Category Archives: Philosophy & Theology

THE PHILOSOPHERS AND THE AMBIYA (ALAYHIMUS SALAM)

The ancient philosophers on observing the eternal truths propounded by the Ambiyá (alayhimus salam) were stunned. In their books they were constrained to attest to the reality of Nubuwwat. In this regard they claimed that it is possible that from the First Cause of Grace  (a crude reference to the  Creator — conception of the All-Powerful Allah Azza wa jal — — — the philosophers had no clear translator) knowledge could be transmitted directly to certain persons. Because of this view, no philosopher denied theNubuwwat of any Nabi during his time. They even went to the extent of saying that the lofty knowledge possessed by the Ambiya cannot be gained by means of spiritual exercises. Inspite of this acknowledgement, the philosophers committed the fatal blunder of claiming that the Ambiyá (alayhimus salam) were sent for the masses for the ignorant and the illiterate. They, therefore, did not feel obliged to follow the Ambiyá (alayhimus salam), claiming that they could purify their own souls by means of knowledge and spiritual exercises. Hence, in their opinion they stood in no need of a spiritual guide. Certain Mufassireenhave said that in regard to such philosophers Allah Ta’ala says in the Qurán Kareem:

“And, when the Rusul (Ambiya) came to them (philosophers) with clear signs, they became boastful because of the (worldly) knowledge they possessed. And, they were hemmed in by that which they mocked.”

They regarded this mundane life as the goal and were proud with the ability they possessed in this regard. They rejected the Akhirah, dubbed the quest for the Akhirah insanity and treated the warnings for rejection with mockery. Allah’s atháb (punishment) finally overtook them.

The attitude of these philosophers was the same as that of those Jews who while acknowledging the Nubuwwat of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said that Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) was indeed a Nabi, but a Nabi for only the Arabs. They denied that he was a Nabi for them since they asserted that they possessed a Scripture. The folly of their thinking is manifest. They acknowledged that he was a Nabi. A requisite of a Nabi is that he is truthful. That very person whom they acknowledged as a Nabi, albeit for only the Arabs; declared:

“I am the Nabi unto all mankind. Obedience to me is obligatory. There is no salvation without following me.”

Their rejection of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) is, therefore, in own claims and understanding, illogic and irrational.

SO-CALLED PHILOSOPHERS OF TODAY

The ancient philosophers were unlike the so-called philosophers and scientists of today. These so-called philosophers of today reject the very reality of Nubuwwat. In fact those of today are not philosophers. On the contrary they are technologists. Technology will remain beneficial as long as it is not misused. But technology does not qualify one as a wise man. Hikmat (wisdom) is acquired through spiritual and metaphysical knowledge.

But, the so-called philosophers (the scientists, theosophists, evolutioners, etc.) are absolutely devoid of any spiritual knowledge. It is because of the total lack of this form of knowledge that they reject outrightly Nubuwwat.

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The Science of Kalaam

[By Darul Uloom Misriyyah]

This brief treatise comprises an introduction to the study of the science of Kalam, one of the most important disciplines of Islamic knowledge. It will suffice to introduce its major branches and comprehend some of the problems it seeks to address, and then note the positions of certain scholars and schools on these problems.

Introduction

In the linguistic sense, “kalam” (“speech”) denotes a word indicating a certain meaning. In its technical sense, “kalam” denotes the theoretical consideration of matters of religious creed, or theology. Ibn Khaldun said: it is the discipline comprised of disputation over creedal beliefs with rational proofs . Al-Ayhi said: Kalam is the discipline that enables one to affirm creedal beliefs by amassing arguments and repelling doubt .

The Name “Kalam”

Al-Ayhi recorded four types of etymologies for the name of the discipline, respectively claiming it is so called because of 1) its linguistic sense of speech (kalam) yielding “(dialectical) debate” (al-jadal), which is the primary tool of the discipline, much like logic is the primary instrument or bulk of philosophy ; 2) its chapter-headings, which were first titled “discourse (al-kalam) on such-and-such”; 3) its paradigmatic topic of the speech (kalam) of God the Exalted, meaning the Qur’an, which raised ancillary questions to such profusion that the discipline itself came to be named after the topic; and 4) the fact that it enabled adversarial discourse (al-kalam) in religious matters .

Numerous Names of the Discipline

Kalam gained different names corresponding to the theoretical perspective taken. As al-Tahanawi and al-Tahawi variously noted, it is also known as the science of the foundations of religion (usul al-din) and the science of theoretical consideration and deduction (‘ilm al-nazr wal-istidlal); Imam Abu Hanifa famously called it the greatest jurisprudence (al-fiqh al-akbar). The preferred name is the discipline of unicity (‘ilm al-tawhid), in that it explained, on a Qur’anic basis, the relation between the axis of existence (God Most High, humanity, the cosmos) with reference to the two concepts of Divinely-appointed successorship (istikhlaf) and subservience (taskhir). Al-Taftazani said, the discipline related to derivative or inferential matters is called the science of rulings (‘ilm al-ahkam); and the discipline related to first principles or creedal matters is called the science of Divine unicity and attributes (‘ilm al-tawhid wal-sifat) .

Relation between Kalam and Philosophy

Certain scholars have held there to be a methodological difference between kalam and philosophy, in that the mutakallim (practitioner of kalam) admits or denies various metaphysical principles and then offers proofs in their support, while the philosopher admits no such first principles whatsoever and in their absence seeks to reason to a certain aim. For example, the mutakallim may admit the existence of God from the beginning and seek thereafter to offer proofs for His existence; but the philosopher begins with no such presumptions and only then tries to demonstratively establish the existence of God .

Ahmad Amin approximated the preceding scheme in contrasting the judge (one who begins by adopting a neutral position and then follows the evidence until he reaches a verdict as to the innocence or guilt of the accused) and the defense lawyer (who from the very beginning is bound to uphold the innocence of the accused).

We should not however inaccurately suggest, regarding the philosophers, that they necessarily begin in the absence of metaphysical presuppositions, for certain philosophical schools certainly do begin from first principles—otherwise they would be seeking through trials and experimentation to affirm or deny any metaphysical postulate whatsoever.

The discipline of Kalam in fact is Islamic philosophy in that it takes the religious creeds brought by Islam as performing the function of first principles. Thus it is a subsection of Islamic philosophy distinct from that postulated by such Arab and Muslim philosophers as al-Kindi, al-Farabi, and Ibn Sina, which preferred a different method: taking as the point of departure the opinions of Greek philosophers and then seeking to develop Islamic critiques. Those philosophers aided the defence of Islam, in terms of creeds and schools and religions, by taking from philosophy and Greek logic the tools to defend them. That is, they departed from what was given in those creeds and schools (i.e., of Greek philosophy and logic) in order to arrive at what was given for them (i.e., Islam). Dr. Zaynab al-Khudayri said, “Our teacher Dr. Yahya Huwaydi called this philosophy, which blossomed into the various disciplines of law and kalam and principles of religion, Islamic philosophy, because it was established on the Qur’an and its philosophy .”

Origins of Kalam

When Islam arose, the societies of what is known as the Arab lands were comprised of mere tribes or clans. The Prophet’s Hijra to Madina acted to elevate the tribal condition, cutting tribal bonds such that the believers from disparate tribes deferred to a single order of conduct. The nascent Arab Muslim nation began in the heart of that society.

The epoch of the rightly-guided Caliphs extended the teaching of the Prophet, establishing equality among the people and ending the preferential treatment previously accorded one’s kin and the powerful. This however was not the case after the era of the rightly-guided Caliphs, when began the decadent discrepancy between the theoretical affirmation of such equality and its practical application. The ensuing social struggle took the form of internal conflict between the powerful, each of whom sought the Caliphate; the state became an instrument of despotism over common social goals. Each party of them held themselves superior in truth to the rest, and sought religious justifications to that effect. Each party moreover championed a clan’s heritage and lineage in claiming what they upheld (the Umayyads, Hashimites, Abbasids, and so on), as the partisans to the conflict strove to establish dynastic states like that of Persia (Iran).

All of this worked to augment the conditions from which the theological schools (al-madhahib al-kalamiyya) would later develop into the discipline of Kalam. The Kharijite splinter group, most of whose supporters hailed from non-Qurayshite Arab tribes, did not admit the principle that the Caliph could not be elected from non-Qurayshites or non-Arabs (they first elected the non-Qurayshite ‘Abd Allah bin Wahb al-Rasibi to be their leader). The majority of scholars recognize that the Shi‘ite sect found its intellectual roots in Persian notions of kingship and lineage, given the clear resemblance between their school’s positions and the Persian monarchical system. Likewise, most of the supporters of the Mu‘tazilite school were of the Clients (al-mawali), the children of non-Arabs who became patroned wards of the state. Likewise, the Umayyads proved the majority of the supporters of the two sects of Determinism (al-jabr) and Deferral (al-irja’), to the extent that it was said “Determinism and Deferral is the Religion of the [Umayyad] Kings” (al-jabr wal-irja’ din al-muluk). And on this single earth the general Muslim populace splintered, through these conflicts and acts, until they fashioned diverse ways of thought, schools of law, art, knowledge, tradition, and other aspects of civilization. One of these was the discipline of Kalam.

Kalam was consolidated as a discipline also through contesting outside influences. The Islamic conquests came to include diverse bodies at the social level, meaning also those of non-Islamic cultures adhering to manifold ways of thought, schools, creeds, and philosophies. Hence it came necessary to employ rational and logical methods to note the deficiencies in these creeds and philosophies and invite their adherents to Islam.

Assessments of the Place of Kalam in Islamic Thought
A ruling of general prohibition was adopted by some such as certain later Hanbalis and Sufis, including al-Suyuti (in his work Sawn al-mantiq wal-kalam ‘an fann al-mantiq wal-kalam) and al-Hawari (in his work Dhamm al-mantiq wa-ahlih), as some of them relied on a mistaken interpretation of reported enunciations of the early Muslims (al-salaf) that prohibited plunging into speculative discourse on theological matters under a principle called tafwid.

Yet tafwid does not mean silence in the face of corrupt beliefs but rather refraining from plunging into creedal matters so long as the prevailing understanding remains sound. Indicating sound creed is a righteous act, and is what prevailed during the epoch of the Prophet—peace and blessings upon him—and the rightly-guided Caliphs, Allah be well-pleased with them. When there arise widespread deviations from correct understanding, however, then Muslims are obligated to work to rectify them. This is what occurred throughout Muslim history, as whenever the early Muslims undertook to oppose false creeds. Al-Hasan al-Basri (rahimahullah) said, “None of the Salaf would mention a thing, nor would they debate it, for they were all of a single uniform mission. They only began to talk about a matter and engage in debate when people began to deny it or raise doubts about it. When people began to innovate in the religion, God raised eminent scholars to refute and debunk these innovations and deviations from the truth .

This is likewise supported in what is narrated from Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr: The orthodox community (jama‘a) follows the opinion of Malik, God have mercy upon him, that—unless it would compel someone to [vain] speech, or fearing its general influence, or something to that effect—he would not seek to avoid discussing such matters when desiring to refute falsehood and turn its advocate from its school .

The view that the early Muslims (al-salaf) refrained from engaging theological questions and opposed it is an innovation (bid‘a) of unsound basis. We can provide further examples to support this, including the narration of Ibn Taymiyya from Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, who, in his work al-Radd ‘ala al-Zanaadiqa wal-Jahmiyya, engaged in certain interpretations against what the Zanaadiqa and Jahmiyya doubted regarding the ambiguous elements of the Qur’an; and he then addressed their meaning , as is further narrated by al-Bayhaqi. This is similar to what we regard as the right position, that is, Kalam as the attempt to posit solutions or repudiations to theological problems posed. Of course these attempts are delimited by authentically-narrated articles of creed indicating what God Most High has offered human knowledge (i.e., in its limits of understanding). This true position is confirmed by Ibn Taymiyya: engaging the discipline of Kalam is permissible when verifying truth and invalidating falsehood, and otherwise when not engaged in the aim of arguing with empty proofs or expounding false positions. Ibn Taymiyya said, The early Muslims (al-salaf) and the Imams did not find Kalam objectionable in itself for the terminology it employs—such as the terms essence (jawhar), accident (‘arad), body (jism), or otherwise—but because the meanings that they express in their formulation open themselves to false, reprehensible aspects in the proofs and determinations [offered]. They are not forbidden, because these words combine together meanings both of denial and affirmation…. So if you have familiarized yourself with the meanings they intend, for instance in these expressions, and assess them with the Qur’an and Sunna such that their truth is affirmed, and that falsehood denied which the Qur’an and Sunna deny, then engage them freely. Al-Ghazali relied on a similar method in considering the “unveiling” of the Sufis, and thereby established all of that which is true. Ibn Taymiyya proceeded from this assessment in many topics of Kalam—for instance, the relation between existence and the existent, or the conjunction of Divine power and determination with human free will—in the third part of his Majmu‘ fatawa.

Imam al-Ghazali (rahimahullah) resembles this position but differed on the point that the discipline of Kalam does not yield certain knowledge (gnosis) (al-ma‘rifat al-yaqiniyya) as does spiritual unveiling (kashf) or inspiration (ilham), for it depends on (and hence is limited to) the intellect. He wrote in his spiritual autobiography: Then I commenced with the discipline of Kalam, and obtained a thorough understanding of it. I studied the works of its sound theologians, and myself composed some works in the subject. But I found it a discipline that, while attaining its own aim, did not attain mine. Its aim is preserving the creed of orthodoxy and defending it against the inclinations of innovative folk. … But in doing so they (the practitioners of Kalam) came to argue on premises they admitted to their opponents and to which they were compelled, whether following precedent (al-taqlid), or the consensus of the community, or by solely accepting the Qur’an and traditions. The majority of their argument was dedicated to laying forth the contradictions of their opponents and criticizing the logical consequences of what they admitted. But this is of little benefit with respect to someone who admitted nothing at all save logically necessary truths—so Kalam was not sufficient in my case and was unable to treat the malady of which I complained.

Determining whether Kalam is permissible, recommended, or necessary proceeds from assessing its benefit, and determining whether it is impermissible with reference to its harm. Al-Ghazali (rahimahullah) writes elsewhere that Kalam contains both benefit and harm, its specific ruling being determined by the conditions at the time.

Certain Problems Addressed by Kalam and the Positions of Certain Kalam Schools

The Imamate According to Shi‘ism

Lexically, the word “Shi‘a” means “adherent” (ansar), such that the related word “partisanship” (tashayyu‘) denotes the victory of one over another (al-intisar). Historically, the word “Shi‘a” refers to the supporters of ‘Ali bin Abi Talib, God be well-pleased with him. In the sectarian sense, the term refers to the explicit conviction that the right to the Caliphate fell only to ‘Ali and his children, God be well-pleased with them. They differed thereafter as to which among his descendents had priority: the Zaydis asserted the Imamate through the third-generation descendent Zayd bin ‘Ali bin al-Husayn; the Ismailis asserted the Imamate through the seventh-generation descendent Isma‘il bin Ja‘far al-Sadiq; and the Twelver (Ithna Ash‘ari) Shi‘ites asserted the Imamate through Muhammad bin al-Hasan (known as al-‘Askari).

The Twelver Shi‘ites hold that the authority of the Imamate is one of the fundamental principles of religion that do not admit rational interpretation and therefore is not subject to independent judgment (ijtihad). Nor are ancillary matters related to it subject to such independent judgment, although they may admit rational interpretation. That is, choosing the leader (al-imam) is not achieved by election through the pledged allegiance (bay‘a) of the community (as Sunnis hold) but rather through Divine appointment and textual designation (i.e., from proof-texts drawn from the Qur’an and Sunna). The pledged allegiance is subsequent to and dependent on this Divine appointment. Shi‘ites narrate various textual proofs for this position, among them the hadith of the pond of Khumm (“Whosoever I am his master (mawla), so too ‘Ali is his master”). Likewise they advance rational proofs, including that the orthodox community—being comprised merely of a multitude of fallible individuals—is not immune from mistakes, and that mistakes in this matter of choosing the leader (al-imam) yield nothing less than chaos and social disintegration. For these reasons, among others, this matter must be effected through Divine appointment and thereby secured against the fallibility of the populace.

Given that they were Divinely appointed, the Imams are understood to be protected from error. Shi‘ites adduce both textual and rational proofs for this doctrine, including respectively God’s address to Abraham—upon him peace—that My Covenant does not include wrongdoers (Q 2:124) and the argument that the infallibility of the Imams interrupts the infinite regress of moral culpability that otherwise obtains.

Imam Muhammad bin al-Hasan (known as al-‘Askari), was hidden in what is known as the “minor occultation” (ghiba sughra), which lasted for seventy years starting in 260AH/874CE. Then began the “major occultation” (ghiba kubra), which will continue until the end of days. Shi‘ites further believe in the messianic return of the twelfth Imam in the last days, in the form of the long-awaited Mahdi.

Taqiyya refers to concealing the doctrines of a school from those who do not believe in it, or an individual’s concealing his affiliation to a school. Shi‘ites adduce in support of this doctrine the Qur’anic verse Except for one who is compelled [to disbelieve] while his heart remains content with faith (Q 16:106), and narrate from Ja‘far al-Sadiq the report “Taqiyya is of my religion and that of my fathers’ ”.

The Zaydis follow Zayd bin ‘Ali bin al-Husayn, and are the Shi‘ite denomination most similar to the Sunnis. They agree with the Sunnis (against the Twelver Shi‘ites) that the question of the Imamate is a branch of religion which does admit rational interpretation and is likewise subject to independent judgment. The Twelver Shi‘ites hold their opinion to be established through express textual support, that is, authentically-narrated reports indisputably indicating the person of the Imam. Zaydis recognize texts indicating the person of the Imam but hold them to be less definitive both in their transmission and their signification, and to describe the attributes of the Imam but not specify him by name. Further distinctions between the Twelver Shi‘ites and Zaydis are logically entailed by these differences, in that the former hold that one who denies the Imamate of ‘Ali and his descendents in effect denies decisive proof-texts and so disbelieves; while the latter hold that denying these matters means rather that one has sinfully erred in judgment (but remains within the fold of faith). The Zaydis hold that ‘Ali bin Abi Talib had precedence over Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, and ‘Uthman, God be well-pleased with them all, in that he had more right than them to the title of Caliph, but due to his younger age and the perilous conditions in the troubled state of the time, it is permissible to admit the Caliphate of those before him. This again is opposed to the Twelver Shi‘ites, who hold that the prior three Caliphs were flagrant usurpers. The Twelver Shi‘ites, Ismailis, and certain Zaydis affirm a doctrine of the awaited Mahdi (as opposed to the Sunnis, of whom the majority believe in the Mahdi and another party do not, but in neither case make this doctrine foundational to their Islamic creed).

The roots of the Shi‘ite conception of the authority of the Imam, and specifically that of the Twelver Shi‘ites, hearkens back to the doctrines and philosophies prevailing in pre-Islamic Persia. When Islam entered Persia it was in a state of disarray, and due to it its civilization was enriched but endured. One of the elements of Persian civilization that Islam did not abolish was the system that understood kings to have a quasi-Divine nature, and which influenced the Shi‘ite view of the Imamate (as argued by Shaykh Muhammad Abu Zahra) .

The Positions Championed by the Kharijites and the Murji’ites
Lexically, “Khuruj” denotes insurrection and insubordination. The active participle “Khawarij” refers to those who rebelled against ‘Ali bin Abi Talib, God be well-pleased with him. The movement originated at the murder of ‘Uthman, God be well-pleased with him, and the allegiance pledged to ‘Ali as Caliph: Mu‘awiya (then Governor of Syro-Palestine) refused to acknowledge this allegiance owed, accusing him instead of covering over the murder of ‘Uthman. Thereafter ‘Ali and Mu‘awiya faced each other in battle (at the Battle of Siffin) and the latter would have been routed, but that ‘Amr bin al-As enjoined his forces to hoist up copies of the Qur’an on their lances (invoking the authority of scriptural writ to decide between them). Certain of ‘Ali’s supporters inclined toward seeking an arbitrated settlement between him and Mu‘awiya, but a faction rejected the possibility of subjecting legitimate authority to such adjudication. They proclaimed the slogan, “no decision save that of God!” (la hukm illa li’llah), and struck camp at Harura (by which they are also known as the Haruriyya). Refusing the outcome of the arbitration, they left (rebelled) against his authority and thus became known as the Khawarij (lit., “those who left”). They subsequently split into twenty schisms.

The most important articles of Kharijite doctrine are 1) considering whoever is content with such arbitration to be unbelievers (takfir). They anathematized ‘Ali and Mu‘awiya and ‘Uthman, all of whom accepted arbitration in matters of authority; 2) appointing the Caliph through free, valid election alone, as established by the Muslim majority (and not a group of delegates or the like). They would support the Caliph so long as he ruled in justice as upheld by the Shari‘a; otherwise, they held it necessary to remove him from power, given also the necessity of rising against permissive authorities; 3) the permissibility of non-Qurayshite Caliphs, and indeed that all contenders were equal regardless of tribal or ethnic origin-even that non-Arab claimants were preferable for they would be easier to remove from power in the event they acted against the Shari‘a. They themselves chose the non-Qurayshite ‘Abd Allah bin Wahb al-Rasibi as their leader; and 4) a radical conflation of belief and action, holding that faith (iman) necessarily yields righteous works. This in turn meant they considered the perpetrator of sins an unbeliever, without distinguishing between enormities and minor sins. Likewise they considered those adhering to opposing judgments and schools to be unbelievers. In support of such doctrines they offered the Qur’anic verse Q 3:97 (And pilgrimage to the House is a duty unto God for mankind, for him who is able to find a way there. As for him who disbelieves—surely God is independent of [all] creatures), which they interpreted to equate abandoning the rite of pilgrimage—surely a sin—with full disbelief, such that any sinner becomes a disbeliever. They also cited the verse Q 5:44 (Whoso judgeth not by that which Allah has revealed: such are disbelievers) to mean that every perpetrator of sins had decided his course of action by something other than revelation and so had disbelieved.

The followers of ‘Abd Allah bin Ibad, some of whom continue to reside in Oman and northeast Africa, are known as the Ibadis; they comprise the Kharijite sect closest to the Sunnis. They distinguish between disbelief in doctrine (that is, with respect to God the Exalted proper) and disbelief with respect to His bounties (that is, restricting or denying related aspects). They held that their opponents’ judgments and schools disbelieved in the latter sense, not the former, and thus that their opponents’ persons, homes, and livestock remained inviolable to them (except for their steeds and weapons). Likewise they held their opponents’ testimony, marriage with them, and inheriting from them all to be legitimate.

The Kharijite school rested on the equation of sovereignty (hakimiyya) with power (sulta) as what yields dominion (siyada) quite resembling that of modern political thought—that is, a concept of absolute authority. However, authority yields dominion only in particular times and places. Certain contemporary Islamist groups have approximated this view, relying for instance on what they understood of the teachings of Abul-A‘la al-Mawdudi or the later works of Sayyid Qutb. ‘Ali bin Abi Talib, God be well-pleased with him, was among the first to stridently resist this approach. Responding to the Kharijite slogan “No decision [or: rulership] save that of God!”, he said, “A true word, yet they intend falsehood by it. True, [there is] no rulership save that of God, yet they claim there is no command [or: government] (imra) save that of God while people require leaders (amir), whether righteous or profligate.”

The Murji‘ites were another early sect. Their eponymous key tenet of irja’ lexically denotes “postponement” (ta’khir), for they “deferred” the requital of transgressions to the Day of Judgment. It is imperative to differentiate the position of this sect from that of certain early Companions and Followers who (responding to the conditions of their time) forbade engaging the bitter contemporaneous political struggles. In that vein they recommended “deferring” the case of grave sinners to God Most High, Who will punish or forgive them as He wills on the Day of Judgment. In the subsequent period however, there emerged the Murji‘ites, who took this notion of deferral to its limit and made it a point of doctrine. They thus held that sin does not spoil faith much like obedience does not benefit disbelief—that is, that the believer remains a believer no matter the enormities of sins he commits, just as the disbeliever remains a disbeliever no matter the righteous deeds he works. They held that faith (iman) pertains to [private] beliefs, and that one who pronounces unbelief (kufr) with his tongue and worships idols or practically adheres to Judaism or Christianity (for instance, worshipping the cross or pronouncing Trinitarian doctrine) in the lands of Islam, and thereafter dies without recanting these practices, can yet be a believer of unaffected or complete faith in the sight of God almighty, and can yet be among the Folk of Paradise.

While the Kharijites grossly conflated faith (iman) and action (‘amal), the Murji‘ites radically separated them. The correct position is that the relation between faith and action is one of union (but not absolute identity, as with the Kharijites) and distinction (but not absolute disjunction, as with the Murji‘ites).

Creatures’ Actions, Between the Determinists and Libertarians
The name of the Libertarian sect (al-qadariyya) refers to the human power (qudra) to act and choose. Some hold that it refers to the determination (al-qadr) which they deny God Most High and affirm for humans. Some writers hold them to be aptly described by their opponents as corresponding to the hadith “those who deny God’s measuring-out are the fire worshippers of this community”. The strongest opinion as to their name is that the word “al-Qadariyya” generally encompasses the Mu‘tazilites and the Jahmites and more specifically refers to the latter.

The most important Jahmite leader, Ma‘bad al-Juhani, preached his school in Iraq and was killed by Hajjaj in the uprising of ‘Abd al-Rahman bin al-Ash‘ath and Ghilan al-Dimashqi, who had been debated by ‘Umar bin ‘Abd al-‘Aziz and was spectacularly killed by Hisham bin ‘Abd al-Malik. This group radically ascribed action and volition to humans, holding that every human action occurs through a will independent from the will of God Most High. They rejected God’s prior knowledge and determining (taqdir) the occurrence of human action. Dr. Muhammad Yusuf observes, “The Libertarians took the position that humans are the ones who determine their own actions through their knowledge, facing them through their will, and enacting them through their power—and that God has no power over these works, cannot engage them in His volition or power, and cannot have knowledge of them before they occur. ” In this way the Libertarians came to ascribe the Divine Attribute of Lordship (rububiyya) to others beside God, delimiting His properly unrestricted knowledge and power.

The Jahmites gained their name through their eponymous ascription to Jahm bin Safwan. They argued that, given that God Most High is the creator of creatures’ acts, and given that He possesses unrestricted power, human power over actions is transformed into a mere instrument without volition. Jahm bin Safwan said, Indeed humans determine nothing, nor are they characterized by such ability; rather they are compelled in their actions, having no [independent] volition and no choice. It is God Most High Who creates actions for them in the same way that He does for other bodies. Actions are ascribed to them only in a figurative sense, as they are other bodies . In the following period this opinion suffused various groups associated with the Sunnis.

The Determinist school (al-jabariyya) came to be named for their fundamental tenet denying human power to act and choose. The Determinist opinion arose in Islam because the transcendental conception of God Most High holds there to be no contradiction between the abstract or general acts of God and the delimited acts of human beings. The former defines and delimits the latter, both in their generation (manifesting them in the visible world through the Divine habit that ensured the conditions of human action) and their commission (like legal boundaries manifest themselves through the various Divine commands of obligation and prohibition, to which humans ought to cleave in their actions). This school of thought conflates the acts of God with everything consequent, and so understands attributing actions to any other than Him to be ascribing Him partners in His lordship—even though this is more properly the case only with reference to the unrestricted acts of God, not the delimited acts of human beings. Their conflation in fact resembles the approach of Idealists of Western philosophy such as Hegel. The improbability of determinism in Islamic orthodoxy means that, contra certain Orientalists, it is not receptive to such Idealism.

Good and Evil, Between the Mu‘tazilites, the Ash‘arites, and the Maturidites

Mu‘tazilites

The Mu‘tazilite sect gained its name when Wasil bin ‘Ata’ (founder of the school) differed from his teacher Hasan al-Basri on the question of the status of a Muslim who committed grave sins. The latter held him to be a sinner but nonetheless a Muslim, while Wasil dissented to argue that he was in a station between belief and unbelief (that is, neither a believer nor a disbeliever). Hasan al-Basri commented that Wasil “withdrew” (i‘tazala) from his company, and so this disagreement led to the formation of the Mu‘tazilite school.

Mu‘tazilism is based on five creedal articles. The first two pertain to the highly transcendental conception of God they advance. 1) Divine unity (al-tawhid): Mu‘tazilites rationally interpreted all verses that could yield anthropomorphism and, in an effort to rigorously maintain the single eternity of God, denude God of all attributes other than His Essence (repudiating a distinct existence to these attributes). Thus they rationally interpret the Divine attributes as recorded in the Qur’an to be various names of the Divine essence, not attributes proper. In this sense they are also known as those who deny the attributes (al-mu‘attila), with the nuance that they only deny these attributes as they exist distinct from the Divine essence (al-ta‘til al-juz’iyy la al-ta‘til al-kulli).

2) Justice (al-‘adl): Mu‘tazilites held that the principle of Divine justice dictates that He reward the righteous with good and requite the sinner with ill, and also that He endow humans with power over their actions and the ability to choose between good and evil. For were humans compelled in their deeds, then the Divine reward and punishment based on them would be essentially unjust—and He is above such ascriptions! In order to secure Divine justice, however, they radically emphasized human freedom and so came to imply that humans create their actions.

They held further that the moral quality of actions (their good or evil) inhere essentially in them, being independent of Divine commands or prohibitions. Therefore the Legislator enjoins certain actions because of the good inhering in them and prohibits others due to the evil inhering in them, and even those people who have not been reached by revelation are nonetheless accountable to God for their actions (because the ethical status of actions is independently rationally comprehensible).

3) The Intermediate Position (al-manzila bayn al-manzilatayn): The Mu ‘tazilites held that those who commit enormities are relegated to a position between that of disbelief (kufr) and belief (iman)—that is, they cannot properly be said to be disbelievers or believers, although nothing prevents calling them “Muslims” if it is specified that their repentance is yet called for. Ibn Abi Hadid said, If we take the position that those who commit enormities can be called neither believers nor “Muslims” we would prefer that he be called “Muslim” so that we may distinguish him from Dhimmis or idol-worshippers.

4) The Promise and Threat (al-wa‘d wal-wa‘id): Mu‘tazilites held that God’s promise to reward the righteous with good and requite sinners with ill to be irreversible. Thereby they also denied notions of intercession in the hereafter.

5) Commanding the Good and Forbidding Evil (al-amr bil-ma‘ruf wal-nahi ‘an al-munkar): Mu‘tazilites made rebellion against a tyrannical despot obligatory, albeit conditional on the particular circumstances of the case (contra the Kharijites, who affirmed this obligation unreservedly).

The radically transcendent emphasis of the Mu‘tazilites led them to deny the Divine attribute of speech (al-kalam) as distinct from the Divine essence, for, as a contingent characteristic of other creatures, they believed it could imply a multiplicity of deities. In this they repudiated the Christian claims that the Qur’an supported the divinity of Christ when it described Jesus, upon him peace, as the “Word of God” (kalimat Allah). They further interpreted Qur’anic references to the speech of God Most High (kalam Allah) to mean that He created that speech as He did any other thing, and thereby that the Qur’an itself is created (and thus contingent), not pre-eternal.

In keeping with these methodological and hermeneutical principles, Mu‘tazilites rejected the possibility of “seeing” God. Certain scholars understood this to apply specifically to the notion of seeing God with one’s eyes. Al-Shahrastani said, They were united in denying an ocular beatific vision in the Abode of Permanence (ru’yat Allah ta‘ala bil-absar fi dar al-qarar).

From the position that God in His wisdom acted according to certain principles, not haphazardly, the Mu‘tazilites took up the notion that it was necessary for God to act in the best manner possible. That is, given that God the Exalted only acts from His infinite wisdom, it is impossible for Him to command anything but virtue or prohibit anything but depravity. Thus both good and its superlative are necessary for God.

The Mu‘tazilites reached their positions primarily through engaging members of other religions and refuting opposing creeds, by using methodological abstractions and rational strategies derived from Greek logic. However, these techniques—in their rigor—in fact shield one from the vigor and vitality of gnosis as ordered by revelation, and cut at the very heart of knowledge of the unseen. For example, the Mu‘tazilite concept of the Divine essence can be understood as a response to the radical anthropomorphists (or corporealists), who imputed to God aspects of a body (like that of humans); but their more transcendent concept in effect severs the bond between humans and their Lord. It empties their concept of the existence of God, as in the question of Divine attributes, even while it unrestrictedly subordinates these matters to the intellect, as in the question of the ethical status of acts and others such surveyed above. They go too far also in their affirmation of human freedom, as they transform the delimited acts of human beings—which are defined by the acts of God in their instantiation and their moral investiture (takwinan wa taklifan)—into unreserved acts. They hold that humans are the creators of their own acts, but creation is an attribute of Lordship signifying that an act is performed by none other than God. Therefore they seem to imply partners in His lordship, and compromise the monotheism they otherwise strictly seek to defend. Finally, it is more proper to hold that God made the good of His actions obligatory on Himself, rather than to say He is obliged or bound in any fashion. In Qur’anic idiom, He has prescribed it for Himself (kataba Rabukum‘ala nafsih) (cf. Q 6:12).

Ash‘arites

The eponymous founder of this school is Abu al-Hasan al-Ash‘ari, one of the first to study under but then quit the Mu‘tazilites. The Ash‘arites came to comprise the largest Sunni group, including among its ranks such great scholarly giants as al-Juwayni, al-Shahrastani, and al-Ghazali.
Like the Mu‘tazilites, the Ash‘arites held that the Divine essence was transcendent and repudiated anthropomorphism. However, they understood the Qur’anic verses whose apparent sense could yield similarities between God and human beings to employ conventional Arabic figures or metaphors, without subjecting them to further speculative or abstracting interpretation. Al-Baghdadi attributed anthropomorphist interpretations to “renegades and radicals ” and al-Shahrastani considered the anthropomorphist Karramite scholars to be “ignorant fools ”. Al-Ghazali insisted one must properly understand ostensibly anthropomorphic Qur’anic expressions such as those referring to “the Hand [of God]”, which, as an equivocal expression, includes the primary corporeal sense of a limb composed of flesh and bone but also includes a metaphorical sense that is not essentially corporeal.

Ash‘arites affirmed Divine attributes as distinct from the Divine essence, including divine power, will, hearing, sight, and speech. Al-Ash‘ari held that human acts are the result of God’s creation and human acquisition (kasb), which is the conjunction of human power and Divine act. An example to elucidate this relation is the movement of a hand wearing a ring, whereby the movement of the ring is conjoined to that of the hand. Contra the Mu‘tazilites, Ash‘arites did not believe that acts are essentially good or bad, but that they receive their moral character through Divine command or prohibition. Al-Ash‘ari said that one who commits enormities is a sinning believer and relinquished to the will of God as to whether He forgive him and enter him into Paradise or whether He first requite him with punishment for his sins. He further affirmed the possibility of the beatific vision, in that every existent (including God) admits being seen. Ash‘arites posited that the Divine attribute of speech is pre-eternal in His essence, but he divided the Divine speech into two types: unlettered speech (kalam nafsi), which singularly abides with the Divine essence; and lettered speech (kalam lafzi), which is comprised of contingent letters and sounds conforming to the meaning of the unlettered speech that comprehends every injunction and prohibition. The Qur’an is therefore the uncreated speech of God but its disparate letters, colored inks, inscriptions, and vocalizations are all created in time. Finally, the Ash‘arites held that the acts of God are not bound to an underlying rationality, for that would restrict His sovereign will even in such questions as the requital of the obedient and transgressors. Rather they cite the Qur’anic verse He will not be questioned as to what he does, but they will be questioned (Q 21:23).

Various criticisms were advanced against these positions and formulations. Ibn Hazm criticized the Ash‘arite conception of godhead, arguing that their division of the eternal essence of God from His abiding attributes compromises His absolute oneness . The Ash‘arites began soundly, establishing human actions as the result of God’s creation and human acquisition; but their definition of acquisition as merely a conjunction effectively tended toward Determinism. Al-Juwayni (rahimahullah) commented that denying human power and ability is refused both by rationality and lived experience, for affirming a power without effect (as in the definitions of certain Ash‘arites) is essentially denying that power as such . The Ash‘arite position on the ethical status of acts in effect was said to undermine rationality, for by unreservedly refusing the possibility of independently discerning good (husn) or ill (qubh) they in turn deny the independent existence of good (khayr) and evil (sharr). Likewise, their position that God’s acts are not bound by revelation in an absence of wisdom is a contradictory and inadequate conception inadmissible for God, for His works are unreservedly independent and in turn complete.

The Maturidites are a Sunni sect founded by Abu Mansur al-Maturidi, holding many positions in common with the Ash‘arites but differing from them on others. Much like the Ash‘arite approach to Qur’anic verses that could yield an anthropomorphic concept of God, they affirmed His transcendence while understanding these expressions by the conventional figurative meanings they had garnered in Arabic—not through some sort of speculative rational interpretation. The Maturidites recognized that the moral quality of certain works can be rationally apprehended, just as there are others whose moral quality cannot be understood except through revelation. But in every case, they hold that humans are not obliged to do good and refrain from evil until they encounter revelation. They agree with the Ash‘arites that human acts are the result of Divine creation and human acquisition, but (against the Ash‘arites) hold that acquisition is not merely conjoined with action but in fact is its very reality (haqiqiyya). Maturidites hold that those who commit enormities will not abide in Hellfire, even if they died without repenting. Al-Maturidi said, the truth about believing, habitual sinners is that their case is relegated to God Most High, for Him to forgive them if He so chooses (from His bounty and goodness and mercy) or to punish them to the extent of their sins, if He so chooses. They will not abide in the fire. People of faith are between hope and fear. Against the Mu‘tazilite rationalizing interpretation of Divine acts, al-Maturidi said, His acts obey an underlying wisdom because He is the Wise; He wills wisdom by them because He intends them, not because He is compelled to act in a certain manner. He is not bound but rather has free volition and will.

We note here that the Maturidites have the soundest solution to the issue of the scope of reason in discerning the ethical status of actions, in that they develop a variegated approach. Yet they do not clarify the nature of these acts in their two types such that one might say that the acts whose moral status does not admit rational investigation are abstracted from their particular conditions, while those whose moral quality is discernible are circumscribed in relation to their time and place.

Divine Attributes, Between Imputing Similarities and Relinquishing the Matter to God

Tashbih is the position that there are similarities (beyond analogies) between God the Exalted and His creation. Tajsim is the related position that imputes a bodily form to God. Tashbih emerged before Islam among certain Jewish and Christian sects, and then spread to certain radical sects in Muslim lands; its more prominent proponents include certain Shi‘ite groups, the Karramites, and the Hashwites. It is based on a particular understanding of those scriptural verses whose apparent meaning expresses similarities between God and creation.

The Shi‘ite extremists who took such a position include Mughira bin Sa‘id, who claimed that the one he worshipped was a man of light with a crown upon his head and limbs unlike a man, and Bayan bin Sam‘an, who maintained that the one he worshipped was a human being enveloped in light but for his face. The Karramites were named after Muhammad bin Karam al-Sajistani, who affirmed the Divine attributes but in a corporealizing and anthropomorphizing fashion. He called his followers to worship an embodied, delimited God. In his book “The Punishment of the Grave,” he described God as seated proudly upon the Throne in terms that admit movement, change, and cessation— much like he affirmed the beatific vision without securing the doctrine against its potential spatial implications. The Hashwites, finally, are those who cling to an extremely literal hermeneutic, and so insist on the apparent sense of those verses that could imply similarities between God and creation. Al-Tahanawi recorded, in his book Kashshaf istilahat al-funun, that the Hashwites clung to apparent meanings until they corporealized their theology, and further. Some assimilated them into various Sunni groups, especially the later Hanbalites, of whom we may give examples of scholars who appear to adopt the Hashwite hermeneutic; but great numbers of other Hanbalites (including Ibn Jawzi) vociferously rejected it in the fourth and fifth centuries. Ahmad bin Hanbal himself never anthropomorphized but rather urged a specific kind of relegation (tafwid), which (as practiced by certain early Muslims) is simply refusing to comment on such matters.

Ibn al-Jawzi said, “I wonder at those who call to knowledge and tend toward anthropomorphism (tashbih) by taking hadiths literally .” The interpretation (haml) here referred to includes both a specific understanding and discussion of that understanding; but maintaining the traditional approach is achieved by refraining both from plunging into that discussion or speculating on how to understand it.

One of the Sunni approaches to such questions is attributed to Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal, founder of the Hanbalite legal school, and includes numerous great scholars such as Ibn al-Jawzi, Ibn Taymiyya, and Ibn al-Qayyim. Other appellations of this methodological group include “the Traditionalists” (lit., “the Companions of Hadith”, ashab al-hadith) and “the Folk [adhering to the way] of the Predecessors” (ahl al-salaf). The later Wahhabite school named after Muhammad bin ‘Abd al-Wahhab hearkens back to this group in aspects of its method and practice.

The approach of Ahmad bin Hanbal on ambiguous matters was to refrain from commenting on them, relegating their specific interpretation to God (tafwid) in His transcendence with reference to the verse Q 3:7: None knoweth its explanation save God…. Later, Ibn Taymiyya adopted such a position of tafwid, but furthermore considered the early Muslims to have understood these ambiguous verses and hadiths in their apparent sense (i.e., he ascribed this understanding to them despite their refraining from comment). It is evident, he wrote, that when the Lord described Himself as “Knowing, Powerful”, He did not qualify His own formulation by saying its evident sense is unintended. This is because its meaning (mafhum) with respect to Him (fi haqqihi) is similar (mithl) to its meaning with respect to us. A similar hermeneutical principle obtains, Ibn Taymiyya writes, in such cases as God ascribing to Himself the creation of Adam by His Hand .

Ibn Taymiyya rejected determinism for the way it divested the sinner’s responsibility before God. He affirmed human power to act and choose, but without ascribing them the creation of their acts as did the Mu‘tazilites. One of the most enduring elements of human thought, he writes, marshalling a logical-grammatical argument, is [the causal principle by which] one who acts justly is understood to be just, one who works iniquity is understood to be iniquitous, and one who lies is known as a liar—if it is not the creature who is agent of his lies and iniquity but rather God who is the effector of those actions, that entails God be attributed with deceit and wickedness!

Ibn Taymiyya disputed the Ash‘arite position that God’s acts are not justifiable, arguing that this emptied His acts of their underlying wisdom. Rather, he said, He created creation, enjoined His commandments, and forbade His prohibitions all according to a distinct wisdom.

Ibn al-Qayyim agreed with al-Maturidi that the moral quality of certain acts is rationally discernable, yet that the reward of good and requital of ill requires revelation. He wrote, In truth, one will find no contradiction in the approach holding that acts are in themselves good and evil (like they have benefit and harm) without making this a cause of their reward and requital, which is determinable only through the commands and prohibitions of revelation. Like Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn al-Qayyim refused the position that human acts are determined in any way. Thus he affirmed human action and volition without making reference to their existence as God’s creation.

Ibn al-Jawzi differed from Ibn al-Qayyim and Ibn Taymiyya in understanding potentially anthropomorphic Qur’anic verses and hadiths in terms of a metaphor that could that would be readily understood by an Arabic speaker, without finding it necessary to resort to rational speculation (for example, as one who says that the Qur’anic references to God’s “finger” is “the trace of His virtue” or that “His hand” is “His blessing”). This is the position too of Ibn Hazm, al-Ghazali, and al-Maturidi. (For a thing is taken on its face if possible; if it is interpreted, it is done so based on metaphor.)

There are two aspects to the approach of the early Muslims to this question: their theoretical understanding and its practical implementation. It is unsound to hold simply that they refused to comment on the matter, for certainly some of them did speak on it (specifically ‘Ali bin Abi Talib and Ibn Mas‘ud, in refuting innovators’ creeds). Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn al-Qayyim were of the opinion that the early Muslims understood such verses in their apparent sense, while others (including Ibn al-Jawzi, Ibn Hazm, and al-Ghazali, as surveyed above) felt otherwise.

Is Philosophy Forbidden in Islam??

A TALE OF TWO PHILOSOPHIES

[By Hamza Tzortzis]

Philosophy for the Muslim philosopher is understood in a general sense to mean the attempt to answer the fundamental questions associated with existence, the mind, morals, and knowledge.

Philosophy is forbidden because it approaches religion through merely rational arguments, such as in Ancient Greek (e.g. Hellenistic) or Western Enlightenment thought, on the basis of which accepts or rejects aspects of the Islamic tradition, and, in doing so, religion becomes the subject of human desires and un-Godly thinking.

These two opposing statements have been deliberately juxtaposed to highlight a symptom of the intellectual malady that has afflicted some sections of our community. One of the greatest challenges that we face is finding scholarship that has an understanding of the Islamic source texts (the Qur’an and Prophetic Traditions) and combines it with the aptitude to use them in addressing real life issues. For example, when a scholar attempts to understand the ethics of in vitro fertilisation (IVF), not only must s/he understand the process of IVF, but s/he also needs to have the scholastic tools to understand and apply Shari’  principles to this very modern case; absence of either would result in a skewed ethics/verdict.

A similar situation occurs when some Islamic scholars address the topic of philosophy. During the Islamic medieval period, some scholars, from the various schools of thought and creed, postulated that the use of Hellenistic philosophy on theological issues would lead people astray. In a butchered attempt to echo this narrative, some scholars today make the same point regarding contemporary philosophy, that is, wherever the term ‘philosophy’ pops up.

The logical fallacy should be glaringly obvious here. It occurs when two things are incorrectly equated simply because they share a common ground. Technically, the fallacy is committed when the middle term happens to be shared in at least one of the premises. For example: (1) The dog needs oxygen to survive;
(2) John needs oxygen to survive; and
(3) Therefore, the dog is John.

Just because the dog and John both require oxygen to survive (the common ground), it does not follow that the dog is John. Far more would be required to make that logical link. Similarly, some argue that since Hellenistic philosophy was disparaged by notable medieval scholars, contemporary philosophy must also be forbidden. But clearly, just because they’re both described as philosophy doesn’t mean that they are the same.

When some scholars claim that Hellenistic philosophy is forbidden they often fail to provide compelling reasons. Was it the use of complex language? Was the thinking too speculative that it violated revelatory constraints? Or was there a particular aspect of Hellenistic philosophy which was problematic? On perusing Islamic intellectual history, it is easy to find that the issue was the adoption of philosophical assumptions that could not be traced or reconciled with the strong inferences made by the Islamic source texts, this problematic approach is often referred to as ‘blameworthy kalam.’ However, beyond sharing a name, neither is contemporary philosophy the same, nor is it a specific subject; it merely describes a systematic method to thinking about important issues. There are many lively debates on consciousness, the role of reason, the nature of reality, causality, morality and ethics, and the list can go on and on. People offer many competing positions, and of course some will agree with Islamic perspectives and some may not. But, Hellenistic philosophy of the Islamic medieval period is simply not analogous with contemporary philosophy.

The word philosophy linguistically means ‘the love of wisdom.’ Practically, it refers to thinking deeply about things, and Muslims are continually encouraged to ponder and reflect on the world around them. As a matter of fact, it is a neglected act of worship. The Qur’an mentions the word ‘mind’ or ‘reasoning’ (in different forms) over 48 times, and refers to ‘people of intellect/understanding’ over 15 times, and this is not to mention commands to ‘reflect,’ ‘ponder’ and ‘contemplate.’

This is not to say that philosophical reasoning is to be taken as an end, but rather to use it as a way to gain greater insight or to awaken the truth that already exists within our innate nature or the empirical world around us. Not to mention, experiential and spiritual truths are not always discovered by philosophical thinking alone.

Nevertheless, today, there is a desperate need to encourage thinking and philosophical reasoning. When our students are being bombarded with skepticism, atheism and all the other ‘-isms,’ they need to acquire and develop the intellectual and spiritual tools to address them. Saying philosophy is forbidden will, and has, disenfranchised many young people, and in some cases it is pushing them away from Islam altogether. It is irresponsible to tell university students to keep away from philosophy when it is used in almost every sphere of learning, not to mention the constant bombardment of the Islamic tradition by proponents of other philosophies. Without the necessary intellectual grounding, their minds may end up defeated, knowledge of philosophy will help build their defences.

However, an important piece of advice I would give is that before embarking on an intellectual journey one must have a minimum level of spiritual grounding (connection with God), and a basic yet essential understanding of the Islamic creed—as well as a relationship with nuanced and intellectually astute Islamic scholars. Finally, when one philosophizes they must premise the arguments and positions in the strong inferences in the Islamic source texts. Once these things are in place, engaging in this area only increases one’s faith. What brings me to this conclusion? I have recently completed a post-graduate degree in philosophy. During most lectures and seminar group sessions I came to the conclusion that God and Islam were the missing links to solving the problems that we discussed.

Philosophy today cannot be reduced to nor defined by the blameworthy philosophical assumptions of the Islamic medieval period. Let us not commit the fallacy of simply equating things with shared terms as automatically being one and the same. Instead, we should realise that nuanced philosophical reasoning would go a long way to help deal with the complex intellectual challenges of the modern world.

‘Kun Faya koon’ [Be! and it Comes to be] in the Light of Philosophy

[Mufti Muhammad Shafi’ Usmani (rahimahullah)]

As  for  creation  taking  place  through  the  Divine  Command,  “Be”,  we  would  like  to  add  a note,  following  the  example  of  Maulana  Ashraf  ‘Ali  Thanavi  in  his  “Bayan  al-Qur’an”,  for  the benefit  of  those  who happen to be  interested  in Western  philosophy,  or  in  Christian  theology,  or,  worst  of  all,  in  the  writings  of  the Orientalists  and  their  translations  of  Sufi texts. 

Let  us  begin  by  saying  that  it  is  a  mystery  —  and  we  are  using  the  word  “mystery”, not  in  the  debased  and  the  modern  sense,  but  in  the  original  meaning  of  the  term  which  implies  that  certain  realities  are  altogether  beyond  the  reach  of  human  understanding,  and  that  certain  other  realities  cannot  and  must  not,  even  when  partially  or wholly  understood,  be  given  out  to  those  who  have  no  aptitude  for  receiving  them,  and  that  with  regard  to  them  it  is  advisable  “to  keep one’s  lips  closed.”  In  these  matters,  when  and  what  one  chooses  to reveal  is  ultimately  not  the  question  of  liberalism  or  democratism  or  egalitarianism,  but  that  of  “spiritual etiquette.”  Having  repeated  the warning  given  by  Maulana  Thanavi himself,  we  shall  do  no  more  than  explaining  what  “Bayan al-Qur’an”  says  on  the  subject.

Regarding  this  particular  mystery,  there  is  a  difference  of  approach  between  the  two  groups  of  the  Mutakallimin  (the  masters  of  al-‘Ilm al-Kalam  or  dialectical  theology).  According  to  the  Asha’ri  group,  “Be,  and  it  comes  to  be”  (Kun  fa  Yakoon)  is  a  metaphorical  or allegorical  expression.  That  is  to  say,  the  phrase  does  not  signify  that  Allah  actually  addressed  an  existent  and  commanded  it  “to be”,  but  it  is an  allegorical  illustration  of  His  omnipotence,  suggesting  that  there  is  no  interval  between  an  act  of  will  on  His  part  and  its  realization.  The  commentator  al-Baydawi  has  adopted  this  view.  But,  according  to  the Maturidi  group,  the  phrase  literally  means  what  it  says.  This  approach  to  the  subject,  however,  produces  a  difficult  problem.  A  command  is  given  only  to  an existent.  If  a  thing  does  not  exist  at  all,  how  can  Allah  address  it?  On  the  other  hand,  if  a  thing  does  already  exist,  it  is  superfluous  to  command  it  “to  be.”  The  problem  can  easily  be  resolved  if  we  keep  two  considerations  in  mind.  Firstly,  this  command  does  not  belong  to  the  order  of  Tashri’ (legislation)  which  requires  the  addressee  to  exist  in  actual)  fact  and  to  possess  understanding;  it  belongs  to  the  order  of  Takween: (creation)  which  is  concerned  with  giving  existence  to  non-existents.

This  explanation,  in  its  turn,  brings  us  into  the  thick  of  a  controversy  that  has  muddled  a  great  deal  of  Western  philosophy  and  theology.  We refer  to  the  question  of  “creation  arising  out  of  nothingness”  (Ex Nihilo), and  the  second  of  our  two  considerations  will  clarify  it.  It  is  usual enough  to  place  “existence”  (Wujud)  in  opposition  to  “nothingness  or non-existence”  (Adam).  But  it  has  also been  said  that  non-existence  does  not  exist.  For,  Allah  is  omniscient,  and  Divine  Knowledge  comprehends  everything  that  has  been,  or  is,  or  will  be,  so  that  what  does  not  yet  exist  according  to  our  reckoning,  does  already  exist  in Divine  Knowledge.  To  use  a  different  expression,  everything  past,  present  or  future  has  its  “pure”  and  “subtle”  counterpart  in  Divine  Knowledge.  If  Western  terminology  should  be  more  easily  comprehensible  to  some  of  our  readers,  we  can  call  these  Prototypes,  Numbers,  or  Essences,  or  Ideas  or  Archetypes,  but  each  time  we  will  have  to  give  a  more  refined  and  a  higher  signification  to  these  terms than  Pythagoras  or  Plato  ever  did.  The  Sufis,  however,  call  them “Al-A’yan al-Thabitah.”  With  the  help  of  this  explanation  we  can  see  that  when  Allah  wishes  to  create  a  thing,  He  commands  its  Essence, which  already  exists  in  His  Knowledge,  “to  be”,  and  it  “comes  to  be”  — that  is  to  say,  comes  to  be  actualised  in  the  world.  Thus,  “creation”  does  not  arise  out  of  “nothingness.”  Before  a  thing  comes  to  exist  as  an  “actuality”  in  the  world,  it  already  exists  as  a  “potentiality”  in  Divine Knowledge.  It  is  this  “potentiality”  to  which  the  Divine  Command  “Be” is  addressed.  Hence,  it  is  equally  true  to  say  that  Essences  do  not  exist,  and  to  say  that  Essences  do  exist.  The  first  statement  pertains  to  the knowledge  of  the  creatures,  and  the  second  to  the  Divine  Knowledge.

At  the  end,  we  shall  again  insist  that  no  good  can  come  out  of  unnecessarily  meddling  with  such  delicate  questions,  specially  if  the  purpose  is  no  more  than  to  seek  a  new  sensation.

[Taken from Ma’ariful Qur’an]

Refuting Ibn Sina’s (Avicenna) Erroneous Conception of Hell and Paradise

Majlisul Ulama

Ibn  Sina  whilst  conveying  the  impression  that  he  is  a  man  believing  in  the  Islamic  Belief  of  Jannat  and  Jahannam  in  a  manner  accepted  and  believed  by  the  general  body  of  Muslims,  argued  the  superiority  of  the  philosopher’s  conception  of  heaven  and  hell.  Whilst  admitting  the  validity  of physical  pleasure  and  pain  of  the  Life  Hereafter,  he  lays  greater  stress  on  the  abstract  theory  of  heaven  and  hell –  the  conception  of  the  Greek  philosophers  that  Jannat  and  Jahannam  are  mere  spiritual  states  or  ‘experiences’. 

According  to  this  theory  of  kufr  expounded  by  Avicenna,  the  souls  of  men  at  the  time  of  death  could  be  classified  into  four  categories.

1.  Those  souls  who  have  become  aware  while  still  in  the  material  body,  of  that  spiritual  perfection  which  is  the  object  of  its  love,  but  have  not  attained  it,  though  still  yearning  after  it.  This  soul  then is  affected  by  pain  at  the  loss  of  its  cherished  object.  This  then  is  the  misery  and  the  torment  far  exceeding  the  bodily  pain  and  physical  anguish  of  burning  and  freezing.

2.  If,  however,  the  intellectual  faculty  has  achieved  a  high  degree  of  perfection  in  the  soul,  then  the latter  is  able  to  realize  that  full  spiritual  perfection,  which  lies  within  the  purview  of  its  power.  But  the  pleasure  enjoyed  by  this  soul  at  that  moment  is  not  the  sensual  kind.  This  then,  according  to Avicenna,  is  the  destiny  of  the  soul,  which  has  become  conscious  in  the  physical  body  of  the  nature of  intellectual  perfection.

3.  The  Foolish  Souls  which  have  not  acquired  a  yearning  for  perfection,  yet  leave  the  physical body  without  having  acquired  any  vicious  or  evil  bodily  disposition.  These  ‘Foolish  Souls’  pass  to  the  wide  Mercy  of  God  and  attain  a  kind  of  ease.

4.  If,  however,  these  souls  have  acquired  some  evil  disposition,  and  have  no  other  condition  but  this  vicious  propensity,  then  they  (the  souls)  will  continue  to  yearn  for  the  physical  body,  which  is  regarded  by  them  (the  vicious  souls)  as  an  absolute  necessity.  The  souls  in  this  category  are  acutely tormented  by  the  loss  of  the  physical  body  and  its  requirements  without  being  able  to  attain  the object  of  their  desire  (which  is  subsistence  in  the  physical  body).

Avicenna  interprets  the  Islamic  concept  of  Jahannam  and  Jannat  propounded  by  the  Ambiyaa  as  a  possibility.  In  other  words  he  holds  the  view  that  the  Shari’ah  view  of  Jannat  and  Jahannam (i.e.  the  material  existence  of  these  two  abodes)  may  also  be  true  to  certain  extent  regarding  physical  pleasure  and  pain.  However,  while  conceding  this  possibility  he  interprets  away  the  Islamic  Jannat  and  Jahannam  as  ‘states’  (not  real  physical  places)  of  physical  pleasure  and  pain  engineered  by  the  imagination  of  man,  which  in  turn  is  effected  by  some  celestial  body.  Thus  he says  that  pure  souls  whilst  still  in  the  physical  body  having  fixed  their  gaze  firmly  on  such  beliefs  (physical  Paradise  and  Hell),  after  leaving  the  body  may  actually  experience  those  ‘states’  of  physical  pain  and  pleasure.  This  is  so,  he  argues,  since  these  souls  (i.e.  the  Ambiyaa  and  the  general  body  of  Muslims)  lack  the  force  to  draw  supreme  spiritual  happiness.  The  baser  souls  (those  who  subscribe  to  the  Islamic  Doctrines  of  Reality)  experience  such  low  and  baser  sorts  of  celestial  happiness  while  the  ‘blessed  souls’  (of  the  Greek  philosophers  and  those  ‘Muslims’  philosophers  who  subscribe  to  these  theories  of  kufr),  being  perfect,  are  united  to  the  ESSENCE  of Allah.  This  is  Avicenna’s  theory  Nauzubillah  min  thaalik.

In  his  treatise, ‘Ar-Risaalatul  Azhaawiyah  fi  amril  Ma’aad.’  Avicenna  argues  that  it  would  have  been  an  exercise  in  futility  if  the  Ambiyaa  preached  the  doctrine  of  a  spiritual  resurrection  to  the  masses  since  they  are  able  to  conceive  only  of  physical  pleasure  and  pain.  He  opposes  the  Islamic Doctrine  of  the  physical  resurrection  of  the  body  and  soul.  After  death  it  is  only  the  soul  which  will  experience  either  everlasting  pain  or  everlasting  pleasure.  The  sum  total  of  this  Neo-Platonic doctrine  of  the  Hereafter  is  that  happiness  in  the  world  to  come,  when  the  soul  has  been  stripped  of  the  physical  body  and  of  physical  impressions,  is  the  intellectual  contemplation  of  the  Essence  of God,  and  misery  in  the  Hereafter  is  the  opposite  of  that.

The  doctrine  of  Avicenna  is  essentially  a  theory  of  disbelief  in  the  Truth  preached  by  all  the  Ambiyaa  (Alayhimussalaam).  Islam  rejects  the  theory  as  baseless  and  false.  There  is  no  sanction  in  the  Qur’an and  Ahadith  for  this  abstract  theory  which  is  nothing  but  a  figment  of  the  imagination  of  men  who suffered  from  oblique  knowledge,  men  who  have  been  misled  by  shaitaan,  men  who  laboured  under  the  satanic  notion  that  the  Deen  was  revealed  for  the  ignorant  masses,  they  themselves  by virtue  of  their  ‘special  intelligence’  being  exempted  from  the  ambit  of  the  Shari’ah.

Imaam  Al-Ghazali’s  Refutation  Of  Avicenna’s  Conception  Of  Kufr

Imaam  Al-Ghazali  (Rahmatullah  alay)  categorically  refutes  the  view  propounded  by  Ibn  Sina  as  being  in  direct  conflict  with  the  Beliefs  of  Islam.  He  rejects  the  philosopher’s  denial  of  the  physical  resurrection  of  the  body  and  the  soul;  their  denial  of  the  existence  of  a  physical  Paradise  and  Hell, as  well  as  their  assertion  that  the  Islamic  description  of  these  entities  are  mere  parables  coined  for  the  common  people,  designed  to  actually  connote  a  spiritual  reward  and  retribution.  Imaam Ghazaali  (Rahmatullah alayh)  takes  his  stand  on  the  basis  of  Wahi  (revelation)  and  rejects  Avicenna’s  reliance  on  reason.  He  asks:

“Why  should  the  two  sorts  of  happiness  and  misery  not  be  combined  the  spiritual  and  the bodily?”

In  answer  to  the  philosopher’s  view  that  the  description  of  the  Life  Hereafter  occuring  in  the  Holy Qur’an  is  to  be  taken  as  parables  for  the  rank  and  file  of  mankind,  in  the  same  way  as  the  anthropomorphic  passages  relating  to  Allah ,  Imaam  Ghazaali  (Rahmatullah alayh)  claims  that  this  argument  is  fallacious.  It  fails  for  the  elementary  reason  that  the  parallel  drawn  is  not  a  true  parallel.  In  accordance  with  Arab  usage  of  the  metaphor,  the  anthropomorphic  passages  in  the  Holy  Qur’an  can  be  interpreted  metaphorically  and  esoterically  whereas  the  descriptions  of  Paradise  and  Hell  transcend  the  limit  of  legitimate  allegorisation.  To  regard  them  (Paradise  and  Hell)  as  mere  symbols  is  to  suggest  that  Rasoolullah  (Sallallaahu alayhi wasallam)  and  all  the  Ambiyaa  (alayhimussalaam)  deliberately  falsified  the  Truth  for  the  benefit  of  mankind.  The  lofty  office  of  Nubuwwat  (Prophethood)  is  far  too  sacred  to  resort  to such  falsification  of  the  Truth.  The  clinching  proof  in  this  matter  is  the  irrefutable  fact  that  Allah Azza  wa  Jal  is  Almighty  and  All-Powerful,  hence  it  lies  clearly  within  His  Power  to  effect  a physical  resurrection  wherein  there  will  be  the  reunification  of  the  body  and  the  soul  to  receive retribution  pleasure  and  pain    in  physical  abodes.

Rasoolullah  (sallallaahu  alayhi  wasallam),  the  Sahaabah  (radhiyallahu anhum)  and  the  entire  body  of  the  Ahle  Sunna  wal  Jamma’  throughout  the  history  of  Islam  have  held  the  firm  belief  that  Jannat  and  Jahannam  are  physical abodes  which  have  alread  been  created.  It  is  therefore,  a  belief  of  kufr  to  entertain  the  Neo-Platonic theory  of  Avicenna.  Even  today  some  modernist  Muslims  operating  from  a  variety  of  platforms  universities,  the  media,  discussion  groups,  etc.  are  disseminating  this  belief  of  kufr  among  the Muslim  youth.  Yet,  these  so-called  intelligentsia  lack  the  courage  to  declare  their  beliefs.  Since the  majority  of  these  modernist  kufr  propounders  are  men  deficient  in  faith,  morals  and  good actions,  they  operate  under  cover  of  dishonesty  and  very  cunningly  attempt  to  ensnare  unwary  Muslims  especially  among  the  youth    into  their  beliefs  of  eternal  perdition.  Muslim  students  who  study  under  such  ‘professors’  have  to  be  doubly  on  their  guard  and  not  permit  any contamination  of  their  Imaan  by  acceptance  of  theories  of  kufr  cunningly  expounded  by  their  lecturers.

Those  who  propagate  theories  of  kufr  among  Muslims  must  know  that  Allah  will  most  certainly  expose  them.  They  will  be  disgraced  here  on  earth  in  the  community  of  Muslims  as  well  as  in  the  Aakhirah.

The Qur’anic Philosophy on the Mystery of Time

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[Imran N. Hossein]

THE QUR’AN AND TIME

The very essence of time as divinely taught in Sūrah al-Kahf of the Qur’ān, and as interpreted in this essay, is that it is complex and multi-dimensional. There is a multi-dimensional movement of time as it passes through the ages. Only the faithful and righteous are endowed with Nur (i.e.,light) which gives them the capacity to penetrate the reality of time. In a very famous Sūrah of the Qur’ān (i.e., al-Asr) named after time, Allah Most Wise warns that all except the believers would be at sea about this subject. They would be in a state of loss because of their incapacity to fathom the subject of time and thus to swim gracefully with the river of time as it flows to a destination which would witness the final triumph of Truth over falsehood (See Qur’ān, al-‘Asr, 103:13).

The youths in Sūrah al-Kahf thought that their 300 year long stay in the cave lasted just a day or part of a day because every spiritual experience and contact with the eternal transports us to a world in which we lose track of time (i.e., the ‘here and now’ or the ‘moment’). Whoever breaks the barrier that imprisons us in the prison of the ‘here’ and ‘now’, can experience timelessness. Only true love for Allah Most High and sincere devotion to the religion of truth can break the barrier of time.

This article argues that none can understand time, unless he first liberates the mind from the prison of the ‘here and now’ and penetrates the different worlds of time.

All, save those who have faith in Allah Most High, remain imprisoned in the consciousness of only one dimension of time. When those who are devoid of faith are raised on the Last Day, veils will be removed from their eyes so they will see with a sharpness of vision hitherto not possible. That new sharpness of vision, inturn, would reveal to them something of the reality of time.

The Qur’ān has described a people who would one day be forced out of that prison of time to see the real world. Even though they may have lived for scores of years in this life, yet after their resurrection into a new world (which would be ghair al-ardh, i.e., different from the present order of creation; see Qur’ān, Ibrāhim, 14:48), they would themselves be conscious of the new dimension of time into which they have been reborn. They will then declare that the scores of years in their previous life seem like “a day or part of a day”:

(It will be said) “You were heedless of this (Day of Judgement), now have We removed thy veil, and sharp is thy sight this Day! (And one of the first things that they now see with their sharp sight would be the reality of ‘time’.)”  [Qur’ān, Qāf, 50:22]

He will ask (those who are doomed): “What number of years did you stay on earth?” They will answer: “We have spent there a day or part of a day: but ask those who (are able to) count time. ”He will say: “Ye stayed not but a little if ye had only known!” [Qur’ān, al-Muminūn, 23:112-114]

On the Day that the Hour (of reckoning) will be established the transgressors will swear that they tarried not but an hour: thus were they used to being deluded! But those enbued with knowledge and faith will say: “Indeed ye did tarry within Allah’s Decree to the Day of Resurrection and this is the Day of Resurrection: but ye were not aware!” [Qur’ān, al-Room, 30:55-56]

These verses of the Qur’ān reveal a relationship between ‘faith’ and time such that those who possess faith would penetrate the reality of time. The depth of penetration of that reality would be a measure of ‘faith’.

Beyond ‘literal time’

Infact, space and time are both multi-dimensional. And heaven and hell both exist as real localities, and not just as states, in dimensions of space and time other than the one in which we now live. In this important chapter we attempt to explain time in a manner that would hopefully encourage the skeptics to revisit their views on the subject.

Allah Most High has declared that He created the entire earth in two days, and both the heavens and the earth in six days. These could not be ‘days’ as literally understood by us since such ‘days’ came into being only after the creation of both the heavens and the earth:

“Say: Is it that you deny Him Who created the earth in two Days? And do you join equals with Him? He is the Lord of (all) the Worlds.” [Qur’ān, Fussilāt, 41:9]

“Verily your Lord is Allah Who created the heavens and the earth in six Days and is firmly established on the Throne (of authority) regulating and governing all things. No intercessor (can plead with Him) except after His leave (hath been obtained). This is Allah your Lord; You should serve Him. Will you not celebrate His praises?”   [Qur’ān, Yūnus, 10:3]

That there is more to ‘time’ than that which is literally understood is also clear from the following statement of the blessed Prophet (sallalahu ‘alaihi wasallam):

“Narrated Abu Dhar: I asked, O Allah’s Messenger! Which Masjid was first built on the surface of the earth? He replied, al-Masjid al- Harām (in Makkah). I (then) asked, which was built next? He replied, The Masjid of al-Aqsā (in Jerusalem). I (then) asked, what was the period of time which elapsed between the construction of the two? He said, Forty years. He added, Wherever (you maybe, and) the prayer time becomes due, perform the prayer there, for the best thing is to do so (i.e.to offer the prayers on time).” [Sahīh Bukhāri] 

If we understand ‘time’ (forty years) in this Hadīth literally then the Hadīth would be manifestly false. It requires just a little reflection for one to understand that the blessed Messenger of Allah (sallalahu ‘alaihi wasallam) was not referring in this Hadīth to a ‘year’ in the sense of twelve lunar months. When he spoke in this Hadīth of that period of ‘forty’ years, and when he referred in the Hadīth concerning Dajjāl, to a ‘day’ like a ‘year’, he was not referring to a ‘year’ as we know a ‘year’.

Well then, we ask, what kind of a ‘year’ was he referring to when he described a period of time that history has recorded as more than a thousand years long, to be just ‘forty’ years in duration? It is impossible for the statement concerning the 40 day lifespan of Dajjāl on earth (or the forty years which elapsed between the building of the two Masājid) to be understood if we limit ourselves to our human notion of ‘time’. Such is derived from our sense perception of ‘night’ and of ‘day’ and of the movement of the sun and the moon.

Those bound to the western epistemology cannot interpret it, though quantum physics might shed some light on the matter. Nor can the Ahadīth concerning Dajjāl etc., be understood by those who are imprisoned in the literal interpretation of that which ought to be symbolically interpreted. Infact, it is only the Sufi epistemology that can unlock the subject of Dajjāl!

We can understand literally ‘a day ’ (youm) which would be like our day (youm)’. Such a ‘day’ (youm) would comprise a ‘night’ (lail) and the following ‘day’ (nahār), in other words from ‘sunset’ to ‘sunset’. Dajjāl would be in our dimension of time, in ‘days like our days’, when he would be at the end of his life on earth. That is quite clear! Whoever is in our dimension of time must, it would appear, also be in our dimension of space. This is what the historical record indicates. We have no evidence in history of any one being in our dimension of time but not in our dimension of space. Because of Dajjāl being in our dimension of time, as well as space, at the end of his life on earth, it would be possible for us to see him in Jerusalem.

The question which arises is: where on earth would Dajjāl be during the period of a ‘day like a year’, and then a ‘day like a month’ and finally, a ‘day like a week’? The second question is how long would ‘a day like a year’ last–then ‘a day like a month’–then, ‘a day like a week’? This important article attempts to respond to those questions.

Al Ghaib – The Unseen Transcendental World

Religion has always affirmed the existence of unseen transcendental worlds which exist beyond (normal) observation and, hence, scientific enquiry, in dimensions of space and time other than our own (al-Ghaib), and has always required of believers that they believe in these unseen worlds.

When Dajjāl is in a ‘day’ other than ‘our day’ it would not be possible for us to see him (even though he would be on earth) since he would be in a different dimension of existence in that unseen world (al-Ghaib). This is precisely the case with Angels and Jinn who are on earth and yet cannot be seen by human beings. The Qur’ān has declared that there are two angels (on the shoulders of) each human being:

“But verily over you (are appointed angels) to protect you, kind and honourable; writing down (your deeds): they know (and understand) all that ye do.”   [Qur’ān, al-Infitār, 82:10-12]

It has further informed us that there is an evil Jinn (i.e., a Satan) who is attached to every such human being who turns away from the Dhikr (remembrance) of his Lord God:

“If anyone withdraws himself from remembrance of (Allah) Most Gracious, We appoint for him a Satan (i.e., a disbelieving Jinn) to be an intimate companion to him.”  [Qur’ān, al-Zukhruf, 43:36]

Even though we cannot see those Angels and Jinn who are around us, yet every believer believes in their existence here on earth! Here is evidence of our belief in dimensions of existence, and, hence, of worlds of space and time other than our own, existing alongside our own world of space and time here on earth.

Not only do we believe in such dimensions which transcend our normal experience, but we also have incontrovertible evidence that an Angel can enter into our dimension and so appear in our world of space and time that we can see him with our eyes. This was demonstrated on several occasions by the Angel Gabriel (‘alaihissalām). Here is one such occasion:

Narrated Abdullah ibn Umar ibn al Khattāb: My father, Umar ibn al Khattāb, told me: One day we were sitting in the Masjid when there appeared before us a man dressed in pure white clothes, his hair extraordinarily black. There were no signs of travel on him. None amongst us recognized him. He eventually sat with the Apostle (peace be upon him). He knelt before him, placed his palms on his thighs, and (proceeded to ask five questions)…. (The narrator of the Hadīth, Umar ibn al Khattāb) said: Then he (the inquirer) went on his way but I stayed with him (the Holy Prophet) for along while. He then asked me: Umar, do you know who this inquirer was? I replied: Allah and His Apostle know best. He (the Holy Prophet) remarked: He was Gabriel (the Angel). He came to you in order to instruct you in matters of religion. [Sahīh Muslim]

This event qualifies as, perhaps, the most amazing occasion in history in which an angel assumed human form while entering into the dimension of space and time in which human beings exist, hence becoming visible and tangible to them.

A Jinn can also assume human form and enter into the human world of space and time. The most famous incident of such was the appearance of Iblīs (i.e.,Satan) in the person of an old Arab man, at the gathering assembled by the Quraish to formulate policy which would solve the problem caused by Muhammad (sallalahu ‘alaihi wasallam):

“Satan (i.e.,Iblīs) himself greeted them at the door of their meeting place in the guise of an aged sheikh, dressed in a cloak. When they asked him who he was, he replied: ‘A sheikh who has heard of your intended discussion and has come to listen to what you say; and perhaps my opinion and advice will not be lost upon you. ’So he entered with them.” [Ibn Ishaq, Sīrat RasūlAllah, Tr. By Alfred Guillaume, Ox. Univ. Press. 1955 p.221]

Now, can we use authoritative sources to explain the existence of dimensions of time other than our own? Can we explain ‘a day like a year’?

Since the Qur’ān declares of itself that it explains all things (Qur’ān, al-Nahl,16:89), the implication is that it must explain those statements of the blessed Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) which are beyond normal human understanding. Our purpose in this essay is to turn to the Qur’ān in an effort to locate the explanation of this enigmatic Hadīth concerning the 40 day lifespan (on earth) of Dajjāl, the False Messiah.

‘Time’ existed when we did not

Islam has taught that there was a time when mankind did not exist and that all of mankind was created as an act of divine grace at a moment in time; thus time pre-existed mankind. Islam has also taught that a time would come when everything would perish and only the divine countenance would remain. (Qur’ān, al-Rahmān, 55:267); hence time would continue to exist even when mankind no longer exists. Consider the following verse:

“Has there not been over Man a long period of time when he was not a thing of which mention could be made (i.e.,non-existent)?” [Qur’ān, al-Dahr,76:1]

Secondly, Islam has taught that mankind was originally created and placed in al-Jannah (paradise) in a dimension of time other than the biological time in which we are now located and in which we grow old. And it was in consequence of an act of disobedience of a divine command that mankind was expelled from that dimension of time and placed temporarily in this dimension of time in which we now exist.

The implication is that while mankind possesses a reality that is dependent on time, time possesses a reality that is independent of mankind. What is the reality of time? Allah Most High has declared of Himself that He is time:

Narrated Abu Hurairah: Allah’s Apostle said, Allah said, “The offspring of Adam abuse Dahr (Time), and I am Dahr (Time); in My Hands are the night and the day!”  [Sahīh Bukhāri]

Sacred ‘time’ and the modern godless age

It is a basic characteristic of the modern godless age that it uses every possible trick to try to destroy the harmonious natural link between time and life as ordained in Islam, the one true religion. It thus seeks to corrupt our perception of time as well as our capacity to measure time in any other than a mechanical way. In fact that godless age seeks to replace our natural sacred conception of time with a secular conception of time.

The modern godless Euro-Christian and Euro-Jewish age has, for example, renamed all twelve months of the year, from ‘January’ to ‘December’, and all seven days of the week, from ‘Sunday’ to ‘Saturday’, with the names of pagan European gods and goddesses. That did not occur by accident. It has nevertheless escaped the attention of modern Islamic scholarship.

Also, a day no longer ends with the spectacular and dramatic event of sunset, as it naturally does. Instead, it now ends at midnight and a new day consequently begins at that totally irrelevant, inconsequential and meaningless moment in time when the overwhelming majority of people are asleep.

A new month no longer begins and a previous month ends as nature has ordained, with the excitement and the incomparable splendor and beauty of a slender new moon gracefully adorning the sky just after sunset. Rather, the length of each month was arbitrarily determined by a European Pope. Some months were arbitrarily assigned 30 days, and others stuffed with 31, while hapless February suffered the abiding embarrassment of being sometimes this (i.e., 28 days) and sometimes that (i.e., 29 days).

Even a day is no longer divided into parts that bear some relationship to the movement of the sun, as in the passage from false dawn to true dawn, to sparkling early morning light, to the bright light of the day, and then to the declining sun, fading light, and to twilight, moonlight, starlight, dark night and intense darkness, etc. Rather a mechanical passage of time is now regulated through the entirely arbitrary division of a day and night into 24 equal parts called hours, and each hour into 60 equal parts called minutes, etc. A misplaced sense of convenience and a quest for the efficient exploitation of time for mundane purposes took precedence over that sacred precise passage of a day.

Sacred time functioned as a strategically important system of signs and symbols beckoning the human soul to the world of the sacred. Sacred time thus helped us to produce sages. The secularization and consequent mechanization of time broke those links with the world of the sacred and confined the importance of time to its functional material worldly utility.
It is also no accident that the cemeteries of modern cities are located far outside those cities and towns. The hidden purpose is to imprison the mind and heart in the life of this world and, in the process, to cause us forget about death, about life beyond death and, consequently, about other dimensions of time.

Television and the rest of the news media are used to manipulate news and events in such wise as to imprison mankind in the tyranny of the ‘moment’. Images and stories flash across the television screen with a rapidity that distorts, reduces and eventually destroys the mind’s capacity to ponder and reflect. Most people are hence reduced to living mindlessly, day to day and moment to moment. Yesterday fades away and no longer impacts on the consciousness. Tomorrow is but an extension of today’s fantasies.

The entirely predictable consequence has been that people have lost the capacity to connect the past with the present. Nor can they anticipate a future that would add up to make a meaningful whole. They cannot read and understand the movement of history. They are not even conscious of the movement of time in history. Hence they cannot recognize, nor understand, a mysteriously unfolding imperial agenda in the Holy Land, as well as in the world at large, that a strange Euro-Christian and Euro-Jewish alliance has been pursuing for centuries.

That agenda is about to culminate with the Euro-Jewish State of Israel emerging as the third and last ruling State in the world, and with someone ruling the world from Jerusalem and declaring himself to be the true Messiah. That is the ultimate deception! Yet the modern age has mysteriously succeeded, and amazingly so, in pursuading so many in the world of Islam to slavishly imitate and follow that strange Euro-Christian and Euro-Jewish alliance’s modern western civilization down into the proverbial lizard’s hole.

‘Time’ and Signs of the Last Day

True religion exists when ‘truth’ penetrates and then resides in the heart. The manner in which we measure the passage of time is a matter of great importance indeed since it reveals the kind of heart a person has. Among the Signs of the Last Day as disclosed by Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is that:

“Time would move faster, so that a whole year would pass like a month, a month would pass like a week, a week like a day, a day like an hour, and an hour like the amount of time it takes to kindle a fire.” [Narrated by Anas ibn Malik and transmitted in the Sunan of Tirmīdhī]

He explained that the perception of time moving faster would be in consequence of the ‘remembrance’ of Allah Most High (Dhikr) departing from the heart, and a pre-occupation with the worldly life (Dunyah) taking exclusive possession of the heart. Such hearts would not be bothered in the least with such things as Dhikr i.e.,the ‘remembrance’ of Allah Most High.

What is ‘remembrance’? When a man visits in his heart the woman that he loves, he shudders as an enchanting fragrance envelops his heart. It happens every time! When he hears her name mentioned, the same thing happens. That is ‘remembrance’.

Clearly ‘remembrance’ is only possible when there is true love. And so it is really when love of Allah Most High departs from the heart that ‘time’ moves faster and yet faster.Hence it follows that when sincere love for Allah Most High takes possession of the heart, time would surely move slower and a believer would interact with the passage of time in life in a manner that would be meaningful and beneficial.

These hapless people who are imprisoned in a world of ever fleeting time are paying the price of being further trapped in the fleeting moment and hence the ‘here’ and ‘now’. They will never be able to read and understand the passage of time or the movement of time in history. They will thus be taken for a ride and remain totally heedless of their pathetic state as they fall into a bottomless pit.

The consequence of spiritual vacuum in the Last Age would be moral collapse to such an extent that:

“..people would make business agreements with one another and scarcely anyone would fulfill his trust”.

The spiritual vacuum and moral collapse would so incapacitate judgment as to render people incapable of distinguishing men of integrity from charlatans:

“..it would be said that among such and such a tribe there is a trustworthy man. People would remark how intelligent, excellent and resolute a man he is while (in fact) he would not have as much faith (in Allah) in his heart as a grain of a mustard seed.”

[Both quotes above taken from a Hadīth narrated by Hudhaifa and transmitted in the Sahīh of Bukhāri as well as Muslim.]

The blessed Prophet also warned that such would be a time of great betrayals in which:

“Temptations would be presented to men’s hearts as a reed mat is woven stick by stick, and any heart which is impregnated by them would have a black mark put in it. The result would be that hearts would be of two kinds: one, white like a white stone, which would not be harmed by temptation as long as the heavens and earth endure, and the other, black and dust colored like a vessel which is upset, incapable of recognizing what is reputable, or rejecting what is disreputable, but being enveloped by its passion.” [Narrated by Hudhaifa and transmitted in the Sahīh of Muslim.]

There can be no doubt whatsoever that this so-called age of ‘progress’ is, indeed, the age when these signs of the Last Day have appeared.

This is the age of secularism. Even the state is secular, and so too politics, the economy, education, the market, the media, sports, and entertainment. The dining room, living room and even bedroom are today also secularized. Secularism begins by ‘excluding God’, and culminates by ‘denying Him’! When knowledge is secularized it leads to the belief that knowledge comes from only one source, i.e., external observation and rational enquiry. The implication of the adoption of this epistemology is the inevitable conclusion that since this material world is the only world we can ever ‘know’ in this way, it follows that this is the only world that really ‘exists’.

Thus it is secularism leads to materialism, i.e., the acceptance, for all practical purposes, that there is no reality beyond material reality, and hence, that there are no other dimensions of time other than this world of time in which we exist. Materialism has led, naturally so, to greed, lies, promiscuity, injustice, oppression, godlessness, and great betrayals since the moral foundations of society cannot be sustained without the spiritual heart of religion. That heart can neither be built, nor sustained, without belief in transcendent alverities (such as God, Angels, heaven and hell) that exist in a world beyond the material world. Even the passage of life through time can easily become meaningless when no other time exists than ‘here’ and ‘now’, and no other world exists other than this.

The Integration of life with ‘time’

The counting of the passage of years is a matter of great import. How a person counts the passage of time determines who he is! “Tell me how you count the passing years and I will tell you who you are!”

Omar Khayyam lamented the passage of the years:

“Whether in Nishapur or in Babylon,
Whether the cup with sweet or bitter run,
The wine of life keeps oozing drop by drop,
The leaves of life keep falling one by one!” [Rubaiyyat]

But the passage of time provokes a quite different response in the heart which possesses faith in Allah Most High, and in a life that is positively integrated with the movement of time! It provides a means for the believing woman, for example, to interact positively and harmoniously with her passing years.

Anyone with a personality that is sufficiently developed aesthetically to appreciate beauty would agree that nothing in the heavens above can compare in beauty with the sight of the new crescent moon and star joined together in an enchanting embrace. The passage of a new lunar month in the sky above symbolizes the passage of life itself.

Thus it is that when a baby girl was born it was as though a new moon had appeared in the sky and that a new world had come into being. Every one adored her. Everyone took her in their loving arms. She crawled – she walked –  she played –  she laughed – she sang – she danced. She had narry a care in the world as she playfully traversed the spring time of her childhood and youth. She was a miracle to behold.

Then she blushed with shyness as she welcomed her summer time when she bloomed and blossomed into a woman more beautiful than a rain drop on a rainbow that falls gently upon a rose petal. The world gazed in wonder at her beauty and from their lips came the words: SubhanAllah! The singers sang of her, the poets composed verses about her. And this, also, was a miracle to behold.

And then autumn overtook her as the green leaves of her life began to turn to brown. Wrinkles appeared around her eyes and here and there as trand of her hair turned to grey.

Finally her winter arrived when the moon returned like an old dry withered branch of a date palm (Qur’ān, Yāsīn, 36:39) and she made ready to gracefully fold her tent,to say goodbye, and to disappear into the darkness of the night.

But she was so full of gratitude to Allah Most High all through the journey of life through time. When she had her season of spring she thanked Him for it, and so too her summer and then her autumn and finally her winter. She had no sorrow over the arrival of autumn or winter. She was proud of her grey hairs when they began to mingle with the natural color of her hair. Not for anything that the world could offer did she ever wish to return to her spring or summer for she loved her autumn and her winter just as much. And so she aged gracefully.
The older she grew the more beauty she radiated – an external expression of inner-beauty. And when the time came for the angel of death to take her away, when it was time for the moon to disappear into the darkness of the sky and for the dark night to envelop the world, there were no regrets inparting from the only world she had ever known. She wanted to leave this world with gratitude to Allah in her heart because He had promised those who so thanked him that He would bestow on them an increase of bounty and favors (Qur’ān, Ibrāhīm, 14:7). She did not sigh! She did not share Indian Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar’s lament:

‘Umr daraz maang layay thay char din,

Do arzoo main kat gayay thay,do intizar main!

[From the ‘chest of drawers’ of lifespans,

I sought and obtained (a lifespan of) four days, Two (of the four) have gone in wishing and the other two in waiting!]

Rather, such a believing woman was ever ready to travel on in time to new worlds of time. She never defied the passage of time, and so she never disrespected Allah Most High – because He is time. Whoever lives in harmony with time lives in harmony with his Lord and Creator! Whoever can penetrate time beyond the ‘here and now’ can read and understand the signs of Allah and the signs of the Last Day as they unfold in the movement of history.

The dimension in which we measure the passage of time with days and nights and the seasons of our life as well as the seasons of nature, is provided to us that we might measure the passage of our own individual and collective sojourn on earth. It is a test and trial. It does not represent the totality of time. Rather it constitutes the foundation for our growth into other dimensions of time described in the Qur’ān. As we grow in time, i.e.,in our perception of time and capacity to grasp and understand time as it unfolds in our lives as well as in the external world, we simultaneously enhance our capacity to understand the Last Age as it unfolds in the last stage of the historical process. And that is by far the most important thing that we argue in this chapter.

‘Time’ in the Qur’ān

Allah Most Wise has taught the subject of ‘time’ by scattering pearls of ‘time’ here and there in the Holy Qur’ān and in the life and words of the blessed Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam), and then placing upon the enquirer the onus of gathering those pearls and stringing them to gether as in a necklace.

We have made a humble attempt in this very important section of this chapter to not only locate some of those pearls of ‘time’ in the Qur’ān but to also try to string them together as a necklace.

The Arabs considered ‘Time’ (al-Dahr) to be the ultimate reality. They believed ‘time’ to be the only thing that survived. Everything and everyone would perish and pass away because they would be ‘destroyed ’by ‘Time’:

“And they say: What is there but our life in this world? We shall die and we live and nothing but Time (al-Dahr) can destroy us. But of that they have no knowledge: they engage in mere conjecture.”   [Qur’ān, al-Jāthiyah, 45:24]

Modern godless western civilization which recognizes no reality beyond material reality, has declared that ‘time is money’. Time has become a commodity that can be traded, bought and sold. Whenever money, for example, is lent on interest, the time value of money is expressed in interest payments.

Allah Most High responded (in a Hadīth al-Qudsi) by declaring that He Himself is time (al-Dahr):

“Narrated Abu Hurairah: Allah’s Apostle said, Allah said, ‘The offspring of Adam abuse Dahr (Time), and I am Dahr (Time); in My Hands are the night and the day!’“  [Sahih Bukhari]

When Allah Most High declares that He is time the implication is that there is such a thing as absolute time, i.e., that time that exists independently and is not conditioned by other than itself. And when He goes onto point out that “in My Hands are the night and the day”, the further implication is that time, as we know it, i.e.,the conception of time that is grounded in the alternation of night and day, is relative in nature – i.e., relative to Allah’s ‘absolute’ time. Time as we know it, in which measurement is done through the counting of ‘days’, ‘nights’, ‘weeks’, ‘months’, ‘years’, etc., may be described as serial time.

The Qur’ān explains that serial time is just the beginning of time and has been provided for purposes which are utilitarian i.e., so that people may have a means of counting the passage of years and of measuring time in their own mundane temporal world. Serial time is real. It is not to be considered as an illusion or a thing that is unreal:

“It is He Who made the sun to be a shining glory and the moon to be a light (of beauty) and measured outstages for her: that ye might know the number of years and the count (of time). Nowise did Allah create this but in truth and righteousness. (Thus) doth He explain his Signs in detail for those who understand.” [Qur’ān, Yūnus,10:5]

“We have made the Night and the Day as two (of Our) Signs: the Sign of the Night have We made obscure while the Sign of the day We have made to enlighten you; that ye may seek Bounty from your Lord and that ye may know the number and count of the years, and all things have We explained in detail.”
[Qur’ān, Banū Isrāīl,17:12]

The Qur’ān goes onto reveal that between ‘serial’ and ‘absolute’ time there exists seven different worlds of time described as seven Samāwāt (that are usually erroneously translated as seven heavens):

“It is He who hath created for you all things that are on earth; moreover His design comprehended the sky for He gave order and perfection to the seven cosmic stratas (samawat); and of all things he hath perfect knowledge. [Qur’ān, al-Baqarah, 2:29]

“The seven cosmic stratas (samawat) and the earth and all beings therein declare His glory: there is not a thing but celebrates His praise; and yet ye understand not how they declare His glory! Verily He is Oft-Forbearing, Most-Forgiving!” [Qur’ān, Banū Isrāīl, 17:44]

“And We have made above you seven taraāiq (tracts or celestial orbits); and We are never unmindful of (Our) Creation.”  [Qur’ān, al-M’uminūn, 23:17]

Say: “Who is the Lord of the seven heavens and the Lord of the Throne (of Glory) Supreme?”   [Qur’ān, al-M’uminūn, 23:86]

“So He completed the mass even cosmic stratas (samawat) in two Days and He assigned to each heaven its duty and command. And We adorned the lower heaven with lights and (provided it) with guard. Such is the Decree of (Him) the Exalted in Might Full of knowledge.”  [Qur’ān, Fussilāt, 41:12]

“Allah is He Who created seven cosmic stratas (samawat) and of the earth a similar number (i.e., seven stratas of the earth). Through the midst of them (all) descends His Command: that ye may know that Allah has power over all things and that Allah comprehends all things in (His) Knowledge.” [Qur’ān, al-Talāq, 65:12]

“He Who created the seven cosmic stratas (samawat) one above another; no want of proportion wilt thou see in the Creation of (Allah) Most Gracious, so turn thy vision again: Seest thou any flaw?” [Qur’ān, al-Mulk, 67:3]

“See ye not how Allah has created the seven cosmic stratas (samawat) one above another?”   [Qur’ān, Nūh, 71:15]

These seven firm bodies are usually recognized as seven ‘heavens’. But they are not heavens at all! Rather they should be recognized as seven different worlds of space and time that stand inbetween earth and Allah Most High on His Summit Throne (al-‘Arsh). Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah Most High be upon him) made mention of this in the following Hadīth:

Narrated al-‘Abbās ibn ‘Abdal Muttalib: “I was sitting in al-Batha with a company among whom the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) was sitting, when a cloud passed above them. The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) looked at it and said: What do you call this? They said: Sahab. He said: And muzn? They said: And muzn. He said: And anan? They said: And anan. Abū Daūd said: I am not quite confident about the word anan. He asked: Do you know the distance between the Samā (sky) and Earth? They replied: We do not know. He then said: The distance between them is seventy-one, seventy-two, or seventy-three years. The Samā which is above it is at a similar distance (going on untill he counted seven Samāwāt). Above the seventh Samā there is a sea, the distance between whose surface and bottom is like that between one Samā and the next. Above that there are eight mountain-goats the distance between whose hoofs and haunches is like the distance between one Samā and the next. Then Allah, the Blessed and the Exalted, is above that.” (Abū Dawūd)

It would appear that a different Āalam (world or cosmos) exists in each of these seven Samāwāt. The Qur’ān commenced Sūrah al-Fātihah with a description of Allah Most High as Rab al-Ālamīn (i.e., the Lord God of all the seven worlds):

“Praise be to Allah, the Lord God of (all) the worlds.”  [Qur’ān, al-Fātihah,1:2]

What this implies is that in the same way that Allah Most High is Rabb (Lord God) to humankind in this Āalam, so too is He Rabb to those who are located in all the other Ālamūn (plural of Āalam) and who are also supposed to worship Him:

“The seven cosmic stratas (samawat) and the earth, and all-beings therein, declare His glory: there is not a thing but celebrates His praise; and yet ye understand not how they declare His glory! Verily He is Oft-Forbearing, Most ‘Forgiving!  [Qur’ān, al-Isrā,17:44]

The Qur’ān actually identifies these seven worlds as different dimensions of space and time. For example it makes mention of a world (Āalam) with a dimension of time in which:

• A ‘day’ is like fifty thousand years:

“The angels and the Spirit ascend unto Him in a Day the measure where of is (as) fifty-thousand years.” [Qur’ān, al-M’ārij, 70:4]

And it makes mention of a second world (Āalam) with a dimension of time in which:

• A ‘day’ is like a thousand years:

“Yet they ask thee to hasten on the Punishment! But Allah will not fail in His promise. Verily a day in the sight of thy Lord is like a thousand years of your reckoning.” [Qur’ān, al-Hajj, 22:47]

“He rules (all) affairs from the heavens to the earth: in the end will (all affairs) go upto Him on a day the measure where of will be (as) a thousand years of your reckoning.”  [Qur’ān, al-Sajda, 32:5]

• A day is like three-hundred years

In Sūrah al-Kahf of the Qur’ān, the supreme importance of time in relation to the subject of Dajjāl was dramatically emphasized when Allah Most High declared that He caused the young men to remain in the cave for many years. He then raised them to wakefulness in order to determine which of them would be able to accurately assess the period of time that they had tarried in the cave. They had actually slept for three-hundred years and yet felt that they had tarried for a day or part of a day:

“And there upon We veiled their ears in the cave for many a year, (they were thus cut off from the outside world), and then We awakened them; (and we did all this) so that We might mark out (to the world) which of the two points of view showed a better comprehension of the timespan during which they had remained in that state.”  [Qur’ān, al-Kahf, 18:1112]

Such (being their state), We raised them up (from sleep) that they might question each other. One of them asked, “How long have ye stayed (here)?” They said, “We have stayed (perhaps) a day or part of a day.” (At length) they (all) said “Allah (alone) knows best how long ye have stayed here….”  [Qur’ān, al-Kahf, 18:19]

“So they stayed in their Cave three-hundred years and (some) add nine (more).”  [Qur’ān, al-Kahf,18:25]

Some of the young men responded that they had stayed in the cave for just a day or part of a day. Others, however, could discern spiritually that the passage of time in the cave perhaps exceeded that which was suggested by some of their companions. Indeed some people suggested that the youths had slept in the cave for as long a period of time as three-hundred solar years (equivalent to 309 lunar years).

• A day is like a hundred years:

The Qur’ān has also described the event in which a man passed by a ‘town’ that was lying in ruins (i.e.,Jerusalem) and wondered skeptically how could Allah Most High revive that ‘town’. Where upon Allah caused him to die (metaphorically) for a hundred years and then revived him to ask him how long he had tarried there. His response was “a day or part of a day”:

Or (take) the similitude of one who passed by a town, all in ruins to its roofs. He asked, “How shall Allah bring it (ever) to life, after (this) its death?” but Allah caused him to die for a hundred years, then raised him up (again). He asked, “How long didst thou tarry (thus)?” He replied, “(Perhaps) a day or part of a day.” He responded, “Nay, thou hast tarried thus a hundred years; but look at thy food and thy drink, they show no signs of age; and look at thy donkey. And that We may make of thee a sign unto the people, Look further at the bones, how We bring them together and clothe them with flesh.” When this was shown clearly to him, he said: “I know that Allah hath power over all things.”  [Qur’ān, al-Baqarah, 2:259]

The seven different dimensions of space and time appear to exist alongside each other rather than a second beginning where the first ends:

He Who created the seven cosmic stratas (samawat) one beside another; no want of proportion wilt thou see in the Creation of (Allah) Most Gracious, so turn thy vision again: Seest thou any flaw?” [Qur’ān, al-Mulk,67:3]

There is are mark able description of the proximity of different dimensions of time right here on earth in the same passage of the Qur’ān quoted above (Qur’ān, al-Baqarah, 2:259), in which Allah Most High makes mention of the traveler who passed by Jerusalem after the Babylonian destruction and who could not conceive of the dead city ever being revived to life.

The traveller was put to death (sleep is a form of death) for a hundred years and then revived to consciousness. As with the youth, so too did the traveler have the consciousness of having tarried for just a day or part of a day. But the Qur’ān gives a vivid description of two different dimensions of time existing beside each other on earth when it described the fate of the donkey in one dimension of time, and of the food in another. While the donkey, in our dimension of time, starved to death, and the body decomposed until even the bones had crumbled to dust, the food which was preserved in another dimension of time remained fresh even after a hundred years. The lesson from this narrative is that both dimensions of time exist side by side righ there on earth!

We witness exactly the same phenomenon in the next chapter of this book in the story of the young men who were put to sleep in the cave and who slept for three hundred years. Our analysis of that story indicates that their bodies were located simultaneously in two dimensions of time during their long sleep in the cave. In the first dimension of time their bodies kept on rolling to the left and to the right in synchrony with the movement of the sun, i.e., morning and evenings. In the second dimension of time their bodies displaye dno visible signs of biological growth and ageing despite the passage of three hundred years.

Different dimensions of time and of space can all belocated Tibāqa, i.e., together or along side each other.

We can now understand how unseen recording angels who exist in a different dimension of space and time can be constantly present on both our shoulders as we live here on earth, and how unseen Jinn can also be constantly present all around us. They are present around us while yet not present in the same dimension of space and time in which we exist. Hence it is that we cannot see them. Consider the following verse of the Qur’ān:

O Children of Adam! let not Satan seduce you, in the same manner as he got your parents out of the Garden, stripping them of their raiment,to expose their shame: for he and his tribe watch you from a place where ye cannot see them (i.e.,they observe you from a dimension of space and time beyond your observation–hence from an unseen world): We made the Evil Ones friends (only) to those without Faith. [Qur’ān: al-‘Arāf, 7:27]

The lesson from the above narrative pertaining to the ‘food’ and the ‘donkey’ extends beyond recognition of two worlds of time existing side by side right here on earth. The food, while still located in this world of time, was also preserved in a second world of time in which it remained fresh despite the passage of three hundred years. In other words, continuous travel or passage between two worlds of time occurred in this event.

The same thing occurred in the case of the young men in the cave as described in Sūrah al-Kahf. Their bodies remained physically for three hundred years in the cave in this world of time while yet preserved in another world of time in which they never grew old. And the same travel or passage through different worlds of time occurred in the Isrā and M’irāj of Prophet Muhammad (sallalahu ‘alaihi wasallam).

In view of the fact, however, that the Prophet (sallalahu ‘alaihi wasallam) had to be taken by Burāq to the Holy Land in order to be further transported into the Samāwāt, it now seems clear that this phenomenon of travel between other dimensions of time and our time is possible, perhaps only in the Holy Land. Hence the ‘town’ that was lying in ruins had to be Jerusalem, and so the miraculous event concerning the donkey and the food occurred in the Holy Land. The Cave in Sūrah al-Kahf also had to be located somewhere in or around the Holy Land. It was from the Holy Land that Jesus, the Son of Mary (peace and blessings of Allah Most High be upon them both), was raised into the Samawāt. And when here turns from the Samawāt it should be in or around Jerusalem that he would descend.

Evolutionary Time

Our teacher of blessed memory, Maulāna Dr. Muhammad Fadlur Rahmān Ansāri (1914–1974), interpreted the divine guidance in much the same way as did Maulāna Jalāluddin Rūmī to explain that while all creation commenced with the command “Kun” (Be!) yet all created things proceeded to evolve through different stages indifferent worlds. He described a world of light in which beings of light, namely Angels, came into being, and a world of fire in which Jinn came into being, and, finally, a world of clay in which humankind emerged. He consequently believed that ‘time’, like everything else in Allah’s creation, evolved until it finally emerged in the form in which we perceive it now.

What this chapter suggests is that the evolution of time took place in its passage or movement through different Samawāt or worlds of time. And once we understand and accept that process the interpretation of the all important Hadīth concerning Dajjāl’s lifespan on earth becomes possible. Here is a description of Maulāna’s Qur’anic cosmology in which time evolves. The quotation is taken from his two volume masterpiece, ‘The Qur’anic Foundations and Structure of Muslim Society’:

“God’s relationship with the cosmos as its Creator emerges in the Qur’ān at two levels, i.e.,the levels of al-Amr and al-Khalq,—both established and united under that Attribute of God which relates to cherishing, nourishing, evolving and perfecting, i.e., al-Rabb:

“……Lo! His is al-Khalq and al-Amr. Blessed is Allah the Rabb of the worlds (i.e., the entire cosmos).” [Qur’ān, al‘Arāf, 7:54]

Thus, the Creation began with God’s Amr:

“The Originator of the heavens and the earth; and when so ever He decrees an affair (Amr), He only says to it `Be’ and it becomes. (Hence the origination of the cosmos also took place as a result of Allah’s Command ‘Be’).” [Qur’ān, al-Baqarah, 2:117]

“His Amr (i.e., law of bringing something into existence) is that when He intends a thing, He only says, to it (by way of Command, or, Amr): ‘Be’! and it becomes.”   [Qur’ān, Yasin, 36:82]

Hence the first stage in the creation of the cosmos should be affirmed in terms of ‘Becoming’. We may also call it the stage of subtle existence, intangibility (as opposed to the tangibility of matter), and spacelessness cum timelessness.

Looking at the process of creation in the background of the concept of evolution projected explicitly in the Qur’ān, we arrive at the view of evolutionary creation,wherein—like the evolutionary hypothesis in modern Science—we are led to the affirmation of the ‘Primeval-Atom’ as the starting point, which functioned as the nucleus and out of which grew the entire cosmos through an evolutionary process—, wherein the concept of the ‘First Created Light functioning as Nucleus ’has been projected.

The unique position which he holds among all creatures has been unambiguously affirmed also in a Hadith reported by the Holy Prophet’s Companion Jabir and upheld as authentic in Islamic history by eminent authorities, among whom may be mentioned, by way of example, one of the classical Qur’anic commentators, Allama Alusi (vide his classical Tafsir, the Rūh al Ma’ani, vol.1, p.51). It is to the effect:

“Jābir reports: I said ‘O Messenger of Allah! Inform me about that which Allah created before all (other) things’. He replied: Verily, Allah, the Almighty, created before all (other) things the Light of thine Prophet through His Light….” (Quoted on the authority of muhaddith`Abdal Razzāq [the eminent forerunner of Imām al-Bukhāri and author of Al-Musannaf] by Allāma Yusuf b. Ismail al-Nabhāni, in Al-Anwār al-Muhammadiyyah min Mawāhib al-Ludunniyah, p.12, Beirut, 1310A.H.). The Hadīth then proceeds to inform that the entire universe was created by God from that original created Light, which the luminaries of Islam have named as the ‘Light of Muhammad’.

As for the nature of the evolutionary process, it should be conceived, in the very nature of the case, in terms of progressive decrease in subtlety, refinement, intangibility and qualitativeness, and progressive increase in respect of concreteness, crystallization, tangibility and quantitativeness: on the basis of a progressive crystallization of the process of al-Khalq, which implies the creation of new objects from the existing materials. In other words, it must have begun a progress towards more and more profound ‘expression’. This is what we understand from the Qur’ān as well as from Science.

Indeed, different things appear in the Qur’ān to have emerged into dynamic existence at different stages of the evolutionary process. Thus, there existed the angels, the jinn and the human beings in that pre-physical, or, transcendental, dimension of existence; and, among them, the angels and the jinn were there prior to the existence of the human beings, as the Holy Qur’ān testifies (Qur’ān, al-Baqarah, 2:30-34). Then, according to what we read in the Holy Book in plain terms, humanity was made to appear before God in her transcendental, or, pre-earthly, dimension of existence, to proclaim the Covenant of Monotheism (Qur’ān, al‘Arāf, 7:172) — which means that human beings existed at that stage of Creation. Similarly, the event of the ‘Covenant of the Prophets’ has been mentioned therein to have occurred in that stage of Creation (Qur’ān, Ale-‘Imrān, 3:81, — which proves the existence of the Prophets at that stage.

All this means that a Realm of Created Beings and Things became gradually established in respect of their essential orideal nature, even in the first stage of creation. But evolution was to continue, and has continued, according to God’s Plan. However Allah set a measure or scale of growth of all things:

“Allah has set a measure (or, a scale of growth and maturity — which enshrines its destiny) for everything.”  [Qur’ān, al-Talāq, 65:3]

In consequence certain things that had emerged from potentiality into actuality, had to stay in the state they had acquired — the angels, for instance; while others had to continue their evolutionary journey, finally emerging in the Spatio-Temporal Order of Existence — the human beings, for instance. [‘Qur’anic Foundations and Structure of Muslim Society’, Vol.2, pp 16-17].

The Qur’anic cosmology presented above describes a process of evolutionary creation. It therefore confirms an evolution of time through different dimensions of time. The logical implication is that all creation evolved through different dimensions of time before finally emerging in the dimension of space and time in which we live and die. The Qur’ān affirms the existence of seven different Samawāt that exist each beside the other, and this implies that seven different dimensions of time are all simultaneously present, all accessible, and all capable of impacting on life on earth:

“He Who created the seven skies (hence seven different dimensions of space and time) layer after layer (or strata after strata, each beyond the other, each merging perfectly with the other): no defect wilt thou see in the Creation of (Allah) Most Gracious. So turn thy vision again: seest thou any flaw?”  [Qur’ān, al-Mulk, 67:3]

“Do you not see how Allah has created the seven cosmic stratas (samawat) layer after layer (or strata after strata one beyond the other)…..”  [Qur’ān, Nuh, 71:15]

Similarly the Qur’ān affirms that mankind passed through the same process of emergence (or evolution) through different dimensions of space and time until we emerged in this world:

“So I do call to witness the ruddy glow of Sunset; The Night and its Homing; And the Moon in her Fullness: Ye shall surely travel from stratum to stratum (i.e.,from one dimension of space and time to another, and then another, etc., in the seven stratas of creation).” [Qur’ān, al-Inshiqāq, 84:16-19]

Every human being experiences in the phenomenon of true dreams – sometimes known as prophetic dreams – the passage, or evolution, of a created event through these different worlds. Dreams that come true provide direct evidence that a transcendental world exists. Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) declared of true dreams and visions (and this includes spiritual insight) that they would be the last surviving part of prophethood that would remain in the world after him. But they do something else. When faith in Allah Most High enters into the heart then two things depart from the heart – namely fear and grief, and hope takes in their place – hope for good in this life and in the next. When the believer experiences continuous true dreams then hope is transformed into joy since they represent confirmation of the fulfillment of hope:

“When the time (of the end of the world) draws close, the dreams of a believer will hardly fail to come true, and a dream of a believer is one of the forty six parts of prophethood.” [Sahīh Bukhāri]

The only possible way that one can explain the phenomenon of a true or prophetic dream is that event before they occur. In other words, the process of creation of an event commences with the divine command be!, and then passes through various dimensions of space and time until it culminates as an actual event in this world of space and time. It is when that event is intercepted before it occurs in this world, and the news of the event is communicated in the form of a dream, that we experience the phenomenon of a true or prophetic dream.

Thus a true dream can only be explained if one accepts the existence of dimensions or worlds of space and time beyond that which we directly experience. There is a reality that is transcendental (or spiritual). Spiritual ‘substance’ emerges in material ‘form’ in every thing that exists, and everything that occurs. All that appears in material ‘form’ were so ‘fashioned’ by Allah Most High that they might function as symbols (Āyāt) which would lead to, and reveal, their spiritual ‘substance’.

And so, the event seen in a true predictive dream would be an event created by Allah Most High which first exists only in the dimension of spiritual ‘substance’. It subsequently emerges as material ‘form’, and the dream then becomes a reality.

It should be clear that we cannot locate the second sky or stratum physically at a point where the first sky or stratum ends, for that would place the second sky or stratum in the same dimension of space as the first. It might be more appropriate to conceive of all seven stratas with their different dimensions of space and time as overlapping each other or merging into each other, instead of a spatially vertical juxtaposition of the seven skies or strata. So one does not need a spaceship with which to travel for light years before exhausting one dimension of space and time and entering another. One can step from one dimension of time into a second in a fleeting moment. Nor would it require any movement in our space or our time to take that step. Rather we can do it every time we stand in worship to perform our Salāt (prayer). This explains both the miracle of the blessed Prophet’s Isrā and M’irāj when he traveled in a fleeting moment from Makkah to Jerusalem and through all seven transcendental worlds of space and time before returning to Makkah. This may also explain the phenomenon of the ascension of Jesus (‘alaihissalam) into the heavens and his eventual return to this dimension of space and time at that time when Dajjāl would have completed his mission. When Jesus returns to our dimension of time after more than 2000 years away from us, he would not have aged by as much as even a day.

Sūrah al-Fātihah and the different worlds of time

The blessed Prophet declared of Sūrah al-Fātihah that it was the greatest Sūrah of the Qur’ān. There was nothing in previously revealed scriptures that could compare with it, and that it could cure all illnesses. Consider the following Ahādith:

Narrated Abu Said Al-Mualla: While I was praying, the Prophet called me but I did not respond to his call. Later I said, “O Allah’s Apostle! I was praying.” He asked, “Didn’t Allah say: O you who believe! Give your response to Allah (by obeying Him) and to His Apostle when he calls you?” (8.24) He then asked, “Shall I not teach you the most superior Sūrah in the Qur’ān?” He said, “(It is), Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds. (i.e., Sūrah al-Fātiha) which consists of seven off recited verses of the Magnificent Qur’ān which was given to me.” [Sahīh Bukhāri]

Abdullah Ibn ‘Abbās reported that the Prophet said: “Rejoice in the two lights brought to you which have not been brought to any Prophet before you: al-Fatihah and the last verses of Sūrah al-Baqarah (2:28-45).” [Muslim]

Abū Hurayrah reported that the Prophet said: “By Him in whose hands is my soul, nothing like it (i.e.,Sūrah al-Fātihah) has been sent down in the Tauraat, nor in the Injīl, nor in the Zabūr, nor (elsewhere) in the Qur’ān.” [Tirmīdhi]

‘Abdal Malik Ibn ‘Umayr reported that the Prophet said that “Sūrah al-Fātihah is a healing for every sickness.” [Tirmīdhī, Dārimi and Bayhaqi]

Narrated Alaqah ibn Sahar at-Tamīmi: Alaqah came to the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) and embraced Islam. He then came back from him and passed some people who had a lunatic fettered in chains. His people said: We are told that your companion has brought much that is good. Have you something with which you can cure him? I then recited Sūrah al-Fātihah and he was cured. They gave me one hundred sheep. I then came to the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) and informed him of it. He asked: Is it only this? The narrator, Musaddad, said in his other version: Did you say anything other than that? I said: No. He said: Take it, for by my life, some accept it for a worthless chain, but you have done so for a genuine one.” [Sunan Abū Daūd]

Narrated Abū Saīd: Some of the companions of the Prophet went on a journey untill they reached some of the Arab tribes (at night). They asked the latter to treat them as their guests but they refused. The chief of that tribe was then bitten by a snake (or stung by a scorpion) and they tried their best to treat him but in vain. Some of them said (to the others), “Nothing has benefited him, will you go to the people who are spending the night here, may be some of them might possess something (that can cure).” They went to the group of the companions (of the Prophet) and said, “Our chief has been bitten by a snake (or stung by a scorpion) and we have tried everything but he has not benefited. Have you got anything (useful)?” One of them replied, “Yes, by Allah! I can recite a Ruqya, but as you have refused to accept us as your guests,I will not recite the Ruqya for you unless you fix for us some wages for it.” They agreed to pay them a flock of sheep. One of them then went and recited (Sūrah al-Fātihah): All the praises are for the Lord of the Worlds. He then blew with his breath over the chief who was then healed as if he was released from shakles. He got up and started walking, showing no signs of sickness. They paid them what they agreed to pay. Some of them (i.e.the companions) then suggested to divide their earnings among themselves, but the one who performed the recitation said, “Do not divide them till we go to the Prophet and narrate the whole story to him, and wait for his order.” So, they went to Allah’s Apostle and narrated the story. Allah’s Apostle asked, “How did you come to know that Sūrah al-Fātiha was recited as Ruqya?” Then he added, “You have done the right thing. Divide (what you have earned) and assign a share for me as well.” The Prophet smiled thereupon.

Our view, and Allah knows best, is the above indicate that the seven Āyāt (verses) of Sūrah al-Fātihah have the capacity to spiritually transport the true servant of Allah, even while he is in Salāt, through the seven dimensions of space and time and to deliver him/her spiritually to a special proximity with Allah Most High in a timeless world. This phenomenon constitutes the M’iraj of the believers. In other words, spiritual travel (M’irāj) commences at the very beginning of Salāt with the recitation of Sūrah al-Fātihah. Each of the seven Ayāt (verses) of Sūrah al-Fātihah can spiritually transport the worshipper through one of the seven Samawāt or dimensions of space and time until, by the time he recites Āmīn, he arrives spiritually at the ‘Arsh. He would then be in the special presence of Allah Most High, and the rest of the Raka’ah (or cycle of prayer) would be performed in that special divine presence.

This, perhaps, explains why the blessed Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah Most High be upon him) always recited each verse of Sūrah al-Fātihah separately and never joined two of its verses together in recitation. It also forces those who thought otherwise to now recognize the Basmallah as the first verse of Sūrah al-Fātihah and, consequently to further recognize the imperative of reciting it aloud in Salāt along with its other six Āyāt.

We may now conclude with the recognition of the following seven worlds or dimensions of time:

1.  a day like 50,000 years

2.  a day like 1000 years

3.  a day like 300 years

4.  a day like 100 years

5.  a day like a year

6.  a day like a month and

7.  a day like a week.

Proving the Existence of The Creator through Philosophy

“Verily, a man hath preformed prayers, fasting, charity, pilgrimage, and all other good works, but he will not be rewarded except by the proportion of his understanding”

“It is not a sixth or a ten of Man’s devotion which is acceptable to Allah, but only such proportions thereof as he offereth with understanding and true devotional spirit.”

Introduction

During the course of our lives we are confronted with many complex questions, some posed by our very own curiosity and some by others. Due to the nature of these questions, it is often difficult to find the correct answers, and so many of us allow them to languish on the dusty shelves in the nether reaches of our minds.

Like countless others before, many of us have questions we would not dare to ask. Out of a false sense of piety and ancestral solidarity we hypocritically submit to custom and ‘tribal’ religion. In silence we languish, and, with curiosity carelessly cast over our shoulders, we make up our drunken melodies and whistle them away.

We look at the miracle of life all around us, ignoring what we see, discarding precious opportunity … the opportunity to discover the truth. But in order to find the answer, we must first ask the question. Who is Allah? Who are we? What is the purpose of our lives? Where do we go from here? The answers to these questions will not only determine the way we think, but also our actions, our attitudes toward those around us and the circumstances that prevail

Fortunately, in our quest for answers we discover an exceptional gift called reason. By nurturing it through education, we are then able to distinguish right from wrong, good from evil and true success from failure. By this effort we begin to understand and then enjoy faith, for knowing is the greatest joy. It creates hunger for truth, and a passion for doing all that is good.

Many have unfulfilled lives due only to the lack of ambition, an ambition to search for and to know the truth of human existence. Only by discovering the truth can humankind truly flourishes …the truth of mans servitude to a single absolute creator.

Did Allah create me? If so, who created Allah?

How do we know that we’ve been created by some ‘God’? Is it not possible to explain our origins in some other more logical way?
We also say that Allah (God) does indeed exist. The chief among our proofs is the law of causation which stipulates that every artifact, creature or existent must have been brought into being by a creator, or efficient cause: a piece of fabric points to a weaver, a painting to a painter, an engraving to an engraver. The universe, according to this logic, is the most cogent proof of an All-Powerful Allah who created it.

Granted that we believe in this creator, aren’t we entitled, according to this same logic, to ask, “Who created the Creator? Who created that Allah we talk about?” Doesn’t our own reasoning and in keeping with the same law of causation lead us to this question?

Yet another doubt arises. Why do we say that Allah is one? Why shouldn’t there be many Gods sharing the ‘work’ among themselves? Can there be more than one creator with such absolute attributes? Can there for example be two absolutely powerful creators?

The Origins of the Universe

For everything, like man, there has a beginning in time; there can be only three ways of explaining how it came to be:

Either it was made, or created, or caused by nothing at all. In other words, it came out of nothing. Or it created itself. Or it has a creator, cause or maker outside itself

The first and second explanations are obviously impossible. It is inconceivable for something that has a beginning in time to come out of or be made of nothing at all. It is inconceivable that it should bring itself in to being. The universe and all that is in it, therefore, could not have created itself nor did it come about by chance.

The conclusion then is clear. The universe and all that is in it owes its existence to a Creator or Maker outside itself. We, as human beings, as a part of the universe, owe our existence to such a Creator. To say, as many do, that human beings evolved over time from other creatures or that they originated from water, or that there was a big bang and everything just happened to fall into place, does not really answer the question about the origin of the universe and all that is in it, including human beings. We can therefore conclude that any set of beliefs that denies or does not accept the existence of a Creator is False.

Who created the Creator?

Further regarding the question as to who created the Creator, there is no dilemma or anything or that sort. We admit that Allah is the absolute Creator but then we ask about who created Him, making him both creator and created in the same sentence, which is a contradiction. The other side of the question’s meaninglessness is that we imagine the Creator as being the subject to the laws which govern his creatures. It is Allah who created the law of causation and we cannot consider Him as subject to the law which he created. Causation’s a law for us who are lying in space and time. The primary constitutive elements of our universe, which is just one of the innumerous creations of Allah, are matter space and time. Allah, who created space and time, is necessarily transcendent in relation to both and it is an error on our part to think that he is bound either by them or by their laws. In fact it would be preposterous to ask the question as to what was there before Allah or who created Allah for there existed no time before Allah created time itself, thus the question of ‘before’ outside time isn’t possible.

In our misunderstanding, we are like those old dolls that, seeing that they move by springs, imagining that the human being who made them must also derive his motion from the action of springs. If they were told that he is self-moved, they would retort that it is completely impossible for anything to move spontaneously since everything in their world is moved by a spring. Just like them, we cannot imagine that Allah exists in His own essence with no need of an efficient cause, for this is because we see everything around us in need of such a cause.

Aristotle followed the chain of causality tracing they chair from wood, wood from tree, tree from seed, and seed from planter. He had to conclude that this chain which regresses into infinite time must have begun with and ‘uncaused’ cause, a primiummobile in no need of a mover, a creator who hasn’t been created. This is the same thing we assert to Allah.

Consequent Attributes

The Creator is of a different nature from all that has been created. This is because if He is considered to be one of the same nature as they are, He will need to have a beginning in time and will therefore need a maker. However we have to explain that it is He who has created time itself and is not subject to it. One word for “to have a beginning in time’ is temporal. If the Maker or Creator is not temporal, he must be eternal. Eternal, means to have no beginning or end in time.

If the Maker is eternal, He cannot be caused and if nothing caused him to come into existence, nothing outside Him causes Him to continue to exist, which means that he is self-sufficient. Self-sufficient, means that the Creator does not depend on anyone or anything to exist, and if he does not depend on anything to exist, then his existence can have no end. The Creator is therefore eternal and everlasting.

If the Creator is eternal and everlasting, then all His qualities must be eternal and everlasting. This means for example, that if He is powerful, then he must always be powerful. He cannot cease to be powerful. If he is all-knowing, then he is always all-knowing. If he is wise, he must always be wise. If he is kind and just, then be must always be kind and just. The creator doesn’t loose nor acquire any new qualities. Qualities that do not chance and that last forever are absolute qualities. Another name for qualities is attributes.

The Mind Comprehends only Particulars

Philosophers have realized that the mind cannot comprehend infinite realities and that it is, by nature, fitted only to apprehend particulars. It is incapable of apprehending such a universal of total existence as that of the Divinity. Allah was known by conscience, not by reason alone. Just as the new-born baby’s thirst for milk is a proof that is exists out there in the vast world beyond its mother’s womb, our yearning for justice, for example, is proof to us that a just Being exists ‘out there’.

Indeed human beings do have a special gift or power – the power of reason and logic. But we must realize that this power is, in itself limited: it is like a precision balance which might use for weighing gold but one would be vain and foolish to think it to weigh mountains. No single person on his own, no matter how clever he may be, can give complete, valid and satisfying answers to the questions about the origins of the world, and mans place in it, about life and destiny. No group of persons can do so either. For example, all the knowledge of the world and the universe amassed by philosophers and scientists in the future may come to know, there will always be a point of where they must say ‘We do not know!’. From the standpoint of science, the universe is like an old book, of which the first and last pages of which have been lost. Neither the beginning nor the end is known. Thus, the worldview of science is knowledge of the part, not of the whole.

Science -a Limited Worldview

Science, as the word is now widely understood, acquaints us with the situation of some parts of the universe; it cannot explain the essential character of the whole universe, its origins or its destiny. The scientist’s worldview is like the knowledge about the elephant gained by those who touched it in the dark. The one who felt the elephant’s ear supposed it to be a shaped like a fan; the one who felt its leg, supposed it to be shaped like a column; the one who felt its back supposed it to be shaped like a throne and the one who felt its trunk, supposed it to be shaped like a serpent. Science, it has been said is like a powerful searchlight in the long winter night, lighting up a small area in its beam but unable to shed like beyond its border. This is not to pronounce on its usefulness of otherwise, it is only to say that it is limited.
From another quarter, Ibn Al ‘Arabi, May Allah shower him with mercy, the Muslim mystic, replied to the question as to who made the creator saying that it can only occur to a disordered mind. According to him, it is Allah who substantiates existence and it would be erroneous to point to existence or the universe as a proof of Allah. This is the same as saying that light indicates day and it would be a lopsided argument to claim the day proves the existence of light. For everything besides Allah is false and it is Allah who aids in proving and finding, there is no proof leading to Allah. Allah is the proof which is no need of another proof. He is the self-evident truth and He is the evidence of that substantiates everything.

He is manifest in order, precision, beauty and regularity; in tree leaves, in feathers of a fawn, in the wings of a butterfly, in the fragrance of flowers, in the chanting of the nightingale, in the harmony of planets and stars which make up that symphonic poem that we call the universe. If we allege that all this came into being by chance, we would be like a person who believes that throwing a million letters into a space can result in its spontaneous assembly, into an authorless Shakespearean sonnet. The Qur’an spares us all these arguments with a few expressive words. It says without sophistry and in decisive clarity:
“Say, that Allah is One, the Absolute and Eternal. He begot none nor was he begotten. And none is equal to Him.” [Qur’ab 112, 1-4]

Could Allah not be ‘Two’?

However, as alluded to in the introduction, yet another doubt arises. Why do we say that Allah is one? Why shouldn’t there be many Gods sharing the ‘work’ among themselves? Can there be more than one creator with such absolute attributes? Can there for example be two absolutely powerful creators?
That is not possible. Why? If a maker is absolutely powerful, it follows that he is absolutely free of to do whatever he wishes. But if another maker with similar powers exists and they differ over the making of something, they of the two things can happen. Either, one will overcome the other, in case the latter cannot be absolutely powerful. Or, they will neutralize each other, in which case both the powers are limited.

This epitomized that in the parable of the simple old yarn spinner when she was asked by her skeptical friend, “How do you know that God exists?” The old lady replied saying, “I am a simple old woman who does not know much. However this much I do know, that when I turn my spindle it moves and when I leave it, it stops. Never does it move on its own accord. Thus I see the sun rising in the east and setting in the west, the moon traveling its course, the stars swimming harmoniously through the heavens, the rain falling gently, the trees growing tall and strong, the flowers blossoming exquisitely, the birds flying by gracefully and I know that there must be some great mover, some great creator of this beauty” Hearing this, her skeptical friend retorted, “Very well! Admitted that there must be some creator, how do we know that he is one God, and not many Gods?” They old woman calmly replied again, “I am a simple old woman who does not know much. However this much is do know, that if I trying to turn my spindle in one direction, and you were trying to turn my spindle in the other direction, then one of three things would happen. Either I would be stronger than you, in which case it would go in one direction, or you would be stronger and it would go in the other direction or we would break the spindle in our struggle. Thus never do I ever see this sun rising in the east one day, and the west the next, nor the moon traveling its course one day and in disarray the next, nor the stars swimming harmoniously one day and in confusion the next, nor the rain falling down one day and ascending the next, not the trees up tall and strong one day and then its branches digging the earth the next, nor the flowers blossoming exquisitely one day and collapsing the next, nor the birds flying by gracefully one day and then crawling on their backs in the dust the next, nor do I see this wonderful universe around me in disharmony and destroyed and thus I know that my Lord is One.”

Even if we assume that the two powers agree on everything or complement each other, they cannot both be absolutely powerful because in doing anything one at least will need to assume that the other will not interfere or is not capable of interfering. In other words, one will need to assume that the function of the other is redundant or that the power of the other is limited. The creator then must be One. There cannot be any other like Him, so He must be unique. The Creator must be all Powerful and must be able to do what ever He wills.

From the above, it is valid and reasonable to assert that the Creator must be Eternal and Everlasting, Self-Sufficient and All-Powerful, One and Unique. These are some of the qualities or attributes of the creator that we must have in mind when we use the word Allah. We must also remember that His attributes or qualities are absolute and do not change. There must be clear separation between the Creator and the created. It follows that no man can be Allah. Allah cannot have a mother or father. He cannot have a son or daughter. The sun, the moon, the stars or any other heavenly bodies cannot be Allah. No part of Creation whether it be a mountain, a tree or a fire can be Allah and does not deserve to be worshipped as Allah. Any religion or any worldview which regards any human being or any part of creation as Allah or part of Allah must be a false religion or worldview. Also any religion or any worldview which regards Allah as having human characteristics, for example a human shape and suffering from tiredness and needing rest and sleep, must be a false religion or worldview.

Nature Declares Allah’s Oneness

From yet another perspective we see the open book of nature revealing to us the attributes of its author. Allah is one because the entire universe is built out of one material and according to a unified plan. The ninety two elements in the Mendelev table are built from a single element, hydrogen. All forms of human life are built of carbon composites- they are all charred when burned according to one anatomical plan.

The anatomy of a frog, a rabbit, a pigeon, a crocodile, giraffe, and a whale reveals the same arteries, veins, cardiac chambers, and bones correspond in all of them. The wing of a pigeon is the foreleg of a frog; same bones with a slight variation. The long neck of a giraffe contains seven vertebrae; we find the same number in the hedgehogs’ neck. The nervous system in all consists of the brain, the spinal cord, and the motor and sensory nerves. Their digestive apparatus contains the stomach, duodenum, and the small and large intestines. The genital apparatus has the same components: the ovary, the uterus, the testicles and their ducts; while the urinary system in all consists of the kidney, the uriter, and the bladder. The anatomical unit in each of these creatures is the cell. Whether we are dealing with plants, animals, or humans, we meet with the same features; they are breathe, breed, die, and are born in the same way.

What is so strange, then, in asserting that the Creator is one? Does He suffer from a deficiency to need completion? It is the imperfect only who multiply. If there were more that one Allah, they would fall among themselves, each taking his own creation to his side and the universe would be ruined.

Why have I been Created?

What is the purpose of the creation of Mankind? If the purpose of man is, as Muslims advocate, to worship Allah, as mentioned in the following verse:

“I have created mankind and the Jinn (a fiery, invisible creature) in order that they may worship me.” (51, 56)

…does it then suggest that the Almighty is in dire need of our worship? This, though, would be an obvious contradiction of the Islamic belief in Allah being absolutely Self-Sufficient, Independent and Transcendent. If, on the contrary, the answer be no, then it would seem that mankind serves no purpose at all. What then is the purpose of the creation of Man?

Furthermore, if man was created for worship then why was he granted the freedom to choose not to do so, and even to deny the very existence of Allah himself? What then is the nature of man and what, if anything at all, makes him so unique? And how are we to understand the nature of the relationship between mankind and Allah?

‘Everything besides Allah is False!’

The Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessing be upon him, is reported to have said, “The truest words ever uttered are (that), ‘Everything besides Allah is False!’”. Islamic Doctrine informs the Muslim, as its fundamental premise, that everything around us does not, of itself, exist. We exist only solely by the will and intent of Allah, this divine being more than adequate a reason for the creation of all being.

The existence of the world is thus a shadow existence in so far as a shadow cannot exist without the object, which is in itself real and true. The existence of the shadow cannot in anyway be denied, but it is contingent on the existence of the image too is completely different and separate from the real existence of the object.

Similarly, the existence of the world is a ‘shadow’ existence, different and separate from the real existence of Allah. The important thing that has to be noted in this regard is that the shadow of a thing is not the thing itself. It is different from the object numerically as well as qualitatively.

The world is, in essence, unreal. What imparts to it a ‘shadow existence’, a semblance of reality, and elevates it from absolute nothingness and gives it a permanence and stability, is the reflection of Allah’s existence and attributes on it: Allah decree that it be:

“For when he intends that a thing be, He merely declares, ‘BE’ and it becomes.” (Qur’an 2, 117)

Man’s Ignorance disqualifies him

As has been determined in the previous section, to believe in Allah is the to believe in the existence of a supreme power; that this unimaginable power is behind the creation of the universe and that it is incomparable in its scope of knowledge, creativity, mercy, punishment and all the other features attributable to Allah. Once this understanding has taken root in the heart of the believer, he becomes aware of the fact that man shouldn’t assess Allah’s intent, power and absolute knowledge in terms of his own limited knowledge and physical powers. He understands that he is not qualified to question His authority and ask from reasons of motives, for dialogue is futile and will not serve its end unless those taking part in it possess equal mental ability and logic.

Man’s mental and physical limitations make him no match with Allah, no matter how knowledgeable and powerful man may think himself to be. Yet we still meet some unfortunate and vain persons who pretend shamelessly to be qualified to argue with Allah over His intent and knowledge, and the way He has prescribed for mankind.

The recognition of Allah’s supreme power and sovereignty over His universe and mankind and His all-encompassing knowledge, establishes the route through which faith enters mankind’s heart where it lodges and grows. But this route doesn’t open without prior contemplation and musing about this universe and the signs through which Allah reveals Himself to us, signs which constitute that glorious symphony we call creation.

Creation is a Spectacular Expression of Allah’s Divine Attributes

Creation is a spectacular Expression of Allah’s divine attributes. It has often been described as the veritable artwork of Allah, for through His creation does Allah manifest Himself. He is the artist and creation is His glorious artwork. Creation thus exists as a direct consequence of His attributes and His intent to manifest them.

Allah declares in a Divine utterance (Hadith Qudsi) by way of allegory, “I was as a hidden treasure, and thus I created creation that this treasure be (revealed in its splendor), known, (appreciated and celebrated)”.

Allah is the Creator, and creation and expression of his creativity, Allah is Perfect and so we find that creation too is perfect; Allah is the Fashioner and the Beautiful and His creation thus fashioned into most wondrous, beautiful forms; Allah is the Cherisher and creation cherished and caringly nurtured.

In fact, the very first verse of the Holy Qur’an alludes to this mystery for out of the ‘Beautiful Names’ (al Asma ul Husna) of Allah and His attributes of perfection, only two have been mentioned in this introductory verse – namely, ‘Ar Rahman’ and ‘Ar Rahim’ – both of which have been derived from the root ‘Rahmah’ (mercy), indicating the all-persuasiveness and perfection of divine mercy, compassion and love. It points to the fact that the creation of the heavens and the earth the sustenance of all the worlds has no other motivation  other than manifesting Allah’s attribute of mercy, generosity and selfless love. He Himself had no need of these creatures, nor could anyone compel Him to create them. It is His very own mercy, generosity and love which has determined the creation and sustenance of the entire universe.

How aptly this was out in by the great mystic poet Allamah Rumi: “There was nothing – neither our being nor our claim to be; It was by thy mercy that heard our unsaid.”

And further a poet states,

“…For he loved us even before we knew ourselves, and from this love he created us.”

Thus Allah is the Grand sculptor and creation his wondrous, perfect sculpture – a wondrous declaration of his perfection of being.

Related Article: Fate  and  Destiny  (Al-Qadaa  wa  Al-Qadar)