A new approach to Theology

The other day I read about a study (published about a month ago), which made me feel that today, more than ever, the importance of building strong and intelligent Islamic institutions, headed by a strong and intelligent Islamic leadership of scientists and scholars, is fundamental in facing contemporary challenges, both within the Islamic Ummah (nation), and external to it. This study found that:

‘European school books present a distorted image of Islam and Muslims, using stereotypes that breed mistrust of the faith and its people, …

This slanted view reflects “cultural racism,” concluded Germany’s Georg Eckert Institute for textbook research, which analysed 27 volumes used in classrooms in Britain, France, Austria, Spain and Germany. The report, which was presented at the foreign ministry in Berlin, was billed as the first of its kind in Europe. “Islam is always presented as an outdated system of rules which has not changed since its golden age,” Susan Krohnert-Othman, the institute’s project director, told reporters.’

and, more importantly (my emphasis):

‘The researchers called on schools to present information on reforms advocated by Muslim clerics and intellectuals as well as the modernisation process within the religion.’

So, scholars of the west view Islam ”as an outdated system of rules which has not changed since its golden age”. And if scholars think that way, one cannot blame anyone except oneself for the materialists and religion-phobes attitude towards religion and its followers.

Therefore, from this e-podium, I propose something our intelligent and socio-politically aware scholars, from the late Imam Khomeini (qs) (who in my view, was the first modernizer of this religion of his generation), to Martyr Muhammad Baqir Al Sadr, to our esteemed scholar and Marja’ Seyyed Kamal Al Haydari, have been advocating and dedicating their lives towards (and in the case of Al Sadr, were martyred in the process). They revolutionized Islamic thinking, revitalized interest in religion, and helped pave the way for scholars like Murtadha Mutahhari and Dr Ali Shariati to spread their genius to the masses.

Firstly, scholars (and their students) of theology and theosophy, should explain religious doctrines (Divine unity, Prophethood, Imamate, etc), both to their followers and be prepared to answer challenges and questions from outside of the religious seminaries.

The importance of correct inference (Istidlal) should be emphesized in the seminaries. There exists 3 ways to provide evidence: scientific (istidlal ‘ilmi), rational (istidlal ‘aqli/burhani), and scripture (istidlal naqli). Therefore the theologian/theosopher should understand the subject matter at hand, so that he/she can apply the correct method of providing evidence.

You see, this is where the materialists started confusing the two (knowingly or un-knowingly). They request evidence for a subject using the wrong methodology. They fail to understand (again knowingly or un-knowingly) that you cannot use the empirical scientific method to prove the existence of a non-material being. Just like you can’t use scripture to prove evolution or any other scientific theory. You have to specify the subject matter before deciding which method is suitable to establish the proofs.

One law established in the materialist school of thought, within their concept of logic, is that any subject that cannot be proven empirically (ie in the external visible material world) is not even worth addressing, or to prove its truth or falsehood is pointless. They calim the first question when dealing with the concept of a god, is not whether such a concept exists or not, but the question should be whether this concept has a meaning or whether it is nonsensical. And they believe that all concepts pertaining to religion have no meaning at all and are nonsensical, so it is pointless to investigate their truth or falsehood. So we ask them, what is the method to establish whether a concept has meaning or not? They say: a concept has meaning if you are able to establish the subjective reality of that concept by seeing whether the truth or falsehood of the concept changes the subjective reality of it. So for them, the existence or non-existence of God is the same, since there is no change in the subjective reality in either case.  So based on that, to the materialists the external reality equals matter, and it is the responsibility of the theologian to provide evidence that in fact this is not so, and reality does not equal (just) matter. This has to be established before debate can continue.

The importance of the theologian to be aware of the current scientific trends and contemporary problems, socio-political, economical, etc., is essential to keeping the religion up-to-date. Along with that, he should be aware of the limits of science, the limits of the intellect and the rational method, and the limits of scripture, and to avoid mixing the methods and subject matters. To the above example of materialists, the same must be said about those who have not understood the power of the rational argument and have limited themselves to scripture. When you ask them: is God One? They say: we don’t know, the scripture available to us says He is One, and that is our proof! They failed to understand that this is a rational subject matter and hence can only be investigated by the rational argument. Hence, the one who is knowledgeable in the sciences (in the general sense of the word) of his time, is immune from any source of confusion. And it is his utmost responsibility to spread his knowledge by all means available to him.

This is where the importance of ijtihad (in the branches of the doctrines of religion) becomes evident. Just like we have ijtihad in the branches of jurisprudence, we need to keep the doctrines alive and fresh with the changing challenges of our era. And this is done by making sure the laws governing these doctrines are up-to-date and in line with the changing trends of our generation.

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Laws of the Hereafter

To understand the reason for humanity’s need for religion, we need to understand why we need God-sent Prophets and Messengers, those individuals who are able to transmit the Divine message in the clearest way, aided by miracles and scripture and logic. In order to find the quickest and shortest route to worldly and after-worldly happiness, one needs to understand the laws that govern both worlds, in order to avoid pitfalls and hindrances.

5) Explaining the Laws of the Hereafter:

There is no doubt that each of the earthly world and hereafter are governed by their own laws, except for the general laws that apply to both, like the law of causality and the law of non-contradiction. And there are several verses in the Holy Quran confirming that the afterlife is governed by laws unique to it:

وَنُنشِئَكُمْ فِي مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

..And make you in what you know not.[1]

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اتَّقُوا رَبَّكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ زَلْزَلَةَ السَّاعَةِ شَيْءٌ عَظِيمٌ

O mankind! Fear your Lord. Lo! the earthquake of the Hour (of Doom) is a tremendous thing.[2]

يَوْمَ تُبَدَّلُ الْأَرْضُ غَيْرَ الْأَرْضِ وَالسَّمَاوَاتُ ۖ وَبَرَزُوا لِلَّـهِ الْوَاحِدِ الْقَهَّارِ

On the day when the earth will be changed to other than the earth, and the heavens (also will be changed) and they will come forth unto Allah, the One, the Almighty.[3]

يَوْمَ نَطْوِي السَّمَاءَ كَطَيِّ السِّجِلِّ لِلْكُتُبِ ۚ كَمَا بَدَأْنَا أَوَّلَ خَلْقٍ نُّعِيدُهُ ۚ وَعْدًا عَلَيْنَا ۚ إِنَّا كُنَّا فَاعِلِينَ

The Day when We shall roll up the heavens as a recorder rolleth up a written scroll. As We began the first creation, We shall repeat it. (It is) a promise (binding) upon Us. Lo! We are to perform it.[4]

وَمَا قَدَرُوا اللَّـهَ حَقَّ قَدْرِهِ وَالْأَرْضُ جَمِيعًا قَبْضَتُهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَالسَّمَاوَاتُ مَطْوِيَّاتٌ بِيَمِينِهِ ۚ سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ

And they esteem not Allah as He hath the right to be esteemed, when the whole earth is His handful on the Day of Resurrection, and the heavens are rolled in His right hand. Glorified is He and High Exalted from all that they ascribe as partner (unto Him).[5]

Isn’t everything in His dominion? Why then does He have the heavens ‘in His right hand’? What can be understood from the above verses?

a) First Law – The Law of Manifestation of Deeds [6]

This law is considered to be one of the most important laws of the Hereafter, and in short can be explained as such: that the human deeds – be it the moral traits, habits or doctrines – will become manifest and present themselves before the individual on the day of judgement:

‘It is gathered from the Holy Quran and the sayings of the Imams that not only man continues to exist after his death, but his deeds and works are also so preserved that they do not disappear. In his post-Resurrection life man will see all his past deeds depicted and embodied. Good deeds will have very beautiful, attractive and pleasing forms. They will be a source of delight and enjoyment. The forms of the evil deeds will be very ugly, repulsive and horrible. They will be a source of pain, suffering and torture.
Here we confine ourselves to the mention of three verses of the Quran and two sayings of the Holy Prophet in this connection:


(i) "On the Day when every soul will find itself confronted with all that it has done of good and all that it has done of evil. Every soul will long that there might be a mighty space between it and that evil." (3:30)
This verse expressly says that man will find before him the actual good and bad deeds of his. The good deeds will be presented in pleasing and attractive forms, but the forms in which bad deeds will appear will be so repulsive and loathsome, that man would like to remove them from his sight or to run away from them. But he would not be able to do either, because in that world man’s deeds are almost a part of his existence and cannot be separated from him.

(ii) "They will find before them whatever they did in this world." (18:49)
This verse says exactly the same thing as the previous one.

(iii) "That day mankind will issue forth in scattered groups to be shown their deeds (in the display centre of the deeds). And whosoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it then, and whosoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it then." (99:6-8)
Man is immortal and eternal, and so are his deeds and works. In the next world he will be living with the deeds with which he has lived in this world. Man’s deeds are his good or bad assets. It depends on them whether his everlasting life in the next world will be happy or miserable.’[7]

________________________________________________________________

[1] 56:61

[2] 22:1

[3] 14:48

[4] 21:104

[5] 39:67

[6] This law could also be referred to as the ‘embodiment and eternity of human deeds’

[7] Man and Universe, Eternal life or life of the Next World, by Shahid Murtadha Mutahhari, p. 607-609 

Lessons from Karbala

The truth about Imam Hussein’s Revolution, Martyr Murtadha Mutahhari

‘Different phenomena vary as to their realities. Similarly, every uprising or revolt is unique as to the truth/s underlying its eruption [and eventual success or otherwise]. In order to understand a particular matter, or a state of affairs, you should know the deeper reasons underling its existing form and the characteristics that gave it that specific appearance. You should also be conscious of the material causes of that matter, or issue, i.e. its constituents or ingredients. In other words:
The forces/causes that produced the revolt or uprising, which signify its truth are called “the causes at work”.
The nature of the revolt and its goals represent “its intents and purposes”.
The actual action plan, implementing it, and all what goes with it represent “its material causes”.
The end result that the revolt has come to produce represents its “overall picture”.  [Applying these parameters], was Imam Hussain’s uprising a result of an angry outburst?

Islam is different from some other movements for change or reform that took place as a result of certain circumstances that in turn led to eruptions.
Dialectics, for example, encourages heightening disagreements, inciting discontent, and showing opposition even for genuine reforms in order to bring things to a head on collision, i.e. an explosive revolution, not a conscious one.
Islam does not subscribe to these types of revolutions. The history of most Islamic revolts or uprisings speaks of the rationale behind such revolts, in that they came as a result of a complete understanding of the status quo they were determined to change. Thus, Imam Hussain’s revolt was not a result of an angry outburst, prompted by the pressures exerted by the Umayyad rule, especially during the reigns of Mu’aawiyah [the founder of the dynastic rule], and his son, Yezid.

Rather, it was a very well calculated move. What substantiates the position the Imam (a.s.) took in this regard was the letters he exchanged with both the men; and the sermons he gave on different occasions, especially that one he addressed the Companions of the Prophet (s.a.w.) in Mina, [in present day Saudi Arabia] with. All this evidence points in the direction of one conclusion. That is, the Imam was fully aware of what he was intending to do, viz. taking on the ruling establishment. His revolt was free from any angry reaction; rather, it was a purely Islamic uprising.’

The Role of Women in the Hussaini Revolution, Anonymous

‘Imam Hussein (a.s.) had a conviction, to the point of certainty, that his women and those of his supporters would be taken captives and would be humiliated at the hands of the regime’s stooges. But he also knew that this outrageous abuse would not be publically approved of. It would serve as a good and effective element in disclosing the nature of the Ummayyad policy and leave it, undisguised, before the masses. Shedding off the layers of humiliation and passivity, the Muslim conscience would be thrown into the center of the big challenge.

The women, on the other hand, played no less effective roles. In captivity they talked to the people, laid the facts bare before them, and unveiled the schemes and plots of the Ummayyad policy, both in Kufa and Syria. Through the speeches, discussions and tirades on the part of the women, Imam Hussein (a.s.) drove home his message. The reader will not remain in doubt as to why Imam Hussein (a.s.) brought with him his women to Karbala’.

Based on these considerations, we ascertain, without the slightest doubt, that the participation of the women in the Husseini revolution was planned and pondered over beforehand.’

The Ashura Uprising, Imam Khomeini (ra)

‘Let the mourning congregations for the Master of the Oppressed and the Lord of the Free – congregations in which wisdom and intellect overcome ignorance; justice overpowers cruelty and oppression; trust rules out treason, and Islamic rule supercedes the rule of tyranny, be held with grandeur, eminence, and brilliance. And let the blood-smeared banners of Ashura be hoisted to mark the dawn of the day where the oppressed avenge the oppressor. Our sons and youth must not think that it is a matter of weeping only or that we are a weeping nation – this is what others want to brainwash you into believing and then repeating, because they fear those tears. They fear them because they are tears for the oppressed and a cry against the oppressor, and these processions stand up against oppression. These lamentation processions are a symbol of our victory; hold mourning congregations throughout, and let speakers read their elegies, and let people cry. Speakers must not condense elegies into a few words; speak at length about the tragedies of the AhlulBayt (as) as was the case before and read elegies, poems and narrations; the excellences of the holy progeny and the tortures inflicted on them must be rendered with such sincerity and passion that the people get ready for field action. They ought to know that our infallible Imams (as) devoted their lives to promoting Islam.’

Ayatollah Mutahhari’s Critique of Modernity

by Hajj Muhammad Legenhausen, IslamicInsights.com 

mutahari

First, there are various features of Marxist ideology that are point-blank rejected as contrary to Islam. In this way, Marxism often serves as a foil; a contrasting ideology that allows Shaheed Mutahhari to highlight various features of Islam in the format of a competing ideology. We can use this distinction to uncover aspects common to modernity and Marxism which Shaheed Mutahhari considers incompatible with Islam.

Secondly, there are aspects of Marxism and modernity that Ayatollah Mutahhari accepts and employs in the exposition of his own views. By no means does he reject everything "modern" in the name of tradition. By examining elements of modernity to which he is amenable as well as those to which he is opposed, we are able to sketch his understanding and critique of modernity.

Shaheed Mutahhari’s views and criticisms of modernity are comparable to those of some Western critics. For example, one of the features of modernity that he denounces is relativism. Writers such as A. MacIntyre, C. Taylor, G. Grant, and W. Hocking, to mention just a few, have also identified relativism as one of the characteristics of modernity and have based their criticism of modernity, in part, on a critique of relativism. Here we find that Grant’s criticism of relativism is similar in important ways to that of Shaheed Mutahhari’s. The comparison of Shaheed Mutahhari’s views of modernity with those of other critics can thus begin by finding common aspects of modernity that are subject to criticism.

Next, we can examine the extent to which the reasons given for rejecting these aspects are similar. After this, we can turn to features of modernity that have been criticized by Western thinkers but have been accepted by Martyr Mutahhari, whether explicitly or implicitly. What emerges from this comparative study is a good sketch of the highly nuanced approach to modernity found in his thoughts.

Shaheed Mutahhari is often described as an opponent of modernity. Farhang Rajaee, for example, describes him and other Muslim thinkers such as Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir Sadr, Imam Khomeini, Abu’l A’la Mawdudi, Sayyid Qutb, and Ali Shari’ati as reactionary, in the sense that they react against modernity rather than developing new ideas on the basis of their tradition. Since modernity is seen by these thinkers as a foreign incursion, the reaction against modernity is awakened by political opposition to Western domination, and often accompanies a call for a return to various elements of Islamic intellectual traditions.

This view is also expressed in a recent article about the doctrine of Wilayat al-Faqih (Guardianship of the Jurist) by Abbas Amanat, who states that "even such prominent students of Khomeini such as Husain Ali Muntazari and Murtaza Mutahhari seldom called for reconsideration of the Islamic legal tradition or new teaching methods or adopting a modern legal philosophy. For them, legal reform equaled succumbing to an alien secular modernity introduced by a colonizing and corrupting West."

Writers who label Ayatollah Mutahhari as an opponent of modernity sometimes view this opposition as opposition to progress or reform. For example, Ashk Dahlen remarks that although Shaheed Mutahhari uses the terms tawhid and worldview, which had been given a reinterpretation by Islamic modernists, his own use of these terms displayed a much more traditional perspective. Modernity is characterized by the acceptance of change, change which Dahlen believed to be resisted by the Muslim theologian.

The impression one gets from such critics of Shaheed Mutahhari is that he opposes change and hence opposes modernity; that he reacts against what is new and favors what is old, and uses a few modern expressions merely to defend an outmoded worldview. However, it seems rather preposterous to judge someone on the basis of whether or not they favor change. Shaheed Mutahhari takes an eminently reasonable position: some change is good and some is not. He applauds that human knowledge is in a state of progress, but warns that the rapacious nature of man is not idle. He gives sound and coherent advice on change: "One should advance with the progress of time, but also struggle against the corruption and deviance of the times."

Ayatollah Mutahhari makes the astute observation that often those who emphasize the need for change in Islam do so because they would like to see Islam refashioned to accommodate Western interests. He explicitly calls for moderation and the avoidance of extreme positions, condemning both inflexibility and instability. He condemns the modern worship of change, a characteristic that has been noticed by Western critics of modernity also.

At the same time, Martyr Mutahhari goes to some length to condemn Muslims whose thinking is rigid or "solidified" (jàmedhà). Such people, he tells us, fail to distinguish the kernel from the shell, falsely believing that religion has come to protect ancient traditions, and that the Qur’an was revealed in order to stop the flow of time and keep things as they were in seventh century Arabia.

Yet the dynamic nature of Islam that enables it to keep with the times despite its unchanging laws, according to Shaheed Mutahhari, is due to the following factors:

1. Islam does not meddle with the outward form that life takes, because such things depend on the changing state of human knowledge.

2. General fixed principles that advise man to control his appetite give rise to changing subsidiary laws dependent on changing circumstances.

3. Islam has prescribed the prioritization of its stipulations, so that in situations of conflict, those that are more important should take precedence over the less important.

4. Islam has governing principles that prevent a slavish literal construal of its rules from resulting in harm. In other words, the rule of causing no harm overrides the application of other rules. Likewise, there is an overriding rule that one is not to be held accountable for not carrying out that which would cause excessive difficulty or inordinate burden.

5. Islam has an established system of Islamic governance providing discretion about what laws should be applied and how to apply them, depending on the circumstances of the time. Muslim jurists with sufficient expertise in Islamic law should make use of Ijtihad in order to derive laws appropriate to the circumstances of every age and the problems to which they give rise.

In short, while the basic principles of Islam are fixed, they are not sufficient to determine all its laws. For that, one needs to take into consideration the varying circumstances of their application, and the prioritization of the principles and goals.

Shaheed Mutahhari presents the flexibility and dynamism of Islam as merits, but acknowledges that not every proposal for change has merit. There are also changes in undesirable directions, as with the progress of an illness. Positive advance, or evolution, requires teleology. This point is used to criticize materialist theories such as Marxism, in which the blind forces of economics drive human progress. There cannot be any true evolution in such theories, according to Shaheed Mutahhari. The mere fact that economic changes take place according to a given pattern with an effect on society does not demonstrate that such changes are desirable.

"It is undeniable that the worst crimes of the twentieth century have been perpetrated in the name of progress and man’s right to make history. And we must remind ourselves that North Americans have been among the perpetrators of these progressive crimes. Surely the twentieth century has presented us with one question above all: are there any limits to history-making?"

These are not the words of Shaheed Mutahhari, but of the Canadian philosopher George Grant. Yet they express sentiments common to individuals like Mutahhari and W. E. Hocking, who have observed how the idolization of change and the power to make history have charmed modern man.

One of the areas where Ayatollah Mutahhari differs from some critics of modernity is in his belief that there is no conflict between modern science and religion. He claims that the "illusory idea" of the incompatibility of science and religion was the product of religious conservatives, who mistakenly thought that religious authorities were bound to dogmatically oppose what conflicted with older scientific views, and of ignorant people who, believing the Church to be in opposition to modern science, began to imagine that science had shown religion to be false.

Shaheed Mutahhari claims that while there is no incompatibility between science and religion, religion does oppose the abuse of science by "power-hungry, ambitious and money-worshipping people to employ the results of their scientific labor to attain their nefarious purposes." It is the abuse of science that is incompatible with religion.

Science may seem to conflict with religion when it is falsely imagined that science can play the role of religion, that it can provide direction in ethics and metaphysics. When this illusion dominates, it is called scientism. Many critics of modernity have focused on scientism as one of its chief ills.

At the same time that Shaheed Mutahhari affirms the progress and even evolution in science and technology, he denies that a scientific conception of the world can be the basis of any ideology. Scientism is an over extension of science. Science is based on observations of a very limited part of the universe, but scientism seeks to provide answers to basic questions of the universe as a whole. Science is in a state of constant development and revision, but scientism asserts itself as an eternally reliable truth. Science is justified on the basis of its instrumental and practical value, but scientism demands that science be understood as realistically interpreted and as revealing theoretical truth. Science can therefore never provide man with a credible ideology; in short, scientism is a false ideology.

Although Shaheed Mutahhari did not oppose all aspects of modernity, he did oppose emulation of the West in the name of modernization. While he rejected the rigidity of religious conservatives, he also rejected the ignorance of those who imagined that the problems of Iran could be solved by emulating the West, which he described as gharbzadegi (Westoxication, or West-stricken), a description popularized by Jalal Al-e Ahmad in the 1960’s.

Shaheed Mutahhari explains, "Islam is both opposed to rigidity and to stupidity. The danger that faces Islam is from both groups. The rigid and dry-minded and those who are attached to every symbol of the past – even when such things have no relation to the sacred religion of Islam – provide an excuse to people who are stupid to think that Islam is opposed to modernization. From the other side, the imitators and fashion-worshippers and the West-stricken think that the felicity of Eastern people lies in being physically and spiritually, outwardly and inwardly, Westernized, and that they should take all their customs and manners and traditions from the West, and that their civil and social laws should all be made to conform blindly to those of the West."

While his works also display a great appreciation for the work done by Western scientists, he firmly denotes that the West should not be imitated blindly, and that Muslims should use their own rational faculties and faith in order to decide what to adopt and what to pass by.

Martyr Murtadha Mutahhari

“Let the evil-wishers know that with the departure of Mutahhari, his Islamic personality and his philosophy and learning have not left us. Assassinations cannot destroy the Islamic personality of the great men of Islam. Islam grows through sacrifice and martyrdom of its cherished ones.  From the time of its revelation up to the present time, Islam has always been accompanied by martyrdom and heroism.” – Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Mutahhari’s mentor.

The 1st of May is celebrated as ‘Teacher’s Day’ in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and it  was on this day that we remember the martyrdom anniversary of one of our greatest Islamic thinkers and principal architects of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Murtadha Mutahhari. He was assassinated on this day in cold blood by a member of the terrorist Furqan group.  Imam Khomeini upon hearing of his death said: ‘In him I have lost a dear son; I am mourning the death of one who was the fruit of my life.’

The best way to remember such great contributors to the Islamic school of logic and rationality, is to read and benefit from their life’s work. I have tried to compile as complete list as I could below of his most important books. I’ve also added an emotional clip of a program commemorating his martyrdom for our farsi speakers.

1) Here’s one set of his work collected on one web page.

2) Perfect Man

3) Eternity of Moral Values

4) Understanding the Uniqueness of the Qur’an

5) History and Human Evolution: Part 1, Part 2

6) The Role of Reason in Ijtihad

7) The Role of Ijtihad in Legislation

8) Western Nationalism and Islamic Nationhood

9) The Causes Responsible for Materialist Tendencies in the West: Part1, Part2, Part3, Part4

Farsi clip.


Specific and Ambiguous Verses

Further explanation of allegorical (ambiguous) and decisive (specific) verses, and their link in explaining Qur’anic concepts, extracted from Martyr Murtadha Mutahhari’s book ‘Man & Universe’

‘As a tradition says, some verses of the Qur’an explain some other verses. The Quran is a Book which is manifest and manifesting. It itself says that its verses are of two types: specific and ambiguous. It calls the specific verses the mother verses, which is of course a queer expression: "Allah is He who revealed the Book to you, some of its verses are specific and they are the mother of the Book, and others ambiguous." (3:7).

The ambiguous verses are those which can be interpreted in different ways, while a specific verse can be interpreted only in one way. The Qur’an calls the specific verses mother verses because with their help the ambiguous verses can be interpreted. In case we come across a verse of the Qur’an which can be interpreted in several ways, we have no right to fix its meaning. We should refer to other verses to find out how it can best be expounded. An ambiguous (Mutashabih) verse does not mean a vague or an unintelligible verse. It only means a verse that can be interpreted in more than one ways resembling each other.

For example there are several verses in the Qur’an relating to Absolute Divine Will which state that everything depends on the Will and Pleasure of Allah. They make no exception.

One of such verses is the following verse which is ambiguous for this very reason: "(Muhammad) Say: O Lord! Owner of sovereignty! You bestow sovereignty on whomsoever you Will and withdraw sovereignty from whomsoever You Will. You exalt whomsoever You Will and You abase whomsoever You Will. In Your Hand is all that is good. No doubt You are able to do everything." (3:26).

This verse is ambiguous or because it can be interpreted in more than one way. It says only that everything depends on the Will of Allah. This is possible in two ways: One way is to say that Allah’s Will is absolutely unconditional. Some people have interpreted this verse in that way and have inferred from it the wrong conclusion that it is possible that in the presence of all the conditions conducive to honour, disgrace appears and similarly it is possible that all the conditions conducive to humiliation are followed by honour and power.

According to them, success in this world and the Hereafter has no pre-requisite conditions, for everything depends on the Will of Allah. As a result it is possible that a people or an individual attains complete success in his worldly affairs without any pre-requisite conditions or fails utterly without any tangible reason. Similarly a people may be taken to the peak of Paradise or to the lowest level of Hell for absolutely no reason. Unfortunately some Muslims called Ash’arites have drawn this conclusion from this verse. They say that it would not be something impossible if the Holy Prophet goes to Hell or Abu Jahl goes to Heaven. But this is a wrong interpretation of the verse, which only says that everything depends on the Will of Allah, but is silent as to how this Will on which success and failure, honour and disgrace depend, actually operates. That is why it can be interpreted in several ways.

But when we refer to other verses of the Qur’an, they serve as its mother verses and explain what this verse actually signifies. For example one verse expressly says: That is because Allah never changes the grace He has bestowed on any people until they first change that which is in their hearts. Another verse says: Surely Allah changes not the condition of a people until they change that which is in their hearts. Each of these two verses says something which the other verse does not say. The second verse says that Allah does not change the condition of a people whether it is good or bad, unless they themselves take action to change it. Otherwise Allah neither withdraws His favour nor disfavour. Only people themselves change their condition. The first verse is not concerned with the unhappy condition. It talks only of Allah’s grace. But it mentions an additional point. It says: That is because Allah never changes… Allah is not such as to withdraw His grace from any people for no reason, because that would be against His wisdom, His perfection and His Divinity. These are the mother verses in relation to the verse under discussion. The verses relating to Allah’s Will say only that everything depends on His Will. Other verses explain how this Will operates and what law it has. This point has been expressed in the Qur’an at several places in the form of a firm principle. According to it those who are grateful to Allah for His bounties, that is those who put them to a proper use, will continue to enjoy them, but those who are ungrateful and abuse His bounties, will be deprived of them.

So the verse, This day the unbelievers have lost all hope of ever harming your religion; so fear them not, and have fear of Me, means that the unbelievers do no longer pose any threat to the Muslim world. ‘Have fear of Me.’ means: be afraid of yourselves, for if there is any danger now, that lies in your being ungrateful to Allah and not taking full advantage of His bounties. Should the Muslim not act properly, the law is bound to come into force against them. Surely Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change that which is in their hearts.

Henceforward no danger from outside threatens Muslim society, but danger from inside does threaten it.’

Path to Knowledge – Part 2

Before I continue with my discourse on Man’s viceregency, I have to dedicate some posts to one of the most important doctrines in Islam, and that is the Islamic concept of knowledge.

In this post, a quote from Martyr Mutahhari’s epic book Man and Universe’ on the relation between knowledge and faith:

‘Unfortunately certain parts of the Old Testament have in the Christian world created an idea of contradiction between knowledge and faith. This idea which has cost dearly to knowledge and faith both has its root in the Book of Genesis of the Old Testament. Narrating the story of Adam and the Forbidden Tree, the Book of Genesis, Chapter II, verses 16 and 17 says:

“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die”.

In the Chapter III, verses 1 – 7 it says:

“Now the serpent was more subtile than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:

But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons”.

In the verse 22 – 23 of the same chapter it says:

“And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: “

According to this conception of man, God, knowledge and disobedience, God wants that man should not be aware of good and evil. The Forbidden Tree is the tree of knowledge. Man attains knowledge only if he rebels against God’s command (disobeys the teachings of religion and the Prophets), but for that very reason he is driven out of God’s Heaven.

On the basis of this conception all evil insinuations are those of knowledge, and reason is the insinuating Devil.

In contrast, we learn from the Holy Quran that Allah taught all names (realities) to Adam and then ordered the angels to prostrate themselves before him. The Devil was condemned because he refused to prostrate himself before the vicegerent of Allah, who was aware of the realities. The Prophetic traditions have told us that the Forbidden Tree was that of avarice, greed and such like things, that is the things related to the animality of Adam, not to his humanity. The insinuating Devil always insinuates what is against reason and what answers the base desires. It is concupiscence and not reason that represents the Devil within man. Contrary to all this what we find in the Book of Genesis is really very amazing.

It is this conception which has divided the European history of culture during the past 1500 years into two distinct periods, namely the age of faith and the age of science, and has placed science and faith in opposition to each other.

In contrast the Islamic history of culture is divided into the period of advancement of knowledge and faith and the period in which both of them declined together. We Muslims should keep ourselves away from the wrong conception which has caused an irreparable loss to knowledge, faith and humanity, and must not blindly regard the contradiction between knowledge and faith as an indisputable fact.’

And:

‘Humanity of man depends on his knowledge of Allah. Man’s knowledge is not something separate from him. The more man attains knowledge of the universe, its system and its source, the more will develop his humanity, the 50% substance of which consists of knowledge.

From the point of view of Islam, especially the Shi’ah doctrine, there is not the least doubt that the attainment of the knowledge of Allah, irrespective of its practical and social effects, is in itself a goal of humanity.’