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.