Saturday, 30 April 2016

The Revelation of the Qur'an

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is extracted from “The Prophet Muhammad Musthafa the Elect (s.a.w.)” by Shaykh Osman Nuri Topbas.

Having completed the six-month preparation toward perfecting his spiritual development so that he was now ready to receive Divine Revelation, Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) was now forty years old.  It was the seventeenth day of the holy month of Ramadhan.

The Noble Prophet (s.a.w.) was in the Cave of Hira as usual, when Jibril (a.s.) suddenly appeared and said, “Read!”

“I cannot read”, answered our Beloved Prophet (s.a.w.).  Thereupon, the angel seized and constricted the Prophet (s.a.w.) so hard that he left him almost unable to breathe.

“Read!” Jibril (a.s.) then ordered once more.

But the Light of Being (s.a.w.) responded in the same manner: “I cannot read!”

The angel then seized him for the second time, compressing the Prophet (s.a.w.) until he had not strength to remain on his feet, repeating the command once again: “Read!”

“I cannot read!” answered the Blessed Prophet (s.a.w.), as if urging the angel to indicate what exactly it was he wanted him to read.

Jibril (a.s.) then forcefully squeezed the Light of Being (s.a.w.) for the third time and then released him, beginning shortly thereafter to reveal the very first Revelation:

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Proclaim! (or Read!) in the Name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who Created ― Created man, out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood: Proclaim!  And thy Lord is Most Bountiful ― He Who Taught (the use of) the Pen ― Taught man that which he knew not. (Surah al-‘Alaq:1-5)

With this Divine Command, the Revelation of the Sacred Qur’an, the greatest benevolence of the Lord for the whole of mankind, began its long course of Revelation through the person of Muhammad the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.).

After the First Revelation

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is extracted from “The Prophet Muhammad Musthafa the Elect (s.a.w.)” by Shaykh Osman Nuri Topbas.

It was thus these ayat of the Qur’an that the Blessed Prophet (s.a.w.) received first from the gates of heaven as a source of grace and vigour.  Jibril (a.s.) departed not long after and the Prophet (s.a.w.) returned home to Khadijah (r.a.) trembling from the unbearable fright of the moment: “Cover me, Khadijah, cover me!” he was saying.

After a few moments, the Blessed Messenger (s.a.w.) recounted the experience to his wife, our mother Khadijah (r.a.), the noble woman with whom he lived an upright family life for the rest of humankind to emulate.  Anxiously, he asked her: “Who is going to believe me now, Khadijah?”

But the noble woman reassured her life companion, “I assure you that Allah will never embarrass you; for you protect your kin, assume responsibility for those who cannot do so for themselves, give charity to the needy, do greater good than anyone else, treat your guests with honour and respect and assist those striving to do good.  I will believe you and be the first to do so, even if nobody else does.  Let me be the first you invite onto the path you call!”

These gracious words thus made Khadijah (r.a.) the first person to testify to the truth of her noble husband and help him in his arduous mission.  In other words, what Khadijah (r.a.) was implicitly telling her husband was that only good can come out of good and benevolence could only engender benevolence, and nothing else.  Rightly so, she could only expect the unfolding of a bright future from an immaculate past of moral uprightness, as if to echo the words of the Qur’an soon to be Revealed:

Is there any Reward for good other than good? (Surah ar-Rahman:60)

Sunday, 10 April 2016

The Cloak of Pride

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is extracted from “Disciplining the Soul” by Imam Abu al-Faraj ibn al-Jawzi (r.a.).

Arrogance is glorifying one’s self and disdaining others.  The reason why arrogance occurs is due to feeling superior over others that are less in lineage, wealth, knowledge, or worship and such like.  The sign of arrogance is disdaining those who one feels superior over, also swaggering, pride and one's love for being glorified by others.

The cure for this disease lies in two approaches: a general approach and a detailed approach.  The general approach is further divided into two types; theoretical and practical.  The theoretical cure is through textual and logical evidence of the demerits of arrogance.  The practical cure is achieved by accompanying humble people and hearing their stories.

On the other hand, the detailed approach is achieved by reflecting on the flaws of the self and knowing that if someone is proud about his money, it will soon be taken away from him.  He should also know that excellence lies in being sufficient from a thing, not in needing it.  If it is knowledge that he is proud about, then he should know that many people, who are more knowledgeable than him, and preceded him in that path.  Moreover, his knowledge forbids him from arrogance, so it is an evidence against him.  In addition, if it is a deed that is making him proud, then looking at it and thinking that it is perfect is a demerit not a merit.

Abu Salamah (r.a.) narrated that ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr (r.a.) ran across ibn ‘Umar (r.a.) on the hill of Marwah, so they descended and talked.  And then ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr (r.a.) left and ibn ‘Umar (r.a.) sat and wept.  He was asked, “Why are you weeping?”

He said, “He,” referring to ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr (r.a.) said that he heard the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) say, ‘Whoever has an atom’s weight of arrogance in his heart, Allah will Throw him in the Hellfire on his face.’”

Iyas ibn Salamah (r.a.) reported that his father said, “The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) said, ‘A man shall glorify himself until he is written among the tyrants, so that he suffers from what befell them.’”

Imam Muslim (r.a.) reported that ibn Mas’ud (r.a.) narrated from the Prophet (s.a.w.) that he said, “Whoever has an atom's weight of arrogance in his heart will not enter Paradise.”

A man said, “A man likes that his garment is nice and that his shoes are nice.”

The Prophet (s.a.w.) also said, "Indeed Allah is Beautiful and He loves beauty. Arrogance is rejecting the truth and disdaining people."

Imam Muslim (r.a.) reported from Abu Hurayrah (r.a.) and Abu Sa’id (r.a.) that they narrated that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) said, “Allah, Glorified and Exalted is He, Says, ‘Pride is My Cloak, and Glory is My Lower Garment, so whoever contends with Me regarding either one of them, I will Torment him.’”

Imam al-Khaththabi (r.a.) said, “This means that pride and greatness are two Attributes of Allah that He Alone is particularised with, no one shares them with Him, no Created being should have them because the Attribute of the created is humility and lowness.  Allah has Set the cloak and the lower garment as an example; no one shares his cloak, or his lower garment with another person.  Likewise, Allah does not share His Pride and Greatness with anyone, and Allah Only Knows.”  He said, “And His Saying: ‘Whoever has an atom’s weight of arrogance in his heart will not enter Paradise,’ may have two meanings: the first is that this refers to the arrogance of disbelief and the second is that He Takes arrogance out of the hearts of those who will enter Paradise.  And his saying, ‘disdaining people’ means looking down at them and belittling them.”

The Advent of Prophethood

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is extracted from “The Prophet Muhammad Musthafa the Elect (s.a.w.)” by Shaykh Osman Nuri Topbas.

As the advent of prophethood drew near, the Messenger-to-be (s.a.w.) often found himself delving into the depths of contemplation, in seclusion, distant from the public eye.  At times, he would set out from his home and leave Makkah far behind him, to seek the haven of places silent.  Many a time, on the way, he would hear the outlying stones and the trees on the path greet him with the words, “Peace be upon you, Messenger of Allah”.  In hope of making out the owner of the voices, he would look around, but see only trees and stones.

Later, the Blessed Prophet (s.a.w.) is reported to have said, “I remember there being a certain stone in Makkah that used to greet me before the arrival of my Prophethood.  I could identify its place even today.”  This is recorded in Swahih Muslim.

Confirming this are the words of ‘Ali (k.w.): “The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) and I were going to a certain place in Makkah once, during our years in the town.  As we were passing by trees and stones, I could hear them salute him with the exact words, ‘as-Salaamu ‘alayka, Ya Rasulullah.’”  This is recorded in Swahih at-Tirmidzi.

Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) had made a habit of regularly retreating to the Cave of Hira’ in Ramadhan for the entire month, taking even greater care to feed the poor and disadvantaged.  Circumambulating the Ka’bah each time he returned home from the Cave had also become routine.  The Prophet-to-be (s.a.w.) always despised his tribe’s worshipping of idols, perpetually distancing himself from the practice.  His worship in seclusion consisted of contemplating the Creation of the skies and earth, like his grandfather, Ibrahim (a.s.) and gazing at the Ka’bah from the overlooking cave.

Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) used to take with him to the cave, small supplies of food and drinks, returning to Khadijah (r.a.) once they finished to refill, only to once again go back to the Cave.  On occasion, he would also take Khadijah (r.a.) with him.  Contemplating in seclusion in the Cave of Hira’, the Light of Being (s.a.w.) would frequently see lights and hear voices, which led him to fear that the experiences could be premonitions related to soothsaying and sorcery.  Concerned, he would voice his anxiety to Khadijah (r.a.), saying: “I am afraid, Khadijah, of being a soothsayer, when by the Almighty there is nothing I hate more than soothsaying and idols!”

But Khadijah (r.a.) would only have words of consolation: “Do not say that, cousin. Allah would never make you a soothsayer.”

The period of seclusion before the mission was a preparatory stage for the Prophet (s.a.w.), like a seed pushing forth from beneath the soil.  The exact nature of this preliminary period of preparation, however, will forever remain a secret to us.  But it was there that the seeds of faith were laid and the fire of eternal bliss was ignited; and the Revelation of the Qur’an, the Guidance for all humanity, first began.

On the face of it, the retreat of the Blessed Prophet (s.a.w.) to the cave was prompted by the general misguidance of the people and his inexpressible grief over the injustices committed by the corrupt Makkans; yet in reality, the withdrawal was simply a preparation of the heart of the Noble Messenger (s.a.w.) towards immaculate purification whereupon the Holy Qur’an could be flawlessly communicated to the perception of entire mankind.  This was virtually an instance of a spiritual spark stirred by the grounding of a high voltage of electricity, an intimate secret between the Almighty and His Beloved, in a secluded cave remote from prying eyes.  Just as raw iron becomes steel through an inner propensity, the time at Hira’ was for the flourishing of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) predisposition to become the recipient of Divine Revelation and assume a burden too heavy for ordinary human beings to carry.  It is inconceivable to even imagine a conscience that would not shatter to pieces in trying to grasp this secret or a human language that could perfectly express its gist.

The Difference between Da'wah & Iswlah

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Da’wah” is when we introduce Islam to non-Muslims.  When we address Muslims, it is “iswlah”, from the same root as “swalah”.  Da’wah is about inviting.  Iswlah is about refining.  Nowadays, some people classify everything as “da’wah” and do not differentiate between the two.  How did it come to this?

It is primarily the Wahhabi sect that classifies educating the masses of Muslim as “da’wah”.  This is because, as taken from Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah (r.a.), instead of the Sunni understanding of tawhid al-ilah, the Divine Nature, the Wahhabi sect have tawhid ar-rububiyyah, the “oneness of worship” and tawhid al-uluhiyyah, “the sincerity of the acts of worship”.  The implication here is that mere testification of faith, the recitation of the shahadah, is insufficient to be considered a Muslim.  As the heretic, Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, said, “Whoever does not know tawhid al-uluhiyyah, then his knowledge of tawhid ar-rububiyyah is not taken into account because the idolaters also had such knowledge.”

According to Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab’s Kitab at-Tawhid, the masses of Muslims are upon kufr unless they believe as he did and accept his ‘aqidah.  And that is why the Wahhabis engage in “da’wah”, because to them, most of us are not Muslims.  We are idolaters, polytheists and unbelievers, and they want to “convert” us to their minhaj, which they seductively call “the Qur’an and sunnah”, as if the masses of Muslims are not upon it.  And that is also why Wahhabi militants such as ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda and their affiliates have no problems killing Muslims.  To them, they are waging a war against the “kuffar”.  We are that “kuffar”.  So remember that when someone wants to “da’wah” to you.

The Sharing Group Discussion: Can Reason Alone Prove the Existence of God?

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following question was posted by me on The Sharing Group on the 09th April, 2015: “Can reason alone prove that there is a God and deduce His Nature?”

Brother Colin Turner: Brother Terence, as I am sure you know only too well, the issue of reason and Revelation could fill numerous threads.  Insha’Allah, I will have a think and get back to you, but I have a lot of questions myself on this one and am unsure about the whole issue.  I look forward to learning more.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: I look forward to your thoughts, brother.

Brother Raja Chawla: This is a two-part question.  Can reason alone prove that there is a God.  And deduce His Nature.

Brother Colin Turner: There are many different strands to the argument or issue of reason versus Revelation, and maybe we can discuss some of these strands in the fullness of time.  As regards your particular question, since it is reason to which Revelation appeals in the first instance, it would seem that reason, unaided, can indeed reach the notion that there is something or someone responsible for bringing the cosmos into existence.  Indeed, this has to be the case because many who do not accept Revelation are able to come to this conclusion, and while they may call it many things, when they talk of the ‘cause’ behind the Creation, they are of course talking about God, even though they be unaware of it.  So whether people call it God or nature or whatever, reason can, unaided, arrive at the conclusion that there is someone or something responsible for Creation.  But beyond that, and when we are talking about specifics, reason needs help.  But that is another issue.

Brother Raja Chawla: From our limited knowledge of His Creation, just the species, sub species of Creation are beyond comprehension yet meticulously done, unmatched and non-createable by any one source or Creation in its entirety, can be only done by a super, beyond comprehension higher source.  So yes, reason of the above Creation can prove there is a God or Higher Power.  His nature cannot be deduced even by the entirety of, as we know of it, and what we have read of in Qur’an or ahadits of Creation, as He has Put a limited intelligence in the human mind and we do not know if all human knowledge combined of His Creation is the only Creation he has done or how much more there is.  The ant does not know beyond a few hundred feet of its anthill, and what more its comprehension level even beyond that.

Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: I do not think you can prove God’s Existence through axiomatic deductive logic.  But we can make relatively persuasive arguments which make belief in God plausible.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: By reason alone then, assuming someone has not access to Scripture of any sort, would he be able to come to the conclusion that there is a God?  I would think so.  In 1999, I sat in Novena Church, otherwise known as the Church of St. Alphonsus, and I decided to put everything I knew aside and think it through.  And this is what I came up with.

Is there a God?  I believe so.  I agreed with Aristotle that there had to be a First Cause, but I disagreed that Creation is Eternal.  Looking at the science of it, if Creation began with a Big Bank, and everything was compressed into a very hot ball of sorts, what caused it to expand?  There had to be change.  Who nudged that ball?

Secondly, if there is a God, it follows logically that there had to be only One God.  Otherwise there would be more than one set of universal laws.  Physicists are looking for a universal theory to unite the string forces and the weak forces.  The entire field of quantum physics alludes to a singular something greater.

It is from there that we can expand to the nature of God.  We understand that such a God has to be Omnipotent and by necessity One since if that were not so, there would be another ‘God’ to stop Him.  We understand that He has to be Omniscient as a result of the Omnipotence.  And He has to be Omnipresent since such a God has to be Present in all levels of Creation to affect it, and thus cannot be limited by space and time in all its dimensions.  Thus, He is Immanent and yet Transcendent.

All I needed then was to either found my own religion or join one that agreed with my conception of God.  And that is how I stumbled into Islam.

Brother James Currie: Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez, that used to be my opinion, until Richard Dawkin’s “The God Delusion” was released and I found his arguments incredibly weak.  In counter-response, when I investigated the arguments in favour of belief in God, I found them decisive.  The Argument from Contingency, the Argument from Consciousness and the Argument from Design are sufficient to decisively prove Islamic tawhid in my opinion.  Christians and Hindus use these arguments as well, but suddenly ditch them when trying to justify their trinitarian and pantheistic theologies, and that is why I tend to be strict on the rational front against such theologies and their influences.

Brother Colin Turner: Brother Terence, your reason took you to the notion of a Creator and then, unaided by Revelation, you concluded various things about this creator.  In short, it took you to the door of the Qur’an, which is “Guidance for those who believe in the unseen”.  It is probably difficult to go much further unaided and come up with a relatively faithful picture of God and His Attributes, a detailed knowledge of which comes from Revelation.  Of course, it does not stop there, and once Revelation is reached, there is still a role for reason.  What we read in Revelation has to be passed through the filter of reason, and from the point at which we encounter Revelation, the symbiotic relationship of the two begins.  Once Revelation is reached, reason becomes its partner, in a sense.

Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: I am a math person so I have a pickier notion of what axiomatic deductive logic should look like.

Brother James Currie: Axiomatic deductive logic is broader than mathematics.

Brother Colin Turner: It is important that the theological truths which inform our belief in one God stand up to critical scrutiny, that is, that they are logically sound and thus rational.  God’s Being as He is in and of Himself may well be beyond the realms of reason, but that is a different issue entirely.  The truth claims that we make about God as He is Manifest in Creation, that is, the God of belief, have to be watertight, and indeed are watertight.

Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: Brother James Currie, you said, “Axiomatic deductive logic is broader than mathematics.”  I agree.  But there are few possibly areas outside of mathematics where rigorous axiomatic logic can definitively prove anything interesting.  Most of the time, there is a trade-off where if we sacrifice a little bit of rigor and take a few small leaps, we can prove more things.

Brother Justin Taylor: Last night, I saw something relative to this question: I have been reading the psychology of God by Dr. Chittick, something which interested me about what he would suggest God does, apparently from the Qur’an, leave signs for those who have eyes to see.  In the heavens and on earth.  I have always believed this before I read it anyway.  Last night, I was walking along the strand at my home.  It is a walk along the ocean and because I live in a warm place, people were there in early evening with families and for exercise and such like.  The local astronomy group had set up some telescopes to garner public interest in their group.  I looked at the moon and I looked at Jupiter.  As I was talking to one of the club members, he explained to me that Jupiter has a very strong resonance, created from the moons, and if we were able to reach there in a craft, it would be ripped apart by this resonance.  The other thing it does is attract meteors to it, and destroys them, that would otherwise come to the Earth.  I smiled and understood this to be the Work of God protecting this planet.

Brother Mansoor Rizvi: Here is a side question.  What are the logical flaws, if any, of relying on the concept of the Creator only through divine texts?

Brother Justin Taylor: Divine texts are not the personal experience of God.  They point the direction but remember, Abraham (a.s.) did not have them, and neither did Moses (a.s.), until they were Given.

Brother James Currie: Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez, I am not sure that mathematics proves anything interesting either, unless applied to the real world.  That application to the real world also requires certain axiomatic assumptions, but these are also probably not to your level of mathematical rigour.  However, it is precisely those sorts of axiomatic assumptions that allow the theological deductions we are speaking about.

Brother Colin Turner: Brother Mansoor Rizvi, divine texts are always mediated by human intellection.  You cannot subtract your powers of reason from your reading of scripture.  Or are you saying something very different here?

Brother Justin Taylor: I find the whole idea of the taught skill of reading being the only way to access God crazy.  We are told, in all texts, God has Given us a way to understand and reach out to Him.  If there are people who cannot read, then this would be saying the religious texts are wrong.  How can we, on one hand, suggest the only way to God is through text and on the other hand deny the Revelation contained in the text?

Brother Colin Turner: Brother Justin, the ‘Book of Creation’ is also there to be read, and it complements the Revealed Book.

Brother Justin Taylor: Yes.  Personally, I have found this to be the case entirely but I am lucky enough that I was taught to read also.

Brother Colin Turner: Reading as reading is different from reading as interpreting.  Knowing how to interpret what we read is the kind of knowledge given to us through Revelation and through the example of the Prophet (s.a.w.).

Brother Justin Taylor: According to the CIA World Factbook, almost 75% of the world’s 775 million illiterate adults are concentrated in ten countries.  They are, in descending order: India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Egypt, Brazil, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Women represent two-thirds of all illiterate adults globally.  Extremely low literacy rates are focused in three regions: South Asia, West Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.  The global literacy rate for all people aged 15 and over is 84.1%.  The global literacy rate for all males is 88.6% and the rate for all females is 79.7%.

Again, I agree with you, Brother Colin.  I find it hard to reconcile how God would leave those 775 million with no way to find Him.  There is the possibility that others may help them in other ways but we have seen through the ages what happens when people do not find their own way to Revelation.  It becomes the perspective of the giver, the priests and preachers, who determine what is to be known.  I would think it is the signs, the marks, which God has Put there for us to see which are the stronger then the texts.  The text is putting God’s laws into a human frame so that we can understand.  But God, in the world, is as easy to evaluate by a glance, a smell, a sound.  I am having trouble with the aspect of signifying though.  Then, we can reason what these things mean by the brain we are given.

Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: Brother James Currie, you said, “I am not sure that mathematics proves anything interesting either, unless applied to the real world.  That application to the real world also requires certain axiomatic assumptions, but these are also probably not to your level of mathematical rigour.  However, it is precisely those sorts of axiomatic assumptions that allow the theological deductions we are speaking about.”

Yes, that is fair.  Almost all of what we believe is based on assumption, even in terms of scientific knowledge; that is not certain either.  The most we can say is “we have made this guess and it seems to be consistent with our observations.”  But that is still not deductive reasoning either.  But scientific knowledge is not certain either.  Every once in a while, new knowledge comes along which leads scientists to alter their paradigms.  Technically, I am a very radical skeptic.  But in order to live in the world, we all make small leaps of faith, assumptions which make sense for us.  And we can try to make those leaps small.  But it is not going to be absolutely certain.  Maybe one day, you are going to bump into Morpheus and your entire understanding of the world can change.

Brother James Currie: Science is an inductive process, but relies on a priori philosophical assumptions.  For instance, regarding causality, which can form the starting point for theological deductions.

Brother Jerry Mikell: Plotinus said, “You ask, how can we know the Infinite?  I answer, not by reason.  It is the office of reason to distinguish and define.  The Infinite, therefore, cannot be ranked among its objects.  You can only apprehend the Infinite by a faculty superior to reason, by entering into a state in which you are your finite self no longer — in which the Divine Essence is Communicated to you.  This is ecstasy.  It is the liberation of your mind from its finite consciousness.  Like only can apprehend like; when you thus cease to be finite, you become one with the Infinite.  In the reduction of your soul to its simplest self, its Divine Essence, you realise this union — this identity.

Brother Colin Turner: It is not really helpful to think of God as infinite.  Infinity is a mathematical concept and does not really mean much when predicated of God.

Brother James Currie: Brother Colin, God is not finite.

Brother Colin Turner: Of course.  But then, God is not a number, or an amount.  Mathematicians please step in if this is wrong, but to describe God as infinite means that He is either an actual infinity or a potential infinity.  Potential is clearly problematic unless we wish to posit the Existence of a God to Whom things are being added continuously.  This leaves the notion of God as an actual infinity, which is equally problematic, because there is no way that God can be thought of as an actual, completed totality, or a set.  So maybe we need to look for new words to describe what we think of as infinite when we think of Him.  One suggestion is ‘Absolute’.  It seems to work well.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: In set theory, God would be approximated to be a set that leaves nothing out.  Such a set is unquantifiable.

Brother Ebu Aydin: Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis, I agree with you that God, and several of His Attributes, can be proved via reason alone.  What the issue turns on is the principle of sufficient reason - the principle that contingent things need some explanation of their existence.  Whereas the street atheist will generally try to come up with some naturalistic explanation for the existence of the contingent world, the scholarly atheist will simply deny the principle of sufficient reason.  This, to my mind, is telling.  If the only way to refute theism is to deny the principle of sufficient reason, then that says a great deal about the plausibility of theism.

Brother Tone: To use an analogy, I think that one is able to approach God, but is one able to arrive fully?  In other words, begin to become acquainted with God, but to fully comprehend.  At the end of the day, what are we without God’s Mercy?  If one takes the premise that there Exists a God Who is Just and Merciful, would it not be logical to take that we in ourselves, have the faculties to connect with our Creator, our existence, and our purpose?  But at the same time, will we ever have the capacity to fully encompass Allah’s (s.w.t.) Majesty in our mind alone?  It is an interesting paradox.

Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: I am not sure how to match up thoughts about God with standard mathematical concepts.  For instance, Nahj al-Balaghah says, “He is not confined by limits, nor counted by numbers.”  Actually, in mathematics, even infinite sets have certain kinds of limitations.  There are different sizes of infinity and for every set, even infinite ones, there is a larger one.

Brother Hasan: How can the vastness of Allah begin to be conceptualised?

Brother Colin Turner: The God that most of us are familiar with is the ‘God of belief’.  The real God is much greater than that.

Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: To try to go back to the original question, the various arguments and ‘proofs’ of God’s Existence are useful because they make theism more plausible and probable.  And collectively, they provide evidence and make it easier to believe.  Also one of the books which nudged my out of being agnostic was “Honest to God” by Bishop John Robinson, which exposed me to Tillich and certain ideas which reframed the question for me.  How do you make a distinction between the “God of belief” and the “Real God”?  How do those labels get used?  Are you saying that your own understanding of God is different from the “God of belief”?

Brother Colin Turner: No, my understanding of God is no different from yours, that is, the God of belief, you know, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, Merciful, Compassionate and so forth.

Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: So how is the “Real God” different from the “God of belief”?  Some people talk about God-Above-God or the Godhead as being different from the God of belief.  I think this comes up in the Kabbalah, no?  Where the Ein Suf is different from the God of religion.

Brother Colin Turner: Some have called it the realm of Hahut, which is more or less untranslatable but approximates roughly to ‘He-ness’.  God as He is, in and of Himself, unrelated to Creation and the cosmos - how He is prior, ontologically, to the Creation, the Hand without the shadow.

Brother Omar Grant: From the Muslim perspective I have always found the Surah al Ikhlasw, the Surah of Sincerity, said by the Messenger (s.a.w.) to equal one third of the Qur’an, worthy of contemplation with regard to the Existence of God.  It is said to have been revealed in answer to a Bedouin who asked, “Who is this Allah?”  I seem to recall Imam al-Ghazali (r.a.) also talked of the subject matter under discussion.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Refutation of Ismail Menk's Lawyers

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

After Ismail Menk was banned from public speaking in Singapore, his lawyers, who I assume are quite new to this defamation business, sent me a laughable letter demanding some sort of response.  Naturally, since it is in my good nature, I responded comprehensively.

Please find below, Ismail Menk’s lawyers on my alleged defamation.

This here, is my response.  Special thanks goes to my in-house counsel, Zafirah Jeffrey, for the hard world of summarising my sixty-three articles into this.  This is different from the format I sent out.

Regarding the defamation on the character and person of ‘Mufti’ Ismail Menk, I refer to your letter, dated 10th December 2015, in regards to the supposed defamation of your client, Ismail ibn Musa Menk.  I acknowledge as well as point out several erroneous claims on your part in regards to the matter.  The premise of this letter is based on the presumption that the addressee already knows the basics of Wahhabism in terms of its principles and origins.  I will assume you know what you are talking about.

With regards to the Wahhabi ideology, that the ideology does not fall within the boundaries of the Ahl as-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah is common knowledge.  There is no controversy here.  Only those ignorant of the theology of Islam would claim it is.  They have also been referred to in similar fashion by notable Muslim scholars throughout history.  I refer you to the example, from Ihya’ al-Maqbur by the late muhaddits, Imam Abu al-Faydh Ahmad ibn Abi ‘Abdullah asw-Swiddiq al-Ghimmari (r.a.).

He said, “As for the Qarniyyun, their land has not been Blessed by Allah (s.w.t.) with any wali or swalih since the beginning of Islam down to the present day.  Instead, He only Gave it the Qarn ash-Shaythan, ‘the Devil’s Horn’, whose followers were the Khwarij of the thirteenth and subsequent Islamic centuries.   So fear Allah (s.w.t.) and do not be like he who is beguiled by them and supports their corrupt sect and worthless opinion and their state of misguidance which was explicitly described by the Prophet (s.a.w.).  He characterised them as the ‘Dogs of the Fire’, kilab an-naar and informed us that they are the ‘worst of all who dwell beneath the sky’ and that they ‘swerve from the religion as an arrow swerves away from its target.’

The Prophet (s.a.w.) said that they mouth among the best of sayings in the form of their prattling about tawhid, and implementing the sunnah, and combating bid’ah - and yet, by Allah (s.w.t.), they are drowning in bid’ah.  In fact, there is no bid’ah worse than theirs which causes them to ‘swerve from the religion as an arrow swerves away from its target’, in spite of their superficial efforts in worship and adherence to the religion.  It is as the Prophet (s.a.w.) declared: ‘One of you would despise the prayer he says among them, and the fasting he completes with them; they recite Qur’an but it goes no further than their collarbones.’

It is for this reason that he refrained from making du’a for Najd in the way that he had prayed for the Yemen and for Syria, for he said, ‘Allahumma Bless us in our Yemen; Bless us in our Syria.’

And they said, ‘And in our Najd, O Messenger of Allah?’

But he repeated his prayer for the Yemen and for Syria; and they repeated their utterance; until he said, the second or the third time round, in order to explain why he would not pray for Najd.  The Prophet (s.a.w.) said, ‘That is the place of earthquakes, and fitnah, and from it, the Devil’s Horn shall rise.’

This was narrated by Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.).  Nothing has emerged from there to bring about earthquakes and fitnah in the religion like Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, who was astray and led others astray.  Hence, he was the Devil’s Horn foretold by the Prophet (s.a.w.), and he abstained from offering prayer for Najd because of him, and because of the fitnah which would flow from his demonic da’wah.  Whoever adheres to that da’wah has committed unambiguous kufr, and is destined for apostasy and ‘swerving from the religion’, as is visible in the case of the other heretical unbelievers of the age who are notorious for their ilhad, for in every case they began by holding fast to the sect of the Devil’s Horn, as is well-known to scholars of experience and insight.”

As Wahhabism originated in Najd, this hadits is in reference to the movement.  We have included a list below of scholars and published works who have made similar statements to the above.  Please note also that I am not the first individual to acknowledge the link between Wahhabism and extremist movements.  Wahhabi jurists have also been known to reject medieval interpretations of Islam, and for being unsupportive of forging relationships with non-Muslims.  I refer to the following contemporary sources purporting similar claims.

There is a Huffington Post Article dated 27th August, 2014 by Alastair Crook, titled ‘You Can’t Understand ISIS If You Don’t Know the History of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia’.

There is a report from the Library of Congress dated 17th January 2007, by Christopher M. Blanchard, titled ‘The Islamic Traditions of Wahhabism and Salafiyya’.

Furthermore, the definition of Wahhabism according to Oxford Islamic Studies Online, Oxford University Press.

There is the book, ‘Wahhabi Islam’, by Natana J. Delong-Bas, published in 2004 by Oxford University Press.

There is the book, ‘The Post-Socialist Religious Question: Faith and Power in Central Asia and East-Central Europe’, published in 2006 by the Deustche Nationalbibliothek, chapter 3: Extreme Conversations: Secularism, Religious Pluralism, and the rhetoric of Islamic Extremism in Southern Kyrgyzstan’ by Julie McBrien.

There is the article, ‘Religious-Political Conflict in the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria’, written by Vakhit Akhaev, published by CA& CC Press.

There is the article, ‘A Clear and Present Danger: Wahhabism as a Political Foil’ by Alexander Knysh, in the academic journal Die Welt des Islams published in 2004 by Brill.

Note also the following published works by Muslim scholars in regards to the Wahhabi ideology.

Imam ‘Atha’illah al-Makki (r.a.) wrote as-Sarim al-Hindi fi al-‘Unuq an-Najdi, “The Indian Scimitar on the Najdi’s Neck.”

Imam ‘Abd ar-Rabbih ibn Sulayman ash-Shafi’i al-Azhari (r.a.), the author of Sharh Jami’ al-Uswul li Ahadits ar-Rasul, a basic book of uswul al-fiqh, wrote Faydh al-Wahhab fi Bayan Ahl al-Haqq wa man Dhallah ‘an asw-Swawab, “al-Wahhab’s Outpouring in Differentiating the True Muslims from Those Who Deviated from the Truth”, which comprised four volumes.  ‘al-Wahhab’ here refers to Allah (s.w.t.), not the heretic, Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab.

Shaykh Salama al-‘Azzami (r.a.) wrote al-Barahin as-Sati’at. “The Radiant Proofs.”

Imam Muhammad Sa’id Ramadhan al-Buwthi (r.a.) wrote two major refutations: as-Salafiyyatu Marhalatun Zamaniyyatun Mubarakatun laa Madzhabun Islami, “The Salafiyyah is a Blessed Historical Period not an Islamic School of Law”; and al-Lamadzhabiyyah Akhtaru Bid’atin Tuhaddidu ash-Shari’ah al-Islamiyyah, “Non-Madzhabism is the most Dangerous Innovation Presently Menacing Islamic Law”.

Shaykh ad-Dahish ibn ‘Abdullah from the Arab University of Morocco wrote Munazharah ‘Ilmiyyah bayna ‘Ali ibn Muhammad ash-Sharif wa al-Imam Ahmad ibn Idris fi ar-Radd ‘ala Wahhabiyyat Najd wa Tihamah, wa ‘Asir, “Scholarly Debate between the Sharif and Ahmad ibn Idris against the Wahhabis of Najd, Tihamah, and ‘Asir”.

Imam Ahmad ibn Zayni ad-Dahlan (r.a.), the Mufti of Makkah and Shaykh al-Islam, highest religious authority in the Ottoman jurisdiction, for the Hijaz region, wrote three major works against them.  They are ad-Durar as-Saniyyah fi ar-Radd ‘ala al-Wahhabiyyah, “The Pure Pearls in Answering the Wahhabis”; Fitnat al-Wahhabiyyah, “The Wahhabi Fitnah”; and Khulaswat al-Kalam fi Bayan Umara’ al-Balad al-Haram, “The Summation Concerning the Leaders of the Sacrosanct Country”, a history of the Wahhabi fitnah in Najd and the Hijaz.

Shaykh Hamdullah ad-Dajwi (r.a.) wrote al-Baswa’ir li Munkiri at-Tawaswswul la Amtsal Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, “The Evident Proofs against Those Who Deny the Seeking of Intercession Like Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab”.

Habib Muhammad ‘Ashiq ar-Rahman (r.a.) wrote, ‘Aqab Allah al-Mujdi li Junun al-Munkir an-Najdi, “Allah’s Terrible Punishment for the Mad Rejecter from Najd”.

Sayyid ‘Abdullah ibn `Alawi al-Haddadash-Shafi’i (q.s.), the son of Sayyid al-‘Alawi ibn Ahmad al-Haddad (q.s.), wrote as-Sayf al-Bathir li ‘Unq al-Munkir ‘ala al-Akabir, “The Sharp Sword for the Neck of the Assailant of Great Scholars”.  He also wrote another, unpublished manuscript of about 100 folios titled Miswbah al-Anam wa Jala’ az-Zalam fi Radd Shubah al-Bid’i an-Najdi Allati Adalla biha al-‘Awamm, “The Lamp of Mankind and the Illumination of Darkness Concerning the Refutation of the Errors of the Innovator from Najd by Which He Had Misled the Common People.”  This manuscript was published in 1907.

Shaykh Ibrahim al-Hilmi al-Qadri al-Iskandari (r.a.) wrote Jalal al-Haqq fi Kashf Ahwal Ashrar al-Khalq, “The Splendour of Truth in Exposing the Worst of People”, which was published in 1934.

Sayyid ‘Amili, Muhsin al-Husayni (r.a.) wrote Kashf al-Irtiyab fi Atba’ Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, “The Dispelling of Doubt Concerning the Followers of Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab”.

Imam ‘Ulyawi ibn Khalifah al-Azhari (r.a.) wrote Hadzihi ‘Aqidatu as-Salaf wa al-Khalaf fi Dzat Allahi Ta’ala wa Swifatihi wa Af’alihi wa al-Jawab asw-Swahih li ma Waqa’a fihi al-Khilaf min al-Furu’ bayna al-Da’in li as-Salafiyyah wa Atba’ al-Madzahib al-Arba’ah al-Islamiyyah, “This is the Doctrine of the Predecessors and the Descendants Concerning the Divergences in the Branches between Those Who Call to as-Salafiyyah and the Followers of the Four Islamic Schools of Law”.  This was published in 1977.

Shaykh Hasan Khazbik (r.a.) wrote al-Maqalat al-Wafiyyat fi ar-Radd ‘ala al-Wahhabiyyah, “Complete Treatise in Refuting the Wahhabis”.

Shaykh Muhammad Hasanayn Makhluf (r.a.) wrote Risalat fi Hukm at-Tawaswswul bi al-Anbiya’ wa al-Awliya’, “Treatise on the Ruling Concerning the Use of Prophets and Saints as Intermediaries”.

The muhaddits, Imam Muhammad al-Hasan ibn ‘Alawi al-Maliki al-Husayni (q.s.) wrote Mafahimu Yajibuan Tuswahhah, “Notions That Should be Corrected”.  This was published in its 4th edition as Muhammad al-Insanu al-Kamil, “Muhammad, the Perfect Human Being”, in 1984.

Shaykh Mashrifi al-Maliki al-Jaza’iri (r.a.) wrote Izhar al-‘Uquq Mimman Mana’a at-Tawaswswul bi an-Nabi’ wa al-Wali asw-Swaduq, “The Exposure of the Disobedience of Those Who Forbid Using the Intermediary of the Prophet and the Truthful Saints”.

Shaykh ‘Abdullah ibn Ibrahim al-Mirghani ath-Tha’ifi (r.a.) wrote Tahridh al-Aghbiya’ ‘ala al-Istighatsa bi al-Anbiya’ wa al-Awliya’, “The Provocations of the Ignorant against Seeking the Help of Prophets and Saints”.

The qadhi and great muhaddits, Imam Yusuf ibn Isma’il an-Nabhani ash-Shafi’i (q.s.) wrote Shawahid al-Haqq fi al-Istighatsa’ bi Sayyid al-Khalq, “The Proofs of Truth in the Seeking of the Intercession of the Prophet”.

Shaykh ‘Abdullah al-Qadumi an-Nablusi al-Hanbali (r.a.) wrote Rihlat, “Journey”.

Imam Muhammad Hasan al-Qazwini (r.a.) wrote al-Barahin al-Jaliyyah fi Raf` Tashkikat al-Wahhabiyah, “The Plain Demonstrations That Dispel the Aspersions of the Wahhabis”, which was published in 1987.

Sayyid Yusuf ibn Hashim ar-Rifa’i, President of the World Union of Islamic Propagation and Information, wrote Adillat Ahl as-Sunnah wa al-Jama’at awar-Radd al-Muhkam al-Mani’ ‘ala Munkarat wa Shubuhat ibn Mani’ fi Tahajjumihi ‘ala as-Sayyid Muhammad ‘Alawi al-Maliki al-Makki, “The Proofs of the People of the Way of the Prophet and the Muslim Community or the Strong and Decisive Refutation of ibn Mani’’s Aberrations and Aspersions in his Assault on Muhammad ‘Alawi al-Maliki al-Makki”.

Imam Ibrahim as-Samnudi al-Manswuri (r.a.) wrote Sa’adat ad-Darayn fi ar-Radd ‘ala al-Firqatayn al-Wahhabiyyah wa Muqallidat azh-Zhahiriyyah, “Bliss in the Two Abodes: Refutation of the Two Sects, the Wahhabi and Zhahiri Followers”.

Imam Hasan ibn ‘Ali as-Saqqaf ash-Shafi’i, from the Islamic Research Institute in Amman, Jordan, wrote several books.  They include al-Ighatsa bi Adillat al-Istighatsa wa ar-Radd al-Mubin ‘ala Munkiri at-Tawaswswul, “The Mercy of Allah in the Proofs of Seeking Intercession and the Clear Answer to Those who Reject It”; ‘Ilqam al-Hajr li al-Muthatawil ‘ala al-Asha’ira min al-Bashar,“ The Stoning of All Those Who Attack Ash’aris”; and Qamus Shata’im al-Albani wa al-Alfazh al-Munkarat Allati Yathluquha fi Haqq ‘Ulama al-Ummah wa Fudhala’iha wa Ghayrihim, “Encyclopaedia of al-Albani’s Abhorrent Expressions Which He Uses Against the Scholars of the Community, Its Eminent Men and Others”.  This was published in Amman by Dar al-Imam an-Nawawi in 1993.

Imam Sayf ad-Din Ahmad ibn Muhammad wrote in English, “al-Albani Unveiled: An Exposition of His Errors and Other Important Issues”, which was published in 1994.

Imam Jamil Swidq az-Zahawi al-Baghdadi (r.a.), the Mufti of Baghdad and descendent of Khalid ibn al-Walid (r.a.), wrote al-Fajr asw-Swadiq fi ar-Radd ‘ala Munkiri at-Tawaswswul wa al-Khawariq, “The True Dawn in Refuting Those Who Deny the Seeking of Intercession and the Miracles of Saints”, which was published in 1905 in Egypt.

Shaykh Qiyam ad-Din Ahmad wrote in English, “The Wahhabi Movement in India”, which was published in New Delhi in 1994.

Therefore, please refer to the above material as such is my response to points 4.2, 5.3, anything related to the matter in the schedule under 5.4, and 6 in your letter.

Further, I found it logical to establish the link between Ismail Menk and Wahhabism based on recordings of his talks made publicly available on YouTube, as well as published statements on Facebook.  These sources have made clear his position on nuanced matters in Islamic theology, particularly about intercession, tawaswswul, the commemoration of the Prophet Muhammad’s (s.a.w.) birthday, Mawlid.  It is commonly known amongst those versed in the theology of Islam that the outright rejection of such concepts can only be found within the Wahhabi ideology.  These are positions within Sunni Islam that are considered sawad al-a’azham.  Only the Wahhabis reject them, and create a controversy where there is none.  It is clear that they are not part of Sunni Islam.

Also, instead of denying that he is a Wahhabi, the very fact that you are contesting the legitimacy of the doctrine here implies that Ismail Menk does subscribe to the theological positions of the sect.  That means my characterisation of him as a Wahhabi is a true statement and is, thus, not ‘defamation’.

The use of the terms ‘kafirun’, ‘mushrikin’ and such are technical terms used in ‘aqidah, theology.  We do not take the definition of our religious nomenclature from English dictionaries.  I do not consider this section 4.1 to be of merit, considering the substance of the charge has already been addressed above, but if you are interested, I recommend Lisan al-‘Arab.

Combining this with the sources listed in 1(b), my statements are thus, logical and not false.  Therefore, there is no defamation.

I am not obliged to provide any evidence in regards to communications with the Singapore Government as it is a form of private correspondence.  They are also not material to the complaint since they are not public, and thus, cannot possibly be defamation.

You have conveniently excluded the Singapore Government’s discretion on the matter.  I may have written to the Government, but withholding Ismail Menk’s permit was not my decision to make.  Also, this would not have been the first time Ismail Menk has been banned from public speaking as he has already been banned in the UK in 2014 for his homophobic comments, for example.  Thus, according to the current international socio-political scene, I believe that the Singapore and UK Governments have withheld the permits where they saw fit.

I believe the above points are sufficient to clarify my position on the matter.  Every statement I have made about Wahhabism and Ismail Menk has been in line with the scholars and published authors above.  Therefore, to bring an action against me would necessitate bringing an action against them as well.  As such, I will not rescind my published material nor will I issue any sort of apology to your client.  Rather, it is Ismail Menk who should apologise to me for the inconvenience of actually having to address this frivolous legal action.

Of course, as is the nature of such drivel, I never had the pleasure of a response.  I would have loved to have taken the case to court and I was quite prepared for it.  It would have generated tremendous publicity, and I am confident I could have taken their arguments apart.  It would have given me great pleasure to destroy any hope of Ismail Menk credibly pretending to be a Sunni scholar.  I doubt that even Ismail Menk would be so stupid to have taken the case that far.  It would have done him no good even if he had an unlikely victory.