Category Archives: Seeking knowledge

الرحمة قبل العلم-Shaykh Salman Al ‘Owdah

القصة الثانية: وهي قصة موسى والخضر: الرجل الصالح الذي أثنى الله تعالى عليه قائلًا: (فَوَجَدَا عَبْدًا مِنْ عِبَادِنَا آتَيْنَاهُ رَحْمَةً مِنْ عِنْدِنَا وَعَلَّمْنَاهُ مِنْ لَدُنَّا عِلْمًا) (الكهف:65)، فبدأ الله بصفة الرحمة للخضر قبل العلم، مع أن موسى جاءه ليتعلم منه العلم، فالله تعالى قال لموسى: “إن بمجمع البحرين رجلًا هو أعلم منك”، فذهب موسى ليطلب منه العلم، ومع ذلك بدأ الله تعالى بصفة الرحمة قبل العلم، لأن العلم إذا تجرد عن الرحمة أصبح عدوانًا، وسلاطة في اللسان، وبغيًا على الناس بغير الحق، وظلمًا للعباد، واستكبارًا في الأرض، ومكر السيئ، كما قال الله تعالى عن قوم: (فَرِحُوا بِمَا عِنْدَهُمْ مِنَ الْعِلْمِ)(غافر: من الآية83)، فإذا خلا أو تجرد العلم ـ حتى علم الشريعة ـ عن الرحمة أصبح وبالًا على صاحبه في الدنيا والآخرة، وكذلك المال والأولاد والدنيا والصحة وكل شيء إذا خلا من الرحمة لم يعد له قيمة.

Source: IslamToday.com

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Living Islam

You can’t live Islam, until you know Islam. In order to live Islam, you need to know Islam. — Shaykh `Abdallah ibn Hamid `Ali

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Imam al-Ghazali on Studying Science

by Imam Musafa `Umar

A thousand years ago, Imam al-Ghazali wrote in his autobiography Deliverance from Error: “A clumsy and stupid person must be kept away from the seashore, not the proficient swimmer; and a child must be prevented from handling a snake, not the skilled snake-charmer.”

This was his advice in regards to the science of philosophy, particularly the Greek philosophy of Plato and Aristotle which many Muslims took pride in studying. He was warning them of the dangers that could result from this study. But he didn’t stop there. He even warned people about studying mathematics and other sciences. Why?

So You Thought You Were Safe
“What’s wrong with math?” you might ask. “That has nothing to do with religion.” Here is what al-Ghazali had to say:

“The mathematical sciences…nothing in them entails denial or affirmation of religious matters…from them, however, two evils have been caused…”

The First Danger: Blind Conformity
“One of these is that whoever takes up these mathematical sciences marvels at the fine precision of their details and the clarity of their proofs. Because of that, he forms a high opinion of the philosophers [who were the mathematicians at that time] and assumes that all their sciences have the same lucidity and rational solidarity as this science of mathematics. Moreover, he will have heard the talk of the town about their unbelief and their negative attitude. [They say]: ‘If religion were true, this would not have been unknown to these philosophers […]’”

Al-Ghazali then expresses his deep regret over this sad state of affairs: “How many a man have I seen who strayed from the path of truth on this pretext and for no other reason!”

The only thing that has changed in our time is that it is not the philosopher who holds such a position in the eyes of students, but rather the scientist. How many times have I heard a Muslim doubting something about his own religion while saying: “But scientists say…”? One thousand years and not much has changed.

Imam al-Ghazali goes on to say that a man skilled in one field is not necessarily skilled in every field. Also, the internal consistency of one subject does not necessarily relate to another subject. Today, we find that even psychiatrists need a shrink or some family counseling sometimes. Just because someone may have the ability to process mathematical equations quickly in their mind or to figure out how certain chemicals react with one another doesn’t mean they have all the answers to life.

The Second Danger: Rejecting the Good
There is another problem. When some well-meaning believers realize the first danger, they begin to form a hatred for the sciences themselves rather than differentiating between the subject and its adherents. The Imam said, “The second evil likely to follow from the study of the mathematical sciences derives from the case of an ignorant friend of Islam who supposed that our religion must be championed by the rejection of every science ascribed to the philosophers…”

This mentality, the rejection of scientific research, whether it be in the natural or social sciences, is also very dangerous. Islam teaches us to take what is good and leave what is bad.

What to Do
So what should a Muslim do in such circumstances? There is no easy answer to that question. The Muslim perception is that everyone ‘needs’ a good (secular) education nowadays and there will naturally be some risks. If we concede the correctness of that ‘need’, the real solution will have to be a long term one, where practicing Muslims end up teaching the sciences, thus cutting off both evils from the root.

In the meantime, we can follow the words of the son-in-law of the Prophet ﷺ: “Don’t know the truth by men. Rather, know the truth and you will know its adherents.”

From: Suhaib Webb

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The Excellence of the ‘Ulama

Imam Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (ra)

In the Name of Allâh, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful

Allah, the Mighty and Majestic, says in the Noble Qur’an:

“Allah bears witness that none has the right to be worshipped but He, and the angels, and those having knowledge (Ulul-‘llm) (also bear witness to this; (He is always) maintaining His creation in justice. None has the right to be worshipped but He. the All-Mighty. the All-Wise.” (Surah Aal-‘Imraan:18)

This verse shows the superiority of knowledge (‘ilm) and its people; the following points can be inferred from this verse:

1. Allah chose the people of knowledge (Ulul ‘ilm) to bear witness to His Oneness (Tawheed) over and above the rest of His creation.

2. Allah honored the people of knowledge by mentioning their testimony along with His testimony.

3. He raised high the status of the scholars by associating their testimony with the testimony of the angels.

4. This verse bears witness to the superiority of those who possess knowledge. Allah does not make any of His creation bear witness except the upright amongst them.

There is a well-known narration from the Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam), who said:

“The upright in every generation will carry this knowledge, rejecting the distortions of the extremists, the false claims of the liars, and the (false) interpretations of the ignorant.” (the Hadith is Hasan)

5. Allah, the One free from all defects, Himself bears witness to His Oneness, and He is the greatest of witnesses. Then He chose from His creation the angels and the scholars – this is sufficient to show their excellence.

6. Allah made the scholars bear witness with the greatest and the most excellent testimony and that is, “None has the right to be worshipped but Allah.” Allah, the One free of all defects and the Most High, does not bear witness except to matters of great importance and only the greatest from Allah’s creation bear witness to this.

7. Allah made the testimony of the people of knowledge a proof against the rejecters. Thus they are its proofs and its signs, indicating His Oneness (Tawheed).

8. Allah, the Most High, used a single verb (shahida) to refer to His testimony and the testimony of the angels and the scholars. He did not use an additional verb for their testimony; thus he connected their testimony to His. This shows the strong link between their testimony and Allah’s testimony, as if He himself bore witness to His Oneness upon their tongues and made them utter this testimony.

9. Allah, the One free from all defects, made the scholars fulfill His right (that none has the right to be worshipped but Him) through this testimony and if they fulfill it then they have fulfilled and established this right of Allah upon them. Then it is obligatory upon mankind to accept this testimony which is the means to reach happiness in this life and in their final return (to Allah). Whosoever takes this guidance from the scholars and accepts this truth because of their testimony, then for the scholars there is a reward equal to them. And none knows the value of this reward but Allah.

From: at-Talib

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Future Islam and the Secret of Technology

There is something prior to technology without which it cannot be understood, and that is a method that analyses and breaks things down into what it regards as logical component pieces. The process that exemplifies this best is the search for the atom. The Greeks, notably Leucippus and Democritus, proposed that if one breaks something in half, and then breaks the half in half, that one can proceed only so far until one comes to something that is not divisible, which they call the “not divisible” or atom. For “a” means “not” and “tom” means “divisible. Of course, we all know that what has been called the atom was itself divisible further into the sub-atomic particles, but the basic idea still stands. The inheritors of this thinking called the atom, “the basic building block of matter” for they thought that matter and thus the universe is essentially something that has been built, and by calling the atom a building block they of course implied that once one understands this process we too can build.

Now one person most eloquently expressed anxiety at this process, and that was Mary Shelley, for in her novel Frankinstein, and remember that Frankinstein is the doctor and not his monster although arguably it is the doctor who is the real monster, she embodied this process in the doctor who, having anaylsed the human being into his constituent organs, limbs and bones, then decides that he too can build a human. Tellingly, although what he builds is hideous, it is nevertheless human. Frankinstein is unable to return its natural need for love, and it is this that drives the creature over the edge.

So this building activity of technology derives from this prior process of analysing and breaking down into the simplest elements.

So what does technology do? We ask this in the most general sense in order to get beyond the very specific picture of particular technologies. But let us take a specific in order to understand these general processes better: a Hi-Fi system. In it we have, for example, an amplifier. The amplifier does exactly what its name implies: it takes a weak input, a weak signal, and makes it stronger. If we step back from this example, we realise that technology does this throughout its realm. It takes a weak signal and amplifies it, whether it is a sound or a force or an idea. The media take weak signals, such as silly ideas, or poor analyses of situations, but through the power of the technology, it is transmitted into thousands and often millions of homes; it is amplified. We see instantly that this process is intimately connected to power, both in the physical sense and the political.

So having derived a general from a specific, let us now list a few more general features of technology.

Technology telescopes: i.e. it brings that which is distant much closer, and this derives from the Greek root “tele” for distance. Obviously we have the telescope, telephone and television. Equally it brings that which is close to distant parts: the telephone is two-way. We can now blog and our writings can be read instantly in China or Borneo. All of us assume such a reality. We spend time in virtual communities.

Paradoxically, we see that it drives that which is closer further away, as most people have experienced with the mobile phone interrupting a conversation. The caller is brought closer but the people in the conversation are made distant.

It also microscopes: it enables one to see what is ordinarily too small to see. The detail. To do this it has to put a frame around the object excluding other things. This is an inescapable activity of science and technology. Focus in and exclude extraneous signals.

It accelerates. Things are speeded up, by planes, cars, and by processes. In general things are going faster today than they ever did, and will evidently go even faster tomorrow.

Technology reproduces, repeats, replicates, duplicates and multiplies, e.g. in factories. A simple movement is repeated endlessly. Industry analyses the manufacture of the shoe into minute processes which are then individually expedited by robots, or people behaving like robots, and then assembled. The shoe is no longer in the hands of a person but in the hands of a system, whether of machines or people or both. An unanticipated side-effect of this process is the utter boredom and tedium of people’s lives since the part of the process or the product over which they have control is in itself meaningless. People are creatures of meaning.

Although the above list certainly does not cover everything that technology does, it gives an indication of some very key things that it does do. However, the above are not necessarily technological or machine driven. For example, our outline of the factory could equally well be applied to schooling or the state. The school has become a kind of factory for manufacturing citizens. It is an industrial process. Similarly, the state is an industry for processing citizens from birth until death. Machines are used, but the essence of these two examples is that people submit themselves, whether actively or passively, to being parts of a great machine. Thus, the word technology is not going to do for what we are trying to describe, and for that reason some people, such as the French writer Jacques Ellul, suggested that really we are dealing with technique.

So here we have a technique or set of techniques or sets of techniques and technologies which accelerate, amplify, reproduce, and telescope. Programmers have a maxim of computing which is “rubbish in, rubbish out”. Any such system or set of techniques behaves much like a computer programme, so that it basically amplifies, telescopes, accelerates and endlessly reproduces the input. If it is the technical society that is destroying the planet, then it is this facet of it that is to blame. Before technique culture, mistakes were limited in scale. With technique culture, the mistakes are amplified and accelerated tremendously. What is perhaps more distressing is that the reach of mediocrity is extended greatly.

But where does this culture come from? The people of the planet asked themselves this question in different places and in different epochs and they said: it comes from Europe. Both Europeans and non-Europeans gave this answer.

As this technique culture grew, there was a broad spectrum of responses to it, whose two extremes were infatuation and repulsion. This was both in Europe and elsewhere. The first response was because of the control and the power it appeared to give, and men are prone to love control and power. However, they neglected to reflect on Dr Frankinstein’s case, for he was incapable of love. The people of technique culture are incapable of love.

The opposite response, repulsion and rejection, was to be found both in Europe and elsewhere. In its most extreme case it is to be seen in people who decided that no technology from later than the seventeenth century should be used, and they dedicated themselves to live in communities based on that principle.

Now these two responses were possible when technique culture was still growing, when there were still places it had not reached.

In the seventies, a New York painter called Tobias Schneebaum made a journey up the Amazon river. He was, probably deeply instinctively, trying to get away from the all-enveloping technique culture. He went as far up the river as anyone would think to go and arrived at a missionary settlement. He asked them what lay further up the river? They told him that there were really terrible cannibal peoples. He immediately proceeded further up the river. Seeing a beach with some curious boulders on it, he disembarked to inspect them, but was astonished to find them to be the heads of people who were squatting there staring at him. After a moment in which they contemplated each other, they leapt to their feet and embraced him wildly and happily. They were completely naked. He was taken in to their society, made welcome, and lived happily with them for a year without seeing anything untoward. At the end of that period, the young men, among whom he was included, primed themselves for some martial escapade, and he and they went to another village where there was a fight, with them killing a number of people there. Then they ate parts of the dead people, and he ate with them. This was the beginning of his disengaging from them and he ultimately returned to New York and wrote a book called, “Keep the River on Your Right”. However, the reprise of the story is that in the nineties he returned there with a documentary film crew. The missionaries had got there before him along with the Coca Cola. The erstwhile savages were now in tee-shirts and were suffering from various ailments such as unemployment, something for which they probably had no word in their language.

Thus, the reality is that the technique culture has penetrated everywhere on the planet. There is nowhere outside of it, and so the option of wanting it in that infatuated way or of rejecting it is no longer open to us. Whatever we think of it, we are stuck with it.

But now we have to ask the question again: where does the culture of technique and technology come from? We have inherited a crude theology from Rome which basically sees the world in terms of nature and civilisation. In the Christianised version, God is seen as the Creator of nature and man the maker of civilisation. The reality is that this is how people really do see things, no matter what philosophers and theologians say. And of course because man’s civilisation has grown so much that people no longer believe in God.

Early scientists such as Galileo, Descartes, Newton, Kepler and Copernicus were undoubtedly believers in the Christian sense, but what they discovered was so powerful and it produced so many results that as night follows day the next generation were basically atheists, such as Laplace who on being asked by Napoleon why his book on celestial mechanics had no mention of the Creator replied, “Monsieur, I had no need of that hypothesis.” This was from arrogant pride at the sheer extent of new information and in the power of the new technical scientific man.

But what was forgotten is that man is natural; he is a part of nature. What man creates is a part of the natural order, even when it seems un-natural. Thus it is a part of God’s creation. Everything comes from Allah. He is the Creator of everything because if this were not the case, we would be dealing with a plurality of gods, which is a very primitive idea. However, the natural order contains both fruit and poison, it contains both health and cancer. Thus, we are in need of a discrimination. Clearly something in our culture is cancerous. But we are not taking the stance of the rejectionists that sees rejection of technique culture in toto as the only way forward. Thus we are in serious need of some kind of discrimination.

Let us return to our shoe factory. The ability of the shoe factory process to turn out copious amounts of shoes is undisputed. However, the shoes suffer from one flaw: like most industrially manufactured things they are mediocre; they are neither superlatively well designed and made nor, on the other hand, unusable. The truth is that all things being equal and price being no consideration, anyone who had the choice of a handmade shoe or an industrially manufactured one, would choose the former. So why did the craft tradition go down before industry? Price. The industrial product was cheaper. Very often it was not cheaper because it was genuinely less expensive to make, but because the owners practised undercutting; they looked at the price of shoes and then decided that their shoes would be cheaper, often dramatically so. They knew that by this means they would drive their craft competitors out of business, at which point the price could be whatever they wished it to be. Now this is where our wished-for discrimination might come in useful. Undercutting used to be considered illegal in many societies.

In many traditional markets, a shoe of a known description had a known price. It was not acceptable to go below it. Thus, tradesmen had to compete with each other in terms of making the very best shoes rather than fighting each other by means of price.

So here we are up against a very different type of technique, which has little to do with machines or technology. We are up against financial and commercial technique and it has proved more decisive than the machine. We also see the difference between technique and law. Law is the idea, whether in society or in nature, that things work in a certain way. Technique finds ways to circumvent law. In our acknowledgement that the technique culture ultimately comes from Allah and our awareness that we are in need of a discrimination, it is clear that it is only Allah Who can give us the discrimination we need for that which comes from Him. It is Islam that contains that discrimination until the end of time. The task of future Islam is to recover law, Divine law, and to make it dominant over technique, both in terms of technology but particularly in terms of financial and commercial technique.

From: Abdassamad Clarke

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The Dangers of Narrow-Mindedness

The Dangers of Narrow-Mindedness
The Dangers of Narrow-Mindedness. Image credit: hobit&gollum.

Narrow-mindedness is defined as lacking tolerance or not having the mental faculty to see beyond the superficial and recognize the underlying truth. Currently, this tendency appears to be widespread in all segments of Muslim communities.

The primary reason for this deplorable condition is ignorance, the inability to recognize this deficiency and to take corrective action. This situation is further aggravated if the ignorant person considers himself to be the epitome of wisdom, and if, he is in a leadership or a highly visible position, he can cause unnecessary harm to a family, a community or a an entire nation.

Absence of insight can also result in narrow-mindedness by having a negative effect on one’s thought processes. Insight is a rare virtue, and quite different from ignorance. A person who lacks insight may possess some knowledge, but derives no benefit from it due to a lack of analytical skills while someone with insight assesses his or her knowledge of a situation and then selects and uses its relevant parts. Through insight, they are able4 to see what others may not. Ibnul Qayyim, the famous Islamic scholar and author, said: “One person may read a text and learn one or two lessons from it, while another may learn one or two hundred.”

A rigidly traditional individual’s perceptivity, like that of a captive frog in a deep well, is able to function only within narrow parameters. He does not realize that there are boundless vistas of knowledge beyond the scope of the well, therefore, his mental and intellectual evolution remains stunted. He is unable to take advantage of the knowledge available beyond his limited horizon.

Blind imitation creates another obstacle to one’s intellectual growth. The two world wars of the past century are the perfect examples of this disability that can allow ruthless political or religious leaders to manipulate the minds of people who are unable to form their own objective view.

Some individuals habitually look at things from one angle and accept them as actual facts without thinking that there may be a different side to the issue, or that reality may actually be quite different from appearance. In the following verse, Allah points out that the appearance of the hypocrites may not be a true indication of their reality: “And when you see them, you like their appearance, but when they speak and you listen to them, they seem worthless” … and then He goes on to give this warning: “They are the enemy, so be warned of them. The curse of Allah be upon them, how they are perverted.” [63:4]

Furthermore, some people are impressed by quantity at the expense of quality. Referring to the battle of Hunain, Allah says: “On the day of Hunain, your numbers impressed you but did not benefit you.” But, “If there be amongst you twenty who show fortitude, they will defeat two hundred.” This does not, of course, mean that appearances are to be completely disregarded or that quantity is totally irrelevant. These fundamentals should not be valued in isolation, but should be understood through insight and common sense.

A failure to prioritize or differentiate wrong from right often leads people to lose sight of the broader picture. Often people will focus on the immediate and disregard the potential disastrous effects of an action further down the road. Along with ignorance, narrow-mindedness and, of course, a lack of insight, these gaps usually prove detrimental to that individual’s future.

From: Islaam.com

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Read Ma`arif al-Qur’an by Mufti Shafi `Uthmani online

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