Advice to Students of Knowledge / Islamic Themes

“Aqida Polemics: Advice to the Student of Knowledge…”

“`Aqida Polemics: Distractions and Diversions

– Some Advice to the Students of Knowledge”

In what follows is a brief discussion about certain groups who have a continual preoccupation with theological matters (`aqida) and make it their sole objective to denounce other Muslims as being out of the orthodox fold. They also insist on imposing their theological understandings and busy Muslims with ‘`aqida discussions’ that are in effect historical theological controversies. Such preoccupations have divided the umma along theological lines and have often distracted her from making serious assessments of her dire political situation and its solution. This is a matter that is indispensable for any sincere and serious student of sacred knowledge to know about and reflect on.

CONTEXT:

  • The Reason why this discussion about `aqida is relevant is:
  1. Because `aqida discussions have been a cause of division and sectarianism in the Muslim community.
  2. Because `aqida discussions have caused enormous confusion and rancour in the Muslim community.
  3. Because `aqida discussions have become a means of distracting the Muslims from a real intellectual threat which is Islam’s secularisation.
  4. Because obsessiv `aqida discussions have been bred from a very anti-intellectual, anti-taqlid, and anachronistic standpoint.

ADVICE:

            The student of knowledge must be on guard against the idea that sound theology (creed, doctrine, belief) is found in a specific edition of books, taught in specific Islamic universities by specific teacher-scholars. One cannot be declared an orthodox (authentic) Muslim only upon finally completing a bound volume work in Islamic theology written from a certain theological stance. This is the seed of sectarianism and indeed its fruits are very dangerous.

The student of knowledge must also be on guard against branded theology, e.g. ‘salafi `aqida’, ‘deobandi `aqida’, ‘barelwi `aqida’ etc. There is essentially only one theology, i.e. one Islamic `aqida (i.e. that which is definitive/qat`i) and anything beyond that, in terms of the subsidiary areas of theology (furu`at), have scope for divergence or nuance but this need not concern the general student of knowledge as this is the province of the theologian and is not mandatory to learn anyway. What the student of knowledge ought to do is understand Islam as being intellectual, e.g. its creedal foundation (asas) is based on rational proofs (dalil `aqli) and that this creed contains the viewpoint in life to guide a person and to formulate a framework with which to understand the world as well as any mandatory elements and integrals of the creed required to be learned (e.g. mandatory knowledge regarding Allah, His Angles, Books, Messengers, Day of Judgment and al-Qada’ wa’l-Qadar). Imam Ibn al-Jawzi advises his son to establish this intellectual basis of Islam and then to submit to the Shari`a that emanates out from this creed. He says:

“The first thing a person ought to pay attention to is knowledge of Allah Most High based on proof (bi’l-dalil). It will be known that whoever looks at the sky that is raised up high, the earth that is spread out or looks at how differently things are made – especially his own body, he will come to know that every created thing must have a creator and every built thing must have a builder […] The second thing he must reflect on is the proof for the veracity of the Messenger of Allah (saw) and the most prominent and greatest proof of that is the Qur’an which Allah made inimitable where no human being is able to produce a sura like it. When the existence of the Creator, Exalted and High is He, and the truth of the Messenger of Allah is established, he must submit fully to the sacred Law (shar`) and if he does not, then there is corruption in his belief…”[1]

و أول ما ينبغي النظر فيه معرفة الله تعالى بالدليل و معلوم أن من رأى السماء مرفوعة والأرض موضوعة و شاهد الأبنية المحكمة خصوصا في جسد نفسه علم أنه لابد للصنعة من صانع و للمبنى من بان…

ثم يتأمل دليل صدق الرسول إليه و أكبر الدلائل القرآن الذي أعجز الخلق أن يأتوا بسورة من مثله، و اذا ثبت عنده وجود الخالق جلا و علا و صدق الرسول وجب تسليم عنانه إلى الشرع فمتى لم يفعل دل على خلل في اعتقاده…

Therefore, this should be the focus of the student of knowledge: to understand the creedal foundation of Islam intellectually and understand that this creed has a package of concepts with which to interpret the world and then understand that from this creed there unpacks a system of laws that are practical solutions for governing human affairs and to learn about these and to call for these systems to be and remain implemented.

To become preoccupied with, or resurrect, theological controversies that are historical and that served their purposes within the polemical contexts that they emerged is in reality a dangerous distraction from the serious shifts taking place with regards to Islam and its future development such as:

  1. Secularisation of Islam, e.g. Islam is only ritualistic and concerned with personal worship.
  2. Attack on the Shari`a, e.g. it is outmoded, barbaric, medieval and impractical.
  3. Attack on political Islam, e.g. the Shari`a cannot be restored in life or Islam and politics do not mix.
  4. Misrepresenting Islamic legal precepts, e.g. masalih mursala, darura, maqasid al-shari`a, etc.
  5. Pragmatic Islamic directions, e.g. Implement Islam gradually or adopt secular and Islamic frameworks together and to compromise Islam.

MESSAGE:

            Whatever one’s theological or indeed legal persuasion, Muslims can put that to one side and unite against one definitive heresy and un-Islamic belief: secular liberalism. Allah states: {And those who disbelieve are allies to one another, (and) if you do not do so, there will be Fitna and oppression on the earth}.[2] In this way, the student of knowledge becomes a force and strength for Islam and a unifying cause for the Muslim community and the Islamic cause.

Thus:

  • Being embroiled in historical polemics can be a source of divisiveness, rancour and Muslim in-house hostility. This is destructive and not constructive.
  • The theological/`aqida discussions often involve non-scholarly persons who have little knowledge of the context, intricate details and evidences related to these discussions.
  • These historical discussions have become a route of distraction from real and live issues facing the Muslim umma globally (e.g. occupation, civil strife, persecution, oppression, poverty, attack, etc.).
  • These historical discussions have re-directed focus away from working to establish Islamic practically in life so that the Islamic `aqida can be protected, preserved and realised.

RELEVANCE:

  • An appreciative mind will listen to and understand the plurality of interpretive possibilities that exist from the Islamic sources and appreciate the dynamism in its theology, i.e. it will appreciate ikhtilaf where it operates.
  • A student of knowledge should seek the political unity of all Muslims under sincere Islamic leadership even if he may have differences in law or theology because that unity is mandatory and having that leadership is mandatory which trumphs any differences.
  • A student of knowledge should have an appreciative mind and not an unwarranted dogmatic mind.

And with Allah is all success.

s.z.c

London 2012.


[1] Ibn al-Jawzi, Laft al-Kabid ila Nasihat al-Walad, p.97.

[2] Q. 8:73.

 

 

 

2 thoughts on ““Aqida Polemics: Advice to the Student of Knowledge…”

  1. This is fantastic !! Jazaakallaahu khayr. I’ve sent it to a friend, after elaborating on the impact of focusing on the subsidiary matters. I hope you don’t mind me editing it – I’ve kept the reference back to Dar al-Nicosia.

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