Introduction to Ethics and Theology

[These are rough notes from the first session of the workshop on Historical, Intellectual and Spiritual Approaches to Islam conducted by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed (db) in Karachi, during Feb 2016]

Disclaimer: This is a purely educational course held to spread the teachings of Islam, with no intention of offending any sect or School of Thought.

Defining the Premises 

This series will cover three approaches to Islam:

  • Historical
  • Intellectual
  • Spiritual

The mistake some of us make is that we take singly or exclusively an intellectual approach to religion. We try to understand it only on the basis of our mind. We don’t realize that ultimately deen is a matter of the heart. In Qur’an Allah (swt) is addressing our heart. Blessed Prophet (sws) was gifted with a pure, noble and a beautiful heart. His (sws) heart won over the hearts of Sahaba (ra).

Vast majority of people who convert to Islam today, were you to ask them their story, they would tell you a story of the heart. Along the way there will be small triggers and decisions that may have taken place in their minds, but if you try to track their journey, it would come to be a journey of the heart. Therefore, there should also be an understanding of the spiritual aspects of Islam.

If a person takes all of these three aspects into account, then they would get this multi-dimensional, coloured, robust, in-depth picture of the deen of Islam. This is the overall approach that we are going to take to this course.

In the Western universities they have developed three models to study religion.

  • Faith-Based
  • Secular
  • Divinity School Approach

Faith-based: Sometimes it is also called a confessional study of religion. It means those people who confess, who profess their belief in that scripture, they try to go into an academic study of religion, but that academic study of religion obviously has a limit, because in the course of that study, they are not going to question the existence of Allah (swt); they are not going to question whether Blessed Prophet (sws) was really a prophet or not. That has already been decided by their iman. Those are the first principles that they assume and take for granted, and on that platform they want to study their deen.

For example, they still have, even though most people in Pakistan don’t know about it, a lot of madrassahs which are called seminaries. There are some very prominent seminaries, like the Jews Theological Seminary in New York, there is a Catholic Theological Seminary, and Presbyterian, Lutheran, Baptist, and different denominations of Protestant seminaries. A few of them even have affiliations with top universities. One seminary in Chicago, the Graduate Theological Union, has affiliation with the University of Chicago – one of the top 5 schools. There is another seminary in Berkeley that has affiliation with University of California, Berkeley – also one of the top 10 schools in the US. Inside a seminary, they conduct a faith-based and confessional study of religion.

Secular: Secular study of religion doesn’t just entail, but it demands, it necessitates that you don’t bring your belief in Allah (swt), belief that Qur’an is kitab ullah, belief that Blessed Prophet (sws) is the prophet and messenger of Allah (swt), you don’t bring that to your study of religion. Your approach to religion should be, in their terms, quote unquote, open minded. It means that your mind should be open to disbelief; open to the possibility that Allah (swt) doesn’t exist; open to the possibility that the Qur’an may or may not truly be the word of God; open to the possibility that Blessed Prophet (sws) was the prophet, or he wasn’t. This is the secular study of religion.

In the US people who study in the departments of religion, most of the faculty and students aren’t believers of any particular religion. There are a number of believers as well, but they make it a point to divorce and separate their belief from the classroom, from the lecture and from their own writings. Literally, it’s a very conscious effort in trying to despiritualize their study of religion. That’s one way of studying it.

Divinity School Approach: In some universities, particularly in Harvard, Yale and Chicago, they have made another school called the Divinity School, they call it Div School for short. In this school of divinity a new approach is taken; trying to combine the faith-based confessional study of religion along with those elements of the secular study of religion that are not critical to or skeptical of the matters of belief. You can say it is a faith-based academic approach that is willing to engage in that level of academics that does not critic or call into doubt one’s very foundations of belief. This is the method which I will be taking with you in these sessions.

This is actually something that is extremely lacking in Pakistan. Here we just have madrassahs, or we have faculty that teaches religion, especially in the elite universities, that are not bound by the faith-based approach. You will find varying levels of iman in different professors of Islamiyat, and obviously that is a matter between them and Allah (swt), but they have chosen to adopt secular methods in terms of their teaching and they often try to divorce their faith from their teaching. I don’t feel there is a need to do that. Or, at the very least, if one were to argue that the secular university should operate on that principle, we still need institutes that combine both. We need, what we have called, the divinity school approach.

Critical v. Analytical

I want to show you the difference between these two terms because there is a lot of buzz here that you should have critical thinking. Critical thinking in of itself is a good thing, but you have to be very careful, because when a secular educational institute uses the word critical thinking, for some of them the underlying message is that you should be willing to critic Allah’s (swt) book Qur’an, you should be willing to critic Blessed Prophet’s (sws) sunnah. So the more proper term which I prefer to use is analytical thinking, analytical thought, which is also a term, you can Google it. In fact, there is a whole area of Philosophy called Analytic Philosophy, some people call it Analytic Theology, and this actually has been used very much in Divinity School approach in America by Christians who want to retain their core principles of faith and belief, while embarking on an academic study which has the historical, intellectual and spiritual approaches to understanding the religion.

Always remember that, if you ever hear any Islamic lecturer or an ’Alim counseling you not to adopt critical thinking, they are not saying that don’t use your mind. They are saying don’t engage in critiquing Allah’s (swt) Qur’an, or critiquing the sunnah of Blessed Prophet (sws). Any Islamic scholar is human; he is subject to critic, he is subject to review and refutation, he is subject to partial or full agreement – that’s for insan. But as far as Allah’s (swt) Qur’an and Blessed Prophet’s (sws) sunnah go, the word we are going to use is analytical i.e. we are going to analyze, we want to understand, we want to explore, we want to ponder, we want to reflect.

Introduction to Theology

In Arabic, there are two words used in theology:

  1. Aqidah
  2. Kalam

Aqidah: Strictly speaking, aqidah is normally translated as creed, or a creedal statement. For example, within Sunnis the most agreed upon creedal statement is a text written by Imam Abu Ja’far Tahawi (rh) known as Al-Aqidah al-Tahawiyyah; which is agreed upon by all the Sunnis, and even in terms of contemporary Pakistani/Indian Sunni division, known as Deobandi, Barelvi, Ahl-e-Hadith; all three of them agree on this aqidah; the Saudis agree on it, the Pakistanis agree on it, the Indonesians agree on it. And it has been translated in English by a very well-known, respected American convert scholar to Islam, Hamza Yusuf. His translation was published in America.

So aqida; creedal statement — what does this mean? A creedal statement embodies your basic set of beliefs about Allah (swt), prophecy, prophethood of Blessed Prophet (sws), angels, scriptures, life after death, resurrection, etc. They are very short statements. Another well known aqidah has been written by Imam al-Ghazali (rh), and some say he wrote it when he was in Quds sharif i.e. Jerusalem, and it is known as Ar-Risala al-Qudsiya fi Qawa‘id al-‘Aqa’id. It has also been translated in English, in fact both of these books are available on the internet. I’m not going to talk to you about aqidah in this course.

Kalam: Kalam is an analytical approach in trying to understand matters of faith. In English they sometimes translate it as Dialectic Theology. Ilm al-Kalam is all about going deep into different things that Allah (swt) has mentioned to us. For example, what is iman? What does it mean that Allah (swt) has a zaat; has an essence; has siffat – attributes?

You would be amazed at how deep some of the ulema explore some questions e.g. free will and predestination; these are questions that many university educated people ask, like do I have a free will if Allah (swt) knows everything, if Allah (swt) decrees everything? You will find lengthy discussions on this topic. Why did Allah (swt) create evil? Why did Allah (swt) create Shaytan? Why will Allah (swt) punish somebody eternally to hellfire, why not punish them for a finite amount of time? Why does Allah (swt) need to punish people?

I have, in my own personal one life, never yet encountered a single question raised by any philosopher or any Atheist, except that when I went back and researched I found that the ulema of kalam had already discussed and analyzed the same question at length, but using their understanding of Qur’an and Sunnah — and not merely on the basis of their intellect and rationality.

All of these questions have been addressed in ilm al-kalam. We will be talking about some of these questions in the upcoming session Science, Rationality and the New Atheism. I hope to do a couple of them today so you would get an idea how this system works. Every lecture that I’m giving you is just a drop in a very vast ocean. We could do a whole course on Islamic Theology. One could design an entire degree program on this; and there are such degrees in the world.

The point of these few sessions is just to give you a glimpse of, what I sometimes call, a behind-the-scenes tour. What happens when you go on a behind-the-scenes tour of a factory? You will not learn enough to build your own factory, nor will you learn enough to understand every element of the factory, but somebody will grab you by the hand and show you major things in that factory, and at the end they will take you right back to the exit door and send you on your way. If ever you decide that you also want to build a factory, or really understand a factory, for that you will have to embark on a much longer course of study.

Hadith-e-Jibrael & the beginning of Islamic Learning

This is a very famous hadith. It has been narrated both by Imam Bukhari (rh) and Imam Muslim (rh) in their Sahih collections. The reason I’m mentioning this to you today is that the classical study of Islam used to usually begin with this hadith, and this hadith was used to frame a discussion.

From ‘Umar, there is that he said, “While we were sitting with the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, one day a man came up to us whose clothes were extremely white, whose hair was extremely black, upon whom traces of travelling could not be seen, and whom none of us knew, [Syedna Umar (ra) must have realized that he was not from Madinah, so he must have come from somewhere else, and if he came from somewhere else and he made a desert journey, then his clothes should have been dusty and his black hair should have been dusty. All of you in Pakistan like to buy white cars, once a boy explained to me that black-coloured cars show dirt more. I said white will show the dirt more, he said no dark will show it more. And he was right as it turns out. So that’s what they mean here, there are both things; that the clothes were white and the hair was black.] 

He sat down close to the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, [he cut through all our ranks and he went straight to Blessed Prophet (sws) and he sat by him] so that he rested his knees upon his knees and placed his two hands upon his thighs [which is a very intimate way; physical contact, considering he is a stranger, without a doubt, and he immediately asks a question, no salam, no introduction, no how are you, no who am I?] and said, ‘Muhammad, tell me about Islam.’ The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless with him and grant him peace, said, ‘Islam is that you witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and you establish the prayer, and you give the Zakat, and you fast Ramadan, and you perform the hajj of the House if you are able to take a way to it.’

He said, ‘You have told the truth,’ and we were amazed at him asking him and [then] telling him that he told the truth [normally a person higher in knowledge would tell you if you had spoken truly]. He said, ‘Tell me about iman.’ He said, ‘That you affirm Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, and the Last Day, and that you affirm the Decree, the good of it and the bad of it.’ [as I told you, aqidah, creedal statement, begins with this sentence and they just open it up, and they write a commentary of 6-7 points] He said, ‘You have told the truth.’ He said, ‘Tell me about ihsan.’ He said, ‘That you worship Allah as if you see Him, for if you don’t see Him then truly He sees you.’

He said, ‘Tell me about the Hour.’ He said, ‘The one asked about it knows no more than the one asking.’ He said, ‘Then tell me about its tokens.’ He said, ‘That the female slave should give birth to her mistress, and you see poor, naked, barefoot shepherds of sheep and goats competing in making tall buildings.’ He went away, and I remained some time. Then he asked, ‘Umar, do you know who the questioner was?’ I said, ‘Allah and His Messenger know best.’ [look at his (ra) adab; he didn’t try to guess and score some CP points!] He said, ‘He was Jibrael who came to you to teach you your deen’.”

Now I’m going to open this up for you that how this is the beginning of studying deen. It begins with the last line ‘He was Jibrael who came to you to teach you your deen’. This is a very beginning, elementary definition, to what is deen. Deen means:

  • Iman
  • Islam
  • Ihsan
  • Social Reality [knowing that there is something coming i.e. the Hour; end of the world, and knowing the signs that will reveal the coming of that time.]

So all four of these constitute deen. Part of deen is to understand these three things i.e. iman, Islam and ihsan. Another part is this notion that there is an end of times which is a notion of the future. One is the historical past, one is the vision of the future. And secondly, there will be signs that indicate the decline that will lead to the end — that’s the understanding of a society. In modern terms we will call this Sociology. It’s an understanding of a social reality.

It is also implying that for deen, you need to be aware of the social reality, because, why are signs given? Signs are given for you to prepare, but if you don’t have your pulse on society and you don’t have a social reality, you will not be able to perceive those signs, you will not be able to take the heed which Allah (swt) wants you to by telling you of those signs. It means that part of deen is knowing there is a future as an end of the world, and that future is going to be marked by spiritual decline, and for this a person must be tracking the spiritual decline in society. Therefore, you can see why I have mentioned this notion of historical approach.

Disciplines of Islamic Learning

Following disciplines emerged in Islamic learning from the above mentioned constituents of deen:

Ilm al Kalam: First discipline that emerged was the study of iman, that was the subject matter of aqidah and kalam. This was a whole area of learning with a whole spectrum of scholars, again, across time, in historical context, who were also trying to capture the universal meanings of truths; a whole series of scholarship; books, treatises, discussions, debates, disagreements, consensuses taken on this question of iman – this is known as ilm al-kalam, or ilm al-aqai’id.

Ilm al Fiqh: Second, on the notion of Islam, Blessed Prophet (sws) has mentioned some of our obligations: prayer, fasting, zakah, hajj. A whole realm of scholarship developed around the study and understanding of this and that is known as ilm al-fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) and we will be covering it a few days later. It means to understand the commands and wishes of Allah (swt) from the sources of deen, from the Qur’an and Sunnah; to derive an understanding from the textual sources of Islam.

For example, here we understand that we have to fast. But what is fasting? How long is the fast? What breaks the fast? That’s not mentioned in this hadith. It’s mentioned that you should pray, but how do you pray? How many raka’at are in a prayer? What will invalidate your prayer? What are those things that, if you forget, you can make up for with two extra sajdahs? That’s not mentioned in this hadith. So a whole world was developed called the ilm al fiqh; which another whole area of study.

Ilm al Tazkiyah: Third was what is ihsan? A whole world was developed on this as well, we were given a target: worship Allah (swt) as if you see Him. First of all, what does that even mean? What does it mean that you worship Allah (swt) as if you are seeing Him? These are the things that are beyond the realm of rationality. Your rational mind will tell you I cannot see Allah (swt), but Blessed Prophet (sws) is saying worship as if you see Allah (swt). Obviously, there has to be something beyond rationality, some way of learning, some understanding.

This is the realm of the spiritual approaches. This is known as ilm al tazkiyah; the knowledge of spiritual purification. Later some people gave it the name tasawwuf, but its original, classical name is ilm al tazkiyah. It’s about how to create those feelings in yourself. If you cannot get the feeling that you are looking at Allah (swt) then know that Allah (swt) is looking at you.

Some people when they narrate this hadith, they use the word ta’budallah; make ibadah, it means all ibadah, not just the salah, not just the daily prayer. If you recite the Qur’an, recite it in a way that you feel as if you are seeing Allah (swt). If you recite durud sharif, salawat, do it in a way as if you are seeing Allah (swt). It can even be taken to mean a broader sense of ibadah; if you are doing any relief work, any humanitarian work, khidmet for society, even if you are spending time with your family (any and every aspect of your life, with the right intention, can be construed as ibadah of Allah swt) so it means do all of that with the feeling in your heart as if you are seeing Allah (swt).

How does a person do that? How does a person spend their whole life such that this feeling is always there? So we need some understanding for that. This needs to be opened up in tafseel; we need to learn it and be trained in it in order to acquire this. Why? Because this is also a part of your deen. This is why it is a great mistake that people make when they say that in Islam you just need to do these five things. Look at this hadith; Islam also means that you need to have this iman, it also means that you worship Allah (swt) with such feelings, and it also means that you have awareness of social reality; of the notion that the humanity is going on decline.

Tools of Analytical Interpretation

1. Intellectual Approach

a. Turning the knob

I’m going to go back to the hadith-e-Jibrael and show you a way the deen is analyzed i.e. its analytical study. I will start with this very last thing which are the signs of the Hour:

“The slave-girl will give birth to her mistress”

Some things in Islam are literal; we can understand them just by the linguistic meanings. For example, make hajj if you are able to. Understood. But what does this mean that the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress? When you are going into an analytical study of Islam, the question is that will you always take the text literally, or are you open to the idea that maybe the literal meaning is not only what is intended, maybe the literal meaning is a metaphor.

This is something we call turning the knob. The knob is the interpretive scope that you want to apply on any verse of Qur’an or any text of hadith. If you keep the knob at zero, the meaning is only literal i.e. there is a girl who is a slave who will grow up to have a daughter, and somehow that daughter will become free and she will choose to buy her mother as a slave, thus she will enslave her own mother. There is no metaphor here, no deeper meaning, no general meaning. That’s quite difficult to imagine. It’s almost impossible that someone would become free and enslave her own mother. But, strictly speaking, because now this is a faith-based element, our faith in the Blessed Prophet (sws) demands us to believe that that might very well happen. Allah (swt) knows best, I may not be able to see how it will happen, but there may come a time in the world when this will happen, and when that literally happens, I will understand it as the sign of the Hour.

Second option is to turn the knob a little, so lets say I turn it to 1. Here we will open up the meaning a little bit. Maybe Blessed Prophet (sws) is telling me a deeper meaning so I have to read into that language. The lesson we derive from the literal text is that it would be a terrible thing to do for a daughter to enslave her own mother. So if we take this lesson, it would mean that the daughter would not respect her mother. We may even take the meaning that she will be so disrespectful to her mother, she will view herself as the mother and make herself a female master of her own mother.

If you turn the knob further at 2, you will get a wider meaning. You will still keep the literal meaning, and the second meaning that daughters will disrespect their mothers. Third, it is just generally referring to social disorder and chaos. It is the over-turning, flip-flop, of the natural order of things. So, for example, now in 2016 I could say that in some Western countries they believe in the same-sex marriage which, otherwise, classically, in the vast majority of Western history and even today among many people in the West, has been viewed to be strictly between a man and a woman. If I turn the knob at 3 and take this wider meaning, this is called in Arabic amoom al ma’ana; ta’leel fil ma’ana — to create a broader understanding in the meaning from the lafz (articulated word). Then I would say this is a role reversal. Role is supposed to be that man and a woman get married. Now they are saying that man and man can get married, or woman and woman can get married.

Now what happens is that, depending on where you turn the knob, it would determine whether the sign has occurred or not. If I turn the knob all the way to point 3, you might say that same-sex marriages are happening in the world so this is a sign that the day of judgement is coming near. If a person keeps the knob at zero, so there is no slave-girl yet who has given birth to her mistress, you might say that the sign hasn’t happened yet. So you see it has mass implications. When you open up and explore, you get a wide range of meaning, so the term we are going to use for this is turn the knob. How far will you turn the knob?

That is another question that who is allowed to touch the knob. If anyone could touch the knob, there’s going to be a problem. Even on sound control over here, we always designate people who are going to be doing the sound and presentation. If everyone jumped in then, like they say, too many cooks spoil the broth. This interpretation cannot be completely arbitrary or completely random. There needs to be some guidelines, some limitations. I’m not going to do those guidelines with you in this course. This is just for you to understand that all these things come up when you want to have an analytical understanding of your deen.

“Barefoot, naked, destitute shepherds will compete with one another in constructing tall buildings”

Here if you keep the knob at zero, you can actually see this happening if you ever travel to Saudi Arabia or any of the GCC countries. Part of it is a kinayah (metaphor) to indicate that they are extremely poor and they are being used to construct sky-scrapers, you can see this today even in Makkah Mukarma. If this is the interpretation, and if this is a sign that is there even within hudood-e-haram itself where you will find Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Egyptians and even some Indonesians now, very poor people, this is called migrant labor who are being given very low wages, living about 10 persons to a room to save some money to send back home, and what are they doing? They are constructing tall buildings. Dubai had the highest one, and now Saudis are saying that we are going to make the highest one, so there is this notion of competition. So besides the barefoot and naked part, if you keep the knob at zero, the literal meaning is there.

If you turn the knob a little bit, you can get a more general meaning from that. Lets turn the knob all the way to 3. This could mean materialism, capitalism, this notion of free competition in order to pursue materialistic ends. So basically, it’s about the knob. One interpretive tool is the knob. Another tool is explanation, that’s different from interpretation. For example, worship Allah (swt) as if you see Him. You need an explanation on how to do this. So you open it up, you get explanation. But here, in interpretation, you turn the knob. So this is the first aspect where I give you a glimpse of theology. So I showed you how, like this hadith, is studied, understood and analyzed.

b. Building the workshop

What is iman? You might think that why do I need to ask this question when you just showed me the hadith that Angel Jibrael (as) asked the Blessed Prophet (sws) this question. It’s already been done. And Blessed Prophet (sws) responded that iman is to believe in the angels, the books, prophets, day of judgement, and the decree that everything good and bad comes from Allah (swt). But the reality is that now when you understand anything, for example in the case of iman, you have to do a second thing called a workshop.

In order to get a deep analytical understanding of your deen, you have to go to Qur’an and take every single verse that has iman, mu’min, alazina amanoo, mu’mineen, and bring it all to the table. You have to build a workshop even if you want to answer this one question that what is iman. Then you have to go to the hadith and take everything where Blessed Prophet (sws) has told us about iman, has described iman, and defined iman, and bring all of that to the workshop. It’s not easy! Don’t think the analytical approach means that you just use your mind and try to guess what iman is. In any academic endeavor, there are some sources, there is certain literature, certain fundamental truths that you have to engage. In Islam the fundamental truths are the Qur’an and the Sunnah. The answer you will get even to such a central, crucial question as this, would be multiple, multi-layered and it might even sometimes appear to have contradictions.

c. Linguistic Analysis

There is another aspect to the intellectual approach, which is linguistics. I can go deep into Arabic linguistics, I can do what is called the etymological study, I can look at the roots of iman; ا م ن; iman (ایمان) is related to aman (امن). Can the Arabic language itself tell me something about what is iman? Yes, it can. I could say that iman and aman are derived from the same note so iman means aman; all the words that are derived from the same root have an interrelationship (nisbah) what we call in Arabic alaqatu tashbeeh (interrelationship in meaning), that’s also something I will bring to the table.

2. Historical Approach

Now were you to take the historical approach, it would add that how do all of these verses on iman have been understood historically by the tafsir tradition. So now I will add to the workshop every single mufassir’s commentary on every single verse of iman. Obviously, that is not necessarily binding upon me but it’s something I should look at. Similarly, I have to take every hadith scholar’s (muhadith) commentary and understanding and explanations (tashrih) of every hadith that mentions iman. I’m building a huge workshop, then I’m going to dive in and read all of that stuff and try to figure out the basic crux of what is iman.

3. Spiritual Approach

Spiritual means the living embodiment of deen; those individuals in the ummah who have had this iman, because, obviously, deen isn’t just about the theory. Deen must necessarily also have a practical, real, lived, exampled and legacy in a real living tradition. Those people who really are mu’mineen, saliheen mu’mineen, mutaqeen mu’mineen, zakireen mu’mineen, sadiqeen mu’mineen, awliya mu’mineen — all of these words are in Qur’an — what was their spiritual state? What was their condition that described the feeling of iman? What does it feel to have iman in a heart? What are those things that can increase or decrease the strength of iman in one’s heart?

Living tradition will tell me all of this. Sometimes these people expressed their iman in poetry, sometimes in prose, sometimes they wrote letters and treatises explaining what makes a person’s iman strong, or weak. I’ll have to add all of that from the spiritual, lived tradition, the legacy and practical aspects of iman. All of this needs to be done if you want to truly get an understanding of your deen; intellectual, spiritual, historical; the text, the context, the interpreted tradition, the linguistic aspects, the lived aspects, the feelings aspect — all of that just to answer this question that what is iman.

Positions on Iman

After the Islamic tradition built this workshop and they looked at all the things I’ve just mentioned to you, they came up with four answers to this question that what is iman.

  1. Heart: Iman is a feeling that lies in the heart only. Simply feeling the feelings of iman.
  2. Tongue: If someone expresses iman with their tongue i.e. they simply say ash’hadu an la ilaha illallahu wa ash’hadu anna muhammadan abduhu wa rasuluh, they just have to say it with their tongue and it will be enough for iman.
  3. Heart & Tongue: They have to do both. They must truly believe in it in their heart and they must also express it with their tongue.
  4. Heart, Tongue & Actions: Iman means to believe in your heart, to express it with your tongue, and to perform the actions of iman. The way they express it is that al ’amalu dakhil i.e. actions are a part of iman, they are not something separate.

Showing you the whole workshop would take up a lot of time. When I was a full-time student of Sahih Bukhari, its chapter on iman is like a dozen pages, and we had to spend a few hours everyday, 6-days a week, for a couple of months just to do kitab al iman, just to understand that one part of the workshop about those hadith that Imam Bukhari (rh) narrated on iman. There are many other hadith and verses, linguistics and all of that. So the workshop is very in-depth but I’ve fast forwarded it to show you the conclusion. There is no fifth conclusion that came out in the entire history of Islam.

Why is this important? Sometimes you might get a question; I’ll give you a very classic example. It happens many times in this community that there is a Pakistani boy who has gone abroad to study in America or UK and he comes back and he says that I want to marry this girl and it turns out that the girl was born to an Atheist family, and the girl is an Atheist. Now parents come to me that our son wants to get married to an Atheist! But you yourself had sent him abroad, you put him in a university which was an open minded decision you took, where he lived in an open society, in an open environment, with open interaction with the opposite gender, so when you created so much openness these things can happen. Then they say that we have explained to him that the girl must accept Islam and the girl has agreed.

What does it mean to accept Islam? So for some people it’s just about saying the sentence. So what she means is that look I really want to marry you and you want to marry me and all I have to do is say this sentence in front of a few people, so I’ll say the sentence and we will get married. Sometimes the parents are also happy with that. They say that son, as long as she is willing to say the sentence (they will euphemise it in a nice way) only Allah knows what’s in the heart. That’s true too; only Allah (swt) knows what’s in a person’s heart, but many times a person reveals their heart.

If somebody comes and says I’m an Atheist, I can’t say that only Allah (swt) knows if there is iman in his heart or not. Obviously Allah (swt) knows, but I also know now because he has said there is no iman in his heart. It doesn’t mean that the human being cannot know things; we can know things! But to know things we need to receive it from an authentic source. If someone else tells me something about someone, that’s not an authentic source. But if a person himself tells me that I don’t have iman in my heart, that’s an authentic source, it’s a source of knowledge, I’m entitled in my deen to say this person does not have iman because he himself told me that he doesn’t have iman.

What happens is that the girl says that I’m still an Atheist, but I’m willing to recite this sentence, and sometimes the boy’s parents will say that it’s fine as long as you recite the sentence. Now, it depends on what position you take. If you take the second position that iman is just reciting the sentence with the tongue, then you are good to go and you can get them married. But if you take any other position on the board, because all the other three have a heart, she will truly have to believe in her heart, but she’s saying I don’t do that, so this marriage will not be valid. That goes back to what social reality a person has. Your understanding of deen effects the issues of social reality.

There are so many issues like this. For example, who has to pay zakah? A person who just says it with their tongue, or a person who believes it in their heart? There are things like marriage where we do need to identify this question to determine as to who has iman or not. There are certain societal, family, collective, interpersonal aspects of Islam that require this question to be defined.

Defining the Boundaries: Inclusivism & Exclusivism

When you are talking about definitions (e.g. the definition of iman) to define something also means to create its border. The Arabic definition for border is hadd; hudood i.e. borders; to define something. In formal science concerned with definition, which is called taxonomy, you try to define things so precisely that it includes all elements of that set (inclusivism) and excludes all the elements that are not a part of that set (exclusivism).

It would mean to define iman so precisely that everyone who has iman would be included in that definition, and also people who don’t have iman should be excluded from that definition. That’s also a word in Qur’an and it’s called kufr; and there is a word kafir; kuffar — people who don’t have iman. That’s also a concept of Qur’an. Right now people are not learned enough to handle the topic of what is kufr in a sensitive, academic, non-violent, non-extremist manner. So right now I chose to do iman for which I gave you this much of an answer; howsoever you answer the question what is iman, it will also necessarily give you an answer to your question what is not iman. When you decide what is iman, you will, as a necessity, end up also deciding what is not iman.

[Cont’d here]


The State of Educational System in the Muslim World

Talk by Shaykh al-Islam Mufti Taqi Usmani
Translated by Umer Ansari 

[After salutations, peace and blessings upon Prophet Muhammad]

Peace be upon you all,

The President of the University (Darul-‘Ulum Karachi), Grand Mufti of Pakistan, my respected brother Mufti Rafi’ ‘Uthmani has stated on numerous occasions, and I have also been able to mention this idea Mufti Shafi’ ‘Uthmani had once articulated at a gathering: After the creation of Pakistan, we need a new educational system.

Before Pakistan was created, there were essentially three major Islamic educational systems in effect (in South Asia):

  • The system of Dārul-‘Ulum Deoband
  • The system of Aligarh Muslim University
  • The system of Darul-‘Ulum Nadwatul Ulama

In 1950 or 1951, Mufti Shafi’ ‘Uthmani said that after the creation of Pakistan, we do not need educational system of Aligarh, Nadwa, or Deoband anymore, rather we need a disparate educational system that follows in the footsteps of our predecessors (aslaf). It was strange that the Grand Mufti of Deoband would say that we do not need Deoband, instead we need a new educational system.

Akbar Allahabadi commented on these three major systems that were prevalent in India:

ہے دل روشن مثال دیوبند ، اور ندوه ہے زبان ہوشمند
اب علی گڑہ کی بهی تم تشبیہ لو ،  ایک معزز پیٹ تم اس کو کهو

In reality, the greater depth of my father’s vision was not comprehended because of which we are now faced with innumerable setbacks. These three educational systems in India were natural nor were they innate, they were rather borne out of a reaction to the educational system and colonization established by the British. If we were to look at our centuries-old educational system, we will not find any difference between them and the regular schools. From the very beginning until colonialism, the Islamic schools or universities provided both religious and secular education [1] together.

The Shari’ah has stipulated that it is not an individual obligation (Farḍ al-’Ayn) to become a scholar (‘alim), rather it is a communal obligation (Farḍ al-Kifayah) [2]. A town or a country having enough scholars will have its communal obligation fulfilled. However, it is an individual‘s obligation to learn the basic obligations of the Deen; this is incumbent upon every Muslim. So in the previous educational system, every Muslim would receive education to learn their individual obligations, and then, if they wanted to pursue higher education in the religious sciences, they had those opportunities available, and if a student wanted to pursue higher education in secular sciences, then they had those opportunities available as well.

A few days ago, my older brother Mufti Rafi’ ‘Uthmani was in Morocco. There are two major cities in Morocco — Marrakesh and Fes. I was in the city of Fes last year, and my brother also visited it this year. They have a university called University of Qayrawan which is still operational. If we were to look into our history, we would find four major Islamic universities:

  • The University of Qayrawan in Fes, Morocco
  • The University of Zaytuna in Tunis, Tunisia
  • The University of Al-Azhar in Cairo, Egypt
  • The University of Darul-‘Ulum Deoband in Deoband, India

Qayrawan University was established in the 3rd century Hijri (i.e. 9th century CE) in the city of Fes. In their records they have claimed — and I haven’t found any other claim against it — that it is not only the oldest university of the Muslim world, rather it is the oldest university in the entire world! What does this mean? In Qayrawan University, the curriculum then included the religious sciences like Tafsir, Hadith, Fiqh, along with Medicine, Mathematics, Astronomy and all the modern secular sciences that are now called the ‘Aṣri ‘Uloom [3].

Ibn Khaldun, Ibn Rushd (Averroes), and Qaḍi ‘Iyaḍ had taught there, along with a long list of our predecessors (aslaf), and their teaching spots are preserved to this day, including the spot where Ibn Khaldun and Ibn Rushd taught, the spot where Qaḍi ‘Iyaḍ gave lectures, and the spot where Ibn al-’Arabi al-Maliki taught. This is one of the oldest universities of the world. The smaller madaris would certainly have existed but the Qayrawan University existed as a university where all the religious and worldly sciences were taught (under one roof). Even today, the University has replicas of the scientific inventions that were developed in the 3rd and the 4th century Hijri from that university. Legendary Islamic religious scholars studied in this university along with the famous philosopher Ibn Rushd and other major scientists of that era.

Their system was designed as such to provide obligatory education to everyone, and then for higher studies in religion, the student would take relevant classes and for mathematics, medicine or other worldly sciences, the student would take those classes within the same Qayrawan University. Similar was the case in Zaytuna University (in Tunis) and Al-Azhar University (in Egypt).

All three of our oldest universities had such an educational system that you would find both Qaḍi ‘Iyaḍ, who was the Imam of Hadith and Sunnah, and Ibn Khaldun, who was the Imam of History, very similar in their appearances. One would not be able to identify who was the scholar of religious sciences and who was the scholar of worldly sciences. Their appearance, their clothing, their culture, their manner of speaking was similar. If you look at our scientists like Farabi, Ibn Rushd, and al-Biruni, their appearance was similar to our Mufassireen, Muhadditheen and Fuqaha. They used to pray, they knew the issues of Ṣalaḥ, and the issues of fasting. So the basic foundational knowledge that is an individual obligation upon every Muslim, was known to all Muslims, and it was taught to all the pupils across the board.

The separation occurred when the British came with their educational system and a well thought-out plan [4] to remove Deen from the land. Faced with this issue our elders were compelled to react in order to preserve the knowledge of individual obligations of the Muslims and thus they established Dārul-‘Ulum Deoband. However, the reality (of our educational system) was that which had existed in the Qayrawan University, Zaytuna University and in the preliminary days of Al-Azhar University.

If Pakistan would have been truly a Muslim state, then as my father had stated, we would not have needed Aligarh, Nadwa or Dārul-‘Ulum Deoband in the first place, instead we would have needed Qayrawan and Zaytuna University; a university that would have been the center of learning for all of the various sciences, with all of its graduates having the same foundation of the Deen whether they became engineers, doctors, or chose to tread the path in any other field.

The educational system that was imposed upon us — it only taught us to be intellectually enslaved. Akbar Allahabadi truly stated:

اب علی گڑہ کی بهی تم تشبیہ لو ،  ایک معزز پیٹ تم اس کو کهو

It completely destroyed the rich history and tradition of the Muslims. The result of this is the great divide evident among the Muslims, where one group that is graduating from this system does not even know their individual obligations (Farḍ al-’Ayn); they do not know what their individual obligations are =- they are completely unaware! Secondly, they have been conditioned to think that if they want to be progressive and think intellectually, then they must divorce their own system and look towards the West.

It is saddening to see graduates of this educational system, or doctorates, or professors, criticize the students of knowledge like us on a daily basis, accusing us of closing the doors to Ijtihad, as it used to have a significant place in the Qur’an, Sunnah and Fiqh. However, there are fields where the doors to Ijtihad are wide open, for example in science, technology, mathematics and other secular studies. Why did they not prepare Mujtahids that could have done Ijtihad in the field of medicine and contributed a new development in that field? Or those who could have contributed in the field of Astronomy? These fields were (and still are) wide open.

A few days ago, a fellow forwarded a clip in which a religious scholar was being questioned:

“Mawlana sahib, the contribution of Ulema is known but why is it that there has not been any scientist or doctor or a new invention from the Ulema? What do you have to say about this?”

Oh servant of God, you should have questioned yourself that with the education you have received, has there been a Mujtahid that has invented a new thing? Here, the doors of Ijtihad are sealed shut such that whenever anything is said by the Englishmen, it is accepted without any fact checking. If the West says that something is harmful to your health, then so it is; and if they say otherwise then so it becomes? For a couple of years, the egg yolk was thought to increase cholesterol level and thus it was considered harmful for the body, but now suddenly all the doctors are saying that egg yolk is fine to consume and there is no harm in it. Why is that? It is so because the West said that it is fine to consume, so you accepted that it must be true without any research. There are plenty of herbs across our lands, why have you never researched them to find their medicinal use? The Blessed Prophet (sws) has mentioned the benefits of black cumin (kalonji), why have you never researched on it?

Acquiring knowledge once used to be a respectable venture to serve the people — to serve the creation of God, and that was the actual objective of learning. If through this venture a person would acquire any economic gains, that would have been a side benefit. Today, the sole objective of seeking knowledge is for economic gains — to learn as much as you can so that you can take as much wealth out of another’s pocket. Your knowledge is only beneficial if you can earn more than other people?

Look around and see how many people are studying and graduating with a Master’s and PhD degree. Look at their intentions as to why they are studying. They are studying so that they can have a good career, so that they can get a good job, and so that they can earn more money.

The concept of education has been overturned by making the object of learning just earning money. There is no concept of serving the community and humanity in this educational system. The result is that everyone is engaged in a race to earn more and more, and they do not have any concern for their community, or a desire to serve people or the humanity. They are busy day and night in earning as much as they can, so much so that people have resorted to deceit, theft, and murder. From among the people who have graduated from this system, how many have served humanity and benefited the people?

We were taught by the Messenger of Allah (sws), peace and blessings be upon him, not to engross ourselves in this dunya, and not to make this dunya our sole objective, however, this educational system flipped that worldview. So my respected father used to say that we need to re-overturn this post-colonial mindset, and go back to tread the path that was shown to us by Qayrawan University and Zaytuna University and the path that was shown to us by the early days of Al-Azhar University, as its system has also been overturned.

Since we could not get that system established at a governmental level, we at least tried to preserve the system of Darul-‘Ulum Deoband, and because of that, madaris were established.

However, we want our people to step by step move towards that system that we once had, and towards that end, you have watched the presentation preceding this lecture. By the grace of God, we have madaris spread across the nation (of Pakistan) and they are fulfilling the communal obligation, and they are probably just 1% of the nation. The 99% of the nation that is attending the prevalent system, and the way they are becoming intellectually enslaved to the Englishmen; I often advise both male and female teachers that for God’s sake take this generation out of this intellectual enslavement, and give them a vision of a free people and a free nation that possesses freedom of thought.

Not everything that comes from the West is bad, as there are many things that are also good. So take the good that the West has, and leave the bad. If we act on this principle then we can reach our desired destination.

Allama Iqbal has commented on this in beautiful [Persian] couplets:

قوت مغرب نہ از چنگ و رباب , نی ز رقص دختران بی حجاب
محکمی او را نہ از لادینی است , نی فروغش از خط لاتینی است
قوت افرنگ از علم و فن است , از ہمین آتش چراغش روشن است
حکمت از قطع و برید جامہ نیست , مانع علم و ہنر عمامہ نیست

“The power of the West comes not from lute and rebeck,
not from the magic of tulip-cheeked enchantresses,
its solidity springs not from irreligion,
its glory derives not from the Latin script.

The power of the West comes from science and technology,
and with that selfsame flame its lamp is bright.
Wisdom derives not from the cut and trim of clothes;
the turban is no impediment to science and technology.” [5]

[Parts of speech have been omitted for clarification]


[1] ‘Aṣri ‘Uloom (عصری علوم) has been translated as worldly sciences or secular education.
[2] Farḍ al-’Ayn (فرض العین) is an individual obligation that every Muslim is obligated to know about and fulfill it. For example, the 5 daily obligatory prayers.
Farḍ al-Kifāyah (فرض الکفایه) is a communal obligation. If a significant people from a community fulfill it then it is fulfilled on behalf of the entire community, but if no one fulfills it then the entire community is sinful. Example of this is the Funeral Prayer.
[3] See footnote [1] above.
[4] Reference is being made to Lord MaCaulay’s plan that systematically removed Persian, Urdu and Arabic as a language of instruction, and forced English in the schools in British India.
[5] The English translation of the Persian couplets are by A.J. Arberry

(This was an English translation of a 30 minutes talk by Shaykh Mufti Muhammad Taqi ‘Uthmāni given at the “Adae Shuker” ceremony on March 15, 2016 that was organized by the Hira Foundation School, which is a division of Dārul-‘Ūlūm Karachi. Link of the original lecture:–ane5Xk)

Free-will and Predestination

Introducing the Debate

The debate is how helpless is the man vs. how much authority he has – this is a very vast topic. Philosophers have debated it in different ways, for example in Existentialism.

There are two premises we have to take into account at the onset. First, Allah (swt) is al-Aleem; He has all the knowledge, including what has come to pass and what will happen in the future. Allah (swt) has Transcendental nature which means Allah (swt) has created time but Allah (swt) is pure from the limitedness of time. There is no past, present or future for Allah (swt). We understand past as a time that has elapsed, and a new time that will come as our future. Allah (swt) does not view time like that.

Imagine there is a board and on that board you draw past, present and future linearly. The time represented on the board is linear, but at the same time if you look at the board, past, present and future will be visible at one glance. This is a bit difficult to grasp but crucial in order to understand the nature of this debate.

Secondly, Allah (swt) is al-Qadir; He is the Faail-e-Haqeeqi i.e. the Real Doer. Any action can only occur by the allowance and decree of Allah (swt).

The Paradox

Considering Allah swt is al-Aleem i.e. His knowledge encompasses everything from past and future, and Allah swt is also al-Qadir over everything, so what is the standing of a man’s effort? How much control do we have?

One position could be that Allah swt has control over everything and man has no control whatsoever. Allah (swt) will choose for us and force us to do the action.

وَلَوۡ شِئۡنَا لَأَتَيۡنَا كُلَّ نَفۡسٍ هُدَٮٰهَا
And if We had so willed, We would have led everybody to his right path (by force). [32:13]

If we assume that the human race is completely helpless i.e. it does not matter how much good deeds they do, they will still go to hell, if it was destined for them, then the root of our deen will be dissolved. Because then there is no need to work hard or to do good deeds.

A person may think that I will not do anything because Allah (swt) will make me do it anyway, so I don’t have to bother. Such a person while doing grocery shopping may keep standing in line saying that Allah (swt) will get everything done so I’m just waiting. This is a ridiculous situation.

Second position could be that the man is in complete control over everything. Imagine what life on Earth would be like in this case. If a man could control everything, then he would want to know the future. There is a certain kind of knowledge that a man cannot handle, for example, to know when and where a person would die. With the constant fear of death looming over him, it would be very hard for him to take any action. Second, if he knows before-hand this person is going to betray him, this will be the outcome of this decision, this person will have these situations in life, it will make no sense to reward him for his choice because he already had the knowledge.

Third position is that Allah (swt) knows everything completely and absolutely, but the man is in control of his own actions. However, there are some parameters that Allah (swt) has set for the man and he will act within those limits. They are not majboor in their actions. You should be clear about this because sometimes people are not able to differentiate between knowing and doing.

For example, Allah (swt) knows how we are going to spend this Ramadan. But will this knowledge effect our actions? Even the person who is close to you can easily predict what you are going to do next, and in fact that is exactly what they do. Because of their closeness to you, it is easy for them to make the predictions.

A mother knows how her child will respond to a certain situation. Allah (swt) knows a man better than he knows himself. So Allah (swt) knows what we will do in future. But this knowledge does not mean that this prediction will have an effect on our actions. This is also because Allah (swt) is not bounded by time. We are time-bound and for us events happen sequentially. For Allah (swt) past, present and future are all existing together.

Another example is of a professor who knows before-hand about a student who has not attended any class that he will fail the course. And he does. He does not fail because the professor had predicted that, rather he failed because he had missed the classes.

Role of Nature & Nurture

Nature: If a man has the genes of generosity and his child also inherits it, or a man has a genes of excessive anger, and his son also inherits this, so people debate that what is the fault of the person if this is in his genes and nature?

For example, if there is a person in Philadelphia who is very angry by nature because of which he is often violent with his wife, we would naturally say that he should get himself treated even though he claims he inherited it from his parents. If you have a problem then you should get yourself treated accordingly.

Nurture: If how you have been brought up is the only thing that effects your actions then the son of Nuh (as) should not have been an infidel. Nature and nurture kind of encompass us but within those boundaries we have a choice for our actions.

Every heart has the ability to accept haq (the Truth). Whenever we come across haq, our hearts recognize it as the truth. Then we have a choice to either accept it or reject it. When we keep rejecting the truth, then our hearts are hardened.

وَلَا يَكُونُواْ كَٱلَّذِينَ أُوتُواْ ٱلۡكِتَـٰبَ مِن قَبۡلُ فَطَالَ عَلَيۡہِمُ ٱلۡأَمَدُ فَقَسَتۡ قُلُوبُہُمۡ‌ۖ وَكَثِيرٌ۬ مِّنۡہُمۡ فَـٰسِقُونَ
They must not be like those to whom the Book was given before, but a long period passed on them (in which they did not repent), therefore their hearts became hard,
and (thus) many of them are sinners. [57:16]

Allah (swt) has sent prophets (as) so that people who do bad deeds would start doing good deeds. This was the sole purpose of sending guidance. The people in history have killed prophets and have gone at wars with them. Despite this constant rejection, Allah (swt) still sent His guidance. Every person has already seen Allah (swt):

وَإِذۡ أَخَذَ رَبُّكَ مِنۢ بَنِىٓ ءَادَمَ مِن ظُهُورِهِمۡ ذُرِّيَّتَہُمۡ وَأَشۡہَدَهُمۡ عَلَىٰٓ أَنفُسِہِمۡ أَلَسۡتُ بِرَبِّكُمۡ‌ۖ قَالُواْ بَلَىٰ‌ۛ شَهِدۡنَآ‌ۛ
(Recall) when your Lord brought forth their progeny from the loins of the children of ’Adam, and made them testify about themselves (by asking them,) “Am I not your Lord?”
They said, “Of course, You are. We testify.” [7:72]

Everyone has the seed of love for Allah (swt) in their hearts. With a little grooming that seed will grow. Everyone holds the potential to accept haq.

Role of Consent in Being Created

Another debate is people object why was I created in the first place when I did not agree on being created? A lot of Existentialists ask this question. By being created we can get the opportunity to get qurb (proximity) of Allah (swt). For example, when a child is taken to a park, he is being given the opportunity to have fun there, but if the child keeps on crying in a corner, that’s his choice. Being born is a thing of joy because every child is a potential wali of Allah (swt).

وَإِذۡ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلۡمَلَـٰٓٮِٕكَةِ إِنِّى جَاعِلٌ۬ فِى ٱلۡأَرۡضِ خَلِيفَةً۬‌ۖ
(Remember) when your Lord said to the angels,
“I am going to create a deputy on the earth!” [2:30]

Christians have this concept that our creation was to compensate for the original sin. Look at what Allah (swt) is offering you! He is saying that you have been sent here as the Khalifa (representative) of Allah (swt).

Why Forever?

Some people have panic attacks thinking they will live for an infinite amount of time. To understand why the afterlife is forever, let’s take the example of an old man who is an Atheist. You go to him and say that you have spent your whole life denying Allah (swt), now that your time of death is near so why don’t you take imaan at least now? He does not take imaan and says even if I were to live forever, I would continue to deny Allah (swt) (nauzubillah).

Then there is a pious old man who has been worshiping Allah (swt) his entire life. And you tell him that you have spent enough time worshiping Allah (swt) so why don’t you just relax now? He will say no, even if I was given forever I would never stop worshiping Allah (swt).

Hadith: ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattab relates that he heard the Messenger of Allah (sws), say,

Verily actions are by intentions, and for every person is what he intended. [Agreed upon]

So the reward according to the intention is that the pious man will forever live in heaven because he intended to obey Allah (swt) forever. And the Atheist will forever remain in hell because he intended to forever deny Allah (swt).

Now imagine there is a third old man who is a Muslim, but sometimes he does good deeds and sometimes he does bad deeds. The way to purify a sinner who has not repented is that he will be burnt in hell (illa mashaAllah i.e. Allah (swt) may forgive them out of His Mercy) till they are purified, then they will go to heaven. This is because the intention of this man was to go to Jannah but unfortunately his actions were not up to the mark. Contrary to this, the pious old man had both his intention and actions up to the mark so he would directly go to heaven. And the Atheist had neither intention nor action so he will go to hell.

Allah (swt) is Infinite – Allah (swt) has been since time immemorial and will remain for evermore. Allah (swt) created man who is time-bound but Allah (swt) wants the man to be infinite as well. Allah (swt) created man so that they are granted Jannah, which is a place that will last till eternity. The asal (real purpose) of insan is Jannah, and with the right actions his destination is also heaven. But Allah swt is also al-Muqsit (the Just One), which means that someone who has done no effort should not get the same reward as the person who has done the effort.

The Question of Evil

People say that if Allah (swt) is the All Merciful then why is there evil in the world? So imagine the world with no evil in it. For example, a man is going to kill someone, but Allah (swt) intervenes and stops him because He is al-Qadir, He has the power to do so, and says no you cannot kill this man. Then will imaan bil ghayb (belief on the Unseen) remain? Imaan is definitely only on the unseen, and if people were able to see and witness directly the power and might of Allah (swt), that is mushahida. On the Day of Judgement even the kuffar will say that we believe:

وَلَوۡ تَرَىٰٓ إِذِ ٱلۡمُجۡرِمُونَ نَاكِسُواْ رُءُوسِہِمۡ عِندَ رَبِّهِمۡ رَبَّنَآ أَبۡصَرۡنَا وَسَمِعۡنَا فَٱرۡجِعۡنَا نَعۡمَلۡ صَـٰلِحًا إِنَّا مُوقِنُونَ
And (you will wonder) if you see the sinners hanging their heads before their Lord (and saying,) “Our Lord, we have now seen and heard, so send us back, and we
will do righteous deeds. Surely, (now) we are believers.” [32:12]

But Allah (swt) will say now it is that you believe? It means that now it’s too late to believe because now you have seen. Now you have done mushahida – it is not belief when you have seen something clearly.

قُلۡ يَوۡمَ ٱلۡفَتۡحِ لَا يَنفَعُ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوٓاْ إِيمَـٰنُهُمۡ وَلَا هُمۡ يُنظَرُونَ
Say, “On the day of decision their belief will not be of any use
to disbelievers, nor shall they be given any respite.” [32:29]

At times Allah (swt) does send help from ghayb (unseen). But this is not the norm. Allah (swt) has created a system to stop the evil and that is called ehsan, shariah and sunnah. Allah (swt) wants evil to be removed from this world. One man who was in IMF of some organization of this sort, and he was saying that if all the rich people gave away a small portion of their wealth then world poverty will be eradicated. If the system created by Allah (swt) was followed, poverty would be eliminated.

Sometimes we suffer because of the nafs of another person [i.e. injustice]. Nabi (sws) says that mu’min has good even if some blessing comes their way or some evil comes their way. Because when they are grateful, they get reward and when they show patience, they also get reward.

On the authority of Suhaib (ra) he said: The Prophet (sws) said:

Amazing is the affair of the believer, all of his affair is good. If something of good/happiness befalls him he is grateful and that is good for him. If something of harm befalls
him he is patient and that is good for him” (Sahih Muslim)

Allah (swt) has told us what we should and should not be doing. If the people do not stop their evil actions and Allah (swt) has to forcefully stop them then imaan bil ghayb will not remain.

One reason for having evil is that people can recognize and appreciate goodness. When we look at evil in our society, we crave for goodness all the more, and will be motivated to achieve it, and it is also a way to test us.

Some people debate that Allah (swt) has not created evil, because creating evil is bad, and attributing it to Allah (swt) would be wrong. It is important to distinguish between creating evil and doing evil. Creating evil is not a bad thing. Doing evil is a bad thing. The university system has both an F grade and an A grade. The university wants its students to get A’s. However, some students do not work hard enough and end up getting F’s. It’s a failure owing to the choice they have made which cannot be attributed to a fault in university’s system.

Marriage Workshop – Session I

[These are brief notes from the first session of Marriage Workshop conducted by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed]

What does a woman want

If you divert your attention and only listen to her half-heartedly, she would know. That’s not respect. That’s disrespectful. The wife feels like I’m his life companion, here I’m sharing my thoughts with him and he’s not even listening to me. So she gets upset and frustrated. And she’s right in doing so. That’s her taqwah that she keeps talking to you. If you don’t listen to her there will be someone else out there willing to lend her the ear. You can fill in the rest of the blanks yourself.

Just like a man feels that the wife is not fulfilling me, the woman can feel the same way. The husband should be a means of bringing her to good. Scolding your wife in front of the children is disrespectful. One thing is to reprimand her, and one is to do it disrespectfully. You can make her understand. But if you do it disrespectfully she will only feel hurt. Sometimes the husband does it in a bragging way. It means he is flattering himself by hurting his wife’s heart. He is showing that he is the man and can talk to her in front of others like that.

The woman’s emotional need is devotion. She wants his devotion. How do you express your devotion? Expressing devotion means you give her priority. If you pick up her phone on 1st ring, she would acknowledge it as a sign of devotion. If there’s a problem, instead of beating about the bush, you can just tell her clearly that I’m busy at such and such time etc. But she needs to feel she is not at the bottom of the priority list.

Husband should never say: I’ll find someone better than you.

What does a man want

A husband wants support from his wife. He needs emotional support. When he makes a decision, he doesn’t want her to second guess him. He needs her to support him even if the decision is wrong. He doesn’t need you to tell him that you can’t do anything right. He already has too many people against him. He needs support in how to get out of that blunder. Saying you don’t do anything right is like kicking the man when he’s down. You don’t know what that support means to him. That’s when you should bring your co-operative side. When he’s down bring in your support.

Wife should never ever say: You don’t do anything right. If you criticize your husband like that he will automatically turn away from you.

The husband wants that his wife should accept him. The job of husband is to change for the better, the job of the woman is to accept him as he is. We are not talking about haram stuff. But generally the certain way he does things, maybe he’s not the most handsome, refined person to walk the face of this earth. The same way wife feels he should accept her, the same way the wife should accept him. Many good wives are exactly precisely like this with their husbands.

A husband wants the wife to emotionally praise him. Especially in front of her own parents. You are mistaken if you think he doesn’t have emotional needs. He will never ask you for it. But he needs it. If a woman communicates to me for help and all she does is complain then I turn my ears off – there’s something wrong there. Wife should never be all complaining and never praising. Once I even asked is there anything good? And she said no! Never be all complaining.

This is also a kind of gheebah. You should not say my husband did this. If you sincerely want advice say what if a man does this or this? That woman who doesn’t complain behind her husband’s back, won’t do it in front of him either. If you do it in front of them then he knows you will do it behind his back also. Men know this.

Never to be Second Guessed
When it comes to children, sometimes the men will enter into the realm of the wife. The wife should never second guess the husband. If he tries to get involved with the kids, don’t stop him, don’t laugh at him. You can observe silently and wait and talk to him later. That will also give you a more relaxed tone. It would not become an unwelcomed comment.

Sometimes a man wants to embark on something good but he’s a little bit unsure. The role of the wife is if she feels this is best for his akhira, she needs to encourage him to that deed, she needs to play the famous role of the woman behind him.

DON’T treat one another the way you want to be treated

The wife makes the mistake that she treats the husband the way she wants to be treated. He is not a woman! This golden rule does not apply when there is a gender difference! Fulfill his male emotional needs, not female emotional needs! Same for men: don’t treat your wife the way you want to be treated. If there’s a car that runs on gas, and you put diesel in it, it won’t work.

Mistake a man makes

Husband does not spend enough exclusive time with his wife. You have to make time out to sit with your wife, alone, separate from the joint family. Sunnah: take her out for a walk. Because a woman needs her own dedicated time when the husband sits, eats, talks to her.

Mistake a woman makes

If the husband makes a decision she doesn’t agree with, she doesn’t follow it. If you live in a country and there is a law you don’t agree with, you still have to follow it. You have to follow it even if you don’t agree. This has a lot of barakah in it.

Sometimes women get overly suspicious of the husband. She doesn’t believe anything he says. She starts denying and spying. Can you imagine the effect it can have on a person? How will the investigation affect him if he is innocent? How will he feel about those who make those charges against him?

Husband makes the mistake that he becomes overly possessive of his wife. Not talking about cases when someone is guilty, there the spouse has to be cautious. Once there was a case of a fellow married man in UK. He imprisoned his wife at home. She was literally locked in the house. He made sure the home was stocked with food and other requirements but the woman could not leave the house for a long period of time. The result was that the marriage fell apart. That was the husband being overly possessive. This is if the wife is innocent. She couldn’t even call her own mother. Even the husband attested to this that she was completely innocent.

Example of Misunderstanding
Once some children were talking with mother and had a disagreement. They were asking whether to do something this way or that way. Husband walks in and he doesn’t know the wife had already told the kids to do A. Husband says do it B way. Wife gets upset. This is completely unreasonable! This shows a lack of respect.

Example of Respecting One’s Wife
Once Syedna Rasool Allah sws was travelling with Safiya ra, in a wedding procession she couldn’t climb on the camel. Prophet sws went there and asked her to step on his sws thigh and then step on the camel. This is a way of respect. If Syedna Rasool Allah sws can offer his body then why can’t we do something like this for our wife?

Example of Devotion to the Wife
Syedna Rasool Allah sws married ummul momineen Syedna Khadija ra when he was 25. For so many years of his life, he was a one-woman man. This is also a sunnah that you have to do. Women need to be deprogrammed. They need to stop accepting this! What would you love for your own daughter? Love for your wife what you would love for your own daughter. The women are young they don’t understand this. This is a big problem in UK.

So after marriage, Syedna Rasool Allah sws married Syedna Aisha ra and loved her so much. Then Khadija’s ra sister came and he (sws) heard her voice and said Aisha Aisha its Khadija’s voice! She asked him (sws) later why were you so happy when you thought it was her voice? He (sws) replied Aisha she was with me when everyone was against me. Allah has put so much love for her in my heart there is nothing you can do to take it away from me. This is the sunnah devotion. Syedna Rasool Allah sws gave so much devotion to his (sws) wife.

Example of Accepting Husband the Way He is
Prophet’s (sws) daughter Zainab ra was married to a non-believer before the manifestation of naboowat. During migration, Zainab ra did not migrate to Madina and lived with her husband. She wanted to go to Madina, wanted him to accept imaan but she showed him that I accept you the way you are. She offered her mother’s necklace to free her kafir husband who had gone out on badr to kill prophet (sws)! (He (ra) later accepted Islam after Zainab (ra) passed away).

Example of Praising the Husband
Syedna Aisha ra once told Prophet (sws) that you (sws) are more dear to me than butter and dates.

Example of Support
When Syedna Fatima ra and Syedna Ali ra were really poor, one day they made some simple basic food for iftar. Syedna Ali ra gave all the food to a beggar but wife didn’t say anything.

Easy and simple way is to make your life the sunnah way. That’s easy. Making point by point notes is difficult and is the long way. The more and more husband and wife follow sunnah, the more their marriage will become successful.

Investment and communication
Example of investment is like a gardener. When a gardener puts seed in the ground he is always putting water and fertilizer to nurture it. No one else knows. People trample the seed with their food. But he keeps caring for the seed because he has faith in it. Then when the seed sprouts, he puts a stick and trims the leaves. The more and more he invests time in it, the more and more he can bear fruit and flowers from it. The couple is the co-care-takers and gardeners of the seed of marriage.

Husband and wife also have to learn the body language of the marriage. The gardener can look at the color of leaves and shape can tell that something is going wrong. Sometimes husband and wife are not able to read one another’s body language. Sometimes they can’t say too many words. Ideally, be so much tuned into the needs of your spouse that you understand what they want even before they talk about it. This can also happen. But that’s up to us if we want to give that level attention. Husband also sometimes doesn’t understand the signals or expressions of the wife.

Hadith: Story of 11 women 

Once 11 women got together for a gathering and a meal. Each one of them said today we will talk about our husbands openly and clearly! This is the gist of it:

  1. My husband is like the camel on top of the mountain. There is no easy path (to climb up to him) and he is heavy and fat (doesn’t come down). [They are talking in symbols.]
  2. I’m not going to spread the news, what if he leaves me? [She didn’t say anything but said a lot with this statement. Shows her insecurity.]
  3. If I speak, he will give me a divorce, if I keep quiet then he will keep me [he is short-tempered and my only solution is to not say anything].
  4. He is like the cool spring night but I’m still afraid of him [She felt comfortable with him but at the same time he still had his jalal]
  5. He is like a lion on the outside, but he is generous on the inside. [Very strong personality, but very soft and generous in house].
  6. My husband eats all the food and drinks all the water, he drools when he sleeps and doesn’t even inquire about his partner.
  7. Either astray, and wounds people easily [he argues a lot and hurts others].
  8. Soft like a rabbit and fragrant like summer grass [very handsome and fragrant]
  9. Very tall and very generous [well-known and people would come to him for advice].
  10. My husband is maalik and he is beyond any praise.
  11. My husband’s name is Abu Zara and he has pleased me and I have become so happy that I feel proud of myself. My children are also very nice. [End of story is that Abu Zara ends up leaving his wife. She gets married for the second time, she says he still gave me more than the 2nd husband has ever given me].

Lessons from the hadith

a. Women speak in symbols. They have a symbolic language and men sometimes need to read between the lines.

b. A woman needs the assurance that you will never divorce her. It’s a sunnah way of saying, I will keep you like a queen and I will never ever divorce you.

What Women Say and What They Mean

We never ever go out: Husband will say we just went out a month ago! Actually she means symbolically. She never speaks literally. She means I need some time to go out of the house. Don’t treat her words on face value. She means take me out. You need a translator for this.

Everyone ignores me: Husband says I don’t ignore you! That is not the answer. It means I need your attention now. She means you have gotten so involved in everything I don’t know when you are coming and when you are going. She means don’t spend too much time on work.

This house is always a mess: Husband says not always. She means I want you to make it tidy NOW.

Nobody ever listens to me: Husband says I listen to you… sometimes! It means listen to me NOW. This is called melodramatic behavior, no offence to women. This is a tendency in women. That’s the way they are. She is not giving factual historical statements. She means I like spending time with you. I miss spending time with you. If the husband could translate that he would be happy to know this.

There’s no point in me saying anything anymore: Different husbands will give different reactions to this (laughs). What she means is that it’s not your words that will help me, it’s your actions that will help me. I don’t want your words I want your love.

What Men Say and What They Mean

Give me some space I don’t want to talk: That’s what they mean. In some sense this is a sunnah of Syedna Rasool Allah sws. We want to escape and go into khalwa (solitude) during stressful situations. Example, Prophet sws used to go to Mount Hira. Men are like turtles, they retreat into their shells.

Men have their own way of dealing with this. Women have their own way, she says don’t go away, be here with me, I need to talk about it. Man needs time and she doesn’t understand his need for space. She starts probing and she starts thinking what’s going on. Then shaytan tries to answer for her. Whenever you ask the question that what’s going on? Shaytaan will answer for you, maybe he is having an affair etc. Then she insists even more forcefully. Maybe he just genuinely needed that time. Instead of drawing him into conversation, turn to Allah swt and make dua for him and make ruju to Allah swt.

When woman is upset she starts global broadcasting. She broadcasts it to anyone tuned into her channel. This is the complete opposite way of dealing with stress. A man consoles himself by dealing with grief individually.

Similarly, men should not say to women deal with your grief on your own, stop telling anyone, stop complaining, stop whining. She is going to share her grief. The man should give the wife the ear she needs. He should say, broadcast it to me! Share it with me. I should be the first one you should share it with.

Responsibilities of men

Allah swt has put certain responsibilities on both men and women. Spouse should understand this that these responsibilities need to be fulfilled!

Earning rizq-e-halal. The wife needs to understand and give him space for these responsibilities. Sometimes he may not pick up the phone. Deal with it.

Caring of parents. This is the Haq of mother over him. It’s a responsibility he has to fulfill. He simply must DO it. Sometimes these rights will make him spend time out of the home longer. Sometimes it will be out of his control.

Huqooq Allah. There are some things that he MUST do. He must go to masjid to offer salah. Yes you could say that I know you were chatting with friends after maghrib, come home early . But you cannot say don’t go to the masjid at all.

There are also some types of worship that are not a must do. But some men need to do them. They need it for their own salvation. Like sometimes he has to be in good company, getting ilm of deen and spending time in dhikr. All nafal ibaadah I’m calling it dhikr here. A person does dhikr in two sense.

One is for spiritual purification to stay away for sin that is fard.

Then there is another dhikr that is to get closer to Allah swt it’s strongly recommended, but it is not fard. But if husband feels its keeping him away from sin then it becomes wajib for him.

Men should remember to have a balance in these activities with the family. Give and take. Sometimes you have to be away to be with dawah or to be with the shaykh. Sometimes you have to take away time and give it to family. But it has to be give and take on both on both sides. Wife should realize that he needs it. And especially if it makes him better at deen. The more he will be better at deen, the better husband he will become.

Responsibilities of women

Haqooq Allah. Let her fulfill all of her faraid and wajibat. Sometimes it happens that the woman has not yet prayed her isha, let her pray isha. Have sabr, don’t put her in that situation that it becomes difficult for her to pray it.

Haqooq ul ibaad. Children have rights over her too. If the child wants to sleep with her, the man should let the child sleep with her. It’s her duty and she must fulfill it. Her parents also have rights over her. Going to her parents’ home and spending time with siblings etc. within a reason and certain level is also haqooq ul ibaad.

Managing the house.  I’m saying this openly that this is the woman’s job. Woman’s responsibility is managing that. If she needs to do something for the house you need to give her space for that.

A woman needs taqwah as much as men. But she can take less time out for that. If she can do it online then husband should be more lenient with her that you are not going anywhere and the children are also with you. The husband should be more accommodating in these things. If she feels she doesn’t feel anything in prayer, my tongue gets into backbiting then, it’s also wajib for her to engage in religious pursuits that will curtail these sins.

Cont’d in Session II 

Science, Rationality and the New Atheism

[These are rough notes from the second session of the workshop on Historical, Intellectual and Spiritual Approaches to Islam conducted by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed (db) in Karachi, on Jan 05, 2016]

Disclaimer: This is a purely educational course held to spread the teachings of Islam, with no intention of offending any sect or School of Thought.

Does Islamic Scholarship have a perspective and a vantage point on science? Is that perspective and vantage point academically robust, is it significant, is it able to address those issues where outwardly, initially and apparently science seems to contradict areas of Islamic belief and faith?

Basic Terminologies

First we will begin with some basic terminologies. I am going to read these things out to you and then we are going to look at them one by one; truth, reality, objectivity, subjectivity, relativity, true and false, and verification and falsification. These are some of the words that are used in the discussion of science and rationality, especially when people are discussing the concept of religion.

1. Truth and Reality. There are many philosophical ways in which a person can describe truth. One way to describe it is that truth is that which corresponds to reality. Interestingly, this philosophical formulation is there in ilmul kalam. Ilmul kalam is a science of theology which you are completely unaware of. Because people are more interested in ilmul aqaaid – Sunni sect, Shi’a sect, this sect, that sect. But ilmul kalam is almost virtually unknown still in the majority of educated Muslims today. In ilmul kalam, there is a huge discussion on what is sidq and what is kizb, or sometimes it is called kazib in Arabic; what is truth and what is falsehood. You will find volumes on this.

I am going to start with this, because science operates on the principles of rationality and empiricism and demonstrable proofs. So truth is that which is demonstrated, through some scientific method, to be that which corresponds to the reality. In Arabic we call this mutabiq al waqai; or mutabiq nafs e amar; in correspondence to what exists in reality.

So what is reality then? Reality is that which exists separately and independently from us. That’s what is called real. Now if you want to go into the ilmul kalam discussion on this, a very interesting discussion is when they talk about Allah swt’s attributes of Asma ul Husna, and one of His attributes is that He is al-Haqq, to the extent that He is Real, and relative to that everything else is unreal.

However, from a scientific and empirical perspective, that reality should be separately observable and known. But if you move into the area of Neuroscience and Psychology, it is a big question that are my hopes real? Are my dreams real? What empirical basis do my dreams have? If I tell you that I had a dream last night, is that real? Is it true? Am I speaking the truth? Is there any way you can empirically test that? Is that empirical? Is it falsifiable? It is a claim I will make.

If you insist on taking this way of life, that every single thing has to be understood by science; this is a perfect example that your dreams to what extent are they real, and to what extent did you truly see them, this is not fully able to be captured by science. No doubt, cognitive science will try to deconstruct the brain to different neurochemical reactions in different parts of the brain. But still, no true cognitive scientist will tell you that we have a complete exclusively scientific understanding of how, and exactly why, do people dream.

In layman’s terms, if I asked you if dreams were a reality, you would say yes. I would ask you why. You would probably say because I had a dream myself. I say, but that is not empirical. It is not falsifiable. It does not pass the scientific method. What you are actually saying is something called knowledge by experience. That is something different from knowledge by demonstration. We will come back to this later.

2. Objectivity, Subjectivity and Relativity. Is there any such real thing as objectivity? Is there one single perception, understanding of reality that can be called “objective”? A lot of philosophers will say no. On the other hand, if every single thing is subjective, and you have complete subjectivity, then you end up in this notion of complete relativity.

Let’s say if I try to put forth a proposition to you, like in philosophy and logic they put forth a proposition, that there is no objective reality. There is no way that I can have an objective way to prove that statement. If I take the opposite extreme, that there is no subjectivity, there is no objective proof that I can use to prove that statement.

So logic was the tool that we used, and this is a very important thing that we should know that in the Aristotelian world, logic was the litmus test for any “scientific” type of a statement.  And this is one of the great things that Imam al-Ghazali rah incorporated, and he took all of Aristotelian Logic in its entirety.

When you take that logic, you will realize that a lot of statements that you make, they are claims, but you cannot logically prove them. If I say there are both; there is both objectivity and subjectivity, I cannot prove that. Although that may resonate with us. But that is something else. That is not called science. That is called intuition.

Intuition means that statement that resonates with you to be true based on your own experience and understanding of the world. When I say “your own experience” then again we are back to subjectivity. But shouldn’t truth be something that is objective?

Then if you ask the question of religion, is Allah swt actually suggesting that in Qur’an when He says:

أَفَلَا تَعۡقِلُونَ
Have you then no sense?

That Allah swt has given you an aqal (intellect), and if you use it you will arrive at the single objective truth, which is the belief in the existence of Allah swt. Believe me, in ilmul kalam they talk about this a lot. It is a mistake that you think Philosophy and Science are the only ones to talk about these things. But you are not conversant and versed in the Classical Arabic Scholarly Tradition of your own deen.

3. True and False, Verification and Falsification. By this I mean to declare something decisively to be true, or to declare something decisively to be false. If you can definitively declare something to be true, that means you will invalidate everything else. There is no multiplicity left. If you definitely declare something to be false, you will end up in a process of invalidation and elimination.

In Science, at one level, they put forth a hypothesis. When they are fairly sure that something is true, they call it a theory. But as you know that there have been time, and up till right now cutting edge of science, they are constantly revisiting and reconsidering their theories. Sometimes they disprove their own theory.

The most famous example of this was the Theory of the Universe by Ptolemy. He felt that the Earth was the centre of the Universe. When you look at demonstration, his model that puts Earth at the centre of the Universe and the Sun rotating around the Earth, that did perfectly, and still today can perfectly predict the stars and constellations that appear in the sky.

If you say that science is about demonstration and empiricism, actually that method of astronomy passes the test of empiricism and demonstration. All of the astrologers, and all astronomers, may use these models – putting the Earth at the centre, knowing and thinking the Earth to be the centre, and that the Sun is rotating around us – and they could actually perfectly predict the stars and their constellations in the sky.

Today me and you know that is not true; Earth is not the centre. Sun is the centre, and because the Sun is the centre, it is called the Solar System, and Earth has been revolving around the Sun. I 100% accept that. But interestingly that additional scientific truth did not in any way help the humanity in being able to observe the stars.

The prediction of the constellations of the stars, the navigation from stars, was perfect in the Ptolemaic System, which was scientifically untrue. So what is untrue and what is false? We have used the untrue system to perfectly navigate through the oceans for centuries. So it is a relative thing; you are talking about frames of reference here.

Let’s suppose that I say that all truths are relative, even for that there is no scientific, decisive, empiric proof. So basically, all of these things cannot be determined and decided by science. These are the fundamental things; what is true, what is false. It does not mean that science can never do this. When science realized that in some things it can make the determination, so it is called verification and falsification.

How do you test the hypothesis? The first thing is that the hypothesis should be constructed in such a way that its premises are falsifiable. As in, what you do is that you keep trying to falsify them. You run these experiments, and you keep doing it, and you keep getting these sets of data, and you constantly try to falsify. But even then, strictly speaking in terms of pure Philosophy of Science, you are making the highest approximation of the certainty that you can, but you still cannot say that you have achieved certainty.

For example, if I tell you that science says that xyz is the speed of light. What if I say that did you factor the particles of dust in that light? Did you calculate the speed of light in a vacuum? You are talking about the light from the stars that do not exist anymore, and you calculate the distance of those stars also using the speed of light, but how much particles were in the way? Along the way, maybe there was some asteroid belt; there maybe so many things.  Did you factor these things in your speed of light? They will say no.

It is like Calculus; the limit of X is that it approaches 5. I say, it isn’t X=5, it’s X is approaching 5. They will say that no but if X is approaching 5, then you will just take that approximation as a certainty that it becomes 5. All of the Maths is based on this principle. X isn’t 5 though. The limit of X as it approaches 5, reaches 5.

That is what they are saying in the first example. Basically, at the very higher level of approximation, this is the speed of light. We have no idea that what type of asteroid, or space matter, or star burst and that light travelled from the reminiscence of that star matter to us, and how that star matter may have effected the speed of light. We have no idea about these things. It is an approximation. It is an approximation based on human ability. It means that to whatever extent the human is able to falsify these premises, he must try all of his ways to falsify it, and if it passes the falsification test then we will verify it.

You may ask a philosophical question that is the human ability to falsify that hypothesis, is it complete? I say no it is approximate. You ask is it absolute? I say no it is approximate. If I ask science this question that could science itself in another 10 years possibly find a way to falsify this hypothesis, they will say yes. In fact we are trying, that is what we love to do. This is the area of scientific invention and progress that they try to discover new ways to test “tried and true” theories. So it’s all relative. It’s a frame of reference.

In terms of present, they will declare a theory of a hypothesis today, because to whatever ability the scientific method is able to falsify that hypothesis, it has attempted to falsify it and has not been able to falsify it, therefore they will view the theory to be true and they will verify it. But they don’t say that it is definitive or decisive for all of eternity.

Actually the realm of religion and revelation is totally different. There is no encroachment here. Encroachment would be that science is also trying to capture eternal truths. No, science does not make that claim. Science can change any day.

In ilmul kalam, and also in Philosophy and Science, people have written tons of books on these; what is subjectivity, what is objectivity, what does it mean to falsify. There are huge workshops on this.

Now, when you are building this workshop, it does not mean that the workshop only needs to have Qur’an and Hadith. If you want to play this game, and understand this, you are perfectly allowed in Shari’ah, and in certain cases you may very well need to, put the writing of the scientists and the philosophers in the workshop. The only difference is that the Qur’an takes a higher level of precedence on that workshop, but it does not mean that these things are not allowed.

Imam al-Ghazali has mentioned that his own personal view about Science and Maths was that there was nothing in it that was against religion. But he did observe that there were some individuals who got misled by some myths and realities and misunderstandings about Science and Maths. In themselves, science and maths have nothing in them that is against religion. I will come to this later that there are certain things that science has put forth today, such as the human evolution, that are clearly, directly against the scriptural revelation.

That is also a very interesting thing; this may also be the issue why the vast and overwhelming majority of humanity were not atheists, because the scientific discovering and understandings and theories up till that time do not actually have anything in it that would necessitate Atheism.

But obviously if a person comes to believe in the human evolution – a belief that Syedna Adam (as) had parents – it is not even a question of man being a descendant of Apes. Islam says Syedna Adam (as) did not even have human parents. It is a totally different thing. It is not even about evolution, if you think about it that way. It is about miracles. We believe that Syedna Adam (as) did not even have human parents. It might happen 23 years from now, that science deny evolution. Maybe they would do it. But they will still say Adam (as) had parents. They will not accept that he was created from nowhere. That itself is the difference.

That is the same case here; that most of the scientists were comfortable with their Jewish or Christian faith, because the science of their time and day did not really have anything that necessitated them to abandon their faith. That is why we have mentioned this term of New Atheism because it is not like there were no Atheists before, but there were atheists before for philosophical reasons, not for scientific reasons.

The Question of Whether Science Necessitate Atheism

The New Atheism, and this is a term used in Academia, is that Atheism which is purportedly, supposedly, born out of science. That confuses a person because we all agree with science. The earlier Atheism, which was born out of a particular philosophy, it was not a problem for Muslims, they would say I do not believe in that. I believe in Qur’an and Sunnah. But the New Atheism becomes an issue because a person may think that if the New Atheism is really born out of science, and I believe in science, then what does that mean? This is the question that does science necessitate Atheism?

Three Criticisms of Atheists to the Claim of Existence of God

Let’s go step-by-step. So if you ask this question that does God exist, or for us does Allah swt exists? If you answer yes, you are going to face three criticisms from the Atheists:

  1. Your claim is not scientific and therefore false, for only that which is contained in science is true.
  2. Your claim is not logical. You cannot give me a logical proof for the existence of God. Therefore, your claim is false.
  3. Your claim is not rational. There is no rational basis for the existence of Allah swt, so therefore it is false.

You have your science, logic and rationality. These are basically the first principles. We are going to look at all of these three things.

Brief Introduction to Scientism 

There is a word that has been coined; it is called Scientism. It is a worldview, it is something different than science. That is why its has the suffix ‘ism’. Scientism is a view which holds that whatever you will view to be true, or false, will be on the basis of science. Scientism means that science is the way in which you understand everything.

Science normally meant that this is the way you understand the material world. And normally the scientists did not try to investigate the immaterial world, or have questions about that. They did not try to investigate the ruh, or the qalb, or even mind and thought and consciousness.

Classically, scientists did not have the realm of neuroscience. It was created as a part of Scientism. Otherwise earlier, ideas were understood through Philosophy. But now Scientism is a belief that every single thing can be understood on the basis of science. So instead of Psychology, it is Psychiatry. And instead of Philosophy, it is Neuroscience, or Cognitive Behaviour.

Genetics is also a very important aspect of Scientism, because the cutting edge of genetics is trying to discover behavioural genes; the notion that a human being is genetically programmed to certain kinds of behaviour. Allahu Alam, if they ever discover the taqwah gene, or the haya gene, they might take it out!

They will not say that this is a theory. It is a hypothesis; it is research. They are not saying it is a fact. But like I told you in the ideology-based approach to knowledge, some of them are doing this as an ideology. Another way I can explain it to you is that when you choose to deny Allah swt, you have to come up with an alternate understanding of the world. And when you take that denial so far – like in scientism that science alone can understand everything – then you end up denying a lot of philosophy, a lot of psychology, a lot of other things.

Scientism is not just denial of religion. It is a denial of any way of understanding, explaining and engaging in the world. It is inherently against aesthetics, arts and creativity. Or it tries to explain all aesthetics and arts and creativity in terms of neuroscience and cognitive on the left side of the brain.

But the artist will tell you, no, it is because of my creative spirit. It is not because I have a different set of neurons in the left side of my brain than that one does. They will say I have a more creative spirit than that person does. I have a greater imagination than that person does.

Scientists will say, no this is all bunk; all of your creative imagination is fluff. It is all due to difference in your cognitive behaviour; your cognitive thinking power on the left side of your brain. That is called Scientism. It is not just the denial of religion. It is an entire world view.

Most Atheists are not following science. It is Scientism that they are following. And there are definitely many scientists who are following it. There are Atheist scientists who follow this. And those of you who are aware of it would know that they have a huge literature on it in English language; Dawkins, Hitchens – there are so many of them. Some of them were pure physicists, some of them were pure Mathematicians, some of them were pure Philosophers, and they are on both sides.

Mostly this is taking place in the Christian world; you have completely believing Christian evolutionary biologists, completely believing Christian pure particle Physicists, completely believing Christian Philosophers. I have studied under one of each at Oxford. And you have completely Atheists for all of the above. You have several, or dozens of them. And there is massive literature that they are writing, engaging and discussing each other.

On the fringes, there are certain extremists. It would seem like terrorism to you; the way they talk to you with the fatwas of kufr. Some of them have extreme hatred, and there are extremely horrific tones that they use. But on a very large scale, there are many discussions and debates taking place in a considerate and thoughtful manner. And volumes have been written on this.

The point of telling you all of this is that do not fall into an assumption that every Mathematician, every Physicist, every Philosopher is an Atheist. This is nowhere near the case in UK, US or Canada right now. Those people do not deny science. It is about scientism; it is all about this thing. That is why they coined this word.

They say it is not about science, I am also a Scientist, or I am also a Physicist, or I am also a Biologist. It has nothing to do with science. It is about Scienitsm; the question is that how will you choose to understand things that are outside the realm of science? Scientism says that nothing falls outside the realm of science. Therefore, everything would fall in the realm of science.

These believing scientists are saying that there are some things that fall out of the realm of science, and we are happy and comfortable understanding those things on the basis of revelation, scripture, and prophethood, in whatever faith system they may personally believe in.

So, Scienitism is a world view that only science and knowledge derived from science contains truth. Everything else is merely belief, superstition and myth. These are the three buzzwords that they use.

The Scientistic approach has trickled down to Liberal Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. So then you will find Scientistic Anthropologists. So the Anthropology of Religion would be that all religion is just superstition and myth and a product of culture.

You will find Scientistic Sociology which says that all religion that exists at the societal level, like Karl Marx said, is the opium for the people. The words that are used in Scientistic outlook enters the Humanities, Social Sciences and Liberal Arts; that everything else is just belief, superstition and myth. By belief they do not mean imaan, by belief they mean anything that is not knowledge; it is fluff.

Scientism Explored

Let’s examine this notion of Scientism. Like I told you, there are believing scientists who have tried to refute Scientism. Nobody is trying to refute science. I will come to the history of evolution at the end. Understand this very clearly, I am not talking about science now. I am talking about Scientism.

Applying the Self-Refuting Test on Scientism

The first thing is called the self-refuting test. How will Scientism be refuted? It is not going to be refuted from Qur’an and Sunnah. Scientism is going to be refuted by logic and philosophy. So you have logic and philosophy taking on Scientism in this discussion, that can everything be understood through science, or are there some things that cannot be understood through science?

Self-refuting test means that if you accept the proposition, like I told you about the box; that if you accept the position and flush out its consequences, the consequences itself negate the position in the box. It is self-refuting. And the self-refuting test means you take the proposition, you flush out its necessary logical implications and consequences. And if it turns out that its logical consequences actually would necessitate refutation of the proposition in the first place, then it is a self-refuting proposition. I did not even need to refute it.

The proposition that claims to be true actually refutes itself. If it just claims to be a hypothesis, then it is not going to work. But it will work if it claims to be the truth; this is what Scientism is. This is why the self-refuting test is applied to Scientism. Because they are not giving another hypothesis that maybe it is Philosophy, maybe it is Psychology. They are saying this is it. This is the ultimate demonstrable, rational truth; the only way to understand the world is the Sceintistic method.

Let’s take some claims of Scientism.

  1. It is their statement that true knowledge is only that which is contained in science and found through scientific methods. This sentence itself is not a part of science. This sentence itself cannot be proven through the scientific method. This sentence itself cannot prove itself. Therefore, if this sentence is true, then this sentence is false. Do you understand? This is called a logical fallacy. It is pure philosophical logic and syllogism that is used in the self-refuting of the sentence. It has nothing to do with religion vs. science. Do not count this debate in religion vs. science domain. The way you frame a debate, often that itself decides the victor and the loser in the debate. If you talk about religion vs. science, all the Muslims who are studying Engineering and Chemistry and Physics would be like I have been accused! It is not religion vs. science. It is religion vs. scientism. It is science vs. scientism. It is logic and philosophy vs. scientism.
  2. Second claim is that true knowledge is only that which is observable. Can you observe that statement? Is there any empirical observation to prove the statement that true knowledge must be observable? Can you observe the truth of that? You can accept that as a first basis. So actually Scientism is another religion. It requires imaan in these things. It requires you to accept something as your first principles, and then understand everything on the basis of those principles. Actually the choice is whether you want to accept Allah swt’s first principles in Qur’an, or you want to accept the scientism’s first principles.
  3. True knowledge is only that which is testable. Can you test this sentence? Is this sentence in itself testable? No, so then it is not true knowledge. Because if true knowledge is only that which is testable, this sentence itself is not testable, therefore it is not true knowledge.
  4. True knowledge is only that which is empirically verifiable. It is slightly different. Because scientific knowledge may have some things that are beyond empirical senses. Like saying that if you see it, you will believe it. Only that which I see will I believe. This sentence itself, did you see that somewhere? We could say that we saw it in Qur’an, but what would a scientist say if they were asked, where did you see it? This is self-refuting.
  5. True knowledge must be refutable. Is this sentence itself refutable? How will you refute that sentence? This is a bit tricky one. Let me keep it easier for you – true knowledge must be falsifiable. Can you falsify this proposition?

For example, if we take the example for true knowledge must be observable; can you touch, smell, or hear that concept? Not if you take empiricism at its basics. Empiricism can be more than that. But if you take it from that level, you will say no. This is a very small thing, but its going back to what I showed you – these things are not easy to figure out; truth, falsehood, relativity, subjectivity, objectivity.

Basically these are claims, but as I have shown you, they do not pass the self-refuting test. They are not objective truths. These are the subjective truths adopted by the Scientistic worldview and approach. And they are free to do that. But they pick the claim of objectivity for that, and then to take an exclusive claim of truth for that, and then to falsify and invalidate every other thing, there is no basis within their own system to do that. And it is not based on logic either.

Science Explored

Next is the question of what exactly is science? How do you separate science from non-science? For example, you will find this question in the Western academies that why were some of the Liberal Arts called Social Sciences, and why were the other ones called Humanities? Is Psychology a Social Science? Some Psychology departments are unhappy. They say we want to be in the School of Science and Engineering, we are science. Scientists say, no you are not a science, go to the Social Sciences school.

So what is science and what is non-science? Is there any objective, falsifiable, verifiable, absolute way to determine this question? Or is it relative? There was a writer, his name is Larry Laudan. He has written an article Science at the Bar. What he talks about is very interesting, or let me put it this way, it is a very enjoyable piece to read about this notion of what is science and what is non-science.

Now let’s suppose someone says a statement like true knowledge is falsifiable, let’s suppose I were to say this proposition to you that Martians will land on Earth in 2050. Or for that matter, humans will land on Mars in 2050. You cannot refute that. Maybe it will happen, maybe it will not – we do not know. So what does that mean, is it science now?

For any falsifiable test to be applied, you have to be open to the possibility; science is when you keep falsifying till you get an approximation of certainty, because to the best of your knowledge you have eliminated any possibility of truth or falsehood. How can you falsify that statement?

Let’s suppose I say in year 2500 humans will be living on Mars. You cannot falsify that. Does that make it science – because you cannot falsify it? Can I call it a scientific statement? You would say no, you cannot call it a scientific statement. But I say no science is what you cannot falsify, and you cannot falsify this statement.

These are internal contradictions on these issues. I am not talking about what you read in your Chemistry textbooks. We fully accept the Periodic Table – that’s science. I am talking about Scientism. What is in the Physics and Chemistry textbooks that is science. This is Scientism; trying to negate any understanding of truth and claiming pure objectivity only for themselves. That is Scientism.

Intuition and the Fallacy of Falsification

Let’s look at some other things that we may accept as knowledge. One issue is that of intuition. Your intuition is going to guide you on how many factors, or causalities, you have to look at in a scientific experiment.

For example, somebody told us that science says there was an earthquake in China, and it measured 8.2 on the rector scale. And if I tell them, did you take into account the weight of coal mines in China? And maybe because the weight of the coal in the coal mines of China was heavier, it was a 8.4 scale earthquake, but it came out at a reading of 8.2 because of this reason. They would say, no that is a negligible factor. These things are negligible.

Then I could come up with something nonsensical. I could say, did you write any scientific test to see that did the prices of tea in China effected the level of the earthquake? They would say that is nonsensical. I say, but it is a hypothesis, I want you to falsify it. If I talk like that then there are a billion factors that will have to be examined. This is intuition.

This is also a fallacy of falsification that we did eliminate everything humanly possible. First, you used your intuition to eliminate the nonsensical and the absurd. Then you used your intuition to eliminate the things that had a negligible effect. And only those things that your intuition told you possibly could have a tangible effect, you ran your falsifiability test on those things that you thought had a tangible effect. How did you decide that what was tangible and what was negligible and what was nonsensical? That was done on the basis of intuition.

In our tradition, we call it zauq. This is why in the Hadith Studies, you cannot just copy somebody in 20th Century that this hadith is weak. The Muhaditheen had zauq; they had an acumen, they had a flare for this. They were hafidh of Hadith; they had memorized 100,000 chains of narrations. They had seen that narration being narrated from so many people. If they did not tag it as zaeef, you cannot do your database researches saying I have discovered today that so-and-so scholar in the 20th Century decided that so-and-so is zaeef. He does not have that zauq. He is using a laptop. He is using a library. He needs to have it up here – zauq is the intuition.

If you ask any scientist who has won a noble prize, or any great inventor, how did you do that – was it just an empirical method? He would say it was my intuition. I had a hunch. I had intuition that this would work. All the way from Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison; whoever it is, whatever they have invented, it is through intuition. Intuition is the creative force behind science.

This is what I was telling you about this empirical adequacy – or if you want to call it, the empirical inadequacy. If you insist that they should factor the negligible and the nonsensical, then we will say it is empirical inadequacy. But they say, no it is empirical adequacy. Why is it adequacy? If the factor was tangible, how did you define what is tangible? That was through intuition. That’s not science.

Scientists are fine with that. Scientism is not fine with that. Scientism is shattered by this. Scientists have no problem with this – they would say yes 100% we use intuition. We did not make any claim that every single way of knowing is going to be captured by science. They believe in inspiration. And many of the greatest scientists in history were believers, and they would write in their autobiographies that I was inspired by God.

Now the scientist today will say this is all fluff. He explains it as a cognitive moment – a surge of neurons and electrons activity in his brain, which he thought was an inspiration by God, in an attempt to falsify another person’s understanding of an event that actually lies outside the realm of science. I mean, are you a greater scientist or is Einstein a greater scientist? If science necessitates Atheism, then why in the world were these great scientists not Atheists themselves?

Arguments for God’s Existence

Theory of Uniformity & the Role of Intuition and Approximation

There is this thing called the Theory of Uniformity. For example, you take the law of gravity, to make it a law, the theory of uniformity means that these things will have to be uniform. It means that gravity must be universally the same in any corner of the Earth, baring some other external circumstances and conditions. But empirical method would mean you have to test it in all of these conditions. You cannot just make a claim like that. Then if you have a latitude inadequacy; let’s say how many points on GPS of Earth has the gravity been measured, it is probably not even on 10% of the places on Earth. So what is that? It is their intuition.

Very interestingly, in the ilmul kalam tradition, this intuitive element – that you have tested something at a level which is sufficient to give you certainty – that concept is called tawatir in our deen. And the tawatir concept is actually used in our deen, as well, to bring certain knowledge.

I will give you the example which Imam al-Ghazali (ra) gave that if one person walked in this room right now and said it is raining outside. Lets just pretend there is no window, lets pretend there are just four walls. Now when one person says it to you, you may not have certain belief. But if two people come in, three people come in, or five people come in, at some point it will be the ‘tipping point’; at some point you will reach a number of reports and narrations – it is not science – your intuitive heart will feel the feeling of certainty. You will look into your heart and say yes, now my heart feels certain that indeed it is raining. That will also have to do with how well you know those report givers; how true you know them to be; how upright you know them to be.

This is what the muhadith was doing when he was tagging. Yes, the Hadith scholars made a few comments, that so-and-so is this, and so-and-so is that, but those comments are just a drop in the ocean of the knowledge about that narrator and their feel about the narrator. Modern day researcher goes to the books of ilm al-rijal and looks up the narrator and sees the muhadith’s comment, and says I have discovered this hadith is dha’if which all these fuqaha had been using for the past 1,200 years.

No, you did not discover anything, you just discovered that the muhaditheen all accepted this hadith, even though for all of these centuries they knew that one narrator, critic, did make that one comment. They disregarded that comment on the basis of their intuition. And you think you are a hero because you discovered that comment, and you want to change the gradings of the hadith of the great hadith scholars?

So tawatir; they are saying that when we reach a certain level of tawatir, we will view that these things behave at a uniform manner, but actually it was just the individual thing that you saw behave in that way. You dropped a ball, you saw that it behaved in a particular way in the gravity. But you would extrapolate; it’s an extrapolation. Science is doing it right. A reasonable level of approximation, a reasonable amount of falsification based on the intuition, until they reach the level of certainty, but when they have reached that level of certainty, they take a leap and then they make a claim of uniformity, and we are fine with that, and up till now it bears out.

But strictly speaking in terms of Scientism, that leap is not warranted, that leap is unfounded, that leap is not acceptable. But for us, and for science, it is acceptable.

The Raven Paradox

This is something called the Raven Paradox. Raven is a particular type of a bird, and the notion is that all ravens are black. If you make a statement like that, how would you do that? Science will tell you that we used observation; we kept looking at the ravens and we kept seeing them to be black. We travelled around and we looked at raven populations; we went to raven’s nests, we tried to discover where they lived. And we kept seeing that they are black. At some point they made this statement that all ravens are black.

How many did you see? You saw a hundred, a thousand, the point is, you did not see all of them and yet you said that all ravens are black. You saw some of them, even many of them, you may have even seen a great many of them. Remember we are talking about Objective Absolutism now. I did not put the relativity in the absolutism. This is an absolute statement; all ravens are black.

It is possible that today somebody takes out the gene matter of a raven, and tries to analyze its genes, and maybe suggest that the pigment in the genes is only programmed to be black. Still, the question would be, that could there be any alternate sub-species of raven out there that have a slightly different genetic make-up? So, there is a certain intuition – a certain tawatir principle – with which you will end up saying all ravens are black.

All of science is based on these things; the Theory of Uniformity, The Raven Paradox, they all have this notion of approximation with certainty. The way science regulates itself is with certain standards, it is not arbitrary, there will be peer reviews, there will be articles written in the journals, the scientific community will have to accept the research of that scientist, and that may take a few years, and then they may say yes, we accept that theory and now uniformly we will also use it in our own research and our experiments. It is a process, it takes time. It is not arbitrary. It is a structured, governed, regulated process. So this covers a few more concepts in the philosophy of science.

This was to suggest to you that the existence of Allah swt is beyond science. The question was ‘Does God Exist?’ The Atheist’s response to this was that your claim (that God exists) is not scientific and therefore false, for only that which is contained in science is true.This is how you will face this question:

Your reply is that no, not only what is contained in science is true. The question of the existence of Allah swt is beyond science.

Next was that your claim is not logical and your claim is not rational or logical. Lets take this. There is a whole range here. I will give you a couple of things from a whole range.

Fine-Tuning Argument

Like I mentioned to you, I attended a whole bunch of series of lectures at Oxford; probably 40-50 of them, one by a Professor of Pure Math Theory, and one by a Christian Professor who taught courses on Philosophy of Religion. Now, this is one notion of creation. Some of you, who are aware of these debates in America, you may know of the Intelligent Design, Creationism vs. The Blind Watch Maker vs. No Watch Maker. There are certain buzz words that are used in this literature.

One such term is called the Fine-Tuning Argument which was put forth by Fred Hoyle. It means that the Earth’s conditions are so finely tuned to create the possibility for the existence of life, and although science, certainly, and it is not that I have to negate this, but science is open to the possibility that life may exist elsewhere, what we call the extra terrestrial life. But up till now science says that there is absolutely no scientific evidence to prove the existence of terrestrial life. So even from today’s state of the art science, the current knowledge, although open to the possibility that there maybe life in other planets in the world, but the current knowledge says that there is only life on earth.

Fine-Tuning means that if the Earth was a bit closer to the Sun, or even a bit further away from the Sun, life would not be possible on Earth, because the temperature and climate would not be suitable to Earth. Fine-Tuning means that if the speed on which the Earth rotates around its axis, if it were somewhat slower, or somewhat greater, it would be more difficult to have life on Earth. There are so many factors, which even science will admit that we have only identified  some, there are also going to be some factors that science yet has to identify.

No scientist claims that we know all the laws of the universe. No scientist who does anatomy in physiology can claim that we understand everything about the human body. There are so many diseases – still – of which we have not identified a cure for, nor do we know the cause. What does that mean? I accept also, that the disease is happening through a scientific process. But science itself is saying that we do not have the full understanding of this process. This is one disease, what causes the disease? We don’t know. How are you going to cure the disease? We don’t know.

I am not saying that the disease is some paranormal, psychal, spiritual thing. I am hundred percent saying the disease is physical, material, it is within the realm of science, it is the subject matter of science, but science does not know about it yet. This is a fact for so many things. So if it is true about the human body, then you can imagine the extent to which it is true about the universe. But they say that from what we know right now, there is no life anywhere else.

Multiverse Argument and the Law of Probability 

The counter to the fine-tuning argument, which some Atheist scientist put forth, is the Multiverse Argument. And literally, one of them actually has this idea that imagine that there is some machine that just creates universes. Sooner or later, the law of probability would demand that a universe will eventually be created in trillions, and trillions, and trillions of years, eventually a universe will be created where life could be obtained. Or they say you take any universe, that eventually over a period of trillions and trillions of years of galaxy formations, star formation and star death, and star collapse, it is a matter of probability, that sooner or later a solar system would be formed in which there was one planetary body – the planet Earth – which would be so fine tuned that life would exist.

I accept that, but what is the probability? If you ask the Mathematician, he would say the probability is 1 over, you know, like in Maths, 1 over infinity equals zero. Now strictly speaking, why are you negating that one? Strictly speaking, in Maths, 1 over infinity should not equal zero. Zero is zero, and 1 over infinity, no matter how small it is, it is still something. But it is so negligible when you keep dividing it, it is infinitely divisible by infinity, so when you keep infinitely dividing it, it becomes so insignificant that it is treated as zero.

So we do the same thing. We take the 1 over infinity argument on the Multiverse; that probability is so infinitesimal, so extremely small, we will treat it as zero using this principle of Maths that 1 over infinity equals zero. The chance for such a finely tuned condition for life to have happened on its own is 1 over infinity, we will treat it as zero according to Maths, that means there is zero chance that this world came into existence on its own, that means that it is logically necessary that there was a Creator who brought it into existence.

You would be amazed if you ever research this Fine-Tuning argument. Even if you take a human being, any doctor will tell you that how incredibly fine-tuned the human being is, and as soon as the tuning goes out, that is the process of death beginning. We are just a speck; human being is a speck on Karachi, Karachi is a speck on Pakistan, Pakistan is a speck; we are a speck, on a speck, on a speck, on a speck – this is our reality in the universe.

I took three courses in Astrophysics as an undergrad in Chicago, way back in 1992, and my TA was an Atheist. Me and him used to sit back in the lab and have discussions. These are jokes sometimes, this is not a serious argument. But I am sharing to lighten this a little bit for you.

Some of the things that I used to talk to him about, and other such people, was the creation of Big Bang, and all of that stuff. I have no problem with the Big Bang. I believe that when Allah swt said kun fayakun; so He just said kun and the Big Bang happened, and fayakun – the universe came into existence. I said, you have a problem with the small bang. He said what is that? I said that you accept that the universe just came into existence, and I am telling you Adam (as) – one small speck (compared to the universe) – came into existence, and you say that is not possible, he must have evolved from apes. So, you accept the Big Bang, and you do not accept the small bang.

When we came to this issue of probability, I said lets suppose I accept the Multiverse argument that eventually the laws of probability, over trillions of years, would be that the universe is created, and the finely-tuned system is created – all of that stuff. I am telling you it is 1 over infinity, but I accept that. I say, in recorded human history, roughly from 2,000 or 3,000 B.C. up till now, lets just take it at 500 B.C., everyone would be happy with that, it was the time of Socrates, 2500 B.C. Shouldn’t one paper clip could have come into existence? I mean, if the whole Big Bang happened, and the universe came out of nowhere, couldn’t a small paperclip have just come into existence?

This is a quote by Fred Hoyle himself who came up with this Fine-Tuning argument:

The probability of the universe emerging out of random forces or by chance is less than the probability of a hurricane sweeping through a junk yard and assembling a 747 Jumbo aircraft.

If an infinite number of hurricanes pass through a junk yard, forget even the junk yard, lets say the Boeing factory, I will go a step further than him, a Boeing factory where all the parts are laid out perfectly, what is the probability that if a hurricane sweeps through, it would manage to assemble and screw every nut and bolt into place? If the universe could happen through such random forces, then it should at least be able to make a perfectly formed paperclip. Has anyone ever recorded in human history that a pencil came out of nowhere, or a paperclip came out of nowhere?

The reason I’m giving you these names is because you should know. Everybody just knows about Richard Dawkins, you should know there is a whole other world out there. We have a big problem in our university campuses here in Pakistan, that there are Dawkins-toting, I myself have seen it on a campus, like they sometimes have Bible-toting, so Dawkins-toting professors who carry Dawkins around and put it around their desks and they are totally preaching Dawkins in their classes, in the class that has nothing to do even with this topic.

They are completely abusing their position as a professor and a lecturer at a university, to preach atheism to the Muslim students. And there is no one who can even speak about this, you are not even allowed to raise your voice about this. This is the situation in the, very few, but the more ultra-elite class, high-academic universities in this country, only about 2-3 of which basically would fill all that description, there is some serious atheism going on.

Kalam Cosmological Argument for God

When you go back, they have other theories (to refute the fine-tune argument). There is a theory that the world was always here, there was no bang, it was always here. If you take that, I will show you another argument of the Kalam Cosmological argument. This is now for the theory that the world was always here. The previous one was if we all agreed that the world wasn’t always here; so there you say that Allah swt created it, or you say the Big Bang happened, that just out of sheer probability the fine-tuning happened.

Second, they will say forget the Big Bang, forget Multiverse, forget the probability; this world was always here. Now the light-hearted response: I believe in an Allah swt who has always been around, you believe in a physically created universe that has always been around. Both of us are believing in something that has no origin; that itself is a non-scientific concept – to have anything in existence that does not have an origin. In the classical texts of ilm al-Kalam they used to talk about this; that Allah swt is the only being that is ghayr masboot bil adam; that He has never been preceded by non-existence. He has always been.

They take the same concept and use it for the world. The second argument that is given by the people that the world has always been there. You want us to give you the proof that who created Allah, yet you’ve created the universe yourself (through this argument)? This is the light-hearted response.

Coming to the Kalam Cosmological argument, very interestingly, one of these Western Christian Philosophers, his name is William Lane Craig, he was trying to discover a philosophical way to refute, one is the logical way, one is the scientific way, and one is the philosophical way to refute a theory. His research led him to our own ilm al-kalam. Our own Muslim youth don’t even know ilm al-kalam, and Western philosophers who are non-Muslims they are going to ilm al-kalam. He calls it ilm al-kalam, he writes it in his honesty, he does not try to hijack it or plagiarise it, and it is taught, I was taught this at Oxford – it is called the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Our heart was so pleased to hear the word “kalam” from the professor.

Now understand what is the Kalam Cosmological argument. So we have necessity, contingency and logical fallacy. Necessity is what in Arabic we call wajib al-wujub; that what must necessarily exist. Contingency is just a fancy word that means dependant on something else. Let me first show you the Islamic understanding, second I will show how the Kalam argument can respond to that concept that the universe was always here.

Islamic understanding is that, within our tradition we understand that Allah swt alone is wajib al-wujud; He is the only Being who necessarily exists. We are all mumkin al-wujud; we possibly exist, we could also not have existed, our non-existence was also possible. Allah swt not existing, is not possible. Me and you non-existing, that is possible. This is also what so many of the great people, now I’m bringing in the spiritual approach, they used to make du’a to Allah swt just in shukr for this; that Allah swt you brought me into existence. If You didn’t create me, I wouldn’t even exist. I wouldn’t even “be” if I weren’t in your irada of kun fayakun. And then there is another thing called mumtani’ al-wujud; something that cannot exist, and what is that? That is a shareek to Allah swt, that is another god, another divinity, so that means it is mumtani’ al-wujud – it is not possible to exist.

That which is mumkin al-wujud, that which possibly exists, its existence is dependant or contingent on that Being who necessarily exists. Why is it necessary? Because Allahu al-Khaliq; that zaat which is wajib al-wujud, He created us, otherwise me and you couldn’t have existed. There is only one thing, only one factor that determines realizing the possibility or not, and that is Allah’s creative power, there is no other factor, no random forces, nothing else, there is one and only causal mechanism that brought us into existence, while it was completely possibly that we didn’t exist, and that was the will and wish, might and power, and creation of Allah swt.

When we will continue to exist in akhirah, that is because Allah swt is al-Hayyu al-Qayyum; He will live forever, the Pre-Eternal and the Ever-Eternal. Now we will also be eternal, but that is not because of our own ability. It is because of Allah’s irada, Allah’s wish and will and desire that we live forever.

Everything will either necessarily exist, necessarily also means istighna; to be independent, it is not dependant on anything for its existence and its creation. Me and you are dependant on Allah swt; He is our Rabb, He is al-Razzaq. We are something that is contingent, dependant on something else for existence.

Now look at how the Kalam Cosmological Argument works.

Step #1: Setting up separate categories. Everything that exists in our world, everything that exists in this universe, will have to either exist independently on its own, or its existence is contingent and dependant on some other existence

Step #2: Mutually existing categories. Anything that falls in the first category of contingent existence, cannot fall in the first category of necessary existence. You cannot be independent and dependant simultaneously. Your existence is either dependant or it is independent, if it is dependant then it cannot be independent. If your existence is contingent, there is no way it can be necessary.

Step #3: Every single thing cannot fall in the first category. Because, if it did, then everything would be pre-eternal, and that goes against both our empirical and experiential knowledge of the world. Even science wouldn’t think, nobody thinks that every single thing has always been here, that you have always been here, this watch has always been here, the black cup has always existed.

Because not every single thing is in the category 1, then all these things that are in category 2 must have something that brought them into existence. That upon which it is dependant and contingent must precede its existence. Because the existence of B (contingent) is dependant on A (independent), so existence of A must precede B.

When we reach that conclusion, that there are things that exist due to their contingency on other things that must have necessarily existed before them, and those things necessitated bringing them into existence, the question is that which it is dependant on that is itself going to be either necessary or contingent.

For example, your existence is contingent upon your parents. Now we will take a step back, are your parents contingent in their creation? You will say they are contingent, they also depended on something. We go back to their parents i.e. your grandparents. We keep asking this question, we keep going back, until we reach something that must necessarily exist.

Let me now put it for you in another way, if you say that something’s existence is contingent, that means it must be dependant on something else. If it is dependant on something else, you will ask the question about this ‘something else’ – is that something else’s existence contingent or necessary? You say it is contingent. Then I will keep taking it back. You cannot take it back till infinity, that is a logical fallacy. They must be traced back to something that is necessarily existing. You cannot have an infinite regression of infinity. That is a logical fallacy.

In Arabic they call it daur, you can’t have a daur, or what happens is that you are going round and round forever, it’s not possible. In logic we will not accept this, it is a logical fallacy. If you have an endless stream of contingent beings, everything brought into existence by something that itself was dependant on something with contingent existence, you cannot do that, you cannot have infinite regression. It means that it must necessarily be traced back to some being that has necessary existence. You cannot have an infinite regression.

Still a person may object that if all events need causes, like you said every contingent being has a cause, and that cause arises from a being that is necessary, and you cannot have infinite regression, so ultimately you will have to reach a cause that is necessary existence, but your first proposition was that everything needs a cause, so doesn’t that thing that is necessary existent also need a cause? Like some people will ask this question that who created God then? If you say everything is created then who created God then?

This is a logical fallacy called a category fallacy, because Allah swt is in the category of necessary existence. Necessary existence, by definition, doesn’t need a cause. Not only does it not need a cause, it is without a cause. Necessary mean non-dependant, non-causal existence. It’s a category fallacy. It’s like asking, what colour is sound? Sound doesn’t have colour; it’s a question that does not apply to this category. You can say what volume is the sound. To ask the question that what is the cause of that being who is necessary, that is a category fallacy. By definition of being necessary, it means there was no cause. Just like if you say, who made God? It’s like saying who made the unmakeable?

Necessary means unmakeable, non-created, uncreated. It’s like saying who created the uncreated? What caused the necessary existence? If something caused the necessary to come into existence, then it’s not necessary existence; it’s contingent. You put it back in the other category. If you keep putting everything back in that category, you cannot have everything in the category of contingent, because it’s an infinite regression, that’s a logical fallacy.

This is the Kalam Cosmological argument. This basically revolves around these three concepts; necessity, contingency, and the logical fallacy which is what we call an infinite regression i.e. it cannot go back forever, you will ultimately have to have something that is necessary existence.

Imam Ghazali (rah) explains this logical fallacy in the following way. If you look at how many times the earth revolves around the sun, it is once in a year, however if you look at how many times the moon rotates around the earth, that’s twelve times in a year. Lets go back to the lunar calendar, there are twelve lunar months. Now if you say that the sun and the moon have both existed forever, then you will be bringing their number of revolutions in the past to infinity. At the same time, you are saying that the moon has twelve times more revolutions than the sun, i.e. A = 12B, but Maths will tell you

if A=∞ and B=∞
then A=12B
because 12 x ∞ = ∞

When for the sun and the moon you take infinite regression, they both reach infinity, then ∞=∞ so the number of revolutions of the moon around the earth and the number of revolutions of the earth around the sun are equal, but how can they be equal when we just said that the moon revolves around the earth 12 times the number of revolutions earth revolves around the sun every year? So there are different ways to use this system of the Kalam Argument. This was just a little bit about science, the point was to show you that there is a conceptual understanding in deen that can engage in this discussion. While on the other side, the conceptual science should not be called science, it should be called scientism.

Rationality in terms of Nabuwwah [Revelation and Prophethood]

Imam Ghazali (rah) has explained this concept in a beautiful way. He uses the epistemological approach, which is a fancy term that means studying knowledge and the way we know things. So there is a way of knowing, and then there are things that are knowable by that way of knowing.

  1. First way of knowing, he says, is through our five senses. That begins, even according to the modern human embryology, in the womb where the baby develops different levels of skills. There are certain things knowable that you will know through these five senses. This is what babies are doing all the time. They throw things if they want to check something is loud or not. They take things and put them in their mouths to see if it’s hard or soft, bitter or sweet. This a way in which they are constantly knowing, they are learning through their five senses. We accept the five senses. We accept that certain knowable things are known through that way of knowing.
  2. Second way of knowing, he says, progresses with human development i.e. your aqal (intellect)It is that stage when the child can begin to fathom concepts, and understand and intellectualize them. In our tradition this ability matures at the age of seven. That’s why Blessed Prophet (sws) taught us to really begin the child’s tarbiyyah at seven. This doesn’t mean there should be no tarbiyyah before seven, but you begin it in the earnest at that age. The ability to grasp concepts as right and wrong, moral and immoral, pleasing or displeasing to Allah swt really reaches its maturity at the age of seven. It’s not the peak, it keeps on increasing, but maturity means it has developed — it’s there now. It’s an ability now that the child has. So then through your aqal, i.e. your mind, you are able to know many things. For example, there may be many of you who have never been to New York. Your five senses have never experienced it. You have not smelt it live, heard it, touched it etc. But your mind tells you it exists. You know with as much certainty that New York exists as a person who was born and raised there. We acknowledge aqal as a tool of knowledge and we acknowledge the knowable that are known by that way of knowing.
  3. In the third level, Imam Ghazali (rah) takes it in reverse. He said there are certain things known by the five senses, and there are certain things known by the intellect. Now he is saying that there are some knowables the knowledge of which cannot be traced back to the five senses, and cannot be traced back to the aqal. What makes claim to that knowledge is revelation and Prophethood, Nabuwwah, Qur’an and Sunnah. The Qur’an is not something that came from our five senses, or our intellect. The Sunnah, the teachings of Blessed Prophet (sws) is also making a claim that this is knowledge, but the source of that knowledge is not the five senses, nor is it the aqal.

Now what he does is interesting, because this is well before the concept of modern science has even developed, but he very much adopts, what we call today, a scientific method. He goes for the falsifiability approach. He says that there are some things that claim to be knowledge and you didn’t know them through your five senses, and you didn’t know them through your aqal. So what you should do is you should test them out.

He takes one hadith that Blessed Prophet (sws) said: If you make pleasing Allah swt your first and foremost concern and worry in your heart, Allah swt will remove all the concerns and worries you have in the world. This is the proposition. It’s not the proper adab to say it, but lets just say it for the sake of understanding that this is a claim to knowledge made to somebody who, at this moment, thinks their only tools to knowledge are their five senses and their intellect. The five senses could never come up with this. They cannot establish this to be true that if you make the sole concern of your heart pleasing Allah swt, Allah swt will remove all your worldly worries and concerns. The intellect cannot establish this position. This is beyond its ken, beyond its ability and rationality.

Imam Ghazali (rah) then says that to find out, you have to adopt this position and see what happens i.e. you run a test. You do it. You make the only concern in your heart pleasing Allah swt and you see if Allah swt removes your worries and concerns in the world. And if you find that Allah swt does remove the worries and concerns in the world, you will realize that this statement is true. He says that you should do this with every single verse and hadith.

Remember when we covered correlation and intuition — that’s the scientific method that you keep running the experiment, and there’s a certain number of times you run it after which you will feel that yes now I know there’s fair uniformity, I will say this is uniform [and I will accept it]. Imam Ghazali (rah) is even more precise, he doesn’t say approximately try 10% of hadith or 40% of verses. He says try it on all – take every hadith and every verse of Qur’an and practice it. So it’s the perfection of the scientific method.

He says if you find that all of the hadith and verses are true through your experience, then you will know from yaqeen (certainty) the source of that knowledge. Now you know the knowables to be true. If the knowable is true, whatever was the source of that knowable is also true. The source of that knowable is Hadith and Qur’an. When you know the knowables to be true, you will know their source to be true, you will know Allah swt and Blessed Prophet (sws) to be true with certainty. That challenge is also there for anyone. Before non-Muslims, the Muslims have to take it up. Allah swt said in Qur’an:

Lower your gaze

Try it. See what happens. You say no I don’t want to lower my gaze, can you give me a cure, shaykh? That’s not how it works. We are also scientific. Deen of Islam makes no claim that you can disobey and still succeed. You say I want haya so I don’t commit these lewd crude sins on the screen but I don’t want to lower my gaze. Deen doesn’t make that claim. There is no hidayah like that, that you disobey Allah swt and you still get obedience. This is also a logical fallacy.

Deen says you try it. Do what Allah swt has told you to do and then see if you get haya. Build a spiritual workshop, don’t just build a workshop for your academic intellectual understandings. You should think I will build a workshop on every single thing in Qur’an and every single thing in hadith that Blessed Prophet (sws) taught me on how I can get haya, then I will, following Imam Ghazali’s (rah) approach, practice each and every one of those things. Then you will see, when you get that haya, you will have a certainty in your deen. You will say look at this deen — it’s kamil hidayah (perfect guidance). It changed my heart, it changed my life and it transformed my being. This is called deen.

You have to get real. This whole notion of not practicing Qur’an and Sunnah, and basically philosophizing and intellectualizing [Islamic teachings] — this is not the asal (real purpose). I’m telling you very openly, we just keep these type of lectures to take people out of the jails of their intellect. It’s like jailbreak. I’m breaking you out of the jail of your aqal so you can enter the life of your qalb (heart).

My dream is not that you go home and start building a workshop on Iman and you write me up all types of interesting intellectual questions. Go build a workshop on haya, build a workshop on sabr, build a workshop on taqwah. Then use Imam Ghazali’s (rah) method. Then see what happens. You will come to such a certainty. You will say I was a rock, I thought nothing could change me. I was full of anger, and lust and envy and I did what Allah swt said in the Qur’an and whatever Blessed Prophet (sws) taught me, and I changed. Then you will have true certainty.

This is what Imam Ghazali (rah) is showing through epistemology that knowledge through demonstration is knowledge, but knowledge through experience is a higher form of knowledge, which scientism can never aspire to, because scientism believes in knowledge through demonstration, we believe in knowledge through experience. You will experience the qurb of Allah swt. Anyone who has experienced this qurb does not need to be demonstrated that Allah swt exists. Allah swt says:

فَٱذۡكُرُونِىٓ أَذۡكُرۡكُمۡ
Remember Me and I will remember you. [2:152]

You will feel it. You will feel Allah swt making dhikr of you. You will know He is true, you will know He is real. You will not need any logical proof then, you won’t even need this Kalam Cosmological Argument. That was just a key to unlock the jail. You don’t need these things. This is what Imam Ghazali (rah) is teaching us that Qur’an and Sunnah have to be lived. They are not just to be translated and commented upon and analyzed and discussed — they are supposed to be lived by the heart. They were lived by the heart of the Blessed Prophet (sws). He (sws) brought sahaba karam’s (ra) hearts alive. This is called tazkiya in deen.

and cleanse them of all impurities. [2:129]

It means to bring the hearts alive. This is something which is supra rational. Deen is not irrational. It transcends rationality. Rationality and intellect is a weak scale. When you go to the jeweler, he has a small little scale that can weigh up to maybe 10 pounds, because he is weighing in .003 grams and ounces of gold. If I put my suitcase on that scale, it will burst. His scale does not have that ability. Intellect is like the scale of the jeweler. Allah swt says:

عَلَّمَ ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنَ مَا لَمۡ يَعۡلَمۡ
He taught man what he did not know. [96:5]

Allah swt will teach humanity the knowledge which they never could have known, nor did they ever know. Allah swt gave them a scale. They are running around with their small little jeweler’s intellect scales, trying to figure out what is true and what is real, what is false and what is untrue. Can you imagine? That scale of intellect is big enough, but it is like a small jeweler’s scale relative to Allah’s swt knowledge. So if:

1 = your ability to know
∞ = Allah’s swt knowledge
1/∞ = 0

That 1 is something, because that 1 little, pure, innate intellect was enough:

أَفَلَا يَعۡقِلُونَ
Then, do they not use their reason? [36:68]

…it was enough to understand the existence of Allah swt. If this inherent little small jeweler’s scale that Allah swt gave us is enough to understand and realize the existence of Allah swt, then can you imagine the transformative effect of the human being when he moves beyond the small scale of intellect and gets into the ocean of Qur’an and Sunnah? Imagine what type of ma’arafat (deep understanding) of Allah swt will he have. When he understands Allah swt, as Allah swt has revealed Himself to be:

وَلِلَّهِ ٱلۡأَسۡمَآءُ ٱلۡحُسۡنَىٰ فَٱدۡعُوهُ بِہَا‌ۖ
For Allah there are the most beautiful names. So, call Him by them [7:180]

When he understands Allah swt the way He wishes Himself to be known:

وَهُوَ مَعَكُمۡ أَيۡنَ مَا كُنتُمۡ‌ۚ
He is with you wherever you are [57:4]

فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ
I am near [2:186]

What will happen to that person then? This transcends intellect. This is something else when Allah swt grants a person sharah sadr (lit.: opening up of the chest; enlightenment). Allah swt says to Blessed Prophet (sws):

أَلَمۡ نَشۡرَحۡ لَكَ صَدۡرَكَ
Have We not caused your bosom to be wide open for you? [94:01]

It’s your sadr, these understandings come in your chest, your qalb, your spiritual heart. The understanding of the sadr and qalb is way beyond any understanding that the aqal could have. And you want to leave the understanding of the sadr and qalb in deen and just be reading Dawkins and talking about Atheism, which is a matter of the aqal? I’m just trying to unlock you from this solitary confinement, small prison cell of the aqal. When you come out of that you will come into the unlimited expanse in the pastures of the true deen and the knowledge of Qur’an and Sunnah, and in the pastures of your heart. You have to understand and keep all of these things in context.

This was a very small drop. In the end what I’m trying to do, I will tell you very openly, my personal view is that this drop is enough. I could sit down and give you a whole course on Atheism and Religion; existence of evil and this or the other, there are so many topics. For me, because I’m addressing you people, if I were talking to Atheists that would have been a very different engagement, but for the person who has Iman in their heart, this drop is enough to know that our deen has an academic and intellectual tradition, and also for you to realize that an ocean lies in the knowledge of spiritual tradition of my deen. My deen has engaged my aqal, but the real engagement is the way my deen has engaged my qalb. Allah swt says about Qur’an:

إِنَّ فِى ذَٲلِكَ لَذِڪۡرَىٰ لِمَن كَانَ لَهُ ۥ قَلۡبٌ
Indeed, there is a lesson in all this for him who has a heart [50:37]

Indeed in this Qur’an there is admonishment and advice, but for who? For that person who has a heart. A person who has a heart will be guided by Qur’an. They will be transformed and uplifted by it. But had I put that topic up only five of you would have shown up. I put this topic up that Science, Rationality and the New Atheism, then you flock to it. This is the problem. If I put Heart, Spirituality and Qur’an — I get only 10% of the attendance.

I didn’t do this just to get you to come. I did it because clearly this is an issue that’s disturbing you so I want to talk to you about it. I don’t want you to think that Islam has nothing to say about these things. I want you to understand it from the vantage point and perspective of deen. This is a speck for us. It’s a tiny dot on the map. This is an incidental discussion. Why something that the deen views as an incidental discussion, people are making it into the be-all and end-all of their decision to stay on Iman, or leave their Iman? This is a big problem and possibly because you hadn’t had these type of sessions, Allah swt knows best. We don’t know. We are desperately trying to figure out how to help these people who are getting distanced from their Allah swt.

May Allah swt accept our sitting here, may He grant us the khayr in it, may He save us from any confusion and error, may He just accept our intention that our intention in any and every Islamic gathering, in every learning and discussion, is only and only to become closer to Him, only and only to become more pleasing to Him, may He let us live on this intention and die on this intention, may He raise us up with this intention, and may He honor this intention by granting us the abode in Dar as-Salam in Akhira where we actually get what we want, and that’s not objectivity, subjectivity or rationality, we get what we want and that is closeness to Allah swt, belovedness to Allah swt and nearness to Allah swt.

وَآَخِرُ دَعْوَانَا أَنِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

Recognizing Your Enemies: Nafs & Shaytan

[These are rough notes of a talk delivered by Shaykh Omar Mukhtar on Ramadan 22, in Post Asr Majlis, South Africa i’tikaf, 2015]

[From 25 attributes of a true Mu’min]

15 and 16: To recognize your enemies

One enemy is shaytan and the other is nafs. Allah swt says that shaytan is an open enemy. A lot of us underestimate shaytan. We think if we go to masjid shaytan will be defeated. Actually the more good you become the more shaytan will attack. An alim is attacked with his ilm. He is an open enemy as told by Allah swt. He has a lot of powers. He is invisible, awake 24 hours, and a lot of experience of making people go astray, it doesn’t get hungry.

The objective of shaytan is very clear. He wants to get rid of your good deeds and wants you to get in sin so deep so you will be his companion in Jahannum. He wants to pull you all the way to kufr. A person does not see the final destination, shaytan keeps giving step by step all the way to kufr.

However, on the other hand is nafs. That is something within us. It just wants you to fulfil desires, can be both halal or haram. Sometimes you can have a craving for something really badly, that is nafs. People overeat because of nafs. However, nafs only wants to enjoy. This is another important difference. Shaytan can only give you ideas, he cannot force you to commit a sin. But nafs has a desire, and it is a lot more difficult to kill a desire than to ignore the whisperings of shaytan.

Once a man missed tahajjud, he missed it once because he slept through it. He felt really bad and cried a lot. After some days, he was again very tired and was asleep during tahajjud time, but this time someone woke him up. It was shaytan! He woke the man up because due to his crying out of sorrow he had gotten reward for many, many tahajjuds.

Shaytan puts thoughts of sins, he gives options like do this, if not then do that. Nafs just wants a particular sin. It will keep telling the same thing again and again. For example, it will keep pushing you to bribery till you do it. It has a lot of istaqamat.

What’s the cure? For shaytan it is dhikr and wuquf e qalbi. If you are doing dhikr all the time, you can keep saying no to shaytan. Your heart will act like a guard. To cure nafs is more difficult. One cure of nafs is to fear Allah swt a lot. Allah swt says those people who fear to stand in front of Allah swt they are the ones who can say no to their nafs. [79:40]

If you cannot lower your gaze, you should imagine the punishment of that on the day of Judgement. Sometimes you have to overcome your heart by fear of punishment. Imagine extreme amount of fear that Allah swt has mentioned about yaum al-qiyamah, punishment of the grave. On the Day of Judgement, a person will be presented in front of Allah swt, Allah swt will say you did this sin you did this sin, he will say yes, but it was shaytan who put the thoughts in my mind. Shaytan will say I only gave him the idea, he did it himself! So cunning shaytan is.

Sh’ab-e-Jummah Youth Programme

[These are the rough notes of a talk delivered by Shaykh Kamaluddin Ahmed (db) in Stanger Masjid on Jul 09, 2015]

وَأَن لَّيۡسَ لِلۡإِنسَـٰنِ إِلَّا مَا سَعَىٰ
And a man shall not deserve but (the reward of) his own effort.

Being from the Youth of Stanger, you have been blessed by Allah swt with a community and a masjid that has had many mashaikh and ulema. Many of you have parents who are close to those mashaikh and ulema. Many of you have homes where different ulema and mashaikh have come and sat with you, stayed with you, ate with you. And then you have ZMS (Zakariyya Muslim School), your favorite place in the world, named after Hadrat Shaykh ul Hadith rah.

The problem is that even though you have all of these things, you still have to choose it for yourselves. Sometimes it happens that when you get everything on a plate then you do not feel hungry anymore. Some of you are in a situation that you have gotten a lot of deen from Allah swt on your plate, but you do not feel hungry for it. You should want to get your own hunger.

There are two ways we could try to make that happen. When someone grows up in a house of deen, we want them to choose that house themselves, not because they were born in it.

One way is to put them out of the house. However, then there is a danger; if we put you out of the house and then ask you to come through the door yourself, there is a danger that you might get lost out there. There is a danger that you might forget the door. There is a danger that you may not choose the door and come back in.

So there is a second option: without putting you outside the house you like the house yourself; that you get happy that Ya Rabbi Kareem You raised me in this environment of deen. This is the challenge that you people face, especially the youth of Stanger. It is a very small community, a very small town, all of you know each other; you are all cousins and related to each other. You have to make that choice.

Be vary of Shaytan
Shaytan is going to put some other choices in front of you. First Shaytan might try to get you to look with dreamy eyes at the big city Durban; and the beach, la hawla wala quwwata illa billa. Then can you not see that even the Durban people are coming here? They are choosing Stanger. Durban people are coming to Stanger masjid and Stanger youth is dreaming of Durban beach?

You have to be careful, these places are a fitnah. If you leave the beaches of this world, Allah swt will give you beaches of Jannah. If you leave the sightseeing in this world, Allah swt will take you sightseeing in Jannah, inshaAllah. You have to resist these temptations.

Be vary of the Screen
There is so much fitnah in this world now. And you are from that generation that you are born and raise on internet and iPad. You need to be careful on the screen. Screen is a big fitnah for you whether that screen is called iPad, laptop, monitor, TV or smartphone. There are all types of sins and idle things on that screen. You should make your screen Qur’an AlKareem. You should make your screen the sunnah of Nabi Kareem sws.

The screen is what you stare at. Screen is what you are interested in, it is what you are focused on. If you give your heart to Allah swt, and sunnah of Nabi sws, then the screen will never be able to hurt you ever again. But if you do not make that deal, then you will always be in danger when you are near the screen.

Be vary of the Bad Friend
Next fitnah that you have to be careful of is the bad friend. Imam al Ghazali rah wrote that the bad friend is like a snake. People like to touch its slithery soft skin but it bites you. Then Imam al Ghazali rah wrote that a bad friend is like shaytan. He is even worse than Shaytan. Because Shaytan can only put thoughts in your mind, but the bad friend will take you all the way and peer pressure you into committing that sin.
  • Try to be friends with those who are trying to be friends with Allah swt.
  • Try not to be friends with those not trying to be with friends with Allah swt. If a person is not praying he is not being friend of Allah swt. Don’t think he is just lazy. If he is after girls then he is not trying to be a friend with Allah swt.

Benefits of Having Good Friends
What will happen when you get good friends? When you have your own pair of sneakers, because they are your own, you will not feel they are worn out even though they are old. But if your friend gets new sneakers and he puts his sneakers next to yours, then you will realize how worn out and dirty your own sneakers are.

Good friends are like the new sneakers; they make you realize how dirty your own heart is. Nabi sws has said that a good friend is like a fragrance seller. Even if you do not buy perfume from him, the minimum benefit you will get from him is that you will start smelling good! And a bad friend is like a blacksmith; the least harm he will cause you is that your clothes will get dirty because of smoke.

Worst friend of all is the screen. If you start with the sin now, even when you grow old you will not able to get out of it. Our Shaykh says about these people that even if they have a wife, they still prefer wifi. There should be no wifi in the house. There should only be a cabled internet, and that cable should go into a big 21″ plus plasma screen in your living room, main room, family room or sitting room where everyone can see it. Then you can play your games. Some of your parents do not understand these things. They have their own wifi issues.

Be More Mature
Arabs used to tell a poem to their children: O young man if you do not achieve greatness by the age of 20 you will never achieve greatness in your entire life. All those below 20 years of age should think about this.

Muhammad bin Qasim was the army head, and he was only 16 years old when he brought Islam to the Subcontinent. Imam Shaf’i rah was a supreme court judge by the age of 16, he used to get fatawa.

When you cross 12 you are an adult. West came up with a big fitnah with the concept of teenage. According to them, a teenager is not a child, nor an adult. Their concept is that in your teenage you should try everything and do everything and when you grow up later, as if it is going to happen, then you may decide what to do.

Some of you in your 20s and 30s also need to grow up. Emotionally you are still 12. You should be a role model for the younger ones. They should look to you and say this is mard e mo’min; saleh, dhakir.

Children should be attached to their teachers, ulema and mashaikh. They should do all the things grown ups do. Because once you hit 12, you are a grown up whether you like it or not. You have super turbo charged imaan in your heart, so you have to use it. If someone gives a Ferrari to grandma she will drive 5 miles an hour. You will say move over grandma give me the Ferrari.

Imaan is like Ferrari, and you are driving it like a grandma. You should floor it. You should be deep in sunnah, deep in salah, you should outpace one another. You will get this tarbiyah in darul uloom, madrassa and masjid. You will not get this from this society; the society also wants you to be an adult, but it wants you to be an adult in a twisted way. They want you to race to sin and deen wants you to race to Jannah, it’s your choice.

Love and Follow Nabi e Kareem sws
You should follow the sunnah of nabi sws. We have seen that boys who like a soccer star wear his number on their jersey. Who is your greatest star? Nabi sws. You have been selected for team Ummat e mustafa sws!

When we would play sports as kids, we would make random captains, and everyone would want to get selected first. If one of the captains turns out to be a good captain, you will be happy if they selected you, because that would most likely be the winning team. There is only one winning team in this world and that is Ummat e Mustafa sws, and Allah swt has selected you to be on that team. You should be happy, you should wear the colors. We want you young ones to become captains of this team, you can do it. It is all there for you.

Seek  Help From Elders
You have to be very kind and nice to parents. Listen to them and get their duas, try to make parents happy with you. If you have any sadness in life then you must seek help from someone – imam or mufti, you must share your concerns, never keep anything inside. Anytime you feel any sorrow any sadness in life, you must share it.

You are too young to manage things on your own. Society wants that you should not go to anyone, rather you should just go to sin if you feel sad, lonely, depressed, or if you have summer vacations. You should want only one thing: I want to go to deen. Whatever happens you must turn to deen. Don’t wait, it will become too late.

Make Secret Dhikr
Try to make dhikr of Allah swt. Mashaikh call it a secret dhikr. Should I tell you about secret dhikr? But then it will not be secret anymore!

The way to make secret dhikr is that no one else will know that you are making dhikr; your parents will not know; the class fellows will not know; kiramun katibeen angels also will not know. Yes, it comes that when angels will open up the book of deeds, there will be written sweet fragrance at some places. Angels will say we would sometimes smell a sweet fragrance from this person and we would not know what it was so we would write it as it is. And Allah swt will himself give the reward for it. When the King gives reward for something it is big!

Everyone  will have a secret love. Young people fall in love. It is your choice which love you want. Do you want to fall in love with a girl or a boy, or you want to be in love with Allah swt?

Secret dhikr can be made anytime, all the time you want. The way to do this is that in your heart just remember Allah swt. Remember that He is near you. Remember His name Allah. You can do that while running down the field or doing anything else. More you put remembrance of Allah swt in your heart, more you will be protected.

Learn Stories of Nabi sws and Sahaba ra
If you want to learn the sunnah then ask your parents or older siblings to tell you stories of Sahaba ra and Nabi sws. Keep listening and remembering and thinking about these stories. Then inshaAllah one day it will become your own story. It will be the story of your life.

Make Friends With People Wiser Than YouYou should spend time and get to know older people, because they are wiser and more mature. They can protect and guide you and befriend you. Always look up and ahead. May Allah swt accept your coming. We have great hope that Allah swt will raise from among you young people some of the great friends of Allah swt.

 وَآَخِرُ دَعْوَانَا أَنِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ