Category Archives: Philosophy & Theology

Atheism: The Irrational Doctrine

Twenty evidence of the fact that Atheism is the worst doctrine on earth .. !!

1 – Atheism violates the first law of Newton.
The first law of Newton says that “an object at rest will stay at rest and an object in steady motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an external force (static or dynamic).” So there must be an external force that made the Big Bang to happen at that very moment and forced the universe to begin at that very moment.

2 – Atheism violates the first law of thermodynamics.
Law of Conservation of energy or what is known as the first law of thermodynamics says ((matter/energy cannot be created nor can it be destroyed.)) If we contemplate in this law, we come to conclusion that the universe cannot exist. According to this law, the universe does not exist or it’s present in the presence of the Creator.

3 – Atheism violates the second law of thermodynamics.
The second law of thermodynamic says that the universe is now heading towards thermal death when the temperature of all organisms and particles becomes equal. So the universe as scientists say is heading toward disintegration, towards demolition, towards cooling and towards thermal death “thermal death of universe”, while atheism says that the universe is moving towards complexity and towards building a struggle to develop. So scholars consider the second law of thermodynamics to carry the end of Darwinism and selective evolution. And these are laws, not theories.. so the science on the side while atheism and Darwinism are completely on the other side.

4 – Atheism is contrary to the Code of Ethics.
The original definition of morality: – Morals are those that come against self-interest .. against matter .. against reason
Moral obligation is a restriction of the human being and as Nietzsche said long ago: – The lack of power in human being is because of his ethical commitment.

So morals are not profitable practically .. there must be a value for ethics and this value is not of this world .. a value that is not measured by abstract materialistic standards and not subject to natural laws .. ethical behavior, sacrifice, supreme ideals, asceticism and altruism are the inherent morality either are meaningless or has a meaning in the presence of God…

5 – Atheism does not find an explanation to the law of pairs.
The secret of the wisdom of the repeated mentioning of the two sexes, male and female in the Qur’an: “And of everything We have created pairs that you may be mindful” [SURAH ADH-DHARIYAT-49]. “And that He created pairs, the male and the female” [SURAH AN-NAJM 45]. The contemporary philosopher Henri Bergson said that the repeated mentioning of the pairs is not intended for gratitude, but also meant something greater which is to alert that pairing is in plants, animals and even particles and which is a great evidence of the purpose and the denial of the chance, moronic Darwinism, randomness and senselessness.

6 – Material atheism is in contradiction with the immaterial self.
If a human being committed a crime and insisted that he did it unconsciously, each lawyer seeks to prove there was no intent, but from the material perspective, the crime took place and ended up on the reality and the offender is also admitting that he’s the perpetrator, but the law interferes to know the purpose, intent and self-condition during the commission of the crime and whether the crime took place unconsciously or not .. Here, we put self in position higher than facts and higher than abstract materialistic reality.. In reality, we do not really judge what happened in the world, but to judge what has occurred within the self .. This reflects the contradiction in principles between man and the world.

7 – Atheism is contrary to the laws of human rights.
Human rights is metaphysical pure issue and your saying that human beings are equal this is possible only if the human is a creature of God, so equality between human beings is exclusively ethical, not a natural, materialistic or mental fact, since people from the materialistic, natural or mental perspective are undoubtedly unequal and based only on religion, the weak can claim equality.

Those who are weak and poor in money, health and mind and excluded from the tables of the celebrations in the world, those who do not have anything to show or to prove about except through religion only, by which they demonstrate that they are equal to them or even better towards God than the wealthy, and this is where lies the frequent proof of the value of religion in equality.

8 – Atheism violates the privacy of all, since it does not recognize the sanctity and holiness.
No value to bunch of virtues that have been established by religions in the last tens of thousands of years. As Dr. Missiri says: – the atheist sees the ground as an exploited matter and his purpose is to achieve maximum satisfaction of it or as the thinker John Locke says: – If all hopes of human is limited to this world and if we enjoy life here in this world, it is not surprising nor illogical to look for happiness, even at the expense of parents and children.

So the ideas of impurity, holiness, chastity and purity are ideas derived from another world have nothing to do with the materialistic, Darwinian, imperative, cold world… If we were really the sons of this world, it will not seem to us as it has something dirty or sacred…

9 – Atheism is contrary to the law of cause and effect.
Of nothing comes nothing… there is no effect without a cause .. this common sense is erected in the mind because it is higher than the law and on it stands the modern science and goals’ purpose.

Descartes says: “I exist so who made me exist and who created me? I have not created myself. It has to be my Creator.” This Creator must exist and does not lack a creator and He should be named with all the attributes of perfection: “Or were they created without there being anything, or are they the creators?” [Surah at-Tur: 35] .. and it does not occur to us to deny this common sense because of the pretext that the mental delusion of the sequence of reasons to no end and it is mentally false or because of the pretext of our ignorance but it is the cause and the law of causality that is not based on observation as atheists claims since our senses just shows the pictures of the disjointed and sequenced phenomena and does not show us the relationship with the causality, so how can we know this relationship only if the mind has innate organized laws – the talk of Descartes – which with it, the human being can realize the sense of and then make new constructed judgments that does not depend on the senses

10 – Atheism contradicts the law of intent and care.
All assets on the ground fits to the human existence and operates accordingly to him, so it is not surprising to say that everything around us is subjected to our requirements of day and night, four seasons, space, surrounding air molecules and how all that situated to the human nature and his needs, and it is not unrealistic to the fact that we say that this harmony in the universe is designed specifically for the production of the human race and as our brother Majdi says: “By washing your hands, thousands of bacteria die, since Man is the fixed component in the world history, his spirit value and moral values will remain unchanged, so the human being was and will remain as human being from thousand years ago born by the past to thousand years later born by the future, neither his nature nor his intent will change.”

11 – Atheism is contrary to teleology.
Science is in constant progress … all scientists’ researches based on the existence of laws governing the world and controlling the matter .. the purpose of science in every search is to find the law governing this case since the science is teleological and therefore it is in constant progress .. and without the science adoption already of a law that governs all things for this progress, the science would not progress one step .. and here lies the contradiction in principle between messy atheism and teleological science.. and it is not imaginable that everything around us is governed by the law of teleology and the human is the only being responsible in this case.

12 – Atheism contradicts the law of consistency previous to consolidation.
Says Leibniz:- “the atoms are moving with God’s will and work ability that shows how they relate to each other, However, they are not really related, but the power of God to make each atom goes in motion that harmonizes the motion of other atoms, so what seems to us of this harmony is the impact of the law of “consistency previous consolidation” since the matter does not discern the laws applied on it. And there is no rational must to oblige the water to boil at one hundred degrees Celsius or its molecules to diverge with boiling, and as Hume says: – a science that explains that with former interpretations is very immature science since it does not do more than adopting the situation but without giving any reasons. And it’s unavoidable but to admit of the law of “consistency previous consolidation”

13 – Atheism violates the principle of the famous Barclay.
Says Hume:- no evidence obliges us to believe that there is something If our senses missed it and no evidence compels us to believe that the thing we saw today and then we left and we go back to see it in the second day is the same thing we saw on the first day, since we do not know about the outside world except of we what have in our mind from sensory perceptions, and the mind obliges that there must be a holistic mind that absorbs all things and be a witness by it, and as God says:- “Is it not sufficient as regards your Lord that He is a witness over all things?” [SURAH FUSSILAT – 53]

14 – Atheism is the founder of most criminal doctrines on the Earth.
Se Gore says: – The Darwinism doctrine is one of the despicable doctrines that are not supported except by the worst tendencies and contemptible feelings, since its father is infidelity and its mother is dirtiness.

Nazism was formed only on the discrimination of races and ethnicitiy.

Mao Zedong the atheist thug said: – All the lower animals will be executed and all who stood against the revolution is an evolutionary error, and said in a December 9, 1958 “mass graves provide a good fertilizer for the land.” As a result, 50 million people was killed in China.

The Atheist Che Guevara said: – “To send men to the firing squad, the juridical validation is not necessary. We must learn how to kill queues of people in a shorter time!!!”

The criminal atheist Lenin said: – “No mercy for the enemies of the nation, but kill, hang and confiscate.”

Marx said: – “We have no pity for you, and we do not ask for your sympathy, when the day will come, we are in practice: conscientious savages.” and Marx justify this criminal terrible approach, saying: – “When people accuse us of cruelty, we wonder how they forgotten the basics of Marxism?”

As a result, 250 million people was killed in one century by horrible Darwinian atheism and this is probably more dead people, more than all the wars from Adam (alayhis salaam) to this day.

15 – Atheism is against art and life.
The existence of another world along with the natural world is the primary source of every religion and art .. and If there was only one world, the art would be impossible. Atheism will never understand the essence of art and nature .. If there is no spirit of man so why we are keen to have the spirit of art?

When the science deals with the man, it looks at it as what is dead and what is not personal, while when an art deals with man, it looks at what is humane and teleological, since art is on a natural collision with the world and with all its sciences, that the silent rebellion and if there is absolutely no support to man with no room for his spirit and his self, then the art is not an area for him and the poets and tragedy writers deludes us and write nonsense that does not make sense.

Art in nature and its recognizing of the existence of another world is carrying revolutionary meanings of blasphemy of materialistic world… and that was understood by the famous French painter de Buffet when he said: – “the essence of art is uncomfortable and useless, it’s against society and the threat of it.” Therefore, the essence of works of art are fully and vaguely obscure, it’s a continuous rebellion on the reality. It is repeated confession of the existence of another world that we do not belong to and we will go to it one day .. confession of human suffering on the ground and its inability to achieve the paradise that lies within his dreams and to search for it .. Art is simply is the fruit of the relationship between the spirit and the truth.

So when you contemplate on deep painting.. When you read a great novel .. the human being feels a strange sense that is mysterious with transcendence and holiness and entering the world of eternity .. Art is exactly as religion, both are recognizing the existence of another world, but art is not a religion but an expression of religion. Art is the illegitimate son of the truth… while religion is the legitimate son of the truth ..

16 – Atheism represents abnormality in the history of civilization.
Atheism is nothing more than an intellectual abnormalities and mental pollution in the history of nations and civilizations, Will Durant says in his book The Story of Civilization:-  “There may be cities without walls, without armies, without plants but there is no city without a temple.”
And The author of the book why we say that God exists says:- “and there one who said that man is guided to God with revelation or without revelation, but with the revelation, it was better and thorough, and some argued that all the worships are revelation from God, but it might be an old revelation that was stained with myths from magicians and fortune-tellers, so the primitive nations sidetracked in their ignorance and God was sending Messengers to purify these beliefs from sidetracking.” And Schmidt and Lang – two of the researchers of the assets of religions – say that the origin of all religions in purpose is the Oneness and the diversity came in the later stages, and it have been discovered that inheritance of Indian American and Indigenous residents of the North America are similar in many decrees to monotheistic religions particularly in terms of punishment and reward and here where lies the argument on people, where they are equal in reason and requesting guidance .. and humans differ in religion, but they agree in what God wants them to do.

Sheikh Nadeem Aljssr said in his book, the story of Faith, p. 35: – It’s more likely that many philosophy of the ancients in Egypt, China and India are the remnants of forgotten history, so the owners of these philosophies were stacked among the philosophers and they might have come from prophets or prophets’ subordinates.

That’s why atheism is abnormal approach that appears in temporary image and quickly disappears and if it‘s beneficial to people, it would’ve stayed on the earth.

17 – Big Bang and the fall of the myth of the stable static universe.
In 1989, NASA had launched the satellite (Cuba) for the detection of cosmic radiation resulted from the Big Bang and compiling information on the radiation and this satellite was able in only 8 minutes just to give a complete picture of the radiation and it is proven that the universe is made and this is what knocked off the atheists in critical embarrassment.

A. S. EDDINGTON says: “Philosophically, the notion of an abrupt beginning to the present order of Nature is repugnant to me”

And DENNIS SCIAMA said that he did not defended the steady-state theory, not because he deemed it valid, but because he wished that it were valid. SCIAMA goes on to say that as evidences began to pile up, he had to admit that the game was over and that the steady-state theory had to be dismissed.. And that he must leave aside the theory of the stable universe and his colleague GEORGE ABEL said that he has no choice but to accept the Big Bang theory.

This prompted the atheist philosopher of the twenty century ANTHONY FLEW to say his famous aphorism: –

“Notoriously, confession is good for the soul. I will therefore begin by confessing that the atheist has to be embarrassed by the contemporary cosmological consensus.” .. because the science has proven the idea that were defended by religious books.

18 – What is the mystery behind the bias of modern science towards the Qur’an?
Gustave Le Bon says “Islam is religion of the most appropriate for scientific discovery”, and that’s the reason of the frequent convert to Islam in the scientific community of doctors, researchers and professors.
The wonderful Alija Izetbegovic Say: – Aristotle has wrote three scientific books (in physics in the heavens .. .. in the earth) These three books do not exist today with one sentence that is scientifically valid .. three books from a scientific perspective is equal to zero to ten, while the Qur’an as Maurice Bucaille says in his famous book (the Qur’an, Bible and the Torah in the perspective of modern science): – The truth is I did not find any verse from the Qur’an that is contrary to one scientific fact but the Qur’an already passed the modern science and corrected many of the scientific theories that were prevalent in his day, for example the idea that groundwater was formed through a deep gorge at the bottom of the continents moved underground water from the oceans to the depths of the earth did the Qur’an ratify this scientific myth which was prevalent in that times or said. “Do you not see that Allah sends down water from the cloud, then makes it go along in the earth in springs” [Surah Zumar 21] ….. The source of groundwater is made up of springs, rain and not from Aristotle gap in the depth of the continent …….. And so on.

19 – Atheism does not give an explanation for anything.
Atheism is not a solution but a confession of a failure in finding a solution and this is the beginning of atheism and the end of it ..
The famous atheist Richard Dawkins says in his book delusion: – “Atheists are like bunch of cats, every cat in different direction..” Every atheist is an independent church and as a Sheikh Moqbel Bin Hadi says “If ten people of falsehood meet, they separate in eleven ideas”, so you do not find two atheist with the same idea combined and this is the misfortune of atheism and its ravages, it is the indisciplined doctrine that does not have a clear explanation of any issue, does not have a value, it is “just a fun game mentality,” as said by Dr. Ahmed Okasha .. Atheism in itself is merely a superficial naive idea that is very lazy on a very deep and serious issue … Atheism is messy, nihilistic and skeptical. As one of the old brothers says:- “Since the science is in continuous progress and since there are laws and fixed facts, the function of science is to look for those laws and facts, therefore, there no existence of Atheism or the messy Agnosticism.”

20 – The return of scientific world to God
The physicist (Frederick Bermham) author of History of Science (Science historian) says: “ present, the scientific community deems the idea of God’s creation of the universe a more respectable idea than ever before for hundreds of years.”
Michael Behe says: “I am compelled to accept the existence of God since the result of all these cumulative efforts to examine the cell. ie: to examine life at the molecular level is a loud shout to the clear sharp design …
And I evidenced that by the return of hundreds of scientists and thinkers in the past few years to God and acknowledged that the cause of atheism is psychological rather than mental aspect.:

The famous astronomer (Fred Hoyle) says in his book Mathematics of evolution page 130: – “ fact, how the very clear scientific theory says that life is collected by a clever mind, however, the person marvels and wonders, why it’s not accepted widely as an intuitive … but most likely it’s psychological reasons rather than scientific.”

and as Hadhrat Hussain (radhiyallahu anhu) when he said: “O Allah!, an eye is blinded that doesn’t see You.”

To sum up, Imam Ghazali (rahimahullah) was right when he said: – “We are imagining a mule building the pyramids, but we do not imagine what is assumed by atheists when they deny the Divinity .. and as has been said in the Islamic history: – “The ox knows its master, the donkey knows its owner, but this one does not know …” or, as the Bible in the Psalms of David (Dawud alayhis salaam) says : ”The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. 14-1 .. or as our Lord saus in the Qur’an:- “And certainly We have created for hell many of the jinn and the men; they have hearts with which they do not understand, and they have eyes with which they do not see, and they have ears with which they do not hear; they are as cattle, nay, they are in worse errors; these are the heedless ones” [SURAH AL-A’RAF 179]

The Origin of ‘Ilm al-Kalam

By Brother Ahab Badaiwi

‘Ilm al-Kalam, “Islamic theology”, represents one of the the most dynamic, intellectually-thriving, & philosophically-rich scholarly tradition in the world. But what’s the origin of kalam?

The story begins in the early 500s & 600s AD Middle East. Kalam emerged in multi-religious milieu of Middle East. Muslims as newest religious group & ruling minority sought to assert themselves amidst indigenous populations. Other competing religious groups at the time in Middle East spoke Aramaic, Greek, Middle Persian…Coptic, Armenian, & Arabic. Christians actively present in Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Iran, & Egypt. Zoroastrian scholarly activity palpable in Iraq & Iran. Mandean learned traditions attested in Iraq. Buddhist in Afghanistan & Central Asia. While some Jewish scholarly presence in Iraq.

Other religious traditions somewhat active in late antique Middle East include significant but sometimes-ignored religious experimentations & syncretic sects, such as Gnosticism, Neo-platonism, spiritual paganism, Alexandrian philosophy, hermeticism, Chaldaean oracles, & neo-pythorgansiam.

Before Islam Abrahamic communities in Middle East assimilated & carried forth Hellenic philosophical & scientific legacy & were engaged in centuries-long inter-religious debates & disputations. Nascent Muslim settlers came into contact with hellenised communities in Syria & Iraq.

Early religious commitments of Muslims ran their course towards development in spirit of inter-religious disputations. Two views prevail in academic community as to the origin of kalam. Josef van Ess opines that kalam didn’t start as polemic against unbelievers…
Van Ess of view that kalam started as inner-Islamic discussion through (mainly) political development. This is known as the internalist thesis. It reduces non-Muslim influences to minimum. In 1970s & 80s Van Ess came across two very early kalam texts dating back to 700s AD…
One was attributed to Muhammad bin al-Hanafiyya (rahimahullah) while other to Umayyad caliph ‘Umar II (rahimahullah) (d. 720). Harsh criticism promoted van Ess to revise his position to argue for a later date than originally assumed.

It is important to remember kalam has two distinct meanings that should be differentiated:

1) kalam as style of argumentation involving talk (ﻛﻠّﻤﺔ) with interlocutor by asking questions to reduce position of opponent to meaningless alternatives.

2) kalam as a scholarly tradition (Islamic theology) that employs kalam-style method. We should remember that Islamic theology shouldn’t be equated with kalam tout court. Why? Other Islamic theologies can be very critical of kalam, such as Hanbali theology, early Shi’i theology, etc

Kalam as style of argument has ancient roots in Middle East religious culture, before Islam. Following Council of Ephesus (431 AD) (& others) Christians in Middle East divided into rival factions determined to gaining ideological influence, vindicate beliefs, & refute beliefs of rival.

Shortly after Islamic Conquests Muslims were drawn into intra-Christian debates. Notable examples include debate between group of Muslim emigres and Abyssinian emperor & Prophet Muhammad with Christians of Najran. But who were most formidable debaters at dawn of Islam?

Evidence by Michael Cook & more recently Jack Tannous challenge van Ess’ internalist thesis. Cook notes that kalam-style arguments are present in Syriac Christological debates as early as 600s AD, such as in Monothelete document (extant manuscript held in British Library).

In terms of content, Seventh-century Christological debates invariably begin with disjunctive question (‘Do you believe X, yes or no?’) & then proceed methodically to discuss each of possibilities (‘if you say X, then it should be asked… but if you say Y, then…’),

The aim is to refute opponent’s response or show opponent’s view concurs with position of questioner. Syriac debates in 600s show remarkably similarity to earliest Muslim kalam texts which show same pattern (ﺍﻥ ﻗﺎﻝ … ﻓﻴﻘﺎﻝ ﻟﻪ) as 7th Century Syriac ones.

Academics conclude, then, that kalam genre in Islam is product of 7th century Syriac Christological schism. One view holds that Muslim learned art of kalam by either participating in Christological debates (Syria/Iraq) or through skilled Christian converts to Islam.

Closed reading go George’s Syriac polemics shows imitation of Greek Christological aporiai (type of argumentation in Ancient Greek philosophy & rhetoric) from 500s & 600s AD. Significantly George was Bishop of Christian Arab tribes of ‘Aqolaye (in Kufah) & Tu’aye & Tanukaye.

More accurate & recent assessment on origin of kalam focus on George Bishop of Arab tribes (d. 724). George wrote anti-Chalcedonian polemics in Syriac. Three such polemics survive showing author employing famous disjunctive formula to undermine opponent’s theological position.

These three Christian Arab tribes were all present in one of the earliest Christian-Muslim debate recorded by history: the debate between Jacobite Patriarch John Sedra & Hagarene (Muslim) ‘Umayr bin Sa’d al-Ansari, emir in Syria, that took place in year 644 AD.

Syriac sources describe the debate as “mamllā,” which translates to conversation or ﻛﻼﻡ in Arabic. This recent hypothesis on origin of kalam singles Arab Christians in Iraq & Syria as most plausible conduit for transmission of Islamic kalam (& later Islamic theology).

Kalam in Arabic corresponds to mamallā in Syriac. In both instances the term means “conservation,” “speech,” or “disputation”. Syriacs conflated translated Greek term theologia as mamllā alāhāyā (“speech regarding divinity”). But reading of this evidence requires caution.

It very possible that the Arab Christians present at debates took notice of fact that disputants acted as “spokesmen,” or memallēl alāhāyātā, that is, “one who speaks on divine matters,” the Syriac equivalent of the Arabic mutakallim.

Can Mu’jizah (Prophetic Miracles) be Rejected citing the “Laws of Nature” Argument??

By Shaykh Muhammad Yasir al-Hanafi

Rejecting miracles based on the notion that “everything has to be explained via laws of nature” is usually the result of two main reasons:

a) not understanding the reality of a miracle, and
b) lack of comprehension of the power of Allāh.

A miracle in reality is the action of Allāh that *appears* on the hand of a Prophet. To deem it an unmitigated result of a Prophet’s action demonstrates one’s lack of understanding of the basic teachings of the Qur’ān. When the Prophet  (ﺻﻠﻰ ﺍﻟﻠﻪ ﻋﻠﻴﻪ ﻭﺳﻠﻢ) threw dust in the eyes of the enemies in the battle of Badr, whereby blinding their vision, as an example, this ostensibly seemed that he  (ﺻﻠﻰ ﺍﻟﻠﻪ ﻋﻠﻴﻪ ﻭﺳﻠﻢ) alone initiated this action; however, the Qur’ān categorically states:

“And you threw not, [O Muhammad], when you threw, but it was Allāh who threw” (8:17).

So, this was a clear miracle that appeared on the hand of the Prophet  (ﺻﻠﻰ ﺍﻟﻠﻪ ﻋﻠﻴﻪ ﻭﺳﻠﻢ), but the Being who actually made it happen and initiated it was none other than the Almighty Himself. It happened with *His* will and permission.

Moreover, you will find numerous examples in the Qur’ān where the miracle is attributed towards the permission of Allāh and His will; for example, the Qur’ān mentions Īsā (alayhissalām)’s statement:

“Indeed I have come to you with a sign from your Lord in that I design for you from clay [that which is] like the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird by *permission of Allāh*. And I cure the blind and the leper, and I give life to the dead – *by permission of Allāh*” (3:49).

Also, “…and when you designed from clay [what was] like the form of a bird with *My permission*, then you breathed into it, and it became a bird with *My permission*; and you healed the blind and the leper with *My permission*; and when you brought forth the dead with *My permission*…” (5:110).

Thus, the Qur’ān is clear that the miracle is done by the permission of Allāh which appears on the hand of a Prophet.

The aforementioned brief explanation, therefore, will refute the notion that “if a Prophet is a role model, then how are we supposed to follow him in miracles?”. Well, the simple answer is that we are not supposed to follow him in miracles and we *can’t* because miracles happen by Allāh, with His permission only. We are supposed to follow the life and teachings of the Prophet (ﺻﻠﻰ ﺍﻟﻠﻪ ﻋﻠﻴﻪ ﻭﺳﻠﻢ). He didn’t *teach* miracles. They only happened by the permission of Allāh due to certain circumstances.

In addition, I want to say that to reject miracles, or to terribly misconstrue those verses pertaining to clear miracles, based on the catchphrase “laws of nature” is utterly preposterous, because Allāh is beyond laws. To hold the laws of nature as the criterion of accepting/rejecting miracles is to say that Allāh has become bound by such laws after creating them when, in fact, Allāh, the Almighty, is not subjected to any law. He is the Creator of everything. These laws that some ignoramuses worship are just customs or habits of nature at the most, and Allāh shows miracles to teach people that there is a Being behind this system who controls everything. If He wishes for something to occur outside of the usual habit of nature, He is capable of making it so, He is not bound by laws that He Himself created and sustains. He is not in need of laws, customs or rules. These customs are there but they can be broken by the Creator. And this is the exact definition of a miracle: ‘ﺃﻣﺮ ﺧﺎﺭﻕ ﻟﻠﻌﺎﺩﺓ’, a matter which is against the norm.

This notion of miracles complying with the laws of nature that some of our pseudo-enlightened Muslims have adopted stems from their inferiority complex in the face of the new-atheists. The trend of championing the naturalist philosophy has undoubtedly made Muslims feel ashamed to speak of phenomena that goes beyond natural explanations and they feel the need to explain their religion in the language of the new-atheists who will never accept them until they submit wholesale to the atheist agenda. This desire to rationalise the super-rational is only preparing a future generation that demands an Islām that is void of anything spiritual or metaphysical.

Muhiyuddin ibn al-Arabi (rahimahullah) and his Aqeedah

Shaykh Muhyi al-Din Ibn ‘Arabi (d. 638)

Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn Muhammad ibn al-‘Arabi, Abu Bakr Muhyi al-Din al-Hatimi al-Ta’i al-Andalusi al-Mursi al-Dimashqi, known as Ibn ‘Arabi to differentiate him from Qadhi Abu Bakr Ibn al-‘Arabi the Maliki jurist. A scholar of Arabic let­ters at first, then tafsîr and tasawwuf, nicknamed al-Qushayri and Sultan al-‘Arifin in his time for his pre-eminence in tasawwuf, known in his lifetime for his de­voutness to worship, asceticism, and generosity, Ibn ‘Arabi was praised by al-Munawi as “a righteous friend of Allah and a faithful scholar of knowledge” (waliyyun sâlihun wa ‘âli­mun nâsih), by Ibn ‘Imad al-Hanbali as “the absolute mujta­hid without doubt,” and by al-Fayruzabadi as “the Imam of the People of Shari‘a  both in knowledge and in legacy, the educator of the People of the Way in practice and in knowl­edge, and the shaykh of the shaykhs of the People of Truth through spiritual experience (dhawq) and understand­ing.”

His Teachers

He travelled East and West in the study of hadith, taking knowledge from over a thousand shaykhs, among them Abu al-Hasan ibn Hudhayl, Muhammad ibn Khalaf al-Lakhmi, Ibn Zarqun, Abu al-Walid al-Hadrami, al-Silafi, ‘Abd al-Haqq al-Ishbili, Ibn ‘Asakir, Ibn al-Jawzi, and Ibn Bushku­wal. His principal shaykhs in tasawwuf  were Abu Madyan al-Maghribi, Jamal al-Din Yunus ibn Yahya al-Qassar, Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Tamimi al-Fasi, Abu al-Hasan ibn Jami‘, and al-Khidr (alayhis salaam).[2]  He became known first as al-Shaykh al-Kabir (“The Great Shaykh”) then al-Shaykh al-Akbar (“The Great­est Shaykh”) with specific reference to the sciences of tasaw­wuf in which he authored hun­dreds of books.[3]

His Doctrine (‘Aqîda)

His greatest and best-known work is his last, al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya (“The Meccan Conquests”) which begins with a statement of doctrine – translated in the present volume – about which al-Safadi said: “I saw that from beginning to end it consists in the doctrine of Abu al-Hasan al-Ash‘ari without any difference whatso­ever.”[4]

His Rank of Mujtahid Mutlaq

In jurisprudence Ibn ‘Arabi is often said to follow the Zahiri school, but this is incorrect since he himself denies it, as quoted by Ibn ‘Imad from Ibn ‘Arabi’s two poems al-Ra’iyya and al-Nuniyya, which state respectively:

        Laqad harrama al-Rahmânu taqlîda Mâlikin

            wa Ahmada wa al-Nu‘mani wa al-kulli fa‘dhurû

    The Merciful forbade me to imitate Malik, Ahmad,

Al-Nu‘man [Abu Hanifa] and others, therefore pardon me.

 Lastu mimman yaqûlu qâla Ibnu Hazmin

lâ wa lâ Ahmadu wa la al-Nu‘mânu

I am not of those who say: “Ibn Hazm said”—

Certainly not! Nor “Ahmad said” nor “al-Nu‘man said.”[5]

The Controversy Surrounding Him

The name of Ibn ‘Arabi remains associated with contro­versy because of those who criticized him severely for the work attributed to him under the title Fusûs al-Hikam (“The Pre­cious Stones of the Wisdoms”). The attribution of this work in its present form to Ibn ‘Arabi is undoubtedly incor­rect as the Fusûs contradicts some of the most basic tenets of Islam expounded by Ibn ‘Arabi himself in his authen­tic works, such as the finality of Prophethood, the primacy of Prophets over non-Prophets, the abrogation of all religious creeds other than Islam, the everlastingness of the punish­ment of Hellfire and its dwellers, the abiding therein of anyone that does not accept the Prophet after his coming, Pharaoh’s damna­tion, etc. Nevertheless the Fusûs have re­ceived commen­taries by the following scholars among others: Sadr al-Din al-Qunawi (d. 671), ‘Afif al-Din al-Tilim­sani (d. 690), Mu’ayyid al-Din al-Jundi (d. 700), Sa‘d al-Din al-Farghani (d. 700), Kamal al-Din al-Zamalkani (d. 727), Dawud al-Qaysari (d. 751), Kamal al-Din al-Qashani (d. 751), Sayyid ‘Ali al-Hamadani (d. 766), Khwaja Muham­mad Parsa (d. 822) the intimate friend of Shah Naqshband, Mawlana Jami (d. 898), Isma‘il al-Anqa­rawi (d. 1042), ‘Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulusi (d. 1144), and others.

Al-Suyuti’s Response to al-Biqa‘i

In response to an attack by Burhan al-Din al-Biqa‘i (d. 885) entitled Tanbih al-Ghabi ila Takfir Ibn ‘Arabi wa Tahdhir al-‘Ibad min Ahl al-‘Inad (“Warning to the Ignoramus Concerning the Declaration of Ibn ‘Arabi’s Disbelief, and Cautioning the Servants of Allah Against Stub­born People”) Sayyid ‘Ali ibn Maymun al-Maghribi (d. 917) wrote a fatwa entitledTanbih al-Ghabi fi Tanzih Ibn ‘Arabi (“Warning to the Ignoramus Concerning Ibn ‘Arabi’s Vindication”). Al-Suyuti wrote a fatwa with the same title, in which he stated:

The scholars past and present have differed concerning Ibn ‘Arabi, one group considering him a friend of Allah (walî) – and they are correct – such as Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah al-Sakandari and ‘Afif al-Din al-Yafi‘i, another considering him a heretic – such as a large number of the jurists – while others expressed doubts concerning him, among them al-Dhahabi in al-Mizan. Two opposed verdicts are reported from Shaykh ‘Izz al-Din ibn ‘Abd al-Salam, one attacking him, and one describing him as the Spiritual Pole (al-qutb). What reconciles them is indicated by Shaykh Taj al-Din ibn ‘Ata’ Allah in Lata’if al-Minan [fi Manaqib Abi al-‘Abbas al-Mursi wa Shaykhihi Abi al-Hasan al-Shadhili], namely, that Shaykh ‘Izz al-Din at the beginning acted in the fashion of jurists in passing quick judgment on the Sufis. When Shaykh Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili went to pilgrimage and returned, he came to Shaykh ‘Izz al-Din before entering his own house and con­veyed to him the Prophet’s (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) greeting. After that, Shaykh ‘Izz al-Din humbled himself and began to sit in al-Shadhili’s gatherings….[6] Our shaykh, Shaykh al-Islam, the last remnant of the mujtahids, Sharaf al-Din al-Munawi replied, concerning Ibn ‘Arabi, that silence was safest. And this is the stance that befits every truly God­-wary person who fears for himself. For me, the last word concerning Ibn ‘Arabi – and this is accepted neither by his contemporary admirers nor by his detractors – is that he be considered a walî, but reading his books is forbidden.[7]

Whatever is transmitted and attributed to the [Sufi] Shaykhs – may Allah be well pleased with them – if it contradicts external knowl­edge, bears various possibili­ties:

First, we do not concede its attribu­tion to them until it is estab­lished as authentic.

Second, after authentic­ity is established, it may have a figurative meaning; if not, then one should say: “Perhaps it has a figurative meaning for the people of internal knowledge and the knowers of Allah Almighty.”

Third, this may have come from them in a state of intoxication and distraction, and the lawfully intoxicated person is not taken to task as he is not held responsible in such a state.

Holding a bad opinion about them after all these resolutions is a sign of deprivement of success. We seek refuge in Allah from failure and a terrible verdict, and from all evils![8]

Ibn ‘Arabi’s Admirers

Al-Suyuti’s attitude and what he reports from al-Munawi is echoed by Imam al-Safadi who said of Ibn ‘Arabi: “He was a very great man, and whatever can be under­stood from his words is excellent and upright; as for what we find difficult, we leave its matter to Allah, for we were not tasked with following him nor with doing all that he said.”[9] Similarly al-Qari admitted in one of his fatwas against Ibn ‘Arabi and his works: “The safest course in Religion concerning the person of Ibn ‘Arabi is silence, as the scholars differed about him.”[10]

The hadith master Ibn al-Najjar (d. 643) wrote a long notice on him in his biographical history in which he said: “I met him in Damascus and copied some of his poetry. What a wonderful shaykh he was!”[11] Among the famous authorities who held a good opinion of Ibn ‘Arabi are the following:

· The Qur’anic commentator and jurist Imam al-Baydawi who called him “the Imam of Verification in reality and outwardly”;

· The Qur’anic commentator Abu al-Su‘ud;

· Imam al-Safadi, the author of al-Wafi bi al-Wafayat;[12]

· Zayn al-Din al-Khafi al-Akbar Abadi;[13]

· The hadith master al-Sakhawi who chronicled al-Biqa‘i’s fitna in his Ahsan al-Masa‘i fi Idah Hawadith al-Biqa‘i and went on to write al-Qawl al-Munabbi ‘an Tarjima Ibn ‘Arabi which he summarized in al-Kifaya fi Tariq al-Hidaya. He also authored another book titled Tajrid Asma’ al-Akhidhin ‘an Ibn ‘Arabi in which he listed all the scholars who borrowed material from the Shaykh.[14]

· Al-Adnahwi (11th c.) who called him in his Tabaqat al-Mufassirin “the Peerless Shaykh in his Time.”a

· Ibn ‘Imad al-Hanbali who called him “the Great Knower of Allah” (al-‘ârif al-kabîr);[15]

· Kamal al-Din ‘Abd al-Wahid ibn ‘Abd al-Karim Ibn al-Zamalkani al-Dimashqi (d. 651) who called him “the Ocean re­plete with all kinds of divine knowledges”;

· Safi al-Din al-Azdi al-Ansari in his epistle on the scholars of his time;

· Shaykh Jalal al-Din al-Dawani (d. 907);[16]

· Majd al-Din al-Shirazi al-Siddiqi in his fatwa entitled al-Ightibat bi Mu‘alaja Ibn al-Khayyat;[17]

· Al-Sayyid al-Jurjani whose Ta‘rifat in­cludes Ibn ‘Arabi’s termino­logies;

· The renowned lexicographer, hadith scholar and jurist al-Fayruzabadi who in his commentary on al-Bukhari’s Sahih often quotes Ibn ‘Arabi’s ex­planations;

· Imam al-Yafi‘i who called him in his Tarikh “the Paragon of the Friends of Allah in knowledge and fiqh out­wardly and inwardly”;

· The lexicographer and hadith master Murtada al-Zabidi who often cites Ibn ‘Arabi in his commentary on al-Ghazzali’s  Ihya’ entitled Ithaf al-Sada al-Muttaqin.

· Qadi al-Qudat Shams al-Din al-Bisati al-Maliki who opposed before the Sultan – in Ibn Hajar’s presence – ‘Ala’ al-Din al-Bukhari’s verdict of takfîr of Ibn ‘Arabi and whoever accepted him;[18]

· Shaykh al-Islam Siraj al-Din al-Makhzumi who said: “Our shaykh,Shaykh al-Islam Siraj al-Din al-Bulqini and likewise Shaykh Taqi al-Din al-Subki used to criti­cize the Shaykh in the beginning, then they changed their position after they realized what he was saying and the explanation of his intent.”[19]

· Al-Bulqini who was reported by his student al-Makhzumi as saying: “We seek refuge in Allah from say­ing that he [Ibn ‘Arabi] asserts indwelling (hulûl) or communion-with-the-divine (ittihâd)! He is far above that. Rather, he is one of the greatest imams and among those who have probed the oceans of the sciences of the Book and the Sunna.”[20]

· Shaykh al-Islam Zakariyya al-Ansari in the chapter on apostasy in his book Sharh Kitab al-Rawd fi al-Fiqh wa al-Fatwa;[21]

· Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami in his Fatawa Hadithiyya;

· Imam Shams al-Din Muhammad al-Bakri;

· The hadith master and Qur’anic commentator Shaykh Isma‘il Haqqi in his book al-Khitab;

· Imam Muhammad Ibn ‘Abidin, the foremost authority in the late Hanafi school;[22]

· The Ottoman writer Katib Çelebi who devoted a chapter on Ibn ‘Arabi in his book Mizan al-Haqq fi Ikhtyar al-Ahaqq;

· Shaykh Mulla al-Jami in Nafahat al-Uns;

· The hadith master of Damascus and Renewer of the Fourteenth Islamic century, Shaykh Badr al-Din al-Hasani;[23]

· The Wahhabi supporter, student of al-Shawkani, scho­larly nawab of Bhopal and author of Abjad al-‘Ulum Siddiq Hasan Khan al-Qinnawji in the third chapter of his Takhrij al-Wasaya which he titled: “Concerning the Instructions of One of the Pure People of Excel­lence Com­monly Named ‘Sufis’ – Allah Grant Us and All of Them Mercy Through the Immense Honor of the Master of Messengers e (bijâh sayyid al-mursalîn)” The chapter then begins: “The most sublime shaykh and knower of Allah (al-shaykh al-ajall al-‘ârif billâhi ta‘âlâ) said in al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya…” Al-Qinnawji then goes on to cite Ibn ‘Arabi for over forty pages.[24]

· Sayyid Jamal al-Din al-Qasimi in his Qawa‘id al-Tahdith;[25]

· Imam Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari in his Maqalat.[26]

· Muhammad ‘Abduh calls him al-Shaykh al-Akbar;b

 · Shaykh al-Islam al-Munawi who cited him over two hundred times inFayd al-Qadir and elsewhere declared:

A group of scholars professed suspension of judgment and benefit of good opinion (al-taslîm)… their Imam being Shaykh al-Islam al-Nawawi who replied, when asked about Ibn ‘Arabi: (Those are a people who have passed away. Theirs is that which they earned, and yours is that which you earn. And you will not be asked of what they used to do) (2:134). [Ahmad] Zarruq reported from his shaykh al-Nuri the words: “They differed about him from the verdict of disbelief to that of spiritual primacy (qutbâniyya); giving the benefit of good opin­ion is therefore an obligation.”[27]

Wahda al-Wujûd or Oneness of Being

Perhaps the most famous misrepresentation of the Shaykh that resulted from the Fusûs is the attribution to him of the doctrine of “one­ness of being” (wahda al-wujûd) in the pan­the­istic sense of the im­manence of the Deity in everything that exists. Al-Qari cites, for example, a verse of poetry which he references to the Fusûs, stating:

Subhâna man azhara al-ashyâ’a wa huwa ‘aynuhâ

Glory to Him Who caused things to appear

and is those very things![28]

This attribution and others of its type are evidently spurious and Ibn ‘Arabi’s ‘Aqida flatly contradicts them. Fur­thermore, verifying scholars such as Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi in his epistles, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulusi in al-Radd al-Matin ‘ala Muntaqid al-‘Arif Billah Muhyi al-Din and Idah al-Maqsud min Wahda al-Wujud, and al-Sha‘rani in al-Yawaqit wa al-Jawahir and Tanbih al-Aghbiya’ ‘ala Qatratin min Bahri ‘Ulum al-Awliya have re­phrased Ibn ‘Arabi’s ex­pression of “one­ness of being”(wahda al-wujûd) as “one­ness of per­ception” (wahda al-shuhûd) in the sense in which the Prophet  (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) defined excel­lence (ihsân) as “worshipping Allah as if you see Him.”[29] And to see Him is to see nothing else. This is what is meant in such ex­pressions as the question uttered again and again by the late Shaykh ‘Abd al-Hamid Kishk: “Allah is my Lord! Is there in all existence any but He?”  (Allâhu rabbî! Hal fi al-wujûdi siwâh?) or apho­rism 133 of Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah: “The universes are affirmed by His affirmation of them and they are erased by the unicity of His Essence” (al-akwânu thâbitatun bi ithbâtihi wa mamhuw­watun bi ahadiyyati dhâtihi). Shaykh ‘Abd al-Hadi Kharsa explained:

Those who have come to know Allah Ithrough His own self-disclosure to them(ta‘rîf Allâhi lahum) – they did not come to know Him via their minds – have known him with the light which Allah I imparted to their hearts and minds. This light then reflected itself upon all things. Then they saw that all things subsist in Allah, and they wit­nessed the Onenesse of Allah I in all those created aspects despite their multiplicity. For these aspects have no autonomy of existence. Their subsistence is only through the divine Sustainment (qayyûmiyya) and their affirmation is through the Support (imdâd) of Allah. [Allah chooses for Himself whom He will, and guides unto Himself him who turns (toward Him)] (42:13). The people of turning to Allah (ahl al-inâba) Allah guides unto Himself. The people of His choice (ahl al-ijtibâ’) are those whom He especially purifies (istafâhum). [And peace be on His slaves whom He has chosen]  (27:59). O Allah, let us be of them and with them! Aamin.[30]

Al-Nabulusi said in his Diwan:

Beware of witnessing any other [Causator] than Him!

[Of this] cease your concern.

There is neither “you” nor “I” in this existence.

Verily, Existence is the True through Whom we appear

And through Whom we return to extinction.

When we return through Him, it is as if we never were

And when we appear through Him, yet He appears without our help.

O child of contingencies! Do not think yourself

—for you certainly are not—the One without beginning

Even if He caused you to appear and took care of you!

Truly, indwelling is the delusion of the ignoramus

Whose favorite occupation is finding fault

With the discourse of the people of Allah.

I never heard nor shall I ever hear a sane and reasonable person

Declare that the Real inhabits a contingent being!

Now, if some texts actually said this, they said it

Only on the firmly-established basis of the Prophet’s pact.[31]

Dr. Sa‘id al-Buti said:

What is the meaning of the expression “one­ness of perception”? When I interact with causes with full respect to the ways of Allah, His orders, and His Law, knowing that the sustenance that comes to me is from Allah; the felicity that enters my home is from Allah Almighty; my food is readied for me by Allah – I mean even the smallest details; the wealth with which I have been graced, comes from Allah; the ill­ness that has been put in my being or that of a relative of mine comes from Allah Almighty; the cure that followed it is from Allah Almighty; my success in my studies is by Allah Almighty’s grant; the results which I have attained after obtaining my degrees and so forth, are from Allah Almighty’s grant – when the effi­cacy of causes melts away in my sight and I no longer see, behind them, other than the Causator Who is Allah Almighty: at that time, when you look right, you do not see except the Attributes of Allah, and when you look left, you do not see other than the Attributes of Allah. As much as you evolve in the world of causes, you do not see, through them, other than the Causator, Who is Allah. At that time you have become raised to what the spiritual masters have called oneness of perception. And this oneness of percep­tion is what the Messenger of Allah rexpressed by the word ihsân [which he defined to mean]: “That you worship Allah as if you see him.” You do not see the causes as a bar­rier between you and Allah. Rather, you see causes, in the context of this doctrine, very much like pure, trans­parent glass: the glass pane is present – no one denies it – but as much as you stare at it, you do not see anything except what is behind it. Is it not so? You only see what is behind it. The world is entirely made of glass panes in this fashion. You see in them the efficacy of Allah in perma­nence, so you are always with Allah Al­mighty. None has tasted the sweetness of belief unless he has reached that level of perception.[32]

Ibn Taymiyya’s Unreliability

Ibn Taymiyya is quoted in his Fatawa as being asked re­peatedly about “the verdict of Islam concerning Ibn ‘Arabi who asserted Oneness of Being,” and other similar questions. However, it seems that Ibn Taymiyya did not review the Shaykh’s huge  Futuhat in its totality when he answered these questions. At times, his discussions about Ibn ‘Arabi depend, as he puts it, on “whether these are his actual words” while at other times he attacks him outright on the basis of these unverified assumptions, or himself levels specific accusations against the Shaykh. Muhammad Ghurab – a contemporary autho­rity on Ibn ‘Arabi’s works – in a book pub­lished in the 1980s by Dar al-Fikr in Damascus, states having read the Futuhatseveral times from cover to cover without finding the expressions for which Ibn Taymiyya took the Shaykh to task while citing this work. The late scholar of Damascus Shaykh Mahmud al-Rankusi similarly affirmed that Ibn Taymiyya an­swered questions about Ibn ‘Arabi without con­firming them against his actual writings, and that the sharp temper of the former further complicated his attitude towards the Shaykh. On the basis of these opinions and in the light of Ibn Taymiyya’s occasional reservations and his otherwise apparently correct approach to ambiguous expres­sions, it seems that the misquotations of Ibn ‘Arabi became so numerous in Ibn Taymiyya’s time that it became incon­ceivable to him that they were all incorrect, whereupon he treated them as facts. The errors causing these misquota­tions can also be inferred from the fact that since the misquota­tions revolved around issues of doctrine – in which misunderstand­ings are fraught with grave dangers – and in light of the Shaykh’s complex style and obscure expressions, queries would be commonly sent to muftis con­cer­ning what some people thought they had read, without actually citing nor understanding the expressions in ques­tion. All this could have been avoided by the due observance of faithfulness (amâna) in textual citation, as the early scholars insisted with reference to hadith transmission. Yet many later scholars, be­ginning with Ibn Taymiyya and after him, relied on second and third-hand paraphrases and attributions, endorsing the accusa­tions against Ibn ‘Arabi and even generalizing them so as to target all tasawwuf. Finally, Ibn Taymiyya in his letter to al-Munayji actually states his admiration for the Futuhat and reserves his criticism only for the Fusûs![33]

Other Critics of Ibn ‘Arabi

Among the scholars claimed by al-Qari as condemning Ibn ‘Arabi as an innovator or even an outright heretic (zindîq) and disbeliever because of Fusûs al-Hikam: Ibn ‘Abd al-Salam, al-Jazari, Sharaf al-Din ibn al-Muqri, Abu Hayyan al-Andalusi, Sa‘d al-Din al-Taftazani,[34] Jamal al-Din Muham­mad ibn Nur al-Din,[35] Siraj al-Din al-Bulqini who suppos­edly ordered his books burnt,[36] Burhan al-Din al-Biqa‘i, Ibn Taymiyya,[37] and his student al-Dhahabi who said:

He may well have been one of the Friends of Allah Whom He strongly attracted to Himself upon death and for whom He sealed a good ending. As for his words, who­ever understands them, recognizes them to be based on communion-with-the-divine (ittihâdiyya), knowing the deviation of those people and comprehending theirs ex­pressions: the truth will be apparent to him as against what they say.[38]

The Hanafi shaykh ‘Ala’ al-Din al-Bukhari, like Ibn al-Muqri, went so far as to declare anyone who did not declare Ibn ‘Arabi a disbeliever to be himself a disbeliever. This is the same ‘Ala’ al-Din al-Bukhari who said that anyone that gives Ibn Taymiyya the title Shaykh al-Islam is a disbe­liever.

Al-Haytami’s Response

Al-Haytami said in his Fatawa Hadithiyya:

Our shaykh [Zakariyya al-Ansari] said in Sharh al-Rawd… in response to Ibn al-Muqri’s statement: “Whoever doubts in the disbelief (kufr) of Ibn ‘Arabi’s group, he himself is a disbeliever”:

The truth is that Ibn ‘Arabi and his group are the elite of the Umma. Al-Yafi‘i, Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah and others have declared that they considered Ibn ‘Arabi a walî, noting that the language which Sufis use is appropri­ate among the experts in its usage and that the knower of Allah (‘ârif), when he becomes completely ab­sorbed in the oceans of Unity, might make some statements that are liable to be misconstrued as indwelling (hulûl) and union (ittihâd), while in reality there is neither indwelling nor union.

It has been clearly stated by our Imams, such as al-Rafi‘i in his book al-‘Aziz, al-Nawawi in al-Rawda and al-Majmu‘, and others:

When a mufti is asked about a certain phrase that could be construed as disbelief, he should not immediately say that the speaker should be put to death nor immediately make permissible the shed­ding of his blood. Rather, let him say: The speaker must be asked about what he meant by his statement, and he should hear his explanation, then act accordingly.[39]

Look at these guidelines – may Allah guide you! – and you will find that the deniers who assault this great man (Ibn ‘Arabi) and posi­tively assert his disbelief, are riding upon blind mounts, and stumbling about like a camel affected with troubled vision. Verily Allah has blocked their sight and hearing from perceiving this, until they fell into whatever they fell into, which caused them to be despised, and made their knowledge of no benefit. The great knowledge of the Sufis and their utter renunciation of this world and of everything other than Allah testify to their inno­cence from these terrible accusations, therefore we prefer to dismiss such accusa­tions and consider that their statements are true realities in the way they expressed them. Their way cannot be denied without knowing the meaning of their statements and the expressions they use, and then turning to apply the expression to the meaning and see if they match or not. We thank Allah that all of their deniers are ignorant in that kind of knowledge, as not one of them has mastered the sciences of unveilings (mukâshafât), nor even smelled them from a distance! Nor has anyone of them sincerely fol­lowed any of the awliyâ’ so as to master their terminol­ogy.

You may object: “I disagree that their expressions refer to a reality rather than being metaphorical phrases, therefore show me something clearer than the explana­tions that have been given.” I say: Rejection is stubbor­ness. Let us assume that you disagree with what I have mentioned, but the correct way of stating the objection is to say: “This statement could be interpreted in several ways,” and proceed to explain them. You should not say: “If it meant this, then… and if it meant that, then…” while stating from the start “This is kufr”! That is ignorance and goes beyond the scope of sincere faithfulness  (nasîha) claimed by the critic.

Do you not see that if Ibn al-Muqri’s real motivation were good advice, he would not have exagger­ated by saying: “Whoever has a doubt in the disbelief of the group of Ibn ‘Arabi, he himself is a disbeliever”? So he extended his judgment that Ibn ‘Arabi’s followers were disbelievers,  to everyone who had a doubt as to their dis­belief. Look at this fanaticism that exceeds all bounds and departs from the consensus of the Imams, and goes so far as to accuse anyone who doubts their disbelief.  (Glori­fied are You, this is awful calumny!) (24:16) (When you welcomed it with your tongues, and uttered with your mouths that whereof you had no knowledge, you counted it a trifle. In the sight of Allah, it is very great) (24:15).

Notice also that his statement suggests that it is an obligation on the whole Community to believe that Ibn ‘Arabi and his followers are disbelievers, otherwise they will all be declared disbelievers – and no one thinks likes this. As a matter of fact, it might well lead into something forbidden which he himself has stated clearly in his book al-Rawd when he said: “Whoever accuses a Muslim of being a disbeliever based on a sin committed by him, and without an attempt to interpret it favorably, he himself commits disbelief.” Yet here he is accusing an entire group of Muslims of disbelief.[40] Moreover, no con­si­deration should be paid to his interpretation, because he only gives the kind of interpretation that is detrimental to those he is criti­cizing, for that is all that their words have impressed upon him.

As for those who do not think of Ibn ‘Arabi and the Sufis except as a pure light in front of them, and believe in their sainthood – how can a Muslim attack them by accus­ing them of disbe­lief? No one would dare do so un­less he is accepting the possibility to be himself called a disbe­liever. This judgment reflects a great deal of fanati­cism, and an assault on most of the Muslims. We ask Allah, through His Mercy, to forgive the one who uttered it.

It has been narrated through more than one source and has be­come well-known to everyone that whoever opposes the Sufis, Allah will not make His Knowledge be­ne­ficial, and he will be inflicted with the worst and ugliest diseases. We have witnessed this taking place with many naysayers. For example, al-Biqa‘i – may Allah for­give him! – used to be one of the most distinguished scholars, blessed with many meritorious acts of worship, an excep­tional intelligence, and an excel­lent memory in all kinds of knowledge, especially in the sciences of tafsîr and hadith, and he wrote numerous books, but Allah did not allow them to be of any kind of benefit to anyone. He also authored a book called  Munasabat al-Qur’an in about ten volumes, about which no-one knows except the elite, and as for the rest, they never heard about it. If this book had been written by our Shaykh Zakariyya [al-Ansari], or by anyone who believes [in awliyâ’], it would have been copied with gold because, as a matter of fact, it has no equal: for (Of the bounties of thy Lord We bestow freely on all, these as well as those: the bounties of thy Lord are not closed to anyone) (17:20).

Al-Biqa‘i went to extremes in his denial and wrote books about the subject, all of them clearly and excessively fanatical and deviating from the straight path. But then he paid for it fully and even more than that, for he was caught in the act on several occasions and was judged a disbeliever. It was ruled that his blood be shed and he was about to get killed, but he asked the help and protection of some influential people who rescued him, and he was made to repent in Salihiyya, Egypt, and renew his Islam.[41]

Al-Dhahabi’s Warning to Critics of Sufis

Al-Dhahabi voiced something similar to al-Haytami’s warnings against those inclined to attack Sufis:

Our Shaykh Ibn Wahb [= Ibn Daqiq al-‘Id] said – may Allah have mercy on him: ‘Among the predica­ments that mar the discipline of narrator-discreditation are the divergences that take place between the follow­ers of tasawwuf (al-mutasawwifa) and the people of ex­ternal knowledge (ahl al-‘ilm al-zâhir); animosity there­fore arose between these two groups and necessi­tated mutual criticism.’

Now this [animosity against Sufis] is a plunge from which none escapes unscathed except one thor­oughly knowledgeable with all the evidentiary proofs of the Law. Note that I do not limit such knowledge to the branches [of the Law]. For, concerning many of the states de­scribed by the people of truth (al-muhiqqîn)  among the Sufis, right can­not be told from wrong on the mere basis of knowledge of the bran­ches. One must also possess firm knowledge of the principles of the Law and be able to tell apart the obligatory from the possible, as well as the rationally impossible from the customarily impossible.

It is, indeed, a position fraught with danger! For the critic of a true Sufi (muhiqq al-sûfiyya)  enters into the hadith: “Whosoever shows enmity to one of My Friends, I shall declare war upon him.”[42] While one that abandons all condemnation for what is clearly wrong in what he hears from some of them, abandons the commanding of good and the forbidding of evil.[43]

Some of Ibn ‘Arabi’s Sayings

It is remarkable that there were very few contemporaries of Ibn ‘Arabi among his accusers, although he travelled and taught all over the Islamic world and, as Ibn Hajar stated, “he made his mark in every country that he entered”[44] while his admirers among the authorities of Islam lived both in his own lifetime and later.

Among the Shaykh’s sayings:

· “Whoever is truthful in something and pursues it diligently will obtain it sooner or later; if he does not obtain it in this world, he will obtain it in the next; and whoever dies before victory shall be elevated to the level of his diligence.”

· “The knower of Allah knows through eyesight (basar) what others know through insight (basîra), and he knows through insight what virtually no-one knows. De­spite this, he does not feel secure from the harm of his ego towards himself; how then could he ever feel secure from what His Lord has foreordained for him?”

· “The knower’s declaration to his student: ‘Take from me this science which you can find nowhere else,’ does not detract from the knower’s level, nor do other similar declarations that appear to be self-eulogy, because his intention is only to encourage the student to receive it.”

· “The discourse of the knower is in the image of the lis­tener accor­ding to the latter’s powers, readiness, weak­ness, and inner reserva­tions.”

· “If you find it complicated to answer someone’s question, do not answer it, for his container is already full and does not have room for the answer.”

· “The ignorant one does not see his ignorance as he basks in its dark­ness; nor does the knowledgeable one see his own knowledge, for he basks in its light.”

· “Whoever asks for a proof for the oneness of Allah, a donkey knows more than him.”

Ibn ‘Arabi’s short book of poetry Tarjuman al-Ashwaq (“The Inter­preter of Desires”) is considered one of the mas­terpieces of classical Arabic poetry and has been translated in several languages. The Futuhat al-Makkiyya also contains some outstanding samples of the Shaykh’s poetry. Following is a poem he addresses to the Ka‘ba:

1. In the Place of refuge my heart sought refuge,

      shot with enmity’s arrows.

2. O Mercy of Allah for His slaves, Allah placed His trust

 in you among all inanimate forms.

3. O House of my Lord, O light of my heart,

      O coolness of my eyes,[45] O my heart within,

4. O true secret of the heart of existence,

      my sacred trust, my purest love!

5. O direction from which I turn from every quarter and


6. From subsistence in the Real, then from the height,

      from self-extinction, then from the depths!

7. O Ka‘ba of Allah, O my life,

      O path of good fortune, O my guidance,

8. In you has Allah placed every safety

      from the fear of disaster upon the Return.

9. In you does the noble Station flourish,

      in you are found the fortunes of the slaves of Allah.

10. In you is the Right Hand that my sin has draped

      in the robe of blackness.[46]

11. Multazam is in you – he who clings to love for it,

      will be saved on the Day of Mutual Cries.[47]

12. Souls passed away longing for Her,

      in the pain of longing and distant separation.

13. In sorrow at their news she has put on

      the garment of mourning.[48]

14. Allah sheds His light on her court,

      and something of His light appears in the heart.

15. None sees it but the sorrowful

      whose eyes are dark from lack of sleep.

16. He circumambulates seven times after seven,

      from the beginning of night until the call to prayer.

17. Hostage to endless sadness, he is never seen

      but bound to effort.

18. I heard him call upon Allah and say, beside the Black

   Stone: “O my heart!

19. Our night has quickly passed,

      but the goal of my love has not passed!”[49]

Ibn ‘Imad said: “He died – may Allah have mercy on him! – in the house of the Qadi Muhyi al-Din ibn al-Zaki and was taken to Qasyûn [Damascus] and buried in the noble mound, one of the groves of Paradise, and Allah knows best.”[50]

Shaykh Muhyi al-Din Ibn ‘Arabi

Islamic Doctrine


The Blessings and Peace of Allah Upon the Messenger of Allah and Upon his Family and All his Companions

[Al-Futuhat §130] My faithful brethren – may Allah seal your lives and mine with goodness! – when I heard the saying of Allah I about His Prophet Hûd u, as the latter told his folk who had belied him and his apostleship: (I call Allah to wit­ness, and do you (too) bear witness, that I am inno­cent of (all) that you ascribe as partners (to Allah)) (11:54), [I saw that] he called his folk to witness in his regard – although they belied him – that he was innocent of associating any partners to Allah, and that he positively con­firmed His Oneness; and since he knew that Allah Iwill sum­mon human beings before Him and ask them about what he himself knew, either to exon­er­ate or convict them, until every single witness bears witness;

[131] And since it was related that the caller to prayer  (mu’adhdhin) is wit­nessed to by every living and non-living thing as far as his voice can reach, and by everything and every­one that hears him; hence “The devil flees at the call to prayer, pas­sing wind”[52] so that he will not hear the caller’s call to prayer and then have to witness on the latter’s behalf, thereby becoming one of those who contribute to the felicity of the one being wit­nessed to, whereas he is the absolute enemy and does not bear for us an iota of good – may Allah curse him!

[132] Now, if the enemy himself is obliged to testify on your behalf to what­ever you call him to witness regarding your own person, it is even more cer­tain that your friend and beloved should testify on your behalf – for the latter shares your religion and belongs to your religious community – and it is more certain that you yourself should testify, in this world, for yourself, to Oneness (al-wahdâniyya)  and Belief (al-îmân).

The First Testimony of Faith

[133] Therefore, O my brethren, O my beloved – may Allah be well pleased with you! – a weak slave calls upon you to wit­ness, a poor one utterly depen­dent on His Lord in every glimpse of the eye, the author and maker of this book [al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya (“The Meccan Conquests”)]; he calls you to testify in his regard, after calling Allah I to witness, His angels, and who­ever is present with him and hears him among the believers, that he bears wit­ness in word and in full conviction (qawlan wa ‘aqdan) that:

[134] Allah the Exalted is One God, without second in His divinity;

[135] Transcendent above possessing a mate or a son;

[136] Absolute owner [of all] (mâlik) without partner; absolute king (malik) without minister;

[137] Creator (sâni‘) without any disposer of affairs (mudab­bir)  with Him;

[138] Existing in Himself  (mawjûdun bî dhâtihi), without any dependence on, or need for an originator (mûjid) to originate Him. Rather, every existing thing other than Him, depends on Him and needs Him to exist. The whole universe exists through Him, and He alone can be said to exist in Himself.

[139] There is no outset (iftitâh)  to His existence nor end to His permanence. His existence is absolute and unconditioned.

[140] He is subsistent in Himself (qâ’imun binafsih): not as a spatially boun­ded substance (jawhar mutahayyiz) – for then place would be assigned to Him; nor as an accident (‘arad) – for then permanence would be impossi­ble for Him; nor as a body (jism) – for then He would have a direction (jiha) and a front (tilqâ’).

[141] He is transcendent (muqaddasun) above possessing directions (jihât) and regions  (aqtâr).

[142] He can be seen with the hearts and the eyes, if He so wills.

[143] He established Himself over His Throne just as He said and in the mean­ing that He intended; also, the Throne and every­thing else was estab­lished by Him (bihi istawâ),[53] and (unto Him belong the after (life), and the former) (53:25).

[144] He has no conceivable equivalent whatsoever (laysa lahu mithlun ma‘qûl), nor can minds represent Him. Time does not confine Him, nor place lift nor transport Him. Rather, He was when there was no place, and He is now as He ever was.[54]

[145] He created fixity (al-mutamakkin) and place (al-makân),[55] brought time into existence, and said: “I am the One, the Ever-Living” (anâ al-Wâhid al-Hayy).[56] Preserving His creations in no way tires Him. Attributes which do not describe Him and are devised by creatures do not apply to Him.[57]

[146] Exalted is He far above being in­dwelt by originated matters, or indwel­ling them, or that they be “after Him” or that He be “before them”! Rather, we say: “He was and there was nothing with him.” For the words ‘before’ and ‘after’ are among the locutions of Time, which He invented.[58]

[147] He is the Self-Sustaining Sustainer of All (al-Qayyûm) Who sleeps not, the All-Compelling Subduer (al-Qahhâr) Whom one resists not. (There is noth­ing whatsoever like unto Him) (42:11).

[148] He created the Throne (al-‘arsh) and made it the boundary  (hadd) of istiwâ’, and He created the Footstool (al-kursî) and made it encompass the earth and the heavens.

[149] The Sublimely Exalted (al-‘Alî)contrived the Tablet and the Sublime Pen, making them bring about the inscription of His Knowledge concerning His creation until the Day of Determina­tion and Verdict.

[150] He contrived the entire universe without precedent. He created crea­tion then caused what He created to wither.

[151] He sent down the souls (al-arwâh) into the specters (al-ashbâh) as cus­to­dians, and made those soul-endowed specters deputies on earth.

[152] He made subservient to us all that is in the heavens and the earth from Him, whereof not one atom moves except back to Him and because of Him.

[153] He created everything without need for it, and no neces­sity drove Him to do so, but with His foreknowledge that He would create whatever He created.

[154] (He is the First and the Last and the Manifest and the Hidden) (57:3), (and He is able to do all things) (5:120, 11:4, 30:50, 42:9, 57:2, 64:1, 67:1).

[155] (He surrounds all things in knowledge) (65:12) (and He keeps count of all things) (72:28), (He knows the traitor of the eyes and that which the bosoms hide) (40:19). (Should He not know what He created? And He is the Subtle, the Aware) (67:14).

[156] He knew all things before they came into existence, then He brought them into existence exactly as He knew them. He has known them without beginning to His knowledge, and such knowledge in no way becomes newer upon the renewal of origination (tajaddud al-inshâ’). He brought all things to perfec­tion in His knowledge, then He established them firmly (bi ‘ilmihi atqana al-ashyâ’a fa ahkamahâ). Likewise, He has full knowledge of their smallest details (juz’iyyât) according to the consensus and complete agree­ment of the people of sound scru­tiny.[59] (Knower of the invisible and the visible! and exalted be He over all that they ascribe as partners (unto Him)) (23:92).

[156—A]  (Doer of what He will) (85:16), He is therefore willing (murîd) for existent entities in the earthly and heavenly worlds. However, His power is without link to anything (lam tata‘allaq bi shay’) until He wills it.[60] Like­wise, He does not will anything until He knows it. For it is impossible in the mind that He wills something of which He knows not, or that one who is endowed with the choice of not doing, should do what He does not want to do. Likewise, it is impossible that all these realities be attributed to one who is not living, and it is impossible that the Attributes subsist in other than an Entity described by them.

[157] There is not in all existence any observance nor sin, any gain nor loss, any slave nor free man, any cold nor hot, any life nor death, any happening nor elapsing, any day nor night, any moderation nor inclination, any land nor sea, any even nor odd, any substance nor accident, any health nor sickness, any joy nor sadness, any soul nor specter, any darkness nor light, any earth nor heaven, any assembling nor disjoining, any plenty nor scarcity, any morn­ing nor evening, any white nor black, any sleep nor wakefulness, any visible nor hidden, any moving nor still, any dry nor moist, any shell nor core, or any of all such mutually contrasting, variegated, or similar entities, except it is so willed by the Real – Exalted is He!

[158] How could He not will it when it is He Who brought it into existence? And how could the one endowed with free will, bring into existence what He does not want? None can turn down His command, and none can dispute His decision.

[159] ([He] gives sovereignty unto whom [He] will, and [He] withdraws sovereignty from whom [He] will. [He] exalts whom [He] will and [He] abases whom [He] will) (3:26). ([He] sends whom [He] will astray and guides whom [He] will) (7:155). What­ever Allah wants, comes into exis­tence (mâ shâ’a Allahu kân), and whatever He does not wish to be, does not come into existence (mâ lam yasha’ an yakûna lam yakun).

[160] If all creatures convened to want something which Allah does not want them to want, they cannot want it. Or, if they convened to do something which Allah does not want to bring into existence – although they willed it whenever He wanted them to will it – they cannot do it; nor can they even be capable of doing it; nor does He enable them to.

[161] Therefore, disbelief and belief, observance and sin, are all according to His desire (mashî’a), His wisdom (hikma), and His will (irâda). And He – Glorified is He! – is described as pos­sessing such will without beginning.

[162] The universe is in oblivion and nonexistence, although firmly estab­lished in itself in [the divine] knowledge. Then He brought the universe into existence without reflection (tafakkur) nor deliberation(tadabbur) such as accompany ignorance or un­awareness and would then presumably provide Him the know­ledge of what He knew not – greatly exalted and elevated is He above that! Rather, He brought it into existence on the basis of foreknowl­edge(al-‘ilm al-sâbiq), and the exact specification (ta‘yîn) of transcendent, pre-existent will(al-irâda al-munaz­zaha al-azaliyya) determining just how it brought the universe into being with respect to time, place, forms, masses, and color. None exists exerting will, in reality, other than He. For He says: (And you will not, unless Allah wills) (76:30, 81:29).

[163] Just as He knows, He determines(kamâ ‘alima fa ahkama); just as He wills, He details (arâda fa khassasa); just as He foreordains, He brings into existence (qaddara fa awjada). Likewise, He hears and sees what­ever moves or stands still and whatever utters a sound in all creation, whether in the low­est world or the highest. Distance (al-bu‘d) does not in any way hamper His hearing, for He is the Near (al-Qarîb). Nor does nearness (al-qurb) veil His sight, for He is the Far (al-Ba‘îd).[61] He hears the discourse of the self in itself (kalâm al-nafs fi al-nafs), and the sound of the hidden contact upon its touch. He sees the very blackness in darkness, and water inside water. Neither admixture (imtizâj), nor darkness, nor light veils Him,[62] (and He is the Hearer, the Seer) (42:11).

[164] He speaks, not after being previously silent nor fol­lowing pre­sumed tacitness, with a speech pre-eternal and begin­ningless like the rest of His attributes, whether His knowledge, will, or power. He spoke to Musa u. He named it [His speech] the divine Bestowal (al-tanzîl), the Book of Psalms (al-zabûr), the Torah, and the Evangel. [All this] without letters (hurûf), sounds (aswât), tones (nagham), nor languages (lughât). Rather, He is the Creator of sounds, letters, and languages.[63]

[165] His speech is [spoken] without [the organs of] uvula and tongue, just as His hearing is without auditory meatus nor ears, His sight is without pupil nor eyelids, His will is without cogitation (qalb) nor inner reflection (janân), His knowledge is without compulsion (idtirâr) nor examination of any proof, His life is without the vapor which is caused in the cavity of the heart by the admixture of the elements. His Entity accepts neither increase nor decrease.

[166] Glorified, most glorified is He Who, from afar, comes near! To Him belongs tremendous majesty, surpassing goodness, magnificent generosity! Everything that is other than Him is but an outpouring of His munificence. His grace unfolds it and His justice folds it up again.

[167] He perfected the making of the universe and made it uniquely excellent(akmala san‘a al-‘âlami wa abda‘ahu) when He brought it into existence and invented it. He has no partner in His domain (milk) nor joint disposer of affairs (mudabbir) in His dominion (mulk).

[168] Whenever He shows favor He sends comfort and ease; and this is His kindness. Whenever He sends adversity He pun­ishes; and this is His justice. In no way does He intrude upon another’s domain so as to be attributed tyranny and injustice. Nor is anyone besides Him entitled to pass judgment on Him so that He could be attributed apprehension or fear from such. Eve­rything other than Him is under the authority of His subjugation  (qahr) and subject to the disposal of His will and His command.

[169] It is He that inspires with Godwariness or rebelliousness the souls of those who are legally responsible. It is He that disre­gards the transgressions of whomever He will, and holds to task whomever He will, both here and on the Day of Resurrection. His justice does not hold sway (yahkum) over His kindness nor does His kindness hold sway over His justice.

[170] He brought forth the world as two handfuls (qabdatayn) to which He gave two levels  (manzilatayn), saying: “These are for Paradise, and I care not (lâ ubâlî)![64] Those are for Hellfire, and I care not!”[65] No-one raised the least objection at that time. One handful stands under the Names of His adversity (balâ’), and one stands under the Names of His favors (âlâ’).

[171] If He wished that the whole universe be in felicity, it would be so; and [if He wished that it be] in misery, it would not have obtained the slightest degree of felicity. However, He did not wish it so, and it was exactly as He wished. Consequently, people are either miserable or happy, here and on the Day of Return. There is no possibility to change whatever the Pre-eternal One has decided. He has said, concerning prayer: “It is five al­though it counts as fifty.”[66] (The sentence that comes from Me can­not be changed, and I am in no wise a tyrant unto the slaves)(50:29) for My authority over the disposal of affairs in My domain and the accomplishment of My volition in My dominion.

[172] All this is because of a reality that sights and insights  (al-absâr wa al-basâ’ir) are utterly unable to see, nor can mental powers and minds stumble upon its knowledge except through a divine bestowal and token of the All-Merciful’s generosity towards him whom He nourishes among His servants, and who was fore-chosen for this at the time he was summoned to witness. He then came to know – when He was given to know – that the Godhead (al-ulûha) devised this allotment and that it is one of the refinements of the One Who is without beginning.

[173] Glory to Him besides Whom there is no effecter (fâ‘il), nor any self-existent being (mawjûd li nafsih)! (And Allah has created you and what you make) (37:95), (He will not be questioned as to what He does, but they will be questioned) (21:23), (Say—For to Allah belongs the final argu­ment — Had He willed He could indeed have guided all of you) (6:149). [67]

The Second Testimony of Faith

[174] Just as I have called upon Allah and His angels, as well as all His creation and yourselves, to testify in my regard to my declaration of His oneness, likewise, I call upon Him – glorified is He! – and His angels, as well as all His creation and your­selves, to testify in my regard to my firm belief in the one He elected and chose from the very time he existed. That is: our master Muhammad r whom He sent to all people without exception, (a bearer of glad tidings and a warner) (2:119, 34:28, 35:24, 41:4) (And as a summoner unto Allah by His permission, and as a light-giving lamp) (33:46).

[175] The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) thus conveyed fully all that was revealed to him from his Lord, discharged His trust, and acted faithfully (nasaha) toward his Com­mu­nity. He stood, in his farewell Pil­grimage, before all those present among his followers, address­ing and reminding them, deterring and caution­ing them, giving them glad tidings and warning them, promising and threat­ening them. He showered them with rain and made them tremble with thun­der. He did not address anyone specifically at the exclusion of others in his ad­mo­nition. He did all this after permission from the One, the Everlasting I. Then he said: “Lo! Have I conveyed the message?” They replied: “You have conveyed the message, O Messenger of Allah!” So he said: “O Allah! Bear witness.”[68]

[176] Likewise, [I call upon all] to testify that I firmly believe in everything that the Prophet  (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) brought – that which I know and that which I know not. Among the things which he brought is the decree that death comes at a time specified in the presence of Allah I and that, come that time, it is not delayed. I, for my part, firmly believe this, without the slightest reservation nor doubt.

[177] Just as I firmly believe and declare that the interrogation of the two examiners in the grave is true; the punishment in the grave and the rais­ing of the bodies from the grave are both true; the review in the presence of Allah I is true; the Basin is true; the Balance is true; the flying (tatâyur) of individual Records in every direction is true;[69] the Bridge is true; Paradise is true; Hell­fire is true; (A host will be in the Garden, and a host of them in the Flame) (42:7) truly; the agony of that day is true for one group; as for an­other group, (the Supreme Horror will not grieve them) (21:103);[70]

[178] The intercession of the angels, the Prophets, and the Believers, followed by the taking out of the Fire, by the most Merciful of those who show mercy, of anyone He wishes, is true; a group of the grave sinners among the Believers shall enter Hellfire and then exit it through intercession and gratification truly; eternal and everlasting world-without-end (al-ta’bîd) in the midst of the pleasures of Paradise is true for the Believers and those who affirm Oneness; eternal and everlasting world-without-end in the Fire for the dwellers of the Fire is true; and all that was announced by the Books and Messengers that came from Allah – whether one came to know it or not – is true.

[179] This is my witness in my own regard, and it is the responsibility of each and every person that it reaches, to bring it forward if asked about it, whenever and wherever he may be.

Final Supplication

[180] May Allah grant us and grant you the greatest benefit with this faith. May He make us adhere to it firmly at the time of journeying from this abode to the abode of true life. May He replace for us this abode with the abode of munificence and good pleasure. May He intervene between us and a dwelling with (raiments of pitch) (14:50). May He count us in the troop that take their record with the right hand and return from the Pond fully sated, those in whose favor the Balance weighs down and whose feet stand firm on the Bridge. Truly He is the Munifi­cent (al-Mun‘im), the Giver of All Good (al-Mihsân)!

[181] (All praise to Allah, Who has guided us to this. We could not truly have been led aright if Allah had not guided us. Verily the messengers of our Lord did bring the Truth!) (7:43).


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Ibn Hajar. Inba’ al-Ghumr bi A‘mar al-‘Umr. 4 vols. Ed. Hasan Habash. Cairo: Lajna Ihya’ al-Turath al-Islami, Wizara al-Awqaf, 1994.

–––––––. Al-Isaba fi Tamyiz al-Sahaba. 8 vols. Calcutta, 1269/1853.

–––––––. Lisan al-Mizan. 7 vols. Hyderabad: Da’ira al-Ma‘arif al-Nizamiyya, 1329/1911. Repr. Beirut: Mu’assassa al-A‘lami, 1986.

Ibn ‘Imad. Shadharat al-Dhahab fi Akhbar Man Dhahab. 8 vols. Beirut: Dar Ihya’ al-Turath al-‘Arabi, n.d.

Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya. Al-Manar al-Munif fi al-Sahih wa al-Da‘if. 6th ed. Ed. ‘Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghudda. Beirut: Dar al-Basha’ir al-Islamiyya; Aleppo: Maktab al-Matbu‘at al-Islamiyya, 1994.

Ibn Taymiyya. Majmu‘a Fatawa Ibn Taymiyya. 36 vols. Cairo, 1984.

Kabbani, Shaykh Muhammad Hisham. Encyclopedia of Islamic Doctrine. 7 vols. Moutain View: Al-Sunna Foundation of America, 1998.

Al-Kattani, al-Sayyid Muhammad ibn Ja‘far. Nazm al-Mutanathir fi al-Hadith al-Mutawatir. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyya, 1980.

Al-Kawthari, Muhammad Zahid. Maqalat. Ryad and Beirut: Dar al-Ahnaf, 1993.

–––––––. Ed. Al-Bayhaqi, Abu Bakr. Al-Asma’ wa al-Sifat. Beirut: Dar Ihya’ al-Turath al-‘Arabi, n.d. Reprint of 1358/1939 Cairo edition.

Al-Nawawi. Bustan al-‘Arifin fi al-Zuhd wa al-Tasawwuf. Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al-‘Arabi, 1985.

Al-Qari. Firr al-‘Awn. See Risala Wahda al-Shuhud.

 –––––––. Risala fi Wahda al-Shuhud. Istanbul: Dar al-Ma‘arif, 1294/1877.

Al-Qasimi. Qawa‘id al-Tahdith. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyya and Dar Ihya’ al-Sunna al-Nabawiyya, n.d.

Al-Qinnawji [Siddiq Hasan Khan]. Takhrij al-Wasaya Min Khabaya al-Zawaya. Ed. ‘Abd Allah al-Laythi al-Ansari. Beirut: Mu’as­sasa al-Kutub al-Thaqafiyya, 1986.

Al-Qurtubi. Al-Asna fi Sharh Asma’ Allah al-Husna. 2 vols. Ed. Muhammad Hasan Jabal, Tariq Ahmad Muhammad, and Majdi Fathi al-Sayyid. Tanta: Dar al-Sahaba li al-Turath, 1995.

Al-Sakhawi, Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman.Al-Daw’ al-Lami‘ li Ahl al-Qarn al-Tasi‘. 12 vols. in 6. Ed. Muhammad Jamal al-Qasimi. 1313/1896. Repr. Beirut: Dar al-Jil, 1992.

Shatta, Ibrahim al-Dusuqi. Sira al-Shaykh al-Kabir Abi ‘Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Khafif al-Shirazi. Cairo: al-Hay’a al-‘Amma li Shu’un al-Matabi‘ al-Amiriyya, 1977.

Al-Suyuti, Jalal al-Din.  Al-Durr al-Manthur fi al-Tafsir al-Ma’thur. 8 vols. Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1994.

–––––––. Tanbih Al-Ghabi Fi Takhti’a [or Tanzih]Ibn ‘Arabi. Ed. ‘Abd al-Rahman Hasan Mahmud. Cairo: Maktaba al-Adab, 1990.


[1] In al-Qari, Firr al-‘Awn (p. 141-142).

[2] Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah in Lata’if al-Minan (1:84-98) states that there is con­sensus among the Sufis that al-Khidr is alive. Ibn al-Jawzi in his book‘Ujala al-Muntazir fi Sharh Hal al-Khadir (cf. Hajji Khalifa, Kashf al-Zunun [2:1125] and Abu Ghudda infra) voices the extreme view that to suggest that al-Khidr is alive contradicts the Shari‘a, yet in his Mana­qib al-Imam Ahmad (p. 144) he himself narrates the report of a meeting of Bilal al-Khawass with al-Khidr! Ibn al-Qayyim in al-Manar al-Munif (p. 67-76) and his editor, ‘Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghudda, also claim that al-Khidr is not alive. Among the strongest transmitted proofs to the contrary are two reports, one narrated by Imam Ahmad in al-Zuhd whereby the Prophet e said that Ilyas and al-Khidr meet every year and spend the month of Ramadan in al-Qudus, and the other narrated by Ya‘qub ibn Sufyan from ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz whereby a man he was seen walking with was actually al-Khidr. Ibn Hajar declared the chain of the first fair and that of the second sound in Fath al-Bari (1959 ed. 6:435). He goes on to cite another sound report narrated by Ibn ‘Asakir from Abu Zur‘a al-Razi where­by the latter met al-Khidr twice, once in his young age, the other in his old age, but al-Khidr him­self had not changed.

Al-Qadi ‘Iyad in his notice on Ibn Abi Zayd inTartib al-Madarik  narrates from al-Ajdabi: “I was sitting with Abu Muhammad [Ibn Abi Zayd] when Abu al-Qasim ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Abd al-Mu’min the mutakallim was with him. A man asked them about al-Khidr and whether it could he said that he was still in this world in spite of all this time and would not die until the Final Hour comes and whether this is refuted by the words of the Almighty,[We did not give any human being before you immortality] (21:34). They both replied to him that that was possible and per­mitted and al-Khidr could live until the Final Trumpet was blown. For immortality is connected to remaining as long as the Next World remains, while remaining until the Trumpet is blown is not immortality. Do you not see that Iblis – may Allah curse him – is not immortal, but he is one of those deferred until the Day of a Known Time?”

The hadith master al-Sakhawi stated: “It is well-known that al-Nawawi used to meet with al-Khidr and converse with him among many other unveilings (mukâ­shafât).” Al-Sakhawi, Tarjima Shaykh al-Islam Qutb al-Awliya’ al-Kiram wa Faqih al-Anam Muhyi al-Sunna wa Mumit al-Bid‘a Abi Zakariyya Muhyi al-Din al-Nawawi  (“Biogra­phy of the Shaykh of Islam, the Pole of the Noble Saints and Jurist of Mankind, the Reviver of the Sunna and Slayer of Innovation Abu Zakariyya Muhyiddin al-Nawawi”) (Cairo: Jam‘iyya al-Nashr wa al-Ta’lif al-Azhariyya, 1354/1935 p. 33).

Al-Barzanji in his book al-Isha‘a li Ashrat al-Sa‘a (1997 ed. p. 279-281; 1995 ed. p. 204-205) lists proofs to the effect that al-Khidr u is alive and shall face and belie the Antichrist (al-Dajjâl), as he is the one meant in the hadith whereby a man faces the Antichrist and belies him, whereupon the latter saws him in half then revives him only to be belied again. Narrated from Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri by Abu Ya‘la in his Musnad (2:332) and al-Hakim (1984 ed. 4:581=orig. ed. 4:537), both with a chain containing ‘Atiyya ibn Sa‘d who is weak, and with another chain (by Abu Ya‘la 2:535) containing Sufyan ibn Waki‘ who is weak; also narrated from Abu Umama al-Bahili by Ibn Majah in his Sunan (book of Fitan) with a chain containing Isma‘il ibn Rafi‘, who is weak in his memorization; also narrated by Nu‘aym ibn Hammad (d. 288) in Kitab al-Fitan (2:551) who said: al-Zuhri said: ‘Ubayd Allah ibn ‘Abd Allah [ibn] ‘Utba narrated to us that Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri said… The latter is a sound chain but there are several unnamed links between Nu‘aym and al-Zuhri. Also narrated by al-Dani (d. 444) in his book al-Sunan fi al-Fitan  (6:1178) but with a chain that stops at the Tabi‘i Abu Mijlaz. None of the weakness mentioned above in the chains raised to the Prophet e is grave. If the weak links are at the same levels of the narrators’ biographical layers and are judged to strengthen each other, it would raise the grade of the hadith to “fair due to corroborative/witness chains”  (hasan li ghayrih). It is confirmed by the hadith related from Abu ‘Ubayda ibn al-Jarrah whereby the Prophet (sall said: “It may be that one of those who saw me and heard my speech shall meet the Dajjal.” Narrated by Ibn Hibban in his Sahih (15:181) with a weak chain according to Shaykh Shu‘ayb al-Arna’ut, however, Imam al-Tirmidhi in his Sunan said it is also narrated from three other Companions and thus graded the hadith itself “fair and single-chained (hasan gharîb) as narrated from Abu ‘Ubayda,” and Allah knows best.

[3] See Hilmi’s 284-entry bibliography in al-Burhan al-Azhar as well as the books of Prof. Michel Chodkiewicz (The Seal of Saints and An Ocean Without Shore) and his daughter Prof. Claude Addas (Quest for the Red Sulphur).

[4]In al-Suyuti, Tanbih al-Ghabi (p. 71).

[5]In Ibn ‘Imad, Shadharat al-Dhahab (5:200).

[6]Cf. al-Suyuti’s Tanbih al-Ghabi (p. 52-54).

[7]Al-Suyuti, Tanbih al-Ghabi fi Takhti’a Ibn ‘Arabi (p. 17-21). The correct title has tanzihinstead of takhti’a as in Hajji Khalifa’s Kashf al-Zunun (1:488) and al-Qari’s works.

[8]Al-Suyuti, Tanbih al-Ghabi (p. 59-60).

[9]In al-Suyuti, Tanbih al-Ghabi (p. 70).

[10]Al-Qari, Risala fi Wahda al-Shuhud (p. 62).

[11]Ibn al-Najjar, Dhayl Tarikh Baghdad as quoted in al-Suyuti, Tanbih al-Ghabi (p. 64-66) and in Ibn Hajar, Lisan al-Mizan (5:311 #1038).

[12] As related from al-Biqa‘i by al-Suyuti in Tanbih al-Ghabi (p. 40-41).

[13] As related from al-Biqa‘i by al-Suyuti inTanbih al-Ghabi (p. 42-43).

[14] See al-Sakhawi, al-Daw’ al-Lami‘ (8:17) and al-Kawthari’s Maqalat (p. 412-413).

aAl-Adnahwi, Tabaqat al-Mufassirin (p. 230 #276).

[15] In Shadharat al-Dhahab (5:190).

[16] Al-Qari wrote Firr al-‘Awn in reply to him.

[17] Al-Qari addresses it towards the end of Firr al-‘Awn (p. 142f.).

[18] See Ibn Hajar, Inba’ al-Ghumr bi A‘mar al-‘Umr (3:403-404), year 831.

[19] In Hilmi, al-Burhan al-Azhar (p. 32-33).

[20] Ibid. (p. 34).

[21] As stated by his student al-Haytami, Fatawa Hadithiyya (p. 331).

[22] See his Majmu‘a Rasa’il Ibn ‘Abidin (2:271).

[23] On the hadith master Imam Badr al-Din al-Hasani see the biography by his student Shaykh Mahmud al-Rankusi entitled al-Durar al-Lu’lu’iyya fi al-Nu‘ut al-Badriyya (Damas­cus, 1951). Dr. Wahbe al-Zuhayli told us that Shaykh Badr al-Din al-Hasani fasted every day of the year except the two days of ‘Id, including on the Day of ‘Arafa during pilgrimage.

[24] Al-Qinnawji, Takhrij al-Wasaya (p. 119).

[25] Al-Qasimi, Qawa‘id al-Tahdith (p. 348-351).

[26] Al-Kawthari, Maqalat (p. 412-413).

b Muhammad ‘Abduh, Tafsir al-Manar (1:18).

[27] In Ibn ‘Imad, Shadharat al-Dhahab (5:192).

[28] In al-Qari, Risala fi Wahda al-Shuhud (p. 55).

[29] Narrated from Abu Hurayra by Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, al-Nasa’i, and Ibn Majah; from ‘Umar by Muslim, al-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, Ahmad, and al-Nasa’i; and from Abu Dharr by al-Nasa’i, all as part of a longer hadith.

[30] From his Damascus lessons on the Munajat of Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah, 21 September 1997.

[31] i.e. if some texts seem to affirm indwelling, they do so metaphorically, as the literal given of divine Transcendence is not open to question.

[32] From Dr. Sa‘id al-Buti’s unpublished commentary on the Hikam of Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah.

[33] “I was one of those who, previously, used to hold the best opinion of Ibn ‘Arabi and extol his praise, because of the benefits I saw in his books, such as al-Futuhat, al-Kanh, al-Muhkam al-Marbut, al-Durra al-Fakhira, Matali‘ al-Nujum, and other such works.” Ibn Taymiyya,Tawhid al-Rububiyya in Majmu‘a al-Fatawa (2:464-465).

[34] In the epistle attributed to him and entitled Fadiha al-Mulhidin or Risala fi Wahda al-Wujud, a title also used by al-Qari. Al-Kawthari revelad in his Maqalat (p. 413) that the real author of al-Taftazani’s supposed epistle was ‘Ala’ al-Din al-Bukhari. The Hanafi jurist Isma‘il Kalnabawi responded to that epistle in a fatwa cited in full in al-Burhan al-Azhar (p. 18-22).

[35] As named by al-Qari in his Risala fi Wahda al-Wujud (p. 61).

[36] In al-Qari, Firr al-‘Awn (p. 144). Al-Fayruzabadi said: “If the report whereby Ibn ‘Abd al-Salam and our shaykh al-Bulqini ordered Ibn ‘Arabi’s books burnt were true, not one of his books would have re­mained today in Egypt or Sham, and no-one would have dared copy them again after the words of these two shaykhs.” In Hilmi, al-Burhan al-Azhar (p. 32). Al-Hilmi adds (p. 34) that a further proof that al-Subki changed his position concerning Ibn ‘Arabi is that he wrote many refutations against the heresies of his time but never wrote against Ibn ‘Arabi, although his books were widely read in Damascus and elsewhere.

[37] He wrote al-Radd al-Aqwam ‘ala ma fi Fusûs al-Hikam but is on record as not objecting to Ibn ‘Arabi’s other works, as noted.

[38] Mizan al-I‘tidal (3:660). Al-Dhahabi in the same chapter makes derogatory com­ments and reports a strange story which Ibn Hajar cited in Lisan al-Mizan. Al-Qari also attributes negative comments on Ibn ‘Arabi to al-Suyuti in the latter’s al-Tahbir li ‘Ilm al-Tafsir and Itmam al-Diraya Sharh al-Niqaya.

[39] Al-Khadimi wrote in the introduction to hisSharh Ma‘ani al-Basmala: “It was stated in al-Bazaziyya that if a certain question has a hundred aspects, ninety-nine of which entail disbelief and one precludes it, the scholar must lean towards the latter and not give a fatwa to the apostasy of a Muslim as long as he can give his words a good interpretation. Also, in al-Usul: No preference is given in the face of abundant evidence to the contrary.” As cited in al-Burhan al-Azhar (p. 17-18). In Bustan al-‘Arifin al-Nawawi states, after reporting Abu al-Khayr al-Tibyani’s apparent breach of the Shari‘a: “Someone that imitates jurists without understanding may imagine wrong and object to this, out of ignorance and stupidity. To imagine wrong here is plain recklessness in giving vent to suspicions against the Friends of the All-Merciful.  The wise person must beware from such behavior! On the contrary, if one did not understand the wisdoms from which they benefited and their fine subtleties, it is his duty is to understand them from one who does. You may witness such occurrences about which the superficial person gets the illusion of deviation, but which are actually not deviant. On the contrary, it is obligatory to interpret figuratively the actions of the friends of Allah.” As cited in al-Suyuti’s Tanbih al-Ghabi (p. 45-46) and Ibn ‘Imad, Shadharat al-Dhahab (5:194). The rules spelled out by al-Nawawi, al-Haytami, and al-Khadimi refute the presumption that only the statements of the Prophet r may be interpreted figuratively (cf. al-Qunawi in al-Qari’s Risala fi Wahda al-Wujud p. 110 and al-Suyuti’s Tanbih al-Ghabi p. 44-45, as against ‘Ala’ al-Din al-Bukhari in al-Qari’s Firr al-‘Awnp. 153; cf. al-Munawi in Ibn ‘Imad, Shadharat 5:194) or that “every truth that contravenes the outward rule of the Law consists in disguised disbelief (zandaqa)” (al-Qari, Firr al-‘Awn p. 152). The most shining refutation of the latter claim lies in the Prophet’s r hadith of the straying desert traveller who, finding his mount and provisions after having lost them, is so over­whelmed by joy that he exclaims: “O Allah, You are my slave and I am Your master!” Narrated from Anas by Muslim in his Sahih.

[40] Al-Sakhawi in al-Daw’ al-Lami‘ similarly points out this contradic­tion between al-Biqa‘i’s expressed principles and his actual practices.

[41] Al-Haytami, Fatawa Hadithiyya (p. 331). For the account of the condemnation of al-Biqa‘i himself as a kâfir see al-Sakhawi’s al-Daw’ al-Lami‘ and al-Shawkani’s al-Badr al-Tali‘.

[42] The complete hadith states: “Whosoever shows enmity to one of My Friends, I shall declare war upon him. My servant draws not near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties I have en­joined upon him, and My servant continues to draw near to Me with su­per­erogatory works so that I shall love him. When I love him I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask something of Me, I would surely give it to him. Were he to seek refuge in Me, I would surely grant him it.Nor do I hesitate to do any­thing as I hesi­tate to take back the believer’s soul, for he hates death and I hate to hurt him.” Narrated from Abu Hurayra by Bukhari. Ibn ‘Abd al-Salam in al-Ishara ila al-Ijaz (p. 108) said: “The ‘hesi­tancy’ of Allah I in this hadith is a meta­phor of the believer’s superlative rank in the presence of Allah and connotes a lesser hurt to prevent a greater harm, as in the case of a father’s severance of his son’s gangrened hand so as to save his life.”

[43] Al-Dhahabi, al-Muqiza (p. 88-90).

[44] Ibn Hajar, Lisan al-Mizan  (5:311 #1038). See also his words in al-Intisar li A’imma al-Amsarand in al-Qari’s Risala fi Wahda al-Wujud (p. 113).

[45] The mere sight of Ka‘ba is considered worship.

[46] The hadith “The Black Stone is the right hand of Allah” is narrated from Ibn ‘Abbas, Jabir, Anas, and others by Ibn Abi ‘Umar al-Ma‘dani in his Musnad, al-Tabarani, al-Suyuti in al-Jami‘ al-Saghir (1:516), Ibn ‘Asakir in hisTarikh (15:90-92), al-Khatib in his (6:328), and others. Al-‘Ajluni stated that it is sahîh as a halted report from Ibn ‘Abbas as narrated by al-Quda‘i in the wording: “The Corner is the Right Hand of Allah on earth…,” and declared it hasanas a hadith of the Prophet r. Ibn Qu­tayba in Mukhtalaf al-Hadith (1972 ed. p. 215) attributes it to Ibn ‘Abbas and relates a saying of ‘A’isha that the Stone is the deposi­tory of the covenant of souls with Allah. Its mention in the Reliance of the Traveller (p. 853b) as “narrated by al-Hakim, who declared it sahîh, from ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Amr,” is incorrect.

[47] Multazam is the space between the Black Stone and the Ka‘ba’s door (including the two) where prayers are answered.

[48] An allusion to the kiswa or black cloth covering the Ka‘ba.

[49] Ibn ‘Arabi, Futuhat (original ed. 1:701).

[50] Main sources: Hilmi, al-Burhan al-Azhar; Ibn ‘Imad,  Shadharat al-Dhahab (5:190-202); al-Suyuti, Tanbih al-Ghabi.

[51] From ‘Uthman Yahya’s edition of al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya  (1:162-172), Part Three of “The Meccan Conquest,” chapter entitled “Attach­ment Comprising the Essential Creed of All, Which is the Doctrine of the People of Islam Agreed To Without Examining the Proof Nor the Pre­s­en­tation of Evidence” (Waslun Yatadammanu Mâ Yanbaghî an Yu‘taqad ‘alâ al-‘Umûm wa Hiya ‘Aqîdatu Ahl al-Islâmi Musallama­tan min Ghayri Nazarin ilâ Dalilin wa lâ ilâ Burhân). Also quoted in full in Hilmi’s al-Burhan al-Azhar (p. 69-77).

[52] Part of a hadith of the Prophet r narrated from Abu Hurayra by Bukhari and Muslim.

[53] Cf. al-Shibli in Ibn Jahbal’s Refutation of Ibn Taymiyya §27 (published in full separately): “The Merciful exists from pre-eternity while the Throne was brought into being, and the Throne was established and made firm (istawâ) by the Merciful.”

[54] See Appendix entitled “Allah is Now As He Ever Was” in our translation of Ibn ‘Abd al-Salam’s al-Mulha fi I‘tiqad Ahl al-Haqq, published separately under the title The Belief of the People of Truth.

[55] Or: “He created place and all that takes place.”

[56] i.e. I am in no need of any of you.

[57] Lâ tarji‘u ilayhi sifatun lam yakun ‘alayhâ min sun‘ati al-masnû‘ât. Ibn ‘Arabi apparently allows inferred attributes which do describe Him, such as “The Far” (see §163 below and note) in contradiction of the general principle that the divine Names and Attributes are ordained and non-inferable (cf. Appendix entitled “The Names and Attributes of Allah Are Ordained and Non-Inferable” in our translation of Ibn ‘Abd al-Salam’s The Belief of the People of Truth).

[58] See our translation of Ibn Khafif’s Correct Islamic Doctrine (pub­lished in full separately) §10: “In no way does He subsist in originated matters (laysa bi mahall al-hawâdith) nor they in Him.” This is due to the mutually exclusive nature of contingency (hudûth) and incontin­gency (qidam). The former refer to whatever is created, the latter to the be­ginningless and uncreated, “and the twain never meet.”

[59] This is directed against the Mu‘tazila and those affiliated with them.

[60] The notion of “linkage”  (ta‘alluq) between the pre-eternal Attributes of Act and the acts pertaining to creation was expressed by some scholars as a distinction between two types of linkage (ta‘alluq) to the act: “beginninglessly potential” (salûhî qadîm) and “actualized in time” (tanjîzî hâdith).

[61] No such Attribute is established in the texts, but Ibn ‘Arabi here states it without contra­diction of his own precept (§145, cf. §180) that “Attributes which do not describe Him and are devised by creatures do not apply to Him” since He uses “the Far” in the same way that some have used the indefinite qualificative “Separate” (bâ’in) – like­wise not found in the Qur’an and Sunna – meaning “far and separate from crea­tion,” so that nearness in no way affects Him as it affects creatures. Al-Tabari (in his Tafsir on verse 17:79) relates from some of the Salaf a contrary position which states that Allah is not said to be “in contact with,” nor “separate from” anything. The latter is reminiscent of Abu Nu‘aym’s narration from ‘Ali in Hilya al-Awliya’ (1997 ed. 1:114 #227): “How can even the most eloquent tongues describe Him Who did not exist among things so that He could be said to be ‘separate from them’ (bâ’in)? Rather, He is described without modality, and He is (nearer to [man] than his jugular vein) (50:16).” Al-Bayhaqi reports the Ash‘ari position on the issue from Ibn Mahdi al-Tabari: The Pre-eternal One (al-Qadîm) is elevated over His Throne but nei­ther sitting on(qâ‘id) nor standing on (qâ’im) nor in contact with (mu­mâss), nor separate from (mubâyin)the Throne – meaning separate in His Es­sence in the sense of physical separation or distance. For ‘contact’ and its opposite ‘separation,’ ‘standing’ and its opposite ‘sit­ting’ are all the char­ac­ter­istics of bodies (ajsâm), whereas (Allah is One, Everlast­ing, neither begetting nor begotten, and there is none like Him.) (112:1-4) Therefore what is allowed for bodies is impermissible for Him.” Al-Bayhaqi, al-Asma’ wa al-Sifat (Kawthari ed. p. 410-411; Hashidi ed. 2:308-309). This shows with remarkable clarity that those who made it a categorical imperative to declare that “Allah is separate from creation” went to excess, although their intention was to preclude notions of indwelling. Examples of these well-founded excesses are given by Ibn Khuzayma: “Whoever does not defi­nitely confirm that Allah established Himself over His Throne above His seven heavens, separate (bâ’in) from His creation, he is a disbeliever who must be sum­moned to repent” [in al-Dhahabi’s Mukhtasar al-‘Uluw (p. 225-226)] and Sulayman ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab: “It is obligatory to declare that Allah is separate  (bâ’in) from His creation, established over His throne with­out modality or likeness or examplarity” [in al-Tawdih ‘an Tawhid al-Khallaq fi Jawab Ahl al-‘Iraq (1319/1901, p. 34, and new ed. al-Riyad: Dar Tibah, 1984)].

[62] The Prophet r said: “His veil is light, and if He removed it, the glorifications (subuhât) of His face would burn everything His eyesight fell upon.” Narrated from Abu Musa by Muslim, Ibn Majah, Ahmad, Abu ‘Awana, Abu Dawud al-Tayalisi, Ibn Abi ‘Asim, al-Ajurri, and al-Bayhaqi in al-Asma’ wa al-Sifat (Kawthari ed. p. 180-181; Hashidi ed. 1:465-466 #392-394). Al-Bayhaqi said: “The veil mentioned in this and other reports refers to creatures for they are the ones who are veiled from Him by a veil He created in them. Allah said of the disbe­lievers: (Nay, but surely on that day they will be covered from (the mercy of) their Lord) (83:15). His saying: ‘if He removed it’ means if He lifted the veil from their eyes without empowering them to see Him, they would have been burnt and would have been unable to bear it.” Al-Qurtubi in al-Asna (2:92) said: “If he had removed from them the veil, His majesty (jalâl), awe (hayba), and subjugation (qahr) would have caused everything His sight fell upon to disappear – from the Throne to the undersoil, for there is no end to His sight, and Allah knows best.” Cf. Ibn Khafif’s ‘Aqida §12: “Nor does He hide Himself(istatara) with anything created.”

[63] See Ibn ‘Abd al-Salam’s refutation of those who claimed the pre-eternality of letters and sounds in various passages of his Mulha.

[64] In al-Nihaya, entry b-l-â: “Al-Azhari said that a number of scholars glossed ubâlî as ‘loathe’ (akrah).” Meaning: “It adds nor subtracts nothing from My greatness.”

[65] Narrated from Anas by Abu Ya‘la with a chain of trustworthy narrators except for al-Hakam ibn Sinan al-Bahili who is weak, and by Ibn Marduyah; from ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Qatada al-Sulami by Ahmad and al-Hakim who declared it sahîh, and al-Dhahabi concurred; from Mu‘adh ibn Jabal by Ahmad with amunqati‘ chain missing the Successor-link; from Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri by al-Bazzar and Ibn Marduyah; from Ibn ‘Umar by al-Bazzar and al-Tabarani; from a Companion named Abu ‘Abd Allah by Ahmad in his Musnad  with a sound chain according to Ibn Hajar in al-Isaba (7:258 #10198); from Abu Musa al-Ash‘ari by al-Tabarani in al-Kabir; from Abu al-Darda’ by al-Tabarani in al-Kabir and Ahmad with a sound chain in the Musnad  according to al-Kattani. Also narrated, but without the words lâ ubâlî, from Abu Hurayra by al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi in Nawa­dir al-Usul; without mention of the handfuls, from ‘Umar by Malik in al-Muwatta’, Ahmad, Abu Dawud, al-Tirmidhi (hasan), al-Nasa’i, and others. Al-Suyuti in al-Durr al-Manthur under the verse (And remem­ber when your Lord brought forth from the Children of Adam, from their reins, their seed) (7:172) cited other narrations to that effect from Abu Umama, Hisham ibn Hakim, and other Companions. Al-Fattani in Tadhkira al-Mawdu‘at said its chain was “muddled”(mudtarib al-isnâd)  because of great varia­tions in it, which makes the narration  mutawâtir al-ma‘na or mass-narrated in its import – as opposed to its precise wording – as indicated by al-Kattani in Nazm al-Mutanathir, due to the great number of Companions that relate it.

[66] Hadith qudsi within the narration of the Prophet’s r  ascension: “The day I created the heavens and the earth I made obligatory upon you and upon your Commu­nity fifty prayers: therefore establish them, you and your Community…. Let them be five prayers every day and night, and let every prayer count as ten. That makes fifty prayers. This word of Mine shall not be changed nor shall My Book be abrogated.” See the translation of Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Alawi al-Maliki’s his collated text of the sound narrations of the Prophet’s risra’ and mi‘raj entitled al-Anwar al-Bahiyya min Isra’ wa Mi‘raj Khayr al-Bariyya translated in full in Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani’sEncyclopedia of Islamic Doctrine.

[67] For §168-173 see also Ibn Khafif, al-‘Aqida al-Sahiha §32-37: “[32] Allah is doer of what He will: [33] Injustice is not attributed to Him, [34] And He rules over His dominion as He will, without [anyone’s entitlement to] objection whatso­ever. [35] His decree is not revoked nor His judgment amended. [36] He brings near Him whomever He will without [need for] cause and He removes far from Him whomever He will without [need for] cause. [37] His will for His servants is the exact state they are in.”The Ash‘ari position is that Allah rewards and punishes without being obliged to do so by the actions of His servants (“Allah is doer of what He will”). He is free to place the disbeliever in Paradise and the believer in Hellfire without any injustice on His part (“Injustice is not attributed to Him”), since He owns all sovereignty over the heavens and the earth, and no one received any share or authority from Him to ob­ject to what He does.

The evidence for this is in the verses: (Know you not that unto Allah belongs the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth? He punishes whom He will, and forgives whom He will. Allah is Able to do all things) (5:40);(Say : Who then can do aught against Allah, if He had willed to de­stroy the Messiah son of Mary, and his mother and everyone on earth? To Allah belongs the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them. He creates what He will. And Allah is Able to do all things) (5:17); (The sentence that comes from Me cannot be changed, and I am in no wise a tyrant unto the slaves) (50:29). At the same time it is obligatorily known that Allah does not take back His promise to reward those who believe and do good and punish evil-doers: (But as for those who believe and do good works We shall bring them into gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide for ever. It is a promise from Allah in truth; and who can be more truthful than Allah in utterance?) (4:122). The scholars have described the former evidence as “based on reason” (dalîl ‘aqlî) and the latter as “based on law” (dalîl shar‘i), noting that it is the latter which takes precedence over the former. Cf. al-Buti, Kubra al-Yaqinat (p. 149).

[68] Narrated from Abu Bakrah al-Thaqafi, Ibn ‘Umar, Ibn Mas‘ud, and Jabir by Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, Ahmad, and al-Darimi.

[69] The Prophet r was asked by ‘A’isha – may Allah be well-pleased with her: “Will the beloved remember his beloved on the Day of Resurrection?” He replied: “On three occasions he will not: At the Balance until it either weighs for or against him; at the time the individual Records fly in every direction, so that he should be given his record either with the right hand or the left; and at the time a long neck comes out of the Fire, winding itself around them [at the Bridge over Hellfire]…” Narrated by Ahmad in his Musnad with a fair chain, ‘Abd al-Razzaq, Ibn Abi Shayba, Ibn al-Mundhir, al-Hakim who stated it is sahîh, al-Ajurri in al-Shari‘a, and ‘Abd ibn Humayd in his Musnad as stated by al-Suyuti in al-Durr al-Manthur. Abu Dawud narrates it in his Sunan without mention oftatâyur.

[70] Another possible translation is: “the interrogation of the two examiners in the grave is real; the punishment in the grave and the rais­ing of the bodies from the grave are both real; the review in the presence of Allah is real; the Basin is real; the Balance is real; the flying(tatâyur) of individual Records in every direction is real; the Bridge is real; Paradise is real; Hell­fire is real; (A host will be in the Garden, and a host of them in the Flame)(42:7) really; the agony of that day is real for one group; as for an­other group, (the Supreme Horror will not grieve them) (21:103).” Cf. Ibn Khafif’s Aqida §83: “Paradise is true; Hellfire is true; Resurrection is true; the Rendering of Accounts is true; the Balance of Deeds is true; the Bridge [over the Fire] is true; the punishment of the grave is true; and the questioning of the angels Munkar and Nakîr is true.”


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.


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.

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.


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


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).


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??


[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.