A Moderate Nation

01. August 2015 Refutation 0

And God has made you a moderate nation.
(2: 143)

At a time when “Islam” is widely discussed in the Western media, little is said about what Muslims consider the most important aspect of their religion, namely their belief in God. The heart of Islam is Tawheed. The term Tawheed is derived from the trilateral root W-H-D, which means literally, “one.” Muslims understand Allah (God) to be One—not in the numerical sense, but in the sense that there is One Creator, Who is the only Creator, Who alone deserves to be worshiped. This is the meaning of the first half of the Declaration of Faith (Shahadah), La ilaha illallah.[1] Also, it is understood regarding the Oneness of the Creator, that Allah is Indivisible. Not only is the Creator’s Godhood not partitioned amongst the creations, the Creator Himself[2] cannot be partitioned. God is not a body, for bodies, whether dense bodies, mental bodies, or bodies of an ethereal nature are all dependent upon one dimension of space or another for their existence. Allah, being eternal, is not dependent upon anything. Allah existed before anything else was. Before there was light, darkness, direction, distance, motion, stillness, or time there was a Creator. Allah is not a spatial or temporal entity, for Allah exists without being in time, and Allah exists without being in a place.

Also from the trilateral root of W-H-D of the word Tawheed, we know that God is absolutely Unique. Muslims make a complete distinction between the Creator and the created. Failing to understand this distinction would cause one to fall into shirk (polytheism), for the person would attempt to worship God, but in reality would be worshipping a creation. Allah does not resemble the creations–at all–in any regards, and Muslims mean that categorically and absolutely. So unlike the atheists, the Muslims affirm the existence of the Creator, and on the other hand, unlike the polytheists, the Muslims do not compare the Creator to the created. Muslims take the position of moderation: we know that God exists—but we do not resemble God to anything.

Muslims firmly believe that rationality has a significant role in the Islamic doctrine and our understanding of Tawheed. The `aql (intellect) is the faculty that God has endowed human beings with so they may distinguish truth from falsehood. If we use our natural intelligence, we realize that this universe could not be self-created, for action requires existence. A thing must be to do; hence the non-existent cannot act, much less can the non-existent assemble and coordinate itself from nothing. Our natural intelligence also tells us that this universe cannot be eternal (“beginningless”), for that would require an infinite regression, which is a logical impossibility. From this we can realize the absurdity of atheism and can conclude the universe is in need of an Eternal One Who originated and sustains this world and all that it contains.

Muslims use their minds to recognize the existence of the Creator and what necessarily efits the Creator, such as, Oneness, Omnipotence and Knowledge, and what necessarily does not befit the Creator, such as, multiplicity, dependency and ignorance. Nonetheless, we realize the inherent limitations of the mind. For one, our minds cannot fathom the Reality of the One Who created us. Our minds process images and other phenomena that reach us through our senses. The Creator, however, is in no way similar to anything we may perceive in this world. The Creator is absolutely Incomparable; therefore, the Creator cannot be imagined.

Also, regarding the intellect’s limitation, Muslims realize that reason does not supersede Divine Revelation. Our minds, by themselves, cannot penetrate that realm we are bound to enter when we shuffle of these mortal coils. To understand what will benefit us in this temporary dimension of existence and what lies beyond, human beings are in desperate need of the Sacred Laws of Divine Revelation for guidance. Although our intellects—if we employ them according the sound laws of thought—will recognize the existence of One, Eternal, Perfect, Incomparable Creator, our intellects cannot know what will be to our ultimate benefit or detriment in the Hereafter. This is the mission of the Holy Prophets whom God has sent through the various eras of history to wake us from our slumber and remind us of our duties to our Lord and the fact that we shall be here all but briefly.

The scholars of the Sunni Islamic Orthodoxy (Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jama`ah) elaborated a system of detailed theology derived from the Quran, Hadith (Prophetic Traditions), and the rational arguments to preserve the integrity of the Islamic creed, protect the Muslim masses from doubts and confusion, and repudiate and guide those who held heretical doctrines. These beliefs were codified in the works of the major Sunni scholars of Doctrine, Abu Mansur Al-Maturidiyy, Abu Hasan Al-Ash`ariyy, their students, and the successive generations of scholars. The virtuous sages, the students of knowledge, and the lay people followed their methodology for explaining precisely what it is Muslims believe, why they believe it, and what Muslims don’t believe and why they don’t believe it. These great scholars, such as, Abu Ishaq al-Isfarayini, Abu Bakr Al-Baqallaniyy, Abu Mansur at-Tamimiyy, Abu Hamid Al-Ghazaliyy, among thousands of other scholars established the positions of the Islamic orthodoxy and their responses to the claims of the gross materialists, the ultra-rationalists, such as, the Mu`tazilah, and the ultra-literalists, such as, the anthropomorphists with the proofs from the Quran and Sunnah, as well as, the compelling rational proofs.

Over the centuries, as the Muslim Community became increasingly distant both temporally and spiritually from the blessed era of the Prophet Muhammad; apathy settled in; the zeal for learning lagged; obedience to God waned, and sinning and the blind pursuit of worldly distractions desensitized the collective hearts of the Muslim Community. With the advent of colonialism, widespread military defeat, and the humiliation of occupation, the situation further degenerated for Muslims. A growing number of Muslims lost touch with their own intellectual legacy and became enamored by the latest fads in European thought. As a result, many Muslims for several generations became estranged from their own intellectual, theological and spiritual heritage.

In this void, especially in the past few decades, has sprung what is deemed by the media, as “political Islam.” Largely influenced by a handful of heretical thinkers, such as, Ahmad Ibn Taymiyyah, Muhammad Ibn `Abdul-Wahhab, Sayyid Qutb, and petrol dollars, these political movements, act in ignorance of, if not outright rebellion to, the Divine Commands of the Creator. We witness almost daily in the media the swath of destruction caused by so-called “political Islam”–of unholy “jihads” carried out by those who often don’t know how to even determine the times of the five daily prayers. We see an untold level of human misery and carnage caused by their actions. As a result, the Sacred Law is profaned by those legitimating anarchy and murder in the name of Islam. But none of this should be surprising when one understands that the incoherent and ultra-literalist reading of select Quranic verses and Prophetic Traditions pertaining to Sacred Law is the product of a methodology that advocates an incoherent and ultra-literalist reading of select Quranic verses and Prophetic Traditions pertaining to the belief in the Creator.

The doctrines, for instance, of the so-called “Salafis/Wahhabis,” make a travesty of the One, Perfect, Eternal, Incomparable Creator as understood by those following traditional orthodox Islamic scholarship. Whereas the traditional Sunni belief, as can be found in hundreds of texts on the matters of doctrine, is that Allah is not a spatial or temporal being, and that Allah exists without a being in a location and is not subject to change, the so-called Salafis/Wahhabis pray to a deformed imaginary shadow casting object that they think is located somewhere over their heads with a literal smiling face, eyes, fingers, two right hands, one tibia, and a pair of big feet. It is no wonder that people who consider the Creator in such low regard would care little about recognizing the rights of human beings. People who read the Sacred Texts of Islam while failing to employ the faculty of reason and common sense God has granted us are going to be prone to take extreme measures to defend what is in essence indefensible. Being defeated in the realm of reason, it should surprise us not that these people resort to indiscriminate violence to “persuade” people that they are right. The terrorism we witness today that is committed in the name of Islam is largely rooted in the doctrines of those who failed to uphold the balanced and humane Faith that Prophet Muhammad conveyed.

Until we understand that so-called Islamic terrorism is the result of the doctrines of a small number of thinkers, it cannot be defeated. Terrorism in the name of Islam is not going to be successfully countered by treachery, disproportionate brutality, and destruction by the Western military industrial complex. To the contrary, these policies will only incite more extremists, who will feel all the more that their nihilistic responses are justified. Extremism can only be countered by its opposite—which is moderation and balance. And genuine moderation and balance can only be realized with purity of purpose and the sincere desire to seek the truth about God and submit to God’s Sacred Commands.

The challenge for Muslims today is not so much to start an Islamic “reformation” but an Islamic “renaissance”—a renewed devotion to traditional scholarship, especially in the matters of the orthodox Islamic creed as it has been taught through the centuries. A devotion to tradition, however, does not mean to be oblivious to all that is wrong and unjust in our world today. We should be between the extremes of torpid indifference on the one hand, and rash radicalism on the other. We must not reciprocate extremism with one form of extremism or another, but we must reciprocate extremism with its opposite, that is, with wisdom, patience, magnanimity—and with moderation.
[1] The two Declarations that one would say to enter Islam are: La ilaha illallah. Muhammadur-Rasullah. (In English: “No one is God except Allah. Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah).

[2] As should be obvious, Allah is not of a literal gender, for Allah is not a body, much less something ascribed with a sex. The masculine pronouns used in referenced to Allah are a matter of grammatical usage and not to be understood literally.