you are going to get punished in this world and all these men they were all just killed when the Spartans came in, they just massacred the whole lot of them. It is very interesting. He said “I feel moved to prophecy” that is what he said.
I mean if he was an Indo-European Prophet, I do not know, Allahu Alim but he is a very interesting character in any case. But he says “if you expect to stop denunciation of your wrong way of life by putting people too death there is something amiss with your reasoning. This way of escape is neither possible nor credible, the best and easiest way is not to stop the mouths of others but to make yourself as good men as you can in other words do not wipe out your critics, listen to their criticisms and take them seriously and rectify yourself so that they don’t….but again this is an interesting dialogue here but what he says is I will tell you, he is now telling him because they have now condemned him to death, they said you choose what you think would be an appropriate punishment, he said “well since I am doing social welfare here by showing you all your ignorant and telling you not to engage in materialism. I think you should provide me with free meals for the rest of my life. That is his punishment so he said now you are going to hell.
They condemned him to death but he said “I will
tell you I suspect that this thing that has happened to me is a blessing and we
are quite mistaken in supposing death to be an evil see because that is all
people want to do, they want to live and what he is saying is “look you think
it is an evil that is just your perspective I have good grounds for thinking
this because my accustomed sign could not have failed to oppose me if what I
have been doing had not been sure to bring some good result” because it never
failed him in his life. This damon, what he called a damon, it was a voice that
he used to hear. We should reflect that there is much reason to hope for a good
result on other grounds as well. Death is one of two things either annihilation
and dead have no consciousness of anything or as we are told it is really a
change a migration of the soul from this place to another. So if it is nothing
then he said it us like a sleep and if it is something then he says if on
arrival in the other world beyond the reach of our so called justice, this
phoney justice of this world, one will find the true judge who presides in that
court in other words you are going to get real justice in the next world and if
you are a good man why do you have anything to fear? And I am willing to die
ten times over if this account of true. In fact I am particularly interested in
experiencing those on the other side like Palamites and
Then he ends it by saying I bear no grudge for my own part against those who condemned me and accused me although it was not this kind of intention that they did so but because they thought they were hurting me so I forgive you all because I don’t think you are hurting me, I think you are doing me a favour. You are making me a martyr. So here is what he says “Now it is the time that we are going I to die and you to live but which of us has the happier prospect is unknown to anyone but God so you see you think you are getting rid of me, an evil, and you are doing your society a good but as far as I am concerned what you are doing is the evil and you will be recompensed for it. As for me all I have done is good in my life, I have been warning you, I have been trying to tell you not to have lives of profligacy and that I why I am not afraid of death”. So that is another example of this perspective and he called it compounded ignorance to see that death is an evil because he said you do not even know what is on the other side. So your assumption that it is evil, it is just your own ignorance.
If like me because in another dialogue in Gorgious he says that he believes there is a hell and paradise and that everybody is judged by a just judge, he says they are stripped naked and they are going before this court, they will not be able to fool anybody with fancy clothes or articulate arguments and he tells this one guy “maybe you can box my ears off in this world but in the next world you are going to get your ears boxed off”. He says “you probably think it is a myth but I do not think it is. I believe it to be true” and he said “the good will go to the Isle of the blessed” that is what he called it, the Isle of the blessed. That is the idea of you do not know what you think is good and what you think is evil.
Now another really interesting thing that if you look at good and evil in the Quran is about loss and gain and that is the point he is making. You think you are gaining something by getting rid of me, I say you are losing something. You think I am losing something by depriving me of life I say I am gaining something better because I believe in life after death.
He is putting it in terms of loss and again and that is the real understanding of good and evil. It is about loss and gain so who gains and who loses. That is what you have to look at when you see the world, who gains and loses? Because you can see this man who gains all this wealth though his corrupt transactions but has he really gained. Even in the New Testament “what has a man gained if he has obtained the whole world and los his soul?” What have you really gained? That is a different way of seeing the world, of seeing good and evil and that is why when you look out you do not know what is going on. You do not have an idea, I mean once I was with Shaykh Abdullah and we were in Mauritania and in West Africa, in maintaining the people with the least in that country are the blacks and I asked him once about just that situation because it always bothered me, it is something that really bothered me when I was there and he said to me one time he said you know if you look in the terms of this side of the world you only see the one thing but he said that if you look in terms of the other side the people that have the greatest difficulty in this world and have the patience in dealing with that have the least hisab in the next world. He said maybe these people are just the people of paradise. So it is a different way, it does not justify the condition, you still have to oppose the condition but it gives you a different perspective on it you know in other words the way that was used in the past, is to opiate people and to justify injustice and Islam never does that. It says you still have to oppose the wrong but do not assume that it is all evil, do you see? That is the point because you do not have the full picture, you only have a portion of it and that is at the essence of what this is about of recognising good and evil as loss and gain.
That is why Allah says (in the first line of Surah Asr), Allah could have said “La fee sharh” by time the human being the nature is that he is in loss, he is losing, except those who believe and do good deeds and they enjoin what is right and they enjoin people to be patient” because it is difficult, there are many things that are wrong in the world so you enjoin right but you have also to enjoin people to be patient and bear the difficulties of the world because if all you have out there is the demand for right and not recognising that one, not all the wrongs will be righted in this world and that is where we believe in the next world that the wrongs of this world, there is a grave that I saw one of the Muslim slaves that was here in America, I think it is in Mississippi but it shows a hand like this, his name was Yusuf and on the gravestone it was not a cross, it was a hand with the fingers pointed up and it said on the tombstone “there is justice in the next world”. It is going to happen, if it did not happen in this world, it will happen in the next world and so that is a different way of again of seeing the world is that if you do not believe in that world then you will go insane by looking out there because there is just so much wrong out there. You will go insane and it does not mean to accept it. That is what is important, it is not that you accept it in other words that you should do what you can to redress the wrongs of the world but it does not destroy you that they are there because you know they are there for a wisdom.
That is the point is that there is a hikmah behind that, that there is nothing that happens in the world that does not have wisdom.
Now one of the things that the Quran points out is that God did not have the attributes of a wise parent and there are hadiths that indicate that Allah has that care of a mother, the love of Allah for His servants is greater than the mothers love but He said He would give the foolish children of this world what they want and this is one of the things about this world. Most people are so spiritually immature because you can have an adult emotionally, you can have an adult intellectually, you can have an adult sensually. Somebody can go out and fornicate and do all these things, it is an adult sensually, a child cannot do that, an adult can. Somebody can go and work in the world with their mind and acquire wealth and do all these things but as an adult, a child cannot do that.
But a spiritual adult, that is a different category, because most people are spiritual children. They are in the state of the infant in terms of their spirituality and because of that if they were given what they wanted, it would be like giving a child poison. It would like giving a child a gun to play with that is loaded. This is why the Quran says “what is it they who divide up the mercy of your Lord? We have divided among them their livelihood in the life of this world and raised some of them above others in rank.”. So some take others in forced labour and that forced labour here is the idea of using them not oppressing them but the mercy of your Lord is better than what they collect in other words do not get deluded by this dunya and all these categories in dunya, to strive for the akhirah is better, the mercy of your Lord is a higher thing, were it not that people would be a single community through ingratitude and truth concealing in other words through kufr we would have appointed for those who have kufr towards the Merciful roofs of silver to their houses, stairs where up to mount and doors to their houses and couches whereinto recline and ornaments surely all this is but the enjoyment of the life of this world and surely the next world with your Lord belongs to the people of taqwa in other words it is saying all the kuffar had all this wealth and luxury, the believers would want to be like the kuffar and that is one of the signs of the end of time is that people want to be like the non Muslims. That is from hadith is that people imitate non Muslims.
When the Muslims had all their wealth, it was the non Muslims that did not have anything so the Muslims looked at Europe, the Europeans had nothing to offer the Muslims so they never got deluded whereas now the tables have turned and all you have is the Quran which should be enough because if you read those verses you would have the guidance to see that it is not the real thing that there is something different and that is why in the end of time what did the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said to Imam Ali when he said “how do we get out of all this confusion?”. He said “KitabAllah”. You have to go back to the book of Allah and understand its core messages, understand the centrality of this book so one of the things that they talk about is this idea of good.
The dua of the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) “all good comes from you and evil does not return to you”. The reason for that is the essence of Allah is purity and there is no room for evil. There is no room because evil is absence, it is like darkness. Darkness is the absence of light. Evil is the absence of good and therefore that element does not exist but Allah created evil, sharh, it is a creation of Allah so it is not God but it is a creation of God and this is the odyssey in Christianity, the biggest problem that they have is the problem of evil because they do not know where it comes from. The problem goes if God is Omniscient, All-Knowing and all good then He would know where the evil is and He has the power to remove it and because He is all good He would not want it in the world and that is called the problem of evil. Philosophers always love that one to challenge Christians with and what Christians tend to fall into is this manichaeism that free will, the devil but if it is free will then it is against the will of God in other words the fact that it is in the world, where did it come from? Because the world is a creation of Allah and everything in it is a creation of Allah so the fact that he created creatures that He knew would do evil means that He created evil and this is something that Christians, they do not want to admit that whereas Muslims we are told that right from the start and the point again that the Quran and the Hadith emphasise is it is relative to you. You do not really understand it and therefore do not assume what you think is evil is evil or what you think is good is good because you just do not know. You do not have all the variables and you do not have the complete picture so the mirror image is identical to the real in as much as it reflects the reals attribute but it is other than real in as much as it is supported by non existence so this is not talking about the world itself that the world what is good in it is what reflects the divine and what is evil in it is absent of divine attribute or qualities.
So when you look at the world, if you look at the world as a mirror that does not exist. If you can allow your mind to imagine a mirror that does not exist and if you could imagine looking into that mirror and seeing your image and then the mirror has other than your image because you need the mirror to reflect the image so the image is not reflected completely in the mirror, part of the mirror is there so you see your image in the mirror. Now good is what is reflected, if you look at the universe as a reflection of God, it is not God but it is a reflection of God’s attributes that the evil in it is what is demarcating the good in other words you could not see the image without the evil. You could not see the good of God without knowing the sharh because if you had no evil in the world, you would not know good. You would not know what it is because like the Arabs says “by opposites things are distinguished”.
And so Allah created a world and then reflected his attributes. Now the human being is called insaan which means the pupil of the eye and one the meanings that some of the scholars indicated in a sense the human being is like the reflected vision of God in other words the human being has been created to witness God in the world because God is reflecting on Himself in the world in other words the world is also because it is a desired act of God, God brought the world into existence and there is a purpose for the world which is that God is known “I only created the world that I might be known”. Who can know God in the world, it is not the bird, it is not the frog, it is not the donkey, it is not the rock. They cannot know God with cognizance, they only know God as a state in which they are in of absolute worship but they cannot cognitively know God. That is the human being and that is why he and she has this extraordinary position in creation which is where we get to the next section which is the trial, the idea of a trial, that human beings have been brought into the world and they are tried so God measures out good and mercy to test people’s faith and to allow people to prove their own nature not to God in other words when God says He created us to try you to see which of you is best in action, He does not need to see which of you is best in action because He knows that. It is to show you your true nature and that is the word for trial in Arabic is to test metal and the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “human beings are minerals, you have hold, you have silver, you have copper, you have lead and then you have toxic metals” and what tribulation does is that it shows people their nature and that is why when some of the worst calamities happen to people what they say when they get though it is “I didn’t know I had it in me to get though that”. In other words, they saw something about themselves they did not see when they survived the immense hardship and another thing about tribulation is all of us who have lived, I don’t think there is anybody in this room that had had a tribulation that when all of the bitterness and all of the difficulty was gone they were not able to look back and say they learned a great deal from the experience.
In other words it is the process of human and
spiritual evolution it is through calamites and that is what Shaykh Muhammad
was talking about last night when he said “calamities are the holidays of the
people seeking God” because when a calamity comes who do you run to? God, that
is part of the beauty of tribulation is that my sister just visited
So then you begin to perceive the world in a
different way so trials is something that we see as part of the reason why we
have been created. “We have appointed all that is on earth as an adornment for
you that We may try them which of them is the most beautiful in works, blessed is He who created death and life that
He may try you which if you is the most beautiful in works”. When harm touches
or afflicts the human being he calls upon God then we can confer on him
blessings he says I was given it because of a knowledge that I have so this is
a type of ingrate not it is a trial but most of them know not”. When Bani
Israil, the Israelites were afflicted by the Pharonic people in
“O calamity get worse because I know you will get better”
It is a beautiful poem that he wrote, it is all about asking for the thing to get worse so iit can get better and that is what happened when the man in Sahih ul Bukhari, he had stomach problems, the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) told him to take honey and his brother gave it to him, he came back and said it got worse. He said tell him to take more, he took more, it got worse, tell him to take more, it got worse. Finally he got better and the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “your bothers stomach has lied and God spoke the truth because God said honey was a cure”. It is particularly good for cleaning out the stomach but the reason that he got more diarrhea was because according to Imam Qayyumul Jawziyyah in his book on Prophetic Medicine, he said the disease originated because of things that needed to be cleared out and so when he was given the medicine it purged him even more so the actual crisis was a healing crisis. That is what they call it in homoeopathy if they give you the right remedy you often get worse before you get better and they call it in homoeopathic medicine a healing crisis.
That is why the most intense period for a woman in childbirth is just before she gives birth and that is when it gets the worst, this amazing thing is about to happen.
So that is part of what is going on in the world and also “do people reckon they will be left alone to say we have faith and will not be tested” and then this idea of when evil afflicts him he is in despair, that is the people who do not know the way the world works.
Now one of the things about moderns is that they have this idea that they are free and what is really interesting about moderns is that because they do not have particularly in a lot of Western countries is that they have lost the idea of spiritual liberation and so they become slaves to the lowest aspect of themselves. They become slaves to drugs, they become salves to sensual pleasures, they become slaves to food, they become slaves to image, they become slaves to all these different things out there and they do not have this inward freedom which is really what the Quran is talking about because the tahqiq ul uboodiyah which is the realisation of one’s state with God is to realise four qualities:
- It is the realisation of impoverishment once you realise that God is absolutely independent, you realise that you are absolutely dependent so that is the realisation of impoverishment.
- The realisation of complete ajiz which is incapacity. Once you realise that God is absolutely capable of doing all things you realise that you are incapable.
- Then also ignorance. One you realise God is Al-Alim you realise that you are the jahil.
- Then also the realisation of the state of humility or humiliation, dhul, which is you are humbled and then that God is Al Aziz. In realisation of that, and this is the beauty of it is that you become ghanybillah, you become enriched by God, you become knowledgeable by God, you become dignified by God and you become powerful by God so in realizing your servanthood you are actually drawing near to these attributes that God has manifest in this world which are divine attributes because here the purpose of Islam is to show the way to tawheed, to be human is to be relatively free but to be free as it is humanly possible to be free can only come about when full submission and surrender to reality is achieved.
You can be relatively free, I mean in America people are relatively free, they can get up, get in their car, drive to where they want, they can go and eat whatever they want, buy what they want, this type thing and there is relative freedom but real freedom is realising your state of submission to God because that frees you from putting faith in other than good because any faith in other than God is always going to let you down. It is part of the nature of the world and once you see that, when people let you down, you realise they are doing you a favour and you do not have anger towards them because they are being human. It is the whole point because the only one that will not let you down is Allah. Everybody else lets you down.
Then it is interesting that this idea on page 118 they say that all things have something in terms of tashbiyah in other words in everything in creation and it is not adab to mention things like pigs, there is no point in doing that, you speak in universals not in particulars, ignorant people will bring that up, when you say everything has some tashbiyah or something that expresses something about the nature of God in the world, when you look, the first they look is the mineral world, that a rock and so one of the things about the rock is that the tanzih is much more manifest, the otherness of God in other words you cannot see really much in a rock that would remind you of God but one of the things that does remind you of the nature of a rock is its permanence. It is not vegetative, it has a type of permanence. It is not vegetative, it has a type of permanence in the world that is very different from other things. It is solid and it is powerful also the facts that planets which are essentially almost big rocks, God moves them around in a certain way and can smash them up against each other. It is an indication of his qudara. If you go the vegetable life then it is has obviously one of the most important attributes of the divine which is life al hayah and there are seven attributes and they can them here the seven leaders. These are:
1. Hayah - Life
2. Knowledge – Ilm
3. Samaa – Hearing
4. Basr – Sight
5. Irada - Will
6. Qudura – Power
7. Qalam – Speech
When you look at a vegetable, a vegetable has life but it does not have will it doesn’t have you see, it does not have any other than life so in that way it reflects something of the divine.
When you look at the human being you come to something very different because suddenly you see a human being has all seven of those attributes “In your own souls, do you not see?”. In other words do you not see what God has given you. He has given you as His greatest sign. In your own souls is the greatest sign of God and this is the meaning of this idea of man being in the image. It is not in any anthropomorphic sense, the human being reflects these seven key attributes of God which is life, knowledge, hearing, sight, will, qudura, capacity and speech. I am muntaqalim, I am qadir, I am alim, I am all these things and these are attributes of God. He put them in me in order to reflect his nature so that we would know who God is and that is the meaning of “if you know yourself, you know your Lord” because this is the closest thing to you.
That is why self knowledge is at the essence of Islam of knowing who you are but you have to have it in the proper perspective because you are also jahil, you are also dead, you are also powerless, you are also deaf, dumb, speechless without volition. You see so this s the human being, the human condition is this really interesting…and then in looking at why we have been given this because we were meant to stand as khalifah in this earth. “I am placing a caliph in the earth”.
Now on page 120-121 I personally do not like the way they did this, it is kind of done in a humorous American, I did not feel it was appropriate, there are a few things in the book, there is another section towards the end that bothers me but I mean generally the book is so good that I am going to overlook that section. It is not that bad but things like “God has something up His sleeve” and “God rubbed it in a bit”. It is not the way traditional scholars in any way would describe that so I will look at like “every steed stumbles and every razor sharp sword has a blunt point and every scholar has slips”. So anybody that writes and does anything is ultimately going to do that but that is just something, I certainly have done myself on many occasions so I am not going to take them to account but I just thought that I would bring that to your attention.
Just about the question now they kind of indicate that the angels hear, they seemed a bit upset I mean when they ask the question it is called istifhaan, it is not because there are two types of questions. A type of question where somebody rejects something and then a question where somebody is trying to get information. It is considered a question where they are actually asking for information.
Now one of the things they say like all myths, this myth can be understood in many sense and applied to the human situation in many different contexts, it is important to remember that myth is actually a very good word that does not mean a fictional account. If you look in the dictionary one of the meanings of a myth and I will give you the exact definition according to Webster “a real or fictional story that reflects the ideals of a pre-literate culture”. So obviously Islam has foundational myths. It is a perfectly acceptable word unfortunately it gives the hint of something being not true I mean we tend to think of something mythological as a fable or fabrication, that is not how they are using the word here. The point of a myth in fact the definition that an American critic of literature gave was that it is so true as to be unbelievable. One of the things about a myth is it is a universal story and that is why the power of myth is that…and obviously if people have read the hero with a thousand faces by Joseph Campbell, he is somebody who just saw the same myth in all these different stories because it is a universal story of the heroes journey and certainly we believe as Muslims that it is a true story.
We do not believe it is a fictional account but we also have to remove ideas of anthropomorphism and the idea…this is language explaining something that happened on a realm that we really have no access to other than what is described for us in the Quran so that is important to remember and one of the things about Adam was, he was given all the names is again one of things about the power of language because if you can measure and if you can label you have power. People in power label the powerless so a freedom fighter will be called a terrorist by the people in power and that is why the British considered George Washington a terrorist whereas the people at that time who were fighting in the continental army they saw themselves as fighting for liberty and freedom. So that is the power of the nature of naming which does not mean that everybody claiming to be a freedom fighter is not a terrorist, I mean there are people out there, terrorists, anytime you bring in civilians and indiscriminately kill people you have an element of terrorism and certainly there is state terrorism and there is individual terrorism but the point being the power to name or label people and that is something that the mass media obviously has. They can make people look like they are insane because they have this power, it is the power to name or label people and that is something that the mass media obviously has. They can make people look like they are insane because they have this power, it is the power to name them. They already determined the discourse when they put you on as the extreme left position, now we are going to hear from the extreme left so they labelled you and they have already defined the discourse there.
It is the power of naming so naming is power and that is why powerless people tend to be people without language and that is one of things like Paulo Freire, wrote a lot of books like Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Pedagogy for Freedom. He spent his life teaching Brazilian peasants how to read and write because he really felt their powerlessness was based on not having language.
One of the things that the Cherokee did in this country, the great Cherokee Sequoia who was the great Cherokee leader who is actually half Scottish but he developed an alphabet for his people because he said the power of the white people resides in their ability to write. He saw their power was in language. So he felt he could empower the Cherokee and that was a really interesting experiment and it almost succeeded had it not been for Andrew Jackson who acted unconstitutionally in forcing the Cherokee, you know the famous trail of tears and things like that but language is something that if you do not have it you are powerless and that is why articulation and the ability to speak is so important and that is why Islam emphasises the grammar and rhetoric if learning these things because it is an empowering element.
Now they mention here also that this idea of microcosm and macrocosm came from the Greeks and I do not think that is true because Imam Ali said “you think you are some insignificant body or entity and the entire universe is in you” so Imam Ali that is microcosm, that is what it means, a small universe.
So the human being is seen as a small universe and part of the reason that Adam was able to name everything is that everything was in him because you cannot know something outside of yourself. If you do not recognise it from inside of yourself and that is why we have mineral in us, I mean everything you see so the earth is in you. We have mineral, we have vegetable, we have animal, it is all there so when you see a tree you recognise vegetation because it is in you, when you see the sun fire is in you, it is all there. That is what caloric energy is, it is heat so everything you see out there is in you.
We are even made up of stars, I mean we know that now, modern astronomy understands that our bodies has constituents of stars that were constituted of the material that stars are made of. One of the interesting things about a human being is the human being, the body is placed on a scale of magnitudes between atom and between a star. In other words we fit right in the middle of the smallest elements in creation and of the biggest elements and that is mathematical, you can actually work that out so we are this barzarkh between the smallest elements and the biggest elements. We are right in the middle and we have this ability to bridge the unseen and seen world.
Finally here the reason we have been given this viceregency is that if we follow God’s instructions on the universal level, turtles, demons, squirrels, scorpions, mice are all following but viceregency is specifically a human quality because a human being is able to follow instructions through his or her free will.
Therefore Adam was created to be vicegerant of God, he first had to be God’s servant in other words people were created to represent God on the face of the earth, in order to fulfill this function properly, they must submit to God’s will as revealed through the Prophets. And so really that is at the essence of the Islamic teaching is that what we are here to do is to submit to the will of God as best as we can as servants. In doing that we enter into a type of harmony with the world so we are not alien to the world. We are part of the world but also we are part of another world which is the next world and so again we become this bridge this barzakh and realisation of that tahqiq ul uboodiyah is a lifelong journey, you don’t just do it in one day and one evening and you can learn all this stuff theoretically and fill your heads with a lot of information but if it is not practiced, if it does not become part of your practice then it is difficult and it is something you will struggle with all of your lives and you need company, you need reminders, you need people to put you in your place and inshAllah the goal is to get through this world in one spiritual piece both peace and piece to get through out it and get onto the other side and then the important thing is also to expect great things from your Lord because the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) he said that Allah tells us I am in the opinion of my servant so if my servant thinks good of Me, he will find good and if He thinks bad of Me, he will find bad” and that is why the hadith says “whoever wakes up in the morning if you find good, say alhamdulillah. Praise to be God”. Other than that he did not say if you find evil, let him only blame his own soul because you are still not seeing correctly what is going on in the world. You are not seeing that if you really believe in God, it is all good, it is not an exaggeration, it is all good, it is not an exaggeration, it is all good, if you believe in Allah and then it becomes that you need to conform to the divine and not make the divine conform to you because what moderns want to do is to make God conform to them so we make God just as we are and it is not going to work.
You have to conform to the divine, how the divine wants you to be and just finally that anything that occurs in the world and Shaykh Muhammad mentioned this last night but it is important to remind people that were not there is that Ibn Abbas said that no calamity every afflicted me in that I saw three blessings in it and the first one was that it was not worse than it was. The fact that it was not worse than it is, is a blessing and you should show gratitude. The next one is that it was in my worldly affairs and not in my deen and that is a blessing. In the dua of the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) “O God do not make our calamities in our religion” The assumption there is already there are calamities in the world. You are in the world and you are going to have calamities and you might have not have seen the worst of it yet insha’Allah Allah makes things easy for all of us but you might not have seen the worst of it yet. If you think what you have seen is bad, you might not have seen the worse of it yet, so if the calamity is not in your deen, do not worry about it because dunya is not so important that you should get upset about it like that. You should not give it as much power to affect you in that way, to depress you, if you lose all your money, what can you do about it? I am depressed, why? Because I associated with no money happiness and now my money is gone so I have to be unhappy so you therefore have made an assumption about the nature of happiness, that it is only material goods. So it is a philosophy, that is a philosophy.
Then finally that it was in this world and not in the next world. So if the calamity is in this world that is a blessing that it was not in the next world because you would rather have your calamities here than there.
According to the hadith of the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam), everything that happens in this world is a purification so it might be that you are getting your wrongs removed that is why calamities are the holidays of people seeking God. A lot of people might not like that but if you take that on it is not that you ask for calamities because the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “do not ask for calamities because you do not know if you will be able to bear them but ask Allah for well being” so we ask for wellbeing but when the calamities come, masha’Allah. That is what happens so alhamdulillah. Any questions?
Cannot hear question
I think the best thing to do is to create our own venues. Do not allow venues out there to dictate your agendas and things like that. I mean things like alcohol you cannot talk to people when they are drinking anyway I mean that is the problem with alcohol and it is not good to be around it, we believe it is the devil, it is the jinn alcohol, it is what they call it, gin. I will have a gin on the rocks. I mean man if they really knew what they were saying, I will have Iblees on the rocks. The rocks are brimstone. So you just want to stay away from that kind of energy. Cheese tastes fine without wine. Have grape juice, grape juices tastes a lot better than wine.
You would be surprised how much you can….if you
really want to keep up with that type of popular culture so you can talk to
people you would be surprised how much just from reading, I have read articles
about films that I can talk about without ever having seen the film. You do not
have to go watch a film and waste two hours of your life for something. I saw a
film once by Khirasani who won Cannes Film Festival. He was Iranian. I think it
was Khirasani, cannot remember. I was interested just wide this film that won
The reason Plata outlawed the poets in the Republic is because of the whole danger of entertainment, what entertainment does in a society images and……the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) he had some entertainment and that is something about Islam that a lot of modern Muslims are not aware of, that there is room for poetry, art, there is room for certain types of music and things like that. Traditionally it always existed in the Muslim world but it should be done in a certain way, it should not become something that takes people away from God. I mean we need to rethink a lot of things and be more creative about how we speak to people out there.
I mean ultimately everybody is dealing with their mortality, they are dealing with real essential issues and while Christianity and Judaism are true religions and we believe in them as an obligation, we are obliged to believe in them, we view them now as models of like a car that is no longer taking you there, it does not work anymore and so you can sit in it and feel like you are in a car and certainly it is vehicle but is it taking you where you want to go? And on the other hand for Muslims, for most Muslims, their Islam is stuck in the mud. It is not that the car does not work, it is like you have driven into the mud by your own stupidity. I will never forget I was in Mauritania and there was this man that was driving in a gap and there is this big mud puddle and there was a big dry thing on the side and he was bragging like what a great driver he was and when we were coming upto it we said like go over there and he said no no no I know what I am doing and we got stuck in this mud and we had paid this guy to drive us. We ended up, we could not get the car out, we had to walk in the middle of the desert for about 5 hours. But the point is he drove it into the mud. It was a perfectly good car, the road was there and he just took it into the mud to kind of I did it my way or something like that.
But that is the thing about people’s Islam, they drive it into their mud and then they are like why is this not getting me anywhere. Well you left the road you have gone off road. You mean it does not have four wheel drive. It has five wheel drive: Shahada, Prayers, Zakah, Fasting and Hajj. But you have to be on the shariah and on the road. They are absolutes yeah that it is, they become absolutes and you will know them because you remember this world.
If you were put in jannah and you never had any
knowledge of this place but in jannah you have memory of this place, you do not
have painful memories but you will remember. You are aware of hell and the
people of hell are aware of paradise so the opposites are knowns still.
Well that is the point, their blind, deaf and dumbness is like this, they will not open their eyes, they will not take their hands of their ears, they will not speak and in the next world they admit that, that is what the Quran says in Surah Tabarak they will finally admit it was their fault, they took themselves, that is why the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said “every soul wakes up ransomed and either it sells it to God or destroys it” so that is a human choice. And there is a verse “people do the acts of good until they are one handspan away from Paradise or arms length and then the decree precedes them and they do some action of the fire”. That hadith, there is another riwayah where it says “to what it appears to people” and that point is that those people’s hearts they were hypocrites, is that they will do things that expose themselves before they die. That is why Sidi Ahmed Zarruq says all the things that people do in this world that are bad in order to obtain things that they deem good, those things will be the cause of the thing that they were trying to free themselves from. So if somebody learns astrology to protect themselves from a harmful death, he will have a harmful death. If somebody learns alchemy to like enrich himself, he will be impoverished. It has the opposite so the thing you go to literally has the opposite effect on you in this world.
I mean Harut and Marut are a problem because they are angels but they are teaching something that is harmful and that in a sense is almost a negative revelation which is interesting I mean the idea of you know that you could have a negative revelation which brings in the whole idea of opposites and things like that again but Allahu Alim.
The thing about the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) he was affected by magic but he was given the last two surahs in the Quran and he never left them after that and what happened to him he was not affected in his understanding but he was physically affected.
Sulayman was not given magic because there is a difference between magic. Magic is using means that are in the creation. There are two types of magic. One is called which is like the magic of David Copperfield, people like that. It is the ability to create illusions, optical illusions and then the other type of magic is manipulation of things in creation through magic. Both of them are prohibited in Islam. What the Prophets do, in other words when Musa threw down the staff and it became a snake, it was not magic. I mean of the things if you read 1001 nights which is certainly not anything to get aqeedah from or anything like that but there is all these kind of interesting things where the genie does all this magic and then the magic when the genie is no longer working for the person all the stuff disappears so like the genie will make him a palace but when the genie now has a new master the palace just disappears so all the treasure goes back to rocks.
That is a good analogy for what magic is. It is insubstantial in reality even though it appears to be real whereas what happens with the Prophets is that it is real. It is something that actually comes into existence. So when Musa pulled his hand out and it was white that was real without any harm. It was not vitiligo or leprosy, it was light that came out. That was real, it was not magic so the difference is one is a manipulator the other is that Allah is directly not through means, there are no means, magic is usually means in creation whereas the miracle there are no means. It is direct from God and that is why people that witness it, see it for that.
If you have ever seen a film of somebody shot in
reality you know I saw some films from
Magic in many ways, it is interesting because Simayu is a magic where you create images. I don’t think cinema is related to it. It is interesting that in many ways that film is very magical like that, it is a powerful magic. It is definitely slight of hand because these frames that are done to create an optical illusion because they are still frames, creating the optical illusion of motion so technically by shariah I think the traditional ulema would have seen it as magic, as a type of magic.