Sunday, 29 July 2018

Where is Islam?


بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

والصلاة والسلام على رسوله الكريم

وعلى آله واهل بيته الطيبين الطاهرين المظلومين

والعاقبة للمتقين


The variation in how Islam is understood and practiced based on the geographic expanse of the worldwide Muslim umma leads one to ask where exactly can a more authentic and pure Islam be found. It is natural to expect that a religion is strongest and most dynamic in the place it originally appeared. The region of Hijaz, where the twin holy cities of Mecca and Medina are located, is naturally considered the nerve center of our religion by virtue of it being the homeland of the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) and the place where Islam was initially established. Thousands of students from across the world enroll and study at the Islamic University of Medina, and after completing their studies return to their respective homelands to disseminate among their local communities the Salafi persuasion. The Salafis often point to the fact that their understanding and practice of Islam being firmly established in the Hijaz, especially in its mosques, and the fact that their senior Ulama are based in the Hijaz, as one of the proofs that their particular approach to Islam is the most authentic and faithful to the original. Some of them point to the tradition:
إِنَّ الدِّينَ لَيَأْرِزُ إِلَى الْحِجَازِ كَمَا تَأْرِزُ الْحَيَّةُ إِلَى جُحْرِهَا وَلَيَعْقِلَنَّ الدِّينُ مِنَ الْحِجَازِ مَعْقِلَ الأُرْوِيَّةِ مِنْ رَأْسِ الْجَبَلِ إِنَّ الدِّينَ بَدَأَ غَرِيبًا وَيَرْجِعُ غَرِيبًا فَطُوبَى لِلْغُرَبَاءِ الَّذِينَ يُصْلِحُونَ مَا أَفْسَدَ النَّاسُ مِنْ بَعْدِي مِنْ سُنَّتِي
“Indeed the religion will creep into the Hijaz just like a snake creeps into its hole, and the religion will cling to the Hijaz just like the female mountain goat cling to the peak of a mountain. Indeed the religion began as something strange and it will return to being strange. So Tuba is for the strangers who correct what the people have corrupted from my Sunna after me.” (Jami al-Tirmidhi #2630)
But this Hadith is extremely weak due to the narrator Kathir bin Abdillah, decidedly a liar and fabricator. Other, authentic traditions extoll the virtues of Yemen, the Holy Land (Sham/Levant) and the people of Persia, as being blessed with having a firm grasp of the Faith. However, with regard to Sham, the Prophet (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) did say:
إِذَا فَسَدَ أَهْلُ الشَّامِ فَلاَ خَيْرَ فِيكُمْ
“When the people of Sham become corrupt then there is no good in it for you.” (Jami al-Tirmidhi #2192)
This corruption of Sham, particularly modern-day Syria, which is the greater part of Sham, is especially evident now as a brutal civil war winds down and the Baathist, fascist and secularist government has displaced its traditionalist Sunni Muslim population. Indeed, one can argue that Sham was corrupted fairly early on in the history of Islam, going back to the establishment of the Umayyad dynasty. Just as Damascus was the seat of the vile Yazid son of Mu’awiya, today it is the seat of the fascist, Baathist regime of Assad. Perhaps it is for this reason that the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) said that the Messiah shall descend to the east of Damascus, near the White Minaret, for it is the flashpoint of the conflict between the forces of good and evil at present. As for the Hijaz, while it remains dynamic in the sense that the pilgrimages continue to be performed with great vigor, at present there is no great, charismatic religious leader who can be said to be based there. Instead, the Salafi Ulama of the Hijaz are under the firm control of the central Saudi state, which has now embarked on a new programme of liberal reform, including the opening of cinemas and beaches in that sacred land.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Ibn Arabi's Heretical Omnism: "All Creeds are Correct"


بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

والصلاة والسلام على نبيه الكريم

وعلى آله واصحابه اجمعين

Islam is necessarily an exclusivist creed, meaning it considers itself alone to be the true path of salvation and guidance, and all other creeds are paths that lead to the gates of Gehinnom. Allah Most High says:

إِنَّ الدِّينَ عِندَ اللَّـهِ الْإِسْلَامُ

Verily, the Religion in the sight of Allah is Islam

(Sura 3:19)

وَأَنَّ هَـٰذَا صِرَاطِي مُسْتَقِيمًا فَاتَّبِعُوهُ ۖ وَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا السُّبُلَ فَتَفَرَّقَ بِكُمْ عَن سَبِيلِهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ وَصَّاكُم بِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

And, [moreover], this is My path, which is straight, so follow it; and do not follow [other] ways, for you will be separated from His way. This has He instructed you that you may become righteous.

(Sura 6:153)

The heresy of omnism, the recognition and respect of all religions and creeds, is associated with a certain, false brand of mysticism that was championed in this Umma by the astray Ibn Arabi. In his diabolical interpretation of the holy Qur’an, Ibn Arabi wrote:
“Take care lest you be limited by a particular creed and deny what is other than it, so that a great blessing may pass you by. Indeed, knowledge of what the matter is based on may pass you by. Make yourself a vessel for all the forms of belief. Surely Allah is vaster and greater than being contained by one creed rather than another. So Allah says, "Wherever you turn, the face of Allah is there." (2:115) He did not mention one "where" less than another…There are only creeds, so all directions are correct. Every correct thing has a reward. Every rewarded thing is happy. Every happy one is approved.” (Fusus al-Hikam pp.113-114):
 
 

Monday, 23 July 2018

Trial of Statism and the Modernist Narrative


بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

والصلاة والسلام على نبيه الكريم

وعلى آله واصحابه اجمعين

Based on firasa and nur which Allah Most High places in the hearts of His chosen servants from among the Awliya and Atqiya, many imminent, terrible tribulations are strongly warned about prior to them manifesting in their full expression. The illustrious Prophet Muhammad (sall Allahu alayhi wa-Aalihi wasallam) said:

مَنْ يُرِدِ اللَّهُ بِهِ خَيْرًا يُفَقِّهْهُ فِي الدِّينِ

“Whoever Allah intends good for, He gives him understanding of the Religion”

Part of this comprehension of the Religion is the knowledge and ability to understand the reality of various trials and tribulations that the Muslims are faced with or will soon face. As I have said, this kind of understanding and knowledge is in a special category of its own, and requires a degree of divine inspiration. It cannot be discerned merely on account of empirical observation or study. One must be intimately acquainted with the underline narrative of this Religion. Understanding the narrative of Islam is truly a rare blessing which few of even those who consider themselves Ulama have been granted. Most of the madaris and other academies, learning institutions and universities which churn out licensed and qualified Ulama only acquaint their students with the formal and outer aspects of the Religion, but do not really nurture in their students a strong comprehension of Islam’s underline narrative. This leaves the door wide open for the deceivers and false callers to manufacture their own narratives while claiming allegiance to Islam, indeed, even going to the extent of claiming that their narrative is Islam. Here I am referring to the modernists who possess greater mastery over how to penetrate their ideas into the public imagination than the traditionalist Ulama.
Now the seeds of the fitna which I am referring to have already been sowed, and we are only now just beginning to see them sprout. The traditionalist Ulama, that is those who have some consciousness of it, are bewildered as to how to respond to this fitna. The fitna is of course the unholy alliance between the modernist narrative and the coercive power of the nation-state. Within the Muslim world, this profane union reared its head during the reign of Muhammad Ali, the Khedive of Egypt. He laid the foundation for transforming that country into a modern nation-state, a project that continued to progress under the supervision of later rulers like Nasser. Prior to the 19th century reforms introduced by the likes of Muhammad Ali, the religious leadership of the Muslim community exerted greater independence because they were able to administer their affairs and projects outside of strict state control. Only when the awqaf were seized by the State, especially the nationalization of waqf land and property, and the hitherto prestigious Islamic universities nationalized as well, was a steep decline in the dynamism, independence and influence of the Sufi brotherhoods and schools of Ulama observed. The Sufi brotherhoods and orders, despite the fact that many of them exhibit harmful innovations and practices which have no sanction in Islam, nevertheless acted as forces which maintained the independence and integrity of Islam from the corrosive control of the modern state. By cutting off the source of funding for the propagation of various Islamic charities, associations and spiritual orders through the seizure of the awqaf, the State succeeded in reducing their influence significantly, consequently leading to a downfall of religiosity within the society. The State also aggressively promoted greater industrialization and modern infrastructure projects, leading to an urbanization of society which sped up the pace of life and left little time for private religious pursuits. This catastrophic transformation of lifestyle was extremely detrimental to the flourishing of Islam, which speaks of the constant struggle between a mundane life of worldly pursuits and the higher life dedicated to the remembrance and worship of Allah Most High.
According to the modernists, the natural state of an ideal Islamic society is one in which the State is extremely powerful so that it can adequately defend the Muslims on the world stage. But in order for the State to achieve that position of strength and power, it must have full control over the society and particularly over Religion, which if left privatized has the potential to constantly pose as a rival to the writ of the State. Therefore, the State must monopolize the institutions of Islam, particularly the institutions of Islamic learning and activity, and ensure that there is no class of Muslims who wield any kind of religious influence who are not dependent on the State. This is what Javed Ghamidi, one of the very prominent contemporary modernists, openly speaks of in his notion of a “counter narrative”. Ghamidi cleverly uses the word “counter” in reference to the destructive Jihadist narrative which seeks to create a global Islamic empire. Since the Muslims by and large have come to reject the harmful so-called Jihadist narrative, having witnessed the great destruction it has wreaked upon the Umma, Ghamidi has seized the opportunity to present another dangerous narrative in the context of countering the Jihadist one. In doing so, he has given the impression that his own “counter narrative” is the only alternative one to that of violent extremism and terrorism. Now realize the fact that the scourge of violent extremism and terrorism has been waning for some time now, but since the media had exaggerated the problem of religious extremism and terrorism inappropriately, it led many unsuspecting Muslims to be deceived by those snake oil salesmen into thinking that the modernist project is the only way to resolve the “crisis”. Notice that here the modernist counter narrative is directly opposed to the principle of secularism, which seeks a strict separation between religion and state. The American model of secularism, which one can appreciate because it was instituted for the purpose of protecting the integrity of religion from being encroached upon by the State, is not to be confused with the French model known as laicite, whose purpose is the exact opposite, namely, to protect the state and the public from the negative influence and expressions of religiosity. In other words, the American model of secularism has an inherent respect for the institution of religion and seeks to protect its integrity, while the French model of secularism fundamentally views religion as an undesirable element which must be restricted and robbed of as much dynamism and power as possible. In the Muslim world, when secularism is spoken of it is usually the French model of secularism that is intended and conceived as the only antidote to the “problem” of religious extremism. Regarding the American model of secularism, however, Ghamidi has expressed the sentiment of the so-called Muslim modernist: “In a Muslim society, the promotion of secularism is not the solution to this problem”, and has elaborated on this point further: “in order to curb religious extremism, it is essential that the mini-state which is available to religious scholars in our country in the form of the Friday sermon and running the affairs of mosques be dismembered” (Counter Narrative on Collective Issues pp.11, 13). If anyone wishes to see what the consequences of such a policy will look like in practice, one need not look further than the neighboring People’s Republic of China. That malevolent, beastly dragon, a one-party, authoritarian state, one of the worst examples of statism, perhaps only surpassed by its own satelite of North Korea, has totally monopolized the institution of religion in its country, to the extent that devotion and reverence to the State itself has been added to creeds of every religion under its control. In Communist China, the religions of Islam and Christianity are particularly persecuted, since they are viewed as foreign ideas that do not exactly fit into the State’s sinocentric worldview. Interestingly, the Catholic Church in China is directly controlled by the State and not by the Vatican. Its bishops, clerics, etc., are appointed by the State, whose legitimacy the Vatican naturally rejects, while the Vatican recognized clergy are forced to operate underground. The situation of Muslims is worse, especially in East Turkestan, the so-called Xinjiang province which the Chinese forcefully annexed and now brutally occupy. There, Muslims are literally being detained in concentration camps and “re-educated”. This process of re-education is meant to distance the Uighur Muslims from their Religion and to adapt the religion of worship of the Chinese State and the ruling Communist Party. Any private expression of Islam independent of State control is likewise brutally supressed in the former Soviet republics, especially Tajikistan and Kazakhstan. Nevertheless, far from seeing a greater liberalization in those countries with regard to religious freedom, we instead see a move toward such statism in the heartland of Islam, the Arab world in particular, and even in Saudi Arabia. The recent crackdown and imprisonment of Ulama and Mashayikh in Saudi Arabia is cause for concern, as the crown prince MBS aggressively implements the modernist and statist vision for his country which will require the full supression of the Ulama and any possibility for the amplification of a dissenting voice from among their ranks to the State’s irreligious policies.
I shall, in sha Allah, write more extensively on this great tribulation, especially in light of the guidance concerning it from the holy Qur’an and the stories of the ancient Prophets of old who dealt with similar situations. The story of Prophet Moses and the cursed Pharaoh of Egypt is especially relevant. Anyone who has read the holy Qur’an knows that this story presents a key theme for our Religion and its narrative that requires deep introspection and understanding from the reader. It is that narrative which I wish to elaborate upon and explain, the narrative which the satanic statists and modernists are so keen to oppose.

Democracy is Un-Islamic




بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

والصلاة والسلام على نبيه الكريم

وعلى آله واصحابه اجمعين

Previously, I discussed one troubling aspect of modern democracy, namely, the system of elections and campaigns for the vote. These days it is quite tragic to observe several so-called Islamic preachers, especially those who attach themselves to the orthodox, Sunni stream, defending the system of modern democracy with all its intrinsic features such as regular, periodic elections, the multiplicity of political parties and their campaigning for the vote of the public. According to this catastrophic narrative, Islam itself advocates a democratic form of government. But I intend to wryly challenge this narrative by pointing out that there is no precedent for some of the fundamental components of modern democracy in the way in which the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) and his rightly-guided successors governed. Of course, here the example of the rightly-guided successors is more relevant, since the example of the Prophet’s government can be said to be in a singular, special category of itself, especially in light of our doctrine of khatm an-Nubuwwa, the finality of prophethood. From the orthodox, Sunni perspective, the Prophet’s successors succeeded him in the administrative sense, otherwise they were not prophets themselves and consequently could never wield prophetic, divine authority. This of course is in stark contrast to the doctrine of the Imamiyya Shi’a, who consider their twelve Imams after the Prophet (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) as not only infallible, divinely-appointed authorities like the Prophet, but in fact superior to all the other prophets before him, including great prophets like Abraham, Moses and Jesus. For this reason, the orthodox Sunni community has historically and presently been more susceptible to the fitna of modern democracy. From this orthodox, mainstream and Sunni perspective, it is generally agreed that Islam does not prescribe any particular form of government, though it does lay down some essential guidelines and rules. The governance of the Prophet himself and his immediate successors (Abi Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali radi Allahu anhum) is considered the ideal or perfect example of government. As already mentioned, the Prophet’s (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) governance has to be put in a special category precisely because of him being a prophet. Still, it is somewhat of an unresolved matter on separating the different capacities and roles of the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam). His role of administrative leader in Medina can be said to be separate, at least to some extent, from his primary role of Prophet. Without going too deep into this controversy here, the point I would like to make is that whether or not the Prophet’s role of administrative leader in Medina was divinely-guided and part and parcel of his prophetic office, it is nevertheless held as an ideal in terms of its justice and compliance with the teachings and principles of Islam. Only a heretic could say that the Prophet’s (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) example of governance in Medina is not ideal and should not be considered a model for Muslims today, or that there are other examples of governance, especially from the disbelieving nations of Europe and America, which are superior. This modernist heresy has been co-opted by the so-called “Islamic democrats”, who have put forward a false narrative to deceive the people that the government of the Prophet (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) and his immediate successors (radi Allahu anhum) was fundamentally democratic in the sense that term is understood in the modern political language. These “Islamic democrats” often cite the Ayah in which Allah describes the praiseworthy:

وَأَمْرُهُمْ شُورَىٰ بَيْنَهُمْ

their affairs are conducted among them by consultation

(Sura 42:38)

The “Islamic democrats”, either out of ignorance or disingenuously claim that Islam’s praise of a consultative form of government is synonymous with modern democracy with its inherent notion of universal suffrage, regular elections after every four or five years, and party factionalism. There is indeed a fine line which delineates consultation from majoritarian democracy. The word shura literally means: “consultation; consulting; advising” (Arabic-English Dictionary of Qur’anic Usage p.502). The verb consult in no ways means that the one who is consulting is obliged to act upon the counsel or advice of the one with whom he consulted, in stark contrast to democracy.
Now from the Islamic perspective, the fundamental problem with democracy is definitive declaration that ultimate sovereignty rests with the people themselves. According to the principle of democracy, a state or government derives its legitimacy from the people themselves. There are no permanent values or articles of any democratic state, including those enshrined in its constitution, which cannot be amended if the majority of the people who constitute the citizenry of a state favor it. In a modern democracy, the people don’t merely vote in to power the executive, but more problematically, they vote to power “legislators” to a body such as a parliament whose function is to legislate. The doctrine of Islam is that Allah Most High is ar-Rabb (the Sovereign; the Lord) al-Malik (the Master) and al-Hakam (the Ruler). Legislation for humankind is the sole prerogative of Allah Most High, Who makes His will manifest with regard to legislation through the medium of angels, prophets and divine revelation. To legislate any law or regulation that contravenes or is not compliant with the divinely-revealed Shari’a, and to consider that legislation as superior or above the law of the Shari’a, is not only an act of kufr, it is also a kind of shirk (idolatry).
Some of the so-called “Islamic democrats” have understood and even acknowledged this fundamental incompatibility of Islam with modern democracy, so they have attempted to tailor a variant of modern democracy that is more suitable for Muslim countries and compliant with the Islamic concept of hakamiyya. Mawdudi and his Jama’ati Islami in Pakistan proclaimed that the constitution ratified for that state in 1973 (ironically during the populist and leftist government of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto), was a purely Islamic constitution, compliant with the doctrine of hakamiyya, because in its very preamble is stated: “Whereas sovereignty over the entire Universe belongs to Almighty Allah alone, and the authority to be exercised by the people of Pakistan within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust”. Another so-called “Islamic republic”, namely, Iran, also has in its constitution a similar statement: “one God (“There is no god but God”), the exclusive attribution of sovereignty and the legislation of law to Him, and the necessity of surrender to His commands.” In the case of Pakistan, while the preamble of its constitution does declare the universal sovereignty and ultimate authority of Allah Most High, the reality is that this statement is restricted to being only theoretical, because the rest of the constitution and the legal system of Pakistan, based on English common law, enshrines other principles which manifestly contradict the preamble. Furthermore, the Pakistani constitution enshrines other provisions for defining and interpreting the divine laws prescribed by Allah which are opposed to the pure and fundamentalist Islamic methodology, thereby rendering that preamble meaningless on this count as well. Practically speaking, it is observed that in Pakistan none of the statutory hudud laws legislated by Allah are enforced, such as the stoning of adulterers or the cutting of hands of thieves or even the flogging of drunkards. The usury-based banking system is allowed to operate brazenly and with impunity in the so-called “Islamic Republic”, despite the divine proclamation to those of the believing community who refuse to give up what remains of the system of usury:

فَإِن لَّمْ تَفْعَلُوا فَأْذَنُوا بِحَرْبٍ مِّنَ اللَّـهِ وَرَسُولِهِ

And if you do not, then be informed of a war from Allah and His Apostle

(Sura 2:279)

The sure way of ascertaining the sincerity of faith of anyone who claims to be a believing Muslim is not to be distracted by his long prayers and so-called “personal piety”, but to observe his financial dealings. How many so-called “Muslim bankers” are to be observed offering impressive personal devotions to God while simultaneously eating the forbidden wealth of the exploited through the satanic system of interest-based commercial banking. The Pakistani state has no right to define itself as “Islamic” in anyway whatsoever so long as it tolerates something which is so offensive to Allah Most High and His beloved Prophet that He has declared nothing short of war against those who continue to indulge in it. The reader should pay due attention to this point, because the sin of interest-based transactions and financial dealings is much more severe than adultery or intoxication. In the Hadith literature, we come across such severe statements from the Prophet of Islam (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) in condemnation of riba, for example:

دِرْهَمٌ رِبًا يَأْكُلُهُ الرَّجُلُ وَهُوَ يَعْلَمُ , أَشَدُّ مِنْ سِتَّةٍ وَثَلَاثِينَ زَنْيَةً

“A dirham which a man consumes as riba knowingly is worse before Allah than thirty-six acts of adultery”

(Musnad Ahmad)

الرِّبَا اثْنَانِ وَسَبْعُونَ بَابًا ، أَدْنَاهَا مِثْلُ إِتْيَانِ الرَّجُلِ أُمَّهُ

“There are seventy-two types of riba, the least of which is like a man committing incest with his mother”

(Mu’jam al-Awsat lil-Tabarani)

Returning to the subject of democracy, it is quite apparent that this system, in its modern manifestation, was introduced into the Muslim world through European colonialism. Otherwise, it has no precedent in Islamic history, and as I have argued, certainly not from the khilafat al-rashida or the rightly-guided succession to the Prophet, the ideal period of thirty years. “Islamic democrats” may argue that during that period, the Prophet’s successors, especially sayyidina Abi Bakr al-Siddiq (radi Allahu anhu), were “democratically elected”. It is certainly true that sayyidina Abi Bakr was elected to the office of khalifa, but election, especially for our purpose, is not synonymous with democracy. Furthermore, the election of Abi Bakr al-Siddiq was not through universal suffrage. The senior elders of the community from among the Muhajirin and Ansar had gathered at the Saqifa of Bani Sa’ida, where after a brief debate and discussion, almost unanimously pledged their allegiance, one by one, to Abi Bakr (radi Allahu anhum). The rest of the senior and prominent men of the community, from among the Sahaba, who were not present at the Saqifa, gave their oath of allegiance to sayyidina Abi Bakr subsequently. But this was hardly a democratic exercise, as evident by the immediate and numerous revolts of the various Bedouin tribes outside of the Hijaz, leading to the Hurub al-Ridda (“apostasy wars”). Those tribes revolted on the basis that they refused to recognize the khilafa of sayyidina Abi Bakr. Nor did the Sahaba feel it necessary to take into consideration the view of those tribes, let alone each and every individual man, woman and child of Arabia. Rather, the rebels, apostates and false prophets were put down by force and the authority of the institution of Khilafa established in Arabia through the divine help of Allah Most High and by means of the sword. The concept of universal suffrage, so fundamental to modern democracy, is altogether alien to Islam and even opposed to Islamic principles and teachings. According to the principle of universal suffrage, even people of other religions are entitled to vote and participate in the decision making process of the government, and even the so-called “Islamic democrats” cannot be so blind as to not see that there is no precedent for that in the khilafat al-rashida.
Finally, I would like to discuss the reality of regular elections from an Islamic perspective. It should be noted that while the Prophet’s successors were elected through a process of consultation among the senior members of the community, they were elected for life. When a group of disgruntled rebels rose up against the Prophet’s third successor, sayyidina Uthman (radi Allahu anhu) demanding that he resign from the office of khalifa  the response was given from a Hadith of the Prophet, in which the Prophet (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) told him:

يَا عُثْمَانُ إِنَّهُ لَعَلَّ اللَّهَ يُقَمِّصُكَ قَمِيصًا , فَإِنْ أَرَادُوكَ عَلَى خَلْعِهِ فَلَا تَخْلَعْهُ لَهُمْ

“O Uthman! Indeed, Allah may give you a gown, so if they wish you take it off do not take it off for them.”

(Jami al-Tirmidhi)

The Prophet (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) was of course referring to the qamis or gown of khilafa, which once worn cannot be taken off for life. And indeed, sayyidina Uthman embraced martyrdom at the hands of those rebels rather than give in to their demands and threats for him to resign from his sacred office.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Religious Movement of Abu Dharr al-Ghifari RA


Allah Most High says:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنَّ كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الْأَحْبَارِ وَالرُّهْبَانِ لَيَأْكُلُونَ أَمْوَالَ النَّاسِ بِالْبَاطِلِ وَيَصُدُّونَ عَن سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ ۗ وَالَّذِينَ يَكْنِزُونَ الذَّهَبَ وَالْفِضَّةَ وَلَا يُنفِقُونَهَا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ فَبَشِّرْهُم بِعَذَابٍ أَلِيمٍ ﴿٣٤﴾ يَوْمَ يُحْمَىٰ عَلَيْهَا فِي نَارِ جَهَنَّمَ فَتُكْوَىٰ بِهَا جِبَاهُهُمْ وَجُنُوبُهُمْ وَظُهُورُهُمْ ۖ هَـٰذَا مَا كَنَزْتُمْ لِأَنفُسِكُمْ فَذُوقُوا مَا كُنتُمْ تَكْنِزُونَ ﴿٣٥﴾

O you who believe! Indeed, many of the ahbar [rabbis] and the ruhban [monks] surely eat the wealth of the people in falsehood, and hinder from the way of Allah. And those who hoard gold and silver, and do not spend it in the way of Allah, give them tidings of a painful punishment.

The Day when it will be heated in the fire of Gehinnom, and their foreheads, their sides, and their backs will be branded with it: “This is what you hoarded for yourselves, so taste what you used to hoard.”

(Sura 9:34-35)

This critical passage in the holy Qur’an exposes the reality of most of the so-called religious leaders. At the outset, I would like to point out that although the terms ahbar and ruhban are usually translated to mean rabbis and monks, the religious leaders of influence among Jews and Christians respectively, these terms are not to be understood as restricted to those specific religious traditions. From a linguistic angle, the word hibr usually translated to mean “rabbi”, is derived from the triconsonantal root  h-b-r which carries the connotation of “ink, writing; learned person, priest, rabbi, an authority in matters of faith” (Arabic-English Dictionary of Qur’anic Usage, p.187), with the word itself: “variously interpreted as a learned person, an authority in matters of faith, a priest, a rabbi” (ibid, p.188). In short, the application of the word hibr and its plural ahbar is not restricted to the rabbis or learned religious authorities of the Jewish tradition. When the Qur’an was revealed, the Muslim community was in its infancy and had not fully developed its own class of learned religious leaders, especially given the living presence of the Prophet himself. For this reason, the word ahbar has been used, but it is not restricted to the learned religious scholars of the Jewish tradition, but will also apply to their equivalents in the Islamic tradition. The Prophet (peace be upon him) is reported to have said:
وَإِنَّ حَبْرَ هَذِهِ الأُمَّةِ عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ عَبَّاسٍ
“Indeed, the habr of this Umma is Abdullah ibni Abbas”, proving that the term may be applied even to those extremely learned authorities of the Islamic religion, including some of the Prophet’s own close companions. As for ruhban, usually translated to mean monk, linguistically it is derived from the root r-h-b, which connotes, among other things: “monk, the state of being a monk, monasticism” (Arabic-English Dictionary of Qur’anic Usage, p.384), and the word rahib and its plural ruhban “monk, ascetic” (ibid, p.385). Once again, while the word ruhban is mostly used in referring to the Christian monks specifically, it is not necessarily restricted to them, but may be used to describe the “ascetics” of the Muslim Umma also. While the Qur’an describes rahbaniyya (monasticism) as a religious innovation of the followers of Jesus son of Mary which Allah had not prescribed for them, and which they consequently could not appropriately observe (Sura 57:27), the ruhban of Islam, our own version of ascetics, are what are variously known as Sufis, faqirs and dervishes. Of course, many Muslims, especially the literalist Salafis and modernists, consider Sufism and its institution of faqr as a rejected religious innovation. However, the Prophet (peace be upon him) is reported to have said:
لِكُلِّ نَبِيٍّ رَهْبَانِيَّةٌ ، وَرَهْبَانِيَّةُ هَذِهِ الْأُمَّةِ الْجِهَادُ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ
“For every prophet there was a rahbaniyya and the rahbaniyya  of this Umma is Jihad in the way of Allah” (Musnad Ahmad) Hence, the institution of rahbaniyya which should be acknowledged as existing in Islam is that of Jihad. The ascetic mujahid who forsakes the comfort of this world in preference of leading the harsh life of a warrior in the path of Allah is himself a kind of rahib, and this Hadith points to the fact that Islam wishes to create such an institution of influential religious leadership connected with those pious and ascetic individuals who are “warrior-saints” or “martial-ascetics”, which parallels the religious institution of the learned scholars or ahbar. I shall, in sha Allah, explore this deeper in my upcoming review of Thomas Sizgorich’s paper Sanctified Violence: Monotheist Militancy as the Tie That Bound Christian Rome and Islam.
Returning to the two verses I quoted (Sura 9:34-35), Allah says that “most” of the ahbar and ruhban, these two parallel kinds of religious leadership, academic and charismatic respectively, are corrupt because they “eat the wealth of the people in falsehood”. This is pointing to the fact that both the academic and charismatic kinds of religious leadership provide their services to the laity for money, and the reader should know that Islam considers money in religion as inevitably corrupting and compromising. When the Prophet (peace be upon him) appointed his companion Uthman b. Abi al-AsRA as an imam for his people, he instructed him:
وَاتَّخِذْ مُؤَذِّنًا لاَ يَأْخُذُ عَلَى أَذَانِهِ أَجْرًا
“Take a mu’adhdhin who doesn’t take payment for his adhan” The general principle put forward by Islam is that payment is not to be taken for providing a religious service. Taking payment for providing religious services is what led to the moral corruption of the religious leaderships of the Jews and Christians, and the religious leadership of the Muslims, who were destined to emulate them, likewise became corrupt because of money. As I have mentioned previously on this blog, the ideal and supreme example of religious leadership is that of a prophet. The institution of Nubuwwa is the highest and supreme institution of religious authority, according to Islam, and the Nabi or prophet is one who doesn’t take even a penny for doing the work of his ministry:
قُل لَّا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ أَجْرًا إِلَّا الْمَوَدَّةَ فِي الْقُرْبَىٰ
Say [O My Prophet]: “I do not ask you for this any payment except love for [my] relatives.”
(Sura 42:34)
See also Sura 6:90 and 11:51, in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) is ordered to say to the people that he does not ask them for any payment for his deliverance of the message to them, as his payment is to be given to him only by his Maker. It is a great tragedy that the Ulama and other religious functionaries in the world of Islam today take stipends either directly or indirectly from the people (for example, through the ministry of awqaf, etc.). This dependence on salaries from the laity is what negatively compromises the integrity and independence of the Muslim religious leadership. This is what is meant when Allah the Exalted says that they “eat the wealth of the people in falsehood”. But when Allah goes on to say “and those who hoard gold and silver, and do not spend it in the way of Allah, give them tidings of a painful punishment”, this is not restricted to the religious leaders, but is general in applying to anyone from among the people who pile up gold and silver without spending it in the way of Allah. This is certainly the well-known interpretation of the Prophet’s eminent companion sayyidina Abu Dharr al-GhifariRA, who initiated the first religious reform movement in the history of Islam since the death of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). During the caliphate of sayyidina UthmanRA, the doors of fitna and corruption were swung wide open and internal dissension began to appear within the Umma, among the Prophet’s companions themselves, for the first time. Sayyidina Abu Dharr al-GhifariRA witnessed a transformation in how the people had become greedy and gluttonous, piling up wealth, and the gap between the extremely rich and the extremely impoverished had widened greatly. Seeing this state of affairs, especially in the province of Syria, sayyidina Abu DharrRA began preaching against the corruption of the rich and powerful and started the first religious reform movement, which inevitably irked even some of the Prophet’s own companions who had not truly or fully understood the spirit of the Religion. Here I am referring, with all due respect, to men like Mu’awiya b. Abi Sufyan and even sayyidina UthmanRA himself:
وَقَامَ أَبُو ذَرٍّ بِالشَّامِ ، وَجَعَلَ يَقُولُ : يَا مَعْشَرَ الأَغْنِيَاءِ ، وَاسُوا الْفُقَرَاءَ ، بَشِّرِ الَّذِينَ يَكْنِزُونَ الذَّهَبَ وَالْفِضَّةَ وَلا يُنْفِقُونَهَا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ بِمَكَاوٍ مِنْ نَارٍ ، تُكْوَى بِهَا جِبَاهُهُمْ ، وَجُنُوبُهُمْ ، وَظُهُورُهُمْ . فَمَا زَالَ حَتَّى وَلِعَ الْفُقَرَاءُ بِمِثْلِ ذَلِكَ ، وَأَوْجَبُوهُ عَلَى الأَغْنِيَاءِ ، وَحَتَّى شَكَا الأَغْنِيَاءُ مَا يَلْقَوْنَ مِنَ النَّاسِ ، فَكَتَبَ مُعَاوِيَةُ إِلَى عُثْمَانَ : أَنَّ أَبَا ذَرٍّ قَدْ أَعْضَلَ بِي ، وَقَدْ كَانَ مِنْ أَمْرِهِ كَيْتَ وَكَيْتَ ، فَكَتَبَ إِلَيْهِ عُثْمَانُ : أَنَّ الْفِتْنَةَ قَدْ أَخْرَجَتْ خَطْمَهَا وَعَيْنَيْهَا ، فَلَمْ يَبْقَ إِلا أَنْ تَثِبَ فَلا تَنْكَأ الْقَرْحَ ، وَجَهِّزْ أَبَا ذَرٍّ إِلَيَّ ، وَابْعَثْ مَعَهُ دَلِيلا ، وَزَوِّدْهُ وَارْفُقْ بِهِ ، وَكَفْكَفِ النَّاسَ وَنَفْسَكَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتَ ، فَإِنَّكَ تُمْسَكُ مَا اسْتَمْسَكْتَ . فَبَعَثَ بِأَبِي ذَرٍّ وَمَعَهُ دَلِيلٌ ، فَلَمَّا قَدِمَ الْمَدِينَةَ ، وَرَأَى الْمَجَالِسَ فِي أَصْلِ سَلْعٍ ، قَالَ : بَشِّرْ أَهْلَ الْمَدِينَةِ بِغَارَةٍ شَعْوَاءَ ، وَحَرْبٍ مِذْكَارٍ . وَدَخَلَ عَلَى عُثْمَانَ ، فَقَالَ : يَا أَبَا ذَرٍّ مَا لأَهْلِ الشَّامِ يَشْكُونَ ذَرَبَكَ ؟ فَأَخْبَرَهُ أَنَّهُ لا يَنْبَغِي أَنْ يُقَالَ مَالُ اللَّهِ ، وَلا يَنْبَغِي لِلأَغْنِيَاءِ أَنْ يَقْتَنُوا مَالا . فَقَالَ : يَا أَبَا ذَرٍّ عَلَيَّ أَنْ أَقْضِيَ مَا عَلَيَّ ، وَآخُذَ مَا عَلَى الرَّعِيَّةِ ، وَلا أُجْبِرُهُمْ عَلَى الزُّهْدِ ، وَأَنْ أَدْعُوهُمْ إِلَى الاجْتِهَادِ وَالاقْتِصَادِ . قَالَ : فَتَأْذَنْ لِي فِي الْخُرُوجِ ، فَإِنَّ الْمَدِينَةَ لَيْسَتْ لِي بِدَارٍ . فَقَالَ : أَوَتَسْتَبْدِلْ بِهَا إِلا شَرًّا مِنْهَا . قَالَ : أَمَرَنِي رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَنْ أَخْرُجَ مِنْهَا إِذَا بَلَغَ الْبِنَاءُ سَلْعًا . قَالَ : فَانْفِذْ لِمَا أَمَرَكَ بِهِ .
Now Abu Dharr rose up in Syria and began saying, “0 men of wealth, show charity to the poor. To ‘those who treasure up gold and silver and do not expend them in the way of God,’ declare [that there will be] branding irons from a fire, ‘and therewith their foreheads and their sides and their backs shall be branded .” He persisted in such (statements) until the poor were set aflame and compelled the rich to do this, and until the rich complained about (the behavior) that they were encountering from the people. Mu’awiyah wrote [as follows] to Uthman: “Abu Dharr has become a problem for me, and his case has involved such -and-such matters.” Uthman wrote him [in response]: “Verily dissension has protruded its snout and eyes and is poised to jump. Do not scrape the scab, but rather dispatch Abu Dharr to me. Send a guide along with him, give him adequate provisions, and treat him gently. Restrain the people and yourself as far as you can, for you will keep control [of affairs] only so long as you keep control of yourself.” So (Mu’awiyah) sent Abu Dharr away accompanied by a guide. When (Abu Dharr) reached Medina and saw the homes (majalis) at the foot of Sal, he said, “Declare to the Medinese [that they will suffer] a devastating attack and a terrible war.” Then he entered Uthman’s presence, and (Uthman) said, “Abu Dharr, why are the Syrians complaining about the wounds inflicted by you?” (Abu Dharr) informed him that it was improper to say, “God's property,” nor was it proper for the rich to grasp after wealth. (Uthman) responded, “Abu Dharr, I must carry out my own obligations and take what is owed by the subjects (ra’iyyah). I cannot compel them to be ascetics; rather, I am required to summon them to heed God’s commandments and to follow the path of moderation.” (Abu Dharr) said, “Then permit me to leave, for Medina is no home for me.” (Uthman) replied, “And will you replace it save with [someplace] worse?” (Abu Dharr) said, “The Messenger of God commanded me to leave (Medina) when the built-up area (al-bins) reached Sal.” “Well, do as he commanded you,” said Uthman. (Tarikh al-Tabari)

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Is Islam a Cult?


The word cult has a pejorative connotation in the dominant, secular society. It is often used with the purpose of conveying a sense of contempt for any religious doctrine or practice that challenges or potentially poses a challenge to that dominant, secular society and its core values. As long as a religious doctrine or practice is inconsequential to the continued dominance of the secular order, it would never be described as a cult. For example, innocuous mainline Christian churches such as the Roman Catholic Church, or the established Protestant churches like the Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc., would never be considered cults. But there are those other, usually much smaller, Christian churches whose practices such as snake-handling, faith-healing, communal living, polygamy or rejection of modern technology, are often considered the textbook definition of a cult. Apart from Christianity, every major world religious tradition has examples of these kinds of cults. Consider the Lev Tahor sect of orthodox Judaism, or even the broader Haredi community of which the Lev Tahor are an offshoot. The Haredi, or “ultra-orthodox” Jews, are sometimes considered “cult-like” because of their lifestyle and rejection of or at least distance from the modern, secular world. Cults are usually characterized by excessive and irrational devotion to a spiritual guide. The common feeling in the mainstream, secular society, is that cult leaders exploit the naivety and blind-faith of their followers for their own profit and gain. Cults also discourage social interaction between those inside with those outside the group. Practices such as abstinence, dietary restrictions, dress codes and a strict system of enforcement, are viewed as ways through which a cult controls its members. Modern, secular society values individualism and freedom. A cult represents almost everything the modern secular world abhors. The state particularly seeks to prevent the proliferation of a cult by enacting laws in the name of protecting women and children from domestic “abuse”. The main religions are already considered inherently “patriarchal” in feminist discourse, but cults even more so. State prosecutors actively seek to destroy “cults” by going after their leaders and members, accusing them of domestic abuse.
Now the bottom line, from the perspective of this blog, is whether or not the religion of Islam fits the definition or at least exhibits some of the essential characteristics of a cult. If the answer to this question is an affirmative one, would it, theoretically, be right to refer to Islam as a cult, given that it is a pejorative term, generally speaking? Before we explore whether Islam is a cult, the fact that cults are viewed negatively or that the word itself carries a pejorative connotation, should not be an obstacle to refer to our religion as a cult if it technically qualifies as one. The Prophet Muhammad sall Allahu alayhi wa-Aalihi wasallam said:
بَدَأَ الإِسْلاَمُ غَرِيبًا وَسَيَعُودُ كَمَا بَدَأَ غَرِيبًا فَطُوبَى لِلْغُرَبَاءِ
“Islam began as something strange and shall return to being something strange as it began, so glad-tidings for the Strangers.” (Sahih Muslim)
Being gharib (strange) refers of course to the broader society’s perception of Islam, in other words, whether or not Islam is a cult, it will certainly be considered one by the secular world. Islam certainly does stand out in the galaxy of religions. The exceptionalism of Islam is the reason why world powers and other states with considerable Muslim populations are struggling with policies and issues relating to supression of Islam in a way that is unimaginable with any other religion. One of the definitions of a cult: “a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.” Going by this particular definition, Islam as a whole or the Muslim Umma as a whole does not qualify as a cult. However, there may be particular sects or orders within the world of Islam which may fit this definition. The Hadith regarding the Ghuraba, Muslims of the latter days who are set apart from the broader Umma because of their sticking to the Prophet’s Sunna, may indeed fit the definition of a cult, since the broader society regard them as “false, unorthodox, extremist”, though they may not necessarily have a single “charismatic leader” to direct that as is often the case in cults which come to mind when one ponders the term.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Najjariyya Sect

Jabriyya is the term used to describe a range of sects that believe man is compelled by God in all of his deeds and acts. They believe that all activity is predicated to God, and man can only be said to commit acts figuratively. This is a Satanic doctrine because it necessitates that God is the doer of all evil deeds. Allah Himself says:

مَّا أَصَابَكَ مِنْ حَسَنَةٍ فَمِنَ اللَّـهِ ۖ وَمَا أَصَابَكَ مِن سَيِّئَةٍ فَمِن نَّفْسِكَ

Whatever befalls you of good is from Allah, and whatever befalls you of evil is from yourself.

(Sura 4:79)

The Jabriyya are the polar opposite of the Qadariyya. The latter believe that man is independent of God in the sense that he creates his own deeds. So while one heresy ascribes evil to God, the other limits His power and dominion. Because the Qadariyya attribute powers to man which are the domain of Allah only, they have been compared to the dualist Magians by the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allahu alayhi wa-Aalihi wasallam) as reported in the Hadith of Ibn UmarRA:

الْقَدَرِيَّةُ مَجُوسُ هَذِهِ الأُمَّةِ

“The Qadariyya are the Magians of this Umma”

(Sunan Abi Dawud: Kitab al-Sunna; Bab Fil-Qadar)

The doctrine of the Qadariyya that man is the independent creator of his own deeds became one of the five fundamentals of the Mu’tazila. The Mu’tazila, however, would argue that it was the orthodox Sunnis who should be described as Qadariyya, being aware of Prophetic traditions condemning the group that would come to be known by that appellation. They argued that since the orthodox Ahl al-Sunna were the ones who believed in the divine decree [al-Qadar] of Allah, it was they who should more appropriately be described as the “Qadariyya”. However, by comparing the Qadariyya to the dualist Magians, it becomes quite clear to whom exactly the Prophet (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) was referring to. The Magians of Iran, also called Zoroastrians or Parsis, believe in two rival “gods”, namely, Ahura Mazda and Ahriman, both of whom are independent of each other and engaged in a cosmic struggle for domination. It is this kind of dualism, contrary to the orthodox Islamic creed of Tawhid and absolute supremacy and sovereignty of Allah alone, which the Prophet (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) had forecast would come to characterize a tendency within his own Umma. The Qadarite Mu’tazila, in making man the independent creator of his own deeds, assigns to man that power (al-Qadar), making him a rival and partner of God, and therefore dualists like the Magian infidels of Iran. On the other hand, the orthodox belief in assigning al-Qadar to Allah alone is in keeping with the manifest and plain meaning of the holy Qur’an:

إِنَّا كُلَّ شَيْءٍ خَلَقْنَاهُ بِقَدَرٍ

Indeed, everything We created with measure [Qadar]

(Sura 54:49)

But as for the Jabriyya, who believe that Allah is the Doer [Fa’il] of all acts in reality, this absurdity is refuted repeatedly throughout the holy Qur’an. The orthodox belief is the middle path between the two extremes of the Jabriyya and the Qadariyya. We believe that man really is the doer of his deeds, but only by the will of Allah, Who creates man’s deeds, though man earns those deeds, acquires them and does them:

وَلَا تَقُولَنَّ لِشَيْءٍ إِنِّي فَاعِلٌ ذَٰلِكَ غَدًا ﴿٢٣﴾ إِلَّا أَن يَشَاءَ اللَّـهُ

And do not say of anything “Indeed, I will do that tomorrow.”

Except “If Allah wills”

(Sura 18:23-24)

Just as the Mu’tazila are the prime example of Qadariyya, one of the most prominent examples of the Jabriyya were the Najjariyya. The Najjariyya are attributed to Husayn b. Muhammad al-Najjar, a 9th century CE theologian. The Najjariyya believe that God is the doer of all acts, and man can only be said to be the doer of a deed figuratively. But apart from this, the Najjariyya, like the Mu’tazila, denied the holy attributes of Allah and even believed that the Qur’an is created. The Najjariyya were a sect of Kalam theology like the Mu’tazila and others who went to extremes in debating these issues because they felt it necessary to rationalize the theological statements of the Qur’an. Of course, the rationalism of these Kalam theology sects was based on the obsolete framework of ancient Greek philosophy. The Najjariyya sect was centered in the district of Rayy in medieval Iran. While the Qadarite Mu’tazila contradicted themselves in arguing that man creates his own deeds independent of God, but simultaneously claimed that God created the Qur’an because He is the “Creator of everything”, the Najjariyya were more consistent in admitting that God creates man’s deeds while maintaining the heretical doctrine of khalq al-Qur’an. While the Mu’tazila denied that Allah is visible and can never be seen, including in the Hereafter, al-Najjar had a more nuanced and moderate position, claiming that God can create in the eye the power to see what is known in the heart, and through this vision one may behold Him. A common thread in these Kalam sects is the apophatic theology in denying the positive nature of God’s attributes. For example, the Najjariyya do say that Allah is Murid which otherwise means one who wills, having the attribute of irada. But according to their bizarre negative theology, when Allah is described as Murid it means He is not maqhur, one who is coerced or maghlub, one who is subdued by a superior force.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Islam is Monolatrous not Monotheistic


بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

والصلى الله تعالى على نبيه الكريم

والعاقبة للمتقين

Now I have taken the bold decision to write something quite controversial which many Muslims might not have the appetite to digest. From childhood we Muslims are taught that there is only one God, Allah Most High, and that apart from Him there is absolutely no other god. Certainly, this is how most Muslims understand the meaning of the Kalima:

لا اله الا الله

There is no god except Allah

Reza Aslan, a Muslim-American author and “intellectual”, even titled one of his books No god but God, despite the fact that the statement “no god but God” is somewhat incomprehensible, especially if the distinction between capitalized “God” and “god” with a lower-case “g” is not carefully noted. But it is more accurate to understand the meaning of the Kalima as not “no god but God”, but rather, as meaning, “there is none worthy of worship except Allah”. The word Ilah most often translated to mean “god” actually means “worshipped object” (Arabic-English Dictionary of Qur’anic Usage p.40)
The dual form Ilahayn occurs in the Qur’an:

وَإِذْ قَالَ اللَّـهُ يَا عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ أَأَنتَ قُلْتَ لِلنَّاسِ اتَّخِذُونِي وَأُمِّيَ إِلَـٰهَيْنِ مِن دُونِ اللَّـهِ

And when Allah said: O Jesus son of Mary, did you say to the people to “take me and my mother as two worshipped objects besides Allah?”

(Sura 5:116)

Most English translation actually render it: “two gods besides Allah”, inadverdently giving ammunition to the Christians who argue that they do not consider saint Mary a “goddess”. The Qur’anic narrative is not, however, concerned here with any formula of Christian doctrine, but rather with the actions of the Christians in offering acts of worship dedicated to Jesus and his mother Mary. It is because of this fundamental misunderstanding that many Christian apologists accuse the Qur’an of incorrectly defining the trinity to include Mary (in reality, this Verse is not addressing the trinity doctrine). Yet by invoking and supplicating saint Mary, though she is beyond the grave, the Christians, especially the Catholics, have made her into an Ilaha, that is, a worshipped object. Hence, it is more accurate to translate Ilahayn as “two worshipped objects” rather than “two gods”. Now returning to the most critical testimony and creed of Islam:

لا اله الا الله

There is none worthy of worship except Allah

I argue that the words La ilaha are not a negation of the existence of any other object of worship, rather, it is a negation of anyone or anything being worthy of worship (except Allah). Before I elaborate on this vital point, understand that now I have essentially said that Islam is NOT a monotheistic religion. For “monotheism” means a belief that there exists only a single deity, whereas I argue that Islam does not necessarily negate the existence of Alihat (plural form of Ilah). More accurately, Islam enjoins monolatrism, meaning, there are many objects of worship in existence, but only One (Allah) should be worshipped. The Christians worship Jesus son of Mary, even considering him to be God incarnate. If the Kalima meant that there are no other objects of worship in existence apart from Allah, that would necessitate that Jesus son of Mary doesn’t exist, or for that matter that any historical human being that is worshipped did not actually exist. Of course that is absurd. Islam does not necessarily deny the existence of the objects of worship. There are even those pagans who worship the sun, moon, stars, trees, and other things that are present in nature. It would be absurd to deny the existence of the sun, moon, stars, planets, trees, etc. What Islam denies is that they are worthy of being worshipped. One sees then how, practically speaking, being true to monotheism does not hinder someone from idolatry. For as long as someone acknowledges there is only a single God, meaning supreme deity, he may worship any number of mortal human beings, angels, spirits, animals, stars, stones, etc., provided he does not consider any of those things to be “God”. Therefore, Islam is not monotheistic but rather, monolatrous. It has to be admitted that most of the objects of worship of the various polytheistic religious and cults in the world do in fact have some historical basis as having been ancient humans known for their exceptional qualities or feats. A personality cult developed around them and they eventually became worshipped objects for their respective peoples. There may be examples of polytheists worshipping someone or something that is completely fictional, but consider that the Christians worship Jesus and Mary, real, historical human beings, while the Buddhists worship Buddha, believed to be the historic Siddhartha Gautama. Now let us examine the holy Qur’an and see what it says concerning this matter:

فَمَا أَغْنَتْ عَنْهُمْ آلِهَتُهُمُ الَّتِي يَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّـهِ مِن شَيْءٍ لَّمَّا جَاءَ أَمْرُ رَبِّكَ

And their gods, which they invoked other than Allah, did not avail them in anything, when the command of your Lord came

(Sura 11:101)

Here I have translated aalihatuhum as “their gods” to demonstrate my point. Of course, it obviously means “their objects of worship”. In this Ayah, Allah is not negating the existence of those aalihat but only the fact that they cannot avail their worshippers in anything, hence it is useless to worship such worthless things:

وَاتَّخَذُوا مِن دُونِهِ آلِهَةً لَّا يَخْلُقُونَ شَيْئًا وَهُمْ يُخْلَقُونَ

And they have taken besides Him gods which cannot create anything but are themselves created

(Sura 25:3)

“Gods which cannot create anything” would otherwise seem to be an oxymoron, but that is only when one understand the term aalihah to means “gods” in the sense the word is often used in the English language, itself due to the strong influence of Christian theology on both English language and culture.

فَرَاغَ إِلَىٰ آلِهَتِهِمْ فَقَالَ أَلَا تَأْكُلُونَ

Then he [Abraham] turned to their gods and said: “Do you not eat?”

(Sura 37:91)

The idols which the people of Ur worshipped, which the patriarch Abraham destroyed, were idols carved out of stone, wood and metal, just like the idols of the Hindus, Buddhists, Catholics and Pagans. It would be absurd to deny the existence of such idols as they are made from real, tangible material. Hence, the Verse refers to them as aalihah meaning objects of worship. In classical Islamic terminology, the term Tawhid al-Rububiyya refers to our belief that there is only a single supreme being, Who is the Lord and Creator of all things, namely, Allah Most High. However, this belief is more or less common to most of the world’s major religions. Apart from the atheists, dualists and some other rare exceptions, most of humanity acknowledges the existence of a single Supreme Being and hence claim to be monotheists. One may be surprised to learn that many Hindus, particularly their philosophers, claim to be monotheistic. Likewise, Jews, Christians and even Sikhs all claim to be monotheists. In reality, what they refer to as their monotheism is what is called Tawhid al-Rububiyya in our classical Islamic terminology. But there is another Tawhid, known as Tawhid al-‘Ibada or Tawhid al-Uluhiyya, which means that only Allah, the Supreme Being and Lord, Creator of all things, is alone worthy of worship. This is the type of Tawhid which distinguishes Islam from all other religions. In other words, it is not sufficient to merely acknowledge the existence of a single Lord or God, one must dedicate all one’s acts of worship to Him alone. There are many so-called “monotheists” who claim to believe in only one God but who, often in the name of intercession, worship various prophets, saints and angels imagining that such worship does not constitute a breach of monotheism. But the fact of the matter is that all of the Prophets and Apostles which Allah Most High sent to mankind to warn them made Tawhid al-Uluhiyya the focus of their preaching and call.

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